Just plain bad telephone sales service


Saturday 30 July 1664

Wrote many letters by the post to ease my mind of business and to clear my paper of minutes, as I did lately oblige myself to clear every thing against the end of the month. So at night with my mind quiet and contented to bed. This day I sent a side of venison and six bottles of wine to Kate Joyce.

There is no doubt that there is a sense of completion when dealing with important matters that are on your mind; I think it’s somewhat of a purgative of worry. They also say that you should never go to sleep with an unresolved difference with your partner. My method of calming myself  down is to write a list of what I need to do and when I need to do it.

Today I received an amazing offer to go to Morocco for a 15 day journey including a weeks coach tour, seven nights bed-and-breakfast in a hotel in Marrakesh, flights, for the grand sum of £359 a person. I received the offer because I am a subscriber to This Week, a journal which theoretically save you the trouble of ploughing through all the newspapers. I have subscribed to it now for three years and thoroughly look forward to Friday when it arrives.

I’m getting used to sales people who work from a script, and the delights of dealing with an Indian call centre but this one took a lot of beating.

I wish people realised how much information they give when they say even to words on the phone. As I’m going to spend some money, my antenna of waving in the breeze. This may sound racist but it was clear this was an African-American person. Right from the start he was clearly reading from a script and I could get no contact with him at all. I should have put the phone down and indeed I asked to speak to the person with whom I had a good rapport but he was busy.

So we struggled. I had to repeat my very simple e-mail address twice, I have to spell my name slowly and clearly and that of my partner. It was clear that the sales agent was not tuned to the English language. He could not hear what I was saying. I had to talk as if to an idiot sorry to say this but that’s what I had to do. He then repeated what he sought my birth year was which was 40 years out from the real thing. He then asked me for the 16 digit number on my credit card and by the time I reached digit 12 he asked me for the three letter number on the back. I started to get really angry at this point. He kept on blaming his technology that I could tell that he was not trained  to the extent that he could listen to the customer and deal with his technology at the same time.

Every time I corrected him he said “no problem” but I was not reassured and became depressed by the whole thing.  He finally told me when I was to get the tickets but is it so fast that I had to ring up again and talk to someone else and get them to say at a slower speed.

Anyway I did finally succeed in making a booking. Strangely they take the money from the bookings in a cycle of seven days which seems to me completely crazy but maybe I’m out of touch with how people do things these days. After finishing the booking I felt depressed. I guess we are seeing the fruits of people sitting on their mobile phones year after year not really being able to communicate with other actual human beings. The guy finished the conversation by saying ‘have a really good rest of your day and have a lovely holiday’. How empty and shallow these words seem. And I’m really wondering if is it not possible to train these people,  is the starting point so abject then you cannot get a minimal degree of enthusiasm. Having said that though if I had to be on the phone for eight hours a day I think I’d be a complete wreck at the end of that time so I must not be too sanctimonious.

Anyway I must not grumble to them too much because the holiday is exceedingly good value. 25 quid a day per person including bed-and-breakfast for 14 nights plus a flight plus a week-long coach tour is not to be sniffed at so I don’t want to queer my own pitch.

I was contacted by a lady called Amanda who it turns out is an ex-lawyer. I might have guessed from her machine-gun speed of delivery. She does part time gardening for people over 80. This started when her mother was ripped off by a ‘gardener’ who did very little and charged £300 for the privilege. She finds, like I do, that half her work is social, and sometimes her customers like to follow her around while she is working and chat to her.

The problem of loneliness should never be underestimated. The death rate from men who worked in the mines is very high so there are many widows who are bright active and socially minded and being single makes it just that bit harder.


The Railway Era Celebrated


Thursday 28 July 1664
Pepys has a good day in the office – business looks good – he is content with life

My present posture is thus: my wife in the country and my mayde Besse with her and all quiett there. I am endeavouring to find a woman for her to my mind, and above all one that understands musique, especially singing.

I notice that when Pepys is content with his work, he finds time to look after his wife and consider her needs. The whole entry is a good read.

We like to do something interesting and different over the weekend and what with the weather forecast showing showers, possibilities are not very great. Either today or tomorrow we must dig up our potatoes which are starting to show signs of interest by slugs and I think I would rather eat them and have the slugs do so. I’m getting about seven pounds weight from two tubers  so the yield is really rather good but the question is, where are we going to store them?  Folklore says it’s better to keep the dirt on which we will do. I have bought some hessian bags and I may give some potatoes away. I’m sure the Victorians had the ideal way of storing them and I suppose I should really  stir myself and look on the Internet. I did. Visit this site.
The article starts:

The method of preserving the root vegetables was known as ‘clamping’ and it involved storing the vegetables in what was known as a ‘clamp’.

The principles were:
To store only those vegetables that were in sound condition and to remove excess stalks and leaves that could rot in storage
To keep the stored vegetables slightly moist so that they did not dry out while keeping out the wet which would have made them rot
To prevent the frost getting to them
To prevent the light getting to them.

The Somerset and Dorset Railway  originally went from Burnham on Sea right through to Poole in Dorset but Dr. Beeching saw that this was an unprofitable line. it was closed in about 1966 so in historical terms not really very long. It passes through beautiful countryside with bridges and tunnels and it is regarded with affection by locals and tourists alike. if you want a wonderful site on Britain’s old railways and bridges then try this site.

The Two Tunnels Group and the footplate association had been working together for the past two years to fund raise, create and install a History Trail along the Two Tunnels Greenway, which used to be the root of the  Somerset and Dorset Railway, along which ran the famous Pines Express from Manchester and Bournemouth.

Former fireman and Somerset and Dorset railway employee, Tim Hughes, came up with the idea to tell the rich history of the railway through a series of five Historical Information Boards, containing many wonderful archive photos and detailed research articles and texts. These boards are due to be installed along the Two Tunnels path during July 2017 and an unveiling ceremony is taking place today at 12.30  at Midford  station.

We decided to go along and set the GPS to do the country route. At 9.3 miles it was so not too bad and in the country it is possible to cover the miles much faster than the same distance in for example London or Manchester.  The only problem is that on narrow roads you have to be prepared to back up a long way especially in the face of a tractor or large agricultural vehicles that are not going to turn back for anybody.

When we arrived at about 12:20 PM there were about 60 or 70 people mostly of a senior age and it was obvious by their disposition that they were either canal enthusiasts or railway enthusiasts. They were gathered on the platform of the abandoned Midford station including the originator of the project and the Mayor of Bath. There was also an ukelele band who entertained us. It was a pity, but they had not practised the songs so all we could hear really was the sound of ukuleles but they were jolly enough and people didn’t seem to mind.

There was a chap of 99 who was the last footplate man in the area. The speeches were jolly enough and consisted of fulsome thanks and acknowledgement for those who carried out the thankless task of raising money, clearing tunnels, making the whole thing presentable.

After the event we adjourned to the nearest pub, the Hope and Anchor. A splendid buffet had been provided together with Proseco – pretend champagne – and orange juice. We got to talk to one or two people and also talked to the Mayor of Bath and her friend. She is going off to the Scilly Isles for a holiday, well-deserved I’m sure. What a thoroughly pleasant and friendly bunch of people.

the scene on our arrival
an advert for the very interesting website
the Mayor of Bath is the Lady in Red ( do I remember a film of that name?)
Speech given by guest of honour Keith Cooper, former Midford stationmaster
the cutting of the cake
the unveiling of the informative board
the cake itself
the original rail route
posters of the day
posters on display in the local pub shortly to be erected
a good time was had by all

The Promised rain had not materialised so we decided to go to another local event in  Camerton near Timsbury, a so called ‘fun day’. It was held in a field which itself backed on to the Village Hall. The attendance was sparse and a few stalls once selling second-hand clothes, one selling plants, one selling cider, a bowling alley and the usual tea, coffee and entertainment in the village hall.   I can’t say it was the most exciting event in the world. If you are only going to have half a dozen stallholders you should have them closer together rather than spread in the four corners of a large field. I saw some very interesting presentations of flowers placed within purple painted tyres which I have never seen before and which I enclose.

mounted on a wall
ground-based version
and one of these lovely electric bikes that I must investigate sometime




contracts – the garden from hell


Wednesday 27 July 1664
an insight into the making of contracts – reflections on death –
...and acquainted them with the death of Mr. Alsopp, which Mr. Lanyon had told me this morning, which is a sad consideration to see how uncertain a thing our lives are, and how little to be presumed of in our greatest undertakings….

Pepys shows a real knack of putting things in perspective in a few words. I’m sure he could have made a good poet had he not been so involved in the world of ship building.

Yesterday I went to see one of the most difficult gardens I have ever had to quote on.  The company who built the estate wanted to make extra money out of building houses basically against a hill and so carved out an area to provide gardens or garden like areas. the difference between street level and the garden level was 3 m and I was confronted with such a formidable wall when I was considering how to get my tools into the garden.

The only way is through the house and in the house resides a dog which although friendly is very large and curious. I’m taking the unusual step of publishing the full quote just to show you that the job of landscaping and gardening and clearing is not that straightforward.

