Saturday, 17 November 2012

In sickness and in health

Well I've been having a fun time of late. It started (in July) because I felt like  I needed to pee all the time. So I went to the doctor. After many questions, blood tests and the like I have a raised PSA. That, apparently, means that there's something wrong with my prostate. So I get sent off to see a urologist. She does various things to me included urine tests and a digital rectal examination. Yep, that's how much fun I been having. I saw her again and she said I still have a raised PSA so it's biopsy time. That was Tuesday. Definitely not the most fun I ever had with two women and no trousers, but that's the way it goes. I'm now awaiting results.
Among all this activity it turns out that I have glucose in my urine. So more tests for diabetes this time. The HbA1C (or some other random collection of letters and numbers) says I'm not diabetic but the glucose tolerance test says I have impaired glucose tolerance - that means I'm nearly diabetic. I also have all the risk factors - immediate family member with diabetes, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and high blood pressure. So I have to lose 4 stones in weight. That's 56 pounds. Since early October I have managed to shed about twelve and a half pounds, so I'm getting there. Hopefully the weight loss will help my hypertension.
So I have been quite down at times, and gotten around to considering my own mortality. I've hand picked all the players for the band at my funeral. How dark can life be? Well I guess that from such a perspective any news has got to be good news. If not the rep. player is going to be pretty damned fantastic in church - shame i won;t be able to hear him.
"...for now we see in a glass, darkly..."

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A weekend away.

I went to see James Morrison  (the Australian jazz musician, not the singer) at Birmingham's Symphony Hall with the Black Dyke Band on Sunday. It was a really good gig. So good, in fact, that my brother actually played his post horn. That doesn't happen often outside his own back kitchen. Now this particular James Morrison announced to the audience that he was going to play a duet. When pressed by Nick Childs for more information he declared that he was going to play a diet on his own. He'd already done his party piece and played the trumpet in one hand and the trombone in the other so what manner of duet was he proposing. Well his rendition of Basin Street Blues. Quite fitting given the proximity of Symphony Hall to Gas Street Basin, I thought, but I didn't say anything because I'm quite shy and I don't like to draw attention to myself. Anyway back to the duet. Morrison played the trumpet with his right hand and the piano with his left. Not alternating between them like he does with the trumpet and trombone but he actually played them both at the same time. Pretty impressive stuff eh?Impressive yeah, but he didn't play the post horn.

Whilst I was in Birmingham I took the opportunity to obtain some of Mont Blanc's latest special edition ink. Its the Meisterstuck Diamond blue ink. I quite like it. I guess some of you are going to be inundated with it for the short term until I find something else to excite me. Que sera, sera.

Yesterday we went to Coventry. Before you ask I wasn't sent there I went of my own accord. We have wanted to see the cathedral there for some time and so we finally made it. It's impressive stuff. That tapestry is just immense. Giles Brandreth was there too doing some filming for, we think, the One Show. He didn't ask for my autograph though. So I didn't ask for his. But if you're interested he said his three grand-children are fine. Sorry I don;t have any pictures. I'll go back another time and get some for you.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Blog neglect continues unabashed

Well I haven't been a very good blogger again recently. In my defence I was busy over te jubilee weekend with Silk Brass taking part in the annual Whit Friday contests in the Saddleworth and Oldham areas. We only managed to get six done this year due to someone turning up late for the coach and all the associated congestion that all the band busses cause. Big brother's band managed eight and the also took the area title with six firsts, a third and a fifth place. I guess that was always going to happen. At least we got best band on the march at Diggle and so we beat them even though it was only in a very small way.

Today postman pat brought more blue boxes from Smythson. Nile blue writing paper this time. I think the jury is still out on that one. See what other people think in due course I guess. It's all about the paper / ink combo. Maybe it will look good with Noodler's Black Swans in Australian Roses. Time, as they say, will tell. I might post some pics later.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

I guested on someone elses blog. Wooohoo!!

Last week I was featured as pen pal of the week on the blog of that name. Thanks Julie for including me. So far I have had three people contacting me wanting to exchange letters by snail-mail, so that's great.

Also last weekend I had a wonderful time in Whitby (of Dracula fame) meeting a pen pal of mine who came over to Britain from the States. Actually it was two pen pals as they are a husband and wife and I write to both of them. It was great to meet them both. I hope that they enjoyed themselves as much as Deb and I did. Obviously I won't embarrass them by posting their names, but I believe that they have been known to stop by this blog every once in a while.

