Anorak Man - Roland Beaney

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True Brits on Holiday - December 2007

At home, many of us will drive a foreign car to buy an Indian curry, a Turkish kebab or a Chinese takeaway, then sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV while eating it. To wash it all down we may well go to an Irish pub for a Belgian beer. Yet when we go on our foreign holidays, everything changes and we try to turn our holiday paradise in the sun into a little England. We listen to English language radio stations on the beach and then go back to our hotel and watch English TV and then make sure we are first in the queue for an English newspaper. When we get hungry we will probably be searching for an English restaurant or an English fish and chip shop. At home many Englishmen will say they hate foreign beer and when on holiday the one thing they miss would be a pint of good old British beer. Now when they go on trips to foreign parts they return home with crates of cheap foreign beer in their cars.

Unfortunately its now getting very difficult to find anywhere in the foreign holiday destinations where you can enjoy the traditional culture of the Country. You are more likely to be watching an English pop group or watching a football match on the hotel TV than enjoying the traditional entertainment. There are also people who go on a foreign holiday and spend almost the entire holiday in their hotel complex except perhaps when they go on an organised tour. I love to do my own thing so I think I will take my next holiday deep in a rain forest in South America with my Satellite radio, my mobile phone and perhaps take my Laptop and find an internet connection to read my e-mails from home. More likely someone will get there before me and set up a burger stall or will all the rain forests have disappeared before I get the chance?

Bad Manners - November 2007

I was leaving the newsagents when I came face to face with some children trying to enter the shop. I've been wondering recently how old should I be for people to give way to me? In my younger days I was taught to give way to older people but what age is old, am I now old enough to be given priority or should I still stand back and wait my turn?  According to the Campaign for Courtesy, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of good manners, the founder Rev. Ian Gregory says," Discourtesy to others is one reason why there are so many people in hospital. Bad manners leads to accidents especially on the roads." Bad manners can also lead to aggressive behaviour and this can cause high blood pressure and stomach problems. According to a recent BBC poll 83 per cent of people think we are in moral decline. Do people still give up their seat on a crowded bus? do people give way in a busy doorway or try to burst through? do children write thank you letters for presents and has someone broken off a conversation with you to answer their phone without saying excuse me? Has someone let a door shut in your face and do you say thank you when someone is polite to you? Over friendliness can be annoying, I hate being addressed by shop assistants as "my love" especially when they are younger than me. What happened to Sir or Madam? Can I help you Sir is the way a customer should be addressed. Now when I reached the door of the shop the time had come to find out if I was old enough to get priority. I was amazed to find the children stood back to let me out, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Perhaps I really was getting old. At least I was polite and said, "Thank you"

Social Networking - October 2007

I had an e-mail recently from Albert asking me to see his profile on Facebook. I clicked a link, joined up and became a social networker. Kirsten and Jasmine curiously spotted my profile within seconds of me dipping my feet into the web waters of Facebook. They wanted to be my friends. It felt good that someone had spotted my good looks so soon and decided to get in touch. I looked at Kirsten's photo, she was a very pretty girl wearing very little. She invited me to look at her site. Alarm bells were ringing and the offer to Poke a friend did nothing to allay my suspicion. I've heard about women like that and I deleted them both. I soon found Albert's page. He had lots of friends on his profile, he must be very popular. I wrote a message on his wall and he sent me a gift. Facebook is one of those Social Networking sites on the Internet where you can interact with old and new friends. You have your own page where you can put pictures, video clips, and blogs about your interests. There is a lot of interaction between all the members, they throw things at each other and do other strange things. There are many other Social Networking sites including YouTube and MySpace and in a very short time they have made their founders a lot of money. Most of it is good fun but It must be a recurring dilemma for users of these social networking sites to know who their real friends are. Should I have deleted Kirsten or was she a long lost friend? Is it all worth it? Bill Gates thinks it is because he has just bough a share in Facebook for £117 million making the founder a very rich man. Then the fun started, my real friend Albert threw a water balloon at me and I was asked if I wanted to fight back with a big sponge, super soaker or water bucket? someone else threw a sheep at me and then bought me a drink. Isn't this a bit silly? Its fairly harmless I suppose but its better than cleaning the car or mowing the grass. The Internet has become a place where we can correspond with people from all over the world in many different ways but its a shame that we can't trust anyone.

