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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Facebook "deaths"

There must be plenty of us on Facebook these days.

I am appalled by the ads I see on the RHS which purport to give notice of deaths of famous people. In my experience these are all untrue.

How can people do this? If I believed all I read there would be hardly anyone left! I guess these are designed to grab attention so you click the links. Don't.

Welcome to the post-truth world?

Recurring Dream Themes

It is probably a very common theme to dream about upcoming exams and not having done any or enough revision. At one time I repeatedly dreamt about catching trains to Devon where I came from. Both are probably easily explained.

In recent years, I dream of being at work and about to retire again. Usually I am wondering how I am going to manage (again) on my pension. I have been retired now for almost 8 years! I have no idea why I dream this! In my current state of health there is no way I could work again. Apart from my health issues, I am very happy to be retired and I have no wish to return to a job.

Monday, 26 December 2016

British TV over Christmas

From the BBC website, Christmas TV viewing figures.

I am not a royalist at heart but cannot think of a president who would do as well as our current queen. At 90 years old she does a remarkable job. Her husband Philip is 95! Charles will have a hard act to follow.
  1. The Queen at 3pm - BBC One and ITV - 7.7m
  2. Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special - BBC One - 7.2m
  3. The Great Christmas Bake Off - BBC One - 6.3m
  4. Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas Special - BBC One - 6.1m
  5. Call The Midwife - BBC One - 6.1m
  6. EastEnders - BBC One - 5.9m
  7. Coronation Street - ITV - 5.8m (not including ITV +1)
  8. Doctor Who - BBC One - 5.7m
  9. Frozen - BBC One - 4.7m
  10. Emmerdale - ITV - 4.2m

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Lighter Evenings

In this part of the world it gets darker in the mornings until about Jan 8th, but already it is getting a bit lighter in the evenings. At first the change is very slow, but this evening we put the lights on a little bit later. By the end of January it is about an hour better.

Happy Christmas

I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the best for 2017.  Most days this blog gets updated, unless I am away or too unwell.

For some, Christmas can be a difficult time: others seem happy and cheerful, but some feel lonely at this time of year. To those who think they are unloved I wish you especially a very merry Christmas. May 2017 bring you peace and love.

Stroke update

Over 3 years on now, and I am still affected by my stroke.

My main issues remain my poor voice, drinks, and giddiness/tiredness when on my feet. Overall, I am frustrated, although I know the sooner I come to terms with the new "me" the better. I feel unable to do the things that once would have been so easy. Compared with many I came off lightly. Outwardly, I look fully recovered, which is probably why I feel so frustrated. If there are now any improvements, they are painfully slow.

Nobody, and I really mean nobody, really understands: doctors and others think they understand, but they do not. For years now I have been living a sort of half-life.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Israeli Settlements

Israel is a small country, but that is no excuse to build on land that belongs to the Palestinian people. The UN has condemned them. Israel will simply ignore this and carry on. They are heavily supported by the USA and this will be even worse under Mr Trump.

Long-term peace can only happen when each nation respects each other and treats others with simple human dignity.

Nebula Picture

This image of the Christmas Tree Cluster (2500 light years away) was on the Twitter feed from @marsrader.

Although I have a Twitter account I rarely use it, but get sent an email about postings most days.

Eating Dahlias

Lis (my wife) is reading a Winston Graham book that mentioned eating dahlia roots as an alternative to potatoes. So, as you do, I googled "eating dahlias". It turns out that these were originally from Mexico and were, at one time, a low cost alternative to potatoes. I never knew this.

See .

Friday, 23 December 2016

Trees at Anglesey Abbey

  • Not much to see at this time of year, but new growth is just around the corner. These were some trees at Anglesey Abbey yesterday.

Bridge at Anglesey Abbey

Everything looks wintery at this time of year. It is little wonder that Christmas, and before that a pagan festival, is held close to the winter solstice.

Another month and new growth starts to appear clearly. By mid January there should be some snowdrops and daffodils. Dark nights, short days - roll on spring!

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Climate Change

At the moment, the jury is still out for some, but most seem to be saying the Earth is getting warmer and that this is largely down to Man in recent times. Some argue this is just natural variation and we should ignore it. A recent Guardian article makes you wonder.


In the USA, there seems to be a "Canute" attitude: it is all a Chinese conspiracy and it will just go away. I am far from convinced! We ignore these worldwide risks at our peril. Some cities and island states could be inundated and we should get all the facts and act accordingly.

