Friday, December 30

Christmas lights - competition winner!

For sheer talent and nerve to erect this Adrian is a deserved winner. The lights not only seem to defy gravity but also nearly defy being photographed as I walked straight into his car in the dark a few minutes ago when trying to get a full frontal view. Posted by Picasa

Christmas lights 1

All that was left in the shop was this set of odd dangle things. They had to be plugged in inside and the only place I could find where I could get the cable outside was through an upstairs window so there's a cable running up the roof and looking extremely bizarre. Eminently suitable! Posted by Picasa

Christmas lights 2

Not to be outdone by the Midnight Washer. Posted by Picasa

Four and twenty blackbirds

. . . on a tree in Graeme's garden (count them if you don't believe me). Now, as (a) that's where we're seeing out 2005 in some style and (b) every single one has since disappeared, it may be advisable to steer clear of the pie. Posted by Picasa

A pigeon in a cherry tree

Neither partridge nor pear tree around, but this'll do. Looks like it's looking for a nice clean car to dump on. Posted by Picasa

Woolly scarf

That's what was in the present, by the way. Thank you, whoever. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 29

Midnight washer

Snowed last night. As ever, there is an interesting selection of lights around the village and cars that apparently must be washed, even at midnight??!! Careful examination of the tread marks I left above will reveal that I have managed to resist the urge to fit winter tyres.

Friday, December 23

And still they come

Two more cards for the gnome. 'Mum and Dad' have now sent two and there are three of one sort and two of another so one person's buying them and sending them out to people to write and post. Have to say that the writing on one stands out remarkably. A wonderful hand, someone I'd definitely like to get to know, assuming that I don't already! Different class to the others altogether. Just found that Gordon the Gnome and friends have been on children's tv for a while this year. Anyone who knows the village would have to agree that all the characters are here! Take a look - not that it helps solve the riddle but it certainly made me smile.

Tuesday, December 20

Gnome's getting more cards than me!

Having been returned safely, kept clean, spoken to daily (despite little reponse) and his plants well-watered, I'd tended to assume that the saga was over. That the neighbours were having a good chuckle occasionally but, not having had much of a chance to do more than wave, shivver and dash in or out depending on the time of day, we hadn't had sufficient opportunity to discuss WHO DUNNIT.


In the last few days he's had more cards than I have. And a present! Just to confuse matters Ann from No 4 addressed her card to 'Gnome House' which for a fleeting moment lifted her from No 67 to No 1 in the Chief Suspect charts. She's still in the top ten but subsequent deliveries tend to favour someone else. The cards don't give much away, one's from Grace to Uncle Gordon and the other's from big Brother Graham. Postmarks Milton Keynes and Norwich. Present posted in Hemel Hempstead but using in an envelope originally from University of East Anglia School of Environmental Sciences. For a brief second my previous No 1 suspect appeared to be confirmed when I read Graham but, of course, his parents spelt his name Graeme so that sort of drops his position somewhat.

So it's back to the drawing board. The Hemel and MK links favour Adrian but, unless he's playing a wicked double bluff, the obvious card he admitted to sending and pretty damn convincing maintenance of the "It ain't me, gov, honest!" line do rather rule him out. But I reckon he and Sarah know who did and it's definitely a village thing as he would normally have asked a lot more questions and been more surprised at developments.

I have to bring in a new suspect now. That's Penny & Richard. Now Richard does have a certain gnome-like appearance on a bad day, albeit the hair and beard are the wrong colour. The pair have a good sense of humour and he's good at puzzles which would make him good at, and enjoy, setting something like this for me. If the present turned out to be one of Penny's Productions on the automatic sewing machine then they're banged to rights or I am bang on or whatever the expression is. Richard could well get Environmental Survey stuff in A4 brown envelopes too. He's into Health & Safety theory (not practice as in hourly tyre-checking, though,) in a Big Way.
He's also bound to have contacts in the other odd towns cards have come from and the Norwich one ties in with UEA.

