The fact that mobile phones have become so popular has long amazed me. They must be the most successful almost totally unnecessary gimmick of all time. They are intrusive, unreliable, absurdly expensive, and, judging by the people who use them and get irritated when their own phone rings(!), one of the greatest avoidable stress-inducing factors in modern life. Read here about Bluejacking, the latest problem with the latest technology. Iâ€ve added a page detailing all my rants about this bizarre must-have for tots, teens, gadget freaks and don't even get me started on text messaging. I spent too long at school learning to put the vowels IN to words. Mr abt tht nthr tm prhps!!
The pre-Christmas build up is gathering momentum. I am close to getting the Phil Spector Christmas Album spinning... I unashamedly love all aspects of Christmas, from carols to commercialisation.
IF you have a lot of spare time, try Blokus, the 2002 European Game of the Year. It is unbelievably addictive, ideal for players of ages 5-105, easy to learn with only two rules and totally essential to my life!! Play it online or buy a real set. If you play the online single player game, you can disconnect from the Internet as soon as the game has loaded. The "real" version retails at £17.99 in the UK. It's great for 1-4 players. It's been described as Tetris without a computer. It can be an intellectual game, it can help children with spatial awareness or it can be an evil and cunning game of strategy.
If you use eBay, be very careful. There are many reports of people receiving very convincing fake emails asking for your user ID and password. I've had two myself, and I can imagine that many people are taken in by them.
It's been quiet here of late. We've had a few walks in Bushy and Richmond Park. The nights are drawing in. Last week I briefly met Jerry Sadowitz, the comedian, magician and outrageous chat show host.
I was just surprised to see Concorde fly very noisily overhead...
If you are a Londoner, vote in the Big Smoking Debate, and make London a smoke-free city.
On Thursday I visited Twickenham Beer Festival, an annual event. I can strongly recommend Red McGregor ale, from the Orkney Brewery. Also Barm Pot from the Goose Eye Brewery.
On Saturday Alice and I walked from Shepperton, a few miles up the Thames, back to Hampton, on the far bank. It was a wonderful autumnal day, and we twice crossed the river by passenger ferry. Yesterday we watched a pair of energetic stags battling it out for supremacy in Bushy Park. They were like a pair of Sumo wrestlers, struggling earnestly against each other, antlers interlocked, but hardly giving any ground.
Happy Birthday to David, Alice's brother-in-law!
I'm booked for keyhole surgery to have my gall bladder removed. No date set, but I said I would be available at 24 hours' notice, at West Middlesex Hospital. I'd have four slit scars, about the width of a finger.
It would hurt for a week afterwards. I would need lots of love and candy to get over it.
I have added many of my own photographs of Teddington and Bushy Park to the Teddington page.
One of my puzzle designs, Tri-Clops, is featured on the LiveCube web site. Read more about it here.
If you are really bored or in need of cheering up, try this. You will smile for the rest of the day.
I've just finished reading "The Grand Complication" by Allen Kurzweil. It's one of the most unusual novels I've ever read. The hero is a New York librarian, who unwittingly gets involved in a search for an 18th century pocket watch. It features furniture with secret compartments, bibliokleptomania, prestidigitisation (that is spelled correctly), roll-playing (so was that), an incredible contest between librarians to find who is the greatest expert on the Dewey Decimal Cataloguing system, (the winner defines a book catalogue entry to 17 places, and gets to be Lord of Misrule in the library for the rest of the day), solanders, snow globes, a girdle book, a six-lap race around the Reading Room in rubbish skips, abecedarian lust, heraldry, a man with very wide wale, and retrospective conversion.
It was so good, I might immediately reread it.
For the last two months builders have been converting the house next door, and the one next door to that, into two self-contained flats. They are close to completion, thankfully, and each of the four flats is expected to sell for what you could have bought both houses for, when we moved here seven years ago.
Be on the lookout for bogus email headed "Internet Critical Update", it's full of nasty stuff.
