“I may be many things but a fictional bear isn’t one of them”: Discuss

Marmalade? On a baguette? And an untoasted one at that? Surely not. And indeed, I had no intention of spreading marmalade on it. Then why the surprised look and question from my wife? Because, as it turned out, I'd mistakenly picked up the marmalade jar from the fridge thinking it was jam, and brought it all the way to the table without realising my error. Crikey.

Fooled by the logo

I was fooled by the label. A glance at that “Hartley's” logo confirmed to me that it was the blackberry jelly I craved. (For the sake of completeness I should add that I also collected the cheese spread with which to adorn half of the baguette, having failed to make a choice between sweet or savoury. Having said that, I'll admit that although that fact makes the story more complete, it doesn't make it any more entertaining, challenging or enlightening. At least, I don't think it does. Perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised. But, if not, can I apologise now? Thanks.)

So there I am, at the table, having had my faux pas pointed out. “No,” says I, “I don't want marmalade. I may be many things, but a fictional bear isn't one of them.”

A fictional bear, such as I am not

This was, of course, a Paddington reference. The bear, that is, created by Michael Bond in 1958 (as distinct from the train station, designed by Brunel in 1854). If, at this point, you're gazing at the screen with a somewhat bemused expression and haven't the slightest idea what I'm talking about, let me explain. Paddington's favourite snack is a marmalade sandwich. Hence the reference. But then you probably knew that.

To confirm, then, I am not, repeat not, a fictional bear. Kinda obvious in the cold light of day, I suppose. I promise you it was extremely witty and mildly amusing at the time. You had to be there.

Marmalade anyone?



Reblog: The problems are being fixed, please wait…

On this Good Friday it’s good to remember that the Son of God came to rescue us and make it possible for us to be right with God. He also wants to make us like He is – which takes time. Read this post for more…

Forever Autumn


Wow, 921 problems corrected, immediately – with the click of a finger, in the blink of an eye. This morning, after clicking the notice given by my anti-virus for maintenance, my computer screen began speaking to me. I thought about how I wish I could fix my 921 (at least) problems by clicking a button; I wish human maintenance and mental and emotional health was that simple; I want to hit a button and have my mind defragmented!

However, when the day went on and the defrag continued into the afternoon and the evening, this is what hit me:


While the 921 problems were rectified almost instantly at my click, this defragging biz takes time and is a longer process (especially when there is “severe fragmentation”). A sermon was forming…

Please wait…

Isaiah 30:18:

So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you…

View original post 486 more words

This is how much Jesus loves you…

“To be a man was something, to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer such unparalleled agony—to endure a death of shame and desertion by his Father, this is a depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. Herein is love! and truly it is love that “passeth knowledge.” O let this love fill our hearts with adoring gratitude, and lead us to practical manifestations of its power.”

Charles Spurgeon

Have a wonderful Easter.

Dr Who weeping angel spotted in Lancashire garden

Whenever I visit my parents I look for photo opportunities around their garden or in the area. This time I think I may have spotted something slightly alarming.

They have an innocent-looking stone statue with a bird bath underneath. Not to everyone’s taste, sure, but innocent nonetheless. Or so I thought.

Taking my trusty Canon Ixus 800 IS I activated macro (it being the only way to throw the background out of focus) and shot this:

Don’t blink! Don’t look away!

Notice, if you will, the cute, panpipe-playing cherub. Now look again. See? He’s looking at you. Again. This time he’s closer, somehow malevolent… Don’t blink!

Or maybe it’s just a garden ornament. Isn’t it?

Photo Post: Beach walk


Goring Beach photo

Taken on Goring Beach, Sussex on a January day in 2008. We'd gone to visit an old uni friend, who isn't in the picture. Her two children aren't in it either. Nor am I. I have no idea who is, in fact, in it. Whoever they are, I'm grateful for their presence just on that perfect one-third spot in my photo. (To be honest, they only ended up there after some judicious cropping.)

I shot it in monochrome mode. Purists will tell me I shouldn't do that, but always shoot in colour and convert afterwards. What can I say? Those Mode Settings on my little Canon are just too tempting. And, personally, I love the result.

Watch out for me next time you're on the beach. I'll be the one fiddling with camera settings.


Automatic wipers – Just not clever enough for fog or light rain

ONE of the few irritations about my Ford Focus C-Max is that the “intelligent” automatic windscreen wipers just aren’t quite smart enough. Much of the time they’re great, magically varying the frequency and – in very heavy rain – speed of wiping pretty deftly, thereby saving me the trouble of manual adjustment. Quite frankly, I just don’t know how I managed without them. (That, should it not be obvious, was sarcasm intended for humorous impact. And now by explaining it I’ve clearly ruined the humour. Thank you very much.)

