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Thursday, 31 December 2015


As I write this we have just under one hour to go of this year. In some parts of the world it is already the new year. For me, it has been a "challenging" year with only slow, slow improvements in my stroke. My voice is still poor, I still have problems with many drinks and I have not made the full recovery by now that I was hoping for so much. I just hope next year is better, or at the very least that I can better adapt to the "me" I am these days.

Horses at Newmarket

Newmarket, the worldwide home of horse racing, is just 4 miles away. We do most of our food shopping there - mostly in Waitrose and sometimes at Tesco. Today we drove through Newmarket and did a walk at nearby Dalham, which is a real "chocolate box" village filled with thatched cottages. A hundred and fifty years ago these would have been tithed cottages for agricultural workers living in abject and grinding poverty. These days they are worth a small fortune and they are probably homes for the well grounded. Many may be second homes for people coming to Newmarket for the races.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

All grandchildren now gone home after Christmas

Today, the last of our grandchildren went home to Kent with their mum and dad. The house now seems very quiet. At least it is tidy, although we prefer it with a slight mess and them around.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Mowing the lawns

At least 3 people were cutting their grass today, even though it was Dec 29th!  We've had the mildest December I can ever recall. 

OK, things could change to heavy snow very quickly, but if things do continue as they are, I shall be cutting our lawns all winter, which would be so different from normal.

No, so far, the extremely mild weather continues. Yesterday I did some work in the garden in my shirt sleeves.  It was not even cold!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

More on those lighter evenings

At the moment the evenings are lighter for 5 mins more at dusk than a week ago. The light follows a sine wave curve and the rate of change speeds up as we go through the winter into spring. As I said recently, the evenings are lighter by an hour at the end of January.


Friday, 25 December 2015

Lighter evenings

At long last, it is getting just a little lighter here in the evenings. For a week or so the mornings still get darker, but already the evenings are several minutes better. By the end of January the difference in the evening is almost an hour. Of course this means the year has turned again.


I think it is partly a result of my stroke, but I find Christmas very stressful these days. Every Christmas things are expected to be calm and happy, yet I am sure that I am not alone in experiencing the opposite. Even eating the Christmas meal is a stress these days. Years ago at work I knew a couple who went camping in Scotland at Christmas. Just maybe they had the right idea?

For the little ones it is still a magical time and I'd hate to spoil it for them.

Bah humbug!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Anglesey Abbey

We visit this local National Trust property most months. It is just 4 miles down the road. At the moment the seasons are crazy.

There are daffodils out (some were out in late November!), snowdrops, hellebores and others. Some trees are in blossom. I'd guess things are some 4-6 weeks early. Mad weather! It feels more like late February or early March than December before Christmas.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Grass mowing

So it is Dec 18th 2015 and as I write this I can hear someone cutting their lawn! Yesterday somewhere in Scotland hit over 17 deg C. The grass is still growing here - quite incredibly mild for mid-December.

I suspect the grass here will be cut later this month.  Unless we get a really cold snap, I suspect I shall be cutting the grass all year around.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Bletchley Park code breaker

Bill Tutte memorial (behind red car)
Bill Tutte was a local man (he lived near Newmarket) who worked at Bletchley Park as a code breaker during WW2.  He was probably more important than Turing, although his code breaking remained a national secret until not many years ago. The work Tutte did was used to intercept Russian traffic in the Cold War! There is now a memorial to him in Newmarket, as shown in the photo.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Fed raises interest rate

It has started.  Gradually rates will rise across the world . People had better get ready for life when borrowing costs more. I can remember when interest rates hit 15% and mortgages were very expensive.


At the moment it is unseasonably mild for December in the UK. Often at this time of the year it is very misty and cold but at the moment it is about 14 deg C and every chance of it getting even warmer. The grass is still growing.  

Today, in between bursts of total exhaustion (stroke after-effect), I pruned two bushes in the garden. Working outside it felt more like April than December. I also noticed quite a few bulbs pushing through. Unless we get a really cold January we will soon have daffodils in bloom in the garden. Another 2 weeks?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

FTSE 100

At the start of the year, some commentators were predicting the FTSE 100 UK share index would end the year above 7000.  It briefly exceeded this, although currently it is below 6000. A late rally might see it end the year in the low 6000s. I think expecting it to end the year above 7000 is wishful thinking.

