Friday, 25 October 2013

Pitiful Pontiff

Don't you just love it when a sentence comes out of nowhere. There you are, the two of you enjoying a little peace on a drive out in the country. Then someone says something and at least one of you is thinking where the hell did THAT come from? Here's Julie.

It's just as well I drive mostly on autopilot, because I had a severe case of braincrash when Julie said that. As it turned out, She meant the Christian God, as opposed to Allah, Buddha, or any other deity.

Damn - some preamble would have been nice.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Silly little things

For the benefit of our international readers, I shall begin this post with some background details.

In 1959, all the way up to 2001, there was a programme called Sing Something Simple. It was as easy as easy listening will ever get, but it served its audience well.

I don't recall much about the programme itself, apart from the theme tune. You can hear it in this clip on Youtube , after a then-current jingle for BBC Radio 2 and and brief time check. Sadly, I can't embed the clip, but here's the link.
Sing Something Simple intro
This soporific tune was perfect as a herald for the rest of the programme on its Sunday afternoon slot. For many other people though - normally those below the age of fifty - it was a cue to find a radio station playing more up-tempo tunes. In spite of us young folks' antipathy towards slow songs, that damn intro song has stayed with us for all our lives. Accordingly, those of us with lively minds often co-opt it into fun pastiches or even out-and-out piss-takes.

And then there's Julie's approach.

I do wish she wouldn't come out with these things when I'm driving. It really doesn't help you to concentrate on the road at all...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Hotel Humdinger

It's my mother's birthday in a few days' time, and I was looking around for a little something to buy her as a bit of fun. Since she has a sizeable garden and an interest in wildlife - especially birds - we like to visit garden centres for this kind of thing. The fact that me and Julie like browsing them ourselves is beside the point of course (coughs uncomfortably). Another reason is that I'm always on the lookout for a relatively cheap squirrel-proof bird feeder, as Mum is forever despairing of their habit of destroying or even stealing the feeders (see HERE).

Once in the wildlife section of the nursery, though, I tend to be distracted by all the feeders and wotnots. I'm of the opinion that creating somewhere to live for some of the overlooked creatures is hugely important. Bees are on the decline globally, and humans are destroying habitats daily, whether directly by building or farming on it, or indirectly, by taking the resources or vital parts of the ecological chain.

One of the main problems in urban situations is that most people don't realise how much their manicured gardens or slabbed-over patios create a desert of living spaces for the animals we are displacing. The daft thing is, many of these bugs and other creatures are beneficial and/or harmless to humans. Craneflies (daddy longlegs) look creepy with their spindly legs and bodies, but they are vegetarian and won't harm you. Hoverflies look a little like wasps, but they are important pollinators, almost as important as bees (plus, they don't sting!).

There are some amazing ideas that various people and companies have come up with to help these garden helpers; if you google 'insect hotel' in image search, then you'll see what I mean. In the meantime, at this garden centre recently, I saw this one made by Neudorff.

It's a wonderful thing, providing refuge for various beneficial bugs. I would like one for our garden and I wouldn't mind betting my mother would, too. At a distance from the house though, and Julie was even less keen on the idea...



On a related note, it's that time of year when people like to have bonfires. However, nice as they are to watch, they are deathtraps for wildlife. If they see a pile of wood with lots of gaps, they are going to crawl in and make a nest. Please read this letter from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and remember that other animals will use bonfires in the same way.

See here for a larger view

Friday, 18 October 2013

Beware the muffin man

I have a nasty and possibly life-threatening habit.

Even NP Harris does it...

Well, eavesdropping and then joining in the conversation, without the other person/people being aware.

I have done this with pissed-up clubbers queuing for a kebab, old dears as they wait for their pension in a post office queue, chavs hanging around in gangs in shopping centres and various random people talking loudly on their mobile phones. Obviously, some of these situations are more dangerous than others - I leave it to you to decide which.

Julie is somewhat unsurprisingly disapproving of this habit of mine, possibly due to the potential for fist & face meetings. In my defence, I do have to call hypocrisy on this one, as Julie does engage in this on occasion. Of course, when I call her out on it, her reply is normally, "...that's different."
Joe Jackson had it right.

One time, we were in our local shopping centre, thinking about having a cuppa and perhaps a bun. Ahead of us in the queue were a couple of elderly women who were definitely in the market for some baked goods. I had already been feeling mischievous, and when one of the women asked her companion a poorly-phrased question, my reply was more of a knee-jerk reaction than anything that was thought through... comes Muffin, Muffin, the mule....

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Well, what a duck-up.

I don't know how widespread this is, but in Britain, we have a growing number of buffet-style restaurants - usually for varying degrees of tasty Chinese/pan-Asian food. There is one near to where my mother lives which is pretty good. A little further away though, is one one that I have already mentioned in this blog.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, Julie didn't have quite as much of a cosmopolitan upbringing, especially when it comes to food. As a result, I have introduced her to various Chinese and even Indian dishes. This is all well and good, but if you don't know about some dishes, false assumptions can be made...


Monday, 14 October 2013

Time to sleep

As I type this, it's 1am. Yesterday saw some abysmal weather of the rain variety. Or, to put it another way, it was pissing down for most of the day, and just when some idiot commented that "it couldn't rain much harder", someone Up There replied with, "challenge accepted." Yeah. Thanks for that.

I have a weight problem, and as part of an agreement with a dietician, I'm trying to walk at least five thousand steps a day. Some days are good, others not so. Part of the problem is down to the headaches I get, partly the fact my main hobbies involve sitting down (reading, internet, Magic gaming) and, of course, the weather.

Not me, but the pose is.
Especially the mug of tea.

