Friday, 27 August 2010


I caught my thirteen year old daughter (and a mate) scrumping apples from a neighbours tree tonight.

I'm so proud of her you would not believe.

Go Girl! :)

(Of course, I gave her a jolly good telling off. Parent thing. Still, Go girl.)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Being aware

Yesterday my 13 year old lass had some friends round, ages varying from 8-12 and we shoo'd them out to play in some nearby fields to play, something we've done many times before. Secure, safe, and 3-4 minutes away.

This time they asked if they could borrow my digital camera. Fine, I said. Just look after it, which I knew my little'un would.

They were approached by a local they didn't recognise walking his dog, who asked "That's an expensive looking camera, who's is it?" Naturally, she said "It's my dads" He asked, "what are you using it for?"

"Pictures of my friends and I playing to put in my scrap book and diary."

He asked to look at it, flicked through the pictures and handed it back. "Tell your dad he can get into a lot of trouble with pictures like that. He can get done having pictures of kids on his camera, who's y'dad?" They ran off.

But they ran back to me to tell me, so I've burned all the pictures to DVD, handed a copy to all their parents, printed out copies for Tots to put in her diary, and wiped them from my camera.

It just takes one self opinionated bloke in a pub after a few drinks to cause no end of trouble.

How did we Brits ever get into this position?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Kitchen Garden.

I wish :)

Erstwhile 70 year old father-in-law, who, along with 'er 'indoors have repaired two twenty foot lengths of fence over the last couple of months.

Bear, and he, forgot to tell me that he hates trees. Bushes. Plants. Compost bins. Despite being brought up in the countryside pre-and-post war, with a dad who's garden was effectively an allotment. He was brought up 'grow your own'. Nowadays, he's a concrete and lawn man. Anything else gets in the way.

I managed to rescue my trees. Albeit, much reduced. Two years worth of compost is now burying my onions, shallots, garlic, cabbage, romensco broccoli, potatoes, carrots and lots of herbs to a depth of 3 feet. It was hard enough trenching those, how the heck I'm going to rediscover my lost treasures, I dunno.

The race is going to be on to plant ABOVE them, in the rich compost, in August, to plant for winter veg. Maybe, just maybe, there's some shove in and go.

The herbs - well, I have lots windowsills, and lots of rich compost, so they can be resown. Lavender and Sage were in large pots - besides, their pretty indestructible, so their ok.

I'd welcome any idea's.


Luckily, I've a fair knowledge of hedgerow foods. It does take a while to get the hang of it, and it's real money saver. I would always recommend a good book, but they vary so much I wouldn't recommend any in particular. However, I have a particular fascination with Elizabethan through to Victorian (and earlier) illustrated foodstuffs books.

The trick is, from whatever era, to look for large, well detailed illustrations of plants, preferably with recipes. Watch it with fungi. I cheat. I ignore them :)

But there's always the common stuff. My next door neighbour has a blackberry bush which she considers a weed - it gets everywhere. Which is good for me, because it pokes through my front fence.

So I grabbed the ends of the branches, and buried them in my lawn. Because of the way they propagate, they've sprung up there. Good crop this year. I've got three litres of jam so far, and some delicious sauces for pork and chicken.

Lavender, that I've already mentioned. Tucked under my daughters pillow, and in her bedroom drawers, it smells nice, and helps her sleep. It's also a good substitute/addition to sage in soups, stews and pickles. I've no need to tell you how passionate I am about pickles :) Sage and Lavender are related, and cooked, taste much the same. The trick is not too much.

Hawthorne. Were you ever told as kid that Hawthorne is poisonous? The berries aren't, and neither are the leaves. The leaves can be used in salads, and were (if you're into that sort of thing) used as a tobacco substitute. As with most plants, for the best taste, young leaves.

If you remember Rosehip Syrup as a child, you'll remember it was good to sooth a sore throat. If you have enough roses to make it, and it does take a lot - then simply de-stone them, boil them briefly with a little sugar until thick, shove the lot through a fine sieve and bottle.

The same trick applies to Hawthorne Berries. Don't confuse them with Blackthorne. They're poisonous. Hawthorne berries are bright red, in clusters, and darn fiddly. They have a big, and bitter 'stone' in the middle. The trick is to get as many as you can, and force them through your fingers raw, until all the flesh is removed. Don't cook them first, otherwise the bitterness of the 'stone' or seed will come through.

Cook them in a little water for 5-15 mins, but no longer. The first thing you'll notice is that the mix will thicken rapidly. That's because they're high in pectin, a natural thickener. If you leave it to set, it sets into a little 'cake' and turn dark brown. Slice it, or roll into little balls, you have a tasty little sweet.

