Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Kitchen Goddess and Mega Marshal

Lola I posing at the kitchen hatch
Run Forest Run, November 2018
My last trip to London combined a study day for work, staying with Lola II and Mr M, and a gathering for mum's birthday. I'm writing about the study day separately, and because it's taking ages and I've been rather busy, I'll do a quick round of other news in this post.

Mum's birthday gathering was slightly marred by Lola II losing her handbag, but the story ended happily when it was handed in without loss. The following day I accompanied Lola II and Mr M to a Games Cafe in Richmond where we tried out three new games: Quirkle, Exploding Kittens, and Sushi Go! We liked Quirkle best.

Between then and now I had a busy week with the usual work, a District Council meeting on Monday evening, a car mini-service, chimney sweep visit and meditation on Tuesday, a trip to Birmingham on Wednesday evening, badminton club on Thursday evening and a match on Friday evening (we lost, but it was good fun with friendly opposition, which isn't always the case).

The Council meeting was about the proposed replacement of a decaying car park combined with the relocation of elderly Council offices. Many local businesses are dismayed at the 'parking displacement plan' and feel that shoppers will be put off by a potential reduction in car parking spaces in the town. Residents are also up in arms at the loss of 42 mature trees (although more saplings will be planted in their place) plus the failure of their planning proposal to follow the Council's own guidelines of including 40% affordable housing. By attending the meeting I achieved my aim of understanding what all the fuss is about while being depressed by the poor standard of debate and the attitudes and arrogance of the Council leader and officers.

The trip to Birmingham was much more fun: I went to a meeting of 'Skeptics in the Pub' at which The Angry Chef was speaking. As the name suggests he is a chef, and I have been following and been hugely entertained by his profanity-filled blog for some time. He writes very eloquently and at length about the rubbish that is promoted by celebrities and others aimed at telling people how and what to eat, or 'nutribollocks' as he terms it. I enjoyed the meeting a great deal - he talks a lot of sense backed up by proper levels of evidence, and I bought his book and he signed it for me.

Wooden award inscribed run-forest-run 2018 Mega-Marshal
This weekend was the fifth annual 'Run, Forest, Run' event in Surrey , where this year there were more runners than ever. Lola II and Mr M were marshalling out in the forest along with J from Family JJL&J, and another two J's actually did the 10k plus obstacle course. I was again put in charge of the kitchen, and apart from running out of bacon and teabags it all went very well. I was very proud to be awarded the 'Mega Marshal' trophy for services rendered to mass catering.

Weight loss has stalled, but it has remained 4kg below what it started at (rather than the 5kg I was aiming for), so I'm going to take that as a win. Nothing new with the LTRP except that I briefly went into a carpet shop and now I need to decide who to invite to estimate for the job and whether to choose wool or synthetic fibre (any opinions from readers would be very welcome).

The television saga continues - the price of the TV I am after did drop to a level where I was happy to buy, but by the time I got to the website in a secure WiFi zone there were no more in stock. Stock suddenly appeared a week or so later, but the website claimed that delivery was not possible to my postcode, and when I followed that up with the retailer we agreed that there was actually no stock and it was a website error. However, I guessed that the American phenomenon of Black Friday might influence prices, and so it did. The television appeared on the website at an even lower price on Thursday evening, I placed an order successfully, and all being well it will be delivered today.

Mr M, Lola I, Lola II and RFR organiser photobomb

Sunday, 4 November 2018

A poem

Flysch rock formation
Flysch rock formation, Playa de Sakoneta, September 2018 (photo by Mr M)
While the writing of my epic three-part saga of the holiday progressed, life went on in the background with more mundane everyday activities - the usual work, badminton, meditation, films and trips to see people and places. I have travelled to Nottingham, Altrincham, Woodford and Lea (near Ross-on-Wye), played in a couple of matches, supervised another student for an afternoon, met the new Dietitian hired to replace the last one that left, and attended a meeting about a potential diabetes app.

One of my work colleagues (a Diabetes Nurse not a Dietitian) attended some sort of event where she was encouraged to submit an idea for a phone app. She chose to include a half-baked idea about weight management, and then when the company asked to meet up to discuss her idea she came to me. I have no interest in her idea, but this seems to cut no ice. As with everything else at work nowadays, I will try to just sit back and see what happens.

