Wednesday, December 12

Return of the gnome and 23 other oddities

Oh boy. What a day! Left at some unearthly hour and just returned at nearly 8pm. Strange how lots of odd things tend to happen at once. Ought to look up my astrology chart and see which planets were doing what to each other today. Maybe we get adjusted to a familiar alarm ring and the fact that I used my new Blackberry phone to wake me up at 6:20am with a tone called Leaping Aardvark or something resulted in the day going as it did. That was No.1 oddity.
Had to call in at Milton Keynes on the way to work - No.2 followed by a decision to jettison some credit cards to make my wallet thin enough to close - No.3. That may not sound particularly odd but I had been carrying around the same cards for ages and don't know why it occurred to me to do it when I did. No.4 was going to Houghton Regis where the College have a campus to do a staff training session. Must be over a year since I'd been there last but the fact that I proceeded to get lost not only trying to find the place, No.5, but also, having found it was confidently advised by the Engineering and Construction tutors that the session was in Room X only to discover that it was in Room Y, No.6, and then my colleague and I managed to get more than a little lost trying to discover where on earth any people, let alone Room Y, might be as the hour or so we'd given ourselves to get set up rapidly got whittled down to about 5 minutes, No.7.
I won't award No.8 to either the session going particularly well, or even to the unexpected attendance of the Deputy Principal and Quality Manager but these combined with getting some great compliments from the Football Programme Manager for some web site work that I'd stayed up until 1am doing the night before makes No.8 as he also passed them on to the Principal (public compliments being few and far between!).
No.9 was leaving my scarf in a room at College. No.10 was gridlock in Dunstable which, whilst not that unusual was pretty exceptional and had me sitting in the jam with my interior lights on which I have never done before and I'm not quite sure now why I did it then. No.11 was realising that the jam had seriously reduced my likelihood of getting back home on the fuel I had left and so I pulled into a petrol station I seldom use on the way home as it's on the wrong side of the road and a devil to get out of again in heavy traffic. Still needs must, or whatever the past tense version is. No.12 almost deserves two points because instead of just filling up with the usual £40.01 worth and then digging out my wallet I looked for my wallet before sinking the nozzle into the hole and gazing at digits which now go faster for the cost than the amount delivered. No wallet where I thought it should be. Quickly scrabbled around in the boot and under the seat. No luck so got in and re-joined the traffic. Glancing at the computer read out it said 23. That's miles left in the tank. It was 30 miles to Towcester. I'll add that in as No.13.
I knew that the read-out would be lower than I'd actually get because the average would have dropped significantly due to the stop-start progress and I reckoned that it would probably get recalculated at nearer 30 something once I got out of dreaded Dunstable traffic. I decided that if it registered 20 or less at Milton Keynes then I'd call in there and hope that someone was in and could lend me a few bob to get me home. Bryony and Kirri both have quite substantial stashes and could lend me a twenty if they were in. Just doing that sort of calculation ought to be another oddity but it's sort fo part of No.13 I guess. What isn't is the fact that a light foot stretched the 3.2 V8 to a remarkably frugal 30+ mpg and the new estimate was 21 miles as I sailed past the MK junction at 70mph. MK to Towcester is about 15 miles so I reckoned I'd make it OK so that was No.14. I knew I had a £20 note on a table at home but hadn't added the 6 mile round trip from Towcester to Astcote and back to the garage to the calculation. 15 + 6 = 21. Hmmm. I would pass one of those small garages on the A5 where the man knows you and thought that I could persuade him to let ne have some juice with an IOU and did a mental calculation of the minimum mileage figure I'd do so for. Further really light right footwork, however, brought me to Towcester with still 14 miles left so goodness knows what record mpg I'd managed but it seemed enough to get back safely no problem.
