Remembering sacrifice

Today marked the 75th anniversary of the day the allies left Britain in order to attack the Germans in Normandy and, hopefully, chase them out of France. Because of the ramped up security around Portsmouth for the ‘celebrations’ all volunteers were stood down. So I didn’t go to work. I stayed at home and listened to cricket and did housework as world leaders gathered to honour the fighting men and women of WWII.

For me, the most emotional moments were when Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron read letters. May’s was written by Captain Norman Skinner of the Royal Army Service Corps. It was written to his wife, Gladys, on 3 June 1944 and was found in his pocket as he lay, dead on Sword beach the day after D-Day.

Macron’s letter was no less emotional. It was the final moments of 16 year old Henri Fertet, a captured member of the French resistance. He wrote it before the Nazis came to take him to the firing squad. He finished:

“The soldiers are coming to get me. I must hurry. My handwriting may look wobbly, but it is just because I am using a small pencil. I am not afraid of death, my conscience is completely clear … A thousand kisses. Long live France.”

Donald Trump read a prayer.

Possibly the craziest and most glorious moment of the day was when 95 year old Harry Read and 94 year od John Hutton, took off to parachute into Normandy exactly like they did 75 years ago. Total dudes!

Apart from Harry and John, the rest of the 300 odd surviving veterans climbed aboard MV Boudicca, setting sail (metaphorically) for the Normandy coast ready to retake the Normandy beaches, albeit somewhat slower and happier.

D-Day veterans aboard MV Boudicca. Photo ‘stolen’ from the Guardian []

In the words of former Royal Marine Jack Smith, 94, enjoying a chat with the Queen. “It means an awful lot to be here, the day respects everybody who took part in D-day. A lot of people did a lot of good work that day, it respects their memory and the lads that didn’t come back.

I almost forgot, the Queen gave a beautiful speech, recalling her memories of the day and the aftermath, a European peace for all.

Peace did not reign in our house this afternoon though. Due to a little bit of wear and tear, Emma’s favourite thing in the whole world suffered a bit of a terminal accident. It was not a happy day for her.

OH NO!!!!
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Seven down to Six

Paul Darrow died yesterday. He was 78 and his health has not been the best for the past few years. He’s most remembered (by us anyway) as Kerr Avon in Blake’s 7, though he was also in Toast of London as well as on the West End stage. I’m sure we’ve seen him on stage but, sadly, I can’t remember in what.

A while ago he was attempting to produce a sequel to Blake’s 7, set 25 years after the end of the original but it never happened. Sadly.

RIP Kerr Avon

As for me, the day was all about housework as the weather drizzled in and out. We managed to get caught in the rain when we went up to the park (Freya on a lead) but otherwise, we stayed inside and cleaned.

All a bit dull.

The Avenue of Trees provided some shelter

While I dusted and polished, I listened to the TMS commentary of the Sri Lanka v Afghanistan Cricket World Cup match. It provided a bit of excitement. The game was rain affected and had to rely on the old Duckworth, Lewis (and latterly Stern) formula which no one seems to really understand, least of all me.

Sri Lanka wound up winning by 34 runs but it was a close thing at times with wickets tumbling very quickly for both teams. There wasn’t a lot of time for the commentators to discuss pigeons, though Duckworth, Lewis (and latterly Stern) were talked about at length.

In sadder news today, Basil fell asleep and didn’t wake up. He was 17. A grand old age for a Westie. Our thoughts were with Dawn and Nicktor. At least it wasn’t a surprise.

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But who won?

The Surrey County Cricket Club sometimes plays its home games at Guildford. A few times, years ago, I’d meet up with Nicktor and some of his workmates at what they called ‘The Gay Pub’ for lunch then a slow wander down to the cricket ground for an afternoon of sun, fun and first class cricket.

Surrey’s actual home ground is the Oval, which isn’t in Surrey anymore. It has been the home of Surrey Cricket Club since 1845 when it WAS still in Surrey. But, whenever international games are being played at the Oval, Surrey plays at Guildford.

