Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Writing some more ...

30 November

We have another hard frost out there today, just like the rest of the country from what the weather man was saying last night. Jan isn’t much better than yesterday but even so, we do have to go out today. Not only do we have to do some shopping, we still haven’t got that driving licence form in the post yet. Tomorrow won’t do because I have diabetic clinic at 2.50pm; but there again, we are supposed to be having a parcel delivered today from Amazon. Oh, the complicate lives we retired folks lead …

No writing done yesterday, I really didn’t feel up to it, even if there’s not much else to do to it – or is there I wonder? On Monday I was surprised to find that one of characters has managed to get himself a police tail. Now here’s the thing; I’ve already written out one guy from the action that’s left to unfold, that’s why I was thinking there wasn’t much more to go now. And yet this one is now being followed by cops. That surprised me, it really did, simply because it adds a whole new story thread to the novel, one I hadn’t anticipated, and here’s why …

One of my favourite writers is Peter James and just lately he has begun a YouTube channel …  Peter invites various other writers to appear on there with him and explain about their work and how they go about writer it. The last one I watched was Jeffery Deaver, a writer I haven’t read yet, even I do have some of his books in my TBR plie. During the video Jeffery explains that he sits and plots all his stories from start to end. That way he knows where he’s going with things. His latest books took eight months to plot out before he began writing. Interesting eh? But surely he was writing while plotting. All he had to do was to flesh it out, maybe add a lot more flesh I suppose.   

Every so often I read bits n bobs from other writers who claim that if there are now surprises in a story, then the reader may be left feeling rather low and flat with it. The theory then goes, if the writer is surprised by what happens in his story, then the reader will be too. Without realising it I have been following that since I began writing five years ago. And that my friends is why I am surprised about my characters do next. In reality of course, what is actually happening is that I’m getting so wrapped up in the story that I’m moving it on and taking it off so as to expand it. What I need to think about now though, is do I let this one continue on along the same line, or do I bring it to a close as planned but come back to it later and write a third title to the series. After all, there are three Fred Copper stories with a fourth started. Arathusia is likely to grow into a series as well as at some time.

In between all of that Shipshape is ready to go up on Amazon, and that means another battle with their CreateSpace self-publishing software, not an easy task my friends, not at all. There are a lot of writers who use it successfully and make money from it, how they do it is something I would love to learn. Writing Magazine interviewed a writer, Adam Croft by name, who is a £1m-a-year writer. That’s another article I need to re-read soon.

My biggest problem when it comes to writing the first draft is the actual writing of it! Yesterday is a prime example. Above I said I said I didn’t feel up to it; in reality I didn’t feel like doing it. All writers have times like that I think. But another issue they have to deal with is being interrupted during their writing times. That is where having a proper writing space comes in useful; a place where you can sit and think and write to your hearts content. J K Rowling says that we need to be ruthless when it comes to our writing times. She’s right you know.

Going back to Jeffery Deaver, another question he was asked was where did he write? His reply was that writes everywhere, while waiting for and travelling on a train or bus; sitting in the doctor or dentist waiting room, in fact anywhere he has time to sit and do little else. I can live with that I suppose, that’s why I have so many notebooks on the go. It should be easier in today’s digital world too where writing can be done on the move pretty much 24/7. What you produce can be saved to the Cloud and drawn on to work some more on it. The possibilities are pretty endless these days. All I really need to do is to rise to the challenge.

Today’s photo …

A Writer's tools.

Today’s funny …

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
A Fred.
A Fred who?
Who's a Fred of the Big Bad Wolf?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Shopping for books

29 November

There’s quite a hard frost out the back this morning, lucky we have no plans for going out today, a wee bit too cold methinks. Tomorrow we are hoping to go to Sheffield for a look around the Meadow Hall shopping centre. That will depend on how Jan feels later today. She’s running a high temp right now, has a sore throat and is coughing and barking badly. Add in her runny nose and she’s not feeling, or looking all that good right now, certainly not up to driving up the M1! I suppose I’ll be down with it too before long – oh the joys of winter!

