Saturday, 26 November 2011

Two births, two job offers, a gig, a wedding and a belated move in

A bit of catch-up after last week’s emotional farewell to Newark Park – I’m negotiating with my Sister and  Mrs B to see if I can drag out some of their memories.  If I succeed these will be published in a future blog....

Olympics Ambassador  
May I introduce to you the latest 2012 Olympics Ambassador recruit  ....

no, he’s not behind me....

no, it’s not the distinguished  gentleman hovering in the corner (incidentally does anyone know who he is?  He showed up a couple of days ago  and keeps eating all the chocolate biscuits.....OK he doesn’t eat all the chocolate biscuits but Mrs B doesn’t know that so I‘m using it as cover....)

........It’s me!

Oh Mr Olympics Ambassador you are really spoiling us....queue bad acting as a tray of Ferrero Rocher  are handed round (This is possibly one of the worst adverts of all time)

I had originally applied for the “Meet and Greet role” and during the interview  they suggested I went for the one of the managerial roles....I was thinking this is the closest I’m ever going to get to being head hunted.... while they were probably thinking the best way of getting rid of me was to send me for promotion.

As it happens I was  offered both roles.

The first is “Flying squad member” (despite being based at Stansted Airport I had been assured that my feet wouldn’t be leaving the ground – so no jetting off to exotic climes to pick up lost athletes then). It involves troubleshooting problems that can’t be dealt with by the local team.  I’m not sure my vision of the Sweeney - sweeping in to sort out troublesome Olympics visitors - is quite how it would be though.  To think, I even wasted some valuable time practicing :-

"On the floor Slag"

"You’re nicked"

"Empty your pockets" etc...

The other role is  “Pod Manager”  - again at Stansted Airport.  I’m not entirely sure what this will involve but I did say at my interview that I wanted everyone who works for me to enjoy themselves so it should be a hoot....I sound like just the sort of boss I would want to work for....I shall be watching “Horrible bosses”* to pick up some tips.

While this is a totally voluntary job and I will receive no payment or have any chance of meeting any famous athletes, I’m really stoked to have been offered both roles...It’s been over 20 years since I last attended an interview, so to succeed in both was brilliant.  I have turned down the Sweeney (Flying Squad) role – not much point if you can’t rough people up and nick them for having Olympics tickets for events that we want to see.... 
My main concern all along is that I will have to wear a uniform.  The last time I wore one was at school and that was almost 30 years ago.  It’s nice to see that I have my priorities in the right place.....   I was relieved to find out that it won’t include a shirt and tie (I had vision of those polyester fire-hazard jobbies).  Although the bad news there is an awful lot of purple and red for me to carry off, I will do my best

The uniform details released a couple of days ago, will include :-

Polo shirt - Now will it be horse or water polo? 

Sweatshirt – while it might be for the summer this is the UK, just surprised they have not included
thermal underwear

Jacket – a bit formal but I’m prepared to make the sacrifice

Trousers - Well it would look mighty strange if we had no strides on....

Baseball Cap – I can wear it back to front and put off the youngsters

Trilby – no doubt for frightening the elderly

Umbrella - Come on this is the UK with only a 99% chance of rain - I'm looking forward to using it to do my Gene Kelly impression...
Notice there’s no holster and gun - so my Sweeney Flying Squad vision really faded before my very eyes....just as well I turned that role down

Joyce and Mitch visited from Canada for Mitch’s son’s Wedding
It was only a brief visit but good to catch up with them both – Joyce was a bit poorly – allergic to UK weather I fear.

I was particularly impressed that when we met them at the Wedding reception Joyce seemed sober but within less than a minute went from totally coherent to almost horizontal.  She wanted to dance and wasn’t taking no for an answer.  We cleared the dance floor before I escaped and managed to hide behind The Beast while Joyce went in search of other victims.  

In just over a week Mitch dragged them the length and breadth of England, catching up with his relatives and leaving just enough time to join me for a C.A.C.T.U.S  (Cheap As Chips Tuesday- half price cinema days) evening where I got to indulge in some more nostalgia with the New TinTin film. 

I also managed to introduce them to the delights of Delicious (When the BlackLOG finally goes mainstream, it can surely only be a matter of decade, Delicious will definitely be one of the sets - like Central Perks in “Friends” – only we rarely get to sit in the comfy seats). They even got to see Mrs B briefly before she was whisked away to Beijing with work.

