7 April 2013

Good morning to you all on another fine spring morning in our neighbourhood. By “fine” I mean exceedingly cold for early April, of course.

Ms Playchute and I enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday last week – Annabelle brought Nick and Lucy for Sunday lunch to which, unusually, I actually made a constructive contribution. I followed a very simple recipe to the letter and the result was a very nice chocolate cake, if I do say so myself.

Penelope did everything else and, as usual, the feast was well beyond epic proportions – I think the left-overs lasted until Wednesday. Nick and Lucy had also arrived clutching two very, very large chocolate Easter eggs, one for Penelope and one for me, each of which was the size of a small continent. At the time I thought that we would never manage to get through them; by Friday the first one was gone and, although we’ve not yet commenced consuming the second, once we start I am guessing it won’t take us long.

I had an interesting experience on Tuesday this past week – I trotted off to Northampton to take my “Life in the UK” test, the first step along a potential path towards UK citizenship.

You may remember some years ago I “complained” about having to queue for an hour and a half on our return to the UK from somewhere “foreign”. Generally, there are three queues at UK immigration – one for British subjects and citizens of the Commonwealth, another for European Union passport holders and a third for all the dregs. Those in the first two queues cheerily flash their passports at the immigration officer who happily waves them through. Those of us in the third queue, which is generally the longest and has one desk which is staffed by the reincarnation of Attila the Hun, have to be individually interrogated about the purpose of our visit to the UK while our documentation is forensically examined. Even though my passport has the VIPP stamp (Very Important Person Possibly or, to be more accurate, Visa in Previous Passport) I still have to wait in the “dregs” queue. When I do finally get to the front of the queue I am waved through quite briskly although sometimes they do try to catch me out by asking tricky questions like, “Where have you been?” and “How long have you been away from the UK?”

So, fed up with being associated with the dregs of society and the resultant lengthy queues, I decided to investigate the possibility of becoming a citizen, the “Life in the UK” test being the first step. I’ve written about this before but the first version of the test was simply ridiculous and no UK citizen with whom I am familiar could actually pass it, that being the object, I imagine. It depended entirely on memorising the contents of a couple of books and regurgitating a quantity of bizarrely useless information in response to a multiple-choice test, e.g., “The number of children and young people up to the age of 19 in the UK is . . . (a) 13 million, (b) 14 million, (c) 15 million or (d) 16 million.” Since learning all this nonsense seemed like quite a bit of work, I never bothered.

Then, a week or so ago I was browsing the Guardian web site and learned that the test had been revised and now contained a much more reasonable quantity of useless information to be regurgitated, the sort of information that most school children should know but most don’t. So, without engaging in any “work” I booked myself into a test centre and went off on Tuesday afternoon where I sat and, you will be delighted to know, passed the test. Just for fun, see how well you do with this series of practice questions – I think you need 75% to pass.

Michael & Emma
Michael, Jacob, Riley & Emma

We had a lovely morning and early afternoon yesterday attending the nuptials of Penny’s nephew Michael to his partner and the mother of his two boys, Emma. You will remember that Michael came to live with us for three or four years from Australia and did a motor mechanic apprenticeship – he’s been with Hartwell Ford in Banbury for nearly ten years now! They had a nice wedding ceremony at the Bodicote Registry Office and held a small but very pleasant reception at their home in Banbury. There was even a bit of intermittent sunshine!

I ran across an article in the Guardian a week or so ago on surviving prostate cancer written by a prostate surgeon complete with a photograph of a da Vinci robot, one of which was used to remove my prostate. I found it interesting, I suppose, because, of course, I never actually saw the one they employed on me.

I don’t remember who sent me the link to the following (so, my apologies if it was you) but I thought it was very good. The title of the video is “Forward”.


and, if you’d like to see it the right/wrong way round . . .


Much love to you all,