The Wing Mirror Spider - September 2007

When I see a spider scamper across the carpet it makes my hair stand on end and anyone that knows me will realise that is not an easy thing to do these days. I woke up in the middle of the night recently and went downstairs. What greeted me was this huge spider clinging to the wall. I don't mind when they remain still but I do wonder what they are thinking of while they remain there motionless for hours. Is it planning to eat me or is it planning where to build its next web? That worries me as well because a web for a spider of that size would probably take over the whole doorway. I've stroked snakes and even held one round my neck, I also like mice but when it comes to spiders I get as far away from them as possible and leave it to my wife to move them on. They always seem to find the silliest places to appear. This spider was clinging to a white wall, are they stupid? if it was me I would head for a dark position under the cabinet. A white bath seems to be another favourite place for those stupid spiders to linger. Perhaps a dip in a container of white flour will give them more camouflage. My car wing mirror seems to be a sensible  place for a spider to lurk but how does it get in there? Does it climb up through my engine from the road or drop down from above. I rarely see it but its always there. As soon as the car is cleaned it reappears and builds a new web right across the mirror. I've tried hosing it, a car wash and even a pressure hose but by the next day its rebuilt its web again. I did see it recently, the poor thing was clinging on for its life to a thread at a 45 degree angle while I was doing 70 mph on the motorway. Eventually it disappeared and I thought that was it but he was back again the next day with a gleaming new web. Earlier in the year I changed my car and I was saying goodbye to it as the salesman appeared. The guy thought I was talking to the car. I couldn't tell him that I was really talking to a spider in the wing mirror. Amazingly he was back the next day in the wing mirror of my new car. I suppose I will always have to put up with a mess of webs over my wing mirror but at least he keeps out of sight in the dark corners of my wing mirror. If anyone has any ideas on how to remove the spider from my wing mirror please let me know on rolandbeaney@tiscali.co.uk but killing him is not an option. Perhaps a kind zoo keeper would like to remove it and put it in his collection.

Battery Power - September 2007

Once upon a time when we went to the shops to buy a battery we had very little to choose from as they only came in three sizes. Big fat round ones for torches; skinny ones for pen lights and big rectangular ones with springs on top. Then there was the transistor radio battery. That's the one with the two little terminals on top that we used to short circuit with our tongues to find out it they had any charge left in them. If you felt a little tingle on your tongue it was charged. Recently, they have introduced many new shapes and sizes and you also have to choose between AA, AAA, PP3, C and D types and between Alkaline, Lithium, Nickel-Cadmium, Nickel-Metal Hydride and Hybrid NI-MH. Do you know the difference between that lot?   Remember, if you buy the wrong type of battery you could be wasting your money.

Watches, clocks, mobile phones, toothbrushes, and shavers all have many different types of batteries in them and when they give up there isn't a shop within miles that stocks the type of battery you require. Even our fluffy duck has a battery in it now to make it quack. When you go shopping for a battery look carefully at the details on the side of it before deciding what type to get. Many manufacturers put the capacity of the battery on the side especially for rechargeable ones and if you look you will see there is a big difference in how long they will last or how long they need charging for. In general the cheapest disposables will only be suitable for remote controls or similar low consumption equipment. For high drain or high usage items you can go for Lithium disposals or even rechargeable batteries.

Then you have to figure out how to change the battery as sometimes you need a degree in science or mechanics to be able to remove the old one. Some just flip out but others are held in place by flaps and screws. Some mobile phone batteries can be very difficult to remove. I even saw a guy in a phone shop struggling with one once. You must be careful not to short over the terminals of these type of batteries as it can cause a lot of damage. Once while I was using someone's bathroom I reached out for the soap and accidentally switched on their battery powered toothbrush, it juddered along the shelf as though it was alive and I just managed to catch it before it fell in the sink of water.

Now here are the different types of batteries on sale now. See if any of these are more suitable for your electrical appliance.

