It’s not embarrassing … really


Bottle Bank2Well maybe, a little. I went to the bottle bank today. We do get through quite a few bottles, but the recycling bank is just around the corner so it makes sense to me to go every so often with a good load. I have a prepared statement for anyone who queries the amount, and that is that “… I collect them for others in the street … older ones who can’t get about …”. It seems to work, although if it is someone from our street … well I tend just to smile and comment on the weather.

It was quite tricky this morning though. The wet roads had frozen during the night, and then this morning we had rain, and this froze also. So it was a bit hairy getting the bottles to the car or should I say getting the car to the bottles. I was told many years ago that walking on frozen roads needs a unique style of walking. You need to walk as if your ankles are tied together, so that you take very small steps. My friend likened it to ” … walking like one of the three little maids in The Mikado …” I may look like a fool doing it, but it seems to work.

It was cold last night though. Our heating boiler is programmed to come on at 06:45, which just seems to warm the house nicely for us getting up between 07:30 and 08:00. This morning I awoke for some reason at around 04:00. It happens some nights,Frost and I’m putting it down to age. I turned over, but then heard the boiler kick in. Cursing, I went downstairs thinking that we had moved the timer on in the evening and the heating had not gone off. But the controller was showing that the heating was off. that meant that the ‘frost-stat’ over the boiler had triggered due to the cold. It does that so that the water in the boiler does not freeze. Doesn’t happen often.

It’s that time again …


Tonight is the ‘works’ Christmas Party night. They’re going for a Christmas meal and dance at a local venue, all paid for by tChampagne-Glass-Remix-4-by-Merlin2525he boss. I’m not going for the full evening as social events are not my thing. I am not the biggest fan of Christmas either, so having a party with people I only see for a couple of hours a week, to celebrate Christmas, is possibly not going to be the fantastic fun time everyone tells me it will be. I will of course do my best to give the impression that I am enjoying myself and laugh at all the old jokes, but deep inside, I’ll be clockwatching.

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I don’t get the whole idea of ‘compulsory enjoyment’. By that I mean, people seem scroogeto tell me to “just enjoy yourself” and “it will be fun” or “it’ll be good”. It’s as if they know what I like better than I do. But I’m sorry to say, they don’t! And if I say that I’m not going to enjoy myself or have fun, then out comes one of the most over used phrases “Bah, humbug!” Someone even call me a “Grinch” but as I’ve never seen the film I had no response.

So I’m out for an hour between 7pm and 8pm, on a day that the first snows of winter are set to arrive (or so the BBC Weather-planks tell us). Wish me luck.

Don’t believe them …


I used to be a cook. From 1971 to 1986 I was a cook at the Leeds General Infirmary. In fact from 1983 to 1986, I was the Head Cook in the staff kitchen. All this is a little bit of background information for what I want to have a chat about. That chat is about pastry. Specifically short crust pastry. Now, when you watch these famous TV chefs preparing pastry (and I’ll not mention any names here) they will always tell you that it has to be done by hand .. No mixer/processor allowed!!! .. They will tell you that your pastry will be tough/dry/chewy and any other descriptive term for ‘bad’ pastry they can think of. They will tell you that you have to make it by had, if you want the best pastry. I want to tell you that’s a load of rubbish. When you are making enough pastry to cover pies that are going to feed 300+ people, making it by hand is a non-starter. Can you imagine trying to ‘rub-in’ 20lb of lard/margarine into 40lb of flour by hand!. You have to use a machine. If it works for large volumes, then it has to work for smaller volumes too. So here is my recipe for short crust pastry in a food-processor:

  1. weigh 8oz flour into your food processor with a pinch of salt
  2. dice up 2oz of cold butter and 2oz of cold lard into 1/4 inch dice
  3. chill butter and lard in freezer for 15 minutes
  4. add butter and lard to flour and process until looks like breadcrumbs
  5. add 3floz of very cold water and use the pulse function until the pastry starts to come together
  6. tip out onto a lightly floured worktop and gently kneed for a few seconds until all mixed
  7. wrap in cling-film and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes
  8. use as required

They key to this is the speed of the processing and the coldness of the fat. I takes less than 2 minutes to go from fat and flour to pastry, which means that the fat is still cold. I can assure you that it does work.