Our local museum


May I suggest all locals visit in 2017? It is probably the biggest and best local museum, certainly in the area and probably in the whole of the UK.  A real gem with so much to see and do. When they can't go, our little grandchildren cry!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Sunsets - getting later from tomorrow here

Although mornings get darker until early January the sunset gets later from December 18th here. Winter Solstice is Dec 21st (Wednesday).

At first the change is very slow, but at least we are moving in the right direction!

We'll blink and it will be the longest day.  By the end of January the sun sets almost an hour later.

I enjoy all seasons, but look forward to lighter evenings.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016


One can't help feeling really sorry for Southern Rail passengers who pay over the odds for season tickets and get a rubbish service, with crowded trains, cancellations and strikes. The dispute is over who oversees the closing of doors!  In this case my sympathies are with the commuter who is getting a poor deal. The unions are wrong

It is beholden on unions to act on behalf of their members, but they have to act responsibly. Yes, I know they are concerned about jobs, but this is plain stupid. If I was in charge I would sack them all (union members that is). Normally my political sympathies are left of centre. We cannot behave as if we lived in the 1800s. This is the 21st century for goodness sake.

See .
See . The Luddites were textile workers and weavers who destroyed machinery in the hope of preventing job losses. We have to be efficient - end of story.

Southern Rail union members - grow up!!

Monday, 12 December 2016

MH370 mystery

It is almost 2 years since this Malaysian Airlines plane just disappeared. Now relatives are looking for clues as the official authorities seem to have all but given up. One can imagine the nightmare these people have been though.

See .

Cold Arctic?

See .

The Space Weather website has some great images of stratospheric polar clouds saying the Arctic Circle is getting very cold.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

More stroke after-effects

Even years after my stroke, I am still becoming aware of some of the after-effects. My short-term memory is poor and I seem unable to see quite obvious spelling and grammatical errors. Clearly my brain is not able to process things in quite the same way it once could. I try to correct mistakes as soon as I notice them, but if I miss things, you'll know why!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

South Hams, Devon

Until I went to university I was brought up in the South Hams of Devon where my family have been for centuries (definitely) and probably for millennia. I expect we were Stone Age farmers on Dartmoor thousands of years ago and we fished these waters long, long ago, probably when the coastline was quite different. The picture shows Bolt Tail  in the far distance from Thurlestone.

Old friends - thank you

This weekend we have old friends over staying with us. When I was in hospital, they regularly drove 90 miles each way to come to see me in hospital. Up until 2009 they lived in our village, but they moved to the Cotswolds, partly to be close to their daughter who has MS.

I have said many times that a real illness shows true friends.  In a time of real crisis, some people "came up trumps".  Sadly others just fell away.

A church-going couple next door never once asked how I was and never came to see my wife. Some people just don't "do" illnesses. It is some years since I was in hospital for 3.5 months, but our Cotswold friends are as close as ever. To them and others who were and continue to be kind, a really big thank you.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Family History

Many years ago I came from, and was brought up in the South Hams of South Devon. The picture shows where our family lived for hundreds of years. The earliest record I have is 1428, although I am sure we've ancestors in this part of the world going back thousands of years. Very humbling.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Packhorse bridge - very old.

On Monday, I mentioned we went out to nearby Moulton for a meal with my brother. Moulton is a small village not far from Newmarket.

It has a famous, very old, packhorse bridge as it was once the main route from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds. Packhorses went over the bridge and horses and carriages went across the ford.

The bridge dates from the 13th or 14th century and is a mix of brick and stone.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Moulton, UK

My brother came up for a few days from Devon, so we went out for a lunchtime meal in the nearby village of Moulton. Here is my wife and my brother on our walk around the village before our meal. There are lots of thatched cottages in this village a few miles from Newmarket. As always, the food at the Packhorse Inn was excellent.

Soar Mill Cove

This photo was taken 4 years ago in South Devon, UK where I was born.  The cliff walk from Hope Cove to Salcombe is perhaps one of the most beautiful in the world, although I am biased!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Getting close to Christmas

Father Christmas
We are now in the run-up to Christmas. The picture was taken outside our local village hall. There was a Christmas Bazaar inside.

Baby tooth

I am nearly 68 and an Old Age Pensioner. Today, I lost my lone baby tooth that was still in my mouth. For all this time it had remained until today. I guess my gums are shrinking.

