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Sunday, 22 April 2018

407: Sensible drinking....

Almost every day, it seems, we are being exhorted to live more healthily. To that end I have joined a gym in Salou and try to go three times a week when I'm in the country. Living healthily also includes drinking sensibly and here is just such an example!

This fishbowl sized gin and tonic is available in a variety of flavours at Bronte, which can be found between Charing Cross and Trafalgar Square. I shared it with my sister. Don't ask about the price! As I said to Hazel at the time it is the kind of place where if you need to ask the price you shouldn't be there! We met yesterday for lunch and after a very nice curry wurst at Herman ze German on Villiers Street we went looking for a little something to drink before heading back to our respective corners of the South East of England.  While I was waiting for Hazel to arrive I had a very quick whizz (American English = whiz) around the National Gallery, stopping longer at some of the religiously themed paintings than perhaps I might have done previously. Here are two that quite took my fancy. 

The Dead Christ mourned - Annibale Carracci
The Adoration of the Shepherds - Guido Reni
Here is a link to a virtual tour of the gallery. Enjoy.
I was in London for a reunion of my old Army mates on Friday evening. They hold the reunion every April and it was the first time for a number of years that I had managed to attend. I'd like to say that none of them are looking any older - but I can't. It's only me that hasn't aged at all. Good food, good company and good craic.
I stayed at a nice hotel opposite the Imperial War museum and it was a short bus ride from there to the Union Jack club, where the reunion was held. I had bought a bottle of gin in the airport at Barcelona in the morning and went twice to a local shop near the hotel to buy tonic. The first time, early afternoon, the nice man behind the counter charged me £1.10 for a small bottle of tonic. The second time, late evening, a different man (much nicer) charged me 99p for a bottle exactly the same. That's the trouble with shops that don't have the prices of things shown - there is a tendency for the person at the cash till to charge as much as he/she thinks they can get away with. A sad reflection of Society.

I recently had occasion to renew my Senior Railcard. There was a choice of buying a 1-year version or a 3-year version. I decided that, at my age, it might be safer to buy one year at a time. A bit like not buying green bananas! :)

Today is the London marathon. By now most of them will have finished the course and many will be saying to themselves, as I once did, "never again". That feeling wears off within a few days and the diehards look forward to the next year.  To finish, of course, the theme from Chariots of Fire.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

406: Port out and starboard home

Stayed in London on Monday to celebrate my birthday. As a special treat I stayed in the RAF Club on Piccadilly. It's a bit 'posh' (elegant or stylishly luxurious.) Folk etymology suggests that 'posh' is formed from the initials of port out starboard home (referring to the more comfortable accommodation, out of the heat of the sun, on ships between England and India). That meaning appears to be apocryphal but it does remind me of a story in the book I am currently reading - Jeremy Paxman's Empire. I hope he won't mind me copying a paragraph here: "... the arrival of what later became known as the fishing fleet - young women from the home country out to net themselves a husband from the single men serving in India. 'In the hot weather you took out what was known as the 'B' class girl, usually Anglo-Indians, who were dears in every way and the greatest fun. But the moment the cold weather started they were taboo, because all the young girls from Roedean, Cheltenham and the great schools of Britain came out in the P&O liners'. The women who failed to find anyone suitable went back to England, nicknamed "returned empties" !" I know my dear old grandmother (mum's mum) was in India with her husband, my grandad, and thankfully didn't have to suffer the ignominy of being classed as a "returned empty". Here is the ship she returned from India on, with two of her children. 
I digress. A few pictures from my day in London.

Buckingham Palace.
The flag was flying, albeit limply, so Her Majesty was in residence.

The doorman at the Athenaeum, looking resplendent in top hat and tails.
London, all tastes catered for....

Parked overnight in the Hyde Park/Mayfair underground car park. £49.99! Even with a 25% discount it still made my eyes water! Remind me not to take the car next time!

Enjoy the video "London Girls", Chas and Dave - 1983.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

405: A cock and bull story!

One of the reasons for writing blogs is to help my former students expand their knowledge of the English language. A cock and bull story, according to the Oxford English dictionary, is an implausible story used as an explanation or excuse. Maybe when you're trying to explain to the boss why you're late for work. The rest of the blog, although it may seem implausible, is a true record of my recent, very short, trip to Valencia. Coincidentally, I arrived there at 16:10 on Tuesday and left at 16:10 on Wednesday. On reflection, it was not long enough. I should spend more time there next time. I haven't been to a bull fight in Spain, and have no plans to do so, but the 'sport' (if you can call it that) is certainly part of the Spanish culture.
I bought a 24-hour transport card and spent Tuesday evening wandering about, exploring the town. Valencia is in extended carnival mode, but more of that later.

 On Wednesday I decided to visit Oceanografic - a large area containing diverse marine environments and housing fish and marine life from different corners of the planet. 

 I spent quite some time enjoying looking at the different aquaria and then sat down to watch the dolphins performing for fish. It was a good show. Trainers and dolphins worked well together. Part of me objects to the fact that we are, perhaps, exploiting the animals for our own gratification, but I watched it anyway. 

And then back to the station with a few hours in hand before my train back to Salou. I'm pleased I had been forewarned that at 2 p.m., every day for quite a few days, there would be a series of enormous bangs. They lasted for a good 5-10 minutes and the whole street was covered in dense smoke. Who pays for all the fireworks I wondered, but there was loud applause from the large crowds when it finished. Perhaps there are more tourist bucks coming in than pyrotechnic bucks going out? 

