Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Saga Draws To A Close

The silver car saga is almost at an end. I have email confirmation that the dealer will be providing a full refund and so we can move on. The latest chosen vehicle is a white Kia Sportage, so look out for a brand new white car saga in the next few weeks. Incidentally, all of my posts got removed from the Dacia UK Facebook site, so I posted a new one, and Dacia kindly asked me if any of their customer services team had been in touch. I took that as an opportunity to repost the pictures and let people know of the whole sorry mess. In summary, NEVER buy a Dacia as they will quickly rust (if they have not done so already, and NEVER deal with Renault as their customer service is shocking.

As a footnote, Autoexpress are still keen to run a story on this, warning people of the perils of rusty dusters. They should write a poem.

Zac had an allergic reaction this week, relatively mild, but he he had swollen lips and his breathing became wheezy. The only thing we could tie it down to was Seabrook cheese & onion crisps! He's been fine since he reverted to Walkers prawn cocktail.

Ive noticed recently that I get a lot of email from Delia. It seems that the celebrity chef is keen on spamming people based on what they comment about. Delia seemed particularly active after the Rhubarb Crumble post. Anyway. I have blacklisted her, but yesterday I ended up with the Delta-Homes virus. Could Delia really be responsible for delivering this nasty thing through her emails? The virus intercepts your browser and redirects it. It also slows your computer down massively. I installed Spyhunter to clean it all up, but it took ages. Not sure how it got onto my computer, as I use McAfee Livesafe, but its fixed now, along with a ton of other potential threats that were hidden in cookies throughout my system.

Hopefully Delia won't be reading this - but yesterday I made a vegetarian chilli with swede and carrots. Actually tastes ok - the swede gives it some substance. Ole asked "Where's the meat?"but he ate it anyway. I then made Rocky Road with a mixture of plain chocolate and Terry's Chocolate Orange. Seemed to lack a bit of moisture but turned out ok. I just wonder if either of them will last until Sunday when I take them to Gabi!

The History Of Zombies now runs to over 5,300 words, and our heroes have officially cured their first zombie. Yes 'cured' not slaughtered! I'll see if catches on. Might have to introduce some bloodletting later in the story.

The Raven now has a full cast, makeup artist, light and sound technician, producer, and costume designer! There are only a total of about 150 tickets that will be available for sale, so when they get released you need to get in quickly! We are planning a photoshoot on 14th June - should be a lot of fun. We are now on the lookout for stage props. So far we have a candelabra, a crystal ball, and a skull.

There are a lot of rants on Facebook at the moment, touching everything from FIFA to village cricket, to Britain's Got Talent. Its an easy medium to use, far better than writing to The Times of London and signing it Outraged From Taxal. I sometimes wonder whether the ranters really want to address the issues they rant about, or do they just want to hide behind their posts. A quick glance at the 'Seen By' figure should encourage them to have a word with themselves.

Ask Zac today is about potential names for his niece, due to arrive in November. "Do you think she should be called Memphis?" asked Fiona, as Man United have just signed Memphis Depay and Ole is named after a famous footballer. "No" was his reply. "Can you imagine someone shouting 'Come over here Memphis'?". He was then asked what he considers to be chavvy names. For some reason "Dan" was top of his list.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Grounded!

It was bound to happen, sooner or later.

Some of you may remember an infamous incident from a few years ago. I came home from work one Friday afternoon to be told by Zac that the playroom was not for watching tv, it was for exercising, and we were all going to get healthy. We duly went off to cricket practice, and I forgot all about it. Later on, as I was tucking him up for the night, he reiterated his earlier comment. "Remember, there's to be no tv in the playroom, its for exercise." By the time I got downstairs I had again forgotten all about it, but when I tried to turn on the tv there was nothing. I looked around the back and all of the plugs had been removed from the sockets. Puzzling, but no cause for concern. So, I plugged them all back in and tried again. This time there was life, but not as we know it. The LCD screen had a huge crack, like a lightning bolt, down the middle. There was only one suspect. "Zac, what have you done?" "Nothing," "If you don't tell me now it will only make it worse." "It was the Wii's fault. It said that I had died, and I hadn't, so I hit it." His cunning plan to have us avoid the television until we had literally forgotten it even existed was foiled, and it led to him being grounded for a month.

Earlier this week he casually said to Sally, "We never use that big television in the pool room. Should we swop it for mine?" A short investigation later revealed the real reason behind his suggestion. A game of FIFA had been ruined by the inept Karim Benzema, a frequent object of Zac's wrath, and this time it was fatal. The familiar crack was much more widespread, and the grounding will be of a similar duration, which of course includes no XBox (or Ipad), and he will have to pay for a new tv. Suspect he might already have an eBay account!

And whilst on the subject of Zac, we come to Ask Zac, our hopefully regular feature. Sally and Helen are off to Benidorm, and they have been given the option to upgrade from half board to all inclusive for 30 Euros, so they decided to Ask Zac. "Does it mean you can have two lunches?" he questioned. "Yes." "Then its worth it." I suspect that he missed the point of what all inclusive would mean for Sally and Helen.

The silver car saga shows no real signs of letting up, except that Sally has sourced a white car as a potential replacement. This is something called a Kia Sportage (pronounced in a rather French way). I should find out tomorrow if the return of the Clio, the scrapping of the Duster and the purchase of the Sportage go as clockwork. I suspect not.

