Thursday, 30 September 2010

Local politics


This week’s Brentwood Gazette front page story is about the fate of the town hall.

Our town hall was built in 1957.  There’s a picture of it up there….look.  Looks quite imposing doesn’t it?

Well apparently it’s not fit for purpose.

Apparently it’s worth £5 million but costs £500K a year to run the 56,000sq. ft.of office space.  To fix the leaking roof would cost £750K and apparently staff are largely rattling about in dark and dingy corridors.

The options to fix this “problem” are:

  • selling the town hall to developers and buying or renting at another location in town
  • knocking down and redeveloping the existing site
  • undertake major repairs and refurbishments to the current building

Selling the location to a developer won’t be a problem as this Tory council have a history if over-sized developments being passed be the planning department.  But buying or renting a place that can accommodate council staff in a location that can be accessed easily by Brentwood residents will be a challenge.

Knocking down and rebuilding so that we have a bland building that might last for 50 years seems to be a waste of inconvenience and investment.

The final option to me just begs the question: Why didn’t the council conduct ongoing maintenance?  How is it that we have a council office with a leaking roof?  Why haven’t efficiency issues been sorted before now?

Oh, and the roof costing £750K to fix….this is explained by the fact that our council has a history of awarding contracts to one contractor, usually the only one asked to bid, and usually Halladale, although naturally I’m not suggesting any bribery or favouritism…

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The man with the blue umbrella

I'm typing this on the train feeling both relieved and just a little bit silly.
I walk through fields and woods on my way to the station even if, as today, the weather isn't perfect.
I'm used to meeting the occasional dog walker and being annoyed with those who don't clear up after their animals (yes bins are provided) and those who can't control their dogs leaving me covered in muddy paw prints and dog slobber.
What I'm not used to is company.
This morning soon after I joined the footpath I was aware someone was behind me.
A man, perhaps on his forties dressed for office work and carrying a blue golf umbrella. I picked up my pace and walked as fast as I could without running.
He kept pace with me and mind started exploring possibilities.
I'd not seen this guy before but I was travelling at the same time as usual. Most people wouldn't choose my route or my station because there is a station that's closer and there are routes that are less muddy/doggified.
What was his motive? Rape? Murder? Mugging?
I discounted mugging because he was in a suit. I discounted rape because he was wearing a suit and it was raining. I discounted murder because that was just my imagination running away with itself.
But there was a mugging on that pathway last year so I kept up my pace.
And for the rest of the walk along the path I had a mental battle between my rational brain which was telling me not to be ridiculous and my imagination which saw me raped and left for dead in the woods by the man with the blue umbrella.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


You know that thing I lost.  You know…that thing.  No not my mind, the rucksack.

We have had a call from Liverpool Street and hurrah they think they’ve found it!  This means it didn’t escape into the clutches of nasty national rail lost property but has instead somehow found its way to friendly Liverpool Street, which, let’s not forget, is a completely separate company.

This means our bag is not in Norwich or Cambridge but in dear old Liverpool Street where I shall be just tomorrow morning.  How fortunate.

The price we pay?  Well a fiver apparently, and the loss of the packed lunch.  As I said to Dave, “Does that include the fridge cake AND the Marmite crisps?”

So to whoever found it and handed it in to a sensible station, I thank you from the heart of my bottom.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Phone rant

