Night nearly ruined by South West Trains

“Don’t go to Bangladesh,” said Abu as he drove us home. “You will be kidnapped!”
“Why?” asked a finally mellow Mirinda.
“For the ransom. It happened to my cousin.”
“I’ll scratch Bangladesh off my must-see destination list then.”

Abu is an Uber driver. He will be one of the poor sole traders who will be adversely affected by Hammond’s first budget last week. The one that reversed the pledge the government made to not raise taxes. Not an exactly unexpected occurrence.

Anyway, Abu, apart from being a fount of Bangladeshi information, was also a very nice chap and helped diffuse Mirinda’s foul mood brought on by the inadequacies of South West Trains…as if it was all just blood under the bridge.

The thing with SWT is that generally they are fine and reliable but when they fail it is with a monumental intensity rarely seen in railway circles. I’ve never before seen the display screens at Waterloo suddenly wipe about ten trains off the board in one fell swoop, including ours, before starting to list ones for an hour hence which, eventually became delayed in turn. And cancelled, presumably.

What makes matters worse is that there is no-one manning the information desk and the PA is muffled to a point where only the BBC TV Drama department would understand it.

This was the situation at 11pm when we arrived on the concourse, wanting to catch the 11:23 train home. We did manage to get on a train for Woking but, having settled ourselves and (I thought) prepared for the long, stop start trip, Mirinda suddenly stood up and said we were getting off. I’ll just say that it was not a popular decision…however, we settled into a seat outside Caracoli to figure out what to do.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if one of us had had the foresight to bring along a set of flat keys…but neither of us did. The normally reliable SWT had lulled us into a false sense of security.

Eventually, as our last hope of getting home vanished in a puff of something resembling drunks on a concourse, Mirinda decided to try Uber. Being Uber virgins didn’t help as our first car failed to show up in the same place as we were. Mirinda decided it was because Waterloo is too big with too many entrances. We wandered the after midnight streets looking for a street with a house number in it.

This is very easy in Farnham but not so much on Waterloo Road. Anyway, we did find a number and we did find a car and Abu drove us home. Even after talking to the very irritated and temporarily anti-social Mirinda.

And it had been such a lovely day up to this point.

After a morning and afternoon spent in the garden – I planted up some grape hyacinths in the Pixie pot – we caught a train into town to go and see Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Harold Pinter theatre. This is the third of our ‘Memory Plays’ for this year (Hedda Gabler and The Glass Menagerie being the other two).

And Virginia Woolf was superb. As we expected, the amazing Imelda Staunton shone as Martha. This is the third time over the last few years that we’ve seen her and once again her stage presence was palpable. Along with Imelda, a wonderfully downtrodden but intellectually hilarious George was played by Conleth Hill (Varys from Game of Thrones, a fact that an excited young lady in the front row couldn’t quite get over). Luke Treadaway as Nick was also wonderful; sexy, young and naive enough for George to taunt to great effect.

The performance I was most blown away by was the marvellous Imogen Poots as Honey (I wonder if Honey Bunny in Pulp Fiction is an homage to Edward Albee?). Her interpretation was delightful and her drunkenness, exquisitely performed. I thought she rounded off a fantastic night at the theatre.

I say ‘fantastic’ but it was also gruelling, as highlighted by a mother talking to her daughter who Mirinda overheard in the ladies’ toilet after the performance.

“Have you ever seen anything like that? I’ve never seen anything like it before in my life! Tearing each other apart! God help us all!!”

By the time we arrived home (2am) the poor puppies were decidedly relieved. In fact, for the first time in ages, we were given a load of Emma juice. So much different to how they were earlier, watching us in the garden.

Poor Freya was particularly distraught. It took her ages to calm down. So much so that we let them sleep with us. I think that helped.

Now here’s a rare thing…a video with me in it…

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Grooming kids

While engaged in the housework today, I heard a rather disturbing piece on Radio 4 about child abuse…except a lot of people wouldn’t call it child abuse. In fact, a few of the people in the programme called it education.

The programme talked about Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) here in Britain. Basically it calls for children to be completely brainwashed into believing in the biggest load of tosh imaginable. This goes from the earth only being 6,000 years old to the fact that dinosaurs co-existed with humans (the existence of the Loch Ness monster, it seems, confirms this).

