Looking for some colour

It is nice to live here, and to be able to walk in the countryside every day. The trouble is, it’s all very green. Lots of shades of green, from pale mint, to emerald, to almost black. But still green. I tried hard to find some colour over on Hoe Rough yesterday, but it was in short supply. (Other than green)

(All photos can be enlarged, for detail.)

Some nice colourful Foxgloves.

Delicate yellow buttercups, surrounded by green things.

At least Ollie is a different colour, brown. But he was seeking shade in the river, and wouldn’t come out!


Not feeling it

Summer is here in Beetley. Humid days, buffeted by winds from Storm Hector, and close nights finding me throwing off the duvet to cool down. This is the time to get things done, with the absence of the familiar rain giving me a short window for ‘jobs’. I should be outside all day, not just walking with Ollie, crippled with worse than usual hay fever and itching, trying to avoid the mud still lurking in the shaded areas of Hoe Rough.

We had what passes for excitement here over the past three days. A bull escaped from a nearby field, finding its way onto the open area of Beetley Meadows. Unsure of its location, it hid in the trees at the edge, occasionally running out into the nearby long grass, to warn off passing walkers and dog owners. Everyone was on guard against the potentially rampaging bovine, and someone finally found a number to contact the possible owner of the ‘Beetley Beast’. The Police were also contacted, as it was an issue of public safety. But they found a convenient loophole to avoid action. Beetley Meadows is ‘private land’ (owned by the Parish Council), so not their problem. I hope if an escaped serial killer is in the area, he doesn’t decide to seek refuge there. With the Police not being able to take steps to protect the public on ‘private land’, there could be a local bloodbath.

Back to those jobs I am trying to avoid. The grass on the lawn has grown again, and is now as high as that proverbial ‘elephant’s eye’, fortunately absent a ‘bright golden haze’. The recently weeded patio cracks are full of weeds again already, and I am convinced I can hear a dandelion laughing…
The guttering has two cracks that need repairing with sealant, and the strong winds have filled those gutters with debris from the oak trees above.
Lots to be done, and now’s the time to do it!

But I am not feeling it. Not at all.

Thinking Aloud on a Sunday


Thinking about this today, as I was getting dressed in some creased shorts, a tee-shirt, and a fleece top.

Hard to believe now, but there was a time when I was concerned about being ‘fashionable’. During my teenage years, in the 1960s, fashion was all. It changed from month to month, and god forbid you should appear in something ‘old-fashioned’, when you met up with your friends. Trends changed constantly. One week, high neck shirt collars called ‘giraffe collars’ would be all the rage. As soon as you could afford to buy at least one of those, it had changed to ‘pin-through’ collars, and your contemporaries would scorn you for turning up in a ‘high-neck’.

Then there were leather coats. The cost of one of those mid-length, or full-length overcoats might exceed a week’s salary for one of your parents. By the time you had cajoled one of them to help you buy one, it would undoubtedly be ‘last week’s news’, and you were almost ashamed to be seen in it. Having a Saturday job, and school holiday jobs didn’t help. Armed with the money from working at those, you rarely knew what to buy, to stay ‘on trend’. The ‘Mods’ had a lot to answer for, at least where I was brought up.

I recall a craze for ‘cycling’ tops, as worn by Tour De France riders like Eddy Merckx. By the time I saved up for one, which looked awful on me anyway, my friends were smiling at me turning up in something that was so ‘last month’. Then Parkas became the rage, driven by the people who wore them when riding scooters, like Lambrettas, or Vespas. By the time I had saved up enough to buy one, it was high summer, and I dutifully turned up in it, sweltering in the heavy coat during summer heat.

Suits then became all the rage. Italian mohair, two-tone Tonik, and three piece, including waistcoats. If you were a ‘Soul Boy’, they were de rigeur, and you wouldn’t dare show up to a club or party without one. That was my fashion heyday, helped by the fact that my Dad had various ‘contacts’, so could supply suit lengths of material, easily made up by tailors of his acquaintance. Between my own savings, and some parental contributions, I soon had a nice selection of up to five suits, in different colours or shades. Other ‘contacts’ provided the shoes. Only the best, from Church, or Loake, at a fraction of the retail price. Back then in London. everything seemed to ‘fall off the back of a lorry’, and the world was our oyster, at maybe 20% of the retail price.

Between the ages of 15-19, I finally struck fashion gold. I was ahead of the game, and even setting the trend. Suits were definitely my thing, and I could finally get better ones than almost anyone else I knew. I was happy at last. No longer trying to catch up, but easily out in front. By the time I was 25, and getting married, I had stopped worrying about it. As long as I had a reasonable wedding suit, and something to wear to a restaurant, or dinner party, I was happy enough. Life became concerned with bills and mortgages, and fashion took a back seat, at a relatively early age.

