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Windmill Whirlwind

Yesterday was my first official visit to the windmill as a volunteer. It was to witness the turning of the sails. This has to be done four times a year, to stop excessive weathering of the wooden struts from being left at the top for too long. It was quite a process, as the lower edge of the nearest sail had to be manually pulled down, once the brake was off. This necessitated one intrepid volunteer having to make a few attempts to get a weighted rope through one of the gaps in the frame of the sail.

Once this was done, the rest of us made the climb up to the very top of the structure, to release the brake, and the wooden blocks acting as a back-up. This process was far from easy. After a ladder was released, someone climbed into the darkness at the top of the dome, lit by a torch held by another person. I climbed up into the hole, to be shown how it all worked. The huge wooden wheel is held in place by an ancient iron brake. In case this should fail, four lengths of substantial timber pass through the struts of the wheel, giving added security. With these removed, and the brake disengaged, a message was passed to those below, via mobile phones, that it was safe to commence pulling. It turned very easily, considering its enormous weight.

As this was happening, a visitor asked me a few questions about the workings. Reluctant to bother those more experienced, who were busy in the roof, I answered as best as I could, with an appropriate sense of authority, and a confidence in my unscripted patter. The tourist seemed very happy with my explanation, and began the descent to ground level, to photograph the turning procedure. After a half-turn was completed, the process in the roof space was reversed, and the wheel secured once more. As the opportunity was presenting itself, one of the trustees applied a lot of grease to the spindle, to keep it lubricated for the next time.

Although I have not even officially started in my role, I have already been asked to take on the task of preparing the quarterly newsletter. I seem to have talked myself into this, by mentioning this blog. It would appear that blogging experience = newsletter capability, and although I begged to differ, I did not feel that I could decline the request. I was also told that the Wednesdays that I have agreed to do might soon be changed to Fridays. Dereham has its market day on a Friday, and there are many more people in the town. Wednesdays are proving a little too quiet to make opening worthwhile.

Today I received a phone call about the newsletter, swiftly followed by a raft of e-mails with photos of events to be included. I do at least have the option of contacting the outgoing newsletter compiler, and as I have absolutely no idea how to go about it, I think that is what I will be doing. Do any of you have any experience of such things? Do you, or have you in the past, produced a small newsletter with photos? I would be grateful for any tips or suggestions. Do I need Microsoft Word, or will anything do? Will I need additional fonts, for example? I am feeling a bit at sea, and wondering if I should have said ‘no’.

What was going to be a couple of hours a week looks like it is already turning into a lot more, hence the title of this post. I’m in a bit of a windmill whirlwind today.

A very quiet day

I confess that I haven’t posted anything on this blog since last Saturday, until now.
I am struck by the quietest day for viewings and readers, in almost a year. Perhaps I should have posted something. After all, it is Tuesday here, and that is three days without anything published. But I am reluctant to put something up for the sake of it, (except this of course) so will take the low figures on the chin.

I am reminded of the need to ‘feed’ your blog. An idle blog soon becomes an uninteresting effort, and the tumbleweed starts to swirl about, in the blogging desert that you have created. I have posts in draft, and some ideas for others in the pipeline. I have also spent a lot of the day on a film article to be published elsewhere, so I confess to neglect, at least for today.

I spent a longer time walking with Ollie too. The sun was out, and the day felt like early summer. So, I stayed out longer than usual, and enjoyed it immensely. I have often written here about statistics, and how they can sometimes overwhelm the blogger. But today has been a very good day in Beetley, so I am unconcerned. There will be lots more to follow, undoubtedly.

I am hesitant to type this, but my problem with Google seems to have resolved itself overnight. After some weeks of being considered by them to be based in Greece, I have miraculously returned to the UK this morning. No more Greek writing on my Google searches, or suggestions based around suppliers in Athens. The legend ‘Google Greece’ has also gone from my homepage, and a quick check on Google Maps has now placed me in the UK. Nowhere near where I live, for some reason, but at least it is presenting me with a familiar map as a starting point.

I cannot claim to have resolved this with some newly-acquired technical skill. In fact, I had given up trying to hurt my brain, by attempting all kinds of solutions offered by the Internet. Google chose not to respond to either my fault-reporting, or my forum contacts. I expect they were much too busy to bother about some old bloke in Norfolk wondering why he had been ‘moved’ to Greece. But when I fired up Chrome this morning, I couldn’t fail to notice that I was back in Britain, where let’s face it, I belong.

In some ways, I liked my time over there. It made me feel a little special, to have been chosen to operate from another country. It also has planted the seed of an idea in my mind, that I am sure Google could to use to their advantage. Perhaps they should move us around in a random fashion, so we are never sure where our maps will begin, or what searches will be thrown up as a result. This would add both novelty and education to our Internet searching experience, and might be more popular than you would imagine.

So, one last thing to say. Αντίο Ελλάδα !

I Can Let Go Now

During the 1970s, I had always quite liked the American band The Doobie Brothers. By 1972, they had released ‘Listen To The Music’, and they soon attracted members from other bands that were changing personnel or breaking up, such as Steely Dan, and Little Feat. But it was the arrival of Michael McDonald as the lead vocalist that changed both the direction and sound of the band, taking it back into the charts with classic songs like ‘What A Fool Believes.’ McDonald had been a studio vocalist on many recordings by Steely Dan, a band that I admired a great deal, and when he went solo in 1982, I thought his first album, including the huge hit ‘I Keep Forgetting’ was excellent.