Usually the result is 'nothing happens', but in one department the Clinical Commissioning Group have succeeded in taking a positive step forward. The Structured Education for Type 2 Diabetes, DESMOND, had all but lapsed in our area, mostly due to staff changes. The CCG stepped in, and despite our scepticism they have set up a new procedure which looks like it may work. We have advance notice that they will soon turn their attention to Type 1 education, so we're on our toes now and paying attention.

Home news: the washing machine engineer arrived to diagnose the fault with the washing machine. Despite everything we tried it refused to perform, and consistently and reliably failed to demonstrate any water leak whatsoever. The engineer kindly noted that the reason for the callout was that the packaging had not been correctly removed, otherwise I would have had to pay for his visit. So the good news is that the washing machine is not leaking, and the bad news is that I wasn't hallucinating when I found water on the floor so I fear it will start leaking again at some future time. When it does, I will take pictures.

I went to visit Landrover Man and Bee Lady, and because they actually read this blog I have been instructed to report on the visit. There was cake, dinner, a film, breakfast, a walk, a Sunday roast, plenty of talk and all of it was wonderful. There, that's slightly more than the "I went to see them and it was nice" that I threatened to write. Bee Lady still has bees (it's winter so they don't go out much) but Landrover Man no longer has Landrovers.

LRM and BL in front of a Big View
BL and LRM in front of Big View West
On my visit to Altrincham, cousin H showed me two poems he has written and gave permission for me to share them. I know as much about Poetry as I do about Art, but here is my favourite of the two:

It works like this. Each time he sees a thing
That's just the start. He has to process it
Through several departments of the brain.
To recognise it. Work out what it is.
Give it a name, and know how it fits in.
Responding needs another set of functions -
Making a choice from several office menus,
While holding all the options in a list.
Then he can send a message in reply
Not yet though. First he has to formulate
The answer, and then put it into words
And (in a separate office) make the sounds.
I sometimes think he recognises me.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Spanish holiday part 3: San Sebastian

View of the bay and San Sebastian
San Sebastian, September 2018 (photo by Mr M)
So we arrived at our apartment in San Sebastian after descending from Monte Igueldo by funicular and then taking a bus across town. The International Film Festival that provided the motive for the holiday was in full swing, with red carpets and crowd barriers galore. Our apartment was out of town at the end of Zurriola surfing beach, and it was comfortable, despite having windows in only two rooms with a view of a cement wall. That evening we dined on pintxos at three different establishments, in the Spanish fashion.

We established an interesting dietary regime of three meals: Brunch, Cake, and Supper. J put up some resistance to this routine, saying he didn't usually eat much for breakfast and wasn't really a cake person, but by the end of our stay we caught him perusing the patisserie counter in a fashion very reminiscent of any Lola.

We had booked four films for our three-day stay, and I think they were good choices. Two were on the culinary theme - the first was translated as 'A God in Every Lentil' but contained no discernible gods or lentils. It was Spanish and broadly about a chef who went home to his family to help in their restaurant, but the film started very strangely with a sequence that appeared to show the death and burial of a baby, which was never referred to again. The thought of lentils inspired us, however, and the next evening in our apartment we cooked up a wonderful home made lentil and chorizo stew (the rest of the time we simply ate pintxos and cake). The other culinary film was a documentary about female chefs in the US, Canada, France and the UK. I decided that I really wouldn't want to eat a meal where the food had been placed on the plate with tweezers, no matter how good it tasted.

The other two films were more conventional fiction - a Norwegian one called 'Blind Spot' which was filmed as if in one continuous take, always from the point of view of one of the protagonists. So if one person had a ten minute car journey (and they did, twice), you spent ten minutes with them in the car. It shouldn't have worked, but it did. The highlight of our festival, however, was a Lebanese film called 'Capernaum', at which we were also invited to cast a vote between 1 and 10 towards the 'audience choice' award at the festival. The film scored a resounding 10 from all of us - it dramatised the life of a child trying to survive among illegal immigrants without papers. The only criticism I had was that it did so by proposing that the child was suing his parents for bringing him into the world, which seemed to strike a false note within what was otherwise a tremendous film.

