The wheels on the bus …..etc.

Those familiar with the children’s song will know that the lyrics do a fine job of stating the obvious…the wheels on the bus go round and round, the ladies on the bus go chatter, chatter, chatter, the babies on the bus go waaa, waaa, waaa, (this line far better sung than written), the wipers on the bus go swish, swish, swish and so on.

There are probably also regional variations on this to meet local needs. For example, If you travel on the bus in Bermuda it is expected practice that you greet each and every other passenger individually. Joining the bus at busy times means most of your journey is occupied just by this!

Anyway, back to this meaningful set of lyrics….although not having the classicism of a Lennon and McCartney Beatles ballad or an Elton John anthem, you get the feeling of that everyone on board knows what is happening, who is doing what and generally feels safe and secure on the bus.

This wasn’t the case outside my home today. We live in a semi rural area and although we have the luxury of one public transport a few times a day, these are mini buses , not much bigger than a large family’s people mover!

Today however a strange scenario…it seems that the nearby small town to us had its link road to larger neighbour blocked for most of today and the regular ‘big grown up’ service featuring a full size double decker bus was being routed along our narrow country roads.

Fortunately not many passengers on the bus being a Sunday, but a quick look at them said that they had not been told of this foray into rural Yorkshire…the faces gave an impression of a range of feelings from kidnap victim to horror story….calling for a quick rendition of the final and least known verse of the above song…the people on the bus screamed help, help, help……

It’s all about communication..!

Happiness is a sharp axe….

For anyone alarmed by this title …please don’t be. I may have considered many mid life career changes, but being an axe waving terror figure has never made it to the list.

My axe activities are solely directed towards chopping logs into kindling for my wood burning stove. I actually (no pun intended…) own three axes..one being a real hand-me-down from my parents home. It’s worryingly  quite lethal and although it’s blade is not sharp, having probably last been sharpened in 1967 and chopped a lot of firewood since then, the axe head does have a tendency to detach mid-chop and fly off the handle (literally) at an unexpected trajectory. No amount of gloves and  safety goggles has been proved to be sufficient PPE when using this lethal weapon, so it’s had to be retired.

The remaining two are both young entrants to the world of domestic tools…the first being one I purchased myself and it’s near twin, arriving only a few weeks later, a kindly but unexpected gift from my father in law when we had just moved into our current house and became proud owners of a wood burning stove.

This though was some years ago. When we bought our house it was the very opposite story to some of the horror tales one hears where the previous owners remove every last thing they can. Our predecessors were very generous and left large amounts of logs, chopped and bagged kindling and much more.

They did however leave us a few mysteries as well…a confusing lighting system, numerous electronic gadgets and control systems, but with a bit of detective work we have probably got to grips with most of these.

Anyway we have finally finished the bequeathed kindling and are now making our own.

I think I have found a new vocation…it’s cold, damp, still some snow on the ground but a few hours chopping logs into kindling has been surprisingly very gratifying. Who needs visits to stately homes, gift shops or tea and cake in tea  rooms on a winter Sunday anymore?

Look out for next week’s blog where I make myself clothing from animal skins and build a cave house.

New dogs required?

Driving along one of our local motorways a few days ago, I was a bit perturbed to see numerous overhead gantry signs with the message ‘ The UK leaves the EU on 31 December, new dogs required’ . I knew things were changing but not that every pet owner had to replace their four legged friends. With the average price for any pedigree puppy being around GBP£2000, it could be an expensive business.

Who wouldn’t like a new dog?

The displays certainly aren’t clear……as my mother in law,  on a separate journey actually read it as New Docks required and was left wondering why Dover, Southampton, Hull etc. were all being consigned to the history books.

It took an eagle eyed family member in the car who could focus on the signs and not the road ahead …..to note that the message is actually all about ‘docs’ as in documents ..not dogs or seaports.

Another sign I spotted a junction or so later helpfully asked the question ‘Travelling to France? Covid Test required’.  Very helpful info you may say, but this road junction in Yorkshire, Northern England and is some 4 hours drive (about 250 miles) from the nearest seaport from where you can take the ferry to France! In reality the majority of cars who use this particular exit are either travelling to the local Ikea or Lidl and really not much further!

