Invitation Only

Over recent months I’ve realised how naive I have been with this website (why did it take me so long you may ask?). The posts I have written can be misinterpreted by strangers. For people who are using the information to discover my lifestyle may form opinions about my life that might be incorrect.

In the next few days I will make the site available by invitation only so friends who have followed the site over the years will face the prospect of having to sign in. I apologise for this but recent events have forced my hand.

I will continue to write posts but only my trusted acquaintances will be able to read them.

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Woodland Walk

When in doubt go for a walk… Since the temperatures have generally dropped below 10 degrees I’m no longer cycling and so I’m attempting to get out for walks. The exercise and fresh air has to be good for me and the beauty of the natural world is all around me. If I’m not taking pictures on my Galaxy S8 phone then I’m using my Nikon Coolpix. I need to be a little more creative and that will come with time and a little more dedication. Watch this space.

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Artificial Intelligence

I’m not sure how close we are to a robot emulating a human being. Some roboticists claim it could be within the next 20 years but I’m very dubious about these claims. Most of the machines demonstrated so far are “one trick ponies” or rely largely upon big data to answer foolish questions.

They can beat a human playing Go but can the same computer fold the towels (it takes 100 minutes to fold 5 towels) or load the dishwasher? I don’t think so. Humans are complex organisms and there are some things we do, like catching a fast-moving ball, that we don’t even know how we do it. And then we come onto the ethical issues (always assuming we can program a computer to think ethically) – the philosophical debate as to what is “good”, what is the “right” thing to do. After all we asked 65 million people as to whether we should leave the European Union and we couldn’t come up with the right answer.

When we program robots to learn will they learn to behave like us? Will they absorb the seven deadly sins and display: Lust; Gluttony; Greed; Sloth; Wrath; Envy; or Pride. Who knows? We need to get this stuff sorted before too long. We cannot rely on Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics.

Ultimately what’s good for the planet might be the demise of the human race and robots might make that decision – would they be wrong?

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Relationship Nurturing

My ongoing search for a “significant other” continues. There have been some near matches (some good, others not so good) and every time it ends there is a feeling of disappointment. I find it difficult to get to know people in a climate of high expectations and even harder to make the decision to walk away. Usually one or other party loses interest, discovers something that isn’t “right” (whatever that means) or collectively cannot find the time or energy to maintain the connection. Matters of the heart remain a mystery to me.

And then you start all over again… Is it worth it? Hopefully because life has little meaning if it isn’t being shared with someone else. My search so far has led me to meet 12 lovely people who have been interesting and a few of whom have got past the two date level. The first date is quite straightforward, the second date is critical and the third date – well if either of us make it to a third date then it is likely to last at least a month. I haven’t always behaved honourably (that’s by my standards) and I have annoyed a few people on this journey. I’ve learned something from every encounter; my strengths and weaknesses are more apparent and there are some things about myself I didn’t even know. I will endeavour to enjoy the journey, avoid becoming fixated on the outcome and develop a sense of humour about it all. As someone who is prone to plan everything, I enjoy change as long it is from a stable foundation however I don’t have any stability other than from my inner strength and very good friends around me. Onwards and upwards…

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Film Stars Don’t Die – Review

I went to see “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” last night with a friend. It’s the story of Gloria Grahame a film star from the 1940s and 50s who, in her later life had a relationship with a much younger british actor Peter Turner (who wrote the book).

It’s a beautiful story, well put together and superbly played out by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell. Their relationship is totally believable, poignant and tragically sad. I went prepared with several hankies and certainly needed them. If you enjoy a love story then this is one for you…
For a detailed review click here…

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Lights! Action! Exhaustion…

Val organised a few days in a cottage near Durham so the “family” could get to see the Lumiere event. Unfortunately Val wasn’t well enough to attend which was a real shame.

