Thursday, April 30, 2009

Animated Is Best

Yesterday Daffy and I went to Bradford, a city connected to Leeds in the way St. Paul is connected to Minneapolis.  But there the similarity ends as Leeds is no Minneapolis and Bradford is no St. Paul.  More like St. Dump-In-A-Valley.

Not very catchy but it IS a dump.

However it does have the most popular National Museum outside London and that was what took me there yesterday. Daffy was going to a roleplay thingy at St. Lukes Hospital and so I went a few hundred yards down the street to The National Media Museum, previously known as the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television.  Quite a mouthful and probably why they changed it.

Although the museum houses an IMAX theatre, I think the first one in the UK when it opened many years ago, I found the overall museum a bit of a letdown. I'd been there a long time ago and had only seen a fraction of it back then and was really looking forward to spending many hours there catching up. I'm not sure what has gone on since then but yesterday I was done after 2 hrs.  I think it has lost it's way somehow but anyway, down in the Kodak area on the lowest floor, the exhibition displayed the history of photography with many hundreds of cameras to look at, admittedly behind thick glass in mostly very dark display cases lit by 20 watt light bulbs.  It wasn't a good omen.

One exhibit did catch my eye though, given that I've posted a couple of times about taking photographs of kids in this modern suspicious climate. At least I never feel 'bad' taking photos at the beach like my counterparts a century ago.........

Ohhhh those saucy Victorians. Made me blush just thinking about it all.

On the whole, I only really enjoyed the UK 'animated' section which had wonderful displays of everything from the puppets from Thunderbirds to the claymation models from Wallace & Gromit. Throw in examples from Spitting Image, The Wombles, Andy Pandy, Rainbow (Zippy and George anyway) and most of my time was spent happily recalling those great series from yesteryear.

Here are a few examples to bring back memories for you......

Being midweek and during school time, the museum was eerily empty yesterday.  With several floors and so many exhibits, it was easy to think I was the only one there at times. 

So on the television floor, I did try my hand at being a local news reporter for a few minutes.

Private minutes I thought.  

I sat behind a news desk in a simulated, but realistic tv studio, while the voice over told me I had 20 seconds from the start of the news till the main London studio would cut to me for a report from this Leeds studio. 

Well I just wanted to see myself on tv so I ignored the teleprompt and just waited for my 15 seconds of fame - private fame I thought as no one was around and I assumed no one would see me.  The news music started and we were off.  Up came the familiar face of BBC newsreader Huw Edwards who gave the main headlines and then concentrated on one particular item for about 10 seconds before saying something like "and now over to our Leeds studio for an update" or something as I wasn't really listening.  

Lets face it I was just trying to get a photo of me on the big tv monitor in front of me without getting my camera in the photo !!

Then I was on !  Silverback 'live' on tv at last.  I smiled, pulled a face, picked my nose and then tried to take a few photos before my time was up.  Thankfully after about 30 seconds it was up as I first heard, and then spotted, a large group of bored teenagers entering the area.  It was the usual school group I'd think with half of them on cell phones and the rest looking at their ipods or equivalent.  Certainly very few were looking at the exhibits, until they came to 'my' studio.

With horror I heard the voice over informing us all that the latest studio news broadcast would be beamed to all the monitors in the area and I looked up with mounting embarassment at the huge overhead plasma screens which suddenly filled with yours truly picking his nose with a lopsided grin like someone recently released into the community.  Suddenly the teenagers looked at the screens, looked at me, looked back at the screens and starting giggling.

Me ?  I raised my hoody hood and slid out of there faster than you could say "rest home escapee".

The moral of all this is: it really doesn't pay to think you are the only one in a museum !!  

Not my best portrait but remember I was concentrating on holding my camera off to one side to try and get a photo of me without it appearing in shot. Try it sometime with a mirror and see how you get on. I'd like to think I don't always look so serious - or so stupid.

And you can shut up (and yes, you know who you are).

I just hope one or more of those teens did the news thing after me and so overwrote the video or whatever was used.  I'd really hate to think of those images being shown anymore.

At least the footage wasn't on the tv news last night but I did watch it from behind my settee just in case.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Perfect Launch, Perfect Landing.

Now that's what I call a reusable rocket.  

NASA could learn a thing ot two about landing techniques (or maybe dumb luck) from Steve Eves.

