Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Although this academic year finished for the Stepson last week and he returned to us by Friday he had to go back to Cambridge today to get his second year examination results (they won't post them or contact the candidates in any way). He rang us up this evening to say that he had achieved a First! That's really good news, which means that if he continues to work well the chances are that he'll get a good degree next year. The Husband was kind enough to say that my influence had some contribution in his childhood as I was the one who encouraged the Stepson's love of reading, which helped to develop into his great love of History.

A fox seems to have taken up occupation in our garden. We've seen it wandering about the garden quite a few times. A couple of weeks ago, when the Husband was opening a window he disturbed the fox, which was sunbathing in the flowerbed immediately outside the window. This morning when I opened the curtains to that window there, on the grass below the window, was the fox which clearly did not realise that it was being observed and kept on sauntering across the garden. It's odd that there can be such mixed feelings towards foxes in this country. The country lobby just wishes that hunting was still permitted (my own opinion is that the banning of hunting was one of the best things to happen in this Parliament). In urban areas foxes are very popular with people. Not with our cats though: very shortly after the fox had sauntered through the garden Nimrod went outside and almost immediately shot back in through the catflap with his tail like a brush. I suspect that he didn't enjoy some of the scents he came across.

The finger seems to be healing nicely and I have started knitting without problems, though there is a limit to the amount I can do at any one time. I am working on a cardigan in 4-ply, suitable for summer evenings. Crochet I still cannot do - I think that I shall have to reteach myself to crochet so that I thread the yarn through my fingers in what is, for me, a different way.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Cat Who Scared The Bear

I found the picture and the story here. As you can see from that website that cat really did chase the bear up not one but two trees.

Never underestimate the power of a cat.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Beethoven's Ninth

Ok, I was wrong. When the Husband said that he planned to buy Beethoven's 9th on original instruments I begged him not to. It is a work I love and know well, always though with full modern orchestras and huge choirs. To my mind the best way to hear it is in the Royal Albert Hall (complete with the echo) with an augmented LSO and two or three choirs belting away to their hearts' content. The power is enough to blow you away. Incidentally the Proms always has the Ninth with a different very famous conductor every year and many come just to listen to that, so in the first half of the programme the RAH is half empty and than fills to capacity after the interval when the Ninth is performed.

Music played on original instruments can, in my opinion sound disappointing to someone who is used to hearing them played by a modern orchestra. I once went to a performance of the Messiah at Guildford Cathedral performed by a choir the same size as the one when the oratorio was very first performed and I'm afraid that I thought the whole thing sounded quite wimpish and it quite put me off such performances.

Anyway, and getting back to the subject, a CD arrived in the post today: Beethoven's Symphony No 9 in D minor, with John Elliot Gardiner conducting the Orchestre Revolutionaire et Romantique on original instruments and the Monteverdi Choir plus four first rate soloists. He's just played it and I have to admit - I was wrong. It had all the force, power and vitality that I love in the Ninth but individual notes and passages were far more noticeable than often is possible when a full orchestra is playing. It was so good that the Husband did not mind when the last movement overlapped with the start of the Czeck Republic v Italy match. That gives you some idea how well this specific CD was rated in this household.


From the letters page of todays The Times. This really made me laugh.

Sadly, Helen Potts is wrong about the men removing their iPod earphones before saying hello (letter, June 20). This is not the modern equivalent of doffing one’s hat; it is merely proof that the male of the species can only do one thing at a time.

Cheddar, Somerset

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Horticultural Musings: June 2006

At the moment it has been warm and dry for a while and I am spending a lot of time outside, sometimes weeding, sometimes pottering around in the garden. The Husband has done very little out there this year, as he has had some vile virus since before the New Year. I, on the other hand, have managed to spend some time outside each day since Spring finally arrived in April. The garden is looking quite nice, if I say so myself. There are, however, some gaps in the beds, all ready for planting up - and that is when the difference in philosophy between the Husband and myself begins to appear. He likes lots of annuals everywhere, with brash and bright colours. I, on the other hand, prefer green shrubs and perennials everywhere. Usually we reach a compromise without any difficulty, as the bedding plants go in all the gaps between the shrubs and perennials. However, this year it is an unspoken rule in the UK that, at least in the South, bedding plants are not P.C., what with the drought (much of the South East of England is under, a least, a hosepipe ban and in some places a much more severe water shortage). Still he wants the annuals and I accept that as it is his garden too he has a right to plant in it what he wants, as well as what I want. But this year when all watering is being done by watering can he can water his plants, and I will water those of mine that have still to establish.

Talking about the garden there is a big gap in the bed just to the left of the Laburnum and in full view of the sitting room. The Husband has suggested growing some Nepata (Catmint) there, as it is a good looking plant and a perennial herb to boot, I think it a good idea too. There is, however, one major doubt in my mind. Our garden is not only occupied by Nimrod the Mighty Hunter and his sister Pickle it is also prowled by several other neighbourhood cats too (Nim at least isn't at all territorial). The thought of that lot rolling all over the Catmint .... well, it won't last very long. I've looked on the Web and see that experts recommend protecting it with wire netting or something. One school of thought is to place an upside down (hanging flower) basket over each plant and to let the herb grow through it as the basket will protect the main body of the plant from the loving attentions of cats. Sounds like a very good idea, but now I am trying to work out how to secure each basket in place. Nimrod may not be the brightest cat in the street but Pickle could win the feline equivalent of Brain of Britain without any difficulty and I am certain she would work out how to move the basket aside so that she could roll all over the actual plant and destroy it.

When you don't get on with your neighbours.....

