Tuesday, December 29

How many times did we say that?

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Monday, December 28

Pretty silly time to sell a car, really

but even after a week or so sitting at -5ºC it simply starts and gets on with whatever it's supposed to do. Must advertise it somewhere I suppose. Not much passing traffic in the paddock in December. Oh, it's only £1350 by the way. That's less than most people lose on their insurance renewal premium because they skidded and needed a new bumper on newer cars.

Yes, that's the idea: put your 59 plate in the garage and have fun running around in my 323iSE until the weather improves!

Or I could try another economic tack: either by loss of interest on your capital or loan instalments my car will pay for itself in 4 months!

And if that doesn't do it: in one year your car will be worth at least 20% less than it is now. That's more than £1350? Buy my car and you can give it away this time next year!

Hmm, better cater for the lads too: 143mph, 0-60 in 8.8seconds, 40mpg, £300 insurance unless you're under 14¾ years old. If your name is Riggaro it's also got your number plate!
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Sunday, December 6

The Age of Richard

An Extraordinary General Meeting of the Paddock Party (Planetary Pandemonium Sub-group) Committee was held today, indeed is still going on, to mark the achievement of Richard, the astronomer, in completing sixty years on Planet Earth.

Held at a Thai Restaurant some considerable distance north of the village but still on the right side of the A5 (for reasons not totally clear but possibly associated with the good food there and pretty waitresses) the sexuagenarian (not a word you encounter often these days and quite difficult to pronounce without causing offence) was supplied with vast quantities of Thai beer, gifts and cards.

The proceedings commenced with the presentation of a large cake resembling the rings of Uranus (again, careful if reading this aloud) and featuring Earth and a spaceship. Uranus appears to have a couple of inhabitants, at least, 6 and 0 being mounted at its uppermost pole.

The Chairman spoke warmly and loudly in praise of Richard's achievements and was going to direct the singing of Happy Birthday but decided to leave that until a little later when whistles might be wetter and the higher notes less painful. He did, however, remind those present that Paddock Party 7 will be on 7 August 2010 and we need to start thinking about tents.
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Saturday, December 5

Return of S1X

I was going to argue with DVLA but decided that I'd probably lose and had to find a new car pretty quickly. Amazed by the low prices of the sort of cars I like. I guess everyone's buying new ones or going electric or something.

Although severely tempted by a Cadillac Seville STS I found with the registration just three after one that I had, I reminded myself why I had found an S Type Jaguar 4 litre so much nicer. Then I found one of those and so very nearly bought that but the one I had owned was nearly new and guaranteed. Reports of huge bills in later years, coupled with my lack of spare resources these days, finally help my head win the heart v head battle that raged for a week or so. This nice, one owner BMW appeared and is really a fatter version of what I had before with a beautiful interior and some extras like a sunroof. Because it has a scratch that BMW had quoted a huge sum to repair the owner was happy to take a price I could manage and I think I can get someone to fix that one day for a much more reasonable sum.

So I've filled out all the forms and posted them off and, with fingers firmly crossed, the tax disc will soon match the plates. Well, nearly, as I shall replace them with the S1X AH spacing as soon as I can find someone who can make them for me. Even that requires a bundle of paperwork these days but I reckon there'll be a service on the internet somewhere I can use if the local shop won't do it.

Now all I have to do is find a buyer for the old one. Fully serviced, new MOT and genuine reason for sale!!
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Friday, November 27

S1X AH five years on

Almost five years ago my car was stolen and I have trying ever since to get the registration S1X AH back.

Last week I trundled down to the local DVLA office, having finally gathered the various documents they needed, and paid some money to the helpful guy behand the screen to keep it on retention until I get a car I can put in on. It had been one of those jobs on my to-do list that had been transferred from diary to diary since 2004, always needing something from someone like insurance companies, finance companies and DVLA themselves but finally all was in place.

