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Monday, 31 March 2014

Netgear WN1000RP Universal Wi-Fi Range Extender

Netgear Wifi Extender
We had intermittent internet coverage in our main bedroom so I invested in a Netgear wifi extender this week from  Price was just under £28. The unit simply plugs into a free 13A socket with no ugly wires.

The extender takes the off-air packets and regenerates them so the remote signal is considerably improved. I believe the speed is reduced but we have a very fast connection anyway. It does NOT use the mains wiring to send the signal over.

First impressions are good, with a strong signal now in the main bedroom. Setting up the extender was simplicity itself.  We'll see how it works over the next few weeks.

See .

Sunday, 30 March 2014

As I have been having lots of issues with a very old Windows XP laptop and my little Asus netbook is currently refusing to start, today I decided to invest (we'll see) in a new Dell Inspiron i5, 15R laptop (1TB hard drive, 8MB RAM, touch screen, Win 8.1) with 3 years' hardware and software support. The machine looks like it should meet my needs well.

My XP machine was mainly used for digital modes and normally did not move. It was powered nearly always from the mains PSU. After April 8th Windows XP is no longer a supported OS by Microsoft, which is a pity as I liked XP.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Grass cutting

Well, my balance, walking and general stamina must be improving as today I cut about 40% of the rear lawn. Lis did the rest, but I was not totally exhausted, as I was last time.  I could probably have done the whole lawn with a few breaks.

Today I still feel a bit sick inside and giddy but definitely somewhat better. Also, I have taken NO pills today so far.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Anglesey Abbey

Another visit today to Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge (our 8th this year!) to enjoy the mild weather and the lovely walks. Today was quite quiet and all the lawn walks are now open. Plenty to see including lots of woolen bikes (yarn bombing) to promote the Tour de France which comes through Cambridge this summer. Snowdrops are dying fast but there are plenty of other flowers to see now and most trees are starting to bud.

Lis next to the bike wheels

Masses of daffodils
Penny Farthing
Small violet-like flowers - not bluebells I think

Missing airliner MH370

Yet more mystery surrounds this flight's disappearance. It seems incredible a large passenger carrying plane can just "disappear" without trace.

Although I am in no position to judge, there is something odd about the Malaysian Airline's briefings: something does not ring true in their accounts. May be it is just scant data, or are they hiding something?

Gay Marriages

From tonight, same sex couples can be married in England for the first time. I think the laws in other parts of the UK may be different. 50-60 years ago, this would be unheard of and my parents will be turning in their graves.

In many Africa nations, attitudes are not unlike those here back in the 1950s and 1960s. 

Personally I think gay people have every right to marry if they so choose. Many will disagree and think this makes a nonesense of hetrosexual marriage.


Last year my (female) wife and I were invited to a civil partnership ceremony but we were unable to attend.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Walking and balance

Today I managed to walk (with Lis) to the Cambridge Building Society, the Bank, Budgen's store, the Post Office and a friend's house - Jenny Mansell's - which for me, in my current state, is a long way.  For me, it is not the walking as such that tires me, rather it is because I get giddy (poor balance following my stroke) and THIS tires me. Quite often I feel like I've drunk 8 pints of beer, when I haven't had ANY alcohol now for over 6 months. I am told that the brain finds new pathways and ways of managing, but it will take time.

I have the feeling that after the weekly physio sessions in Ely yesterday the giddiness was slightly better, so the more exercise I do the better? Today I have reduced my liquid (peg) feed down from 900ml a day to 800ml which will reduce the time on the pump to under 7 hours.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Tim with Amandine and Lucien playing " Hide and Seek"
Today, one of our sons, his lovely French wife and their 2 delightful young children came up from London for the afternoon as Lucien's school was on strike. The grandchildren are 6.5yrs (Lucien) and nearly 3yrs (Amandine)  and they cheer me up no end. These days they play well together, spending about 30 minutes playing hide and seek. Lovely to see little Amandine counting to 20 in both English and French.  On Sunday our other grandchildren are coming up and they will be here for a few days.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Swifts, swallows and martins

Swallow (sometimes called Barn Swallow)
For me, spring never properly arrives until these have arrived on UK shores. Sand martins are already being seen in  Devon (first arrivals in March) but swallows are rarely here much before early April,  usually about April 10th in East Anglia. Usually I get to Devon at this time of the year just as the swallows arrive from S.Africa. This year, because of my poor health,  I shall have to give this a miss.

