Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tread Lightly

I walked to Daphne's house this afternoon.

Not exactly a riveting start to a blog post but it WAS a cold, wet and thoroughly depressing day weatherwise and normally that opening statement would gain me some kudos as well as a cup of warming tea and maybe a few jaffa cakes from Daphne.

But before she reads this and adds a comment asking why I didn't knock on her door and ask, Oliver like, for some sustenance, let me quickly explain that I never left my house.

You see I've slapped on a few pounds since returning from Florida at the end of March and I've also been sitting wayyyy too long in this armchair either watching tv or surfing on t'internet for hours on end. I weighed in this morning and although I could still see the display on the scales, the all too visible amount of extra flesh was confirmed by the digital readout. Something had to be done.

So I threw the scales out the window !

Well no they cost too much so instead I decided I needed to get back to regular walking and cycling to generally get myself much more healthy so that I'll still be blogging into the next century. Might need a few new body parts and huge leaps in medical science to help me get there, but hey, one has to aim high.

By 3pm the omens weren't good. It was still raining and the outside temperature had just dipped below 60F. Not exactly time to get out the thermals and hitch up the huskies but still, a bit too uncomfortable for this unfit wuss. I mean I didn't really want to start exercising in the first place. I felt my usual "oh I'll start tomorrow" attitude kicking in and swift action was needed.

The solution was in my extension where I keep my home gym equipment. Hehe. Home gym equipment.

This 'equipment' consists of a powered treadmill, a static (in more ways than one) exercise bike and one of those devilish contraptions designed to make doing situps a bit easier. All these were covered with a light dusting of....dust and some spiders had been using the gap between the treadmill hand holds as their personal web site for over year.

A quick vacuuming and an even quicker going over with a duster and I was ready to go. The equipment, on the other hand, took a bit longer to get ready !! After 15 minutes and with a few miffed spiders on the sidelines, I stepped onto the treadmill and set the controls. I wasn't ready for even a gentle jog and actually I never will be. Jogging is the exercise of the devil and I stay well away from it. Nope, it was a gradual build up to a slow walk for me today as, after all, I didn't want to pull a muscle or anything.

I've never been sure if the display shows imperial or metric figures but if metric, then I was soon bombing along like an Olympic trialist. I decided to ignore the speed and just concentrate on my walking pace and I tried to get it as close to how I'd walk for exercise if I was outside. And blow me, after a few minutes, I started to enjoy it. The radio was on, the music was playing and I was walking along at a nice steady pace with my arms moving like those of Peter Kay in his "Amaretto" video. Think that's what it was called. My little legs were a blur and I couldn't have been happier. There was a spring in my step, a smile on my face and probably a fatal blood clot approaching my heart.

40 minutes later I reckoned I'd walked far enough to have taken me to Daphne's house. See, it's all falling into place now, isn't it. I don't just throw this together, y'know. S'all planned.

I wasn't mugged. I didn't have to cross to another treadmill as no teens approached me. There were no hills. No uneven pavements. It was warm and dry in there and so was I. I was even able to stop halfway and fix myself a bacon sandwich. Well it's tiring, this exercise lark. Can't do it on an empty stomach.

I was pleased that, like riding a bike, I'd not forgotten how to do it. How to 'tread' I mean. I could've fallen over. I might have shot off the end. But I think I came through the experience with flying colours and none of them were black or blue.

Assuming, and it's a pretty safe assumption, that it continues to be wet and miserable, I might just do it again tomorrow.

New Isn't Always Better !!

As you can see, I've taken the plunge and updated my template - in line with Jenny who was my inspiration to get with the times.

I checked out all the free templates and decided I liked this one best as it was vivid and looked very much like the BBC homepage I'd created for myself months ago using similar technology - movable elements and all that good stuff.

Jenny then left me a comment on here about my photos and how they had 'fuzzy' edges and she suggested she knew how to sort that out. I'd no idea what she was talking about - until just now when my friend Debby came on and said the same thing. She used her webcam and I was horrified at what I was seeing.

Then she took the webcam out of the bathroom and pointed it at her screen and I was almost as horrified !! Sorry Deb.

Anyway I was seeing my blog on her computer and the photos were nothing like I was seeing........and the reason had to be the different browsers we were using. She uses Internet Explorer, as does Jenny. As do a lot of my friends, like Clair, who is actually still on IE6. Come on Clair, update that thing !!

Anyway the new template and photos look great on Firefox, which I does Daphne. There, I'm giving you all a plug for free tonight. My photos are nice and bright and have a distinct thin orange border around them that makes them stand out against the black background. Lovely.

