Friday, 27 March 2015

Death, extended life, confusion and disappointment

It's already been well over a week but I have finally decided that I can't let the passing of my favourite author go without a mention - I was first introduced to his books around 1988 (Thank you Keith Skedd for the introduction to a world of entertainment,  close to my sense of humour but way beyond my comic ability ) just after the publication of his fourth Discworld book "Mort". I was smitten with the tag line  "Death comes to us all. When he came to Mort he offered him a job." Thank you Sir Terry Pratchett for a body of work that often left me laughing out loud and never once disappointed and lets hope death has offered you Morts old job.....

Extended Life
On a happier note, this month saw our cat McG celebrate his 20th Birthday - not bad for a chubby little kitten of no fixed ability.  He hit a stone in weight when he was 6 months old and has technically been on a diet for 19 and a half years.  He has a kill count of 1 (which we strongly expect was a bird that stunned itself by flying into a closed window) so is probably guilty of the crime of assisted suicide rather than cold blooded murder....

We almost lost him in 2002 when he got crystals in his bladder and ballooned to almost twice his size - a week in animal hospital (fortunately Rolf Harris was no where in sight so we know he wasn't abused) It was touch and go with daily health reports matched only by hourly vet bill updates....happily McG had a much more successful recovery than our bank balance which flat lined and received the last rights twice before finally limping back to recovery - He was worth every penny.

About 5 years ago, during an annual check up the vet told me to bring him back in a few weeks time when we were ready to have him put down.  This second life threatening situation was relatively easy to rectify by changing his diet and more importantly his vet....

McG celebrates his 20th Birthday by
spending it in bed...
We finally managed to get to the Lee Valley Velopark - which was one of the few Olympic venues we failed to get to see in 2012.  It's fantastic and I really enjoyed the evening even if half the time we didn't have a clue what was going on and indeed who was leading.  The only time I knew for certain was when Laura Trott (UK's cycling heroine from 2012 ) was on the track - mainly because she was practically lapping everyone else by the time they reached the first corner....

Some of the race highlights
Keirin racing - each rider follows a rotund man on a tiny motor bike around the track allowing the cyclist to slip stream and cycle faster then they would normally....

Laura Trott gets an honour guard of
chubby men on tiny motorbikes....
Elimination race - teams circle the track until a bell sounds at which point the last team past the finish line gets eliminated.

The Longest race - Competitors have to keep their bike motionless for between 2 and 4 minutes - during that time they are not allowed to cross the starting line or touch the track with any part of their body until the referee starts the race at which point they sprint for a single lap.

Ready set stand still....
Eclipse Hoax?
I've yet to meet anyone who actually witnessed the UK partial eclipse first hand - While Bishops Stortford was admittedly covered in heavy cloud, as the appointed moment approached, came and went, the light didn't dim even a little bit.  The only way I could take part was by shutting my eyes but quite frankly I can do that anytime of the day or night...

C.A.C.T.U.S round-up   
Attendees (17th Feb) The 7th film for 2015 – Focus
a good fun romp - a bit predictable but not bad for a Will Smith film...


C.A.C.T.U.S running totals
Niel (9)
Marb (6)
Penny (6)
Natalie (4)
Al (5)
Mrs B (2)
Mark (2)
Lisa (2)

Photo Finish
We end this addition with some more shots from the Velodrome and McG

Cycling a very hands on sport...
Leaders of the pack...
At times it was just a blur 
The racing was certainly close
Sermon from the box
"I may have the ageing body of a house cat
but I have the heart of a lion..."
Hear me roar...
The happiest summer for McG was 1997,
which he spent spread eagled on top of an Avery
in Chesham. Not sure the occupants or indeed
the owner were that impressed. I believe they had
a party when we moved on...

