Monday, 28 February 2011

Dear Diary.

Some reject from the gene pool kicked the heck out of my front gate sometime during the night. The forth time in two weeks. Who? I have no idea who or why. All I know is the poor things indeterminate age and tenuous existence is extended across Wheelie Manors path. Prats.

However, they've gorn and dun me a favour. I've had to do some quite complex maths to design a new gate from some good old fashioned 4x1. Plus the price of the of some new jigsaw blades, borrowed and broken by a recent lender. Plus screws. Curved and spaced like the fence. Immensely enjoyable all that maths. Loved it.

Stop Press: Bear did her thing and negotiated a deal with a neighbour who had some 4x1 (four be one, otherwise known as 4 inch wide, 1 inch thick) saving us a tenner. 20 ft lengths tho. Back to the drawing board, but hey, that's half the fun.

I can do this. I know I can. I built the original fence 12 years ago. I can do this.


I had someone storm out the other night, because a homosexual friend visited with her girlfriend.

There were lots of wibbly excuses. "I don't like her attitude towards your dog". The stormer is in her twenties. That bothered me. I'm a twice married heterosexual. I just can't get my head around the concept that anyone should be excluded from anything or anyone or any social scene because of the people they fall in love with.
There's nothing greater than being loved by someone who loves you.

End of.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Warning - a long post...

A little tip. Sorry if it's a bit obvious.

I have two cats, and a lively (for that, read bonkers) 10 kilo (22 lb) 10 month old dog. We also occasionally doggy-sit his equally lively sister.

Needless to say that's 64 claws. Not a good household for fabric furniture. So last year I bit the bullet and invested in a black leather suite, at a price that meant my wallet needed counselling, the theory being leather would be tough and durable. Besides, I got the salesman to throw in a 30 quid 'care kit' for nothing. Wuppy Doo....

Did it work? Yeah, on the whole. But hard wearing as it is, over the year it's developed lots of annoying scratches, some of them quite deep. I looked up a lot of 'repair kits', blanched, tried again, and felt faint. I am a South Yorkshireman after all.

So here's my way of repairing leather scratches, partly due to my book binding experience.

Shoe polish, and a little olive oil. An empty small, clean tuna tin. See? I can get to the point :)

I mean the now old-fashioned renovating shoe polish. Not the modern-squeezy-bottle sponge things.

Warning. This may be tedious. It is time consuming. Chuck the family out for a couple of hours.

If the leather is textured and that's important to you, then you might be better buying one of the leather repair kits, because they include 'skins' that impress a finish on the final result.

Luckily, our suite is black, with a faint impressed texture. You might have to look harder than Bear did to find the matching colour for your leather goods.

Scoop a largish amount of polish from it's tin into the tuna tin - a couple of tablespoons should be enough. Add a few drops of olive oil. You can either boil a kettle, pour some water into a bowl, and float the tin in there until it melts, then remove it quickly and stir it well, being careful no water gets into the polish mix.

Make sure the room is well ventilated.

I chose to use a top of the pan steamer, without the top lid on, which allowed me to stir as it melted - using a lolly stick. Then allow it to cool. You should end up with a medium-hard mass. Any softer, and it may rub off onto peoples clothes. It needs to be softer than pure polish, but harder than a paste. If it's too soft, add more polish, and repeat.

Now the tedious bit. Take a needle. Yup, a needle. Examine each scratch closely. I use a jewellers eye glass - but then I'm a bit fastidious, and it's what I use to repair leather bindings on books too. Habit.

You'll find that a scratch breaks through the surface, coloured layer of the leather, exposing a lighter, often white under layer, with the thin top coloured layer in little triangular peaks. That contrast is what you see when you see a scratch.

Using the point of the needle, tease up all those little ragged edges. Then, using the side of the needle, push them all back down again, so you're left with a cleanish edge, make a mental note of the depth of the scratch. Go cross-eyed. Have a cuppa.

How you deal with the next bit is up to you. The more time you take, the better the result. I'm a bit perfinicky, so I use a fine paintbrush.

You could use a soft cloth, but the important thing is to get your polish mix into that scratch, a little at a time, slowly building up layers of polish until it's just proud, waiting an hour between each layer, and then gently polish the whole leather panel with a little olive oil.

The same method works on all leather goods - hand bags, man bags, jackets, belts, books.......

Spot the guy who was brought up polishing boots and shoes with wax polish, a candle, a spoon and a lit candle :)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Three young chaps were walking along a riverbank, and spotted David Cameron and Nick Clegg drowning.

Without a thought for themselves, they jumped in and dragged them out.