Here is a link to explain all about the Valencia Fallas and a short video

404: Page not found

The plan is that after I have written my 500th blog I will publish the whole lot as a coffee table book for my great-great grandchildren to read in case they ever feel the need to ask questions about their ancestors. I know I'll have to pay for self-publishing as I do appreciate I don't have the literary flair and style to attract publishers to pay me.
I know I always regret not asking my grandparents more about what they got up to in their lives. This particular blog, short and sweet, is an irreverent poke at the most famous Windows error code of all - 404 - Page not found. "What was Windows", the great-great grandchildren will be asking. 
How everything will have moved on by  then. How things have changed since my grandparent's day. (Yes, these are my grandparents, from a long long time ago).
Enjoy this Renny Gleeson short TED Talk about page 404. I know I did.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

403: A technical blog - especially for Olive

If you're not geeky, or you're not my cousin-in-law Olive, then please read no further. I want to regale you with my Internet problems and how I overcame them. 
When I came Salou, almost a year ago, I compared the prices that various ISPs (Internet Service Providers) wanted and saw that they were much more expensive than in UK - especially when you factor in the cost of a landline. I didn't really want or need a landline so investigated alternative ways of getting internet access here in my flat. 
I hit on the idea of a mobile router, which works using a SIM card. I bought a Huawei LTE CPE model E5186s-22a. I put in a Spanish SIM and found it worked perfectly well, but. Isn't there always a but? The but, in this case, was that there was a maximum entitlement of 26 GB per month. If I went over, as I did most months,  then they billed me even more than what I had signed up for. I soon found that this wasn't enough for my needs - the odd Skype lesson and streaming the 'occasional' UK TV programme soon ate up the gigabytes.(N.B. In UK English programme is used for TV programmes and program for software.)
Image result for huawei lte cpe e5186s-22a 
So, bite the bullet and pay for internet through a landline. 48 Euros per month (roughly £42). There are comparison sites here and you can get cheaper rates ordering on-line rather than visiting a shop but whenever you click on an offer you are asked to telephone somebody. I don't like using the telephone at the best of times but to try and communicate in Spanish when I only have 400-500 words of general Spanish and almost no technical Spanish would have been an absolute nightmare. When I went to a local Orange shop they eventually told me that Movistar had the monopoly on certain numbers, including mine, in the block of flats where I live. That may, or may not, be true but Orange said they weren't in a position to help. So, trog off to the local Movistar shop where I signed a contract for them to provide landline and internet (+ 2 SIM cards).
The technician arrived within a few days and told me, I think, that I had to have their router near to the telephone point. This is nowhere near where the TV and desktop are currently located. Desktop, and notebook and mobile now all worked wirelessly and give me continuous access to the internet without worrying about running over a monthly entitlement, but (and there's that but again) streaming TV from UK paused to reload more often than I liked.
I knew that internet over ethernet would be faster than internet over wi-fi so I have just been out and bought a 7.5 metre telephone extension cable. The router is now on the shelf above the TV and is connected by internet cable to my desktop PC. Download speed is almost 4 times faster. The smart TV in the bedroom also lets me wirelessly listen to music and watch the best that You Tube has to offer. (I had been worried that if I moved the router the bedroom TV would then be out of range but everything is fine).
All's well that ends well. Now I just have to advertise the old mobile router on eBay and move on to the next (technical) problem. And secure the cable around the wall with those little things whose name I have temporarily forgotten.
And finally, for anybody who wants to become a geek......

Thursday, 1 March 2018

402: Having my cake and eating it too!

The blog title fairly accurately reflects my lifestyle, although today I'm able to use it literally! Do please note that the people of Ramsey are very sophisticated - you get a knife and fork to eat your cake. 

I'm duty cook today so set off for Tesco to buy the ingredients. The raspberry turnovers jumped into my basket as I passed them. Our local Tesco is the other side of town so a brisk walk there and back helps me to reach my daily step goal. Unfortunately, after exercise I often feel that I've earned a little reward - hence the finger doughnut and coffee in the Windmill Bakery on the way home. Walking back across the sports field I noticed that there was nobody in the pensioners' playground. Hardly surprising really!

The idea of sports equipment for the elderly is admirable. If it helps older folk keep fit then it keeps them out of hospital and/or the doctor's surgery, thereby saving the NHS money. Unfortunately I don't think the uptake has been very high. 
Short and sweet today - not like the doughnut, which was long and sweet. Here in UK two snowflakes and the country grinds to a halt. For a video I thought I would give you a link showing how those in the Moscow suburbs cope with the snow. Look at the link to see 'real' snow.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

401: When in Ramsey...

There has been white stuff falling from the sky. I know what it is, having lived in Moscow for 2+6 years, but around these parts it's rarer than rocking-horse s**t. I went gleefully to the loft to search for the cross-country skis that I bought in Moscow from the sports beryozka some 40 years ago. Who remembers beryozki (берёзки)? Special shops scattered around Moscow exclusively for foreigners (and their hard currency). I found the skis and poles and boots underneath a pile of other stuff - the loft is full of things we haven't seen for 25 years. But then - deep disappointment. The boots had been in the loft so long that the rubber has perished so they no longer clip into the studs on the skis. It is not possible to use those ancient skis without clipping ancient boots into them. I was so looking forward to a quick langlauf session  around my estate. Reluctantly I had to abandon the idea and settle for a walk instead.

Donated my 62nd pint of blood in Cambridge on Monday. With 8 pints circulating in the human body, I've almost rejuvenated myself 8 times.
For a video clip I've chosen, for my younger readers, Frosty the Snowman.