Hello XXXXX, thank you for showing us your garden.
As we seem to have agreed, renovating this garden area contains pretty much every difficulty that can be thought of.
You have told me that you want the back cleared including all overhanging hedges, and the other hedges at the site right down to the road not forgetting the hedges on the left side. You have asked us to clear all the grass and rockery area.
We are majorly concerned about the dog faeces because although they can be cleared up, you can be sure that the whole area is contaminated in the soil itself and it will be very easy to pick up an infection. We feel that we should start by disinfecting the ground at least the lower part.
We also note is that the side steps are very slippy  due to mould and before starting we will jet wash the steps in order to ensure that we do not slip going up and down.
When the ground is cleared will the dog continue to use the area to relieve itself? if so the droppings will be more unsightly and will need to be cleared on a regular basis I would have thought.
There is a large element of danger in the work for example cutting the hedges at the end standing on a 45° slope. This is plain and simple dangerous and prone to slippage. It will take approximately 3 times the amount of time it would take if the whole was on level ground.
The side area is quite tricky as well and I shall have to make two or three passes walking along the wall with safety assistance to get the thing halfway decent.
Because of these dangers, and the advanced dereliction of the whole garden, I will have to call in someone else to assist mainly for health and safety reasons. Accidents can all too easily happen.
It is preferable that you are present while we are there because you would be amazed at the questions that need a decision, not to mention the requirement for supplies of tea and the loo for Francoise.
I do believe that the decking that you propose will look very nice but you need to make sure that the weeds underneath are very definitely deprived of life otherwise they will eventually poke up through the decking. I have seen examples of where people have had to replace the decking due to this reason. You may also want to have two or three central steps up from the gravel area to the decking itself.
The quote I am going to give you will be about double what I guess you would expect. The uplift is due to the slope of the garden, the unsanitary area due to dog faeces, the fact that we will have to take away the considerable amount of spoil, (we reckon there are about six journeys here),  and finally that the equipment has to be bought through the house – but not the bags which we have agreed we will drop over the wall.
The quote is £xxxx
The condition of the working is that we can only function after 24 hours without rain because of the slippery nature of the slope.
We will not start work unless this area is cleared of faeces and we ask you to clear other rubble which might get in the way of our work.
We normally ask for 25% of the payment after the first working day and the rest on satisfactory completion. That means you and your Nan going round on a tour of inspection.
If your Nan, whom you tell me is paying for the work, wishes to speak with us we shall be only too glad to come down and see her.
I know full well that because of the complete lack of access she will find it very difficult to get anyone else to even consider the job. Working on a 45° slope especially in the wet invites slipping and accidents. Especially in view of my accident last October, where my blogg starts, I would insist on being assisted by my wife or someone else at all times.
My advice to people who quote for difficult jobs is to spell out the whole thing in advance before you even start. Is the risk worth it? You don’t want to start the job and find it is too difficult or there was something you have forgotten. Planning really does pay
         power tools + 45° + hidden stones + very uneven ground = danger
Anyway, I don’t mind if I don’t get the job. It is so taxing physically that four hours per day would be enough so we would have to make more visits. Watch this space.
I’m giving a talk on 6 September to a group of clinicians and doctors in the North Bristol area of hospitals. It is quite a privilege to do this. The title of my talk will be “Trauma viewed from both sides of the fence”. We are all faced with traumatic situations or potentially traumatic situations and in awaited decision whether to  classify something as traumatic whether we deal with it on another level and  not let ourselves be affected. Doctors and staff are hugely pressurised and it is a wonder if anyone of them does not take their work home with them. You cannot switch off from a patient who has been in great pain or who has just had a life-saving operation.
I have already finished the first draft of my talk which is only a 20 min one so 2000 words or so should be more than enough. I’m trying to find a balance between humour, that those good and depressing and finally positive and encouraging conclusions as to what can be done to make a difference.
I do wish someone would make a difference to this rainy weather which seems to be this setting this country while the south of Spain and Portugal basks in 35° heat. I’m fed up with reading all about this climate change business and how we should stop using fossil fuels and so on. Yesterday, NASA confirmed that the sea levels were dropping and had been doing so for the last two years. You can cook virtually any figures depending on where the  instruments you use are situated for measuring the temperature. I believe the figure for overall world temperature increase is about  9/10 of 1° which is probably the same thing that happened in the Middle Ages warming period where there were not many internal combustion engines, only cows and volcanoes.


Gardens and barking dogs


Monday 25 July 1664
I do miss a day here or there of Pepys Diary but all can be found via the link above.

He gone, Mr. Cole (my old Jack Cole) comes to see and speak with me, and his errand in short to tell me that he is giving over his trade; he can do no good in it, and will turn what he has into money and go to sea, his father being dead and leaving him little, if any thing. This I was sorry to hear, he being a man of good parts, but, I fear, debauched.

I promised him all the friendship I can do him, which will end in little, though I truly mean it, and so I made him stay with me till 11 at night, talking of old school stories, and very pleasing ones, and truly I find that we did spend our time and thoughts then otherwise than I think boys do now, and I think as well as methinks that the best are now. He supped with me, and so away, and I to bed.

I find this excerpt an indication of Pepys’ caring nature. Here is a friend who has failed in business and decides to escape to see with what little resources he has. The least that Samuel can do is to cheer him up and remind him of the good times. How nice that people still have time for each other when there were many other things that  Pepys could have been doing. My goodness is his personality complex but very productive overall.

I am writing now about Tuesday, 25 July 2017. The main feature apart from a visit to the dentist to have some temporary caps replaced was a garden client who is divorced, living on his own, and spends a lot of time compiling quizzes for pubs and other organisations. he says he has compiled about 500 of them so he has got some idea of what he’s going. This is a typical English understatement which people from other parts of the world do not understand.

Stratton on the Fosse is an unremarkable village with houses situated either side of  a main road. It has no shops. It has one but it is where the Roman Catholic Downside Abbey is situated. This is a famous historical building and very active.   The area of my client  contains lovely views particularly an imaginative play area on undulating ground designed and paid for by the local council, in part anyway. It is so nice to see children relaxing and playing in safety.

His own small garden abutted on a field and was being attacked  by brambles. They were long, fat and dangerous to anyone without the right type of clothing. Excepting the Japanese knot weed, this is my least favourite plant.  The former I will never touch and it is the only one that the recycle will refuse. The only way of getting rid of Knotweed is by injection with Roundup or equivalent.

The poor client who in my view did not have a lot of money to spare, just could not bring himself to do what was necessary in the garden plus the fact that he didn’t have the right tools. in this case we are morale boosters and counsellors as well as gardeners. I spoke to him about a ‘tipping point’ which is the stage where chaos in the garden  goes beyond a certain amount and the human spirit gives up.  He said he felt embarrassed by it and I told him not to worry, we come across this every day.

We started work at about 6.30 in the evening and finished at 9 PM and delivered him a clean garden free of brambles with hedges and trees trimmed. This would not have been possible without the right tools and it is really a good investment to make sure you have the right range of tools and that they are in good order.  the customer was happy at the transformed nature of the garden and so we took ourselves along to the local pub where an unexpected surprise awaited me.

I have a fear of dogs. I open the pub door to be greeted by a huge dog which blocked. I was completely taken aback and froze. it must look funny because everybody laughed. Anyway I composed myself and went to the bar and ordered a drink. We sat down and the very same dog, the one that I was so afraid of, came along and started licking my legs which was not an unpleasant situation. I realised that he was short of salt and my legs provided the necessary nutrition bearing in mind that I have spent the last two or three hours sweating which of course includes saline material. anyway, we parted on good terms and I learnt a little bit about the psychology of dogs namely that its bark was worse than its bite.

Earlier on I saw a possible customer who wanted a regular gardener, a contract gardener moreover  to service a group of eight bungalows. The reason he called me was that the previous gardener had asked for a rise of £300 a year. We were shown around the gardens and they were very well mown and pretty. However the problem was a huge elm tree and I mean huge which was listed. For three months of the year I would have to clear up sack after sack of leaves and take them four miles to the recycle in Radstock.  Even with compacting methods, this would have meant two round journeys in the car and I considered this too much like hard work. Also, when I shook the man’s hand, I felt sick  and disorientated. I am quite good at picking  up people’s unsolved problems. whether this is a curse or a blessing I don’t know possibly a bit of both but I realised that I was not going to be able to deal with this man who although he smiled I felt there was an area within where I did not want to go. I don’t like turning down money but it is better to find out earlier rather than later that there might be problems.



Hospital meeting – trendy Bristol – Syria film


Saturday 23 July 1664 in which Pepys has a fling and is ashamed of it

This was the day I had been waiting on albeit in a neutral state of mind when I hoped to move forward in my role as patients’ representative for the Bristol area group of hospitals. My enthusiasm can only last for a certain amount of time and in the last month or so it had waned considerably.

Patients for Quality Trauma Discharge are selected carefully based on a number of criteria: the severity and type of the injuries, the age of the patient, the ability to cope with insults in general were some of the factors. The hospital are trying to build up the quality of service not only with these people but with others who may need some type of ‘after sales service’. We were about 45 min into the conversation during which I heard what the criteria are for people being identified for special treatment and what literature they are provided with when suddenly I had my ‘eureka’ moment

When the trauma team representative said that they were having difficulty in building up a database of services in the regional area, my ears pricked up. whilst I was in London I researched and produced two books, one being the Homeless Directory for London and the second being an AIDS/HIV directory for London; all the services in the 29 boroughs were included. Confession:  I have somewhat of a ‘thing’ for assembling data and when they said they needed a regional directory of all services that trauma patients might require for Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire I realised that that this type of task was up my street and it is the sort of activity that I do well and efficiently.

I felt a great sense of peace at this point and felt that the purpose of the meeting had been achieved as in ‘we can all go home now’ which was just as well because my counterpart only had a one-hour meeting and it was ten to the hour when we made the discovery. I celebrated by going off to get a coffee and cake. Now I must find out how much this whole thing is going to cost me because I don’t think the hospital will pay for it though you never know. It will benefit them so maybe they should pay something

in the main reception area of Southmead Hospital

I then had a talk with my website manager on the phone. The construction of a relational database geared to hold up to say  1000 organisations over three counties would probably require about £2000. I don’t know whether I’m willing to spend this out of my own moneyso if I can get the hospitals to pay for it on the grounds that they will benefit then that is the direction I will take.

And now, off to the centre of Bristol where I’m going to see a film at the watershed. I love walking through certain areas of the city  as they are so laid-back, cool and trendy as the following pictures will illustrate.

large-scale graffiti
speaks for itself
a whole road junction transformed
original street art
heavy duty graffiti
political statement
an enterprising food outlet

And so to see the “city of ghosts” at the Watershed avant-garde cinema which I think is sponsored by Bristol Council. It was a close up and personal view of those who campaigned against Isis in Syria. The more cornered ISIS were the more brutal they became including public beheadings, shootings and hangings of people who were against Isis. We saw the whole scene through the proponents of an anti-Isis movement who eventually realised they had no choice for their own safety but to move to Turkey but when there realising that this was not safe and they eventually moved to Germany where they were relatively well looked after.

The problem was that ISIS followed them there and one of their number was killed in Munich. There was a focus on one particular freedom fighter whose father and brother was killed in the hope that he would give up the fight against ISIS but he vowed to stay on and fight at great personal cost to his nerves and his emotional stability.  The film is harrowing and we saw scenes of children of of eight years of age being trained to shoot people in the head We saw public shootings and people moving from refuge to refuge knowing that Isis were determined to kill them.

Syrian people, indeed Arabs in general, express themselves very warmly to each other and men hug and kiss other men in a very nurturing manner. Because I am so used to seeing violence and dreadful things it did not affect me very much but there were others in the audience who were moved to tears.