All that is bad enough and does not, in my opinion, give the poor kids any hope of an education that will actually allow them any kind of way in the world. Apart from being taught twaddle, they do not get anything like a balanced view of things. For a start they are taught that women are subservient to men (justified by saying that god created man then woman so she’s at the bottom of the pile) and LGBT people are not only ‘incurable’ but also inferior…even to women.

The gay thing is completely abhorrent and belongs in a time of unenlightened witch hunting ignorance. Mind you, ignorance seems to be the order of the day when it comes to ACE schools. According to a couple of former pupils, the form of teaching requires children to sit and answer multiple choice questions and not talk to each other. At all.

If they have a question they have to raise a little flag on their desk and wait for an adult (loosely called a ‘teacher’) to come and see them. Sometimes this can take so long that the child forgets the question and is chastised for wasting the ‘teachers’ time.

“Name the main characters in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth – A) Romeo and Juliet, B) Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, C) witches.” ACE teaching

The thing that really gets up my goat (and quite a few things about this evil bollocks get so far up my goat that it’s completely constipated) is how the children are quite clearly being groomed. Grooming is something we are told is bad and awful because it leads to groups such as ISIS and mindless terrorism. I can see little difference in the tactics of fundamental Islamists and fundamental Christians…apart from the terrorism.

But I have to ask: is that really what people want for their kids? Mindless drones who profess to be waiting for the Rapture with hands unstained with sin? Unless they’re gay in which case if they’re not cured then they’re damned for all eternity. (How the hell that is a Christian attitude is well beyond me.)

Apparently Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education) are quite happy with the majority of the ACE schools in Britain. It is Ofsted who assure us that the curriculum in the schools they inspect is fit for purpose.

If that ‘purpose’ is unrelenting stupidity and child abuse, I guess ACE schools have it just about right.

But here’s some daffodil action…to lighten the mood a bit.

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Accidental 24 hour fast

It’s been three years since we lost Carmen. It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by and so much has changed. I think of her every time I move the table on the terrace because it was such a favourite place for her to lie and survey her kingdom…albeit without the benefit of the extra height the terrace affords. She would have loved the terrace.

Not that she’d have stayed on the table this morning. I moved all the terrace furniture onto the path and hit it with the high pressure spray to clean off the gunk and funk of the winter, preparing it for the end of hygge. We’ll soon be eating outside.

Eventually I left for town.

The other thing that’s been three years is how long ago Chelsey left Starbucks. This might not seem like much, and I wouldn’t have remembered it only I saw her in Starbucks today. I’d forgotten what a bright, bubbly, smiley girl she is. She’d popped in to have lunch with Sue. I said it was a shame I couldn’t stay today because I could have sat and annoyed them.

I wasn’t staying because I had a Talking Newspaper (the first since my double shift back in February).

On my team I had the always funny Chris, the drily humorous Heather and the incredibly slow Richard. Whenever I see his name on the roster I groan. We’re told to keep our voices at a good moderate pace and not rush but he’s so slow that you can’t help but speed up. I’m surprised we all stayed awake.

But we did stay awake and the Haslemere edition went off with very little fuss or fuddle. I was away from the studio in very good time, leaving behind a very happy and cheerful team of readers. Di was in the next group and she said it sounded a bit raucous so she assumed it was me. Their group looked a bit serious.

It was while I was walking back to Farnham that I realised I hadn’t eaten. Normally when I have a Talking Newspaper I grab a salad from Starbucks but I’d been so distracted by the pleasant Chelsey I’d forgotten. Not that I was particularly hungry. I’ve managed a few 24 fasts before but they’d been planned this was the first accidental one. Dinner felt very well earned when I sat down in front of it.

When I reached home the girls went mad (it is a long day without me) so, after giving them lunch and having a cup of coffee I changed into shorts and we went to the park.

Yes, that’s correct, I changed into shorts. I’d like to say that I wore shorts in order to show off my gym-tastically redefined legs or as most people would say, normal legs, but, actually, it was just very, very mild and jeans were just too much. I also just had a t-shirt on while everyone else we saw – and we saw many people and their dogs – were still in fur-lined coats and Arctic trousers.

In fact, today was glorious. Full on sun, blue sky and the temperature reached the dizzying heights of 16°! I clearly picked the right week to clean off the terrace and the furniture. Spring is very, very close.