After that, the chart features the lady at No 6, purely on the grounds that I could imagine her handwriting being as naturally bad as that on most cards and using some pretty grotty pens too. Against her being the one is that I simply can't imagine her bothering - although I did give her daughter a rabbit hutch and saved them a few pounds which they might have put to the cause and the children may have helped with the idea. She comes from Liverpool way too. Maybe I'll put her in at No 2. Graeme stays at 3 and Adrian at 5. The lady at No 4's 'Gnome House' has to be considered, after all.

Much as I'd like to open the gnome's present, I have this thing about not opening Christmas presents until Christmas Day so you, like me, will have to wait. Unless, of course, the mail continues to come in!

Friday, November 25

Was it Graeme?

The second picture above is the postcard that came with Gnome on his return. The first is a certain Mr Graeme Fuller, Chairman of the Astcote Village Paddock Committee and generally Good Sort. Now, it may just be me but there's a striking resemblance in the images . . .

Gnome's back!

Out of the blue - but very much in the pink (and yellow and red) - my gnome reappears this morning, laden with some nice flowers, blooming at -2 in a chilly November, and presents for the children! Amazing. Brilliant wheeze. Accompanying postcard reads: Have been spending some time with my brother in these lovely flowers, better than being stuck in a box by you're (sic) door. But I decided to come home. Hey ho back to the fir trees.

Still none the wiser but two new ideas have sprung to mind.

Hope to have The Answer soon! Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21

Just to confuse matters

Yes, that one was Adrian. But "The others ain't me, honest, gov!" that followed did seem very genuine.

Sunday, November 20

Gnome news 5

Curiouser and curiouser, to use another blog name (that's a pretty boring one, though, nothing like this stuff!). It's Sunday. Had to go down to MK early. Freezing cold. Minus 2. Get back about 4:30pm. Everyone seems to have washed their cars. That's odd in itself. Normally just one person washing one car every day - see earlier posts. Anyway, stuffed in the letter box was a yellow glove - that I took as a typical Adrian gesture and a sign that he'd washed his car for the first time in a million days and was jolly pleased with himself.

Inside, however, on the carpet was another postcard. Brand spanking new and shiny like the last one but this was unsullied by having to go through the postal system. No address. No signature. Just Meet the family! in what immediately struck me as Adrian's writing. Picture was a load of gnomes.

Just has to be Adrian. Simply can't think of anyone else. Delivered personally by someone who must have known I was out or, at least, not watching the door.

Now to think of a way to get my own back!!

Saturday, November 19

Gnome news 4

I'd just finished talking to Adrian again and trying to figure out who might be behind Gnome's adventures and along comes Posty with another! Now this time it's quite different in many ways. Posted 17 November but can't make out place. Picture of Civic Hall, Leeds. This one's dated for the first time too.

Reads: 16.11.05 Trying to get a Christmas job here in this beautiful city. G. Nome.

This one's beautifully written - quite different to others. Nice, clean new postcard too. Others were like ones that had been lying around a while.

This one had no ? after the postcode and back to No 3 address again.

Now, I'd only just mentioned handwriting to Adrian that morning so it wasn't his effort to put me off that scent. Doesn't look like his partner's writing either, although it does display distinct artistic talent. So, even more intriguing. Still reckon he's behind it, though. There's just no-one else who (a) knows my name (b) could guess that post code (c) known to use Gerald and Sebastian in the past and, most crucially, (d) could care enough to be bothered about amusing / intriguing me.

Still need that firm clincher, though.

Wednesday, November 16

Gnome news 3

Yet another postcard, after a slightly worrying delay. Posted in Cheshire 13 November. Reads This is my friend Sebastian seal, who saved me from drowning in the sea. Lovely weather. Hi ho, Hi ho! G Nome.