Then I powered up my IE7 and sure enough, my theory was correct. My photos are oval and dark and look, well, just nasty. Even my profile photo has suffered the same indignity. As Jennys blog looks the same on both Firefox and IE, she has obviously mastered this issue and so I'll be after her help asap tomorrow - well today now actually as it's almost 3am and I've had enough.

This blogging lark is hard work !

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Today's Headlines

Some headlines today seemed so obvious that they hardly deserved the name.

Avram Grant sacked By Chelsea.

Gosh what a surprise !! Chelsea came 2nd in the league and failed at the last hurdle to win the Champions League. Good for most clubs but not for free spending Chelsea who assume throwing money at a team will ensure success. Mr. Grant did himself no favours by having a face like a bank holiday weekend and all the personality of Amy Whinehouse when sober. Ok I know that's not fair on Ms Whinehouse - as no one has ever seen her sober.

It's never easy when an English football team is managed by someone for whom English is a distant 2nd language as he is expected to answer inane questions after every game. However there are really only 2 questions that EVER get asked on these occasions, whether you've won or lost, and so any manager worth his salt, or his roubles, only has to learn how to deal with a couple of stock questions :-

1) So how does it feel to have won/lost ?
2) Will this result have an effect on the rest of your season ?

Just how people (who have baffling job titles like touchline reporters) like Gabriel Clark and even worse, Geoff Shreeves can make a living out of shoving their microphones in front of everyone from the managers to the ball boys and asking them one or both of those questions after EVERY game, is beyond me.

Guys, we really don't need to know. Final whistle goes and we all go make a cup of tea or have a pint and so no one hears you anyway. Play the music, show the credits and bring on the next program.

England Wickets Tumble Against The Kiwis.

Lets see now, where have we seen this before ? We invent a game, we play it for a century or so and still get stuffed by Johnny Foreigner. We Brits do it so well. Cricket may be a 5 day sleep for most people, including those who have paid to actually watch the games, but England continue to send those already asleep into a deep coma from which there is little hope for recovery on the horizon.

In the world rankings (the cricket world that is), England are 4th in the Test Match table, one place above Sri Lanka. Wow. That doesn't seem too bad......until you realise the world is a VERY small place when you're talking about cricket. There are only 9 Test countries in fact so we're 4th out of 9. As for ODI (One Day International) countries, the world is a little bit bigger......12 countries.....and we're 6th in that table. Mind you, that's not saying much when the bottom country is Kenya which has got zero points. Well it's hard to play cricket with bloody wildebeest wandering all over the pitch.

Speaking of nul points, bring me nicely to the next headline...........

UK Comes Last In Eurovision Contest.

Wow, there was a shocker and no mistake !! In this annual kitch musical competition, we've never stood a chance since we sided with America and saved the world from non existent weapons of mass destruction. Speaking of which, did you SEE the Finnish entry ?! I've put the word musical into the description but over the last 10 years or so, it's become more political than musical as everyone votes for everyones neighbour and the ex Russian countries still vote for Mother Russia which provides them with oil, weapons and technology - so lets not upset her, eh ?

I think the fall of communism and the subsequent split up of the USSR was all a cunning plot by the Commies to guarantee success in the contest. I mean it seems very obvious now that by creating all these little satellite countries, they pretty much ensured that they'd get 12 points from them all and so win without the rest of Europe needing to turn up.

And speaking of the rest of Europe, when did Israel change the world map and become European ? What's next.....change their currency to the Euro and join the EC ? I suspect a few nations might have something to say about that. As for this progressively ridiculous competition, the UK might as well have entered Irelands turkey - oh hang on though, we decided to enter our own, didn't we ?

Leeds United Fail To Win Promotion To The Championship.

And so the rest of the country rejoiced as my team lost in the playoff final to.......oh God help us.....Doncaster Rovers. Oh the shame, the shame. A few years ago I'd have been so upset that I've have made John Terry look like Rambo. I might even have had a transference moment and smashed something in the house in my manly anger.

But I've moved on from those days. I downsized so that my living room has very few items available for smashing. I didn't replace my cat when it died a few years ago so I've nothing available for kicking either. Mainly though, it's been my attitude to such things that has changed and it's just not so important to me anymore.

Added to that, I quite expected us to lose today as I felt we'd rode our luck just to get to the final. We'd won so many games during the regular season in the last few minutes and if Carlisle had continued to go forward after scoring against us in the first of the playoff games, they could've put the final out of our reach at that point.

Oh get me....quite the little soccer pundit.

