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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Driverless cars

It seems we are going to see driverless cars on our roads in the UK sooner rather than later. The UK budget is this week and rumours suggest the go-ahead will be given for more on-road tests. Already the collision avoidance software is very good, but the main issue is consumer (driver) confidence. Somehow we find it hard not to still want to drive, even though the software driven car is probably safer!

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42040856  .

Takeaway tax - what a good idea

The UK budget is this week.

To my mind, this is a no brainer - tax takeaways that can't be bothered to use bad materials that harm the environment. Takeaway boxes that are not environmentally friendly should be heavily taxed. These are a major source of litter and such a tax would make suppliers switch to better materials that are better for everyone.  In the end few will pay as they will just use better materials. Switching is easy and they just need a nudge.

I also get annoyed with supermarkets: these days all packaging should be environmentally friendly. The big supermarkets should be blazing the trail and telling their suppliers. Waitrose is bad, with lots of their packaging unclear about whether or not it can be recycled. I find this totally not excusable in this day and age. They should lead the way.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42033760 .

Friday, 17 November 2017

People power

We often have more power than we think as individuals. As an example, a private company slipped in an application for a large gas power station on unused land on the edge of our village. The village council "quietly" nodded it through. It was about a month before most of us found out. Locals were up in arms and very many letters were sent to the district planners. We also found out that some of the data used in support of the application were wrong.

Since the protest, the applicant has reportedly withdrawn the application. The applicant was out to make a quick buck (allegedly) but this was thwarted by people power.

Power to the people!

Roses

We have a pot of roses out on our patio. The colour is lovely. I am not sure how long they will look good.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Black Friday - I hate it!

OK, retailers are having a hard time, but this recent import from the USA makes me want to vomit. It is purely about profits and how to encourage people to spend more. If you can, boycott it. 

In my view retailers have to adapt or go out of business. Online sales are a reality. Those that adapt will remain and those that do not will close. Maybe a good model is a mix of retail places and online? Models like John Lewis comes to mind. You often browse in the shop, but buy online then collect from a John Lewis or Waitrose store.

Like the commercialisation of Christmas, Easter and Halloween, I think Black Friday has no place in UK society. If you like this sort of thing in the USA, by all means keep it there. I, for one, hate it. It is retailing of the worse sort.

All change

In the UK BHS has closed its doors. Many of the shops are now being occupied by other retailers. This one in the Grafton Centre, Cambridge, UK is undergoing extensive changes. I have no idea who is coming here next. Boring to many, but a reminder to me of when these changes happened. Picture taken from a moving bus.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Student Flats in Cambridge

Years ago we bought a car from West's garage in Cambridge. They moved and now they are building new student flats on the site. This photo was taken from a bus tonight in the dark. No doubt these are "posh" flats with en suite facilities. Not a bit like we had back in the 1960s.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

The leader of the free world on a visit to Asia

So the president of the USA is on an official visit to Japan, South Korea and China. I am not sure if anywhere else is on his agenda. I hope he is presidential and not the butt of more jokes. Maybe he can stop tweeting and actually engage his ears?

Allegedly his views on the causes of climate change are at odds with scientists who have access to facts and evidence. Oh silly me - this is all rubbish and a Chinese plot. I quite forgot. Fake news.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Daffodil bulbs

We had a few bulbs left over, so these have been planted in these pots and in the garden where we had sweet peas over the summer. Hopefully they will come out sometime in the winter or spring. At the moment they look pretty boring!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Mugabe loses WHO role

Unsurprisingly, there was widespread condemnation of the World Health Organisation making Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe their goodwill ambassador. This appointment has now been revoked.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-41713919 .

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Catalonia - a looming crisis?

Catalonia is quite a rich part of Spain. Spain cannot afford for it to break-away. It is hard to see how the EU would handle this. If Catalonia goes, surely the Basques will want to follow? This would leave Spain in a right mess. By comparison, BREXIT is quite simple and clear. Personally, I think this will grow into the EU crisis of 2018.

See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-41678086 .

Autumn

You can tell it's autumn! This was our nearest garden centre this morning.

At the other garden centre they had lots of Christmas things on sale. Well, it is October and profits are profits. Personally I think Christmas things should only be allowed for sale in December, but I am a grumpy old man!

Rain

Yesterday it rained.  If it rains in Cambridge, we are quite unlucky as rainy days are quite rare. We get them, but it rains far less in the SE of the UK than in the west.

Food

Every Tuesday and Wednesday I travel into Cambridge for University of the Third Age lectures.

On Tuesdays it is, "Weather and Climate" and on Wednesdays, "Samuel Pepys". We are very lucky in Cambridge having a huge variety of courses.

Afterwards, my wife joined me for lunch.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Wicken Fen

Today we did a 2.4 mile walk at Wicken Fen. For me, this is a long walk these days!   Sadly, since my stroke, I find long walks tiring these days.   Wicken feels wild.

This windmill used to pump water.

I was hoping to catch some very late swallows, but saw none. A few little egrets, but no swallows. Most swallows have now flown to warmer weather in Africa - what a good idea.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Life "on the edge"

Often, I find it hard to explain to others just how I feel inside having had a stroke 4 years ago. Outwardly I look well and "normal".

