Friday, 31 December 2010

In With The New

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy New Year.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Christmas Lights

Makes me feel Christmas has finally arrived.

From tonight's tour with LL.

Very Nearly Christmas

Have a great Christmas everyone. I hope this festive time brings you joy and happiness.

Must remember tonight to leave something out for the Fat Man so he feels welcome...

This should help keep the cold out.

....but what to leave for the reindeer?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Cold Snap

Woke this morning to find once again we were without water. Seems the mains pipe has burst. Again. This time due to the extreme cold. Thames Water are on the case but how long it will take is anyone's guess...

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Snow Returns

Wintry weather put in another appearance today in the south of England, bringing airports to a close and causing chaos on road and rail. (Other parts of the UK have had it far harder and for much longer and we shouldn't forget that fact).

I had planned to take LL to see the Fat Man at a nearby garden centre, where he had thoughtfully brought two of his reindeer apparently. That's the Man had brought the reindeer, not LL LOL. Sadly the council hadn't seen fit to grit the roads (including the main A4 Bath Road) overnight, despite having had advance warning from the Met office. Major roads were just about passable early this morning provided drivers were happy to keep speeds below 20 mph (about 32 kph) but you could pretty much forget the minor thoroughfares.

So we had a bit of a play outside instead, before tucking up in the warm. Here's a few images from our day, enjoy.

Both top front teeth are loose. Eating Christmas lunch next week may be interesting.

The birds have stripped most of the berries but this tree still looks lovely.

Racing was cancelled today, due to the course being under snow LOL.

Part time angel.

I'm just thankful that at present I don't have to worry about commuting to work in these conditions. Unemployment does have certain advantages. Just don't think too hard about the money running out...

Elsewhere only around seven Championship matches went ahead because of the weather. The Royals travelled up to Derby (yesterday) for today's 3pm kick-off. Unfortunately most of the travelling fans (and half of the radio commentary team) got stuck and missed the match entirely. Which is a shame given Reading were finally able to break their recent run of draws with a pretty good effort from the start.

 Derby County 1 - 2 Reading

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Don't Look Now...

...the sky's falling in!

Well to be precise I discovered rain water has got into the kitchen ceiling and it looks like it is about to come down. Take a look at the picture below, I've put a yellow line to mark where the ceiling should be...

This close to Christmas I don't rate my chances of getting a builder out but I think I will start by trying to drill a hole in the plaster, seeing if I can drain it. As you would with a boil I guess LOL.

As a diversion, take a look at the following images of my latest experimental work...

Rim detail.

Oh look: it's another ripped pot LOL.

Autumn Shades over Yellow Brown glaze.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Holidays Are (Not) Coming

Am I the only one concerned by the rather cynical way (in my view) a certain well known manufacturer of a sugary carbonated drink keeps trying to link their product with the season of goodwill?

Yes, their red Artic' Lorry* has been in the area this past week. You know the one with a trademark ribbon device and a picture of the Fat Man on the back. It was parked up near the centre of town trying to entice children inside with the promise of speaking with the man himself and the offer of freebie sugary-ness.

There are plenty of places you can take the young and innocent- so they can tell him their wishes- without having to be exposed to such overt marketing. 

Don't get me wrong I have nothing against this particular product and do in fact drink it from time to time. Have you guessed which one it is yet LOL? Everything in moderation as they say.

I am aware they claim the modern day depiction of the Fat Man owes a lot to their advertising bill boards and so forth but that's not the point. I object to this type of marketing to the impressionable young, in the same way I object to the deliberate placement of sweets and snacks right by the checkout at the supermarket so an already harassed parent gets hassled by an insistent child. The message is clear to me: Kids tell mum and dad to buy our product or you won't have the best celebration or worse still you won't get a visitor down your chimney, leaving you gifts. Ho Ho Ho.  

Oh and I know I bang on about this every year but it's called Christmas, not Holidays. The UK is a largely, for want of a better phrase, Christian nation. So why do some people do everything in their power to try and remove every last trace of the season's true traditions? There was even a report in one of the newspapers yesterday stating that most UK supermarkets seem to have removed almost all seasonal greetings cards with a Christian theme...

