Sunday, 31 August 2008

What a difference a day makes!

Hmm. As I write the rain is still tipping down outside. What a change from yesterday, with a blazing hot sun that allowed me to get out and paint various bits of the outside of our house. A job, I might add, that I've been putting off for ages.

Spent a bit of this morning putting together an exercise machine thingy that I recently ordered from the internet. I think the assembly is probably part of the exercise routine; opening the box, connecting bits of tubing and tightening nuts all use different muscle groups. By the time I'd finished putting it together I was far too tired to use it.

Heard something on the radio that afforded me some little amusement. A gentleman who had intended to use the term "rose tinted spectacles" actually said "rose tinted testicles". Now there's a gap in the market for manufacturers of male grooming products! But what a brilliant malapropism; it's in the same league as "it's invenereal to me," or "It's great to be back on terra cotta." (This last is attributed to politician John Prescott; I don't believe it for a moment!)

I then started thinking about misuse of words in more general terms. The one that always gets me is "prevaricate". Why is it constantly misused by people who seem to think it means "to delay" or "to put off doing something"? It actually means (I know that you, dear reader, are already aware) "to stray from or evade the truth". Why don't these people realise that the word they're looking for is "procrastinate"? There now. You probably think I have too much time on my hands.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Shortest Post So Far

Went with the kidults to see "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" today.

On the bright side, it was only 98 minutes long.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

I'm free!

Yes, it's true. After thirty years in the same job I have at last hung up my...erm...whatever it is you're supposed to hang up. No more shift work! No more having days off cancelled at short notice. No more living out of the diary every time anyone invites us out (any invites out now gratefully received).

My dad once said that, after he retired, he couldn't imagine how he'd ever found the time to go to work. After only a very short time, I think I know what he was getting at. I'm beginning to learn the gentle art of "pottering". Nothing to do with ceramics, just an ability to bimble around, apparently performing tasks and looking busy whilst not actually doing very much at all. Some people where I worked had this down to a fine art. They would walk around all day with a piece of paper in one hand and a purposeful look on their faces. If they encountered someone more senior, they would glance at the piece of paper, make a tutting noise, and then stride off in some other direction. Some managed to keep this up for years. I think I'd probably get bored with the paper-carrying and tutting very quickly (albeit I'd probably get quite good at it), but ultimately I'll need some kind of goal or challenge to keep me amused.

Some years ago I indulged in a bit of semi-creative writing. Well, I thought it was quite creative; you might beg to differ if you read it. I think I might have another bash at it, to see whether the semi-creative spark is still there. And that's where the Middenshire Chronicles comes in. I really will have to tell you about them some time in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

I don't know much about art, but...

I know what I like. This is never truer than when visiting the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Every year around 13,000 pieces of work are submitted by hopeful members of the public, and then whittled down by a number of Royal Academicians to a more manageable 1,200. The successful exhibitors not only have the kudos of having their works hung alongside those of established academicians (Ken Howard RA being one of my favourites), but also the satisfaction of knowing that their paintings grace the same walls where once hung works by Turner and Constable.

Yvonne and I spent a couple of hours at said exhibition yesterday. The first couple of rooms were given over to the works of late academicians. In the first room, a charcoal drawing of a lady called Wendy was (I thought) rather optimistically priced at £40,000. Rather like the eyes of the Mona Lisa, there was a part of Wendy (a part not generally displayed in polite company) that followed you round the room. I just thank God it didn't wink at me.

My favourite bit of the gallery was the Small Weston Room, where the work of the amateur artists (I'm never sure about the word amateur; most of the exhibitors are clearly anything but)was literally crammed in from floor to ceiling. Have you ever seen any of those eighteenth century paintings of art exhibitions, with bewigged dandies admiring the latest offerings from fashionable artists, whose works are hung with barely a millimetre between them? It was just like that. I always feel sorry for those whose paintings are hung so high up that it's almost impossible to see them. I'm sure that, if I'd had a work accepted, I'd like to be photographed standing next to it. The only way you'd manage it in many cases was if you were atop a ten foot ladder.