Swifts are rarely here before the end of the month of April. Once here, swifts seem to be everywhere! I love to hear their screams on the wing. To me, the swift is a real summer bird and a sign that "all is well with the world" when they arrive.



Numbers of house martins have been down in recent years.

Ickworth House and Grounds - National Trust

See: .

Lambs outside the little church at Ickworth

Part of the extensive grounds
Ickworth House and its extensive grounds are located not far from Bury-St-Edmunds in Suffolk. The grounds make a fine place for walks that vary in length from less than a mile to over 7 miles in length. At this time of year there should be plenty of daffodils and young lambs. My wife and I hope to go there this afternoon and walk to the newly restored little church on the estate about 500m from the main house. Although wobbly, I should be able to manage this. The image (LHS) is located at .
Very young Ickworth lamb enjoying the sunshine
Part of the main building is nowadays a 4 star hotel called The Ickworth Hotel.

UPDATE 1645z:  Plenty of lambs at Ickworth but the daffodils are 1-2 weeks behind those at nearby Anglesey Abbey 25 miles west.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Visit to Kings College Chapel

Kings College Chapel
Living not far from Cambridge it is all too easy to take for granted the wonderful places on our doorstep that people travel around the world to see. Being "locals" were can get into Kings with a photo-card that costs just £7 for 3 years. Being OAPs (old age pensioners) we can do a free " park and ride" into the city saving diesel and parking dues. Getting from the park and ride stop to Kings is about 0.5 miles walk each way, which even with my wobbliness I could manage.

Kings is a truly inspiring building on the edge of the River Cam finished in the reign of Henry VIII. There is a great sense of peace inside. The fan vaulted ceilings have to be seen to be believed. It is of course from here that the world famous "Nine Lessons and Carols" are broadcast each Christmastide. People queue for seats at this in the rain, and sometimes snow, for up to 30 hours! I have attended sung Evensong there in the past without queuing.

My wife wandered down to the river to get a few more photos whilst I stayed in Kings. At this time of the year there are fewer visitors than in high summer. Cambridge also attracts English language students especially in summer.

Punts near Kings
If you have never visited Cambridge you are in for a pleasant  surprise when you do. Be sure to walk around the Backs (area adjoining River Cam around the colleges , visit Trinity College, Kings College and St John's College. A walk along Trinity Street is also worth doing.

Cambridge feels more rural than Oxford in my opinion. The town still feels "old fashioned" academic even though many of the new high-tech companies are on the edge of the newer city. Many of these spun off from university research. Heffers (Trinity St) has a wide selection of academic books down in its large basement sections.


Sunday, 23 March 2014


Brahms' German Requiem  - CCS - March 22nd 2014, 
West Rd Concert Hall, Cambridge

When unwell, you almost forget what "being normal" is.  Last night I was given a lift to my wife's Brahms concert and most people were totally unaware of my current disabilities.  I am gradually on the mend,  but my biggest issue is wobbliness on walking or doing any activity.  Many (most)  people are totally unaware of this. I hope my brain rewires so this goes with time.

Our good old friends Peter and Chris Branson, came to stay over the weekend and it was them who gave me the lift to the concert. Peter kindly cut our hedges and front lawn and did a pile of weeding (without being asked) - such GOOD kind and generous friends.

See  for details of the Cambridgeshire Choral Society (CCS) including how to join and details of other concerts you might enjoy.

BTW, my wife is the 7th in on the LHS. She is the short lady with short greyish hair (now I am in trouble!) in the 2nd row back.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Brahms - German Requiem

See -

This evening at 7.30pm, my wife sings in the Brahms German Requiem at the West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge. She sings with the Cambridgeshire Choral Society.  This is a splendid work and well worth hearing. Tickets are available on the door.

Se also

Most of the Requiem was written around 1868.  It is so sad that some 50 years later Germany, the UK and many other countries were busy killing each other in millions in WW1. I am still convinced we all drifted into WW1 not realising what it was going to be like. 

This Brahms choral work towers above the madness of WW1,  50 years away still when written. To this day I think of Germany as a cultured and great nation. WW1 and WW2 were aberrations that sadly can affect any nation depending on who is in power.  That is the tragedy of all wars.