I left the movie and sauntered back to the bus station in the evening sunshine dressed only in a T-shirt. I popped into the nearest Tesco express and bought a very nice portion of diced chicken  in a lemon sauce which have been reduced to £.81 from £3.25 because it was the last day that it could be sold – the so-called best by date. I have always had my doubts about the meaning of ‘best by’ but never mind I had a lovely meal and felt satisfied. The bus from Bristol to Street in Somerset goes through lovely countryside and on the way I received through the open windows of the bus a glorious breeze of lavender from the adjacent fields. Oh to be in the country it is such a positive nurturing experience.

And so to home, watched the programme on the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana Princess of Wales and then to my office to write this diary.





Where did the time go? plus Ideas for garden layouts


Friday 22 July 1664   click to read.

….We walked to church with him, and then I left them without staying the sermon and straight home by water, and there find, as I expected, Mr. Hill, and Andrews, and one slovenly and ugly fellow, Seignor Pedro, who sings Italian songs to the theorbo most neatly, and they spent the whole evening in singing the best piece of musique counted of all hands in the world, made by Seignor Charissimi, the famous master in Rome. Fine it was, indeed…

We can say of Samuel Pepys that he worked hard and lived hard. I love the thought that 17th century London was already a place with a great mixture  of cultural and intellectual people and that cultural evenings as indicated above happen quite spontaneously.

I am stimulated to think of the whole question of the balance between work and play  and how we organise our lives in general. Comments are welcome by the way.

I feel a sense of frustration that so often the day has passed without my  apparently achieving anything. I look at the clock and it’s 5:30 PM or 6 PM, time for the news or preparing the evening meal and I have little to show for it. I’m not talking about days when I do gardening, but days where I am free to do what I please. The point is that as a semi retired person I don’t have to do anything, but I still feel the need for achievement.

Last evening we went to see on a whim the film “Manchester by the Sea”. I read that it narrowly missed getting an Oscar and in this respect I am not able to give an opinion because I walked out after the first 20 minutes. I do get slightly tired of seeing new erotic Americans not communicating, walking out on each other, and using the F word. Occasional use of this word  I can tolerate but time after time …. I do not regard this as self expression because it is basically an inability to express yourself in the very rich English language.

The previous evening, Friday, I took my friend to see a second viewing (for me) of Baby Driver which if anything I enjoyed more. Because I knew what was coming next I could concentrate on the detail and I noticed the meticulous lighting effects, the synchronisation of sound with the firing of the bullets and how much thought and effort must have gone into the making of this whole film which I believe was conceived 10 years before. if I recall correctly it took Richard Attenborough 20 years to  realise the film of Gandhi so this is clearly  a profession where patience counts.

So, back to the topic of time

Old Father Time – Sandringham estate

Time drags; time flies; time heals; time and tide time wait for nobody, we run out of time, time marches on all presided over by Old Father Time. it does seem to seize a variable commodity to say the least. If we are focused on something we don’t like, the minutes drag on. If we are talking to a loved one we look at our watch we find that four hours have passed. when wheel in love with someone on what we are doing, we go out of time and when we’re doing something we dislike, we are contained by time.

Maybe our natural state is to be timeless and eternal. Spiritual people tell us that the soul is eternal and we probably dismiss this without a second thought but maybe just maybe our natural state is just to be. as Shakespeare said, “to be or not to be, that is the question”. How we occupy ourselves and what we do is secondary two out of state of unity or chaos within.

Eckhart Tolle says that ” you are never more fully yourself than when you are still inside”. There is another clue here I think.

Anyway, off to Benter near Stratton on the Fosse where there is the National Gardens scheme open house for the first time. The garden had previously been a field so they have done a lot of very good work here. There are only about a dozen houses in this hamlet and all the roads leading to it are only suitable for one car at a time hence the excitement we had squeezing past other vehicles and learning to reverse in very narrow lanes. This must be one of the worst places to live for transport, getting the kids to school,  the complete absence of shops, and a nightmare for your friends to find in the dark.

However the garden had many interesting features which might intrigue garden designers and fans of the English garden.

unobtrusive bench
woodland background

However, it was worth it when we got there. The garden contains many good ideas. We met the  chap who I think was the owner, a young chap who was very keen about gardens.  I suggested to him that when long grass is concerned it is fun to create mazes. it’s a great feature that you can do practically no money and it adds enormously to the features of a bigger garden.

original feature for water plants
clever use of planks
planks interleaved with stones
a path and informal beds
a three stage compost heap made out of pallets
most of the winter’s worth of firewood
general view of Orchard area
works of art in the Tea garden
very unusual plants sorry I don’t know their name
general review of the tea garden with tent and people enjoying themselves
one very mossy tree trunk of a living tree
Medieval Forest leading down to a stream
the said stream which would have been lovely had the weather been better
part of the house frontage




American companies – John Taylor Gatto


Wednesday 20 July 1664
French and english flageolets.jpgDiplomacy , financial dealings and barters, playing the flageolette.

A varied, challenging and entertaining day ending in style with Pepys playing a wind instrument in his garden under the moonlight.

A truly mixed bag from me today. It is the Tall Ships Exhibition in Bristol today so naturally the heavens open.

Yesterday I visited my dentist for what must be the 18th appointment to have my teeth completely redesigned. I absolutely hate the image above. Does anyone know any real human being who grins with their eyes closed. The slogan is “get your best smile at the right time”.

Today I received an actual letter from a person who I have not met for about 10 years. I was delighted to read it for a number of reasons. First it contained real news relevant to myself and secondly it was a lengthy letter full of description in which I could participate visually. I believe that I can detect whether someone’s heart is in what they write not so much from the words but from what comes across. In other words, it’s an energy thing.

As the gardening, I have perfected a set of tools to do clearing and hedge cutting as mentioned in my recent diary. I find streaming rather a violent activity, very crude in its effect. I use my extended hedge trimmer as a strimmer. I walked gently sideways and cut a swathe of grass about 2 feet wide. Combined with knowing afterwards it makes a wonderful effect in very little time but gently does it. It’s very good doing it to meditation.

I am taking a friend tonight to see the film Baby Driver again. I don’t know whether to worry about my state of mind. It was not the violence of the film but the fact that my friend is petrol head and he will love it. He loves video games featuring car chases so I could not resist inviting him. Anyway, I don’t have to be defensive. It’s a brilliant bit of art. Well done director Edgar Wright.

I must move homes. No, only joking. I’m just running out of space for my books. I love each and every one of my books. I do not want to be parted from them. Each one of them has a character and a place in my life even if I have read only the first few chapters.

‘The Week’ is a weekly summary of all the news items of note which in theory saves you reading the papers. There is a section entitled “it must be true – I read it in the tabloids”. They are all funny but one took my eye in particular: “a man who got trapped in an ATM machine was rescued after sending an SOS out with the cash. The engineer was working on repairs when he got stuck in the vault (the machine itself), in Texas, without a phone. First he tried shouting, but customers ignored him. So he scrawled a message on a scrap of paper, and slipped it out of the receipt slot. The police were then called and kicked the door down”

I am due to give a talk to the hospital board of North Bristol in early September. I don’t think some of the doctors and consultants are aware that the plan of Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary is actually to privatise the NHS. The plan is already in motion. I remember for six consecutive days last winter the message given out by the main stream media was that the hospitals were in chaos and not coping. I read a recent article in the Independent saying that every doctor knows someone or has themselves had thoughts of suicide. All this is designed to get the public to accept that the present system is broken.

American corporations have been dying to get their hands on the NHS for decades now and Jeremy Hunt is their doorway. The American personality type is predominantly the psychopathic. Words like “compassion”, “caring”,”community” completely devoid of meaning to the psychopathic mind. American companies routinely lie in order to get what they want when it comes to a takeover bid. They offer terms that are too good to be true, getting as the cheapest tender, and then breaking in the millions from long-term contracts which the Brits in particular are naive enough to sign. The rule is quite simple: if an American executive opens his or her mouth in a negotiating meeting it is either a lie, a half lie, or a meaningless slogan designed to dull the senses of the opposition. Lying is just part of the way of doing business and getting what you want. Contrition is displayed, mechanically and without feeling, when they are found out and then they just move on. it amuses me how politicians speak about ‘mis-speaking’ when they mean lying.  Alas, Hunt is in this category.  Those who expect him to exhibit feelings of nationalism or national pride will be disappointed. Those who trust in him to serve their best interests will be even more disappointed. I feel like saying to the doctors, for your own health and safety always have Plan B. Your skills will always be needed the question is do you need to be treated like a creature on a treadmill.

Yesterday, I was excited when my friend from Cyprus was moved to write to me about the problem I had removing myself from a particular situation. The words just came into her head. They were of a particular quality and poetry that in her normal state she would not have been able to utter. Because of this, and because of the common sense of what she was saying, I took full note and much comfort from her words. So, two genuine communications in 24-hours.  Whatever next?

John Taylor Gatto

Today I received from Amazon a book by John Taylor Gatto called “Dumbing Us Down”. The subtitle is  “the hidden curriculum of compulsory schooling”. It is an easy read and a difficult read. This book has 106 pages of generously sized and spaced type but the content thieves dynamite. It is six hours after I received it and I’ve got 20 pages to go. John talks about the suppressive nature of an institution that encourages uniformity and conformity at the expense of the individual being free to express his or her thoughts. His hypothesis is that they are being trained to be mindless operators, almost like George Orwell’s  1984. John has taken some of the most difficult children and infuse them with ideas which have  in some cases bore fruit many years later.

Disadvantaged children require encouragement more than anything else and his words and actions have changed the lives of many. This man is one of the last courageous great teachers of children and I can only recommend this volume.

  • “I’ve noticed a fascinating phenomenon in my thirty years of teaching: schools and schooling are increasingly irrelevant to the great enterprises of the planet. …
  • Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges. It should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.

So, any teachers or potential teachers out there, read this book.








Baby Driver – Thunderstorms


Monday 18 July 1664   this is a link to the Samuel Pepys website. I’ve missed a couple of days but you will find all in some considerable detail if you click on the above links and change the dates.

amazing mixture of clouds in a grand symphonic performance

last night was a night of amazing storms with voluminous brain accompanied by cracking thunder and lightning that lit up the sky. We were both woken up and went to sit in the conservatory to watch the spectacular effect. This morning, parts of southern Bristol and Keynsham were without water because of a burst water main.  The sky gradually cleared and the sun broke out about 10 AM.