I completed the press release for The Raven this week, and it seems to have been well received. Next up its the artwork for the posters and flyers, and then finally we can begin rehearsals. In the meantime, I have been asked (invited?) to contribute to the Leek Blues & Americana Festival. This was great fun last year, and I thoroughly recommend the event that takes place over the first weekend in October. Early next week I will be interviewing Paul Lamb of the Kingsnakes fame. He also had a hit in the 80s in conjunction with Pete Waterman. Promises to be an interesting one.

Cycling has been eventful this week. On Monday I did a circuit of Buxworth as far as the Paper Mill to pick up a bag, then yesterday I headed to Marple, getting just short of bridge 24 that is being replaced. This should have been completed within 3 weeks from 4th May, and legally the towpath should have been reopened, but the chaps struggling to sink in structures to reinforce the bank didn't look they would be interested in a debate. Today I stuck to the canal to Buxworth, accompanied by Zac who now needs to find alternative entertainment. It could be an opportunity to get fit for the new football season, but a chocolate ice cream probably put paid to that.


Zac in his quest for alternative entertainment

The perils of playing cricket in the cold weather at Buxton came to bear last night. More news on the WBCC website, but Zac actually stuck out his hand to field a ball that had been smashed toward the boundary, preventing a certain four. It clearly hurt, a lot, and I would love some of the second team to be as brave. I asked him about it afterwards, assuring him that it was a really good stop, and his reply was very encouraging. "Would have been better if I had caught it."

It seems like everyone is on a diet, which isn't good when you are trying to experiment with recipes for MMM...No2...Cookbook. To be fair, the chocolate digestives don't seem to last long, but I might need some help getting rid of chicken chorizo and prawn paella, chorizo and sweet potato papads, and home made mini Danish pastries!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A Load Of Baloney

Well, its been another eventful few days, including a whirlwind trip to Ireland. For those of you that don't know, my mum and 3 sisters were all in Ireland for a week - something that was arranged as part of my mum's 80th birthday celebrations. So I decided that a week was way to long, and went for a day.

I arrived on Thursday, and they were a little late picking me up at Shannon airport. Jane, my middle sister, had driven over with my mum, so she was in her own car. A car that was undoubtedly familiar to her. In the back was my eldest sister Lisa, who had a map, baby sister Fiona, without a map but with a sharp tongue, and my mum. I was in the front, but with no navigational responsibilities whatsoever. Apparently, in the previous few days they had been driving around Connemara for hours, until Jane remembered that she had a Sat Nav in the boot. Fiona had wondered about the fitting on the windscreen. I guess she assumed that it was for a camera in case they do another series of Car Share.

Anyway, we drove around the lanes of Kiltormer and Killoran, finding the graveyard where my mum's grandfather is buried, and leaving a rock on the grave. Apparently this tells the next person to visit, and the person underground, that someone has been to the grave! We then went into the market town of Ballinasloe that my grandmother use to go to on a pony and trap. We had lunch that would come back and haunt my big sister Lisa later, and then went to the cottage at Spiddall, west of Galway. The cottage was tiny, but serviceable, and a stones throw from the rocky beach that was constantly battered by the ocean. My mum looked on this stretch of Irish coastline in much the same way that I would look at the Caribbean coastline. Ireland is, of course, synonymous with the colour green. However, after a few hours in this particular corner the most common pastel was grey. Grey in the clouds, grey in the fields and grey out on the ocean. Jane insisted that the the sun would burn it off very soon. We went through the book that I gave my mum for her birthday, filled with pictures and memories from her childhood and beyond. She actually made her own wedding dress, though not the veil, having bought the material from Lewis's in Manchester, and the newspaper cutting from her wedding day is so detailed it evokes memories of a much grander age when such occasions truly deserved to be remembered. She did point out one inaccuracy, they did not fly directly to their honeymoon in the Isle Of Man, instead they spent the night in their flat in Sale.

My mum is still sprightly into her 81st year, and she must be proud of bringing up four normal children, well perhaps apart from Fiona but you are bound to take your eye off the ball at some point, who have all given her grandchildren, and later this year she will become a great grandmother.

So that night we walked into Spiddall, braving the wind and rain to find food and Irish music. I had a glass of Granny Mary's Red Ale which seemed appropriate, but then Lisa got struck down by either a migraine or food poisoning so she went back to the cottage with my mum. Jane, Fiona and myself went to a couple of other pubs for some Irish music, then headed back. The following morning, after a hearty Irish breakfast, we headed to the shrine at Knock on the way to dropping me off at Knock Airport. Knock is world famous for 15 people having a vision at the same time. I think it was of the Virgin Mary, but it could well have been a potato that looked like the face of Jesus (the Irish are also fanatical about potatoes). Anyway, Knock is a very spiritual place, marred only by the row of souvenir shops that would not be out of place on Blackpool seafront, The shrine itself is inside the Chapel, where mass is a constant. Every hour on the hour. Then there is a hill that looks like Calvary, a basilica, and various statues. It struck me that they would be better off making it into a theme park, with guests boarding a train like 'Its A Small World or the start of the Charlie And The Chocolate Factory ride at Alton Towers. They could have maybe four masses taking place at the same time, though staggered so that as the train takes you from one part to the next you would never lose your place in the service. That way, you wouldn't have to wait an hour before being able to enter the Chapel where the shrine is! I thought this was an excellent idea, but the devout Catholics in the family thought that I was a blasphemer! I also refused to buy a plastic bottle of holy water!