Getting ready for Christmas

Last year's real tree has been in the pot in the garden all year. To our surprise it has new shoots and, apart from a list (corrected by re-potting the roots when we brought it into the house) it is good for this Christmas too. The lights and decorations are now going on.

On Sunday the first grandchildren arrive. Over Christmas we'll see all the children and grandchildren.  It will be busy time, but I hope all the little ones and all their mums and dads have a lovely time.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


Actually, I watch very little reality TV but I do quite enjoy "Strictly" on BBC TV. This is a knock-out dancing competition. This year, the standard is very high and it is hard to see who will win. It is many years since I enjoyed ballroom dancing with Ann, my old girlfriend in my teens. These are distant memories now.

Climate change - progress

So all the countries at the Paris climate summit have reached agreement. This is just the start, but it shows a willingness to work towards a world which does not have dangerous warming. As someone pointed out on BBC TV this morning, the cost of choosing a non-carbon path has significantly reduced, so it is less burdensome to choose clean energy.

See .

Friday, 11 December 2015

Lunch with old friends

This lunchtime we enjoyed lunch at a local gastro pub (in the next village) with old friends who live quite close to us. The food was good as always. The friends came back to us for tea/coffee afterwards.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Poor voice

Today I had to go to Addenbrooke's Hospital for an outpatient appointment at the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) clinic. This meant having a camera down my nose into my throat. Sadly, the diagnosis was that my poor voice is "neurological" and there is nothing that can be done to make it better. I am seeing the "main man" just in case, but it sounds like I am stuck with my poor voice unless it gets better over time. This is a blow, although at one time I was told I would never eat ever again. For the last year I've been able to eat just about anything. Moral? Never, ever give up.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Activity contests and antenna article

It must be my age!  My wife said last Tuesday "have you got a radio contest tonight?" I said, "no" thinking it was the end of November. Somehow I also read my email reminder of the 70cm UK activity contest too late last night.  So, I managed to miss both the 2m and 70cm December legs of the monthly RSGB amateur radio activity contests, thinking it was the end of November still!

Incidentally, my article on the big-wheel antenna for 2m is in the January RSGB magazine RadCom. If I had remembered, this is the antenna I would have used! It works well and is a horizontal omni with gain. Mine was very kindly erected by a fellow radio amateur David Tegerdine G0LRD, to whom I am much indebted.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Stroke exhaustion

It is perhaps surprising that well over 2 years since my stroke, I still get very exhausted so easily. We have had good old friends staying for a couple of nights and after helping to prepare lunch and washing the dishes, I was totally exhausted. After 10-15 minutes I am OK again, but anything physical or mental gets me very tired after a short time.

I guess I have to accept this is how it is going to be, although people tell me I am getting slowly better. They can see progress, although I cannot generally see it.

Sitting down  and driving are OK generally.   I find I get stressed more than I did and my instinct is to, "say it as it is". This sometimes gets me into trouble! I am sure I was more tactful in the past.

Sunday, 6 December 2015


As I write this, Storm Desmond is dropping record quantities of rain over northern England and Scotland.  I can imagine little worse than having your home or business flooded out, especially at this time of the year.  My heart bleeds for those affected, who may be without homes for months and even when they get back there is the ongoing threat of it all happening again.  There is also the worry over insurance. No, flooding is going to become a major issue in the years ahead.

See .

Saturday, 5 December 2015


The Met Office official "winter" is December, January and February.  To me, this makes a lot of sense. In just over 2 weeks time the evenings will start to get lighter again, although the mornings get darker still for a few more weeks. Once January has passed the nights are quite a bit lighter. By mid-February there are usually clear signs that spring is on its way. Mind you, snow is not unusual in January and February and the summer bird migrants don't usually arrive until April mainly.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Boring old fart?

I am officially a boring old fart!

Coming back from my U3AC course on the buses today I could not help overhearing the word "like" interjected many, many times in every sentence by most youngsters! Also, most under 30 years old seem to be in love with their smart phones. In days gone by we'd actually talk, but these days this would be too much to ask.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015


It looks likely there will be a free vote in the UK House of Commons this week on whether or not to join the coalition forces bombing targets in Syria.

As much as I hate the despicable acts being carried out, I very much doubt more bombs are the answer. All the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan seem to have the opposite effect on the number of terrorists in the world to that intended: there are now far more than before!