As always, there were some excellent offerings. I particularly liked Storm from the kitchen window, 1 by Leonard Rosoman RA, and Rye from Rock Channel by Karl Terry, the latter being realistically priced at £250. And well worth it, I say. But who can forget Robin-Lee Hall's Happy biscuits, a faithful representation of a plate of Jammie Dodgers? Who said art wasn't accessible?

You might like to read Guardianista Phil Hogan's account of the selection process for the RA's summer exhibition, plus a resume of the show itself. He gives the low-down on what the zebra and the lady were doing in Room VIII. I'm too embarassed to say.

Friday, 8 August 2008


My computer seems to be on the blink. Every time I try to paste a photo, it goes offline. Mind you, it is, like its owner, getting a little past it. I'm convinced it's much slower than when I bought it. It's as if, when I try to perform some simple task, the computer says, "Ah, yes. Just give me a minute to get myself sorted out, will you? Now, where did I put that file?" And the irritating little orange light that shows the hard drive is working just wibbles away to itself whilst I sit and wait. And wait.

There must be a special word for the degree of impatence occasioned by a slow computer. It was not always thus, however. I grew up in the era of the first generally available personal computer, the Sinclair ZX81. A whole raft of magazines grew up around Sir Clive's machine, containing programmes for your computer. These consisted of lines and lines of code that had to be typed in by hand onto the weird little keyboard. And I would sit there, hour after hour, patiently typing this stuff in when I should have been doing something more useful. After what seemed like a month of patient typing, I would run the programme, and the computer would draw a circle on your screen. And that was about it. Except that sometimes the programme would have misprints in it, and the programme wouldn't run at all. I did hear a rumour that one of the Apollo spaceshots was very nearly a disaster because someone missed a comma out of the ship's computer programme. Perhaps they had been looking at the same magazines as me.

I'm glad I've lived to see an era where computer games, etc. do what they say on the tim. In the early days of computing, games were sold on audio cassette type tapes and downloaded to the computer by pressing the "play" button on your tape recorder. The cassette boxes always had fantastic images on them of aliens, spacecraft, spectacular explosions, etc, but the game itself was always a bitter disappointment in comparison to the piccy on the box.

It's probably time I bought a new computer.


Last Saturday I betook myself to the Red Bull Air Race. I have to admit to being a bit of an anorak about flying, ever since my wife bought me a flying lesson for my 50th birthday. The venue was the River Thames, within sight of the O2.

You may not be au fait with air racing, so here it is in a nutshell. Pilots in high performance single engined planes have to negotiate a series of "airgates" (large inflatable columns made of some kind of plastic) in the fastest possible time. Some "gates" have to be flown through in level flight, others at a ninety degree angle, and single "gates" in a line are treated as a chicane. At the end of the first lap, pilots execute a complete loop to do the course in reverse. Penalties are awarded for flying too high, too low, or flying at the wrong angle.

The current world champion is (you've guessed it!) from the good old US of A. However, British Boeing 747 pilot Paul Bonhomme is doing very well this year, albeit he didn't win the London heat. In my humble opinion, RBAR is rather more interesting (and, indeed, exciting) than Formula One racing, where the driver who starts in front generally stays in front. Curiously, it receives next to no coverage in the media, the honourable exception being Channel 4, which broadcasts a one hour programme on Saturdays during the racing season.

Should anyone reading this have a passing interest, you can find out more at

Monday, 4 August 2008

Hello There!

Greetings. I suspect you have found your way to this by accident rather than by design. You are most welcome.

Being only a couple of weeks away from a very early retirement, and bearing in mind that it might be useful to find a creative way of filling some of the extra time I now appear to have, I thought I'd have a bash at putting together a blog.

I can't promise it will be exciting, or even interesting, for that matter, but who knows?

What is Middenshire, you may ask? Watch this space.