Anyway, I returned through Knock airport which could clearly not cope very well with three planes departing at the same time, I guess my 10 Euro departure tax will go some way to building a better waiting lounge.

Earlier in the week the rain and wind made cycling a problem, but I did manage to hit the road on Tuesday. I went up to Chapel Golf Club, but by the time I got back I had a massive puncture. On Wednesday I got the Bike Factory to fix it for less than a tenner. Absolute bargain.

And speaking of modes of transport, there have been some remarkable developments regarding the silver car. I was supposed to get an email from Robyn Noone at Renault UK last week, stating that they intended to do nothing about it. It never arrived so I chased them up on Monday. Eventually it came on Thursday. In the meantime, I had sent all of the details to Autoexpress, as well as to Mr Kenneth Ramirez, Managing Director of Renault UK. As the email from Robyn arrived, so did one from the office of Mr Ramirez, saying I would get a response within 8 hours. And what a response it was. Being away I asked Sally to contact Robyn, and this is the reply...


Thank you for taking the time to contact me this afternoon in regards to your Dacia Duster and the email your husband had sent to our Managing Director, Mr Ken Ramirez.

As per our conversation, I would like to confirm that your vehicle has been built to factory standard and we have no concerns over the surface oxidisation seen on the under body components. The oxidisation seen on your vehicle is visual only and does not affect the durability or performance of the vehicle.

As discussed, Dacia UK will not be accepting a rejection of this vehicle and the courtesy vehicle provided by Renault Manchester will need to be returned by 12:00pm on Saturday, 23 May 2015 and your own vehicle collected from the dealer premises.

I regret that I am not able to be of any further assistance on this occasion. However, should you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Dacia Customer Relations on 0344 335 1111 or via www.dacia.co.uk Our dedicated Customer Relations department is open from 9.00am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. On Wednesdays we are open from 10.00am.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact Dacia UK.              

Kind Regards,

Robyn Noone

So, not only do the Renault or Dacia factory standards allow such rust to be evident on brand new cars, they also fail to see the issue with a brand new car being rusty at all. The demands regarding the courtesy car were the final straw. This was my response...

Robyn

I am appalled by your attitude.

1. The courtesy car was delivered to me when you picked up my defective car.

2. I will hand over the courtesy car to whoever wants to pick it up.

3. I will be rejecting the car as per my rights detailed in sale of goods act.

4. All this now has nothing to do with you (Renault UK) so I will be dealing with Renault Manchester and your chief executive.

5. You may hear from auto express who are keen to publicise your shoddy attitude and customer service.

Regards

Michael Madden

She got off lightly. If I was not struggling with Wifi in an Irish bar at the time she would have got a proper diatribe.

She also failed to CC Mr Ramirez, so I sent my own response to him...

Sir

I am appalled by your employee's response, and the admittance that your factory standards allow this kind of thing.

However her admittance that there is visual oxidisation is all I need to use the sale of goods act to prove that it is not fit for purpose as a 'brand new' vehicle.

Her demand that I return the courtesy car and pick up my vehicle is a joke. I never asked for a courtesy car. If you want it back come and collect it. I will be rejecting the duster so do not need to collect it. 

Check your FB page and follow auto express.

Your company will be getting some richly deserved bad publicity regarding this.

Regards

Michael Madden

Anyway, the following day I rang Steve Earle at Renault Manchester and he was much more sympathetic. After all, he has been sent a rust bucket by Renault UK. His only mistake was to sell it to me! He said that he had escalated it to his GM and he would get back to me next week. To be fair, he is getting married so will be out of office until Thursday. Later that day he actually called with another update, after he no doubt received Robyn's email. He assured me that he would not leave us in the  lurch, and that it was fine to keep the courtesy car until after the Bank Holiday. Then it got interesting. He said that perhaps it was time to start looking for another car as I shouldn't have to have a new car that is so rusty. At first I thought he meant a replacement Dacia, but no. He said that he knew I would accept a replacement, but to be honest the same problem with rust would probably happen again!

So there you have it. We have saved the voicemail message that he sent, just in case it goes legal. But as long as I get reasonable compensation, plus a full refund of my part ex and the £100 deposit (I haven't paid any finance as yet), then I will be happy. Needless to say my next choice will not be a Dacia, or indeed a Renault!

If anyone is interested I am happy to print the voicemail verbatim in the next edition!

The pictures are also on the Dacia UK website, and there have been some interesting responses as well at least one other person with very similar, if not worse, rust.

Finally, a new feature. Ask Zac. Fiona believes that a conversation with Zac is worthwhile no matter what the subject, and he does seem to have an opinion on everything. So she asked me to ask him what he thinks about alien abductions. Not surprisingly, he was very forthright.

It's a load of baloney. I think there is probably life on other planets, I just don't think anyone has ever been abducted by them.

If you have any questions to 'Ask Zac' just let me know and I will happily print his reply.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Who Is Arabella?

