Monday, November 26, 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow.

I've just caught the end of an advert on telle about hair loss and how it can be slowed or even stopped by some product or other..........can't remember what it was as I tend to zone out adverts.

The point was that the video featured a guy attempting the rings apparatus in gymnastics and being unable to hold on or do the crucifix move because, as we can see, he's got a little hair loss at the back of his head !  Then we hear the voice over about this product and of course 'some weeks later' we see the guy with a full Russell Brand head of hair managing the same discipline with ease.

So any budding but balding gymnasts out there training for Rio 2016, I shouldn't bother.  And that goes for you men too !

But it got me thinking about hair, or the lack of it.  I first noticed a small bald spot when I was in my teens at college but as it belonged to the Science lecturer, I wasn't fussed about it.  I was fused, very fussed, when my own spot arrived, seemingly overnight, when I was in my early 30's.  I remember the flat I was in at the time which helps to tie down the year and for some reason I was using a small hand mirror to check the back of my head.

No idea why I'd have done such a thing so maybe some kind friend had told me I'd got a bald spot and I thought I'd better check it myself.  Friends are always the first to know and take great delight and passing on this information.  Bastards !

In those early days I could use a black felt tip pen to basically paint my hairless scalp as it was only the size of a penny. As the years went on and most of my salary was going on felt tip pens, I realised I had to just let nature take its course - or go broke. It also didn't help that my hair was light brown so my attempts at covering up its loss was making me look like a Jew with a dodgy kippah.

(I tried to work in a phrase about being done up like a kippah......but it didn't I'm not going to mention it)

It didn't seem to take long for my head to be more scalp than hair although it was probably a decade or so.  It all went off the top but in a bizarre act of cruelty, it didn't go from the front.  As the years passed, my hair loss took on the appearance of the movements of the continents back in the day.  As the hair receded, more scalp appeared but, still using the continental drift analogy, a small island of hair remained at the front.

But although not exactly embracing my advancing baldness, I accepted it.  No over-the-counter treatments, scalp massages or follicle implants for me.  We even learned to live with my island, my hairdresser and I.  It was regularly trimmed, teased and sprayed but it stood no chance against Father Time and genetics.  When it became more of an atoll than an island, I plucked up the courage to consign it to history completely and shaved it off.  Annoyingly I have to shave it off every couple of days as it rises like a stubbly reverse Atlantis and I'm not having it.  Oh no, it had its chance in the 80's and it blew it.

So these days I have my side hair and the rest is gloriously bald.  No comb overs or wigs for this man.  And it's great.  I keep what's left very short so I can cut it myself every couple of months. This might have been a confidence killer back in the swinging 60's when Russell Brand style hair was all the rage but for some time now, anything goes when it comes to hair, led by follicly challenged celebs like Bruce Willis and Sean Connery.

It's like being able to order a soft drink in a pub without being laughed at.

I don't have morning hair.  I don't need to wash it every day.  It never needs a comb.  Win, win, win.  I often go out on a windy day and laugh at the elements. Ha ! I say in a proud and confident voice as I watch others flicking long strands of hair from their faces.  I don't come out of a swimming pool or open sea looking like a drowned rat.  It's all very liberating !

As an aside, my profile pic on here is a bit out of date as it shows my island when it was still 'active'.  The beard has also gone so I'll update it asap.

So back to that advert which started me on this train of thought. I'm bummed my aspirations may have been dashed for a gold medal in the rings at Rio but the upside is that I won't have to hang around doing that training any more !

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ho Ho Home For The Holidays

I last spent Christmas at home in England in 1999.  Every Christmas since then I've been in America and the last 5 have seen me in Florida.

Now I'm not sure if it's common knowledge, but it tends to be a bit warmer at Christmas time in mid Florida than in West Yorkshire but after only 5 years of experiencing a warm Christmas, it's not like the weather here is a shock to me.

Last year I remember sitting by the swimming pool in sunny Buttonwood Bay and thinking that it was very pleasant but I kinda yearned for a classic white Christmas again.  What the hell was I thinking about !?!

Leaving aside the weather for once, in many ways I could still be in America.  I still watch all my favourite US tv shows, in some cases a day before they are shown over there.  I still talk with US friends (just via the internet now) and I still shop using Amazon (just the UK version now).  Speaking of shopping, we seem to have taken Black Friday to our retail hearts and, as our economy desperately needs an injection of consumer cash, we've turned it into a week long event.  Yes Black Friday Week is the new hashtag to look for on Twitter and with online shopping far outstripping actually going to the shops, who cares if it's cold and wet and generally miserable outside. Let your fingers do the walking.

