Sunday, 29 June 2008

Rotating video

Today was Hannah's party. Twenty two children in the end, lots of laughing and not too many tears. On the whole I'd say it was a success.

We followed some of the format from last year but with one or two new twists. I'm sure you're not interested in the details so let me get to the point.

We did the old familar newspaper fashion parade. This year I wanted a better video than last year so, instead of relying on a friend's mobile phone footage, I used our digital camera. I could have used the video camera but it's six years old and uses tape and I never felt I could rely on it ever since it chewed a tape.

I captured the whole fashion parade but there was one small problem. I had used the camera in portrait mode. It's an easy mistake to make. Dave's entire footage of Hannah, aged 6 months, opening Christmas presents can only be viewed if one tilts ones head at 90 degrees.

I had promised everyone I'd load this onto YouTube so was determined to find a fix. For those of you who have made the same mistake, here's the fix that worked for me:

"If you're using Microsoft Windows XP, the built it Windows Movie Maker software can do it. Import the clip, then on the left panel, edit movie, effects, and on the middle panel search the rotations, then export the movie in your prefered format / codec / size."

Thanks to D Triana in Bogota Columbia for this one.

Here's the correctly oriented video.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Water water everywhere

I went to a kids indoor play area today that had an integral cafe.

There was a strange sign near the cafe menus. To paraphrase, it stated that they are constantly asked for tap water. They wanted to advise customers that they are not required to provide tap water and that they sell bottled mineral water in two bottle sizes.

I thought this was bizarre.

It is an establishment that caters for children. I know that for very young children that the advice is to give them tap water in preference to mineral water because the latter contains minerals in concentrations that aren't ideal. The same government advice would promote water over squash or fruit juice. It also stresses that it's important to ensure children remain hydrated and these are places where kids expend a lot of energy and get hot and need to maintain liquid levels. So, although tap water is better for children, they choose to deny parents this choice.

I also thought that there was an obligation requiring catering establishments to provide tap water when requested. Maybe I'm wrong.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Gordon Ramsey - the father

On tonight's F word Gordon Ramsey took his son salmon fishing.

He met his hosts with his son and said to them, indicating Jack his son, "I hope he's not a jinx."

A bit later he threatened his Jack that he'd better not catch a salmon before his Dad did.

He needn't have worried. Gordon caught the first fish and was the show's "hero".

I did wonder why he'd taken Jack there at all. I also wondered what it must be like to have an overbearing pompous father.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Attack of the killer....

Today I tried a little domesticity. Now don't go getting excited. I don't do domestic very well or very often.

I did a bit of tidying. A touch of cleaning. A tad of scrubbing. A bowl or two of washing up. You get the picture.

The bin needed emptying. We have a ridiculously small kitchen bin. People ask us "Why don't you just get a bigger bin?" Well big bins house rubbish for longer and they therefore smell more often. A small bin, out of necessity, requires frequent emptying thus allowing the kitchen to remain fragrant, or at least to smell of burnt food and not garbage (or thrown away, rotting burnt food).

When our bin needs emptying there is a choice. One can do the decent thing and empty it or, if one is a slattern, one can just poke and prod the contents to make more room in the bin. If poking and prodding fails, then pushing really hard and squashing everything mercilessly works.

Today I chosee to do the decent thing and took the bag out to the big nasty bins at the side of the house. I lifted the lid AND A MILLION EVIL BLACK BEASTS FLEW TOWARDS MY FACE!!!

OK, I know they were just flies or bluebottles or the like but it really was quite horrible. And I know that they grew from some maggoty things does one prevent that happening to one's bin, because it's a rather unpleasant experience that I would rather avoid in the future?

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Yummy scrummy meringues

I don't remember making meringues before. The only reason I did on Sunday was laziness. It was either make some or nip to the shops and buy some. I wanted an idiot proof recipe, and this proved to be ideal. The yummiest, scrummiest, lightest, crunchiest, chewiest, sweetest meringues ever. They are so much better than bought. (...but best bought meringues I've had though are those made by M&S. These are slightly gooey inside. Mmmm.)

