Thursday 29 March 2012

Never too old...

...for rubber ducks. The iPhone was playing "Dance of the Four Swans" from Swan Lake. I only have two hands  so mine was a 'pas de deux' instead of a 'pas de quatre'.
A link to the music is below... I'm sure you can imagine the rest. No, never too old for rubber ducks.

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Goodbye to all that

When you turn 17 in England you are allowed to hold a drivers licence. This was a big deal where I grew up. Although I went to school in a medium sized country town I lived in a nearby village. Some of my friends lived in other villages, some in other towns. My village had an hourly bus service that ceased at 6pm. If you wanted to go out at night you needed very accommodating parents to act as a taxi service or you needed to learn to drive (and hope you parents would put you on their insurance). Everyone I knew learnt to drive (it took some of us longer than others). I passed my test on the 5th (!) attempt, by which time I'd all but given up. I was 18.

That was nearly 20 years ago. The beginning of my driving career involved me driving my parents' cars on their insurance (and occasionally having accidents in them - very rarely, can we point out, my fault!). When I left home for University they kept me on their insurance. These were small cars; an Austin Metro, several Ford Fiestas, that kind of thing. Easy to drive, easy to park.

My ex drove an ancient Jaguar. I was insured to drive that. It was like a wardrobe on wheels. I hated driving it, I loathed parking it. The only thing I liked was that it was an automatic.

We split and luckily I was still on my parents insurance. I continued to be able to drive their parade of Fiestas.

I moved away, I got a flat. I became eligible for a company car. I had two beautiful red Vauxhall Astras. Bigger than I was used to but not too big. Not too bad to drive, still horrible to park. Best thing, someone else was responsible for running the car; all I had to do was add diesel.

Uploaded by nat_mach on March 25, 2012
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I changed companies. My new job had no company car. For a year we had no car. Then we got a car; another Ford Fiesta. That was nearly 7 years ago. The car was already 4 years old then. Over the years it passed (and failed) the MOT. Bits fell off and got replaced. It was taxed, insured and filled with petrol (as the price of oil went up).

We had some great trips: 
  • We drove to Manchester for a weekend, a friend who supported Man U suggested we make a weekend of it. It was only when we were heading to Peterborough (long before the days of SatNav) we realised we were on the wrong side of the country. A lovely trip across the Pennines down little country roads... we got there in the end
  • We went to the West Country for a weekend stopping off to see some friends in Bristol. The M25 had a major accident and the section we needed was shut. We went round the South Circular (on a Friday night - still before the days of SatNav) and it we were just getting out of London when we should have been in Bristol!
  • I had several work trips to Lowestoft. You can't go further East in the UK without falling into the North Sea. Once you get past Ipswich major A roads cease and it is all B roads. Quite a journey.
  • I often had to go to Worcester (also on business) I remember the first time getting lost just after Birmingham trying to follow directions and almost being reduced to tears (that was what convinced me to get the SatNav).
  • Driving round London last Spring the clutch went, spent half an hour in Thamesmead waiting for the AA.
My worsening health has made it hard for me to drive. The car was a manual and the constant work for shifting gears was exhausting and meant I couldn't drive more than a few miles.. I can't really feel my feet which makes changing pedals as easy as it used to be in driving lessons wearing Doctor Martin's boots(!). My hands aren't as strong as they used to be which makes steering painful and tiring after a while. I did 500 miles in the last year.

The car had just passed it's twelfth birthday and was heading towards another MOT. I decided that it was time to stop throwing money at it and admit defeat. It was costing more than it was worth (quite literally) to keep a car on the road that was rarely being used.

So we sold the car. We are now a no car family. We'll get by - public transport is great (well plentiful) in London, there are always cabs for journeys with shopping... and if we really need to go somewhere that requires a car journey we can rent one. I did that in Ireland for the wedding of some friends and it was very cost effective.

That isn't to say I shan't miss our little car who served us so well.

Monday 26 March 2012

Garden Birds

Robin (8)Pigeon posse (1)Pigeon posse (2)Blue-titA pigeon pairPlaying pigeon
Bird brainPoser!Another poser!#failLonsomeWaiting
Robin (1)Robin (2)Robin (3)Robin (4)Robin (5)Robin (6)
Robin (7)Robin (9)Robin's mateLast RobinOne more pigeonAnother pigeon
Garden Birds, a set on Flickr.
The garden is a fine place to be on a spring afternoon. It was sunny and warm today. I got to share the space with a lot of birds (no, they couldn't have turned up for Birdwatch last month!) and also a squirrel and some frogs.

Via Flickr:
Spring afternoon sharing the garden with birds!

The Magic of Apps (1)

When I first got my I phone 3G (2 years ago) I spent a great deal of time downloading apps, not using them and ultimately deleting them. I ended up with a core (a still ridiculous 60 or so) which I kept. 