Breakfast pintxos complete with paracetamol

When not watching films we were tourists. We took a boat trip out to an island, we climbed the hill to the statue of Jesus overlooking the city and visited the museum up there, we walked along the sea front and watched the surf and the surfers and we had a look inside the cathedral. We popped paracetamol against the lurgy and dosed ourselves with regular cake and cafe descafeinado. We became obsessed with a sign on the beach that we could not interpret among the signs prohibiting various anti-social activities. [Lola II tried to follow this up with the authorities, although if it turns out to be prohibiting something that we were guilty of, I hope that we will not be saddled with any consequences. She tells me that the trail has grown cold - they have not responded.]

On the whole, we didn't interact with many strangers, whether natives or other tourists. A notable exception was one evening when at a pintxos bar we made friends with a couple from Australia at the next table. They were on a European tour culminating in a 100-year memorial of a particular battle in France in World War One during which an ancestor had been killed. Our conversation was interrupted frequently by waiters and food service, but our friendship was sealed by the foie gras pintxos (referred to by our Australian lady friend as 'foy') which was the single best item of food I ate during the week, among many great food items within a great holiday.

The four pilgrims in the cinema

Friday, 26 October 2018

Spanish holiday part 2: Pilgrimage

Camino del Norte, September 2018
Deba was the starting point of our actual pilgrimage to San Sebastian along the Camino del Norte. It was a little tricky finding the path to get started, and we were concerned for our onward progress when almost immediately we met a long-haired Jesus lookalike complete with wooden staff who stopped to talk to us at length. We imagined spending most of the route fending off other pilgrims going in the 'right' direction - we were going the 'wrong' way - but in fact he was the only devotee of the true path that we encountered.

A jolly party of Germans formed an arch of walking poles for us to walk through at one point, and there was the French couple who were walking the whole route and onwards home to France and had started about three weeks previously, and then there were the Americans who had rented bikes which they must have had to carry most of the way - hardly any of the path was in a fit state for cycling. Non-human encounters included the cat with a studded collar who complained loudly when we didn't wait for it, and the quizzical cow that I featured in a previous blog post.

J, Lolas II and I posing in front of the Flysch rock formation

We spent three days walking, and they were hard days, particularly the first when it drizzled just enough to make the steep muddy slopes too slippery to climb or descend easily - one such slope provided a rope to hang on to that helped us down. Thanks to J's satellite navigation and sports app, we know that we covered 14.5km including 728m ascent that day. By early afternoon we reached one of the significant geological sites on the route: a beach containing an exposed rock formation known as Flysch. We climbed about and took photos for a bit, but time was pressing and by the time we reached Zumaia we were definitely tired. Unfortunately our accommodation in a 'bungalow' on a campsite was a little way out of town and a long way uphill, but we were consoled by the thought that there would be a cafe on site.

There was a cafe on site, but it was closed. Never mind, they offered to supply us with pizza! And we could buy beer and snacks in the shop! After a lengthy introduction to the site Rules, which strongly emphasised their ecological credentials to the point that they were not going to give us a towel each (think of the damage we might do to the planet with a towel if we were not forced to share), we trudged even further uphill to the 'boongalo'. It was small with two rooms we'd already agreed to share, but to get hot water in the shower required the sink tap to be turned on at the same time and even then it wasn't very reliable. Mr M started to feel very ill at that point, and he generously allowed us to share his streaming nose, sneeze and cough for the rest of the holiday as one by one we succumbed.

Lola II was dispatched to collect the pizzas at the appointed time, and she returned with only three instead of the four we had ordered. She had watched as the four sad, frozen pizzas were put in the oven, and watched again as three had been transferred to the boxes and the fourth slowly slid onto the floor (a replacement was delivered to the door some time later). This was definitely not the best meal of the holiday, but we were tired and hungry (and in Mr M's case, ill) and we retired early.

Lola I in Getaria church

The next day we were booked for lunch in a fancy fish restaurant in Getaria. The seaside town was rather lovely and had an interesting church, and were it not for the need to make progress I would have liked to spend more time there. The fish was good too. Our next stop was at a cafe on the sea front in Zarautz, and we made good time to arrive at our overnight stop in Orio, looking forward to anything but pizza. The booking had been changed at short notice to a pension on the edge of town which turned out to be lovely, and very luxurious compared with the boongalo. It wasn't as difficult a day as the first - further in distance (18.2km) but much less ascent and descent. We got ourselves clean and tidy and set out to find provisions for the evening.