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March is going to be an expensive month I think. Firstly, there’s Mothers Day and then there’s K***s birthday. This is one of those significant birthdays too. The big ‘six-zero’. Looks like I may need to move some cash from my savings account, but it should not be a problem really. We are going away for a couple of days on the weekend before the big day which will be nice. We’ve been to the hotel before a few years ago and it was a nice place. Good food, good scenery and it will be relaxing break for both of us. R*** is away for the weekend, so there are no worries about getting back for him. Just got to hope the weather is better than present. It has got a lot warmer overnight which has led to the snow staring to melt into slush. Much fun!

 

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FrontBackNow, here’s a poser. Which is the correct way? Front or back?  Is there a right or wrong way? I have no real preference at all but I know how K*** feels about it. For her it has to be Front. There can be no argument and it can lead to a lot of tutting if I put it the wrong way around. I’ve been in houses that drop down the front and houses that drop down the back. I’ve also been in places that have different preferences in different rooms. I’ve also been in houses where the loo-roll is sat on the cistern behind, which is an odd if not difficult location. So this is not a poll, just wondering that’s all.

 

 

It finally hit …


I refer to the so named “Beast From The East” weather event. Up to last night, the bad weather was more like a “Wimp From The P1020182West” as it had not been as we ha been advised by the TV weather gurus. But from about 22:30 it started to snow a little heavier than before. This morning we awoke to this. Must be about 10cm or 4” in old money. We’ve had some heavy bursts and some lighter ones, but it hasn’t really stopped. R*** has not gone to his day services today. S**** had told K*** that the motorway was quite bad, so we decided it would be better if he stayed at home. He is not good when it comes to traffic holdups and can get quite aggressive if there is any kind of delay. Its one of the main reasons he get transported in a mini-bus. He knows he has to have his seatbelt fastened and from the middle seat of the bus, he is not able to reach either the escort or the driver.

K*** has an appointment at the eye clinic today, and with the problems she has been having, decided that should keep the appointment. I would have tried to cancel it. It’s not a good driving day.

Better not speak to soon …


Well, the weather has not been as bad here as was forecasted. We had a bit of snow first thing yesterday morning, but it had gone within an hour or so. This morning there was more, but most of that has gone now. We keep getting the odd 10 minute shower, but we’ve had nothing like what seems to have been happening in other places. Looks like we might be in for another shower in the next hour (15:00 now). Some rather ominous grey clouds seem to be drifting in from the North East.

Now although, our weather has not been bad, in the five mile drive between here and Wetherby this morning, I did run into quite a heavy shower of snow, which  needed the wipers on at double speed to clear the windscreen. Bearing that in mind, you would think that motorists would drive with  a little more caution than usual. Not here they don’t. The road, a single carriageway, has the national speed limit along most of the route, only dropping to 40mph as you approach the roundabouts. This speed limit appears not to apply to some drivers. On the longest straight stretch, I was overtaken by two cars going at least 70mph and probably more. I have no idea why they need to go at that speed at all, especially as when I got to the roundabout, they were still waiting move on! I joke with K*** that it is ’… because their cars are bigger and more expensive than mine, that they in front of mine …’ but it could be true.

It’s 15:20 and those grey clouds have delivered. It’s gone from sunny to heavy snow. But now, P1020181only 5 minutes later and it’s stopped again! It was heavy enough to give a covering to the car though. Its strange, because the sun is coming out now and the sky is once again blue. It’s very confusing to an old ditherer like me. Still, the youngest lad will be in his element. He loves watching it snow. He’ll flit from room to room, looking out of the windows, just to make sure that it is snowing everywhere. It can be so funny to watch him at times like this. He should horse-riding today but I wonder if he has gone. It is one of his favourite activities, but he hates getting rain on his face so we are hoping that it will be different with the snow. You can never tell.

