Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ October 2022

It’s been a funny old month here at Fraggle Towers with health issues to the fore. Phil had his Corona booster and Flu jab at the beginning of the month and was not well for 3 days, I had mine later on in the month and apart from one day being wierd got through that Ok. But I’ve had a couple of visits to the Doc’s for blood tests and other stuff. Then just this week I twisted somehow getting up from my sofa and did something to my back, with the result that I’m having time off from work. Can’t remember the last time that happened, and if I was able to drive I’d have still gone in. Sigh. Getting old and decrepit is just no fun. I seem to be improving anyway, fingers xt.

Winnie has been to the Vets as she has chronic cystitis they’re trying to get to the bottom of and she’s now on a daily dose of Loxacam which seems to be helping. None of this stops her being as mad as a box of frogs! Out in all weathers and doing a cracking job of rodent disposal.

Winnie Up.

Lord Vincent is hale and hearty, and in between patrolling the perimeter of our bit of the estate and eating for England, he spends most of his time on the bed ~ not one for rain and cold weather. He can’t even be bothered catching a mouse.

Lord Vincent

It’s been great having Sophie back in the country and we’ve had a couple of outings which has given me a good bit of fodder for the Universe Blog and for Fraggle film, though I’m still waiting to receive the scans back for that.

Work has been so busy, I’m getting through 40 people a week on average and I only work 2 & 1/2 days, so it’s full on, but I still get 10 minutes here and there to have a bit of lunch or take Teddy for a quick trot around the carpark. He is such a happy little soul and makes me smile.

Teddy, my BFF

Tonight is Halloween, and all the Grandkids turned up to go out trick or treating, which really is ‘begging for sweets’ apparently, but most of our estate get involved so I have sweets at the door ready and I get to take pictures, though use my iPhone now as the Fuji freaks people out 🤣. Phil and Shelly went with the kids to do the rounds and I stayed home to answer the door. Liddy and Livvy made a good effort at dressing up! Phil tells me that one house had made a fake cemetary on their front lawn, and another had a spooky figure that spoke to the kids as they got near to it and made them jump. Another had a giant spider across the front of their house. ALl good fun and the kids loved it.

Liddy ~ a dead bride 🤣
Livvy ~ zombie schoolgirl (I think!)

The boys are ‘too old’ to dress up being 11 and 12 (pfft!) but are happy to have the sweets of course! To anyone moaning about copying the USA, or commercialising Halloween, or begging for sweets etc I agree, it’s true and I don’t bliddy care, as having the grandkids round laughing and being happy for a daft evening is fine by me. One day they’ll be in their teens and this will just be a memory.

Some neighbourhood kids

Not sure who he’s supposed to be, ? Pennywise
???
another Pennywise I think
who knows?
Jail bait. 😄

So that’s the end of the 10th month and we’re going into Outer~Christmas Land now, as people are mad for it up here. I’m off down South at the weekend to visit with Ben and Lewis, fingers crossed my back has recovered as it’s a long old drive, and I’m dreading sitting still in the car for 5 hours doing it in case it sets it off again, but am thinking pink thoughts, like that’ll help.

Back next time with a November round up so stay tooned!

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Pesky Scots.

A tale of ups and downs.

It began as a 1980s government- sponsored pensions revolution: contract out of your company pension to potentially boost returns on your state second pension – a basic pension top-up – by investing in a personal pension. Armies of commission-driven salesmen then went on the rampage to convince the public their valuable final-salary occupational schemes – guaranteeing set sums at retirement – should be ditched in favour of riskier personal pensions based on stockmarket returns. Disaster ensued as vast numbers of people traded generous and safe pensions for riskier alternatives“. From The Guardian June 2009.

Dear reader I was one of those naive people who in 1991 ditched the best pension in the UK, the NHS pension, and signed up with the nice Scottish chap from the Scottish Widows Financial company, who came to visit one day. Eventually it came to light that I was mis-sold the SW pension, and I gave it up and went straight back into the NHS scheme. Apparently you were supposed to get compensation for the mis-selling, but I don’t remember getting any, and it’s a bit late now anyway.

Imagine my surprise, if you can, when earlier this year Scottish Widows tracked me down and asked me to get in touch with them. I did. I had to send my marriage certificate to them to change my last name as I was not with Phil back then, so I did that too.

Imagine my even greater surprise when they sent me a statement telling me what my pension with them is now.

£38,404

Oh my goodness, some of what I paid in was left behind and hey presto 25 years later I have 38K!! I was a little bit happy as a pig in poo I can tell you! They asked me to think about what to do, take some, take it all, leave it in etc, and Phil and I had some discussions and I decided to take it all out and pay the tax, which would leave me with about 25K and keep it in with our savings, but use half of it to retire at 65 instead of 66. Yipee!!

So I got in touch with them and they organised a phone call with one of their chaps, which duly happened. For 90 minutes! Lots and lots of questions and making sure I knew what I was doing but also information that actually my pension pot was not 38K, but was going to be a wee a bit less,

going down

Oh well, that would still be about 22K in my hand after all the t’s and i’s were crossed and dotted. OK said the guy on the phone, the money will go into your bank in 8 days time.

8 days came, and 8 days went, then the Queen died and the country came to a standstill for 10 days, so I hung on until that went by and phoned to find out what was going on. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.’

I held dear reader. Sure enough 47 minutes later I spoke to a nice Scottish lady, explained what was going on and she put me on hold for another 10 minutes while she went to speak to someone else about it. When she came back she told me there’d been some error or somesuch on the amount and someone would give me a call on Monday in office hours between 9 & 5. I told her I’d be at work and not able to answer so leave a message with a number I coud ring back directly on.

