Saturday, February 26, 2005

Taking that ride to nowhere

I suppose, if I’m to look on the bright side, today wasn’t entirely wasted, although I got absolutely nothing done that I’d planned. What I’d hoped to do was place a new cache in a place with a particular view. It all started a week or so ago when we picked up a Bear travel bug who wants to go to Canada. Well, that’s not one of our more immediate plans, lovely though it’d be, so I got out the map and started looking for possible alternatives, along the lines of Halifax (Yorkshire) instead of Halifax (Nova Scotia). I discovered London, Gloucester, Bristol and Woodstock in Canada, but then aha! Bingo! (No, there’s not actually a place called Bingo to my knowledge, certainly not near here.) In Quebec there’s a town called Warwick! Ideal for my purposes – and the Warwick county emblem is a ‘Bear and Ragged Staff’. Even more perfect for a Bear TB to set off from. As there’s no cache there it means setting one ourselves, so we got out the local maps and studied all the public footpaths that might have a view of the castle.

There were surprisingly few. I suppose in the old days it wasn’t a good idea to have people wandering too near your fortifications. Anyway, we were sure there must be something suitable. We walked about six miles, which isn’t too bad a distance if the surface you’re walking is good, but we were slipping in the mud because we didn’t have our proper boots on. We also had a total lack of success, unless you call Ned narrowly avoiding falling into the canal (one hand went in) a success. And it rained. And it was cold. And my legs really, really ache now.

But today wasn’t completely wasted inasmuch as we now know that there aren’t any good hidey-holes where we originally hoped. And I’ve spotted another couple of places that, on the map at least, have potential. We’ll have a look there tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Thank you for being a friend

To Tim. Thank you for being such a good companion to my mother. Your company for fourteen years made her life very much fuller than it would otherwise have been. You were always there when she needed someone to talk to and helped her make friends with other people who she’d never have met otherwise. It would have been very easy for her to become reclusive in the years after after dad’s death, but having you to care for prevented that. It’s a shame you and Piglet hated each other, but he doesn’t make friends easily, and after all he was in your house. (And he’s not as lovely as the girls, who you always welcomed with joy!)

Don’t blame Mother for helping you cross the stair to your next stage of existence. It wasn’t an easy decision for her, and she was undecided for some days, but took her cue from you. Yesterday evening, when you hadn’t stood up all day, you waited till she’d steeled herself and actually picked up the telephone before you got to your feet and walked slowly across the hall to have a drink. She put down the phone and cried with relief. But that was your last great effort, and today even that was too much for you.

I hope you’ll now be playing with Lizzie and Rupert, Ben and Rosie, Bella and Polly, and keeping company with my Dad. You never knew him, but he liked dogs so you’ll be all right with him.

Mother will miss you terribly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It's happening again

I’m still not happy about this computer and the way it’s operating. Sometimes it’s fine, but last night it was goooooiiinnnngggg ssssoooooo sssllllooooowww it was like wading through treacle, or one of those nightmares when you try to run away from something horrid and the harder you try the slower you go. The virus scan said there’s nothing there (though it’d blocked a Trojan horse several times; something about a bus; I suppose they always come in groups) and I cleaned all the spyware off (about 15 a day) bit it didn’t help. This time I’m sure I wouldn’t worry about it so much if I knew how to do a backup onto this shiny new hard drive, but I don’t even know where to plug the flipping thing in. Surely it can’t be that hard? It’d dial to the Internet all right but it wouldn’t recognise the password (Error 718 apparently) – which was right. I did a restart and then that was accepted, then after a while it froze on me. So I gave up and went to bed. Lights out at 10.15? Almost unheard of – and it meant I woke early, which was annoying.

It had been a bit of a horrid day anyway because my mother thought her old dog would have to be put down, but my brother managed to get over there (it took him over 2 hours) and get him on his feet again, and the vet said he wasn’t too bad. But today the dog’s down again, and although Mother’s got a towel under him he simply won’t try to get up. And if he can’t get up that’s the end. If I lived nearer her then I know I’d be strong enough to get him up (he’s a large golden retriever, and Mother’s frail) but it’s over 3 hours to drive there even when there isn’t any snow. I hate feeling so helpless, with her facing this all alone.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

They're all made of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same

During our day’s caching we found ourselves strolling around several villages in North Oxfordshire, looking for the various locations to solve the clues to find the whereabouts of the caches. In two of these villages there were some new houses being built slap bang in the middle, some detached, some terraced. But do you know what, you had to look very hard to see if they were actually new houses or old ones being renovated. They were being built of the local stone, cut to the same traditional size and shape, the roofs had been properly constructed on site rather than the usual prefab sections, so they were steeply pitched to blend in. All the little local architectural features were there; in about five years time, when the stone has weathered slightly and has lost its rawness, you’ll walk past them and assume they’ve been there for a couple of hundred years just like all their neighbours.