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Oddly Emma

Today, on our walk, we met quite a few dogs. I think it was because of the intermittent showers through the day which meant as soon as the rain stopped everyone grabbed their leads and headed for the park. Whatever the reason, we saw a lot more than usual.

We also saw a lot of blossom, heralding the oncoming stroll into spring.

And speaking of happy things…I also noticed that the new tree, replacing the one that had been chopped and grinded and turned into a path, has been planted. The fence has yet to be replaced.

One of the many dogs we met was Percy the cocker-poo. He came dashing around a corner and suddenly stopped at seeing Emma. I thought I was seeing double. He was the same colour as Emma and only just slightly bigger. I would have thought this was very unusual however, talking to Percy’s owner, I discovered there are at least four red cocker-poos in the park (including Emma and Percy) and one at Frensham. I guess it’s because they are so beautiful.

Then, a little later, Emma reacted rather oddly at spotting a Saint Bernard. We’ve seen the Saint Bernard many times in fact Freya loves him, always running up and saying hello. Emma generally just ignored him but today she suddenly stopped walking and just stood and stared at him (he was quite a distance from her). When he walked off, out of sight, she returned to normal, chasing her ball but then, when he once more appeared, she stopped and stared again. It was like she was seeing an alien. Very odd.

For most of the afternoon I was researching times, fares and details about bullet trains for our upcoming Japanese trip. It was very exciting.

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Terrace II

First up this morning (after the gym, of course) was cleaning up the black stuff on the terrace tiles. I don’t know what the black stuff is but it refuses to move with the high pressure water. It also seems to be from the tree. Still, it was removed with a bit of elbow grease, Flash and a scrubbing brush.

I then had a rather sizeable break because I had to go into town for my yearly eye test at the optician. There’s been very little change in my vision and there’s no problems so that’s great. While there I took advantage of his new toy. It takes a 3D scan of the eye (sort of like an MRI only it uses sound rather than magnets) the results of which you get to see straight away.

It was amazing! Moving through the eye, layer by layer like, as the optician said, lasagne. He took me on a tour of what makes up an eye ball and how it works. Fascinating.

He also showed me his sort of side line job. He designs lenses for actors who play zombies or vampires or…well anything they might need in an eye really. He showed me a whole load of grisly, ghastly prosthetics he’d had a hand in creating. He said it was a hobby and he doesn’t usually show his patients. He was very proud. I thought they were well cool.

As I paid for my scan, the receptionist said something which made us realise that we were the same age. We then went into a whole “Wasn’t the 1970 the absolute best time!” thing which the optician (who’s considerably younger than us) tried to ignore.

Having chuckled through a few shared memories, I went shopping then home to finish the terrace off.

The Crazies side of the terrace looked like this when I started and after I’d moved all the furniture:

BEFORE

The sun was shining as I hit it with the Karcher, swooshing away the months of grime and snail tracks. It’s very satisfying work, I must say.

Finally it looked like this:

AFTER

I was well pleased.

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Alarming alarms

This morning we were woken by the delivery of a little red Mini. We didn’t realise it at the time but it was being brought home from some sort of roadside problem though, at the time, through bleary eyes without glasses, it looked brand new from our bedroom window. At least that’s what I thought. It made me wonder why anyone would have a Mini delivered at 2am. Apart from anything else, it was very, very annoying.

Later, on my way home from the shops, I noticed the red Mini parked outside next door (it’s not their’s) and realised it was not new and, in fact, had a very flat tyre. I’m guessing the owner either didn’t know how to change a tyre, didn’t have a spare or there was more wrong with it than was obvious.

The truck wasn’t the only cause of a rude awakening for me today. After my workout I was standing under the shower at the gym, hair just shampooed when I heard a very muffled announcement over the tannoy. It was impossible to understand so I continued with my shower.

Suddenly the fire alarm went off causing me to jump and involuntarily shout an obscenity. It was twice as loud as the announcement had been muffled. I listened in case there was a sudden mass evacuation – I wasn’t the only person in the change room – but everything was carrying on as normal. I figure that the muffled announcement was to tell us that there was going to be a rather abrupt test of the fire alarm and we shouldn’t let it affect our activities.

However, my day wasn’t just about being woken up, I spent a lot of it sorting out a bibliography for Mirinda’s pre-proposal proposal for her DBA final piece of work. I also cleaned the tiles on the terrace.