Saturday, 7 March 2015

If a deal sounds too good to be true…. bite their hand off

Deal of the week

I finally got fed up with the rubbish mobile signal we get at home and paid £100 for a "sure signal" box… It worked brilliantly..... for 24 hours and then it stopped. I took it back for a replacement but the shop had none in stock, so I got my money back. I checked the internet for reviews and happened to read that if you called customer services and threatened to leave they would give you a discount on the box. 

 I called and was told that if I upgraded my phone contract they would give me a sure signal box for free. It didn’t sound like it was going to be much of a deal if I ended up paying more per month. So I reluctantly asked what the upgrade was…. For £14 less (yes less) a month, I could have an extra 2GB of 4G data and the same calls and text package, free 12 month subscription to Sky Mobile  and a free £100 sure signal box….

I bit their hand off …..


Now I just have to hope the replacement box lasts longer than 24 hours…
50 shades round up (fingers crossed the final word on the subject)
Great news - the director and writer are at war and the male lead, Jamie Dornan’s wife has banned him from the sequel so it looks increasingly unlikely that there will be a second helping.

This is bad news for the woman who got so excited while watching 50 Shades at her local cinema  that she ended up in hand cuffs – surely not the best move by the police – The one action guaranteed to give the poor woman multiple orgasms and demanding to be whipped because she had been “A bad little girl….” 

C.A.C.T.U.S round-up   

Attendees (10th Feb) The 7th film for 2015 – Wedding Ringers
Surprisingly good, which was a bit unexpected – probably relief that I was not watching 50 shades.


C.A.C.T.U.S attendees (17th Feb) The 8th film for 2015 – The second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Brilliant it made me want to go back to India (we had just returned from India when we saw the original film) – The only problem was that I was laughing so much I missed some of the dialogue. Cinema needs to get with the times and include a rewind, pause and in some cases a delete function....definitely a delete function.   


C.A.C.T.U.S running totals

Niel (8)
Marb (6)
Penny (5)
Natalie (4)
Al (4)
Mrs B (2)
Mark (2)
Lisa (2)

Photo Finish
A taster for the next blog - some pictures from our trip to the Velopark in Stratford

Jack Bobridge - Australi

Revolution series - Round 5 

Laura Trott - who just wins everything....

Friday, 20 February 2015

50 shades of sexploitation

The C.A.C.T.U.S club hit a new low this week, getting drawn into the media frenzy that is 50 Shades of Grey… My expectations of the film were low, which helped because it certainly lived down to them**. I only managed to stay awake because I was worried that I might miss something exciting… I wouldn’t have.

** I came close to giving this week’s Blog the title “Fifty shades of beige” but realising that the mere mention of s.e.x sells any old rubbish I took the commercial decision and have sold the very soul of The BlackLOG – don’t worry normal service will be resumed shortly and The BlackLOG will return to its normal beige consistency. After all there is only so much excitement one can take.

The 99.9% female audience turned the atmosphere into a kindergarten, with a loud squeaky buzz of excitement filling the auditorium before the film started. I have to admit that some of the film was funny, although not always intentionally so, because the film script is as badly written as the book it is based upon (Oh damn, further shame. It looks like I’ve accidently admitted to having read the first book of the series). Sadly, the unintentional humour only serves to disguise the main problem with the story. It is basically a tale about grooming because of all the gifts Christian gives to Anastasia: an Apple Mac, a brand new car (albeit complete rubbish compared to the cars that Mr Grey swans around in). Then there is Mr Grey's jealousy over any men in Anastasia’s life and going loopy because she had not told him she was visiting her mum. If this had been set in Rotherham it would have been headline news for sure.

The showing that the C.A.C.T.U.S club attended was almost full (Mrs B had a ticket but didn’t make it home from work in time – lucky thing).  The film was being shown in most of the other screens, which I’m guessing were full too – just for the promise of some mild titillation (As Madonna put it “Sex scenes written by someone who has no idea about sex”). The supposedly hard core counting scene is a good example – Sesame Street does counting much more entertainingly with The Count. Anyone else seen the film? What is your view?