Roddy Frame – Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush
A new venue for me and a scandal in that I had a couple of spare tickets and only managed to find one person  - Martin a German colleague – to join us  after being turned down by a couple of Canadians (they were in the middle of their whistle stop tour of UK – Yes Mitch, you are now a Canadian – it helps with my international quota) – an Italian, a Brazilian and various English friends...a positive cornucopia of international rejection.  Well, their loss as Mr Frame is an incredible musician and watching him play acoustically is a wonderful experience. Mrs B made another timely entrance appearing just as Roddy hit the opening bars of his set.  I quite liked Bush Hall, another intimate venue and with the bonus of being able to park only 2 minutes walk away.  As it was a new venue I didn’t try and get The Beast in so, regrettably, didn’t get any good pictures of the gig...

Alison has finally made an honest man of her husband
Just over a year after they got married our friend Al has moved in with her husband Richard.  Better late than never,  I guess we shouldn’t be that hard on Al as we were rather late getting to their wedding, arriving just as they were leaving the church – Ouch....We had been in Wales for the weekend and had struggled to make it back through the onslaught of Sunday traffic....
Richard “At last we can spend the rest of our lives together

Al “Richard, that is just so last year

Skip forward a year

Al “Ready or not I’m moving in....”

Richard "Who are you again?"

A couple of new additions to the world
...... who knows one of them might well  have been the 7 billionth earth citizen to be born.....

Craig and Mala had a baby daughter Sophia.  Craig asked when we were coming to meet her.  I replied that Nicky was waiting for a formal invite while I was waiting until she gets to around 20 (get those difficult teenage years out of her system).  I’ve been told that this was a really inappropriate thing to say (really?) along with my remark that the young daughter of one of Mrs B’s old work colleagues looked like Gollum (In my defence she had great big watery eyes)– I think I got away with it because her parents  hadn’t read Lord of the Rings or seen the film.......

Adam - manager of the delectable Delicious cafe - has had a son Ruben (Well I guess technically that should be Adam and his wife, otherwise you probably would have seen this in a paper - ). Mrs B made the right sort of cooing noises over the pictures, while I tried hard not to make any accidental disparaging remarks  - on the whole I think I succeeded, as so far I haven’t been banned from Delicious....

Watch of the weekThe regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Xupes price £1,495.00

Excellent unworn condition Ebel Brasilia Ladies Stainless steel Mother of pearl and diamonds watch on stainless steel strap with stainless steel deployment buckle. This is the ladies size measuring 30mm by 23.7mm. The dial is white mother of pearl with diamond markers. The case is set with factory diamonds. The watch is in excellent condition. The watch is from a UK authorized dealer on 1st November 2011.

Record of the week

Oblivious by Roddy Frame (Acoustic)
Somewhere In My Heart by Roddy Frame (Acoustic Live)
Bigger Brighter Better by Roddy Frame (Live on Later with Jools Holland)

Purple rain by Prince - There is a rumour that Prince (the diminutive purple pop star ) is the main sponsor of the London 2012 Olympics volunteer uniforms - in which case I'm grateful I don't have to wear a raspberry beret....
I'm still standing  by Elton John  - Only just Joyce, only just  
Tub Thumping by Chumbawamba. For the refrain "I get knocked down, I get up again"

Next week
Covers another one of those very hectic periods for us

KT Tunstall
Pigeon Detectives
Driving Miss Daisy
I got to eat with the chairman of Mrs B’s Company
Show me the Sunny - gets it's now monthly airing

Which just leaves time for a quick .....  

Photo Finish
Just as well I was in this shot otherwise I fear
Joyce would have exited stage left in a
quirky downward direction.... As it was I
got to feel like the pole in a pole  dance...
Mitch a Canadian in English clothing....
Mrs B "Lean on me... but no dribble
 thank you very much"
McG doing his best Teddy Bear impression.

If any blokes out there thought it would be cool
to have two birds fighting over them – just ask
what is left of Mr Fish, how cool this turned out
for him....????
Hope to see you next week

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A personal remembrance of Newark Park (1974 – 2011)

This week I report on  a rather poignant  moment  in my life as I say goodbye, for the last time, to an old family friend.

We were first introduced in the summer of 1974  and what a profound impact that introduction had on my life. I  speak not of a person but a house.  Not just any house though. I’m talking about a 16th century Hunting Lodge which might not be the most historically significant  or architecturally beautiful house in the world  but to me it has always held a very special place in my heart.