A month and a half ago I got my iPhone 4S. I spent a great deal of time downloading apps (again). The advances in technology (through the iPhone 3GS and 4) means that the phone and the apps work together in a way they didn't before. I deleted a lot of the new ones; but I also re-discovered some old ones which work better than ever before with the latest operating system.

A while ago I was taken with two amazing bright 'stars' in the early evening sky. My 'Planets' app told me that these weren't in fact stars but the planets Jupiter and Venus. It could even turn in the direction I was looking!

So now every so often I turn my eyes skywards once the sun has gone down and see what is in the sky. The app tellls me the constellations; of course if I want the names of the individual stars then I'll need another app!

F1 is back

The problem with every sport is that it has a season. Once the season is over you are bereft for the off-season. Our house is pretty lucky there is nearly always a sport.

Starting the year in January the American Football season is coming to a close (having started back in September) with the post-season heading towards the SuperBowl in February. The football season in England (and across Europe) is heading towards its climax in May. The baseball season starts Spring Training in March and the season proper starts in April. In March the F1 Grand-Prix also makes a welcome return to our screens after the brief winter hiatus.

This year (as with ever year) it has taken a couple of races (watched 'as live' due to them being on the wrong side of the planet) to get back into the swing of things. Teams have changed names (Lotus aren't Lotus anymore although there is a Lotus but they used to be Renault, and so on), drivers have come and gone (Kimi is back!). There is the usual controversy about the interpretation of the rules on some of the cars... and the question of whether last year's World Champion can do it again. If you want read more about F1 I'll recommend you this new blog 'A Dash of Eau Rouge' to keep up with the Grand-Prix. We've got a little break now before we head of to China the week after next. I'm just pleased that there have been winners and losers and right now the title is wide open!

Saturday 17 March 2012

My pets

Growing up we were a dog family. We got our first dog (Lucy) when I was a few months old, and Lucy (a yellow Labrador) and I grew up together. When I was a baby she'd sit under the pram and guard it... and when we lived in North London Sunday walks on Hampstead Heath were a weekly (ish) ritual.


Uploaded by nat_mach on January 21, 2012
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Uploaded by nat_mach on September 19, 2011
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When Lucy got older we got her a young companion - barely out of puppy-hood, Leo - another yellow Labrador. Leo adored Lucy and Lucy put up with the young pup. During my late teens I'd often take Leo for long walks in the countryside, I had a unique training method - if he pulled the leash I'd turn round and stamp just in front of his nose. He behaved for me, but not anyone else! Lucy died when I was about 11 or 12; Leo when I was 18 or 19. 


Uploaded by nat_mach on July 17, 2011
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Uploaded by nat_mach on July 17, 2011
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After we lost Leo my mother vowed, no more dogs. A vow that lasted a few months. My parents then adopted Dodie a Lurcher-something cross, shortly followed by Joe a collie-something cross. I wasn't living at home with my parents by this time - that didn't stop Dodie and Joe taking me to their canine hearts with typical dog enthusiasm.


Uploaded by nat_mach on July 17, 2011
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In the meantime, I'd adopted a dog of my own - Jack a Bearded Collie-something cross. Life changes brought me back to my parents house, along with Jack. Three dogs and three adults in a fairly small semi... quite a challenge. The dogs got on well together, Dodie ruling the roost and stirring up trouble with her dainty paw - often getting the boys into trouble.

Sadly the three dogs were very similar in age, and passed away within 18 months of each other a couple of years back.

Dogs are great pets. They are loyal and loving. Jack had a sixth sense for when I was upset and would come and sit with me. They also need a lot of walking and exercise... and scruffy mutts like Jack and Joe need a lot of grooming!

Now I live in a cat family. Casper is lord of the manor and possibly the most spoilt pet I've ever owned. He's worth it though.

Reasons I love my cat:
  • when he sleeps he makes little kitten squeaks and snores
  • he has the biggest purr of any cat I've met (ever) - the vets can't check his heartbeat as it is drowned out by purring!
  • he comes whenever he's called (except on occasions of selective deafness)
  • he adores his treats, drooling when they're handed out - and he knows the routine that goes with them, even down to counting how many he gets
  • he loves to be brushed (lucky as he is on the fluffy side)
  • his favourite game is fetch - you throw the ball, he brings it back (like a small dog!)
  • his second favourite game is 'Pirates' which is always fun to watch
  • he keeps me company constantly - whether on the blanket box or the bed
  • he has the most incredible vocal range - I don't know what he's saying; but I can tell the gist of it from his tone. We often have conversations, where neither of us knows what the other is saying!
  • he talks to himself when he's playing or watching the birds
  • he thinks he is a person in a small black fur coat

The many faces of Casper

A set by nat_mach
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