caddyman: (Default)
I see that my old Live Journal entries (and comments) have now migrated across to Dreamwidth, so I guess there is no longer any reason to keep the LJ going. I shall leave it where it is just long enough to work out if I want to be bothered extracting old photos from the site and potentially relinking to them in Dreamwidth.

I suspect that I already know the answer to that, though. I haven’t looked at them in years, so…

Anyway, that’s a job for, perhaps, the Easter weekend, when we have already decided that we are going back into hibernation.

Time to move

Saturday, April 8th, 2017 08:36 pm
caddyman: (Default)
You may have noticed that I've not posted here for ages. To be fair, I've not posted anywhere for ages (other than FarceBork and Twitter).

I am in the process of copying my entire LJ archive across to Dreamwidth. I might be a less frequent visitor than of yore, but I can't *quite* give up on the idea, or face losing my archive of faff back to 2003.

On the assumption that the migration works, I shall eventually delete this journal and post there, instead. The only reason is that I'm not sure about the new Putin-friendly Terms and Conditions.

Anyway, the switch hasn't happened yet, but my Dreamwidth account is open for business. I'm still Caddyman over there and you're all welcome.
caddyman: (baffled)
It seems that the Gin Palace is hosting a mouse. I say ‘a mouse’ it’s probably multiple mice; it would be too much to hope that there’s just one of the little brutes.

We (well, mainly [ profile] ellefurtle) first noticed a musty smell a fortnight ago, that we couldn’t pin down and then we found little poo beads in corners, which we hovered up. There didn’t seem to be much, if any, activity and we naively assumed that the cats had found one, played with it and disposed of it. The worry at that point was that we would find maybe half a mouse at some point.

But we didn’t. Instead I found it very much alive and well, thank you so much. So out we went and obtained traps, which it promptly ignored. Peppers nearly caught it on a foray into the living room while I was working from home, but it got away – that might have been my fault as in an attempt to clear impedances from the cat’s way, I made escape easier for the mouse.

The traps were baited and placed in the most likely runs. I took up the kick boards under the kitchen units to give the cats access and – NOTHING. They mooched under, had a look and came out again. In the meantime, we spent pretty much every evening bleaching the kitchen floor, particularly under the fridge, which Mickey has frequently mistaken for a loo.

Anyway, the other night, Peppers came in with a mouse in his mouth. Unfortunately he put him down to play with it and it ran off. Hilarity ensured before the cats got fed up, leaving Furtle and me running around in circles trying to gee them on AND corner the little sod. Eventually, more by luck than judgement, we managed to get it out of the kitchen door and into the garden.

That, we hoped, was that. A couple of days later it was quite apparent that either mouse number one had returned or, there was (is) at least one more in the place. So we can’t put the kitchen properly back together until we’re happy this one and any chums has buggered off (and/or died).

I’ve plugged as many obvious mouse holes as I can find with steel wool, to limit the little brute’s options – and we’ve put the kickboards back, as although the cats could get under there, they couldn’t move very fast once under. It just meant the mouse didn’t have to try so hard to keep clear of them and I’m not that sporting.

We started off with humane traps, aiming to catch it and release it in the park. We moved on to old fashioned standard traps and now we’re on a combination including glue paper. This latter has come closest to working as I found the sheet we deposited under the fridge, over by the kick boards by the sink, where it had got stuck and scrambled across the floor, past the cats and freed itself before disappearing back into the shadows, unhurt, but possibly a little balder in places. I don’t like using this stuff, but it’s the only thing that’s even partially having any effect.

I hates them more than Mr Jinks ever did.
caddyman: (Default)
As we approach August Bank Holiday, I thought it might be nice to update for the first time in a couple of months.

I had planned – and half written a piece about THAT VOTE back in June, but as I refined and developed it, I realised that everything I was saying, or trying to say had already been said by other people and probably better expressed. And then I just sort of stopped writing anywhere except for the odd thing over on FarceBørk.


When the Referendum was on, we were, ironically, in Germany; Konstanz, to be precise, for a long weekend. Happily we’d bought our Euros before the pound tanked on the announcement of the result.

My God, it was hot, and my knee was still playing up from the torn ligament I’d suffered at the beginning of May. I think the heat took some of the enjoyment out of the trip for me, but we did get to the garden island of Mainau again and this time it was late enough in the year for the rose gardens to be in full bloom. This part of Germany remains one of my favourite places in the world and we shall go there again, but not for a while, I think. There are other places to explore.

In July, the sister-in-law got married to [ profile] jfs. That was a good day, but again, so hot. Anyone who thinks we’ve not had a summer should bear in mid the fact that the end of June, nearly every day of July and most of August (with a few blessed days of relief) have been melters.

In further exciting, though unwelcome news, I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. I guess it’s ben on the cards for some time, but still, you never quite believe it will happen to you personally. I’ve never had any symptoms – or rather I didn’t know I had symptoms. Apparently getting up most nights for a pee is a symptom, whereas I thought it was a side effect of my habit of having a large cup of tea at bed time. If I missed the cuppa, I didn’t get up for a pee at about 3 am. That said, only once in the two months since I’ve been on diabetes medication, have I had to get up in the night, and I still have that cup of tea.