For some reason, there were no cafes or restaurants open in the whole of Orio on that Tuesday night, and we looked quite hard. Eventually we decided to stage a picnic and bought bread and cheese and meat and olives and fruit and cakes, and prepared to take them back to our room - but the cheese was in a large, hard lump, and due to having brought cabin luggage only on the flight over we had nothing that would serve as a knife. Luckily we had struck up a conversation with the server in the bakery, so we went back there and they kindly lent us a knife to cut up the cheese.

The third day of walking was the shortest (13.35km) but still with significant climbs. We indulged Mr M by agreeing on a detour that would take us to Monte Igueldo for our first sight of the beautiful bay of San Sebastian. Monte Igueldo is the location of San Sebastian's 'amusement park', and thus charged a fee for us to go in even though none of the rides was open. I have never seen a sadder amusement park, except perhaps in Scooby Doo cartoons. The view of the bay and the ice cream we ate there were both very lovely though. We had arrived! Now for the Film Festival...

J on the Flysch beach

Photo credits: all except the top one were taken by Mr M.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Spanish holiday part 1: Bilbao

Plants on balconies
Bilbao balconies, September 2018
At last I've found a minute or two to write something about our holiday in Spain. It was a lovely holiday, and if I'd knuckled down to write straight away I'm sure my account would reflect the vivid colour and atmosphere of the week away. Now that we've all been back for a month it feels as distant as any historical event.

There was Lola II, Mr M, and J from family JJL&J. Another J from that family spent the evening with us at Lola II and Mr M's house the night before we left, but she went home rather than to the airport the following morning. The flight was as uneventful as all the best flights are. We hopped on a bus to Bilbao at the other end, and Mr M led us to the door of the apartment where we waited for the owner to come and let us in. It was located right in the thick of things in the old town, surrounded by shops and bars and cafes. J and I each had a room overlooking the street; Lola II and Mr M had a room further inside the apartment. These details became significant later on.

Because it was lunchtime, the first place we went was the produce market. Half the floor area contained cafes selling all manner of pintxos - delectable mouthfuls of flavourful combinations of meat, cheese, fish, pickles, veg and salad. Although we didn't know it at the time, this was the most delicious meal of the entire holiday - not that other meals weren't good, but this was particularly fine.

It had become clear by this time that Mr M was in need of head protection, so after he'd invested €4 in a fashionable hat we wandered along the river as far as the Guggenheim museum. Saving that treat for the following day, we took advantage of a funicular railway to go up to a viewpoint with magnificent views of the city as well as a bit of sculpture, and stopped at a cafe for refreshment. Later we picked out a restaurant near our apartment that served local Basque cuisine. It tasted fine, but in my opinion both the Basque restaurants we tried could do with offering more vegetable accompaniment (although I suspect that Mr M was perfectly happy with the veg quota).

Sculpture in the form of a fingerprint

That Saturday night was memorable. It would have been nice to keep my window open, but below in the street the crowds eating and drinking in the bars and cafes were having too much fun. It would have been nice to keep the window closed, but it was very hot. I settled on keeping it open in the knowledge that the bars would close eventually, which they did, and I managed to doze off... until the stragglers came through, shouting drunkenly and kicking cans and breaking bottles as late night drinkers tend to do. Then came the street cleaners, merrily calling to one another as they dropped cans and bottles on top of other cans and bottles in their bins. Last were the street cleaning lorries, making more noise than all of the rest put together.

Lola II and Mr M woke refreshed from their unbroken night's sleep, wondering why J and I were sleeping so late. I did manage to get a few hours' sleep, and we let J sleep on until he emerged at about 11 o'clock (unused to waking so late he'd looked at his watch upside down and become very confused).

After breakfast we headed off to the Guggenheim museum where we spent the rest of the day. We all found something interesting to look at. I am not very good at Art, but my favourite item was in the very last room we saw - a small helicopter covered with pink ostrich feathers and upholstered in pink and red plush, which I now discover is an artwork entitled Lilicoptère, in an exhibition by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. (When I own a pink feathered helicopter it will be called Lolacoptère.)