We have a British Gas contract thingy for our central heating system.  I know you’re thinking I’m pissing money down the drain but I can guarantee our system will fail at least once a year and because British Gas are so rubbish that usually results in about four or five visits.  I’ve blogged about British Gas before here.
I have yet another example of the ineptitude of privatised business and this time it’s British Gas.
I received a postcard reminding me it was time for the annual boiler service.  This usually means giving over 30 minutes of my life to phone, wait and book either a morning or afternoon appointment, Monday to Friday, with no allowance for the school run.  But this postcard was different; it promised more.  It offered the opportunity of booking online, and the chance to book a two hour time slot.  The alternative was to phone and have the traditional half day slot.
I leapt into action.  Or perhaps more accurately a few days later I reached for the laptop and tried the booking url.  I plugged in my postcode expectantly only to be confronted with an error message that told me that there were no appointments available.  I hadn’t even selected a date, there were no appointments at all.  I figured I was actually seeing an error message and tried a couple of different browsers just in case but each time I got the same answer.
The postcard had a telephone number on it, but having 30 minutes free for a phone call during an extended working day just isn’t something that fits easily into my life.  I left it until British Gas wrote and reminded me that I needed an appointment.
I tried the url again, hit the same failure and dialled the number and this is a precis of the call I made last week.
“Hi.  Thank you so much for writing to me an reminding me I need to book a boiler service.  And thank you so much for offering two hour time slot via your online booking system.  I’ve tried the online system and I’m getting an error message telling me no appointments are available.”
“Yeah.  We’ve had quite a few people telling us that.”
“Er right, OK. Well you’ve kindly written to me reminding me again and I still can’t get the website to work.  I have have phoned you but I would much rather have a two hour slot rather than a half day slot.”
“I’ll have a look.  What’s you’re postcode?”
We exchanged details and then he said “Yeah.  No it’s booked for the next 54 days which is why it isn’t showing anything in the online system.”
“Really, you’re booked for the next 54 days solid? And why isn’t the system showing anything beyond 54 days?”
“It only goes as far as 54 days”
“But that’s clearly not enough.  You told me earlier people have been complaining the system is giving them this error message.  Why hasn’t someone fixed the system?”
“Well it’s the Planning Department.  There have been a lot of calls recently so the Planning Department have block booked the next couple of months so that we can cope with the number of calls.”
“And you’re also encouraging people to enter into a process you know is flawed and won’t work.  Maybe the Planning Department should talk to the department that send out the service reminder cards.  Could you do me a favour?  Could you maybe suggest to someone that this whole set up needs looking at because you’re frustrating a whole bunch of customers”
“I can send an e-mail to the Planning Department.”
“Have you done this previously when other people have complained?”
“Well it clearly didn’t work because the system is still broken.  Don’t bother.  I’ll e-mail the CEO.”
And we then went on to book an appointment on November 19th.  Utterly, utterly ridiculous.  And this blog post will form part of the e-mail I will send to the CEO, because somebody needs to listen, and that somebody isn’t the British Gas Planning Department.

Sunday, 26 September 2010



I remember leaving a laptop on a train.  I went to the train station and asked if it had been handed in.  After a few phone calls we discovered it had surfaced at Southend and it was popped back on a train to Brentwood and I had it back in my possession by the end of the day.

It was a simple process that relied on human beings to care and be bothered, and it worked.

Yesterday, about 10 minutes after getting off the train at Liverpool Street we realised we’d left a rucksack on the train.  I continued on the tube to Tottenham Court Road while Dave got out at Chancery Lane and went back to Liverpool Street.

When Dave arrived at Liverpool Street he found staff who were helpful.  They advised that the train was no longer in the station but that it might have been headed to Southend and they’d ask staff to look for it at Southend.  Nothing had been found by Liverpool Street cleaning staff.

When I emerged at Tottenham Court Road I thought I’d try the telephone to see what I could achieve.  On the National Rail website was a general enquiries number which I called.  None of the automated options seemed applicable to I chose the catch all “If your call is about anything else, please stay on the line.” After 15 minutes someone answered, told me he could give me the number for Liverpool Street but couldn’t help in any other way because I’d called an emergency line.  I told him it wasn’t a very good emergency line if they kept people on hold for 15 minutes. 

Dave phoned, explained what he’d done and I thought there was no point in my pursuing the telephone route.

Today I thought I’d try again.  I found another number for National Rail and spoke to someone in Newcastle and I entered into the ridiculous world of a fragmented rail network.

Newcastle lost property woman said she couldn’t tell me whether anything had been handed into Liverpool Street because Liverpool Street was a separate company and they “didn’t talk.” 

I said “But you’re the Central person co-ordinating lost property.  That’s ridiculous.” 

“But they’re a separate company” she replied.

“But don’t you see how ridiculous that sounds and how unhelpful that is as far as the customer is concerned?” I asked.

“We don’t have the time or the resources…”

I was past listening.  A lost property service that doesn’t have the time and resource to do what a customer would expect of a lost property service.

“…Do you want to leave your details?”

I left my details and asked “What happens if my bag is found?”

