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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Facebook "deaths"

There must be plenty of us on Facebook these days.

I am appalled by the ads I see on the RHS which purport to give notice of deaths of famous people. In my experience these are all untrue.

How can people do this? If I believed all I read there would be hardly anyone left! I guess these are designed to grab attention so you click the links. Don't.

Welcome to the post-truth world?

Recurring Dream Themes

It is probably a very common theme to dream about upcoming exams and not having done any or enough revision. At one time I repeatedly dreamt about catching trains to Devon where I came from. Both are probably easily explained.

In recent years, I dream of being at work and about to retire again. Usually I am wondering how I am going to manage (again) on my pension. I have been retired now for almost 8 years! I have no idea why I dream this! In my current state of health there is no way I could work again. Apart from my health issues, I am very happy to be retired and I have no wish to return to a job.

Monday, 26 December 2016

British TV over Christmas

From the BBC website, Christmas TV viewing figures.

I am not a royalist at heart but cannot think of a president who would do as well as our current queen. At 90 years old she does a remarkable job. Her husband Philip is 95! Charles will have a hard act to follow.
  1. The Queen at 3pm - BBC One and ITV - 7.7m
  2. Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special - BBC One - 7.2m
  3. The Great Christmas Bake Off - BBC One - 6.3m
  4. Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - BBC One - 6.1m
  5. Call The Midwife - BBC One - 6.1m
  6. EastEnders - BBC One - 5.9m
  7. Coronation Street - ITV - 5.8m (not including ITV +1)
  8. Doctor Who - BBC One - 5.7m
  9. Frozen - BBC One - 4.7m
  10. Emmerdale - ITV - 4.2m

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Lighter Evenings

In this part of the world it gets darker in the mornings until about Jan 8th, but already it is getting a bit lighter in the evenings. At first the change is very slow, but this evening we put the lights on a little bit later. By the end of January it is about an hour better.

Happy Christmas

I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017.  Most days this blog gets updated, unless I am away or too unwell.

For some, Christmas can be a difficult time: others seem happy and cheerful, but some feel lonely at this time of year. To those who think they are unloved I wish you especially a very merry Christmas. May 2017 bring you peace and love.

Stroke update

Over 3 years on now, and I am still affected by my stroke.

My main issues remain my poor voice, drinks, and giddiness/tiredness when on my feet. Overall, I am frustrated, although I know the sooner I come to terms with the new "me" the better. I feel unable to do the things that once would have been so easy. Compared with many I came off lightly. Outwardly, I look fully recovered, which is probably why I feel so frustrated. If there are now any improvements, they are painfully slow.

Nobody, and I really mean nobody, really understands: doctors and others think they understand, but they do not. For years now I have been living a sort of half-life.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Israeli Settlements

Israel is a small country, but that is no excuse to build on land that belongs to the Palestinian people. The UN has condemned them. Israel will simply ignore this and carry on. They are heavily supported by the USA and this will be even worse under Mr Trump.

Long-term peace can only happen when each nation respects each other and treats others with simple human dignity.

Nebula Picture

This image of the Christmas Tree Cluster (2500 light years away) was on the Twitter feed from @marsrader.

Although I have a Twitter account I rarely use it, but get sent an email about postings most days.

Eating Dahlias

Lis (my wife) is reading a Winston Graham book that mentioned eating dahlia roots as an alternative to potatoes. So, as you do, I googled "eating dahlias". It turns out that these were originally from Mexico and were, at one time, a low cost alternative to potatoes. I never knew this.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/22185875 .

Friday, 23 December 2016

Trees at Anglesey Abbey

  • Not much to see at this time of year, but new growth is just around the corner. These were some trees at Anglesey Abbey yesterday.

Bridge at Anglesey Abbey

Everything looks wintery at this time of year. It is little wonder that Christmas, and before that a pagan festival, is held close to the winter solstice.

Another month and new growth starts to appear clearly. By mid January there should be some snowdrops and daffodils. Dark nights, short days - roll on spring!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Climate Change

At the moment, the jury is still out for some, but most seem to be saying the Earth is getting warmer and that this is largely down to Man in recent times. Some argue this is just natural variation and we should ignore it. A recent Guardian article makes you wonder.

See https://www.msn.com/en-gb/weather/other/arctic-ice-melt-could-trigger-uncontrollable-climate-change-at-global-level/ar-AAkJqic?ocid=spartandhp

In the USA, there seems to be a "Canute" attitude: it is all a Chinese conspiracy and it will just go away. I am far from convinced! We ignore these worldwide risks at our peril. Some cities and island states could be inundated and we should get all the facts and act accordingly.

Our local museum

See https://www.facebook.com/burwellmuseum/

May I suggest all locals visit in 2017? It is probably the biggest and best local museum, certainly in the area and probably in the whole of the UK.  A real gem with so much to see and do. When they can't go, our little grandchildren cry!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Sunsets - getting later from tomorrow here

Although mornings get darker until early January the sunset gets later from December 18th here. Winter Solstice is Dec 21st (Wednesday).

At first the change is very slow, but at least we are moving in the right direction!

We'll blink and it will be the longest day.  By the end of January the sun sets almost an hour later.