Oh I'm still really really upset but I'm not going to be sacked, it's not the end of my career and so why should I weep and carry on like it's anything important ? I mean who needs the stress and agro of playing the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal when you can play......Milton Keynes.

Oh dear God...........hand me a sharp knife.

Hollywood Movie Distorts History !!

So this then easily becomes the only headline today which passeth all understanding. Avram Grant sacked - not a shocker. England can't play cricket....not a shocker. UK have no friends in Europe ( + Israel).....not a shocker. Leeds lose in a final.....not a shocker.

But hey, Hollywood movies aren't historically accurate....I'm stunned.

The reason for this headline comes from the release of the latest Indiana Jones movie in Russia. It seems that the fun loving Commies have once again lost the plot by thinking that Hollywood churns out historically accurate movies instead of ones that are designed to entertain us. This Times article gives details of some astonishing quotes from party members who seem to have taken winning the Eurovision Song Contest as the opportunity to divert attention from their miserable education system. As an example.......

Our moviegoers are teenagers who are unaware of what happened in 1957,” said Sergei Malinkovich, the chief of the St Petersburg Communist Party chief. “They will go to the cinema and will be sure that in 1957 we made trouble for the United States and almost started a nuclear war. It’s rubbish.”

I guess they don't teach much history in Russian schools if kids there don't know what happened as recently as 1957. They certainly don't give them much credit for going to watch a movie purely for entertainment purposes as opposed to using it as the basis for upcoming examinations.

"But how did I fail my history exam, comrade. I watched Red Sonia, The Hunt For Red October, Firefox AND Carry On Up The Kremlin ???"

(Before you go looking it up, I made the last one up to add my own silliness to the post).

So now they want the movie banned, Harrison Ford has no future in Russia and both he and Cate Blanchett are second rate actors. Oh dear. They ARE rather upset, aren't they ? Probably right about the last bit though.

As usual Australia has jumped on the bandwagon and just in case they are ever invited to enter the Eurovision Song Contest, they are buttering up the Ruskies even before Australia becomes part of Europe in 2027. Read the Times article and see what you think of Ms. Smith.

I suspect she's lost the plot a bit too and being that she's an archaeologist to boot (and let me be first in line to do so), she should know a bit more about historical fact that most in the Russian Communist Party.

I think that she may have taken digging holes to an entirely new level.

Anyway it's just sinking in that Leeds will be playing in the 3rd tier of English soccer again next season so I'm off to drown my sorrows in a pint of Pepsi Max and watching "Ben Hur" to see what things were REALLY like back in the days before Communism.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cleaning Up At The Soap Awards......................

I got an email from ITV yesterday telling me that Emmerdale, the long running UK soap, was broadcasting it's 5000th episode next week. That's a lot of soap. Add Coronation Street and Eastenders and the 3 main UK soaps have racked up a staggering 17,422 episodes over the last 48 years.

Thankfully I've not seen many of them.......quite a few, but not many. Ok maybe a lot. Maybe most of them. Noooooooo. What am I saying ???

The old lady of UK soaps, Coronation Street, started on the 9th of December 1960 when Northern England was still in black and white, but mostly black due to the coal dust and factory fumes. Streets were still cobbled and people washed their front steps and chatted over the back garden fence. The Swinging Sixties hadn't got going yet and Elvis Presley was No.1 with "It's Now Or Never" which became true as he was replaced at the top a week or so later by Cliff Richard with "I Love You"

Almost 48 years and almost 6900 episodes later, the cobbled street is still cobbled, the pits and factories are gone, Elvis is allegedly dead and Cliff is still going strong. Well going strong between his homes in London and Barbados if not actually going strong in the charts. Bless.

I don't remember the early years of 'Corrie' as for one thing I was only 8 at the time and I'm not even sure we had a tv set. I was shipped off to boarding school in '63 so opportunities to have watched ANY tv were severely limited for the next 7 years anyway. I'm sure my parents would've disapproved of the show as it was mostly set in a pub which were evil places to them. Add to that the dubious morals of some of the characters and so no, we probably wouldn't have watched the show even if we had owned a tv set.

As if that slice of gloomy Northern life wasn't enough, Emmerdale came along 12 years later - the first episode went out on 16th October 1972. Ahhh now we had a soap that was well received in my part of the world. It started out as Emmerdale Farm you see and my family were from farming stock and most of my relatives had farms. You see the connection here, don't you ?

