Friday, 28 February 2014

28th February 2014 - End of the Month...

Posted on Facebook yesterday the message :
"We had a power cut last night so I couldn't use my Laptop, TV, IPad, IPod or even the radio, so I talked to the wife for a few hours, she seems like a nice person."

Strangely had over 225 hits and likes - must have touched a nerve somewhere.... 

But February comes to its end - that is month two of the year - and we are still no nearer getting the house sold. Mother in Law is in the nursing home now and seems to be settling well. May have to look at options as we start month three.

But on another thought - as spring comes around - so there will be more motorcyclists on the roads.  Now I have not ridden a motorbike since my Bantam 175 back in the late 60's. I have little against motorcyclists and always endeavour to keep an extra eye out for bikers..    But there is always a part of me that wonders to what extent the blame may not just be with the inattentive drivers..

And so a compilation caught my eye - that will probably cause my biker friends to be irate... but is a fascination to me ..

Motor bike madness...

And so another month goes by..
St David's Day tomorrow ...  
I will lift a glass to that ....

Thursday, 27 February 2014

27th February 2014 - Understanding Colonials

This morning the saga of the Lute Guitar is improving. Finally had a response from the Traders via Facebook and it looks as though they may be arranging collection and refund...  Interestingly I note that the emails and responses are all at 4.56am !!!

Now - I know that I am a late bird - but the delivery from Pakistan, the failure of the UK phone number to work and the delivery failure / redirection of the email all gives me cause to consider the time differences between Pakistan and UK !!   This and the occasional misuse of the English language leads me to surmise that I may be dealing with people directly in Pakistan - with a mailing address in this country.. Well as long as the money is refunded I shall be happy!  They have a 98.8% satisfaction on Ebay, one of the reasons I purchased from them...   But there may be some differences caused by living on different continents...

Which brings me back to our American cousins. While I have a sister who is now more American than British, a great brother-in law who is part Blackfoot Native American, and a LARP colleague who gets very irate with people who generalise regarding American traits...  I saw a meme today entitled "american-obsessions-that-british-people-just-dont-get" ....   now I don't know if these are American obsessions, but I am a man of the world and fairly intelligent, and watch enough US based television ... but some of these, not only I did not get - but also I had no idea what they were talking about!!

1. Disney princes and princesses.

In the U.S., the stuff of endless Tumblr tributes and Reddit memes.
Over here: just some cartoon films you watched as a kid and dimly remember.

Fair enough  ...

2. Extreme snacking.

Extreme snacking. 
Yup - that is a bit excessive !!

3. “Bros.”

19 American Obsessions That British People Just Don't Get
Just as a concept. We have “ladz” and geezers similar, but it’s not quite the same thing.

In fact there is a whole culture of trousers round the knees and hoodies...

4. Red cups.

19 American Obsessions That British People Just Don't Get
For us, the point of a party is to get drunk as quickly as possible. The colour of the drinking vessel is not important.
I am not sure that I know about red cups - but have seen them on television ..


I don't even watch Formula 1 !!!  And I live near a race track!

6. Tailgate parties.

Tailgate parties.
Come get wasted in a car park? Sure. It’s just… Sounds a little bleak, that’s all.

Never heard of these !!  Sort of a Carboot sale with alcohol??

7. High school yearbooks.

High school yearbooks.
Are you sure you want to remember all of these people for the rest of your life?

Nope!!  This is like the importation of Halloween, Trick or Treat and School Prom Balls !!  An unhealthy trend which will no doubt get here in the end!! 

8. Lawyers, everywhere.

Lawyers, everywhere.
According to a recent study , there are 1.2 million practicing lawyers in the U.S. That’s one lawyer for every 257 Americans.
And we are clearly going down the same line of litigation as the first response ... Sad to say 

9. Electoral campaigns that go on forever.

What is a caucus, please? And when does this thing start getting interesting?
I get bored easily these days - the Scottish Referendum is bad enough...  Caucus was in Alice in Wonderland if I recall correctly...
(Vollsanger endorses this message!)