Changing the diet hasn’t been quite the chore that I thought it might be, though I think I need to give it more thought. There is still room to cut back on the carbs and up the protein. I have been eating more fruit and veggies on the basis that if you can’t escape the sugars, you may as well go for the minerals and roughage. Trouble is, I might have over done it slightly. The sudden influx of apples, bananas and green veggies has really turned my digestion on its head. I have had to compensate by eating eggs. Let’s just say that if my broadband gave the same download speeds, well…

I’ll leave that hanging, actually. I’m wavering on the edge of too much information.

Beyond that, though, the main change is that I have sworn off the cider. When I go to the pub it’s back to the real ale or – as in times like this, when it’s bloody baking – lager. I feel fine and other than having to take more bloody pills and it being harder to avoid the quack, life rolls on as usual.

The garden is coming along nicely. We had a small barbecue a couple of weeks back, when we welcomed [ profile] mathcathy and her fiancé, Patrick along with the newly double-barrelled Scott-Roe family. It all went rather well, I think and everyone seemed to have a good time. We should do more of that sort of thing in the summer, after all, what is the point of a garden otherwise?

I should do some work

Thursday, June 16th, 2016 11:28 am
caddyman: (moley)
I’ve just listened to Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’ on my iPod. It’s the first time I’ve listened to it from start to finish for many years.

It is a very interesting experience: I’d forgotten so much of it that it might as well have been the first time I’ve concentrated on it. I’m not really that familiar with Floyd’s output before 1971’s ‘Meddle’ and while it’s years since I listened to that album (I find that I don’t currently own a copy), my memory puts it firmly in their early Prog catalogue, which developed through ‘Dark side of the Moon’ in 1973 through to their final album, ‘The Endless River’ in 2014 (which itself was more of a musical goodbye to the late Rick Wright, than anything truly new).

I don’t quite know what to make of ‘Atom’. I guess I’ll take one step further back and listen to ‘Ummagumma’, to try and place it in some kind of musical perspective. I am almost entirely ignorant of any Floyd music prior to that, with the sole exception of the song ‘See Emily Play’ which is interesting (it doesn’t seem to have been on any of the UK albums – certainly not before the 40th anniversary re-releases), but what little I know of the Barratt era leaves me cold. Other bands did psychedelia rather better than the Floyd.

‘Atom Heart Mother’ is late-period psychedia, and to sound suitably pretentious, sounds like music from two years earlier (one of the tracks references 1968) struggling to emerge from its cocoon as early prog. It’s an interesting, but not fully engaging listen. The band have yet to leave dittyville at this point, and the extended use of brass and flutes feels like they took flower power, took it off the hallucinogens and swapped them with steroids.

I am pondering, after ‘Ummagumma’, whether it’s worth investing in ‘More’ (but that’s a movie soundtrack, or even the first two albums, despite my reservations. I must buy a copy of ‘Meddle’ though – and I am thinking about re-examining my 37 year dislike of ‘The Wall’…

I should do some work.


Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 02:20 pm
caddyman: (baffled)
Working from home again today, as I had to go to the doctor for my knee again.

Or so I thought – she asked a couple of questions about the knee and confirmed with me that I have a hospital appointment for an x-ray on the 21st, and then took my blood pressure. Still, she confirmed that that is now back within normal operating parameters (Captain), so that’s okay.

I’ve noticed over the past couple of days that the knee is better than it was, though it still aches abominably on the way home from work and into the evening. Just as long as it’s sorted by the time we go to Germany, later in the month.

I am not enjoying the humidity today. The stroll up to the surgery, which can be no more than a third of a mile at the absolute limit, left me drenched with sweat. I know that’s partly down to weight and the fact that I’ve not done much walking of any sort for the past month, but even so, it’s warm and uncomfortable. I can hear the occasional distant rumble of thunder as I type and we had to leave the garden where we had lunch (Furtle is at home today, too) as the odd, very large blob of rain started coming down.

On the other hand, Furtle bought me a small USB powered fan, which is now on my desk blowing cooling air directly onto my face. I am secure enough to accept that it is moulded in pink plastic.

Gardens and G&Ts

Monday, June 6th, 2016 12:25 pm
caddyman: (Default)
Back in the office after last week’s bank holiday and privilege day (for Her Majesty’s birthday, natch), followed by three days’ working from home in an effort to spare my knee. It’s still not right, but restricting the hobbling to the confines of the Gin Palace and garden seems to have helped to a degree.

Apart from trying to get some work done from home – not always easy with two mad cats demanding attention – I have been playing Warcrack, trying to get some stuff sorted before the new expansion comes out at the end of August. I have too many alts, I think. I’m going to delete a few, but those I have previously maxed out will probably stay. After all the effort of doing that (even if they’re not currently maxed out), deleting would seem to be a complete waste of effort, even in a game which by definition is pretty much nothing but a time soak. Trouble is, I have two more to level up if I am to keep them at max level and I’m not sure I can be bothered.


Yesterday, before stopping and actually enjoying the garden a bit (we had G&T’s on the patio, late afternoon/early evening), which was nice. Often we spend too much time faffing with the garden and forget to enjoy it. As it was, we did a bit of maintenance and planted a very pretty Natasha Richardson rose on the top bed, next to two longer established, but unnamed roses.

Initially we thought about putting on the patch we still call the lawn (though it hasn’t had grass on it for about 4 years), next to my Cardinal de Richelieu rose, but there is the possibility of a colour clash, plus the fact that the Richardson has a splendid scent, which would be wasted further down the garden. I might save up and buy a nice Duc de Guiche to go next to His Eminence.