Whit Friday is fast looming so I'm going to be out with Silk Brass doing however many contests we can fit in. I missed out last year because I was down in the south of France. Which would you prefer, Tameside ? Saddleworth or the Languedoc Rousillon?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Not doing too well with this blogging.

It seems that I have, again, been neglecting my blog. In truth nothing of any great interest has occurred recently. Work has been steady, Silk Brass have been rehearsing steadily for Whit Friday and the forthcoming concert season. It's all been very quiet. C'est la vie. I just thought I'd better post something so that you know I am still here :)

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Been neglecting my blog of late.

Well I'm afraid that I have been neglecting my blog of late. When I started out I wondered how long i would take before I fell off. Now we know, not very long at all.
I have had a few day's out of the country. Can you guess from the picture where I've been? If you're thinking New York City then you are wrong, I'm afraid. I was ready for a break as I had been working pretty solidly since New Year. Now it's work again until Easter. C'est la vie. (is that a clue about where I've been?)
I managed to meet up with a fairly recent pen-pal while I was away. It was good to meet up with him. I guess any such meeting can be quite awkward, but we helped each other through it. It was great to meet him.
Not much else has happened while I've been absent from my blog. The band had the area contest last month where we were placed tenth. Not the greatest of results, but that's contesting. The only opinion that counts is that of the guy who didn't have to pay to get in. C'est la vie.
Postman Pat dumped a load of mail on my doorstep while I was away, so it's going to take me a little while to get through the backlog. If you;re waiting for a letter from me I'll get there asap.
So have you guessed where I went yet? Of cours eit was Paris. The statue of liberty is on the Isle of Swans just west of the Eiffel Tower.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Contest Day - Take 1

Today is contest day. The band, Silk Brass, has been rehearsing one piece of music, "mountain Views" by Bertrand Moren, since the beginning of the year. The music lasts about 10 minutes or so. We're at the Derby contest today as next weekend sees us in Blackpool for the North West Regional competition - basically the qualifying round for the National Championships. So today is about giving the band a run out on the area test piece to make sure we're match fit. The judge will sit in a box so that he doesn't know which band is playing and he will critique each performance. The band which, in the judges opinion, gives the best performance of the test piece is the winner. Naturally there will only be one band who agree with the judge, with the other bands all being robbed. What is important about the contest is that it is the first contest with musical director, Jim Cant, back at the helm after a period of illness. Wish us luck!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Technological advances

I've had it for a while. It's been sitting on my laptop and I have done nothing with it. I didn't have anyone else to play with, really. Today was different. Today someone said "do you Skype?" I didn't even know that there was a verb "to skype". Then I remembered that an American guy ( I don't remember his name, sorry) once said "there's not a word in the English language that can't be verbed". That is a terrible thing to do to a language. So anyway Deb and I had our first real Skype video conversation with someone. Deb was well impressed.
Lettermo is continuing a pace. Deb managed to get me some of the diamond jubilee Machin stamps in town today. My usual post office didn't have them the other day when I enquired, unless I wanted to buy a presentation pack. C'est la vie.
I decided that Skyping ( is that how you say it?) is good, but it's not up there with a letter. You can't (or maybe you can) re-run a Skype conversation. But you can re-read a letter. I have been asking, recently, for advice about my filing system (sic) for my letters received. Up until recently I have been keeping them in a shoe box. Pikolinos, which is suitably cosmopolitain I thought, which Deb bought in Picardy if my memory serves me correct. Anyway the shoe box was full to bursting and I needed a new system. But I didn't know what to do. Panic! Anyway I resolved it by getting a bigger box. It's not a shoe box anymore, it's just an anonymous white storage box from Ikea. I guess it wil do the job for the time being. What next I know not.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Buying stamps and writing letters

Had a busy day today going to the post office for stamps and then writing letters. In between times I managed to fit in going to work as well. I just about managed to catch up with all my letter writing when Postman Pat came with two letters and the Postcrossing cards. I guess there's no peace for the wicked! The postie also brought my Windsors stamp presentation pack including all five stamps plus the mini sheet. I'm just waiting on the diamond jubilee presentation pack, now, together with the commemorative document.