Someone rang me on Monday, Tuesday and left a message with the number on. I got round to ringing it today on my day off. “I’m sorry all our operators are very busy at this time, you can call back later or stay on hold. The current waiting time for on hold is 40 minutes.” SIgh.

I held. 47 minutes. Eventually spoke to I think a nice Asian lady, (not Scottish as I’ve got the hang of understanding the Scottish accent now,) who then went off to find me a nice Scottish lady. She then put me on hold for another 5 minutes whilst she went to speak to someone else. It had already struck me after reading an article in The I that maybe something was afoot.

So I’m thinking, hang on, the figures I got, the chat I got with the guy, the 8 days up when the money should be paid in, all happened before the mini-budget when everything changed, they must have known what would happen in the budget so they’ve hung on to mine (and probably others) waiting for this so the payouts could be even less! Greedy corrupt Fat Cats at the top making decisions that stuff the little people.

The nice Scottish lady came back. Yes I’ve got your revise pension pot figures she said, £7,603. Wait what?? I replied. Where’s the rest of it?? Are you telling me this mini budget has wiped £23,000 off my pension?? I didn’t swear dear reader, as it isn’t the nice Scottish ladies fault. But I was quite staggered and informed her of my staggering. Oh no, she said, this is nothing to do with the budget, the initial forecast was a mistake. Someone made a mistake at the outset and I’m very sorry, would you like me to pass it on the complaints department and they’ll get in touch with you? Please just put me through to them I asked, I don’t want to go through the rigmarole of them phoning me to no avail, and me being on hold for another 47 minutes 3 days later getting nowhere. Oh sorry again, the Scottish lady apologised, the complaints department doesn’t have a phone number, we do it all by email. I kid you not dear reader, my staggeredness was off the charts at this point.

I gave up. And now a few hours have passed and I can’t help laughing. This wasn’t down to FatCat sneakybeaks, but to a monumental cock-up by some pesky twit who needs a bloody calculator for Christmas in the add-up-the-numbers-department of Scottish Widows.

Pesky Scots.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 🤣

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Sept 2022

Into Autumn now, the tree leaves are beginning to furl and change colour in places, though nowhere near photographic delight yet. Sophie is back (I think) for a while, but has family health issues to contend with now, involving her spending a lot of free time in London with her Mum, so we won’t be doing many photo outings because obviously priorities!! Hopefully this weekend though, weather permitting.

The first week of September was just quiet but then in the second week our Queen died (which if you haven’t been living under a rock you couldn’t fail to know). I think everyone except ardent royalists were fed up to the back teeth of all the relentless radio, newspaper and TV coverage, which wiped football out (haha, tee hee, sorry, not sorry) I imagine soap operas and other things were cancelled as well but I wouldn’t know about those as we don’t do much TV. More annoying was any news about anything else going on in the world was completely ignored. Even more annoying was having my blood work appointment cancelled when they decided to Bank Holliday the funeral. I didn’t even get a free day off work as that was my holiday week! Pfft!

We have been entertaining the troops Chéz Nous, firstly we had Cal and Liddy for a sleepover

Liddy snug as a bug

Liddy saw this on our dining room ceiling and wanted to know what it was

it’s possibly a Daddy Long Legs spider or a Harvestman spider, not sure and I don’t really care so long as it”s gone!

We also had Paul and Lorraine over for dinner, a Persian banquet, which I hadn’t tried doing before, but it all came together quite well. The Ottoman Puffs went down extremely well, and whilst they may resemble sausage rolls, really they are not. In spite of having sausage meat in them.

Ottoman Puffs. Really!

It was a good night, good food, plenty of liquid refreshment, a lot of laughing and music. Phil entertained us with his bass playing, but Paul let the side down by forgetting his guitar.

We had our trip to Scotland which I posted about a few days ago, click HERE if you missed it (looking at you Dix) and Phil has a brand new car which I drove to get us there. So much tech in new cars! There’s a huge screen on the front dashboard with buttons under it for Sat Nav, audio, and other stuff I didn’t bother with. It has automatic straightening if it senses you veering off the road (!) and beeps at you for this, that and the other. It’s a Nissan Juke and so quite big but only has a 1L engine, so you would think it slow to drag the weight of it about, but you would think wrong, it goes like the proverbial poo from a spade. It was a nice comfy drive, 6 gears no less, but I wouldn’t swap my 500 for it, it has no character. It was a sunnyish day so I took the scenic route up the A697 through Coldstream. Glorious scenery the whole way, passing by lush green hills and rolling fields of crop type things. Or grass. Whatever, it was totally green. Our hotel, The Murrayfield is only a long stones throw away from the stadium and was very nice. It’s restaurant ‘The Bothy’ was quite pricey, which we wouldn’t have minded if there’d been anything on the menu we’d really fancied, but there wasn’t, it all sounded a bit Masterchefy so we wandered down the road and got some good Scottish fare from Tang’s Take Away.

We snuck it back into the hotel and had it with some vino delecto and watched Andor, a Star Warsy series on Disney + that was much better than I thought it would be.

The cats are still assassinating the local rodent population and when we got back from Scotland on the Saturday evening there was a fair amount of bird poop to clear up as Winnie had a lady blackbird trapped in the conservatory. It was a bugger to get it to escape as she kept dashing into the big umbrella plant we have in there, and behind the furnitures, and the whole performance would probably suffice as a Youtube comedy sketch had anyone filmed it.

Of course I have cat pictures…

Winnie has taken to coming in to my study when I’m blogging and I have to quickly shift the keyboard so she can lie down for tickles. Her claws get stuck in the mat I have down to stabilise the keyboard so I’ve replaced it with some beautiful patchwork placemats (that I hadn’t been using as I don’t want to spoil them) that my friend Connie from the Adventures in every day life blog kindly sent me from over the pond, and Winnie is happy with them, and I get to enjoy them every day now.