Next week I suspect we are going to have to do a lot of trimming, weeding and trying back. It’s turning into a jungle out there.


Monday, May 23rd, 2016 03:18 pm
caddyman: (Default)
I am getting fed up with having a sore knee now. The joys of being offered a seat on the train or the bus don’t make up for the fact that it’s sore and, after a while walking, squeaky. I’m not even allowed to hit anyone with the walking stick.

Sunday (you may know it as yesterday), we went across to Leytonstone to see [ profile] jfs, Alix and Young Willum. My gammy leg and I sat with the baby most of the afternoon and managed to keep him asleep for nearly all of it (with breaks for bo0ttles of milk, obvs). John caught up on work and Furtle helped her sister do stuff. In addition to looking after the youngest member of the household, I managed to fall out with the cat, with whom I am no longer on speaking terms. He might be missing a leg, bit his remaining claws are suitably sharp. He better look out before getting within range of me again.

In the evening we ate pizza and watched Marple on DVD. We are catching up on the ITV version initially starring Geraldine McEwan and latterly Julia McKenzie. I am enjoying them very much, even the episodes where they have adapted a non-Marple Agatha Christie story, though I still think Joan Hickson is the definitive Marple.


Friday, May 20th, 2016 03:42 pm
caddyman: (moley)
One week on and I am still plagued (for a given value of ‘plagued’) by my left knee.

It became apparent quite quickly on Monday that it is not going to heal immediately. To do that, I should need to remain on a chaise longue, leg elevated whilst dusky maidens fed me peeled grapes and wine (or more likely, cheese) at regular intervals. Any minimal movement from a) to b) would be undertaken by sedan chair. Sadly, I am not a Roman Emperor and this is beyond my means. I have to travel into an office and get paid to be bored for eight hours or so each day.

So it is, that I bought a walking stick. A nice, sturdy, foldable walking stick from Boots, which in many ways is all that a walking stick should be. Except long enough. At 5’ 11¾” tall, I am too tall for a standard walking stick. About an inch too tall. Or the stick is an inch too short; it amounts to the same thing. Who decided that being just shy of six feet tall made you tall in the modern world. I’d have thought it’s just a smidgen above median height in the UK. Tall for 1940 perhaps, but not 2016 surely?

Anyway, I quickly realised that by the time my knee has recovered, I’d have done my back some harm with the slight –almost imperceptible - lean to the right I was forced to make. Now I have mercifully infrequent issues with my spine. Mum always made me stand up straight, shoulders back when I was a kid, so now if I find myself hunching up feels unnatural and uncomfortable, so I straighten up. Nonetheless, I have had enough experience of back pain to know that I can cope with the deep dull ache of a crook knee infinitely better than I can with a creaky back.

Wednesday I left work early, but not early enough, to go up to New Oxford Street to visit that worthy umbrella and walking stick emporium, ‘James Smith and Sons’ to sort myself out. Of course, it was the evening of the day of the State Opening of Parliament and all the traffic diversions and other restrictions made it impossible for me to get there during opening hours.

My knee really enjoyed that.

I don’t know what the problem was yesterday lunchtime, but I slipped out at just after midday and spent around ninety minutes getting there and back – a distance in total of about 4 miles. Whoever was paying the Congestion Charge certainly got their money’s worth. The traffic barely budged and having made it as far as Horse Guards on the number 88 I gave up waiting for a 24 and hobbled to Embankment and the safety of the Northern Line.

I finally made it there and I am now the proud possessor of an ‘extra long’ foldable walking stick. It looks quite swish, too. The extra inch makes a Hell of a difference.

There are, it has to be said, benefits from wielding a cane around town. People get out of your way, rather than you out of theirs, and particularly once you are out of the centre of town, people give you seats on trains and buses.

I could get used to this, but more so if my knee didn’t ache like all blazes most of the time. That I could happily dispense with.

Back to Canterbury

Monday, May 16th, 2016 04:26 pm
caddyman: (baffled)
This weekend we took Friday off work and went to Canterbury. Over the past few years we’ve tried to get there at least once in each twelve-month, just to escape London for a while.

This time around, we decided that we’d try a bit of a walk along the Stour and take the binoculars to see the wetlands and the local bird sanctuaries. Nothing too strenuous you understand, just a change of scenery and a chance for a bit of fresh air, with a couple of pints of decent ale at the end of it. Of course, having struggled the three miles out to Chartham, we took the train back to Canterbury. That took substantially less time.

Chartham is an odd little village – or at least the bit we saw was. As you come into the place from the Stour path, you notice a derelict terrace on the left, a row of white painted cottages built to look vaguely Georgian, but probably dating to the early 1920s. All shuttered and boarded with ivy growing over many of the windows. Then you decant onto the street, which has a church in one direction and a derelict-looking factory on the left. Except that it isn’t derelict, but still in use and proudly proclaiming to have been built as a paper mill in 1949. I doubt it’s had a penny spent on it since. Walking past that you round a corner where there are a few disconsolate, oddly built houses (hard to describe what was wrong with them, but they looked odd, nonetheless) and then there is the Artichoke a 4½ star recommended watering hole with a door I could barely get my ample tum through shuffling sideways. Still, a couple of pints of Whitstable India Pale Ale later, I was in a forgiving mood.