I could give No.15 to either that 40+ mpg or to a remarkably smooth run through Towcester town centre, often pretty jammed up, but I won't. I'll give that to the traffic lights at the northern end of town being manned by police and No.16 to being waved through a red light despite her colleague controlling the traffic on the road that crosses the junction waving through his queue at the same time and nearly having another car stop me in a crunchy kind of way rather than by fuel starvation. I reached the outskirts and was patting myself on the back and cruising towards the fuel station showing 13 miles to zero fuel thinking that all was fine and I'd return with little further ado when everything stopped again. I sat and watched the computer read-out go from 13 to 12 to 11 and it was just 7 as I finally cleared the roundabout and headed for the village. Bit too close for comfort, now. It hung on at 7, though, all the way back which was a relief. No.17 - pulled in to the drive forwards for the first time ever and left the car running as I reckoned that would use less fuel than stopping and starting. No.18 - looked for the house key in the armrest compartment (where I also normally keep my wallet) . . . no key. Looked up and there was the ruddy gnome blinking in my handlamps and standing on the doorstep. "Christ!" I thought out loud, somewhat irreverently I suppose, "that's all I need!" Shoved the gnome out of the way and turned the door handle. No.19 for the gnome being there. No.20 for the door opening and seeing the key dangling on the inside. Well, it had been early when I left. I'd rather hoped to see my wallet sitting in its usual place indoors but, no, it wasn't so I just grabbed the £20 note and dived back into the car. 7 miles had dropped to 5. Still enough. It was just 3 miles to the garage and downhill.
Got the estimate back up to 8 as I approached the roundabout, on the south side of which stood the now desperately needed juice. Visions of stuttering to a halt came and went and trying to remember the last time I'd bought a petrol can and done the walking and filling thing. Probably around 1970 when it was 6/8d a gallon in Abbots Langley and you got tiger tails at Esso. Now, when I'd come the other way there had been no queue at all in the direction I was now going. So where did No.21, half a mile of stationary traffic, come from. And it was virtually stationary. Radio 2 told me that there had been an accident on the M1 and the junction with the A43 had been closed. That explained that. I watched my preciously preserved 8 miles drop to 4. Then, No.22 they started increasing as I sat there going nowhere. That can't have been right but it sort of made me feel better. They still dropped again as I finally reached the roundabout and used the protection of a lorry to my right to keep going and get to the other side. Indicating to turn into the petrol station, the computer said just 2 miles to zero.
I stuffed £16's worth in and treated the Jag to a bit of decent acceleration on the clean run back and my thoughts turned to where on earth my wallet might be. I dreaded the idea of having left it in the classroom or it having dropped out at the Houghton Regis venue. I realised that I had no insurance and precious little chance of getting hold of much cash and cursed myself for not being more careful just at the time when I'd need to spend some money but would have to wait for unpredictable Christmas delivery of replacement cars and I mourned the potential loss of the £60 or so in the wallet. I had the jettisoned cards but had no idea what the PIN codes were and was getting really grumpy at the idea of having to borrow cash and make a zillion calls to report the loss. I thought about calling someone at College and asking them to check out the rooms I'd used but there's no way to get through to anyone after the front office staff go home unless you know people's extensions which I didn't. Would the cleaners hand in a wallet if they found it? Might I have dropped it at MK? On the drive here at home in the morning? Might whoever dropped off the gnome have noticed it? Worse, might I have left it at home but, with the door unlocked, could someone have popped in an nicked it? Pretty annoying thoughts all round. Really angry with myself.
Freezing cold but checked the clothes I wore yesterday and last night, checked carrier bags it might have dropped into, bags of clothes below the clothes I wore in case it had dropped from a pocket into one of them. I checked the bathroom, the kitchen and even the loo. I looked all over the car, under seats and in the boot. My colleague had moved the seat backwards so maybe it had got caught under there. No luck. Brought in the laptop bag and my other document bag - that was where my wallet should have been. No.23 - it was there! Being a lot thinner it had just not been so obvious when I'd rummaged around in the boot in Dunstable many fraught miles and about 2 hours previously.
I've been saying "thank you" to anyone who cared to listen ever since. God, my late Dad, even the ruddy gnome. That has to be worth No.24 - me thanking the ruddy gnome!
On that note, I'll stop. Quite a day. But I have a huge smile on my face.