Guildford is a lot easier for me to get to (particularly with the new direct train service) as well as being a lot closer. So, when I found out that the return county match against Somerset was being played there this week, I decided to go on the first day. That was today.

Of course the weather had to be accommodating and, apart from about 37 drops, the big black clouds just drifted away somewhere else and left us all dry.

Doom laden

I figured I’d be pretty lonely on a Monday at a first class cricket game, especially with the Cricket World Cup on at the moment. When I arrived (half an hour before the off) I more or less had carte blanche in my choice of seat. Naturally I headed for mid wicket.

Unfortunately the prime mid-wicket spot had already been taken by a chap with pencils and spiral book, preparing to record everything that happened in the game. I sat two chairs from him and set myself up…which took about five seconds.

The place looked quite empty and I figured I’d be able to move around freely if I grew bored with my seat. This thought was strengthened when I looked at the long, long row of plastic chairs lining the outfield.


An hour later, most of the seats were being used and the stands directly across the ground were also well stocked with eager pension age fans. I’m not as good as Nicktor as guessing attendance numbers but I’d say there was more than 1,000 but less than 2,000 there. It was a good, solid and knowledgable crowd who were there to see some great cricket.

And they weren’t disappointed.

The bus full of supporters who had travelled up from Somerset were especially delighted with the beautifully played 137 scored by George Bartlett. And the supporting batsmen also showed great skill and finesse as balls were stroked all round the ground.

But it wasn’t all about the batting. In the field, the Surrey team seemed confident. The bowling was generally consistent producing wickets throughout the course of the day, the final four falling in 5.3 overs.

Somerset ended on all out for 344 and Surrey came on to bat for two overs before stumps.

After lunch, I was rather pleased to see that a school had allowed its pupils to come down and line the boundary ropes. They all seemed quite keen to watch and there was a flurry of excitement near the clubhouse when an outfielder happily signed autographs.

Learning to love cricket

Above is one group of boys near to where I was sitting. There were other groups dotted around the ground. This is how you keep the game going rather than making shorter and shorter versions of it. Instil a love for the game at an early age. And make it accessible. Anyway…

It was lovely day out, I have to say. Although I didn’t do an awful lot beyond eating nuts and having a couple (literally) of beers, it was brilliant being able to sit and watch my favourite sport for a full day without resorting to television.

When I walked into the house, Mirinda asked how the day had gone and I told her how much I enjoyed it. She then asked who had won. I told her there was another three days yet so no-one really. She rolled her eyes.

Actually, I reckon I won.

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Tapas tonight

Today we went to the garden centre, firstly to look at barbecues and, secondly, to buy a little hose fitting. While we did look at and I selected the barbi I’d like to have (though as the non-cooking partner in this relationship, Mirinda should really be the Barbi Operator) and I found the little hose fitting I needed, we wound up filling Max with quite a few bedding plants.

All we needed

I’m always quite surprised at the amount of people who seem to spend their entire Sunday at the garden centre. They have lunch in the restaurant and their kids play happily in the kids play area. It’s a real family day out.

Call me mad but I reckon taking the kids to the beach (it was the hottest day of the year so far) or for a bit of a tramp around Frensham Pond would be more fun for everyone than rocking back and forth on a duck resting atop a big rusting spring. But, of course, I don’t have kids and maybe they just scream to be taken to Squires.

So, we bought the hose fitting and most of the bedding plants before heading back home.

I only just managed to fit it all in Max

Back at home I returned to the kitchen. I’d decided, on the spur of the moment yesterday, to have tapas for dinner. This meant quite a bit of prep. There were ingredients to marinate, gazpacho to make, planning to do. So that took up a lot of my time.

The end result was well worth it. I made berenjenas (of course), roast red peppers, gazpacho, marinated chorizo, olives and manchego, asparagus and artichoke, Moorish skewers and garlic prawns. Mirinda said it was all delicious. And I believe her.

Tapas at Chez Gaz

I almost forgot. We also bought some much needed watermelon gin at the garden centre.

