The Pig Yard

March 10 - every month just seems to zip by and apart from everything else we are always happy just to be fit and healthy although this month Jane has struggled with a serious cough followed rapidly by a sore throat. As always Steve leads a charmed life and despite sharing the same bed, teaspoons, and other personal items he remains untouched - for the time being, and just as well because we all know how bad men are when they get a slight sniffle. Towards the end of the month Jane had a tooth extraction but made light of the experience despite some bruising and a bleeding gum.

Each month we're trying to get away for a few days or to take in cultural events and this month we've managed to do both as you will read below.

At long last Jane took possession of her new Smart Car. It was all a bit of a rush at the garage because she needed to get back to work. Unfortunately these days car showrooms insist on taking you through the finance options, introductions to  the service department manager and a run through of the car instrumentation. What it didn't include was showing us where the handbook was "stored". After a phone call later in the week we discovered the handbook behind the drivers seat just slipping around on the floor. We thought that with so much design thinking that as gone into the Smart there would be a special pocket for the handbook.

The satnav system is very sophisticated because it keeps information about every journey and servicing - it has a thick handbook all to itself.

The car has performed well but isn't achieving the claimed 80 miles per gallon but the engine is still very new so we're hoping it will get better as it gets above 1,000 miles.

Jane's new Smart Car

Next Stage of bedroom remodelling

Our ideas to remodel the guest bedroom are beginning to take shape. Apart from the folding doors that were installed during January we now have a window in the end wall to throw even more light into the bedroom.

A good friend is doing a marvellous job knocking holes in walls to make the bathroom next door into an en-suite bathroom. We've now chosen the tiles for the floor and walls, the bathroom suite and shower has been delivered so within the next month it should all be tidied up and ready for habitation.

At the moment we are having to go out of the back door to get into the work area because it has been sealed off from the rest of the house whilst all the dust is being created but soon it will opened up again - we are really looking forward to it. More next month.

Its been nine years since we went to the Eden Project so we returned to see how the site had matured - click here for a backward look at 2001. There seem to be more domes open and the outdoor gardens have all been planted and are maturing extremely well. The site is well planned which can be considered as a positive because it has clear structure and the visitor is almost directed to what to see next however this can also be a negative because it has an obviously artificial look and feel.

We enjoyed our visit and spent over three hours wandering around, appreciating plants and learning about food stuffs and materials from all over the world. It is a site dedicated to recycling and saving the planet so for the more cynical amongst our group it was a little overbearing. Steve specifically has this notion that it is only the arrogance of man that wishes to save the planet for ourselves - if human beings were to die out but other creatures lived on, would that be such a bad outcome?

Eden project domes

Heligan sculpture

The Lost Gardens of Heligan is a great contrast to the Eden Project and we were determined to revisit despite it being much earlier in the year to our last visit and we wouldn't be seeing the gardens at their best. Despite the time of the year and the coldness of the day we were blessed with clear skies and Heligan proved, once again, to be a truly magical place. At one point Steve came over all emotional with the stillness and natural beauty of the place and he was full of deep sighs and love of life.

Apart from the reclining mud maiden and the trolls head that had naturalised since our last visit there was also the metal woven sculpture pictured here that stood amongst the trees and gave a very subtle outline. It was constructed to depict a ghost like figure that allegedly walked along this particular path.

Unfortunately the rest of the group had decided to travel to St Ives so they missed the Heligan experience but we wrapped ourselves up in the atmosphere for almost the whole time we were there - a very memorable day.

Our cinema visit this month with our friend Lucie, was the 3D version of Alice in Wonderland. Everyone knows the story and this version with Alice as a young lady about to be married off is really quite different with parts from both of the Alice stories (Wonderland and Looking Glass) being combined. The effects were superb and Johnny Depp stole the show despite Mia Wasikowska having the wistful, wan face of an older Alice.

The film acts as a reminder to the fact that Lewis Carroll was a genius.

