Should have been ‘Day 1’ …


For a few weeks now, I have been considering writing a journal. Nothing too over the top, just a few lines every day. I’ve been told that writing things down, helps with memory and trying to remember things. May all be rubbish, but it may just work.

So today was the day I was going to start. I’ve been looking for for something suitable to jot down my notes for a few weeks. What I wanted was some kind of soft backed book with lined pages. I wanted it about A5 or A6 size, but I didn’t want it to have dates. I already have a ‘page-to-a-day’ type of diary, and I don’t think it is suitable for what I want. This is what I found and it seemed just the job. It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered that it had plain pages with no lines. It wasn’t expensive, so I’m not going to take it back. It will teach me to read all the small print before jump in and buy anything.

So, I’ve taken the plunge and have bought one (another) from eBay which from the look and description ‘seems’ to be what I want. Price is similar to the other one I purchased and should be here on Wednesday. Fingers crossed, I should be able to start before the whole idea falls by the wayside.

The problem, if it can be called a problem is what to do with the other notebook. As I say, it wasn’t expensive so not really much point in taking back for a refund. I have a distant developing idea that I could use it as a sketch book, which basically what it is but I’m not sure about my artistic abilities. So who knows.

Should I, could I? …


Back in 2016, a few months before I retired I heard a rumour that my old school was going to have a reunion. This was to coincide with the ‘celebrations’ marking 50 years since the England football World Cupteam actually won the World Cup. I asked the school friend that I mentioned in my last post if he knew anything but he had not heard anything. I did a bit of Googling, but nothing about a reunion turned up. I did however see a name, linked with the school. The person, I’ll call him “Eric”, was not at the school for very long. He started at the same time, but after about 4 or 5 weeks he left. His father was an English teacher and had got a job in South Africa. As a consequence we did not have much to do with him. I remember him because he was the same size as me and had the same side parting hairstyle. He was on “Linked in” and I ended up sending him a message just out of curiosity. Turned out he is a University lecturer now, but in Australia. We messaged a couple of times, but he was more into Skype and Facetime video messaging which is something I avoid like the plague. As with a lot of these things, the messages dropped off and I only hear from him at Christmas and birthdays.

Then in March this year, out of the blue he emailed me with a pdf document. He had written his autobiography and thought I would like a copy to “…remind me of bygone times…” To be brutally honest, it was dire. I’m no writing guru, but I could have done it better Biowithout trying. Lots of sentences starting with ‘And then…’ or ‘The next day…’ or ‘After that…” For the son of an English teacher, it could not have been worse. But it got me thinking. Should I and could I do my own autobiography? It could not be any worse than “Eric’s” and I would not be publishing it. I wouldn’t want to do a ‘birth to now’ type, but I could concentrate on my work life. It then struck me that I could write it as a series of blog posts, taking say 5 years at a time and writing about the best bits.

So guess what? I’m going to give it a go. I need to work out some kind of time-line and highlight key points and dates before I start, but I think it may just work. So as the saying goes …

Watch

Blog editor trial – results are in …


Now here is where in time old fashion I should say “In no particular order …” but I shall resist the temptation. Instead I shall just list some of the ‘pros and cons’ of the applications I have tried.

1. WordPress editor
Positives: ease of use, built in, WYSIWYG, available on all my devices
Negatives: formatting images not as good as Open Live Writer

2. Word
Positives: fully featured, WYSIWYG
Negatives: too many features, no tags, image manipulation not as good as Open Live Writer

3. BlogDesk
Positives:
Negatives: Could not get it to connect to blog

4. Open Live Writer
Positives: Ease of use, familiar, WYSIWYG, tags and categories easy to use, image control good
Negatives: Not been updated since 2015, random crashes

5. BlodPad Pro
Positives: ease of use, good when away from desk
Negatives: iOS only, image manipulation not easy

After a little amount of brain activity, I think I am going to stick with Open Live Writer as my main editor for the time being. However, I may be tempted with the WordPress editor. With it’s ability to be used on my laptop, my iPad, my wife’s iPad, old laptop and even my phone if the desire took me, it comes an extremely close second.


