Monday, December 31, 2007

Thoughts and attitudes...

I have a friend, a man I've known for over 30 years. He's undoubtedly the most intelligent person I know (present company excepted, of course). However, he is also the most miserable sod on the planet! His outlook is entirely negative. Everything is for him an insurmountable problem.

His wife is one of life's really nice people. His kids are healthy, hale, capable and hearty. His home is paid for, his kids' education is paid for, he owns and drives fancy, fast cars (although why, I'm not at all clear because he is also the most erratic driver I know; he once managed to position his car leaving a truck driver no alternative but to crush the whole front end).

We were in the same industry together for may years and he was renowned for his 'graphic' language and lack of patience. Conversely, he is the only bloke I know who is able to explain complicated hydrocarbon based chemical conundrums to morons in monosyllabic terms. Such a complicated person.

He was atop a ladder painting the soffits around his house and leaned back to admire his work. In the process he passed through the point of critical balance on the ladder and began a slow, irreversible parabolic descent into the middle of his lawn. He spent some time in hospital, mostly because he had to be extricated from beneath several layers of paint before he could be reasonably identified.

He just called me to wish my family and I a happy new year. I missed the call and, instead, picked up his voice message. This made me think of my business partner who says of this fellow, "After a conversation with him, you just want to walk out into fast moving traffic".

So, I called him back - to wish he and his a happy 2008. Now I'm as depressed as all get out (American term, sorry!). He has cataracts, he's about to lose his job, he has insurmountable problems with his kids - all his wife's fault.......and he's miserable. AND HE'S YOUNGER THAN I AM!


hello 2008!...

...I know Babs and Terry are in a different time zone from the rest of us, but I guess by now, they are in a totally different year!...Hope you had a good one!...

Happy New Year!

Girls and photography

Surely, it can’t be…..

It’s definitely him!

He’s so handsome I could cry…..

I told you not to take photos of the Russian!!!

No mystery….

……..just physics.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


...may the light shine bright for you all throughout this coming year of 2008!...Have a good one!...

Happy Birthday Mackey

That well known Rodney boy John Mackey is 60 today - but says he doesn't feel
old at all!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday morning with a hung-over Russian.

A thin wind blowing up the street.

Says he's never heard of the PRS Blog.

Feeling bilious.

Living in the past.

Mock Tudor.

Vestiges of a once mighty Empire.

Bit cold to be sat out.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas from Christmas

A (belated) Merry Christmas to all from Christmas, Florida. A small town to the east of Orlando. It has a small but friendly population, as Mrs L and I were busy taking pictures of each other by the town sign, a local pulled up from the opposite side of the highway and offered to take a pic of the two of us together. The local Post Office suffers from overload during December as people turn up from all over to have their cards posted bearing a "Christmas" postmark.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The French………….

……..always have a unique way of looking at the world. Vive La France!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What can I say....?


Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to our Blogmaster……

…said to be languishing somewhere in The Herz mountains. Doubtless taking photos of scantily clad mädchen with his mobile phone to adorn the Blog on his return. A special thanks to Paul, who every morning tirelessly gets up to think of things profound and witty to post for our amusement and edification. At times this must be like flogging a dead horse. If that weren’t enough he has to diplomatically deal with opinionated, self-centred, recalcitrant, idiosyncratic and difficult Bloggers and that’s before we get to the women…..

The Christmas card is from either 1958 or 1959.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

...cold, Eileen?...

...with reference to yer earlier comment of it being cold, Eileen: indeed it be hereabouts, I agree, however, this is reeeelly cold eh! :)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas and not a tart in sight

Driving over the tops this morning there was freezing fog….

…although in Bakewell the weather was milder, but still grey and murky.

We were here for the farmer’s market. Ignoring the opportunity for an ostrich burger we plunged inside.

By the door we were greeted by the underwater cave rescue team singing carols…

Inside there was a brass band, although not up to Yorkshire standards.

The young ones were doing well, but some of the older ones seemed to be running out of puff.

Here all the veg is local grown and largely pesticide free, much to the chagrin of Messrs Tesco and Sainsbury.

Sorry Babs! They don’t do Oz even when I said it was for you.

In town, some of the more charitable were extending the seasonal goodwill to the wildlife.