As a family we came to be associated with Newark Park through my mother’s London Landlord, Bob, or Uncle Bob as he came to be known to my sister and I.  My mother was very fortunate that during the 60’s when the passion was to find a  Slum landlord she found the rather wonderful   Robert Parsons.  A larger than life Texan (although he was born in Oklahoma in 1920 – raised in Wichita Falls Texas – never losing his wonderful Texan drawl)  Bob came to England with the American army during the 2nd World War.  He fell in love with the country and after studying architecture at Harvard returned to England in the 1950’s.  A successful antique dealer, property developer and wonderful landlord, he went to Newark Park in 1970 and found a house sadly in decline. (Not unlike McG at the beginning of this year.) The property had come into the hands of the National Trust in 1949 but unsure of what to do with it they had rented it out to a series of tenants, one of whom had turned it into a nursing home for the elderly.  This has to be a low point in its history.   I think of these as the house’s  Dexter” years, except rather than killing low life street scum, the house was helping to dispatch coffin dodgers – through hypothermia.   

Bob had taken on Newark on the basis of a repair lease,  with I  believe an annual rent of just £1 a year but an agreement to spend something in the region of £10,000 annually on restoration. He took on the task with gusto and, I suspect, spent considerably more than £10,000 a year.  He almost single handedly brought Newark back from the brink and by the time of our first visit, the house had moved out of intensive care and off the endangered list as Bob continued to breathed new life into it....

Our first visit  was in the days before Sat Navs or mobile phones and I remember my father struggling to find Newark. No one in the neighbourhood knew of the house and in those days there were no helpful National Trust signs pointing the way.  We seemed to end up driving through muddy fields and farm yards as we attempted to hone in on the place.  My sister and I had a vision of it being a town house as our only knowledge of Gloucestershire was based on the following children’s Rhyme:

Doctor Foster
Went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain.
He stepped in a puddle
Right up to his middle
And never went there again!

The book where we read it showed a Georgian town house and to a 9 and 10 year old was exactly what we were expecting to find at Newark.  The sight, however, as we finally drove in through the gate (Dad having at long last given up mucking about in muddy fields), passed the gate lodge and down the long curving drive with glorious golden corn fields flanking either side, was beyond our wildest imagination (which, to be honest, at the time consisted mainly of owning more sweets than we could eat and getting out of the car before we wet ourselves with excitement).    

Having the run of the place my sister and I  truly felt like Lord and Lady of the manor.  Bob would even leave Trudy, his beautiful Great Dane (and incidentally my favourite ever dog), with us while he returned to  London.  Trudy was such a character and I remember one time when Bob had packed his car to the gunnels, leaving hardly room for himself.  Somehow, Trudy managed to get into the car and squeezed her not inconsiderable bulk into the space that would have been a tight fit for a fairly small Chihuahua.  It took an age to lure her out and you will never see a dog look so miserable and dejected as when Bob drove off without her. However as soon as the car was out of sight Trudy perked up and returned to her normal  happy self....

Ghosts and things that don't go bump in the night (but might flutter)
Ever since my first visit to Newark I have been plied with stories about the ghosts that haunted the house.  It was built from the stones of Kingswood Abbey (one of the many churches that Henry VIII had dissolved) and two monks are said to hang about  the main staircase.  I can report that, other than the terrifying paintings that  lined the main staircase, with eyes that followed you in the most scary of fashions, ensuring my sister and I didn’t hang around when we went down to collect our night time cup of cocoa,   I never once felt a ghostly presence..... I did however get scared shitless one time while watching a vampire movie, in the old Library at the top of the house, when a bat flew through an open window (I can confidently predict there would have been far more underwear staining if the bat had flown through a closed window).   

If you look very carefully you will fail to find a
ghost gazing  out from any of the windows...
Not unless you have taken loads of drugs or
not slept for a couple of weeks....
Newark - the Mrs B years
For a young man in his early twenties, coming from just an ordinary home, to be able to take a young lady to this wonderful remote house, perched on a high bluff in the Gloucestershire countryside proved to be a wonderful dating weapon.   