The music of Brahms, Wagner and many others reminds us that music has the power to transcend human frailty and tower over us putting wars into true perspective: after the fighting should come true peace and reconciliation.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Gardening at new house

Lucien clearing autumn leaves
We moved into a bungalow (about same space inside as the old house) just 4 weeks before I had my stroke and was then in hospital for months. Luckily we had the bungalow extensively renovated and it was decorated before we moved in. The garden is easier to maintain than at the old house, but nonetheless we have 2 biggish lawns and a long hedge to cut. Thankfully my sons have helped and my wife is getting used to the lawn-mower! I hope to tackle some of the hedge next week weather and health permitting.
The long bed in the back garden

Feeling better

My stroke recovery continues. After an "up and down" week things are looking up: food is going down fine as are drinks and people tell me my voice is sounding stronger. All positive signs.

I still feel very wobbly when walking or exercising and this currently is my biggest issue. People tell me my recovery could take a long while yet  so I have to remain very patient. Also, people say I must expect bad days as well as good. Fatigue after doing almost anything is an issue.

After a poor start this week, when I felt I was slipping backwards, I feel full recovery should be possible given time.

See  .

Burwell Windmill

The official opening of the restored windmill (right next door to our home) is April 13th 2014. The windmill now has 4 sails again and it has been fully restored both inside and out . It is a credit to all those who worked on it.

See for more details of the mill and museum which has some amazing exhibits.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Budget - Spring 2014

Although I have not had chance to study it in detail, the 3 year 4% pensioners bond for up to £10000 each looks good. It means my wife and I can get 4% return with low risk on £20000 of joint savings. This is above inflation and a much better rate than competitors. It runs from 2015. Also promising is the new NISA  allowing up to £30000 (joint income) to be sheltered from tax each year starting in July 2014.


Every week for the next 8 weeks I am attending physio (for my stroke) at the Prince of Wales hospital in the city of Ely.  This was once an RAF hospital.

Ely is a delightful place with a cathedral 1300 years old (LHS). My wife walks into town during my sessions. As a local parishoner she gets free entry too. Down by the river Ouse is lovely too and the market , although small, is delightful.

Years ago, during WW2, my dad (see RHS) had his appendix removed in the old Bishop's Palace in Ely (RHS).  He flew Lancaster bombers (see below) in the Pathfinders and was very lucky to survive the war. He crash landed once on the way home. He rarely spoke of his WW2 experiences: I think he did not really like the idea of helping to kill innocent civilians. He was much happier living his simple rural life in Devon after the war years . Wars are so bad for everyone on all sides. It humbles me to realise how young he was in those days: 20-26yrs old only. In the last months of the war he had a young child too. I never realised how brave he was until it was too late to tell him.

The Bishop's Palace,which dates back to the 15th century, was a Sue Ryder home, but since 2012 has been the home for the Kings School's 6th form.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Fake coins

Apparently 3% of  pound coins in circulation are fakes i.e. forgeries. Next year (2017) a new 12-sided 1 pound coin is to be introduced to all but eliminate fakes. Not sure if the 2 pound coin is being replaced too?

See .

Junk mail

Don't know about you, but I am fed up with junk mail that typically is around 50-80% of the post we get nowadays. I know this is how the Royal Mail bolsters its profits, but what a waste!

In our case it goes straight into the recycling bin and does not even get opened often. If the post was properly nationalised they would not need to deliver this crap. It saddens me to think jobs depend on the delivery of such rubbish. Better these people were employed in something productive actually adding real value to things. This is the sort of work that really adds no value to the lives of decent people. Such worthless work cannot continue for too long into the future. In time all work will add real value.

Although signed up to the Telephone Preference Service it does not seem to stop calls starting in the UK but coming in via foreign numbers. Overall I still think it is a "good idea".

10m Antenna Effectiveness

One of my hobbies is amateur radio.

Comparing my 10m (28MHz) signals with those of others, I suspect my antenna may be down in effectiveness compared with better optimised systems. My 2W is equivalent to 200mW from the better equipped stations. When fitter (my darn stroke) I may try changing the 10m antenna for something better. A vertical 1/2 wave would be less directional on transmit but might be noisier on receive.

At the present time, my poor state of health is preventing me doing too much outdoors. For example, climbing a ladder  is quite out of the question, so I have to live with the antennas I have.

Bored with routine (stroke)

I am tied to my liquid feed for 7.25hrs a day: food fed directly into my stomach through what they call a peg feed. Luckily I can disconnect this if we go out for a walk but I am in my chair most of the day.  Although I now also eat food and drinks by mouth, these don't always go down too well. I am still trying to work out what affects this. Breakfast Weetabix and banana are the best and easiest to eat, maybe because I am less tired?