I think it used to be on during the early afternoon to catch the stay at home moms, unemployed car workers, striking miners and rich farmers who had 'people' to do the work for them. I was a student at Leicester Uni and I remember catching episodes at that time of day anyway. Then I worked shifts at my first job and would just get an episode in before going off to work at 3:30pm. It made me a bit homesick with all the action in the milking sheds and I used to wonder if the cows knew their udders were being fondled by equity members !?

Musically speaking (or maybe not), Lieutenant Pigeon was No.1 with 'Mouldy Old Dough' to be followed by the much more memorable and classy Gilbert O'Sullivan with 'Claire'.

On the ITV web site you can watch that very first episode of Emmerdale Farm when we were introduced to the laugh-a-minute Sugdens and Nay Nay Mr. Wilks as I always thought he was called. Speaking of Amos Brierly, he was there with his huge sideburns serving frothy warm pints behind the tiny bar in The Woolpack and we also met Jack, Joe and Peggy Sugden who were all involved in one way or another at the funeral of their dad, Jacob, in this very first show. We never even saw Jacob in his coffin so that saved the show a bit of money in fees I guess.

Poor old Jacob was well out of it in more ways than one and I'm sure death was a welcome relief from life with Annie who had a mirror smashing face and a no nonsense attitude to go with it. She took no prisoners and was joined at the kitchen table by her dad who, in the early episodes, never had much of a part except to be there with his flat cap, white scarf and pipe.........uttering pearls of Yorkshire farming wisdom which being mostly incomprehensible to anyone living outside of Yorkshire (and most inside it too), fell on deaf ears.

I liked Joe, mostly as he reminded me of Bev Bevan, the ELO drummer, as they were one of my fav groups back then. And speaking of laugh-a-minute characters, remember Matt, the happy hubby of Peggy Sugden ? Wow what a party pooper he was !! He was just perfect for the funeral scenes but sadly he was also kept in for the next decade or so but never once did I see him break into anything resembling a smile. I know farming is a hard occupation but hells teeth, Matt, cheer up lad.

I loved watching that first episode of Emmerdale Farm on the ITV site as having lived here in Yorkshire for the last 35 years, it was great seeing all the Woolpack punters wearing flat caps and seeing the whippets tied up outside. Eee by gum, it fair took me back.

Finally, after 2 decades of not understanding a word of what was being said by these people somewhere north of Watford (and therefore almost being cast as Johnny Foreigners), the nancy boys dann saath had to have their own soap to show what life was like in deepest darkest London and so on 19th February 1985, Eastenders was foisted upon an unsuspecting world. They copied Emmerdale by having a dead body in the first episode and have seemingly gone down that path ever since. There have been more deaths in Eastenders over the last 23 years than experienced by most British comedians put together.

To keep the music thing going, Elaine Paige and Barbara Dickson were No.1 with "I Know Him So Well" from the musical "Chess". Yes I can hear you singing it now. Bet you'll be singing it for hours too. Sorry.

But back to the cock-a-knees..................

Eastenders is always being classed as a true to life soap, featuring everyday issues like murder, abortion, drugs, suicide, rape and adultery with lashings of fighting, shouting, swearing, spitting and all the other friendly activities you'd see at a typical footy match. True to life ? If I lived in a place like Walford with that lot going on around me I'd be off in a flash. I can't imagine a worse advert for living in London if I tried.

I'll admit to watching during the early years when it didn't seem so 'dark' in Walford. The lighting may have been, but the storylines weren't. It was never a barrel of laughs though and Miss Brahms definitely had her funny chip removed when she swapped the gentle arms of Grace Brothers for the less than gentle fists of the Mitchell Brothers. Like a lot of people, I gave her credit for making such a transition and for keeping it going for so long. Mr. Grainger would've approved.

So there we have it.....3 long running soaps which form a sort of geographical triangle around this fair country - and you're doing well if you can understand the dialects and accents from all of them. I only wish we'd had a spin off sometime with Annie Sugden, Peggy Mitchell and Ena Sharples together in it. Wow. Call it Eastdale Street or something.

Now then our Ashley, there would be a show I'd watch, I say, a show I'd watch.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Summertime And The Living Is Easy

My trip to Skipton last Thursday made me realise once again that I kind of like spending half my year in England. After the flat, somewhat boring, landscape of Florida (flattest state in the union), it's a joy to spend time in the beautiful rolling hills of Yorkshire and at this time of year, it really is God's own county - as the locals have been saying for centuries.

After I'd recovered from the shock of filing up at 107.9p a litre (works out at about $7.83 per US gallon) I headed first to the small market town of Otley and while almost freewheeling down a long long hill, the trip computer registered 66 mpg which, although an unnatural reading, gave me a range of 803 miles on my 12 gallon tankful. If only. After I'd leveled off and got into typical busy traffic, the mpg went down to it's usual 48-55 range which would be amazing in the US but pretty standard for a small petrol powered car here in the UK. So the price may be double, but we get twice the fuel consumption so we're pretty much paying the same for the luxury of driving a car these days.