Yes Amazon is the new Santa's Grotto and their sleighs pull up right outside your front door to deliver the goodies, sometimes all wrapped and ready to be handed over or placed under the tree. Of course buying more online means credit card shopping so we're on a slippery slope there again. If you thought your flexible friend made shopping easy in the days of QVC, then try Amazon's one click option.  They already have your credit card and delivery/billing address details so once you've decided on a gift, you just take the one click option and voila, the deal is done. Sit back and await delivery or even have it delivered to the recipient !


How easy is THAT to get you deeper into debt when the time to pay comes round !  Remember when we all HAD to go out into the freezing cold and tramp up and down the streets, getting weighed down with presents like Crackerjack contestants.  


Are things better now that we can find the best deals online and with a few clicks, get all our presents bought and delivered without going out of our warm houses ?  Were we more careful with our money and more thoughtful with our choice of presents when actually handing cash over a counter ?

The famous UK money expert Martin Lewis blogged the other day that in recent opinion polls, a majority of people felt the stress and expense of buying presents for adult family and close friends had been ruining their enjoyment of Christmas for decades. He proposed that people should only buy presents for kids and that adults should forego this ritual.  He expected to get 'bah humbug' comments but far from it, his ideas were supported by the majority and not only for financial reasons.  

If you receive a present or even suspect you might get one, the pressure is on to reciprocate.  Then you can get grumpy if you clearly spent more on YOUR present than the one you received.  You also might get what you regard as a crap present. Worst of all, you also end up spending money you can't afford and pay for it all year.

How often do we hear people say "oh I'll be glad when it's all over."  Now think how wonderful it would be if they only had to get a few presents for the kids they have or are close to and then plan on spending quality time and meet up with their family and adult friends over Christmas.  Ok so I realise that more money might then be spent on food and booze this way but hey, less stress at least !

Maybe this will happen, maybe not.  Initially the stores wouldn't like it but maybe, as a stopgap, adults could buy the occasional present for their friends during the year !  Spread the happiness around all year long and all that.  Small thoughtful presents, maybe some home made ones, that show you care. Don't just store it all up for birthdays and Christmas.

And whether in sunny, warm Florida or cold, wet West Yorkshire, such time given by family and friends is much more precious than any present from Amazon.

When it comes to a choice between a few clicks at Christmas or hugs all year round, I know which mean more to me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Turkey Day

One blog post in over 4 months is a pretty poor effort on my behalf but I think it's fair to say that the blogging muse, like sunshine and warm weather, abandoned me over the summer.

I thought today would be a good time to start again and this is partly because it's Thanksgiving Day in the US of A.  Wow, just back and I'm into poetry already !

Of course we here in the Mother Country don't have a similar day as basically we're thankful that we're British ALL the time and spend our lives being happy and constantly smiling through our misshapen teeth.
But I think that for once (!!) we should take the lead from our colonial friends and set aside one special day in the year for being.....well, just thankful.  I'm sure many people feel that these days, they have little to be thankful about what with money worries, health worries, relationship worries, work worries, Euro worries, worry worries (from people who worry that they don't have anything to worry about) and so on.

But even in the depths of all these worries, most of us should be able to find something to be thankful for, even if it's only that we don't have to watch Nadine Dorries in "I'm A Celebrity" anymore !

For the last 20 years, I've been thankful that I wake up every morning. Yes I know that should be every morning for the last 60 years but there is a reason for saying the last 20.

On November 22nd 1992, I returned home from another exhausting game of badminton.  If you've never played badminton and think it's a slow old game as the shuttlecock is light as a feather and "floats" across the net, then think on.  It's the world's fastest racket sport and the shuttle reaches speeds around 200mph putting it way faster than a squash or tennis ball.  Not that our cocks (stop it now) were capable of achieving such speeds but we were decent players and I usually came off court red faced and sweating like a Walmart shopper when no scooters are available.

Right away I didn't feel too good and decided to have a relaxing bath, something I seldom did as I'm a shower person. I probably had the water too hot as when I got out again, it wasn't only my face that was red.  I was Lobster Man.  And I felt even worse.

I had aches between my shoulder blades and up my neck on the left side.  I felt weak and light headed and couldn't concentrate on anything and after a couple of hours I just went to bed.

Next morning I still had the ache in my neck but nothing else so I went to work.  Nothing much changed over the next few days but when the neck ache wasn't any better, I went to see the doctor.  Being one for self diagnosis, I told him about the badminton and that I thought I might have pulled a muscle in my neck and in the absence of much else to go on, he went along with that and said give it time.

November rolled into December and I was still getting neck aches and still not feeling 100%.  I returned to the doctor and he decided, after no examination or tests at all, that it was most likely a torn muscle and would take a while to heal.  December rolled on into January and by February I'd had enough.  I went to the doctor again and reminded him I was in BUPA (a private medical scheme) and asked to be referred to a private specialist.