You can find some pretty stupid things on the Net. Here is one of them.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Easy Apple Cake

1 lb (450 g) cooking apples
6 oz (175 g) self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
6 oz (175 g) sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
4 oz (100 g) butter, melted
sugar to sprinkle over

Heat the oven to 350 F, 180 C, Gas Mark 4 and line with greased greaseproof paper an 8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples and keep them in a bowl of water. Put the flower, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl. Beat together the eggs and the almond essence and stir them into the flour, then add the melted butter. Mix together well and spread half the mixture into the cake tin.

Drain and dry the apples on kitchen paper and arrange them onto the cake mixture. then top with the rest of the cake mixture (the butter will have congealed by now and so the mixture will need to be spread over the apples but if the apples show through at the end it doesn't really atter).

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour 15 minutes until golden and slightly shrunk from the sides of the tin. Leave to cook for 15 minutes and then turn out and remove the greaseprooof paper. Sift over the sugar. Serve either warm or cold. Delicious either as a dessert with custard or cream or alternatively as a cake at teatime.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The World Cup

Oh dear, IT has started and I'm already suffering. Three matches a day at the moment, at 2.00, 5.00 and 8.00 each day, and the Husband seems determined to watch them all. Fortunately I can hide in the study to get away from it, and have my own TV in there as well as my books but still at times the bellows, when a goal has been scored or failed to be scored, reach my ears like a mastodon roaring in a distant primeval swamp. And then he comes in to update me on what is going on and which team is the better and why. The computer is in the same room as the main TV and it's not easy to concentrate while a match is as, in addition to the noise from the TV, Himself keeps on commenting, loudly, on the game.

OK it's only on once every 4 years but that is more than enough. I still remember the last time the World Cup was on. I was still working then and one weekday morning I set off for work at the same time that the then England team strode on the pitch for an important match. As I strode towards the station I walked through streets that were totally silent and deserted, no cars or men to be seen. Walking through a suburban street with houses on both sides suddenly male voices could be heard from all directions, from each of the houses I was passing. I had no doubt that England had scored a goal. Of course by the time I reached work the game was over and England had lost but I still remember that and the commitment felt by virtually everyone over here.

I caught a couple of minutes of the opening ceremony last Thursday and have to admit that the Germans have proved to all their sense of humour - there was a delicious sense of irony in the start of the ceremony.

This time, of course, the World Cup is being held so close to home that many of our fans have gone over there. The media have been repeating the Fawlty Towers phrase for weeks - "Don't Mention the War". Hopefully there will be no trouble. But they do get totally emotionally involved in the competition.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The most amazing advert

Usually when the adverts come on the tv I automatically find something else to do until the programme I am watching returns -I tend to do the washing up in advertisement breaks, for example. However when this one came on tv I just stopped and watched, absolutely rivetted. I still do. Someone has just sent a link to the advert together with the following explanation of how the advert was created.

And you thought those people that set up roomfuls of dominos to knock over were amazing...

There are NO computer graphics or digital tricks in the film.Everything you see really happened in real time exactly as you see it. The film took 606 takes. On the first 605 takes, something, usually very minor, didn't work. They would then have to set the whole thing up again.

The crew spent weeks shooting night and day. By the time it was over, they were ready to change professions. The film cost six million dollars and took three months to complete including full engineering of the sequence.

In addition, it's two minutes long so every time Honda airs the film on British television, they're shelling out enough dough to keep any one of us in clover f! or a lifetime.

However, it is fast becoming the most downloaded advertisement in Internet history.

Honda executives figure the ad will soon pay for itself simply in "free viewing".(Honda isn't paying a dime to have you watch this commercial!). When the ad was pitched to senior executives, they signed off on it immediately without any hesitation - including the costs.

There are six and only six hand-made Honda Accords in the world. To the horror of Honda engineers, the filmmakers disassembled two of them to make the film. Everything you see in the film (aside from the walls, floor, ramp, and complete Honda Accord) is parts from those two cars. The voiceover is Garrison Keillor.

When the ad was shown to Honda executives, they liked it and commented on how amazing computer graphics have gotten.They fell off their chairs when they found out it was for real.

Oh. and about those funky windshield wip! ers...On the new Accords, the windshield wipers have water sensors and are designed to start doing their thing automatically as soon as they become wet.

The advert itself can be found at Enjoy!

Friday, June 02, 2006

It's the time of year when I always feel beleaguered and this year it's worse than ever. In a couple of weeks the insurance policies expire on the house, its contents AND the car, all on the same day, and it feels as if every insurance company in Britain and a fair assortment of the insurance brokers as well are chasing me up for my business. I've had literally dozens of letters from companies plus many, many e-mails on the subject. Goodness knows how they learnt about the expiry date. Well, chums, the building and contents insurance is sorted and so you needn't chase me up about that. We'll look at the motoring insurance next week but I've enough latters and e-mails on the subject, thank you, all ready to reach an informed decision. No more please.

The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least, since the arrival in the neighbourhood of some new visitors who are proving unwelcome to many of the other residents. In early Spring we became aware of a lot of fuss around a tree virtually next to our garden. When we looked we discovered two Crows being mobbed by several pigeons. This surprised us because Crows are not normally seen around here and the pigeons tend to be quite laid back and little normally fusses them. This fuss and noise associated with the Crows has continued on virtually a daily basis and we have seen them being mobbed many times since then. They are still around - both were sitting on the eves of our house only yeasterday, so they have obviously decided to move into the neighbourhood. And all the other birds, not just the pigeons, are not happy about it. Nimrod the Mighty Hunter is showing interest too but the Crows so far seem to be avoiding standing on the ground, so he is just a bit frustrated.