I enjoy all seasons, but look forward to lighter evenings.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Luddites

One can't help feeling really sorry for Southern Rail passengers who pay over the odds for season tickets and get a rubbish service, with crowded trains, cancellations and strikes. The dispute is over who oversees the closing of doors!  In this case my sympathies are with the commuter who is getting a poor deal. The unions are wrong

It is beholden on unions to act on behalf of their members, but they have to act responsibly. Yes, I know they are concerned about jobs, but this is plain stupid. If I was in charge I would sack them all (union members that is). Normally my political sympathies are left of centre. We cannot behave as if we lived in the 1800s. This is the 21st century for goodness sake.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-38296623 .
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite . The Luddites were textile workers and weavers who destroyed machinery in the hope of preventing job losses. We have to be efficient - end of story.

Southern Rail union members - grow up!!

Monday, 12 December 2016

MH370 mystery

It is almost 2 years since this Malaysian Airlines plane just disappeared. Now relatives are looking for clues as the official authorities seem to have all but given up. One can imagine the nightmare these people have been though.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38257433 .

Cold Arctic?

See http://www.spaceweather.com/ .

The Space Weather website has some great images of stratospheric polar clouds saying the Arctic Circle is getting very cold.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

More stroke after-effects

Even years after my stroke, I am still becoming aware of some of the after-effects. My short-term memory is poor and I seem unable to see quite obvious spelling and grammatical errors. Clearly my brain is not able to process things in quite the same way it once could. I try to correct mistakes as soon as I notice them, but if I miss things, you'll know why!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

South Hams, Devon

Until I went to university I was brought up in the South Hams of Devon where my family have been for centuries (definitely) and probably for millennia. I expect we were Stone Age farmers on Dartmoor thousands of years ago and we fished these waters long, long ago, probably when the coastline was quite different. The picture shows Bolt Tail  in the far distance from Thurlestone.

Old friends - thank you

This weekend we have old friends over staying with us. When I was in hospital, they regularly drove 90 miles each way to come to see me in hospital. Up until 2009 they lived in our village, but they moved to the Cotswolds, partly to be close to their daughter who has MS.

I have said many times that a real illness shows true friends.  In a time of real crisis, some people "came up trumps".  Sadly others just fell away.

A church-going couple next door never once asked how I was and never came to see my wife. Some people just don't "do" illnesses. It is some years since I was in hospital for 3.5 months, but our Cotswold friends are as close as ever. To them and others who were and continue to be kind, a really big thank you.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Family History

Many years ago I came from, and was brought up in the South Hams of South Devon. The picture shows where our family lived for hundreds of years. The earliest record I have is 1428, although I am sure we've ancestors in this part of the world going back thousands of years. Very humbling.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Packhorse bridge - very old.

On Monday, I mentioned we went out to nearby Moulton for a meal with my brother. Moulton is a small village not far from Newmarket.

It has a famous, very old, packhorse bridge as it was once the main route from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds. Packhorses went over the bridge and horses and carriages went across the ford.

The bridge dates from the 13th or 14th century and is a mix of brick and stone.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Moulton, UK

My brother came up for a few days from Devon, so we went out for a lunchtime meal in the nearby village of Moulton. Here is my wife and my brother on our walk around the village before our meal. There are lots of thatched cottages in this village a few miles from Newmarket. As always, the food at the Packhorse Inn was excellent.

Soar Mill Cove

This photo was taken 4 years ago in South Devon, UK where I was born.  The cliff walk from Hope Cove to Salcombe is perhaps one of the most beautiful in the world, although I am biased!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Getting close to Christmas

Father Christmas
We are now in the run-up to Christmas. The picture was taken outside our local village hall. There was a Christmas Bazaar inside.

Baby tooth

I am nearly 68 and an Old Age Pensioner. Today, I lost my lone baby tooth that was still in my mouth. For all this time it had remained until today. I guess my gums are shrinking.

Will the tooth fairy still pay out at my age? I guess not!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Cambridge Christmas Lights

Today, Cambridge was ablaze with Christmas lights. Some shops have had Christmas displays since at least early October. This was the view on the way to the bus stop at Drummer Street.

Winter

Today is December 1st and how time flies. It seems no time since summer. The evenings (not the mornings) start to get lighter here from December 18th. The UK Met Office assumes winter starts today and it certainly feels like winter here!

The photo was taken yesterday, but we had a frost again this morning.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Garden - late autumn

It is almost December and we have had a few frosts but there are at least 4 sweet pea flowers to cut in the garden! We also have clematis in flower. This is very late.  The orchard next door is almost bare.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Grandchildren

We are lucky to have 4 grandchildren aged 4-9. This weekend they all came to help celebrate my wife's birthday. Having them is tiring, but lovely. Here they are enjoying themselves.
They all make themselves at home.

The kitchen floor gets well fed too!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro Dead

OK, I was no great fan of this Cuban leader and I admit to being terrified in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. 

However, a great deal has come to light since then of the terrible acts committed by the USA in their attempts to overthrow him and other left-wing regimes in Central and South America.

More than ever, I am convinced we get fed what the media wants us to hear. This includes the BBC sadly.

It remains to be seen how Mr Trump views Cuba. Let's hope Cuba becomes a more open society, but that it retains all that is good.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Black Friday

One of the bad things we in the UK seem to have imported from the USA is "Black Friday". Until a few years ago this was unknown here in the UK. As far as I can see, this is just another excuse to encourage us to buy what we do not need. It is greed and commercialism, pure and simple. OK there may be some bargains, but few.