Well, its amazing just how many people have fallen for the PCN scam, and not just at Aldi in Macclesfield. Now, I am no legal expert, but I have reproduced below the 2 letters that I sent to SIP Parking, the second of which is a standard letter that clearly states your case. It is almost a year to the day that I got scammed, and I have paid nothing. Not had a letter for months either.

Dear Sir / Madam

I am writing in response to the above PCN that I found on my car a full 13 minutes after my ticket expired. Whilst I do agree that my ticket had expired I find your £100 of charge (even with discounts) extortionate, and what amounts to a penalty which, of course, you are not legally permitted to impose.

So, I am attaching a cheque for £5 to pay for the additional parking (although it was only 13 minutes your minimum is £1 per hour so £1 it is), plus a very generous £4 (400%) for disbursements (i.e. sticking a ticket in a plastic bag and putting it on my windscreen).

The cheque for £5 is in full and final settlement of this PCN.

Regards


Dear SIP Parking Limited

You issued me with a parking ticket on 5th June 2014 and although not on the Parking on Private Land Appeals list of grounds for appeal I believe the ticket was unfairly issued and I will not be paying your demand for payment for the following reason:

The fee is disproportionate

According to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contract Regulations, parking charges on private land must not exceed the cost to the landowner during the period the motorist is parked there. In my case, the £35 charge you are asking for (rising to £100) far exceeds the cost to the landowner of £1. (The parking was 13 minutes over though your minimum is £1 per hour so £1 it is).

So what else has been happening? Well, I had a bit of a culinary disaster myself. Not on the Sally, 'call the fire brigade, what was that actually supposed to be? we're going to need a new set of pans' disaster. Quite simply, my nougat didn't set. Do you remember Texan bars? They sure were a mighty chew, and although they were discontinued many yeas ago, they were brought back briefly in 2005. So, I decided to try to recreate them. I thought a layout of nougat and a layer of caramel, covered in chocolate would do the trick, but the nougat didn't set. I had even bought a food thermometer to ensure the sugar temperatures were correct, but I think it was down to the egg whites - probably too many of them. They were whipped in my electric mixture for ages. I really wonder what the Victorians did. Victorian women must have had arms like Mariusz Pudzianowski with all of the hand beating they must have had to do. Anyway, it went in the fridge and firmed up a little, but the caramel was perfect. I amalgamated the two, then I thought a quick blast in the freezer might do the trick. I then found out that soft nougat doesn't freeze (or my freezer is broken). Anyway, the mixture of caramel and nougat was firm enough to pour chocolate over, but it didn't look pretty. Tastes very nice, a bit like chewy marshmallow. Undeterred - I will be trying again soon, with reduced egg whites.

What has happened to the weather. Its freezing. I played cricket all weekend and went to Birmingham yesterday, so today its back in the saddle, but a very quick circuit of Buxworth is about the extent of my ambition, and I'll have to be a bit sharpish in between the showers.

Have you noticed the difference between the minutiae that is stored in a woman's head compared to that of a man. I can recall the winning goalscorers from most FA Cup finals from the 70s and 80s, but I wouldn't dream of sharing that information unless specifically asked. But, when I asked about someone who lived in Whaley, the trail was endless. So who is Arabella? Oh yes, she used to go out with Derek who lived with his mum on that new estate. Just next to where the hairdresser lived who found out her husband was having an affair with that woman from New Mills, the one with the dog that bit the policeman, and she ended up going to court where she met her second husband who left his fishmonger business with the kids after they eloped. And his eldest went to Marple College studying law until he got thrown out for taking drugs that he supposedly got off that man on the narrowboat. Anyway, no one ever saw those drugs again because one of the teachers took them home. Pot Head Peter they call him, he lives in Hayfield next to the chippy, Ooh isn't that chippy wonderful? Well not any more, not since she left with that actor, Seems she had her head turned by The Village when they were filming there. Was Peaky Blinders filmed there too? Probably not, but I'm sure they've filmed other stuff there, and they had the festival last year. Oh yes, Ole is going to YNot this year, he's still in the middle of his exams but I bet he's not paid his mate for the ticket yet. Did I tell you about my ticket for parking in Aldi at Macclesfield? So remind me, who is Arabella?

They have similar issues with shopping. Hell Dog was round at mine last Friday, refusing sweet treats as she didn't want to put on weight. She admitted that she had a Holland's Pie in her fridge at home that was calling her. "Why did you buy a Holland's Pie when you don't want to put on weight?" I quite reasonably asked. "Because it was on offer," was the somewhat illogical reply, at which point Sally admitted that the Holland's Pie in our own fridge was purchased for the very same reason. And guess what? It is still in our fridge and will be until it expires and can be transferred to the bin.

I hope you are enjoying this blog! In a few days time I really must meet up with my good friend Clive Ashton who's life is as colourful as it gets. Clive wants to start his own blog, I will send you the link when he gets it up.

Sapphire is as boisterous as ever, and at meal times Bobby can often be seen munching on his food, as well as Sapphire's, with the kitten hanging around his neck. He has taken this in good heart up to now, letting Sapphire know when he has had enough, but Sapphire always likes to go that irritating but further.. Anyway, Bobby is getting on a bit now, and he has not brought home any kills for quite some time. Mice, voles and even the occasional bird used to be presented in a disemboweled state quite regularly, usually on the front door step. This morning, however, his instincts returned with a vengeance. Ole opened the door to see half of a baby rabbit. I say half, it was probably more like three quarters, as although the external part of the top half was missing, the brains and guts were there. Is this a reminder that he is still around and has still got it? Is it a lesson for Sapphire as to what is expected? Or is it a warning to Sapphire that he could be next? I await the next kill with interest! Needless to say, Ole and Zac went to school, Sally went to work, and the corpse was left with me to dispose of.