Nice car, shame about the not-quite-perfect auto-wipe

The auto-wiper inadequacy phenomenon arises under conditions of light rain, fog or snow. There’s a control on the auto-wipe setting that varies the sensitivity, i.e. more or less wiping for a given amount of moisture detected by the external sensor (for such I’m assuming there must be, unless there’s a tiny person living under the bonnet who peeks out of the radiator grille, decides how heavy it’s raining and adjusts the wipers by turning a dial). Sometimes when you’re lacking sufficient wipeage, you wind the sensitivity control up a notch or two and it behaves as required. Other times, however, you reach the maximum and still you are wipeless, forcing you ultimately to either knock the wiper switch all the way down for a single manual wipe, or to peer myopically through your increasingly runny and obscure windscreen until you can no longer see, thus causing you to have a nasty accident and lose your license, your no-claims bonus and your driver’s self-esteem in one dreadful and tragic swoop.

On balance, therefore, I tend to resort to the single manual wipe, repeated as required, thereby negating the energy / time / hassle-saving afforded by the auto-wipers under more favourable conditions. (Well, probably not, but it sounds good.)

What to do?

Wipe, darn you, wipe!

In the old days, wipers were on or off. Then they added a higher-speed constant wipe. Then they added a manual single wipe (or flick wipe). Then someone thought of intermittent wipe. Hooray! Then, in some cars, although never in one owned by me, someone thought of variable speed intermittent wipe, controlled by a wheel on the stalk similar to the sensitivity control on my auto-wipers. This was useful. I know, because I tried them on one of the big old Rover 800’s.

Clearly, then, for the ultimate set of wiper controls, what one needs is to supplement Variable Sensitivity Auto-Wipe with good old-fashioned Variable Speed Intermittent Wipe. Result: windscreen wiper heaven. I could have:

  • Single manual wipe
  • Normal speed continuous wipe
  • High speed continuous wipe
  • Variable sensitivity auto-wipe
  • Variable speed intermittent wipe

Ford, please take note. Or maybe some vehicle manufacturer has already done this. If you have knowledge of this vital motoring technology being available, please let me know.

Need to rest now; feeling a bit wiped out.

The art of finding trusted tradespeople

trusted-tradersHOME improvements are like buses in our house; none for ages and then three at once. The last major job was an extension in 2004. Now all of a sudden we’re looking at a new central heating system, solar panels and a possible kitchen alteration. All to be done within the next two weeks. Kidding.

Why central heating? Well, we currently have a warm air heating system dating back to the ’70s. We’ve long known it to be on borrowed time and until recently were prepared to replace it with its modern equivalent if necessary. But then, with a newly-empty nest, we’ve taken time to muse on the future and speculated on crazy scenarios like renting the house out or selling it. In either case, a traditional radiator system will be expected. Plus, crazy scenarios aside, we’ve realised that while we’ve lived fairly happily with this system for over 25 years, it is, in fact, inefficient and expensive to run. The only reason we’ve not spent a fortune on fuel is because we’ve tended to keep the house colder than many people. And now that we’re on the wrong side of fifty, and with the weather recently seeming persistently, bitingly cold, the light has dawned: A new system might make the house warmer and cost less to run 🙂

And solar panels? It’s another case of just having gotten around to looking into it. We have a south-facing roof. And, with government subsidies on an irrevocable downward spiral, if you’re gonna do it, do it now. Admittedly we think other people’s solar panels are danged ugly compared to roof tiles but they probably thought that about roof tiles in the days when everyone’s roof was thatched. With current levels of subsidy we should get payback in about seven years, as well as doing our bit for the environment.

As for the kitchen, it’s small. You go out the back kitchen door, across a passageway and into what we’ve always called the laundry but these days would be called a utility room. The laundry was tacked onto the house and built in single brick. So, like others in the same design of house, we’re looking at a knock-through-insulate-and-make-a-bigger-kitchen project. (I thought of calling it the KTIAMABK project but concluded it didn’t quite scan.)

thermostatic_valveSo, with three buses projects to think about, we did the modern thing and went to the Web – to Rated People, specifically. Got to be better than picking names at random out of Yellow Pages. We had quotes from two well-rated companies for the central heating. The first company seemed quite reassuring. The guy from the second one rather tripped himself up by making spurious remarks about having to change the gas pipe. My wife, a qualified plumber, asked him a question that caused him to quickly change the subject. The first guy made a show of measuring all the rooms and entering the total volume into an online calculator; the second guy took no measurements at all.

There’s a great verse in the book of Proverbs in the Bible that says:

“The first speech in a court case is always convincing—
until the cross-examination starts!”

It seems to apply to sales people too. On discussing with her fellow plumbers, my wife found out that both companies had quoted an over-sized boiler. What’s more, the elaborate measurement and online calculation routine was inappropriate for a combi boiler. Oh dear.

The first company also happened to be in the solar panels business and later in the week he returned to quote for that. After some consideration we signed up. But then further research began to show inconsistencies in the technical info we’d been given. On being questioned, the company just shifted their ground. What’s more, they’d talked about how busy they were with these installations – but then wanted to install ours exactly a week after we signed the contract! Having prayed for guidance, we got uncomfortable and decided to cancel. So no solar panels yet. (And, as yet, no return of the deposit…)

So now we need a third quote for our heating system and we’re looking for new would-be suppliers of solar panels. It seems you can take very little said by these folks at face value, and have to assume that someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes – no matter how good the reviews on some web site. Check everything. Get a second opinion. And a third. Don’t rush in to a decision.

Finding the right people for the job – people you believe to be honest and who will act with integrity – is apparently more of an art than a science.