So I went to see the much advertised film Baby Driver. The cinephotography was superb and bought the level of quality of car chases up a few notches. I remember being impressed by Steve McQueen in ‘Bullit’ many years ago but this is so far ahead of this. The young man who was such a good getaway driver had been traumatised by being in the same car in which his parents were both killed by driving into a wall during inattention. He had not recovered from this and could only escape by playing loud music by his headphones and by the fast driving of cars. The mental turmoil he was in was plain for all to see. I will not spoil the film for anyone who wants to go but it riveted me in my seat for the 130 min duration. Going to a daytime showing is not the most atmospheric of experiences. There were about 50 people in the movie house and everyone was silent all the time.

laurel leaves vary in size and lack discipline so it is much more difficult to create a good effect

Gardening orders come in fits and starts. Yesterday morning I had a call from a chap who wanted his hedge cut because he had put his shoulder out. We found some time to do it and he was so pleased with the quality of our work that he gave me a tip. Hedge cutting is an art. I have three or four tools that I use. A low power electric hedge cutter, a higher power telescopic  hedge cutter, shears and clippers. I hear you ask why is there a need for such a variety. This is because of the nature and size of the leaves. For example laurel leaves are large and greasy so they just bounce off a higher speed electric cutter. What you have to do then is to manually cut with sharp shears especially at the top. It is absolutely vital to stand back from your work and see whether the level of the hedge fits in with the landscape. Very few hedges are straight and very few hedges are on level ground and unless you meld the whole  into the landscape it looks out of place. I have decided to focus in my advertisements on hedges and clearing only as we are best at that and it does not seem like work.

Rocky Mountain Nurseries


Friday 15 July 1664  huge blog about business. how on earth he copes with his business interests is beyond me. Maybe his diary helps him! It certainly acts as a mental stabiliser in my case. Writing the diary is now part of my end of day routine. I am now up to my 186th entry and I’ve only been going since February  this year.

I to my chamber to sing, which we did very pleasantly, and then to my office again, where very late and so home, with my mind I bless God in good state of ease and body of health, only my head at this juncture very full of business, how to get something.

I could almost describe Samuel Pepys as a rough diamond in many aspects but when someone says “with my mind I bless God in a good state of ease and body of health” I do think he has  a sound core of being.

Today is Sunday, a day of finals. Lewis Hamilton won the formula F1 and surprise surprise Roger Federer his 8th Wimbledon. He has earnt $100 million through participation in 93 tournaments. I happily set my video while I went out with my customer to the locally famous Rocky Mountain Nurseries and it is about this that I wish to write today.

The only thing that prevents my wife from buying  more plants is the fact that the garden absolutely full with no more space to plant anything. We are already overcrowded and this trend shows no signs of reversing. Garden Centres are an important part of the lungs be it of a city or the country. They are a place for a day out when you can have a cup of coffee in a cafe and then browse plants to your hearts content. People underestimate the ability of the centres to provide good advice and it is always worth seeking out a person who is skilled in your area of interest. It is very easy to spend far more than you intended. Key to me  is the attitude of the staff. Today there was a member of staff went around smiling and joking with everybody. He obviously loved his job and you get the feel you can ask him anything.

Here are a few pictures to celebrate a lovely afternoon

this is a rather nice way of making the point
pile them up, go away and buy some more things and add to the pile
images are used to create emotional states of mind to great effect. I think the poster could have been a bit bigger though
graphics are good but this one is a bit confusing a bit like something being cut in half with a red hot bar
non emotional factual message does the job
queuing to pay. They have a very flexible returns policy which encourages me to buy more



Working in the early morning * to charge or not to charge


Thursday 14 July 1664 Pepys’ long entry here

My mind being doubtful what the business should be, I rose a little after four o’clock, and abroad. Walked to my Lord’s, and nobody up, but the porter rose out of bed to me so I back again to Fleete Streete, and there bought a little book of law; and thence, hearing a psalm sung, I went into St. Dunstan’s, and there heard prayers read, which, it seems, is done there every morning at six o’clock; a thing I never did do at a chappell, but the College Chappell, in all my life.

Ever since I can remember, early mornings have been the most pleasant part of the day. I particularly love it in summer when the dawn creeps over the landscape at 4 AM or so.   I have fund that the atmosphere is different and purer when most other people are asleep. I awoke this morning at 3:45 AM, shortly thereafter decided to switch on my computer and tidy up a few matters which were niggling me. I ordered some MacularGold tablets for my eye condition. Interestingly, by 9:30 AM they had been dispatched, so I was informed by e-mail. Who needs the high Street with efficiency of such a nature? I know in theory I should support the high Street but I also confess to being lazy. If I can order something which arrives at the door with a few clicks of the mouse then that is what I’m going to do.

This morning we had our monthly men’s group meeting, discussing how to involve people and so on. There was a discussion about offering free weddings in Congregational churches for  those who did not have the funds to actually marry, typically after cohabiting for some time.  I would say this is a matter for the bride and the family to deal with and that accepting a free ceremony would not appeal to anyone I know, or who I have ever met.

As Christians, we discussed offering social evenings such as curry events  to appeal to non-churchgoers in the hope that they would come along and mingle with the  Christians in a friendly setting and perhaps share faith. One person said that if anything was offered free it will be considered to be rubbish. Other people said that if you do something in faith, the money to run the event would arrive in the form of donations. My own view is that if you make a basic charge say equivalent to a pint of beer and invite donations as well, the less financially stressed people will get the message that they got good value for money and could probably contribute something more.

An example was given of two indefatigable old ladies who ran a Methodist church and decided they needed a bigger church. They instructed builders without having a single penny to their name and yet by the time the new 1200 seater church was opened, everything had been bought and paid for. This story has a very old-fashioned ring about it and I do not know whether if such a scheme might be tried today, it would work.  I certainly do not have that sort of faith.

As for charging for giving spiritual advice or learning, I came across an article by ‘Drunvalo’ which raises some interesting points.
Do people appreciate something they get for nothing?

Today I received two telephone calls from potential customers saying that their gardens were in a mess. My advert in the local paper is very simple: “jungles cleared, hedges cut”. The ‘jungles’ bit does it.  It appeals to the self depreciation of the English people who make no effort to disguise the mess that their garden is in. I enjoy such work, typically that which no one else will touch, because it makes a big difference to people and the quality of their lives a bit like my mention a few days ago of the housebound woman with the wonderful husband who maintain the garden in impeccable condition. I would like to think that I got the garden back to something of its original sparkle. However, there is no denying that brambles are a real pain so you need to dress for the occasion.

I get calls asking me to prepare a garden for sale. On this matter I’m quite adept. I have bought a fearsome 52 cc strimmer which is weighty, noisy, but does the job.  The viewer of the house must see potential in the garden in other words most weeds need to be taken out of the way so you can see the main features. You don’t have to do the work of the incoming owner.  They must be able to see in their minds eye what could be done.

The main point is that the professional photographer must have something photogenic to tempt the potential purchaser. such photographers are experts at making even the most indifferent garden look attractive, or make a property acceptable even though it has little or no garden. You find out when you arrive so if you are a garden person, don’t assume anything, check with the agent first.

Hey you guys, how are you all doing. Have you heard of the latest wheeze we do in America, it is called “Civil Forfeiture”. The police can take anything they want, property, cars, homes if they suspect that the owners have been associated with illicit activity. This Youtube shows the story of a couple who have built up a motel business and are fighting to prevent the entire property taken off them. The excuse in this case (they make up any excuse they can think of)  that 0.05% of the people who have stayed there in the last 20 years have been engaged in criminal activity.

The police can stop anyone they like, search their car for money, and if the hapless owners cannot prove on the spot that it was not obtained from drugs they confiscate the money. If the owners want the money back they have to fight in court. But even if they win, they still don’t get their money back. this is one way or funding the local police precincts.

Another example. If a youngster is doing drug dealing, his family house becomes guilty as an associate of the crime and can be taken away. If you don’t believe me check out ‘civil forfeiture’ on google. There are only 401,000 returns. Can’t be anything to it then 🙂 You could start by reading an article from the Pacific Standard

There seems no limit to the ability that Americans have to be dumbed down to accept virtually anything that is done to them. I guess if you feed junk food to people, junk news, contaminated corn, trash TV, this will eventually manifest in a generation incapable of thought.

Now wont you all have a nice day now.

Today I had to turn down an aspect of the gardening job I was doing because I felt that the element was too difficult for me to perform to the standards required. It did not help that the customer has bought the wrong kit. I told her that I would get someone else to do the remainder of the work and subtracted the value of the work, admittedly only £50, which I will give to my friend to do. Unusually, we offered to take the customer to the nearest garden centre to help her transport large piece of trellis.too small to cope with That will be this afternoon’s job.

There is no question that going around to see gardens that need to be tidied leads us to a lot of interesting contacts.  Here is a lady who has just got married two weeks ago, in her 50s, a fluent French speaker who has decided to move to Brittany. Her husband,  David, is a delight and they were both very sociable with us both The bungalow in which they currently live has to be seen to be believed. It was owned at one time by her mother who was to put it politely a hoarder. Apart from a house built for two cats which was spacious and empty,  every per square metre of possible storage space was absolutely full.

This included the inside garage, and outside shed, a 40 foot trailer, a 20 foot trailer, the house itself, the area round about the house, and finally a large tarpaulin on the lawn which I estimate as 4 m x 3 m which covered miscellaneous items which David intended to take to a car boot sale. For this purpose he had bought a large white van. In addition, David had two cars parked on the road One of which, a Citroen, he had got for a song and the other one which they have had for some time.

I gave him a quote and said that he should clear out as much material as he could from the garden so I could actually see what there was to clear. My wife said she could have happily talked to the wife for an hour so interesting was she. This gardening job is a real blessing, or is most of the time should I say, and I’m determined to maintain my health and strength so that I can accommodate the brutal and cumbersome machines that I need to tackle the mayhem arising from neglect of years in the nature department.

The second person I visited had a small garden. At the side of the house he had boxes and boxes of crockery which he was storing for the annual crockery smashing competition which is evidently very popular in Stratton on the Fosse.

Back home to see Venus Williams completely collapsing  and not becoming Wimbledon Tennis champion. I must admit I had never heard of Garbine Muguraza (Spain) but now I have. She is very young, 23, and  speaks very well and positively with a coolness that makes me think she will win many more titles.

Off to the allotment to get some more runner beans for supper. One of our allotmenteers has a great talent for colourful design. Example above.

And so, as Pepys would say, to bed.