 I did get a decent amount of writing done yesterday afternoon, around 1500-2000 words I think. With Jan off her feet right now I shall take the opportunity to get more done today, maybe even get the first draft done, that would be good. What I really need to do though, is to get Shipshape up on Amazon. My others are there, I’m not just doing any marketing. That is a whole new area I need to learn, and I’m not looking forward to it really. Even if I am lucky enough to get signed to one of the big six publishing houses, marketing is usually left to the writer, with the publisher letting them get on a deal with it themselves after the initial push. Oh yes, I’d like to be the next Stephen King and if you meet a writer who says they are not interested in being a big name writer, they are telling porkies my friend; we all do. For now though, I am just rather pleased the my work is ‘out there’, but I still dream the dream …

The other week Jan and I went to Brum and had a look at the new Grand Central shopping area that’s not part of New Street Station. I said the next day I was disappointed with it. I need to go back though because I didn’t see a new branch of Foyles bookshop in there. That means the city centre now has three major books shops with a few minutes’ walk of each other. There’s two Waterstones along with Foyles. As far as I can see from my searches on-line, there are now indi book shops though, apart from the small stall on the Rag Market, but that sell second hand books, not new ones. I said ‘a small stall’, and that is what I mean. It’s located in a corner stall and get three or four people in there and the place is packed. I do look in there occasionally, but it’s not a fun place to be in really.

For second hand books I rather trawl the charity shops really, of which Dorktown has a whole heap of them, fifteen on my last count I think. Brum city centre doesn’t have as far as I know. Coventry has just one that I know of. There will be more in the out-laying shopping centres I suppose. I can’t see the city bunglers … err … leaders wanting to dumb down their centres, can you? One area of Coventry that does have a number of charity shops is Ball Hill, which we used to look around fairly often but haven’t for a few years now. They are still there though, we see them every so often when we drive through. It might be time to do a trawl there again.

Somewhere else we haven’t been to in a long time is Rugby, perhaps it’s time to go there again. But when I wonder? On Thursday it’s 1 December and Dorktown will start to be crowded all day every day. I’d be surprised if Dorktown was the only place like that though. It’s all down to Christmas isn’t it, and the mad rush to buy more food than is needed, food that will either be wasted or eaten before the holiday anyway. Then Christmas Eve the supermarkets will be chocka-block again, and Boxing Day, and then we do it all again on New Year’s Eve. And don’t forget all that booze either; grief, I get hung over thinking about how much some folk buy.

Today’s photo …

A street lamp in the Royal Meuse.

Today’s funny …

How many trainspotters does it take to change a light bulb?
Three. One to change it, one to write its serial number down, and one to bring the anoraks and the flask of soup.

Monday, 28 November 2016

More on writing

28 November

Have you ever heard of bloke named Franz Kafka? No, nor me, until yesterday when I came across a quote from him which I liked. He said, ‘Books are a narcotic.’ I liked that one so I made a note of it from the list of them on the published by ForReadingAddicts. We writers are told to, ‘Edit, edit, edit and edit again,’ which I find hard to do at the best of times, not because I consider my work doesn’t need it, it does, but because most times I miss something as I go through it. Then I found another Kafka quote that I liked; ‘Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it local; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.’ So much for ‘kill your darlings' then!

As I’ve said above, my work does need editing at some point, mainly for the typos that I regularly make. You may have come across more than a few when you’ve read this blog at all often. Yes, I do read through each one and correct most of them, but as I said, I always manage to miss a few. To have my work professionally edited would cost a fortune, which I don’t have, so I do have to make with just mesen doing it. Longer work I can print out and use a red pen for corrections. For this blog though, the cost of paper and inks would make it a costly affair to produce this on a daily basis. So I have to make do with my faulty Mk1 eyeball and brain.

And while I’m on the subject of writing … Yesterday Jan took Kile to a church in Bed’th yesterday and he seemed to like it there, so I took the chance to get some more writing done, for the first time since 6 November. I shall never get anything finished if I don’t get on with it. It’s not the old favourite of ‘writers block’, which cause some debate as to whether it’s real or not, but simply because there are far too many distractions for me sitting here in the living room. I really am missing my study area, but there’s no room to reinstate it now after a move round. So later today I will be getting on with it again today. …Bristol Fashion is not far off finished in its draft form. Once it is, I can get on with Arathusia. Then I want to get on with new Fred Cooper, a much larger job because at 30K+ words, it need a complete rewrite, something I’m not looking forward to, even if I do know it needs it.