Well done to all concerned.

Mr. President, We Have A Problem..............

History is being made in a few hours time at Price, Maryland (USA), 67 miles East of Washington, DC.

At noon local time (5pm UK time), 50 yr old Steve Eves will go into the record books and fulfil the dreams of those 'space geeks' who like to do a bit more than just watch Star Wars dvds every Saturday night. 

Steve has built a model of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo capsules to the moon back in the late 60's and early 70's.  Yes a model, but not just any old model. This will be, by far, the largest and heaviest model rocket ever launched. It's a 1/10th scale, fully functional (he hopes) model that stands over 36ft tall and weighs in at 1600 lbs or 725 kgs. The rocket, although outwardly looking like the real thing, will be a one stage replica. I mean lets not be silly. 

This isn't NASA.  

The plan is to get it up to 4,000ft where it's engines will cut out and the model will gently (again hopefully) float back to earth for recovery.  Of course if it should all go pear shaped, the rocket might just land on the Obama's new doggie, Bo, out watering the White House lawn.

I'm sure the press core will be lying in wait for such an eventuality. Not to mention the Secret Service who will be looking to the skies at noon and probably breathing a collective sigh of relief by 12:05pm.

I can't begin to think of the bureaucratic hoops, never mind the technological ones, that Steve had to jump through to get this rocket project off the ground, so to speak.  Getting permission to launch a rocket that North Korea would give their eye teeth for less than 70 miles from the nation's capital can't have been a simple process.  

Let's hope the launch is being covered live on tv and fingers crosssed that we hear cheers and applause.  

The last thing we (and Bo) want to hear is Steve saying "oooopps"

Friday, April 24, 2009

They're 'Avin' A Laff ?!

The news today that the American NFL (National Football League) have had "substantive talks" with officials in London about the possibility of that city hosting a Super Bowl in the near future had me checking that we weren't having another April Fool's Day joke at the end of the month as well.

A Super Bowl in London ?  That's like having an FA Cup Final in New York or a Grand National in Louisville.  It's just not right and fans would be up in arms I should think and not just fans of whichever teams make it to the Super Bowl.

Can you imagine supporters of Man Utd, Liverpool, Chelsea etc jumping up and down with excitement at reaching an FA Cup Final when they know it would then mean a trip across the pond to watch it ?  I doubt the jumping up and down would be pleasure based.

Although the Super Bowl hasn't the history or tradition of an FA Cup Final and that it already takes place in a different city each year, it's still such an iconic Amercian sporting event that I just can't believe the NFL would agree to holding it anywhere outside America.

And London in January ?  Are they mad ?!!!!

The next three SB locations are set in stone already so it would be at least 4 years before London would be up for consideration anyway and that's a long time in sporting terms. I suspect it's a PR stunt of some kind but can you imagine if it DID happen and the BBC managed to buy the exclusive rights to it ?  We could watch a Super Bowl here with no adverts !!!   

Even if Jonathan Ross and Terry Wogan etc gave up a month of their salaries, I doubt Auntie Beeb could afford such coverage anyway so the big advertisers can breath easy.

Give us the odd NFL game by all means (it's The Bucks v The Patriots this October) but let Amercia keep their Super Bowl cause you know what'll happen next ?

That's right, they'll be wanting to enter the Eurovision Song Contest and we're not havin' it.  No, no, no.  

Israel maybe but not America.  

Thursday, April 23, 2009

St. George And The White Horse

(Click the photos to enlarge them - it really makes a difference)

Today is St. George's Day, the national saint of England. 

It's only a guestimate, but I'd have to think that 75% of English people wouldn't have a clue about it and yet they'd have no problem knowing the date for St. Patrick's Day.

Anyway it's not for me to have a moan (as I'm not English !) so instead I'll explain the reason for this post title.  As dragons are few and far between in England these days, I went off for a trip yesterday to see a white horse instead.

You see, I was sitting here at home wanting to go somewhere local and as you can imagine, finding somewhere new to visit is very hard. Then the midday local news came on tv and they were running a piece about the best views in Yorkshire and mentioned a place called Sutton Bank.  I'd never been there before and so I looked it up on a map and thought........that's the place for me. 