Before travelling into Durham we visited the Shildon Locomotive museum. I do like engineering and it’s interesting to be reminded how we used to lead the world in technology. Politicians try to convince us that we still do however we don’t. Google, Facebook and Uber didn’t start in the UK and the 21st century technologies we did have are now owned by international conglomerates e.g. ARM Holdings.

The rest of the family visited two years ago (November 2015 – Jane and I didn’t go because she wasn’t well enough) and were of the opinion that it wasn’t as good as then but I still enjoyed wandering around the city and looking at the light installations.

On the Saturday the majority decided to go to the Beamish Museum. It isn’t cheap but it is really worthwhile and considering it was a Saturday it wasn’t too crowded.

The old buses and trams are great fun. The area that was set in the 1920s was excellent. Shops full of items that were still in use by my parents in the 1950s, such as a wicker carpet beater and yes you can still buy one on the internet (for heavens sake why?). It was a great day out even if the temperature barely got above 3 degrees all day.

Sunday morning I left ahead of the rest to travel north to the Highlands to visit Tony and Jude. My theory was that Durham is on the way but of course the Highlands are deceptive because Durham is only one third of the way there so I still had a six hour drive.

True to form it rained incessantly for the two days I was there and all the way home but it wasn’t about the weather it was about having a good time with dear friends.
There were times on the way back when I thought I was sailing the MX5 down the motorway rather than driving because it was so wet and windy.

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Seal Pups

Donna Nook is a popular location for grey seal breeding and at this time of year the number of seal pups being born is increasing week by week. The pups are suckled for about 18 days and then the mothers leave them to fend for themselves.

The pups are off the cuteness scale but I’m not so sure about the newborn’s, with blood on them and placenta lying around with magpies making the most of it. The cow seals come on heat immediately after giving birth so the bull seals are quite aggressive with each other and chase off any interlopers as they protect their harems.

The new lens seems to have worked really well. The North Sea wind slices through you so after 45 minutes of seal watching it was time to head for a hot chocolate…

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Seeing, Growing and Doing

After the experience of the sparrow hawk in Nick & Val’s garden and the superb photos  Val captured I thought it was time to upgrade my Panasonic DSLR that Jane bought me when I retired 8 years ago. Yes, I know, it was eight years ago and it seems like only three. The Lumix G1 is an excellent camera giving beautifully clear images.

I’ve bought a secondhand 100 – 300mm zoom lens which looks brand new. Wildlife is difficult to capture at the best of times so this lens will hopefully help me to get some good shots. Next stop Donna Nook to photograph the seal pups.

The vegetable plot is slowly closing down however I’ve just picked the last of my sweet peppers from the potting shed/greenhouse. Now we have had the first frost I decided to dig up a few parsnips. They don’t look too bad and they taste delicious so my dinners are now accompanied by parsnip in all forms – mash, steamed, roasted, and spiralized.

Image result for doug macleod blues singerLast Sunday I went with Dave & Lucie to the Hope Tavern Blues evening to see Doug MacLeod who is a delta blues man. Apart from a problem with the sound system that delayed the start by 30 minutes it was an excellent night of blues music all of it written by Doug MacLeod. He actually met Brownie McGhee, a blues legend. When I was at college I had (or maybe it was Jane’s) a Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee album. Strange how connections go round and round.

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Wildlife, Lectures and Visitors

Our beautiful site here in Lincolnshire has a variety of wildlife from the squirrels that roam across our gardens, the rooks, wood pigeons that frequently fly into the windows (dead I’m afraid), the tawny owls that sit in the trees, the grass snake eating a frog and then today Val and Nick had a sparrow hawk killing and consuming a feral pigeon. Both photos courtesy of Val…

After the initial kill and feather plucking it flew away and then returned later to finish its meal.