While I enjoyed both, the tile cleaning was particularly enjoyable.

I can only do a half of the terrace at a time for various reasons too dull to go into but this is how the half looked that I did this afternoon…

BEFORE

I think the comparison can be better ascertained from this photo which shows the boundary between clean and dirty…

Betwixt and between

Mirinda quite helpfully took the puppies up to Hankley for a nice long romp which makes it a bit easier. Not that they get in the way. They hate any machine, running for safety at the hint of a motor. But they do rather enjoy walking across the wet tiles, leaving lovely muddy footprints everywhere.

This is how it looked when I’d finished…

AFTER

Tomorrow I’ll complete it…as long as the rain holds off.

And a short video which shows why I love my Karcher high pressure spray eraser, so much…

I should mention that I shot the video with one hand while spraying with the other so the tile doesn’t look as good as it did when I’d finished it properly!

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Keto is neato!

Rain.

That’s what we woke up to. A lot of rain.

I realised that one of my favourite things to do is to lie on the lounge in the extension, covered in cocker poos, drinking my coffee while the rain batters the ceiling lantern (that doesn’t leak now). In fact, I liked it so much this morning that I stayed there for an hour.

Mirinda was a bit concerned when I said I was going to the shops. She was worried I’d get drenched the moment I left the house. My timing, however, was perfect. I did get wet when I walked under the branch of a tree in the park and four drops fell on my hat subsequently splashing my shoulder but otherwise I remained perfectly dry in both directions.

In fact the sun came out upon my return. So much for the weather forecast.

Though it didn’t last. The entire day was made up of rain, sun, rain, sun, hail and sun at the same time, rain…and so it went. Other than that it was a typical Sunday with Mirinda working on her DBA and me ‘working’ in the office in between cooking. In fact yesterday I made these wonderful little ‘burgers’ to have with a salad at lunch and today I had enough to make them again.

They are keto-friendly and delicious. They are also quite easy (if you have a set of egg rings).

Make some very simple guacamole – half an avocado, small onion, lime juice, salt and pepper. Heat up a tablespoon of coconut oil in a fry pan. Take some pork mince and form into small patties so they fit into a well greased egg ring. Put the egg ring into the oil and let it sizzle. After a few minutes, flip the egg ring to do the other side – push the patty down with a teaspoon. Break an egg into another well greased egg ring that is happily sitting in the fry pan. Flip when the bottom is done.

Construct a tower with the egg first then the patty then the guacamole spread on top. Serve with a mixed leaf salad with cheese, cucumber and a couple of cherry tomatoes. Drizzle some infused olive oil (we like white truffle but anything really) over the salad. Eat. Seriously yum.

Being a Sunday, Mirinda also Skyped with Bob and Fiona – she’s trying to convince Bob to come to Japan with us but he’s not enthusiastic even though there are no abbeys.

During one of the moments of no rain, Mirinda potted up some plants we bought from the garden centre yesterday. Speaking of which…here’s a couple of bits of video I shot yesterday at the garden centre where we went for tracing paper and bedding plants. Firstly this…

And secondly the bedding plants section…

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The First 100

According to Sue (in Starbucks) the newer members of staff are always a bit tentative when making my coffee. They are also frightened when it comes to other regulars Kevin and Michael.

She told me after Erika, who was making the coffees today while Sue took the orders, swapped. The thing is, Erika has made my coffee before but Sue reckons they get a bit stressed when the place is busy and are worried they’ll get it wrong.

What we didn’t get wrong was our trip to Frensham today. It looked stunning in the dying rays of the day.

Just a Frensham sunset

I love it when the reeds turn to straw as the sun sets…though, to be fair, the sun actually went behind some clouds today rather than below the horizon.

The walk was lovely and we saw a lot of other dog walkers with all imaginable type of dog. Possibly because the weather was a bit iffy (it rained just before we left home then started again as we pulled into our drive afterwards) there were only friendly, probably local people.

It’s been a while since I felt up to walking around the pond and I was in two minds today but I’m very glad I did. And naturally I took a video.

In Hot Off The Press News…Mirinda has decided (almost) on what her doctorate will be about…maybe. She announced at dinner that she’d narrowed it down to three possible options. I thought option 3 was the best one. She wants to now write a proposal for her proposal for the work…

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Last day for Callum

I had thought to go into London today but the weather was so appalling that I decided to spend the day at home instead. Well, after the gym then a trip into Farnham.

