Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Thoughts for the New Year

The 1952 flm version of "The Importance of Being Earnest" was on the box a couple of days ago, and it has to be one of my favourites. I never watch it but that I come away remembering a couple of quotes. This time three sentences caught me.

Fistly, in the confrontation between Gwendoline and Cecily, Gwendoline says "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train."

Next, Dr. Chasuble, when woken out of his afternoon sleep begs forgiveness for his "post-prandial nap into the arms of Morpheus."

And finally, Lady Bracknell observes that "Three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen."

There can be little better preparation for 2009 than these pearls of wisdom.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Fresh and frosty ...

... are these closing days of December. Yet nothing so far has dropped off the Christmas tree in my hallway, so it can't be that cold.

The service rota has returned to normal, apart from the short Watchnight service at 8.00 p.m. on New Year's Eve. By holding it at that time it allows people to go on to their parties or whatever. I did try a midnight, but if it hadn't gathered the guests from the carousing at the Old Vicarage next door to the church, it would have been sparsely attended. As it is, I expect that we will all manage to fit into the choir stalls.

"Fast away the old year passes."

The fireworks marking the start of 2009 will be viewed with somewhat jaundiced eyes after the economic and commercial events of the past few months, and the warnings of a massive increase in unemployment to come. Who would have predicted at the start of 2008 that the year's end would see the demise of Woolworths, MFI, Zavvi (Virgin Megastores), Adams, Whittards, and countless other small businesses. If I was to gaze into a crystal ball, I would say that it looks decidedly dodgy for Currys, if the numbers in their shops are anything to go by.

"May you live in interesting times" is an old Chinese curse. Well, the "living on credit" bubble had to burst at some point. That particular bauble has dropped off the High Street tree and shattered. It just remains to see how long it will take to sweep up the pieces.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

A Christmas ritual

Each of us to their own, but one of mine is that I like to sit down and watch Alastair Sim as "Scrooge" in the 1951 version of Dickens' "Christmas Carol". The closing scene where he is so brimming with laughter as he raises Bob Cratchitt's salary is wonderful.

Now I feel ready for the Midnight service.

More candles and carols

This time at St Michael South Elmham.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The rural Carol service

Five down and one more to go, plus Midnight and Christmas morning, and then I can pour the sherry!

Friday, 19 December 2008

I'm glad THAT day's over!

Ever had a "clumsy" day? Yesterday was that for me. Everything I touched either fell over, broke, or scattered itself across the floor - like the card file that flipped off the bookshelf and threw its contents under the sofa, or the various items that kept leaping out of my fingers!

Then I impaled my head on the gutter bracket whilst outside and at the top of a ladder at the front of the house putting up lights in the large holly tree - and that stabbed my hands in various places so that I look as if I've got a touch of the pox!

Next, the string of outside lights sent me from a friend in the USA, together with a note saying that they were a British set and last used by him in his curacy, glowed very brightly when I put them on. I turned the control box knob. They went out. I turned the knob once more. There was a loud "pop" and smoke poured out of the box. Leaning forward to pull the plug from the socket I knelt on one of the light bulbs. Fragments of glass in the carpet and my trousers! They went in the bin.

Then the 8 star rope-light decoration for the front of the house, which had worked perfectly last Christmas, and was fine when I packed it away, was now only half-working, so that also went in the bin.

And despite searching though the contents of the hall cupboard, I wasn't able to find the feet for a small artificial tree, even though for 7 years they've been kept in the same place.

Sod it.

I shall enjoy Christmas when it's over.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Back on home soil

View from convent window along Carmersstraat at 0730 hrs with the Bell tower in the distance.

Two of the sisters see us off.

A long day of travelling yesterday, but now safely back in Suffolk. We left the Convent at 9.30 a.m. and drove to Dunkirk where we lunched and then searched for the Auchan hypermarket, which we eventually found. Then it was the 1600 hrs sailing to Dover, arriving at 1700 hrs local time.

Dunkirk restaurant.


A drive then to Battle in East Sussex to drop off one of the travellers, a cup of coffee, and then the haul up to the Dartford tunnel and eastwards for Suffolk. I got home at approx. 10.30 p.m. and managed to unpack most things before tumbling into bed.

