Secret sailors

A few weeks ago I mentioned a book I was reading at the Dockyard library while the system was down. It was about the Special Boat Service in World War II. Here is an extract from it:

…the Germans shelled the port from long distance. They did not hit it. While this bombardment was proceeding, the British party were approached by an immaculately clad British major.

“He had come down from some mountain or other,” said Solomon, “where he had been sitting, apparently forgotten, for over a year. He seemed unsurprised to see us and said, ‘Hullo, Navy, just the fellows I want to see. I have got 10,000 Italians I want you to take off my hands at once. When can you embark them?’

Martin Solomon pointed to his tiny [fishing boat] and said diffidently that he could manage four if that would be any help.

“How long have you had these men?” He asked curiously.

“Oh, since the armistice with Italy, old boy. Damned nuisance they are too. Still, can’t let them starve I suppose.” Producing a particularly filthy flask of oyzo from his pocket, the major offered Solomon a sip.

Wondering how the major could have fed, clothed, and hidden what amounted to the strength of an infantry division in enemy-occupied country for over a year, Solomon asked him if he spoke Italian.

“Good God, no, old boy,” he replied, looking insulted. “I’m a sapper!”

The Filibusters: the story of the Special Boat Service, John Lodwick, Methuen & Co Ltd, 1947, page 147

That did make me laugh. It has a wonderful understated humour, told with the lightest of touch.

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Saving blood loss

I always claim that I have everything I need in my kitchen, particularly when it comes to tools. In fact, a lot of time I tend to throw things out because they haven’t been used for ten years and I prefer the space to be empty than taken up.

This happened with the completely unused potato ricer which I finally relinquished after about 16 years. It was as good as new mainly because it had NEVER been used.

Anyway, every now and then, something crops up, usually something I’ve never been aware of, and I’m in need of a new tool to make it work. So it was with Bone Broth.

Mirinda told me about Bone Broth so I researched it and, coincidentally, it’s almost exactly like the stock used for ramen. It’s also very good for you. However, to make it properly, you need to cook it for a day.

There was nothing for it but to buy a slow cooker. Which I did. I ordered it yesterday and it turned up today. I’m not sure how life is going to be without Amazon and Next Day Delivery after Brexit but, for now anyway, it remains brilliant.

Bubbling away

It arrived and I almost immediately set about cooking up my first batch of Bone Broth. The photo was taken just before I went to bed so it had already been going for over six hours. The smells coming from the extension were almost intoxicating.

Another thing that was very much needed was a pair of safety gloves.

Last week, for the second time, I discovered that my longest finger (rapidly becoming my shortest finger) is no match for the blades of my mandolin slicer. At first I thought I needed a pair of those metal gloves that fishmongers use but I was wrong. There is a pair of gloves made just for idiots who have no idea how long their fingers are. They are perfect for mandolin slicers.

They fit like a glove

Now I just need for my latest injury to heal completely before trying them out. Hopefully, it will mean there will be no more excessive blood on the kitchen counter.

And I keep forgetting to include this animated gif I made of the puppies. I call it French Farce Puppies. Click the play icon and it will continue forever.

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Controversial Italy

I finished watching an Italian series today. It’s called Baby and was produced by Netflix. It has been somewhat controversial.

It involves private school pupils and their problems with drugs, sex and authority. It also features a lot of smartphone usage. Three of the pupils (two girls, one boy) are the main characters and we follow them through some pretty full-on stuff. However, by the end, they are all fine and, though it leaves the end open for a sequel, content.

This doesn’t sound very controversial but it was made shortly after quite a high profile Italian case of two school girls who had been groomed into prostitution in order to buy really expensive stuff they thought would make their lives better. As the case went on it also became clear that the mother of one of the girls was also involved.

The case really opened up a whole world of after hours sleaze where the school bags are left at the hatcheck desk while the girls ply their trade on the dance floor. It all sounded rather sordid and unpleasant.