But more useful, if you put it into Jams and Chutneys, the high pectin will save you a fortune in specialist sugars (or 'bitter' apples, lemons or commercial pectin).

I've lots more to share, but I'll leave it there for now :)

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Eldest daughter went into labour. Much frantic phone calls (she only lives 3 mins away) from 0624, neighbours being knocked out of bed for a lift to the hospital. All very messy and "Dean, old chap, you don't need a coffee before you go with her, and the no, the dog doesn't need a walk first...."

Poor chap looked like a frightened rabbit, I noted with grim amusement. Lord only knows what I must have looked like when The Bear handed me the phone, after Daughter described her symptoms.

"Here, talk to y'dad, he's got more experience in this stuff" Which is true, oddly enough. Partly because ours have all been by planned caesarian, and partly because, for some odd reason, I was often invited "to be there" by popular request in a previous life - which was not in the least bit medical.

Anyways, young Miss Charlie seems well on her way, a bit early at 34 weeks, and Daughter is at the time of writing 8cm dilated, and they (and Dean) are in good hands.

Bear has somehow managed to run around like a headless chicken in a straight line hotfoot to be at the bedside (and Dean), on the 45 minute bus ride to the hospital.

She's going to have to get a move on, I suspect :)

So it's just Tot's, me, and Sigma The Dog. Peace descends once again on Wheelie Manor.

Well it will, when I've found where she's hidden my rather large bottle of 25 year old Glenfiddich Single Malt Grandad's Privilidge.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Nowt to do with stroke.

Every now and again you come across odd little web sites that have a lot on them that turn out to be little gems. I tend to avoid commercial sites. Somehow, the word 'free' seems oddly attractive.

This one, PC Tips, really does have some useful stuff hidden in it's depths, despite it's boring title. Have a dig around.

Stuff like this appeals to me because it reminds me of my early days, y'now, when there were no VDU's (visual display units) commonly available, just punch cards, paper tape, and IBM golf-ball tellytypes and reams of paper. Valves and germanium transistors lived in uneasy harmony. Community, total free-for-all, were in vough and all commercial interests were absolutely banned. Ah, me.

Those were the days. (I was 12 years old) :) Btw, did you know that a lot of the tools, and ways of communicating, are still there, (or available on the net) and the same technology still underlines the modern, flashy, in-your face internet.

I have a number of operating systems, from Windows 7, Linux, and early DOS, through to Amiga, Atari, BBC and Spectrum, way down to my pride and joy, a component by component built configure by 4 switches beastie. She doesn't have a name. She. Heh :)

If you don't mind twiddling with the command prompt, (Windows Key, 'R', type cmd) you can investigate the underbelly of the operating system and the internet. For free.

Try doing a search for Ftp, Telnet, IIRC. Linx, Newsgroups. Yup there available using Windows and Mac, but using the command line can be challenging, but much more fun. Stretch yourself.

Pictures downloaded as text and manually converting to Jpeg, anyone :)

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

It's a bit of a worry.

Bit of a technical post - sorry :(

Guess regular readers will know I try to help out on the Stroke Association if I can, and the fact that, as a Stroke Survivor I'm lucky enough to be lucid - which, as anyone who's cared for a stroke survivor will tell you is, if you like a bet, very much a bonus. 60/40 split to the negative in my estimation.

Many many reasons for this - you'd find, as I did over the years, that often people lose little, if any intellectual function. It's more than likely they would have communication difficulties -aphasia being an example. Often depression is a problem - and it's treatment. Other people are just locked into bodies that have limited function.

So here's the worry.

Changes in Employment Support Allowance have been rolling out for quite some time now, began before the present government, and, being a work and employment / or lack of work, and is a benefit not meant to last more than 13 weeks. The claimants are subject to some draconian independent medical checks. The T'internet is flooded with their horror stories at the moment.

Though the present government has announced that people on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) are going to undergo 'medicals' from 2013, the truth is, there are many tiers of DLA, it has nothing to do with your income (you can be a multi-millionaire and be awarded it) and it's only loosely based on any medical problem. It's for help with care and mobility. I just get DLA.

Most people on DLA are required to fill in a rather complex form every couple of years to claim again. Don't fill the form in, it's stopped. If you don't appeal, a reclaim is needed. You're GP and hospital consultants are SUPPOSED to be consulted every time the form is filled in. Mine are.

Often, at random, or if there's a complaint or any suspicion people are asked to undergo assessment within the period they are awarded the benefit. That, for most, shouldn't be a problem. It can actually help. That assessment is carried out by the DLA.

Others, such as myself, are sometimes, after a few years, awarded Indefinite Status. Indefinite does not mean 'Permanent'. It just means you can be called in for Assessment at any time - and you can be 'upgraded' or lose the benefit if, in their opinion, you no longer qualify for help. There's an appeal process. However, you are only put on Indefinite status if it's considered that your care and mobility status is unlikely to improve or degrade.