I couldn't finish without mentioning the car! Renault Manchester are waiting for Renault UK to get back in touch regarding their decision that the car is fine. I am still driving around in a Clio that is clearly inadequate for one junior and two senior games of cricket complete with large bags, helmets, and grass. Nothing has changed, but Renault Manchester have promised to call me back later today. If they don't, Joe from Auto Express, who is keen to take up my case, will be getting a reply!

I'm off to Ireland on Thursday to meet up with my mum and my three sisters. Expect some Guinness fueled blog entries later in the week.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Well My Daddy Left Home When I Was Three...

...and he didn't leave much for ma and me, just this old guitar and an empty bottle of beer.

Now I don't blame cos he run and hid, but the meanest thing that he ever did, was before he left, he went and named me...Sapphire.

So there we have it. A bit traumatic for the kitten, in more ways than one, but the vet was convinced. In a move I've not seen since Crocodile Dundee, he slipped his fingers between Sapphire's legs and announced, 'He's got testicles'. Sapphire was a bit put out by this unwanted attention, but now he can get back to the manly duties of wrestling with a stuffed Meerkat,

Rumour has it that Zac wants to change its name, but Sapphire seems unconcerned, and quite likes that Johnny Cash song.

Its also been a busy few days in the kitchen. Yesterday was a day for burgers. There's something strangely soothing about grinding your meat, and something immensely satisfying to see it gobbled up with no need for a word of praise. The empty plates say enough. Of course, Zac didn't manage a full burger, but he did have a significant bite, and then he nibbled on some bacon. Small progress, but every little counts. Today was a day for biscuits. Home made biscuits. And when my godson came round he could smell them. We had to accelerate their readiness so he could have a couple before he went home. MMM!

My last blog post got some interesting feedback, with other people having received PCNs. Well, firstly, I am no expert, but I do know that legally these people cannot issue fines, only charges, and they have to prove that what they charge is suitable recompense for your time on their land (or in most cases the land that they have been contracted to police). So if, as in my case, the car park charges per hour, and I overstayed by 15 minutes, the most I would owe them is £1. Certainly not the £40 rising to £70 and even £100 for non payment. But, do your own research. I am happy telling Sally to ignore it - but if you are worried you can either pay up, take advice from someone who really knows, or DYOR.

One thing I am certain of, Renault UK are not far short of corrupt. They rang back today, not quite within the 48 hours they promised, but near enough, and said that the rust on my brand new Dacia Duster is cosmetic and does not really affect it. What do you think? Fortunately, my contract is with the dealer and he seems more sympathetic. He is off until Monday, but I will give you an update when he returns.


Just so we are clear, rust is defined as follows:- 'Given sufficient time, oxygen, and water, any iron mass will eventually convert entirely to rust and disintegrate. Surface rust is flaky and friable, and it provides no protection to the underlying iron' and according to the same source 'Rusting is the common term for corrosion of iron and its alloys, such as steel'

Doesn't sound cosmetic to me. Dont think corrosion can ever be a good thing, right? And the word 'disintegrate' worries me a little. Maybe I'll ask Ole when he gets home. He has had his Chemistry exam today.

Renault, of course, are a French firm, but Sally is dealing with this particular issue, so it may be that that they have just met their Waterloo. In the meantime I am still stuck with an inadequate Clio, wondering where my old reliable (well it used to be) blue Chevvy is right now. Its almost as if it is being held hostage!

Just seen a very odd sight - Sally lying down in the driveway looking at the underside of her car. I thought she might be checking for rust. Apparently not. Rather, she has just reversed into a fence at the football pitch. The 60 strong group of witnesses no doubt showed their appreciation with applause! I wonder how much that will cost to repair (the car, not the fence).

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Parking Perils

Why does it suddenly seem like I am very busy? The T20 tournament is imminent, so I am heading off to Glossop tonight to pick up our pink balls and other promotional stuff. Then there is the song list for our live band to learn. I also need to get on with The Raven, including a meeting with the producer, but most importantly recruiting the cast who are all in the middle of GCSEs. I have written down a couple of recipes for Mmm...No2...Cookbook, and The History Of Zombies is now over 4,200 words long, but I reckon it will end up being 25,000 - 30,000, so a long way to go. Then there is the Rock & Roll Diner musical - that will have to take a back seat for now. Need to book a trip to Barcelona, and maybe flights to Gerona too. Almost got no time for the day job.