4 large egg whites , at room temperature
115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to fan 100C/ conventional 110C/gas 1⁄4. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (meringue can stick on greaseproof paper and foil).

Tip the egg whites into a large clean mixing bowl (not plastic). Beat them until the mixture resembles a fluffy cloud and stands up in stiff peaks when the blades are lifted.

Now start to add the caster sugar, a dessertspoonful at a time. Continue beating for 3-4 seconds between each addition. Adding the sugar slowly at this stage helps prevent the meringue from weeping later. Don't over-beat. When ready, the mixture should be thick and glossy.

Sift a third of the icing sugar over the mixture, then gently fold it in with a big metal spoon. Continue to sift and fold in the icing sugar a third at a time. Don't over-mix. The mixture should now look smooth and billowy, almost like a snow drift.

Scoop up a heaped dessertspoonful of the mixture. Drop them in rough rounds onto the baking sheet. Bake for 1 1⁄2-1 3⁄4 hours in a fan oven, 1 1⁄4 hours in a conventional or gas oven, until the meringues sound crisp when tapped underneath and are a pale coffee colour. Leave to cool on the trays or a cooling rack. (The meringues will now keep in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for a month.)

Monday, 23 June 2008

The thing about driving licences

If you look at part two of the average driving licence you will, at a quick glance, notice three letters that denote the class of vehicles that one can drive.

The letters that you will see are: A, G, H.

The codes are deciphered thus, on the DVLA website:

A - Motorcycles up to 25kW(33bhp) and a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg. Motorcycle combination with a power to weight ratio not exceeding 0.16kW/kg and any size motorcycle with or without a sidecar

G - Road rollers

H - Tracked vehicles

So, at a quick glance, it would appear that Dave is entitled to drive Motorbikes, Road rollers and Tanks. The code for Tractors is F.

When he told me which codes were on his licence and I read the meaning of the codes his face fell. It seemed the Tractor dream was dead. But then a question occurred.

"Where is the code for cars?" Ah, foiled. Bugger!

Dave re-examined his licence and it became apparent that the codes on part two of the driving licence are the vehicles one is entitled to drive on a provisional basis. The codes that refer to vehicles one is entitled to drive can be found on part one of the driving licence and, in Dave's case, that does include F.

Double bugger!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bluff and double bluff

The Tractor auction finished today.

Fortunately for me the item had been spotted on a Friday evening when transport company offices are generally closed for enquiries.

This meant that getting a quote for transport was too difficult. Viewing said vehicle was also tricky because we had plans for the weekend.

You might be thinking that everything is fine. Auction ended. No bid placed. Job done.

Ah, you see everything is not fine. Nobody placed a bid. The tractor is still available which means that Dave has all the time in the world to get transport quotes and travel to view it.

Clearly I needed to sow a seed of doubt. I have to say that for a limited time I thought this was a stroke of genius.

"Dave....does your driving licence allow you to drive a tractor?"

Saturday, 21 June 2008


My husband wants to buy a tractor.

Last week we happened upon some vintage tractors at a Vintage Steam Rally that also had vintage cars and tractors.

Don't ask me quite how it happened but Dave started searching for farm machinery and found a 1948 Ferguson TEA 20 Tractor on eBay. This could be an amusing diversion were it not for the fact that he is seriously considering placing a bid.

He's been investigating the vehicle transport to facilitate getting it home and has been talking about driving it to work, for a laugh.

It's not the money that worries me. It's the mindset. He's clearly off his rocker.

We can't even remember to get the MG through the MOT test. We struggle to store the MG and all of our junk in the garage. Where the heck will we find space for a tractor.

It was Jo's idea to go to the Steam Rally. Thanks Jo!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Easy life

I visited the farm shop today and discovered that they had just started their Pick Your Own season. I couldn't resist.

The last time I'd picked strawberries was sometime in the eighties. I remember it being fun, tasty but quite tough on the back because strawberries are low growing fruit requiring a lot of bended knees.

How times change. These days PYO is a different experience.