It is really sad that the previous week’s C.A.C.T.U.S outing  to see Selma (The Martin Luther King film) a powerful story about securing equal voting rights – was being shown on only one screen and that was practically empty….If only MLK had thought to drop into the local Selma hardware store to pick up rope, cable ties, duct tape and then groomed his followers, Selma might have done much better at the Box office. I guess MLK had more important matters on his mind than cinema receipts 50 years later.

The week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees (10th Feb) The fifth film for 2015 – Selma

The week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees (17th Feb) The sixth film for 2015 – 50 Shades of Grey

C.A.C.T.U.S running totals
Niel (6)
Penny (4)
Marb (4)
Natalie (2)
Al (3)
Mrs B (2)
Mark (1)
Lisa (1)

Bit of excitement for me when BBCspringwatch liked one of my Instagram posts


Photo Finish
Pictures February 2014 – All taken with the Panasonic FZ150 (can’t remember why I didn’t use either of The Beasts) so a bit fuzzier than normal.

Anna Calvi at the Troxy

"Sing to me"

"One Breath"

"Love Won't Be Leaving"

"No more words"

"Morning Light"

Del Amitri – Hammersmith Apollo

"Be my downfall"

"Behind the fool"

"Nothing ever happens"

"Kiss this thing goodbye"

"Drunk in a band"

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Rumours of Fleetwood Mac

We had the choice: £200 each for nosebleed seats at the top of some huge arena; or £30 for a great view at one of my favourite venues, The Union Chapel, Islington. The down side being that the £30 option was for Rumours of Fleetwood Mac, a tribute band, rather than the real thing…

Because we were with friends I didn’t manage to get my preferred seats, as we ate first. A nice little Italian restaurant close by but it suffered from being a little bit slow at serving the food. I suspect this was because it was all prepared and cooked fresh. It was a bit rich though after they had said we could only have the table for a specific period as it was reserved.

Being a tribute band we were wondering who they would have as support? The answer turned out to be no one.  I'm guessing not many support bands are big enough to have tribute bands so I'm not sure where a tribute band would go to get a support act... So it was straight in with Rumours of Fleetwood Mac, during the first few tracks I thought “What have we done?” They sounded a bit ropey. I guess it took them a little while to hit their stride and for the sound man to get the sound desk sorted. The thing with Union Chapel is if the sound guy gets it right you are in for a treat, when they get it wrong it can completely destroys a performance.

We were sandwiched between someone who obviously felt they were at a proper Fleetwood Mac concert and a group who were determined to turn the gig into a party. They did not make great neighbours - all chatter and giggles one side and tuts and frosty looks from the other.

Because we were not in our normal seats I decided to take the camera and get some pictures from some different angles. I ran into one of the security guards, who took one look at the Mega Beast with the 600mm lens and promptly asked me if I was with the band. “Yep” I said without missing a beat.

“Have you got a Photo pass?”

“It’s in my jacket” I said, without stopping taking pictures, as if I was on commission. All the while slinking further away from him. It worked and my assured replies got me through a potentially tricky situation.

That just leaves the small matter of telling a couple of porky pies in a church.....Hmmm just as well I don't believe in god otherwise I would be damned to hell for sure....If it turns out that I'm wrong I'll be OK because the god I don't believe in is a very forgiving god.....

C.A.C.T.U.S (Cheap As Chips TUeSday)
The section cataloguing the films shown at Bishop’s Stortford cinema which has a half price policy on a Tuesday.

The third film for 2015 Ex- Machina

An interesting take on Artificial Intelligence. I found the film a bit slow to start off with. Managing to drop off at one point, I woke up to see Mrs B pushing up some zzz’s. It got better and I’m assured by Penny the slow bits were all about setting the scene.

The week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees (27th Jan)
Mrs B

The fourth film for 2015 – Kingsman (the secret service)
Brilliant spy spoof – everything that the 1960’s Bond spoof – Casino Royal should have been but failed to be.