Then, today I get a letter saying that they're terribly sorry but I can't put the number on retention - I have to transfer it to a vehicle! They'll retain my money until then and waive some fee as they advised me incorrectly but that doesn't help much. My present car is about 2 months too old to take that registration so I've got to sell that and buy something else. This old BMW's been great and even with 140,000 miles on the clock seems to leave most other stuff standing on my travels (apart from Dunstable where we're all more or less stationary anyway!) and does nearly 40mpg even with my driving. It's not worth much and selling can take ages unless I find someone prepared to do a part exchange. Trouble is, garages add on a good £500 - £1000 which almost doubles the price of a cheap car and I'll probably get an effectively miniscule amount for mine. I may finish up having to park it in the paddock and having two cars until someone comes along with a reasonable offer.

I cannot see any logic in DVLA's insistence that the plate has to go on a vehicle. No chance of changing them though as there's bound to be rules and regulations so . . . if anyone wants a really good BMW 323iSE for a very modest price, let me know. I wonder how long DVLA will give me to find something else? Hmmm. Watch this space.

Russell's adventures

Russell's been having some adventures recently. It all started when his camper van overheated at the start of a tour with Jeremy Warmsley, fortunately on their way from Oxford to Derby which sort of brought them in the direction of the village. Having paid a fortune to have something similar attended to by a garage in Fort William he wasn't too keen to have to pay again when the village garage confirmed that it was an expensive head gasket problem. So, desperate to make Derby before the audience started throwing tomatoes or beer cans at the warm-up act doing a fourth unrequested encore, a very rapid dash to pick up a hire car in Northampton was needed. Achieved that with seconds to spare and licence intact and they went on their way.

Being the brilliant journey planners that they were, Bristol followed Derby then Manchester and Harrogate then Plymouth and Norwich before Aberdeen and probably several more figures of eight on the GB Atlas before returning the car 3000 miles later.

Tour done, Russell now needed some transport. There had been a Nissan estate sitting in the paddock for best part of the year which the Chairman's son, Pete was going to get round to getting back on the road one day. He agreed to letting Russell have it and we had some fun getting it started and out of the mud, including a great drive along a track I didn't even realise existed across the field to get it used to moving and stopping again. Dropped it off at the village garage and it actually cost less to get through an MOT than my own car!

Russell had some extraordinarily generous breakdown insurance that would get him transported home in the event of the camper van breakdown. So, after transferring most of the stuff from van to car he set off for Fort William in the van. I think he made it a few miles up the A5 and from there got a piggy back on various breakdown trucks for the other 600 miles. Long, long bus ride back to the village and all that was needed was some tax for the car. Now, that should have been pretty straightforward - you can do that on-line these days and he was doing it on behalf of Pete so no complicated owner changes. All he needed was a registration document reference number. Pete said he'd dig the papers out and let him have that at the weekend.

Russell stayed with me and we waited breathlessly for the magic number. He'd arranged a quite complicated series of visits to people before setting off to chase some girl in Holland and timing was quite important. Pete's normally reliable but on this occasion had had a pretty intense Friday night drinking session and, according to his partner, had stayed the night somewhere else and set off for a shooting event early morning. Things like DVLA reference numbers, understandably, had slipped his mind. Now, normally a quick call would have enabled his dad to rummage around his house for the missing item and pass it to us. No phone signal wherever he was. There was no way to contact Pete. We'd have to wait until he got back home that evening. As it happened, Matti had a birthday party going on in MK so Russell made a star guest appearance which made the 8-year-old's day and probably made the delay worthwhile after all.

Got back to the village and, at last, the magic number, clutched by an embarrassed Pete, arrived. Russell dived on to the DVLA web site and bashed away at keys and all was looking good. Although he hadn't actually got the disc, he had paid for it and thought it wouldn't be too disastrous to set off on his travels and I'd post the disc on when it arrived.

That would have been fine. I not waved fond farewell, did the manly hug thing and then found he'd left a razor and a much beloved skateboard behind. Posting a skateboard would have cost as much as the petrol to wherever might have been a suitable meeting point so another hello goodbye session followed yesterday when the tax disc arrived and finally the lad is off, legal, well-fed and watered. Next stop Holland and, hopefully some teaching work there and a bit of luck with the girl.