Strawberries are now grown on raised beds making life much, much easier.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The game is up

Hannah lost her second front top tooth this morning. She was in the garden in her pyjamas practising her skipping when it happened and we couldn't find the tooth.

Clearly the tooth fairy generally requires a tooth as evidence of tooth loss.

There are cases though where the tooth fairy has coped without evidence.

In the Charlie and Lola book "My Wobbly Tooth Must Not Never Ever Fall Out" Lola slept whilst thinking happy thoughts so that the gappy grin was visible and the tooth fairy could spot the loss.

Hannah's friend lost a tooth in the playground and left a note for the tooth fairy. The tooth fairy managed to find the tooth and left a note explaining this.

Hannah has written a note which, given her confession to Ethan this evening, surprises me.

Overheard upstairs this evening:

"Ethan, I know who the tooth fairy is."


"It's Mummy."

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


I go to yoga most Tuesday evenings. At the end of the class we do some relaxation.

The relaxation often involves either breathing exercises or just concentrating on breathing. Sometimes it involves visualisation or a mental concentration exercise.

Just as the relaxation is being brought to a close I find I'm extracting myself from a state very close to sleep.

One might think that this is a really useful exercise to help encourage slumber for those who struggle to fall asleep. I did until I tried it outside of the yoga class.

I can't get it to work. Do you know how irritating it is to be desperate to get to sleep and not be able to but when you don't want to fall asleep, i.e. in a yoga class, you find it difficult not to?

Very irritating.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

There is no excuse

Brian Philcox was clearly ill when he killed his children.

I have previously had sympathy for Fathers for Justice campaigners but Matt O'Connor's comments on this suicide and double murder have not helped to keep my support.

I understand the devastation that some fathers feel when there is a family breakdown and there is a risk that they will lose regular contact with their children.

What I can never understand is the selfishness of a person who when faced with an unpalatable future of a life without their children thinks that killing themselves and the children is a reasonable solution.

It is an act of revenge, not love. It is the desire to hurt the remaining parent that causes this behaviour not any kind of love for the children.

It sickens me that, in trying to hurt his ex-partner, he ended the lives of little Amy and Owen.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Viz Top Tip

OK, not up to the standard of a Viz Top Tip, but here's a tip anyway.

We've all done our shopping online with the major supermarkets.

You mean you haven't? You really ought to you know, it's jolly convenient.

Let's assume you have shopped for groceries online.

Normally you'd visit your supermarket of choice online, shop, checkout and that's it. Well did you know there's a way of saving money? Here are two websites to save you cash.

Online voucher website. This isn't a pretty website but has codes that can be used at checkout to save you cash. is something you'll hear referenced in supermarket advertising. It allows you to shop with your normal provider but housed within the portal. The experience is not quite the same, bu it's pretty good. Once you've completed your shopping you can use the trolley checker.

The trolley checker tells you whether another supermarket would be cheaper. It does make some product substitution assumptions when doing this but it's information you wouldn't get elsewhere and is, if nothing else, interesting.

If you stick with your chosen supermarket the trolley checker goes one step further and has a list of product swaps. It looks at what you've chosen and suggests cheaper alternatives. This is the thing you often miss by not browsing the shelves yourself so it's useful to have someone who's doing the legwork for you. You can choose to accept or refuse these suggestions.

The trolley checker will also offer calorie saving swaps. It will suggest alternative products that are lower in calories.

Once you're happy you've swapped or not swapped you just send your trolley to your chosen supermarket and select a delivery slot and pay in the usual way.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Relaxing bath

I know a bath is supposed to be a relaxing experience but it doesn't do it for me.

As I'm in the bath, I find myself looking at the ceiling.

Our bathroom is relatively new, but not wearing particularly well. We have a false ceiling with recessed halogen downlights.

The bulb is surrounded by a circle of chrome and this is supposed to sit a tiny bit proud of the surrounding plaster. To change the bulb one need to fiddle with the whole arrangement and whilst fiddling I can see that the plasterwork around most of the chrome circles has been damaged and needs repairing.