I’ve been part of a small team undertaking research with the University of Lincoln investigating the ethical issues of self funding in adult care. The project is a three-year programme funded by the Wellcome Trust. As co-researchers we will be involved in interviewing a variety of people involved in adult care services. It is still in the early stages and the foundations are still being laid. Professor Mo Ray is the lead academic supported by a Fellow PhD. Last night I went to see the Profs inaugural lecture at the university. The lecture is an hour-long so you may wish just to dip into it.

It was fascinating not only because it gave a background to her life and how she came to be where she was but also great insight into the issues of how an ageing population is represented by the media. It was an excellent evening.

Today I was visited by Gary and Caroline. Gary and I worked together for five years and we’ve kept in touch over the past 8 years since I retired. They like travelling in the their motor home and were on a long diversion after a few days in the Peak District before heading back to Oxfordshire.

After a very pleasant lunch at the Advocate Arms and a good catch up, I gave Caroline a tour of the house because she’d never visited before. Caroline is into arts and crafts so she really enjoyed seeing the studio and I was able to persuade her to take some of Jane’s craft books away with her before they get taken to a charity shop.

I really enjoy having visitors…

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Vegetables, Bats and Owls

A mish mash of items but nothing new there. I’ve been persuaded by keen gardener friends to draw up a plan of the vegetable plot for next year so that I can decide what to grow, when to sow and where. It should also help with crop rotation particularly as my memory cells are being covered in amyloid plaques (caused by not enough sleep and closely linked to Alzheimer’s)

The garlic have been planted and are already 10 cms tall; the onions are not far behind. I’m thinking of taking out the herbs because they have spread vigorously, beyond their usefulness. They are also in part of the garden that gets the most sunshine so I might plant flowers that need bright sunlight.

Last night the “family” went to Lincoln University to see a lecture by Chris Packham on Bats and Owls.

Apart from the irritation of waiting in a confined space before they opened the doors we had good seats.

He was excellent – informative and very amusing. Of course the stars of the show were the owls but let’s not forget the pipistrelle bat that was brought on at the beginning – very cute.
Having described how owls are so beautifully developed for hunting we then had a demonstration of several owls flying across the audience and in one instance landing on a man’s head.

After the lecture we walked over to Prezzo’s on Brayford Wharf for dinner. A good evening was had by all.

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Thinking Aloud (again)

I’ve never believed in luck – good or bad. Stuff sometimes just happens! The MX5 is starting to disprove my commitment to this belief because… it gets a cracked windscreen within 200 miles from new; the process to get it changed is tortuous and then today when they came to finally fix it the chaps laid some of the plastic housing on the grass and… yes, piglet ran over one piece and scratched it. The robot mower moves randomly and takes many hours to cover the whole lawn so how come it happened to be in the one square metre where these pieces of plastic were placed? What are the odds? After a brief “discussion” where the guys suggested I claim off my insurance – what, for their stupidity? It was rapidly agreed they would  order a new part and replace on a revisit. Won’t this annoyance ever go away?

Despite all that nonsense I had a lovely day pottering about in the garden. Cutting back autumn raspberries – wrong time of year did I hear you say? Do I look bothered? It’s a raspberry cane, it’s got two choices – live or die. There are plenty of punnets of raspberries in Tesco. I’d forgotten how absorbing pottering can be – forget the big stuff and attend to the little things. As an example I split a planter of crocosmia (used to be called Montbretia – go figure) and put half into another planter; very enjoyable.

The vegetable plot is looking tidy. The garlic and onions for next year are doing well so I need to start to plan what is going where. The last of the celeriac came out – lessons learned: slugs find them very tasty (as do I) so they need slug pelleting and I need to water them more often next year. And now I have a plan of what will go where in 2018 – this level of organisation is almost frightening.

With the evenings drawing in I’ve started to light the log burner earlier which means cutting the wood that has been seasoning in one corner of the garden. The log bins are only half full so there’s plenty to be done and I might have to buy, yes, “buy” some wood before spring arrives.

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Another Year Older

Firstly – thanks to all those who sent birthday cards and good wishes. Another year older, only two years until I’m 70 which somehow is significant. I find birthdays quite depressing.