"Thanks guys!" said Nick and Dave. "How can we reward you?"

First young lad say "A Ferrari please". "Sure - and you?" "A Playstation please" said the second.

"And how about you young man?" beam Dave and Nick.

"A Wheelchair please sir"

Our Dave looks puzzled "What do want a wheelchair for - you don't look disabled?"

"No" says the lad. "But I'm gonna be once my dad finds out who I've saved"

Friday, 25 February 2011

Apples and....

Awoke to a beautiful morning.

It could have been early spring. Despite the chill, there was a scrum of scrapping sparrows and tits over the early buds of my willows, the genteel cooing a pair of wood pigeons courting on the windowsill, and in the distance, the usual mournful "good morning" of a car alarm.

Everything was bathed in the most beautiful pale pink light. I was so spellbound I forgot to take a picture. Sorry. First order of the day, over 'Builders Tea' was to get an article for Apple to bed before my Two Bears and Stupid The Dog grumble awake.

Apple is my baby. In some countries, such as Spain, there is a tradition of cheap or free politico/religious or just plain odd leaflets, some quite scholarly, most compiled with a feverent abandon, all biased. They're available over-the-counter, under-the-counter, from road side stalls - if you know what to ask for.

The idea is to influence someone, randomly, somewhere with an opinion, or keep "the faithful' up to date with the latest banter and extol them to toe the line.

I first came across them during the unrest in France while on a business trip in the Seventies.

Politically, at the time, they were taken very seriously of course. Though aware of why that was (it WAS the seventies), I loved the subversiveness, the crankiness, the pure Naughtiness of those little gems. I was gifted others by travelling hippy friends - even those who wouldn't be seen dead talking to 'a suit'.

And so, Apple was born. The name? Ah, y'see, there was this bloke called Adam, and he had this missus, and, well, y'know....... Not that it's religious. Usually.

Distributed anonymously, I'm wary of where 'she' goes, but I don't care who reads it. She's light hearted, but serious, sarcastic, but gently, and funded and written by just the one, and the opinions of one. I have no plans to make it available on-line. That would defeat the object.

My proudest movement was finding her drawing-pinned, tattered and well thumbed to the noticeboard of a major British cathedral. Joined by some sisters a couple of years later.

If I had a plea, it would be this. If you love to write, then do so, and get it out there, just for the joy of doing so. Do as many you can afford and the postage you can afford - it's up to you whether you want to be anonymous.

The idea is to be polite, courteous, infrequent (say, every 3-4 months?) only one copy per person per issue, and most of all, legal. Forget about copyright, though keep a copy until you get bored doing so.

Why is Apple a she? Ask any bloke what his car is called.......... :)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Just read a fascinating little article in The Register

A blind man who is able to play video games by hearing alone.

Which goes to show that you can do anything you put your mind to, if you're focused and determined enough.

Did you notice I didn't use the word 'disabled' ? Good. Because I'm not going to. Hate the damn word...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pease Pudding and savaloy.

I'm making Pease Pudding :)

As per Mrs Isabella Beetons Book of Household Management.

Dead simple. Dried peas. Butter, an egg, salt and pepper. Water.

Now, Mrs Beeton's (12 March 1836 – 6 February 1865) original recipe needs a little adjustment. It feeds 7 or 8 people. I feed 3, plus whoever turns up. And it's meant as an accompiant to 'boiled beef or pork'.

Effectively, it's the original mushy peas. But I thought I'd stick as close to the original as possible.

The idea is, you soak dried peas in water overnight. Then you boil them in muslin from cold in rain water for a couple of hours, push them through a colander with the back of a wooden spoon, allow it to cool, then beat in butter, egg, salt and pepper.

Then you wrap it in a clean floured cloth, and boil it again for an hour. Serve hot.

First problem. Mrs Beeton obviously didn't have a gas or electricity bill :) So I'm pleased to do the maths to pare the amounts and therefore the cooking time down.

I realised that dried peas are actually more expensive than fresh or frozen peas. But I thought, what the heck....

Muslin cloth. Have you ever tried to get hold of it? At one time one could get it next to free from a local butcher - it was used to protect the meat when it was delivered there. Local Butcher? Whats that? Yeah, I know I could order it on the internet, but that defeats the object of keeping things simple.

More of that later.

A brief and rare flash of inspiration later, and The Bear lost the bottom half of a pair of unused stockings. Yup. Stockings. Shhhh. Don't want her to know, that I now know, (Gulp!) the secrets of her 'knicker drawer'.