Who could fail to be impressed? 
In fact the first time that I took Mrs B down to Newark we found ourselves sitting down to dinner with Sally, Duchess of Westminster.  Bob was renowned for his wonderful dinner parties.  I believe Mrs B was slightly in awe of the situation and was mortified to find that she really didn’t like the starter – consomm√© and caviar.  She looked across at me and watched me wolfing it down...Like a trooper she managed to finish the starter and just about kept it down (I'm sure the Duchess of Westminster was having enough trouble dealing with commoners, without one of them throwing up all over her)  ...Mrs B was furious when she found out later that I had also disliked consomm√© and had not been eating it but using my spoon to crush it down into the bowl and then taking the empty spoon back to my mouth....

My sister’s wedding reception was held at Newark  (it always delights me to be able to report that a fight developed between a mother and daughter which ended up with blood being drawn under the main table.  No, it was not my sister and mother but Portia and Misty, two over-excited Great Danes in residence at that time.  In a nice symmetry,  Bob hosted my sister’s wedding reception just as he had for my Mother and Father in London many years before (I told you he was a good landlord, could you imagine Peter Rachman,  one of the most notorious of Landlords, during the period, offering my parents anything but a swift boot out of the property....  ). 

I had the honour of giving my sister away (despite all my best efforts she didn’t receive a single bid, let alone make the reserve I had set) and during the speeches I proposed to Mrs B (or Miss C as she was then)........... Yes, of course I discussed it with my sister first.  She was delighted with my plan as she felt I had already kept Miss C waiting for far too long – I think it was around 10 years (a nice round number in my opinion).  For the record, Miss C never actually said yes but burst into tears, along with most of the rest of the female contingent at the reception.  The effect was like a scene from Night of the Living Dead with mascara running in rivulets  down the cheeks of once immaculately made up  young ladies... I wasn’t sure if I should run for the hills or start hacking the heads off the army of zombies that had suddenly materialised before me.....

Bob and Michael 
Initially, Newark was a summer venue for us but, as the years went by, Bob’s improvements made the house suitable to be opened to the public and so our visits moved to winter which was out of season. (I’m sad to say that I never saw Newark under a blanket of snow, which looks magical  in the photographs that I have seen.  Although, being so remote, I don’t think we would ever have made it anyway.) Even after the loss of my Father in 1982, we carried on the relationship with Newark and it was around this time that Michael Claydon came to stay for a weekend and, as he puts it, forgot to leave.

While Bob had brought architectural creativity to Newark, Michael – whose previous jobs had included being a theatre manager - brought a business acumen which allowed Newark to start paying its own way and to bring it closer to the more conventional style of  National Trust property.  For almost twenty years (all except an 18 month break when Bob gave up the tenancy after he was mistakenly diagnosed with having Parkinson’s disease – it turned out to be a brain tumour which was successfully removed) until 2000 when Bob died just short of his eightieth birthday, Bob and Michael formed a successful  partnership  continuing to  guide Newark towards safety.  Before Bob had agreed to take on Newark there had been a real danger that the house would have been demolished.... Michael carried on the hard work for another 11 years.

I could not understand why Michael would ever consider giving up Newark Park but our final visit last month was a real eye opener.  The house had been moving into a new phase for a number of years  but because we had always visited out of season we had not noticed the impact of the subtle changes, such as part of the house being transformed into a separate holiday flat.  For almost half the year Michael had become a prisoner in his home as Newark gradually became drawn more and more into the public domain.  Much as I hate to admit it, this is of course the only way Newark can survive going forward.  Michael has met a new partner, Philip, and they need to get on with their own lives.

The sad thing for me is that with Michael moving out of the house, part of what makes the house magical will be lost - the warmth that people living somewhere bring,  giving personality to what is otherwise just an inanimate object.   It was certainly strange to see so many visitors wondering around Newark and the way people talked about the house and asked questions of the room  stewards*  made it feel like a wake.  I guess in terms of my memories, it was....

* A sure sign that things had really changed – It would have been very hard for my sister and I to play Lord and Lady of the manor, although thinking about it we probably could have pretended that they were our servants....

 I know that the days and weeks I spent at Newark, even when added up, barely register as a blink to this extraordinary house**.  I count myself as very privileged to have been able to stay there and have been left with some fantastic memories. We are truly grateful to Bob and Michael for their wonderful hospitality over the years....Yet time moves on and as one chapter closes a new one begins. If you ever find yourself in Gloucestershire, close to Wotton-under-Edge you should pop in and visit  the old place – (as long as it is between March and the end of October from 11am to 5pm, Wed, Thur and weekends) and say hello for me. Sadly I can’t and won’t be going back..... 

** While  there will never be a blue plaque saying that I stayed here –  I have one claim to fame, having slept in six of the ten bedrooms – I doubt no one else has.