On Saturday we had a long walk in Bushy Park and were astonished by the rutting antics of some of the large stag deer. Also on Saturday it was the 40th birthday party of our friend Hilary, who we know from the Abercorn Arms. Her theme was 1940s, so we saw a wacky mixture of Churchill, ARP wardens, Luftwaffe, the Andrews Sisters, army uniforms, and many more 1940s themed costumes. Alice and I decked ourselves out in flags and bunting, and went as a VE Day Parade. As always, Hilary's catering was incredible. Lighting was difficult, but see the pictures.
Yesterday we had a full English breakfast at Mimmo's cafe in Teddington, then walked to the river at Teddington Lock, across Ham Lands, up to Richmond Park, across the park, over the A3 and right across Wimbledon common, and into Wimbledon, before getting the train back. In Richmond Park we were again entertained by the bellowing and roaring of the deer. We also read that as part of their mating ritual the stags crash through the undergrowth, and try to 'decorate' their impressive antlers with bracken. We were delighted to actually see a stag with bracken on its antlers.
Here is the most boring grid square on UK Ordnance Survey maps. It's near Ousefleet in Lincolnshire.
Last Saturday Alice and I met with Lucy, her old Lambeth Palace Library colleague. It was Lucy's 30th birthday.
Last night Alice and I saw GB Shaw's 'Arms and the Man' at Richmond theatre.
If you are really bored try this site, and try and beat my best time of 0.27 of a second.
Recently I've been meddling with software for generating computer images. See the results.
Happy 30th birthday to Lucy!!! Yes, she really is that old, and last week she was featured on Woman's Hour on BBC Radio Four, talking about life before the telephone. We were out.
I want this page to be quick-loading, but I've decided to add a picture, as you can see above. It will change regularly and will reflect something Alice or I have been doing. This page is rapidly becoming one of the most popular places on the Internet, for people who want to know what we've been doing! Add it to your bookmarks.
When we were on holiday in Chicago we needed to use the Internet for something. We went to Chicago's excellent library and were helped by the wonderful staff. The only problem was we didn't know the URL of the site we wanted, as we usually select it from our browser's Favourites menu. On our return I found some software for changing that menu and all the sub-menus into a web page. So here are the pages we visit most, plus lots that are on our menu because nobody here has tidied them up! I hope you find them useful or at least interesting, but the links won't be regularly checked, and there is no need to let us know if any of them don't work.
It's been a very military weekend for Alice and I. It was the weekend when many private buildings were open to the public, so we visited Kneller Hall, in Twickenham, home of the Royal School of Music, where potential Band Masters are trained. We'd passed the building many times, and it was interesting to see inside, and to visit the museum, which houses many musical instruments, both military and ethnic from around the world. (I discovered that a bamboo ethnic musical instrument I own is an angklong!) There's even a bugle that was used in the Crimean War. It also houses the original manuscripts for "Colonel Bogie" and "A Life on the Ocean Wave".
On Sunday we visited the Royal Star & Garter Home for disabled ex-servicemen, at the top of Richmond Hill. It was built at the end of World War One, on the site of earlier hotels and public houses. It was designed to make life as good as possible for severely wounded servicemen. See the pictures. The view from the rear of the home, over Ham and the Thames at Twickenham is one of the finest in Greater London, even without Alice adorning the balcony. The garden is peaceful.
Earlier in the week a BBC Radio Two programme on buildings gave rise to a mini on-air debate about the pronunciation of 'subsidence'. I sent presenter Jeremy Vine the following useful contribution, which he read out.
"Jeremy, I say 'subsidence', but I'm starting to lean the other way."
Happy Birthday Michael on Monday!!
Alice and I visited Katherine & Michael, her parents, in Hindhead, for a belated party to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. That's the ruby one. Pictures here or use the link to the picture gallery on the home page.
On Monday Alice had the day off, so we got the bus to Leatherhead and completed the last part of the 15 mile Kingston to Dorking ThamesDown Link path, which we had started earlier in the year. The last third was the prettiest and the hilliest, going around the base of Box Hill to Dorking.
Read the story of an unwanted guest here.