Blind Dates


Wednesday 13 July 1664

Mr. Moore was with me late to desire me to come to my Lord Sandwich tomorrow morning, which I shall, but I wonder what my business is.

Samuel Pepys was being asked to enter into an  unknown situation. He did not know why he’d being invited to this meeting.

This whole universe is so interesting because it consists of a multitude of dimensions. Within the physical dimension, which is only a minute part of the whole, we have the familiar everyday activities that we see as a  routine. We wander -through choice or involuntarily into other dimensions of comfort or lack of it every time we do something new or meet someone new. You could say every day of our life is a blind date.

And yet it is not completely blind. For those of us that want to use it, we have access to our intuition which gives us advance warning if the forthcoming situation is dangerous. Our stomach is normally the first reporting station. We get a funny feeling in our stomach. This is different from stage fright or first night nerves or nervousness because it is a feeling that’s not all is right. The opposite of this is a feeling of anticipation and excitement. Instead of focusing on ourselves why not assume that the other person may be as nervous as we are and wants to present themselves to the best effect. Someone said to me once that a stranger is a friend that you have not yet become familiar with.

Most fear of these ‘new’ situations is self-created fear without any evidence at all of the basis of that fear. Why do we not change our policy and relish the moment when something exciting new might happen. if you approach someone in a friendly way and they turn away what have you lost? If they’re having a bad day and cannot relate to someone, does this become your problem? It is a natural urge among human beings to communicate with and be understood by other  beings. If this apparatus has been damaged in someone else then they deserve compassion because that state they are in cannot be a happy one.

When I’m out walking I’m quite happy to talk to anyone with a pulse irrespective of age and all the usual criteria. Even if it is just passing the day talking about trivial things, if I can make a small difference to many people then the day has not been wasted.

I think it would be the next thing to hell on earth if I knew  all the people I were going to meet and the consequences of that meeting. Why not sit back and enjoy the ride?


The simple pleasures of life – growing and eating food


Tuesday 12 July 1664

….Dined alone; sad for want of company and not being very well, and know not how to eat alone….

Here’s a compulsively gregarious person who loves to be part of the game of life almost to the point of not being comfortable when there is no one else around.

The same cannot be said of myself and my partner who can sit for hours in the garden or at the Computer or reading. As our readers will know, we have an allotment apiece and the runner beans season is in full swing. We decided to have a lunch consisting mainly of beans and potatoes which I had the pleasure of digging out of the ground. There is something very pleasurable about removing food from the earth when an hour later it is being consumed.the runner beans was so fresh that they could be eaten raw. They were a bit like young carrots.

In conference

Today is the men’s doubles tennis in Wimbledon and we witness the strange habit of the men talking to their tennis balls or engaged in some nefarious planning activity that they don’t want the members of the public to be any part of.

I am a member of a local gardening club and we have the habit of visiting each other’s gardens during the summer season. Here are some examples of flowers and shrubs with the added bonus at the end of a space age disabled motorcycle.

general view of a back garden with no lawn but pebbles instead
a creative water feature
a close-up
flaming red
pink and white
this is the most space age disabled car I have ever seen almost Vulcan

As my readers are probably aware I do try to keep in touch with what is really going on in the world, totally disregarding the bought and paid for MSM mainstream media. I was shocked but not surprised to read in a well-regarded website that chemotherapy is found to actually spread cancer, generating repeat business for the for-profit cancer industry. You might want to read the article here

It says that although chemotherapy shrinks tumours it is also spreading cancer throughout the body thus ensuring repeat business for those who profit from this fear-based cancer industry. It is worth billions and billions of dollars. I would never give a single penny to cancer research. Alternative cures to the gross invasory techniques based on natural medicine are quickly suppressed and the operators put out of business. For example, in the USA, if a doctor prescribed vitamin D for improving the body system and increasing the resistance to cancer they would lose their licence to practice. It is a sad and corrupt world that we live in careening towards self-destruction. Here is a paragraph from the article.

The cancer industry is a corrupt, criminally-operated branch of modern medicine, run by felony criminals and hucksters like Dr. Farid Fata who is currently serving prison time for falsely diagnosing people with cancer so he could profit from chemotherapy treatments they didn’t need. His colleague, Dr. David Gorski of the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, is not yet in prison but has been reported to the FBI for investigation. He remains one of the sickest and most sociopathic abusers of women in the history of cancer surgery, earning him the nickname “Gorski the Nipple Ripper.” He has also been accused of promoting cancer-causing medical interventions, possibly as a means to further his own profit interests at the expense of the health of innocent women. Dr. David Gorski has also been linked to “skeptics” kingpin James Randi, who was caught on tape soliciting sex acts from a young male.

Fighting talk? Yes, and why not.

The perils and the benefits of networking


This evening I was invited with two colleagues to go along to a networking event run by a Christian organisation and funded by a rich philanthropist who wanted to put something back into society. It was held in Bath in a themed room called “The Ingloo”.  There is no such thing as the perfect meeting but this came quite close to it. First, everyone had something in common in that they were engaged in good works for others and were not making any money out of their ventures. This straightaway reduces the attention seeking and competitive nature of the event.

There were about 16 of us and four tables were laid out for supper. The meeting started at around 7:30pm . The host, Joy, certainly lived up to her name and greeted everyone on entry. I cannot over emphasise the importance of being greeted immediately. There is nothing worse than looking around staring at a sea of faces and not recognising anybody. Joy was engaged in conversation and I spotted someone coming in so I immediately went to greet them.  We were offered one free drink at the bar and the rest we had to buy. As it was a Christian meeting there wasn’t a huge emphasis on drink but this did not prevent me from buying a second glass of very good white wine.

About 4 people who had booked to come did not show up. I discussed with Joy how to deal with this because the meals had to be paid anyway out of the pocket of the charity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with discipline, and telling people to please cancel within 24 hours of the event as the meal has to be paid for, or something direct like that, makes the position clear. A charity has no duty of largesse to people who do not have the good manners or thoughtfulness to announce they cannot attend a paid for meeting.

Joy assembled us together in a standing circle and asked us to introduce ourselves briefly. I have never known this to be adhered to 100% of the time. One person went on for about 3 min. When they say “two quick points” you know it’s going to be two detailed points. I wish people would not use the word quick without thinking what they’re doing. Making a quick call. What does this mean?  Do you speak faster. In my book, you either make a call or you do not. You either do something now, or you do it later.

After the introductions,  we were directed to our pre arranged seating which was a good idea because it made sure that I did not sit with my colleagues and thus could get to know a new set of people. There were a lot of people in their 20s and 30s and I felt a little bit out of it at the grand old age of 73 and my comments tended to be dismissed or ignored. I consoled myself with listening to the very interesting dialogue is going on one of which was about how to involve people  and get them to take the initiative without it being obvious.

Well cooked salmon with spinach and mashed potato – a simple main where you can converse without focusing too much on the intricacies of the food item.

A guest said that if you invite people to a meeting to give their views, no one will turn up though I’m sure it depends on the way the meeting is advertised and the previous track record of the organisers.

I made meaningful contact with about three people and spent about 15 min with each then quite frankly I was up to my limit. Two of the conversations work at the dinner table and one was  during a walkabout afterwards. One of the things I find very difficult to deal with is noise and the room was small and Echoy, about 8 foot high in the middle rather like a bunker. Whenever one is speaking at the same time it is more difficult to filter the noise so I find I have to concentrate far more to hear what is being said and abstract the points of value. I do work very hard to listen. I’m not particularly interested in promulgating my own views. I know what they are. I am more interested in listening to the views of others and maybe asking prompting type questions to stimulate thought all round.

The meeting broke up about 45 min after the last course was served and I thought the timing was about right because the meet was held on a weekday and people have to get up the next day and work often in very demanding jobs.

The success of the network meeting depends almost entirely on your attitude. I think if you go along just to sell your product or idea you will be immediately classified as a bore and as the man said, you have to sell yourself first and the product second, whatever that product or service is.

Noises in the night – how to complain about a faulty product


Monday 11 July 1664Pepys hears noises at night and fears for burglars. This is a long entry and a good read. Click on the link.

As I have said before in these bloggs, knowledge is for passing around, for circulating, for sharing. What is the point in keeping things to yourself?

Today I took delivery of a 52 cc petrol strimmer. There was a minor manufacturing fault meaning that I could not put the strimmer or bush cutter head on. in addition I could not fathom out how to put on the harness, one of the subjects where it’s easy if you know how. I called the service number to be told by a voice that my call would be recorded for health and safety, training, quality, you name it, purposes. In other words, don’t lie or abuse the staff otherwise it will be used against you.

This advice may be hard for people to take, but try not to complain and certainly do not raise your voice. The more you do this, the less corporation you will get, not more. A good basis for starting a conversation is to seek information about something you do not understand or are having difficulty with. The person you are speaking to knows far more about the product then you do and the tone of your voice should acknowledge this. Imagine that you have assembled most of the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle but you are lacking one or two pieces. That sort of thing.

I make a practice which I highly recommend of always asking for the name of the person you are talking to and noting the time and date of the call. I wrote my problems down. I was told by ‘the voice’  that the support team were busy serving other customers. I was invited to look at the website to solve my problems or leave a message after the tone. A fraction of a second after the tone  sounding, the phone was cut off and I had to redial. This was not the friendliest of starts. Next time I rang I got through and I told them that their mailbox was probably full or that the leaving the message facility had been turned off and it would probably be a good idea to fix it.

I try to bear in mind that staff are answering queries all day, probably interspersed with trying to do other work, and their head is full of a dozen things that need to be done,  waiting for calls back, making a mental note to do something when they have a moment, not to mention the intrusion of their own personal matters which pop up from time to time. The device I bought was about £70 which is bargain basement so they don’t have money to pay staff to lounge around doing nothing.

It is worth bearing in mind that if the relevant staff are busy, the call will be put through to a secretary or anyone who happens to be there. Before starting a conversation I’d tell them exactly why I am calling in this case to say “I have a technical question about the strimmer you just sent me”.  This avoids being asked to wait and listen to endless music while the person finds someone who can answer the question.   It should be pretty clear from the tone of voice on the phone whether a person knows what they’re talking about or not so don’t waste time with the wrong person.

When I eventually got through to the right person I did get a sensible and positive approach. I was told about a facility on the website to explain how to put on the harness. It was very good indeed and made up for the dreadful Chinese to English translated manual. I wish all those firms could have an English speaking – and thinking – person actually check this printed material, making sure the print is large enough to actually read.