Here I am now, retired, and aged 66. Fashion could not be further from my mind. I don’t even own a suit any longer, though I should get one. After all, I have a lot of funerals to attend these days. My only concern now is comfort. Warm fleeces for the winter, and a selection of heavy coats. I am still wearing shirts and tops bought as long ago as 1989, and couldn’t care less. During the so-called ‘summer months’, I am in shorts from March to October, and don’t even need to wear socks. I no longer even know, nor care, what is considered to be ‘fashionable’, and I don’t even own a pair of denim jeans.

It is freedom, pure and simple. You will get there too. One day.

Power Hungry

Just before 5:30 yesterday evening, the power went off here. We are lucky not to get that many power cuts, but that also means that when we do, they are all the more unexpected, and irritating. I usually expect the electricity to come back on within half an hour or so, but after about twenty minutes, I received a text message from the power company. It was an ‘unplanned outage’, and I could find out more by following a website link attached to the message.

I was unable to do that using my ‘smart’ phone, as the phone signal wasn’t strong enough to download the information. We have a signal booster to cure this localised issue, but of course that requires power to work. Back to the old Catch 22 of an online life. No electricity equals no Internet. Although it wasn’t unduly cold, it was a dull and dank evening, so the room soon became dark. Candles were an option, but we thought we might save them for later, just in case. Besides, we were planning to go out yesterday, to social function; musical entertainment and a barbecue, organised by the local British Legion. We had bought the tickets earlier this week, and thought it might make a change.

Trouble was, Julie could not have a shower, then dry her hair. The shower is powered by electricity, to make sure it works with good pressure. She could have had a bath, using a jug to wash her hair, but it would then take ages to dry, and would be harder to style. Nothing to do but wait for the power to return. At 7:20, a neighbour called round. She told us that she had been able to contact the power company using an old style phone, and they told her the line was down to this area, and would not be back on until 9:30 at the earliest. So, the idea of going to the barbecue was scrapped, as for all we knew they had no power there, and Julie wasn’t happy to go with ‘mad hair’ anyway.

What to do for dinner then? The cooker is all-electric, so that was out of the question. The toaster is electric, so we couldn’t even have toast. I keep microwave meals for a speedy dinner solution, but the microwave is also electric, so no joy there. We have a portable camping gas stove for emergencies, but best to keep that in reserve for a harsh winter. I decided to drive out in the car, and see what was open to provide a take-away meal from a restaurant. A mile up the road, the local Thai was ablaze with light, so I went in. They were surprised to hear about the power cut, which must have been extremely local to just one side of one road. Our side of our road, unfortunately. I bought a meal, and took it home. We were very happy to demolish the food, as it was well over an hour past our usual dinner time.

As it was now almost dark, a few candles were alight, and we wondered what to do with the rest of the evening. Reading by using a torch or candle is not an option with my eyesight, and with no TV or computer, it was actually quite pleasant to just sit quietly for a while. I had the brainwave of using one of Julie’s tablets to read a Kindle book. None of them had enough power left to operate, but even if they had, I would have needed the wi-fi to be working, to be able to log on. Then I remembered the laptop, tucked away for computing emergencies. We could watch a DVD film on that, to while away the last couple of hours of power cut time. No chance though, as it hadn’t been fully charged, so wouldn’t stay on.

As promised, the power returned at 9:30. Lights came on, the TV restarted, and Julie began to plug all her devices into the assorted chargers around the room.

Life had returned to the 21st century, once again reminding us that without electricity, we are as good as helpless.

My Eyes, and poor Ollie

After my positive post about Ollie recently, he has suffered a relapse. Despite great progress at the start, his itches and rashes came back, and he is now in a sorry state indeed. Covered in small sores, and constantly worrying at himself, and scratching. It’s a sad sight to see, indeed. Tomorrow, I am back to the Vet, to collect a higher dose prescription of more of the same stuff.
At least he is still hungry, and eating well.

I had to go to the eye clinic in Norwich city centre today. I don’t get in there that often, so it tends to feel like being in ‘New York’, for a village person like me. The bus journey from Dereham was a joy though. Smart double-deckers, leather seats, tinted windows, free Wi-Fi, and LED information boards. There is also air-conditioning, and on a bus! The bonus is that it is free for me, with my Pensioners’ Travel Pass. The 20-mile journey takes just 40 minutes, and was bang on schedule.