Now at this point I'm not sure about some details as my memory has never been very good and also it turned out to be a very traumatic time.  It took a week or so to get the BUPA appointment set up and I can't even remember why I was given a stress test when I got there......but I was.  Maybe I had some tests before that or even a visit before it but I can't remember.  It does seem a strange development if I just went in with an ache in my neck but maybe I mentioned the other symptoms from back on November 22nd.

In any case, I do clearly remember the stress test as I was wired up like an astronaut before blast off and surrounded by lots of impressive equipment including a crash cart !  The room seemed to be full of busy people fussing around me but my attention was taken by the man standing near me with the twin paddles !  I was instructed to get onto a treadmill and as time went on, the incline was raised until I was huffing and puffing like an asthmatic 60 a day man.

After this I was taken to a recovery bed for a lie down and some time later, a white coated geezer came along and confirmed I'd had a heart attack back in November and I needed an angiogram to see how bad my plumbing was.

Whoa.....back that up a bit, mister.  Break it to me gently will you !!!  Holy crap I almost had another attack hearing that.  I didn't take much in after the announcement as having a heart attack at 40 was definitely not on my bucket list.  A few days later I had the angiogram and was told I had multiple blockages and would need bypass surgery asap.  This was set up for 10 days time. It would've been 6 months with the NHS.

I remember going to work after the angiogram and telling this to everyone and getting the universal opinion  "are you mad coming back to work ?"  Oddly enough that's when it really hit me.  I'd spent 3 months totally unaware I'd had a heart attack and, given that all my arteries had major blockages, could've dropped dead at any moment.  Now that I knew, I spent the next 10 days like I had a dozen ostrich eggs in my pockets.  I went up stairs like I was 90 and not 40.  I sat a lot (yes not much change there) and I stopped going to work; in fact with the surgery and recovery time, I didn't return to work for 4 months.

As an aside, during these 4 months, I spent 6 weeks in America which included touring San Francisco, the city known for its steep streets !  And I went with no medical insurance whatsoever.  I think you could say the drugs I was on affected my decision making !!!

Anyway during the quintuple bypass on March 4th 1993, my heart was stopped and the blocked parts of my plumbing were cut out and replaced by good bits from my left leg and I've been thankful ever since.  So November 22nd is an important anniversary for me as well as The Kennedys.  I survived a heart attack (and 13 years later survived another one) and have been forever thankful that I had private medical insurance at the time as I'd not be alive now if I'd had to go on an NHS waiting list for my surgery.

You never know when your time is up and 20 years ago today, it wasn't my time.

So a happy Thanksgiving Day to all my US friends.  I'm sure enjoying another of mine.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chester Zoo

Blimey I'm away for a while and come back to a completely different template.  I've no idea how this will come out on the actual blog once I've published it - so it's probably just as well that I only plan to put up some photos I took during my first ever visit to a zoo here in England.

On Tuesday we (Daphne, Stephen and yours truly) set off for Chester which has the largest zoo in the UK.  About 3 years ago, I'd 'given' Daphne a trip to the zoo as a birthday present and only now were we able to go.

I wasn't impressed.  With the zoo I mean.  I'd been to a couple in America (Atlanta and San Diego) and I guess I'd been expecting a bit more from Chester. It seemed "old school" and despite putting the animals comfort above that of the visitors, hadn't got the balance quite right, IMHO.

Frequently we had to view them through small, badly maintained glass panels so a lot of the time we could hardly see the animals.  The worst for this was the penguin enclosure.  Yes they had a larger glass viewing panel where we could see them both above and below the water but the ratio was 10/90 and the water was so murky and the glass so dirty that often a penguin would suddenly appear like the Marie Celeste coming out of a fog bank and it was impossible to see much, let alone compose a photo, before it swam off again.

I'd taken my dSLR and 200m zoom lens as my compact Nikon, which actually has a much longer zoom, was still in a garage in northern Spain.  Don't ask !  

Anyway I got some half decent photos.....and even a couple of shots of one penguin through a small viewing slit.  It was sunshine and showers weather but we didn't let that spoil our day out.  We loved the bird and butterfly enclosures best (well after our glasses and camera lenses had acclimatised to the heat and humidity) and the bat house (not cave) was both fun and educational thanks to the staff member on hand to answer questions.  I loved that to make her presence known, she wore an illuminated STAFF badge....easily the brightest thing in the house !

So thanks to Daphne and Stephen for taking me along and it really was a good day out - but we could've done without the 6 hr round trip to cover the paltry 170 miles. Driving anywhere near Manchester is a nightmare.

Anyway, here is a selection of the photos I usual, click to enlarge.