Are we ashamed? Is it that we don't want to cause offence to those of other or no religion? If other faiths want to hold celebrations of their own I don't get offended nor do I expect them to hide their traditions or feel embarrassed by them. So why should we pretend that Christmas isn't about the events depicted in the Bible?

And I know the argument there was a Pagan festive at around this time of year long before Christ and that early Christianity hijacked it for their own ends. It's probably very true and I won't stop anyone who wants to hold a Pagan celebration for their family and friends. Or if you truly have no religious belief, you can be free to do as you wish too.

That's what being in a free and fair society is about. So can we please have the word Christmas back and not be afraid to utter it's name?

Recent Royals football results, for any who might be interested:

20 Nov
Watford 1 - 1 Reading

27 Nov
Reading 0 -0 Leeds

11 Dec
Reading 0 - 0 Coventry

* A type of truck. 

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


From a Bear last year to a Camel this time round. Must be the school Nativity season...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Cake Challenge

Dad has (finally) finished baking his Delia Smith cake and (even more finally) got round to emailing me an image. Let the bake off begin!

Dad's cake, with added Walnut-ness!

My effort, in case you need reminding.

I think on balance his looks better although I do suspect he had some help. Sour grapes, me? Never LOL!

Next up: in a couple of weeks, the taste challenge...

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Blue Christmas

This year there will be a mostly blue theme about the house.

Blue and white tree lights in front of a blue lit conservatory.

I think LL might be impressed.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Way It Shatters

One of the reasons I just don't seem to be able to shift the excess weight at the moment LOL.

Best cold from the fridge.

It's a good job this is only available in the UK (as an expensive import) from a few select retailers, else I would be buying a bag each week.

We just won't mention Sam Adams beer. That can't be responsible for weight gain surely LOL?

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

First Snow

Over night snow finally found it's way to my part of the UK. Just a smattering you understand but enough a create that lovely wintry, nearly Christmas effect. It's still gently failing and more is forecast I believe.

A taste of things to come?

At least I don't have to worry about battling my way to and from the office at present.

Update (1.10pm): Holy Ice-cubes, Batman! It's still trying to snow and the temperature is stuck down at zero. Our Postman has just been round. Still wearing his short trousers!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Bit Chilly

Apparently as of right now (19.55) it's around -2.5 degrees Celsius (about 27 F) in the back garden. There's one of those cool "weather stations" on the kitchen window sill, with a radio linked sensor down the garden. Can't complain really: some parts of the UK were down at -15 last night and under several centimetres of snow. Except of course the heating hasn't really worked since early October when I got back from my travels. Anyone know a good/reliable plumber? Mine seems to have disappeared.


Saturday, 27 November 2010


You know how it is- tv or film adaptations usually don't live up to the original source book. There are of course one or two exceptions to this rule, once in a while. An obvious example of this is the new Harry Potter.

Beautifully dark, far more concise and much better focused than the source, despite the extended run time. I'm sorry JK, really I am but I didn't enjoy the book as much as I thought I should. The film (part 1 at least) was a vast improvement.

Can't wait for part 2.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

What Cutbacks?

So we're being told the economic situation is dire at present, that we should expect huge increases in bills and wholesale cuts to public services. Already as a result we hear of huge job cuts in the public sector because there just isn't enough money in the pot for basic services.

To reinforce this message just this week our neighbours on the Emerald Isle have been forced to request a multi-billion pound loan and the government there will be shortly announcing huge budget cuts.

How come then today a team of three workers from my local council- Wokingham- have been along cutting the grass on the public verges? It wasn't long by any stretch of the imagination. It's Autumn, rolling into Winter here for goodness sake- temperatures this morning were about 1 degree Celsius (about 34 F) and grass stops growing at 6 degrees. Snow has even been promised by the end of the week. I'm pretty sure this was a pointless exercise and the verges didn't benefit from the cut.

