Monday, 28 December 2009

Post No.99 - Picture and blog of the year

I trust you all had a great Christmas. Mrs B and I are off Skiing so not sure how much access to the internet I will get. I will try to reply to messages unless I fail ti get internet access I will catch up in the New Year.

Just a short Christmas BlackLOG this week featuring a couple of Teenage shelf stackers in our local supermarket as I happened to walk by:-

Teenage shelf stacker 1 :- “What did you get your girlfriend for Christmas?”

Teenage shelf stacker 2 :- Being a bit to specific in a non specific way “A couple o items of clothing”

Me :- As I wheeled my overloaded shopping trolley dangerously down the isle “That will be underwear then”

Teenage shelf stacker 2 :- Said nothing but went a wonderful shade of red”

Teenage shelf stacker 1 :- Just sniggered….

So that’s embarrass a Teenager ticked off my Christmas wish list this year

As I have been good and kept it short I would appreciate your input for this weeks blog and ask that you select the picture that you like the most or if not a fan the one you dislike the least for the BlackLOG photo of the year. While you are at it feel free to nominate your favorite BlackLOG post of the year….

Picture 1

Picture 2





Lisa and the kids

Beach huts Southwold


Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas is just around the corner, now would probably be a good time to panic

I'll keep this week's BlackLOG short, or at least as brief as I can be. If your build up to Christmas is anything like ours, then you are going to have less time to read this rubbish than I’ve had to write it….

Our attempts to get a shed load of work done in time for Christmas is coming to a nail biting conclusion. It really is going down to the wire and with 5 guests due for a festive visit, the situation can be best described as interesting verging on critical. Regular readers may recall that we have been playing peacemakers between tribes of workmen who get very territorial once they come on site. A couple of potential flashpoints have only been avoided thanks to copious amounts of tea…

The tasks that were undertaken, not necessarily started or completed in the order below, in the last few weeks have been :-

  • Decorate our hall, stairs and landing, the living room and the back bedroom (previously my music and film room, the contents of which have been evicted by Mrs B). Rather than see the collection destitute and wandering the streets of Bishops Stortford, I have been forced to build them a new home in the loft. This in turn has seen me having to evict all the toot that we have collected over the past 10 years, plus loads of stuff that moved straight into the loft when we first moved in. It is amazing how tasks escalate, what seemed like a throw away line from Mrs B “Lets decorate before Christmas” has turned into weeks of D.I.Y and house rearranging…Ideally this would have been done after the work on the fireplace but even we could tell that that was never going to work.
  • Have the old fireplace removed and replaced with a wood burning stove – How hard can that be?  Well "very" apparently. Three weeks after having a hole ripped in the wall, our contractors “Fireplace consultants” rang to say that they were having difficulty with their granite suppliers and had switched to new ones. This put the work back to just a few days before Christmas.  With fresh snow on the ground I was not expecting great things but the workmen arrived and started to install the granite, sweet. Part way through the process of fitting the fire surround, one of them casually dropped into the conversation that the stove that we had been recommended and was on their van was not actually suitable without having major construction work done on our chimney. What is wrong with these people,?  We purchased it on their recommendation? Fortunately they had a suitable one still left in stock …So why did they not bring it with them? Aaargh – as long as the snow does not get any worse it should be with us and installed tomorrow…. 
  • New sofas – these have been on order since October, are supposedly on their way and we have been told that they will arrive on Wednesday.  I'm not sure that I have a great deal of faith as any contact with the sofa company has been less than impressive. When I called them at the end of November, I was helpfully told that we could expect delivery in December or possibly January, a nice small window to play with then. In order to make room for the new sofas we need to get rid of the old ones and thought we would do the decent thing and donate them to charity. The charity was due to pick up the sofa last Friday but a few meagre centimetres of snow put paid to that as a health and safety crisis arose, which resulted in the lorry drivers having to stay in bed in case they caught a cold or possibly slipped on their way to the bathroom . The only other chance for them to pick up the sofa is on Tuesday and with more snow falling over the weekend I suspect it isn’t going happen. This firmly puts us in a game I like to call sofa lottery.  Feel free to play along all you have to do is predict how many sets of sofas we will have on Christmas day:
  1. Zero – Hopefully unlikely - let's face it if the charity people can get to us and remove the old sofas then even hermits and the bed bound will be out and about.
  2. One – the ideal number but hopefully it will be the new sofas and not the old;
  3. Two – Our guests will have to enjoy scrambling over spare sofas;
  4. More than two – Hmm, something will have gone really wrong.  Our guests will not be able to sit on any sofas as other sofas will already be sitting on them. Since this is BlackLOG don’t count this option out…
Putting all this into perspective our friends lost their dog Saffy this week, she was only a year old and was run over. Really sad as she was a proper little character.