She explained “The two lost property offices for East Anglia aren’t open until Monday so if something is handed in it will be sent to one of the regional lost property offices".”

“Where are the two regional lost property offices?”

“Norwich and Cambridge”

“So my bag, which may be handed in at Brentwood will get sent to either Norwich or Cambridge?  How do I get it back?"

“That’s between you and the lost property office.”

“So I might need to drive to Norwich to retrieve a bag which could have been handed into a station less than a couple of miles from my home?”


Arghhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!  The world’s gone mad.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Popular vote

I hosted a coffee morning in aid of Macmillan this morning.  I know, I know, I’ve already bored you incessantly in my desire to raise funds.

If I’m honest it was a bit of a faff.  It meant shopping and baking and stuff but the main pain was tidying and cleaning the house.  However (big however) it was lovely to have a house full of people enjoying one another’s company but (very big but) it was wonderful on a Friday evening to have a tidy and clean (ish) house.  It was also lovely to raise money for a wonderful cause.

Anyway we had a number of bakes (too many if truth be told, having invited approx. 600 people I over-catered for the 15 ish that turned up).  In addition to my over-baking there was an addition from Mark, a very welcome addition (and very tasty).

The bakes on offer were:

  • Red velvet cupcakes
  • Lemon cupcakes
  • Easy chocolate cake
  • Banana and choc chip muffins
  • Fridge cake aka tiffin
  • Chocolate brownie cake
  • Lemon and poppyseed cake (from Mark)

I have recipes for all and am happy to share.  A couple of these recipes can already be found on this blog but I’m happy to share again.

If you ask for a recipe, I’ll share.  The more requests a recipe gets, the quicker the sharing.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Inner peace

Thank you to Barbara who helped me with this one.

I've found inner peace.  I'm passing this on as it worked for me.

The way to do this is to finish the things you start. I looked around the house today and I saw all the things I had failed to finish; so I finished them. The vodka, the gin, the Archers, the chocolate, the ice cream, the crisps, the cake, the Prozac and the ...Valium.  You have no idea how peaceful I feel now!

Please pass this on to anyone you think might need a bit of peace in their life..:)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lesbian lover wanted

I’ve got a Costco card and it’s due to run out in the next couple of months.

The Costco card allows you to shop in the store and a holder can have a partner on the card who can have their own card.  A couple of years ago I applied for the card with my lesbian lover.

My lesbian lover isn’t actually my lesbian lover, she’s Mel and Mel is married and not, as far as I know, a lesbian.  But the lesbian couple must be the image we portrayed if we applied as main card holder and partner.  Nobody asked questions and our application was processed without any fuss.

I’ve had a “change in circumstances” since I renewed the card last year.  Mel no longer wants anything to do with me.  It seems to be a simple case of a collapsed friendship but I haven’t been party to the details. 

Either way, when I apply for a new card in a couple of months, I’ll have a vacancy.  Applications via Twitter, Facebook, text, phone, or blog comment.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Social Networking Tart

Thresholds is what this is all about.

It started with MySpace.  I befriended some friends and some randoms too but the randoms weren’t just randoms because there was a tenuous link.  There were perhaps two degrees of separation.

I moved to Facebook and dropped MySpace like the loser that it was.  On Facebook I befriended friends, and people I knew and, very occasionally, people I came to know through other friends.  I drew a line, and there were, and are, some people that can’t join that party.  I understand why people are setting up more than one Facebook account and it’s mainly because of the ability friends have to post to my wall.

Then there was Twitter where friends are just people in a list and it’s a free-for-all, and then I had a freak out moment and protected my tweets.  I don’t think this has made a blind bit of difference to my Twitterverse but I’m still testing this water and I may revert.

The penultimate guest at my party was LinkedIn.  I don’t have any emotional bond with LinkedIn and when I started with it I applied the “have I worked with this person?” rule.  And then I thought “who cares” and moved to “do I know this person, work or not?” And I’ve now reached the “Invitation. Accept.”  I think there are still names I’ll ignore but I’m a LinkedIn tart and I really don’t care who you are.  If it floats your boat to build a massive network of people you don’t know then why shouldn’t I help you.