Picture of a seal in the water (Athena poster type by the look of it)

Now this one was sent to No 4 but details otherwise accurate and same ? postcode. Fortunately the old dear at No 4 passed it to me in good time.

Not a lot I can learn from this one. The 4 error may just be to throw me off the scent as I have been pretty strongly saying I reckon it's No 5.

Showed Adrian all three and he did seem very convincing in saying it wasn't him. But if it isn't then it's a tricky one. Someone at work says there's a Gnome Protection League or similar who start off with friendly cards which turn nasty. I don't go for that on this one. The reference to coming back for Christmas rules them out at present and any 'league' wouldn't know my name.

I'm well hooked. Congrats to whoever. Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, November 10

Gnome news 2

Another postcard! Weird Moebus band picture by Escher. Postmark Chester N Wales, which is amusing in itself. Text: Have had a few days in the woods* with the fairies!!! Will be back in time for - - - - (arrow to old Christmas stamp) G.Nome
*Have been bitten by these gaint (sic) ants. ouch.

Hmm. Interesting. Same address and ? postcode. Sent 8 November. Showed Sarah at No 5, partner of prime suspect. She immediately recognised the design but then she probably would so no obvious conclusion. She didn't think it was Adrian's writing. Seemed genuinely not to know.

Still reckon it's right up Adrian's street though.

Friday, November 4

Gnome news

Just as I'd thought Gnome had disappeared and was a bit sad about it, and beginning to plan some unpleasant revenge but short of evidence as to whom to exact the said unpleasantries upon, I get this postcard. Sad pic of Stoke Bruerne Canal Museum. Message: I have been asked to address "The" Gnome Convention" subject The Cruelty of Gnomes by Humans! See you soon. Gerald Nome.

Immediately banged off an e-mail to the most likely culprit (No 5) rejoicing at the fact that Gnome's (I'd never call anyone Gerald) OK and well done that was a good wheeze sort of stuff.

No 5 professed complete innocence - and credibly too. So who? Postcard was postmarked Leicestershire, 3 November. Pretty sure neither at No 5 had been away but I guess they could have send it to a friend there. Card was addressed to me, accurate address but postcode had a ? Now not many people would know my name and not many would guess that postcode. They'd either look it up and get it right or guess more wildly. One of the No 5's has a strong connection with Stoke Bruerne - brother runs the Children's Farm and she does art classes there. They'd know their postcode and so could have taken a guess at mine. The other No 5 has used the name Gerald on a joke business card too. So, No 5 still No. 1 suspect. Actually quite fun.

Wednesday, November 2

Last known whereabouts of Gnome

There once stood a Gnome here. Known for wandering off from time to time and appearing in other parts of the Hill estate - but never straying onto other people's property - and always showing a cheery face. OK, so he was outside all the time and it's getting pretty chilly at night, but that's normal for a gnome. What wasn't quite so normal was the tendency for him to be supplied with beer and fags by neighbours and I reckon he was pretty chuffed with the Hallowe'en mask Adrian gave him in late October. He rather reflected life here in many ways, and on 1 November when the occupants of No 5 were being seranaded by a wardrobe salesman, he got dressed up in a cardboard box to show that he knew about fitted wardrobes. That, however, was the last time I saw him. His box was there but no Gnome when I got home on 2 November. Now you might think that's odd enough. I mean, it's not as if he were one of those really expensive ones. And he was big, not the sort of thing you could easily stuff on the front seat and drive off with. So, if you see him around - about 3' tall, mostly red with a watering can and a plant pot holder, usual red hat and white whiskers, turned up nose etc - bring him back please. Quite fond of the fellow, and it was me that rescued him from being thrown out from the MK residence in the first place! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 18

My dad's 90

Just thought I'd mention it. And Mum's 89 in November. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 16