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

Xupes price £5,495.00
Excellent condition New style Rolex Datejust ladies 18k yellow gold/stainless steel automatic 26mm watch on stainless steel/18k yellow gold strap with stainless steel deployment buckle. This is the mens size measuring 26mm. This is the sought after newer model with solid strap and concealed clasp. The dial is silver with diamond markers. The watch is in excellent condition with original boxes, manuals & guarantee stamped and dated 21st June 2007 purchased from a UK Autorized dealer. This particular model is current and still sold in Rolex Boutiques Worldwide. Strap measures 6.25 inches.

Record of the week
I was having difficulty getting versions of the songs that I wanted to use to load this week - not sure if access to the jukebox is coming to an end  - a shame if it is but it has been a great ride. I still laugh (through gritted teeth) at the woman who commented that the music I selected showed dubious taste,  she missed the point.   Yes a lot of the songs played are ones I like, sometimes however I use songs that just happen to go with the weeks subject no matter how naf they are – a case of you the reader,  well listener really if you choose to hit the play button, having to suffer for my art....
Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks - Sentimental hogwash but as it reached No.1 in the UK in 1974 there was just no way that I could not include it here - I can feel the tears welling up already, just not sure if it is through sadness and recollection of times that are gone and can never be again or of having to listen to this painful ditty once again, especially after thinking I had escaped its clutches forever - almost worth going deaf for (Michael count yourself lucky that your hearing is playing up at the moment and while I hope the operation to sort it out goes well try and avoid listening to this rubbish when you get it back)

This Is The Last Time by Keane - very apt for this weeks post - if it had been released in 1974 I think I might have cried again

All Things Must Pass by  The Beatles -A bit strange this,  while I can’t get any of the George Harrison versions of the song to play,  I did find this 1969 Beatles rehearsal of the song – this would have been from the Get Back Sessions,  which eventually became the Let it Be album – When"All Things Must Pass" failed to make it onto "Let It Be",  George Harrisons used it as the title of his first solo album  – incidentally the same year that Bob came to Newark....spooky but true
Photo Finish
A mixture of photo's taken during our last visit and the last time we actualy stayed a couple of years ago.....  

The world would have been a poorer place if this
glorious property had been left to perish...

"Down by the lake", which happens to be
the title of a great little song by a group
called 'Mouse' - sadly not a chance of
getting this for the Jukebox.... 
One of the many Follies littered around the
700+ acres that surround the house ...

Can you imagine what this would look
like in a raging storm with fork lightning
illuminating the sky....
Big Sis doing her Bono (The fly era) impression....
Michael and Mrs B closing a gate on another
chapter of our lives...At 37 years it was certainly
quite along chapter, almost as long as one of my
more badly punctuated sentences ....  
Mrs B trying to demonstrate the art of off road
 driving if someone has stolen your car....
A view of the rolling hills that surround
Newark and add to its charm....

On reflection I don't think that sheep is very well.
It looks like it is suffering from a severe case of
zebra envyitus.  Can prove fatal  if crossed  
with a busy main road...
My sister and I re-creating a photograph of Trudy
(Black Great Dane)and her back in the 1970’s –
My sister had the easier task, just having to play
herself, all be it a much younger version (soft
focus can work wonders) – While I had to spend
hours working on becoming not just a dog but a
female one to boot (or should that be paw). 

Yes I know it would have been a lot more impressive
if I had worn black but you can’t have everything ....
Michael and Philip at the backdoor of Newark..

The Devil is always in the detail....

Regular readers of the BlackLOG (probably
Just Mrs B and I ),  will be familiar with my
love of taking pictures of people walking
away from the lens.  The secret  behind this
technique is simply to get left behind, as
you take pictures of other things around
you, and then find yourself lagging way
 behind, desperately trying to catch up.

 Having already stretched your patience this week,  I shall draw this week’s blog to a close.  If anyone is interested I will trawl the old memory banks and share with you other memories of Newark in a future BlackLOG....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

This week celebrating glorious failure...

Following on from last week’s murder mystery in Hastings*  Mrs B and I found ourselves making a return trip the following weekend. 

I blame the unseasonably good weather and  the members of English Heritage who spotted The Beast and mentioned that it was a shame that we were a week early as the next weekend was the Battle of Hastings annual re-enactment –  Typical of us British to celebrate the last time we lost a home game in a European competition....No one else celebrates glorious failure in the same way

Scott of the Antarctic  - came second to the far less famous Roald Amundsen who lost his life and his men in the process.