To be honest, my stroke is getting me down: same routine, still unable to be free of the peg feed and still feeling so giddy and exhausted after the smallest amount of physical exertion - it gets me down. I battle on in the hope of better times ahead.

Normality seems a distant dream: I long to do the things I used to do and to be able to eat and drink as I was once able to.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Crimea - Russian?

The West's attitude on Crimea is puzzling.

Until 1954 it WAS part of Russia until the then Russian leader "gave"  it to Ukraine, then part of the USSR. Since then it has had special status, is filled with mainly Russian speakers, and  is home to the Russian Mediterranean fleet.  In many ways it still seems like part of mother Russia.

Why not let Crimea rejoin Russia if that is what its people want?

The case of mainly eastern Ukrainian states is more difficult, but I feel even these should go to Russia if its occupants want this. A western looking Ukraine, mainly Ukrainian speaking, may well be smaller than the nation is currently.

The Ukraine should NOT be an excuse for a new Cold War or even WW3. We sleep-walked into WW1 remember. The Russians are being portrayed as the bullies here and this is not the full truth.

See .

Some Ukrainians have long memories of Soviet domination and starvation back in the bad days of the 1920's. It is easy to see why Ukraine has little trust in Russia today.  Russia needs to act in a statesman like way here and not be seen as a big, ignorant bully.

Mercury - planet

See .

According to the latest NASA mission Mercury is shrinking as it continues to cool. There are active chemicals on the surface and ice in craters at the poles.Altogether,this planet nearest our sun, is more interesting than once thought.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Pauline's Swamp - Burwell

Pauline's  Swamp - Burwell
This afternoon the March weather was glorious with temperature approaching 18 deg C.  For the first time we visited Pauline's Swamp, a small nature reserve off Reach Road that is maintained and owned by the local Parish Council.  There are clearly lots of wild flowers there and, right now, plenty of clumps of daffodils. Altogether it was a nice find. We will go there again. It was rather obscure and not easy to find. The entrance is about 100m further down Reach Road (on the left) after the fire station.

See .

Stroke recovery pattern

My all too slow recovery from my brain bleed (stroke) continues but I seem to have a pattern: some days go well and I think I am getting better then this is followed by a lousy day when the food and drink don't go down and my body is just a tired and wobbly mess.

Today was one of those "off" days and I also felt tired most of the day, a tiredness that cuts one to the very core - more like M.E. than just any old tiredness. The trouble is it gets my wife down too, but it is SO hard to smile and be cheerful when inside I feel so very ill with nausea, and poor balance - I feel like I've just had 8 pints of beer whenever I stand and the smallest physical task exhausts me.

Let us hope the rest of the week is much better.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Weather - odd

Weather is a funny business: this winter in the UK has been the wettest on record with several places badly impacted by flooding. Here we have had no floods, no snow and only a couple of mild frosts. In the last few winters we have managed a few weeks of snow and several quite heavy frosts.

At the moment, snowdrops are now dying off,daffodils are fully out and even oilseed rape is starting to flower,which is 4-6 weeks early.

In the USA, it has been extremely cold - all because of a shift in the jet stream.  It is probably too soon to say if this is all down to climate change, although I suspect it is. Our climate IS changing but the jury is out on whether this is Man's doing or natural variations.


Friday, 14 March 2014

Body Mass Indicator

During my hospital stay I lost 1.5 stone in weight but have been recovering since. My dietician says I am already at my "right" weight and should now try to maintain this, reducing the liquid feed by 100ml every 2 weeks if my weight is not falling. I am liquid fed by a peg in my stomach for 7.25 hours a day but also eat some solid food and drinks by mouth now, thankfully.

This was the result of  my BMI calculation today. My weight is exactly 11 stone (naked) and I am 5' 8.5" tall.
Your BMI is 23.1, which means you are in the healthy weight range.
BMI calculator results - what do they mean?
  • Less than 18.5 = underweight
  • 18.5-24.9 = healthy weight
  • 25-29.9 = overweight
  • 30 or greater = very overweight or obese
See: if you need/want to calculate your own BMI.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Religious propaganda

Recently I seem to be getting several "comments" that can best be described as "religious propaganda" that bear very little or no relevance to the actual post. Please be aware that I am highly likely to DELETE such rubbish. I hold my own religious/moral views and don't need fanatics to help me, thank you.

My recent stroke has been a wake-up call and I have really found out what true love and kindness is. Some people have been exceptionally kind to me and I shall be forever grateful to them. The so called religious comments are of zero relevance. Don't post such comments again please Steve Finnell and others.