The TV series, I suppose, could be very loosely based on this case and that is where the controversy comes from. A lot of criticism has been that the series makes the life outside school, the life of drugs and sex, is super glamorous and, therefore will have school girls clamouring to get in on it. This is definitely not true.

I thought that the scenes inside the ‘club’ were not in the least bit appealing nor did the female characters think it was. It looked and felt sleazy. What should have been more controversial but was not mentioned at all was the drug dealing at the school.

No-one complained about the boys dealing in pot or violently protecting their territory with threats and criminal damage. I guess female virtue is way more important than male addiction…particularly in Italy.

As I write this, having just finished watching Series One, I find a report that implies there might be a Series Two regardless of the controversy. Or, rather, maybe because of it.

A photo of Emma. Just because.
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Gingerbread disaster

Last week Heather let me know that she’d not be in this week because she had to decant the Jutland exhibition at the Dockyard so I’d intended to go into town and see an exhibition. Then Mary rang to ask if I could help with a recording at FATN today. I chose the latter.

Of course, the puppies still had their day with their favourite person, Sue during which Emma had the cockerpoo equivalent of a cross channel swim while Freya went into a pond up to her tummy then ran back to dry land. Having left them to their adventures, I went to the gym before heading back home to make a new batch of beetroot.

Then it was off to the studio to record the Rushmoor council magazine, Arena.

Farnham Road

Arena is produced four times a year and we read the whole thing for our listeners. I really enjoy doing them because there’s no editing, no description of photos, no presenting and no ad libbing. And yet, I still feel I’m doing someone some good.

Of course there’s rarely anything to comment about with regards the content of the recording, however we did discover today that Mary is 81! She doesn’t look it. She is a powerhouse, volunteering everywhere possible. I guess that’s what a life teaching little kids does for you.

Anyway, recording over, I headed for Starbucks and watched as a large takeaway cup of gingerbread latte took an unexpected dive off a table. About a third of it drenched a leg of a woman customer, the rest waterfalled off the bench onto the quickly forming lake on the floor. It’s amazing how much hot liquid is in a large latte.

The woman who knocked it over was all apologetic to everyone within a 50 metre radius while all her friends leapt into action with miles of paper towel and a great shifting of furniture. They were like a disaster relief team that had been working together for years. Perhaps this isn’t the first time this has happened…

It was a lot of action in a very short space of time and then, believe it or not, she was given another gingerbread latte.

Farnham road

Back at home, I waited for Mirinda’s return from work (hopefully she’ll not have to go back into London before next year) before eating dinner and watching The Crown.

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Too warm, too soon

The gardeners came today. Mirinda had gone off to work ridiculously early this morning so I had the onerous task of telling Gardener Dave and Paul what to do.

The number one job that needed doing was cutting back the laurel trees. They live next door with the Crazies but seem to enjoy leaning over our fence and bashing themselves against our roof. This is not just a problem when it’s windy (it can be quite noisy) but also spreads a lot of debris on our newly laid and non-leaking roof.

So, armed with the appropriate tools for laurel removal, they headed down the side of the house. While down there, they also fixed the wobbly fence between us and the Crazies’ front ‘garden’, something that seems to require doing every few years.

Another job that required completion was the removal of the horrible white matting. Bit by bit seems to be the mantra for this stuff. Naturally it’s a case of waiting for things to die off before lifting it from the ground but still…we’re really looking forward to never seeing it again.

Anyway, Paul managed to get rid of vast swathes of it before trimming the butterfly bush and various other plants that needed a bit of a lopping. This also went for the ivy on the shed and the strange dead tree next to the conifer.

As usual they stopped for a coffee which, Dave informed me, they actually get into trouble from Mirinda if they don’t have. I suggested this was fair enough.

On our after work inspection, Dave pointed out a few worrying things in the garden. He’d already told me that daffodil bulbs had started to appear in his garden (closer to London therefore warmer). He then pointed this out to me in the Candy bed.

Daffs? In December??

And if that’s not bad enough, on the arch just beyond the entrance to Carmen’s Sweet Escape, the clematis is starting to green up and bud.