The short walk to the station allowed us to look at a little more of the village in which, with a couple of notable exceptions, most of the buildings are many centuries younger than the architecture would proclaim. It is as if aliens had been directed to build an English village, but only had third hand descriptions to work from.

We didn’t manage much more, other than a few wanders around Canterbury, poking around a few shops. For once we were there only for slightly over a full day –Friday afternoon until Sunday morning and my knee limited the fun as I’d buggered it before we even got there. Getting off the bus at Ilford station on the way out, I landed heavily on my left leg and there was a loud (to me at any rate) crack followed by a sharp pain. Happily I’d seen fit to pack one of my Nordic walking poles, which saw double duty as a walking stick (and still is). I’m not sure, but I think I snapped a tendon. It aches, My Dears, oh, it aches, but if I can get moving it improves as it warms up. Stairs remain a chore, though and guess where we stayed? In the City Gates Hotel, where we first stayed a number of years ago. The hotel with a small entrance at street level, which takes you up stairs to a series of rooms and over the roof tops to an extended and unexpected array of rooms. It’s quite fun, but damned awkward with a poorly drumstick.

By way of a round up.

Thursday, May 12th, 2016 02:30 pm
caddyman: (Default)
I don’t know what I’ve done, but whatever it was, I’ve done it to my left knee.
It aches horribly when I walk on it, it feels like it’s in the muscle and the bone, which suggests either that I clocked it without noticing at the time, or that there is a touch of rheumatism brought on by the damp weather these past few days. It’s not the same as the recurring but intermittent pains I get which feel as though the joint needs oiling – that is a proper sharp pain and one I know I could lose if I ever manage to unship a few tons.
At the moment it’s worst when I’ve been sitting for any length of time and though it doesn’t quite go away, the ache lessens as the joint warms up, which suggests to me that the bruised muscle hypothesis is closest to the mark.
Very annoying and not a little uncomfortable.
Changing subject, it is now a year, pretty much to the day, that I got my first ever tattoo. Now they say these things are addictive and without wishing to confirm or deny that, I have to confess that I am pondering getting a second and rather bigger tattoo, this time on my right upper arm. Remarkably, [ profile] ellefurtle is on board with the idea as long as it’s done properly and doesn’t just end up as a big black and grey blob.
Unrepentant fanboy and geek that I am, I am pretty sure that I should like a Batman tattoo. At first I thought a sleeve with a portrait, but I then moved towards the idea of a crouching figure. That is still a possibility, but there are some more stylized designs I quite like, so I remain undecided. I’m willing to pay the going rate for a good job, but it’s remarkably difficult to settle a design and then to find a tattooist you trust enough to create something you’re happy to have on your arm for life. Good grief, it took me forever to get a simple ‘Om’ design. This could be a never ending search!
If ever I decide and then find someone I’m confident can pull it off, I’ll post the result up here for posterity.
caddyman: (Default)
A fortnight or so ago, I went out on the booze with my good friend, [ profile] colonel_maxim.

The pub was packed, but he had discovered that the upstairs sitting room was both unlocked and its small bar staffed. We decided very quickly that paying through the nose for organic bottled cider was infinitely more preferable to traipsing up and down the stairs trying not to spill from pint glasses and hoping that no-one realised that there was additional seating to be had. It worked and we became expensively and extensively blootered over the course of the evening.

It was only during the early hours that I realised just how bladdered I’d contrived to get. I woke up sometime around 4am with a thumping headache and a full bladder. I scooted, as one does, to the bathroom and shortly thereafter I was suddenly and remarkably ill. I think my stomach attempted a complete escape – certainly it ejected its coronal layer. I wobbled back to bed and got up again, feeling ghastly, when my alarm went off at seven.

It was, as I recall, the work of but a moment to decide that actually, if it’s all the same to anyone else, I was going to go back to bed. [ profile] ellefurtle was fully supportive of my ability to barely stand and think, so I emailed the office with the news that I was feeling awful, having consumed something the night before that had disagreed with me.

Which was, of course, true: I simply omitted any mention of alcohol; I felt it wise. I then went back to bed and failed to wake up again until gone midday, when I felt better, but not recovered.

Of course, taking a Thursday off sick looks suspicious in isolation, so I was forced to keep my head below the parapets on Friday, too. An unexpected 3½ day weekend had something of a transformative affect, I must say, but I should have preferred not to preface it with the worst hangover I’d had for over ten years.

Last night we met up again and this time Furtle popped along. We managed to avoid the excessive refreshment of the earlier escapade, but nonetheless managed to get a little frazzled around the edges. We wandered home in due course, getting back to the Gin Palace around midnight. A cup of tea and some toast, then bed. All was well.
Except that at 5am I awoke radiating heat like a furnace and with indigestion and a full bladder. There followed a minor, scaled down repeat of the previous escapade and I wobbled back to bed, re set the alarm for 8.30 and crammed in an extra 90 minutes of sleep. I made work, albeit half an hour late, but I’m still not fully recovered. Were it not for the fact that I have the rest of the week off legitimately, I might have sent THE EMAIL.

I don’t think cider and I are on quite the chummy terms we once were.


Friday, April 8th, 2016 02:54 pm
caddyman: (Default)
Ye Gods, but it's been a long week.