I am against the bombing Syria and believe a long term, fair, peace deal would achieve far more good. This will never be easy.

Small steps?

My wife tends to do the major housework on Tuesdays and I usually try to clean some windows. This morning I managed far more than before. I also managed a 200ml glass (actually a cup) of orange in 16 sips. To me, both are progress. To "normal" people these may seem trivial but if you have had a brain bleed, like me, they represent small steps on the road to recovery.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Months passing faster?

Someone said that time passes faster as you get older. It certainly seems this way. November came and went in no time at all. October was just as fast. It will soon be Christmas, January will soon go, February is a short month and before you know it there will be buds and daffodils everywhere. I am not wishing my time away, but time does seem to disappear.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


We are at the "pits" end of the year as far as sunlight is concerned, but the evenings start to get lighter from mid December here even though the mornings get darker for a few weeks more. By the end of January the evenings are getting better light-wise by almost an hour. February is a short month. It is good to think the nights will soon be getting lighter again. It may be a little different where you live.


Family weekend

Family weekend - a typical scene
This weekend we had our "London" grandchildren here with their mum and dad. As you can see, our grandson, aged 8 years old,  decided to play dead on the rug.  They left quite late in the afternoon.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Very early daffodils

This evening we went to nearby Anglesey Abbey, a National Trust property near Cambridge, to see the winter lights. To our utter surprise there were a couple of daffodils already out. This is only Nov 28th!! This particular clump is always early, but November is just odd.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Stroke update

Things here seem to be on a plateau with no real improvements for months.

Just after breakfast seems to be my worst time, as I am always exhausted. A short sit-down rest and I am back to normal - well normal as I can be for now.

My main issues are my voice, which is still poor, liquid swallow, giddiness when on my feet and bouts of exhaustion after physical or mental exertion.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Cambridge Parks

Cambridge has several parks and, of course, the famous Backs (of the colleges) along the River Cam.
This is the park that is behind Drummer Street bus station. Most trees are now bare.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Stroke after-effects

It is true to say I am really fed up with the after-effects of my stroke. Most of the time on my feet I am exhausted and giddy. My voice is still very poor. Nobody, and I mean nobody, seems to comprehend the hell I am living through. Outwardly I look "normal" and healthy. Inside is a different matter.

All I want is for things not to totally exhaust me and not to feel so wobbly. I feel so useless inside. Sitting down on the PC is fine, but the moment I try to do anything physical or mental I am soon "done in".

It seems a long time since I was my old self.

Made in China

Today is my wife's birthday and one of her presents was a Cath Kitson 3-tier cake stand for the table. Even this is marked "Made in China". Surely suppliers can source this from the UK? It is just 3 slabs of plates, a few screws and some wood.

In the end this "Made in China" rubbish has to end. The wealth of the UK depends, in the end, in adding value and making things. They must make huge profits on this stuff. A few pence more to source from the UK would mean a few pence less profit. So?

We are addicted to goods made abroad, mostly in China. Ultimately this cannot go on for ever. The sooner we make things here again the better.

Monday, 23 November 2015


Seen on Facebook. Written by a 92 year old lady.

Remember the five simple rules to be happy: 

1. Free your heart from hatred. 
2. Free your mind from worries. 
3. Live simply. 
4. Give more. 
5. Expect less.

Not bad advice.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Getting older

I got sent a photo of my wife and I when we were about 19. It is hard to believe just how thin we were then. Our combined weight was about 17 stone. I won't say what it is now!

In some ways those days seem like only yesterday. All our futures were before us. On the other hand, it is an age ago.

Second chance

A very moving, but uplifting, account from a Paris hostage.
See .

"We've been given a second chance - we have to live life to the full!"

No snow

We seem to have missed the snow.  But there is a biting cold noth wind, it is dry and the sun has come out. It would not surprise me if we got a frost tonight. This would be the first time this autumn. Up to now it has been very mild.

This afternoon we are doing a walk in the village, but we will have to dress up in warm clothes.

Friday, 20 November 2015

FTSE 100 and Dow

The FTSE 100 is recovering but it would only take a successful terrorist attack in the UK or USA to send both the FTSE 100 and the Dow into a downward spiral.

UPDATE 2045z: The FTSE 100 ended the day just marginally higher on the day.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


We are about to get our worst storm so far this autumn with gusts later tonight of 60mph. The worst is expected at 2200z. This is very far from the hurricanes seen in the USA and Caribbean areas. 