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Why is a chop a chop?

Today Steve, the butcher told me a couple of stories. It was from when he was but a lad and working in London. It came up because he was telling me how it used to be that he could swing a cleaver and rend a cut of meat with one or two swipes. He would always hit the same cut mark and it would be clean. These days, he said, if he does it in three swipes he’s having a good day and he rarely (if ever) lands in the same spot twice.

At the time he was still in training and, therefore, had the crappy jobs. One of these crappy jobs was to cut up the frozen legs of New Zealand lamb – you had to cut them frozen otherwise they’d turn black. This particular day he was chopping away in the back of a market when a sudden ruckus made him look up.

A complete leg of lamb came sailing through from the front of the shop, hurtling towards his head. He said he felt it graze his face before splattering on the wall behind him.

You can shove that up your arse,” came a loud voice. “It’s tough as old boots!

This was not what he thought the meat trade was like. He hadn’t realised that flying meat was a probable work hazard. Still, he managed to stay in it and a little later he was working at the Smithfield meat auction, mostly chopping.

One day, bright and early, Big Ron, the usual auctioneer made a sudden and unexpected announcement to the gathered buyers.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a bit of a treat for you this morning. Instead of putting up with me, we’ve decided to give the young bloke a go at running the auction.

He indicated Steve, standing on his left and led the subdued applause. Steve looked to his left and noticed that the owner, Frank the Spiv was standing close on that side. He was nervous and not a little bit embarrassed.

From some distant unremembered past, a bit of advice came to him: Always start with a joke. He thought hard then, with a big, uncertain smile on his face spread his arms wide and declared:

I feel like a rose between two thorns!

Silence. Then.

You look like a fucking ham sandwich,” came a loud heckle from a lady in the front row.

Downing Street, Farnham

NB: Apart from Big Ron, I’ve changed the names…because his is the only one I actually remember.

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What a world

This morning I went shopping, as usual, and bought some fresh fish. Waitrose now allows its customers to bring their own containers for meat, fish and delicatessen items in an attempt to reduce their reliance on single use plastic. Of course, that works for me so I have a tin pink flamingo patterned container in which they place the plaice…or salmon as was the case today.

I should add here that I do this because I’m not happy filling up my bin with plastic waste every fortnight. I’d much rather Waitrose took ownership of the waste from their practices. I’m not that bothered by what other people do or don’t do but I find it remarkable that people don’t seem to care that much.

At the check-out, the woman who scanned my stuff was very pleased that I had fish in my own container. She said she thought it was definitely a positive step. She then said she despaired that her kids didn’t get it.

I have to say that this is something that mystifies me. My generation didn’t really know what we were doing (and maybe it’s right that we try and to be better) but this one, kids today, should be completely aware of the damage that plastics are doing. From suffocating turtles to drowning seabirds, the pictures are circulated everywhere for everyone to see.

I see every morning at Starbucks and Nero, uni students buying coffees in take away cups to drink in-store and I have to wonder why. What is it with our disposable society that our young would rather dispose of the entire thing rather than live in a more comfortable and full of life planet?

Then, today in the news, I see that the Philippines is sending 69 containers full of (mostly plastic) garbage back to Canada. At the same time, Malaysia is returning something like 3,000 metric tonnes of garbage back to various countries like the US, Australia, Japan, France, etc rather than remain being the world’s dumping ground.

The world is drowning in its own waste and taking all life with it. I don’t think there’s a solution because people are very, very short term and the majority can’t think ahead very far. They are also far too lazy for the good of the planet.

Mind you, maybe Elon Musk, rather than waste time with orbital wi-fi, could send the containers into the sun.

“Own your own shit!”
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Planting the seeds

Today was split between the garden and my office. In both cases I was planting seeds though only one set were actual seeds while the other was more metaphorical. Even so, I’m hoping both will grow into perfection.