10. Putting foodstuffs inside other foodstuffs.

Putting foodstuffs inside other foodstuffs.
A pretty unhealthy trend ...  and it is coming here 

11. Pie.

19 American Obsessions That British People Just Don't Get
Apple, pumpkin, etc. Yes, pie is nice but calm down, chaps.
Can't beat a decent Pork Pie - but it is not something to get excited by.. Now scones and the subject of cream or jam first !!! That is another matter!   And don't start me on Peanut Butter and Jam !!!  Peanut Butter is a savoury and should be eaten with crisps and cheese - not custard!!

12. Light beer.

Light beer.
We’re getting drunk here. Who’s counting calories?
I agree here - I know I will fall back upon a lager when I do not know if the pipes have been properly cleaned on a decent real ale - but advertising a light beer is like having dehydrated water....

13. Cronuts.

Okay - you got me !!   I have no idea what we are talking about !!!
And Americans obsess on this ??   I admit I had to google it  - it is apparently a New York croissant - doughnut (note the spelling) pastry ....   Ho Hum !!!!

14. Kale.


Ummm - I suppose it must be some sort of Veg ???   Back to Google - Oh - apparently some sort of healthy greens that are purple - sounds like sprouting broccoli  - but I got in trouble over that before !!!   (
Move over Popeye apparently  - well this one certainly passed me by....

15. Moaning about kale.

And swearing !!   Hate that too !!!
Not sure I understand Twitter yet either !!!!

16. Molly.

We have that over here. Except we call it MDMA, and we don’t go on about it.
I had never heard of Molly - must have been retired too long!!!

17. The notion of this as an acceptable Halloween costume somehow.

The notion of this as an acceptable Halloween costume somehow.
Well actually - having said what I said about Halloween in general - the costume looks fairly sporting if a little too demure...  just a personal view really ..

18. Tipping. Endless tipping.

Tipping. Endless tipping.
Never liked tipping  - pay a decent wage and do the job you are paid to do  - don't just add 10 or 15 percent onto the prices without mentioning it....   Personally I see tipping as an insult - I am never comfortable with it. I am not happy with deciding how much the courtesy and service is worth on a sliding scale - and stating that everyone should have the same amount is simply another tax...

I don't like Fly-tipping either - but that is another story....

19. Unburdening oneself emotionally.

19 American Obsessions That British People Just Don't Get
Nuff Said!!

So, in summary, there are things here that I dislike and some things I do not understand. Perhaps I should get my American friends to explain it - but to be honest I really don't care that much...

Let us just say that there are cultural differences - and vive la difference !!

I wonder if I can get a lute guitar from Germany ???

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

26th February 2014 - Me and my big mouth.....

When you have a frustrating day of waiting and finish a blog with "What could possibly go wrong?"  the gods of chance and the Norns get out their spare knitting needles just for a few extras....   I should have known better!!

The delays in delivery might have been a good indication that all was not as it should have been. The Lute Guitar that I had ordered for my birthday was meant to be dispatched within a working day, that was the claim. The listing said 5 available - three sold - suggesting that they were in stock - now seems unlikely..
So the German Lute Guitar was the thing that was being purchased. It has the look of a lute but the tuning and playability of a guitar - a bit of a cheat but  looks good for the re-enactment market.

The back of the guitar is round - which makes it a little tricky to handle - but with a decent strap I thought it would be rather effective ...  this one was made of rosewood and looked to be rather good..

The sound hole of the lute guitar is finely crafted and changes the look of the whole instrument ...

The sad part though is that though the advertisement stated clearly that the old Lute Guitars had violin style tuning pegs - that is a wooden peg put into the hole through friction - the new lute guitar had machine style tuners - the same on a normal guitar ... 