Will the tooth fairy still pay out at my age? I guess not!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Cambridge Christmas Lights

Today, Cambridge was ablaze with Christmas lights. Some shops have had Christmas displays since at least early October. This was the view on the way to the bus stop at Drummer Street.


Today is December 1st and how time flies. It seems no time since summer. The evenings (not the mornings) start to get lighter here from December 18th. The UK Met Office assumes winter starts today and it certainly feels like winter here!

The photo was taken yesterday, but we had a frost again this morning.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Garden - late autumn

It is almost December and we have had a few frosts but there are at least 4 sweet pea flowers to cut in the garden! We also have clematis in flower. This is very late.  The orchard next door is almost bare.

Sunday, 27 November 2016


We are lucky to have 4 grandchildren aged 4-9. This weekend they all came to help celebrate my wife's birthday. Having them is tiring, but lovely. Here they are enjoying themselves.
They all make themselves at home.

The kitchen floor gets well fed too!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Fidel Castro Dead

OK, I was no great fan of this Cuban leader and I admit to being terrified in the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. 

However, a great deal has come to light since then of the terrible acts committed by the USA in their attempts to overthrow him and other left-wing regimes in Central and South America.

More than ever, I am convinced we get fed what the media wants us to hear. This includes the BBC sadly.

It remains to be seen how Mr Trump views Cuba. Let's hope Cuba becomes a more open society, but that it retains all that is good.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Black Friday

One of the bad things we in the UK seem to have imported from the USA is "Black Friday". Until a few years ago this was unknown here in the UK. As far as I can see, this is just another excuse to encourage us to buy what we do not need. It is greed and commercialism, pure and simple. OK there may be some bargains, but few.

Let me say I hate Black Friday and refuse to go along with the silly games that shops and retailers play on us. Bah humbug! I know some retailers are having a hard time, but as far as Black Friday is concerned go away! Play somewhere else.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Windmill in the rain

This afternoon, the sun made a very brief appearance from behind the dark clouds. Today has been very wet and dark all day. This was the view of the windmill next door earlier this afternoon. The colours are right: it was very yellowy when the sun briefly appeared.


There was a programme on the radio (BBC Radio 4) called "Start the Week" just now. Among the many items it noted how bad colonialism was for the indigenous people. Time and again we are fed a filtered version of events - basically what governments want us to hear. This is especially true in wartime, but it happens all the time, although we do not realise it.  During the Vietnam War we were brainwashed to think communism was always evil.

I make no judgements but urge us all to beware of propaganda. Both sides in the BREXIT debate were guilty. There is a general uneasiness in the general public with the people we put in power. This is true in the UK, USA and in many nations in Europe. The lurch to the right in recent times is, in part, a reaction to this. The people who govern us must be unbiased, fair and honourable people if they are to properly represent us. Sadly, I can think of not one politician that I think meets these high standards anywhere in the world.

Sunday, 20 November 2016


These were spotted in a front garden in nearby Reach yesterday. They looked very odd with the chickens.

Tree to ID please

This is something very common I suspect, but I am very poor on trees! If you know what it is please let me know. It was seen yesterday in a wood at Reach, Cambridgeshire, UK. It was a tree in a wood.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Long-tail tits

There are fewer small birds around these days in our garden and generally, but some have become more common in recent years. Great tits seem more plentiful and here in East Anglia the long-tail tit is the most common tit to see and hear. Only just a few moments ago there was a flock of long-tail tits on the lilac in the garden next door when I was sweeping up leaves.

See .

Among the larger birds there are more magpies locally. Going to work, I saw not one in nearly 40 years, although now they are plentiful. Little egrets can be seen all over the place but they were rare before the late 1980s. Buzzards are now widespread in East Anglia whereas they were once a sign we'd reached Devon. Since their reintroduction, red kites can be widely seen again.

There is no doubt that we see different birds these days.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

In the garden

Although colder than of late, today was a bright and sunny day, so ideal to be in the garden. There are fallen leaves everywhere at this time of year.  Our son came up from London this afternoon to help us "put the garden to bed" for the colder months ahead. We had no idea just how long the roots were on the shrub our other son dug up last week! 

Our "London" son turned over the ground and planted some bulbs with my wife. It will be fun seeing these appear in the winter and spring.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Dew in autumn

This cobweb was covered in dew this morning. We are now very much in autumn and the grass is very wet in the mornings. I hope you like it as much as I do. In every season there is something good.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Autumn in the back garden

The garden is starting to turn more autumnal by the day. Most trees are turning colour and losing their leaves. October seems to have gone very fast!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Salcombe lifeboat disaster - 100 years ago today

See .