Disposable Batteries

Alkaline
Alkaline batteries have been around for years and provide good all round performance. Alkaline batteries can be split into two distinct groups, premium and standard alkaline. Premium alkaline are better for high-tech devices and provide about 20% more power than standard alkaline batteries which are ideal for everyday household devices such as remote controls and smoke alarms and provide dependable long lasting power. Alkaline batteries are much longer lasting than Ďheavy-dutyí zinc carbon batteries and alkaline batteries have longer shelf lives.
Lithium
Not to be confused with lithium-ion which is rechargeable technology used for mobile phones and digital camera battery packs. Disposable lithium provides amazing performance in high-drain devices. Disposable lithium batteries last up to seven times longer than standard alkaline batteries in a high drain devices, such as digital cameras and MP3 players. They are the best performing of all the disposable batteries, and work well at extreme temperatures
 

Rechargeable Batteries

These will save you money and will out perform some types of disposable batteries. They cost twice as much as disposable batteries but you will save money many times over.

Nickel-Cadmium (Ni-Cd)
These are good value for money and are most suitable for mid drain items such as radios and torches. As they suffer from memory effect they should be run right down before you recharge them to maintain their performance.
Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH)
These are most suitable for high drain appliances and can last four times longer on one charge than alkaline batteries in a digital camera. These don't suffer from the memory effect and don't have to be run down before they are recharged. They do lose some of their charge when not in use so they are not suitable for smoke alarms and remote controls.
Hybrid Ni-MH (Hybrio)
The latest generation of rechargeable battery. Hybrio batteries offer all the advantages of rechargeable while performing like alkaline batteries in many ways. Hybrio come charged up and ready to use out of the pack, like alkaline. Hybrio batteries hold their charge for much longer than ordinary Ni-MH batteries when not in use. This means they are much better for low drain uses such as remote controls and clocks than any other rechargeable battery. Hybrio is the first truly multi-purpose rechargeable battery and because it comes charged and ready to use, it offers the ultimate in convenience and long term value for money.


Should men have handbags? - August 2007

Most women have a handbag for every occasion and usually fill them up with everything they may need and many things they don't need. With the amount of stuff we have to carry around with us nowadays they seem to be a good idea and now men are ditching their awful duffel bags and nylon holdalls for something much more stylish. The manbag seems to be catching on as the new fashion accessory for men. Do you think they are cool or camp?  I have a wallet, a mobile phone, glasses, car keys and a selection of other bits and pieces bulging out my pockets. Some men also carry a comb although that's not something I need too often these days. For many years men have pestered their wives or girlfriends to put their stuff in their handbags but now they are buying their own manbags and looking after their own stuff. Now more men are carrying their ipods and electrical gadgets in their own bags while their girlfriends will now have more room for their cosmetics and perfumes. Men will now have to learn a few tips from their girlfriends on how to protect themselves from bag snatching thieves as it is easy to forget how valuable the contents of your handbag can be. How long will it be before girls start to ask their boyfriends to look after their perfumes and women's magazines? Many men think they are handy and practical and some women think they look sexy so how long will it be before you buy husband or boyfriend a manbag? Let me know by writing to rolandbeaney@tiscali.co.uk

Time to get a Wireless Modem? - August 2007

With the amount of portable Laptops or Notebook computers being sold today it was inevitable that we would want to make use of their Wi Fi facility and use them around the house. Now, you don't have to sit at a computer desk or have cables trailing over the floor. With the cost of wireless modems falling they have become popular as they can be located adjacent to a telephone point and wiring to connect them directly to your computer is now not necessary. As an extra bonus you can now buy an Internet radio and tune in to thousands of stations from all over the world without even having to turn your computer on. Do you remember when we had to sit in a draughty passageway to talk on the phone? Now most of us have a cordless phone and can take it all over the house, up the garden and some way down the road. I knew a guy who used to take his cordless phone over the road to the pub so that his wife, who used to ring him from work to check on him, would think he was at home doing the housework. Now we can do the same thing with our computers. Its an easy task to connect a Wi Fi modem to your telephone socket and then you can use your computer all over the house, in the garden or even the pub if its within the range of the modem. I took mine for a walk up the garden and sent some e-mails from the shed and it worked. Its worth trying to do a deal with your service provider especially if you are a new customer as some of them will give you a Wireless modem free. These will be easier to set up as they come set up ready for your particular provider. If you do buy one as I did on the Internet you will have to look up the settings from your providers web page and enter it into the modem before it will work although this is fairly easy to do. If your computer does not have wireless built in to it then you can buy a wireless adaptor for it. Cable system modems are usually cheaper than DSL ones for the BT telephone lines but make sure you get the right one. Now, you don't have to have leads trailing all over the house to be able to do your internet surfing and you can now use your notebook up in the shed while your wife or kids use the main computer indoors at the same time. Get a Wi Fi modem and get mobile.