That's just the start. Then my mind starts to go on to think about all of the other jobs that need doing on the house and I end up twitching with stress.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

A child's view

We have a plan for Father's Day. I have to say that this is down mainly to Jo and Al whose idea it is, but anyway, we have a plan.

The plan has been a secret from Dave but shared with Hannah and Ethan.

A gift has been purchased. Admittedly it was bought a while ago. I saw it and thought it was a good idea so seized the opportunity and it's been hiding in the wardrobe ever since.

Today, while Dave was at the barber, we had 40 minutes for the children to paint and stick cards and to wrap the present. This included clearing all of the associated mess away to hide the evidence. Anyone that has tried to eliminate any evidence of poster paint, especially when it's dried on, and glitter will know this is no mean feat.

Anyway, we achieved it, and just before Dave came in through the door, Hannah shared an observation.

"Mum, it's not fair."

"What's not fair, sweetie?"

"Well we always go somewhere and do anything on Father's Day."

"Er, yes..."

"Well it's not fair."

"Why is that Hannah?"

"Well we never do anything for Mother's Day"

Friday, 13 June 2008

Come dine with me

Yes I watch Come Dine With Me. For the uninitiated, the show invites four strangers to host a dinner party in turn for the other contestants.

The person who gets the best total score from their guests wins £1,000.

I don't really understand why people voluntarily invite cameras into their home for a chance of winning £1,000. I really don't think the reward is worth the risk.

However I have considered which dishes I'd cook if I were to participate.

I don't have any winning starters or main courses but I think Winter Trifle might feature for dessert depending upon the season. I also make a mean and extremely rich Chocolate Mousse but it's no good for the elderly, the young or the pregnant because it contains raw egg.

I wonder, readers, whether you have any fail safe suggestions that could win me £1,000, hypothetically of course.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Just don't do it

When someone who works for you, works bloody hard at something that needs to be presented to senior management, do not present it as your own work.

It is one of the quickest ways to ensure that valued employee who works so hard and who delivers so much will write and circulate their CV.

In this scenario it is you who is the loser. Don't do it.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Cream Tea

I rarely compose a blog simply for the edification of my readers. This is the exception that proves the rule.

Today I purchased the ingredients for a Devon Cream Tea (DCT). These are ingredients that could also be used for a Cornish Cream Tea (CCT).

Some of you will know the difference between a DCT and a CCT but I have just established that ingredients is not a difference.

This point is arguable, read on.

I bought clotted cream (which is so yummy and scrummy and heart attack inducing), a good quality strawberry jam, and some plain scones.

One could argue that a CCT could be served using a sweet white bread roll in lieu of a scone but I think that view is outdated. Some would say butter would also be necessary for the CCT.

To create a DCT one splits the scone in two and then starts assembly. Scoop a large amount of clotted cream onto the scone halves and then dollop a significant amount of the jam. Once completed one needs to feel that the scone is barely supporting the cream and jam and whilst it's being eaten it should be a struggle to eat it delicately.

To create a CCT one starts again by splitting the scone. The key difference with a CCT is the order of jam and cream. Some believe that butter is required first but, leaving their preferences aside, one should spread jam first and then cover in clotted cream.

It should be pointed out, that for both cream teas, one never ever places the second half of the scone on top of the assembled delight. I know there are plenty of images on the web showing this but it is just plain wrong.

As this has been an educational piece I feel references are required. Try here, and here.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Messy Jessie

Christian and Reiner were in the UK today and whenever they've been in the UK on a business trip before I've felt guilty that we haven't looked after them. In the evening I've always been rushing home to collect, feed and bathe children.

Today I suggested that Christian, Reiner, Shona and I go for a meal in a very English pub. This prompted a discussion about English versus German cuisine. Christian decided he needed to persuade us that German food can be great. I think that when I said the best food I had in Germany was in a French restaurant.

He suggested that we go shopping for ingredients and then he'd cook us a meal. He'd need a kitchen. Would my kitchen do?

Impulsive stuff is usually my thing. But my colleagues in my house before I've had a chance to tidy it, even a little bit?