When the guitar finally arrived with Mr UPS man  I eagerly unpacked and looked at the instrument. It was rather light but looked good. The strings were in place but looked as thought hey had been added by someone who knew little about stringing an instrument. The pegs were wood and the strings were loose for travel... So I attached my tuner and started to get the strings up to concert....  Nylon strings will stretch - I know that - so was not too concerned as the tuning failed to hold to start...  The "A" string was the first to go - as I turned it - the top of the tuning peg came off in my hand ...   not a good start ..

Worse, the strings were so tight that it soon got to the stage where it was not possible to turn the pegs form a normal holding position.. instead having to turn the guitar vertically to use both hands - and later pliers !!!

Examination of the box started to explain why there had been a delay.  The main UPS label was prominent - but underneath there was the label from Pakistan to Hayes...  Clearly, my order was received, and the guitar was shipped from Pakistan and re-shipped to me - in that case two weeks delivery was not too bad really!!!

But all in all it was not what I was wanting. So then we start the "phone is not being answered", "email not being responded to" - though delivery receipt received though not read receipt, no response on Ebay messaging...   Facebook was responded to before - so a few threats to escalate to complaint again  may work....   

Meanwhile, UPS advertise special offers at £7.99 if you sign up for an account..  Signed up alright but they still want £32 to send.. Celtic Couriers will do it for £14.50 if I lie about the value - or £19.50 if I insure properly...  My Hermes looks very good and cheap - but they do not compensate for musical instruments...  Ho Hum - what to do !!!

Glass of Chateau 41 it is then !!!  Tomorrow is another day...
But - I do not think I will use that expression again - I know better !!!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

25th February 2014 - Cantre'r Gwaelod & the UPS man

 The storms of the winter seem to have dissipated for a while. The sun is shining today, after a very blustery weekend in North Wales. There are mixed blessings of course. As we drove up through Ceredigian we passed the Borth Bogs  - the large expanses of water logged marshy grounds. But the recent storms have also unearthed far more of the ancient sunken forests of Cantre'r Gwaelod..

A prehistoric forest, an eerie landscape including the trunks of hundreds of oaks that died more than 4,500 years ago, has been revealed by the ferocious storms which stripped thousands of tons of sand from beaches in Cardigan Bay.

The forest of Borth once stretched for miles on boggy land between Borth and Ynyslas, before climate change and rising sea levels buried it under layers of peat, sand and saltwater.

Scientists have identified pine, alder, oak and birch among the stumps which are occasionally exposed in very stormy winters, such as in 2010, when a stretch of tree remains was revealed conveniently opposite the visitor centre.

The skeletal trees are said to have given rise to the local legend of a lost kingdom, Cantre'r Gwaelod, drowned beneath the waves. The trees stopped growing between 4,500 and 6,000 years ago, as the water level rose and a thick blanket of peat formed.

This year a great swath of the lost forest has been revealed. Last month archaeologists also found a timber walkway nearby, exposed by the storms. It was made from short lengths of coppiced branches, held in place with upright posts.

It has been dated to between 3,100 and 4,000 years old, built as the local people found ways to cope with living in an increasingly waterlogged environment.

Two years ago human and animal footprints were found preserved in the hardened top layer of peat, along with scatterings of burnt stones from ancient hearths.

Some things are worth waiting for I suppose.

Meanwhile, I am at home also waiting for a long time for the UPS van to roll up! 
After delays from the guitar company who promised to dispatch my new guitar within two days - which should allow it to arrive on my birthday - or at least a day afterwards, and a heated facebook messaging late in the evening where they explained that the original guitar had some damage so they acquired another one (without mentioning of course)  and finally sent it via UPS. Working all morning yesterday, I cam home relieved to find that it had not been delivered in my absence. However, after sitting in the kitchen having some late breakfast, I passed the front door to find the ubiquitous yellow leaflet saying"We tried to deliver but you were out!"