I have decided that I shall skulk off at 4pm and that's that. I want to get home early enough to collapse on the bed for an hour before we go out again: we are off to Leytonstone to meet up with [ profile] jfs and [ profile] ellefurtle's sister, Alix (some of you will know her, I'm sure), who is heavily pregnant. Due day is tomorrow, in fact. We are going for a curry so, in the absence of a catcher's mitt, I think we should try and restrict her to nothing more spicy than a chicken korma, or risk having to run down the high street screaming" The ababy's coming! The baby's coming!"

Furtle, as aunt in waiting, has been looking up suitable gifts. She shied away from buying a Yoda romper suit bearing the legend "wipe my bum, you must" and went for something else instead. Happily I was on hand to talk her into getting a Batman romper suit, so my first act from behind the scenes as disreputable uncle is already complete.

I suppose that tomorrow we shall have to do some gardening. In the year since we first planted any, I'd forgotten that borlotti beans have triffid DNA. They are slow to germinate, but then relentless. We have a bunch in pots that have grown six inches in the last week, after spending a fortnight seemingly dormant. It is probably too early to actually plant them outside, but they will need separating into bigger pots.

Last weekend we put a load of shrubs/bushes and grasses into the garden; we will soon have to add something to the new fence for a lot of it to climb up. Sadly, I think I overdid the pruning on the rambling rector rose, which, it seems is the only rose in Christendom that you don't prune back to a stump. It's still alive, but I think we are two to three years away from it blooming again.

Nonetheless, I have a good feeling about the garden for the third year in cussession, despite the complete lack of proper winter that should have primed the various plants' inner clocks.

I must tired. I am contemplating gardening.


Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 11:49 am
caddyman: (moley)
Back at work after a good, if short, Easter break.

We didn’t do much on Friday, beyond potter around and do a little cleaning. Largely we concentrated on winding down for the break and waiting for deliveries from Amazon (I am now the proud owner of a pair of 8x40 binoculars for bird watching – on the assumption that we actually do go bird watching. I have an RSPB book of British birds, too).

Saturday we wandered into the West End for a mooch around. We popped into Gosh on Brewer Street, but although I nearly bought something, I decided my reading list is already too long and needs culling first. Furtle decided that the next volume of Tintin compact stories would be best bought from Amazon. So much for us supporting the high street, eh?

We went from there to Old Compton Street, where we visited in turn, The Algerian Coffee Store and Gerry’s Wines and Spirits from where respectively we stocked up on speciality coffee beans and I acquired two bottles of ‘Oude Genever’ (one from either end of the dry/sweet divide), which I have been dying to try for some time. We then met up with Alix and [ profile] jfs for a meal at the Brasserie Zédel just off Regent Street for a French meal. It’s my second visit and Furtle’s third. Highly recommended Art Nouveau style brasserie, with a small cabaret club and cocktail bar, all below ground. At ground level is a similar style if small, café, which gives no real hint about how large the place is. It isn’t cheap, but neither is it a rip off.

The evening was spent baby sitting for our neighbours, who had a rare opportunity of a night out. So we watched a movie on the iPad and rad for a bit.

Sunday saw us driving up to Chelmsford to visit the in-laws. A visit to the local followed by dinner saw the afternoon away and faced with an evening sitting doing very little, Furtle discovered that the local ice hockey team, the Chelmsford Chieftains were playing the Streatham Redskins, so we went to see that. Furtle has been hoping to get to see some ice hockey for ages and this seemed to be just the job. It turns out that not only have Chelmsford won their league, but Sunday night’s game was the second of a two-leg cup final. Chelmsford went into the game with a healthy 7-2 lead and won 10-3 on the night, which made it all rather comprehensive.

I must admit to enjoying it, despite reservations beforehand. I can’t pretend to have understood many of the nuances, or why certain things were penalties and others weren’t. Ice Hockey seems to be rather more about speed and aggression rather than nuanced tactics, so I doubt my ignorance made much difference.

Had the Chieftains had any remote concept of merchandising, I probably would have bought a replica jersey, but I was saved the expense. I know they’re available, people in the crowd were wearing them, but I assume they are only available from local sports shops. They were certainly not in evidence at the ice rink.

Monday saw us drive up to Audley End to meet friends and have a wander around. It’s the place where the duck kept pecking my boot last year, trying to get be to feed him. It was a bit too blustery this year and the ducks were wisely elsewhere.

Next weekend, we’re thinking about visiting RHS Wisley, but for now I’m back in the office.

Dreary, My Dears. Dreary.

Jennifer Juniper

Thursday, March 17th, 2016 10:55 am
caddyman: (baffled)
A couple or three weeks ago [ profile] ellefurtle and I attended an after hours talk and tasting on the history and revival of absinthe at the National Gallery. It was quite interesting, particularly as the main speaker Ted Breaux (, was incredibly enthusiastic. This all rather followed on from a visit a bunch of us made to the Absintherie ( in Prague before Christmas.

In Prague I declined, killjoy that I am, to try any and just drank water while the other three tried a couple of glasses. I don’t like aniseed drinks see, absinthe or not. I had a sip of each of the varieties on offer at the talk at the National, but despite all the enthusiasm around me, I couldn’t really tell the difference between any of them and frankly they taste pretty much the way I imagine the devil’s earwax would. Of course, if there had been any sugar around that might have made a difference, but frankly, you shouldn’t need to add sugar to make something palatable.