You know what; this writing malarkey is a funny thing to engage in really. The obvious doesn’t strike writers as the best way to do something. Even big names like Stephen King falls victim at times. Yesterday on his Facebook page he mention someone who had written a children’s book which he liked and ended the piece by saying, ‘I just wish I had written it.’ Oh, right, so why not write one then. And that is exactly what I said in a reply. It would sell well anyway simple because it would have King’s name on the cover, but I have a feeling that is not so much what King was speaking of; no, I think he just liked the book as a whole. It does show us that at times even the great writers of our time don’t see the wood for the trees.

It’s something that I have come across many times, usually when I’m sat in a pub by myself, note book and pencil in hand and someone asks me what I’m doing. I explain what I’m doing and then I hear the dreaming words, ‘I wish I could write a book,’ usually with a sigh and a shake of the head. My reply is easy; ‘Get yourself an A4 pad, a few pencils, sit at table and write then, that’s how they all get done.’ ‘Oh but I have the time.’ ‘Really? How much time did you spend watching telly last night? How much time did you spend on social media last night or out on the booze?’ At the point the would-be writer retreats to where they came from.

For me the problem is lack of motivation, not too much telly or Facebook, and that is bad enough. We all have time to do what we would like to do, it’s just that we don’t make the effort, and that is the road to failure. There’s an old saying about there being a book in all of us. That may be true, but there isn’t a writer in all of us. It’s fine to have book inside you, but unless you can write it, it will remain forever unseen by the public eyes.

Today’s photo then …

One of my two book cases.

Today’s funny …

Said the FBI agent to the bank teller after the bank was robbed for the third time by the same bandit, "Did you notice anything special about the man?"
"Yes, he seemed better dressed each time."

Sunday, 27 November 2016

No Luddites here, well, maybe a smidgin of one

27 November

Electric cars are coming to a dealership near you, if they haven’t already arrived already that is. Even Jaguar are going to produce one. Battery technology has improved so much that they becoming a real possibility for day to day motoring, so it shouldn’t be too long for that same technology to trickle down to smaller batteries like the AAA batteries that just about all of us use on a daily basis. But how good is the range of these cars, and how long do they batteries take to recharge?

I remember hearing on the news one time that the range of one car is around 200 miles on a full charge. That sounds good on the face of it; however, these car tests are not true pictures of day to day motoring. They normally take place on a rolling road at a set speed and without any other drain on those cells. Real driving isn’t like that. There are hills and bends in the way; slow moving traffic that needs overtaking; stopping and starting in heavy traffic and at red traffic lights; and of course, don’t forget the use of lights at night time and some people’s inability to sit quietly in their car without some sort of music blaring out of the speakers. I don’t know how much that will reduce the range, but it would be a goodly amount methinks. For local use only at the moment I think.

How much do you fancy being driven in a driverless car? I don’t fancy it at all, even if some manufactures are pushing ahead in developing them. And I certainly don’t want to own one. All computers are only as good as their programming and the people using them. How long do you think it will be before some nutty hacker manages to break into the programming and cock up the whole system? Can you imagine all those drivers less cars motoring around and suddenly stopping or performing some sort of silly games with each other? Of dear; the future of our lives in such hands is worrying.

I’m no Luddite either; after all, I am sat at a lappy writing this. I’m all in favour of advancing our use of technology, as long as it’s safe to use, and of course, reliable. Can you imagine a battery car running out of charge or having a major battery failure as it’s being driven through London in the rush? And what of a driverless car having a major fault in the same position? The biggest problems are not the failed car, but the other drivers on the road at the same time. Oh yes, what is likely insurance for such cars likely to be? Can you see the insurance industry missing a trick like that to make money? No, nor me!

Today’s photo …

A real car!

Today’s funny …

One fine afternoon an elderly gentleman tries to get into his local betting office. Much to his surprise, the door is locked. After a few more futile attempts at opening the door a man sticks his head out of a window. It turns out to be the bookmaker himself :
- Sorry, but we're closed today!
The elderly gentleman promptly replies: - But there's a sign on the door saying : Open : 9 - 4, and it's only half past eleven!
to which the bookmaker says: - But those are not the opening hours they are the odds that we're open today.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Driving standards everywhere

26 November

That quote from Sartre I used yesterday was one I lifted from ForReadingAddicts, one of the Facebook groups I use daily. I thought it might be useful, that’s why I stole it, but I didn’t think I would be able to use only 24 hours later. Well, I did, so that means that not everything on there is worthless crap.