Overall we loved it and it was money well spent or at least it would have been if we hadn't used some of our Tesco vouchers to buy the tickets.

For a more in depth critique click here...

Alice in Wonderland

Portico Quartet

Graham and Sue invited us to a performance by the Portico Quartet at the Royal Theatre, Northampton. They are a group that Graham, Sue, Dave and Lucie saw busking on the South Bank in London and were impressed by their unusual jazz rhythms. Steve wasn't so sure about the evening because it was fully instrumental and he struggled to pick up any meaning from it without words whereas Jane just loved the very different instruments and the way they were used to produce some fabulously, interesting music.

Each player had an opportunity to demonstrate their skills on their instruments to incredible effect. Overall it was a good night out and everyone enjoyed it in their own way.

Our final evening of culture this month was at the Royal Theatre to see Clive Mantle give a celebration of the comedic skills of Tommy Cooper. He managed to capture both the humorous one liners, the surreal look at life and of course Tommy Cooper's inept magic tricks.

The first half was focussed on his stage act but after the interval the performance went back stage to see Cooper drinking heavily, unsure and insecure of his capabilities and indicating the future outcome of a comic genius who had already suffered a heart attack but continued to smoke, drink and eat erratically.

If you are old enough to remember the hey day of Tommy Cooper on television and were a fan then this show will not disappoint you. To watch the beginning of one of his classic shows click here...

Tommy Cooper evening

Apple iPhone

We became a complete iPhone family this month with Jane purchasing one to match Steve's. Initially the new phone was cursed because it was difficult to get do the simplest of things like make a phone call or text however after two weeks Jane is now an expert, downloading her own Apps and making the most of her new device.

Steve transferred all of the music from her old Sony MP3 player after converting them from the Sony Atrac version into true MP3. The iPhone plugs into the Smart Car sound system so Jane has a choice of over 1,000 tracks whenever she's driving which makes her a very happy driver.

Steve says:

Steve's Blog

Modern life never ceases to amaze me as to how bizarre and surreal it can be. We had a visit on Sunday morning from a couple of Jehovah's Witnesses. When I was a youth I would enjoy baiting them on the doorstep with such jibes as "how can we all fit into heaven and if there is room what do people do all day?" Always sounded boring to me. This time they gave me a flyer and left without giving me a chance to try my old debating skills. Of course the flyer was immediately recycled without passing go and it occurred to me that the recycling of the paper was a similar cycle of events to that of the story of Christ's death and resurrection - the piece of paper has a better chance of coming back as something useful.

Another surreal incident was a phone call from a company selling me a service to stop junk phone calls. I had to speak very slowly to explain the stupidity of someone calling me to sell a service to stop them calling me. This sounds a bit like asking for money with menaces. Having spelled out my thoughts on this I was surprised, nay shocked, to get another two calls during the day from the same company innocently asking why I would refuse such a great service. I had to threaten them with reporting them to Ofcom and insisting under the Data Protection Act to remove my name and telephone number from their system. It seemed to work because we've heard nothing since.

I continue to meet up with my colleagues from work and I'm fascinated by the way nothing changes and progress is slow usually due to a lack of preparedness for cultural change. In some ways it's good to be outside the system being able to look in and be objective although I still have massive loyalty to my ex colleagues. I'm thinking of doing an academic course next year and using the disparity between cultural change and technological advancement as an idea for a thesis. The possibility is that by next year I shall be so busy doing nothing I won't want to be distracted by academia which undoubtedly would drive me mad having to write 25,000 word dissertations when it could all be summed up in a 1,000.

And finally to television. I love to watch TV and I believe the BBC is the best television service in the world however the last three months have proven to be a very sparse period apart from Being Human and Nurse Jacky previously mentioned in January. Next month appears to be a new start with the start of the new Doctor Who, Ashes to Ashes final series and another series of Outnumbered - bring it all on...