Since all this happened, an enthusiastic Furtle has obtained a couple of absinthe glasses, an absinthe spoon and a small carafe to keep the water in. She has also acquired a half bottle of a particularly posh absinthe. This will all go into the cupboard with the whiskies, whiskeys, vodkas, brandies camparis and other suspicious liquors that I shan’t be touching. There is just room for my single bottle of Madeira (which remarkably, ‘evaporates’ faster than I can drink it myself) and the gin, which I do like.

Not being a fan of pretty much any spirit, other than gin with a healthy dollop of tonic, (I used to like Southern Comfort, but having made myself very ill on it over 20 years ago, I can no longer face the stuff), I have decided that I shall have one last try and but some jenever gin – the ancestor of modern gin and still popular in the Low Countries. I am beginning to fear an attempt to keep me away from it, however. A number of times now, when I have pondered buying a bottle in one of the larger supermarkets, Furtle has suggested that I wait and get advice from a specialist.



Thursday, February 18th, 2016 10:47 am
caddyman: (Default)
Despite the best intentions I seem to have allowed some time to pass by since I last updated. I guess I’ve just got out of the habit.
So where are we and what have we been up to?
Primarily, I guess, the news is that we took the first week of February off work and took the opportunity to go to Stockholm for a few days on the run up to my birthday. Last year I didn’t really celebrate my birthday on account of Mum dying, so this year I wanted to do something and I’ve been trying to persuade [ profile] ellefurtle for some time that Sweden is a nice place to visit and that Stockholm is a major European capital where they do more than shoot stray elk and eat pickled herring.
The other reason I fancied it was to go during winter when hopefully the waters around the archipelago might be frozen and there would be some snow lying on the ground. Even on the rare occasion we get a proper winter in the UK – particularly the south, it is so seldom as to be noteworthy when the mercury drops to anything close to the seasonal average for Southern Sweden. I spent a fair while during January monitoring the weather in Stockholm and was gratified to see it varying between -7˚c and, when the wind was in the north, -20˚c. We hit Amazon and various other retailers and ensured that we had appropriate gear for the cold weather – not arctic quality, obviously, but certainly warmer than normal UK clothes – and prepared for the trip.
Of course, it rained before we got there, didn’t it? Temperatures rose to UK winter cold, which is positively balmy for the region. The snow melted and the sea and lakes thawed. By the time we got there, there were a few sheets of ice bobbing around in the harbour and we did find one sheltered corner where it hadn’t melted, but by and large…
It did snow on our last night, so we did manage to get out and have a taste of proper winter, albeit briefly.
Annoyingly, the only flights, or at least the only reasonably priced flights with airlines we are prepared to entrust our lives to, go from Heathrow terminal 5. I’d never used that terminal before and it turns out that it is pretty good and rather easier to use than I recall being the case with the other four. Nonetheless, it is still the ultimate drag getting across London by rail ands tube from Ilford (coming back was worse) and if I ever get to be in a position to decide these things, there will be flights from City Airport, so there.
The flight itself was unremarkable – unlike the pre-Christmas trip to Prague, we left on time and were not cramped into tiny seats – this flight was BA, the other was Czech Airlines. (We are never flying Czech Airlines again, unless it is a straight choice between them and Ryanair). Passport control at Stockholm Arlanda Airport was easy enough, though it is clear that Schengen, if not dead, is coughing up blood. Baggage reclaim was simple enough.
I had prebooked a return ticket for both of us on the regular bus/coach service. Unfortunately the driver was disinclined to accept the e-tickets on my iPhone, so we were left stranded until the next bus arrived. That time was spent in discussion with equally baffled information staff who couldn’t see the problem, followed by me trying to look something up on a Swedish computer, where the default language for everything was, naturally, incomprehensible to me. In the end we just waited for the next bus and that driver, having tried and failed to scan the bar codes, just punched in a couple of numbers on his keypad and let us on.
We arrived a little later than anticipated at the City Terminal in the city centre, where we were met by our friend, Niclas, who walked with us to the hotel, Hotel Victory on Gamla Stan – the old town area of Stockholm, on its own little island. We checked in and then wandered out to find beer and food.
Anyone planning to visit Stockholm could do far worse than book the Victory. It is one of a small chain of three, all based on Gamla Stan and all nautically themed: ours after Nelson’s flagship, the others being the Lord Nelson and the Lady Hamilton, respectively. Our room was small but cosy and it is the only place I’ve ever stayed where they provided the guests a small decanter of port gratis every night as a night cap. There was also unlimited, albeit make it yourself, tea and coffee available. Each room is named for a Swedish naval captain and the whole place is filled with antique bric-a-brac with a nautical theme.
Stockholm in the winter is remarkably quiet – or at least it was while we were there. The amount of traffic on the road felt more like a reasonably prosperous north midlands market town and down by the harbour, most if not all of the tours/bars etc were closed for the season, lending a similar air to off season in many a British seaside town. Away from the harbour, though, it was much busier. We only made a couple of museums – the Vasamuseet – the purpose built museum holding the restored remains of the Vasa, a warship that sank in the 17th century (and one of my favourite all time museums, by the way) and the Nationalmuseet, which is a mixture of local history from Viking times onwards with some natural history thrown in.
We avoided the Nordiska Museet, as it features aspects of Nordic (primarily Swedish) life etc and we thought it sounded worthy but tedious. We decided to leave the remaining museums until Monday, only to find that Museums in Stockholm do not open on Mondays. And the Army Museum is closed until the summer for refurbishment.
Nonetheless, plenty to see and do and lots of good walking to be had.
I think next time we go there, it will be in the summer so that we can take boat trips out and about, but I’d like to go again in winter, but when the winter is behaving itself.