I know what you're thinking......where are all the other animals ?  Well for one thing the zoo is only open for 7 hrs at this time of year and we 'lost' 30 mins of that time getting there.  Then we had to eat and also when it rained, we had to shelter inside buildings with creatures whose environment didn't lend itself to photography.

Guess we'll just have to go again sometime !

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Games

Yes the big day has finally arrived. We've waited and waited, never thinking it would come around but it has.......yes it's the weekend !

No but seriously folks, it's Olympic Day and the Opening Ceremony for the Games of the XXX Olympiad in 8hrs time will take the UK back a century or so and once again we'll be the most important place on the planet.

No ? Oh well, suit yourselves !

I always feel a bit sorry for the athletes who have to start before the Opening Ceremony due mainly to the fact that their sports take so long to complete. On Wednesday The Games kicked off, literally, with the women's football competition and yesterday we had the start of the men's event. Today the archery has started, although I'm not sure why that event should ever take more than 18 days to complete but what do I know. Maybe archers need lots of rest between rounds.

God help us if cricket ever becomes an Olympic event !

So we've already has lots of yellow and red cards in the football, 2 world records in the archery, failed drug tests, athletes banned for various reasons (including a joke on Twitter deemed racist) and even a few asylum seekers (one in my home town here in Leeds) and still hours to go before The Games have even officially started !

Actually the archery world records are worth noting for another reason - one of the South Korean competitors involved in both records is legally blind ! A blind archer at the Olympics !?!
Setting 2 world records !! I love it.

But I'm a bit nervous. Oh not because of the blind archer ! No, I'm nervous about the Opening Ceremony. After the stunning ceremony 4 years ago in Beijing, anything tonight will be a huge anti climax.

But the 'powers that be' knew that when they started planning the London ceremony and so they let it be known that they wouldn't even TRY to outdo the Chinese. Instead, we'll put on a jolly good low key show that would simply highlight the 'best of British' for the watching world.

And you wonder why I'm nervous !?!

The stadium floor will be laid out like a typical British countryside scene with green fields and hedgerows, complete with livestock. Mind you, if it's to be realistic, there should be litter everywhere, a few traveller sites here and there and areas set aside for fly-tipping !

There will also be 10,000 performers, 77 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 3 cows, 2 goats and Boris Johnson. Make that 3 goats then.

So 105 reasons to be nervous for a start ! What's that phrase about never working with children and animals ? Cows AND horses ! Why not just bring on some elephants and rhinos and make it a full circus.

But at least if it's low tech, there will be less to go wrong. Ha ! We'll find a way, no doubt. There will be lots of music as there has to be. We're still pretty good at music, despite the farce that is the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Just no Cliff Richard please. It's not London1965.

Thinking about it, the organisers have missed a trick here. Knowing our strengths. I mean what do we do well in this country ? Pageantry. That's what. We DO pageantry well. And it's relatively cheap. A win, win.

So forget the horses and cows and even the chickens. Too many chances for screw ups and lots of clearing up afterwards !

Instead have our wonderful ceremonial soldiers and guards marching around the stadium floor in that pretty way they do. A sort of Changing of the Guard meets the Trooping the Colour. Nice formation drills with lots of jolly bright colourful costumes and glittering accessories. And then, after about 2 hours when the wow factor is beginning to fade, play our joker - roll out the Royals !

YES !!

The world loves a bit of Royalty. Even ours. Especially the young royals who, lets face it, need to be seen doing something other than coming out of night clubs and appearing in Hello and OK magazines.

They can even enter the stadium in a gold encrusted carriage if they can't be arsed to walk - a much better use of some of those 12 horses. Liz can wave a bit or stick two fingers up at the non Commonwealth countries.

Just keep Phil The Greek well away from the Chinese team...and the Koreans......and....well...... basically any team with slanty eyes. His words, not mine ! In fact, lock Phil in a dark room somewhere with Mitt Romney. They deserve each other.

Anyway I'll be a lot less stressed once the Opening Ceremony is over with, for better or for worse. No one wants to screw up in front of 4 billion (estimated !) viewers. As long as we're not made to be a laughing stock I'll be happy. The ceremony promises to showcase all that is Great in Great Britain and I hope it does.

And then there's the weather. Oh dear. The infamous British weather. We've just had our 1 week of summer and now it's Autumn. Already it's dull and overcast in London (lovely and sunny up here in Leeds btw) and although no rain is forecast for the ceremony this evening, there WILL be rain during the games - that's pretty much guaranteed.

It's billed as the greatest show on earth and with 14,690 athletes from 204 countries competing in just about every major sport on the planet, it should be worth watching.