I also received my British Philatelic Bulletin today. I'm not too excited about the forthcoming comics set but the Scottish locomotive mini sheet and the Britons of Distinction set look rather interesting. I think it's a shame, though, that the Scottish locomotives are only going to be issued as a minisheet as not many are going to be used to send letters. That is a real shame as people won;t get to see and enjoy them. People do enjoy them, I often get comments from overseas pen friends about the Royal Mail commemorative stamps that I usually afix to my outgoing post. We'll wait and see what the Dicken's they have in store for us in June.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Good mail day

Today was a good mail day. Postman Pat brought, apart form the 'phone bill, a letter from Michael in Kentucky and a letter from a brand new penpal in Wales who has kindly included me in her Month of Letters Challenge (henceforth referred to as lettermo). I also received my stationery parcel from Smythson's. Yep that's two from them recently. This time I'm replenishing supplies of the Bond Street blue which seems to be my staple stationery (see what I did there?). I'm running out of ideas for what to do with those nice blue boxes.
As my part of lettermo I sent out a letter today to someone with whom I have not, previously, corresponded. That's two new folks in as many days. I guess tomorrow is going to see me at the post office replenishing my stamp drawer. The trouble is that there are so many different rates for postage. 46p for first class, 68p for Europe (up to 20 grammes) or £1 for over that weight. 76p, £1.10 or £1.65 for the rest of the world depending on weight.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Another new car, snow, fog and cancellations

My alarm went off bright and early at 06:30. I looked out of the window and saw my new AA Driving School Ford Focus arriving half an hour early. So the driver had to wait until I made myself decent. The new car isn't any shade of grey or silver which, in my opinion, in a huge plus. It's white. White cars look pretty smart but I'm not so sure when it has all the decals fitted. I guess it is just a rental car at the end of the day.
The weather here over the weekend has not been fantastic. I was scheduled to take a PDI for his part3 test today but the DSA cancelled it due to the weather. C'est la vie.
My month of letters challenge is shaping up. I wrote to another member of the lettermo forum today and, I hope, have a coupleof others lined up for thos days when I have no regular correspondent to whom I am able to write. Then, of course, there's always Postcrossing.

Friday, 3 February 2012

So far, so good.

But it's only day three of the month of letters challenge. I have been fortunate to receive a letter each day this month, so it means that I have a letter to write in reply. I am concerned that this project might become a little forced if I try to write letters that I wouldn't ordinarily write. By the same token it will, I hope be an opportunity to write those letters that I always wanted to write but never did. We'll see if I actually get around to them before the month is out. For more information about the month of letters challenge the website is .
It looks like winter has arrived in Britain this week. I went out this morning and it was minus 5 celcius at 08:00. I'm glad I didn't have an early start :) Snow is forecast for tomorrow, I believe, so I might get some enforced time off work. C'est la vie. Thankfully the Focus has an electrically heated front windscreen so I didn't need to scrape any ice off it.
Rehearsals are intensifying for the forthcoming North West Regional contest at the end of the month. The test piece is "Mountain Views" which is best described as quite nice. I don;t think that it will stay long in the memory once we get on the coach back from Blackpool. That's going to be a long day. Why do we go contesting? We put hours of rehearsal time in to give one performance lasting just a few minuted to a guy in a box. We sit around all day killing time between rehearsing, performing and hearing the results. I guess there will be five bands who consider it worthwhile despite all the hanging around. The question is will the mighty Fodens maintain the run of success? To be honest I can't see anybody in the north west that is in the same class. Things might be different if they were in Yorkshire, however.........

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

and today Postman Pat brought...

... a special delivery item from Smythson's no less. I have, for some time now, been impressed with the quality of Smythson's stationery. Yes it's a bit more expensive than my favourite of twenty-five years Three Candlesticks but I think that it's worth it. This is not my usual Kings size Bond Street blue either. This is the 10x8 inch cream writing paper so, for those in the know, this is quite a departure for me. So now I need to receive a letter so that I can respond with this new stationery. Question is, though, which ink to choose with the cream paper? Any suggestions?

I saw, recently, the gauntlet thrown down for writing a letter every day during the month of February. It is a short month, even though this is a leap year. I think I'm going to give it a go. During January I managed to send sixteen letters which is up on my average of eight to ten per month. I guess I'm going to have to find some additional people to write to this month. Here goes.....

We've just tried the brand new super exciting Tesco store that opened here a couple of weeks ago. What can I say? It's just a shop! I was impressed by the trolley sticking to the travelator though. Just as well as it's on quite a gradient for a loaded shopping trolley. It was our first supermarket shop with la voiture nouvelle. The boot of the Peugeot doesn't seem quite as big as that of the old Volvo. Saying that we had the floor in the middle position so the extra height might make the Peugeot as capacious as the Volvo was though the floor area is smaller. Swings and roundabouts I guess. The real test will come when we get the golf bats out when the better weather comes.