Anyway once I'd passed Otley, I was really out in the countryside and so I'm afraid you'll have to put up with the traditional lamb photograph.

Being early May, these two were quite large and almost ready for my dinner plate. Sorry PETA members everywhere !!

No I'm not. I'm a meat eater and proud of it.
Lambs to the slaughter and all that. With mint sauce.

Anyhoo, after I'd visited the canal basin in Skipton and spent a happy 2 hrs or so wandering along the tow path taking photos (see previous post), I decided to visit the place where I'll be next month when, with 2 friends, I'll be spending my first ever weekend on a canal boat. I can't wait.

This is the place, Snaygill Boats, and what a lovely part of the world they have found for themselves.

The little building on the far right is their office and reception and you can see some of the rental boats lined up all ready for prospective customers.

All very picturesque I think you'll agree and it was hard to believe that the very busy A6131 Keighley Road was on the other side of that hedge on the left. Well I think it still is but I'm talking about last Thursday now. Then. Whenever.

I popped into the office to ask if I could see 'our' boat but was told that it was out for the day.

The guy did say that The Caraway, which sleeps 6 people, docked just next to the office (well on the water of course) was very similar to our boat, The Saffron, which sleeps 4. The Caraway is 59ft long and The Saffron, 46ft.

So I took a photo of it but of course next month, there will be plenty of photos of The Saffron once we take it out for the weekend.

If you click on the photo and look beyond the end of The Caraway, you'll see a cute little bridge which I drove across to get to the boat company car park. I walked back to it to take the following photo which gives a better overall view of the place.

Well maybe not. I guess the office is off to the left out of sight and it's not even easy to see the boats which were docked facing the canal edge - as seen in the photo after the lambs.

Never mind. The idea was to show that if you go the other way, as I did, there were dozens more boats docked along the left side of the canal, two abreast.

Some of these were a bit more, well rough and ready, so I think they were private boats that were just moored there by their owners for weeks or months at a time. I certainly wouldn't like to be the one to want access to one half way along and on the dock side. All the boats were tied up nose to tail and I really don't know how they'd get one out. Quite a task.

I went onto the last boat to get a photo looking back but couldn't get high enough.

Luckily my previous experience as a paparazzi helped me out and in classic style, I held the camera up over my head and took this photo.

First time. Honestly. Usually I need to take a few to get the horizon straight (although I can always straighten photos afterwards anyway) but this was a keeper from the get go.

It shows how the boats are neatly docked two by two for some distance back to the office and having only seen this view on Google Earth, it was cool to see it in real life.

Having seen all I needed to see, I left to go further up the steep hill behind the boatyard (Skipton Road) to try and get a good view looking back down.

I went over the brow of the hill and came upon the very pretty village of Bradley, set in the valley and between the towns of Skipton and Silsden.

It was enchanting with neat cherry blossom lined streets and avenues and in the afternoon sunshine, it seemed to be a wonderful place to call home. Returning to the boatyard, I passed a farm with a small herd of what I took to be highland cattle of some sort.

As my expertise in this field (pardon the pun) is limited to choices of steaks and roasts, I've no idea why I think they'd be highland cattle - if indeed such a genre exists. Just a gut feeling.

Anyway 3 of the more inquisitive ones approached the gate and stood looking at me in that unique cowy way. It's their trademark look.
Not very bright, not really sure what's going on but knowing that shortly they'll be satisfying the appetites of several unknown men.

I call it their Paris Hilton look !!

Back on the A6131 and then the A65, it was only a 35 minute drive back to Leeds. As if to show me that the countryside didn't have the monopoly on beauty, I went onto Alwoodley Lane near my home and was taken with the beautiful cherry blossoms all along that road.

At the risk of repeating myself, I try never to take for granted the fact that I'm lucky enough to live in a beautiful part of a beautiful county.

Over the last 2 posts I hope I've shown enough examples of that statement to back it up.

Yes I love the sunshine and friends in Florida but I have to admit there isn't much in the way of scenery. After 6 months of looking at orange groves and alligators, it was great to get back into the Yorkshire countryside which, when the weather is just right and there aren't many cars on the roads, can rival anywhere in the world for its WOW factor.

Just in my opinion of course. Oh and in the opinion of HIM upstairs too of course.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

An Enjoyable Root Canal

(Remember to click on photos to see larger versions)

Well it had to come, the day I've been dreading for months. Today was that day.