Saffy, gone before her time

Next week I will be publishing my photos of the year and you will get the chance to vote for your favourite BlackLOG. Despite the fact you will be in that busy time of celebration between Christmas and New Year you will be expected to attend and say which are your favourites…I’ll leave you with some photos of Newark from last weekend and McG and Mischief.  Have a great Christmas and New Year.

For those of you of a romantic nature, the bottom of these
very stairs is where I proposed to Miss C (You are probably
more likely to recognise her as Mrs B), during my speech
at my sisters wedding. For the record Mrs B burst into tears
and did not actually say yes, so I'm not sure our 14 year
marriage is technically legal

I guess this counts as a moonset...or is it a moonrise

Newark waking up...

You looking at me, punk?

I love the way that this picture gives the impression of
the crowding that this little fellow had to deal with...

Chrismas lights in Bath - If I hear one "They
sure are pretty" it will not go well for you

Main driveway leading to Newark Parks front door

Another dull sunrise,apparently it happens most
mornings, who would have guessed that?

The main entrence hall at Newark Park

The morning room -rather confusingly it
seems to get used at any time  of the day

High tea at Newark - Our friend Michael was only catering
for 60 friends and neighbours . I'm not sure we know that
many people....

McG - seems to have found heaven

Looks like Mischief is finding
life a bit hard in the run up to
Christmas. She's probably
wandering what Santa will
bring her...

See you next week

Monday, 14 December 2009

The Beasts luck runs out and Mrs B's Christmas Blues

My luck at getting the Beast into gigs ran out last week. We were at Wembley Arena to see Eddie Izzard – so not actually a music gig. The bigger the venue the harder it is to get a camera in. I had done my normal trick of putting the small lens on and when asked by Security, I fessed up about the camera. I showed it to security and they did not have a problem with it, but still insisted on searching the rest of my bag. Damn. Now interestingly, they took the lens off me for safe keeping but left me with the camera (which is why I have some photos of the event but nothing spectacular) I got marched through to the other end of the arena and watched it being locked away in a cupboard, it felt a bit like being at school when you get something confiscated and won't get it back to the end of the day.

 It turns out that I should have got my friend Kirsty to take the Beast in for me. She and our other friend Joe were running late and ended up missing the first 15 minutes of the show (more about their time keeping next week). As well as stopping people bringing in camera, recording equipment, guns, amo etc they get very funny about people bring in food and drink. So imagine our surprise when Kirsty and Joe turned up and Kirsty pulled a plastic bottle of water, not just a small bottle of water but a huge 1 1/2 litre bottle…I asked her how she had got it passed Security. It went like this:

Kirsty walked up to the Security with the bottle of water at the top of her bag. (In truth it was more like a suit case) what do you women carry in your bags. It's why I have pockets.....Oh and rucksacks for anything that won't fit in our pockets.....Oh,Oh (Thats' a doube Oh) and Mrs Bs handbag for any overflow from my pockets and rucksack....

She took the bottle out of the bag in front of the guard and then handed the bag over which was given a thorough going over.

All the time Kirsty stood clutching the huge bottle of water in front of her. (What was she going to do with it offer to wash Eddie Izzard with it)

The now searched bag was handed back to Kirsty who placed the bottle back into it and waltzed off passed the security guard.

Now that’s true magic - The ability to hide things in open sight.

For the record, Eddie was fantastic and I am relieved to report he did not cross-dress for once much to my relief, or get washed by Kirsty for that matter. The show was so funny that it actually hurt…..

I love the 50mm lens on the beast but it certainly
does not cut the mustard when it comes to taking
shots in large venues.

