Thursday 31 March 2011

Favourite Books (1)

I have always been a voracious reader. Some of my earliest books I can still quote chunks from, and bought copies on eBay (so sentimental!). Every child should read Lynley Dodd's beautifully illustrated "The Nickle Nackle Tree"; it begins "In the mangle munching forest there's a Nickle Nackle Tree, growing Nickle Nackle berries that are red as red can be". It's a counting book - but the picture are glorious and even now if we see a gnarled looking tree with a flock of birds roosting we see a Nickle Nackle Tree.

Another favourite was Ruth Orbach's "Apple Pigs"; again beautifully illustrated. A long poem that starts "Once in our garden there stood an old tree - no blossoms, no leaves, no fruit for me."

Unsurprisingly as I'm in my thirties these books were published in the late 70s. Nickle Nackle tree has finally been reprinted, but sadly Apple Pigs remains a collectors item on eBay - out of print.

Very influential was "Haffertee Hamster Diamond" - about a stuffed toy hamster and the other toys who come to life when their owner is asleep. So taken was I with this book that a decade later when I owned a hamster his name was Haffertee.

A popular choice in our house was always "The Great Green Mouse Disaster". A picture book where every double page spread shows a section through a hotel where the disaster unfolds. Hours of fun to be had choosing a different character's story to follow each time.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Raining again

Just when we were getting used to the Spring weather, back comes the rain!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Another sunset

The great thing about spring weather is that you get some great sunsets which are perfectly placed through the trees at the back of our garden

Monday 28 March 2011


A bank on Piccadilly
Iran Air
Vandalism on the Ritz
I'm all for the right to peaceful protest - as long as it isn't in the rush hour on a week night (motor-bikers)... but the shame of it is that there are always some people who have no interest in whatever cause is at hand but just want to make to trouble. Example, the march against the Government cuts at the weekend. Poor Piccadilly suffered some terrible vandalism for no real purpose. I suppose you can understand people turning irritation at banks (left) as the perceived perpetrators of the current economic crisis. Breaking the windows of Iran Air was without reason (especially as Korean Air and Aeoroflot were unscathed). And as for throwing paint at the Ritz - just malicious the poor building is halfway through being cleaned!

Sunday 27 March 2011

Census time

Every ten years the UK government takes a census of its citizens. These censuses are kept sealed for 100 years. As I live with my nearly-mother-in-law I filled out the "person 3" questions... but I feel I've done my bit.

Like most people, though, I'd love to know what was under question 17 that was pulled at the last moment. As someone who has put together many documents "intentionally left blank" (or as we put "not used") means you omitted something at the last minute and couldn't be bothered to renumber (and re-reference) the entire document.

Not the case though... I Googled it. Here is the official response from the website:

Question 17 is blank in England.

We aim to keep the England and Wales questionnaires as consistent as possible. Question 17 is about the Welsh language and is only included on the questionnaire in Wales. This question is not required in both countries, so a space has been left.

So now you know!

Saturday 26 March 2011

Back on the road

The car has returned from the garage. The clutch has been replaced. It is obvious that the old clutch has been on its way out for a long time. The new one is very sensitive and the trip home was almost like learning to drive again as taking one's foot off the clutch too fast leads to the car stalling!

The car runs better and the engine sounds better - so all is good.

Friday 25 March 2011

Busy Friday

Welcome to the Vet's!
First order of business today was to take the kittens to the vets to get their worming tablets. Whilst they are still growing they have to be weighed to make sure they get the right dose. They are both now over 4kg - and Tinker is now heavier than Casper (it's all muscle!). Tinker didn't want to get in his basket when we were going and didn't want to get out of his basket when we arrived. Casper on the other hand purred loudly throughout (hampering the vet's checking his heartbeat) and again ate the worming tablet from the counter without any persuasion. 

Next I went to visit a friend and took a stroll through the park. As we later went out to lunch and took the baby to the park this turned out to be a mistake as it wore me out. Spring has definitely arrived in Greenwich Park.

I love walking in the park. Some of the tree lined areas I can almost imagine Henry VIII hunting there.

There is definitely something regal about the straight lies of majestic trees.

I hope it all gets put back together after they finish letting the equestrian events of the Olympics next year thunder through.