About 45 minutes later I was approaching the picturesque village of Kilburn which is overlooked by Sutton Bank, an escarpment famous for The White Horse cut into it's side.  The cutting was done in 1857 and given our habit of vandalising everything in this country, I'm quite amazed it's still there.

Here is yours truly not looking much like a farmer at all - with said white horse up and over on the left.

See the little house in the middle of the photo ?  Well I thought it looked so lovely that it deserved a close up all to itself...and here it is.  The owners like to tour as well as there is an RV parked next to the house. Yes, these are obviously my kind of people.

I then drove a bit further along the road towards the car park closest to the climb up to the white horse and took another photo of it - the horse that is and not the car park.

When I parked up, avoided the ice cream van that always seems to be at such tourist locations and started up the steps, I soon realised I wasn't as fit as I thought I was.  Mind you those steps went up almost vertically so I have to think there is another way to get to the top as those in wheelchairs, old people and obese Americans would never make it. I barely did and had to take a break about every 4 steps and even then I could feel my heart pumping in my ears - which isn't where it should be at all.

At the top and after another short rest with a large brandy for medicinal purposes, the walk became much easier.  This photo shows the level path along the top and you can see a small part of the horse on the right.  I think the view is looking Southwards as it was mid afternoon and the sun was over on the right !

It's often difficult to capture certain views with a still camera but hopefully this next photo gives an idea of the height I was at and the lovely Yorkshire scenery way below me.  This was the Vale Of York laid out like a beautiful green carpet complete with farms and dry stone walls enclosing sheep filled fields. 

Try saying that with a lisp !

This next photo pulls back a bit to show more of the top of the escarpment and it also shows some walkers making their way along the side of the airfield (to their right) which is the home of the Yorkshire Gliding Club. I'll post glider photos on another post as for now, I just want to concentrate on Sutton Bank.

This penultimate shot shows a man kindly standing at the edge, looking across at one of the gliders taking off.  I felt it shows the height once again and as I'd not brought a tripod with me, it had to be demonstrated by a stranger and not me.  After the first photo in this set, that's probably a good thing.

Finally I've added a panorama shot but it's not much good as it was a quick hand held effort and in order to upload it on here, I've have to reduce the quality so much that when you enlarge it, it doesn't enlarge much at all. It's just made me want to return to Sutton Bank with a tripod and do it properly.

So there you have it.  Sutton Bank in God's own county, Yorkshire.  Well worth a visit and I'm sure St. George did just that 1700 years ago when out looking for dragons to slay.

"Look, faithful serf, that seems like a good spot for creating a white horse."

"Brilliant idea, your saintship, sir.  That'll get you remembered for sure."

"Ok but not today. Maybe I'll see to it on the way back."

Sadly for him, his ye olde GPS sent him an alternative way on his trip back and the rest is history.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


My mum was one of 12 children so when I was growing up, I had 11 uncles and aunts who dropped in for regular visits, thankfully never at the same time !

They were mostly farming people who didn't suffer fools gladly and went in for plain speaking. 

Anyone who rambled on with little point to their conversations was called a blether, meaning they talked excessively and not always with anything interesting to say.

A Blether : someone who talks excessively, usually without purpose or relevance.

Anything said by such people was classed as 'blethering' as in.......

"I met her in the street and thought she'd never stop blethering."

Now this isn't to be confused with 'blithering' which I only know of as a word that's put before 'idiot' when used to describe someone of low intelligence.

"He's a blithering idiot." 

It's not a phrase used much these days as sadly it seems to me that blithering has been replaced by the F word most times.

But as that's not the point of this post, I'll go now or else I'll be accused of being a blithering blethering idiot.

Friday, April 17, 2009 The Ridiculous.

Last night I was surfing away on here as per usual when I caught sight of a bizarre show on tv. I had the sound turned down low and so the basis for this show eluded me until I had seen enough to stop surfing and have a closer look.

"My Life As An Animal" is a new series of shows where 2 or more humans volunteer to experience life as an animal for 4 days.  4 long days I'd have think.  I'd happened to stumble on the first episode and it was about living as a pig.  Next week it's the turn of horses and then working dogs.

Now this series isn't being shown on some obscure cable channel at 4am or anything.  No, this is on the BBC for goodness sake.  Using my licence fee money no doubt !!!

