Staying positive: More thoughts

As regular readers will be all-too aware, I have decided that 2017 will be my year for beginning to have a positive outlook on life. Attending the funeral of a friend and ex-colleague, yesterday, I refused to dwell on the fact that he was four years younger than me; that he would not be drawing the pension that he worked so hard for all of his life, and that he will not be joining us for meals in attractive country pubs anymore. Instead, I concentrated on the fact that he served for 36 years as a police officer in London, doing what he had always wanted to do. He loved his family, made many lifelong friends, and left this world behind with a legacy of a working life spent helping people, living on in fond memories.

The sun came out today, and despite a chilly breeze, I had an enjoyable walk with Ollie. I thought about buying that second camera again, and decided not to. There’s nothing wrong with the one I have got, and it is good enough for what I use it for. So, why spend the money? I will put that to better use, helping to fund a holiday abroad next year, for the first time in seven years.

I noted that my passport has also expired. That would usually send me into a flap, in case I needed it for some unexpected reason. But being positive, I soon realised that I was unlikely to need it until the summer of 2018, so plenty of time.

Starting today, I am receiving my State Pension. That’s a monthly increase of over 50% in my disposable income. That’s pretty positive, if you ask me. Jobs put off can now get done; cars sorted out properly, decorators employed, and the chance of a few more trips away in other parts of the UK to anticipate too.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s no big deal, I suppose. But even being positive about the small things in life can make you feel so much better. Why don’t you join in? I know it is still only March, but it has been very good so far.

Staying positive, in 2017.

A word about photos

When I didn’t post any photos, most followers used to ask me to include them. My main reluctance to do so at the time was the consideration of using up my WordPress allowance for this blog. Then I decided to throw caution to the winds. I bought a new camera, resurrected my old SLR, and started to post lots of photos. Pretty soon, I had used almost 45% of my allowance, and I was getting worried.

Of course, my great community of blogging friends soon came to my aid. They gave me tips and advice about how to reduce the file size, whilst keeping the ability to have the reader enlarge the photos, to enjoy the details. Off I went, armed with a useful tutorial on Adobe Photoshop, courtesy of my friend, Antony. I reduced the file size by 50%, so that they would load faster for my friends with a slow Internet connection. This came with the bonus of using considerably less space, and made my allowance workable, for the time being at least.

For most of 2016, and a couple of times this year, I added photos where appropriate, and enjoyed a big boost in viewing figures every time they appeared. But looking at the stats, I started to realise something. Hardly anyone was enlarging these photos. The stats show me every time an image is clicked on, and they were few and far between. For instance, my post about Southwold, with four reasonably interesting photos, has been viewed 114 times. Yet only two ‘clicks’ are shown for the images. Out of all those interested people, only one or two have bothered to enlarge the photos. Some of those who did so mentioned that fact. I thank them for doing that, as the photos are a lot more impressive when enlarged, as I say in the post.

So, I am left with a question. Is it worth me bothering to post images of a decent size, or are most of you content with the smaller photos visible on the main post? If you don’t want to enlarge the images, then I won’t be bothering to spend so much time making them into a decent size for viewing.
Just let me know how you feel. No criticism intended, or pressure applied.

Best wishes, Pete.

A Southwold Birthday

I always like to visit the seaside on my birthday. This week we were blessed with excellent weather for the 16th, so we decided to venture south-east, and to see somewhere in Suffolk, instead of Norfolk. Southwold is a genteel town on the East Coast. Recent popularity with visitors from London, and others buying second homes there, has also made it a desirable destination, as well as prohibitively expensive to buy property in the town.
(The photos all look better if they are enlarged)

The pier was built in 1900, and is as popular today as it ever was. Unlike some coastal piers in this country, it conceals its commercial side very well.

Along the pier is the famous water-powered clock. The metalwork is suffering a little from exposure to the elements, but it still tells the correct time!

Further into the town, you will discover the imposing St Edmund’s Church. It was built in 1430, and is considered to be one of the best examples in the county.

Unusually, Southwold’s lighthouse is in the town centre, rather that at the edge of the coast. It still operates today, and has been seen in many films and TV series too.

The town is dominated by Adnams Brewery, which still operates in its original premises there, brewing Suffolk’s famous beer. There is a popular Brewery Tour, run every day. As well as a small market, held in the old Market Place, the town has a wealth of small shops, delicatessens, and restaurants. Most are of the ‘exclusive’ kind, catering to the many wealthy new residents. A visit there is highly recommended, as it will give you a snapshot of the British Seaside, almost unchanged for over 100 years.