Yesterday involved a case of  'all of the above'.

Because of the weather, me and Julie decided to drive to a garden centre that we knew was under cover, but was still quite large - in other words, we got to have a bit of a walk. Unfortunately, I started feeling a bit woozy, and we had yet to do the food shopping.

On our way home, we called in at Morrisons, mainly because they have a fantastic salad bar, and their cous-cous is amazing. I was very glad to get home, though, because by that stage I was definitely feeling under the weather (no pun intended).

After a brief time surfing the web while having salad and a cup of tea, I gave in to the inevitable and decamped to the front room, took painkillers and gingerly placed a cold wheatbag across my eyes and forehead. And slept.

All too soon, I woke up. Grumbling, I made a cup of tea, tried some other painkillers and settled down again.

The face ain't mine, but the expression is.

10:45 pm - awake once more. Bloody hell. At least the headache had subsided somewhat. And - surprise, surprise - so had the rain. It might have been late, but I was definitely in the mood for a spot of fresh air.

And here I am. Still tender in the temple, but getting there.

Here's Julie on the subject of taking a nap:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Padding out the truth

I enjoy having a shower. We don't have a shower, but when we are anywhere that has a nice, powerful shower, expect me to only leave it when I am good and pruned. Put it another way; this is the kind of expression I have on my face when I'm enjoying a shower.

The closest I'll ever get to inner peace.
As I said, anywhere with a good shower is a good place for me to stay. And if that shower happens to be in a decent-sized cubicle (as opposed to a clinging curtain around a bath), then I am especially chuffed.

Once, Julie and myself were away for a night or two, so we stopped in a motel or similar. I noticed right away that there was a shower meeting almost all of my requirements for a nice, long soak. The only trouble with showers is that you have to stand up. If someone were to put something for me to sit on while I am under the shower head, then you would probably have to drag me out. With that in mind, I mentioned my need for shower seating to Julie.
Silly me.

I never did ask  for that seat...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Washed-out logic.

Living on the south coast of England, you tend to get a wide variety of weather, although our little part of it tends to be a little drier than most. That said, the most reliable way to get some rain onto your poor, dehydrated gardening is to do this:

It's an almost foolproof plan, isn't it? The minute you get back inside and put your feet up with a cuppa, you'll hear the first few drops of rain on the window. At that point, you have a couple of options. You can either sit it out and hope that those few drops are all that will appear, or you can dash outside and grab everything off the line and bring it back in.

Naturally, either of those choices will be wrong. If you wait for even a couple of minutes, you'll be looking at a downpour. On the other hand, if you dash out, grab the washing and put it into the tumble drier, it's pretty much a dead cert that the rest of the day is going to be cloud-free and scorching hot.

You may think that's somewhat cynical of me, but Julie is basically of the same mind. Our logic then runs like this; if it stays dry, great. If not, then the clothes get an extra rinse. Fair enough, right?

However, logical as this idea is, Julie still managed to throw me one day. It had been threatening rain all morning, so it was a bit of a risk to put the clothes on the line. Julie applied our logic though, and began to hang it out. Meanwhile, I pottered around the kitchen, making us a cuppa. Suddenly Julie sped up, dashing in and out of the kitchen. Bemused, I asked if she was alright...

Um... What?

Monday, 7 October 2013

Swine on the sly

Some time ago, I mentioned that Julie had been referring to a running gag in one of her Gems (this one, in fact). And you know what? I quite forgot to mention the Gem that started it all off.

It all began innocently enough - for one of our conversations, at least. A nice drive in the countryside, windows down and enjoying the warm, if fragrant, air. Playing 'spot the farm animals'...

Wait, what?

Well, the thing is, we often use statements that don't just verge on The Bleedin' Obvious, but rush in and take over its territory - all in the name of having a conversation opener. My father used to do this too ("It's uphill, this bit"). However, silly is as silly does. If you opt to start a conversation with a daft opening, you can't really complain if the whole exchange ends up the same way...

You'll have noticed that by the end of that lot I had caught the bug and was operating at Gem level myself...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Reading between the lines.

Yeah, right.
Like a large proportion of the country Julie and myself occasionally dabble in the lottery. Even more occasionally, to mangle grammar, we find ourselves with a small win.

When it comes to a rollover, all sense of statistics, chance and logic go out of the window, so when it was announced that there would be a massive jackpot of over £15million, greed came to the fore and we each bought ourselves a bunch of tickets.

However, our senses returned and we then became all rather cynical about the odds. Julie put it very well indeed.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Fancy a stiff one?

Last weekend, me and Julie visited Sissinghurst Castle.

OK, if you want to be precise, we didn't go inside - that costs money, since we're not members of The National Trust. The main reason we visited were the grounds (free!) and the fact there was a craft fair taking place that day.

It's also apparently a good place to take your dogs for a walk around the lakes. As you can imagine, I was completely fine with this idea, as it meant I could make a fuss of a steady stream of gorgeous canines. My favourites were a black Labrador and a Jack Russell terrier, both part of the same family. The terrier was living up to its reputation though and was leading his companion astray by taking him off to hunt for rabbits for hours.

But I digress.

The day before, Julie and myself had engaged in  some gardening. Unfortunately, neither of us are in peak condition, so all the bending down, kneeling and stretching left us feeling somewhat less than flexible. It wasn't too bad on that evening, but when we got up to have our day out, our backs and legs were definitely showing signs of displeasure.

Nevertheless, the got a picnic together and folded our frames into the car and headed off.

Everything was fine and dandy for the journey there. It was only when we reached the castle and parked up that our problems began. Specifically, trying to get out of the car when our legs were protesting. Julie put it well, but a little confusingly:

Well, that told me.