Let me say I hate Black Friday and refuse to go along with the silly games that shops and retailers play on us. Bah humbug! I know some retailers are having a hard time, but as far as Black Friday is concerned go away! Play somewhere else.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Windmill in the rain

This afternoon, the sun made a very brief appearance from behind the dark clouds. Today has been very wet and dark all day. This was the view of the windmill next door earlier this afternoon. The colours are right: it was very yellowy when the sun briefly appeared.

Propaganda

There was a programme on the radio (BBC Radio 4) called "Start the Week" just now. Among the many items it noted how bad colonialism was for the indigenous people. Time and again we are fed a filtered version of events - basically what governments want us to hear. This is especially true in wartime, but it happens all the time, although we do not realise it.  During the Vietnam War we were brainwashed to think communism was always evil.

I make no judgements but urge us all to beware of propaganda. Both sides in the BREXIT debate were guilty. There is a general uneasiness in the general public with the people we put in power. This is true in the UK, USA and in many nations in Europe. The lurch to the right in recent times is, in part, a reaction to this. The people who govern us must be unbiased, fair and honourable people if they are to properly represent us. Sadly, I can think of not one politician that I think meets these high standards anywhere in the world.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Strange!

These were spotted in a front garden in nearby Reach yesterday. They looked very odd with the chickens.

Tree to ID please

This is something very common I suspect, but I am very poor on trees! If you know what it is please let me know. It was seen yesterday in a wood at Reach, Cambridgeshire, UK. It was a tree in a wood.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Long-tail tits

There are fewer small birds around these days in our garden and generally, but some have become more common in recent years. Great tits seem more plentiful and here in East Anglia the long-tail tit is the most common tit to see and hear. Only just a few moments ago there was a flock of long-tail tits on the lilac in the garden next door when I was sweeping up leaves.

See http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/l/longtailedtit/ .

Among the larger birds there are more magpies locally. Going to work, I saw not one in nearly 40 years, although now they are plentiful. Little egrets can be seen all over the place but they were rare before the late 1980s. Buzzards are now widespread in East Anglia whereas they were once a sign we'd reached Devon. Since their reintroduction, red kites can be widely seen again.

There is no doubt that we see different birds these days.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

In the garden

Although colder than of late, today was a bright and sunny day, so ideal to be in the garden. There are fallen leaves everywhere at this time of year.  Our son came up from London this afternoon to help us "put the garden to bed" for the colder months ahead. We had no idea just how long the roots were on the shrub our other son dug up last week! 

Our "London" son turned over the ground and planted some bulbs with my wife. It will be fun seeing these appear in the winter and spring.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Dew in autumn

This cobweb was covered in dew this morning. We are now very much in autumn and the grass is very wet in the mornings. I hope you like it as much as I do. In every season there is something good.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Autumn in the back garden

The garden is starting to turn more autumnal by the day. Most trees are turning colour and losing their leaves. October seems to have gone very fast!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Salcombe lifeboat disaster - 100 years ago today

See http://salcombelifeboat.co.uk/lifeboat-disaster-centenary/ .

One hundred years ago today the small Devon town where I came from suffered a tragedy when the lifeboat (rowed with oars) overturned with the loss of life of most of the crew. Only two men survived. It was a tragedy in a small community.

There will be a special service to mark this 100 year anniversary.

One of my aunties witnessed the tragedy when she was a young girl.  Most of the crew were not young men as most of these were fighting in WW1.

To this day the RNLI crews go out in any weather to save lives. They are brave men and women.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica

See http://motherboard.vice.com/read/scientists-warn-the-collapse-of-this-glacier-could-be-globally-catastrophic-thwaites

It looks as if this glacier is melting fast and could result in a huge sea level rise. I know the skeptics will say this is just scientists after funding, but we ignore these risks at our peril.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Smart Phones

Tuesday is one of my days in Cambridge doing Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The course is run by the University of the Third Age. We are very lucky to have a huge range of courses in Cambridge. We are lucky to have many ex-university lecturers.

See http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/ .

In a not very scientific study into smart phone use, these were my findings, just looking:

  • Younger people are the main users
  • About 1 in 10 (at least) seemed to be using these
  • More women than men seemed to use these (keep away, don't speak to me, acknowledge my private space?)
OK, I hear you say, so what, but this is a social thing:  in days gone by there was eye contact, people chatted to each other. At the very least people acknowledged each other. It seems most young people have lost the skill of face-to-face contact; the phone seems more important! If this is OK, OK. Sadly, as a boring old git, I think this will come back to bite us.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Dying

Perhaps this is something that comes with old(er) age? If I am lucky I might have another 20 years, or I could die tomorrow. The only thing certain in life is that we all die, some far too soon.  The great religions of the world all speak of some kind of life after death.  The truth is we just do not know.  Some with great faith believe they have the answers. I prefer to accept my doubts.

I do not remember anything before I was born, so eternal "nothingness" is possible. I guess all humans hate to think in terms of finality. The best ones are those who can accept life as a gift and to live their lives fully. Some argue that without a life after death we have no real moral compass.

In the end I am agnostic - what will be will be. All the major religions seem to strive to understand the ultimate question. One day we will all know the answer.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster 1916

See http://salcombelifeboat.co.uk/lifeboat-disaster-centenary/ .

One hundred years ago this month the small Devon town where I came from suffered a tragedy when the lifeboat overturned with the loss of life of most of the crew. It was a tragedy in a small community. There will be a special service to mark the 100 year anniversary. One of my aunties witnessed the tragedy when she was a young girl.  Most of the crew were not young men as most of these were fighting in WW1. Only 2 people survived.

To this day the RNLI crews go out in any weather to save lives. They are brave men.