Lord Vincent does not like the rainy weather, and spends most of his time asleep!

So September is just about over, and it’s chucking it down with a hoolie of a wind going on whilst I’m writing this. I was going to write about the sad and horrendous state of government here in the UK, but this chap says it so much better. There are 2 swear words in it so if you’re a puritanical type you’ve been warned. He’s a comedian ostensibly, but this isn’t funny, and it’s the truth of things here.

And so, on to October, fingers crossed for some sunny autumn days with lovely colours to photograph, preferably not on days when I’m at work!

Stay tooned dear reader!

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ August 2022

The end of August is nigh, and the official the end of summer. According to meteorological seasons, the first day of autumn arrives on 1 September and then according to the astronomical calendar, autumn will begin on Friday 23. Oddly, The Meteorological Office, which forecasts our weather (or tries to anway) uses the astronomical calendar. 🤷‍♀️

My autumn begins when the green leaves turn gold/red/brown and that isn’t happening yet, so I’m still in Summer, albeit the latter stages. August has been full of the drought, and then torrential downpours which did nothing to alleviate the problems drought is causing. Up here we haven’t had too bad a time of it, no hosepipe bans, and the crops and fields look healthy when I’m driving about anyway, though ponds have dried up across the way.

I got the results of the lung screening back, and whilst I haven’t got lung cancer, there’s a different issue shown up which has to be addressed, and is being. My hedonistic past catching up with me 🙂 . I may, or may not write more about it later, but it’s all a bit new at the minute, anyway I’m not at death’s door so yay!

Work has been mad busy as always, there’s a lot of ear wax in this world! I’ve got a week off coming in September which I’ll be glad for, it will be a staycation as no-one sensible would try and look after our cats, but we’re having a night in Edinburgh as the Scale Scotland Model show is on and it’s one of Phil’s faves. We’re only staying for one night and our lovely next door neighbour Cheryl will come in and put food down for them.

August is when the schools shut for summer, and I had Cal and Liddy to stay and took them out for a trip to the Northumberland Zoo whilst their Mum went to a funeral.

us at the zoo
snack break

Liddy loves horses and has riding lessons everyweek, but on bigger ones than this chap.

Mini horse

They loved the marmasets and Cal turned his camera round so the little guy could see himself! 🥴

selfie

This is a Scottish Wildcat, and the first time I’ve managed to see it as it hasn’t appeared on the other occasions I’ve been, it’s usually hiding, which is pesky, surprise surprise. Caught it at feeding time though.

Pesky Scottish Wildcat

The café at the zoo is pants, so I took them to Northhumberlandia which has a nice one, and hadn’t expected it to have 300 Harley Davison riders in it’s grounds. I got chatting to one of them in the café queue and he was telling me that most weekends, chapters of the riding groups meet up and go riding to places together. Their next event was the following weekend in Scotland, which is apparently the most anticipated and best of the year.

Angels of Hell, (and Scotland and Wales).

It was nice to spend some time with the kids and they had a sleepover.

Winnie and Lord Vincent have been enjoying the nice weather

Winny and Vinnie

also their assassination rates have gone up somewhat. Winnie has brought home 3 shrews and a rat and left them on our dining room floor mat to be admired, her modus operandi is unknown as they are always perfectly intact with no sign of damage.

a shrew

Lord Vincent is a different matter. He has caught two small mice which he announced by mewing loudly so we’d come and look, but he wouldn’t give them up and ate them 🥴. Sigh. Vinnie also caught a small bird, parts of which we found one morning in the living room along with copious amounts of feathers. I don’t mind about the rodents really, they’re not endangered species, (well maybe to Winnie and Vinnie), but I hate it when one of them gets a bird. What can you do? They both have noisy bells on their collars at least or it would be a massacre out there.

It was my birthday last week and I got taken out to dinner, to an Italian Restaurant over the train tracks in Pelaw. It’s called the Olive Verde and is above a rough and tumble pub in the main street, it does a small but very nice menu, has friendly staff and the food is good quality and (so far) is reasonably priced.

Happy Birthday to me

The big plus is it’s only a 10 minute walk from home and we were treated to a little sunset over the metro station on the way home.

I haven’t done much with my Fuji, and Sophie has only been home for the Raby weekend but I’ve been employing the iPhone camera and hipstamatic app when necessary, and am still taking my Contax Aria in hand, with a film sent off and one on the go. But I do belong to The Scavenger Hunt group on Flickr where there are 50 items to shoot within a year’s timeframe. I particularly liked my attempt at ‘Spices’.

Spices.

I’ve watched a few films this month,

The Gray Man starring Ryan Gosling.~ Netflix. A so-so action movie, a good review HERE by Dix/Eddie/the Pesky Scot, delete as applicable.
Samaritan starring Silvester Stallone. The reviews I read liked it better than I did- nicely filmed, minimal CGI but hokey script and acting veering between OTT and wooden. Still, it’s Sly, so there’s that.
Dog starring a wonderful dog, and Channing Tatum. Highly recommend it, did I mention the wonderful dog? She is fab, Tatum does OK too. Eddie has an excellent review HERE.
The Railway Man starring Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine and Nicole Kidman. A true story about a chap called Eric Lomax who becomes a POW in a Japanese POW camp in Singapore and has to work on the Thai-Burma railway. In spite of being tortured for a spurious offence, he manages to survive the war, but suffers PTSD for a long while after, until there’s a reconciliation at the end. (Trying not to do a spoiler but it’s a true story so that doesn’t matter really 🙄). Phil had read the book, and felt though it was told in a different way than the autobiography the movie was based on, it was all there, the flashback sequences being particularly good. Definitely recommend. Eddie wasn’t as keen so for a different POV his review is HERE.