Friday, 27 January 2012

I can't do mail art, unless this counts?

Mail art seems to be de rigeur at the moment. I, however, am inept in the extreme when it comes to any kind of drawing. My artistic ability, if I have any, is in music and photography. However I then saw on Troy's blog that people are making their own envelopes. Well here goes then. I found an old out of date OS map of the area around where I grew up and with a pencil and some scissors, hey presto we have an envelope. Unfortunately the map is upside down on the envelope, but it is early days at the moment. I guess I can always write the address etc upside down for the envelope so that the map is the right way round. If I were on the receiving end I would be glad to receive the letter and not worry too much about the map being upside down. I have plenty more of the map left to make a few more, so onwards and upwards as they say.

Did you know that the United Nations print their own stamps? Neither did I until I received some through the post today from Misty aka pen thief. They are simply wonderful and will add to my steadily growing stamp collection. I'll put some pics up another time.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Googling does not constitute research.

I was going to say that I have been researching, but Robert Landon said that Googling is not research. Er go I have been Googling for some information about the beautiful and historic port of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast of England. I though that I knew a bit about the town but I have turned up some interesting new factoids ( too much Steve Wright in the afternoon?). The reason for my googling is because Whitby is going to have a couple of American visitors this spring. One of them is quite a Bram Stoker fan. It turns out that Mr. Stoker was in Whitby slap bang in the middle of the time that my own personal Whitby hero was active there. Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was a very famous Victorian photographer who documented the town through his photographs. So it's a great way to see how Whitby must have looked at the time of Stoker's visit. I'm so hooked on this one now:)
Unfortunately Postman pat has not been a busy boy today. I received no interesting letters. In fact I havent received an interesting letter since 16 January. Maybe I'm getting withdrawal symptoms. Letters seem to arrive in batches and then I have a flurry of activity responding to them all. It really is a shame that Postman pat can't spread them out nice and evenly. C'est la vie. Then there is the question of those correspondents who simply cease to write. What is the etiquette here? Is it correct to write again in case the first letter was lost in the post, or is it better to assume that the other person wishes to end the correspondence? I'd hate to think that other people have not received letters from me and assumed that I wished to end the correspondence. It really is a quintessential dichotomy and that's not easy to put when you;re as bad at typing as I am.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Yesterday I swapped my old car. I have blogged about the change before but I'm really feeling kinda screwed up about it. The new car is very nice and its comfortable and shiny and cheaper to run and, and, and ... but I can't help feeling a sense of loss for the old car. It had become a part of the family in the twelve years that we had it. I'm not the sentimental type who gives cars names pr calls it "she", but there's over a quarter of my life that I've spent with that car and we've had a fair few adventures in it. We've been all over the UK and to various part of Europe in it. Well I guess that as one chapter ends another one begins. We're Peugeot people now, so I had better get used to it. Chin up :)

I don't know which I most dislike, shaving or having a beard. I've been letting it grow for a while now and I'm not keen on the feel of it. most people who have commented about it have been positive, but I'm not convinced. I think it's nearing the time when it is going to disappear again. At least until the next time.

Smythson of Old Bond Street are famous for their leather and stationery. This week I received the A5 Lippiat folder that I ordered in their sale. I can see the logic of the spiral bound notebook as it allows the left hand page to lie flat. I had thought that a casebound book would be better, but I was mistaken. The folder has places to keep my BlackBerry and business cards as well as notevards, envelopes and the like. The pen loop is pretty pointless though in my opinion. As with all Smythson's goods it arrived in a Nile blue, tissue lined box tied up with ribbon and is extremely well presented. You can hear the quality oozing out of the pores of the leather. Maybe a picture or two later in the week.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Today has been, primarily, a day of letters. I had three letters awaiting a reply and, this far, I have written two replies to American correspondents and I have one to write to go to Australia. The Roald Dahl stamps are in evidence. Sadly there is no Augustus Gloop stamp to send to Georgia. I hope that the Twits are sufficient consolation.

Last week I did something I have never done before. I wrote to two people whose blogs I read. That's not really the kind of thing I would normally do, but what the hell.

Looking at the forthcoming stamp issues from Royal Mail I am in a little bit of a quandary. Do I buy an album and buy each set of stamps as they are issued or do I wait til the end of the year and buy the 2012 year book? I'm tempted to do the latter as the 2011 book is very impressive and keeps things together in a way that I like.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Shopping and other horrors

Last night we watched the film "Bram Stoker's Dracula". I haven't seen the film since we first bought the DVD which is, in all probability, ten or twelve years ago. I liked the film but I couldn;t help wondering how it differs from the book. It claims, after all, to be very true to the original. I'm embarrassed to say that it is a book that I have never read.