It was a good and relaxing break, and some shopping was done, though not as much as in previous years since the exchange rate of the £ to the Euro is almost one-to-one now, which has virtually doubled the cost of everything. However, the chocolate shop did well, and several boxes of Belgian chocs and truffles now reside upstairs waiting for Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

More Belgian light

Late December afternoon in the main square, and then walking back to the Convent after a pancake and coffee!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Brugge in December

'Tis cold and wet, but good to be here nonetheless for a 5-day pre-Christmas break, staying at the English Convent.

Just off the main square there's a nice little pub ...

and the Christmas ligths are pretty, even in the rain!

Friday, 28 November 2008

The things you find on the Web ...

... this time it's an aerial view of the Terrace where I used to live in Brighton, Sussex. My home was the top floor flat, indicated by the arrow I have crudely drawn on the picture. Living opposite the playing fields of Brighton College I could sit out on the flat roof of the bay window of the flat below and watch the cricket in summer, and rugger in the winter terms. I could also see over the rooftops to the bustling town beyond, and catch the whiff of salt air in the mornings as the seagulls wheeled and cried overhead. As you can probably tell, I quite miss it ....

The school behind and the small road were not developed when I was there from 74 to 82. Instead there was a chalk track down which I raced my go-kart when I was younger. The proper name for the lane is "Bakers Bottom". We used to call it "Stinkpot Alley".

Monday, 24 November 2008

Lazy Sunday afternoon

With the fire lit, candles flickering, Haydn's Symphony No.99 in E Flat Major on the CD player, a mug of hot coffee, a magazine to read, and the curtains pulled against the dark skies from which snow flurries were blowing down, it was a comfortable and relaxing winter's Sunday afternoon. I count myself fortunate to have a warm dry home and to be able to pay my way when so many others at this time of financial constraint are falling by the wayside. Deo Gratias.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Another result!

Following on from my complaint to British Gas (Blog - 10th November), after an intial refusal to make any form of compensatory payment I asked that the case be referred upwards to a Supervisor. I have just received a call from one saying that they are refunding to me £75 (or as near as). This is the difference between my old contract rate that I was paying, and the "temporary" normal rate that was applied to my account following their objection to my transfer to another supplier.

Full credit to the very helpful and pleasant supervisor.

Alternative reading ...

... is now required for the "smallest room". Reader's Digest Customer Services (at 9p per minute!) tell me my account has already been closed, and that a refund of unused subscription is on it way. I shall still write to Mr Justin Webster (he of the photostated signature) and tell him he needs to read what people write. (This is also the continual cry of blogger Mad Priest, that people don't read what he's written before screaming at him). So, a result, of a sort, so long as the refund arrives. However, if they've taken off some for administration charges .....

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

I don't believe it!

This time it's the Customer Services department of Reader's Digest.

The style of the magazine changed quite significantly two issues ago, so I decided that I would not renew my subsription when it expired. Checking, I found that I had paid my subscription in July, meaning that it would run out in June 2009. I decided to cancel my Direct Debit now rather than wait and then forget about it next year. Two days after cancelling the arrangement I received a letter from Reader's Digest telling me that my payment had been cancelled, and that if I wanted to receive the product to please either forward the payment or complete a new Direct Debit mandate.

I wrote to Customer Services pointing out that if a human being had actually written to me, rather than their computer spewing out an automated letter, they might have noticed that I still had 7 months of subscription to run, and that no payment was owing. I had cancelled as I did not like the new editorial approach to the magazine.

Today I received a letter from Justin Webster, Customer Services Manager, apologising that I had had to contact them "more than once" (eh?) and reassuring me that they "have now cancelled your magazine subscription as requested." (er... NO) "You may receive a further issue of the magazine, if so please keep it with our compliments." (I bloody well will you stupid twit. I've paid for it!)

Can't anyone get things right these days? If I ran these 11 parishes with that lack of accuracy and efficiency, I wouldn't last long in post.

Another phone call looms tomorrow.

I think I'm turning into Victor Meldrew.

Monday, 17 November 2008

I'm defragmented

It finally finished at 16.04. I won't be doing that again in a hurry!