As a nation, in the UK we are actually quite used to unusual signage..in the early 1990’s we had the Traffic Cones hotline promoted all along our motorways  complete with a freephone 0800 number. The only problem being nobody had a clue why it was there?

Some people thought it was to report stray or lost traffic cones, others a counselling service for those to report and get advice on an unhealthy romantic attraction to these plastic hat impersonators, some assumed it was to complain about there being too many of them and so on. In fact it was actually an information line you could ring to find out where there were roadworks on the country’s motorway network, presumably to avoid them…or if you had a strange interest in them, so that you could plan a Happy weekend of contra-flow driving complete with other features including those family favourites…’raised man hole covers’ and ‘temporary road service’.

Anyway, such signs are now just history.

But despair not, visit Scotland’s motorways and you will still find signage to delight. In Scotland, people just generally say it as it is and this is the tone of the signage there too. My favourites are the signs displayed on many stretches of motorway with helpful motoring advice…’Watch your speed’. Yes for sure many a driver will be prodded by this reminder and ease off the accelerator pedal a bit; another is , ‘Check your fuel’..likewise a quick glance at the fuel gauge makes sense….but the ‘icing on the cake’ goes to ‘Check your tyres’….really??? At 70 miles per hour in the fast lane!!!

Just call me Baked Potato?

Go into the world of song lyrics and you will find a lot of artists giving hints about to what to call them. Paul Simon from the Graceland Album has one of the more well known ones – ‘ You can call me Al’ , well that is if you are in the over 40’s age group.

For those of a younger musical generation, I can offer ‘Call me Maybe’ from Carly Rae Jepsen ….and probably many others if I put my mind to it. Perhaps another time……………..

This name calling seems to have extended to the world of internet fraudsters ‘phishing’ for my personal details. Like many people I have ended up with a few e-mail addresses, mostly from when I have had to register myself on-line and create an account for something and have either got caught in a loop of where they say they already have me, and I can’t reuse the same address (…but I can’t find the password!) or sometimes when I have been so reluctant to give them my routine address, I have created a new one just for them and other questionable organisations to share.

Typically these alternate e-mail addresses I have created bear no relation to my name and depending on my mood at the time of having to quickly create a new one, may be a bit off the wall. bakedpotato@myisp.com was one of my favoured choices at the time, but it seems somebody had got there before me so I couldn’t register it.

Anyway it therefore  becomes very obvious when I get the e-mails from fraudsters addressed to these as though it was my first name telling me that I have got a income tax refund (I wish…!) or my EE mobile account is about to expire (….funny, I don’t have an account with them) or my campervan vehicle duty is unpaid, and if it isn’t paid immediately it will be crushed. Or was it that I will be crushed? Anyway, I don’t have one of those either…and having quite a dislike of them (with all due respect to people who love them….), I would be quite delighted for any campervan to be recycled into food packaging . Dear Baked Potato , we regret to inform you that your vehicle will become Heinz Baked Bean tins must have a certain irony to it.

The world is generally full of good people, but the bad guys and girls are out there trying to cheat our friends, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and so on via these scams…I think for those of us who are tech savvy and scam savvy,  it is  our duty to always to remind those who are not,  of these people and the methods used to steal data. Anyway to help me remain aware, I have decided on a new address (assuming its available) of pleasejustignorethisemailitsascam@gmail.com and look forward to my first e-mail addressed to Dear PleaseJustIgnoreThisemailItsAScam it appears you have not paid for your TV Licence etc.

Those of us of a certain age in the early days of e-mail will all have had the communications from the very polite man in Nigeria explaining that his family millions rightly owned by him need transferring safely out of the country away from corrupt officials, banks and car park attendants and he just needs a little help from me as I am known as honest and trustworthy person. If I could just send him 100 dollars this will pay for a bank transfer fee and then 100,000 dollars  will be in my account which he and his honourable family will gladly share with me.

Ah…those were the days, I wonder how that man is now? Is he happy and well and living in Suburban Surrey and did he ever transfer his millions….

I have become (well) connected….

I have been researching part of my family tree on and off for quite a few months now using one of the many on-line services for doing this.

In some ways it’s a bit of a combination of detective work, guesswork and trying to remember family conversations that went on around you when you were a child.