What a waste of money. Let's be clear about this: what a waste of my Council Tax.

End of rant.

Off to see Harry Potter this Friday.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Pros And Cons

One of the pleasant things about foreign travel is that you get to try new foods. Sometimes the experience is not so good but often you find the new delicacy is just too yummy for words.

One of the disadvantages of travel is getting home and finding those new (and addictive) food items available in your very own local supermarket. Never kind on the waistline LOL.

Does anyone know where I can locate Lamingtons?

At least I can console myself I've made a modest contribution to British and Commonwealth veteran's charities. The diet will start when the packet is finished. Maybe LOL.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bake Off

I seem to have got a little carried away this weekend and challenged Dad to a Christmas Cake bake-off.

Let me explain. Some readers may recognise British TV chef Delia Smith. She's very popular and has been around a good while; she has pretty much been responsible for teaching this nation that good quality cooking can be simple and fairly straightforward. Such is her influence that when Delia recommends an exotic sounding ingredient or some new kitchen gadget on her show or in one of her books, you can bet the shops will sell out.

This year in conjunction with a well known supermarket she has launched a version of her popular traditional festive cake- all the main ingredients weighed out and ready, all in one handy take home bag. At only £10 (about 15 USD) it's a bit too tempting. The currants, sultanas and other fruit are even pre-soaked in Brandy! All you then have to do is add some fresh items, follow the instruction sheet to mix and put in the oven for 4-ish hours on a low heat.

So there I was yesterday afternoon part way through following the recipe when Dad called for a chat. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had challenged him to give it a go too.

My effort came out of the oven at around 8pm last night and can be seen in the image below. I'm not a hugh fan of icing and marzipan; I decorated with almonds instead, sort of like a Dundee cake I guess. I emailed a picture to Dad so if he dares to try himself and sends me the proof, I will post an image for comparison. Maybe we'll even get a sample each come Christmas. Only six weeks to go til the big day, dontchaknow.

The fruit hasn't all risen to the top, it's a trick of the light.

10 Nov
Reading 1 - 1 Cardiff

13 Nov
Reading 3 - 3 Norwich

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Two Minutes

Two minutes silence doesn't somehow seem adequate to acknowledge the sacrifice our service men and women have made.

Veterans at the cenotaph in London.

We will never forget.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Re-Engineered Part II

As promised here. My latest somewhat experimental work is completed and now home. Due to the college summer break and overseas travel, there's been something of a delay. Sorry if you've been waiting (!) and have wondered what's happened to those rather odd pieces I make.

Thrown Bowl, torn, rebuilt and then glazed in Marbled Blue.

I've uploaded more images to this folder on my Webshots page. Please feel free to take a look and comment.

You can expect more work, developing my current bizarre obsessions in the coming weeks...

Elsewhere I've now taken two trips in under a week down to see SM and Dad at their new place in Dorset, to sort out his computer. It takes about one and a half to two hours each way depending. Perhaps I could go into business offering in-home computer support to the elderly those of 'experienced years.' Then again I guess if I was actually any good, I would have got it right the first visit! Ho hum...

Monday, 8 November 2010

How Much?

Think it must have been a slow news day here in the UK. The press has been reporting a supermarket on the island of Jersey had to say sorry for over charging a customer because the shop assistant's breasts were resting on the checkout...

Not the actual checkout.

No seriously. It would seem that due to a seating malfunction, the assistant's rather large boobs would occasionally inadvertently rest on the weighing machine used for pricing fruit and vegetables. This caused the apparent over charge.The assistant was said to be extremely embarrassed and the store most apologetic, while the customer received a refund.

Read here.

What's Going On?

In these harsh economic times, the UK government has had a lot to say and has made several announcements they say will put the country back on the straight and narrow. Whether they are right or wrong only time will tell but here are a couple I'd like to comment specifically on:

Apparently the long term unemployed are to be asked to perform volunteer work in the community. In order to continue to receive their unemployment benefit payments those out of work for greater than a year, would be requested (where they are able) to carry out jobs like gardening or litter collection for up to four weeks per year. This won't affect those on long term disability benefit. That doesn't sound too bad does it? Wouldn't the whole of society benefit from this scheme and make the UK a better place?