Another visitor comes and goes

This little fellow spent some time in the kitchen, managed to open a few packets of crisps but the cheese was in the fridge. Just as everything went quiet at about 11:30pm he'd start scampering around somewhere between one wall and another. For several days I had no idea how he got in or out but I finally met him late one night when, in need of a coffee at about 1am we both surprised the hell out of each other! He was happily gazing out from a gap between the washing machine and the work surface and looking a bit miffed at my not having replenished the right flavour of crisps or left any cheese in an accessibile position. Anyway, that was the last I saw of him until he popped up in the hedge, not exactly where you'd expect but, as I said or shall say depending on which order you read these things in, there are some strange things happening in the village these days. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 14

From 9DP to 9DN

Finally moved the family from one part of Great Holm in MK to another. Not as pointless as it seems as the new place has an annexe which I can use as a studio and if I sell the Astcote place then I'll have somewhere to go. It's also an option for Mum or Dad should it be needed. Finance looks dreadful but not much I can do about that. Just think of me if you need anything written, drawn, photographed or put on the web, eh? Oh, and I can do e-learning too.

New address is 12 Hatchlands, Great Holm, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK8 9DN and I'll send a change of address card eventually. Phone number the same: 01908 565610. You'll still find me in the village, though. For a while, at least.

Thursday, September 22

Strange goings-on at No 5 again

What appears to be some kind of time-travel or containment device arrived shortly after the comet. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 20

Comet sighted in the village!

They say that comets precde dramatic events and, as you'll see from the next entries, or, as everything seems to go back to front here, as you'll already have read above, that has certainly been the case here.

The debris from this comet landed next door at No.5, accompanied by much rumbling and wailing. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24

In The Paddock 2

The Saladeers and Erection Team laid the foundations for the second 'Party In The Paddock' - another brilliant evening, followed, of course, by possibly an even better one for the organisers at the 'Better Tidy Up The Field And Polish Off What's Left' event the next day.

I didn't get a chance to snap any pictures this time, other than a few earlier on, but I hope someone will contribute a few of theirs which I'll add here soon.

The book 'Minutes of The Paddock Committee Meetings' may also be serialised here when I have the nerve.

Saturday, August 6

Dunstable College gets a new web site

30 miles south of Astcote is a place called Dunstable. It's where the traffic grinds to a halt and is annoying close to Luton but its saving grace is that it has a friendly college called Dunstable College who have paid me every month for over 10 years now.

The nice young man I took on to help me do the new web site disappeared at the start of the summer break having created some interesting coding to transfer data for courses etc, and forms that would magically help visitors get information on-line etc. But before he'd actually finished it. I'd put most of the pages together but, whilst an enormous improvement on the old site, just as the house hell broke out (see below), I realised that I was in another tight spot having promised the Principal that people visiting the site during the crucial summer recruitment weeks would be able to see some decent pages and get useful information.

A colleague and I managed to fix most of the pages and are still trying to transfer data and we've just replaced the old one with our efforts. See them here. Just as we were about to celebrate I noticed that all the vertical scroll bars were missing! Neither of us are particularly good with html code (that was why we'd got the lad in) but we've learned more in the last few days than either of us had picked up in the previous x years! Fixed the scroll bars in Internet Explorer, at least, although they're still not there in Firefox which is the browser I like best. Hope our prospective students aren't all trendy Firefox users!!

We're still rapidly correcting mistakes but, basically, the whole thing comes from here in Astcote and there's no way I could have done it, house hell or not, without the facilities and ability to work non-stop in this little studio of mine. So thank you, little house.

Russell - I may need that Hymer!

Don't sell it yet! Your dad might need it!

It's still Summer Time, Katie . . .