Monday, January 11th, 2016 04:01 pm
caddyman: (baffled)
So this weekend I went to play board games in Marlow at my friend Martin’s. This was the first time in over three years – the first time, I think, since Furtle and I got married, so probably four years.

These are weekends I used to attend rather more often – two or three times a year, for many, many years. A bunch of friends would descend on his house for the weekend and we would play games. In later years this normally meant one of the 18xx train variants and they always took ages to play. Far longer than the designers intended, simply because more than one of the people there would analyse each move as though their life depended upon it. My preferred tactic was to make my move and then wander off into the living room and, depending upon circumstances, chat with the lady of the house, read a book or nervously track the football scores – or, indeed, and combination of the three. Between times we would play shorter, less complicated games, but Saturdays were nearly always set aside for THE game, a big game.

My attendance has fallen off to zero in recent years for a couple of reasons: it is an absolute bloody bind getting between Ilford and Marlow by public transport – though this tends to be the Sunday travail (!) as I go direct from work on the Friday; and over the past few years nearly every games weekend has been unerringly set on the one week in five that I have something else to do. That said, there was one, which when it came to it, I simply couldn’t be arsed.

Anyway. This weekend we played Civilisation. It’s a long way from being my favourite game. It is one of those that with seven players is expected (even by the designers) to take about twelve hours to play. That wouldn’t be so bad (though bad enough), but it is also the same kind of game where you can realise a third of the way in that you are losing and that there is no way back. Eight hours of losing ever more badly is not my idea of fun. I don’t mind losing games. If I did, I’d almost never play them, but usually they are either short games, or you can retrieve a poor situation for most of the game, or both. This is not possible with Civilisation.

We hadn’t played (or at least I hadn’t played) for at least fifteen years. Martin wanted to play it and we grudgingly agreed. It wasn’t as tedious as I’d remembered, but I was aware that I was getting nowhere after about four hours and despite having more victory points than two other people in the game, the odd faction rules (which are different for each civilisation) meant that I came a resounding last. Still. It’s played now, so we can put him off for another fifteen years or so.

THAT movie

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 03:53 pm
caddyman: (You there)
During the Christmas Holidays Furtle and I bowed to the cultural imperative and wandered along to see the new Star Wars movie. She was looking forward to it more than I was, I mean the original trilogy would have dominated her childhood in a way it missed mine by a number of years. I was 18 when the original came out, and I’m pretty sure I never saw Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi at the cinema. Well, nit until the late eighties when they showed all three back to back at the Prince Charles off Leicester Square. My main memory of that event is blinking in surprise that it was still daylight when I exited the cinema, and being barely able to stand upright as my legs were so stiff. Left to my own devices, I should probably have waited for the DVD release, or watched it on telly in 4-5 years’ time.

I think I watched the prequel trilogy at the cinema. I know I watched one of them there, but I can’t remember which. Liverpool were busy coming from 3-0 down to win the European Cup on the same night, so you can probably work it out from that if you’re so minded. I’m not.

Anyway, Furtle was clearly more excited than I was at the prospect of seeing the seventh film in the franchise. I’m not done with franchise movies by a long chalk, but this is an idea that goes back 40 years and I have a feeling that someone should come up with a new franchise. For what it’s worth, I think the same about Trek and I used to be an enormous Star Trek fan. The Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t paled for me yet, but it has its fair share of duds and I’m not sure how much longer they can milk it before it is clear that someone needs to call it a day. I suspect the first time they recast one of the main characters will start the unravelling. The Hulk is a special case; most of the time he’s just CGI anyway and we can safely quietly pretend the solo outings never happened. They neither add to nor subtract from the overall narrative.

But back to Star Wars.

Maybe we left it too long and allowed the media hype to get to us. Maybe we were so jaundiced by the quality of the prequel trilogy that there isn’t quite enough goodwill left to prop the franchise up. I don’t know. What I do know is that while I wasn’t actually bored by the film, I did spend a lot of it yawning mightily and we both left the movie feeling rather flat rather than elated.

Visually it was right, but the pacing was off – too much catch up plot and not really time to develop it. I know that it is inevitable that the movie should centre around and showcase the new characters, and rightly so. The Old Guard is getting a little long in the tooth and the Star Wars universe needs its generational change. But I didn’t feel the chemistry, or any particular strength of acting from the younger characters. The movie only came alive for me when the older characters were on screen and I think that might have been nostalgia more than anything.

Of course there was also THE THING that happened. THE THING should have waited until midway through the next episode in my opinion; it felt too rushed.

I probably need to se it again at some point, to appreciate it better, but at the moment, six out of ten is the best I can muster.
caddyman: (Aaargh)
If there is one positive aspect to commuting into central London in the first week of January, it is the fact that it is quiet.