Nevertheless, one Canada goose strongly objected to having his butt felt up by Mrs. D.

Driven inland by the inclement weather large numbers of gulls were also enjoying the Christmas goodwill.

However, the goodwill was not universal. Only your Countryside Correspondent it seems spotted someone else also watching the gulls. From the state of her beak, it appeared she had eaten recently.

Father Christmases were plentiful, although sadly like everything else these days they were largely acrylic.

Having bought the turkey and now burdened by a ton of veg and a crate of vodka it was time to go home, but not before picking up a splash of Christmas colour.

Yuletide greetings...

...wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year...may 2008 bring you joy...x...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It’s always worse from the blunt end of the boat – part II

Leaving the train with little enthusiasm, our subdued little band assembled on the quay, on which the army had thoughtfully painted white lines. Presumably to counter potential disorder. Overhead massive cranes winched and screeched and the salt air carried the raucous clamour of gulls and the smell of diesel and decaying fish. A pinched-faced army officer appeared with a clipboard and having given us the benefit of his public school elocution, he proceeded to the usual mantra and the purpose of the white lines soon became evident. Dependents of officers to the front and upper decks, the rest to the back and down to the bilges. I was ushered into a large mess on the waterline, rank with the olfactory odium of feet, containing some forty bunks packed closely together and stacked three high. Some already had kit bags stowed at the bottom. Dropping my cases, I made my way up on deck and dumped down next to a lifeboat. A set of stairs to my left carried the stern warning ‘Officers Only,’ presumably in case any errant sons of Hodge had ideas above their station. I idly wondered whether there were ‘Officers Only’ lifeboats. Twenty minutes later Dedge arrived on cue and via a circuitous route, we arrived on the forward deck next to the officer’s mess. Here Dave was waiting with bottles of Amstel. This revived our spirits and the next hour passed quickly. As the sun began to set the air became filled with incomprehensible nautical cries, the boat began to shudder and black smoke issued from the funnel. By the time we had cleared the harbour we were submerged in a anthracite-black, moonless night. Behind us the bar had closed, so I said goodnight to my friends and headed back to the blunt end.
Not wishing to go down to the hot humid cabin, I stood watching the phosphorescent wake of the boat tumbling into the darkness. Drowning in it seemed to be a large part of my life. On the horizon, like rhinestone on velvet, the last scattering of lights. When I first arrived in Germany it had seemed a very alien land. Now I realised I was going to miss it. Reaching for the cigarettes, I cupped my hands and lit up. ‘They’ll stunt your health,’ a female voice said. I half turned and looked down. Ankle socks always look stupid beyond a certain age. Feeling in a Shakespearean mood I wondered: whose legs were these, strung out in parentheses? On reflection, they looked more like hockey player’s legs. Like Milligan, I knew you can never overstress the importance of a good leg writer in any plot. The erstwhile Drake monitor joined me at the rail, her blond hair blowing across her eyes. I knew her name, although we’d never spoken before. Instinctively divining that my surliness was simply a mask for shyness she drew closer and began to talk. Smiling, she explained she was going back to England to study at a secretarial college. Slowly, the reassuringly soft lilt of her voice, combined with the nicotine and the last residual benefit of the Amstel and I began to feel better. Realising, not for the first time, that there’s something about the presence of a woman that assuages a man’s darkest moments.
Would I miss V, she enquired. I mumbled something, but my eyes were elsewhere, distracted by the tantalising way the breeze lifted the hem of her skirt. I guess I knew then that fidelity would never be my strong suit. In three years time they would be singing ‘if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with’. That was me, always ahead of my time. Shortly, she began to resist the female urge to ask questions, in the knowledge that men reveal the most when asked the least. To my profound surprise, she turned out to be delightfully witty and personable. We’d have been there talking half the night if I hadn’t been so gauche and tongue-tied, but around two o’clock we said good night. I never saw her again.
The next morning we disembarked in Harwich after a digestion defying breakfast swimming in fat. Mauling our luggage off the boat we were herded into a long shed. Here, without fear or favour, our suitcases were opened by HM Customs. Unable to find anything in my case they confiscated my watch given to me by my parents for my last birthday. I was advised that it would be returned on receipt of the princely sum of 15/-. NO! They didn’t take BAFS. I was back with a bump in the home of mindless and faceless bureaucracy, the last vestige of a once great Empire still alive and kicking.
From there most of us loaded onto a train to London. After an all too short journey, we briefly stood on the soot-laden platform and said our goodbyes. A devastatingly soulless task that seemed to eviscerate me. The two D’s were heading for Salisbury. BD and I were heading to the land of the V-Bomber. Another door in my life shut with a muffled click.
My parents were there to meet me in Grantham. A pinched, miserable, little, wind-swept town. It was the kind of place where they let grocer’s daughters get out of hand. What a contrast to Köln. My younger brother greeted me with the news that there was a stream at the bottom of our new garden with kingfishers. Having failed to impress me, he whispered: ‘You wait until you see the thrupennies on the girl across the road. Briefly, it brought a smile to my face and I knew that life had to go on.