The week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees (3rd Feb)
Mrs B

C.A.C.T.U.S Running Totals
Niel (4)
Penny (4)
Marb (3)
Natalie (2)
Al (2)
Mrs B (2)

Photo Finish
Rumours of Fleetwood Mac

Louise Rogan as fake Stevie Nicks
"Seven Wonders" 

Amanda Kostadinov as fake Christine McVie
Although she looks a bit like one of my old Dinner ladies

"Smile At You"

Alan Hughes  as fake Lindsay Buckingham
shadowed by James Harrison as fake John McVie....

"Everybody Finds out"

But probably not until the encore, if they are drunk enough.... 
"Would You like chips with that?"*
You have to remember my School days were a long time before
Jamie Oliver's Healthy eating revolution ...
* No that was not a Fleetwood Mac song, it just went with the dinner lady theme  ..

"Behind The Mask"
Well more of a wig really... 

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

UAE Trip - with some unexpected wildlife

A quiet week this week, so I have resurrected an old section "Show me the Sunny" as well as going back in time in the Photo Finish section.

Show me the sunny

Resurrecting the section monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels
(I will update this every Quarter, when we get our tax free payments through)

  • KW Produced since October 2011 – 13098

  • Earned this Qtr - £196

  • This has earned us approximately – £7,569

C.A.C.T.U.S (Cheap As Chips TUeSday)
The section cataloguing the films shown at Bishop’s Stortford cinema which has a half price policy on a Tuesday.

The second film for 2015 was the Oscar nominated American Sniper – The group all enjoyed the film, even if it is a little jingoistic. There was one scene however which was unforgivable for an Oscar nominated film. For anyone who has seen American Sniper tell me if the scene with the new born baby was not a complete embarrassment. Apparently the baby that had originally been booked for the scene was ill and the stand-in failed to turn up…. Personally I feel they would have been better off dropping into the local zoo and raiding the chimp cage…

This week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees

C.A.C.T.U.S Running Totals
Niel (2)
Marb (2)
Natalie (2)
Penny (2)
Al (1)

Photo finish
I will, during the quieter moments of 2015, treat you to the highlights of 2014.  For my first trip back into the past, I have only gone back a few short weeks to just before Christmas.

Our pre- Christmas trip to (UAE) Dubai and Sir Bani Yas Island


Burj Khalifa -
The world's tallest building with 163 floors.
829.8 m (2,722 ft)

Top Tip
 Make sure you Pre-book your
 tour to the viewing balconies.

It's very expensive if you don't book advance.

Burj Khalifa view from the Armani restaurant. 

View from the 148 floor
top tip book your visit to the sky deck in advance
 It's a bit expensive when you turn up on the day.

Shot from 124th floor using Tilt and Shift Lens

Shot from 124th floor using Tilt and Shift Lens

The Aquarium in the Dubai Mall

If you want to see some more shots from Dubai click here

Sir Bani Yas Island

Arabian falconry show

Falcon fishing in Abu Dhabi

Neighbourhood Watch

Arabian Oryx

It's lonely in Black and White

Dance to the death....

If you want to see some more shots from Sir Bani Yas Island click here

Friday, 16 January 2015

Florida - wilder than you can imagine

After last year’s pathetic effort,  just two posts - must do better. I have decided to try and get my Blogger mo-jo back on track with more pictures and less massacring of the English language. It has enough problems without my assistance.

To start the New Year Mrs B and I went to sunny Florida. The trip got off to a fantastic start when we got upgraded to Business Class on our out-bound flight. We thought it had got even better when Avis offered us an upgrade on our pre-booked hire car. I had booked a Mustang convertible which failed to materialise. Would you like a Corvette Stingray instead? The sales girl showed Mrs B a picture –

Corvette Stingray
Mrs B - "Oh that would be fantastic" - all thoughts forgotten about how we would get 3 large bags and a couple of oversized rucksacks into a small space without having to sacrifice one, or possibly even both of us…

Avis agent – “OK that will be another $200”

Me - Ouch, are you sure Mrs B?

