One last time

Today could very easily mark my final recording with the Talking Newspaper. I was undecided whether to say anything at my sign off but, when the time came, I decided against it. I told Janet and Mike before we started and they were a bit sad about it so I figured it was better not to say anything to the listeners. Keep ’em laughing, is what I say!

The reason it might be my last is because the remote recordings are coming to an end – there’s one more, I think – as the team returns to the studio full time. Because I’m flying out to Oz and it was for an undetermined length of time, I told the organisers not to put me down for the September – December roster. And, because we would like to be living in Sweden by the beginning of next year, I can’t see me popping back every six weeks to record an edition.

Mike suggested that I could perhaps return to recording my Letter from Sweden and having it included with the Monthly Magazine. I thought that was a good idea. I’ll check with Anne and see what she thinks.

Anyway, the recording went well, though I did make a mistake, which annoyed me, but, overall, it was an excellent recording with plenty of chat back and forth. Janet was great fun. Unfortunately, Mike didn’t come in with a rather funny story about a Siamese cat.

There was a story about dogs being welcomed at Farnham Heath and Janet wanted to know about cats; if it was okay to bring a cat on a lead. She claimed that you could take a Siamese cat on a lead because they were the one breed that would do it, happily.

After the recording Mike told us that his now wife, back in the 1970’s, had a Siamese cat which she would regularly take for a walk, on a lead. They would end up at a pub where the cat would sit on her lap while they had a drink. It would have made a brilliant interjection.

The recording was all done by 4pm so, after our farewells, I poured myself a drink and lay back on the sun lounger for my reading hour.

I’m going to miss the Talking Newspaper. Mirinda will no doubt say that the Talking Newspaper will miss me. I hope that’s in a nice way.

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Stuff of a slow day

This afternoon, the chairman of Aldershot Town Football Club posted on Twitter an apology to Boreham Wood Football Club for the ugly behaviour of the Aldershot fans. There was a lot of damage to the fence, and the chairman said that Aldershot would pay for the repairs. Of course, as soon as he’d posted, he was deluged with people saying how it wasn’t that bad, that the goalie was a liar and that there were only a couple of offenders. I don’t know what football game they were at, but it certainly wasn’t the same one I attended.

But enough of that unpleasant business.

I’ve noticed, as the days get shorter and the clouds obscure the sunrise, that Emma doesn’t like the Avenue of Trees when it’s dark. She just sits at the entrance and looks at me, refusing to enter until Freya and I go in. I guess we guarantee her safety.

I agree, it’s pretty dark, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. After all, most sensible people are still abed at 05:30.

Having managed to coax Emma through to the castle and back, I went shopping. It was mostly for the girls (I’m stockpiling dog food for Anja) because I’ll not be needing anything much given my imminent departure.

Actually, my upcoming trip to Oz was the main topic of conversation in both Starbucks and Waitrose this morning. Everyone seemed to be more excited than me. Obviously, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Mirinda, given how much I’ve missed her, but, overall, flying to Oz is not high on my list of pleasures.

I know it’ll be fine once I get there.

Weatherwise, I managed to avoid the rain, which dripped a bit in the morning then poured for a few hours in the afternoon. And the temperature is significantly better suited to my preferences. Delightful!

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Now that’s an improvement

I was actually dreading tonight. Not in seeing Nicktor, obviously. I managed to finish reading Slab Life 3 and wanted to discuss it with him. As well as enjoying his company, of course. And going for a beer in the Wishing Well, which is now called the Good Companion. No, I wasn’t looking forward to watching yet another abysmal display of football by the rarely Mighty Aldershot Town Football Club.

The trip to Borehamwood was long and littered with various bumper to bumper traffic which gave us plenty of time to discuss the merits of the book. I gave Nicktor my constructive criticism and heaps of praise. I think it’s the best of the three. His writing has definitely improved. Reducing the amount of football helped. Though he said most of the games were so bad there wasn’t a lot to write about. Which is fair.

We also hit a bit of rain. Yes, it rained today. Finally. It seems the drought has broken.

Not the super scary, life-threatening thunderstorms we were promised, mind. No, we had some rain which dampened everything, including the sheets I had on the line; the vomit ones from yesterday. The thing I liked though was the drop in temperature.

I had been a bit concerned with standing, watching the football with a fiery sun beating down on me. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t happen. It was actually quite pleasant, which is not what can be said for some of the Aldershot fans.

