8 December 2013

Good morning to you all – I trust you are all in fine form. It’s been an “OK” week – fairly mild at the beginning but then, on Thursday, the north winds began to blow and the temperatures reverted to their normal range for early December – cold! (But still nowhere near what those of you in the frozen northeast get to enjoy – thank goodness for the Gulfstream).

I’ve been nursing a cold with an irritating cough and minor sore throat all week which has been somewhat annoying. Still, that didn’t stop Ms Playchute and me from enjoying an unexpected outing and performing some baby-sitting duties with our favourite granddaughter.

Last Sunday Nick and Lucy were planning to go to the Good Food show in Birmingham and we were to have entertained Annabelle for the day. However, on Sunday morning we noticed Nick’s post on Facebook describing how they had enjoyed the previous evening – Annabelle spent the night vomiting, first in her bed and then in theirs. Clearly, they should not have told her that Grandma and Grandpa would be looking after her for the day – that’s enough to make anyone puke! Not surprisingly, they weren’t feeling too hot and didn’t really feel up to going to the show – would we like to go in their place?

Naturally, we were disappointed to miss out on a day with our baby but the Good Food show was modest compensation so off we went. We called in at their place to collect the tickets to find Annabelle bouncing and jumping and singing and in general fine spirits; Nick and Lucy, in contrast, looked decidedly washed out so we grabbed the tickets and went.

We’ve been to the Good Food Show once before and it is good fun. The exhibition hall was stuffed with exhibitors (surprisingly) displaying all manner of the usual and unusual food and food-related products. Many of the stalls offer free samples so we grazed our way around the exhibition sampling loads of wonderful artisan products, lots of unusual and interesting cheese and mountains of chocolate.

It was clear that the number one “must have” kitchen utensil this year is a hand operated whisker – there must have been fifteen stands selling them. It’s principle purpose would seem to be to create frothy liquids – you put a small amount of milk or coffee or some other liquid in a jar and plunge the whisker up and down. Within seconds the jar is full of foamed milk, coffee or whatever. Great if you like foamy liquids, no doubt – we have a device which performs a similar function which we bought after our trip to Amsterdam with Mom and Dad all those years ago. I suspect we’ve used it three or four times in the intervening years. So, the whisker was pretty easy to resist, as were most of the other innovative gadgets. Still, we came home with several selections of excellent cheese, some Christmas ornaments and a few other little bits and pieces. All in all, good fun.

On Tuesday morning we had a phone call from Nick – he and Lucy had spent the previous night vomiting and were completely exhausted – would we be able to have Annabelle for the day while they had a bit of recuperation time? You will be surprised to hear that we leapt at the opportunity and so trundled our way across to their place to collect her. She was absolutely full of beans and we had a great day. We built railways, did puzzles, hid behind the curtains, pretended to be asleep, danced and sang, read books to the point of exhaustion (us, of course, not her). On a couple of occasions she stopped what she was doing and, with a very serious expression and demeanour, said, “I was sick in my cot last night.” Clearly a most memorable occasion. Then, she would bounce away to something new. Grandma and Grandpa had a great day.

Saturday night last week was the village Quiz Night and our annual appearance in support of two elderly friends in the village who always insist we join their team. What a mistake! Once upon a time Penny and I actually used to know some things and one year we actually came fourth; now, that’s just a distant memory and it’s been downhill ever since that high point. This year we came 17th (out of 21 teams). Pretty poor. It was a laugh and good fun, though. The woman doesn’t hear or see very well so she was at a bit of a loss when it came to hearing the questions or seeing the photos & images displayed on the screen. The male part of the couple is very much like me – I know I know the answer to that, I just can’t put my finger on it right this second. It will come to me at some point, generally a few moments after we’ve handed in our entry. Whatever points we managed to secure were largely down to Penny.

I suppose it’s Sod’s Law – just after you carry out some repairs on an item, it breaks for good! At least that’s my recent experience.

Mondaine Wrist WatchFor some years I have had a great wrist watch. It’s a Mondaine Swiss Railway watch and it has kept excellent time. And that’s more or less all it does. It’s simple, very clear and easy to read and exceedingly accurate. It’s not a stop watch or a timer or an alarm nor does it give you the tidal details for any location in the world for any day of the year for three thousand years to come. It gives you the time. I guess I’ve had it for five or six years and it has provided excellent service. I’ve had to replace the battery once in that time as well as the “leather” strap.

Last week the strap needed to be replaced again. So, I popped into town and had it done. Then, this week the battery needed replacing. So, I visited the jeweller again and asked them to replace the battery. As they began to do so they pointed out that the winder stem was a bit problematic. I knew this – changing the time was easy; changing the date at the beginning of each month was less so – it was difficult to get the winder to stop in exactly the correct position to enable the date to be changed. Still, with a bit of fiddling and fussing I could eventually get it set. In any event, the watch was such a good time-keeper that I didn’t really mind if the date was somewhat out of sync.

With these repairs carried out, I figured I was set for another couple of years. Not two days later I noticed that (a) for some reason the watch was running about an hour slow and (b) the winder had completely vanished! So, I now have a very nice watch with a new strap and battery which keeps excellent time (albeit an hour and eight minutes slow) but with no means of changing the date or time. Quelle merde!

I’ll have to decide what to do about replacing it but on Wednesday I went into town to find a cheap and cheerful substitute in the interim. You will be pleased to know that I found a wrist watch with a large white easy-to-read analogue face for the princely sum of £5.00 which, so far, is keeping excellent time. Let’s hope it keeps up the good work.

This week’s rant – the continuing saga of the hordes of Eastern Europeans who will be flooding into the UK after the first of the year. This time, though, instead of the government banging on about a problem which doesn’t exist, it’s the tabloid press making it up. The Daily Mail sent a journalist to a town in Romania who subsequently reported that half the population was intending to come to the UK, particularly since they would be provided with a home in London and that the children would receive a higher child allowance and free medical insurance.

Only one small problem – it was almost entirely made up.

I can’t believe they put words in my mouth. I didn’t say I would leave no matter what! On the contrary, if I could choose I would go to France, not the UK.

Honestly, you couldn’t make it up but, as we’ve seen, the government and the tabloid press certainly do. You can read the article from Private Eye exposing this work of fiction here.

Love to you all,

Greg