The second night was much quieter, but we had to get up early to catch a train to our setting-out point for our pilgrimage along part of the Camino del Norte to San Sebastian. Watch out for the next exciting part in the Spanish holiday series!

Large spider sculpture in front of the Guggenheim museum

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover

The Life and Death of Smallpox
by Ian and Jenifer Glynn
"No other disease has had such a long, dramatic and terrible history as smallpox. Mozart, Voltaire, Elizabeth I and Abraham Lincoln all had it - and survived. Millions did not."
From dad's collection of books, it's a history of smallpox from when it was first recorded in ancient texts to its eradication from the wild in 1979. Interesting. Some of the pictures are gruesome.

Image of the book cover

by Martin Amis

narrated by Stephen Pacey
"John Self is addicted to life. Porn freak and jetsetter, aficionado of wealth and women, Self is the shameless heir to a fast-food culture where money beats out an insistent invitation to futile self-gratification."
The protagonist is an unlikeable 'rogue', which would normally stop me enjoying a novel. But this one is written in a very interesting way - in the first person, John Self often addresses the reader, Martin Amis is introduced as a character within the fiction, and words are used in fascinating ways. So despite the fact that I had nothing in common with anything described and would have been appalled to have met almost anyone in the book, I went along with it. All the way through I thought I wasn't enjoying myself, but now looking back I don't think it was that bad, even though I didn't actually understand exactly what happened and why. A strange experience.

Image of the book cover

Dirt: The Filthy Reality of Everyday Life
by Rosie Cox, Rose George, R. H. Horne, Robin Nagle, Elizabeth Pisani, Brian Ralph, Virginia Smith
"Dirt - obsessively avoided, often misunderstood, but paradoxically also an indicator of 'civilisation' (through production of waste), and a near-magical source of renewable life and medical discovery."
Another from dad's collection, comprising a selection of essays by the various writers. Interesting but unmemorable.

Image of the book cover

by Harry Harrison

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"The planet was called Pyrrus - a strange place where all the beasts, plants and natural elements were designed for one specific purpose: to destroy man. It was up to Jason dinAlt, interplanetary gambler, to discover why Pyrrus had become so hostile during man's brief habitation."
Not a bad story from the author of the book that would be made into the film 'Soylent Green'. This isn't that book, but it's quite good in the classic science fiction style.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

More padding

Flower bed with poppies and an elegant Georgian style brick house
Adhisthana, June 2018
I still haven't managed to get round to writing about the Spanish holiday, so here are some more odds and ends that aren't all that exciting.


Music group was on Saturday, and it rained a lot. When I got back home the kitchen roof light was leaking again, so I was on to Ulf in a flash. Doors and Windows Ulf came round on Tuesday while I was in (and while the sun was obstinately shining in a cloudless sky). I was going to impersonate a rainstorm with the hosepipe but discovered that the adaptor to connect the tap to the hose was missing, so we had to resort to a watering can. DaW Ulf failed to find where the water could be getting in, but agreed with me that I couldn't just resign myself to putting out buckets every time it rains, nor could he drop everything and come on over. I plan to get the hosepipe working and do the rain impersonation thing, then take photos or video if I manage to get it leaking again.


I finally managed to gather two out of the three of us who are planning a trip to the Christmas Markets in Munich (you may remember last year we went to Dusseldorf), and we booked flights and hotel. Then we went to a comedy gig from German Comedy Ambassador Henning Wehn. The most notable thing about that day was that I served a vegetarian stew that had such an explosive effect on my gastrointestinal tract that I had to apologise to my friend in case she was suffering the same consequences (she said she'd had worse).


I had a Dietetics final year student with me all day on Monday, on her third and last placement. I was so traumatised by my placements when I was doing my degree that I'm almost useless as a supervisor, as there is no way I will pass any criticism or test the students at all. Unfortunately there was almost nothing going on in my department that day, but we couldn't find anything better anywhere else so I printed out a diabetes tutorial and she was happy to play around with that until the afternoon clinic, when two out of the four scheduled patients didn't turn up. Thankfully the last one was a corker and I went through the A-Z of diabetes with someone who'd had a very poor experience in a nearby hospital, and was very happy with what she received with us. Anyway, the student said she'd enjoyed the day and that's what I was after.