I watched with mounting disbelief as 2 women who were obviously more used to pillow top mattresses and silk underwear got 'down and dirty' with a load of pigs. I don't mean these pigs were moved to a nice air conditioned studio either.  Oh no.  They were at home in their mud filled sty without a truffle in sight. 

The volunteers slept with them, ate their food, wallowed in their muck and even attempted to learn their language, if such existed. A pig's grunt is pretty much a grunt to me but I'm prepared to accept it's a language to them.  Just don't ever expect to see it as an option when translating this blog.

Then I must've zoned it out for a while as suddenly we were being shown a man volunteer helping a male pig to insert it's cork screw like 'thing' into a female pig (known in farming circles as porking *) as if it couldn't manage it itself.  Talk about 'made for tv' and I'm sure Mr. Pig was grunting a few expletives about not really needing any help in this matter at all. Where were the women when they were needed to do the translating ??  I don't think Mrs. Pig really cared what was going on behind her and I'm not sure we needed to see it up close in glorious HD either. But we did.

Then came artificial insemination and boy was that fun to see.  Again up close and personal.

Finally in this 'life as a pig' story, we got to see their final seconds of life before they were stunned, had their throats slit and then carved up to become juicy bacon slices or lovely chops with 2 veg and mashed taters.  At this point I could hear the clicking of dozens of PETA keyboards firing off emails to the BBC complaining about the whole process.

But my thoughts were about the volunteers.  I mean why bother having these people getting in with the pigs, eating with them, sleeping with them, helping them have sex, learning their language and all that good stuff........only to stand back at the very end and not be up there being stunned and sliced up with them ?   

I know that would be taking things a bit far but then again, what is the point of this series anyway ?  Well it's a bit like watching and then talking about a really REALLY stupid advert. The series has obviously worked as I watched bits of it.  If it had been a simple show with only pigs starring in it, I've have been on that remote faster than you could say gammon steak.  The human element DID get my attention, God help me, and I might even tune in next week (next Friday on BBC3 at 00:35 so set your recorders) as they showed a clip and one of the volunteers tries to be a bit of a horse whisperer and I donno what they whispered but the horse in question shot out a back leg and sent them flying.

That's gotta be worth every penny of the licence fee.  Hasn't it ?

(* I just made that up)

From The Sublime............

Right now I'm watching the Space Shuttle Endeavour leaving the VAB on it's slow journey out to Launch Pad 39B to be readied for it's mission to the International Space Station (STS-127) in early June. In a few hours time there will then be a ' never to be repeated' photo opportunity because the Space Shuttle Atlantis is already on Launch Pad 39A ready for it's mission to the Hubble Telescope (STS-125) early next month and so once the RSS (Rotating Service Structure) is rolled back, both shuttles will be on their respective pads at the same time. Wooohoooo.

If you're into that sort of thing.  

And anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that I am. Sadly I can't be there to see it myself but even if I was in the area, I'd not be allowed in as this event will be covered by press only.  When I was there last November, I took some photos when close to Pad 39A and below you'll see one of the 2 huge 'crawler' vehicles used to transport the shuttle and it's service tower from the VAB (seen in the background) along that road just behind the vehicle.

This next photo shows Pad 39A as it was last November when nothing much was going on. Of course if there had been a nice big shuttle thingy out there we'd not have been on a tour in the first place so fair enough.

And just in case NASA or the press mob don't get a decent photo of both shuttles on their pads, here is one I took earlier............

Ok that last one wasn't taken by me. I haven't got a head for heights for a start but I like that God threw in a rainbow just to make an already special photograph even more so. 

Any similar photographs taken today will look much different from the one above as Pad 39B has already been altered to prepare it for the next generation of rocket launches, the Ares series. Three huge lightning mast towers are already in place and can clearly be seen anytime NASA TV shows the launch pad area.

The shuttle fleet is due to be retired next summer so after these two launches, there will only be 6 more opportunities to see these incredible vehicles in action. I've been fortunate enough to have been to one launch as a paid visitor and seen a few others go up from my winter home in mid Florida and I can tell you it's a spectacle never to be forgotten.

So anyone planning on being in Florida over the next year or so should try and get to see a launch as it will remain in your memory much longer than any ride at Disney World or Universal.