It looks as though the London cops have a lot of questions to answer over the deaths of a number of gay men. From what was said on the news last night three of them might have not died if the cops had acted sooner. Police across the world are yet another group who are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Children’s services is another one. What is really needed is some consistency across the board from both organisations.

Something else that is causing a lot of fuss and bother is in local recycling collections. Again there is no consistency with it. Birmingham is having major problems with the issue by the council unable to decide how they are going to deal with collect of it. A few months ago they had a nine bin system; now they just have six bins. Sounds a tad easier but in some areas, waste food wasn’t collected for a number of months.

Before we moved into here we had the main black bin, a brown recycling bin, a green garden waste bin, a red box for cans and glass, a yellow bag for paper/carboard, and then another bag for plastics. Not much went into the brown bin, as I remember. Here we just have one large industrial-type bin into which you place everything. So if that bin can be sorted at some point, why is there a need for all the other bins that are in use? Hinckley, Coventry and North Warwickshire have different systems again. It’s no wonder that so many folk get confused as to what is happening. The cost to each council has to be huge; all because the government won’t sort out just one clear system.

I’ve just read an item on MSN page about speeding and braking to avoid speed cameras. It claims that harsh breaking is causing a danger to other drivers. Oh dear, how sad, what a pity, never mind. This info came from thousands of black-box type bits installed in cars to test driving standards and methods, For me though, it’s not the harsh braking that’s the problem, it’s the speeding that’s the problem. Using the excuse that everyone does it, is not an excuse, it’s an attempt to pass the blame. At least we don’t hear many claims of persecution over speed cameras that went on years ago.

Today’s photo …

Another part to the Christmas Market in Brum.

Today’s funny …

What did one highland cow say to the other?
Och, aye the moo!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Another shorty

25 November

Jean-Paul Sartre once said, ‘Three o’clock is always to late or too early for anything you want to do.’ Well, I’m finding that 10.45 is too. That’s two mornings on the trot we’ve been that late getting up. It makes me angry and frustrated even on the odd occasion it happens, but two day’s on the trot? Oh do come on … … …

Jan was called to collect Kile from school yesterday because he’d managed to bang his head playing football. I always knew that silly game was dangerous. Anyway, he had to go up to A&E to be checked out and they gave him the all clear. At least he’s stopped feeling sick now but his headache is still there and he’s still giddy. We’re due to have him here until Sunday, but with his carer group on Monday again, I’m not sure what is happening. It tends to change as we go through the day.

I’m not sure about Kile but I’m not feeling all that bright right now, so I’m cutting this one short again. Today’s photo …

Maxi in close up. He’s not out of focus either, that is how his wing feathers look.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

On neighbours

24 November

There’s a lot of noise coming from the flat upstairs at the moment. It began last night really when Lady, a rather larger rough coated greyhound cross that’s soft as lard, was given her weekly bone. They must be large bones though, she keeps dropping them and that’s how we know she has one. Thing is, he’s been told a number of times that he has to rehome her and he hasn’t done so. Anyway, back to the bone – I heard it drop a couple of times just after midnight and then again at around 5.30 this morning. Hang on; it’s gone quiet up there now; but when I began this there was a lot of running around and shouting going on. It’s been some time now since we last had a lot of noise from up there, so we can’t really complain. Anyway, it’s quiet now.

We have lived here for over four years now and even though we have tried to get to know some of the neighbours, they are still stand offish. Oh yes, they are friendly when we meet up anywhere and will stand and chat, but we haven’t made any friends as such. There’s Roy across the way, elderly and increasingly frail and confused. He has no friends at all apart form an old school friend who calls on him every so often. Speaking to his friend, Roy has always been like that right back to school time. Sandra lives in the flat above him; she’s OK but we don’t see much of her at all now. Mark above us, well, I’ve just mentioned him. And that is our block of four.

The whole block of flats is divided up as smaller blocks of four, each with their own entrance and rubbish area. The next block of four we only know two of the residents, Sue who is a bit prickly at times, depending on if she is taking here meds properly. June and Tony moved out and they were the only people got to know. There’s another lady in their flat now and she too can be prickly too. Some of her family have ruffled a few feathers too because of the language they have been using out back. The guy above her we don’t know, but that one is now privately rented. We have no idea about the 4th guy in there. And that is just about it.