So that’s about it, I’ll be back when September ends, so stay tooned.

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ July 2022

The beginning of July didn’t start out too well for me. Whilst walking Teddy (the dog at work) around the block I stepped on a manhole and fell down a drain, which is a sentence I didn’t expect to ever write, but there it is. The Manhole looked fine but the setting of it was secretly broken, so when my foot went on it the damned evil thing flipped over taking a fair amount of my shin skin with it and I ended up half in half out of the drain it covered and in a world of pain. I’d managed to hold on to Teddy’s lead and got us back to the office, missing one of my clogs which had deserted me for the dark deep comfort of the aforementioned drain. Iodine and dressings were applied from an out of date 1st aid kit and I’d just about stopped shaking when my next client arrived and I got back to work. In fairness my boss asked me if I wanted to cancel my clients and go to the walk in centre, but the thought of sitting in there for 3 hours was prohibitive when I knew I’d be home in a couple of hours and Dr.Phil would sort me out.

Don’t look at the photos if you’re squeamish BTW.

the injuries
Dr.Phil in action.
shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.

4 weeks on and my left leg is just about healed now and hasn’t needed dressings for 10 days, but the right leg still has a stubborn hole in it that’s taking it’s time, so everynight we are still cleaning and dressing it, but that’s fine, it didn’t get infected at least.

We had a 2 day heatwave here where temperatures went to 33-35 degrees C, though it went on longer in the rest of the country. We closed down at 2pm at work on the 35 day and went home. I will never moan about cool, grey days ever again. (That’s possibly going to end up being a fib.) Phil and I sat in the coolest room and wilted through the afternoon until it cooled down in the evening. It’s still getting pretty warm this week, but it’s bearable.

That reminds me, my MOT is due this week and I’m going to enquire about having my air con fixed. Driving isn’t fun when you’re being roasted.

Half way through July I went for a lung scan. Both Phil and I were contacted by Gateshead Hospital to see if we would like to have lung screening, and we both did so it happened. 4-6 weeks for the results. I’m quite amazed really, our NHS is on it’s knees but it still keeps going with the screenings, boobograms, poo sticks, cervical smears, lungs, prostates, you name it, they’ll screen it. It makes sense financially of course, catching things early means less long term costly treatment. Anyway results in 4-6 weeks, and then we’ll know if our hedonistic unhealthy youth and mid years have done for us.

In the last week I went on a course to Rotherham to learn how to use a new ear irrigating machine. It was an NHS run course rather than a manufacturer’s course which I’m more used to attending. The differences made me smile, on a Manufacturers training course you get put up in a nice hotel, have Danish pastries and coffee before you start the course in the morning, nice buffet lunch provided, free pens and leatherbound folders for your notes. On the NHS course it was get yourself to the course, coffee and biscuits, bring your own lunch, paper and pens 😊. That’s how it should be though, can’t have the NHS buying our lunches! The course was OK, the teacher went over a lot of stuff I already knew from my original training, but nice to see what I’d forgotten, and apart from an NHS audiologist and an RAF nurse, the other people, were GP practice nurses or receptionists wanting to add this string to their bow and didn’t have that depth of knowledge. I stayed in a Welcome Inn the night before, cheap and no breakfast included. To amuse myself I did a photo shoot which I’m entitling “Cheap Hotel”


I’m using the new machine at work and loving it, though I forget to take my foot off the pedal sometimes and shoot water everywhere. I’ll get the hang of it.

A lady came to my clinic to have wax removed a couple of weeks ago, but I found an earring~back in her ear instead. 🙄 Don’t wear earrings to bed people!

Finally, the cats of course,

Winnie in the heatwave days

a real gone cat

and Lord Vincent found some cool shade

So July, on the whole I’m glad it’s over and we’re in to August. I’m looking forward to taking the grandkids out for a day shortly, to the zoo and see the snow leopards. Also my birthday’s coming up, always good for a nice dinner out courtesy of Phil. Sophie is back for a weekend and bringing her hubby Mentat with her and we’re all going off to visit Raby Castle, Phil too. Hopefully I’ll keep upright and have a good month!

Stay tooned!

😊 📱

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~June 2022

Life has been somewhat eventful at Fraggle Towers over the past couple of months. To start with in the first week of June we had a new visitor to the Happy Easter tree

Bob

He was very good at getting the peanuts.

He only visited for 2 weeks, don’t know what happened to him, hope not road kill. There’s lots of greenery and trees across the way from us so I’m thinking he went back there.

I had some time off and went to Leighton Buzzard to be in charge of my grandson whilst his Dad and girlfriend went off to the Isle of Wight festival. It was cool to spend some time with Lewis and we had a fair few laughs along the week. Of course I had to take a million more pictures of him playing football.

Louie

I wish there were a few kids his age around where he lives, but the ones that play footy on the green are a fair bit older and intimidating.

I was amazed at how many Red Kites were flying above the park, and in fact all over the south on my journey down and around. They are gorgeous to watch in flight.

Red Kite

One of the neighbourhood cats has adopted Ben’s house, and so I’ve had Mrs.Miaow-Miaow (🙄) to feed as well. She belonged to one of the neighbours but got chucked out for some reason that’s beyond me.

Mrs.Miaow-Miaow

Although we’ve all been banging on about our 2 day heatwave, the week I was at Ben’s was really hot, so much that other than taking Louie to school, I didn’t go out much for the first couple of days, but sat outside in the shade and made the most of it. On the Monday before I came home I got to walk along the canal (Grand Union) and took the contax with me for some shooting, I’ll do a film friday post with those.