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Room at the top

I quite like Cornetto ice cream things and get through a packet in a week, usually but not always, assisted by Matti. This week I bought what I thought were the same things at the local supermarket. The box size is identical, as is the size of the wrapping round the ice. However, whereas the Walls brand has a top that just sits on the nuts the Tesco brand has a gap of almost an inch. That's a lot of missing dessert!

The chocolate tastes cheap, the nuts are bland, the ice cream's soapy and the cone tastes of cardboard. That makes five good reasons to stick to Walls next time.
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Thursday, November 19

Seven foot Pudsey

It seemed a simple idea at the time: print a gigantic picture of the Children In Need Pudsey bear, divide it up into lots of sheets and get people to make the black lines by writing their names in the right places in return for a donation. We'd got to file number pudsey6 by the time we had an image that worked because it had to be black and white as I hadn't got enough yellow ink. Eventually we printed the 64 sheets but couldn't make the picture out of them because the lines had to be feint so that people could make them themselves. We used those as templates, though, and drew pencil guide lines. That needed a makeshift lightbox using one of Maggie's plastic storage boxes placed over one of my lamps so that we could trace over the lines on new sheets. Next came the fun part, spraying the bits that needed to be yellow. Amazingly, we seem to have got that right, thanks to the template and numbering the pages. Although quite how we managed to go from 2 to 65 instead of 1-64 I'm not sure.

By using the staircase and most of the bedroom, we managed to get the pages safely dry just in time and Kirri raised loads of money at Royal Latin School where, hopefully, the completed monster bear will be on display in a while. Picture to come.

Friday, October 9

Some old plant?

This has been growing for almost as long as the watch in background has been ticking, which is getting on for 50 years, and I still don't know what it is. I published a picture a while ago when it was at my mum's house but no response so I thought I'd try again. Since coming to the village it has thrived, despite my haphazard attention. I even broke a few bits off and planted them, literally sticking them in some soil, outside and they're doing fine come wind, rain or whatever (although I probably won't introduce them to snow).

If you squeeze a leaf there's a cool scent. Kind of citrus-like but not lemon or lime. Kind of medicinal, not that I know much about medicine but how I imagine a medicinal scent might be, but not eucalyptus. It's never flowered although I suppose it might surprise me one day. However, I reckon it's just a green plant. It would be nice to give it a name.

Believe me, I have searched through all sorts of books and even spent an hour or two on some amazing plant identification sites, all to no avail. It doesn't look anything rare or special and I wouldn't be surprised if it's a weed from Greece but I would still have expected to have found it somewhere. Put a picture on Twitter too so it's getting famous.

If you've got a bright idea and can't stick a note under my windscreen or on the door then use the Comment thing below. Maybe Penny will know - if Richard has allowed her to use the computer again.
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Matti and the grapes

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Wednesday, September 30

Remembering my first school

The school's gone and the M25 now rumbles above the farm where I used to play. Some of the people who went to Colney Street School in the 1950s are still around though. My brother met a few classmates but I'll have to wait for another occasion to see what mine look like now as this group were all a bit older than me. Wandering around the area was fun, though, and I can distinctly remember racing down one lane on my trolley to Moor Mill. That's where Roger Taylor lived and what he didn't know about the lorries that came to and from the sandpits at the bottom of our garden wasn't worth knowing anyway. Whilst the rest of us have moved umpteen times, travelled half, or in some cases all the, way round the planet, it was really quite reassuring to find that Roger still lived in the same place and was just as knowledgeable and fascinating to listen to as he'd been half a century ago. I can't wait to get my hands on all the old pictures he had as he was one of the few children who both had a decent camera in those days and who bothered to take photos of things that just happened to be around: normal life things and, hopefully, some of us just playing. Others had plenty of posed shots and the usual pretty scenes but what I want is the inside of a den, some trolley repairs and an old bike or two.