The latecomer was Foursquare.  And I really don’t care about anything on Foursquare.  At all.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Nomination for the election of parent governor*

I don’t really understand this process.  I seem to be nominating myself, which is slightly strange as I’m sure to exhibit some sort of bias.  This isn’t because I couldn’t find another nominee but the process doesn’t seem to require any popular support as a ticket of entry.

I have had help with my “…information about him/herself to go out with the ballot papers. Max 100 words.”  Simon shared his 100 words and I stole quite a few.  Clearly I didn’t steal the bits where I mention I’m a mum.  Simon isn’t like that, but then I think we’ve only met once.

I thought it would be useful for future parent governor nominees if they too could have words to use as their own.  So I am sharing my 99 words.

I'm a mum, who works part-time, with experience in marketing, sales and as a volunteer in a local adult education college. I want to offer this experience to the school.

My daughter Hannah is in Year 4; my son Ethan is in Year 2. I want to play a part in helping this excellent school maintain its hard-earned reputation.

I am constantly amazed by the new things Hannah and Ethan return home from school to tell us. I want to support this wonderful learning environment and ensure we, as parents, continue to be amazed with what our children learn.

None of it is false and I’ve kept the hyperbole to a minimum; having a limit of 100 words helps here.

If you are thinking of nominating yourself then it’s worth checking the school and Ofsted websites and make sure you read the latest Ofsted report.  There’s no point wading in with the above text if the school you’re interested in achieved a poor Ofsted rating.

I think that’s it.  My husband thinks he’ll vote for me; he says at least he knows what he’s getting.  He’s also kindly told me not to be disappointed.  The most that will happen is a tinge of wounded pride; it’s happened before and it’ll happen again.


*Alternative title “Experimenting with semicolons”

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Down with the kids

I needed to go into town today to post something and I also needed to go to the farm shop.  I was feeling environmentally considerate and fetched the bike from the garage.  I told Hannah and Ethan where I was going, and how, and Hannah wanted to join me.

Having fetched Hannah’s bike, bike helmets, a rucksack and a CamelBak for Hannah, we were off.

Five yards beyond the back gate I realised Hannah had a puncture.

We retraced our cycle tracks back to the garden and we reconsidered.  Fixing the puncture wasn’t an option because this one had already been examined by the master of bicycle maintenance and had been deemed to be very slow puncture.  We thought we might just be able to inflate and go and it would hold, instead we had bulging inner tube issues.  I know, too much detail.

After a quick chat Hannah and I decided we’d take scooters.  She’d take hers, and I’d borrow Ethan’s.  I know, I’m 42 what the hell was I thinking?

Into town and I was keeping up with Hannah.  The advantage of being an adult is increased momentum.  I was fully aware that I was being laughed at.  I mean it’s fairly obvious when people point at you whilst they’re in hysterics.  Being 42 I was too old to care.

We made it to the farm shop, all downhill, and started the return journey and trying to gain altitude, and therefore potential energy (what goes up must come down), made our legs ache.  At this point I had two heavily laden jute bags hanging from the scooter handles.  This gave me even more momentum but adversely affected scooter handling.

Something funny happened as we crossed the road.  Funny peculiar.  I don’t know whether I fell off the scooter or tripped over the scooter but the net result was me sprawled in the road, bags, scooter and limbs everywhere.  Hannah was lovely and very concerned but nobody else batted an eyelid.  My ego was more battered than my body and we made it home without further incident.

Hannah rang the bell and Dave answered.  Hannah was describing our adventures and Dave realised I’d taken the scooter out.  Dave asked Hannah “Mummy went on a scooter too?” and then couldn’t stop laughing except for the time it takes to say “Oh Hannah, I wish you’d had a camera.”

You can’t beat a bit of spousal support when you’re trying, and succeeding, to get down with the kids.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Elixir of youth

I’ve been catching a programme on the Beeb called The Young Ones.  It doesn’t star Rik, Adrian, Mike and Nigel but a slightly different cast. 

Six well-loved celebrities in their 70s and 80s - Liz Smith, Lionel Blair, Dickie Bird, Sylvia Syms, Derek Jameson and Kenneth Kendall - have agreed to spend one week living as though it were their heyday - 1975 - to see if re-living your youth can make you young again.  This is a repeat of a previously successful experiment.

It is a wonderfully endearing show.  The celebrities are interesting and they each have their own particular issues. 