Elsewhere the funding of Welsh language television channel S4C has been under the spotlight. By S4C's own admission their highest rated programme ("Pobol Y Cwm") for the week ending 17 Oct 2010 received a 'massive' 97,000 viewers. Hardly huge. This channel currently costs the state (and therefore the tax payer) around £100 million per year (about 160 m USD). Hardly seems a fair return on my tax contribution does it?

I really don't think as a nation we can currently support such a luxury as a minority language tv channel. I would rather that money was spent on something we could all benefit from. Perhaps those funds could be better used to support the National Health Service or other parts of our public services? Maybe even create a few jobs and reduce the unemployment level..? 

Just a thought.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Footie Highlights (And Lowlights)

30 Oct 2010
Reading 4 - 3 Doncaster

06 Nov 2010
QPR 3 - 1 Reading

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Thanks, Frosty!

Mine and LL's attempt at this years Halloween lantern.

Nose supplied by the snowman LOL.

Have a spooky night everyone.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

At Last

Have finally uploaded a bunch of images of my recent trip overseas to Webshots. You can see them here. Hope you enjoy.

Sorry for the delay; these days I can't even use the excuse of having to wait to get them back from the processing lab LOL.

23 Oct 2010: Burnley 0 - 4 Reading


Friday, 22 October 2010

Half Full..?

Just look what the nice man from UPS* has delivered today, all the way from the Boston Beer Company. Will definitely enjoy a cool glass of my favourite American lager from one of these. Cheers!

Have a look how my chilli plant is coming along, now in the relative warmth of our heated conservatory; it is most certainly Autumn here so it and the peppers had to come inside. Don't they look great? I'm feeling the urge to start cooking real soon...

Apologies I've not yet posted any pictures from my travels to Webshots. I've been somewhat preoccupied. Promise to do it soon.

16 Oct Reading 0 - 1 Swansea
19 Oct Bristol City 1 - 0 Reading

Bit of a mini-slump in performance going on. The Royals are stuck in 11th place on 16 points.

*Other delivery companies are available.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Drive Thru

Drive through liquor stores. Am I the only one who thinks motor cars and alcohol should never mix?

It's said that travel broadens the mind and I'm feeling quite broad minded right now. Hopefully I'll be posting a few pics from my recent travels to Webshots shortly. But can you guess where I've been this past few weeks?

28 Sept Reading 1 - 0 Ipswich
2 Oct Preston 1 - 1 Reading

Saturday, 25 September 2010


Reduced to 10 men, the Royals still managed to score 3 goals in the second half and grab the points.

Reading 3 - 0 Barnsley

Position Team P GD PTS

1 QPR 8 20 22
2 Cardiff 8 7 16
3 Watford 8 9 15
4 Ipswich 8 4 15
5 Leeds 8 1 14
6 Norwich 8 0 13
7 Reading 8 4 12
8 Burnley 8 3 12
9 Swansea 8 1 12
10 Doncaster 8 -1 12
11 Nott'm Forest 8 2 11
12 Millwall 8 1 11
13 Coventry 8 0 11
14 Barnsley 8 -2 11
15 Hull 8 -2 11
16 Scunthorpe 8 1 10
17 Middlesbrough 8 -5 10
18 Sheff Utd 8 -6 10
19 Derby 8 1 8
20 Crystal Palace 8 -9 7
21 Bristol City 8 -6 6
22 Preston 8 -8 6
23 Portsmouth 8 -4 5
24 Leicester 8 -11 5

Friday, 24 September 2010


As regular readers will know, Cancer is a subject close to my heart: Mum died of Secondary Breast Cancer in 2008. There's two UK charities I support- one largely carries out research into prevention and cures, the other concentrates mostly on providing care for patients.