A personal celebration

It is not the done thing to congratulate yourself on your own birthday, I know.

But I am going to do it anyway.

As regular readers will recall, the 16th of March is my birthday, and I generally make quite a song-and-dance about it. I start to celebrate a few days before, commencing a ‘birthday week’ of events. These involve shopping for my gifts, a trip to the seaside, and a meal in a restaurant. Nothing fancy, you understand, just keeping up a tradition I started many years ago.

This year is something of a milestone, as I am ‘officially old’. 65 is the age in the UK when you are considered to be a ‘pensioner’. For many, this no longer applies, as recent changes in the law will delay pensions for most people, for up to seven years. But I just crept in under the barrier, so I will be getting my State Pension at the time I was supposed to, starting next week. I will also qualify for things like ‘Pensioner Day Discounts’ at the barber shop. This has its own cruel irony, as I have little hair left to cut. I will get a ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ though, as us oldies need to keep warm.

The downside is that I will also be cast into that great void of the ‘Over 65s’. Look at any survey, most forms, and many special offers, and you will see that the final tick box is usually shown as ’65 Or Over’. Once you hit that magic age, you are destined to be ignored, or at best seen as something of a burden on society. But I am being positive in 2017, so I will not worry about all that stuff.

We will go to the beach with Ollie after I open all my cards and gifts. Then later this evening, we will enjoy a nice meal somewhere, possibly tasty Chinese food. I will drink my red wine, and enjoy the day with Julie and our dog. Then next month, I might just go and get one of those cheap haircuts.

Just because I can.


Staying positive, in 2017.

Harder to stay positive, in 2017

I met Brian in 2004. I transferred from West End Central Police Station in Mayfair, London, to the Diplomatic Protection Group, part of Special Operations, based near Trafalgar Square.

Brian was a constable there, something of an expert in communications. More than something in fact, a real font of knowledge. He had been in the group for over twenty years. During that time, he had accumulated an unparalleled knowledge of everything to to with that organisation. There was nothing he didn’t know about Embassies, and his wealth of contacts was legendary. In addition, his grasp of all the tiny details required to make our job work knew no bounds. He was our ‘go to’ man, in every way imaginable.

As a new joiner, I asked him many questions, and he generally answered them, though he valued his ‘secrets’, which were many. We established a working bond, although he was a few years younger than me. Over the next eight years, we also became firm friends, giving each other a lot of respect in the process. I got to know something about his wife and family, and we became close.

In 2011, he had exceeded his service requirement in the Metropolitan Police. After a long career, it was finally time to go. He and his wife chose to retire to a house in Norfolk, very close to the area that Julie and I had also bought our retirement home. Not long after we moved here, in 2012, we went over to see Brian and his wife, and they became our ‘local’ friends immediately.

Retirement started well for them. Good pensions ensured decent holidays, no mortgage, two cars, and a good lifestyle. Then Brian contracted male breast cancer, something most unusual. He went ahead with a double mastectomy, and made an excellent recovery. He got to enjoy numerous cruises, a comfortable life, and the companionship of his devoted wife, successful children, and the arrival of grandchildren too.

In the meantime, we met up now and again. We enjoyed meals at various local restaurants, and social time at each other’s houses. We also looked after each other’s dogs, and kept in touch on a regular basis. If we didn’t meet up for any reason, we communicated by telephone. We were each other’s local friend, and happy to be so.

This afternoon, I received the sad news that Brian had died. He had an undiagnosed bowel tumour, and this had caused him to attend hospital on Wednesday. By the time they discovered the problem, it had burst, and he died this morning. Younger than me, with a decent pension, and lots left to do in life. Children and grandchildren to cherish, a wife to love, and so many plans for a comfortable future. Yet he is gone; and I am shocked and surprised this evening.

I am really trying to stay positive this year, I really am. It’s not getting any easier though.

RIP ‘Big Brian’. You are sorely missed.

Staying positive, in 2017. (Just)

Cleaning the oven(s)

What’s this? A post about cleaning the oven? (I hear you cry)
Yes, that’s exactly what it is, so leave now if you have never cleaned an oven.
You definitely will not be interested, I assure you. And it’s not the first time I have written about this job, which shows how much I really hate doing it.