And yet I feel giddy when on my feet all the time and I get tired very quickly. The best way I can describe life is "on the edge". My voice is very poor and I find verbal communications hard these days.

In many ways I am lucky. Inside though I still feel well below "normal".  I am not looking for sympathy, but I do feel frustrated and quite understand how hard it must be for others with hidden disabilities. People may be suffering inside when you don't realise.

Autumn flowers

Autumn cyclamen at Anglesey Abbey earlier this week. Photo taken by my wife. At every time of the year there is something to enjoy there. Dahlias are nearing their end and in a few months the first daffodils will be out.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Toadflax (I think)

This was growing wild just a few metres from our bungalow. It must have just flowered as I'd not seen it before.

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

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

EU and BREXIT talks

At the moment the EU seems to want to play "hard ball" with the UK over Brexit. Personally, I think it is in the interest of most in the EU to reach a good settlement.

Many of us in the UK only wanted Brexit so we could keep control over our population: we are a small island with limited space and resources. Like many, I actually voted to remain in the EU, even though it was/is far from perfect.

No, personally, I think the hard EU line is because they are peeved we are leaving and will no longer contribute money to the project. EU nations need our trade. We will be free to trade with the world on our terms.

EU - get real!

WWW

Some people, I know, have a totally irrational fear of spiders. Luckily, like daddy-longlegs and mice, I have no fear of them. Actually, I think they are fun. Certainly here in the UK, they are genrally harmless.
A few days ago we had one about 5cms long (including its legs) in the lounge. It got put out of the window, as we do with those trapped in the bath.

Spider's webs can be beautiful, as this one at Anglesey Abbey today.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Hollyhocks

Whilst we are getting the garden ready for winter (impatiens up) our hollyhocks are still flowering, so these won't be cut back just yet.

Summer started well, but ended up average here in the UK.

Autumn

I'm not quite sure what happened to summer. It came and went very quickly this year, probably as I am older and time seems to slip by. Autumn is now upon us and leaves are starting to fall on the lawns. Every season has something good.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Salcombe and Barbary Pirates

When a child, I lived in Salcombe, Devon. Until reading a Giles Milton book a few months ago, I had no knowledge of the white slave trade that saw many coastal communities in grave peril not that long ago. Barbary pirates captured people and took them as slaves to North Africa. If you lived by the coast and earned your livelihood from the sea you were in danger.

As fishermen in the 1600s, my ancestors were in grave peril.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

They are back!

Suddenly, the number of visits to the blog rise. Then I see where they are coming from. Clearly hackers trying to exploit the blog. This seems to happen about once a month.

Uber taxis in London

Uber has lost its licence to operate in London. It is to appeal.

A petition has 500000 signatures already calling on the London authorities to have a change of heart. My son and his wife use Uber.

I am unclear of the facts, but it rather smacks of Luddites with black cab drivers being annoyed their livelihoods are being threatened by 21st century methods and tools. A bit like online shops hitting the high streets?

My view is we cannot stop this: change happens and we have to adapt. Bank branches are closing as many do banking online. Bookshops close as many buy books online. What the high street will look like in 10 years is anyone's guess. All we can say is, "it will be different".

Uber has to follow the rules and is not above the law. Nonetheless, their model works and others will have to adapt and follow .....or die. Think of newspapers.


Friday, 22 September 2017

"Our" windmill next door

We are very lucky to live next door to a 200 year old fully restored windmill. Not many can look on a 4 sailed windmill over breakfast!

The photo shows the mill this morning a few hours after sunrise. My apologies for the compost bins in the foreground.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Eating in Canterbury

Earlier this week, we took our "Kent" grandchildren into Canterbury on the bus. Whilst there, we bought them a drink and a bun in a café near Canterbury cathedral.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Churches blog updated

After an age, I have updated the churches blog at https://eachurches.blogspot.co.uk/ with the Cambridge Leper Chapel that dates from the 1100s. We visited this for the first time today, although we have been past it many times.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Iceland

Several years ago, we visited Iceland and were surprised just how beautiful it was. There were lupins everywhere and it was  far greener than we expected. The photo shows where the first Icelandic parliament was held. I think this was in 960AD. It is on a fault line.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Crab Apples

Our crab apples have done well this year. Last year we had very few indeed. Usually a friend of my wife turns them in to delicious crab-apple jelly. This year our one little tree produced about 500 fruit. Last year we picked 14! Someone (not sure if it is true) said a good year is followed by a bad year. We'll see next summer.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

They are back!

So, the blog visits suddenly go up and I notice lots of sudden interest from a certain east European nation. I assume they are doing their monthly probe.

Quiet Coffee

Whilst my wife was busy spending, I opted for a coffee and sandwich in a Bury-St-Edmunds bookshop café reading one of the mags I'd just bought on a market stall.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Stone-curlews

Thanks to a very kind man who pointed them out (otherwise I'd never have seen them!) I saw my first ever stone-curlews at Cavenham Heath on our walk this afternoon. The heather there was just amazing.