Katie is the brilliant daughter, who interestingly signs off as my eldest daughter, living and working even further up North than my LSDA colleague. So this is for her in case I forget to phone, e-mail first. And for the rest of you too - but she gets to read it first, OK. I/we haven't moved. I'd tell you if we did, before we did. There was a sort of plan emerging and it was looking very much as though it was proceeding, although anyone reading between the lines would have appreciated that I wasn't entirely happy with the idea. However, the really annoying, awful and bad-mannered Egyptian man who had said that he was buying our house and would be moving all his stuff onto our drive if we didn't agree to complete a few days ago backed out of the deal at the last minute. He was going to try that trick of getting everybody in the chain committed to spending loads of money and then offering less in the hope that we'd have to accept the lower offer or lose money but I told him where to go as soon as I got wind of what he was up to.

This didn't make me particularly popular but there you go. So, having spent a week packing stuff up at the last minute and crawling into bed at some ridiculous hour exhausted, dusty and speaking to no-one except lawyers and agents, it's all off and the MK house is in boxes, beds dismantled, loft empty and everyone a bit down in the dumps.

Thank heavens for The Village, I say, but I have to say it quietly to myself . Anyway, yes, I'm looking for somewhere suitable to put everyone and possibly myself but no, I'm not moving and I will tell you when there's something definite.

The rest of you, including my eldest son who was last heard of in Brighton and owes me a birthday card and a finance company quite a bit on a Hymer camper van, will find out shortly afterwards. That's if I don't run out of money in the meantime which was another reason for moving.

Wednesday, July 20

It's Summer Time . . .

. . . and the livin's expensive. School's out so precious few trips to Dunstable for a while. Any day now I'll find out whether we've got a new house in MK. That'll mean selling this one sooner rather than later which is a great pity but it's probably the only way that I'll ever get my finances straight and have some sort of plan for looking after Mum & Dad.

First half of the year has flown by, with both LSDA and College throwing all sorts of jobs at me. The LSDA report got done, accelerated by my discovery that it was virtually impossible to conclude anything from the data I'd been provided with! All to do with how people respond to questions in a survey and in this case it seems that some thought the numbers 1-5 were in ascending order of something and others the reverse! The other task was to create a sort of self-assessment tool which people could use to figure out where they were in terms of meeting some e-learning standards and another one that would show where an institution stood in terms of its 'maturity' in adopting and utilising e-learning. Working with a colleague from the North we made a good stab at it once we'd figured out what we thought was required. Then the shape changed, and again and now it's turning into something likley to be linked to an e-learning professional development framework or qualification! We've almost given up. Whilst it could be really interesting, after the 63rd set of questions we drafted still seemed to miss the target we're both losing the will to live and so unless we can get paid to carry on we'll probably not get much further.

Interestingly, I went to a Centre for Excellence in Leadership training event a while ago and was presented with almost exactly the same tool to use as we'd developed earlier and which we'd been told needed refinement! Amazing. I now expect to see one of my earlier versions of the other one as a 'finished item' at another event in the future!

Tried to get a new web site together for the area I work in but without success. Once the Marketing Director left my College, however, I was able to get agreement that we needed a new site there and I'm presently working like mad to get that in a reasonable shape to launch in place of the awful thing we had before. A young lad who's good at all the code stuff is working for me and doing pretty well but it's going to be a close call as to getting it all there in time.

Here in the village there's going to be a repeat of the brilliant Party In The Paddock in August. That should be fun.

Sunday, January 16

That was then. This now. I think I shall enjoy 2005, provided I can get paid to drive to interesting places Posted by Hello

2005: January

Eventful start to the year, apart from the weather, which is notable by its absence. I mean, January is winter. And winter is, well, wintry - crisp, even, ***king wenceslas. Not this one. It's not really anything. Roads are dirty and always just a bit wet. The grass is permanently muddy. It's dark when I leave and dark when I get back. I actually wandered around picking up bits of rubbish the other day just to try and get some fresh air. The new car is brilliant and whilst not as fast as the Golf it's a lot more of an experience to sit and drive. Just need a decent registration plate for it now - watch this space!