Balding - July 2007

When I go to the hairdressers now and ask for a trim round the sides and a bit off the top he looks a bit puzzled. Then I offer him a bonus if he manages to find anything on top. Many years ago when I was a teenager someone told me that I would be bald by the time I was 20. That worried me as I couldn't imaging myself with no hair on my head. I was proud of my wavy hair and the thought of the sun reflecting off of my bare head filled me with horrors. Then my 20th birthday arrived and I celebrated because I still had hair on my head. By the time I was 30 I was beginning to get worried because there was a lot of hair disappearing down the bath plug hole. When I reached 40 I began to notice a lot of gaps appearing and it was becoming difficult to cover them. No amount of combing would make the hair cover every part of my head. I did the best with what I had and started to take a hat with me every time I went for a haircut. At age 50 I was becoming desperate, I still had hair but comments from my so called friends were becoming worrying. Things like, "Have you counted your hairs this morning," were not what I wanted to hear. There was worse to come. One day I noticed that it was raining and when I told my someone the reply came back, "You would be the first to notice". That really hurt. You then have to decide if its time to have the rest cut off rather than put up with all these comments. I used to sit in the hairdressers wondering whether it was the time to have it all cut off. Luckily bare heads have become fashionable so it does make the decision a little easier today. It doesn't help when the guy already in the chair is having a 20 minute "trim" with hair covering his shoulders and gets charged the same amount as my short 5 minute trim. So far, I have taken the easy way out and decided to save what I have left and ask for a trim. Perhaps its about time hairdressers had a special rate for balding people.

Experts! - July 2007

My wife is always telling me that I talk too much on the phone but I tell her that I was only using up my "free" minutes. Women have always been considered to be the most talkative but experts now claim that men like a good natter too. It took a six year study of 400 student volunteers in America to confirm that men and women speak about the same amount of words a day. According to these 'experts' the widespread and highly stereo-type of female talkative-ness and male reticence is unfounded. What was the point of taking all this time to tell us this, did we really need to know? Is there nothing more important for these experts to do? Experts that designed the new London Olympic logo call it "striking" but many others thought it could have been designed by a 10 year old. Experts use words in an entirely different context to the rest of us. Business consultants never see a problem, they spot a challenge. They never sack anyone but 'manage' them out of the business and never make redundancies but 'downsize' to take advantage of the current market conditions. At school pupils aren't naughty anymore but have "learning difficulties". I think we all knew women and men speak about the same amount of words per day anyway without experts telling us but that wouldn't be the same. If these experts have got nothing better to do then I would like to suggest that they do a six year survey on who has the most interesting conversation, men or women. Now, that would be interesting.