Christmas Blues
Mrs B has decided to drop out of all future Secret Santa lunches at her work after a second disastrous year. Last year all the presents were given out and there was one little girl who was left tearful and with nothing. The Secret Santa who had drawn Mrs B had not got around to getting the present. It arrived a couple of days later but to be honest the moment had gone. This year it was even worse, with everyone picking up large boxes of chocolates, nail varnish (nor sure that would have done it for me) and other interesting gifts, Mrs B opened her present to find three cotton handkerchiefs - a distraught Mrs B declared “What am I? Eighty?” I'm glad I found out her reaction as it gave me the opportunity to take back the box of serviettes that I had thought she might like……

Who would guess that getting blog awards would be such hard work?
I currently have awards for the BlackLOG stacking up like planes waiting to land at Heathrow during an industrial strike. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, it’s just that I’m struggling to find the time to do the paperwork that goes with them. I never realised that getting awards would be such hard work. I will attempt to find some time to deal with them, I do appreciate them honest.

Canadian Citizenship
Apparently I spoke too soon about Mitch and his Canadian citizenship. To complete the process all Mitch had to do was leave Canada and come back in again. How hard can that be?

Mitch had been having a bit of a muck around with the guard at the Canadian border until he handed over his passport:

US Customs official :- “You have a problem.”

Mitch :– “It’s not that bad becoming a Canadian.“

US Customs official :- “You still have a US visa waiver in the back of your passport.”

Mitch :- “They must have forgotten to take the visa out last time I came through. “

US Customs official :- “Can you prove that you have not been living in America all this time?”

Mitch :- “Yes.”

US Customs official :- “How? ”

Mitch :- “Well if I have been living in America all this time I would not be entering into America but leaving it.“

This took a little while to sink in and needed a phone call to his supervisor before he would accept the logic. Not to be beaten though he carried on:

US Customs official :- “Do you have a middle name Mr Graham?”

Mitch :- “No“

US Customs official :- “I see.”

Mitch :- “Is there a further problem?”

US Customs official :- “Yes, there is a arrest warrant outstanding for a Mitch Graham.”

Mitch :- “Do you have a photograph of this person?”

US Customs official :- “Yes”

Mitch :- “Does it look like me?”

US Customs official :- “No.”

Mitch :- “Can I go now?”

US Customs official :- “I guess so, I’ll just have to check with my supervisor.”

Mitch :- “Arrrgghhh.”

I’ll leave you with some photos of the weekend that we have just returned from at my favourite house, “Newark Park”, and one of my favourite cities, Bath. More details and pictures next week…

For the record I’m going to change the weekly publication date from a Friday to a Monday.

Can you tell what it is?
see further down for answer...

"Newark Park one of my favourite places to stay"

Dawn at Newark Park, it was almost
worth getting out of bed for

Peacocks at Newark Park. There is a thriving
colony of 7 of these wondrous birds.

Baby peackock. Not as handsome as it's father but slightly
better looking then it's mother. I get the feeling that female
peacocks should spend more time on their make up in
the mornings

Another dawn shot, it looks more like an alian invasion to me

The answer to the question from earlier
is an owl in Bath high street

Not just one but two...well one and a half

I've been offered a couple of commissions on the back of my recent photo's, which is really incredible for a self confessed snapper, my idea of composing a shot is lift camera click button. I have a sneaky feeling they would be happy for the beast to turn up without me but as its legal guardian I’m afraid In come with the package...

Hope to see you here next week....

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Country pursuits

After last week's experimental dressing, we return to more .... Ahem ...normal pursuits.

Are you sure you you want to talk about cross dressing

It was down to Dorking for a weekend in the country - hiking, laser pigeon shooting, and loads of eating.... Because there were so many people who did not know each other, the organiser, Alex, asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell everyone an interesting fact about themselves as we had lunch.

We soon discovered someone had once procured page 3 girls for the Daily Star and someone else who had driven a car across one of Heathrow's runways (in the days before airport security was tighter than my Basque last week) and cut up a Jumbo Jet - that would have been an interesting insurance claim if the jumbo had managed hit them...Then Mrs B came up with a cracker:

"I'm Mrs B and I'm married to a cross dresser" - I almost choked on my Lunch as she pointed across the table to me. The statement was met with a deafening silence - apart from last week and 14 years ago, when I can't deny that I got married in a skirt - what can I say? I fell back on my Scottish heritage - I have not been rummaging through Mrs B's wardrobe. So I can hardly be classed as a serial cross dresser.