I knew that we'd be arriving as the kids would be going through their bedtime routine which would be fine except that the house exhibits even more chaos at that time of day.

Plus things need cleaning. The kitchen floor is likely to need cleaning after the children's messy tea, the oven simply wouldn't be presentable. (How many people have an oven they'd be happy for a colleague to inspect?) Chances are there would still be crockery from breakfast waiting near the sink.

I knew my gym kit from last night's workout would still be lying on the floor next to the washing machine. The ever growing mountain of paperwork that is increasingly unstable would still be in evidence.

All of these little things said "I need advanced warning." And if you think I'm exaggerating about the state of my house, just ask Tracey what her impressions were when we made an unplanned diversion to my house one lunchtime.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Going green

A couple of weekends ago Dave and I fixed punctures on both wheels of my bike. Actually I asked Dave to show me how to change a bike tyre which was my way of getting the punctures fixed. I do know how to change a tyre now but I'm sure I'll forget the next time one needs changing.

I have this ideal vision of what bike-riding is like. In my mind I can just nip into the garage, grab the bike and travel off to the gym, off to the shops, off to the park with ease.

Normally when I go to the gym I drive. This is a shocking admission because it's probably just a 10-15 minute walk. Why do I drive? Well a few reasons actually.

A workout eats into my precious evenings to the tune of about two hours and adding a walk at either end of that time takes it to about two and a half hours.

When the evenings are dark it's not the nicest of walks, particularly travelling under the A12 bridge which is dark, gloomy and the graffiti isn't by Banksy.

I do feel guilty about driving which is why the punctures had been bugging me. In my ideal world the bike would be the solution helping me to get to and from the gym, quickly and safely.

Well I tried it out tonight. It took a while to get the find the lights and get them sorted, figure out where to store things (phone, keys, money, cards) and get the bike out of the garage. A bit more convoluted than I had imagined but getting to the gym was excellent. I was able to freewheel almost all the way there. It took just a couple of minutes to get there.

The trouble with freewheeling on the outbound journey's uphill for the return journey after a workout. But even so, the return journey wasn't bad. It took about five minutes and probably gave me a better workout than the bike in the gym which I would normally have used for 20 minutes.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Not the average Sunday afternoon

A few years ago Brentwood started holding bike races in the High Street on the second Sunday in June.

We've been to see the road racing before but we haven't seen the trials before. Here are some pics.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Regulation required

I received a parking ticket for parking in a car park attached to a store. My crime was to walk out of the car park for the shortest of times.

The rules for this car park were clear that one could not step foot outside of the car park whilst one was parked there.

There were technical faults with the way the ticket was issued making it invalid. I challenged the ticket and the parking company advised me that the £70 for parking for 30 minutes still stood. They were judge and jury. They didn't even have the courtesy to pay for postage on their reply which I thought was rude.

I contacted the store who advised they would intervene on my behalf.

I have now had another letter from the parking company demanding £95 with menaces.

I assume the store has done nothing. I don't know what to do. The next thing they'll do is employ the blokes with baseball bats.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Division of labour

I'm sure this type of situation exists in many houses; one partner cooks an evening meal and the other one washes up.

This normally works well but there are occasions when I wonder which rule should apply.

If I cook eight meals in one go, we eat one and seven are frozen, should Dave do the washing up every time we eat any one of the eight. What if I cooked it originally but Dave got it out of the freezer and put it in the oven? What if I cooked it originally and later took it out of the freezer but Dave put it in the oven? What get the gist. What should the basis be for determining who washes up?

And what should happen if we both cook our own food. An example would be if we both cooked our own omelettes. We use the same utensils and pan - who washes them?

We don't have a household rule that covers these scenarios which probably means the person that does the washing up ends up resenting the situation.

I guess the question is "What is fair?"

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Ramblings of a mad woman

I think I'm in the wrong job. The problem I have is knowing what the right job is.

I am inherently lazy and couldn't face the thought of any extended re-training for a new role, so the right job would have to be one I could just slot into.