  • Liz had three strokes just over a year ago and is, physically, the least capable.
  • Lionel believes he is as fit as a fiddle but tests done by the programme team shows he has aged just as much as the others on the show.
  • Dickie is one of the fittest but feels his memory lets him down.
  • Sylivia finds physical exertion tiring and always feels exhausted.
  • Derek struggles with a lack flexibility and strength.
  • Kenneth finds physical activity difficult and worries about his lack of balance.

The main way that the show tries to help people to regain their youth is by placing them in a 70s environment and putting them through experiences that enable them to live through part of their life as it was in the 70s.

The programme demonstrates that this approach works.  The main learning, for me, is that life should have obstacles, and shouldn’t be easy.  A life that presents mental and physical challenges is a healthy long life. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010

If I’m being honest

The Pope is over for a visit, which is nice.  Or not.

There’s a lot of controversy about the visit and I have my own views.  I agree with Stephen Fry that the concept of this being a state visit is preposterous.  As an atheist I have a bit of an issue about tax payers money being used for the event but I can probably overcome those objections if I think about the waste that I know is an inherent fact of government spending.

I don’t really care whether the Pope travels to the UK or not.  From what I’ve seen and heard I don’t think he and I would get on, but fortunately for me and him, I think it’s unlikely we’ll meet.

I have, however taken some delight in the discussions I’ve heard from the pro and anti Pope camps.

There are people that want to raise the child abuse scandal that has more than touched the Pope (no pun intended).   There are those that insist on referring back to the Pope’s Nazi Youth past.  But those aren’t my favourites.

I love hearing the (obviously) Catholic pro-Pope camp and for me it’s fascinating that often they start sentences with “If I’m going to be honest…” or even better “If I’m going to be completely honest…” and I can’t help but think “But you’re religious.  I expect honesty from you.  Are you telling me you’re usually dishonest but for the purposes of this interview you will actually be honest?”  Amazing.  An unconscious slip perhaps, or maybe there’s more that can be assumed.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Yoga kills

I went to my yoga class last night for the first time in about two months.  There’s always a break for the school holidays and I wasn’t able to make it last week.

I walked to the station this morning, then from the station to the office and back again at the end of the day adding up to about 50 minutes walking.  I didn’t feel too bad while I was walking, but often a long brisk walk on the morning after yoga is a trigger for aches and pains.  This evening though I feel about 80 years old and my poor body is aching.  But this isn’t why yoga kills.

What happens to me would perhaps allow you to draw the conclusion that yoga causes pain but I’m sure your perception of yoga is that it is a life enhancing, life prolonging activity.

Yesterday evening our yoga instructor made an announcement at the start of the class.  During the summer break, two of the class regulars had died.

I didn’t really know Kay but I really liked Graham.  He had back problems and used yoga to try and help maintain flexibility.  He had a back operation last year and had to take a long break from the yoga class while he recovered.  He did return though, even though he was managing bad back pain.  I don’t know how he died, but he will be missed.

And the result of all of this is that I now consider that I spend my Tuesday evenings undertaking a dangerous sport because yoga kills.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


There are some unsavoury characters who have decided my blog is the perfect place to post details of penis exercises, or dodgy pharmaceuticals, or penis extensions or porn sites.
I think this means I'll have to start moderating comments which is really frustrating. I can take abuse about the blog content but spammy crap is unacceptable.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Review queen

I was browsing Amazon, as one does, and reading reviews.
I noticed one of the review was an Amazon Vine review. I did a bit of reading and discovered that people who write lots of useful reviews on Amazon get sent stuff. For free.
I've just written about 30 reviews.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Pack up your troubles…

Hannah told me this evening she’s worried and it makes it difficult for her to sleep.  So what’s she worried about.

She’s worried about bombs and knows that’s because of the stuff she’s been learning about the Blitz.

She’s worried about an asteroid hitting the earth in either 2029 or 2039 because this was stated as a fact during a visit the the Greenwich Observatory.

She’s worried about fire, probably because we’ve discussed what to do in case of a fire at home.

I’ve taken her troubles from her and I promised to put them in the bin so they could be collected by the bin men on Monday.