I appear to have unleashed a monster and it's not as if I can complain as it is the sort of thing that I would have said. The phrase 'live by the sword, die by the sword' springs to mind. On one level and after the initial shock, I'm actually quite proud of Mrs B for coming out with it. She had hoped that it would prove a bit of a conversation starter but it was never mentioned again. In fact I would go as far as to say that people actively avoided the subject. So it was either a lucky let off for me and no one took on board what was said or they had and I have been marked down as someone best avoided in the future..... It's been a similar story at work where I know a number of people read or to be more precise looked at in horror, last week's BlackLOG. You can tell the ones that have, they have a very distinct blank far away look in their eyes. If you look very closely you can almost see the tears of regret that they had opened up Pandora's box. Being typically British they say nothing, but I know deep inside they are suffering in their silence.

I noticed my Boss had 'The Look', this surprised me as he does not normally read the BlackLOG, always claiming that he does not approve of my maltreatment of the English language. When I quizzed him he denied all but eventually, when pressed, he admitted that he had, for the first time in about two years, ventured in. He assured me that he would never happen again and he intends to give the BlackLOG a very wide birth from now on. This was said with a 'what you do in your own time is your own business' type of expression, mixed with a dose of "you can get help for that sort of thing".

Saturday was an 11k hike, which was good fun but conducted at a break neck pace, in order to avoid losing the daylight. We were fortunate that the weather held but I fear my photography suffered, as to stop even briefly to take a few pictures, risked being left behind for good. We were evidently on a mission with a tight schedule and a few casualties along the way were not going stop us.

For those of you who were there but missed the beautiful countryside I managed to take a few snaps as I sprinted to keep up. This is what you might have seen if time had allowed….

Yes there was grass, trees and water

Blink and you might have
missed this waterfall

I fear colour photography is wasted on this chap

On the Sunday it was laser clay pigeon shooting which was great fun, although at times a harpoon would have been more appropriate choice of weapon. The organiser was a real character and had the ladies eating out of his hand with his Sean Bean accent and easy manner. The normally competitive Mrs B proved for once completely inept and while shooting left handed, her normal inclination, she would have struggled to hit an elephant from 2 inches. It was so bad that the Sean Bean looky likey, held one of the reflective clays across the front of Mrs B's gun with the instructions to fire when he said pull. Mrs B even failed to hit it then as she could not understand his broad Sheffield accent and so missed the instruction. To give Mrs B her due, the rain caused her glasses to steam up so badly that she would not have been able to see an elephant if it had stood in front of her. Later when it stopped raining and she had a go shooting right handed she actually scored a respectable 27 - a far cry from the 2 she scored in the actual competition.

(1 of 2) Please don't shoot me

Sean Beans Puppy - 'Nemo' For the record
his mother was called 'Dorey'

(2 of  2) I have to, the girls think
you are too cute.

Sean Bean lookey likey dispairs
at  Mrs B's shooting inability...

Is that a Canoe in my pocket or am I
 going to have to make a swim for it?

Shut up I think this is a robbery

I shot the sheriff but I didn't shoot his deputy

One of Mrs B's better shots....Please note this
was behind where we were shooting

Julia almost looks like she knows what she is doing...

Duck, No need I've seen them shoot...

Some great comments that I heard during the weekend:-

"The Vikings fought a battle close by in 1846" - 1846?

There is probably a reasonable explanation for this statement which is either :-

We misheard Alex and she actually said 846


Since Alex is American and everyone knows you Americans have a short history span, I think she has just attempted to condense the world's history into the last 232 years...A bit like when people squash the history of earth into just one day, you know where they claim that man does not actually make an appearance until just before midnight.  Lets face it, the way we have treated the joint, it is just as well we did not make an appearance earlier in the day, the planet would probably have never made it passed lunchtime and if by some miricale it had, it would have been toast by dinner time....

Alex makes a much more effective
 hike leader than historian

"You shouldn't eat fish in the country - it's never going to be fresh."

Putting it into context, we were less than 26 miles from the sea, just how fresh did they want their fish to be?
"Does Princess need a hand to get over the style?" - I thought for a minute they were talking to me but this was addressed to the lady who was six months pregnant - Quite an impressive feat to undertake an 11K hike in that condition, although I still think "The Beast" possibly weighed more than the girl and her six month bump combined. Oh yes, as always the camera came with me.

I'm not saying that she was obsessed with babies or anything but during the evening meal when they were taking the orders ----

Waitress - "What are you having?"