Just edited this - unbelievably, I published this initially on The Guild of Dog Trainers blog! No.25.

Monday, August 13

Paddock Party 4 review

Highlights of the final review of the Paddock Party:
  • £820 cheque for the Northampton & Warwickshire Air Ambulance charity.
  • If invited to Sarah & Steve's for nibbles do not eat during the preceding 24hrs.
  • Inaugural run of some remarkable trains on a track running round the garden - if not a pretty cool site alone, the idea of putting a video camera on one of the carriages produced an amazing video [hopefully to be available shortly on-line!]
  • Shooting stars galore seen from the darkness of the paddock around midnight.
  • Yet more pictures now added to the gallery, thanks to Richard.
  • 16 August 2008 agreed as the date for next year's PP5!
And that poem is available here.

Sunday, August 12

New neighbours

Typical, isn't it. Spend ages trying to find a bird and then you find a bunch of chicks on your doorstep! Well, not exactly, doorstep, more like rafters . . .


Life seems to have returned to normal for these three now.


Huge quantities from Doddington available to anyone who likes apple sauce, apple crumble or apple pie. Should have made this a raffle prize.

Sunday, August 5

Party In the Padock 4 Picture Gallery

Follow this link to see the collection available so far from Adrian and myself.
More will be added once the others have recovered! Suitable captions will, in due course, also appear.

You can see the winning raffle tickets and prize list at

Party In The Paddock 4 begins

Watch out for the full report and selection of pictures.

Thursday, July 12

Air freshener

Smells wonderful, this honeysuckle. It was just a twig snipped off one of the many bushes at Dodders and I popped it into a glass of water when I got back - several weeks ago!


After x weeks of rain, the skies cleared and I took B K and M off to Aldeburgh for a spur of the moment B11 birthday picnic. The trip took just 2 1/2 hours and the sun shone just enough to melt ice creams and, more vitally, dry out the clothes that they had to wear (having forgotten to take any others!)

Strange camera settings appear to show them standing on the edge of the world!

Sheep in advance PP4 promotion

Bale out

In view of the increasing age of guests, more bales will be provided this year at PP4. One has already been reserved for Cold Higham attendees as advertised on several posts spotted recently in the village.

Saturday, June 30


Nice stream nearby where Kirri and Matti spent an afternoon clearing weeds to make the water flow better under a bridge and chased sticks or whatever they could find that floated.

Technology to the rescue

Although there has been something quite pleasant about not having any form of telephone that worked here, and having to stand at a certain spot in a field to call anyone was fine on sunny days, the recent tendency of showers to start just as I go out to do so has persuaded me that something had to be done.

My Skype phone arrived today. £9.95 from Serif's Gadget Store and of reasonable design compared to some bricks I've seen, appropriately enough in a DIY store, it worked as soon as it was plugged in and I'd registered. That enables anyone with a Skype phone to call me for free and I can call anywhere without having to put my wellies on. Bliss.

With the addition of their SkypeIn service, people without Skype can call too. The number's 0208 133 4333 which is almost memorable. My Skype ID is if you're interested.

Gmail's chat facility has also proved really simple and a nice way to communicate for free with a couple of people who have it. In fact, I prefer that in many ways but maybe that's just because I'm always happy to hear from the people concerned.

So, as long as my computer's switched on and the internet's working I should be contactable again.

Sunday, June 17

Paddock Party 4

Here we go again. Saladeers, well saladettes mostly now, and the usual questions like"what shall we do if it rains?" (Answer: "Dunno. Probably, make a run for the nearset teent like last time.") "What are we doing about diversity?" (Answer: letting people from Pattishall come) and "How much should we charge for children?" (Answer: £100 - that should put off the annoying dim ones who can't read the signs that say KEEP OFF THE GRASS).

News of developments + pics of some of the committee either deliberating or comparing lawn mowers will be featured here in due course. [The ruder ones may be on Shed Monthly.]

Read the minutes of the Paddock Party Committee Meeting here and wish us all the best of luck. We're going to need it!

Sunday, June 10

So Much For Mary - the track

Here's a link to the track.

Here I am

So Much For Mary

I've got it. Heard this track by Jon as a teenager in June 1967. Loved it. Never managed to get a copy on tape and haven't been able to track it down anywhere ever since. 40 years on, courtesy of the remarkable Oldies Project, I now have a good quality recording and will probably play it all evening non-stop!

This has been a sort of lifetime ambition and achieving it is a quite amazing feeling that's as difficult to describe as it may be for most of you to appreciate.

The only search results I could come up with were, in fact, links to a Radio London BigL chart that the Oldies Project people had published. I thought that was all it would be, but that was nice and enough to make me glad that it wasn't something I'd imagined! To then realise that the charts were played every Sunday, and that the 11 June 1967 chart would be played today and that I could record it, knowing that it would be played, was just wonderful. (Otherwise I could have found myself listening to the shows with the mouse hovering over the recording button for weeks, months on end, and still not getting it.)

So everything stopped at 11am today and even an earthquake wouldn't have budged me. I took a chance that the internet connection would hold up. It did. They repeat the show on Wednesday so there'd have been a couple more chances coming up but I'm so, so pleased to have got it first time, now safely filed away in My Music. I'll put a copy on-line shortly so you can hear what has driven me mad over all those years.

I feel absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, May 13

Many Happy Returns

Seems I can't keep away from the village. Read the next thrilling instalments here very soon!