Charge of the Light Brigade -  They came second, never a good thing in a battle.

Titanic -  Failed to swim the Atlantic ocean – rumour has it that they had run out of Ice in the 1st class dining room and everyone’s G&T’s were going warm – if only they had stopped to pick up the ice rather than trying to plough right through it....

Guy FawkesFamed for his failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament and burned in effigy every 5th of November -

Just think no Houses of Parliament = no MP's expenses scandal

i.e. no greedy, good for nothing, bloodsucking, power hungry bustards leaching off this country like it is their own personal bank account – thanks for nothing Guy Fawkes  Charles the 1st – Famous for the failure to keep his crown – true a little pointless having a crown when you have lost your head and so don’t have anywhere to keep it  

Harold Godwinson – After beating the Danes a few days earlier all he had to do was to rest his troops and wait for reinforcements - not rush his men into a battle that they were not prepared for with that complete French bastard William.  Apparently when Harold's men complained about all the rushing around he declared that “It was better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick....” how profound that statement turned out to be...

They always say you should learn from your mistakes.
 Sadly us Brits  just seem to glorify in them....

The problem with re-enactments is that they involve a large number of beardy weirdies  - who traditionally couldn’t get a girlfriend  if they tried picking them up on a street corner and offered to pay them double. 

Not sure what has happened recently but the beardy weirdies for this event seemed to have come with readymade families and, on the surface at least, no rohypnol seemed to have been required.  Perhaps there are certain women who have a thing for leather, chainmail, swords and sharpened axes....   it looks like Saxon and Norman groupies are the new W.A.G.s of the modern age.

The day consisted of:

  • Falconry displays
  • Various talks about elements of life in Saxon Britain in 1066
  • A number of children's activities that we avoided like the plague (OK the  plague wouldn’t hit Britain for another 282 years, but I’m sure you will make allowances for us wanting to avoid other people's snotty nosed little street urchins who are bound to be carrying some sort of germ, bug or virus) 
  • Sword and Axe knockout competition – with combatants fighting each other until just one man was left standing.
  • Norman horse demonstration – The Saxon army was made up almost entirely of infantry which would have made for a very dull horse demonstration.
Culminating at 4pm in a never to be repeated experience** - the re-enactment of the battle of Hastings itself *** consisting of 600 mainly beardy werdies – including a few women with what I can only hope were fake beards (the actual battle had 16,000 and no women – unless you count the ladies on the side lines busily stitching the Bayeux tapestry - probably the first ever live outside broadcast event) compressed into 1 hour (the actual battle lasted about 8 hours). 

** unless you count - the next day, next year and future years.

*** Which for you accuracy freaks out there took place at Senlac Hill, approximately 10 km (614 miles) from Hastings.

Mrs B lasted about 45 minutes, her loss of interest can be put down to the lack of deaths on the battle field - despite the commentary stating that the English (Saxon) army was being decimated by the Normans (future English), yet  not one single person managed to lie down and play dead - For the record Mrs B is not normally an uncaring blood thirsty individual, she just happens to be a stickler for accuracy.  I appreciated that only having 4% of the original numbers to play with the organisers wouldn’t want too many deaths at the beginning of the scrap.  However after the equivalent of 6 hours of heavy fighting you wouldn’t expect it to be Nil-Nil  and very much looking like things were heading for a boring no score draw. 

On the plus side Mrs B's sudden loss of interest at least allowed us to get out of the car park and away without getting stuck for hours in the mass exodus – You have to  face it,  battling your way out of a packed car park takes on a whole new meaning when many of the other competitors have swords, spears, battle axes and way too much facial hair for anything other than a werewolf with shaving issues....If only I had still been packing last weekend’s wash bag I could have at least pulled a safety razor on them.

“Let me out  weirdo or the beard gets it....”

Overall the day was great and with next year set to be one of the “Big Ones” i.e. likely to involve 2000+ beardy weardies and the promise (now this is going to be so exciting for any accurists out there that I fear there is a serious danger of some over excitement underwear wetting, so if you do get over excited by accuracy please step back from your PC, I don’t want to be held responsible for your involuntary electrocution - that includes you Mrs B)  that the battle will be fought in the correct orientation i.e. up and down Senlac Hill rather than across its slope as happens most years when there are not enough beardy weardies  to fill the space....I’m kind of tempted to take The Beast back next year for "The Big One". This very much depends on the weather and Mrs B's beardy weirdy tolerance  levels.
All I'm saying is - it's a beard and it looks weird....

