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.

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.

Catch of the day?

My teenage years are some time ago now, but as far as I can recall, none of my girlfriends mothers ever said, ‘ wow he is such a catch’…or of they did it was certainly kept from my by said girlfriend(s) of the time. Egos in teenage boys are never something to be encouraged I believe.

No, this is about fish….well actually a little bit about fish and in fact anything that people think is something worth you having or trying.

We are located in a semi rural area and in these ‘new times’ we live in, we have like many others been trying to support local businesses, avoid travel, shop for others etc. One of the places we have been frequenting is our local fish shop – the proprietor knows his fish, and in fact not just his fish but the actual origin of it and in some cases the providers of it. Considering that we live in the very middle of England, we are about 70 miles away from our nearest fishing port that is quite a feat but that doesn’t faze him.

Ok, there is probably a bit of salesmanship in this, but actually the quality is great and he does know the provenance, and more importantly will discuss how to prepare it, and based on preferences shared with him he gives suggestions on what we may like and so on.

So that is all well and good on fish, and actually we have independent butchers that will do the same…and also a couple of small artisan bakers that do wonderful bread that you can see and smell it being prepared behind them . That all great and for those nostalgic of the past it is a return to how our grandparents generation would have done their food shopping in the pre-supermarket era.

Good food for our physical well being is good news of course, but food for the mind is needed too which leads me to our local bookshop. I have mentioned them in passing, really just because they have a name for the shop that just says it as it is….. ‘Read’ ! One of the great things about this little shop, is that although its little, they not only have a lot of books in a small space but they do have an an impressive knowledge of the style, content, plot and readability of so many of the works of fiction on the shelves.

Ask them for something with just a few parameters and they come up with some ideas and personal reviews. So far , they haven’t failed to please and in fact have introduced me to some new authors.

What’s not to like about that! There is a series of TV ads running in the UK at the moment from Google encouraging you to use and review your local traders; American Express have done similar campaigns in the past where they reward their customers when using independent businesses…ok the cynics out there may say this is just PR for these organisations…it may be but if it helps keep these local businesses alive, then surely that is to the good.

Anyway, I am off to read my book now….. Happy Sunday

Yes, it’s you I am talking to…..

When I was at school, which admittedly was quite a few years ago, I would dread these words and the death wish glare of the headmaster or other scary teacher beaming down at you in assembly or class if you were a bit distracted and more interested in your friends conversation rather than the droning from ahead of you!

Life has moved on, and now it’s me uttering these words but in a nice way. One of the many advantages of being a blogger who does it for fun and not for clicks, stats or advertising revenue is that when I occasionally get a new follower (and these over 1 week can be counted on the fingers of one hand) is that I can actually take note of this and if they are following via WordPress (rather than an e mail or social media link) I can see their blog, what country they are in , what their interests are etc. This is not from a stalkerish or any other kind of undesirable curiosity, but a genuine interest in who likes what I write and wants to read more and also making me cogniscent of a varied readership.

I always pin my hopes on the fact that if some weeks, it’s not an interesting read to the reader, it’s only 2 minutes of their life I have used up!

So thanks this week to the Deli that is now following me (by the way, your produce looks great), the futness instructor who is also now a reader (maybe you are worried about my connection now with the Deli, and also the previous week the amazing marzipan lover who also joined me) and so on. It’s really good to have my little bit of my life in England, and specifically this corner of Yorkshire now part of yours.

Thanks also for the comments..feedback is good.

China in my mind

The 1980’s band T’pau had a very successful hit with China in my hand, despite most of the millions who bought it (yes they didn’t download back then, they bought some vinyl with a groove cut into it…) not really having a clue what is was about. In case you want to know, it was actually about how if you held a china cup in your hand it was translucent. and you could actually see some kind of ghostly image behind it. Strange title, but anyway, it made Carole Decker and her band some money and fame. This is actually all quite irrelevant, but please store the fact away in case it ever comes up in a music round of a pub quiz….or more likely at the moment a Zoom Quiz.

I actually have China on my mind, not on my hand. Why? Well , I occasionally look to see where my blog is being read using a clever little App that I have, and I have noticed of late that I have an increasing readership in China. But lets not get carried away here..I only have a couple of hundred subscribers through various media and historically these have been people in the UK and a few other European counties and the USA , Canada and Australia where I have both family and work connections…and these are English speaking countries and in many cases, expatriots from the UK. I have freely written about UK life and probably more specifically Yorkshire life, happy in the knowledge that it resonates with the reader either from personal experience, TV or some other connection.

But for some reason, the Chinese search engine Baidu seems to have found me and delivered my posts to people in China. I have only been to China once, and just scratched the surface of the vast country…but learnt enough from that short visit to know that my world is very different to theirs.

So to all of you reading this in China …thankyou, and I trust I have not baffled you completely and yes, what I right is really true.

The internet is truly a wonderful thing (when used wisely and carefully) and I often ponder what my late departed parents, only one generation back from me would think of the truly amazing means of sharing and communication open to us all.

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……

Enjoying this blog..hopefully a two minute read that has been worth the two minutes.

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