While in Starbucks, Sue told me about all the old faces that are set to return over the next few months. Freya, Haley, Gracie, Little Callum, among others. She’s very happy given she was getting quite short staffed for a while there and it’s a pain having to train new staff in how to make my coffee the way I love it. And speaking of old faces, Jo was there as a customer but I don’t think she’ll be coming back.

Callum (not Little Callum but the other one) made my last latte this morning as he is leaving. In fact today was his last day. He’s off to become a teacher. He’ll be teaching Study Skills to kids who don’t necessarily want to learn anything. He’s very affable and I hope he doesn’t lose that when the kids beat him down. As I said to him “It’s a shame but you’re not allowed to hit them anymore.” To which he replied “Yeah. Right.”

I asked Kerry if he was leaving because he was sick of being the only male. She laughed with a non-committed glance in his direction.

Back at home I spent the day in scanning and general admin while Mirinda solved a problem at work to do with a miscreant employee.

Pretty pansies brightening up the theatre

The rain sort of eased up in the afternoon but didn’t disappear completely, justifying my decision to stay at home. Looking around at the end of the winter garden state and the beginnings of spring, I silently hoped for some rain free days next week so I can get out and into it for some much needed work.

Berries on the bamboo

‘Much needed work’ is what the terrace needs as well. It is more than ready for its spring high pressure exfoliation. Again, a few continuous days of sunshine should just about do it.

In the meanwhilst, it won’t be long before for the daffs appear…

Buds almost ready to burst

Then, in a flurry of excitement and action, the puppies came home to a bath. Both of them had indulged in an FSI while out walking with Alec. Jem also had one though Pippa, as usual, was the sensible one.

Alec had hosed them all down but they really needed a good soaping up and rinsing out. They were not impressed.

While the FSI was bad enough, Freya also decided to have a leaky butt. Now that was not pleasant at all and required the use of throw away latex gloves! I had no time for her complaints, instead giving her a few of my own.

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Thin end of the slippery slope

This morning, in the changing room at the gym I overheard a conversation between two old chaps…by which I mean around my age. It went a little something like this:

OLD CHAP 1: I nearly didn’t come in today.
OLD CHAP 2: Oh, that’s very dangerous. It’s a slippery slope you know. You start not coming in and…well.
OLD CHAP 1: Yes, I see that. But this morning I woke up, looked out the window at the blue sky and the last thing I felt like doing was coming here.
OLD CHAP 2: Mind you, we have Vanessa today.
OLD CHAP 1: (groan) I wish I HAD stayed home now.
OLD CHAP 2: Yep. Vanessa will whip us into shape! (They both laugh)
OLD CHAP 1: Literally!
OLD CHAP 2: Still, I think my body would miss it if I stopped.
OLD CHAP 1: My bed is still calling me!
OLD CHAP 2: Thin end of the wedge, my friend. C’mon, let’s go see Vanessa.
OLD CHAP 1: (groan) I guess.

Given these two chaps were around my age I can only assume that they actually know the meaning of the word ‘literally.’ If they did mean ‘literally’ then I’m surprised that anyone goes to Vanessa’s classes.

Which reminds me…a woman on the train the other night was on the phone to someone and stressed that she was ‘literally at Farnham’ when in fact we’d only just left Aldershot. I’m guessing the person she was talking to is either always late or the woman thinks ‘literally’ is the same as ‘almost’, ‘nearly’ or four minutes away.

Anyway, as OLD CHAP 1 said earlier, the day was beautiful. The sun was out, the sky was blue, it was glorious and such a change from all the wet we’ve been having. It’s true there was a very blustery wind but that only meant I had to watch my hat and avoid being blown over.

The park looked stunning, something the girls agreed with wholeheartedly.

The weather was ideal for more than just me and the dogs. We were expecting Gary from the joiners today. He was due to arrive at ‘lunchtime’ so I was figuring he’d be with us between 12 and 2. He was coming to fix up a leak in the ceiling lantern that made itself known on Sunday night by dripping on my head. Anyway, it’s still under warranty so he was coming out to plug the leak for free.

He turned up at 11 (which I don’t class as ‘lunchtime’ but was perfect, really) and set to work. He found the problem, fixed it up (fixing up the other side as well, just in case) then left us to the rest of the day.

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