You see, I last filled up my gas/petrol tank sometime last September when it was 92.9p a litre. Since then it's spent the winter months in my garage and I've also not done much mileage since I got home's lasted until today. 9 months on one tankful has to be some sort of record but probably not one I should boast about.

Anyway with my wallet screaming almost as loudly as I was, I filled up again at 107.9p and set off to do a bit of canal boat watching as next month I'm spending a weekend on a canal boat (narrow boat to those in the know) on the Leeds to Liverpool canal which runs from Leeds to....ahhhh.......Liverpool. I guess the name says it all.

I thought I'd spend this lovely early summers day along said canal where it wends its merrie way through the sleepy market town of Skipton.

It was only since I knew I'd be going on this canal trip weekend in early June and did some investigating that I even realised Skipton HAD a canal. I mean I've only lived 26 miles from this town for the last 35 years so what can you expect !?

I made use of the Pay & Display car park just off the aptly named Canal Street and came upon this scene. Dozens of narrow boats, a picturesque little bridge, families out walking in the warm sunshine and.....the canal.

It was glorious and a treat for the eye. And the camera.

I was amazed by how busy it was on the water. As well as all the boats, there were loads of ducks and swans fighting over the bread pieces being thrown at them by over enthusiastic kids, a full slice in one case ! Toasted I think. With Peanut Butter. Sank like a stone.

I think I'd arrived at rush hour as in some places the boats were 3 abreast. Short term sightseeing ones vied for space with weekly rentals and owner occupiers.

You could take a trip for £3 which took you along the canal (go figure) past the impressive Skipton Castle and back again. I'm not sure how long it lasted but on a day like today, it was quite popular although on one occasion it went past me with only 2 people on board.

I assume this number still made it financially viable for the owners but it's hard to know how. I was pleased to see it go past twice more during my stay there with it packed out each time. I had to remind myself it was mid afternoon on a Thursday at the start of the season so they were probably happy to have any customers at all.

I went up onto the little bridge from the first photo and this was the view looking the other way.

At this point in Skipton, the canal forks with the main spur going West to Liverpool and this spur going North to - well I've no idea really. It probably goes past someones garden in Scotland and on to the North Sea.

All down the left side of the canal for about a mile, boats were tied up while their owners or renters were taking a break inside or enjoying the sights around Skipton. It was an idyllic location for sure and without a cloud to break up the clear blue sky, it was such a delight to be somewhere new to me and so close to home as well.

I'll certainly have to rethink my notion that I know just about everywhere within 50 miles of Leeds. There was so much to see here that I'll have to come back several times to get it all in.

After walking alongside this Northern spur of the canal for a while, the almost continuous line of docked boats abruptly ended and the canal returned to being a much more tranquil stretch of water.

Here the only sounds were from the ducks and swans who would occasionally come to blows and churn up the previously calm waters with their bickering.

Otherwise it was as peaceful a walk as you could ever imagine. Yes traffic would go over the bridges but even then, it was as if Mother Nature had used her cosmic mute button to suppress the strident noises normally associated with delivery vans and private cars. Nothing was allowed to spoil the atmosphere.

Then the canal went under a bridge and on the other side it took on a much more natural ambiance with no man made edgings and as a result it became narrower with the sides more overgrown.

The £3 tour boat went past me once again and this was one of the times it was pretty much full.
Ironically, although the canal itself may have reverted to a more basic state, the tow path was very well maintained with an excellent wooden fence preventing anyone from stumbling down into the waters - the canal on the right and a flowing river, compete with small waterfall, on the left.

I was approaching the back of Skipton Castle which suddenly reared up on the right side like a smaller version of its big cousin up in Edinburgh.

With the sun shining on it's otherwise bleak stone walls, it didn't seem gloomy at all - as some castles can be.

Sadly it was just too high up to get it in a photo with the canal as well so as I'd got plenty of the canal, I picked the castle for this one !

Seemed fair enough.

This was as far as I wanted to go on this spur as for one thing, time was getting on and I'd only bought a 2 hr parking ticket !

So I made the return trip and as usual, saw things I'd not noticed on the outward trip. These next two photos were taken looking North so how I missed them first time, I've no idea.

The water was particularly calm at this point, almost glasslike. The tow path was wide and well maintained. The combination was breathtaking.

Either that or I'm just not as fit as I thought I was !

This particularly wide narrow boat (eh ?) had caused some commotion coming past the more usual ones docked at the sides of the canal.