Car troubles

Our elder son had to use our car to get home today (to London) as his car would not start. I think he needs a new battery. The rain last night probably did not help as some of the leads would have been damp. The joys of autumn and cooler, wetter times!

We now have pansies planted in the rear garden. These should be in flower until the spring.

UPDATE 1320z: Green Flag (rescue) have now been and said the battery is charging OK and had loose connectors. It has been left running for 15-20 minutes. Our son will collect on Wednesday.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Autumn

Suddenly we seem to have moved from summer into autumn. The nights are getting rapidly darker earlier, the temperature has dropped and it suddenly feels like autumn. I enjoy all the seasons, but they seem to come around sooner. Where was summer? Yesterday we planted primroses instead of the begonias which die in the first frosts. The picture shows the primroses under the windows at the front of our bungalow.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

365project

For several years now, my wife and I have done a photo each day as a kind of visual diary. You can see these at:

http://365project.org/g3xbm/365  (me)
http://365project.org/foxes37/365 (my wife)

For $19.99 a year you can make your pictures private and have more albums. We have the free membership, which anyone can sign up for. It is great fun to look back and see what we have done. My wife's favorite trick is to say when friends and relatives came to see us. She can usually pinpoint the exact day. Sad?

Some people use this to show off their excellent photography skills. I 'm afraid our photos are more mundane. Some pictures are good, but most are very average. To us it is a visual diary. It is a good discipline too. I have much enjoyed doing it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Tomatoes

To be honest, I am no plant expert. Yesterday our son Tim came to see us. He took back to London the tomatoes our granddaughter Amandine grew. We expected these to turn red, but they stayed green. Maybe this is a variety that is meant to stay green? This is our son with my wife Lis outside our home.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

UK Politics

Jeremy Corbyn has been re-elected as Labour leader in a national vote. He is on the left of the party and is popular with ordinary Labour members, but not with Labour MPs. The Labour party is in great danger of splitting. Corbyn is an honest and decent man, but I cannot see him leading Labour back in to power. Even in opposition, Labour looks a mess. Interesting times.

One possibility is the formation of a new centre party with members drawn from Labour, Conservatives, Greens and LibDems. This is logical but it takes a brave person to jump ship. Previous attempts (such as the SDP) failed to gain traction.

Corfu Sunrise

This was a sunrise in Corfu, Greece last week. As we are now home again, this is probably the last Corfu picture that I shall post on this blog.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Corfu

Fruit and veg for sale in Corfu Old Town
We enjoyed a lovely week on Corfu last week. We went with my brother-in-law and his wife and had a great hotel just outside Corfu Old Town. We ate sometimes in the town and sometimes in the hotel. It was a great spot to relax and read. The hotel had lovely gardens and a great view.

Now back home.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Anglesey Abbey

Every time we visit here there is something to see. It changes through the seasons although some things are beautiful at any time of the year such as the bark on this tree on the winter walk.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Renovation

For over 40 years there has been a grade 2 listed former farmhouse empty in our village. Slowly it was going to ruin.  Over the last 2 years it has been extensively renovated and is now for sale. Today was an "open house" so we went to have a look around. Someone will like it and buy it. It is on the market for just under £1M. It would make a good Bed & Breakfast house or large family home. It is just across the road from the church. This picture shows the view from one of the bedrooms.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Supermarkets and plastic

Have you noticed how much packaging, especially plastic, is used in supermarkets these days? When I was a child we had none, really.

Why is it so hard for supermarkets to make clear which plastics can be recycled? Why are not ALL plastics used in supermarkets recycled? They all have a lot of power over their suppliers and should INSIST on this.

Basically, I hate plastic packages for so much, especially when it cannot be recycled.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Our garden

The garden is still relatively colourful, although less so than in spring and high summer. Our sweet peas are past their best and the sunflowers have peaked. When the first frosts come - usually November - we will replace the  begonia sempiflorens with primroses, which give colour all winter.

We'll blink and it will be spring, but we have autumn and winter beauty to enjoy first. Luckily in the UK all seasons have their pleasures.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Football

My old "local" team, Plymouth Argyle, had a dreadful start to the football season, but have now won the last 3 games and are currently in the play-off places. Mind you, it is very early days.

My current "local" team, Cambridge United, is currently at the very bottom of the league. Unless they buck up they could lose their league place at the end of the season.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Swifts gone

It is now several weeks since I last saw (and heard) swifts overhead. I guess they have started their journey south. For a few months they are an English summer. Then one day you realise they've gone. I miss them and look forward to their return next May.

I had the rare privilege of holding a swift many years ago when one landed accidentally in the road. We kept it in a box overnight and fed it insects. The next day it just flew away. They really are lovely birds.

Farewell and safe journeying over land and sea. See you next year.

"London" grandchildren

All being well our "London" grandchildren are here next week. We love seeing all our grandchildren, but I shall be very exhausted by next Friday.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Frog

When getting some fresh parsley from the garden, I had a surprise when this fellow appeared! I am told it is a frog and not a toad.  As you know, I am not an expert on frogs and toads!

Butterfly

A picture of a brimstone (?) butterfly on the sweet peas. Taken a few weeks ago at Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust house a few miles to the east of Cambridge, UK.

One of our sons called them flutterbys, which is a much better name!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Stroke and not feeling well

Since my stroke, nearly 3 years ago now, I have felt giddy when on my feet. I tire easily but I am not sure if this is a separate issue or as a result of feeling giddy. To be honest, I have not felt well now for almost 3 years.