The actual seeds were for the Wildflower Patch and are to enhance the highly successful plugs from last year and the ones that I planted the other day. The combination is to rid ourselves of the awful mistake that was the white mesh that Chris convinced us to have put down. Actually, putting it down in a veterinarian sense would have been a better option.

The finished seeds

Mirinda thought the use of the seed packets speared by bamboo stakes to indicate what was where was highly original. I thought it was an obvious solution to not knowing what was growing where when it comes time to thin out the seedlings. (There were another two lots but they are to the left of the photograph.)

The other, more complex seed planting was preparing Mirinda’s newest venture: She’s going to try blogging.

Her blogging, however, will not be like mine. Her intention is create a space for education resources which would contain the works of various different ‘experts’ for the use of students, teachers or anyone who might be interested.

This is a big leap for Mirinda given she has not exactly embraced social media. And naturally, I had to set it all up.

The first thing I had to do was organise her domain name, which I did. Her name is quite unique so having it as her domain was very easy. (Actually, if you search for her on Google, she’s the only one that appears as opposed to me.)

Of course it’s been a while since I’ve had to organise a domain name and so there was a bit of relearning to do when it came to pointing it at our host. I also needed a bit of help from the always helpful staff at our host. It was all sorted a couple of days ago and I just had to wait the ‘up to 48 hours’ for the changes to take effect.

A random rose

Then, this afternoon, working around the seed planting, I downloaded WordPress and built her blog.

This was my third WordPress blog but that doesn’t make it any easier when I haven’t created one for ages. Fortunately, the lovely WordPress developers have a very simple to follow installation guide. Even so, it was still a bit fiddly having to create an SQL database complete with login and password. I also had to build a splash page without the benefit of Dreamweaver (because I couldn’t find the install disk), struggling with Notepad and referring to my HTML book.

Random wildflower

Eventually (after a few hours anyway) it was all finished and I wrote her a test blog post. I sent her the login details and leaned back in my office chair, happy my work was done.

It’s now just a question of waiting for her multitude of changes to come flying in.

Another random wildflower

By the way, all the flowers above are from our garden.

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Moving bits

Today marks the first time I’ve caught the new train service from Farnham to Guildford actually from Farnham. I’m a bit sad that I’ll not see the lady who makes my coffee every Wednesday at Aldershot Station (though the woman at Farnham is just as good) but, basically, it was very smooth, very convenient and the way I’ll be going to work from now on…or until they stop the direct Farnham to Guildford service.

Mind you, there was a problem with the trains going into and out of London (signal issues at Wimbledon apparently) but that didn’t affect me for the first bit of my trip. Then I arrived at Guildford and was presented with a crowd on the platform. This NEVER happens.

Generally, at the time I get the train to Portsmouth, there’s about four of us waiting. Because of the delays this morning, however, there was a crowd. Okay, not all of them were heading south (most were waiting for a re-platformed London train) but there was still more than usual.

Then a stopping service came into the platform and a whole bunch of passengers vanished. Then the London train, then a Gatwick train. By the time my train came, there were about six people left at the front end of the train. Perfect.

Not that I was late. The timing of the trains these days means I have a wait at Guildford anyway so I wound up actually catching an earlier train that was half an hour late. So all was fine.

At work Heather gave me something different to do this week.

Once books have been identified as being disposed of, lists go out to organisations likely to want them. These lists then come back with a Y or an N next to the titles. Based on some sort of hierarchy that I’m not privy to, Heather then decides who gets what.

The lists are returned in all manner of file types and they have to be amalgamated onto a Master Spreadsheet which contains all the books on offer. And that was my job for today.

First up was a txt document. I can’t remember the last time I worked with a txt document! Probably back when I was coding websites. I was struck by the simplicity and ease with which one can work with them. It was an excellent choice and it made it very easy to use.

txt – xls

It was a long list but I managed to whizz through it, deleting entries as I went. A previous volunteer (or perhaps Heather herself) had not deleted the entries as they went so I kept finding ones that had already been marked off in the spreadsheet but this was the minorist of problems and I finished in a couple of hours.