UPS local branch is in Skewen, a bit of a distance to travel, and a call to the UPS automated reply system tells me that it could not be picked up until next day in any case.....

So - there is a leaflet, neatly stapled to a sheet of paper saying "I AM IN!!" and my phone number in case they do not know how to use the knocker ( the bell does not work and has been gaffa taped over !). It is tioed to the knocker with a piece of bright red string, and waves around just in front of the window, causing the dogs to bark every time they catch sight of it....  I am sitting at my machine in the front window ... with a good view of the street outside...

What could possibly go wrong???
Oh - maybe I should not have said that !!

Maybe the trees in Borth all fossilised as they waited for the UPS man to come.. It is a theory....

Monday, 24 February 2014

24th February 2014 - Back from the Wedding

Portmeirion has always been a magical place. In the past we have always taken a day trip, and staying in the "Village" allowed the additional bonus of being there in the darkness - able to see the extensive lighting of all the buildings.

But all the usual suspects were there - including some strange "prisoner" type person ...

And of course the girls with the Bride...

But a sumptuous wedding breakfast ...

What a dapper fellow!!!
"Be seeing you !"

Sunday, 23 February 2014

23rd February 2014 - A Cautionary Tale

As we are travelling back from Portmeirion today the blog is only a short one..

But I enjoyed this cautionary tale ....

A man and woman had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover.

In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoe box and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two crocheted dolls and a stack of money totalling $95,000.

He asked her about the contents.
'When we were to be married,' she said, ' my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doll.'

The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two Precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him two Times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with Happiness.

'Honey,' he said, 'that explains the doll, but what about all of this money? Where did it come from?'

'Oh,' she said, 'that's the money I made from selling the dolls.'

A Prayer
Dear Lord,
I pray for Wisdom to understand my man;
Love to forgive him;
And Patience for his moods;
Because Lord, if I pray for Strength,
I'll beat him to death,
Because I don't have the freaking time to crochet.

Long weekend - think I'll skip the Chateau 41 tonight - glass of Jura it is ...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

22nd February 2014 - Ragnarok 'n Roll!!

So Ragnarok is meant to be happening today. (full story on 17th February). So this seems appropriate. 

Just on the off chance that the world did end, and because I am currently away form any technology in "The Village" for a wedding, this blog is brought to you by the wonders of "scheduling!!"  which allows me to publish from away...  Isn't that clever!!..

Be Seeing you !!!

Friday, 21 February 2014

21st February 2014 - Off to the Village...

No blog today - we are off in the Bothy  ( not to Llanfihangel Trothi!) but to Port Meirion for a wedding.
I intend to take photos - but no real blogs today or tomorrow ..

(I will not be No 6 !!  No 6 was the Question !!  I will be No 42 !!)

I wonder if they have Chateau 41 in Portmeirion??

Thursday, 20 February 2014

20th February 2014 - Of Scones (sc-own-s) and Scones (Sc-ons)

Some may say that it is just a matter of regional difference and preference, but there are a few, a gallant few, who will support the right to ensure that the language of dough remains sacrosanct!

I will state my case !!  It is SCONE  - SC - ON
Never in the history of man has there been a reasonable justification for using the 'sc -own' version ....
It may sound like her majesty on the throne - it may sound like Blandings on a bad day.. But it is wrong!..

On what do I place this belief,  I refer you to the following facts..
I have a piece of confectionery in a dough shape in front of me ...
I place butter, jam and cream upon said confectionery ..
I eat it !
It's gone
What did that sound like??
Anything to do with OWN !!!

It is Gone !!
It is a SCONE

Proved - I hope so ..

Today I had some Susie-safe(Wheat free) scones made with the help of my granddaughter Erin which were lovely... (this is not Erin - this is her big sister Freja getting in the act but Erin is in the picture!!)

I will not even start on the subject of Jam first or Cream First ...  Again the answer is clear - Jam !!  If you need to argue then I will have a rant on another day ...