In 1986, he released the CD ‘Sweet Freedom’, which was something of a compilation of hits up to that time, and I bought it immediately. It contained some very good songs, many of which I already owned on other recordings. The last track, featured here, is a very sad yet ultimately uplifting song, that will resonate with anyone who has ever found themselves in a situation like the one described. Sung in McDonald’s flawless plaintive tone, instantly recognisable. It is a testament to perfection in brevity, at under three minutes duration.

Sit somewhere quiet, and be alone for a moment, as you take it in.

Ever since he was a tiny pup, Ollie has always loved to greet a guest to the house. He learned the word ‘guest’ very quickly, and even if there are none, just mention the word, and he will go off in search of them. He believes everyone to be a guest, from the daily visit of the postman, to deliveries from Amazon, they all qualify in his book.

We have discovered that he can also differentiate between certain guests. When our grandson Kayton first came to visit, we told Ollie that he was ‘baby guest’. Ollie took his toys to show the baby, and went to see him every time he cried, or gurgled. Now if we say ‘baby guest’, he rushes over to where we keep Kayton’s bean bag, or baby seat, and sniffs them excitedly.

The heating engineer is also one of our fellow dog-walkers, and has a Rhodesian Ridgeback called Spike. Ollie and Spike always play rough over at The Meadows, so Ollie remembers his owner all too well. As a result, he is very excited to see Richard when he comes to fix the heating, and brings him a succession of soft toys to inspect. This morning, oblivious to the need for his guest to have his head in a cupboard, changing valves, he kept appearing with a large stuffed tortoise, offering it for play. When there were no takers for his tortoise, he amused himself instead by carefully sniffing all of the tools in the toolbox, as well as the discarded packaging of the new valve.

There are some special guests he really looks forward to seeing. If anyone who has ever taken him overnight arrives, he rewards them by jumping up to them, something he never does otherwise. The young woman who bred him, and still owns his Mum, gets special attention, with him squeaking excitedly, as he is so pleased to see his first ‘parent’. If any of the family arrive to stop over, he will always be sure to be ready to rush into the spare room when they get up, making sure that his ‘guests’ are suitably acknowledged; and that they are still there of course.

Once all the guests or visitors have departed, he will occasionally do a short tour of the rooms in the house, just to make certain that everyone has left. I have always been someone who believed that dog owners tend to treat their dogs too much like humans, and I have little truck with the claims that they understand things that are said to them. I have always believed that they take more from the tone of voice, or your expressions, and calculate things based on habit and previous experience.

But as far as understanding what ‘guest’ means, I’ve had to eat my words.

A Birthday week

It was my habit, a few years back, to have a ‘birthday week’. This generally started on the night before my birthday, and continued for six days after the event. During this special time, I would do no housework, and complete no chores, of any kind. I revelled in the absence of responsibility, claiming that anything unacceptable was due to it being ‘birthday week’. I made arrangements to see friends, ate out a lot, and generally did whatever I wanted to.

I refused to cook or wash up, and any behaviour or silliness on my part was deemed to be acceptable. This once a year festival of my birth was taken extremely seriously, and no exceptions were considered to be allowable. They were good times indeed, and immensely enjoyed by me, if nobody else.

Unfortunately, age and responsibility have a way of creeping up on you, so my birthday week in 2015 just didn’t happen. Problems with the heating seem to have overtaken my justifiable celebrations. It is now working, but there is no hot water. So yet again, tomorrow I have to wait in for the engineer. I still have my normal dog-walking duties too. I cannot get out of those, or Ollie will suffer. Other things must be done of course, as Julie is at work all day. So, easy cooking has been the order, just stuff thrown into the oven. I have washed up too, and put out the bins, and most other things required of normal life.

The next few days do not have openings for further celebrations. The weather forecast is dire, for one thing, and I have no plans in place anyway. I am beginning to think that this ‘birthday week’ thing has had its day, and run its course. I’m going back to one day next year. It’s a lot easier to manage.

A Birthday update.

Well it’s nearly time to say goodbye to another birthday. Despite not being able to go to the seaside, it worked out OK. I got 11 cards, and messages to say that I would be receiving more tomorrow. There were nice presents too; some bottles of wine, two DVD films, a CD, and even some cash. There is the hope of more to come, extending the whole birthday experience into the weekend.

Despite a murky start, the weather brightened and warmed up. The afternoon walk with Ollie was very good, and he got to see all his regular friends, in a big group. The problem with the central heating should be sorted tomorrow, for not much outlay. Even if it isn’t cured then, the wood-burner is going strong, and the hot water is in abundance from the electric heater. I got lots of text messages, phone messages, and e-mails too. Then there were all the nice comments on my previous post as well.

When Julie got home, I opened more cards and my gifts from her, and we went to a local hotel restaurant. I had a starter of pigeon and black pudding that was very tasty. This was followed by a main course of pheasant, something I don’t enjoy that often. Nice locally-sourced produce, and fresh too. It was delicious, and very delicate in flavour; accompanied by rostis, and curly kale. A nice house Shiraz completed my dining experience, and friendly staff were the icing on the cake.

Back home to a glowing fire, and a relaxing latter part of the evening. All in all, a pretty good birthday, at least in my book.

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