On the Sunday when Louie was off school, I took him up to Milton Keynes and the big indoor play area there

Boy racer
Plants v Zombies

We also went to visit with my friend I haven’t seen in ages, Helen, who lives in Biggleswade and we went out for lunch in the Conservative Club of which Helen is somehow a member without being a Tory supporter. Apparently they’re not allowed to ask you which party you support when you apply to join, it makes parking in town dead easy and the lunches are really good! 🤣

Hels & Lewis choosing drinks.

There was a fair on in the town centre and Lewis went on a flight simulator and the ghost train ~ I don’t think he was impressed with the latter.

Lewis (contax aria, kodak portra 200)
Lewis (contax aria, kodak portra 200)

Then I came home, to my cats

Lord Vincent
Winnie

Phil’s giant tank was coming along, it’s nearly fully built.

Giant Tank

I’ll finish with two life lessons, the first being, if you need a heavy doorstopper, bake a loaf of bread and forget deliberatley leave out the yeast.

Baked Doorstop

the second, if you suffer from old-person weak grip and like a glass of sparkly, long nose pliers are your friend.

Ad Hoc cork removal device.

Hopefully I’ll get July done this week. Maybe.

Asterix The Legionary

I am in a reviewathon of a book, with Booky, Alex and Sharon, not sure how that came about, it was a while back, probably I volunteered as I have fond memories of discovering the Asterix stories way back when I was a schoolkid in France. They are picture books, comics I suppose, though much nicer and better quality than paper comics I know of.

Written by René Goscinny and wonderfully illustrated by Albert Uderzo, they are about a village of indominatable Gaulish warriors who adventure around the world and fight the Roman Republic, with the aid of a magic potion, during the era of Julius Caesar, in an ahistorical telling of the time after the Gallic Wars. Asterix de Gaul is a little guy and Obelisk is his rather rotund, big good friend and they are the main stars of the show.

Booky asked us to read No.10 in the series ‘Asterix the Legionary’ and this is the synopsis from wiki- (click on little arrow to see it)

Asterix and Obelisk are setting off for a wild boar hunt when they encounter Panacea, former childhood resident of the village who has since moved to Condatum, and Obelix immediately falls in love with her. Some hours later, Panacea receives word that her fiancé Tragicomix has been conscripted into the Roman army and shipped to North Africa and Obelix, although heartbroken, promises to bring him back. Asterix and Obelix travel to Condatum, where they learn that Tragicomix has already left for Massilia, the mediterranean port from which the soldiers depart, and themselves enlist in the army to follow him, alongside Hemispheric the Goth; Selectivemploymentax the Briton; Gastronomix the Belgian; Neveratalos the Greek; and Ptenisnet, an Egyptian tourist who spends the entire book believing himself to be in a holiday camp. After completing basic training (and repeatedly and comically driving their instructors to the verge of tears), the newly formed unit sets off as reinforcements to Caesar against Scipio, Afranius and King Juba 1 of Numidia, Asterix and Obelix soon find out that Tragicomix has gone missing in action after a skirmish, and raid Scipio’s camp to recover him. This results in the Battle of Thapsus, in which the confusion over the Gauls’ unorthodox assault and the similarity of both armies’ uniforms cause a default victory for Caesar after the frustrated Scipio sounds the retreat. The Gauls are cornered by Caesar after the battle is over; but released and sent home for their assistance in his victory. Asterix and Obelix thereafter celebrate at home, while Panacea and Tragicomix return to Condatum to marry.

The Asterix comic books are great fun to read, for me the best bits are the names that the characters are given. Asterix and Obelisk are always getting the better of the Pesky Romans, two of which have my favourite names in this book, the centurions Nefarius Purpus and Dubius Status! These two are the instructors for the new recruits and are completely bamboozled, out-manouvered and worn out by our heroes.

Obviously there have been a few liberties taken with history in Asterix The Legionary, Caesar won the Battle of Thapsus without the aid of cartoon characters just to be clear 🤣.

Uderzo’s artwork is just excellent, lots of little details to find in the frames that make you smile i.e in the final celebration when our heroes return to the village Cacofonix the Bard is bound and gagged up in a lookout post because no-one likes his singing

and the pictures where the little Asterix and big,fat Obelisk are biffing the stuffing out of the Romans are always funny.

Booky had a few questions for us to answer, which he and Alex did a blinder on, I’ll do my best to add my thoughts..

1) Why aren’t Asterix and Obelix married men? They seem old enough.
Don’t hate me, but one is too short, and the other too chunky. Not your average girls dreamboat, unlike Tragicomix.

2) The Romans just can’t catch a break can they? They try to hide from Obelix and end up trampling on the flowers he wants for Panacea.
No, the Romans are always butt of the joke, and deservedly so for trampling on flowers.

3) Bureaucracy portrayed here, is it any different today? And if we could just biff and bam the parasites who give us the runaround now, would it change anything? Hint, yes!
Nope. The Romans were consummate bureauocrats. Without their record-keeping a lot of history would be lost. Long live the quill pushers!

4) What did you think of Asterix’s insistence on going through the Legion training as quickly as possible?
It had to be done fast so they could rescue Tragi-guy and get back home ASAP, no point in hanging about.

5) Is Tragicomix a pansy? Why didn’t he biff and bam his way out of the Legion like a good Gaul?
He’s not a pansy, he’s a lover not a fighter. And he wouldn’t have wanted to have those boyish good looks damaged.

6) Julius Caesar is always doing favors for Asterix and Obelix.  Should they get a loyalty rewards membership? Save Julius 3 times and get a free attack on a Roman Patrol kind of thing?
I don’t think they want to be in hock to Caesar, the lads have their own agenda, plus a magic potion, so have no need of Caesars prezzies.

7) Finally, just where DOES Tragicomic pin that clasp for his cape?
His cape just has a clasp that fastens the two sides together!! I am thinking Booky wasn’t too keen on Tragicomix! 🤣

It was fab to go back in time, and I’ll be sharing this and the other Asterix books I have, with my grandkids.