That limits things rather as I'm not really qualified to do anything. My degree is the kind that just lets you say "I have a degree." It doesn't actually provide me with a marketable skill, plus it was obtained so long ago now that it is, at best, a dim memory.

I do have quite a lot of experience, or accumulated knowledge, that I consider to be an advantage of advancing years. This just means I have a mental repository of how this, and a couple of other companies work in particular areas. I would never claim to know how the entire company works.

All of this is great if it relates in any way to a job that I would enjoy doing. The task I would have is knowing what I'd like.

I'm not saying I'm unhappy in my current role; I've never worked where I've been completely unhappy. I just think where I am is not the best fit for me.

My working style would have to be incorporated into any search criteria which would make things nigh on impossible. We could review my leadership behaviours, or lack of them, here but I'll save us both the pain.

Maybe I should just quit work for a while, take a break and re-evaluate my life, a sort of mid-life crisis sabbatical.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Boys are rubbish

OK...Trevor didn't work out.

He walked funny.

He was a nice guy but he and she were incompatible. He hadn't been to Uni, she had. He had been stabbed, she hadn't. He had been prosecuted for drunk driving, she hadn't.

The summary of Trevor, and that did prove to be his real name, was "he's not people like us."

The other candidates at the moment are:

Blonde Adonis who has already scored a date at the Dorchester. He has a girlfriend working in Thailand but is quite interested in a bit on the side. There are two temptations here. The first is to have some fun because he's gorgeous. The second is to tell him where to get off because he's a slimeball. Decisions, decisions.

A date with a solicitor from Dublin has resulted in another date in the diary. Cocktail goggles improved this chap's attractiveness score improved but on the other hand he was "nice, charming, interesting, etc." Etc is never good, but we'll see if absence makes him sexy too.

There is Mr Bomb disposal who is exciting but only because of his job. He's a prospect right now and on the maybe meet list.

The last candidate drives a billionaire sheik as one of his jobs. He's proving to be a wonderful online candidate but we fear he is lacking in stature. He claims to be 35 and 5ft 10 but we think he might be lying about his height. Apparently boys do lie, especially on dating websites. But then we've known for a while that boys are rubbish.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Oh dear

Every working mother has their own repertoire of solutions that help them combine a job and being a mum. Call them time savers or cheats, life would be tougher without them.

One of my own cheats is home made ready meals, otherwise known as batch cooking. Making one lasagne? Why not make five? Eat one, freeze four. Four go in the freezer to be taken out in the morning and placed in a timer set oven.

On the days that I work, Hannah doesn't have an evening meal until I've picked her up from the after school club and taken her home, usually at about 5:45.

This morning I set the oven ready for Hannah's dinner as per normal for a Monday and set off for work.

This evening I was running late so when I arrived home Dave had already collected Hannah and Ethan. Ethan was enjoying a snack but Hannah wasn't eating and there was no sign that she had consumed everything. I checked with Dave.

I might have set the oven but I hadn't actually put any food in there. Oh dear.

"Nurse, can we have Mrs Cardus's medication."

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Husband annoying - a hobby of mine

We went camping last weekend, and have sort of been in the habit of camping as an annual outing for about four years. BK (before kids) we had done more serious camping with very few comforts. Camping these days ensures that whatever vehicle we take is packed solid; a very different sort of camping.

My husband doesn't really like camping, especially in the rain, and we have been particularly unlucky with the weather in the last couple of years.

One might imagine that having completed the obligatory camping trip, Dave is relaxing in the knowledge that he won't be under canvas (or even polyester) until next May.

Unfortunately for Dave, he's married to me.

I felt a little cheated that our last day of our last excursion was marred by rain so I thought we'd have another go at 2008.

So I booked another trip for later in the year.

One of the things that was apparent on our last trip was that our tent leaks in heavy rain. The rain has to be significant and the leaks are extremely insignificant.

I've started shopping/browsing for a new tent. If there's one thing that annoys Dave more than having to do more camping than is absolutely necessary, it's spending money on an activity that he wants to do less of, not more of.

So where was I? Google search "5000 hydrostatic head 8 berth integrated groundsheet tunnel."