The green balloons seemed a bit out of place but as the Daily Mail had picked up on the event I suppose someone decided to add some 70s style to the day. They did have some Helen Shapiro, The Walker Brothers, Elvis and Dusty Springfield on vinyl, though, which more than made up for that.
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Saturday, September 26

Minutes of the 802nd meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

Held at several venues in or not far from the paddock on 8th 9th and probably 10th August, at various times when sufficient members were in the same place at the same time.

Graeme, chairman, tractor and trailer driver, charred accountant, iPod & beer advisor
Maggie, diary, hostess, trolley and plastic box management
Penny, chief saladeer, beachware and food jettison advisor
Richard, senior photographer and advisor on steroids,
Sarah D, mother of the band and cutlery accountant
Steve, father of the band and dim view weather consultant
Kathie, additional seating and potato supplies
Sue, floral display and assistant social secretary
Minutes Secretary, plate miscounter and dotty image scribe
Sarah B, social secretary and cheersleader
and Adrian, quick flash and production manager

Only for occasional wind

Minutes of the previous meeting
There had, of course been the AGM on 8 August itself and several meetings thereafter but few of the members stood or sat still for long enough for any purposeful decisions other than which plastic container should be used for what and which pole might have fitted better where. These, therefore, are as best a recollection of matters covered whilst transporting chimerae or having one’s chestnuts roasted whilst munching through the large piles of pork and desserts remaining.

The Chairman had managed to knock a draft set of accounts together and circulated a table of figures. Unfortunately it was not easy to read these by moonlight so he took a good guess at what he’d written and informed the group that there had been a little over 170 in attendance.

The net profit from the event appeared to be of the order of £500. In addition a specific donation of £100 had been received for the WNAA. It is expected that the Rugby Group Benevolent Fund will be agree to repeat earlier years’ doubling of funds raised with the result being a possible final donation of £1200, divided £500 to PDSA and £700 WNAA.

It was agreed that this represented a quite remarkable figure, achieved through both the increased ticket price and raffle success, as attached figures show.

How was it for us, darlings?
Another jolly good show in all respects, in short.

ALDI got several mentions in between swishes with the J cloths and one or two members felt that stronger plates might be required to support any further editions of Penny’s quintuple chocolate concoction which, we gathered, possibly cost as much by way of ingredients as a modest gazebo.

Steve reported a near miss when attempting to stab an incalcitrant slice of pastry and the plastic fork shot through the dish and into whichever part of his anatomy lurked immediately below. Suggestions that metal forks be provided that had been mooted previously were not further discussed.

The hog was very tasty and gave off a suitable aroma at the outset. The Minutes Secretary had specifically wandered around the drive at 6:30 to test this and reported that the sniffometer levels were in good shape and the roast indeed hog-like. The Chairman commented that it had been cracking good crackling.

The two barrels of Frog Island had proved a wise decision, if only to ensure that there had been a reasonable supply rather than mere dregs for the meeting the following day. The Chairman despatched Richard to check whether a second beaker-full could be drained from the keg.

Steve had tested the wind direction in the scout tent. Erections had been magnificent and virtually trouble-free. Nevertheless, Sue insisted that members be supervised next year and would be checking to see whether a set of instructions had been packed with the various packages as she preferred a more organised affair.

The positioning of a green auto-fold-up gazebo at the exit end of the scout tent had been a little unfortunate in that its cross members had made cross guests as they bashed their heads on them. The green covering disguised the metal beneath and what they might have anticipated as being a mere gentle brush of fabric across the follicles turned into a thud and scrape which, remarkably, seemed not to have caused any food to have been dropped nor casualties requiring medication. Many guests may have prepared by taking ample medication in advance but it was agreed that next year a higher, white gazebo would be positioned there.

There was some discussion of whether further funds should be retained for the purchase of another tent. It was decided, though, that the existing £50 was adequate and any further cost would be taken into account in the next event budget.