It’s been a long week …


I’m referring to the holiday my wife is on at the moment. As I’ve not posted for some time, I’ll get you up to speed. Around the middle of April, K****s sister and daughter, returned from a week away in Gran Canaria. She returned with an offer that K*** should join them on their next trip. There was much discussion about this, with me having a lot of misgivings about the whole thing. Firstly, it’s a ‘beach, bar and pool type of holiday, which I understood was not the type of holiday K*** enjoyed. Secondly there was R*** to consider. How would he react, coming home from respite to find his mother not at home, and not going to be home for another 4 days. Then there is the cost. K*** tells me that it’s a ‘one-off’, but isn’t that waste of all the money it cost for a new passport? And what about all the new clothes … more expense. Anyway, she is back on Tuesday. R*** and me will both be pleased, and as I say, it’s been a long week. I had a list of jobs that I wanted to get done, which I managed to do in between the rain and the wind we had here. I suppose the worst part of the experience is the lack of conversation. I went to the pub a couple of evenings, but there is only so much you can chat about with people that you don’t really know. It will be nice to get back to what we call normality.

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I’ve been a bit lazy with this blog over the past couple of months. To be honest, I’ve not really had much I wanted to say. I wanted to stay clear of politics as that is all that people have been talking about for the past month. I know from past experience, that it is one way to ‘lose friends and annoy people. That is something I can do without any external help, thank you very much.

I tend to update this blog in the late evening. I thought, that this retirement (early) would give me lots more time to do things like this blog, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. It still late at night, when K*** and R*** have gone to bed, that I think ”I must do a blog post”, and then I get distracted and end up not doing anything. I was going to look for a part-time job. That’s not happened. I signed up with a recruitment agency, but the jobs they have come up with are never appropriate. I promised myself that I would do more writing, but I don’t seem to have had any ideas that I could write about. I have done a fair bit of knitting though. A three beanie hats, five headbands, a pair of wrist warmers, a couple of scarves and I’m a quarter of the way through a sleeveless jumper. So I’ve not been sitting on my hands, so to speak.

I shall stop now as I don’t want to start rambling on about anything. I think I shall make a mental note to think about updating this effort at least once a week. I’ll put a note in my diary. See if that makes a difference!

A couple of days away … day 2


So, after a good hearty full English breakfast, we set off for Robin Hoods Bay. This is a small cove about 5 miles from Whitby that was used in previous times by smugglers. All very romantic and exciting … apparently.

We had a good look around the few shops that had not closed down for the winter and a nice drink in the pub at the bottom of the main road.

During a break in the rain, we managed to have a look out over the bay at the the slightly turbulent sea. Now here is my moan. It was cold. It was wet. It was windy. But out there in the sea we’re four or five surfers! I can barely understand why people do this in places where the surf is high and the weather hot, but when the weather is as bad as it has been and the waves seldom get over 2 foot high, I just don’t get it. We watched them for a good 20 minutes, in which time they managed to paddle out about 100 yards. Then “the wave” came and they started to paddle back. Only one managed to get to his/her feet and they lasted no more than 3 (and I counted) seconds before they fell off! It is completely beyond me.

Moan over.

Got some great pictures in Robin Hoods Bay which I’ll post later. Need to get them off my camera before I can upload them.

Another post ….start of something ??


   That tickly cough I mentioned, turned into a full blown chesty experience. Not a good start to the day at all. Then to cap it all, one of my colleagues (termed used loosely) came into work, and glibly announced that he had a chest infection. No thanks mate, I already have my own (or someone’s !!)

   I had to do a finance training course today. Those guys have as many weird and wonderful words and acronyms, as IT people have. At least I can understand the IT stuff. What is ‘negative credit’ actually ? Still it was a useful course, and the trainer was interesting. It should have lasted 3 hours, but we got it down to just under 2, so not bad. Testing time will be later this week, when I have to put what I learned into practice.

   Day off tomorrow (Tuesday). Mrs H has a hospital appointment, so we will have the rest of the day in York. Hope the weather picks up a little as the forecast is not too good.

   Eldest had an interview today for a part-time job. He has not worked in well over year, and finances have hit rock bottom. Well they hit rock bottom quite a while ago, and have not got any better. He did a couple of days last weekend, but it is not enough. Unfortunately, every student is looking for part-time work at the moment, so our fingers are crossed for him.

Halfway ….


   Well, that’s Saturday over, and it’s not been a bad day. Youngest has been fine, if a little loud, for most of the day, with no real problems at all. Mrs H dropped a bombshell this morning, when she asked me to take him for his hair cutting !! This would not normally be a problem, but the way he has been for the past few weeks, meant that I was dreading it. However, he surprised me, and trip went very well.