Sad, isn’t it. In our little area of communal rear gardens and in most cases most of us don’t know much about any of our neighbours. I don’t think it’s a generation thing either. But I do think it is about the old ‘English Village’ thing that’s going on. The ones who do know each other are the ones who moved in 20 or 30 years ago. They seem reluctant to draw in and welcome any newcomers. That’s sad, as I said above. But what can we do? Nowt much really. Its something that can’t be rushed, but at this time of life, I can’t be bothered about trying too hard; which is a sad reflection on me.

Today’s photo …

A blue flower, but I can’t remember where I got it.

Today’s funny …

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Snow who?
Snow joke standing out here in the cold.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Our libraries

23 November

Since 2010 we have lost so many local libraries that I wouldn’t know where to start to count them. And yet I wonder … Just how many of us actually use our library? I know I didn’t, and I still don’t all that much. The reason for me is that I like to keep books when I’ve read them, you can’t do that with library books; well, you can, but you risk getting an increasing fine by doing so. But think about it my friends; books are so cheap these days and once we have bought them we can choose what to do with them. You will never ‘own’ a library book in the same physical way as the one you buy from a shop, and there’s part of the problem as to why so many libraries have closed – lack of users.

But is it all down to Joe Public not using the library? There may be an ease of access issue here too. I’ve just had a look at the opening times for our library, they open at 9am and close at 6pm, and what are most people doing at that time of day? They’re at work five days a week. It’s open on Saturday for the same hours and again on Sunday for just four hours. I would suggest that most people of working age have planned their time off to spend more time with the families or on their hobbies. Most day time users are retired folk I suggest.

Even a trip to the supermarket can see you buying a paperback for £4. In fact, I bought Stephen King’s, The Bazar of Bad Dreams for £4 from Asda last week. Charity shops are even cheaper of course. Today is market day where there’s a stall sells cheap paperbacks, £2 each, and there’s another one two on the Saturday market too. Oh yes, don’t forget The Works where there 3 for a fiver is back. And don’t forget on-lines sales either.

All this may seem a rather  gloomy picture of what is happening to our libraries; but you know what, it’s not that bad at all really. Whenever I’ve been in our library the place always seems busy. Mainly that’s due to the number of people using the computers in there, however, there’s a pretty good selection of magazines on display and the tables close to that section always seems crowed too, there and the newspaper stand.

Unfortunately, Dorktown doesn’t have an independent book shop, only a rather small Waterstones. That’s fine of course I do use it even if the selection is rather small, but they are willing to order and item for you. Our nearest independent books shop is in Coventry, but unless you can park outside, it’s not in the easiest location to get to, and that’s a shame really. One thing I have noticed is that there is an even smaller choice when it comes to audio books, and large print books. And that is where our libraries score well, until we come back to the opening times though.

My use of the library has been mainly for research for various projects I’ve had on over the years. The local history section is superb, and I’ve always found the staff in there very helpful and knowledgeable. Now I have found out that I can take my lappy down there and work in there with few if any distractions, something I am looking forward to doing when I get the chance.

Overall then, our libraries do serve a useful purpose; such a pity that so many have been closed so that even more tax breaks can be given to the rich and famous!

Today’s photo …

The flying terrors.

Today’s funny …

A man takes his Great Dane to the vet. "My dog's cross eyed. Is there anything you can do for him?"
"Well," says the vet, "let's have a look at him" So he picks the dog up and examines his eyes, then checks his teeth. Finally, he says "I'm going to have to put him down."
"What? Because he's cross-eyed?"
"No, because he's really heavy."

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Soaking rain and a wet looking future for dosh

22 November

We have Kile for the week again. His mum phoned yesterday to ask us to have him over night because he had his young carers club on last night. Jan went out and picked him up from school because of the rain yesterday and even the short walk from school to the car was enough to soak him through. It then came out that he wanted to stay with us for the whole week – and that’s what is happening. However, when I got up this morning I found here in the living room, not at school where he should be; apparently, he said he was feeling sick this morning. He’s in for a boring morning now though.

And didn’t it just rain yesterday! Various spots here in Dorktown regularly food every time it rains hard, Bond Gate and the corner of Queens Road and Edward Street being just two of them. Remedial work over the years has ensured it doesn’t hand about for days as it used to but it still floods but it doesn’t take long to drain away now. There are areas of the Midlands that haven’t got over the flooding from this time last year, and by the, look of things, they have been hit yet again. The main problem there is the slowness of insurance companies in paying out. One lady hit last year was saying that she had been hit before and they had paid out but then removed flood damage from her cover without telling her, she paid up and found out last years she wasn’t covered. That sort of silly game needs to be sorted out, and quickly!