Nonetheless, it should help to bring down the leaves which remain on the deciduous trees. I hope no-one has to cope with floods. The garden looks its best in spring. Now most of the leaves have fallen it is starting to look bare and "winter".  Thankfully the nights start to get shorter from late December. By mid-February, even though winter, there are clear signs that spring is on the way.

Who visits?

My blog visitors puzzle me.

My amateur radio (mainly) blog gets around ten times the visits of this blog and yet people still come back here! Already today this blog has had more visits than at the weekend for the whole day. As far as I can tell, there is nothing special today. This blog is updated most days. It is usually an eclectic mix of thoughts - some days politics, others finance, family etc.

FTSE 100 well up

At the moment the UK FTSE 100 share index is up well today. Currently it is 1.64% up on yesterday. A lot can happen still. The rally could just disappear or it could end even higher.

UPDATE 1408z:  It is currently up 1.88%.

UPDATE 1750z:  The FTSE 100 ended the day up by 1.99%.


One of the answers to the recent spate of terrorism is to work on the false certainty of those willing to die as "martyrs".  In any religion, anyone who sets out to kill innocents would not be a martyr at all.

No, they face hell or nothingness and their actions are reduced to pure criminality. We need to understand what really motivates these individuals. They have a grievance that must run very deep.

Yes we need fair societies in all countries but violence is not the answer.

Monday, 16 November 2015


This remains a total mystery. Many religions talk about "life after death" and who knows? With talk of multiverses who knows, maybe the universe is unique to us only and everyone else experiences something different. Maybe what we experience when we die is a total absence of life, much like we before we were born. The only thing we can say with any certainty is no-one really knows.

Sunday, 15 November 2015


Just before cutting the cake
We have been to London today for our grandson's 8th birthday party, with his cousins. The day went well. We drove there and back and managed to get back just before dark.

Friday, 13 November 2015


At this time of the year here in the UK, sweeping up fallen leaves from the lawns is an almost endless task! We have quite gusty winds (although nothing like those in Scotland), so I expect the remaining leaves to fall soon. I spent some time this morning raking up leaves, but the rear lawn will be covered again by tomorrow.

We have an ornamental cherry that lost its leaves a few weeks ago. The silver birch was next and a copper maple on our boundary is losing leaves now. The lilac next door is dropping leaves as well. Oh the joy of seasons.

It won't be too long before the nights start to get shorter again and a new cycle of life is evident. It is good to think that the fallen leaves help to produce the strength in the new season.

I like our seasons. In each there is something good. We have had rich colours this autumn and there is something lovely about a crisp winter day with a low sun and no leaves on the trees. There is also something good about drawing the curtains early and just watching the telly. Then, before you know it, it is spring again, with breakfast sun and lighter evenings and mowing those lawns! England - still lovely.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Churches blog updated

Today we visited Moulton Church not too far from Newmarket. The East Anglian Churches blog has been updated to include this.

See .

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

War propaganda

War - you don't know who to believe.

One thing you can be sure of is that all sides will tell lies in the name of propaganda. In the end wars fought with military might rarely really solve a conflict. In the end the only answer is to truly understand what is behind all the anger and negotiate a just peace for all.

To this day, I do not understand Israel's appalling treatment of the Palestinian people. All sides need to recognise the rights of the other side. As for Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, clearly little good is being done by wars.

I feel ashamed of the UK and USA who seem very biased in favour of Israel. We have to treat all sides equally. They are all humans like you and me.

Grandson's birthday

Our older grandson is 8 years old today. It is hard to know where the years have gone. It seems only yesterday he was born. All our grandchildren are special and each one is an individual. The youngest is 3.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

UK weather forecasts

OK, this is yet another moan about UK weather forecasts.

I checked the BBC and the local Burwell weather just 1 hour ago. Both said dry until tonight so I planned a last cut of the grass. Stepped outside to, yes you guessed, rain.

Yes I know that the UK weather is complex, but surely they can get it right just 1 hour ahead? Apparently not.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Back pain

Well, I have enough to contend with as a result of the after-effects of my stroke, but now I have a re-occurrence of lower back pain. Usually this goes within a few weeks. I am taking pain killers and I am OK if I am flat on my back. Walking is painful. My wife has given me a hot-water bottle for my back.