Friday 28 August 2015

A Spectacular week!

A week with a difference and one to celebrate.

In the World Athletics Championships Mo Farah managed to stay on his feet, in spite of several pushes and trips (definitely accidental!) from the Kenyans, and win the 10k gold and fight his way through to the 5k final.

Greg Rutherford soared through the air to a remarkable gold which means he's won the World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth championships in one period. A feat only achieved by 5 other athletes and even Mo hasn't done it yet! Surprisingly he's underfunded by UK Athletics and has had to build a training long jump pit in his back garden.

Usain Bolt confounded everyone, including Justin Gatlin, by winning gold in the 100 and 200 meters, which means he's now won 10 Wold Championship golds. To his credit he never once alluded to the fact he'd beaten Justin Gatlin and his ex-drug usage. He's a perfect gentleman. To Gatlin's credit after each race he had a broad smile on his face and gave Bolt a hug of congratulations. 
To Bolt's greater credit, when he was upended by an enthusiastic TV cameraman riding a Segway, he did a backflip and smiled broadly before coming over to help the cameraman. The next day the cameraman presented Bolt with a wrist tag that would warn him when the man and his Segway were in the vicinity! Broad smiles all round.

I played three rounds of golf this week. Two with my son, who only started playing a few weeks ago and already has a superb swing, and one with an old friend. Asides from the fact that the rain poured down all morning on all three days and then cleared just as we started playing we had a great time. The course was virtually empty and yet it was the best playing conditions I've seen for ages.

As a person of a certain age.... I'm retired and spend my time writing books. To supplement my meager income I do agency work as and when it's available. This has ranged from heading a sales operation for an illegal drug testing company, to being an exam invigilator for a 6 form college. Usually these roles and reasonably short in duration and can be one day, or  a maximum of a month. Next week I start a new and rather exciting assignment as part of the IT support team for Winchester University. It's initially for 3 months, but is likely to last much longer. The money isn't bad either!

My car passed its MOT. A great result.... but at the same time I had to get it serviced, insured and taxed. An expensive car week, but I love my car so do I care?

It was confirmed this week that in October I'm taking my 7 month old cocker spaniel to my beloved Gower Peninsular for a week of walkies on the beaches and on the coast paths that I walked for so many years with my previous sadly missed cocker. I can hardly wait!

Terry Pratchett's last book "The Shepherd's Crown" was released this week. Most of his Discworld characters appear in it, almost as though he was getting them to say goodbye. Reviews of the book say it's one of his finest, so that's one Christmas present solved!

Blog on, Dudes!

Friday 21 August 2015

Reasons to be cheerful. One, Two. Three!

It's easy to dwell on the bad news and negative parts of life. It's far harder to those elements that enrich us and make it well worthwhile getting up in the morning and smiling.

So I got to thinking it would be good to look at my past 365 days and highlight the..... er, highlights!

1. My lovely daughter married her ideal man and I became a very proud father-in-law.
2. I became a 6th form exam invigilator and witnessed 1st hand how hard kids work these days and the stress they're under to succeed.
3. After 27 year we had all the carpets replaced with Axminster wool. It's like walking on air. Interestingly under the original carpet we found some newspaper sheets dated 1966!
4. At the end of March we became the doting owners of a cocker spaniel puppy. He's beautiful, smart, loyal, loves his cage at night and we love him.
5. This year we've holidayed in Tunisia (months before the massacre) and in the Canary Islands.
6. In October I'm going to the beautiful Gower Peninsular in South Wales with my cocker spaniel pup for a week. We'll walk for 5 days along the coast paths, coves and beaches and come back fit and refreshed. It'll be his first trip to Gower, but there'll be many more.
7. I put 11 bags of soil improver and conditioner in my garden for the first time in 27 years. As a result  my flowers, bushes and shrubs look amazing and even the soil looks dark and vibrant.
8. For the first time in 3 years I put in a number of tomato plants and they're just ripening now. The taste is dynamite! The secret is to pick them while they're still greenish but getting softer, then place them on a windowsill next to a banana. The black stem part of a banana has amazing ripening capabilities.
9. In June my son decided he'd like to take up golf. He is now armed with a bag, a full set of clubs and good golf shoes. He and I now play nearly every Monday and Wednesday and have a wonderful time. Christmas presents should be a breeze with the number of balls we lose.
10. I replaced my leaking shed, and although it took 2 1/2 months for the right parts to arrive. my garden tools are now dry for the first time in many, many months.
11. Book Three of the Temporal Detective Agency series is going along nicely and the first two, Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords, are still selling well in shops. They are, of course, also available on Amazon, should you wish to treat yourselves! Have a look at

Here's to the next 365 days. Have a good year!