When it comes to awe inspiring visual displays, NASA has Disney beaten all hands down. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spot The Music Site

I'm not one for recommending web sites on my blog as for one thing, I always assume a site that I've just found is already well known to everyone else and so I'll just come across as a really sad, slow geek.  The worst kind of geek in fact.  One that isn't in the loop.

But I'll maybe bring this one to someone's attention for the first time and so on that basis, here we go.

It's a music site.  A very good music site.  An excellent music site in fact.

Basically you go to the site, register and then download a small program. Then a new world of music is opened up to you - for free.  If you want to use the search option, which is always my first port of call, you simply put in a song title, an artist name or an album name and within a nano second the magic music genie presents you with a list of results that will keep you happily entertained for hours.  It's like YouTube.  It's totally addictive.

Now I know there are loads of 'similar' music sites out there but this is different.  It's free. It has a catalogue of songs that must be in the zillions.  It's so easy to navigate that even I can use it. 

I did a few tests.  

I searched for my first ever bought single "Mirror, Mirror" by Pinkerton's Assorted Colours as if any site has this song, it has everything.  It found it and so it obviously has obscure music.

Then I looked on the BBC site for the most recent album to enter the UK Album Charts this week and found it was from a band called Flo Rada and so I searched for that one and it found it as well and so it obviously has new music.

I finally looked for "Puff The Magic Dragon" by Peter, Paul & Mary and no worries, it found that one as well and so it obviously has crap music.  

Only kidding, I quite like that song.

I did try it with the No.1 US album right now by Keith Urban but although it didn't find that specific album, it did give plenty of others by that artist so maybe it's primarily a UK site and in any case, new music is being added all the time.

So how can all this free music be available like this ?  Well you don't download the tunes. They're just played as streaming music from some unknown repository.  That means you can't save the songs off to your hard drive or mp3.  But if you simply want to listen to an album or an individual song that meant something to you 30 years ago, this is the site for you.

It's blindingly fast, simple to navigate and did I say it was free ?  Well it is.  It seems you'll get ads now and then to pay for it all but if you really don't want them, you can give them £10 a month for the 'premium' version and the ads will be removed.

And what is the name and location of this wonderful site ?

Spotify and just take the Free option from the main screen.  When you register, don't worry about giving out your email address and postcode (which I guess proves it's a UK site) as if you put in a false one, it doesn't matter as no registration email is sent to you anyway.  Just put in anything if you like.

So IF you've not heard about Spotify already, enjoy it.  And if you try it from outside the UK, please leave a comment if it doesn't work for you.

Update :  sadly the free version is currently only available in the UK, Finland, Norway, Sweden, France and Spain.

Friday, April 10, 2009


I'm not sure if we had Coca Cola or Pepsi products when I was growing up in N. Ireland but I do know we never drank any in our house.  Maybe we were too poor.  Maybe Catholics didn't drink those products back then - unless they came in Holy Water flavour !

I mentioned in an earlier post that I loved Creamola Foam in my youth, a drink made up from a spoonful of flavoured crystals and a dash of water.  Well we also had bottled drinks and in fact we had a bottling plant on the outskirts of our little town and so we had the luxury of having their products delivered to us every week.

The drinks lorry would arrive in the street and kids would rush out as if it was the ice cream van. After placing our order with the delivery man, we'd stagger in with a crate of mixed drinks and I can tell you this was quite a task for a wee fella as the bottles were made of glass. The clinking that they made as we brought the crate into the house is one of those childhood noises that never leaves the memory, even mine !

Cream Soda was one of my favourites and still is.  We'd also get a few bottles of still orange,  a few of actual lemonade and naturally the local favourite, Irn-Bru (pronounced Iron Brew) which was really a Scottish speciality but both countries had a close relationship in such matters.

Anyway, the point of this soft drinks history lesson is that any soft drink, no matter what flavour was involved, was called 'a mineral' in Ulster.  I think it's a bit like the way a 'soda' is used in the US.

Mineral : a soft drink of any flavour.

So when you'd go to a house on a warm summers day and be offered a mineral, you'd not expect to be handed a lump of quartz or gypsum.  If the mineral lorry had just been round, you'd have a good choice of several flavoured drinks and in my case, I'd hope that there would be a bottle of Irn-Bru or Cream Soda still left.

If not, I just might just have to drink the Holy Water !!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

What I've Missed.

I love Florida.  After all, what's not to like ?  