I understand getting excited and bouncing around a lot when your team scores a goal, but is that an excuse to throw wholesale, sweary abuse at the stewards? It’s the ugly face of football that I don’t like. I also didn’t like the ugly football face that decided to have a cigarette right next to me at half-time. That was very unpleasant. Though he was so ugly, I wasn’t brave enough to tell him where to shove his cigarette. I just sidled over to where Heather was standing and chatted to her.

However, all of that aside, the game was excellent. It was exciting, had goals, was physical without being violent and both teams felt like they really wanted to win. It was an absolute joy to watch, something I didn’t think I’d get to say about Aldershot again.

It really was exciting, especially the last 15 minutes when the score was 1-2 and they were fighting to equalise. But we held our nerve and the backs did their job. We won and the players were ecstatic.

I have to mention the Borehamwood goalie, who was amazing.

It was a great night of football and I am so glad I went. Cheers, Nicktor.

Interestingly, before the game, we headed off up the high street in order to have a beer. Remembering from last time that the Wishing Well was the only non-Wetherspoons in the town, we bypassed the raucous noise and entered the…well, Good Companion. It was the Wishing Well but had had a complete refurb since last year. It was a vast improvement.

We both enjoyed a pint before heading back down to the ground.

You can read about the Wishing Well here. We were returning from our yearly cricket weekend and popped in on the way home.

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Vomiting a fish

I didn’t go upstairs today. I know this because my wicker shopping trolley remained at the bottom of the stairs, and I didn’t notice until I went to bed. First thing, I’d woken up, grabbed the trolley and my clothes and come downstairs and that was it. Which explains why I didn’t realise I needed to wash the sheets.

When I did head upstairs, in order to shower and go to bed, I put the bedroom light on to be presented with two excellent examples of dog vomit; one on the fitted sheet, the other on the flat sheet. I looked at the dogs who were both looking a bit sheepish with tails down. It explained why they weren’t on the bed.

The vomit was pretty dry, so I couldn’t tell when it had happened. I know that Freya often sleeps on the bed when I’m at the shops, so it could have been then. But, really, who knows? And it’s not like I really care. I simply stripped the bed, threw the dirty sheets down the stairs for the morning and remade the bed.

Oddly, it was the second vomit reference for the day.

I have almost finished reading Nicktor’s latest book about following Aldershot, Slab Life 3 – Home and Away, in which he describes a relative who either died while vomiting a fish or because of vomiting a fish.

The book is his best yet. I think that’s mostly because there’s less football in it than the other two volumes. The anecdotes are excellently written. And not just the ones that include me!

In fact, one of my only complaints would be his accuracy in describing the whisky challenge in Wrexham. He just glosses over the result, not giving a proper description of my tasting skills. A far more accurate description can be read here.

That makes it sound like I spent the day reading. Far from it. Obviously I went shopping but I also spent quite a bit of the day preparing a Home Guide for Anja. It’s a selection of helpful hints for how to live in our house.

I also Skyped with Mirinda for over an hour.

And, of course, I took the dogs for their early walk. This morning marked the first time we’ve had clouds in the sky for yonks. It made quite a pretty picture on the walk back from the castle.

The clouds didn’t hang around, though. The rest of the day was clear, blue skied and still too bloody hot.

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Early rendezvous

Since I’ve been walking the dogs at around sunrise, I see a completely different group of people to the ones in the middle of the day. I don’t see them all every day except for one couple. I say ‘couple’ but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. Let me explain.

It’s important to note that the following is made up of many different sightings starting in late May to today. It’s a sort of jigsaw but, for clarity, I’ve edited it all together in a linear form.

Almost every morning, I see a woman with a beautiful red setter. They have walked from the car park at the golf club. Normally, by the time I see them, they have reached the gate into the pasture we call The Queen’s Bottom. At about the time she arrives, a man comes through the gate from the pasture, and meets her by the football pitch.

There is no physical exchange apart from the dog who runs up to the man. The three of them then go through the gate and walk along the top of the pasture.

Once they’ve finished their walk through the pasture we call The Queen’s Bottom, they emerge onto the football pitch and she heads back to the car park while he walks along the fence towards, I assume, the path.

I once heard them talking, but that’s all the contact I’ve witnessed between them. Mind you, I am generally a long way from them. Also, they don’t arrive together, and they leave separately. It’s also very early in the morning. A lovely mystery.

And this morning, we all had a lovely, just beyond full, moon to witness our walks.

There it is!

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Change of emphasis

Today, during Reading Hour, I finished The Group by Mary McCarthy. It was the fiction work among the five books I’m currently reading. I vaguely remembered watching the 1966 film years ago but I’d never read the 1963 book. And I’m so glad I did. What an amazing book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read.