For those of us who are now orphans … and I use the term slightly jokingly as although my father died when I was just sixteen, my mother lived into her eighties and my sister and I were blessed to have her well into our middle age. But of course like so many people we have the regret of why didn’t we ask more about aunties, uncles, cousins etc. rather than researching their death notices!

But we can’t turn the clock back and have to rely on our research and intuition now.

To be fair the family tree apps are very good and will give hints and suggestions that often help filling in the gaps. I also did one of the genealogy DNA tests that not only tells you your ethnicity but will from time to time will send you suggestions of possible family members based on DNA matches.

Well I think I have had quite a few of these e-mailed to me over the past year, and I generally just file these for investigation in due course.

However one arrived last week suggesting I was very well connected….Bill Gates from USA. Now I know the sensationally wealthy founder of Microsoft has very sensibly planned to leave not much of his multi-millions to his children to keep them grounded and will instead leave most to his charitable foundation and other causes. And I commend (cousin!) Bill for this!

However I don’t recall though seeing any plans as to what he has intended for his 3rd Cousins…………

Anyway…bubble now burst, looking at the age, perhaps not the same Bill Gates.

Who needs a free Windows 10 upgrade anyway?

What’s in a name?

My parents generation, probably like all generations, would from time to time have a bit of a moan about things. Actually, lets be careful here as we all find ourselves turning into our parents in various ways whether it is looks, temperament, idiosyncrasies , dress senses or driving habits!

Anyway my father would from time to time comment about how the world was becoming very depersonalised – small shops being swamped by large supermarkets, characterless motorways with no landmarks and so on. He did have a point here…I recall finding myself driving along a motorway on a work business trip that was one of many trips over a short period of time and gazing out of the car window (I hasten to add I was not the driver!) and having a mind-blanking moment about where on earth in the country are we? For those not so familiar with our UK motorways , they often have high grass banks and you see nothing of where you are passing for miles at a time – exit signs are the only clue!

Things have moved on (although obviously not on the motorways) in that the clever marketing people now want us to feel warm and fuzzy and upfront and personal about everything. I have a parcel delivery due later today and the courier company reassured me with a message that John Higgins would be with me between 17.32pm and 18.32pm. I am assuming he will be delivering the parcel and they are not just sending one of their employees round for a welfare visit?

I have recently been having a rant with my credit card provider and all the conversations, at least from their side(!) are very first name and friendly – sincere Steven from Customer Care has called twice, Michael from ‘escalations’ team and level headed Laura whose job it seemed was to call me about my complaints about the lack of service from sincere Steven and escalation Mike and re-assure me that she was on my case.

She told me more or less on our last call that her life has no higher or more important priorities than me and my banking needs at the moment. This concerns me slightly as her household may be expecting some contribution from her in terms of Christmas shopping, tree decoration or mince pie making or whatever her role normally is in such festivities and to me I think these are of greater need for focus in her life rather than an erroneous charge on my account.

And then of course there is Starbucks…it is impossible to order a coffee or hot chocolate with anonymity…I am not a huge customer of them normally and it is usually more when I am in the US for work related travel that I frequent them. When asked my name I always say , my best House of Windsor accent ….’Prince Charles’..there is never really any reaction from the order taker…other than mutters how , how will all this fit on the side of the cup? But when it gets shouted out to a crowded coffee shop, that is when the fun starts!

Enjoying this blog? …you know its just written for you ‘insert name here’

…oh and finally an update on the parcel, John hasn’t made it yet but I have been told of his exact co-ordinates. I have noted these in case things deteriorate and I need to give the info to the local mountain rescue team.

I am the next Wimbledon champion

This morning whilst up a tree, with the help of a ladder to do some pollarding I remembered …… I really don’t like heights, but I was able to carry on, one hand clutching the ladder and one on my saw. Pollarding, for those not in the know is best described as severe pruning of a tree!

Having survived my ordeal, I retreated indoors for a tea break and was presented with a piece of newly baked ginger traybake to eat. I did and it was good! Next notable point, I really don’t like ginger and avoid ginger cake, ginger biscuits, ginger beer etc. at every opportunity.

It seems something strange is going on. Earlier in the week, a Keane CD had been left in the car…I listened again…actually I liked it.

So maybe I am just evolving on so many things that have really been on my most disliked list?