The main problem I had was that I had to put an Allen Key  through a hole which in my version of the machine did not exist though it did on the diagram. I tried not to be sarcastic and say for example ‘I think I know what a hole looks like’.  After confirming this three times that there was no hole and after a discussion it was agreed that I drill a hole through the metal. I asked them to make a note of it on the file because any interference with the machine for whatever reason can invalidate the guarantee.  What came across loud and clear was that the two people, Dave and Sebastian, were dedicated to their trade. Good on you guys. Thanks for being positive and upbeat.

In considerable heat, we sweated our way through five hours of clearing a jungle. I managed to smash my mower blade into two halves  due to a sawn off metal washing line pole 2″ long cunningly concealed in the grass. The lady we were working for was not able to walk so I took pictures on my Galaxy and showed her what we achieved in the garden. I like to avoid arguments and disagreements  wherever I can and go the extra mile to show the customer that we have done a good job.

The daughter came along to inspect and we encouraged her to use the newly mown lawns for social purposes and celebrate what was actually quite a nice garden.  Interestingly, there was no smile or thanks. It’s difficult not to take this personally. Since we have cleared the garden as per the instructions it’s not that we have done our job badly. Maybe the daughter herself was so unused to being thanked for the efforts that she has made that she doesn’t know how to give compliments any more.



Pepys Diary 10 July 1664  

and there my wife fell to putting things in order against her going to-morrow, and I to read, and so to bed, where I not well, and so had no pleasure at all with my poor wife.

I’m sure many wives throughout the world could echo this sentiment. I had occasion to speak with the lady for whom I was doing gardening. It appears that her husband had cirrhosis of the liver due to many years of drinking. He is now in a care home and she told me many stories including one night when he woke up foaming from the mouth and having a fit. It is amazing how important the liver is and if it is destroyed by whatever means the whole body suffers.

I also knew one or two people who suffered from this condition. One person I know gets aggressive when you asked them why they are drinking so much when all you are trying to do is to help them. The customer had had the same experience with her husband. He turned on her. There is evidently a local pub that opens at 10 o’clock in the morning and he was often seen waiting for the doors to open. She eventually gave up and divorced him.

She told how the person next door suffered from a similar condition. He pressed his buzzer but could not get to the door and there was no one else at home. The police and the ambulance had to break in to his house at three o’clock in the morning to get in.

You’d be surprised about the number of people who take a fall at home. My wife’s mother fell down one evening and had to lie on the floor until next morning when the carer came. She still did not want to go into a home but eventually succumbed. I think she found being in a home surrounded by people who were barely conscious and most demoralising event. She did have room to herself but had to sit with the same three people at the meal table and they have nothing to say to each other or should we say very little of any consequence. I think the lack of stimulus hastened her demise but she did live to a hundred and three so that wasn’t bad really. Maybe it’s the quality of food and drink in Lyon, France, the birth place of my wife and her mother.

My hedge cutter decided to fall into a state of demise when the casing on the gear broke leaving the innards exposed. I was just about within guarantee though the warranty was three years so I rang up the firm and although I did not send my guarantee card off they made an account for me and decided that the best thing that could be done would be to send a new machine. They told me to dispose of the old one. I still have this idea about not bothering people but on this occasion I was really annoyed and I maintained a firm but courteous approach. I suppose it’s the old maxim, if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Today I have taken delivery of a strimmer but like so many Chinese made instruments the instruction book is woefully inadequate. The harness is very difficult to work out and the instructions just say ” put on the harness”. Well mate I would like to see you try if you don’t know which end is which. Anyway there is a helpline which I will call tomorrow so hopefully I will get a good result.

Incessant rain this afternoon, good for the garden but not for gardening. I finished my morning gardening job just before the rains came.

We are enjoying our  new hi-fi. There are hundreds of Internet radio programmes. One of them is of continual sounds of the sea. Anyone can start an Internet radio channel. It costs very little to maintain unless you have enormous bandwidth but how nice that anyone can do it


Hi Fi installation and tool thefts


Saturday 9 July 1664 click to read Pepys Diary

This morning I said a fond farewell to my son, who in a week’s time is going back to Colombo in Sri Lanka to continue his noble career of teaching English as a foreign language. My son is nearly 40 and we have gone through phases of not being in contact with each other but on this occasion we managed to have a long chat about important things. he loves  being in Sri Lanka but is only there because his visa is tied to his position at his English school. If he were to leave the school he would be quickly and forcibly expelled from the country.

I had a bizarre conversation today with a potential customer. She is from the USA need I say any more. I explained that I had researched what she needed in her garden, which she was preparing for sale with the house, and that I did not want to spend more than a certain amount of her money. What was noticeable was that she spent entire time repeating what she wanted and saying that she could do some of the work herself. I realise that this woman was not able to make any mental contact with anybody else. I have to say that this is very common amongst Americans and one of the reasons why I stopped doing intuitive or psychic readings for anyone from this part of the world. They hear what they want to hear, ask advice, and end up doing what they were going to do anyway. They have been so traumatised that they live in their own world and are unable to think outside it. After putting the phone down on her, I wrote the following letter:

Dear M,

I feel uncomfortable because there is a clear lack of trust (or exhibition of doubt) on your part and lack of communication in general.
You have a strong urge to do things yourself and in spite of my efforts did not really hear what I was proposing.
In my experience, if the job starts with misunderstanding that’s normally the way it continues so I think I will decline.

Yours sincerely

Today I had a new hi-fi installation installed. I have four speakers mounted on the wall which enables me to play music at a low level and have it delivered completely clearly to me. I also have thousands of Internet radio stations to choose from, though quite what use they will be I’m not sure.

The installation went without difficulty. This is because I figured out beforehand exactly what I wanted, wrote a series of questions down and e-mail them to the installers a few days before they came.  They were able to bring all the equipment that might be needed. I do try to be the ideal customer and make sure they had copious amounts of tea and coffee whenever they wanted it. I reckon a cup of coffee every one and a half hours is about right.

We had a chat with the installers. They said they did not like doing installations in Bath because they experienced the people as snobby and uncaring. They said that on more than one occasion they worked the whole day without even being offered a cup of tea and that at the end of the day the customer would apologise and say “oh I’m sorry I forgot to offer you tea”.

In my gardening work I met a chap who’d have his entire set of gardening tools stolen from his Vobster (name of a place) shed, valued at about £1500. He said he felt like crying because he was so attached to his tools especially his chainsaw. We agreed that this theft was so pathetic because someone will probably sell them in the nearest pub for £20. He said he would have been glad to pay to get them back. I resolved to be more careful with locking up my tools and not allowing them to be seen in the car.

Today I started Garden work at 6 PM because it was so hot that even standing in the humidity, sweat dripped down me and at my age I must be careful not to over exert myself.

Ideas for your next summer Fayre


Pepys Diary click to read

Up, and this day begun, the first day this year, to put off my linnen waistcoat, but it happening to be a cool day I was afraid of taking cold, which troubles me, and is the greatest pain I have in the world to think of my bad temper of my health.

Samuel Pepys puts up with pain that would send most of us running to the A and E department of the local hospital but he just takes it in his stride. At our event below was parked a high dependence ambulance nobly staffed by volunteers.

Today is Saturday, 8 July  and the day when all the good folk of Midsomer Norton enjoy themselves at the annual summer fayre. I have nothing particularly profound to share with anyone today. I have written before that local events need certain basic features in place and we certainly came up to the mark here.

I had an interesting chat with a young man who was showing Eagles. I commented that they had better eyesight than we did. He said that if we had sight as good as they, we could stand on top of a ten story building and see an ant moving on the ground.

Anyway, here are some of the constituents for anyone including those interested in organising. You might get some good ideas. The photographs are in no particular order.

remarkable talent from the locals
very good pen and ink
a clever reflection
busy weaving
tea scones and cakes
judging cakes and bread
judging potatoes and beans
judging orchids
delicate flowers
soft fruits
in the same hall, judo youngsters
a very hawkeyed eagle
face painting taken to a new level
Punch and Judy
children being encouraged to play a musical instrument
local brass band
our modernised skateboarding park
a climbing tower
rather interesting visuals for the Women’s Institute



Buy cheap, buy twice

Wednesday 6 July 1664  full diary click here (many business matters)

But the charge of the barge lies heavy upon me, which troubles me, but it is but once, and I may make Pierce do me some courtesy as great.

Buy cheap, buy twice. I really hate to say so, but quality costs. Alas, the market is full of what amounts to counterfeit goods which although they look like the original, do not have the lasting qualities. I have seen Wellington boots on sale for £160 and lookalikes for £25. I have seen four in one garden implements for £500, and apparently the same for £130. There are many ways of cutting costs. The use of inferior metal instead of light alloy, automatic manufacturing with less accurate tolerance,  materials that miraculously fail a few weeks after the end of the year guarantee, the cutting of support services.  I know some companies find it cheaper to have people return items and give a refund than run a full-scale maintenance and support department.  The availability of spares and the ease with which they can be obtained is another factor.

Shoes are a very good example, particularly walking shoes or why it profits to buy good quality items. I know they are not the height of fashion but I regularly meet people here in the country who have worn the same pair of shoes for 20 or 30 years.

Mercifully, we have the Internet and anyone can type in XYZ machine or product review.  The more people give reviews the more accurate will be the perceptions of the buying population and therefore the less of a risk that you will take.

So, as Pepys says, it is but once.

Today I visited a number of potential gardening customers. One was indeed a complete jungle and I could scarcely get into it for the amount of overgrown branches and brambles. I will quote them accordingly. The lady selling the house was a pleasant enough American lady who goes over to look after her farm in the USA twice a year

Another lady who was a carer for Curio who lived with her son in a council house. Her garden was chest high with grass and brambles. She was one of the ‘salt of the earth’ people who loved her work and looking after others. She said she had done everything, wiping peoples’ bottoms, laying them out, ‘you name it I’ve done it’ and she was happy so do.

Her ex-husband lived a few miles away and she said he got on her nerves because as he got older he became more dependent and she wanted to be on her own. She seemed happy enough, full of life, a hard-working person, and the sort of person for whom it is a pleasure to work

The third person was having his wounds dressed by a nurse when I arrived and wanted the back garden done. He did nothing but sit watching the TV all day. You will be surprised about the number of people who are in this situation. This stubborn Somerset man apologised to me about the fact that he could not do the gardening. I offered to do the front garden as well as the hedges in the back but he got quite angry and dismissed the offer. I quoted him for the back garden which he initially said was too much. I very politely suggested that he looked around for other quotes but he finally agreed to accept the quote which was all of £100.