There ARE a few events taking place north of London but for me, there is still a sense that it's all going on a long way away. 200 miles in fact. But apart from the mass coverage on tv and stores full of Olympic related goodies, it might as well be happening again in Beijing.

But at least it's in my time zone so no late night or early morning viewing sessions. AND it's being massively covered by the BBC so no adverts ! Woohoooo.

Best of all, once it's all over, I'm off on my holidays.

Now that's a cause for celebration !

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mutter, Mutter

Normally, lovely hot sunshine brings out the best in people but it's been so unusual here this year that I find it's had the opposite effect on me ! I seem to have gone all depressed, grumpy and in short, Victor Meldrew-like. In an effort to raise my spirits, I'll get some things off my chest......and I might as well start with the weather.

Some decent summer weather finally arrived here in the UK last weekend but it's due to end on Thursday, just in time for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012. Now that's the Summer Olympic Games to you and me but they might have to alter the name in the history books as London might go down as hosting the first ever Autumn Games ! Rain and low temps are forecast. For a change.

Ironically in this one week of summer that we're enjoying now, the temps have shot to close to 32c/89f in places. Not so much "too little, too late" as "too much, too early."

Raising the seriousness level a moment, what about the terrible massacre at that movie theatre in Colorado ? So many people making so many bizarre comments that I might as well add my 2 cents worth.

Gun laws ? Well that's for Americans to sort out and if it's one thing I've learned from spending so much time there, it's that Americans don't take kindly to non Americans sticking in their 2 cents worth. Mind you, what nation does ?!

Having said that, in 2010, there were 8,775 murders caused by firearms in the US. In the UK last year, there were 51 and numbers have been falling for the last few years.

In fact if you add in accidental shootings by firearms in the US, that 8,775 number shoots (sorry !) to over 30,000. Astonishing.

But what pissed me off yesterday morning was a discussion on Radio 2 when someone was adamant that people should NOT go see the Batman movie that was playing at the time of this tragedy. What ? Seriously ? Mind you, I don't know what will happen to that specific theatre in Colorado but to suggest that no one should go see the movie in ANY theatre in ANY country is to go so far overboard as to be in the next ocean !

What gets to me even more however, is the glib phrase that always gets mentioned by the pro gun lobby at such times......."it's not guns that kill people, it's people who kill people."

Yes very clever use of words. But tell me this......if James Holmes hadn't had legal access to guns and ammunition, could he have walked into that theatre and killed so many people ? Even one person ? With great difficulty I'd have thought. And if his weapons hadn't jammed, the death count could have been many, many more. He had enough fire power to take out everyone in that building and more outside.

I take the point that HE pulled the trigger but my point would be that if he hadn't had easy and legal access to guns, all he would've been able to point at those people would've been his finger.

And that is all I have to say on that matter.

I'm sure that's a movie quote !

Bloody sun is blinding me now so I've had to get up and close the blinds. Told you.......nothing is pleasing me at the moment !

Moving on........

TV adverts. You either love 'em or hate' em. Actually that's not true. Most hate 'em but we know they are necessary to finance the top notch programming put out by the tv companies. Sadly they also finance the crap programming too and with more and more channels appearing almost by the week, the crap programming overtook the top notch programming a long time ago.

But here in the UK we have the national treasure that is The BBC. Several channels now, all national and all free from adverts. How ? Well every single household here with a tv set or "equipment with the ability to receive the BBC" has to pay a licence fee, currently £145.50 ($225) a year. There are a few concessions....over 75's don't pay and, get this, blind people 'only' pay 50% of the fee ! Generous eh ?

Anyway this is the only regular income the BBC gets to fund its programming. Of course it makes more millions selling a lot of this programming to Johnny Foreigner who seem to lap up everything from Dr. Who to Top Gear to Frozen Planet and rightly so. Quality stuff.

But in a recent poll, a majority said they'd prefer to not pay a licence fee and instead have adverts on the BBC ! What ?

I understand that in this current financial climate, £145.50 is a lot of money but come on, it's 40p a day ! 40p. And you can pay in monthly instalments.

That's half a bar of chocolate. One bag of crisps. One cigarette. One day of BBC with no adverts.

Try watching an engrossing movie and just when you're right 'in there' with the drama or action, the image fades and some asshole promoting car insurance pops up on your screen ! Gone is the mood. Gone is the suspension of belief. Gone is the atmosphere.

At 40p a day, give me uninterrupted programming with the BBC and as such, I'm so glad it's our Olympic Channel.

Moving right along........

I went to my local Toby Carvery this lunchtime and my table was next to that of a grandmother, mother and son. Now although it's a serve yourself carvery, a waitress takes and brings your drink order, checks everything is ok and brings you anything else to make up your meal.....dessert, tea/coffee etc. And at this location, they are always on the ball and on top of things.