But I’m now worried that my little girl is worried.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A tweet explained

I tweeted this: “I just read the Metro and completely missed our ad. I had to go back and search for it. #advertisingdoesntwork

I feel it requires explanation. 

I knew that Wednesdays Metro would contain an advert for an event.  I knew this because I’d sort of been involved but I’d stored it in my subconscious.

On Wednesday morning after my bracing walk to the station I bought my ticket, just missed the 8:13 and waited for the 8:20, Metro in hand.  For the few minutes before the train arrived I opened the Metro and started reading whilst listening to the radio via the phone.  When the train arrived I hopped on, turned the radio off, packed away my headphones and continued reading the Metro, standing all the way because everyone else had taken the seats.

As we neared Liverpool Street I’d read everything I wanted to and then my subconscious whispered in my ear “Did you see the advert?”

I hadn’t. But I couldn’t recall seeing any advert.  I read the paper without registering any of the advertising.  I’d filtered the whole lot out.  I’d managed to do this without even being aware of what I was doing.

When I use the computer and I’m surfing using the Chrome browser I never see advertising.  This time it’s not because of any subconscious activity but because of an active choice.  I’ve installed the Adblocker extension and I love it.  Ad free surfing is a pure pleasure.

When I watch telly, where possible I record and playback skipping the adverts.  If I have to watch adverts I’m usually checking Facebook or Twitter at the same time and not giving the TV my full attention.

When I travel around I seem to be able to screen outdoor advertising from my field of vision.  I know the conscious mind only stores what it considers valuable and for me, advertising rarely falls into that category.

If I listen to commercial radio the adverts are harder to tune out and following that completely scientific analysis, and the fact that I avoid commercial radio because of the advertisements, I decided that #advertisingdoesntwork for me.

I wanted to see the ad in the Metro because it related to work I’ve been doing so I went back through the paper and found it. 

When I reached the office, a colleague who hadn’t known, about the ad placement had spotted the ad unprompted.  So the reason #advertisingdoesntwork is probably me, and not the advertising.  

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Private medicine

I went to the doctor.  The doctor said “Go and see a consultant.” I phoned the health insurance people (being a hypochondriac I definitely get my money’s worth) to get authorisation.  I booked a consultant appointment.  I waited (he was on holiday.)  I turned up for the appointment.

Oh my God!

We talked about my job.  We talked about the auto industry.  We talked about Ford’s fortunes and Skoda and VW, and people he knew who had worked for Ford.  We talked about China and it’s potential political and economic threat to our lives.  We discussed China buying Marks and Spencer (I have no idea why we discussed this.  It was his idea not mine).  We discussed China buying Liverpool Football Club. (Have they really?  I had no idea.)  We discussed my children. We talked about my house and the road I live on, the traffic noise, cars driving the wrong way down one way streets. 

At some point in the 40 minutes we spent together we had a purposeful discussion pertaining to my health that probably lasted five minutes.

It’s OK.  I’m not dying.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Vote for me

There’s a vacancy at the Junior School for the role of Parent Governor and I’m tempted to apply.  I’m not particularly well qualified which may be a handicap.

I’m not religious and only go to church when the children nag me.  I have no experience in the education sector apart from the experience of being a pupil.  I have no real spare time as, unlike most of the mums at the school gate, I work.  I struggle to fit my work into my working hours and yet I know that School Governor meetings can intrude into the working day.

On the plus side I am not intimidated by a meeting full of people I don’t know and I won’t be shy about voicing opinions.  I have a lot of experience in the private sector and, having worked in marketing for a huge blue chip company for 19 years, I must have skills that can be of benefit.  I am a geek and a nerd and, whilst this may not be a great social asset, this can have its uses.

So what do you think my chances are, and do you have any advice for the sales pitch that needs to go onto the ballot paper (I’m not allowed to lie)?

Monday, 6 September 2010

More party games

Another party game for you if you’re planning a children’s party (which could also be enjoyed by adults).

You will need:

  • A large leakproof container
  • Several medium sized semi-opaque/transparent  leakproof containers
  • Empty yoghurt cartons/plastic cups
  • Metal skewer
  • Water
  • Marker pen
  • Food colouring in a few different colours

This might seem like a strange list.  Seeing the game in action may help.  It may not.  The first part of this video shows the game, the last bit perhaps just gives you another idea for entertaining children on a hot day.