Further to the problems I had with the camera in Boston & Chicago, I have managed to use some very advanced software to recover a further 460 pictures, which will appear on the holiday pictures page in a week or two. Good news indeed. Also I do intend writing an account of the whole trip.
We went to Oxford to visit Tim, one of Alice's Nottingham University friends. He's a primary school teacher, and he's spent the summer decorating his new house, close to the centre of Oxford. We walked all around the meadows and colleges.
I'm currently listening to the greatest hits of the late singer guitarist Jake Thackray, he's sort of in the style of Flanders & Swann, lots of clever rhymes and witty lyrics. I'm reading "Knots & Crosses", a novel by Ian Rankin, and also "Country Roads" by Brian Hinton, about the Celtic roots of Country Music. Alice has just finished reading "Evangeline" by HW Longfellow. She was inspired by our visit to his house while we were in Boston.
We read in the local papers that a murder took place on Bank Holiday Monday, outside the shops, a mere 120 yards away from our door, following a domestic dispute in which a local man was stabbed in front of his two small children. Police are seeking an illegal Iraqi Kurd immigrant.
I've had a 'Hit Counter' a digital display counting visitors, on my puzzle page for over a year now. I'll be removing it as I have just read an article, summarised here, which raises the question of "What is a hit?" It's a very valid question. Imagine you count the number of visitors coming to your house. A friend arrives, you count him as one. Then all your family arrive. Is that one visit or several? Do you count tradesmen? Do you count repeat visits? See what I mean? Unless anyone viewing the statistics knows what parameters were used, they are meaningless numbers. Instead of a counter I now include a graph and table which assess all the different aspects of visits to this site. They need to be taken as a whole, but resoundingly they show an impressive and maintained rise in popularity.
It's been a very aquatic time for us recently. The Bank Holiday weekend was a long one as Alice had Tuesday off as well. On Saturday our friend Tim took us on his converted police launch. We went from Thames Ditton to Shepperton lock and back. Pictures here.
On Monday we walked along the Thames from Richmond Bridge to Kew Bridge, then, after a short bus ride into Brentford, we walked along the canal almost to Southall. An excellent walk, and the canal has been very much cleaned up, ready for extensive new developments in Brentford.
On Tuesday we visited Barnes Wetlands, a former reservoir, now a bird sanctuary. We can't recommend it too strongly. Pictures, in a slightly different format, the summary page pictures are larger. Is this a good thing, or do they load too slowly?
Earlier this year, before the start of this page, we walked from Kingston to Chessington, the first part of the ThamesDown Link path, which ultimately goes all the way to Dorking on the North Downs, about 15 miles. The initial town part of the walk follows the Hogsmill River upstream from its confluence with the Thames. Today we returned to Chessington and continued the walk through Horton Country Park, Ashtead Common and Epsom Woods to Leatherhead. We saw a marker post for a Permanent Orienteering Course, and are considering this as a new activity. One day we will complete the Leatherhead to Dorking section of the Link.
Alice was on various training courses last week, and returns to proper work today.
Following our use of EasyCar last month, Alice searched on the Internet for EasyCar and Teddington to see if they had a local pickup point. Interestingly the only hit was this page, which contains both terms. Any text I add to this site can be found with an Internet search after just a week or two. Incredible.
At the request of Chris, the weather, along with a European weather satellite photograph, is once again available from the homepage. Chris insisted on inches of mercury. Be warned that you will spend hours reading the weather on this compulsive site!
There are now lots of holiday pictures available for that cosy night in. More to come next week. See the homepage for details.
Yesterday, while adding to this page, I saw a squirrel running back and forth, up and down the roof of the house opposite. (I clearly have an easy life...) Being an excellent neighbour I left them a note about Mr. Squirrel. Tonight I met Tuesday from across the road. She was grateful to hear about my observation, but, unbelievably, her partner's name is Mr. Munday (or Mr. Monday). I told her I knew of Tuesday Weld, the actress who starred with Elvis in 'Wild in the Country', amongst other rockin' 50s movies, such as "Rock, Rock, Rock".
Earlier today I had a marathon game of 15-spot dominoes with Fred. I whupped him.