Where was I? Oh, yeh. I feared my muslin substitute might melt, but no, seems ok. And the most delicious smell is drifting around the house...

The modern method is to cook dried peas with maybe half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. Actually, all modern methods for cooking peas (Or Pease) pudding involves bicarb. It doesn't taste the same.

Now, nowadays, you buy mushy peas at at least a least a quid a pop for less than an ounce (25g) from some floppy chip shop. Or the same in a tin from a supermarket. After getting this going, I'm left with the wonder of the time that - predominantly ladies - spent by our ancestors feeding their families, for even the simplest meals.

I've not finished the Pease Pudding at the time of writing. The Dried Peas have been soaked overnight in water, and now their cooking in water (from cold) Then it has to cool, have egg, butter, salt and butter beaten in after sieving, and cooked again for another hour.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Nowt as queer as folk

How very odd.

I had a telephone call from a relative who I don't see very often, who began the conversation jovially with :-

"I won't ask how you are, I see someone who visits you two or three times a week, who keeps me up to speed"

I had to point out that we have no-one who visits two or three times a week. In fact, our most frequent visitor visits once a month, if that, rarely phones, and we certainly don't discuss anything personal. We're fine with that.

That conversation ended pretty abruptly. Sigh. I'd love to know who the mystery person is. As for the relative, they haven't responded to messages. I guess that's going to remain one of life's little puzzles.


I've been following the progress of Mr. Duncan Smiths Welfare Reform Bill with some interest. Since any time now it's going to be all over the press, and I'm apolitical, I'm not going to link to any particular source.

The welfare system is open to abuse, is abused. It needs reform. My personal interest is Disability Living Allowance which enables me to live a fairly normal life. Something like DLA should be targeted to those that need it. It's tough to get, as it should be.

Mr Duncan Smith says,

"Around 50 per cent of those receiving DLA did not have to provide additional evidence to support their claim, and some two thirds of current recipients have an award for life, which means they may never be checked to see if their condition has changed. That is why we are proposing to introduce, for the first time, an objective assessment to ensure financial support is getting to those in need of help"

He's wrong. Your medical history and your circumstances come under intense scrutiny. Your GP, hospital consultants and social services reports are closely studied, and one is independently assessed regularly. Certainly, you have to fill in claim form after every assessment and reassessment that, even with a trained advisor, can take 1 to 3 hours. That needs simplifying.

But you would not receive DLA based entirely on the claim form. Full stop. Ain't gonna happen.

As for his claim that " some two thirds of current recipients have an award for life, which means they may never be checked to see if their condition has changed." It's rubbish. There is no such thing as DLA for life. I've spent a lot of time talking to a wide range of people who are disabled or who care for the disabled - covering a huge range of circumstances, for some years.

The category he's talking about is 'indefinite entitlement'. All that means is you never have to reclaim. It doesn't mean you aren't checked up on, because you are. Worse, perhaps, you can be checked and interviewed by non medical professionals at any time. let me emphasise that. At Any Time. As opposed to when a claim for DLA is made.

In all that time I've only ever met one person on indefinite DLA. Me. Yup, yours truly. And I didn't make that decision. The Department of Work and Pensions did.

One final point. Disability Living Allowance prevents no-one from working. It isn't means tested. You can earn a £1000,000 a week and still be granted DLA (though god only know why you'd want to).

You simply work within your ability to do so, and rightly so.

There's one little niggle I'd love to see changed. I've never claimed (un) employment benefit (Job Seekers Allowance). But once a year I get a phone call from the local Job Centre Plus to tell me that they don't need to see me. I point out I don't claim JSA. (yes they know) I'm not registered unemployed (yes, they know) DLA isn't means tested (yup, ect.)

"So why would you need to see me?" Because, they explain, "they're required by law to tell me they don't"


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Waste not,,,,

Smudge The Cat brought me a little present at 5am this morning.

Smudge The Cat is a mini cat. He acquired us as a stray just over a year ago. Never grew much, and according to the vet, never will. He's truly tiny.

His usual prey are Magpies. Yup, I know, Maggies are pretty, but they are predators, throw fledglings of other birds from their nests for the heck of it, and are responsible for a rapid decline in song birds in the UK. I know, because I have to clear up after them.

Problem is, when Smudge is finished with them, there's not a lot left. Not bad for the little warrior, when he's smaller than they. So I give them a decent burial.

But this morning, he dragged in an unusual prize. A fresh Grey Squirrel, about one-and-a-half Smudges long.

A post-mortem - which consisted of checking for any vital signs, response to stimuli, lividity, and a thorough feel of it's anatomical and skeletal structure showed it was indeed dead - the main clues being it had some severely displaced neck vertebrae, and tiny specks of blood in it's eyes. It had been strangled.