Booky’s review:~ Click HERE

Alex’s review :~ HERE

Sharon’s review:~ HERE

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ April/May 2022

I’ve been rubbish at keeping up the monthly Fraggle Towers posts, but hey-ho, life and all that. Anyway here is a potted update on our doings.

April saw Phil and I attend our first gig since the Covid thing began, and we went into Newcastle and met up with Phil’s son Carl and his Missis Karly, to see the band Stone Broken, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of 🤣. Phil and I started out in our regular pub Rafferty’s on Pink Lane, which has cheap alcohol and a floor your feet stick to.

Rafferty’s

The venue was The Riverside, which is beside the river Tyne (not being funny, we have a Lakeside pub that’s nowhere near a lake 🙄) a small venue which gets packed. I must admit to a certain amount of trepidation at being stuck in a room with a few hundred people, none wearing masks. I had one on, but it seemed overwhelmingly pointless as I had to remove it to have a drink so ended up maskless too.

Family outing

Newcastle at night is lush for photos

Tyne at night
The Bridge and the bridge.

The Band were great

Stone Broken

and a good time was had by all, plus we didn’t get Covid and die, so result!

Phil and I went back there in May to see a brilliant American Southern Rock/Soul band, Robert Jon and the Wreck and they were fantastic.

Robert Jon and The Wreck

We’ve been checking out a couple of local restaurants we hadn’t been to before, the first one was pretty poor food-wise, though a nice looking pub, in a lovely setting near our wildlife reserve. It was cheap, which was probably why we got oven chips and frozen veg with our main course, Phil had a microwaved pie (soggy pastry) and I got away with scampi which it’s hard to ruin really. Won’t be going back.

The Cock Crow Inn at Hebburn

The other one is called Le Olive Verdi and is a lovely Italian restaurant on the top floor of The Pelaw Inn, had a fab dinner, steak in 3 peppercorn sauce and it came with fresh veg, not cheap, but worth the money, and we can walk there so it’s all good and we will be returning.

clock at Le Olive Verdi

The cats:- Lord Vincent has been his usual zen self, eating, sleeping, sitting under bushes and plodding about.

Lord Vincent

WInnie has been on a killing spree. I came downstairs one morning to find a dead mouse on our dining room mat, it wasn’t mauled, just looked like it was asleep. A few days later Phil found a dead blackbird in the TV room. Then one day whilst Phil was at work she came running past me with something in her mouth, I chased her upstairs to the bedroom where she had something under the bed which was tweeting. It must have got free from her and hid as she came charging around to the other side of the bed whereby I picked her up and evicted her. I couldn’t see anything under the bed and it’s too heavy for me to move so I shut the door and left as I had to go out for a couple of hours. When I came back I could hear a constant tweeting from behind the bedroom door. I opened it and something ran very quickly under a chest of drawers, so I left it alone again. Still could hear the tweeting. I tried again a couple of hours later and this time it ran into the bathroom.

Tweety Pie

I shut the door and waited for Phil to come home. Phil managed to pick him up and gently carried him into the bushes over the road, where, we hoped forlornly, his mother would hear him and come and fetch him, but Lord Vincent had sneakily followed Phil outside and as soon as Phil’s back was turned, well, need I go on?

Finally I came downstairs one day and saw

😳

which was a bit of a shock. I couldn’t believe Winnie had managed to catch this big magpie and get him through the catflap without a sound or feathers being every where and thought he must have managed to get himself in through it. But then when I checked our hedgehog camera, well… you need to set it to a slow playback speed to see it as she’s fast as fek! Keep your eyes on the top right corner right at the beginning.

So she dropped it through the catflap and it must have got away from her pretty quickly. Her ambition is boundless and I dread the day she decides Woody the wood pigeon is her next victim.

Even though she’s lethal, she’s still cute.

Killer Queen

and also makes us laugh

It’s all gravy.

Work is still full on, and I’m busy as a tree. Little Teddy is worming is way into my affections and I take him out for a walk when ever I have 10 mins spare, which is about twice a day. He mainly sits with Lynn our office manager barricaded in as he’s apt to escape.

Teddy and Lynn

Phil’s Giant Tank is coming along, and this weekend is his clubs model show, so I’ll be attending on Sunday to photograph the competition tables and winners for the club’s Facebook page.

phil’s giant tank.

Entertainment-wise I haven’t seen any movies I’d recommend, maybe The Contractor as it has a good cast- Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Kiefer Doodah. It’s a serviceable action movie, but nothing new. Bird Box with Sandra Bullock started out well, and she was great all the way through but there were too many good coincidences at the end. Phil wanted to re-watch Oblivion with Tom Cruise as he got the blueray but we gave up before the end as we’d had wine/whisky and couldnt get our heads around what the fek was going on. I’ll wiki it one day. 😃

TV has been better, we got through to the end of Ozarks and are currently in the last season of Better Call Saul, both have been outstanding. We are now rewatching the first 2 seasons of Das Boot as the 3rd one is out and we forgot a lot of 1 & 2 as it was a couple of years ago, looking forward to seeing the 3rd, it is excellent.

Reading, well I’ve read all 47 of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series twice, and am starting again at the beginning, I just love these books. I have bought other books in the meantime, but as yet I can’t let go of Wolfe to read them instead. A strange addiction!

That’s all folks. More tales from Fraggle Towers to come, eventually. If/when I remember!

📷 😊

Photography and the RNLI

I follow a couple of great photographers on youtube, and one such person is a guy called Sean Tucker. He recently made this inspiring, and incredibly moving short film about photographer Jack Lowe and his project to photograph every lifeboat station on the British coast, using the wet plate collodion technique. If you have a spare 20 minutes and are into either photography, film making or the RNLI, give it a watch.