Some felt that the arrangement was almost too neat this year and there was a proposal that the layout be reversed so that the moon could be clearly visible. No conclusion was reached – something for another day, it was getting late by then.

The loo was pretty much fully occupied for much of the later part of the evening, mainly as a result of the rapid process through the system of some of the desserts being accelerated by copious amounts of alcohol and some jumping up and down. Those who had stuck to the heavy chocolate seemed to be firmly wedged in their chairs and less inclined to attempt the long trek.

Andrew had assisted by escorting one or two people, most frequently Adrian, closely followed by Sarah, to the overflow facility in the cottage. Guidance was necessary, however, due to the internet cable being draped across the foot of the stairs and to divert attention away from the generally unkempt state of the Minutes Secretary’s accommodation, especially the pink pillow which he had really wished he’d changed beforehand as well as dusting some of the horizontal surfaces.

Electrics all worked well and Richard, Steve and Karl were duly thanked for their efforts again in keeping the flash lights burning.

The jazz band were particularly good this year by common consent and seemed to play for such a long time without a drink that some members felt obliged to swing glasses of suitable lubricant in front of them to remind them that they did need to stop occasionally.

A couple of lads performed some pleasant ditties in a relaxed style and went down well.

The Outsiders cleared the field of the over 65s quite quickly then settled into a solid rendition of their greatest hits. The youngsters clearly enjoyed them and quite a few older members were seen to be tapping their toes, slapping thighs and mostly in time. Steve had provided a running commentary for anyone within earshot. There was little or no daddy dancing this year and neither Aretha nor Bruce emerged from the Chairman’s iPod selection.

There were a goodly number in attendance, upwards of 170 but they seemed more sedentary and kind of organised this year so the numbers moving around the place were less and, apart from a few more tables and bales being a good idea next time, it wasn’t felt that any real issues were presented by the larger number.

The age mix appeared to be decidedly older this year, and that isn’t just because everyone is a year older. There were noticeably fewer under 25s, possibly due to Matt’s friends and several children not being there this year.

The Chairman and Minutes Secretary had managed the gate and relieved guests of as much money as possible and were pretty confident that no-one had got in without a ticket.

The Minutes Secretary had produced a range of signs, mostly telling people where to place their plates and cutlery, cans and bottles but had forgotten that it gets dark at night so most went unnoticed, as it were. However, aided and abetted by Adrian, several others offering useful advice and warnings to be heeded were constructed and, in particular some dotty images of the Committee were popular attractions. Well, certainly for the Committee members anxious to figure out who was who. Interestingly, all but the larger ones went missing after the event and it is possible that they are now being purveyed on eBay at vast prices. Pity we hadn’t signed them or they would have been worth even more.

Tidying up
The morning after the night before, extended as traditionally the case, to the morning, lunch and evening after the night before and the morning and lunch after the night before the night before, went smoothly with all bits and pieces swept up, washed up, packed up and the field restored to its former glory and ready for inspection by the geese.

The Minutes Secretary was under the impression that he had rinsed over 400 plates but appeared to be in a minority of one in debating the accuracy of his calculations. Nevertheless he did wish to point out that he probably had got as wet as he would have done if it had been 400 plates.

Despite tickets being sold in almost entirely strips of 5 for £1, the Chairman reported that the raffle income had totalled £293.09, an odd sort of figure which would imply that someone had sold 45% of one ticket. The Minutes Secretary proposed that each Committee member contribute 1p to make up the missing 55% but an alternative proposal that they carry 9p forward to the next year was preferred.

A full breakdown of the draft figures is included as what is the very first ever Appendix to the Minutes.

Richard, and to a notably fuzzier or lesser extent, Adrian and the Minutes Secretary had taken snaps at various times and the results, including a remarkable pair featuring Adrian being attended to in the drinks tent, are now available on both the In The Village blog and the Minutes Secretary’s Facebook pages. Links: http://astcote.blogspot.com and http://facebook.com/andrewx respectively.