On Monday I also received my flu jab, which was OK at the time but gave me a very tender upper arm for 24 hours. Then in the evening my doubles partner behind me mis-hit a shuttle with tremendous force right into the middle of my back. That night I had trouble finding a comfortable sleeping position.


Apart from the visit from DaW Ulf the most notable event on Tuesday was that while doing a bit of poking about on the Open University website, I came across a free online module all about Greek heroic epic poetry (which is distinct from ordinary epic poetry) focussing specifically on 'The Iliad'. By coincidence I happen to be reading The Iliad at the moment, so I had a look at the module, and it was extremely interesting. Although I did O level Latin at school I don't know a word of Greek, ancient or modern, and this tiny little insight into the rhythms and construction of the first seven lines of the poem as a representative sample of the whole work was absolutely fascinating.

It reminded me slightly of one of the more memorable jokes from Sunday night, when Henning was telling us how his extensive study of English grammar at school taught him to conjugate the verb 'to be' correctly: "I was, you were, he/she was, we were, you were, they were." Now he feels that perhaps he needn't have bothered as common usage suggests: "I was, you was, he/she was, we was, you was, they was."


I realise I've spent quite a lot of time writing this blog post when I could have been writing about the holiday, and I haven't even shared my photos yet. Oh well, I'll get round to it eventually. Probably.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018


Brown cow looking quizzical
Spanish cow, September 2018
Yes, I know it's been ages, but I've been on holiday with Lola II and Mr M and J (from Family J,J,L&J). I am expected to provide a full summary of that trip, which will take me a good deal of time, so here's a filler just to keep you going.

It was a really good holiday. We went to Spain. There was Art, Culture, Food, Film and Physical Activity. We were all ill for some of the time. More detail to follow.

Before I went, the LTRP took a step forward with the completion of the Screening Room decoration as well as repairing the parquet floor in the living room, the attic windows and some other small jobs. Then there was a step backward as the new washing machine started leaking water. I thought the problem would be that I simply hadn't tightened the pipes sufficiently, so Ilf helped me get the machine out from under the counter at which point we discovered that some of the polystyrene packaging material had been left underneath, and this is what has probably done the damage. So I've had to become reacquainted with my old friends at the launderette and as soon as I can retrieve the receipt I'll be back on the retailer's help line.

Back to work is always difficult after a holiday, but I had my usual Tuesday off with an enormous list of stuff to do. I'd also ordered a HelloFresh box, so there was cooking, launderette and attempted blood donation. What with the paracetamol taken on holiday, the lingering cold infection, and ongoing gum disease (have I mentioned the dental appointment? Refractory periodontitis. Look it up) they really weren't interested in having my blood at all. Which is fine by me.

I also did some Culture in the evening - I went to a lecture given by journalist and war reporter Max Hastings on the back of his latest book, which is about the Vietnam War (1945-75 - An Epic Tragedy). He wasn't as dynamic as I expected and read the whole thing from his notes in under an hour, although he answered a few questions at the end and then signed books for those who had bought them. He has clearly got enormous insight into the politics and practicality of warfare, and his conclusion was surprisingly similar to my own uninformed position - there's no point getting involved in someone else's war without 'something to join up to', i.e. a practical local link that, when achieved, allows the war to end. If you're bombing the hell out of somebody to stop them doing something you don't like, you need to be able to hand over the reins to someone if they eventually stop doing it. If there's nobody left to hand the reins to (Libya, Afghanistan) or they don't stop doing what you don't like (Vietnam) then your intervention, and its cost in money and lives, has been pointless. He also spoke from first hand knowledge about the attitude of the US government to the Vietnam War, which was utterly focussed on its effects within the US political system and winning the next election rather than the enormous and obscene slaughter of soldiers and Vietnamese civilians.