These things are appearing earlier each year. They are not isolated occurrences just because of localised weather. I really, really do not understand people who think that global warming isn’t actually happening.

Anyway, that was a lot of today. Poor Mirinda had a horrid day coping with the fallout from the weekend. Hopefully she’ll be able to spend most of the week at home.

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Farnham fair

After a morning spent either on the phone, on email or Skype, I figured Mirinda needed to get out of the house for a bit. Yesterday’s news and repercussions were still reverberating.

At this time last year, a gale blew away the Farnham Christmas Market. This year there was a bit of rain (the kind that doesn’t make you wet) but, basically, sunshine and blue sky was the weather of the day.

We wandered by all the stalls and bought some special cheese, pork products and rose gin. I also had a bratwurst.

The puppies were a bit freaked out at times but, essentially, they loved all the new and interesting smells while avoiding the big, clumpy feet.

It was just the thing to help move things a little bit to the back of the mind for a couple of hours.

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Most days are good, some days are bad but today was one of the worst. A very good friend of ours was hit by a car on a country lane and died.

It was an unimaginably devastating day for his wife, kids and parents. It was an awful day for everyone who knew him. He was extremely popular. If the measure of a man is how many people loved him then he was a giant.

I’ll miss his wit, his phone calls when looking for Mirinda, just him, really. Though I didn’t see him very often it really felt like I did because Mirinda spoke about him nearly every day. He was a big part of our lives.

Time heals, I guess, but it doesn’t feel like it today.

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Woking from home

The Surrey History Centre is currently undergoing its yearly stock take so, rather than travel into Woking, I worked from home. Just like Mirinda.

I found some interesting people (one was a right bad’en) and might write about them later but, this post is basically a catch up.

Last weekend, I took the opportunity to enjoy the hygge in the library while Mirinda worked on her DBA. She sat at her Regency desk while I read in the fox wing chair. The puppies decided where they wanted to sit.

In the Room of Intellectual Pursuits

I have to say it was very comfy and cosy.

Then, on Monday, Dawn handed me a brown paper package tied up with string. At first I thought it was a neatly wrapped packet of cocaine but, upon opening it (albeit surreptitiously) I realised it was much better.

A couple of years ago, Nicktor came up with the idea of writing a book about one season of the Shots. It was to be in the style of a cricket book and would feature, not just the games but also the fans. And, after a lot of words, many cut, some retained, he has finished it.

I’m on the extreme right of the cover photo

The title refers to where we stand to watch the mighty Shots. It’s a rollicking good read if you like a football season written about in the style of a cricket book. And my copy is autographed by the author.

I wasn’t sure that he could manage it but, by halfway through the season, I knew his OCD wouldn’t let him stop.

Well done, I say, well done. And it’s available on Amazon right here.

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Forced off grid

At around 5 o’clock this morning, O2, our mobile provider, started to stop working. All over the country, bit by bit, access started dropping off.

The first I knew about it was at the gym. I’d ridden the bike and was halfway through my shoulder lifts when I looked at my phone. The familiar little 4G wasn’t there. There wasn’t a 3G, a 2G, an H or even the very odd E either. At that stage I didn’t even have a phone signal. Apart from standalone apps on my phone it was, effectively, just a camera.

As the day wore on, more and more people were being struck down as the problem grew. Not happy remaining here in the UK, the problem was also felt in Japan and other countries.

When the O2 techies found the problem they were quick to let everyone know that it was an issue with a bit of third party software. The third party turned out to be Ericsson and the software problem was an invalid certificate.

The outage went on for around 22 hours before full access had been returned to everyone on the various networks.

In my opinion, the way that O2 handled it in the UK was excellent. They immediately made a post on Twitter and this was picked up by the MSM and so the news spread. (They may have posted it on Facebook too but I don’t use it often enough to know.)

And, as the news spread, so did the complaints.

I pay a fortune for my contract, will I get a rebate?” was a common one. This was quickly answered by many people suggesting that under their contract, it would work out to about 12p for not having access for a day.