A fair number of people have clearly extended their Christmas break until midweek, or even until 11th January, which is nice if you can manage it. I suppose that school holidays play a part in this, but whatever the reason, the Tube isn’t too crowded and you can navigate the pavements around Westminster without getting too annoyed by the crowds. This is aided by the post-New Year lull in tourists. January is a good month for tourists, by which I mean they are relatively few and far between. Of course, those who do come to visit up their game in the annoy-the-commuter stakes, but nonetheless, this is a time of year when my blood pressure is spared seas of radio controlled Asian tour groups, or randomly swarming Italians and Spaniards. There are also – and this is an important factor – no squealing masses of over-excited school children being herded from one piece of cultural heritage to another.

Sadly, Easter is early this year, arriving at the end of March, rather than mid April as it usually does. That means that the early year tourist gap will be short this year.

For 2016 this all has a greater impact on me than in previous years. As ever, I start the year with a view to losing weight and trying to get a bit fitter. I am close to attracting my own moons into orbit around my waist, so I need to at least try.

Since I am notoriously poor at keeping to strict diets, I am going to try a combination of eating less and better, but not structuring it as a diet as such. In addition, I now have and have had since a couple of weeks before Christmas, one of those FitBit fitness bands that you wear on your wrist. It’s a fairly basic version, which measures the approximate number of paces you take during the day, approximate minutes of activity, and if you remember to tell it when you went to bed and got up the next morning, it will have a stab, based upon the amount of thrashing around you do in your sleep, how much proper rest you got.

The upshot is that I am trying to make sure that, on average, I manage 10,000 steps a day. This equates to about 5 miles and even wandering to the tea point and back adds a few paces. Interestingly, even I find that if I synchronise the fitness band to my phone and find that I am a couple of hundred paces short, I am happy to take a couple of ‘long cuts’ to get the pace count up. A couple of times I’ve even broken the 15,000 paces barrier, but ironically this seems to happen when I wander off to the pub to meet friends, though I did manage to get some good numbers up when we were in Prague.

Even if I forget to synchronise at any point, the wrist band buzzes when I hit a milestone.

Anyway, so far, so good. It’s early days yet and I haven’t bothered to weigh myself. I find that to be too depressing. I shall measure progress by belt notches and shirt bulge (or even the ability to wear the waistcoat I got for Christmas fully buttoned whilst sitting down). As has been the goal for the past nine years, I want to be able to wear my leather submariner style jacked buttoned up. Not that I shall wear it buttoned up, of course, but they hang better if they can be buttoned. I managed that briefly for a few weeks a couple of years ago, but then I wasn’t trying to maintain a five miles a day walking average.

January Already?

Monday, January 4th, 2016 11:28 am
caddyman: (Default)
Happy New Year, mes amis. I see that I’ve managed to go an entire month without posting, which is clearly remiss of me.

Must do better.

So, what’s happened since November? Christmas and the New Year Break, obviously. Today is my first day back and I have to say (and this will come as no surprise to you) that I would really be pretty much anywhere else but here, but as usual there are bills to pay et cetera and so forth.

Christmas itself was quiet – we stayed at home and hid from the world, though we did have [ profile] colonel_maxim over for two nights, which was good (we got the band back together). Apart from (over) feeding and watching Doctor Who and a couple of other telly progs, we didn’t actually do much. On the 27th we went to [ profile] ellefurtle’s folks for a second Christmas with her side of the family. Being a couple of days after the actual day, it meant the pub was open properly, so we took advantage of that for a couple of hours while Elle’s Mum wrangled the duck, which was stubbornly refusing to cook at the anticipated rate.

For New Year itself, we simply hid. We did nip out to buy a few essentials – the place was, and to an extent still is, stuffed with seasonal fare, but we needed bread and other staples (and, of course, cat litter. The little blighters are just digestive tubes).

Earlier in December was rather busier. Right at the beginning of the month I attended the eighteenth Annual GASP weekend – that’s eighteen years we’ve been mooching off to Norfolk (mainly) for pour long weekend of lads-only boozing and gaming (the actual event has been going a few years longer, but used to be held in North London, when three of the crew had a house large enough to accommodate us all).

I managed two whole days back in the office before we slipped off to Prague for a few nights for the Christmas Markets. I’ve never been to the Czech Republic before and was rather surprised – in the Old Town at least – at just how Anglicised everything is. By which I mean that even the shop names were in English. In fact, other than the currency and the fact that they drive on the right, it might almost have been a very old and ornate city in England. This was a bit disappointing, though I still enjoyed the trip. Last year (um… 2014), we went to Heidelberg in Germany, which is smaller, but I think the compactness helped, at least from the point of view of the Christmas markets. Prague was rather more widely spread and that, together with the unseasonable weather meant that it felt rather less Christmassy than I’d hoped. Nonetheless, we enjoyed ourselves immensely and I think we will go again, though perhaps not at Christmas.

The weather was weird though. I managed to wander around in tee shirt and jeans much of the time – though the locals felt the need to wrap up- as it was so mild (it did get chilly at a couple of points, so I was glad of my sweatshirt and, once, my coat). Clearly Central Europe doesn’t get as cold as we’ve been led to believe. I need to check the average and projected February temperatures for Stockholm as we are intending to go there in early February. That’s somewhat further north, so it might actually be chilly up there.

Right. Better get on and do some work. I’ll try to update more often. Honestly.


caddyman: (Default)

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