Blog on, Dudes.

Friday 14 August 2015

It's a Fair Cop, Guv!

And no, this has nothing to do with blonde policewomen.... at least I don't think it does, but I was banged to rights as they say, just the same.

I was proceeding in a leisurely manner, m'lud, when I entered a local village and noticed a van, in which a man operating a camera was looking in my general direction. I was just inside the 30 MPH area and when I looked at my speedo I was doing 35 MPH. Admittedly I was slowing as I entered the village, but that wasn't the point as I realised a week later when the dreaded letter dropped through my letterbox.

So I had 3 options. I could either accept a fine and 3 points, plus a hike in my insurance premium, or challenge the whole thing and go to court where the fine would be £200 plus 3 points if I failed, or go on the Driver Awareness Course at a cost of £90 and no points on my license. Guess what I opted for!

Actually it's not that automatic. You have to apply and there's a chance the police may refuse you, though they would rather you took the course in reality.

So, what was it like? Brilliant!

The 2 guys who ran the course treated the 20 people on it as responsible adults, rather than as naughty kids to be humiliated, and they understood what they were talking about. These are some of the elements that came out during the 4 hours we were there:-

- No one makes a profit out of the course. In Hampshire, once all hotel and lecturer costs are covered, any remaining money is donated to the Hampshire Flying Doctor helicopter service which is totally supported by charity rather than the NHS
- A car travelling at 32 MPH as opposed to 30 MPH will still be doing 10 MPH if both cars are braked together and the 30 MPH car has stopped. At 70 MPH that goes up to 50 MPH.
- At 20 MPH 85% 0f people will survive with minor injuries. At 30 MPH 
- In an exercise, Hampshire police spot checked drivers for eyesight problems. Just over 25% failed badly. Amazingly this wasn't the older generation, but rather people in their late 20's who didn't want to admit they needed glasses and look nerdy!.
- Almost 80% of road accidents happen at road junctions and an amazing number involve cycles and motor bikes.
- A fixed speed camera can only be located where there have been 3 deaths, or major accidents in recent years.
- Mobile speed cameras of any kind can only be used where there has been a death or serious injury in the previous 3 years.
- Amazingly the outside lane of a motorway is NOT just for BMW drivers with a heavy right foot and a mobile, nor is it for lorries, caravans, or any cars towing something. Nor is it for use when the inside lane is available.
- There are very strict and defined rules as to whether a specific speed limit should be imposed. There has to have been an major accident with the last 3 years and the area must have street lights a certain distance apart before a 30 MPH limit can be imposed retrospectively. Some Hampshire villages still have a 60 MPH speed limit (the limit on a single lanes 2-way country road) going through them, purely because there hasn't yet been a major accident.
- Most people have no idea what ABS really does, how to use it properly, or even what it stands for, although they have it on their cars. Do you know?
- According to the Highway Code the average driver reacts to an incident in 0.7 seconds. In fact in road tests it's around 2 seconds.... and a lot can happen in 2 seconds even at 30 MPH!
- The year with the highest road deaths in the Great Britain was 1939! Since then it has steadily declined with a marked drop in the past 10 years, even though the number of cars on the road has increased incredibly.
- Since the Driver Awareness Course option was brought in the number of major road accidents has fallen considerably, likewise deaths.

Not one person on the course grumbled about the cost. No one moaned at the fact we'd been prosecuted in the first place and "why aren't the police out there chasing real villains instead of persecuting us poor motorists" (if we didn't speed, they would be chasing villains is one answer). The fact we all lost at least half a day's wages didn't occur to us; it's the price you pay for awareness.

We all thanked the two guys for an excellent course and promised never to see them again!

Blog on, Dudes!