The second list was in a table in a Word document. They had included a second column with either ? (with a query), Y (they want it) or N (they don’t). Before starting with the transfer I had to remove the Ns. I started at the top then realised the document was 98 pages long and the ?, Y and Ns were scattered throughout it.

The good thing about a table is the ability to sort the contents of the columns. So, naturally, I sorted the ?, Y and N column then just deleted all the Ns. It took about two minutes. I then started working through the list.

The only weird thing was having to add ‘C-‘ to the beginning of each title to indicate that it was complete. I then had to highlight the row in yellow. Okay, it was a bit fiddlier than the txt document but, still, not particularly onerous.

Needless to say, I didn’t finish the Word list, leaving it for the next volunteer to continue from where I left off.

During the day, Heather told me that in a few weeks workmen would be taking over the building and no-one would be working there. She told me I could work remotely on some digital stuff if I liked. I definitely want. She’ll take me through it all in the next couple of weeks.

I must admit that it was a bit of a struggle staying awake this week. Staring at a screen mousing information back and forth is not particularly exciting or noted for keeping one alert.

There wasn’t anything to take photos of this week so I include the ad below, taken from a book a few weeks ago. It shows how advertising can convince you that really bad things can be good for you.

From less enlightened times
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I don’t want to be lynched when I go down for a sandwich

For anyone at the back who hasn’t been reading, Aldershot Town Football Club did not have a good 2018-19 season. In fact, things were so bad that they are destined for a drop into a lower league. Of course there’s the fate of Gateshead to be considered which might be a very thin and decidedly waterlogged life preserver of a hope but, basically, the Shots look like going down.

Because Aldershot Town Football Club is going down, we were in need of a new manager. Gary Waddock in his second, less than successful tour of duty at the club, has left for pastures new so the search went out. The man chosen was Danny Searle, latterly of Braintree Town where he took over after the manager left mid-season.

The reason I’m writing about Danny (I figure because I’m a Shots fan, we are automatically on a first names basis) is because tonight, Aldershot Town Football Club hosted a Meet and Greet for the fans to get to grill our new man at the top. As well as Danny, we also had the opportunity to meet Anwar Uddin (assistant manager) and David Blackmore (goal keeping coach).

Nicktor picked me up at 6:30, along with Adie, and we headed into the ground and up to the lounge, somewhere I’ve never been before. And it was packed. Nicktor estimated there were 150 people there and he’s generally pretty good at guessing numbers in this way. Fortunately we managed to get spots against the bar.

I feel I ought to mention the bar at this point because I was very, very disappointed. Firstly they don’t sell bitter on tap. Nothing. Nada. Worse than that though is what they do sell. Fosters, Carling, Bud Light…all tasteless abominations in a country that makes the most flavourful beer in the world. We were forced to drink out of bottles. Which, for reasons beyond me, we had to pour into glasses.

That is Nicktor’s pint on the bar…

Ignoring this ridiculous situation (though it will rankle for a while) the meeting with the new staff went very well. In fact, one chap had flown from San Diego to quiz them all. He was quite vocal when the chairman was talking about the Gateshead situation and he just wanted to hear from Danny. (Maybe he had a flight to catch home.)

Actually, for an odd kind of evening out, it was very entertaining. Danny, Anwar and David were all funny and serious in equal measure, assuring us that each one of them would do their best to get the best out of the team. Anwar also took great delight in pointing out how he’d scored an amazing goal against us at the Rec, when he was playing for Dagenham and Redbridge.

Half the lounge

Eventually the Q&A drew to a close and the three Backroom Boys invited people up the front to chat. Nicktor rushed up in order to give two of them copies of his book. I assume that David missed out but cannot be sure. We then headed back home.

To finish, here’s a bit of Danny talking about our fans and commitment:

When it came to questions, I didn’t have any for Danny. My question would be for the chairman: Why do you only sell rubbish beer on tap in the lounge?

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Do you wanna see some damage?