So I skinned it, and cooked it. I've no qualms doing that. I was brought up to have no illusions about the chain of produce between what we eat and how it gets on your plate, and have been in occupations where one has to be realistic where your nutrition comes from.

But it has been a long time, and I was curious. D'y'know, it was delicious. Supermarket Rabbit for instance, can take a lot of work to prevent it from being bland.

Nutkins wasn't. Cleaned, Baked in an honest beef stock for a couple of hours on a low heat with Butter, cream, Home made dijon mustard and salt and pepper and some bay - it was a little gamey, but I like that :)

The innards, (offal) has made a stock which will be included in my Thousand Year stock for weeks.

Warning - apparently you can't go around killing any kind of squirrel willy nilly, depending where in the UK you are. Greys are considered a pest everywhere, but even so, are still protected, as is the means they die. I took advantage of a random kill..........

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Ee-what ?

I have to admit, I viewed the arrival of Ebook readers on the technological scene with deep suspicion.

For a start, I regard anything paper based as the last bastion of civilisation. Blow the trees. Plant a new one. I may be a teeny-weeny bit biased because of the strings to my bow is a little book binding.

And they are, like, for instance, anything Apple based - iPad, iPhone et al (iMe!) consumer devices. Try using one of those without eventually shoving a few quid in their direction. Pennies make Pounds, and they want 'em.

But then, a few pennies dropped.

Lots of bloggers are budding authors. Getting into print used to be a tedious merry-go-round of submission, rejection, try again, acceptance, rewrite, edit, resubmit - it goes on and on in various combinations. Then it might be a limited print run, and if it isn't making a quick profit for the publisher, you go down in a blaze of glory. Or not.

So what if one managed the whole process oneself? Cut straight to the chase by offering a book as an Ebook, for a reasonable price using Paypal (for instance). Any disadvantages are only the same as the printed word. More, you can offer a prospective customer a couple of chapters as a teaser for free.

There are companies on line who will take the pain out of it for you - for a percentage of any sales.

You never need ever go 'out of print' too. And bless you, should it be profitable, you could have paper copies made available - for a price.

There are freeware Ebook catalogue and reader programs that will transfer from your PC to your Ereader or mobile phone/cell (I'm trying out Calibre for PC's), and thanks to organisations like Project Gutenberg who catalogue and make available out of copyright material, I've been able to find stuff that would be darn near impossible to find otherwise.

How does "
THE FORME OF CURY, A ROLL OF ANCIENT ENGLISH COOKERY. Compiled A.D. 1390, by the Master-Cooks of King RICHARD II" Grab you? :) And naturally, you can print to paper if you wish.

As for bookbinding . If you can bind a book you can bind anything.....

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Eggstreme, Sport.

"So useless" she said. "Can't even boil an egg". With a sideways glance at me.

Rather a damning verdict she-who-must-be-obeyed passed on a singleton friend of mine.

The sideways glance was a withering and very successful attempt to contrast my venerable (and rather attractive) white beard with my complexion. Good at withering, is my lass. She is the corkscrew in the wine cork of my dotage. She's had nearly 26 years practice.

But she's quite correct. I am a cook extraordinaire. Take it from one who knows. Me.

Mr Oliver? Pfft. Kiddy. Delia Smith would be a mere Kato to my Inspector Clueso. Though I have to admit, Nigella Lawson? I seem to have a little trouble remembering her recipes, for some odd reason.

I could make the Go Compare guy writhe in a blancmange of ecstasy. Got that? Cool.

Can I soft boil an egg? Nah. Nope. Heck no. I'm beyond half a chuffin' century, dammit, and in all the ways you can abuse an egg, that one I haven't mastered. I can do concrete egg-in-a-shell. I can do hottie attack-of-the-slimy white.

Google has got to the point where I just get a message saying 'oh no, not you again, bugger orf'.

I've tried everything. In fridge. Out fridge. 3 mins, 5 mins. Egg timers. A Betta-Ware Sure Fire Ready Indicator. Salt? No Salt? The Amazing Microwave Soft Boil Egg thingy. (Bang !!).

Gawd help me. I even had The Bear Taking me step by step. No. And never again. I'd rather have an Elephant in my custard.

So please. Help out a poor Wheelie?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Thursday, 3 February 2011


My lad has spent the last month with his wife and baby daughter in the States - a little farming town on the shores of Lake Michagen, just outside Chicago. He's supposed to fly from there to New York and from there home.