In this case their waitress did even more as the boy moaned he'd not had enough meat (the meats are carved by a chef and generous portions are always given), she went and got him another plate of his choice.

The bill for their 3 carvery meals, 2 desserts and assorted drinks came to £28 something ($44) and as the grandmother handed over her credit card, she said "and take £1 for yourself."

£1. ONE POUND. That's a 3.5% tip !

Now I'm infamous for being a tight tipper (stop know who you are) but if I ever thought of leaving a 3.4% tip, I'd not bother leaving any. Too embarrassed. Having said that, we're not really into tipping for pub type meals here in the UK and before my American friends get up in arms, our staff tend to get paid better than yours and don't NEED to rely on tips to make up a half decent wage. Of course they denying that fact.

And before you ask, I like the place, go regularly and so gave a 20% tip as usual. Well sometimes usual anyway !

Actually that meal and being able to sit by the open doors to the beer garden to eat it, helped lift my mood and I felt a lot better for it. Fatter, heavier, fuller of stomach......but happier.

That's when I went shopping to Sainsburys and things got even better....if slightly more bizarre.

There along the back wall of the store, were rows and rows of children's 'back to school' clothing !

Back to school ? This was day 2 of the summer holidays !

Then again, to bring this post full circle, I did say we were at the end of a one week summer.

Clearly Sainsburys agrees.....and anyway, I probably missed their advert !

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet

I'm very worried. There has been no rain today.

It's been very scary really and I spent most the day inside with the curtains closed, scared to go out. Just after lunchtime I peeked out and there was a huge yellow round thing in the sky. It was very hard to look at for more than 20 minutes at a time but I was mesmerised and now might be a bit blind. Or totally. I donno as it's 11pm and dark anyway.

But before that, OMG the wasn't grey. It was light blue with white floaty things which sometimes went in front of the huge yellow thing and then things would go darker. Not as dark as it's been for the last 4 months but still dark.

Not as dark as things are now, but then it's 11pm. And I might be blind.

I did miss the rain today. It gives life. Takes a few too. It helps recycle. It causes old unwanted (and sometimes wanted) things to float away to be replaced 6-8 weeks later with new things. The old things end up in Irish Traveller camps where they are kept and sold back to people. Not the people who had them initially of course. That would be silly. And unnecessary as they get new things. Sometimes more new things than they had old things. Naughty people.

But I worry that the huge yellow thing will be back tomorrow. Not that I'll see it of course.

The man on the tv, which I now call radio, said rain would come back but we don't trust him. I don't think anyone can forecast rain. But it's July, cricket season and the Olympics are starting soon so the omens are good. Yep, rain and lots of it.

Then everything will be back to normal in Great Wet Britain :

The Olympics will go down in history as the games where Michael Phelps won 57 gold medals by winning all the races in the stadium as well as in the swimming pool.

Yorkshire will get its wish and become an island county, separate from the rest of England - although hosepipe bans will still be in place.

Sales of wellies, umbrellas and windscreen blades will continue to climb.

Yes while the rest of the world will be basking in lots of yellow orbiness, we here in soggy Britain have more wetness to look forward to.

Not me though. As I told you earlier, I can see no end in sight.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Anonymous Spammers Beware

Just a quick update :

I've been getting comments recently from 'anonymous' posters who clearly raid random blogs to add these comments because they bear no relation to the subject matter. They also end with a link to some other blog or web site which no one in their right mind should visit.

I'm not saying they are dangerous or viral sites or anything but it's just not acceptable to me.

So, after always having my comment section free from moderation, that will now cease and I will read all comments before possible publication.

Don't worry, Bob, I'll nearly always publish yours !

I've also taken out the ridiculous verification process as even I struggled to understand those 2 words before being able to comment on my own posts and it often took several attempts !

Finally, I don't mind any visitor taking the anonymous option when leaving a comment; I just don't want spammers.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Good Life On The Cards

Well I'm now 60 + 1 week and I have to say I've not noticed much difference in my physical abilities. I can still work the tv remote, raise the foot rest on my chair and go to the bathroom unaided.

Mind you the first is helped by batteries, the second by electricity and so only the third is all my own work, so to speak.

And on that topic, today I got a letter from the NHS telling they'd be sending me a home testing kit within the next 2 weeks as part of their bowel cancer screening programme. Lovely.

Yes indeed, it's grand being 60.

A few days ago I went to town and got my LeedsCard60 card. This allows me to get senior discounts at loads of local places, reduced entry to movies and best of all, to play golf for only £8.40 a round.

Actually the movie discount doesn't need the card but it'll be useful to prove I am, in fact, over 60 as clearly my youthful looks belie my advanced years. As part of my 2 day birthday celebrations, Stephen and Daphne took me to see Prometheus 3D and it was only when the ticket guy mentioned the total price that I remembered to say...."oh wait, I'm a senior."