It only just made it and only just made it through some of the narrower bridges too. It looked unusual and I've no idea what it was doing there - if it was a private boat or one used for some commercial purpose.

It had a strange black covering material all along it's length and it even had tilt opening windows. The spray is coming from it's propellers as it was moving sideways to dock along the banking in front of the bridge - just beyond which was the very busy area where the canal split.

This had been my starting point and although I planned on returning to the car and leaving Skipton, I had walked up an appetite and sought out that most traditional of British eating establishments, a curry house. Oh no sorry, a fish and chip shop.

I found one nearby but as they were only cooking fish to order and I had 5 minutes before my parking ticket expired, I had sausage and chips instead. I got back to the car and decided that as I'd not seen a parking attendant at any time, I'd risk it and sit on a bench near the canal in the sunshine and enjoy my meal at leisure.

As usual on such occasions, I was soon surrounded by 'flying rats' eager to snap up any crumbs that fell from my plate. Ok my styrofoam tray then.

This one was quite pretty though and while munching on my sausage (oh stoppit missus), I snapped it instead.

I didn't want all the chips and fed them to some of the ducks and other wildlife that came to the canal edge. This started quite a cafuffel and a small duck war broke out. Before moving quickly away to dispose of the remaining chips and tray in a nearby waste bin, I took a photo just as the watery scuffle was ending.

Not the most handsome of birds I grant you, but certainly one that has had its chips. Some of mine actually.

So there you have it. If you're ever in the vicinity , I recommend a stop off at the canal area of Skipton.

Next time I should actually be ON one of the narrow boats cruising along the placid waterway that is the Leeds to Liverpool canal and so the photos should have more interesting viewpoints.

Maybe there will be time then to get to that chippie and order the fish.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Some Things Never Change..............

As I've mentioned before, I regard myself as a mid Atlantic Brit as I spend 6 months of the year in America and 6 months in the UK.

This is all very well as it sort of gives me an insight into the attitudes and characteristics of both countries but it can also work against me.

Two examples come to mind today - the weather and customer service when eating out.

Today, and for the last 2 days really, temps soared in sunny Leeds to the dizzy levels of........68F.
People were collapsing in droves and by this afternoon many were moaning it was just way too hot and how they missed the snow and the strangely relaxing gurgling nosies that their central heating systems put out.

Well maybe not but the weather WAS the main topic of conversation today as indeed it usually is in the UK. I'm sure people were leaving work early or booking a short seaside break as more of this weather is forecast for the next few days. Summer is here and hurrah for it. Maybe tomorrow it will peak above 70F and the country will come to a halt.

Being the mid Atlantic asshole that I am, I can't quite see what all the fuss is about as during my winter months in Florida, 68F would have me searching for my pringle sweater and moon boots.
I didn't step outside unless you could fry an egg on my head and believe me, when you're out and about and get hungry, that's a very handy trick.

As I type this, the temps in Sebring over the next 10 days never fall below 90F. I miss that.

Anyway England has much more to offer than hot weather and that brings me to the other difference I came across today. Customer service. Or lack of it.

Again I've become used to always being right when it comes to getting what I ask for in a restaurant and that seems only fair. If I ask for a sandwich without a pickle and then get one WITH a pickle, I don't expect to get a scathing look and 'attitude' when I take it back and ask for them to try it again. A new sandwich if you please. And again that's only fair and keeps the lawyers out of it which is always a good thing.

Today I went with 2 friends to my favourite local pub, The Wellington, on Wetherby Road which I have heartily recommended several times in previous posts. I asked for my usual drink, a diet Pepsi with no lemon and no ice. Yes I know, 68F and I don't want ice ! It's just not natural but there you go.

So I took my drink with the 2 others and placed them on the table without much of a look as I was more interested in checking out the length of the line at the carvery and as it was short, we immediately headed over to get our food. Sadly although the line was short, the turkey had run out and there was a long delay while the next breast was brought out from the kitchen.

We returned to the table and got settled and that's when I noticed the lemon wedge floating on top of my drink. Ok I wasn't going to make a fuss as a slight flavour of lemon wasn't a ball buster. Having removed it I saw several blocks of ice pop up to the surface as they'd been cowering under the lemon slice hoping I'd not notice them. This was too much.

I went to the bar and got the same barman and calmly said......"I asked for no lemon and no ice and you've given me both. I've removed the lemon but I draw the line at getting ice".

He looked at me like something he'd found on his shoe after a walk in the countryside and took my drink from me. He walked over to a corner of the bar, took some ice tongs and one by one, removed the ice cubes from my drink. He then returned and offered me my drink again.