My health has prevented me doing so much. Yes, compared with many, I know I have come off lightly. But, I know how I was and the frustration is so great.  All my amateur radio field work is on hold and most amateur radio antenna work is impossible without the help of others. I am very grateful for the help that has been so generously given, but I would prefer to be able to do this myself.

Life can be cruel, but my limited energy is better focused on making the best of what I have and not hoping to be fully mended and as I once was.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Paralympics

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/disability-sport/37135083 .

Brazil is struggling, but this is a major setback for disabled athletes. Up until this Olympic Games the outlook for disabled athletes was getting better progressively.

Garden Birds

Young Starling
We have lived at our bungalow for 3 years now. We see fewer small birds than at our old house despite lots of cover and an orchard right next door. Here we see a young starling on the seed feeder. I am sure there are more starlings than a few years ago. Also great tits and long tail tits seem more plentiful. Starlings are greedy birds, but lovable.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Railways in Burwell

Our local museum has an exhibition about railways in and around Burwell. Passenger traffic ended in the early 1960s but freight traffic limped on for a few more years. They also had a video of the branch line to Mildenhall from Cambridge which went through Burwell.

UK Pound

At the moment, the UK pound seems to have stabilised since we voted to leave the EU. The value (about 10% lower) should work in favour of exporters, although less so if their raw materials are imported.

Imports become more expensive.  Does this mean we will buy more UK food like UK bacon? At the moment we import far more than we need.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/currency/default.stm .

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Rio Olympics

It seems hard to believe that the London Olympic Games were 4 years ago. At the moment, the UK is 3rd in the medal tables, which is very good.

Preparing for the Olympics takes hours and hours of dedication and very hard work. To all Olympians from any country my thanks and best wishes. There is no place for cheats. For those who perform at their personal very best, my praise. Thank you.

We will blink and it will be time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

BREXIT

It is still too early to tell how this is going to pan out.

The euro, yen and dollar exchange rates have moved in favour of UK exporters and making imports from these nations more expensive.

I have the feeling that the euro will collapse in value in the next 18 months as the remaining EU nations wake up to Greek debt (there is no way they can repay this) and the likelihood of the Greeks defaulting and leaving the EU. This would really hit Germany.  In the end I think the UK will be fine. The UK was a net contributor to the EU and we voted to leave. This puts an even greater burden on the richer EU members.

It would not surprise me if we had a snap General Election here in the UK, especially if the Labour party commits self-imposed suicide and splits in two. Our current Prime Minister, Teresa May,  did not vote for Brexit and neither did any in my family. If a General Election was to be called then the Conservative Party is likely to get a huge majority.

I am currently reading a book on the history of Europe 1789-1989. I had little idea how the borders and alliances changed so much in the 1800s. Clearly Europe is still evolving.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Stroke update

Every now and again I give an update on my recovery from my stroke in 2013. There is very little change! I seem to be on a plateau now with most (all?) foods OK but I still have problems with drinks. Beer and orange are OK in small sips but I find tea (especially Lapsang Souchong) and coffee hard work. I used to love these!

All the time I feel giddy on my feet and I still tire easily after any physical or mental activity of more than about 15 minutes. My emotional threshold seems lower - I worry and cry more. I have a sick feeling most of my waking time. Sleep is fine, although I sometimes muddle dreams with reality: for example I was convinced my younger son had decided to break a journey to the Lake District here next weekend. He is coming but they have no plans to visit the Lake District. I must have dreamed this! I can drive and most cognitive functions are fine. My fine motor skills are not as good as they were.  My voice is poor.

In summary, I am having to adapt to the new "me". If things improve, great, but after all this time I am beginning to, reluctantly, accept my limitations. The main problem is people see me and say how well I look. Indeed I do look well. Inside I still feel unwell. In some ways it would be easier to have a disability that people could see.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Church Blog Updated

See http://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/
Mildenhall


This now includes Mildenhall in Suffolk. Supposedly, the largest church in Suffolk according to Simon Knott who knows a few things!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Flying Ants (again)

Even though we thought we'd seen the last of the flying ants in the house last week, we unusually had a second "invasion" yesterday. Normally we see these once a year and then they are gone. Perhaps it is the wet and warm weather?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Yet another sunny day and flying ants

For about a week now we have had better summer weather in this part of the UK. Temperatures have been in the mid 20s to low 30s (deg C) all week. We had one big storm which dropped humidity, but yesterday and today are hot.

It is also "flying ant season". Whilst I was out yesterday we had hundreds of flying ants in our bedroom. I gather these larger,flying ants are queens.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuptial_flight .

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Humidity dropped

A few hours ago we had a violent storm pass through with heavy rain, hail and thunder. Now the storms have moved east towards the coast (now in the North Sea) and we are having a lovely evening with much lower humidity and pleasant evening sunshine. The image shows the storm at its height a few hours ago.
See www.lightningmaps.org .

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Hot day

We have had the hottest day of the year so far with a temperature of 32 deg C, so we spent some of the afternoon in the garden. We had tea outside. There was a gentle breeze.

Here are a few images in our garden. The first is our Crocosomia "Lucifer" and the second a cobweb on our birdbath. The latter was being well used by the wasps today. There was a sparrowhawk chasing the young swifts high above us. The frog (?) was spotted when we watered the garden.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Trident

This evening, the UK Parliament votes on whether or not to renew the Trident submarines which carry our "independent" nuclear deterrent.  I personally think this is a TOTAL waste of money. Most nations don't have this. Are we really any safer? Personally I'd rather spend the money (£100 billion?) on things that help us with 21st century threats such as terrorism.