All starting to get a bit real now …


Well, the confirmation I’ve been waiting for, came through on Friday morning. My boss emailed me first thing to tell me that my application for Early Retirement had been passed by the Corporate Panel. I am now all set to retire from full time employment on the 31st October.

I may have mentioned this before, but Leeds has had to respond to the huge funding cuts that have been forced on the Council. One of the initiatives has been what Leeds call the ‘Early Leavers Initiative’ or ELI as it is known. This is basically voluntary early retirement. Staff over a certain age in services that are at the forefront of the cuts are able to apply for ELI in order to reduce costs. I applied back in July, when it became obvious that our team was one of the teams that could be at risk. I felt it was a case of jump before I was pushed. Going now, I get a reasonable package, that I would not have got if I would have been one of the ‘pushed’ and my Service Head made it quite clear that some people would be forced to go in March 2017.

So now, I need to look for a part-time job. Although the package is a good one, it’s a lot less than I am currently used too. I also need to be able to get out of the house an keep active. My knitting and computer hobbies will not fill all the time and I don’t want to be under the feet of K*** everyday. Fingers crossed I find something quickly. 

Having a moan and other things …


I’ve not posted for over a week now. I suppose it’s a combination of laziness and wanting to write a more substantial post. I did try, some time ago, to post every day. I think it lasted just over a week, before I began to struggle to say anything at all. So that fell by the wayside and I returned back to simply writing when I felt up to it and had something I wanted to say.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s back to the moans and groans.

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We, that’s me and K*** had a great day out on Tuesday to Beningbrough Hall. We walked round the gardens, which were really beautiful. We then toured the hall which was extremely enjoyable. Where does the ‘moan’ come in you may ask? Well Beningbrough, as the above link shows is an estate owned and managed by the National Trust. A fine example of a house and gardens of it’s time and a great educational place to for all to visit. So why do some parents (and I counted at least five families) think it is a great idea for their ‘children’ to take a football with them? It’s a piece of important history not a sports field! If you want to kick a ball around, then there are plenty of of open parkland in this country to do just that!

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After our visit, we had a look around one of the large shopping parks in the area. Now I get a little upset with some of the shops and I have mentioned before the issue of clothing sizes, so I’m not going to visit that again. No, my ‘moan’ this time is the price of razors! We needed to get some for R*** to take on respite as we had been told he was getting low. K*** was buying some kind of cosmetic stuff and I was charged with picking the razors. It never fails to amaze me at the price of these things. But what amazes me more, is when they are sold on ‘special offer’. I saw one pack that had the razor handle and six individual ‘multi-blades’ priced at the special offer price of £30.99! What really annoyed me was that at the side of this offer price was the words ‘Worth £45.99’. Who says that these are worth what they say they’re worth? Is it some kind of expert retail gurus? Or is it simply the manufacturers that are just trying to con us? I feel that it could be the latter.

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I made a start on clearing out the garage on Saturday. When I say ‘made a start’ I mean just that. For the past few years, the garage has been a dumping ground for everything and anything that we/I/she felt might come in useful at some point. But it’s come to the point where even I have trouble getting in and out of the place. So something had to be done. I was going to the opticians and the local authority tip is én route, so thought I would kill two birds with one stone. Well I think I must have had a chip in my windscreen, and the numerous speed humps on the one of the roads must have exasperated this, because when I got home, I noticed I had a small crack in said windscreen. Not very happy that I have a £60.00 excess to pay to get it fixed, but even more unhappy, that it cannot be fixed until Wednesday at the earliest.

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On a more positive note, my early retirement figures came through on Friday. They are looking like I expected, and I am going to take up the offer. My intention is to finish at the end of October, but ‘they’ have sort of thrown spanner in the works, so to speak. The figures from the pension company provide me an annual pension and a lump sum. But ‘spanner’ is that they have also offered to increase the lump sum, if I take a lower annual pension! So what do I do? K*** doesn’t know what would be best and I think I know, but cannot be sure. I’m going to give the figures to K***s father to look at, to see if he could advise. It is a bit of a quandary, but at least I don’t need to make that decision first. That can be decided at a later date, but it’s still a puzzle.