The girls were not best pleased this morning when we set off and left them at home. It was because of Freya and her pesky season. Emma didn’t understand at all given she was forced to stay at home as well. I tried to explain to her that it’s her job to keep Freya company but she never listens.

Anyway, the reason they were staying home was because today was Surrey County Show day and while we normally take them with us, we thought it could be a bit of mayhem given the amount of dogs that generally attend. The last thing anyone needs is a frisky Freya to contend with.

So they stayed at home and we left the house at the unprecedented time of 07:45. The show opens at 08:00 and we wanted to get there nice and early in order to leave equally early after the first round of entertainment.

Because we’re both Vice-Presidents, we get priority parking in the black area. Last year this proved very easy to find and was a mere spit from the main gate. This year, however, things had changed. In some ways this change was definitely for the better but in one very important one it was horrendous.

From the Hogs Back there is always plenty of signage, indicating where the various options are. There’s a green square, a red square and a black one. Each one has signs that show where to go. At least they have done every other year however, the black ones ran out as we passed the Ladymead Shops.

We then drove around looking for the black parking.

Mirinda’s blood was starting to boil and her tension was stretched almost to the limit as person after person was asked where we were going. I thought she was going to hit the first guy who cheerily asserted that he hadn’t heard of the black parking let alone know where it was. To be fair he did refer us to a high authority who sent us quite good directions.

Still, eventually we found our special, secret entrance and parked. All the tension vanished as we realised this year’s parking was actually inside the showground and about 20 metres from the member’s area. In fact, we had to leave the member’s area in order to get our badges. Brilliant.

After this initial bump, the rest of the day was excellent. There was the usual visit to the livestock where we saw big bovines, boufy sheep and our favourite goats, two of which we sponsored. There was also a naughty ice cream.

I think the best thing about being so early was how we felt like we had the place to ourselves for the first hour. We could wander around basically unmolested as we watched the crowds gradually enter the grounds particularly through the entrance near the goats where we sat for quite a while.

Unfortunately we couldn’t find the Maypole dancers (though Mirinda kept searching for the little snail which was marked next to their name in the programme until I pointed out that she made the mark when plotting out our schedule for the day and it merely resembled a little snail) but we did see the same Morris Dancers we’ve seen every year we’ve been.

We also spent a long time watching a large variety of dogs running through an agility course. Some of them were very funny, particularly the tiniest ones. The idea was to get people interested in agility by showing that all dogs could do it and not just Collies. Some of them were just hilarious.

“Show me the weave! I’ll kill that weave!”

Possibly the oddest thing we saw (though I did see three separate lost items on the ground; a dummy, a small plastic container with tiny chocolate biscuits and a pair of sunglasses) was a couple of police horses with evil looking devil ears. I get why they are wearing flouro coats but don’t know why their ears are covered unless it’s the ear equivalent of blinkers. The last thing you want is a horse jumping at every load noise…if that is the case.

(I know I have a very limited audience – normally two – but if someone just happens to read this and knows why, I’d love to know.)

Beautiful Beasts even with the fancy dress

Back in the member’s area we went to the restaurant for a lovely lunch before settling down to watch the main arena entertainment.

I was a bit concerned when I read that the big entertainment would be Monster Trucks. I don’t really feel this fits in with a countryside, agricultural type show. However, it was a bit like last year when they had motorbikes. It was a taste of something we would never willingly go and see. It was also an incredible cack.

It was very nice to see a woman being the one in charge. And not a token woman either. Jane has driven the Monster Trucks and has earned her place as general co-ordinator and safety guarantor. I don’t think that’s her actual title but it does describe what she does.

Then, before we headed back home, we went from the combined 1,000 horse power of the Monster Trucks to the two horse power of a brewery cart. We were delightfully entertained by the slowest obstacle race ever as the heavy horses negotiated a path around the arena and tried not to dislodge the tennis balls.

The winners

We then packed ourselves up and headed for the car park. Five minutes later we drove home. A brilliant day.

Here’s a single moment of insanity from the monster trucks, in this case, Grim Reaper.

Grim Reaper!

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