I said "I could've done that at the table if I just wanted the cubes removed". I added that the whole point of not wanting ice in my drink was to save the already well diluted drink (it came from a 'gun' dispenser that gives as much froth as liquid) from being even more watered down.......literally. As we'd been waiting for our food for about 10 minutes, the ice cubes had practically melted to nothing (remember the stiffling temps today !!) and so the damage had been done.

He gave me a look I've never seen from someone holding down a regular job who has to interact with customers. Total bewilderment. No words were spoken and in an effort to snap him out of his coma, I asked if this meant I wasn't going to get a new drink, sans ice of course ?

He said nothing but took my drink away and placed it further down on the bar (to presumably drink himself as he was obviously a manly man who could crunch ice cubes with his teeth) and poured me the new drink I should've been given in the first place.

Now I know this seems all very petty and there will be those of you who think I should've just uttered a few tut tuts and drunk my drink, ice and all. Maybe so but you see, I've been to the land of customer service where I'd have been given a new iceless drink with groveling apologies and the perpetrator taken round the back and knee capped for good measure.

I expect better now and I'm like a loaded gun when I go out for a meal.

Steak not done how I ordered it ? New one please.
Pickle on my Whopper ? New one please. (No Daphne, that not me being rude again !!)
French fries like rocket shrapnel ? New ones please.

We Brits don't complain enough, if at all, when we get bad service. We bitch about it like crazy AFTER we've left the establishment and tell our stories to friends ad nauseam........but as for doing anything about it at the time when it COULD be rectified, we put up and shut up. This is ironic really as we DO complain about the one thing we can do little or nothing about......the weather.

But give us crap food and bad service and we usually say nothing. Change is long overdue.

We need to wake up and smell the pickle !

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Hands Off My Keyboard !!

The noted UK consumer magazine, Which ? Computing, revealed today that some computer keyboards carry more harmful bacteria than a toilet seat.

"Keyboards harbour harmful bacteria", screamed the headline.

"5 times filthier than a toilet seat", added a sub heading.

Hmmmmmm. The tabloids lapped it up, if you'll pardon the expression. Even the BBC carried the story.

What are we to make of the results from this extensive and exhaustive investigation ? Well hang on a minute.

Which ? Computing visited ONE office in London to get these test results and swabbed one toilet seat in the same office. Ok so that MAY be enough to suggest that keyboards everywhere are covered in short curly hairs and have strange yellow stains around their edges but then again, is this right ? Can such small test numbers really indicate a nationwide problem ?

Their article goes on to say that 10% of the people in the survey said they never cleaned their keyboards with a further 20% admitting to never cleaning their mouse. Poor little thing. Nothing worse than a dirty mouse.

But no numbers were given. How many people ? 2 ? 102 ? 1002 ? Who knows.

And this toilet seat that was tested. Did it belong to the CEO who may never have sat on it in his life and probably never knew it even existed ? Who knows.

You can imagine the conversation in the Cayman Islands Golf & Country Club between the CEO and his lackey.........

"According to this article, I've got a toilet ?"

"Yes, sir, it's in that little room just off your main office."

"I have an office ?"

"Yes, sir, it's in that huge room just off your penthouse suite on the top floor."

"I have a penthouse suite ?"

" Yes, sir, it's in your building in central London."

"Well I'll be buggered. Ok, lets play another 9."

But if nothing else, this article does raise interesting points, even if it has dubious credentials.

I clean my laptop every week but I do it to ensure that the chunks of jaffa cakes and solidified globs of banana and custard yogurt don't do any lasting damage by working their way to the underlying circuit boards and cause my Windows Vista to go belly up just when I'm about to save hours of typing on my word processor. Hate when that happens. Yes I know, save as you go along. Smug bastards, the lot of you.

I use a compressed air hose to flush out things that shouldn't be there and even a few things that should be. Hopefully nothing of any importance. I then run my Dyson over the keyboard to get at any bits and pieces that have been dislodged by the compressed air and then I sift through the dust chamber to get back the individual keys that have been ripped from their bases. Yes, James, you have developed a Very efficient vacuum cleaner.

I then use a q-tip dipped in battery acid to thoroughly cleanse the keys and remove all traces of pubic hair, turd shrapnel and piss residue that have found their way from my filthy fingertips. Actually only one finger tip from each hand as that's how I type. Actually I'm really not sure how these nasty things get from my fingers as I usually lick them before starting to type anything.

I guess that means, according to Which ? Computing, that my tongue harbours more bacteria than a toilet seat !

No wonder Gran is always ill !!

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