   Managed to get to mow the lawn today. Now that usually is a chore. What normally happens is, that the weekend weather usually prevents me from cutting the grass, until it has got too long. Then, with copious amounts of bad language, I spend a good one and a half hours, trying to cut the damn stuff. I also sorted out my little ‘greenhouse’ and planted some Dahlia seeds. May plant some salad leaves tomorrow, if the weather holds.

   I now have a new page on here, that has a few photos from our last holiday. They are not the best pictures, but for a first attempt, I don’t think I did too bad.

   I posted a status comment on facebook today, whilst I was in the garden. It basically said “……has cut the grass, and is now chopping out some dead wood (why does work spring to mind ??)……”. This seems to have caused a little upset, with some of my colleagues  …… ha ha ha. Just need Doris Day singing “The Deadwood Stage” as my ringtone to finish them off, and I will have lost all my work friends … ha ha ha.

Last Friday ..


   It has just struck me, that today was the last working Friday of 2009. I had not thought of it before, but in only 14 days time it will be 2010 !!!!

   It was a bit of a hairy drive into work this morning. The side roads were, as expected, quite difficult. However, everyone drove slowly and sensibly. It was not until I got onto the motorway, that I experienced any problems. The problems were the truckers !!!! The matrix signs said 30 mph, and 85% of the drivers were sticking to that speed or just over or under. The exception seemed to be some of the truck drivers. Some of them seemed to be of the opinion, that the speed limit did not apply to them. Twice I was flashed by a large truck, whilst in lane 2 of 4 lane stretch of the motorway, before they flew past me at speeds in excess of 50+. Then I hear on the radio about the serious problems caused by ‘jack-knifed’ trucks blocking the roads. To my mind, in the type of conditions we were experiencing this morning, the driver of any truck that jack-knifes should be prosecuted for dangerous driving. I know of people who set off 30 minutes early this morning, because of the weather, and arrived 2 hours late because of the problems caused by a jack-knifed truck. Rant Over.

  

Weekend over …..


   S**** has gone back to his flat this afternoon. Mrs H was very upset, which of course made him upset. They are both worried about his bad back, but I think he was glad to get back. We have just tried contact him over the internet, but failed. We did get through on Skype, sort of, but the both video and audio quality was vey poor and broken up. We then tried messenger and could not even connect with the video that way. Then he seemed to go offline. Hi mum vas vey disappointed. Oh well better luck next time. I suppose it could be the weather.

   I’m back to work tomorrow. I think I could be quite busy. A couple of finance reports to do in Excel,  and D*** is on flexi, so I’ll have the downloads to do first.

   I have a Outlook 2007 tutorial on my lap-top, so I think I will print it out tomorrow. It should, along with the reference card help me get used to my new email/contact manager. Touchwood, all the office software seems to be working as it should now. I still have a problem with the bluetooth, and I don’t seem to be able to synch my PDA, but that probably just needs tweaking, and it not such a problem really. If the worst comes to it, I’ll uninstall it and change the USB port that the adapter is in. That often makes a difference.

All done …. well for six months anyway


The appraisal went much as expected. A 10 minute trip down memory lane into what my objectives were (memo: ‘I already knew’), why they were picked (memo: see previous memo) and why they were not fully met (memo: ‘we knew they wouldn’t be’). Then we moved into patronising mode, where we discussed my strengths and weaknesses . This meaningless exchange lasted a good 25 minutes. And the outcome ……… nothing has changed since last time, but ‘I’m working on my weaknesses’. I have been doing so for the past 40 years or so. Then came my objectives (or jobs that I have to do because my line-manager can’t). These were basically to continue the ones before, plus one more. Now why on earth it took another 20 minutes to complete that part, I have no idea. That is it until the six monthly review, when we will go through the same thing again.

The situation with Mrs H and the eldest, is beginning to improve. She seemed a little happier this evening. They had all been to her sisters for my Mum-in-laws birthday, and S**** had come along too. He was not well yesterday.  Apparently, he had had a pizza on Tuesday night, and was ill after it. Now I remember being his age, and experiencing the very same type of illness on a regular basis. You go out, have 16 pints of beer, followed by a curry/kebab, and it is the food that always makes you ill !!!! I don’t think she slept too well last night worrying about him. I honestly believe she thought he had swine flu’.