Glorious sunshine and temps in the 80's and 90's during many of the winter months.

But as I've said before, after a while there I do miss some things from the UK. Scenery for one thing.  Florida hasn't got any.  Never mind mountains, it hasn't even got a decent hill.  And as for greenery, well thats hard to find in any sun kissed part of the world and Florida is no exception.

So when I returned to the UK a couple of weeks ago, I was more than happy to see all of the above in abundance again.  Althgough I live in the 'burbs of one of the largest cities in the UK, the countryside is only a few minutes away from my house. And jolly decent countryside it is too.

If foreign tourists could get themselves out of London, even if they don't make it 'oop North', they'd see some stunning scenery. Even without the castles, and bridges and old buildings and so on.

This Spring and Summer I'll be out and about posting many more examples.

It won't be all that difficult.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Warts And All..........

As regular readers will know, I spend 6 months of the year, the winter months of course, in Florida. Given my medical circumstances, I have to prepare for my US trip in a certain order - namely getting my medical insurance sorted out before booking the flight.

This is not always as simple as it may seem as, after 2 heart attacks, most insurance companies regard me as being ready to drop dead if someone says boo to me.  Statistically speaking, for most of them, I'm a risk not worth taking.

The insurance industry is also very 'fluid' so that even if I find one willing to cover me for a price just slightly less than buying the plane, that same company may refuse to cover me the following year. I think fluid is one word for it.  I can think of several others.

As if that isn't enough to worry about, I now have a new problem. My 10 year non immigration visa runs out before my next trip in October and so I need a new one.  This used to involve posting my passport off to the US Embassy in London, paying a small admin fee and waiting for it to be returned with a shiny new visa glued to one of its blank pages.  Not any more.

Now one has to first book an interview at the Embassy and even that is quite a palaver involving an appointment call to a special hotline (which the web site warns may not be accessable on some mobile networks so you really need to use a land line) costing £1.20/min.  While on the phone making the appointment, they'll charge you an $131 fee which is non refundable under ANY circumstances. Sometime before the actual appointment date at the Embassy, you have to fill in an online request form which gets sent to them and they send it back with a special barcode filled in on it and this must be printed off and presented to the Embassy staff on the day.  

No form, no entry.  Barcode unreadable, no entry.  Any details on the form incorrect, no entry.

Speaking of no entry, the list of items that are not allowed to be taken into the Embassy makes airport security regulations seem lax.  Apart from the usual items (guns, knives, sharp edged paper etc) you can't take in your ipod, PDA, cell phone and best of all, your car key fob if it is the type that allows remote entry.  What ???    I'm now waiting for the news report that alerts us to an Embassy takeover when masked terrorists held armed US troops at bay with their car key fobs.  I think I'll be waiting a long time.

Remember that on top of all this, I have to get to London (200 miles south of Leeds) and back and be prepared to spend 3 hours at the Embassy.

So I'm reading through all this on the web site and huffing and puffing but have no choice really as I must have a visa.  Of course awful as all this preamble may be, things could still go belly up if I'm then refused a visa as the official dealing with me may not like the colour of my eyes or the fact I've a beard or that he's heard I could be thran under certain circumstances. It's all a crap shoot, as they say.

Then came the clincher.  My fingerprints will be taken before the interview.  Ok as an international jetsetter, I'm used to that indignity but right now, I have a potential problem with it. The website warns us that if you have a cut or blister on your index finger, this will affect your fingerprinting and so you will be refused entry.

Well guess what folks ? I have a lovely little wart slap bang in the middle of the tip of my index finger !!  It's been there for a couple of months and apart from being something to pick at when I'm bored, it's not caused me any problems.  It seems that's all about to change.

As it happens, I've an appointment (free and with no barcode needed) at the wart clinic tomorrow morning to try and remove the offending growth but of course I wasn't particularly worried about it leaving a permanent scar, until now.  Will a scar or any sort of blemish mean I won't be allowed into the Embassy and therefore won't get my interview and therefore not get my visa and therefore not get to winter in Florida anymore ??

Never mind someone saying boo to me, I can already feel my chest tightening thanks to all this new worry.  Thank you Homeland Security. 

How stupid to have cause of death given as...a wart.

Monday, April 06, 2009


I grew up in a farming community and so from an early age I got used to plain speaking. Farmers do that sort of thing.  They call a cow a cow.  Helps a lot at cattle auctions.