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ March 2022

Yep I’m a couple of days late with a ‘tales’ post for March, but c’est la vie. March has been a busy month for us with Phil doing a make-over of our dining room.

stripper
paperer

We had a new floor done too, I can’t remember why but I like it so not to worry.

job done

New music equipment was purchased at the beginning of the month, well not new, Phil rarely buys new as it’s mega bucks for what he wants, he waits until new stuff comes in and then buys stock that’s getting sold at a bargain price in order to make room for the next things. We went off to Stockton on the River Tees for his latest aquisitions, a phono cartridge pre-amp and a regulated power supply. He tries to explain to me what these things do but I just can’t. Anyways we got lost getting there or rather we didn’t but just couldn’t see it, as the building entrance faced the river and the car park didn’t. We spent some time ogling the amazing music systems they had in their upstairrs showroom

ogling
more ogling

and I took a couple of pictures out of the window,

River Tees

The cats have been their usual selves, Lord Vincent has been loving the sunshine we had last week

LV

and Winnie has been bonkers

Boxed Winnie

WInnie has learned how to get up on top of our conservatory roof, and the other morning I woke up at 7.30am to her meowing. Couldn’t see her in the room but when I opened my curtains

let me in!

there she was shouting to come in. Not best pleased as I wasn’t going to work that day so getting up at 7.30 hadn’t been the plan. Sigh.

Talking of sunshine, it’s been a mad month for the weather. Last week was like summer, and then this week we got snow and sleet in between some sunny bits. I’ve been out walking a few times with the Contax Aria, with Sophie away a lot more than she used to be there are now several weeks in between our outings, so walking out into the nature bits around where I live is a substitute. Not a great one, but better than nothing.

Phil’s sister Annette had her 70th Birthday last weekend and 13 of us went out to a local restaurant, The Lakeside (there’s no lake anywhere near it) where she had booked us in for a celebratory meal. When we arrived they had no record of the booking. That was a shock and Annette told them she’d spoken to a chap but didn’t know his name. The place was really busy too. Have to applaud the manager and her staff though, they apologised profusely and went straight into action, managed to find enough tables to cobble together for us to sit at and we were sorted and our orders taken within 15 minutes. Not a bad meal either which Annette’s husband Brian paid for which was lovely of him. Afterwards we went to their house for cups of tea and some birthday cake.

Birthday girl

Annette rang us the next day to tell us that she’s booked another local restaurant, The Green, for Brian’s birthday meal in a couple of weeks time. They asked her why we hadn’t shown up for the booking she made for the day before. 🤣🤣

My Happy Eater tree is in full bloom now, it’s strange to see the bees buzzing about on it in the middle of a snow shower.

The Happy Eater Tree

Unfortunately we seem to have aquired a herd of Magpies who are going through the bird food at a fast pace. I’ve counted 7 of them, ‘seven for a secret never to be told’, which I won’t because I don’t know what it is. Anyway I’m not keen on them but everything needs to eat so I keep topping it up. Sadly the cats are no deterent as Winnie barks at them from the windowsill and Vinnie sits under the tree but they know he’s there and wait until he goes indoors.

I drove over to the coast at South Shields the other day, managed to photograph the sea with a weather front coming in.

Incoming!

My boss was off sick with Covid last week, the guy who works for her the 2 days I don’t had picked it up and then, as he stays over at Brendas when he works for us (he lives in Scotland) she was the next in line. So far I haven’t had it, nor our office manager, we dodged a bullet there as they say.

Well that’s about it for March, I’m glad we’re into April now and looking forward to Spring springing and getting out more.

Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ Feb 22

Most of my photography is being done on film, but I’ve still managed a few iPhone shots, mostly of the cats.

Winnie has a thing for sticks of any description, and apparently spaghetti is in that classification. 🙄

sticks

Winnie and Lord Vincent don’t really get on, Vinnie is quite cool and doesn’t bother with her, but she hisses at him and sometimes jumps on him when she’s going past him, but the conservatory seems to be a no-mans land, or at least there’s a truce for there. Yep I know the windows need cleaning!

Another picture of Teddy from work, he’s ao adorably cute but SO yappy, which I’m not too keen on.

Yappy

He’s a cross between a Pomeranian and a Pappilon, whatever they are, and won’t get much bigger than he is.

I took some time out from work towards the end of the month and travelled south to see Ben, Lewis & Charlotte. It was Lewis’s 12th birthday last week but he was on half term the week before when I visited so I could spend more time with him.

That’s Ben’s ‘not another photo’ face!
Happy day!

They have been adopted by a cat who lives in their neighbourhood, Mrs. Miaow~miaow.

Mrs.Miaow~miaow.

It was nice to spend some time with them, but the driving there and back was a nightmare in the bad storms. I stay in a little annexe to a converted chapel as Ben’s house only has 2 bedrooms and I like my own room and bathroom and managed this time to mix up my leaving day, so I was turfed out on Wednesday afternoon when I thought I was staying until Thursday. 🙄 I ended up just driving home from 9pm and getting in for 1am.

We’ve only done 2 movies this month, Spenser Confidential, Mark Whalberg, which was a good action romp for a Saturday night, and The Counsellor with Michael Fassbender, Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz. Directed by Ridley Scott we were expecting great things, but it was a bit of a damp squib really.

Phil has started on the redecoration of the dining room, and though it isn’t a huge room, it’s where the cabinets with CD’s, model tanks and a few preciouses live, so they have all had to be emptied and packed away. Steaming off the wallpaper starts tomorrow, thankfully I’ll be at work!