A legitimate complaint was made by people who earn a living using their phones (Uber drivers were hit big). They wanted to know who was going to reimburse them for lost earnings. I suppose if you’re on a zero hours contract, you really don’t want a day’s work taken off you because of the phone company you use.

Possibly the silliest complaint was the number of people suggesting that people take the opportunity to stop staring at their phones and talk to people instead. A day without Candy Crunch wouldn’t kill them. Of course this only incensed the people who use their phones for work.

There was a right old flame war going on on Twitter but the best one was the people who complained about O2 announcing it on Twitter. Their problem with it was that the people affected wouldn’t be able to access Twitter to see the problem. Some Tweeters claimed it was ironic. This argument is just plain stupid. And not ironic at all.

The Internet is accessible through a number of means these days. Of course you can use your phone or a computer (both PC and Mac) or a tablet or any number of devices. Some people even use their fridges! Even if we assume that O2 users are incapable or unable to use a computer or a tablet, their phone would still work with wifi. Wifi is available in just about every coffee shop in this country (except Costa for some reason), on trains, some buses, lots of places.

On the flip side, how should O2 have told us about it? I guess they could have rung us. Except we number in excess of 30 million users. If you estimate a phone call of say five minutes each user, that makes 175,000,000 mins without factoring in dialling and waiting for the person to pick up.

This huge amount of minutes translates into 2,916,666 hours or 121,527 days or, over 300 years. Silly, right? (I guess they could have suddenly employed 300 people to call everyone over the day but they’d need phones and phone numbers for everyone…seriously, it just doesn’t work.)

Or, perhaps they could have written us all a letter and posted it…though it would have taken at least two days to reach us and quite a while printing letters and stuffing envelopes.

They also didn’t have enough pigeons. Or ravens to reach the far ends of Westeros.

Rather than indulge in this sort of archaic craziness, O2 decided to pull all of their staff off everything else in order to try and find the problem and fix it. By updating Twitter every now and then, it meant a minimal need for information delivery. Naturally their switchboard was open for people who like to talk to those sorts of things but it was very quickly swamped.

So, quickly and as efficiently as possible, they worked through the day and, eventually it was fixed. They were transparent and honest throughout the whole thing, (something the government could learn from) and, as a user, I felt I was kept in the loop.

I was quite stunned by the level of vitriol oozing out off Twitter about O2. I have been with them for a very long time and have never had a problem. As someone Tweeted yesterday, it’s been ten years since the last outage. To my thinking, this is pretty good value for money.

While it was a bad day for many, many people I reckon it was a great day for O2 and I think they deserve a pat on the back.

Another grim day in the park

And I could still use my camera…

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All a bit grey

Today was one of those ghastly, drizzly, no-sure-what-it-wants-to-do kind of day. Apart from the sun. Obviously the day didn’t want anything to do with the sun today. So it was grey and grim.

After lunch (a lovely chicken and egg thing I created) we decided the weather was going to remain dry for a walk. Or so Emma insisted. Freya wasn’t so sure. She took a look out the back and shivered slightly. She can feel rain when it’s close. I should have listened to Freya.

The park was a bit slushy meaning the tennis ball didn’t bounce much. This doesn’t mean a lot to Emma except it means she doesn’t get to catch it so much. Freya, meanwhile, just wandered around, one eye on the clouds.

And the new bench has been installed!

In loving memory of my darling wife Lynne Summerbell.
She loved Farnham and its beautiful park.

It looks lovely and new at the moment but, as noticed elsewhere in the park, it won’t take long for it to go all grey and weathered.

Then, suddenly, it started raining. Only lightly to begin with but then it started to settle in. Freya gave me a definite ‘I told you so’ look while Emma ignored it completely. We started heading back, Freya fastest of all.

It was then a case of a brisk rub down with big fluffy towels before settling down in the warm and dry. Then I did the same to the dogs.

My lovely lunch – chicken, egg, mozzarella. 

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