Harsh but true....
Vocal combat - fight for the right to argue
All that male testosterone played out in front of me seemed to have an adverse affect and I spent the following week being more confrontational than normal.

PC virus
I was informed by our IT department that my work PC had contracted a virus and was asked to bring it down to the IT department to get the problem resolved.

I was told that if they discovered a virus they could remove it and I could have my PC with the data intact and so I happily went off with a loan machine.

I called back a week later and was told they had isolated the virus and removed it and I could pick up my PC.

Imagine my delight to find they had not only cleaned out the  virus but all my data as well. Grrrrr

Tesco – when is an offer not an offer? When it's a Tesco offer
I was incensed during a recent visit to the local Tesco supermarket when I noticed that one of their tempting offers was not actually an offer at all. A big yellow sticker declaring "2 items for £6" sounds good until you read the small print and notice that all the items in the offer were priced at £3 each, a grand saving of zero pounds - with those levels  of savings we can wave goodbye to the recession and party like it's bed time...

I pointed this out to a passing Assistant Manager who took a very high handed attitude saying that it was very much up to the customer to check what the deal was (sounds a lot like when our government recently had extensive talks with the energy companies,  regarding their over complicated pricing structure for gas and electricity.  Promising action to curb the issue of overcharging customers by confusion....only to declare shortly afterwards that it was up to each customer to find the best deal for themselves.  This was no doubt after brokering a deal with the energy companies for half price gas and electricity for the House of Commons.)

I mentioned that with that sort of attitude Tesco would not need to worry about upsetting customers in the future as people don’t like being ripped off and tend to vote with their feet .  “Sure” I continued - feeling the full might of righteous indignation swelling inside me – “Waitrose is generally more expensive but at least you know what you are paying with their "never knowingly under sold" slogan.

(Yes Christian, I know that officially that is a John Lewis slogan but I regard you all as one big happy family and it fits with this week’s blog....

Do you really want to argue while I’m in this mood....?

Hang on a second , are you still wearing your Brian Sewer glasses on a chain?.....

Please note that if I happen to die mysteriously in the next few weeks I expect to see Christian as the chief suspect).
Mr Assisant Manager got upset at this and refused to accept that they were ripping off customers.  He wouldn’t even acknowledge that people would perceive that they were being ripped off.

I pointed out that I myself felt that I was being ripped off.

His response “No you are not” clearly shows he was not a perceptive person himself. 

While he had no idea that I was still fuming at having all my data wiped off my PC earlier in the day, he should have noticed the rising level of sarcasm and the steam rising from my ears.

Scottish power
As our current energy deal was running out I received an email informing me that they were happy to extend the same deal for another year....This set alarm bells ringing and just 10 minutes on their site brought me the reward of a 10% discount on energy prices – a saving of about £120 over the year.  A quick check on the comparison web sites proved that this was the best deal open to me so I called them up.

SP Energy sales rep – "Are you calling to extend your current deal?"

Me – "Not likely. I have worked out  that your Saver 16 bill is more beneficial for us by 10% a year"

SP Energy rep – "So you don’t want to extend your current deal?"

He was obviously far more perceptive than your average Tesco Assistant Manager

Me – "No. I’d actually like to sign up for your most expensive energy rate that you do..."

Silence – this conversation had clearly gone off his written script

Me – "Saver 16 sounds like a good one to me"

SP Energy rep – "Good choice - that’s probably our best deal at the moment"

I decided not to get into the argument as to why I felt they should put me on the best deal in the first place....

Film night
What’s worse than turning up 15 minutes late for a film night....?  Turning up 15 minutes early, while your host (me) was still in the shower*****....It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had been going to watch something damp like Titanic or Jaws,  it would have at least set the mood. As it was it was a less than impressed soggy half-dressed individual who rather moodily opened the door to three early guests.

***** What can I say, It doesn’t take me long to get ready

As I walked back to Carruthers(our BMW) in Waitrose (Upmarket supermarket) there was a huge space where we had parked him....Gulp

It turns out that all this aggression seems to have affected Carruthers, who was so incensed at being left in the Waitrose car park on his own that he had decided to take matters into his own wheels and gone for a roll  (The hand brake had not engaged properly, Doh!)  We found him 30 yards down the car park kissing the front of a Saab.  It could have been worse,  it might have been a Skoda or a  Daewoo - I’m not sure I could have lived with the disgrace of Carruthers being caught inflagranti with a lower class vehicle. It was bad enough  that the Saab was quite a bit older than him and had clearly led him on....