I don't give a lot, rather each charity gets what I can afford. So how come I get to feel guilty every time I get a begging letter asking me to make greater contributions? Am I being heartless..?

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Step Mum

Dad got married today.

SM and Dad with a friend's 1938 Austin

Mixed feelings but I guess I need to update the family tree I've been compiling.

Middlesbrough 3 - 1 Reading.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Whatever Next?

Absolutely yummy.

11 Sept
Reading 3 - 0 Crystal Palace

14 Sept
Millwall 0 - 0 Reading

The Royals move to 11th out of 24 in the Npower Championship.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


It's that same old story- you wait ages and then three buses come along at once.

Or in this case you're without tap water three times in the space of a month! We haven't been without water for many years but it seems the near 50 year old mains pipes are starting to give up. Apparently a leak in the water main was reported last night so our water supplier- Thames Water- switched off the mains in our street at around 1am but the guys didn't start digging until about 9.30 this morning and say it will take several more hours to resolve. Grrr.

Needless to say I wasn't able to have a coffee or even wash* until the shops opened and I could go out to buy bottled water. Think I'm gonna keep at least 5 litres of bottled in the house from now on, just in case.

Unlike the other utilities (electricity, gas, telephone), water is run as an effective monopoly- there is only one company in each region, we can't shop around for alternative mains water suppliers. Given the huge profits our water companies continue to make, isn't it about time some more money was put back into upgrading the water system a bit quicker?

* Have been able to get washed now, using the bottled stuff. In case you were concerned LOL.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Nice Butt

Quite a busy day at the office today but when I got home, I thought it would be a really neat idea to fit a new water butt at the front of the house. We've a water meter here, so every little drop helps keep costs down. So here it is, £39 (US$58) of your best "Sankey" brand 100 litre (22 UK gallons) water butt, stand and drain pipe diverting kit. That's butt number 5 on the property by the way. Just so you know.

Just need to wait for the rain now LOL...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


Today the UK marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz, when the first German bombs fell on London.

Read about it here.

Monday, 30 August 2010

To Infinity...

OK so I gave in (I play easy to get at times) and the two of us took a trip to the cinema this afternoon to see the latest adventures of Woody, Buzz and co.

I'm quite surprised that the child discount/reduction for the ticket is only £1.90 (US$2.85, AU$3.23). Am I out of touch? However we both really enjoyed it. Although LL found the scenes of peril a tad frightening and had to cling to my arm at times. And then deny later that he was scared LOL.

On the way home, he started to ask when I would buy the DVD for him. Must have been a hit then.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Game Of Two Halves

Executive producer Steven Moffat has announced the next full series of Doctor Who will be split in two with the first 7 episodes screening in the spring of next year, with the balance in the autumn and a 2011 Christmas Special to follow. Apparently the idea is that this will allow a slightly different method of story telling and make for an exciting mid-season cliffhanger and an equally thrilling restart.

Personally I suspect it has more than a little to do with trying to avoid a ratings drop-off as summer starts, bringing with it warmer weather and lighter evenings, which tends to lead to viewers deserting their tv sets in favour of outdoor pursuits.

Karen Gillan meets the plastic version of her character, Amy Pond.

Either way, let's hope for a swift demise of the Teletubby Daleks...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Toy Story Too

Today's adventures included:

  • Swimming at the outdoor heated pool.
  • Performing a couple of small science experiments.
  • Building some new Lego* vehicles.
  • Settling in to watch Toy Story 2 on video (prior to a possible cinema visit).
  • Making (and sharing) popcorn.
  • Practising cycling proficiency. 
  • Meeting two Dalmatians, one of whom was very "barky," the other quite placid.
  • Being cheeky lol.

Leicester 1 - 2 Reading

*Other toy building block products are available but they're probably not that good.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Someone hiding behind the "anonymous" log-on tag has seen fit to leave me a couple of fairly negative comments tonight.