Today I had to venture forth to that temple of consumerism, the Trafford Centre. Er go a visit to Waterstones was deemed to be in order. Therein I found a rather nice leather bound edtion of Bram Stoker's Dracula for fifteen quid. Sold! So I am in the process of finding out how accurate the film is to the book that bears its name. Time will, no doubt, tell.

Parker seem to have a new kind of fountain pen on the market. I had a brief look in Selfridges, today, but I didn't have time to have a proper nosey as we were supposed to be looking for a burr coffee grinder. They seem to be in short suplly in the shops. Everywhere had the nasty little blades that chop the coffee up but we only managed to find one shop with a burr grinder and even they only had one model. Well done to John Lewis I suppose I sould say. I can't help thinking that internet shopping is so much easier. The other plus to internet shopping is that temptation to buy on impulse is, to some extent, removed as there are no dazzling displays of the laterst "must have" products to draw you in.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Astonishing statistics

I was absolutely astonished to read on another blog that someone actually send up to 147 items of personal, handwritten mail per month and receives a similar amount of post. Poor old Postman Pat must be earning his corn at that house! The blogger then goes on to say that she records her mail exchanges in a notebook. Each notebook last approximately four months before it is full. I dread to think about the cost of such an undertaking in terms of stationery, ink and stamps. I though that I was going some at a total of between fifteen and twenty items per month (that's an estimate, I don't keep statistics). As our American cousins might say, go figure.

Wednesday night was back to the grindstone for Sik Brass. JC led us through a mix of "stamina building" (Jim's words, not mine) pieces including the wonderful "Suite Gothique" before, eventually, landing on the test piece, "Mountain Views", for this years "area" contest to be held in the once glorious Winter Gardens in Blackpool next month. We eventually staggered over to the Davvy for a lime and soda water to recover before the journey home. Fortunately I was in the V70 because I didn't have the energy left to change gear in the Focus.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

End of an era

It would appear that more than twenty years of uninterupted Volvo ownership is about to come to an end thanks to my dear lady wife and the French. Now I have always liked France and the French. Not just John, but all French people. A lot of British folk have a dislike for the French which I have always found to be totally unjustified. I have always been made to feel welcome when I have visited France. An ability to speak even a little bit of their language combined with the knack of poking fun at yourself for trying to speak French has always seemed to work for me. So what have the French done? They have persuaded said good lady wife to buy a French car. Well if I'm brutally honest maybe it is time to swap my twelve year old Volvo. But it's like losing a part of the family now. Ah well, lets hope the new car lasts as long as the old one.

I have decided against the Kindle. A number of folk said get an i-pad, but that puts things into a different cost bracket. Whilst mulling it over I have been reading on the Kindle software that I downloaded to my PC. It really isn't for me I don't think so I'm going to give it a miss. Gadgetry is not really my thing. I bought an ipod and used it regularly for at least a week before I lost interest. Nowadays, of course, I have it connected in the Focus at work and use it that way but otherwise it would have been another waste of money. SO no Kindle and keep the cash towards something more exciting. Maybe make a trip in the new car to Smythson's perhaps......

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

I have long been contemplating the purchase of an e-reader. I like books. My wife says I have too many books. I tried reasoning with her by saying that she has too many pairs of shoes, too many handbags, too many bottles of nail varnish etc etc. All of which was to no avail. I even had to ship a couple of boxes of paperbacks off to the local charity shop. So an e-reader seems to be the logical way to go. I have been doing some research and Kindle seems to be the best brand to go for. So I guess that's on my shopping list for 2012.

Second up I'm being forced to swap my old car. I really, really don;t relish the idea of getting rid. But she who must be obeyed says that that's the way that 2012 is going to be. So that cancels out our planned trip to Paris in the spring:( C'est la vie, I guess.

Call me Dave has coughed up some more "government" money for the olympics apparently. Lord COe was on the telly this morning saying how wonderful it was. I wonder just how much "government" money has been sunk into it already. I bet the NHS would be able to make excellent use of the money. They could probably do a lot of hip replacements ad heart surgery etc etc with the kinda money that's gone into building a running track and inviting a load of foreign dignitaries to come over. Actually we were discussing call me Dave at a New Year party last night. If Blackadder was still being written they could have an excellent character called "Dave the Bastard". If the writers are reading this they can have the idea for free.