Today, I decided that the oven would have to be cleaned. Not only do we have a visitor this weekend, I can no longer see through the glass on the doors. This is my own fault, as I confess to not having given this oven a good clean since the latter part of 2016. (I know, shameful) I always have good intentions to clean it on a regular basis, but something (Anything. Please, anything) usually gets in the way of that. I do cook a lot, so regularly use both ovens. There is a small top oven and grill, and a larger fan-assisted oven. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t use one or the other, or both together.

This morning, I decided to try the chemical-free approach. I resolved to use baking soda and water, mixed with white vinegar. Mix into a paste and apply, and according to the You Tube videos, the grease just slides off. That sounded good to me, but I fell at the first hurdle. For best results, this should be left on for no less than 24 hours. That was never going to work. For one thing, I need to cook later on, and for another, Ollie sleeps in the kitchen/diner, so I don’t want him exposed to any concoctions overnight. So, I only managed to leave it on for two hours, as I soaked the racks in biological washing powder first. (That works, by the way.)

When I could wait no longer, I tackled the top oven first. The non-chemical process had worked well inside, and around the frame, but had hardly made a dent on the thick glass window. I had to resort to Oven Mate liquid, a seriously corrosive cleaner that can take the skin off of your fingers if you are not careful. Scrubbing away with this fluid made a hell of a mess, and I went through quite a few scrubbing pads too. But it was more than ‘good enough’, so I started on the large oven. Of course, the fan-assisted heat that cooks food so well also ensures that any spills and residues are also beautifully baked on. This second oven laughed at the soda/vinegar combination. If it could have talked, it would have said “Better luck next time, sonny Jim.”

I poured on the rest of the Oven Mate, then got ready and took Ollie for a long walk. Any excuse not to face the demon oven. On my return, I started again, having to reach awkwardly over the drop-down door in the process. My hands and arms were soon worn out from scrubbing, and though there was some improvement, it was only just over what I consider to be ‘acceptable’. I still have the extractor to clean, filters to replace, and floor to clear up too. I had to have a break, and what better way than to blog about this nightmare chore?

Another tiring day of oven cleaning has left me with two conclusions.
1) I have to make a concerted effort to clean the oven EVERY time it has cooled down after use.
2) I have to save up to pay a professional oven cleaning company to deal with it in future.

I think I will go with option two.

Continuing positivity

Regular readers will know that I have pledged to be positive in 2017. After a lifetime of seeing my glass half-empty, I decided to change my attitude, and to embrace my 65th year by being positive at all times, about all things.

Some days, this is harder to achieve than on others.

I woke up this morning to bleak skies and torrential rain. Nothing that unusual here of course, but after a few bright days, the return to situation normal was far from welcome. This raised the prospect of a dog walk in driving rain, and more fresh mud to trudge through too. I could have complained, and felt pretty fed up. This was generally my reaction until now. But instead, I tried to see the positives.

I have excellent waterproof gear, so can walk though the rain untouched, save for my face. Rain and fresh air on the face is bracing and healthy, so that’s good, isn’t it? I also have new tough wellington boots, so as long as I watch my footing, the mud should not be a problem. No issues there then. And Ollie loves to go out whatever the weather, so that’s always a joy to see.
All good then
Embracing the positives.

Then the central heating system broke down. As I am sure you will agree, this is something that never happens in the summer. It is always a bleak and chilly day when the heating decides to play up, isn’t it? I went out to the boiler in the garage, and hit the red ‘RESET’ button. It fired up. Hooray!

Then it stopped again.

Three more tries, and it still kept stopping. If it is the main boiler, then it is going to be something very expensive, potentially. And this from a system only installed in 2012 too. Plenty to get annoyed about, on top of the bad weather. Instead of raging at the sky, I examined the situation with a positive mind.

We have an electric immersion heater in the water tank. So we can have hot water at least. A fan heater managed to take the chill off of the living room, and later on, I will light the wood burner, ensuring a cosy evening around the fire, and more heat than we can cope with. There is enough wood to keep it going for a few days, so that’s good too. Then I rang our heating man. Although he was out, I was assured that he will call back later, and try to fix it early next week. If it is expensive, at least we have enough money in our savings to cover the cost, and will just have to put it down to one of life’s little problems.

By seeing the positives, I was left mildly put out; but headache free, less stressed, and with a ‘One of those things’ attitude. No point getting all het up about something you cannot change, is there?

Staying positive, in 2017.