Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Monday, April 28

Lakeland Wildlife Oasis, Milnethorpe

This is much better than it looks from the outside. It’s only a small place, so it’s for a few hours rather than a whole day. But we had a really good time. There is an idoor area that you go round first with bugs, bats and some birds, and then the outside. There are animals/birds wandering free of enclosures in both areas.

Leaf-cutter ants with some huge soldiers
Ring-tailed Lemurs with babies. You can go into the cage and interact with them)
Snow Leopards. These are definitely IN their enclosure, and no you can't go into it! However, they can be viewed from a perspex tunnel like in the shark tank of an aquarium, so you feel really close especially when the leopard jumps onto the tunnel just inches above your head.

I'll try to attach some pictures tomorrow.

Kid's Talk 2

Discussing politics with my 14-year-old, clarifying what is meant by the phrases ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’. Followed by the usual question; “Which are you Dad?”; “I lean to the left, Son”. Followed by the Five-year-old’s voice from the back of the car …”I’m BOTH-winged”

Pubs v Churches

My Family has been playing the ancient game of “Pub Cricket”. But don’t conjure up images of whites on the green, or of gentle clapping on a summer evening. Pub cricket is a travel game that we derived from a paperback book of travel games (title forgotten) back in the seventies.

In Pub Cricket, the travellers divide into two teams and decide which is to bat first. Then everyone keeps their eyes open for pubs as you travel along. You score runs based on the number of legs in the pubs name. Thus, the Fox and Hounds has 4 legs on the fox, and 8 more on the two hounds, making 12 runs. The pub signboard may have more hounds on the picture, but you only go by the name. Similarly, the Coach and Horses may have four horses in the picture but you would only go by two based on the plural in the name. The Coach and Eight in Durham is a rowing team, so that is ten legs, ten runs. Keep your eyes open for the Octopus or the Millipede! The team that is fielding looks for pubs with no legs in the name. The Blue Bell. The Kings Head (the King may have legs but his head does not). The Willow Tree. When there is a pub with no legs, the batsmen are out and you swap, with the first team now fielding and the previous fielders now batting. It is cheating for the driver to select a route that favours his team, avoiding the Nag’s Head and going on a long detour to pass the Chinese Army. You can develop your own house rules about pubs that have shut down but still show the name, and about what counts as a pub v hotels and restaurants. Five-year-olds who insist they have seen a pub called the Toilet should be sent back to the pavilion. We usually play boys against girls, and the girls normally win because I am chivalrous.

Now, we have been developing a variant of this game: Church Cricket. St Agnes’s is two legs, St Peter and St Paul is 4, while St Michael and All Angels wins the game outright. Calvary Baptist Church and Snodwell Road Methodist Church mean the batters are out.

Then came the moment of inspiration: Pubs v Churches. Forget turns - one side looks for church legs and the other looks for pub legs. Ignore the legless ones.

I’m sorry to say that Pubs win. There are far more pubs, and then churches tend to have smaller signboards so you have driven past before you see the name.

Wednesday, April 23

The boiler.

Ah, yes, the beast!

We got to some warmer weather, so I turned the central heating off. The next morning, we had no hot water in the cylinder either. I went down to the basement and found the pilot light on the boiler had gone out, and it wouldn't re-light. It look me two days to organise my life enough to call in a repair man. This boiler is about 15 years old, rusty, obsolete, no spares available. However, he got it going, just as a pilot light, but then hung a red sign on it saying that it was "At Risk" owing to potential leaks of water and gas, and that it would be an offence (i.e. breaking the law) to turn it on.

I committed an offence.

But feeling vaguely guilty, not least because when my son is back from university that basement room is his bedroom, and I didn't really want to gas him, I decided that we do actually need a new boiler.

So it took me more days to organise for people to come and give me quotes for a new boiler, with appointments spread over two weeks. Now ours is a big house, with 25 radiators over four floors, and two bathrooms. Rules have changed and technology has changed since our original one was installed. So of course the estimators all came up with completely different ideas, ranging from:

A: "You need a non-vented cylinder in the basement and a 42KW boiler (£4500)"


B: "You can't have a non-vented cylinder because your main supply is not big enough. You need a 42KW machine in the loft, with a new vented cylinder and a larger cold water tank (£6600)"

And various in between suggestions. In the end I asked B if he could do the same job but with a less branded machine, and he offered me a 35KW one of a cheaper brand, dropping his estimate to £5250.

After more delays checking with competitors, we went with B's revised offer.

Meanwhile, having had a largely empty house for months, we had delayed things so much that our three boys had come home from university and wanted quiet in their bedrooms so that they could sleep till noon and then study all pm. No such luck! We have had major disruption in the house for two weeks, with the men turning up to work at 8:15am each day.

Of course on the first day the guy that did the estimate arrived with his boss, who promptly said the scheme would not work: the push-fit radiator pipes in the basement would not stand the pressure form a boiler in the loft. He agreed to give me a top-brand 42KW machine in the basement for the same price. So they lost a day going to get the new boiler, but I have ended up with a better product.

So the last few days, while they have been testing the machine, the house has been much hotter (25 degrees C)than I feel comfortable (17 degrees C), but I can turn it off again now that they have left.

I am now much poorer. Since I no longer have a credit card I have had to use the money stored in my company for the corporation tax bill, so I have managed to pay for the boiler, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the tax man comes for his money. Hopefully the new boiler will be so magically efficient that it will pay for itself in that time, but I doubt it.

Back on the blog

I have been silent for some time on my blog for three reasons;

1) I have been mad busy with having to replace my boiler, which failed unexpectedly. Long story - I'll do another post on it later.
2) My wife has been having ongoing problems with the church requiring extensive support. I can't yet give you details but expect to do so in the next month or so, as it is a life-changing situation.
3) following from this, we just has to have a break at easter, travelling to the opposite side of the country to get away from it all for a few days.

Friday, April 4

Kids' talk

As we drove past the park this morning my 5 year old daughter said
"Dad, when you're in a park like this, where do the squirrels have their disco?"

Tuesday, April 1

Gay Wedding Musical

I managed to catch the end of the Gay wedding Musical on Channel 4.

It was very good in many ways, with obvious emotion from many participants, not least the happy couple. Let's be honest, the music was not outstanding, and a harsh critic might say some of the performances could have been improved. Being even more honest, I am in no position to set myself up as judge in these matters. But the overall impression was very good. I think that despite these apparent shortcomings, this event will become a classic. it would be unique to perform any marriage as a musical, let alone a gay marriage, let alone one of the first eve such marriages at the very beginning of this new era.

So I suspect that this musical will be played and re-played many times, perhaps adapted to new gay weddings or perhaps as stage shows in theatres, pride events, and the like.


All the desks around me are currently empty.

Is this linked in any way to the severe flatulence I suffer after eating fruit? (It was a very tasty conference pear)