I visited Yorkshire Sculpture Park with a friend and we had a pleasant day, the weather was excellent, managing to sit outside on the cafe balcony for morning coffee and lunch.

It’s always fascinating to wander around and get up close to the sculptures whether it is Henry Moore, Elizabeth Frink, Barbara Hepworth or Ai WeiWei. In the past it has been possible to touch many of the installations but at the moment there are ropes around some of them.

It was such a sunny day I managed to drive all the way home with the roof down – glorious.

During the week I had Martin and Kate (Bulgaria now Portugal family contingent) staying with me which was a pleasant change from an empty house and enjoyed acting as host, whether it was cooking the evening meal or simply serving toast and marmalade for breakfast.

I was lucky enough to get two cakes for my birthday: Sue made a beautiful chocolate cake and Lucie produced a great carrot cake.

The family (9 in attendance) had lunch at Market Rasen Golf Club and a good time was had by all or at least that was what they said. The next time we will all be together again is at the family holiday in Norfolk next May.

It’s Autumn so the leaves are now falling in masses every day blanketing the lawns. It’s been very windy (storm Brian) so that has increased the drop. On Friday I took 5 bags of leaves to the tip (run out of space to compost them) and I filled them all again when I got back.

To hand scrape the lawns takes two hours – it’s all good exercise.

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Gardening in October

Considering we’re halfway through October there are still pockets of colour in the garden which is lovely to see. Over the next month the trees will continuously dump their leaves over the lawns and despite my best efforts it’s impossible to keep them clear.

I’m still eating vegetables from the garden – potatoes, carrots and celeriac with a small cucumber and a few peppers.

The vegetable plot gives me a great deal of pleasure; I’ve already planted garlic and a couple of rows of early onions. I do need to plan for next year…

 

And finally, I washed the car (cracked windscreen and all).  My beautiful home and an iconic car.

I should be happy…

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Cars, Film and Theatre

An update on the new MX5 – after only 200 miles there was a crack in the windscreen which, after careful examination, the dealer informed me was caused by a stone and there was a minute chip. This was just the beginning of a silly saga. The insurance covered the windscreen replacement with a £100 excess however it seems the insurance doesn’t cover the recalibration of the camera in the screen and this may cost another ridiculous amount of money.
Today two technicians turned up to replace the screen only to tell me they couldn’t do it because, although they had the screen, they didn’t have the colour matched panels on the sides and the top. These wouldn’t arrive until next Tuesday. So why bother to arrange this appointment? It’s strange this kind of frustration doesn’t worry me anymore – nobody died so why get worked up about it? Life’s too short…

Last Sunday I went to see Blade Runner 2049 with a friend. The original Blade Runner is an iconic film and I was probably expecting too much. This version was too long, had a thin plot with some dubious science throughout. There were references to replicants having “virgin” births where the new “messiah” was valued and revered. If you make a replicant why like a production line why give it a womb?

I admit I’m being a bit harsh; I liked the special effects and overall enjoyed the film but it wasn’t groundbreaking or iconic…

On Tuesday evening I went to a U3A organised visit to Louth Riverhead Theatre to see a Shakespeare Revue performed by the local amateur group. They were good however the whole performance was spoiled by some deranged member of the audience who had the most lengthy, loud laugh. Rather than focussing on the activity on the stage I sat waiting for the next outburst of inappropriate cackling. The cast did an incredible job of staying with the script and there were times when they had to adapt to the buffoon.

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Life is for Living

It’s a worthwhile reminder that life is for living and not something to be frittered away by spending too much time looking backwards although the past has made us who we are.

In the absence of Lucie (Canada visit) Dave and I went to the Broadbent Theatre to see a light-hearted comedy about the life of Charles Darwin. It’s a lovely place, set in the heart of the countryside and sadly it wasn’t a full house.