What amazes me is why so many in the UK parliament think this is "a good idea". Sorry, but we are in NATO and are very very unlikely to fire nuclear weapons. In my view, Trident should be phased out as soon as possible.

Sorry if this is political, but I hate the whole idea of the UK having nuclear weapons at all. Were these ever to be used, it would be the end of civilisation. We should be setting an example for others to follow.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Summer at last?

Here in eastern England we have had a bad summer so far: it has been very wet and temperatures have been lower than normal. Oddly, my brother in Devon has had a good summer. Next week they are forecasting warmer weather here with sun. Temperatures of 25-22 deg C are possible here. The jet stream has been right overhead and we have seen low after low roll in with very few long sunny spells. Maybe things are changing?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Mr Bean - sacked

The man, allegedly, who stabbed Boris Johnson - a possible UK Prime Minister candidate - in the back (metaphorically) has been sacked from the new UK Cabinet. I for one, although not a Conservative, agree with this. There is no place in the UK government for such people.

I am told Mr Gove is a bright man. His recent behaviour has left me speechless. I only hope that all around the Cabinet table are people who take theĆ­r jobs with great seriousness. They will be married to their jobs and all will have to work long, hard hours.

The Future

We now have a new Prime Minister and Cabinet. We voted to leave the EU. The future is a book still to be written. I very much hope we welcome genuine refugees fleeing conflict in their own lands.

I wish the new PM well, but it is a VERY long time go that I voted Conservative! Leaving the EU and still remaining good friends with our European neighbours will not be easy.

As I have said before, we like the idea of free trade but not free movement of people to our small island. We already are crowded with a high population density. Unlike Germany with a falling population we do not actually need people.

Of course, genuine refugees fleeing conflict are always welcome. We welcomed Hugenots, German Jews and others in the past and I hope we are still a welcoming place for those fleeing trouble in their own lands. Most British have always welcomed refugees. I remember being at school with a boy from Hungary in the late 1950s. I hope he soon felt at home.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Battle of the Somme WW1

It is 100 years ago today that the Battle of the Somme started with a huge loss of life. The whole of WW1 was a slaughter of innocents. It should never have happened.

If we learn anything, it is that wars like this one are futile and it is usually the innocents that are killed or injured. We should do all in our power to ensure such futility never occurs again.

I am not a Quaker but I have great sympathy with their policy on non-violence.

BREXIT

It is now over a week since the UK voted to leave the EU. Although the pound has fallen the stock markets seem to have taken things OK so far. The UK seems to be on a self destruct route at the moment with the Labour party in civil war and the Conservatives thrown into confusion by Boris not standing for PM. It will be some time before the fog clears and we chart a new path.

Personally I do not trust Gove and think Theresa May would make the best PM, although I am not a Conservative voter.

If a snap General Election is called my inclination is to vote Liberal Democrat again.

UK Weather - summer?

We are now in July and certainly here in East Anglia we have had one of the worst summers I can remember so far.  We have had just a few continuous days of sun and settled weather. Most of the time it has been a mixture of rain, cloud and some sun.

In the west of the UK it has been better, but we have had a real absence of high pressure over us with long settled, warm, sunny, weather.

Roll on summer!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Our elder son

Our elder son came up from London to see us this afternoon. He is a professional jazz pianist, so works odd hours. When he comes up, he helps us in the garden. It is always good to see our boys.

Hedgehog and Muntjac Deer

This morning, we found a hedgehog in the back garden. For those unfamiliar with these, they are about 15cms long, prickly, and cover about a mile on their, mainly nocturnal, walks. We used to see them often at our old house but this is the first seen here.  See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedgehog.

Muntjac deer seem to have taken a fancy to our sunflowers as the tops have been eaten! See http://www.bds.org.uk/index.php/advice-education/species/muntjac-deer

Friday, 24 June 2016

BREXIT - the new reality

So the referendum has taken place and the UK people have chosen to leave the EU. All of my close family voted to remain IN. The future of the UK is unknown. Indeed, the future of the EU may now be very different. All I hope is that we remain friends with our neighbours in Europe. We have always wanted the EU trade, but we have never sought closer political ties. The future is ours to forge and we must chose a good future that unites its people not divides them.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The EU referendum - vote!

If we vote to leave the EU I shall not be too surprised. It is vital that everyone votes as this will impact the UK for years to come.

The REMAIN campaign has been very negative and focused on the harm to the UK if we vote to leave and not the benefits of being "in the club".  A vote to leave will probably mean that Scotland will want another referendum and lead to the break-up of the UK. If we leave the EU then I think others will follow and the Euro will collapse. This is serious for the world.

It is entirely possible we could vote to remain in the EU. One thing is certain: the outcome is too close to call.

It is possible David Cameron will continue as UK Prime Minister for years to come. On the other hand we could see Boris as PM as early as November. What is certain is that politics is changing. If we leave I suspect a lurch to the right politically will occur. This is happening in many EU nations and this is dangerous.

Although my wife and I voted IN (remain), the outcome could go either way. The EU cannot continue as a weak protectionist club. It has to change or it will fall apart. The danger of this happening has never been greater.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Tim Peake returns from the ISS

Thankfully, Tim Peake who had spent 6 months on board the ISS, has returned safely to Earth. He has done much for the UK in space. We must not forget that space is still a hazardous environment. Getting back from space is still very hazardous.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Anne's House

We have a friend who has been to visit me most months. She lives in a VERY old house. Today we walked to her house for tea and scones.