Quick update on the weight loss programme - having got within a whisker (200g) of my goal, I now hover at 600g over, but consider that to be a great result considering how much cake I ate on holiday. So I am back on the wagon for one last push to the finish.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Screening Room

Autumnal scene with trees and pond
Düsseldorf, November 2017
I spent the weekend in London with dad, while mum and Lola II went off to see an interesting museum that involved an overnight stay. One of the jobs I was planning was to surprise Lola II by finishing the dress that is so long overdue. Despite having brought the sewing machine and even doing a quick sewing job for mum before she left, when I sat down to get started on Lola II's dress the machine refused to behave and kept dropping stitches and being generally uncooperative. So I had to pack that in, and instead I spent far too long going through all the films showing at the San Sebastian Film Festival where I shall be in less than two weeks - and there are A LOT OF FILMS. I thought I'd watch a nice movie on Saturday night so I brought my two rented DVDs with me. Unfortunately, I had changed my rental settings back when the old TV died, and the DVDs I'd brought were actually Blu-Ray discs and wouldn't play. On Sunday Sister D visited for lunch, Lola II and mum returned with cake for me, I drove home and that was the end of the weekend.

Two green cushions
Ilf has been at Lola Towers on and off for a week or two, working on the Screening Room / Entertainment Room / Auditorium (I haven't decided on the final name). He has taken up the parquet floor in preparation for carpeting, painted the walls, ceiling and woodwork, fixed the blinds and put up curtain tracks. I have bought blackout curtains, and made two cushions - I didn't like the idea of a curtain or blind for the round window, but the recess is quite deep so I had the idea of putting a cushion each side to block out the light when necessary. I bought some cheap cushion fillers on Amazon but they weren't dense or large enough, so I cut up my very old sleeping bag and made some very decent cushions. I am very pleased with the outcome.

Round window next to front door
Round window from the outside
My large screen woes continue - the company agreed to refund the cost of the unavailable television, but shortly afterwards sent me a message saying that they were in dispute with the company that manages credit card payments and refunds on their behalf. They directed me to instigate 'chargeback' procedures with my credit card company, which I did, and the money was returned successfully.

Meanwhile, I have been keeping an eye on prices at Currys, and it has been most interesting. Currys often advertises 'save £100's' on specific items, and shows the previous history of the price for that item. It is clear that they set a high price for a period of time in order to be able to quote this historical price when they reduce the item to make it into a bargain. When I first looked, the particular television I'd now quite like to get was £200 more than the original one I bought. The price then went up a further £300, and has now dropped by £350. But my £20 secondhand TV is doing just fine for the time being.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018


Me in reflective jacket in the information tent
Leamington Food and Drink Festival, September 2018
Sometimes I seriously wonder whether my choice of activities is driven by the need to provide stories for this blog. But I'm pretty sure I would keep trying new things anyway, blog or no blog.

Today the big story is the Leamington Food and Drink Festival, which is an annual highlight for me. Long ago it featured the 'Taste Trail' which allowed you to go to selected food retailers around town for a taste of what they offered. Now it stays exclusively within the Pump Room Gardens, which this year is undergoing remodelling including the renewal of paths and the refurbishment of the bandstand. This meant there was less room for stalls, so there were about 20 fewer exhibitors this year.

A couple of weeks before the event I started seeing adverts encouraging people to volunteer. Usually I invite people to visit me when the festival is on, but this year Lola II and Mr M decided to go camping instead and I hadn't invited anyone else, so I didn't have any reason not to volunteer. The event is run by BID Leamington, an organisation promoting the interests of Leamington businesses through the formation of a Business Improvement District in 2008. I arrived at the Information Tent ready to serve in whatever capacity was required.

Thankfully I wasn't allocated to litter picking or toilet cleaning. A new initiative this year was set up to encourage public transport and relieve pressure on town parking: people who had come by train could present their ticket and receive a free soft drink, beer or wine in return. I had to record it all in a book, and hand out soft drink cans and vouchers for beer or wine which had to be exchanged at one of the outlets in the field. It went quite well - obviously a trainload of people tended to arrive at the same time, but the queues weren't too long. Sunday was much quieter for the train ticket exchange because there were fewer trains running, but the event as a whole seemed busier on Sunday.

The BID Leamington staff and volunteers were friendly and welcoming, and I had some quite interesting discussions with the Director about various local businesses (including the shop which has just been fined £10,000 for making illegal health claims about their raw juices), and the reasons behind the turnover of businesses in a couple of town locations. The two afternoons I spent with the team were positive volunteering experiences, and I'd be happy to join them again next year if they will have me.

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