The fourth and final potential new client lived in a miners cottage which they had done for the past 62 years. The husband had died 12 years ago leaving a charming but disabled wife. I was shown around by Tracy the daughter. It was a very long and narrow garden which had been tended by the husband for many years but was in a dreadful condition. Now I had a problem. The access to the house was down a narrow lane little more than a car’s width. I have a Volvo which is very long and wide and there is no way that I can reverse at the bottom of the street. These are the worst access conditions I have had. We have decided that in the event of getting the job we will park about 50 m away and trundle the equipment along a side path.

A patient at St Chads doctors surgery has offered to improve the outlook by the front door. The work does cheer up the entrance somewhat.

lovely Japanese type garden
shot from the street side



Eye appointment – a walk along the local canal – Jacob Rees-Mogg


Tuesday 5 July 1664 click to read in full. Mainly about business

Time for my monthly visit to the hospital for my eye check up. My left eye has deteriorated so an injection was prescribed. Lying on your back and having a needle stuck in your eye is not intrinsically pleasant but the doctor who does these injections does their very best to make the patients feel at ease. I in my turn do my best by being positive and cooperative, telling jokes at my own expense and when the time comes to put the needle in the eye, learning to be still. All you feel is a slight prick as if a sewing needle had slightly penetrated the skin of your finger.

The doctor and her assistant prepares the patient by putting large doses of pure water followed by iodine followed by an antiseptic substance which stings a bit but before you know it all over. The slightly oily medicine gives hallucinogenic effects, bubbles and colours. It reminds me of the Beatles album Sgt Pepper. It is always worse the first time when you don’t know what to expect but once you had a few it’s almost routine.

I sat opposite a fellow patient from Trowbridge while I was waiting.  She was grumbling because of the queues and said she would far rather be watching the tennis, it being Wimbledon at the moment. I reminded her that until a few years ago, people had to pay for such eye treatment and it was about £1000 for the session. She became quiet on hearing this information.

It was my 16th visit to the hospital in this connection and I’m getting to know the staff quite well now, I am familiar with their ways and mannerisms, and I always ask after them if they are not around. I made it a rule never and never to go in to the outpatients with anything other than a smile on my face and a ready joke if I can see any opportunity to tease somebody or – come to that – tell a joke at my own expense.  if anyone seems uneasy or trouble I will draw them into conversation and just lighten the load a bit. There are those who have eye conditions far worse than myself including children. What a terrible thing it is to develop an eye condition at four or five years of age right at the beginning of your life. Us older ones have had a good innings and eyes do go in one way and another after a time.

Our local MP had had a sixth child. This man must  be of old stock if the given names of his children are anything to go by.

They are:

Thomas Wentworth Somerset Dunstan
Peter Theodore Alphege
Anselm Charles Fitzwilliam
Alfred Wulfric Leyson Pius
Mary Anne Charlotte Emma
Sixtus Dominic Boniface Christopher

One cannot accuse our MP of lacking in imagination.

I took my son who is over from Sri Lanka for a walk along our favourite canal. The monster boat was there to which we gave first prize for ugliness.

German U boat?
this delightful boat was given the full works and became in fact an art installation
Even boaters in their self-sufficiency need support from time to time. I found this a very friendly notice






Strife in the home


Monday 4 July 1664

….and very much  and at home find my wife this day of her owne accord to have lain out 25s. upon a pair of pendantes for her eares, which did vex me and brought both me and her to very high and very foule words from her to me, such as trouble me to think she should have in her mouth, and reflecting upon our old differences, which I hate to have remembered. I vowed to breake them, or that she should go and get what she could for them again. I went with that resolution out of doors; the poor wretch afterwards in a little while did send out to change them for her money again. I followed Besse her messenger at the ‘Change, and there did consult and sent her back; I would not have them changed, being satisfied that she yielded. So went home, and friends again as to that business; but the words I could not get out of my mind, and so went to bed at night discontented, and she came to bed to me, but all would not make me friends, but sleep and rise in the morning angry.

I’m sure that you as well as the writer could come up with some commonsense observations. All I want to do is to speak out of my experience which may or may not resonate with something my reader is going through. It is clear that Pepys’s wife wanted to buy something for herself and trinket caught her eye. She may have been concerned about her appearance and wanted to give herself a morale boost, who knows?

One wonders why Samuel Pepys came up with foul language. 25s is not a fortune. She has hardly been unfaithful to him which is more than can be said of his behaviour sometimes. Perhaps it was a trigger. Perhaps there were too many things which his busyness had prevented him from discussing. Perhaps Mrs Pepys felt devalued as a woman.

It is possible to get into a rut although being very busy. I think Pepys was in this category. We have read in the diary that he does spend considerable amounts of time with his wife particularly in the evenings and that she is generally supportive. However, unwittingly, a customer of mine has given me the ideal storyline to talk about strife.

She announced that  she had separated from her husband of 28 years and had returned home to her mother. She felt a little self-conscious about this but was welcomed by the mother and realised that they could both be companions for each other. she said that she had finally had enough of her husband who had obviously had some trauma when he was young and refuses to face it. It is most difficult to break this vicious circle. If you were traumatised, there is pain and you don’t want to face the pain. However, unless you do, you will not break the effect of the trauma.

She has told him to go and get some help, feeling that she is too close to him.  He promises to change when things get bad but it never happens. I did suggest that  once there has been a loss of respect it is very difficult to get it back again and she really does need her life back. I also said that she was not a qualified therapist or psychologist and was not in a position to help him.She agreed fulsomely and happily to this. I said I would buy her a bottle of wine at the end of the job so we could celebrate the starting of her new life. That’s the great thing about this job, you never know who you’re going to meet and what they are going to say. What I like is that you never know when you’re going to make a difference



The Ideal Day


Sunday 3 July 1664

… Then up and spent the evening walking with my wife talking, and it thundering and lightning all the evening, and this yeare have had the most of thunder and lightning they say of any in man’s memory, and so it is, it seems, in France and everywhere else…

Thunder and lightning we are not having. Rather, a beautiful day just ideal for gardening. Gardening for other people is one of the most satisfactory things I know of. You come across a situation which is giving people pain and grief. You can see  how you can fix it, you do so and you get immediate thanks from the customer. Today’s customer, Judith, is living in a large three-bedroom house that was inhabited by her sister. Her father was a farmer  who had a farm just a few hundred metres down the hill so she has been in the property all her life. She is now thinking of moving to a smaller property in Midsomer Norton perhaps.

She is the ideal client in many ways. She trusts us to do what is right for the garden, is very grateful for anything we do and supplies us with tea and coffee. This encourages us to work even harder to make a nice effect. I see doing a garden as similar to painting a picture. Every element has to be in balance and say something. Gardens that say nothing or should I say elements that say nothing should be removed. Nature will  go chaotic and less you tell it otherwise.

Amuse bouche created for us especially

We were paid this afternoon so I decided to have a celebration in the local restaurant, a Greek place that is open every day for 12 hours or so. This is a very brave thing to do into what is basically a mining town where people are not used to going out in the evening and have meals. Anyway, we had a lovely time and returned home to see a glorious sunset.

Even Turner would have had difficulty reproducing this one


signs of living in the country


People coming from big cities should understand that the way of communication is different in the country. I know it’s an obvious thing to say but word-of-mouth is the way it’s done and the smaller the town or village, the more important word-of-mouth is.

I did a little tour today because I had a meeting to give advice to a man who had taken over the running of some allotments in Stoke St Michael. Four out of 12 plots were covered in docks and other weeds to the height of about 4 feet. We had a discussion on what to do and I suggested cutting them down to ground level. The clay ground made digging far too difficult. I then suggested running a cultivator over it, waiting for the inevitable weeds to grow and digging them up. When I got home, my wife suggested that the ground be soaked, covered with a tarpaulin for a couple of days making the ground easier to dig.

It is pretty much guaranteed that in the local pub, everyone knows everybody else. I remember going in there once and every single head turned round to see who it was.

a small cinema club has been started by a young couple who just moved into the village.It is run a shoestring. They need about 20 people to break even. Hire of the village hall costs about four pounds an hour and there are licensing fees to pay

I then moved onto Mells for an excellent lunch at my favourite post office come grocery shop, bakery come cafe. All the adverts are much more personal. You are very unlikely to get taken advantage of. This is something the newcomer finds it difficult to understand.

picture of Mells in the 18th-century exhibited in the cafe.


this is what the community is all about. in case you can’t read the detail, the phone number is (01373) 812804 and the e-mail is info @
in my experience, the more untidy, the more worthwhile the read
what a lovely leaflet

You do find an element of gossip but most of it is harmless. It is also mixed in with very interesting and relevant information, warnings, useful pointers so don’t dismiss it all.

I would say definitely do not speak ill of anyone without knowing who you are talking to. You may be speaking to their best friend, business colleague or fellow committee member. Again, you might think that is a completely obvious point, but things have a habit of bouncing back on you and the rejection will be subtle but it will be there. Thank goodness that has not happened to us and I hope it never does.





When is a bargain not a bargain – my beloved Lidl disappoints


Saturday 2 July 1664 Pepys diary here

To say that I’m a fan of Lidl, or ‘Lidlers’ as we are collectively dubbed is an understatement. I cannot resist going along every Monday and Thursday to see what special offers pertain. The people who order must be mind readers because as soon as my old item wears out, lo! and behold there is a replacement.

Last week there was a particularly tempting ad. for those wonderful four in one garden tools that do everything except make tea. Strimmer, brush cutter, chainsaw, hedge cutter all for £129.  What’s a chap supposed to do? Anyway I bought it and I did notice that when I took it home it was very heavy. It took me about 20 min to assemble it. The problems came when I tried to lift it. It was almost impossible to lift. Admittedly you have shoulder straps and a leather protector which hangs down on the right side of the body by the hip but as I am left-handed and have very little power in my right arm that is well nigh useless. This morning Monday I have already started to pack it up again so what happened with the normally immaculate ordering process? No one thought about the weight.

The specifications are immaculate and the build of good quality as you would expect of the German importer even though it is basically Florabest which I think is Chinese. A chain is as strong as the weakest link so off I go to get a refund. Lidl are most reasonable with refunds so I do buy from them with confidence although I confess that I have bought one of two things I don’t really need because they look so tempting.