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/s/stonecurlew/ .

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Burwell Fen

We went for a brief walk this afternoon up near the "cock-up" bridge on Burwell Lode. We saw several birds including some swallows, a tern and 2 mute swans as well as these fine highland cattle with big horns.
Although the fens are bleak, they have a certain beauty, especially the wild fen skies. Burwell Fen is now owned by the National Trust.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Swifts

Well, I thought they'd all gone now until next year. As this evening was so nice, we had tea in the garden. Six swifts were on the wing high above us. These may be northern birds passing through, but it made my day.

Swallows and house martins usually stay until well in to September, but there are very few locally.

See https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/s/swift/

Parsonage Farm

This was a workers co-operative with everyone earning the same. The company (Delta-T) is still there making scientific instruments mainly for plants. It is in our village.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Swifts gone?

We spent about 40 minutes outside this afternoon enjoying a cup of tea in the late sunshine.

Although looking, I saw not a single swift overhead. A few weeks ago and I'd have seen maybe 20. Most have started to move south.

They only stay for a few months then they are gone. Ephemeral. A few may still be around, but most have left us until next spring.

Kangaroo

My younger son is with his family visiting the Australian in-laws. Here is a shot of one of our granddaughters feeding a kangaroo. Actually, I think the joey is helping itself from the bag!

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Swifts

So, the swifts have nearly gone until next year. I heard some screaming this morning and saw one this evening, but already they are moving south to warmer climes.

Most swifts have gone by mid-August although swallows are often seen much later.

With swifts you just realise they are no longer here. Sad, but they will be back. To me, the screaming swifts are a mark of an English summer. When I see my first swift each spring my heart is lifted. They have been making their perilous journey for thousands of years and, hopefully, they will still be doing so long after I am dead and gone.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Blackberries

Our neighbours have been away and said we were to help ourselves to their blackberries. We have picked 6 punnets and the grandchildren have eaten many off the bush! There are loads left.

We have made some great blackberry crumble and my granddaughter made a blackberry drink.

The ripe ones are really great to eat.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Simple Pleasures

Well, some blackberries made it to the crumble, but quite a few got eaten! Simple pleasures to be for ever treasured long after the grandchildren have grown and flown. I hope they do this with their children and grandchildren long after I am pushing up daisies and feeding worms.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Wild Flowers

On Parker's Piece, Cambridge, UK. I think these were planted by the pupils at Park Side School.

Parkers Piece was the focus of a big celebration in 1838 to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria.

It is also acknowledged as the home of Association Football rules. It is a famous park in Cambridge.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parker%27s_Piece

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Storms

A quick look at the lightning map shows that storms are still some way away. I shall watch this map with interest to see if the storms get nearer.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Blackberries

There is a wild blackberry bush just outside our garden. When they come to stay these next few days, our "London" grandchildren will really enjoy picking the ripe ones and eating them. These are wild fruits and they taste delicious.

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - well almost!

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Stroke Update

Some are interested to know how I am progressing since my stroke in September 2013.

Well, things are much the same: I still feel very tired (no, exhausted) after quite brief physical or mental exertion - normally this is after about 15-20 minutes.  My voice is poor.

I am able to drive, but I estimate it is now about 5 times harder. I also drive slower as 50mph seems like 70 mph. It is as if my brain takes longer to process things. Also, subtitles seem to change too fast and I find it hard to keep up.

Although most foods are fine, I take an age with drinks, especially tea and coffee. For some reason cold drinks are easier.

Daft things are I find spelling harder, my writing is poor now and I feel tired much of the time. I think I get more anxious too.

Outwardly, I look "well". Others do not realise that life is a real struggle most of the time.

Overall, I find it hard to see improvements now. In most ways I feel like I did a year ago.

Summer colour

This is a photo of the impatiens in our front garden. We bought these by mistake! We meant to get begonias. Luckily, they look good.

Slowly our sun baked lawn with brown patches is returning to green, but we need more rain. I do not, as a rule, water grass knowing it usually recovers.

So far, our sweet peas have disappointed with not a single flower.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Malmsbury

On our way back from Devon late last week we stopped at Malmsbury, Wiltshire. As well as visiting the famous abbey, we stopped for a bite to eat at a pub near the market called "The Whole Hog".

Although the sausage and onion sandwiches were fine, the service was appalling. It took ages to get the waitress to take our simple order and over 30 minutes for the sandwiches to arrive. We were very very close to walking out.

In this day and age this poor service is totally unacceptable. There were no warnings that they were busy, just rubbish service.

Later that night we ate in Cirencester. Our orders (far more complex) were taken immediately and the meals arrived quickly. Now, they deserve to do well.

BBC salaries

The BBC was made to disclose (by the government) the salaries of their top stars and presenters. Quite a few earn more than £500k a year and some over £2M a year! Sorry, but I think this is insane and immoral: I am sure there are people who could do as good a job on much lower salaries.  BBC? Big Bangs Corporation or Big Bonkers Corporation.

Remember we pay for these people with our licence fees. Shame!