It’s a girl’s life out there in Oz.

Guess who is on a charge

Ah me.....

Well, our illustrious leader Dubya today signed into law a piece of legislation mandating that car manufacturers in USA achieve an average petrol consumption across their model range of 35 MPG (that's US gallons, of course so translates to just shy of 45 per imperial gallon) 2020! Why not by 2009, I wonder? The first such piece of legislation for 30 years (the previous law was largely ignored), Dubya was smiling widely and clearly very pleased with himself as he applied his monika.

Yesterday, a news item bore the headline 'Americans are driving less'. This was followed by an extensive explanation that increased petrol costs had caused Americans to use their cars less than hitherto.

Oddly, both of these events seem to ignore completely what American drivers have actually done without legislation. Many have replaced their gas guzzling, resourse wasting behemoths with vehicles propelled by smaller, more fuel efficient engines! Over 50% of the cars sold here are now foreign makes. Toyota is now the owner of the largest market share, overtaking even General Motors and the number of Volvos, VWs and Mercedes now on the roads here should be sending messages to the 'big three' (GM, Ford and Chrysler) that their huge engined, uneconomical offerings are no longer wanted by an increasing majority of drivers.

Of course diesel engines are still non-U here, a testament to some clever advertising by the big three in the '70s. Back then, Mercedes introduced diesels and both Ford and GM panicked at their almost instant popularity. They hastily rejigged old design petrol engines to burn diesel. These proved disasterous. The blocks were simply not up to the pressures of compression ignition and they would shatter, casting of conrods and all in the process. The negative advertising which they then embarked upon, dissing diesel engines as more trouble than they were worth has stuck in the public memory and today, only Mercedes offers a car with a diesel option for the benefit of die-hards. In reality, neither the big three nor the oil industry wanted to invest in the redevelopment that would have been necessary. They effectively lobbied government to produce legislation making it virtually impossible to manufacture diesel car engines meeting the standards imposed. All this in spite of the facts that (a) diesels consume less fuel and (b) European and Japanese diesels have for decades burned cleaner than American gas guzzlers.

Another tribute to the American political system.

Mercedes will be introducing their Smart Car here on January 1st. This was announced by the media with a side comment that they would be worthless in a collision with an SUV. A German Canadian friend of mine commented that Smart Cars are made by Mercedes in a country where there are no speed limits on vast stretches of autobahn; their rigid frame is egg shaped, the most durable shape in nature and what made the American media think Germans were fool enough to drive anything dangerous? However, I don't expect Smart Cars to corner the market any time soon, such is the power of the media here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Still waiting for those photos Babs!

Where is my Bedouin Friend?