The weather has been fairly abominable, Storms Eunice, Franklin were mega~windy and rainy, I did my night drive up the country whilst Franklin was doing it’s thing, and I think we were supposed to have a Gladys too and we might have but if so it got lost in the news about Putin invading Ukraine. It’s been a sunny couple of days this weekend though so there’s that. But yes, Ukraine. Scary times and it seems to be escalating god knows where. Nothing to do but wait and see, but it’s hard to think about anything else. So that’s how February ends.

Lord Vincent

Tales from Fraggle Towers

Now that the abominable 365 has ended over on the Universe blog, it’s time to re~open The Other Place and pop in with some thoughts and pictures.

January has been a fairly busy month, Phil had 2 weeks annual leave and has done house jobs in between playing his bass and starting a new big tank, not sure where he is going to put it when it’s finished.

Big Stug Little Stug

At the beginning of the month we bought a new mattress for our bed, it’s very high-tech compared to ye ol’ spring and bounce jobbies. Memory foam sort of stuff. We paid a bit extra to have our old one taken away when the new one was delivered, but that all went tits up and we ended up clambering over our old mattress for a week, no small feat as it is 6’6″ x 6′. After a couple of back and forths with the delivery company and a reply of not much use from the mattress company, Phil’s final email is a masterclass in getting things sorted out…

Allow me to explain the facts again. The mattress I purchased from you was scheduled by Route 1 to be delivered between 10.00 and 1300 on Saturday 15th of January. I had also paid for the option of having my old mattress collected. The driver turned up at 0900 which we were unprepared for (we were still abed 🙄!)but nevertheless we were able to take receipt of the mattress. However, the driver explained that as the truck was full of deliveries there was no room for the old mattress. It would seem the transport manager at Route 1 was more focused on profit and efficiency than sticking to the pre arranged agreement. Being sympathetic to the driver’s predicament, I agreed to his suggestion that as he would be travelling through my area upon his return from Scotland’ he would call back for the mattress and gave me his word he would return. He didn’t, not even a phone call to explain why. I am now left with a super king size mattress that I have to clamber over to enter the bedroom. Further to your above email that Route1 would come on Thursday, I have since received a generic delivery of goods email from them claiming the next delivery date is Saturday 22nd which I have declined, I have no wish to have another weekend ruined by their incompetence, and in the meantime have received no apology or explanation despite responding to their feedback page. I will attempt to contact them again but would appreciate you explaining my situation to them  directly.Thank you P A Hyslop.

They came on the Thursday 🤣.


Phil also decided it as time for a new kitchen tap (faucet USA folks!) as our old one was looking shoddy, so he purchased a new fangled jobby that has a hose and spray integral to the unit.. Our plumber couldn’t come for a couple of weeks so Phil decided he could save himself a few quid and do it himself. With me as his trusty labourer. Winnie was surprised!

Plumber Phil

So far we’ve had no leaks so a job well done and £60 saved on a proper plumber! Reee~zult!


I’m continuing to de-wax the ears of the nation, and last week our boss has gone and got herself a new puppy. Regular readers will remember her Billy, her lovely deaf spaniel who died a couple of Christmas’s ago. This time she’s gone for something called a Pomegranite or similar crossed with some other breed, I can’t remember which one. His name is Teddy.

Teddy on our office manager Lynn’s desk

He is very cute and funny, but he also chews things a lot and barks at clients, and his toiletting is a bit hit and miss as well. The Boss is going to Grand Canaria on holiday next week so the girl who works in the printers opposite our unit is taking him for the week, but as the printer also brings a dog to work, will leave him with Lynn and I during the day. That’s going to be fun. 😳


We’ve watched some movies and there are a couple I’ll recommend for anyone who likes true story spy movies.

First up is Mr.Jones.

In 1933, Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist who has gained some renown for his interview with Hitler. Thanks to his connections to Lloyd George the former British prime minister, he is able to get official permission to travel to the Soviet Union. Jones intends to try to interview Stalin and to find out more about the Soviet Union’s economic expansion and its apparently-successful 5 year development plan. Jones is restricted to Moscow but jumps his train and travels unofficially to Ukraine to discover evidence of the Holodomor (the devastating famine in Ukraine in which millions died) including empty villages, starving people, cannibalism and the enforced collection of grain. On his return to Britain, he struggles to get his story taken seriously.

The director is Agniezka Holland, and it stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard who are all top notch, as is the ciematography. Most excellent movie.

Then we did The Courier

Directed by Dominic Cooke and starring the ubiquitous Mr.Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan it recounts the activities of British businessman Greville Wynne in helping MI6 with the penetration of the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne couriered information from his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), which provided crucial intelligence about Soviet nuclear capabilities and the cuban missile crises. Again, superb acting and faultless cinematography, another Most Excellent.

Both of these are on Amazon Prime, Mr.Jones is free, you have to rent The Courier but it’s under a fiver and very well worth it.


Last weekend we had our pals Paul and Lorraine over for the first time since lockdown 1. We used to have each other over to dinner quite often before the plague so it was good to get together as if everything was normal. I cooked a chinese feast which went down well and everyone had too much to drink but we had a good time and will look forward to our next happeniing.

Paul and Lorraine

WInnie has been a constant source of amusement. Does anyone remember the Andrex Puppy?

Designed by Winnie.

I’s been quite cold of late and she has found a new way to warm up after she’s been out and prior to having a snooze.

Hot botty.

She hasn’t caught any birds of late (that we know about) however, I heard a cafuffle in the garden one day which sounded like an unhappy animal and when I went out to look, saw Winnie coming back across next doors fence and on our conservatory roof, and this..

She must have chased him but there’s no-way she can climb that high. At least I don’t think she can! He stayed there a good 1/2 hour and I kept her in until he turned round and scarpered.


Finally, we’ve had some cracking sunrises and sunsets this month, so I’ll say ta ta for now, and leave you with some spectaclier skies!