So, a picnic and party in the living room with cake and scone and welsh cakes....  Presents from America and a good time had by all.

And while thinking on Culinery matters.. A post from the history of cooking caught my eye ..

This is the original text for the recipe...
Forme of Cury of 1390: "take funges, and pare hem clene and dyce hem. Take leke, and shred hym small and do hym to seeth in gode broth. Color it with saffron, and do there-inne powder-fort."

8 small leeks, topped and tailed
3tbsp butter
750g mushrooms, quartered*
250ml light stock
1/2tsp brown sugar
Pinch saffron
1/2tsp fresh ginger root or galangal, chopped small
2tbsp Butter mashed with 2tbsp flour
Salt, pepper

Since the language has changed since 1390 - here is the best translation  

Slice the leeks and fry them in the butter till they collapse. Add the mushrooms and stir them thoroughly. Add stock, sugar, saffron and ginger. Cover and leave for a few minutes until the vegetables are cooked. Add the butter-and-flour in little bits to thicken the juices, keeping the liquid under boiling-point, stirring all the time. Season and serve.

Can't actually see where the meat was included - am I missing something ? Probably !!

Seems a lack of bacon in this day .....  Will have to change that tomorrow !

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

19th february 2014 - Septimus was in his Prime

The year is 197 AD. Septimius Severus defeats Clodius Albinus at Lugdunum - possibly the bloodiest battle in Roman history. Clodius had been declared Emperor in Britain. Severus got rid of the Praetorian guard
Septimus Severus
Severus was the first to admit openly that the army shored up his imperial power, and he rewarded the soldiers accordingly .
He gave them a pay rise - the first for many decades - and allowed them more privileges. He knew that service in the army must be made more attractive. Another innovation was to distance the imperial house from the populace by making himself and his family sacrosanct, setting a precedent that was carried to extremes by Aurelian and Diocletian at the end of the third century.
Ever the realist, on his death bed in York in 211 AD, Severus told his sons to look after the soldiers and to ignore everyone else. 

So Prince Andrew celebrates his birthday today.  54 years old and the Grand old Duke of York. (KC, GCVO, ADC(P). He can march his men up and down the hill as long as he likes... I think they would prefer a pay rise!!

Another video from Burry Port Sessions on Monday - this time and enjoyable little song about taking the Bothy down to Llanfihangel Trothi.

The Bothy is my camper van and the Toll Gate is a lovely retreat with the stars of the Jude and Ant Fest from Llanthony....

It's never to late to go down to the Toll Gate....  It would be nice if the Bothy would transform itself into a mansion like  Simon Cowell's little run about !!

Mind you - if it cost £1.2 million I would expect it to be fairly spectacular...

Oh ... It is !!!

Still as a Transformer I think Septimus Prime or the Bothy would find it easier going up some of the hills we travel on ..
Septimus Prime
Who says history is not relevant ?? I'll drink to that !!!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

18th February 2014 - Clearing of the Ways

Today was the day that we handed over the keys for the flat in Burry Port. That is a passing of a time really as Eileen and Arnold were the first residents in Plasy y Mor  and their leaving is a key moment in the building.

But the key has been handed over and the flat is clear. Some new residents will have their life there in the future.  

Meanwhile today was spent in setting up new computers with my mother and in the hope that she can manage the new email systems. Sadly Outlook express - a very easy system of simple email does not work on windows 7 - her new system - so we will have a little bit of in house training to do !!!

Yesterday we went to the Folk evening in Burry Port - I took a shirt of chainmail as I could not find a Gambeson for the song .. and I showed it to some of the customers.. they had little idea of what I spake !! But they still jumped when I dropped it to the floor!

But I videoed the session and was quite happy with the results. A few flaws as usual - Mainly due to standing when used to sitting and having the microphone stand in the way when trying to see the guitar fret board. But not unhappy with the result..