A Rant, A Query and a bit of a Moan


I’m going to start with a bit of a rant. I know I have mentioned this before, but I can knit. Not huge amounts of clothes but usually small crafty items, such as daffodils and hearts and the like. DaffsI’ve done it on and off since I as about 8 years old, and when I’m in the mood, I really enjoy it. Now the issue I have, is that nearly all the magazines and websites dedicated to knitting do not seems to tailor any  of their content to the male knitter. Men have always knitted, and while todays society is a little less ‘macho’ enforced it is still rare to see a man knitting in public. I’ve done it, and you do feel very self conscious. It is not until your public realise that it can be quite intricate and that you are quite good at it, that some semblance of normality creeps in.

It annoys me when you see articles about knitting STheSin magazines or on the internet, that they almost always show pictures of women with their needles (never call them pins!) in their hands. It is the same with sewing and embroidery … never men. I recently signed up to an online knitting forum, with the intention expressing my concerns in the area on male knitting. I was more than disappointed when my registration confirmation email, which was addressed to Anthony Huby, started with “Dear Ms …” I’m still awaiting comments on that first post!

Here endeth today’s rant.

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I’m pondering at the moment, as to what software to use to write. I have Microsoft Word, which I tend to use mostly. However, there are a lot of suggestions that I need to write with software that has a cleaner interface. By that I mean not as many ‘whistles and bells’. Something a little plainer. More than a simple text editor such as Wordpad though, and possibly software that is dedicated for writers.

The two top mentioned software applications seems to be Scrivener and yWriter. I found both very confusing to use. Scrivener was a trial version, and had a number of features that were not available, but even so, I found it difficult to understand. yWriter is freeware, but was even more confusing as it tries to concentrate your mind on breaking chapters down into what it calls ‘scenes’.

I have tried both but think I am going to go back to Word. It’s an application that I know quite well and have used for a long (long) time. I’m loathe to pay for more software (don’t like paying for anything if the truth were known) if what I have got does the job.

What do all you writers out there in WordPress land use, and just as importantly, is it free?

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Back to work tomorrow! Not looking forward to it at all. I still feel a little under the weather, but not ill enough to warrant any more time off. Of course, the question I always get asked (we have a ‘return to work interview’) will be “Are you back to 100%?” I’ve not been 100% for many years, I tend to hover around a normal level of around 92%, so the question always winds me up a little.

I’ll get the usual raised eyebrows when I mention I’ve been off with a ‘cold’. These are the same people that would complain if they caught a cold, that “…they got it from ‘so and so’ who has been sneezing all over the place …” Can’t win with a simple cold!See what I mean

We are also starting with a new telephone system tomorrow. It uses Skype for Business as its exchange and means that laptop users, which most of us are, will have to wear a headset, when making or receiving a phone call. I’m expecting to look like an overpaid telephonist (no offence). It is supposed to save the Council. The theory, as I understand it is that as we already use Skype for Business for instant messaging, using it as a phone does not coast any more. Training on the new system seems to be a bit sporadic, but as ‘The Team’ are classed as IT people, I think we are supposed to just get on with it. That part of tomorrow could be quite intriguing.

Just thinking out aloud …


I’ve had a WordPress blog account for a long time now. In fact looking back, it’s been almost ten years since my first post. There has been times when I have thought ‘…is it worth it…’ and ‘…who reads this…’ and there has been the odd time when I have just stopped writing for a couple of months. Basically, could not be bothered! But my anticipated early retirement has started me thinking, that I may have more time on my hands for writing. I am looking to go down the path of ‘creative writing’ with the intention of getting some work published. I not holding my breath on this, but I suppose we have to have a dream of sorts. To this end, I have been considering creating a second blog, which would be dedicated to my (intended) creative writing.

Many moons ago, I had a Blogger account which I was trying to use as a cross-posting blog. The idea was to upload the same post to WordPress and Blogger. It did not really get off the ground, and I abandoned the project after about four posts. There was no easy way of posting the same work to two separate without ‘copy and paste’ which did not work at all.

Over the past week or so, I have attempted to reinvigorate my Blogger account, but it still seems to be a lot more difficult to use than WordPress and the available themes not a patch on those that WordPress have to offer. This leads me to think, that a second WordPress account may be the way forward.

So a decision has to be made, and I think I am close to making that decision. Don’t be surprised if in the next month or so, some my posts have a test link to another WordPress blog.