One hundred years ago today the small Devon town where I came from suffered a tragedy when the lifeboat (rowed with oars) overturned with the loss of life of most of the crew. Only two men survived. It was a tragedy in a small community.

There will be a special service to mark this 100 year anniversary.

One of my aunties witnessed the tragedy when she was a young girl.  Most of the crew were not young men as most of these were fighting in WW1.

To this day the RNLI crews go out in any weather to save lives. They are brave men and women.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica


It looks as if this glacier is melting fast and could result in a huge sea level rise. I know the skeptics will say this is just scientists after funding, but we ignore these risks at our peril.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Smart Phones

Tuesday is one of my days in Cambridge doing Polar Studies at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The course is run by the University of the Third Age. We are very lucky to have a huge range of courses in Cambridge. We are lucky to have many ex-university lecturers.

See .

In a not very scientific study into smart phone use, these were my findings, just looking:

  • Younger people are the main users
  • About 1 in 10 (at least) seemed to be using these
  • More women than men seemed to use these (keep away, don't speak to me, acknowledge my private space?)
OK, I hear you say, so what, but this is a social thing:  in days gone by there was eye contact, people chatted to each other. At the very least people acknowledged each other. It seems most young people have lost the skill of face-to-face contact; the phone seems more important! If this is OK, OK. Sadly, as a boring old git, I think this will come back to bite us.

Saturday, 22 October 2016


Perhaps this is something that comes with old(er) age? If I am lucky I might have another 20 years, or I could die tomorrow. The only thing certain in life is that we all die, some far too soon.  The great religions of the world all speak of some kind of life after death.  The truth is we just do not know.  Some with great faith believe they have the answers. I prefer to accept my doubts.

I do not remember anything before I was born, so eternal "nothingness" is possible. I guess all humans hate to think in terms of finality. The best ones are those who can accept life as a gift and to live their lives fully. Some argue that without a life after death we have no real moral compass.

In the end I am agnostic - what will be will be. All the major religions seem to strive to understand the ultimate question. One day we will all know the answer.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Salcombe Lifeboat Disaster 1916

See .

One hundred years ago this month the small Devon town where I came from suffered a tragedy when the lifeboat overturned with the loss of life of most of the crew. It was a tragedy in a small community. There will be a special service to mark the 100 year anniversary. One of my aunties witnessed the tragedy when she was a young girl.  Most of the crew were not young men as most of these were fighting in WW1. Only 2 people survived.

To this day the RNLI crews go out in any weather to save lives. They are brave men.

Car troubles

Our elder son had to use our car to get home today (to London) as his car would not start. I think he needs a new battery. The rain last night probably did not help as some of the leads would have been damp. The joys of autumn and cooler, wetter times!

We now have pansies planted in the rear garden. These should be in flower until the spring.

UPDATE 1320z: Green Flag (rescue) have now been and said the battery is charging OK and had loose connectors. It has been left running for 15-20 minutes. Our son will collect on Wednesday.

Thursday, 13 October 2016


Suddenly we seem to have moved from summer into autumn. The nights are getting rapidly darker earlier, the temperature has dropped and it suddenly feels like autumn. I enjoy all the seasons, but they seem to come around sooner. Where was summer? Yesterday we planted primroses instead of the begonias which die in the first frosts. The picture shows the primroses under the windows at the front of our bungalow.

Thursday, 29 September 2016


For several years now, my wife and I have done a photo each day as a kind of visual diary. You can see these at:  (me) (my wife)

For $19.99 a year you can make your pictures private and have more albums. We have the free membership, which anyone can sign up for. It is great fun to look back and see what we have done. My wife's favorite trick is to say when friends and relatives came to see us. She can usually pinpoint the exact day. Sad?

Some people use this to show off their excellent photography skills. I 'm afraid our photos are more mundane. Some pictures are good, but most are very average. To us it is a visual diary. It is a good discipline too. I have much enjoyed doing it.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016


To be honest, I am no plant expert. Yesterday our son Tim came to see us. He took back to London the tomatoes our granddaughter Amandine grew. We expected these to turn red, but they stayed green. Maybe this is a variety that is meant to stay green? This is our son with my wife Lis outside our home.