Youngest has just had an ‘episode’. He has been great all day, then it comes to go to bed and he kicks off. All the Autism experts say there is a trigger, but quite often it is nothing that can be indentified. The droning starts, then the violence kicks in, and it is often 20 minutes before settles down. Tonight it seems to be taking a lot longer. The violence seems to increase when you try to stop it. It is as if he needs to hurt you, and his anger will not subside until he has. But the reason for the anger is not obvious. One of the annoying things is though, that the experts always look to you as if you are the cause. We spoke to one of the ‘experts’ some time ago, someone from the Disability Team, and when Mrs H said that often the anger is directed at me, the ‘expert’ turned to me and asked me ‘why did I think he directed it at me?’ Or in other words … it must be my fault.

Last day tomorrow. Hopefully we will have a reasonable week. I hope the weather picks up again. It will be quite a miserable week if we get the rain we had last time I was off. R*** has been quite amenable this week. Let’s hope it continues (apart from the bad parts of course).

Thought I had bagged a bargain tonight. I need to but some more RAM for my PC. It has 1.5gb, but I want to get it up to the maximum 2gb (it’s a 4 year old PC.) I bought the last lot from Play.com for about £16.00. When it worked, I though I would get 1gb, but the price had rocketed to £34.00. However, when I checked the site today, there was an offer, for the same RAM as before, at £17.00. Too good to be true ??? Well yes and no. They were out of stock, and there was no indication when the new stock would come in. So I left it, but I will keep checking, as that extra 1/2gb will make a lot of difference.

That’s it. Seem to have gone on a little tonight, but it has been an interesting (and I use the word lightly) day.

Holiday …. all done


Well back to work tomorrow. In some respects, the week seems to have flown by. In others it dragged a little. The drive there was quite reasonable. It was all motorway, M1, M62, M60, M61, M6, M55 with a short distance on an a road at each end. I don’t mind the motorways. I don’t seem to get a frustrated on M roads. We only had one hold up. It lasted for about 40 minutes and was due to some kind of spillage on the M6. A couple of very stupid girls in the jam. Sat in the middle lane, music on full blast, bouncing up and down in their seats. Suddenly the passenger opened the car door and started dancing in the middle of the road. Stupid.

Weather was kind to us though, no rain to speaBlackpool Tower Circusk of until Friday, but quite windy. I caught a bit of sun on the the Thursday and Saturday. On Tuesday we did the walk from the lake at St Anne’s to Lytham which was nice. Wednesday saw us in the Blackpool Tower. We went to the circus, but it was not the youngest’s type of thing. He lasted an hour, which was not bad for him. It is not the same though. I was quite disappointed with the whole show. The clowns seemed to reply more on vocal humour than the slapstick. Mind you, no body can come close to Charlie Caroli, and I think was expecting too much. Thursday was a trip to Marton Mere. We saw the leaflet last time, but never got there. Interesting place. It seems it Marton Mere is a 10,000 year old lake. One of only two natural lakes in Lancashire, and it was remarkably clean and litter free, despite  being next to a caravan site.

Saturday, saw us back up at Lytham/St Annes again. A different walk this time, and a lot less windy. Here comes the rantLytham Windmill … I get sick of seeing dogs everywhere. I worked it out, every third person/couple/family had a dog or dogs. They all seem to be on extremely long leads, when they are on leads at all. I never remember seeing as many dogs when I was a kid. And talking of kids (rant part two), why are they so noisy these days. Always screaming, and out of control. not like when I was young……… showing signs of age now.

One annoying thing though. I like to walk through the Pleasure Beach at Blackpool. Very rarely go on any of the rides (too pricey these days), but I enjoy marvelling at the amazing The Big One attractions. Not any more …… there is now a £5.00 charge for people just to walk round. So that means, those who go with their kids, and look after the bags and prams, now have to pay for the privilege. An absolute disgrace, and I think may be a wrong move, as I think some people just won’t go.

Set off home on Sunday at around 10:00 (I like to get home early on the last day) and was home for 12:15. It could have been 11:30 if we had not stopped for coffee.

All my plants/seedlings were okay. Eldest had done quite well there. The house was okay, no problems there. Just one problem, but we talked it through, and I think he got the message.