Have you ever ?


Some time ago, I had a go at recording a Vlog. I think that’s the name for posting a video as a blog post. When I say ‘I had a go’ what I really mean is that I sat in front of my Webcam and tried to make a recording. It was as I expected a total disaster. So much so that it/they got deleted from my computer within minutes of watching it/them back.

I tried two ways of doing the recording. The first attempt was completely off the cuff. I prepared nothing at all and just spoke, as if I was writing. The problem with that method is that unless you are utterly focused you can just clam up. When I’m writing a post, such as this, I often will stop … pour a glass of wine …look at what my wife is watching on TV  and things like that. It never is a straight forward sit and write until it’s done. That doesn’t work with a video, unless you are an expert in video editing.

The second attempt saw me writing out my monologue/rant/story and trying to read as I recorded. Unfortunately, that is exactly what it looked like. Even though I had practised and rehearsed, it just looked like I was a 1950’s newsreader giving the headlines with no auto-cue. So I don’t really think the Vlog is for me. I may willing to have another go sometime in the future, the distant future, but I think I will need a lot of help if I’m to take it at all serious.

Writing prompts – this looks interesting …


For some time now I have struggled to get any kind of inspiration to write. Not just a blog post, but any kind of writing. It’s not writers block as I understand it, it’s just a lack of ideas. I’ve seen many places that will email you random words and/or subjects, but they don’t seem to do anything for me.

Then, while I was waiting to set off this morning, I came across this site: Writing Exercises.co.uk. It is a UK site that offers more that the usual writing prompts. I’ve not had a thorough delve into all its possibilities, but it looks very interesting. It also has an app for Android, but unfortunately no iPhone app.

I’m going to give it a try, and I’ll try and post any resulting pieces of work, that look at least reasonable.

(I don’t think this post will count though ….. )

Been a poor blogging week …


Title says it all. It has been a poor week for my blog. As I mentioned last time, I have been on leave this week and other things have kind of taken over. For example, I re-painted the ceiling of our en-suite shower. Don’t ask how that went, suffice to say, it took all day. Then there were other things that made sitting down and typing a few words , a bit of a chore. Although I did have a stab at the Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge. This blog give you 10 random words and you have to make a short story using all the words. As the subject says, it was a bit of a challenge, but as some of the words this time seemed to suggest an Easter theme, I came up with this.

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Friday was a hard day. The eldest son and his girlfriend are buying a house, but as with all house buying, there have been a slight delay in getting the key. The place that they have been living for the past two years has been shared with a friend of the owners … it’s complicated, but the short story is that they basically had to move out yesterday. There had been a lot of issues there, and they both thought that the had just got to get out. Problem! With no key to the new house it seemed like an impossible situation. Ta da! Family and friends to the rescue. Me and K***, his university friend R** helped them shift all their worldly goods (and there was a lot of them) to one of his drama group friends garage and spare room. They are also staying at this friends house until they can move into their new one. Now the husband of this drama group friend is local, or maybe I should say national dignitary. I do not agree with the majority of his Governments politics, and I’m not going to embarrass them by stating their names, but have to say, they are genuine, nice people.

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As expected, I did check on my work emails during the week. However I did not answer any, and they are all marked as ‘un-read’. Some of them will just go straight in to the trash/deleted folder, but intend to do what everyone else does, and ‘do a catch-up’ and read everyone of them, before starting anything else. Should put an hour or so away.

Just write something …


For the past few weeks, I’ve have been trying figure out what I want this blog to be. What direction I want it to take. Should I have a theme? Should I write about something I know? Whilst I been thinking about this, I’ve also been looking up on the Internet about ‘what makes a good blog.’ There are shed loads of websites that claim to give the best advice to ‘bloggers’ on how to make their blog count. How to make it successful. How to make post go ‘viral.’

However, the one piece of advice that seems to be consistent is ‘Just write!’ Don’t get bogged down with trying to write for others, just write what you want to write. Now, that said, I did try this ‘once upon another blog’ and I don’t think it worked. So I sat down earlier this evening and tried to work out why I write a blog. What motivates me to sit down once a week and tap out the stuff I produce?