What is an Anorak? - July 2007

I recently bought my first DAB radio. I've resisted the temptation up to now because we have too may radio's in our house already and my wife complains about the space they take up. I also have Digital TV a Worldspace satellite radio and a computer where I can get thousands more radio stations from all over the world. This gives me the opportunity to spend hours finding obscure stations. Unfortunately my wife doesn't share my enthusiasm and complains bitterly about the noises coming out of my radios. My interest with radio has spanned many years. It started when I was very young when I got my hands on an old valve radio. I kept changing channels and my parents were always complaining when I tuned into strange foreign stations. They were more interested in the BBC Light programme or the Home service but not me, I wanted something different and it wasn't long before the tuning knob fell off. They then gave me a new radio for my Christmas present and told me to keep my hands off their radio. My new radio had short wave and I found lots of new stations from places like Russia, China, Australia and India but the noise coming from it kept getting me into trouble. Then in 1964 the Pirate stations began broadcasting and that started a whole new era. It was then that the term 'Anorak' which formerly described a type of jacket came to be associated with fans of pirate radio. I used every trick I could find to listen to the stations especially Radio Caroline even when they were being jammed by the government. Today the term is sometimes used for people who stand in the rain looking for rare trains or even birds although they are also called "twitchers". Now according to the Cambridge dictionary an Anorak is "a boring person who is too interested in the unimportant details of a hobby and finds it difficult to meet and spend time with other people" I wonder if that really a good description of me? Today Radio Caroline is still broadcasting legally on Sky Digital channel 0199, Worldspace satellite Radio and around the world on the Internet from www.radiocaroline.co.uk If you share my interest in radio I would be pleased top hear from you. Please write to me at rolandbeaney@tiscali.co.uk or via my website at www.woodleynet.co.uk and click on the link to the Radio Caroline pages.

The Queen in Romsey - June 2007

It was Friday 8th June and the Queen was coming to Romsey to help celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Royal Charter which King James 1st granted in 1607. The weather was beautiful and I decided to walk into Romsey to see her. The last time I saw her in person was about 50 years ago when I was a very young child at a Junior school. The previous day we went into Romsey to do some shopping and there was a lot of work taking place to make the town fit for a Queen. Those refuse vehicles that now only come to our homes every two weeks were very much in evidence and contractors were busy repairing all the loose crevices and paving slabs. Walking down the canal footpath I could see many other people especially mums with their excited children making their way towards the town centre. When I arrived at the Hundred it was nice to see the policeman standing in the middle of the road at the Latimer street junction smiling and this set the scene for the entire visit. I walked towards the Town centre wondering where to stand for the best position. There were already people gathering even though it was still early. I decided to stand by the Bell street, Cornmarket junction with my camera ready. It was there that I began to realise how friendly everyone were. Even the police and security guys much in evidence were smiling and chatting to everyone while doing their duty. It was a lovely atmosphere. After a few false alarms we saw the cars approaching us and we got our cameras ready. Suddenly there was the Queen in her beautiful blue outfit waving to us from within the car but all I got was a picture of the back of her car and the lady next to me got a picture of the top of my head. After that I started to walk home but I was determined to get a better picture and I came back and joined the crowd again to wait for her to return from the Abbey. When she did she was walking with the Duke shaking hands and talking to the people. I got my pictures. It was amazing to see peoples faces when she spoke to them, they had seen the Queen who is known all over the world and they will remember that moment for the rest of their lives. Walking home I could hear people excitedly talking about their meeting with the Queen and Duke. It was a great day in a great town.

TV Jungle - May 2007

Look under the TV in most houses today and you will see a large selection of boxes all connected up to the TV with lots of cables and wires making it all look very untidy. Many years ago I was told by a TV engineer that soon everything will be combined in one unit. This has not happened and in fact the mess is getting worse. I have just spent a considerable amount of time trying to connect up a Video recorder, a DVD player and a Freeview box to a TV with only one scart socket and at the same time trying to make it all look reasonably tidy. There are so many options today that it would be very difficult to get everything combined in one box. I recently received an e-mail from a reader who asks, "I am about to sort out my lounge and am sick of all the different TV boxes. I have found a DVD & VCR combi box with Freeview, the downside is it can't get top up TV. Do you know of a box that does this or am I ahead of the technology?" Personally I would rather have separate boxes and if one part of my system goes wrong you don't lose the whole system while it goes in for repair. Recently a friends TV had to go away for repair because the DVD player built into it wouldn't work. If they had a separate DVD player then they would have been able to continue using the TV. Many TVs now come with a DVD player and a Freeview box including Top Up TV built into them. You would then just have the VCR to connect up separately but if your existing TV is working ok you won't want to change it.