While in America I had problems with my digital camera and lost lots of pictures, but with my IT genius I salvaged a lot and they will be coming soon. Boston pictures. This is where we stayed. It was wonderful.
I'm sad that Sam Phillips the record producer who discovered Elvis and is widely credited with pioneering the rock'n'roll revolution died while we were away. I didn't know until today. He was a big influence on my musical likes. I met him very briefly three years ago. He was 80.
I have been told, following an ultrasound scan that I have 50-60 gall stones. I've been getting very occasional (every couple of years) very severe pain below my right ribs for about 15 years. Yesterday temperatures in SE England smashed all records with 101F.
Hey, we're back from our holiday in Boston and Chicago. Check back here in a few days for the Boston story and the Chicago story. It's been a bit of a shock finding that temperatures here in London are higher than in Chicago!!
Also, belated congratulations to Alice's parents, Michael & Katherine, on the 40th anniversary of their wedding!!! That's the Ruby one!!
And finally for this update, our next door neighbours of the last 6 years, Peter & Julie, moved to Shrewsbury. The builders have moved in next door, and if you can hear me over the noise, they have started converting the house into two flats.
Happy Bastille Day to all our French readers.
Surprisingly, I replaced the roof felt on the shed. Unbelievable.
An excellent barbecue at Nick and Rachel's in Hertford, after a quick walk around what is a surprisingly nice town.
Alice and I stayed with her parents in Hindhead after the picnic, and went geocaching this morning, before lunch at the Barley Mow at Tilford.
The big annual 4th July picnic, organised by Alice's mother. This year it was at West Dean, just north of Chichester in Hampshire. Pictures. Alice and I decided to hire a car from EasyCar. Because we had booked a long time in advance it only cost £19 for the weekend, but we had to queue for an hour to collect it.
Martin went to a puzzle party.
Alice met Chino, her old Nottingham friend from Japan, who is now living in Paris.
The Friends Gallery is now ready for viewing, from the Homepage.
We went to the Radnor Gardens Blues Festival in Twickenham, on the riverside.
Alice and I visited the sick daughter of a friend in hospital.
I've been using Mozilla Composer for creating and updating these web pages for the last week or two. It is a lot easier and more reliable than using MS Word. I am still having slight problems being consistent with the the font size. Any comments are most welcome. The 'new' pages are marked at the foot of each one.
I went to Devon for a summer Puzzle Party, Alice went to Hindhead for Fathers Day.
Alice and I had a walk in Home Park, one of the great undiscovered Royal Parks.
I was interviewed about geocaching by BBC Radio Solent.
We retraced Alice's walk of 7 June from her extensive notes, and I was very impressed with the 20th Century Garden in Hampton Court, which we had never seen before.
I visited Ham Village Fair and Alice went on a walk with the Friends of Bushy Park to look at "Trees of Hampton Court.
Alice has now been at her new job with the Home Office for a month. Her best experience so far is sharing a lift with David Blunkett's dog Sadie.
Count Otto von Bismarck enters a loud sports pub and sees a football match on the big screen. "Who iss playing in zis game, bitte?", he says to a bar spectator. "Austria-Hungary", came the reply. Otto then said, "Ach, so! Against who?"
We walked through Ham Lands, the nature reserve across the Thames from Teddington, to explore the area behind Ham House.
We got the bus to Dorking and walked on the North Downs at Ranmore Common.
We met up in London (Village Games) with Jim and Karen, puzzlers from Dublin.
Nick and his new wife Rachel visited us for a barbecue.
Alice (008!) started her new job at the Home Office.
We, along with Lucy and Simon, visited Catherine and John on their farm near Amersham.
Geocaching with Chris at Brookwood Cemetery.
We spent a wonderful week in Derbyshire, staying on a farm B&B run by former Blue Peter presenter Simon Groom, and his wife Gilly. One evening in a pub we got talking to a couple, and the girl recognised Alice from a swimming pool in Nottingham in the late 1980s! The singer with a blues group we saw inspired me to take up the harmonica YET AGAIN. Wail on!