Maybe they were right

I think that perhaps the Luddites were on to something (rather than being on something) when they made their protests against technology. I am currently running a defragmentation program on my main computer. The disc was only 5% fragmented, but I decided to go ahead simply because it's been a long time (a year of so) since I did one. It started at just before 7.00 p.m. last night (Sunday). It is now 10.32 a.m. Monday morning and it has been running all night. It still is only 75% completed! I's just as well I bought this laptop a couple of months ago, though the keyboard layout is taking a bit of getting used to. I keep pressing Caps Lock instead of Shift, and Pause Break instead of Delete. And since it runs Vista rather than XP I'm not sure if my printer will be compatible. The on-line advice seems to be to plug it in and have a go. So ....

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Fighting spam

I've found that having several e-mail accounts allows me to identify the damn-ned processed meat e-mails much more swiftly, and that's because they turn up on each account. Some are easy to spot, such as the banking ones that tell me my account details need updating or that my access has been frozen, when I don't have an account with them anyway. The Halifax e-mailed this morning to tell me my account had been compromised, as did the Abbey and Barclays. Sorry. I don't have accounts there. But more difficult are the ones that are starting to appear as if from a Diocesan office. This is where a second e-mail account comes into its own, for if they appear on there as well, they are going to be malicious. The Mailwasher program is also a boon, allowing me to preview what is on the server with no danger of infection on my terminal.

I am sometimes tempted by the offer of 9 inches in ten minutes, though it's not really neccessary .....

Monday, 10 November 2008

"T'was on the Monday morning ...

... that the gasman came to call" So opens the wonderful circular song by Flanders & Swan. On this particular Monday morning British Gas have recived their payment and a formal complaint about the way they have handled my transfer to another electricity supplier has been made. I should hear the result by Friday. It's unlikely that they will see things my way, but at least I've voiced my concerns.

No progress yet with Holiday Inn. The man with whom I need to speak is still on holiday. I bet his dates were booked correctly!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Keeping a grip on my wallet

It's been an odd week where money is concerned, and not because of the worldwide banking meltdown and "credit crunch". I keep quite strict personal accounting records, so it's doubly annoying to find hiccups in my finances through the incompetance of professional companies.

I recently stayed in a couple of Holiday Inn hotels. I now find that a mistake was made by one of the hotels over the bookings, and that I've been charged for not turning up on a night when I never intended or wanted to stay. The search for reimbursement continues.

And now in today's post comes a letter from "Electricity and Gas Recoveries Ltd" saying that "despite repeated requests for payment", British Gas have not received payment for the last (and closing) bill they sent me in October. I shall be on the telephone first thing Monday ruining the day for several people. Firstly because the opening statement is a LIE. I have not received any communication from British Gas since the original Bill. And secondly, the Bill says that the amount will be collected from my bank account by Direct Debit, as it always has been. Looking at my bank statements I see that no request for payment has been made, so now I am threatened with Court Proceedings because British Gas have not done something they should have done.

Both these companies are staffed by complete tossers!

I'm quite looking forward to Monday morning.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Cracking up

There are problems at the small church of Ilketshall St John. The north wall is tearing away from the tower at the west end. A Structural Engineer has got to come and have a look and see what is causing it and what needs to be done. It's the only corner of the church that is without a buttress, so the age-old solution might still be the best way forward.

We are not going to sing too loudly for a while, and if anyone wants to sneeze, they had better go outside!

The south chancel window is also breaking up ....

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Don't forget ...

... that at 2.a.m. tonight, (actually tomorrow morning) British Summer Time ends and the clocks go back an hour to Greenwich Mean Time. Which means that in the early hours I should open the front door and stumble down the path to alter my new double-sided outdoor timepiece. Not a chance. It will get done before I go to bed and slumber for the extra hour. Not that I need it. I didn't get up until 10.00 a.m. this morning!

Now cometh the dark winter evenings. The wind is blowing, there's rain forecast, and a breath of winter predicted for next week. Wednesday will be just the right time to get back to work after my autumn break.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Where the hell is Matt?

A friend directed me to this video on You Tube. It's worth watching.

The apple harvest begins

This morning the harvesting of the apple crop began ... this one tree will produce about a third of a ton.

Monday, 20 October 2008

A fresh new city

Milton Keynes is one of those places that you either love or hate. There seems to be no middle ground in people's perceptions. I'm one who finds the city attractive and lively. I don't get confused by the grid system of thoroughfares. I like the way that each suburb is a small community, and how the pedestrian and cycle paths keep to their own system of routes and away from the main roads. I find the central shopping area a pleasure to walk round, and I have long wanted to stay a night in the centre of the city. Last Friday night I did just that, booking into the Holiday Inn on Saxon Way at just after 3.00 p.m.