In celebration of finishing the book, I decided to look for the film. I found it on Amazon Prime so decided I’d watch it tonight as a sort of comparison. I wanted to see what kind of adaptation it was, given I’d only just finished the book.

I’m glad I did, however, I have to say, I was a bit disappointed in the film.

Obviously, I realise that there’s only so much one can do when limited to 153 minutes but, to my mind, the adaptation took an amazing novel and turned it into something else. It’s advertised as a social satire which I think demeans the true depth and strength of the original work.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think anyone can do whatever they like when they decide to interpret another work. The thing is, there’s lots of works that show the world as it’s shown in the film and not enough that show the world of the novel.

According to McCarthy, the book was not a feminist work rather, she was more interested in equality and saw her novel as taking that stance. Regardless of that, her characters seem to be constantly battling against the patriarchy, so I can understand the feminist adoption of the novel.

Interestingly, The Group film was adapted, directed and produced by men. I’d be very interested to see a female film version of the book because I think it would be decidedly different. Actually, what I’d love to see would be a TV series based on The Group adapted, produced and directed by Jenji Kohan. Now that would be brilliant.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film. My enjoyment was probably mostly because I knew the story and the lives of the women in the group in a lot broader sense than the film shows.

As a footnote, apparently Candace Bushnell was asked to write something that updated The Group. She came up with Sex in the City.

PS: Last week, in Amsterdam, I had an Indonesian meal and reported that the last time I’d had one was on an early trip to Brittany. Well, I’ve found the post. It was in 2003, and it’s at the end of this post.

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Family time

As we reached the all weather path this morning, nearing the castle end of our early morning walk, we spotted a family sitting on a picnic blanket, in a clearing. It was mum, dad and two kids. It looked a bit odd, though smart when you consider how hot it was forecast to get. It was not long after 5am, when most people are fast asleep.

Mind you, the garbage truck arrived in our street just as I was leaving the house and I’m sure the constant reversing beep would have woken up quite a few people as it slowly backed towards the park end. It’s a great idea having the bin collectors start early to avoid the heat but, really, can’t they turn the annoying beep off?

I could hear it every time it went up a different street, even from the Avenue of Trees.

Anyway, after touching the castle outer wall, we returned along the grass as the sun started to rise, like we do every morning these days. As we reached the all weather path, I spotted the family all standing, phones pointed towards the golden sunrise.

They made a lovely family group. At one point, the father took a photo with the youngest child silhouetted against the sun. It may have been an excellent photograph. Of course, I’ll never know.

I thought it was a lovely family thing to do; witnessing a golden sunrise during a heatwave summer.

I think we’ve seen every sunrise we’ve been here, given our early walks since Mirinda left (May 27) with, at first my stupidly early rising and, secondly, the excessive heat. There’s only been clouds a few times.

Gardener Dave and Tommy senior would have liked a few clouds today as they toiled away in the garden. They managed to take out a lot of weeds and removed heaps of dead plants from pots. Obviously there wasn’t a lot of grass to cut, so they strimmed the wild carrot instead.

They also managed to sweat an awful lot.

When they arrived, Tommy asked to store three big bottles of water in the fridge. Obviously I said yes. It’s good to see them drinking lots of fluids. I made sure he topped them up with more cold water, before they left for their next job.

In Sweden, I bought Dave a box of ten miniature bottles of different brands of aquavit. He was very pleased with them. I told him to put them in the freezer. He was eager to get home.

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More geese

I had a Talking Newspaper today. It’s the second last remote recording (for me, at any rate) because everything is returning to the studio from the next roster in September. Given I had no idea where I’ll be, I’ve been left off the newest roster so, next week will be my last recording until, at the very earliest, next February. Given the Sweden plan, I may not be rostered on then, either.

I had Susan reading with me and Mike was the engineer. It seems that Mike is now the remote engineer. No more Tim or Charles. It’s funny when you don’t know you’ve already seen someone for the last time. Actually, Tim didn’t go to the Big Birthday Bash so I can’t remember the last time I saw him.

Anyway, apart from the heat, and a bit of a problem with my line echoing, and one drop out, it went well. Actually, there were no errors from either of us. I think that must be a bit of a record. There was also a nice bit of chat between us. Susan often takes a bit to get going but then she’s excellent.

I noticed, while I was recording, that Emma seems to have found a new spot in my office. I assume it’s cooler than by the door though I can’t imagine how.