Yesterday was interesting. I rang the Dacia salesman in Manchester and he said he thought that Renault UK would have been in touch. So I called Renault UK, but Robyn was out to lunch. She called me back at four. I told her that I didn't expect to have to keep chasing her for updates, and she said she would have called anyway. Yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, I can expect my next call within 48 hours. Apparently my brand new shiny silver rusty Dacia needs to be looked at in the body shop, but Renault Manchester do not have a body shop (yawn), so they need to send it to the nearest body shop. Sadly, the service manager at Renault Manchester is off this week (yawn) so they spoke to the sales manager (there's a coincidence, so did I) but to no avail. The good news is that the orange warning light has been fixed. It was a faulty sensor. You may recall that they have said that before - so why did they not detect a faulty sensor the first time? Having said that, why did they not detect a shitload of rust either? Looks like I will be in possession of the white Clio for some time to come - unless I just tell them to keep their Dacia and give me back the £1100 they allowed in part ex for my reliable blue Chevvy. In the meantime, I have to go to Birmingham on Monday, so watch out for a recklessly driven white car if you are heading that way.

When is a parking fine not a parking fine? When its a PCN! A PCN is a Parking Charge Notice, and Sally returned home yesterday to find one of those in the post. It was issued after she parked for 38 minutes at Aldi in Macclesfield, as apparently she was supposed to go into the shop and enter her registration number into the machine to prevent the ticket being issued. She was clearly oblivious to this, and so the £40 PCN was sent that will rise to £70 if not paid within 28 days. Now, I received a PCN for overstaying by 15 minutes in a car park in Manchester. This was run by SIP (who have a variety of names). Fortunately I was with Graeme Chesters en route to see Frank Skinner, and he said don't worry about it - its not a fine and they have no rights whatsoever. I did some research and offered them £5. This covered the 15 minutes I overstayed (generously at £1 per hour) as well as the time taken for their employee to stick the notice to my windscreen. They rejected my offer and sent a couple of threatening notices. Since then it has all gone quiet, and this was nearly a year ago. The Aldi situation is disturbing as Aldi are allegedly on a percentage of any PCNs that are paid to Parking Eye who administer the car park. She could just send evidence of her Aldi purchases to Parking Eye - but she has decided that the best course of action is to do nothing. Can't wait to see how this one develops.

Sapphire is booked into the vets at 9.40am tomorrow. The tension mounts. This is more exciting than the royal baby.

In cricket news KP's England career is over. Stupid really. KP is box office and a very good cricketer. But apparently its ok to lose the Ashes. What? The most common way to popularise a sport is to have success at a national level. Think about the hockey, curling and that woman in the skeleton race. Now, I know that Lizzie Yarnold's exploits have not led to an increase in people hurling themselves down Eccles Pike on a tea tray, but cricket is an accessible sport, and it needs all of the interest that it can get. Would anyone watch the Olympic rowing if we were no good at it?

The election was quite tedious. It went on too long, And what was the point of that protest two days later. Someone has to win and someone has to lose. I saw a picture on Facebook yesterday of a car badly parked in Tesco. Not horrendously parked, it was over the white line of the parking bay. But it looked as though there were loads of bays. So beware, the self appointed FB Parking Police are out to snap you. Tedium awaits. So, its about time we had a feelgood story in the news, like that whale that got stranded in the Thames, though hopefully with a happy ending.

Sometimes it feels like there are powers at work that do not want me to get to Marple. I set off this morning, fully expecting to get stopped beyond bridge 20, and that is what happened. No problem, I just turned around and set off back. Unfortunately, the bridge work at bridge 24 was just about to start, and by the time I got to bridge 23 the barriers had been erected. "Sorry mate, you can't go any further" was the response from the workman. He also told me, with a hint of pride, that a woman had been arrested for removing one of the barriers, and that this particular stretch would be closed for about a month. He pointed me to a footpath on the other side of the canal that appeared to lead to nowhere. Seemingly having no alternative, I lifted my bike over a stile and set off. Up hill! The path was overgrown; it looked like no one had used it for ages, but I suspect that is about to change. After about 10 minutes I reached Disley golf club, so I carried on past the club house and out on to High Edge. Down into Disley, I then followed the A6 all the way to Whaley Bridge. Quite a pleasant ride, but articulated lorries are a bit more dangerous than hissing geese. Looks like I will have to settle for coffee at the Dandy Cock for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

An Animal In Bed!

I have now decided NEVER to cash out on golf betting. I did it at the Masters and Jordan Speith went on to win costing me a few quid. Last Sunday I didn't and Rickie Fowler did the business - ensuring that my Paddy Power account is looking very healthy.

No sign of any movement on the Dacia Duster. At what point do Trading Standards get involved?

It was a cold weekend for cricket, but fortunately good sense prevailed at High Lane and they rang to call the game off in the morning, saving us a wasted journey. Sunday morning saw the Under 11 suffer a heavy defeat, but they all seemed to enjoy it which is why they do it!

The towpath at Marple had signs up around bridge 24. Apparently it is being replaced, but I sailed through there (not literally, I was on my bike), and got beyond bridges 22-20. 'Ring O' Bells here I come' I thought, but then a familiar sight met me on the bend as the barriers were firmly in place. One day...

Last night I cycled to the cricket ground at Buxworth. I fully admit that I can't get all the way up Silk Hill, it is too steep, and I was walking when Gibbo and Luke Dogg passed me near the top. Now, I don't mind Luke passing comment on that, but for Gibbo to comment on it, that's like Ed Milliband telling Nick Clegg he didn't get enough votes. Time to resurrect Gibson's Facebook challenge!