The room was light and pleasant, with a good view across the boulevard, and once again the hotel had a swimming pool, this time in the basement. Having taken a preliminary stroll around the Shopping Centre I returned to the hotel for a swim, and then in the early evening went out to find a meal. I headed first of all for Pizza Express, but found nothing on the menu that encouraged me to go in. I then walked to Wagamama, but as the place was heaving with customers, moved on - the Miso soup would have to wait for another day. Pizzaland was the third option, and although it also was busy, there were some free tables, and I dined cheaply and well - potato wedges to start, and a dish of tomato and mozzarella mezzaluna pasta as a main course, washed down with a small bottle of red wine.

The following morning I had another swim before making a coffee in my room and then checking out. Before heading home I stopped off at the Ikea store and wandered happily around, spending a bit more than I anticipated on church raffle prizes and Christmas gifts, as well as items for my own use and consumption. Nearing Cambridge I found a garage with petrol at just under £1 per litre, and so I refuelled there.

So concluded my week away. As I lounged on the sofa in my sitting room the next day, it was a pleasure to know that in a week's time I would still be off-duty for another couple of days. It's been an thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing time so far.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Dorset coastline

Wednesday last saw me driving from Taunton down into West Dorset. I had forgotten how narrow the lanes are off the main highways, and how little view there is with their high hedges, so that every corner is blind, and passing places infrequent. I pulled off as I neared my destination and had a sandwich.

Thursday, and a trip down to Sidmouth to look at a postcard shop (disappointing - though I bought a few oddments to go in the albums), try and buy a bathroom clock (I ended up with one for the outside of the house!) and take a walk along the seafront.

Sunny and warm, it was a delightful outing, and rounded off with a visit to a superb farm shop at nearby Kidlington where the proprietor travels across to France and brings back a variety of goods and condiments. I bought things I usually only see in the Aquitaine, and they now reside in my home pantry, waiting for the right occasion.

As I left on Friday morning, and due to extensive roadworks in the village that have closed the main street, I drove westwards, and passed Pilsdon Pen. I stopped here for a final view of the coastline across the Marshwood Vale, of Lewesdon Hill, and the Pen itself.

Wonderful countryside, and on a fine Autumnal morning, England at its best.

Ancestor worship

Last Tuesday, on my way to Taunton, and before I put up a post from the Sedgemoor Services on the M5, I called in at the village of Weston-in-Gordano to visit the church and pay my respects to my ancestors.

The church possesses a large and colourful west window donated by the Perceval family in the early years of the 20th century, showing the three main founders of the building, starting with Ascelin Gouel de Perceval, the Norman knight from Yvery (now Ivry-la-Bataille) west of Paris. He was granted the lands of Weston in 1077, but the pious image showing him holding a model of the church bears little resemblance to the truth of the man’s brutal nature. Nicknamed “The Wolf” he not only imprisoned his father-in-law in courtyard of his Breherval Castle in the depths of winter clad only in his nightshirt, but also raped a maiden from the neighbouring village of Pacy-sur-Eure, and thus instigated the Normandy Wars.

The southern light shows Sir Richard de Perceval, Ascelin’s grandson and Crusader knight who has a colourful memorial in the church’s interior, along the north wall.

His tomb also stands in the churchyard, and since I was named after this ancestor, to show my homage I stretched out on his stone table. Briefly. It was chilly.

He came back from the Holy Land minus his left leg, though the glass does not depict this loss. He married the daughter of William de Mohun IV, Lord of Dunster Castle in Somerset, and died in 1202.

In the northern light stands Sir James Perceval, the “Rebuilder” (1530-1594), the great-great-great grandson of the Crusader.

It was good to find the church open.

(Jane Maria Perceval was the grand-daughter of the only British Prime Minister to have been assassinated - The Rt.Hon. Spencer Perceval, who was shot in the lobby of the House of Commons on 11th May 1812. Our common ancestor lies some 3 generations before.)

Friday, 17 October 2008

Still rambling

A swift update since my internet access has been limited for the last couple of days.

Left Taunton on Wednesday and trundled down to West Dorset. Visited Sidmouth yesterday, and an exceptionally fine Farm shop, of which more later. Leave here today and move on for final night in the centre of Milton Keynes and another Holiday Inn hotel.