But did you see those silly prats driving through standing water? Some cars were already stuck and yet others tried to go through. Those are the prats that insurance companies should be refusing to pay up for. How much will premiums rise because of them? And they will go up my friends, be assured of that. Midlands Today showed a hire van stuck on deep water and the owner turned up and he wasn’t at all happy about it. I have a feeling the driver will have a bill to pay for that one. ‘Tufki luksi,’ as the say in Russia – or wherever.

Dire warnings are about mortgages going up through the roof and yet another financial crash, at least the Labour party won’t be blamed for this one. But who is to blame then? I’ve noticed that there’s an increase in ads for credit cards and loans on the telly just lately. The last time there were as many, indeed a lot more than now, was before the crash a few years ago. That one was caused by greedy bakers out to make as much money as they could. Has the same happened again I wonder? Nothing was done about the causes of the last one, so no lessons have been learned, so perhaps the bankers have been playing silly-sods again. One thing that a new financial crash will show is that the current austerity measures have not helped in the least. But will the Tories listen this time? Don’t hold your breath!

Today’s photo is another from Brum …

Today’s funny come from our friendly Sage …

An airplane was about to crash. There were 4 passengers on board, but only 3 parachutes. The 1st passenger said, 'I am Steph Curry, the best NBA basketball player. The Warriors and my millions of fans need me, and I can't afford to die.' So he took the 1st pack and left the plane.

The 2nd passenger, Donald Trump, said, 'I am the newly-elected US President, and I am the smartest President in American history, so my people don't want me to die.' He took the 2nd pack and jumped out of the plane.

The 3rd passenger, the Pope, said to the 4th passenger, a 10-year-old schoolboy, 'My son, I am old and don't have many years left, you have more years ahead so I will sacrifice my life and let you have the last parachute.'

The little boy said, 'That's okay, Your Holiness, there's a parachute left for you. America 's smartest President took my schoolbag …    

Monday, 21 November 2016

Hussy appointmentand the state of our defences

21 November 

Yesterday morning, I sat here and my mind was blank, I just couldn’t of anything worthwhile to write about. Today is slightly better in that I’ve been up early for a fasting blood test at the Hussy. The drive back home was easier than the drive up there, I’ve never seen so much traffic in and around the town centre as there was today. There seemed to be a bit of chaos in vampire hall this morning too. My appointment was for 8.35 and I was a few minutes late I’m sorry to say, and by that time people were turning up and taking tickets ready for the 9am normal start for blood tests. The front row of seats were reserved for those undergoing a glucose tolerance test, a test for diabetes. It seemed that different vampires were doing different things and in no order that I could see. We had tried phoning through the switchboard, but that just rang out and cut off after a few minutes. Not clever at all.

Something I forgot to mention about our trip to Brum on Friday; the new Grand Central shopping area which is part of New Street station, was a massive disappointment to us. It’s just a large open space with a few shops scattered around the sides, or that’s what I thought anyway. The place it replaced was called the Palisades and that was much better to my mind, with more interesting shops and cafes scattered around it. The major change as I see it is that the shops and the ticket office and so on, are all on one level now, but you still need to go down one level for the platforms. The architecture is good, both inside and outside, there’s loads of light in there now and there’s more room to move about, so yes, it’s an improvement. The choice of shops is less and the loss of the direct link between the station and the Bull Ring is a disappointment, and I don’t see why there so much of fuss about it when it opened.

Our armed forces are at an incredibly low level these days. The army has been slashed in all its various units, likewise the RAF. The Royal Navy is in the worst position it has ever been in. Here’s a table of the current state of the navy …

Royal Navy warships - numbers since 1985
Aircraft carriers
Assault ships

( )

It doesn’t count submarines, minesweepers or patrol craft though. You might point out that we have two new aircraft carriers, but they are not in service yet, nor will they be fully mission capable until the aircraft for them are ready to deploy. I have no idea when that will happen.

These two massive ships, the largest war ships built for the RN, will be capital ships, that means they will need a lot of protection ships when they do finally deploy. But where will those protection ships come from I wonder? Sending the escort at carrier will cut down on the number of ships available to protect the British Iles and to meet our commitments in various places around the world, and the ‘show the flag’ courtesy cruises that our navy has always undertaken.