Why not consider one of those new PVR boxes, Sky recently revealed that over 2 million of its customers now have its personal video recorder, Sky+. which is a Sky box and a hard drive recorder combined. You can also get a similar system with a Freeview box. This is an ideal way of making a temporary recording of your favourite TV programme, the picture is better than a VCR recording ever produced. You will still need a separate DVD player at the moment though. Everyone has different requirements and a box with everything will be expensive to produce. With careful planning we can cut back on the amount of separate boxes but we will still need them so make sure that when you buy a new TV it has more than one scart socket. Myself?, I think I will continue with separate boxes and my wife will continue to moan about the untidy cables behind the TV.

Spies in the home - April 2007

I thought spying had almost ended when the Berlin wall came down but apparently not so. Its now happening every day in our homes, our streets and our workplaces. According to a survey called UK Undercover millions of us are spying on our partners, our friends and our neighbours. We are now regularly reading our partners text messages, e-mails and checking their Sat Navs. Apparently the Sat Nav stores a list of recently visited locations in its memory so if you've been somewhere you shouldn't then don't let your partner get access to it. The last number dialled on the phone can reveal quite a lot as well, a quick call back can reveal your hidden secrets. Other methods include following your partner while hiding in the shadows, sifting through their pockets, listening to their private phone conversation and even recording them. If you are aged over 55 then you are the most likely to use new technology to trap your mates with computers and webcams coming in very useful here. So be careful where you visit, what text messages you leave on your phone, be wary of the places you visit, don't leave notes in your pockets and make sure your e-mails are locked away behind a password because you never know who may be watching you. You have been warned!!! If you want to do some spying yourself then visit the Science of Spying exhibition at the Science Museum in London which now runs until September but don't blame me if someone catches you spying on them. You may wish you hadn't started.

Supermarket Follies - April 2007

I was standing outside a Supermarket recently wondering how much of the stuff piled up in the trolleys would get used. These shops are very large with shelves full of goodies such as sweets, crisps, chocolate bars, cakes and beer that it is tempting to spend far more than you intended. To make it worse there are many cut price promotions encouraging us to buy in bulk. Instead of buying one bag of crisps we come away with one of those giant bags containing 20 plus smaller bags. Chocolate bars are sold in multiples of up to 6 and try buying a can of beer, its usually sold in boxes containing at least a dozen cans.

We now throw away £23 billions of food a year and most of that is because the food goes out of date before we can eat it. Where do people put all that food when they get it home? You've only got to see the size of the fridges being sold now, they're getting bigger and bigger and many houses like my Mother in Law's have 2 fridges. Once you get through the front door you have to negotiate the gap between the fridge and the storage cabinets. Its not only food but cleaning equipment is also sold in multiple packs. I found 50 dusters, 20 umbrellas and 20 handbags stored away in her house. When I asked her why she needed all these she replied that she needed the dusters because there was a severe dust problem in her house and she had different colour umbrellas to match her different colour outfits. In fact the true reason is probably because people find special offers and bargains so tempting that they buy far too much and it all gets thrown away.

In the spring millions of Britons head for the DIY and gardening stores but according to a recent survey by Direct Line more than a quarter of those questioned said the goods they purchased won't get used because they are too busy doing other things. So where does all this stuff end up? of course at the local land fill site and according to the Government we will be running out of space in those soon.

Once upon a time we only bought stuff that we really needed, we didn't have big fridges to store all the surplus food in and if we bought a new TV it was only to replace the one that had just gone wrong and then only after the repair man had tried to get it going again. Perhaps we should go back to the days when we had things repaired, if our chairs looked dirty we bought loose covers for them, if our table got scratched we rubbed it down and polished it. Perhaps then the Council will be able to empty our bins every week.