Today, I had to go to the rather swish private eye clinic. This is funded by referrals from the NHS, and copes with the backlog of appointments that the main hospital is overwhelmed with. Right in the centre of the city, and a long way from the NNUH (hospital) on the outskirts, it is ideally situated, close to the bus station. I had a 14:20 appointment, so was seen almost immediately. It started with a basic eye test wearing my glasses, which I passed with flying colours. Then I had to see the technician, and have a selection of more tests, including the dreaded ‘brush in the eye’ pressure test, visual fields exam, and photos of my eyes. (Which look like satellite shots of the planet Mars.)

It was all good. No increase in pressure, no changes since the last appointment, and cataracts stable at the same level. The results will now be passed on to the ‘main man’ at the general hospital.
Let’s hope he is satisfied! 🙂

Ollie: The skin he’s in

Poor Ollie has had a couple of bad weeks. Yet another ear infection, this time spreading to the skin between his legs, and causing sores over the areas not covered by his fur. He was shaking his head so badly, it made the insides of his ears swell up. Not his usual happy self at all, and grumpy with other dogs he encountered on our walks, as he didn’t want them to realise he was unwell.

I tried some ear drops, but they gave only temporary relief, so we finally decided to take him to the Vet last Friday. It was confirmed that he had a bacterial ear infection, and that it had spread to his uncovered skin, as we suspected. It was also between his toes, so making him lick and nibble at his paws constantly. He was given steroids for the itching, and antibiotics to clear up the rest. Add a new bottle of antibiotic ear drops for direct application, and we got a hefty bill of £167.

It’s now only Tuesday, but he is already much better. The sores and redness have gone, and he has stopped licking his feet too. Still a while before the ear clears up, but he has stopped shaking his head, and rubbing it on the floor. When our much-loved pets are poorly, it is so distressing to watch them unable to fend for themselves, as we can. It’s up to us to do our best to relieve their suffering, whatever the cost. After all, they don’t ask us to take them on, and if we choose to do so, then we must care for their welfare at all times.

Online dependency: The Catch 22

It seems to me that very soon, we will be unable to do anything unless it is online. We can no longer get utility bills, except by having an online account, and the banking system keeps trying to ‘force’ us online too. Shops urge us to pay by card, presumably using accounts managed online. They don’t really want cash anymore. It takes too long to count it, then they have to pay a fee to have it collected by a security van, to be deposited in a bank that charges them a fee for handling that same cash.

Cards can be controlled of course. Tracked, monitored, watching what you spend, and how and where you spend it. Cash is anonymous. And that just won’t do. Try booking a table in a restaurant, an appointment with a doctor, or any ticket for transportation. They will suggest you do it online, and make the process of using a telephone to do it so taxing, that you will eventually resort to logging on. No more Yellow Pages here, and street maps soon to disappear too. They are all online after all, so who needs any paper alternatives anymore?

This all presumes that things work of course. Leaving aside the disregard for those who cannot afford the Internet costs, or the very old people who find it too confusing to learn how to use a computer, it all depends on a reliable signal. Good broadband speed, stable Wi-Fi, and the latest modem technology. Try struggling on a dial-up connection, or poor broadband reception in some remote district, and you will soon discover that nobody cares. If you are not online, you are out of the game, irrelevant.

This reached new heights of absurdity last year, when I had Internet problems with the previous supplier. I called them on the telephone explaining that I had no signal in the house, and I was unable to get online. This is how the conversation went.

Them. “Sorry to hear you have a problem sir, I suggest you report it as a fault”.
Me. “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
Them. “If you go online, you can use our fault checker. If that stil doesn’t work, then it will be reported”.
Me. “If I could get online to use your fault checker, then I would have Internet, and we would not be having this conversation”.
Them. “Have you tried using a different computer or device?”
Me. “I have no Internet, so what would be the point of that?”
Them. “Can you not go to the home of a neighbour or family member and use their computer to report the fault?”
Me. “My neighbour is at work, and my nearest family member lives almost 90 miles away”.
Them. “How about a local Internet Cafe, or Library?”
Me. “You want me to walk 4 miles into town to use the Library? That’s crazy”.
Them. “Well it would speed up the fault-reporting process”.
Me. “You could have logged the fault by now, instead of just telling me this rubbish”.
Them. “I am unable to do that sir, you have to be the one who reports it. I can only send out an engineer, and that will mean a substantial callout fee”.
Me. “So you want to charge me money to repair a fault that is your issue, and meanwhile I am paying my subscription charges but have no service. Is that about it?”
Them. “The fault may well be with your equipment sir, I have no way of knowing if the problem is at our end”.
Me. “I have been a loyal customer for many years, yet you are telling me that you will not report the fault, and will charge me for someone to come out and look at it. If that’s all you have to offer, then I will change providers, then tell everyone I know not to use your company, are you happy with that?”
Them. “It is your right to change providers at any time, sir.”

So I did. But what happens when it all fails, as one day it surely will?