I said years ago that the so-called peace dividend would go too far, and that one table shows just far it has gone. Let’s hope that we don’t end up in a situation the country was in, in 1939 which left us rushing around to make up numbers in men and machines of war.

Today’s photo …

Another from Brum.

Today’s funny …

What do you call a flock of birds that perform aerobatics?
The Red Sparrows.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Cold in Brum

19 November

Our shopping trip to Brum went off OKish I suppose, the major problem was being so cold. The Christmas Market was as I said yesterday, boring, seeing as we have seen most of it before in other years, even the stalls seemed to be in the same place. The one item I did see which was different was the ½ metre hot dogs, far too large from me even in my greedy days. Oh yes, there seemed to be more beer sellers this time around. At least it wasn’t so crowded yesterday. I think we may have missed part of it though because of the access to the area by the library that we used has gone and I don’t know the way around there now. Last time were there was a lot of stalls in that square too. And guess what? We got lost coming home because we didn’t park where we normally like to; that added around 45 minutes to the trip home. By the time we got home I had quite bad headache on, and it’s there again this morning, so I’m hoping I’m not coming down with something, at least we have no plans for today, for which I am pleased about.

It was cold, just as I said, and Jan got a bit chilled as we rode around on our scooters, so we went for a warm and a drink in one of the better city centre pubs, The Shakespeare. That was where the crowds were by the look of it. We got in there at the same time as another couple were getting up leave, so we were lucky there. Then two guys at the bar drinking moved for me to get served. After that we were back in the cold again. I did at least get a half leg of lamb before tomorrow and we’re both looking forward to having that.

I missed the news all day yesterday so when I caught a glimpse of Buck House getting £370m of tax payers money to renovations, then my pissed off button got pushed quite hard. It’s been some time since I mention not being a royalist on here, and that story is enough to do it. Some folks on social media have commented about the number of homeless and hungry kids we have in the UK. The Government won’t do anything for them apart from finding ways to make things harder, yet the can find all that money to do up just one house. However, no matter how much I agree with the negative comments about it, I feel they are missing are trick here.

Liz and co don’t live there full time do they, so they can’t say that it’s her home. But what they could say is that Liz has a duty to entertain visiting heads of state and Buck House is where that happens, and therefore it is up to the tax payers to foot the bill. I mean, as a country we want to give a good impression of the nation. A shabby entertainment venue for world leaders wouldn’t look good at all would it. But what the story doesn’t say is that how much The Firm is actually paying towards the cost of repairs if anything. After all they are only tenants aren’t they and a lot running repairs and maintenance should be paid by the tenants. It’s something we will never be likely to find out either.

Today’s photo is one of beer sellers in Brum …

This is one that has been there for years now and there has been no change in the design of it. The guy in yellow is one of the 'market marshals they hade there. 

Today’s funny …

A woman seated at the movies was surprised to find, sitting in the two adjacent seats, a man with a sheep dog sitting next to him. All through the movie, she noticed the dog watching the picture with apparent understanding, snarling when the villain appeared, and yelping happily at the funny parts. At the end of the movie, she tapped the man on the shoulder. ''I just can't get over how much your dog enjoyed the movie,'' she said. ''It surprised me too,'' the man answered, ''He absolutely hated the book.''         

Friday, 18 November 2016

On shopping in Brum.

18 November

Here’s a link to our local BBC News -  that I shared yesterday, only to find out that the Christmas Market opened yesterday too. We used to go over there for it every year until one Sunday afternoon we took Kile over there on the opening day. Kile was frightened half to death, poor lad, he just doesn’t like large crowds. Jan and I not keen on them either. We haven’t been over since. Today we were heading to Brum today anyway but even with the Crimble Market on, we are still going. The areas I’m interested in around the city centre isn’t involved with the Market, so we will be heading off over there anyway. So we are up earlier than normal ready to set off after I’ve made few phone calls after 10am.

If the report link has the interviews with shoppers as well as the film of the stalls being built, you will notice that there are a number of varying views on the good on display. One shopper made the point that the goods on sale are exactly the same range as last year, and the year before that, and … well, you get the idea I’m sure. When lived in Atherton we went to the Manchester version that year, where the same goods were on sale there too. Not only that, the prices are very high in both cities.