He wasn't too happy amending the price and I was sure he'd ask for proof but before I could whip out my card, it was all over and done with. That annoyed me a bit as 1) I didn't get to use my nice new card and 2) he obviously thought I WAS over 60 !!

Pah !

I do find I'm using the age thing as a bargaining tool. Just today I sent an email to Currys/PC World and mentioned my senior status to try and get a bit of sympathy.

The backstory : on May 17th I bought a new 47" 3D smart LED tv. I may have mentioned it a few times before ! Anyway it came with a leaflet for a "Cash For Goals" offer where after registering online, I'd get £10 for every goal scored by England in the Euro 2012 footy tournament.

I know, not exactly a life changing deal !

Anyway I registered and then waited till today, July 2nd, when I had to verify things in order to get the dosh. To verify, I had to use a link on the confirmation email they sent out within 3 days of my registering. That's when the problem arose. I'd never received that confirmation email.
At least I don't remember getting it (but you know MY memory) and to add to the problem, I'd forgotten all about needing it till today.

So I searched all my email folders - no joy. I even checked Virgin Media's mail servers for emails I'd deleted off my laptop - no joy.

The terms and conditions clearly stated that 'they' were not responsible for any missing emails and no further correspondence would be entered into.

Woe was me......£50 down the drain.

But wait. I'm a senior now. Gotta be worth a try, yes ? Hell yes.

So I emailed them and told my story. Big purchase, paid cash, registered in time....blah, blah, blah. MAY have received the confirmation email but didn't believe so. Then played my joker.....and I'm a senior to whom £50 is a lot of money.

I realised this probably wasn't the time to use this technique as, after all, I'd just told them I'd paid £1200 cash for the product ! Oh well.

A couple of hours later my phone rang. It was Currys/PC World customer services. They wanted my email address so they could send me another confirmation email !

Result !

Would I have got this treatment if I'd not mentioned my senior status ? Who knows. But I'm claiming it as a victory for age related complaints.

So I'm all fired up now. I wanna be out there getting discounts, cheap rounds of golf and the God given ability to call young people whippersnappers.

But I have to be careful. My usual dress code of jeans, trainers and a fleeced hoodie may make it hard to believe I'm a senior.

Just as well I have my LeedsCard60 then !

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Big Day Has Arrived

Yes I can't put it off any longer......unless I was delivered late afternoon or evening on 25th June 1952, I have accept that I'm now 60.

Bloody hell, 60 ! Takes some getting used to I can tell you.

Yes, yes I can get a few things cheaper and even, in the case of prescriptions, free.

Scant consolation.

Friends over 60 remind me that they wish they were 60 and call me a spring chicken ! Friends under 60 fall into two categories : those close to 60 themselves are generally kind as they realise that soon they'll be my age too and payback is a bitch; those WELL under 60 are very very cruel and have clearly not been brought up to respect their elders.

So I believe I'm a senior now. No more fibbing to get a cheap meal or a deal at the movies then !

Mind you, it was always a bit depressing when I've done this over the years and no one challenged me ! I still remember getting a motel discount in the US when I was 49. I guess I'll never be the Cliff Richard of my generation. My face reflects the hard life I've led and decades of being the stand in for a pit pony have aged me before my time.

But as we all say as we reach the milestone ages (apart from 18 and 21....and probably 30......and ok 40 too), it's all about attitude. And my attitude to reaching 60 is.............

Holy crap I'm freakin' 60 !!!!!!!!!!!!!

No seriously I'm very fortunate. I need to count my blessings. My 80" 3D smart tv, my homes in LA and Monaco, my yacht berthed in Barbados........ No ?

Oh my REAL blessings ? Well I won't embarrass myself or my friends by giving the list here but not to boast, I have many. Including being retired of course.

Many people at 60 are still only thinking of retirement as a future dream and I've lived the dream for 11 years now. The idea is to keep on dreaming for many years yet. Actually my idea is to bankrupt the IBM Pension Plan on my own !

Anyway I have to go now. time to put on my eatin' pants as I'm going for a meal with friends. And then a movie tomorrow. Low key celebrations I know but then I'm not one for parties and large groups of people.

I am 60 after all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Day I Held The Olympic Torch

I said a while ago that the Olympic torch would be passing through South Leeds on my birthday (25th June) and I was hoping to get a glimpse of it the day before when it passed through North Leeds where I live.

Well I was always a bit worried that there would be such a crowd at the point where it came closest to my house that I'd only catch a fleeting view of it and probably not get any decent photos of the unique occasion. Sad really as I'd only have to go 2.5 miles.