I love the walk down the Maze Hill side of the park where you sink from the nature of the park into the urban spread of London - with a fantastic view over to Canary Wharf. Hard to imagine the view before all that was built!

When I got home I was please to find that spring had come to our garden too. My cherry tree is looking healthy and survived the winter. Phyllis is living up to her 'hardy fuchsia' label with green shoots already showing.

And even better the amphibians are out and starting their attempts to repopulate South East London. Some frogspawn already and a lot croaking from the reed bed in the centre of the pond. Sadly the weather today doesn't look set to continue.

Thursday 24 March 2011

Springtime in London

I must take a trip down to St James's Park one lunchtime - spring has definitely arrived there!

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Eye A&E

Having spoken to the duty doctor yesterday about my ongoing eye trouble I made the same phonecall today as the pain had got worse and been joined by some slight visual disturbance. The doctor (a different one from yesterday) whose opinion I highly respect suggested I take myself off to the A&E department at Moorfields Eye Hospital. Lucky my assumption that the green line on the pavement from Old Street Tube would take me there was correct!

I ended up spending the whole afternoon there. Quick story, it's just another MS flare up. Annoyingly they do want me to go back and attend the Neuro-opthamology clinic.

With its mixture of old and new the hospital is a fine looking building.

The culprit eye; the pupil is still enlarged even in the bright light due to the eye drops! Off to bed now as I've got the sniffles and every time I sneeze I get visual distrubances which is annoying.

Monday 21 March 2011

Monday morning

Be careful half-awake on Monday morning. In the bathroom, about to brush my teeth - the shower gel and the toothpaste are right next to each other and a similar colour... without my glasses on - well it was a close call!

Sunday 20 March 2011


I don't remember the software I used to take this thoughtful photo of my beloved dog Jack and make such a mournful shot with the reflection. He is both reflected and reflecting!

Saturday 19 March 2011

Off road

The car is in disgrace (along with Tinker who chewed his way into a plastic tub of fish food).

We were out yesterday afternoon on a brief jaunt. Objectives; show the better-half where the courts are for his jury service next week and run to the shops - aim, something to lock our living room door and keep the naughty kitten out when he isn't supervised.

We were barely into the trip, when the car, which had been acting a bit oddly, failed to accelerate along with the engine and a burning smell permeated the interior.

We pulled into a side street, a did what anyone else would do, called the AA. Whilst we waited for them to arrive we read the trouble shooting section of our Haynes guide which we (pointlessly) keep in the back of the car. We decided from this that the clutch had gone. A diagnosis confirmed by the AA man when he arrived.

Our next problem was, what to do with the car? Not knowing any garages apart from the place the car gets its MOT we opted to get towed home. That was probably the best part of the day. Being flat towed is a somewhat bizarre experience, you steer - but no pedals; and you can't stop yourself checking for traffic at turnings and roundabouts even though there is nothing to be done, tethered as you are to the back of a van.

Car deposited in driveway. Shopping still to be done (in the rain). About a third of the way through my legs had given out. We stopped for a (very) late lunch at McDonalds before finally getting home where I went straight to bed for a nap.

Got a few quotes for getting the car fixed this morning, but the trouble is that I have to find somewhere near enough that the car can limp to at twenty-five miles an hour (current top speed).  Mind you, if I go in rush hour traffic nobody will notice!

Thursday 17 March 2011

St Patrick's Day

For Irish readers - Happy St Patrick's day.

A lot of pubs were making the most of the celebrations - many Guinness promotions, green balloons and the like.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Commuting again

I had to go out of the office to a meeting today. Since my Access to Work assistance started I've not had much use for public transport.

I forgot how tiring it is - tube journey to Holborn and a walk to the offices we were visiting; there and back.

That's my exercise for the day then!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The clock is ticking...

Deadline day tomorrow (yes, another one). Feeling the pressure just a bit!

As soon as this one is passed there are plenty more projects waiting for my attention.

Silver lining - as long as there is work I've got a job!

Sunday 13 March 2011

Day of rest - not so much

I was working today. Alone in the office on a Sunday with no phones and email interrupting you can get a lot done (though never enough). My peace and quiet was disturbed (through our non-double-glazed windows) by the racket of a St Patrick's Parade which apparently was going along Piccadilly to Trafalgar Square.

You'd have thought that it was 17 March in Dublin.