The following is aimed at that person, should they choose to stop by again: 
  • This blog is about what occurs to me and I don't force anyone to visit it or even expect them to enjoy it. But if you do bother to take the time to read this blog you'll see there's a whole lot of different things going on. I talk about cancer, pottery, LL, books, local history, films and a whole lot more.
  •  I assume despite your wide ranging comments you've not bothered with the above, to get your facts right, otherwise you'd be able to calculate the age of my son. It's not rocket science, you know.
  •  Before pressing the button to post a comment, you should spend a few moments checking both your spelling AND grammar. Ask yourself, is it clear to the recipient what you're trying to say and is it easy to understand? 
  •  Perhaps you might wish to try posting positive and constructive comments. You might make friends that way.

Given you haven't fulfilled any of the above criteria and in fact I felt quite insulted by what you said, I'm sure you can appreciate I have marked all your comments as SPAM and they won't be published. 

Thank you.

30 Aug 2010 Update: Do you think I was a little peeved when I posted this?


    My Ginger Beer obsession knows no end! All the way from Sweden, Frank's Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Serve well chilled over ice mmmm.

    Monday, 23 August 2010

    Marmite Cereal Bars

    Apparently some things are just wrong.

    Cereal and Marmite, sadly not a good combination. In fact I had to get rid of the taste by eating two rice cakes. Marmite flavour of course LOL.

    Sunday, 22 August 2010


    In no particular order...

    • This years A-Level exam results were announced this week and for the 28th year in a row, overall pass rates have improved. How does that work? Does that mean my (dim and distant) qualifications are worth more or less?
    • Have found something new (to me): Marmite Cereal Bars. Tasty? 

    • Took LL to Windsor to the leisure centre for a swim and a play on the water slides, wave machine etc. Great fun. Couldn't get him out of the water.
    • Reading 1 - 1 Nottingham Forest. Another fumble from The Royals?
    • Doesn't seem true that Mum has been gone two years now.
    • I've been somewhat shamed by the fact I've fallen behind with my correspondence of late. Will try harder. Promise.
    • We took a trip to the cinema this week to see the Cameron Diaz/Tom Cruise action film 'Knight And Day.' Lots of fun and big on action set pieces but I'm not quite sure what the point was. Not convinced there much of a coherent story line to be honest. 

    • I have found that you're never too old to play Pooh Sticks.
    • So our cousins- the Aussies- have gone to the polls this week. Pity neither major party could field a "true blue Aussie" candidate for Prime Minister. All I can guess is that Australia must love us British more than they let on. Julia Gillard is from Barry in Wales, while Tony Abbott is from London. They could almost pass for 'Gavin And Stacy" don't you think LOL?    
    • While in Windsor, we took (another) ride on the Royal Windsor Wheel. It's one of the tallest wheels of it's type dontchaknow. And we had a pod to ourselves. Even better.

    • I seem to be reliving the music of my youth at the moment. Is that a bad thing? Have just bought "The Best Of Matt Bianco." 16 tracks of nostalgia.   
    • If the flag on the top of the castle is to be believed, HM the Queen was in residence. I wonder if she's ever been tempted to take a ride on the Wheel?

    Sunday, 15 August 2010

    Air Miles

    Today we took a short trip down the road to the Berkshire Museum of Aviation based at the former Woodley airfield near Reading. Woodley was the home of the Miles Aircraft manufacturing company and also the infamous site where ace pilot Douglas Bader crashed and lost his legs (although this didn't stop him returning to the skies during WWII and later escaping from a German prison camp).

    Fairey Gannet T.5

    Sadly all that really remains of this once great industry is a few fairly run down factory units and a dozen or so streets bearing aviation related names.

    Handley Page HPR.7 Dart Herald 100

    Height of aviation luxury in the Dart Herald 100

    Saturday, 14 August 2010

    Edukation Pays

    Proof it ever it was needed that a good education is worth its weight in gold- how else can we excel in our chosen careers?

    Newly painted sign near Southern Guilford High School in Greensboro, North Carolina, US. 

    Portsmouth 1 - 1 Reading