A week or so ago I checked the torch's route again and noticed that today (19th) it was going to pass at a point just 3.8 miles from my house on its journey around West Yorkshire ! I guessed there wouldn't be as big a crowd at this junction as for one thing, today is a weekday and for another, well it's just not as built up an area.

So at 11:30am I set off and by 11:45am I'd parked along the A659 just as before it joins Harrogate Road at Harewood. There was a good crowd built up with loads of school children from the nearby Gateways School who had been lined up to not only cheer on the torch bearer but also meet and greet Princess Beatrice who was going to 'welcome' the torch into Harewood House.

At this point there would be a rest break for the torch and the support team before they all set off again for Harrogate and finally York later on this afternoon. Hopefully a plentiful supply of cucumber sandwiches had been laid on to feed the massed hoard.

Anyway I positioned myself along the road close to a film crew from Turkey who told me they were to be picked up by the media coach and so I reckoned that was THE place to be if I wanted to get photos of the torch/runner starting out. The flame was being driven along the A659 from nearby Wetherby and then the runner would take it from there.

Whilst waiting, I even got a free commemorative bottle of Coke Zero which cannot be bought in the shops and that'll be on eBay later today !

Joking. I drank it there and then but WILL keep the bottle.

Shortly after noon, the police outriders starting arriving and it was a little odd to see them all waving at the crowds lining the road. Initially I thought they were waving us back to make room for the approaching cavalcade but no, they were just smiling and waving ! No doubt they'll be back to normal tomorrow !

Well when I say crowds, there were only about 15 of us at this point on the road as the vast majority had decided to place themselves at the Harewood House junction a few hundred yards west of us. Big mistake.

A few minutes later, the coach arrived with the runners on board. It pulled up right next to me and I only had to move a couple of feet to be at the door when it opened and so I was the first to greet Roy Leinster, the very fit and young looking 75 yr old torch bearer who would carry the flame to the entrance to the grounds of Harewood House.

Yeah I'm not sure why they've given him an extra surname on the BBC site but anyway...........

I don't think anyone else realised what was happening as for a while, I had the whole area to myself.....well just Roy and me ! I had my Nikon in one hand taking HD video footage and my HTC camera in the other hand taking stills. What a star !

A few other people came along and when I saw Roy was happy to pose with anyone, I handed my camera to the nearest honest looking spectator and got in on the act.

In this next photo, you can hopefully see the tiny hole in the torch (as pointed out by the kind spectator) where one of the support staff would use a 'key' to open the gas valve allowing the torch to be lit from the flame of the previous torch, or in this case, from the flame lantern that had been carried on the coach along the A659 from Wetherby.

To save time and where there would be no spectators anyway, the flame travels by coach.

Apparently once the runner has passed on the flame to the next runner, the 'key' is used again to turn off their gas supply, the gas cartridge is removed, and they get to keep the torch shell. Not sure why the cartridges need to be removed but maybe they get recycled into other torches to save needing 8,000 of them, one for each runner. Seems fair enough.

By now everyone in the small crowd had had their photos taken with Roy and his flameless torch so I upped the stakes a bit and asked to be photographed holding it. Well what the hell, how often do you get such an opportunity ? I knew once it was lit, the torch couldn't be held by anyone other than the runner so it was now or never.

Initially I did hold it all on my own without Roy even being 'in the picture' but the person taking the photo with my camera took so long (took 3 attempts) that Roy got a bit nervous and came back into the shot with me. Hey ho.

That opened the floodgates and suddenly everyone fancied holding the torch ! I felt a bit sorry for Roy but thankfully at this point the coach came along with the flame and the support team (all police staff) and so he was able to be led into the middle of the road for his moment of glory.

With the torch lit, Roy only had to run a few hundred yards before passing the flame onto Janet Baker inside the grounds of Harewood House.

I jogged (ha !) as best I could after the procession thinking they'd stop at the traffic lights where 99% of the crowd was gathered. But no, Roy, the torch and all the support vehicles just went across the junction and through the entrance to the grounds of Harewood House. I heard a few people muttering "was that it ?" as they walked back to their cars - and I didn't feel the need to rub it in by showing them the photos and video I'd managed to get.

Once again it paid off using a bit of prior knowledge to pick my spot and spotting that Turkish film crew helped as well.

Finally here is the edited video I took which puts it all into perspective.

I'll probably still go to see the torch again on Sunday but the 'pressure' will be off and it doesn't matter if I only get to see it over the heads of others. I couldn't possibly get any closer to a torch or torch bearer than I did today and I certainly wouldn't be able to hold it again either.

What an experience and thanks to Roy for being such a gent and letting our little select band of spectators share in his special day.

Most Recent Awards

Most Recent Awards