Anyway, those who know me know I really cannot play tennis and the game just bores me. Based on how things are going, it would seem I am going to be a Wimbledon champion by tomorrow. Move over Andy Murray!

Britain’s most connected dog

Like many people, I have more than one e-mail address for practical reasons.

One of these secondary ones I use when I have to give a valid e mail address for identification but I am somewhat reluctant to do so.

This address was chosen to differentiate from my normal one that uses my full name, and this alternate sounds like it should be the name of my dog….

Anyway it seems this address may have ended up in the loving hands of a spammer.

This week alone, the dog has been advised it is due a tax rebate of £286 from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue. This is the somewhat quaint  sounding governmental organisation that we in the UK pay our taxes to.

It appears also that the dog has not bought a TV licence ( yes, another uniquely British thing) and a fine is imminent unless action is taken by giving persons unknown all your personal and bank data. And finally in a thoroughly bad week for the dog, it’s been told its Internet is going to be disconnected due to misuse of the system and Netflix just wants to ‘check’ it has the correct banking details!



Finally it’s not all gloom and doom though…last week there was an offer of a Russian bride, and an earlier mail that same week offering some plastic surgery  from a clinic in Romania.

All of these interruptions just end up tossed in the virtual bin….


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Who said life was dull?

Happy days…

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Top Ten First World Problems

If I were creating such a list, top of this one would be the end of Summer Time. Now by this I don’t mean the end lazy of days by the beach, drinks outside, wasps or cows sharing your picnic etc.

In the UK that all ended weeks and weeks ago and sure that is a disappointment, but we just have to embrace the seasons. Indeed us Britons have all been well trained since we are toddlers to be ready for bad weather at any time, the formation of orderly queues for shelter, ruined days out and generally being very polite stoic about all of these things!

No, the problem is the changing of the clocks at the end of British Summer Time and reverting to the real time! That is GMT (Greenwich Mean time) , we generally don’t like to depress ourselves further by calling it Winter time.

Its a bit like one of these early computer games where you had to eradicate gremlins that would keep popping up on your screen , and just when you thought you had them all, another one pops up.

We have this problem with there being clocks everywhere – everything imaginable has a clock: mobile phones and landline phones – actually these seem to be able to cope with this momentous day in our life and update themselves, as do the clocks in at least one of our cars…the other car will resolutely show the wrong time for 6 months of the year.

Then there is the cooker in the kitchen – the changing of the clock display on this always necessitates finding the gravy stained owners manual and still the process always goes wrong and instead of retarding the clock by one hour we seem to be setting an auto-cook setting with the oven timer, for a 1kg – 2kg chicken (no giblets)! So, then onto the microwave, similar problems…manual needed, and just when we thought we had done it we noticed that its actually a defrost process we have just initiated…..!

So thinking then that all bases are then covered, we noticed our energy Smart meter was showing us the time in Paris, France not Yorkshire, England so that needed intervention too. Smart meters are smart in name only – we have had ours a year and it has never so much answered a crossword clue, or even one of the easier questions on University Challenge! Its actually not even so smart at doing stuff its supposed to do like displaying how much energy we are using. Quite important really with all the additional flashing displays and bleeps going on at the moment from various domestic appliances that are being adjusted!

So having completed everything, a quick stroll into the garden…….aaargh, I had forgotten the recent addition of a garden clock. Thankfully no instructions needed…its very analogue and just needs its hands moving!

Happy clock change day, if its happening with you today!

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Just living the dream or living in Hope?

In the UK we have a good selection of town and village names that will bring a smile of amusement to those that chance upon them. One of my favourites is the village of Ugley. Inevitably it’s various organisations and clubs prefixed with the village name periodically feature on the internet..top one being the Ugley Woman’s Institute.

All credit to the village hall who embrace this strangely found fame!

The Woman’s Institute or WI for those from outside the UK is essentially a social club for middle class ladies of a certain age ! At one time considered a staid, safe and reassuring bastion of jam recipes and flower arranging, but more recently epitomized as risque from the film Calendar Girls based on the (true ) story of when a WI in North Yorkshire did a nude calendar photo shoot to turbo charge their fund raising for cancer research! Who says village life is dull!

Anyway added to my list of favourite village names is Hope where we went walking a few weekends ago. Wouldn’t we all like to live in Hope? In reality most of us do……

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