Vanity! That is the conclusion I came to. That and a desire to be recognised. A desire to part of a group that people want to listen to. So I have decided that I am not going to change my blog. It is going to what it is. If people want to read it, they will. If not, then why worry. I’m going to continue (or maybe start) being me. Whoever that is!

Let’s give it a go!


Now usually I use a Microsoft Word template to write a post. However, I have decided to install the new WordPress app for Windows. I have tried a number of methods of writing posts since I started this blog. If I remember correctly I first used Windows Live Writer, which I was told was an ideal blogging tool built into Windows. I think there were some problems with that when I upgraded to Win 7.

I then had a go with the WordPress online editor, but did not like the old interface used at the time.

I then began to use Word 2013. We had got a great deal through work, that allowd me to purchase Office 2013 Premium at a much much cheaper cost. I was just using it to compose and then I would cut and paste the text straight into the WordPress editor. It was a bit of a bind, but I was using software I knew (and it has a much needed spell checker.) After a while, I discovered that Word 2013 had it’s own Blog Post template. One try and I was hooked. It was so easy to set-up and use and i have used it eversince with the occasional venture back to the online editor if my laptop was not available.

Back to where I started. I downloaded the app at the beginning of the week and was impressed with the speed of its loading. “Must give this a try!” I said to myself. Well I didn’t actually say anything, but the thought was in my head. For the first attempt, again I am very impressesed. Its simple and clean interface is quite refreshing and the only things I am missing at the moment is a spell checker, and a way to insert a Tab (always like to indent the first line of a paragraph …. old school.) I’ve not attempted an image yet. That is for the next Weekly Photo Challenge.

Does the title count? – #writing 101


“There. It’s done. One hundred word flash fiction” I said.

“Err … actually … it’s a hundred and four” he said, the smile spreading across his face. “Count them. A hundred and four.”

“No, there were ninety-eight until I added the two ‘buts’ and that made one hundred, exactly.” It was my turn to smile.

“You forgot the title” he said. “That’s the extra four.”

“You can’t count the title” I shouted. “It’s not part of the text.”

“It’s still part of the story” he smirked. “So it counts.”

“Bloody challenge” I said. “I hate this stuff. Hate it all.”

Writing and Not Writing – #writing101


What do you do when you’re not writing? How do you reset and return to this dashboard, refreshed? What do you need in your day-to-day life to maintain balance: Running? Yoga? Gardening? Painting? Cooking?

Well I basically get on with life. Writing is something I do to fill a gap in the day, but it’s not at the top of day-to-day list. The small amount of writing I do is just a hobby. One of a number that do. I’m not such an accomplished writer that it can be anything else but a hobby. One of the reasons for my joining this challenge, was to improve my writing, and I think it is beginning to work.

But I enjoy …….

  • Reading (fiction and non)
  • Walking
  • Social media
  • Listening to music
  • Cooking and eating

Then the more unusual ……

  • Knitting
  • Ironing (clothes)

The rest of the time is spent working, sleeping and coping with life in general.

Sunday Write-Up – August 2015


This is for the August Sunday Write-Up. It’s a couple of weeks late, but at least I eventually did it.

It completely threw him. So much that he ended the call without saying anything. He had no idea why she would say something as stupid as “Hello handsome.” I was not a voice he recognised, and he knew all the receptionists quite well. Since his operation, he had needed regular blood tests, to ensure that his Warfarin was doing its job. It was not just the words that she said, it was the way she said them. It was almost as if she knew him personally. It was quite erotic.

“She must be new” he thought. He tried to picture what she might look like, but knowing the other receptionists well, it proved very difficult.

“I’ll have to go in to the surgery to arrange my test” he said to himself. He knew that they would not be able to test straight away and it would be at least a week later. They would, of course ask why he didn’t telephone. What would he say? How could he explain his rudeness when they asked about his call? It would be all on the phone records. No! There was no way he could go in to book his appointment. He would have to ring again.

He picked his phone up and tapped the Contacts app. The app opened and he tapped ‘D’ into the search screen. It should have found the Drs number straight away, but no! What the search found was an entry called ‘Date Me’.

It then hit him. His brother had used his phone while he was staying with him. His recently divorced brother. The brother who was looking for a ‘friend’.