Greg's Occasional News & Views

17 January 2010

More snow this week – just about everyone reckons that we’ve probably had enough now so if it could please be switched off that would be great. Do those of you who live in the great frozen Northeast know who we need to contact about that?

[To be fair, it started raining yesterday and this morning we are almost snowless again, so “thank you” to whomever arranged that].

After much clamour and demand, Ms Playchute was compelled to re-open Penelope’s Poultry Pantry in the back garden which has been a great success. Now that she’s open for service again, as last year the neighbourhood birds queue in the treetops waiting for the tables to be cleared and the new menu to be delivered before ascending to dine at their convenience. There is an interesting pecking order when it comes to who is served first – the smaller birds have to flit around in the undergrowth avoiding the bigger brutes and bullies and from there it’s mainly (although not exclusively) dependant on size, not surprisingly, as to who gets to eat first. The wood pigeons come when they like, coming down from the tree tops like large cargo aircraft, scattering all the smaller aircraft in their wake. The Jackdaws similarly are large enough to ensure that they can have their way more or less whenever they want followed by the blackbirds. However, the magpies seem to have no fear of almost anyone, even though they are not as large as either the pigeons or the jackdaws. The only ones the magpies seem to take orders from is the Fieldfare Thrush which is a winter visitor to these shores and which certainly, so far at least, seems to be the little kid on the block with an attitude who’s not going to take any crap from anyone.

Penny's Diner
Waiting for breakfast
The morning rush
A wood pigeon hogging the buffet
A pigeon and jackdaw dining adjacent to one another
A fieldfare thrush who owns the neighbourhood

Penny's Diner

Waiting for breakfast

The morning rush

A wood pigeon hogging the buffet

A pigeon and jackdaw dining adjacent to one another

A fieldfare thrush who owns the neighbourhood

We had a tolerably enjoyable evening out on Tuesday courtesy of Sky TV, our satellite provider. Every so often they organise free cinema presentations for which one can apply for tickets. So, sometime before Christmas when the latest offering came round I applied for and received two free tickets to see a screening of The Boys are Back with Clive Owen.

It’s been a while since we visited the local cinema – we seem to get most of our film input from flying on airplanes or on the various movie channels on our satellite package. One of the things I had forgotten was the sheer size and price of the popcorn one feels compelled to purchase. Ms Playchute and I ordered one SMALL popcorn between us which not only cost £4 but was of sufficient proportions to feed a modest African community for a week.

The film was good and certainly worth seeing, I guess, but perhaps not worth paying cinema prices to see – wait until it comes out on DVD or, even better, on the television. It is very beautifully filmed and is a funny yet moving story; Clive Owen’s performance is excellent. Still, not likely to win too many awards, I shouldn’t imagine. From the Internet Movie Database:

Inspired by a true story, THE BOYS ARE BACK is a deeply moving, wryly confessional tale of fatherhood, that intimately evokes both the fragility and wonders of family life. It follows a witty, wisecracking, action-oriented sportswriter, Clive Owen who, in the wake of his wife’s tragic death, finds himself in a sudden, stultifying state of single parenthood. With turbulent emotions swirling just below the surface, Joe Warr throws himself into the only child-rearing philosophy he thinks has a shot at bringing joy back into their lives: “just says yes.” Raising two boys – a curious six year-old and a rebel teen from a previous marriage — in a household devoid of feminine influence, and with an unabashed lack of rules, life becomes exuberant, instinctual, reckless . . . and on the constant verge of disaster. United by unspoken love, conflicted by fierce feelings and in search of a road forward, the three multi-generational boys of the Warr household, father and sons alike, must each find their own way, however tenuous, to grow up. Their story is not just about the transforming power of a family crisis — but the unavoidable grace of everyday life and love that gets them through.

Yep – that pretty much sums it up.

Afterwards we went to a restaurant recommended by a friend of Penny’s from the gym which was interesting. This is an “eat as much as you can” kind of place which was a surprising recommendation from someone who jumps up and down with Penny on a regular basis. But, she said it was good so along we went.

Our initial scepticism was probably well-founded but, on the plus side, it was moderately cheap, there was a very large selection of styles of food one could ingest – Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Indian, and so on. And, the food was edible if neither outstanding nor sufficiently hot in some instances. However, the evening was more than sufficiently diverting because of the opportunities for people watching that such institutions provide.

As you can imagine, I am distinctly out of practice in the “eat as much as you can” sweepstakes and although I felt I got my money’s worth I certainly didn’t cause the management to quake in their boots at our arrival. Unlike some of our fellow diners. While we were awaiting the arrival of our drinks, we watched one gentleman in particular who was clearly an accomplished regular. To begin with, he was the size of an armoured personnel carrier and had, through years of experience, no doubt, perfected the art of grazing whilst gathering his sustenance. To be fair, during our visit we only saw him browse the buffets three times, each time eating as much as he put on his plate as he wandered around, finally returning to his seat having selected an assortment of provisions which again would feed that small African community for several months. And they say Britain is beginning to develop an American-style obesity problem?

And finally, even the ski resorts are complaining about too much snow!

Too much snow closes ski centre
The CairnGorm Mountain ski centre in the Highlands will be closed for the day – because of too much snow.

After a two-day blizzard, the operators have had to bring in huge caterpillar vehicles and snow blowers to try to clear the approach road and the slopes.

Colin Matthew, operations manager at the centre near Aviemore, said roads were blocked by 15ft snow drifts.

He said parts of the funicular railway track up the mountain and the ski-tows had been covered by snow.

Mr Matthew said: “It has blocked our access roads with about 15ft of snow and further up the mountain the drifting has buried our funicular railway track in about 10 places, and the tunnel mouth, and some of our ski-tow towers are just sticking out of the snow.”

Clear the roads
He said a major clearing operation needed to take place before it could be opened to the public.

“We had to contract in huge 17-tonne caterpillar earth-movers,” Mr Matthew added.

“They have spent two days now working about 18 hours a day trying to clear the roads.

“We have got a single-track road up to our car park and we have to get snow-blowers in to widen the roads and make it two-way traffic before we get the public up.”

The CairnGorm Mountain has been enjoying a bumper winter. It has had its best Christmas holiday season in 14 years, with more than 8,000 skiers and snowboarders using its runs over a four-day period following Christmas Day.

I guess they will be complaining if it all melts in the next day or so. You just can’t win!

Love to you all,

Greg

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