Saturday 12 March 2011

At rest

Finally all the paperwork and formalities were completed which allowed us to bury my Father's ashes. We placed him alongside my Grandad (his father-in-law) as the two were great friends. I didn't bring flowers but snipped a sprig of rosemary (for remembrance) for each of them from the bush in my Mother's garden. It really is a beautiful location and it was worth waiting to get it sorted. That's Dad and Granddad in the foreground - and the foreboding shadow of one of the three enormous yew trees.

We left Dad to have a last sit on his favourite bench whilst we were getting the formalities sorted. It was a short ceremony as we'd already done the funeral last year; and only a few family members and my parents' closest friends were there.

My uncle read a bit from the end of Pilgrim's Progress (I'd never read the book) but that is where the bit about 'death where is thy sting' comes from.

I added in my head a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:- 

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind: 
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. 
Crowned With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned. 

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you. 
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust. 
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew, 
A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost. 

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love, 
They are gone. They have gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled 
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve. 
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world. 

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave 
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

Friday 11 March 2011

Skywatch Friday (47)

The weather is hovering between winter and spring, as is nature

Thursday 10 March 2011


The Shard of Glass continues to grow. It will really dominate the landscape when it is finished.

Wednesday 9 March 2011


So much work, so little time to do it in, so few people to do it.

I've used up all my holiday leave - but I could really do with a break.

I feel like this on Wednesdays. Hump-day my college flatmate called them... halfway to the weekend. Less than that for those of us who work four day weeks in fact.

See, there is a silver lining!

Tuesday 8 March 2011


Brief excitement outside our office this afternoon. A building further up the street had some sort of fire alert requiring the attendance of four fire engines and a police car (which was attempting to control traffic I think).

No flames though, and they left after fifteen minutes. Must have been a false alarm.

Monday 7 March 2011

Lost in a book... or something!

I read, a lot. Now it is usually my Kindle (seen here in its pink case) rather than paper books.

Sunday 6 March 2011

Day of rest

After yesterday's exertions (round trip to Kent, etc.) I wasn't able for much today! Quite a lot of sitting around doing nothing interspersed with some napping!

Saturday 5 March 2011

Step back in time

It was another one of those Alumni events. A visit to my old school... this time to see the latest new buildings. I suppose that most schools that have been on the same site for most of their history are a bit of a hodge-podge of old and new. 

That was certainly the case with my school when I was there. 

The original old school building had been supplemented with a 'temporary' annexe just after the first world war (which has only been demolished in the latest building works)! 

The addition of a further classroom/library block formed a courtyard (again mostly demolished now); with horrendously long stairs to the science block (still there). Then there was the main hall and gym (both still there although the gym is now the canteen).

There were a variety of other blocks (old and new) including the canteen (with two classrooms), the music block, a ferw pairs of huts (heated with excellent boilers on which you could shrink crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers) and the portacabin collection at the rear of the building providing more classroom space. All now gone.

Every classroom that was my form room (home room for those across the pond) has gone - but the new building is amazing. It provides a real environment for learning... I loved that all the rooms had names appropriate to their use (a classics room was called 'Virgil') but apparently they get referred to by numbers.

The tour of the school was followed by lunch in the canteen (nothing like lunch in the canteen in my day!) and then some musical performances by students. Finally a rousing rendition of the school song, which, apart from a mysterious middle verse which was never there in my day, I could still sing from memory. 

I always thought "Courage and Honour" was an excellent school motto and the line "Courage and Honour as England's women think of the school on the hill" always brings a lump to the throat.

Thursday 3 March 2011

Ecobuild 2011

Ecobuild is the construction industry's annual exposition featuring all things ecological and environmental. Unfortunately today was the last day, so you've missed this year's event... but there is always next year.

It's a good chance to see the latest developments in materials and products, take in some free lectures or seminars and generally exhaust yourself walking several miles round the exhibition halls.

This year it moved from its old home at Earls Court to London's Excel Centre. I thought maybe it would be easier to navigate with less chance of me getting lost. Not the case... I still walked in circles a few times and must have covered several miles.

As usual there were a lot of stands which didn't visually make much impression and there were a few which stood out.

On my way out I was rather taken with the larger than life statues of the dockworkers with the redundant cranes on the dock in the background.