    The aim of the game is for teams to move water from one large container to the team container.  The team to move the most water in the time available wins.

    There is a catch.  To move the water the players must use plastic cups or old yoghurt pots or similar that have been punctured.  I’ve found the best way to put holes in the plastic is to use an old skewer that’s been heated in a flame (I used the hob).  Hold the skewer with over gloves over a flame and then skewer the cups/pots.

    The food colouring is put into the team containers to make seeing the level of the water more obvious.  This is also why the team containers need to be transparent or semi-opaque.  The marker pen is to mark the height that must be achieved first by the winning team.

    The number of different items you will need will depend on how many children you have playing the game.

    Children will get quite wet playing this game.  There will be lots of screaming and giggling.   Not recommended for playing indoors.

    Sunday, 5 September 2010

    Slow down!

    Driving along M11 and we going fast-ish. I spot a police van on a bridge. It's one of the ones marked with "Driving casualties down" and with blacked out windows disguising speed camera equipment.
    I say " Slow down. Police van!"
    We needed a significant speed reduction and after a couple of seconds we'd dropped just a few miles per hour.
    I repeated myself a little louder "SLOW DOWN!" and the reply came back "I don't want to be too obvious." *rolls eyes*

    Saturday, 4 September 2010

    Birthday presents

    Dave’s birthday is on the horizon.  We had a chat about what he might want for his birthday and he didn’t want an iPad.  Which sort of left me stumped.

    I decided that I should go down the experiences route.  Last year a trial flying lesson went down very well so I started to think along similar lines but veering either towards vintage aircraft or a helicopter.  I know he wants to fly in a Spitfire but I’ve searched and that’s never going to happen.  There’s one plane that’s suitable, it’s at Duxford and doesn’t do pleasure flights (except for Radio 4 presenters).

    I couldn’t decide between classic craft or helicopters so I decided that surprises were over-rated and asked Dave what he would prefer.  After much protesting about cost, and when pressed, he came down in favour of helicopters but he also said he might like a family day out at, say, a Duxford airshow.

    So, at 11:00pm today we decided that tomorrow we’re off to Duxford.  My treat.  It’s the Battle of Britain Air Show and there will be many Spitfires, the Red Arrows, some Hurricanes, an F16, and on, and on…

    Friday, 3 September 2010


    We all inherit from our parents.
    Physically I've got everything from my mum. Height, weight, hair colour (before the peroxide), body shape, temperament (except I'm less likeable) and the way we looked. Were it not for the 36 year age difference and the fact that my mum is dead, we could pass for sisters.
    My inheritance from my dad is different. He liked words and so do I. He like maths and engineering and that's what I enjoyed at school too (maths and physics in my case). But primarily I think his lasting legacy was the inability to throw things away "because they might come in handy." Neither of us come close to Mr Trebus (BBC Life of Grime) but my house is full of things that others would discard without batting an eyelid.
    Dad used to keep broken radios in case he needed to mend a radio in the future. I'm not sure it occurred to him he kept broken radios but never fixed one (or at least not to my knowledge).
    I have chargers for old mobile phones and computer peripherals that are years old. I'll never use them but I can't bring myself to throw them away. I've got old 35mm cameras (notice the plural). I have a box of darkroom equipment that hasn't been used for over 20 years.
    I have loads of tut that I know is just taking up space. When I say I can't help myself, I really can't. It's genetic.

    Thursday, 2 September 2010


    I'm sitting in the garden, in the sun blogging on my phone.
    It's Thursday and normally I'd do some work today (if three and a half hours counts, and those of you who are thinking "No it doesn't", I know who you are). But because this week started in the school holidays I'm working my school holiday hours which is same hours different pattern. Any woman trying to juggle being a part time stay at home mum with a part time job will understand. The rest of the population won't.
    I can see from here the list of jobs I could be doing. The garden needs weeding, the gutters need clearing, the ivy needs cutting back and then there's the never ending list of things that need doing inside the house.
    I know that there will be very few of these warm sunny days left this year and I know I'll regret not making the most of the last few days of summer. So I'm sitting down and relaxing and blogging and... And I feel guilty. But I'm still sat here. I can live with guilt.