This roof, to the rear of her house, is a real problem in heavy rain as gallons and gallons of water flows off it, causing her cellar to flood. She has taken measures to minimise the problems but she is always nervous with heavy rain around

Sunday, 12 June 2016

UK Weather Forecasts

OK, I moan about weather forecasts a lot and here I go again. 

Yesterday the forecast for OUR VILLAGE on the day said rain showers all afternoon. It was dry until we went to bed. Luckily it was dry for our Fete.

Today OUR VILLAGE was supposed to be dry all day. Guess what? It is raining! 

If you cannot rely on the forecast for NOW, what IS the point? Before readers tell me how complex our UK weather is may I say, yet again, our forecasts are rubbish.

The only reliable weather forecast in the UK is to look out of the darn window.

Millions have been spent on super-computers to enable better forecasting - oh yes?

The UK Queen at 90

Although not a royalist, I think the UK queen has done very well over her long reign. The very survival of the institute of monarchy is in no small part due to her. The money that royalty brings in must more than make up for the expense of the royal household.

Ours is a constitutional monarchy: although the queen has weekly discussions with the Prime Minister of the day, she in no way influences the day-to-day running of the nation. She does open Parliamentary sessions in her "official" capacity as head of state (The State Opening of Parliament)

I cannot imagine us as a republic with a president. We are lacking people that we could all look up to and respect. Somehow I cannot imagine the monarchy after Elizabeth dies. It is bound to happen sooner rather than later. Will we still have a monarchy 50 years from now?

England Football Supporters

Yet again, I am ashamed of the England supporters abroad. Now, I am sure it is a small minority who cause all the unrest and violence, but these tarnish the game. Also, sometimes others start the violence knowing that England fans will be blamed.

Personally, I think a lot of this is due to drinking to excesses. Maybe there should be a blanket ban on alcohol within a certain radius of games? This seems unfair on "normal" fans who just go to follow the teams.

I am not a great football fan. Some games are watched on TV but I would never follow my teams abroad. It must be 30 years (at least) since I last went to a football match!

Saturday, 11 June 2016

SPAM?

A few days ago I got an email purporting to be from Microsoft saying that they think my email address was compromised.

Now, this may be a SPAM, but if you have received any suspicious emails supposedly from me, please accept my apologies. As always DO NOT open links you do not trust or know to be safe. If you have received anything odd, purporting to have been sent by me, please let me know.
Hopefully the issue has been dealt with and you should not get further trouble. If this is a SPAM please let me know too as my mail account did not see this as SPAM.

Church Fete

This is usually held the next weekend in June each year, but it was changed to coincide with the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations. Although thundery showers were threatened all afternoon, they kept off. My wife ran the cake stall, as she does most years. It is usually a good chance to meet village people not seen for a while.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

EU Referendum

As we are away on the day when voting takes place, we have voted by postal vote. We posted our votes off today. The outcome will be close.

Horses in Newmarket

We do most of our food shopping in nearby Newmarket, which is the world home of horse racing. Here everything stops for the horses! We don't mind.  After 40 years in the area I have never been to a horse race!

This was a string returning from Newmarket Heath earlier today. It is unusual not to see race horses in Newmarket.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Profound exhaustion

Since my stroke almost 3 years ago I have suffered from bouts of profound exhaustion after doing physical or mental work for more than about 20 minutes. No-one and I really do mean no-one seems to get it including medics, my wife, friends etc. They all say how well I look and assume I am fine. Well, I am definitely not right!

To be honest this gets me down. As hard as I try, this never seems to go away. I hate it.  In an ideal world I would rest more, but I know this is impossible.

I have great sympathy for others who have hidden disabilities: people may look fine on the outside but feel dreadful inside. This is how I am a lot of the time. Not always mind you. There are better days and times.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Summer?

According to the Met Office we are on the second day of summer. We have had better days in mid-winter! The photo shows the external temperature after lunch. It was taken in our car and it did not vary for the whole journey. In the meantime, the west of the UK is bathed in sunshine.

Begonias

Begonias in Front Garden
Yesterday (first day of summer - cold 12 deg C and drizzle!) I planted 46 begonias in our front garden. We have more for the back garden. Once planted, these need very little attention and they provide colour until the frosts in late autumn. I just dig a small hole for each, throw in some compost and plant each flower. Usually they are very easy plants for the summer and autumn. At the end of this I was very exhausted - still an after-effect of my stroke. In the past this would have been easy.

We usually put in winter flowering primroses for the winter.

The back garden begonias will probably go in later today. It is still cold and windy here!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The EU Referendum

With only a few weeks to go, the outcome is hard to judge. Yes, the EU needs to reform, we are probably better off as a nation IN the EU than out of it, the campaign has been poor, leaving the EU would be hard but not a disaster.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Plymouth Argyle in Playoff Final

Plymouth Argyle are playing AFC Wimbledon at Wembley tomorrow (3pm kickoff) in the League Two playoff final. I hope they win. If they win, they will gain promotion to League One.

UPDATE 2144z: They lost 2:0.