Mrs B – “It looks really sporty”

Me – “But how are we going to get all the luggage in?”

Mrs B – “You are great at packing cars..”

Me - "$200 is a lot extra to pay when you can’t supply the car we booked"

Avis Agent - "That's $200 a day sir"

Me - "Noooooooo"

Avis Agent – “My manager says we can do a deal for just an extra "$1,000" for the week”

Mrs B - "You mean on top of what we have already paid…..Hmmm….. next"

We ended up with this gas guzzler, an impressive 18mpg

Chevrolet Camaro
The back seats came in useful for most of our luggage 
Karma caught up with us on the return flight – no upgrade this time but we did get the delights of two (yes two) babies directly in front of us…. Despite not being related and having no apparent time to practice together they treated us to the delights of solos and duets for the entire flight….


I would love to have felt sorry for the parents but I was too busy supressing murderess thoughts and trying not to offer my pillow as a solution. Fortunately for my freedom I had to keep the pillow clamped tightly over my ears.

C.A.C.T.U.S (Cheap As Chips TUeSday)
A new section cataloguing the films shown at Bishop’s Stortford cinema which has a half price policy on a Tuesday.

This week the delights of “The Theory of Everything” – I particularly enjoyed it as I met the real Professor Hawkins in person last year (you would have read about it if I had been blogging properly last year - try and keep up).

I even got to hear his iconic voice – He only managed “Y E S” but it was an incredible moment, which would have been a lot better if I had not been so busy biting my lip trying not to inappropriately laugh….

Stephens bid for my photographic services
2 and 1/2 oranges - ouch 
This week’s C.A.C.T.U.S attendees
Marb (saved from Blackwidow 2)

Almost attendees
I'm guessing my new friend Stephen didn't get the text

Photo Finish

Sanibel Island 
 (is it just me - it sounds like a pretentious manufacturer of bathroom suites)

Fly me to the moon

Click here if you want to see more pretentious bathroom suite pictures

 If you ever watch "Burn Notice"this has to be said in a fake Irish accent (just like Fi says it: Moi-Am-Me in the title sequence for the show)

The Pool at our hotel  

South Beach Moi-Am-Me

No messing with this lady
I think that was blood on her nails 

I'm guessing our hotel had a name change as
it is no longer called Tiffany's but the slightly
pretentious sounding

The Hotel South Beach

Thanks to Big Sis for the recommendation
Click here If you want to see some more Moi-Am-Mee pictures

Florida wildlife
(Sadly I heard only 2% of visitors who come to Florida bother with the wildlife. Most people come for the stupid mouse with the big ears and annoying voice….. )

Great places to visit for wild life

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
J.N.Ding Darling National Wildlife Sanctuary (on Sanibel island)
Shark Valley 

The Gators like to get close to the boat
Mrs B refused to get in this shot....

They are so cute when they are small but remember you will
need at least a  15ft Bath tub for when they grow older
 (available through Sanibel Island bathroom
 suppliers to the rich and deluded)


Mrs B and I got very excited at seeing Raccoons
while the Americans around us thought we ere mad
make a fuss over just vermin

she looks like she is doing an impression
of Tommy cooper
"Not like that, like this"

Male Brown Anole 

Osprey with the remains of a fish
big prize for anyone who can work out
what type of fish it was.....

Flipper in full play mode 

Bald Eagle
surveying his kingdom

Brown Pelican 

Roseate Spoon Bill

Little Blue Heron
Not sure if it is fishing or just playing with
his bath water
"Now where did I put my rubber duckie"
Click here if you want to see more wildlife pictures

I had always thought that the Everglades were a swamp but it is in fact a very slow moving river.

Catch you next time