Ole is now into high protein food, so he wants fish for tea. That won't last long, especially when Sally has to prepare it for him. Meanwhile, Sally has gone overboard on crumble, so a huge rhubarb and apple one was cooked on Saturday, and demolished by Sunday evening. Zac is about to go on a school trip for 3 days where he says he is going to try new foods. I guess this means just different slices of bread, but we will see! He is still in single figures when it comes to eating grapes and peas, and sweet potato came out of his mouth a lot quicker than it went in. He will eat approximately a quarter of a square inch piece of cabbage.

Meanwhile, the cold war between Bobby and Sapphire appears to have disappeared completely. They now share a bed, albeit at a respectable distance from each other. Thursday has been earmarked as the day when Sapphire visits the vet, and you know what that means!


And speaking of beds, Sapphire has now found a very snuggly spot to spend the night, between myself and Sally. The first night I got up at 2am and took the kitten downstairs for its food. It was back within minutes, and stayed fairly calm until 6.30am when it wanted to play. The same thing happened last night, but playtime was 5am. Its like having a baby all over again - but tonight it is going to get a shock locked out in the cold!



Friday, 8 May 2015

That silver car (again)

It was a pleasant day at Chester Races - but I am so glad that I came home rather than heading for Liverpool afterwards. And what happened to the Tote? This is now something called 'Chester Bet', and they seemed adept at trimming the prices of any horses that actually won. Anyway, I returned to a great result for Whaley Bridge Under 17s who beat local rivals, and very strong side Buxworth by 6 wickets.

But back to the bane of my life - the silver car with the orange warning light. On Wednesday they returned my car, but I was too busy to check that the fault had been fixed. However, the delivery driver assured me it was all done. So, imagine my surprise when I switched the engine on and the orange warning light winked at me. Repeatedly. And then went solid, just like it was before. I fired off an irate email, demanding that it be picked up and repaired properly on Friday, but that is not the end of it. No, last night another car headlight shone on its rear end, and Sally spotted this...


Yes, a second optional extra, RUST!

So, now my silver car with two unwanted optional extras has been taken away again by the Dacia man and replaced with a white one.

This could run and run! It will now be known as the Ruster rather than the Duster.

Not sure what the chocolate chickpea cupcakes will turn out like, but they took a rather aggressive beating this morning. Hopefully the fajitas will be made with a more gentle hand later.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Early Morning Romp Leads To Spillage

Oh dear! Sapphire is in the bad books. We were having a romp in bed yesterday morning, and I think he/she enjoyed the feel of the brand new brilliant white Egyptian cotton duvet cover. Hang on. What were you thinking? Naughty. This romp involved Sapphire, Bobby, Sally and myself. Anyway, Sapphire got a bit over excited, put his/her paw into my coffee, and ran all over the duvet cover. Sally thought it was hilarious, until she saw the coffee stained footprints everywhere.

After just over two weeks Bobby and Sapphire seem to be getting on ok. Bobby sometimes doesn't want to play, and will run off to a quiet place. At other times, he will engage in a boxing match, and with his huge paws there is only one winner. Sapphire is not really up to wrestling yet, and when Bobby got him / her (really must find out the sex soon) in a feline death roll the squeals of panic were the equivalent of Mick McManus calling for a submission, and Bobby duly let go.

I've managed to fit in plenty of writing, with The History Of Zombies now up to almost 3,700 words. Zac seems to enjoy it, though that might just be to get me out of his room so he can get back on the X-Box. If any other parents of soon to be teenage children would like the first few chapters just let me know.

I also started work on Mmm...No2...Cookbook, inspired by the rhubarb crumble that I made this morning! Well, I couldn't leave Sally wondering what to do with the long, thin, pink sticks to avoid burning them, could I? Other recipes include chocolate muffins with chickpeas, chocolate digestives, baked KFC, and brisket, as well as a whole section on 'burgerology' as the pretentious gourmet burger bars like to call it!

I've been working on paperwork for The Raven, including a programme, posters and flyers. I've decided that this is too time consuming, and am really looking for a student who knows Photoshop (and has access to a copy!) and would like to volunteer.

Its not going well with the silver car with the orange light. It was supposed to be picked up and returned yesterday, but Dacia forgot, so my Duster wasn't picked up until the afternoon. Clearly, my car has been named after a cowboy's coat, and it has been replaced by one with a girl's name. The grey Clio sits forlornly on my drive, waiting to be collected, and clearly feeling inadequate as there is no way it will fit all of the cricket kit in it at the weekend. Dacia said they would call me yesterday with news of the fault. Not heard anything. Now, where was that survey? Oh - as I speak an email has arrived. Apparently the tyre pressures were set too high as a default on the monitors. The mechanics have altered the settings and the fault is resolved. The car should be back with me later today.

I should have been running a Kwik Kricket team as part of a school tournament today, but they saw sense and called it off because of the weather forecast. Not the weather itself, that was blustery and showery, but the forecast says it will pour down later. I wonder if that will ever catch on in our league.

Looking forward to Chester Races tomorrow as part of Lee Jones' stag do. Not been to Chester for several years, I wonder if the Romans are still there? Heysey should enjoy it - the Roman name is Deva!

Finally, did you spot my Hollywood actress?

It is, of course, Geese Witherspoon!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Cocaine!

Were you paying attention? Here's the picture I promised you last week. Its a well known Hollywood actress that I bumped into on the towpath neat Whaley!