Later… went to return the item. The chap at the cash desk was a quiet intellectual type but wanted to know what the problem was not because he was questioning my refund but simply for his information. I told him that it didn’t work for left-handed people and that I was not built like an ox so could not actually lift it with comfort never mind raise the end of the  hedge cutter 2 1/2 m above my head.  I have put it on my scales to find the weight in use would be 86 kg. Hard to believe that that’s what it said.

Last night, I wrote a long letter to a Gardening customer of mine who works for a Christian charity that does wonderful work. She is in charge of fundraising. I saw the website and I knew that it had been designed by an amateur. Sometimes I cannot help myself and I went through the whole site point by point and indicated ways that the site could be more effective. The problem is that when people create sites they only show them to their friends, and sympathetic people, who will praise the site saying how wonderful it is. What you should really do it is to show the site to someone who doesn’t know one charity from another. Their input is much more valuable.  By the way, before sending her the report I did ask whether she wanted feedback on the site and she said yes. That is always a better idea than sending a bombshell out of the blue.

Bitterness and anger


1st July 1664 Pepys Diary

…By and by comes Dr. Burnett, who assures me that I have an ulcer either in the kidneys or bladder, for my water, which he saw yesterday, he is sure the sediment is not slime gathered by heat, but is a direct pusse. He did write me down some direction what to do for it, but not with the satisfaction I expected.

I’m amazed how phlegmatic people of this age appear to be about bodily dysfunction. I suppose if everyone suffers in the same way it is nothing unusual. also, if you feel the doctor doesn’t really know what to do I suppose you just put up with it because you have no choice. The life expectancy was only about 35 years but more because of infant and child mortality than anything. the use of averages muscular force impression. I suspect that once you reach the age of 10 the life expectancy will increase significantly. In the 18 hundredths it had increased to 58 years. So, the large number of infant deaths skew the whole thing.

I continue to listen to the graphical stories of the people involved in the  Grenfell tower blaze nearly 3 weeks ago now. the attitude of the Kensington and Chelsea Council is beyond contemptible. There was no plan of any sort and people had to rely on volunteers for assistance. A couple of days ago the housing chairman resigned. He should have been kicked out by the government but they are tarnished with the same  brush, greed, and disrespect for the  non-earners of population. Someone said that only respect those who earn money for the country.

Now we find that the public enquiry will be limited to the events of that particular day and not the circumstances that led to it and there is talk of the residents boycotting any such enquiry on the grounds that it does not deal with the real issues. I guarantee here and now that no one will be prosecuted, that it will be shoved under the carpet, and that it will take a long time whatever happens

A Muslim testifier said something very touching. He said his soul was caught in the building. Insofar as we do not deal with past matters, I suppose our soul field or consciousness is fractured and we are in a way the walking wounded. I think it really does pay in terms of peace of mind to face something, traumatic or otherwise, deal with it and try to understand it as much as we can, forgive anyone needs forgiving, refocus your mind elsewhere. This is one of these advices that is much easier to give than receive but nursing bitterness does eventually rocked the sole in my observation anyway and you can meet people who are bitter about something  that happened 20 or 30 years ago. Their own life is being made a misery, they have not been able to be happy, and nobody wins. A bitter person exudes an aura which is fundamentally unattractive to others and only attracts those who are also equally bitter. The same principle applies to those who have been divorced and have not forgiven their partner. They bump into someone else and amazingly  that person has exactly the same problem so it is not a marriage of souls but the marriage of sorrows.

Let’s be happy and give thanks


Wedmore – one of the most expensive villages in UK


A Saturday in July means that there are at least half a dozen fayres, festivals, fetes, flower festivals, you name it it’s happening probably all at the same time so there’s no chance of attending them all.

We eventually decided on Wedmore little realising what a beautiful village it was. Due to its historical unspoilt nature and its proximity to the M5 motorway, property values here are sky high. The average property value is according to Zoopla > fanfare of trumpets < £535,816 which is a slight fall of 1% from its highest level. See the website for an indication of its vibrancy. 

Anyway, we didn’t go for these reasons but for the fact that there was a street fayre starting at 10:30 AM and finishing at 4 PM. We arrived about 2 PM, better late than never.

The only problem with going to really small fayres is their predictability. You will get the obligatory tea and cake stall, face painting, one or two boot sale type stalls, local painters, maybe local pottery if you’re lucky, someone selling antique garden tools, ice cream, one of two bits of entertainment for children, a beer tent and some competitive racing. That can become a bit boring.

Wedmore is very well heeled and they actually have an arts festival. As the publicity says “Exceptional arts in a village setting”. If you look at the programme via the link above it is wildly optimistic compared with the population of 3 1/2 thousand people. The reason is that there is enough available intellectual mind power combined with enough disposable income to enable people to think about things other than mere survival. The festival is one of the fruits of this.

the lady that we were talking to had the most amazing blue nail varnish and showed us a cup she had bought about friendship. It says “a friend is one of the nicest things you can have and one of the nicest things you can be”.  Well said

We went and ordered tea and cake and sat down at one of the tables next to a delightful couple from Swanage. We have an interesting phrase in England saying “you fall into a conversation”. The term “fall” implies an element of synchronicity and lack of any expectation as in “I met a complete stranger and we fell into conversation”.  The wife was in the National Health Service working in a doctors surgery and due to retire in two years time. “I’m looking forward to it”. The husband had had various managerial jobs and was now retired. I told her about my job as Patient Representative for the Bristol group of hospitals and said how difficult it was to get any change going irrespective of how good the idea was. She said that she had seen a number of changes over the years and they were not for the good.

They started clearing the tables around us or should I say removing the chairs and tables so this was a subtle hint to leave but we could have happily chatted away for another hour or so with people with whom we were obviously on the same wavelength. Being on the same wavelength means you don’t have to explain anything and the other person is likely to understand and grasp what you’re talking about slightly before the words are even out of your mouth. Maybe there was a time when we did not need to speak to all; it was all done through empathy, who knows.

Anyway, the rest of this diary consists of pictures I made on what was a delightful summer Saturday afternoon.

There are obviously tight building regulations. This is a miniature cafe with a charcuterie . Very posh my dear.
if I loved spotted dogs I would buy this full-scale model
In the morning, this stallholder had put a sign saying “good morning peasants”. she changed it to the sign you see “one does love a street fair” she changed it for fear of offending people but I think the original was much more apposite.
look carefully at this picture. The woman on the left has nothing to prove and she is really interested in listening to the chap who is talking. He is dressed as a pirate because the theme of the day was Pirates at least as the fancy dress competition was concerned. Being listened to without being judged is one of the most therapeutic actions you can ever imagine. Listening cannot be faked so don’t try.
plant stalls in this area always consist of very healthy plants ready for a new home
even a sidewalk and shopping alley is advertised with panache
We reluctantly left the village and drove to the Somerset Levels and we spotted this jam, marmalade and chutney stall on the side of the road with an honesty box



walking safely in the street, beggars

Pepys’ Diary, click for full version

Thursday 30 June 1664

…Walked back from Woolwich to Greenwich all alone, save a man that had a cudgell in his hand, and, though he told me he laboured in the King’s yarde, and many other good arguments that he is an honest man, yet, God forgive me! I did doubt he might knock me on the head behind with his club. But I got safe home…

Whenever we go out we like to think that we can walk around safely without being attacked or accosted. I realise that things are different for men than for women, for young or for old but for everybody there is a certain degree of risk which I would like to briefly discuss.

First off, I think you were asking for trouble if you go along the street listening to your headset and obviously lost in music. These people are oblivious of their surroundings and are easy to sneak up on and grab something from.

Secondly there is a pretty good telepathic aspect of the mind that can see ahead. I always do this with my journeys, stepping out of space and time so to speak, which is an ability that we can all use if we choose to. If I feel uneasy about something in advance I always take notice of it and for all I know save myself a lot of trouble. I do this when deciding which route to take in a car journey.

When we are in the street or anywhere we are in the public realm and as it says in the Good Book “we are all members one of another”. My interpretation is that if we see someone in trouble or about to be in trouble we should not pass by on the other side but at least offer our help.

In specific terms when going out at night, I avoid groups of people especially when loud noises are coming from the direction because it means they are not fully in control of themselves although under normal circumstances they may be very nice people. Resorting to either defensive or aggressive violence either by you or by someone else can leave a stain that can last for weeks and months or years and they should be avoided at all costs. There is no point in confronting a drunk or drugged person and using rationality. It is a complete waste of time because that rational part of the brain is closed off.

There are more subtle assaults, people begging, as Pepys found. I wish it could be said that the money goes to good purposes but more likely it is for funding a drug habit. What really annoys me is that the beggars particularly in trains who say “sorry to disturb you”. If they were that sorry they wouldn’t have disturbed us in the first place.

The Big Issue is certainly one big step up from begging. Well done John Bird for starting this initiative. He is one of the few rough diamonds that I really like and I forgive any type of swearing because that’s who he is and he gets his point across. I remember a time when the Big Issue was £0.60 and now I think it’s something over two pounds.

Other people busk for a living and this has become partially institutionalised on the subways where people even get a little circle drawn out in paint where they ply their trade. I think the idea was obtained from America. These are the only groups of people that I will give money to and gladly so because they are giving something in return.

If you go to Trafalgar Square in London you will see apparent statues posing in impossible positions but yes they are human beings and a collection hat is conveniently situated in front of them. I regard this as performance art of some value and I will also give here.

I do not give money to people who say that they are homeless because I have read stories of people who are not homeless who come into the West End of London example to beg. I believe begging has been banned in Bristol. whilst in Bristol ,I saw someone lying on the street. It took only a few minutes for the CTV’s pick them up and two people came along telling them very politely to move along.

My overall policy of being in public places is to see everybody as a potential friend – or temporary companion we can say – and pass the time of day with them, make some inane comments about the weather, just to make the machinery of human interaction a little bit more human. I believe that if you are friendly to someone it is far less likely that you will suffer any sort of assault on your personal space.

We were robbed once in Barcelona. Francoise had her passport stolen by a real professional. Barcelona and Rome are two of the biggest pocketing capitals of the world. The culprits are normally Romanians. My advice in traveling in foreign cities is that you will stand out a mile even though you don’t think you will. You should carry the minimum that you need. It may be that your passport is safer off back at the hotel but if you need to carry it, do so in a zipped inner pocket. Also, looking at maps especially if they are upside down is a dead giveaway.