Next party
After consulting his diary, the Chairman decreed that 7 August 2010 be a good day for Paddock Party 7 and those present heartily backed the idea. His diary wondered whether anyone would like some pork as there was still rather a lot left.

Sue fancied the idea of dressing up which prompted a range of proposals for themes from the gentlemen present, none of which, however, were deemed entirely suitable for the event. She may well, though, be prepared to give some of them a whirl at a future meeting. Sarah B was quite taken with the vicar and Adrian was particularly keen on tarts.

Next meeting
Steve wondered whether we might have a good old-fashioned British food session in the near future. The Minutes Secretary would consult his mother to see whether she could be persuaded to knock up one of her excellent shepherd’s pies. Graeme’s diary was expert in the Beef Wellington department. Steve D and the Minutes Secretary both drooled helplessly at the mention of suet puddings and Penny said she would look up how to make a jam roly poly or a spotted dick.

Sue offered her premises for the next meeting, date and time to be advised.

Event account summary over PP2-6

Wednesday, September 9


Managed to escape from hospital yesterday. Now how on earth do I get the wrist tag off? I can't use scissors with my left hand!
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Wednesday, August 12

That's all folks . . . until next year!

Just one tent still standing after the great Paddock Party 6. There is a selection of photos in a mini slideshow to the left and also in my Facebook albums Vol I, Vol II and Vol III. Minutes are available here now.
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Monday, July 27

Minutes of the 801st meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

With the event date of 8 August looming, it was felt that a further meeting was necessary. This also proved to be the first of many celebrations of the Minutes Secretary's birthday, from which he has only now recovered sufficiently to make an attempt at interpreting notes made at the time.

It should be noted that Adrian acted up as acting Minutes Secretray on several occasions during the meeting and, as a consequence, the interpretation of notes has been somewhat more tricky than on other occasions.

Readers are reminded that these are best read in a horizontal position and definitely not whilst driving or after a mouthful of rice which can be a pain to pick up afterwards.

OK. Here they are.

Thursday, July 23

The Paddock Party Committee hard at work

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Minutes of the 796th meeting of the Paddock Party Committee

As a result of being totally occupied with getting the epic 3hr, 2TB video file to squeeze into a YouTube slot for Little Train: Big People 2 video I completely forgot to circulate the minutes. Our worldwide fans won't have been concerned because they didn't even know another set were due but, bearing in mind that the next meeting is tomorrow, members should check out the Action Points!

Download a spare copy here. I should warn that these do contain reference to male members, tents and suchlike, but no pictures. Having said that I have just been told that someone did take some snaps at the last meeting so watch this space, or not, depending upon your inclination.

Monday, July 13

I like sparrows

I've had a camera for ages and knew the funny symbol meant that it could take either lots of pictures in one click or take a series of pictures if you hold the button down. Until today, I'd never worked out, though, how it worked. Hmm. Now I have 65 photos of sparrows. The nice thing is that out of each group of five there's usually one that's just right. Good, now I can focus on birds this summer. Had to put up with flowers last year.
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Sunday, July 12

Little Train: Big People 2

OK, I got the title wrong on the video - sorry. Anyway, here's the edited version of Richard's original (which, at 4GB rather exceeded YouTube's upload limit!) I have a feeling this version makes us all taller and thinner than we really are too but I guess some people would pay good money for that :)
Here it is:

Sunday, June 28

Long distance call

Phone reception here in the village has been pretty bad so maybe this new solution being tested by Kirri and Matthew will improve things.
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Sunday, June 21

Don't forget the geese

Maybe this will help me remember to put Maggie's geese away. There's a baby fox hanging around who probably needs more protection than they do but I guess his parents may be lurking somewhere and getting peckish.
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Wednesday, June 10

Just desserts, OK!

Graeme & Maggie returned from Cyprus and gave me three of these quite impressive-looking things which I am reliable informed go by the name of shoshouko over there. Naturally, I consulted a lady I know over there on the matter who was delighted that I could show her so that she could check.