So why, when you drive around the country, are all houses on all housing estates identical? What happened to vernacular building? No, they’re all red brick boxes crammed onto tiny patches of ground, with wavy roads (burglars’ paradise – easy to escape from view) linking them and, almost more damning than anything, no pavements. It seems people are meant to walk in the road – if they walk at all. What happened to the idea of community? It seems that you live in your house or you drive to somewhere else – you don’t walk, or push the baby’s pram to the shop (strike that idea, there are no shops on these estates; it’s house after house after endless identical house). You could be in Plymouth, Blackburn, Newcastle or Gravesend for all the local identity they have.

So hurrah to the architects, planners and builders in Horley and Shutford. More power to you. And a pox on Persimmon, Barratt, Wimpey and all of that ilk, for the rape of our identity.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I know you're out there somewhere

I hope you realise just what a Good Girl I’ve been for the past couple of days. I’ve been doing the regular household chores, when all the while Ned’s GPS has been sitting on the shelf, with the final co-ordinates for a multi-cache we haven’t found all programmed into it. It’s only 6 miles away and I know exactly how to get to it. But we’re a team, and Ned would be awfully dischuffed if I went and got it without him (even though he did go and get his very first one all by himself).

I’ve also programmed in the stages for another nearby multi, and the part-co-ords we’ve found for a couple of mystery ones … all local. I so want to go out and get them ... and they're all between home and the shops ...

Roll on Saturday!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Giving it all away

I did a bit of a silly thing today. I walked into the village to get a bit of shopping, realised I’d left my purse at home and walked back. Whilst searching for said purse I noticed the Council Tax book, remembered the date and decided to write out a cheque for this month’s pound of flesh to take to the Post Office. Only a couple of days late – pretty good for me. So I got all that done, chatted to a few people in the village, came home and pinned the tax form onto the board again. That’s when I realised that I’d paid the final instalment last month. The flipping council now have the benefit of 174 of my hard-earned squiddlicks for no reason.


Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tell me why I don't like Mondays

Actually don't bother; I know why. It's because I've got to get to work before I know what's happening and whether or not I feel like going. Which I won't.

LENT (Liver (Entire Network) Treatment) is all very well, and most mornings are surprisingly painfree. But any good Christian (which I assuredly am not) will tell you that Sundays in Lent 'don't count'. Well, think about it. Forty days in the wilderness. Forty days from Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day, when all the eggs are eaten before the Lenten Fast) doesn't take you up to Easter. But it does (as the jolly good vicar we used to have before the new one took over reassured us as we gibbered) as long as you take Sunday off. So, as usual, Ned and I are off the alcomahol (unless we get dispensation for a very sepcial occasion) till Easter. But come Sunday ...

Oh dear. My glass seems to be empty.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Do the Monster M*A*S*H*

I always thought these things were a load of tosh, but fun, nonetheless. So I completed it, and this was my result:

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!

Then Ned completed it, and this is what it said about him:

Click here to take the M*A*S*H quiz!

It appears I'm the Boss and Ned's the Fun Star. Does this mean I'm in need of another lifestyle makeover?

Friday, February 11, 2005

We're on the road to nowhere

Do I live in an area with an unusually high population of uncos? All I wanted to do was walk briskly around town in my lunch half-hour, popping to the Post Office and the bank, and get back to the office in reasonable time. So why were so many people totally incapable of walking at a reasonable pace in a straight line? They were weaving about from one side of the pavement to the other with nary a warning of their intentions. Just when I was trying to overtake they'd cut across my bows, forcing me to take avoiding action by stepping into the road, narrowly avoiding being squished. Even the ones who can proceed at a pace marginally faster than a crippled snail would suddenly stop for no reason. Especially if they're three abreast and taking up the full width of the pavement.

Perhaps there should be some sort of pedestrianism test, along the same lines as the driving test, with L plates being compulsory until they have shown an acceptable degree of competence. If that's too extreme, let them be fitted with indicators and brake lights that work off their brain waves.If, as I suspect, some of them don't actually have any discernible brain activity, why can't they simply keep to the left?

Just don't get me started on the ones armed with those hazards to life, limb and eyesight; to whit, the umbrella.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

My name is ...