It’s always worse from the blunt end of the boat – part I

Smiling, I watched the last bus bouncing across the causeway at speed. You could tell Kurt’s driving anywhere. At the last moment, the bus heeled over making for main-site, scattering stones and throwing up clouds of dust. Despite fine June sunshine, a thin East wind was pushing up the harbour flecking the surface with foam and spray. Only as I turned away did the insidious emptiness find me – a feeling that would return with monotonous regularity over the next twenty-four hours. Thrusting my hands into my pockets, I headed back to my lone suitcases, still carrying their little yellow triangles, sat forlornly outside the side door to Drake. While everyone else was heading home for the summer holidays – I was going home to Blighty. My parents had already returned, but because of my ‘O’ levels I’d stayed on. Now, I was waiting to be transported home courtesy of BAOR.
Behind me a door opened with a hinge-bound groan. I turned to find a long, Celtic face dolefully examining me. There was something about the swept-back, boot-black hair that reminded me of a deranged timber wolf. The normally immaculate Di slowly approached, slope-footed in shirtsleeves and carpet slippers.
‘You’re one bugger they’ll be glad to get rid of,’ he said, his face expressionless. Briefly, he gazed skyward, as though seeking inspiration or perhaps divine guidance. ‘You’re the laziest sod I’ve ever clapped eyes on,’ he murmured. ‘Apart from when you’re fighting the system,’ he added by way of consolation. ‘At least I won’t have to take up the cudgels on your behalf anymore,’ he mused. At that, he allowed himself a wry smile.
I didn’t know what a cudgel was, so wasn’t sure what he meant. He reached across and pressed a packet of cigarettes into my hand, half looking over his shoulder in the direction of the housemaster’s flat. ‘Now sod off!’ he added gruffly as he took my hand and shook it. Then, over his shoulder as he walked away –‘heaven forbid that I should miss you.’
If I’d had the wit, I would have thanked him for being a good friend and the best teacher I’d ever had, but sadly I was too busy cultivating my surly image. If I’d been gifted with prescience I’d have been heartened by the certain knowledge that I’d see him again at the Eisteddfod the following year, but sadly I lacked both wit and any sense of clairvoyance. Grabbing my suitcases, I headed over to Collingwood where the two Ds were assembling. Uncharacteristically our usual rough and ready badinage seemed to have abandoned us. Shortly our transport arrived and we clambered onto the empty bus. It was a strange feeling. Inside I felt as empty as the bus. We stopped briefly at main-site where a handful of girls and the Head Boy joined us and we were issued with sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper. I guess there were a dozen of us in all. Ten minutes later, we were ushered onto a train by Army Movements, but not before the ritual humiliation of being divided into the dependants of commissioned officers and other ranks. I watched as the two Ds headed down to the front of the train and still smarting headed for the back, dumping down opposite the Head Boy, who seemed to be embracing Britain’s class system with carefully measured stoicism. A couple of the girls asked me to play my guitar, but I wasn’t in the mood. Leaving the behind the petty hierarchies and the Mekon was one thing, but good friends was an entirely different matter. The hollow feeling returned and this time refused to budge. Half an hour into the journey Dedge’s head appeared around the door. ‘Come on up the front,’ he instructed grabbing my guitar. En-route we were stopped by a pasty-faced sergeant and I began to realise how mindlessly dour and humourless the army were compared with the RAF, who always seemed to have a begrudging admiration for anyone pulling a flanker. His refusal to let me pass simply fuelled my embarrassment. Luckily, Dave arrived and after offering to report the sergeant to higher authority I was allowed through. Although older than me, I always liked Dave. The fact that he was the only one in the Upper Sixth who wasn’t a School Prefect made him someone to look up to in my book. Still rankling, I joined the two Ds playing cards and passed around my cigarette packet. 'There’s a note in here,' exclaimed Dave, pulling a small piece of paper from the packet. ‘It says ‘Be patient. Your time will come.’ What does it mean?’ he enquired. I shrugged and returned to shuffling the cards. Di had used that expression once before. Since then I had managed to get a clearer picture of who the real enemy were. It wasn’t just the pimply faced and unimaginative Monitors - somewhere beyond the Mekon were whole hierarchies of pompous, smug, self-satisfied Treens, whose sole function was to perpetuate their kind by keeping everyone else in their place.
Meanwhile the train clanked and shuffled its way across the flat lands of Northern Germany passing half-timbered farms and slowly masticating, angst-filled, Friesian cows. As we made for Bremerhaven and our boat, we played a few desultory hands of cards and then lapsed into silence. The finality had eventually gripped us all. (to be continued.)

You can’t beat Christmas Parties.

Has Paul gone on holiday?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My pool for Christmas

The blue square in the middle of the picture is the clan Barker pool in Redcliffe, just north of Brisbane. Flew in today for a month of Margaritas in tropical Queensland.
Keep sending those pics of snow and grey skies, folks. That should get me into the spirit of the season as I tuck into the Christmas salad!