Managed to persuade a solicitor to the hospital bed today to get an enduring power of attorney ..  so all in all a successful day .

Nothing  momentous today .. Just another day in the life...


Monday, 17 February 2014

17th February 2014 - Ragnarok is Only 5 days away !!!

It was in the Mirror so must be true !
Viking warriors have begun to arrive in York in preparation for the end of the world.

'Norsemen' from across the UK and further afield are converging on the historic Yorkshire town as Ragnarok, the final bloody battle predicted in Norse mythology approaches on February 22.

Believers say that when the fateful day arrives Earth will split open, unleashing the inhabitants of Hel.
The wolf, Fenrir, son of Loki, will break out of his prison and the Midgard snake Jormungand will rise from the sea.
Nidhogg, the dragon of the underworld, will gnaw at the world tree, Yggdrasil, until it groans and wilts.
Then as the ice giants of Jotunheim come thundering over the horizon, the dead heroes of Valhalla will descend from heaven to fight them.
These events were prophesied by the god Odin who had hung himself from Yggdrasill for nine days so he could die and be re-born with wisdom and foresight.
The apocalypse coincides with the 30th JORVIK Viking Festival, which is taking place in York until February 23.
Festival director Danielle Daglan said: "Ragnarok is the ultimate landmark in Viking mythology, when the gods fall and die, so this really is an event that should not be underestimated."

All good stuff - but makes me wonder why we sent all day clearing the flat in Burry Port and trying to get it clean for new tenants. We will be able to take the keys back tomorrow - the only things being left are two mirrors and the lampshades which were too hot to take down. Of course I managed to slice my finger on the cooker as I manhandles it out and failed to notice the blood pouring over the kitchen and bathroom as a blood sacrifice to the Gods. Thought I caught it and wrapped it up in good old fashioned toilet paper as I went hunting for a first aid kit - but apparently missed the blood trail that made the bathroom resemble the Shower Scene from Psycho....

But the flat is clear so if the Ice Giants come they will at least have a clean flat to move into...

Burry Port Yacht Club for the Folk Club this evening. really must practice more with a microphone stand in front of me - it changes the entire spatial awareness and makes the playing more difficult - let alone playing standing up when normally sitting down. Took a video so will be able to see how much improvement is needed...

So 60 years and a day - Chateau 41? Don't mind if I do !!!


Sunday, 16 February 2014

16th February 2014 - It's my Birthday ... Okay ??

60 years old today
60 years ago Quatermass was on TV as my father tried to ensure that he saw enough to write a TV  critique while I was being born upstairs...

60 years.

So, on to the next 60   :)

Nothing else today

Glass of Scotch  ...   and on to a new year  ..

Saturday, 15 February 2014

15th February 2014 - G'night Pa - 'Night John Boy!!!

News today of the passing of John Walton Senior, Pa to those of us who watched through the 9 series and saw the family grow, the gentle drama of times in the depression and those values that we all somehow know are right.

Ralph Waite was the actor - never heard the name before today and would have passed over the news if it had not been linked to the Waltons in the storyline.

Ralph Waite was a respected New York stage actor when he was offered a role on “The Waltons,” and at first he was not enthusiastic about it. But his agent, he recalled, advised him to take the part so that he could “pick up a couple of bucks” in Hollywood and go back to New York.

“The Waltons” made its debut on CBS in September 1972 against two already popular shows: Flip Wilson’s irreverent comedy-variety show on NBC and, on ABC, “Mod Squad,” a drama about young undercover police officers. What some saw as a cornball newcomer was expected to be buried, but within two seasons it had driven its competitors off the air.

Been a busy day today moving boxes and the Flat at Burry Port is now practically clear - though the living room is once again a no-go area....

Feels a little like being on an event with all this hefting of furniture and boxes...  Will probably make it an early night..  Nice bit of dinner, glass of Chateau 41 and a little malt before bed..

Well not every day you are in your last days of your fifties.....