We waited for the owner and explained the situation (no, not the bit about their hussy of a car leading poor Carruthers astray) - Mrs B said it went really well until I mentioned how lucky it was that our car's wheels were turned slightly so he had rolled in an elongated curve and met her Saab's bumper rather than the doors and side panels of the vehicle that had been parked right in front of him. Mrs B said the woman didn’t look like she was feeling that lucky....

I guess we should count our blessings that it was Waitrose, because if it had been in Tesco the owner of the car would have probably tried to claim whiplash, sustained when she recieved  the message over the tannoy to go back to her hussy of a car....

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business Xupes. Joe mentioned that they had been getting a number of hits via the BlackLOG.

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type…

This weeks is Josephs favourite,

Xupes price £58,000.00
 Immaculate unused condition Jaeger le Coultre Master Compressor Extreme Byblos Tourbillon Limited edition Platinum & Titanium watch on black rubber strap with stainless steel deployment buckle. This is the mens XL size measuring 44mm. The dial is slate grey.

Record of the week
The Fool On The Hill by Paul McCartney – All Harold had to do was hold his men at the top of Senlac Hill and victory would have been his....The fool 

ARGUE - Matchbox20 –  Monty Python said it a lot better than I ever could -  

Man: Is this the right room for an argument?
Other Man: (pause)  I've told you once.
Man: No you haven't!
Other Man: Yes I have.
M: When?
O: Just now.
M: No you didn't!
O: Yes I did!
O: (breaking into the developing argument) Oh I'm sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?
M: Ah! (taking out his wallet and paying) Just the five minutes.
O: Just the five minutes. Thank you.
Anyway, I did.
M: You most certainly did not!
O: Now let's get one thing perfectly clear: I most definitely told you!
M: Oh no you didn't!
O: Oh yes I did!
M: Oh no you didn't!
M: Oh look, this isn't an argument!


O: Yes it is!
M: No it isn't!


M: It's just contradiction!
O: No it isn't!
M: It IS!
O: It is NOT!
M: You just contradicted me!
O: No I didn't!
M: You DID!
O: No no no!
M: You did just then!
O: Nonsense!
M: (exasperated) Oh, this is futile!!


O: No it isn't!
M: Yes it is!


I came here for a good argument!
O: AH, no you didn't, you came here for an *argument*!
M: An argument isn't just contradiction.
O: Well! it CAN be!
M: No it can't! - An argument is a connected series of statement intended to establish a proposition.
O: No it isn't!
M: Yes it is! 'tisn't just contradiction.
O: Look, if I *argue* with you, I must take up a contrary position!
M: Yes but it isn't just saying "no it isn't".
O: Yes it is!
M: No it isn't!

Me - See I told you
Reader - No you didn't
Me - Yes I did.....

Photo Finish
To end this week we have some shots from the Battle of Hastings re-enactment day followed by a day we had on the beach in October  - Proof the UK weather has truly lost it....
Like Dumbo, this little chap needed his
magic feather in order to fly...

"Eeek - I've dropped my lucky feather
Flight control I'm going down,
repeat,  I'm going down"

1 of 4
During the dress rehearsal in the afternoon
deaths to the left of us.....

2 of 4
Deaths to the right of us...  

3 of 4
In fact death all around us.....

4 of 4
Yet during the battle re-enactment  itself
there seemed a certain amount of stage fright
 going on with a pathalogical failure to die.....

A couple of reporters taking a well earned break
from live sewing duties on the  Bayeux Tapestry
(which incidentally is not a tapestry and was
made in England not Bayeux)
The Normans looking down on the Saxons
We appear to have a bit of slope
malfunction going on...
Kirk – “Shield wall up and set phasers to stun, Mr Zulu”

Southwold beach in October

How old do you think this couple are?
answer next time....

We were like a beacon to small children, who
delighted in surrounding us and practicing
a game called "Who can scream the loudest".

Mrs B gets the long legs she has always wanted....

I wasn't sure if I should take this picture
or call the Firebrigade...

I hope this was a reflection of the sunset in
the window rather than the cottage on fire .. 
Next week sees me sever a 37 year relationship, which links right back to the heart of my childhood