On My Bike - March 2007

I was given a fold up bike recently so I decided to try it out. After all, it does save petrol and its supposed to be good for my health. My first trip was to the newsagents to get my morning paper. Off I went down the road feeling a bit stupid on this rather small fold up bike. I was soon back as the tyres needed pumping up. Its been such a long time since I last rode a bike and I had forgotten how much hard work it was to do a simple job like pumping up a tyre. I would have thought that after all these years someone would have invented a tyre that doesn't need pumping up. I was on my way again, already feeling a bit weary. I could feel my speed increasing as the wind was blowing through my hair. It was then that I hit my first bump and what a painful experience it was. I didn't realise that there were so many bumps in the roads and wondered if we really needed sleeping policemen with holes that big. It certainly slowed me down. Many years ago I rode one of those little mopeds. There were no sleeping policemen or road humps to slow the traffic down then and I am sure the holes in the road were not as big as they are now. I arrived at the shop and a group of youngsters with bags full of crisps, chocolate bars and other sweets to keep them going during their busy school day looked at me with puzzled expressions. "Nice bike mister," said one of them. I think that was meant to be a subtle comment telling me that I looked a bit stupid on my bike. Perhaps they should ride a bike to school. On the way home I was just beginning to enjoy the ride when I just managed to avoid one of those roadside drains. The council spend a lot of money on cycle tracks that few cyclists seem to use so why can't they improve the edge of the road after all that's the bit of road that most cyclists are using. Did the ride do me good? well, it took me 15 minutes in the armchair to build my energy up again and then my wife reminded me to do the washing up. When will I ever get the time to read that paper?

Driving to the Airport - February 2007

There are few worse moments than getting stuck in a traffic jam just a few miles from the airport where you are catching a flight home. Panic soon sets in and you give up any hope of boarding your flight. You start to wonder where you are going to spend an additional night and how much it is going to cost you. You then realise that you may not be able to get another flight home and you might be stuck at the airport for days. You've driven for hours to arrive just a few miles from the airport but all you can see is a long queue in front of you that seems to go on forever. Then you need the toilets, you passed some just a few miles back but because you were so close to your destination you decided to wait. You regret that decision now. The traffic begins to move but comes to a halt again. You keep looking at your watch, the minutes tick by, then you realise that you've been in the queue for an hour. You start sweating, your heartbeat rises. The other lanes seem to be moving more than yours, should you change lane. You do but you soon find that lane is slower than the one you were in. You finally come to the decision that you will be stuck there all day. Suddenly the traffic begins to move and you wonder what caused the jam. You reach your exit and get to the airport. You return your hire car and wonder if the guy will find anything wrong, perhaps a dent that you didn't know about or you didn't leave enough petrol in the tank. All is ok with the car and you rush into the terminal with time to spare. You then wonder what all the fuss was about. Yes, that was me on the outskirts of Alicante. Remember always leave yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and allow plenty of time for the inevitable traffic jam.

My idea of Heaven - January 2007

Winter in the garden can be very depressing. Its either freezing cold and the soil is like concrete or its mild and damp and your feet disappear into the mud. Recently when I ventured out into my garden to feed the birds I noticed how quiet it was out there in January. No lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, strimmers, rotavators, chainsaws and worst of all Barbeques. Last summer when I was looking around a friends garden I saw a sign that said "a garden is like heaven" I hope its not as noisy as this in heaven. There was a noisy, smelly BBQ in a neighbours garden and the lawnmowers were out in others. Go into any garden centre and you will see a massive range of powered garden machinery for use in the garden. Very few people cut their hedge with garden shears these days so out comes a noisy hedge trimmer and any chance of conversation is gone unless you have a very loud voice. Some people try to hold a conversation by shouting over the noise or have radios playing very loudly and all this adds to the racket. Apparently powered trimmers can crush stems and leaves more easily than a good pair of shears and damaged tissue can allow disease to enter the hedge more easily, so a good pair of garden shears can still do a better job. Strimmers are also a menace to wildlife and can cause serious injury to creatures like frogs and toads that can be beneficial to the garden. Power hoses are used regularly to clean up decking and patios and these add to the noise especially as power hoses also have a noisy pump.  Yes, we do have to make an allowance for the lawn mower but please think carefully before buying another noisy piece of machinery. For now I can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of my garden in the middle of winter by sitting out there with my raincoat on. Its lovely to be able to listen to the birds singing and watch the robin and the blackbird searching for food in peace. Yes, this is my idea of heaven.