The dealer lent me an X-type until this one was ready. OK but so much road noise and nothing like as refined as the S-type. It did have a Road Angel fitted, though, and that definitely saved my licence twice as I headed down roads around Watford and Little Gaddesden which used to be old hunting grounds. I was going to buy one but couldn't find one at any of the stores my insurance claim vouchers were valid for. What I did get was a TomTom Go navigation device. Works straight out of the box and is reassuringly simple to operate. I even found a database of speed . . . sorry, safety cameras and managed to install them on it but I've yet to test that bit. Looks good on the dash too.

Now I need a new phone. Current Nokia 7260 was one of the first decent camera phones but the batteries had its day and I'm lucky if it lasts long enough to take a call. The range at the o2 store surprised me in that what had looked really nice on web sites really weren't that smart in the flesh. Sony-Ericsson's P910i smartphone is very chunky and thicker than my old one. Decided to hang on and see what comes along. Impressed by the look of the Nokia 6170. Doesn't have so many toys but I might just go for it if it feels as good as it looks. Great reviews too.

Russell dropped in a couple of times and is still hauling the Hymer around but has a job earning money to pay off a few debts which is going to make life a bit easier. Great hat.

I need some clothes but too many people swarming around at New Year so may just blast a credit card one week day if the weather's decent enough to encourage me to get out of the car and walk.

The insurance company covering my personal belongings have been excellent and camera's been replaced and USB drive. I think I can do without a laptop - hence the spending on other toys, which might include an XD card reader. Miss the ratchet screwdriver. That'll probably be the most difficult thing to replace.

I can see me moving this year. Got to do something about Mum and Dad and may need the profit from this place to clear my own debts. Tricky decisions coming up.

Work's fine. Lot of stuff to do to make something called a Visual Learning Environment effective. Increased profile as I guess I'll have to train everyone. Need help but not sure if I'll get the person I want. We'll see. Pretty awful software and still waiting to see if it can be made to do something quicker and better than my fairly basic web design skills. Having recommended the stuff I simply have to make it justify itself somehow! LSDA could get busy now too with a report on a national review to do and a new survey to design and launch before long. I'm really going to have to manage my time well to get through all this and have decided to stay here Mondays and Fridays (or as many as I can) and just do the Dunstable run mid-weeek. I worked out that this will save me over £60 a month in petrol - even at 25mpg if I keep the Jaguar's sports button on - so that's got to make sense.

MK needs considerable straightening out - that'll be the main domestic project. Kirri deserves broadband and I'll have to figure out some way for Bryony to get linked up too to be fair. Then I can dispense with the second line and look at the best deals for the normal service. The garage is completely full of toys and goodness knows what that looks too good to chuck out. I feel a big boot sale coming on when the sun shines. The loft is also a disaster area but at least I don't see it very often. What I need is one big place to fit everyone but can't see that working either. I may convert the garage and/or loft if no better idea comes up or no-one comes along to rescue me. Not terribly enthusiastic about that so potential alternatives had better turn up quick.

Health's good apart from tobacco. I really ought to quit and may just figure out a way to do so this year but no promises. Eating's gone to pot recently but I reckon I'll revive once some sort of routine gets underway.

Apple's new Mac mini is a very tempting device although I can hardly justify getting one. The new Home Computing Initiative deal I fought to put together for colleges should come in by Easter and might just include that in its range. That would be a more sensible move. My prediction is that it will be a major influence on IT in the future as it grabs more of the pc market and if coupled with Open Office . . . well, you read it here first.

So, here's to 2005. I'll review this in 2006 and see how wide of the mark I've been!

Monday, January 3

Feeling much revived now after considerable quantities of alcohol, food and bad language. Now, let's see what 2005 brings. Posted by Hello

Christmas came eventually, sometime after a hectic trip to London and a bizarre couple of days in Birmingham. Having spent longer finding places there I have decided to buy a satellite navigation system - once I get a car to put it in! Posted by Hello

Stolen 14 December 2004. Posted by Hello