Once a farmer had made up his mind on anything, it was very hard, if not impossible, to get it changed.  This was especially true where money was concerned but of course this wasn't a bad thing at all and many deals were made with only a handshake and a good gob of spit to seal the agreement.

I once blotted my copybook by hearing about this ritual and trying to put it into practice without finding out the details. When trying to do a swap of my Meccano Set for a 1000 piece jigsaw,  I had to make a speedy exit after shaking hands with the farmer's son and then spitting on him. I had the feeling it was wrong when I did it but seeing the look on his face was the clincher. I legged it.

It's a short journey from not wanting to change your mind and just being stubborn about it.  When we knew someone who was in the wrong and knew that THEY knew it as well and still wouldn't change, then we'd describe them as being thran.

Thran : stubborn, being difficult.

It wasn't just adults who could be thran.  A wilful, difficult child would be called thran too and because they could test the patience of a saint and stick to their guns despite all sorts of parental threats and/or entreaties, I heard this word used a lot to describe my contemporaries.

"Yon we'an is thran today, missus".

I, of course, was never thran.  Not then, not now.  

And you'll not change my mind.

Home Sweet Home, By Gum.

I wanted to take Daphne and her mum, Joan, out for a slap up meal to thank them for all the work they have done and will (hopefully) continue to do in my garden.  It looks so good now that I plan on opening it to the public and charging admission.

Being that my wallet is as tight as a very tight thing can possibly be without being Scottish, I took them to The Wellington which is a local pub and eatery I may have mentioned a few times already in this blog.  At this fine establishment they have a carvery which runs all day and costs £3.50 Mon-Friday and considerably more at weekends.

We went last Thursday !

Apart from the amazing price, I like The Wellington because I like simple food of the meat and two veg variety - but without the veg.  Actually I like carrots and peas and as that's about it and The Wellington serves them both, you begin to see why I like going there.

As well as a choice of ham, turkey or beef on the carvery (or all 3 or any combination) and all you can eat vegetables, they also do the most awesome Yorkshire Puddings in the history of the whole world EVER.

I always get two.

Anyway as I really missed these little babies while in sunny Buttonwood Bay all winter, I just thought they deserved a post all to themselves.  And so without further ado and not even waiting for a drum roll, here they are to gladden the eye and rumble the stomach of any Brit expat in general and all Yorkshire expats in particular.

And no, that's not a photo of my plate.  Cheeky.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Saturday In England...........

Lots of live footy on the telle, listening to live commentary of Leeds winning away and thoughts of having fish and chips for supper.  It's a good Saturday.

Who needs palm trees and sunshine ? Ok I do but on days like this, it's a close thing.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Switching Off A Guiding Light

Here's a shock opening : I don't know what I'm talking about in this post.

Not for the first time, I'd hear you say if I was listening to you.

Five days after I was born, a new soap started on American tv and incredibly it's still running to this day. But not for much longer as after 72 years in total and 57 years on tv, the plug is being pulled on the show.

On June 30th 1952, Guiding Light moved from radio to tv and is the longest running drama in tv history. By comparison, it was another 8 years before Coronation Street started on UK tv and Ken Barlow was only 45.

Despite all my years watching American tv both when there and when back home in Leeds, I've never seen this show. It's so old that it invented the term 'soap' as it was owned by Procter & Gamble.  How's that for useful trivia.  Bring it up at your next cocktail party.  Go on, you know you'll want to.

So I know nothing about Guiding Light.  Nothing. Nada. Zip.  Wouldn't know a star from it if I fell over him or her.  But for a show to last for 57 years on American tv is truly amazing.  For the last few years it had to be down to sentimentality as it was only getting about 2 million viewers and in the US, those figures spell cancellation.  Well really only if you drop a few letters, add a couple and move the rest around a lot.

Maybe there will be petitions to save it.  Protests aimed at P&G executives. Sit down demonstrations outside CBS studios. But somehow I doubt it.  Unlike Star Trek, a daily soap isn't 'glam'.  If it was, it would have better viewing figures and be on Fox. 

I hope something is done to mark it's passing as in a nation where anything over 50 years old is thought of as antique, then 72 year old Guiding Light should be regarded as a national treasure. 

A bit like a younger William Shatner.

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