Food Shopping - January 2007

My wife was unwell recently so she gave me a shopping list and sent me to do some food shopping. When I arrived at the store I realised that I couldn't read her writing. She writes the whole list on a piece of paper the size of a postage stamp and I forgot to take my glasses, actually her writing is so small I really needed a microscope. In my rush to get away I forgot to check the list with her and ended up getting the wrong stuff, its a bit like bringing home four candles instead of fork handles, yes it is as bad as that. I didn't realise there were so many different types of potatoes. I found the potatoes she asked for but she wanted 3 pounds and they are only sold in Kg, I had no idea how many she wanted. Why doesn't she ask me to get a handful or two handfuls? The Polish wine was very nice but she actually wanted polish which with or without my glasses looks remarkably similar. As soon as I stood still to read the list I had trolleys queuing up behind me, there were so many people about and they all seem to be in a hurry, I wish they would realise that I was having trouble reading the list? I couldn't find the evaporated milk? I searched everywhere. Its as though the store staff move everything around just to annoy me? I found the milk but after a long search the evaporated milk was with the canned fruit, now why isn't it with the ordinary milk? The next item was pizzas, there were countless different types of pizzas but not the one my wife had asked for. There were also several different types of pears but where were the Williams pears that my wife wanted? Should I get something else in lieu?  I wasn't doing very well and now I realise why it takes my wife so long to do the shopping. When I got home my nightmare was only just starting as she checked the bill. Wrong potatoes, I got the most expensive ones. Wrong pears, " why didn't you get the Rocha pears". I think I'll drown my sorrows in the glass of Polish wine.

Multimedia devices - January 2007

 I wonder how many people ever use all the facilities built into a modern mobile phone. I bet most people don't ever need them. Still the manufacturers continue to develop them at a fantastic speed and they all appear in your upgrade whether you want them or not. Sorry, I am being left behind here, they are not mobile phones any more, they are "Multimedia devices" and I only found out about that because I tried to read the instruction manual. This is the very thick manual written in a dozen languages that tries to explain how to use the device, unfortunately most people give up on this complicated set of instructions and usually end up asking a friend how to operate it. This is why she asked me. I explained to her how to operate the camera and movie function, how to access the Internet, and even how to watch TV. Oh, and I told her how to listen to her favourite MP3s and set up the stereo speakers. Then she said, "But I only want to make a phone call, I told the lady on the line that I didn't want all those gadgets just a simple phone."  I explained to her how to make a phone call and she went away happy, but still wondering what all the pretty lights on its face were for. I decided that it was not the time to tell her about Bluetooth or the difference between text messages or multimedia messages. That will come later. At least the phone looks a lot better than the brick of a handset she had before. Now, if you are over 35 and decide to upgrade, you're in for a shock. You will feel like a Caveman with a Laptop.

My Address Book - January 2007

I've been trying to update our address book. Itís on the table next to the phone, its getting thicker and thicker and it looks very untidy. My wife puts all the calling cards and leaflets into it with addresses and phone numbers but I never get round to writing them into the book. Itís got to the stage now where the information in it is so out of date that it would be better to rewrite the whole book. It contains a history of our lives, doctors, dentists, hairdressers, TV and washing machine repairers. There are names and addresses in there that I've long since forgotten about. I wonder who Kit and Fred Hood are.  Dare I delete them; as soon as I do my wife will want their number. There is a leaflet for a "Take Away" that closed 10 years ago, another leaflet advertising the "Take Away" that took over from them and yet another that took over when that one closed. I am amazed at the number of Pizza delivery services but they all seem to have closed. There are also lots of plumberís addresses, but why are they never available when we need them? Some of the entries are so old I suspect that the people have since passed on. I found my old dentists details in there and that bought back bad memories of the dreaded gas mask he used to put me to sleep with. Thank goodness things are so much better now. There are so many memories in that book, Mr and Mrs Pichlhofer we met while buying an English newspaper in Vienna back in the 70s, they invited us back to their flat for a meal, and what a meal that was too. Then there was the garage where I bought my first car that closed a long time ago. There is a card for a reliable window cleaner, so reliable in fact that he never came back. There's a leaflet telling me that Pat and Nick moved back on the 12th May, I hope their move went well, whoever they are? Some long lost cousin I suspect. I don't know where to start, I think I will leave it for another year, but that's what I said last year. Oh, dear.

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