On Saturday night Dave and I went to Market Rasen Festival Hall to see a couple of modern folk singers – Flossie Malavialle and Edwina Hayes. It was a good evening however I felt the humorous introductions to some of the songs were a little too long.

I decided that the Hospice Garden needed some TLC so I’ve spent a couple of hours dead heading and generally making sure it was neat and tidy. One of the Yew balls has died so Caitlin is making enquiries as to where we can get another one. The other Yew balls are doing very well and will require a trim to keep them in shape, probably in the spring.

Thankfully the silver birches are looking very healthy but then again they would because they have Jane’s ashes scattered over them.

On a bright, sunny day in early October it was a very peaceful place to be.

As part of the U3A I organised a car full of people to visit Lincoln University for their Lights research open day. It was disappointing that out of 330 members I could only find 4 other people to join me at a free event.

It was aimed at school children so we were advised to turn up after 1pm. Some of the “attractions” were overblown and a little disappointing although I did like the two lecturers who were demonstrating 3D scanning and printing although they did haven’t a printer on show. I challenged them to scan my face which they amusingly did, unfortunately the scanner cannot cope with a beard or moustache so it loses a lot in translation. Maybe a death mask?

This external booth was demonstrating the way people became astronauts and the work that took place on the International Space Station.

Unfortunately we didn’t see the end because it was 6pm and time to leave so everyone made their way back to my car and we headed for home. As an overall showcase for the university there is room for improvement and I will write with some suggestions when I get a moment.
And finally – there is always an “and finally” – I spent today with my college friends Tim & Wid and Susie & Jon at Clumber Park. It’s a great venue with a number of walks one of which we did around the lake (4 miles?) before having lunch.
We’ve known each other nearly 50 years and whenever we meet it’s like going back in time. The wit and repartee hasn’t improved but it is still in existence. Always good to see them…

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Five Star Speedster

The day arrived when, after twelve months of scary fun in the Lotus I’ve made a mature decision and toned down the speed by a notch (0 -60 5.2 seconds to 7.4 seconds). What the change will give me is 5* comfort and the ability to drive for more than 2 hours without feeling crippled and of course it is so much easier to get in and out.

If I had a three car garage I would have been tempted to keep the Lotus because I did love it but it was time to move on.

As the proud owner of a Mazda MX5 RF 2 litre Sport Nav 160PS in machine grey I look forward to getting out in it. After a quick run round my favourite roads I know it will be my preferred vehicle unless there are floods, snow or I’m giving a lift to more than one person. The adventure starts here…

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Rest Days

I don’t allow myself rest days. There are days when I don’t have anything in my diary and on those days I write a list of things that need to be done. This week I run the lawnmower over the lawns to pick up the leaves which have started to fall and swept the drive with Dave. This spruced up the look of the house for at least 24 hours until more leaves drift down.
I’m still managing to get myself sufficiently motivated to go for a cycle in the early mornings. I confess that I’m tending to put my head down and try to beat my best time (53 mins)(competitive? never) however I cannot fail to see the road kill – two badgers and a muntjac deer. One of the badgers keeps being dragged off the verge probably by a fox as it tries to rip the meat off it. So every day I pull it back onto the verge – it’s surprisingly heavy.
And the morning light is different every time I go out. Here we have “mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Thankfully it hasn’t been too cold although it was only 5 degrees C one day – a portent of what’s to come.

In the spring of last year I was thinking that I would abandon Jane’s vegetable plot, turf it over and concentrate on the flower beds. How I have changed. I get so much pleasure from the vegetable garden (a bit fed up with runner beans and courgettes for dinner). I’m not only planning what to grow next year I’ve already planted garlic and onion sets. As for the flower beds, they’ve been a bit neglected so I now need to change my focus and do some serious reorganisation. More thought required…

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This and That…

I’m aware that it is over a week since my last posting and I haven’t been idle although a lot of what I do is quite ordinary. I’m trying to cycle 10 miles two or three times a weeks – this is a time trial not a gentle ride and at the moment I’ve peaked at covering the circuit in 54 minutes. It’s getting tougher because I set off just after 7 am so it’s now quite chilly however I feel a lot better for it.