I would have thought that her half in, half out the door would have caught more breezes. Still, she was happy so that’s all that matters.

One of my pieces I read today was regarding King’s Pond in Alton. Apparently it has been over run with Canadian geese. According to a naturalist who lives nearby, this is as a result of people feeding them with bread. The geese have forgotten they are wild and now just hang around.

The fact that the place is now full of honking birds means two things to the users of the pond. Firstly, there is an awful lot of goose poo. I know how invasive that can be. I remember when we lived in Shottermill and the area around the pond was more poo than grass. And, secondly, there’s not a lot of other wildlife given the geese are pretty good at competing for space.

A few things are being done to discourage the birds and send them on their way. I hadn’t heard of this before but, it seems, putting oil on birds eggs prevents them hatching. I’ve looked it up and, it seems, certain eggshells are affected by certain oils. The oil seals the eggshell, making it impossible for the baby bird to hatch.

This is a far better solution than culling, which is expensive and distressing for most people. The oil thing means the population is reduced and, hopefully, the number of geese at King’s Pond in Alton will fall to the previous manageable levels.

I hope people will stop feeding them bread as well. I guess that’s not likely.

In the meanwhilst, this is where Freya spends the hot afternoons.

Smart dog. Any breeze comes up through the sun lounge netting. Though, she’s a bit warm against my leg.

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Geese on the wing

There is one thing we’d really miss about living where we do and it’ll be the geese that fly over the top of our house at this time every year. There are hundreds of them. Either flying in a perfect and delicate V formation or just a huge cloud of honking flapping. You hear them long before you see them, in the sort of way that cyclists should alert walkers to their imminent arrival yet rarely do.

It was this honking that allowed me to get a video of a load of them flying over the park this morning.

I’ve been wanting to get them on video ever since I returned from Europe but each time the honking started I either didn’t have my phone with me or I was under trees, making video impossible. But this morning, I was ready.

I’d noticed they fly over at around 05:30 so I made sure we set off on our walk earlier than normal and we were at the top of the Dell when I heard the first honks. I had my phone out and was ready to video. Of course, the girls were wondering what was going on. They looked at me as if to ask if we were going on a walk or not.

I assured Emma that all was as it should be as I aimed my camera into the sky and managed to capture a beautiful flight of geese as they headed south-ish. The photo above is a still from the video.

When we stopped for our customary short sit at the castle, I sent the video to Mirinda, hoping she’d be pleased. Sadly, it made her homesick. Still, she’ll be back soon and maybe she’ll get to see a flight of geese live.

The rest of my day was spent organising our return trips now that we have dates confirmed by various people other than ourselves. It was a lot of faffing but, eventually, I had it all sorted and let the various people know and organised taxis, etc. And, of course, I had to let Anja know. She was fine, which is all that matters really, given she’s going to be looking after the girls.

The weather, obviously, continued hot. It was 34° again in the early afternoon and almost unbearable apart from a slight breeze, which I think I imagined, that cooled us down on the terrace. It made me hark back to my delightful mornings, spent in the cold, walking up the Avenue of Trees with the girls.

The arrival of the sun heralds far too much heat.

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Not a chore after all

I am pretty sure everyone in the world knows that Olivia Newton John died today. She was 73 and cancer killed her. In 1974, she represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest with Long Live Love, coming fourth. ABBA won that year with Waterloo. She was also the president of the Isle of Man Basking Shark Society for a bit. Oh, and for the three people who don’t know, she was Sandy in the rather successful movie adaptation of Grease.

It’s always sad when most people die but I have to say, having read her Wiki entry, she lived a life and a half. She didn’t waste a bit of it. Well done, ONJ, on a life well lived!

Keeping up with the new routine, I took the girls to the park first thing this morning, along with many like-minded dog walkers. It’s starting to become a thing. I remember back in July when it was just me and a few isolated others. Now it’s everyone and their dogs. It’s good to see. Once the sun comes up, it starts to get unbearable pretty quickly.

After getting back from the park, I went into town to go shopping. It was a test as well as something that had to be done. And I can safely say that the reason it wasn’t fun on Sunday was because it was Sunday.

I realised the moment I stepped into Starbucks and was greeted by Sue and Jay’s Gran. Okay, Miserable Sam was on the bar but he was the exception and the coffee was pretty good. Then, in Waitrose, I had a lovely chat with Pamela before moving onto Rachel at the cheese counter.

All was as it should be. I was glad because I didn’t want to have to suffer every time I went shopping.

And, for the record, the thermometer outside my office read 34° this afternoon at 16:30.

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