Pregnant girl - "A girl!"

Me - "Will you be wanting vegetables with that?"

Mrs B cold but happy

I don't know if anyone has been watching the latest David Attenborough nature program - Life

One of the episodes featured a Darwin Beetle - a resident of Patagonia in Chile (who says you don't get an education via the BlackLOG). In order to get his end away the little wee beastie had to climb 25 metres up a tree, as his beloved was waiting at the top (in echoes of Rapunzel I think). There never was an explanation as to why she was up there (her hair was certainly not long enough). This seems fairly straight forward except he had to fight his way past every other frisky male Darwin Beetle in the Patagonia high trees district.  In order to progress our little hero had to wrestle each male he came across and the winner was the one that literally through his opponents off the tree. When he gets to the top he's forgotten the flowers and the chocolates (probably dropped them during one of his many encounters) and I guess the six pints he drank before starting out, to give him Dutch courage, aren't doing his cause a great deal either. The long and the short of it is that Miss Darwin Beetle is not impressed and starts playing hard to get. He flips out and forces himself upon her. He gets so carried away that the "throws of passion" take on a whole new meaning and after smoking the post-coital cigarette he chucks her off the tree as well. Can't say I really see much of a future in this relationship.

I'm figuring the program is called Life because that's what he should get for the umpteen unprovoked GBH attacks culminating in as many attempted murders. This is then followed up by a rape and attempted murder of the mother of his offspring. This little beast is a menace to society and should be locked away for a very long time.....I shall be giving his description to Crime watch and expect an arrest soon.

I can just imagine Miss Darwin Beetle talking to her best friend about her
first date -

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "How did it go?"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "Not great..."

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Oh no, what went wrong?"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "He didn't bring chocolates.... "

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Ouch!"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "or flowers."

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "The bastard."

Miss Darwin Beetle - "From the first moment he pestered me for sex."

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Tell me more, tell me more."

Miss Darwin Beetle - "So I said , No."

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Good on you girl."

Miss Darwin Beetle - "but he kept on and on"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "I hope you held out"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "I did"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Good for you"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "Till he held me down"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Oh, he's the old fashioned type...."

Miss Darwin Beetle - "I guess so"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "So when's the next date?"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "There won't be one"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Why not?"

Miss Darwin Beetle - "He chucked me, when he found out that I might be pregnant"

Miss Darwin Beetle's best friend - "Oh, the REALLY old fashioned type."

This conversation took place in the beetle hospital while her legs and hip were being reset - 25 metres is a long drop for a small pregnant beetle....

And his conversation

Male Darwin Beetle's best friend - "How did it go?"

Male Darwin Beetle - "I so nailed her, she was almost a virgin."

Male Darwin Beetle's best friend "Cool."

A bright beetle would just wait at the bottom of the tree for
the inevitable chucking. It might be sloppy seconds but it
would save on all that effort of fighting and wooing....

Wham bam thank you mam

Bright beetle - "Oh, yes you can take her the hospital
now, I've finished with her"

Please note that the BlackLOG does not
condone this wanton beetle behaviour

My friend Sophie said that this picture was similar to
one in the natural history museum only it had a deer
peeking between the trees. If you look very carefuly
you can see two Darwin beetles 'poking' in the trees...

Congratulations to our good friend Mitch for finally getting his Canadian citizenship - I think the only entitlement you get is you now have the right to be tazered legitimately at Vancouver airport. Joyce - you are now stuck with him and can't send him back.

We have a Christmas present for you as well but I decided not to post it as they were going to charge us £45 to post some English chocolate (i.e the edible stuff not the rubbish they sell over there) and dog biscuits. So I can report that the chocolate was very nice, you would have really enjoyed it.  McG says thanks for the Dog biscuits, but don't tell anyone as he has a reputation to maintain in the cat world....

McG & Mischief get some cousins
We dropped into see JL, Mrs B's sister and were introduced  to Wilson and it was going to be Cuddy - I guess we know who the "House" fans are.. but her name got changed to Amber at the last minute - fans of the show will realise that this is still a "House" orientated name just not as obvious as Cuddy.  Personally I would have gone with Thirteen as a name, Amber is only a few months old and she has already dislocated her hip and one of her knees, that's not just bad luck, that's size 13 bad luck.


Amber (or 13 as I like to call her)