Photos also to be posted later.


Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Taunton nosh

Meal out in Taunton last night, with clerical co-trainee from Salisbury days (let the reader in Long Island understand), at a rather nice Italian restaurant, housed in the old school that used to be an Auctioners, in the shadow of St. Mary's church and its tall tower.

Appetiser of rosemary foccacia, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, main courses of a traditional spaghetti bolognese, and a fusilli carbonara, and then tiramisu (how predictable!)for dessert. Two small espresso coffees to finish. I slept well!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Could do better

So, am now in the Costa Coffee shop. I tried to pay for my double espresso and croissant with my Costa Club Card .... "Sorry, we don't have the machine here." Admittedly, it does say on the back of the card "valid for use only at participating Costa stores", but there should still be a sign up somehwere to say that they can't accept them here. Black Mark, Costa. Get those machines out to your stores. This customer wants that facility, and the customer is always right! I shall leave a comment on the Costa site.

Grumpy old sod

Modern Technology

I sometimes think that I'm still living in the Dark Ages .... here I am, sitting in the open air at the Sedgemoor M5 Services in Somerset, accessing the Internet on a free W-fi connection provided by Road Chef. It strikes me as amazing that I can do this. The traffic is roaring past, school parties are noisily getting back onto their coaches, and pensioners on Mystery Trips are stocking up on tea and cake.

I spent a really comfortable night at the Holiday Inn hotel at Oxford (just off the Peartree Roundabout). It could have done with better direction signs, and I only found it by following the notices for the Travelodge, but the room was large and comfortable, the swimming pool virtually deserted, and the evening meal a feast, though my wallet is now somewhat lighter! Then there was another swim before breakfast, and a drive off westwards through the morning mist.

I called in at the Prinknash monastery, only to find that despite signs that the monastery was "Open all winter", the shop was closed Mondays and Tuesdays, and the chapel only open at times of prayer services. Not very welcoming to the visitor.

Then to Weston-in-Gordano and the village church founded by my ancestors. Photographs to follow!

So, having used the Road Chef internet access, and the fact that there's drizzle in the air, I suppose I'd better buy a coffee and a nibble before I head on to Taunton.

More bulletins later!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sunday trading

Well, whatever the variety, the apples now have a future. I have just made an arrangement with a local apple press to trade my crop for some bottles of juice - made from my own apples! Far better than leaving them just to drop and then carting them over to the farm for the horses to eat. Maybe there'll still be a few for them, but within a week or two the owner of the press will come and strip both the trees. Bad luck for the birds this winter as well. They usually flock to the windfalls as the colder weather arrives. I'll have to provide some sort of alternative for them. Still it will be fun to have my own variety of juice sitting in the fridge.

And he tells me that they are definitely NOT "Beauty of Bath". Too late - they are over by July, and these ones can hang on the tree well into January!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Beauty of Bath?

The great apple identification debate continues. I've now had suggestions from both sides of the Atlantic that the main crop might be "Beauty of Bath". Here is the main tree, though the "washed-out" apples that form half of the crop appear to have almost finished.

Those on the second tree are smaller ....

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


The British Chambers of Commerce have today said that Britain is already in recession. These photographs from Norwich taken at 3.00 p.m. seem to back that up. On a weekday the main street by the Castle is usually busy with cars and buses, shoppers and pedestrians. So also the Castle Mall Shopping Centre. Not today though.

First days of autumn break

Harvest Festival in my village of residence this last Sunday, and so the morning service was followed by lunch in the Village Hall. But what weather! Torrential rain for most of the day, the northerly direction of the wind forcing water through the leak in the garage roof. The Diocese knows about this but as yet have not made any arrangements to repair it. I shall remind them.

The crop of apples this year continues to amaze. Laden, the trees receive no care from me at all - no spraying or pruning - and as one has a hollow trunk I don't quite see where it gets all its energy from. And the fruit is almost without blemish. Last year they were badly marked and scabby, but this year they are shiny and fresh. I don't know the variety. One tree has obviously had a graft in the distant past as it produces two different varieties. The other is a single, and diffferent again.

All are eating apples, and they have firm texture, are juicy, and with a slight tang. A large box went to the church for decoration. I sold some at my regular Coffee morning, and now it's a case of picking up the windfalls, storing some, and giving the others away - either on the roadside, or letting the farm have them for their horses.