When it’s wet or windy I go for a walk on another circuit which is around four miles and takes a little over an hour. At least on the walk I take time to photograph the trees which are looking beautiful before the autumn leaf drop starts.

The vegetable garden is coming to an end so the last potatoes are out of the ground; Bramley apples have been picked and pureed; courgettes finished; runner beans now stringy; carrots ready for eating and the peppers quite small.

I’ve also been privileged to see a painting that my college friend Tim has done. It was taken from a photograph he took on the last occasion Jane and I were out together. She, as always, with that wonderful smile that melted my heart all those years ago.

And of course West Wolds U3A continues to keep me busy as chairman and also on visits such as the one to Sheffield Assay Office and Cutler’s Hall with a quick stroll around the galleries in the Winter Garden.

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Garden to Plate

As autumn streams in upon us and my thoughts turn to making adjustments in the garden it is always satisfying to bring into the house a selection of produce from the vegetable plot.

The beetroot has been magnificent and I’ve already pickled enough to fill three kilner jars which should last until next summer. The onions (red and white) although not massive have produced sufficient for me to store away in a pair of Jane’s tights (they keep dry and don’t sprout). I will use the onions over the next 10 months. After a late start the runner beans are overwhelming and I cannot eat enough so must put some out at the top of the drive (free to a “good” home). The courgettes are doing well and I keep picking them so they don’t get too large. Finally, for the time being the carrots are good, if a little small, however I need to do better next year. Still to come is the celeriac (experimental) and the parsnips.

Lessons learned: Sow fewer beetroot and runner beans; more carrots; and be careful in my choice of courgette variety – I like the striped kind. I shall also plant garlic this autumn because I’ve started using it in my cooking.

Then there’s the meal I produce from all this “stuff”: Roasted beetroot; carrots and runners with spiralized courgette and salmon flavoured with rosemary (from the garden) on a bed of pesto mash (my King Edward potatoes.

I’m trying to lose a little weight (78Kgs) and I know it’s all healthy food but there’s just too much…

Off to pick more runner beans and set up my stall at the top of the drive.

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London Visit

A few days away in London staying with Richard and Nicola is an opportunity to appreciate the culture of the city with very knowledgeable guides.

First stop was the Matisse exhibition at the Royal Academy. It was a collection of the items Matisse had in his studio and how he included them into his works of art. It was a crowded event and at times it was almost impossible to step back and appreciate the work.

After a picnic (courtesy of Pret a Manger) on deck chairs in Green Park we walked up to the National Portrait Gallery for the BP exhibition. It struck me that none of the portraits depicted people smiling and I haven’t been to explain why this might be. Any artists out there with an explanation I would appreciate hearing why this might be the case.

We finished the day off watching Tom Cruise in American Made.

It was based on the true story of a TWA pilot who goes to work for the CIA initially photographing communist insurgents in South America and then gun running for the CIA and returning from his trips with drugs for the cartels.

He makes so much money he doesn’t know what to do with it and struggles to launder it. Not a great movie but worth seeing when it arrives on our TV screens.

On Saturday we went for 9 mile walk through the Chilterns around Berkhamsted. I don’t think I’ve walked so far for several months. The beech woods were very special and it wasn’t unusual to see deer. We stopped for lunch in the shadow of Bridgewater Monument which was delightful.

Sunday and we started the day with a swim – another activity I haven’t done for nearly a year and I still found the energy to complete a half mile but it took a lot longer than it used to. I need to get fitter and make time to go swimming at Louth.

Richard and I then drove into the wilds of Essex to Hedingham Castle to view classic Porsches. There were some beautiful cars with matching prices.

A fabulous weekend…

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