First, guess where they've been his with 20 inches (51 cm) of snow and temperatures from a nice warm minus 6°C to minus 30°C? Yup. From a storm covering 30 States. The roads are blocked, everything is shut, so he may not even get to the airport, ne'er mind get his flight.

To add insult to injury, his home was burgled last night or the night before. Luckily, he had the foresight to move anything really expensive from there here before he left.

They ransacked his place. Threw a brick through a window, emptied all his drawers and tipped the contents all over. It's amazed me what they've pinched. His aged and cheap microwave, and a couple of games - that I understand. But a box of wires? Baby clothes he'd been stockpiling? (his US wife is barred from the UK at the mo.).

A couple of ancient videos? Xbox game cases - with no games in them? Tea, Coffee and sugar? A kettle ? I mean, I know it was Kenco Coffee, but blimey.

But what's really annoyed me is the next door neighbour openly admitted to the police that he and his family knew something "had cracked off", but didn't call the police because "they didn't want to get involved". It took another neighbour some doors away to do that. Tsk. Some people.

The police - who phoned us - have been very good. Forensics and all that (who explained everything to The Bear - even pointing out glove prints, partial shoe prints what they do and why) . They even arranged to get his landlord in to board up the window.

Bear has spent today putting everything away and sweeping and cleaning up. Poor Bear.

But Coffee? By 'eck.


If you haven't heard of, it's worth a little look. Basically, tap in a post code, part post code, area or street, and in a very general way, it shows the crimes that have been looked into in the last month/6 weeks. For privacy reasons, it doesn't pin point exact addresses.

Once you are shown the results page, click on the map. The figures shown for an area covered are a total. Zoom in bit by bit using the slider. As you zoom in, the figures break down, finally into figures by street.

There are a couple of caveats. One is that there is a category for 'other crimes'. No idea what that covers.

Another is the way it works. It seems to be grouped by post code. For example, large city centres, ie Manchester or London, have multiple postcodes, but a pub/nightclub/accommodation population of somewhere like, umm, Preston. But Preston's city centre is covered by one post code, so they get a bad rap because similar facilities are more concentrated in one post code area.

Partly thanks to the homogenization of city centres. Don't get me into that one :)

Another worry is that insurance companies might use this data to hike up their rates in some areas, or that the data may be used to force property prices down.

Having said that, as a curiosity, and a bit of fun, I like it.


The post that was originally here hasn't gone away - it's been withdrawn for editing after I received a gentle and kindly reminder that I was leaving myself open to legal action for breaching 'client confidentiality'.

In a nutshell, it hinges on a rather loose definition of what is a 'client' is apparently. I'm told such an action would be likely to fail, but horribly expensive for me to fight. As I have a great deal of respect for the advisor, I decided it best not to put my stubborn head on. This time.

I should have been a no-win, no-fee lawyer. I really should. Sigh.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

He shoots, he...

I like to set goals for myself. It keeps me focussed, gives me purpose and a great deal of inner independence.

I'm in a position where I could, if I wished, get up when I feel like it. Luckily, I was born with a four hour a day sleep gene - which apparently is in common with Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. Now there's an eclectic list. Thatcher, Churchill, Wheelie......:)

That means if, like myself, you're often reminded about what you can't do, and presumptions of that you can't do, it's kinda satisfying that something simple like in bed by 1am and up-by-5am - whatever I feel like gives me a curios pleasure.

Daft, isn't it? See that long list of meds I have to take? I take the first ten at 6 am. I may not be able to walk to the local news agents, I have family hover around me at meal times (what am I going to do? fall into my soup?) and I've not seen the inside of a pub, restaurant or café for 14 years now. But by 'eck, I can get up in the morning.

My latest personal challenge is to sacrifice some of my back lawn as a Herb and Vegetable bed. My raised bed was destroyed by someone, quite well meaning who, having got into their stubborn head "I had no use for it now" dug up my herbs as 'weeds' and whatever happened to my veg, I have no idea. It was all reduced to rubble. Quote "Those weeds smelled nice when I burnt them? Isn't that weird" Grrr.

It won't be very big - about 3 metres by 2 meters, and by digging up a chunk of the lawn I'll be making a statement. Gerroff!

It'll take quite while to dig and prepare it, a little bit at a time, and I have to start soon before the next severe frosts start setting in. The frosts will help by breaking up the clay soil, which is difficult to work, but incredibly fertile.

Besides, can't be doing without my fresh herbs. Growing them and keeping them on windowsills is fine, but messy. And have you ever tried to grow carrots on a windowsill? Don't...

Wish me luck :)