I was chatting to my niece today, and out of idle curiosity I asked her why she and her husband had decided on the name Benedict for their son. It’s an unusual name, and not one that’s cropped up in the family before, and we tend to be fairly traditional when it comes to names, with children tending to be named after a grandparent or thereabouts. The names always skip at least one generation to avoid confusion. One brother’s children are Thomas and Charlotte, and those were the names of our 4-greats grandparents. The Boy is named after my father, who was named after his grandfather. Previous surnames are generally included as Christian names too: my great-grandmother had one ‘girl’s’ name and three ‘surnames’ in her baptismal name. There have been umpteen Roberts and Jameses and Charleses and Johns, so to throw in a Benedict (though his middle names are his father’s and grandfather’s names) was quite an unusual thing to do. The child was very lucky at his Christening though, because for some reason the vicar wanted to name him Beatrice, which would have made his life unnecessarily challenging. Oddly enough, Beatrice is the name of my aunt, and her grandmother, so under different circumstances it wouldn’t have been too bad.

Why Benedict? Good old BBC. My Godson is named after Benedict Allen, one of my niece's explorer heroes.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Heroes and villains

When I was a child we were brought up hearing tales of heroes and explorers, people such as Robert Scott and Neil Armstrong; Charles Lindbergh and the Wright brothers; Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Roger Bannister (ooh, both knighted for their achievements); Donald Campbell and nowadays Richard Noble; innovators and daredevils who struggled, strived, risked everything, sometimes even including their lives, for the sake of a dream, to be the first, the fastest, the best. In those days this was a Good Thing and inspired the rest of us to do our utmost to get the most out of our short lives. Achievements didn’t all need to be earth-shattering to be of value – what was important that you’d had a dream and tried to attain it. You didn’t even need to succeed (Scott was the prime example), but that was the icing on the cake.

So what’s gone wrong with so many of the people of this country, that now they detest success? Any achievement has to be belittled and sneered at; compared against another person’s efforts and invariably found wanting for not being ‘worthy’ enough (who judges ‘worthiness’ anyway?). Where’s the delight and celebration? Why is success a dirty word? Why knock people – is it jealousy? Are people really so shallow, petty and small-minded that they can’t admire someone for achieving? Is it because they’re too afraid to get off their arses and have a go themselves? You hear the whinges “Well of course he/she’s only done that because of his/her background”. Even if it were true (which it certainly isn’t in Ellen MacArthur’s case) why would the achievements of ‘poor’ people of any more value than those of wealthier ones? Do the best surgeons have to come from slums? Chips on shoulders showing there, methinks!

Paula Radcliffe suffered from the ‘build me up/knock me down’ syndrome at the Athens Olympics, when she ‘failed to deliver’ what the press and pundits had promised. It was noticeable that many of her fierciest vilifiers wouldn’t have been able to run for a bus, let alone a marathon. The knockers also denigrate Ellen’s feat by asking what use it is to Mankind. It shows the rest of us what we could also achieve if we really want to. Her massive achievement stands to inspire everyone else to take anther small step towards their own personal goals. What would the world be like if Martin Luther King hadn’t had hisdream?

Is it the publicity surrounding this record that these mean-spirited people resent? Then they should exercise their freedom of choice and not buy the papers or watch the News. So what if sailing single-handed around the world hasn’t rid the world of evil? If it’s inspired even one person to try to step out of ‘their place’ then that in itself is laudable, and that person might be the first of their family to carry on learning and perhaps find that cure for cancer. Who knows?

Or should we all wallow in the mire of second-rate mediocrity, sniping at people who dare to push the envelope? It’s so much easier than reaching for the stars.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fings ain't wot they used ter be

Well, it's taken a while, and not inconsiderable expense, but we're back, sort of. There's still umpteen programs to be reinstalled, but we're getting there. I think. Normal service is not yet completely resumed though. Can anyone remember what sites we had in Faves?

Additional: crumbs, it's Pancake Day! Luckily I have eggs, flour, sugar and lemon juice in stock. I'll never forget our first Pancake day as a couple. Ned decided he was going to make them, and had a plate under the grill to keep them warm as he made them. By the time he'd made the fourth he was getting confident, and reached under the grill, wearing an oven glove of course, to get the plate out. Unfortunately that's when the glove touched the element and burst into flames so Ned whisked it off his hand, dropped it on the floor and stamped on it. Crisis over, he nonchalantly removed the redhot plate from under the grill, without an oven glove, burnt his fingers and dropped the plate, and pancakes, onto the floor as well. Silly pancake t****r.

Monday, February 07, 2005

When will I see you again?

*gibbers* Sucks thumb and rocks to and fro. *whimpers*

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Sick and broken


My comp has been infected and is still bustificated despite the very best offices of His Majesty and other kind and helpful chums. It's gone to the doctor. Why do wombatting mongoosing hippopotami think it's big and clever?

PS. Is anyone looking after the Donkey?