Cancer

On of my wife's friends has, out of the blue, been told she has breast cancer that has spread. It was a total shock. It was picked up by a routine screeing. She had had no pain or warnings. She has been told she has less than 5 years to live. Both my father and grandfather died in their 60s of heart conditions. I know my time is limited. Maybe I'll live to 95 or I could die next week. However I have hope. What she has been told is, in effect, a death sentence. I'd find this hard to accept. Clearly she is very worried. She has not been helped by her doctor who was rather uncaring about the whole thing. With cancer there is always hope. Some do recover and surely she should have been told this

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Australian In-laws

For the last few days we have been hosting our son's Australian in-laws so my blogging has been restricted. This morning, they returned to my son and family in Kent. It was very good to see them.

Monday, 23 May 2016

EU referendum

The UK votes in a referendum on whether to remain in the EU or leave on June 23rd 2016.

Like many, I am undecided.

The UK is not a world power with an empire - this went years ago. The EU is a gravy train for bureaucrats and is an unelected quango in the main creating so many laws that most small companies cannot keep up with them.  At the same time, WW3 starting in Europe has not occurred and as long as there is an EU is unlikely. There is much wrong with the EU, but much of it is a force for good. The EU needs to reform.

No I am still undecided.

What I do know is this is a very important decision which will effect us for years to come. I think the vote will be very close. Should we vote to leave, I think others will follow too not many years down the line.

My gut says leave but my logical self says stay in. The best outcome would be if the EU was a real force for good in the world. It puzzles me why so many countries seem to accept it as it is.

UPDATE 1400z:  I am really fed up with NEGATIVE messages and spin.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Interest Rates

The Fed has indicated that interest rates in the USA could rise as early as June. In the UK, the FTSE 100 has fallen as a result. In the UK we have had low interest rates for years now and young people have no idea about living with higher rates and all this means. Debt suddenly becomes expensive, mortgages go up and savings rates improve. There is also the issue of balance of payments as foreign governments become more reluctant to lend us money to live beyond our means.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Chibok girls - Nigeria

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-36321249 .

The BBC reports that the first girl abducted in 2014 has been found. If this had happened in the UK or USA can you imagine how this would have developed?

Sunday, 15 May 2016

More Devon

A view of Burgh Island in the evening sunshine. We did a short stroll this evening from the cottage where we are staying which is very close to the coast.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Devon

So, I was going to do some radio operating from a bench on the coastal path, but instead we went for a walk along the coastal path in the glorious sunshine. In all I walked about 3.5km, which in my current state is quite good. Years ago this would have been trivial.  The first image is Thurlestone, Devon looking towards Burgh Island.

Earlier in the day we were in Salcombe where I was brought up.  These days it has become gentrified with locals priced out and local shops replaced with clothes shops for the well heeled.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Nuclear Fusion and Cars in the Future

There is lots of research going on into nuclear fusion.  Unlike nuclear fission which is used today and results in long-term nuclear waste, nuclear fusion could use the almost endless supplies of non-polluting deuterium in seawater. It is probably decades away from being commercially possible as the technical challenges are immense. Research is starting to yield results though.  Nuclear fusion holds the potential for almost endless, low cost, energy.  It could hold the keys to the future, but it is not yet possible, although the research must continue. This is one area where worldwide collaboration would benefit us all.

As for electric cars, although a "good idea" I think range is a real killer. Most journeys are short, I know, but ranges of several hundred miles on a single charge are really needed and I just can't see this even with the best battery technology likely in the next few decades. Replacement batteries for electric cards are very expensive. No, this is an area where a lot more research is needed both in transport for the masses in an age beyond carbon and in battery technology. We need some "thinking outside the box" in these areas. Cars that do not need diesel or petrol are essential. We have to crack this one and come up with good solutions.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

BBC under threat?

Who doesn’t love CBeebies? Kids love it, and so do parents. BBC children’s programmes, like CBeebies, allow us those precious few minutes in a day to make a cup of tea. And we can trust that our kids are watching quality TV.

But children's TV as we know it is under threat. It's being reported that the government plans to take money away from the BBC’s children’s programmes. They want to give money-making channels a chance to compete for children’s shows.

The government is expected to announce the cut to the BBC children's budget this Thursday. So a big petition, standing up for advert-free BBC children's television, will show that there's huge public opposition to the government's plans.

Please can you sign the petition to save BBC children's television?  See  http://38d.gs/21NJSjN

Personally  I have a problem with children being bombarded with adverts for things they do not need. The BBC is good as it is. There is a danger our government will ruin it.  Save it!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Corsican wind?

Years ago we spent a couple of great holidays on Corsica. My wife is trying to do a quiz in the paper and is stuck on a wind in north east Corsica with the second letter "i" and the last letter "t". I tried Googling to no avail. I thought I knew this, but obviously I don't.

American hotels and breakfast

One of my first surprises on trips to the USA was that few (no?) hotels offer breakfast. They expect you to get this down the road. Most have places to eat very nearby, but if you are not used to this it comes as a surprise. I have an old work colleague who is in Indiana for a conference and he was caught out.

Once, in eastern Canada, we stopped for breakfast at a roadside cafe. There were 6 fried eggs and lots more on the plate. It was huge. We did not go hungry!

Weather - settled spell ended

Yesterday we probably had the last warm and sunny day of the current spell, so we spent a lot of the afternoon in the garden with our son Tim. On the right is our ornamental cherry tree (full of blossom) and on the left our garden shed with the new bird-box just to the left of the shed window. It is probably too late this year but maybe it will be used next spring? Today it is dull and raining!

Next door's sumac tree is only just in leaf. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumac .
9th May 2016