However, I do like some of the food that’s on sale, and of course, the beer, but I’m off the booze altogether now. We have bought some of the candies they sell, and once some of the hard cheeses they sell. Neither of us liked the candies (bland and flavourless), the cheese was fine but Jan only likes mild crumbly cheese; however, we haven’t seen the cheese since that one time. One thing I do fancy is the apple strudel, but at £3 a slice, and not a large slice either, I’m not willing to pay that much for it. Mind you, there is one big thing favour of the Market, it’s the photo opps is provides, especially at night time.

One thing that Brum does have is the first class markets in the Bull Ring area. There I was the other night reading about Dr Tony Hill trying to help catch an escaped murderer and he runs off and buys himself cod and chips. I mentioned that yesterday too, and Brum also has some excellent chips too. Then last night I was reading the current issue of Writing Magazine and someone mentioned a roast lamb Sunday dinner. Oh dear; we haven’t had one for a long time now, so I shall be looking on the market for decent chunk of lamb leg for this coming Sunday.   

These phone calls I mentioned; one is to the Hussey vampire hall to get some fasting blood tests done. Then it’s back to the GP to find out the name of the surgeon who did my back op. I need that to fill in my application to get my licence back. I also need to rearrange my diabetic clinic appointment seeing as I’ve not had the blood done yet.

Jan has her mind set on buying Series 6 of Game of Thrones.  I don’t mind that seeing as I have enjoyed watching them too. The books however, well, I gave up on vol 5 about halfway through. I will return to it later I’m sure. The WH Smiths in Brum is a big store, and with its own Costas’ too. Hopefully that means a larger range of magazine to choose from, which should be fine, at least better than the one here in Dorktown.

And so we come to today’s photo …

I’m sure he would look better sliced on a plate.

Today’s funny …

Two fonts walked into a bar. The bartender said, ''sorry I can't serve you, we don't want your type in here.''    

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Male pride or fear of losing their job?

17 November

A few weeks ago we were woken up around 7.30am by heavy banging on the outside of our wall, or so it seemed. However, it wasn’t our wall but the wall where are rubbish bins are kept. We have one of those large communal bins that all flats have, where work had started in replaced the old wooden doors and frames with new PVC ones. Very smart they look too. This morning we had a letter from our not-so-beloved council telling us that the work to replace the wooden door will start on 28 November. What a shower of wasters they are!

The mental health issue seems to have gone quiet again, perhaps the election over the pond has pushed it out of the hacks minds. I was thinking about it yesterday afternoon and the thought came to me that one of the reasons that perhaps so many don’t seek help is that they might not know or realise or even perhaps care to admit that they do have a mental illness. That of course is all down to the stigma of the condition in my view.

I have a sneaky feeling that it’s us males who are the worst to admit to having any weakness at all. In these days though, where it’s difficult to get appointments with GPs, there may be some element of not wanting to bother the doctor. Another thought along those lines is that of having to take time off from work to go to the doctor. With all these zero hour contracts and agency work, booking a sick day or just ‘throwing a sicky’ will get a black mark next to your name. To tell your line manager that you are stressed or depressed will soon see you walking out the door for the last time, no matter how many safeguards in place against it happening. No wonder so many won’t admit to being ill, no matter what the reason is.

For those who have been diagnosed with mental illness, there is certainly a lack of care in the community. All too often we see and hear of cases where the police are called out because of someone who is out of control. They either arrest the person or talk them into going to A&E, who discharge them back out onto the streets, just where they started off before. Someone seeing this happening is unlikely to want to be treated in the same way, so they keep quiet. The first time we hear of them is when they have a really bad mental breakdown and someone gets hurt. Then all the shouting and screaming about resources and lack of understanding becomes louder again; until something else comes into the news that throws the subject back to a minor story on page 8 of the Sun or something.

Anyway … there is was lying in bed reading a Tony Hill novel and he goes out and buys himself cod and chips … of dear, my mouth is water again at the thought of eating cod and chips out of the wrapping. Sadly though, most of chippies are closed at 11.15 and those are open are pretty crap anyway. Besides which Jan wouldn’t get up and get me some. What a meanie eh? Ah well …

Today’s photo … wall decoration in pub in Selly Oak, Brum.

Today’s funny …

What agency tracks down lost vicars?
The Bureau of Missing Parsons.