Can you guess who it is?

Sapphire is still of unknown sex as she reaches her 10 week old birthday. However, I have had a picture postcard of her from Fiona, and its says Little Mister on it. Gabi and Matt think Sapphie is a girl, but I think Gabi was concentrating more on the home made digestives that I was making when she was asked the question. More news to follow.

I have done almost 100 miles in the silver car with the orange warning light, and there are certainly a few differences between this one and my blue one.

The main difference is the radio. No Medium Wave, and therefore no Talk Sport. This seems a bit of a drawback. I am surprised there is no warning light to indicate this.

Next, it has too many gears. I'm used to using fifth gear on the motorway and other fast roads, but this seems to want to go to fifth when I get past 30. And there's a sixth too. I figured out that the green light with an arrow is to indicate a gear change, which has become a bit of a game!

Finally, for now, it has an annoying beep when you've not got your seatbelt on. I wonder if there is any way to disable this?

Oh yes, one more thing. Sally sat in it last Thursday, and basically manoeuvred it around our driveway. However, before she got in, it displayed a clock, and now it displays total mileage instead. I have not yet found the switch to put the clock back on.

The weekend was bloody cold and bloody wet. I was travelling back from rainy Charlesworth on Sunday with two of our older juniors in the back and Zac in the front. I stopped off in New Mills to pick up my suit alterations from Jo Hopkins (highly recommended), and when I got back into the car the conversation was about a man who had made a plaster cast out of cocaine and tried to smuggle it onto a plane. It then turned to a number of other things that the same man had faked to try to smuggle cocaine, and it seemed that this chat had all been instigated by Zac. I asked him why they were talking about Cocaine, and he simply admitted that he had told Jack and Ivan in the back seat that I had stopped in New Mills to pick up my supplies of the Class A drug.

I must admit, it had been a long day for Zac, and he got a bit impatient in the Sheps. He was stood at the bar, next to Toe, and he started tapping his coins on the counter. "They get to you quicker if you do that,' he explained to a nonplussed Toe.

He was up early this morning, as was Ole who had decided to camp at the cricket ground. However, Ole was rather grumpy by the time he got home. "The sheep would just not shut up all night,' he complained.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

The new car (with unwanted extra)

I now have a brand new silver car. It also came with an unwanted extra, an orange warning light. That came on after abut 10 miles, and its still on. Checked the book, and it says one of the tyre sensors is missing. Hmmm, so I rang Dacia and they said bring it in. I was all set to drive to Manchester on Tuesday, maybe have a beer and a spot of lunch with some mates, and let Dacia have a look at my light. However, Sally then came home. So, after a brief phone call Dacia are now coming out to me on Tuesday. They will take away my silver car with  an orange warning light and leave me with a courtesy car. They didn't say what colour. They will also return my silver car without orange warning light. Not a good start!

Fine tuned my brisket recipe on Thursday (as well as picking up the car). Gave it a spicy dry  rub with mustard, cayenne, allspice, garlic powder and onion powder, then let it sit for a few hours. Covered it in foil and roasted it for an hour, then spread chopped parsnips, carrots, leeks & celery in the roasting dish, covered it in a beef stock that contained the rest of the dry rub, put the brisket on the vegetables (just out of the stock), covered it all in foil and gave it another 3 hours. It really was 'melt in the mouth' and a definite inclusion in MMM...No2...Cookbook.

It was also a very sporty day on Thursday. I had to take Zac and his mates to the netball tournament at Chapel, dash back for the brisket, then head for Whaley football pitch for Ole's last match of the season.

Firstly, I was greeted at Taxal school with the news that I was only taking Zac. Apparently the others did not want to listen to my 'cowboy' music! Several of the parents were quite interested though. Anyway, that was before they knew I had a new silver car. The tournament itself was tense, with Taxal A losing out in the final to Harpur Hill by virtue of a golden goal. There were tears, and there was disappointment. Our team like to win! Next stop - the Kwik Kricket competition at Chapel School next Wednesday. Guess who is in charge of the Taxal team?

There was disappointment too for Ole as the Under 16s lost 2-0 to Juno. It has been an exhilarating season, after a couple of barren years, and to finish in the top four having played some scintillating football is a great achievement. We are already looking forward to the Under 17s campaign.

With all that activity my bike remained in the garage, so yesterday I thought I would head for Marple again. Same problem as Monday - the way was completely barred at bridge 22,  but some wildlife on the towpath gave me an idea for a picture. You will have to wait for next week for that one. I may have to try an evening cycle, when there is no work on the towpath and the way to Marple may be clear!

Managed to get through some work on The Raven yesterday, downloading a dripping blood font and designing the programme. Really need someone who knows photoshop to complete it, as well as doing the posters / flyers.

Next up it was The History Of Zombies, and another 500 words added to that tale. Ordered proof copy of my mum's picture book, and looked forward to a busy weekend.

Cricket Saturday and Sunday, as well as the Under 11s on Sunday morning. Add to that the Derek Abbott memorial crib tournament and a big pan event in the Sheps on Sunday night, and I will be glad to reach Bank Holiday Monday. Sadly, the Yanks are still working on Monday, so I guess I will be too.

Stop press - can't believe Tesco have run out of frozen peppers! Looks like I'll have to get chopping.