I'm aware of the vagrancies of the web, and often downright dishonesty of some people.

But I worry about those who depend on others, and who depend on the vagrancies of the interviewers in the new system, where everyone is to be re-assessed.

In case you're wondering? No probs here. More later. I'll shurrup now :)

Monday, 9 August 2010


I'm an amateur astronomer.

An astronomer without a telescope at the mo. Which is downright annoying, and likely to remain annoying for quite some time because the replacement I want costs £450, and I've just had to pay nearly £300 quid out. Stupid washing machines.

Not like washing machines are essential is it? That's what t'bath and yer feet are for, I tried to explain to my Bear. She wasn't having any of it. Very adamant she was. I put on my best Barry White voice (I can do that) - well, it worked 25 years ago - and she still wouldn't budge. Then she stuck her bottom lip out. Uh, ho. Women, eh? Now I remember why I call her The Bear.....

So, Plan B. Post it notes. Everywhere. On all the mirrors. She likes her mirrors does my lass. Bigger ones appear every year. On the fridge, of course. I believe the master stroke is the one I put in her knicker drawer, in thick black felt tip, entitled
NOTE TO SELF. Pure genius. She'll think it's her idea, see? Still, I'll check the paper-recycle-bin later. Just in case.

Never known a woman with so many knickers.......

I tried to point out that if a had a decent programmable 'scope, I would have been able to prove that the bright orange, flickering light drifting about 500 ft (she says) overhead we saw, was not, as she claims, "Another Bloody Chinese Lantern" *1 .

Admittedly, we live near the top of one of Sheffield's seven famous hills, and we do see a lot of them on the way to set fire to the crops in the fields we can see in the distance. She says I'll just have to keep building "that shrine (I'm) building to worship our incoming alien masters".

Since I'm in the middle of a telescope crisis, and can't tell the difference between sarcasm and irony, I gave her a Blank Look. But, and I'm not being paranoid here, honest, I'm going to check my locked tin under her bed *2 to make sure no-ones disturbed my dossier, invasion plans, check book stubs from 1983, and planning application.

Where was I? Ah. If you should see odd lights in the sky over the next couple of weeks, it's probably..

A copper chopper.
A "Bloody Chinese Lantern"
A UFO. Tip. UFO does not mean little gray persons. It means Unidentified Flying Objects. Unidentified . Flying. Object. Got that ? :)

More likely the Perseids meteor shower. In theory, it begins August 12th every year. It's when the path of the earth passes through a cloud of debris from the 109P/Swift-Tuttle Comet. Discovered in 1862, Swift-Tuttle is called "periodic" because it makes a pass through our solar system about every 133-135 years leaving behind a debris trail. More information here - and honest, it's quite interesting :)

The reason there'll be a burst of UFO reports is because like any debris trail, if you can imagine, is like, to quote Monty Python, as the Earth passes through it, side to side, it's like a Brontosaurus. It's thin at one end, much, much thicker in the middle, and thinner at the other. I hope I'll be spending many a happy night on a sun bed staring skywards over the next couple or three weeks with a bottle of wine. heck, if I'm very lucky, I catch some on camera :)

*1 Chinese Lantern. Upside. Released for weddings, parties. Consist of a wire framework usually covered in toughened paper on a wire frame, with a suspended basket with a shielded heat source, normally an oversized 'night light'. Tip :- If you must use the damn things, hold it down until the 'envelope' fills with hot air , otherwise it'll just go sideways and set your hut on fire.

Downside. You can't control where they land. They drive Ufologists crazy. If your into 'alien' spotting, look. If it's hard to see, usually orange or reddish, and flickers, it's one of these monkeys. They burn crops, the wire gets eaten by cows, sheep and goats, and kills them. They cost farmers thousands of pounds/dollars. No fun.

*2 Her bed. Well, am I right? Isn't it always?

Sunday, 1 August 2010


We had a few friends around for a few drinks and some music, and some of the fella's got into quite an aggressive mutually inclusive discussion that was bluntly racist.

Their wives and girlfriends disagreed. Don't misunderstand me I've come across it before. But I'm from a working class generation where we didn't & don't care less about crap like that. Or gay, or straight, or fat - or green. Or anything in between. But I was shocked at the intensity of it. People getting Jobs/Houses/Cars/ because of their skin colour? Rubbish.

They all have internet access. They can all check immigration policy on

So I found myself pig-in-the-middle. It's kinda weird. How the heck can a non-racist be married to a raciest or homophobic?

It was quite distressing. Any ways, thumbs up to the ladies.