Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Five Feet High And Rising...

There a very popular Johnny Cash song that I play regularly in my car...

How high's the water mama? Two feet high and rising

How high's the water papa? Two feet high and rising
Well we can make it to the road in a home made boat
Its the only thing we got left that'll float
Its already over all the wheat and oats
Two feet high and rising.

You may think that this has something to do with the ridiculous amount of rain that the British summer has thrown at us so far, but no. The subject matter is far closer to home, but more of that later.

Did you just stumble across this blog? Or did you follow a link through Facebook. Sally hardly ever uses Facebook. Really? Just paging through it on her laptop until the battery dies, then her phone, ooh look, she's in Cambridge. What's he doing in Benidorm? I would never have posted anything like that. Have you seen this? Yes - you showed me about four hours ago. Anything new happened? And I don't mean in the world of videos about kittens.

Anyway, Sally was in bed with Zac the other night, on Facebook obviously, and he spotted a saying. Never apologise for being yourself. This seemed to ring true, and it is now his mantra. So, any hope of ever getting an apology off Zac has now completely disappeared. Thanks Facebook. I  guess the fine line that he treads between informality and good manners is erring ever so slightly past informality at the moment.

How high's the water mama? Three feet high and rising

How high's the water papa? Three feet high and rising
Well my hives have gone, I lost my bees
Chickens are sleeping in the willow trees
Cows in water up past their knees
Three feet high and rising.

Of course, the school holidays have started, so its bound to rain. But I am impressed with the efforts of some places to encourage youngsters off their Xboxes and into physical activity. New Mills Leisure Centre apparently had mini jet skis in the pool. I wonder if they also had several first aiders and assorted paramedics on standby?

What a pleasant weekend. On Friday I was aiming to head for Buxton before cycling to Marple. Fate (well actually, Sally) conspired against me as the main reason for going was to pick up Ole's phone, but she had lost both the sim and the receipt. So I ended up in Marple spending a pleasant hour or so with Bernie outside Costa. When I got back she had found the receipt and Sim, so off I went. I paid for an hour's parking (no ticket for me Lady M), and then did all of the following...Got a new iphone 6 including contract at the EE store, picked up Ole's repaired phone, bought a new cricket bat for Zac, bought two new t-shirts for myself, and also bought a pair of trainers as recommended by my orthotics guy. Got back with three minutes to spare!

On Saturday we had another nailbiter at cricket, but a win's a win, and the firsts actually won too. So a few beers later I meandered home safe in the knowledge that the following day's six a side would almost certainly be called off due to the weather. It was, and I used the time to book this year's Trip - another item off my to do list. Cricket took its toll yet again on my troubled knee - and I have decided that enough is enough and a knee brace is about to be fitted. Run Forrest Run is hardly appropriate at this juncture!

Sally is normally quite proud of her Bogtrotter Cake (you need to watch Matilda to understand this one). However, it does not always turn out as expected. On the face of it, her latest effort had risen majestically, and just about fitted under the generous dome reserved for such spectacular fare in our kitchen. However, Zac, who lists chocolate cake as his favourite food of all time, and his second and third too, took a small nibble and left the rest. Didn't like the cream. Strange, as most of the cake was not cream, it was, err, cake. And then we tried to lift it. Seems like it was too heavy even for Zac's chocolate loving palate. After a while people had stopped chipping away at it, but there was still a considerable beast of a cake left so Sally put it on the bird table. I feel sorry for the unsuspecting sparrows, magpies and eagles, struggling to get off the ground after sampling such gargantuan leftovers, but I reckon the cats had a field day.

How high's the water mama? Four feet high and rising
How high's the water papa? Four feet high and rising
Hey come look through the window pane
The bus is coming gonna take us to the train
Looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain
Four feet high and rising.

Last weekend it was Twinkie time. Twinkies are just elongated cup cakes - shaped a bit like a submarine, but they have one big advantage, they are just the right shape for dipping. I started by giving Zac a small pot of Nutella with a Twinkie but Ole took a more direct approach, dipping the Twinkie straight into the jar, ignoring any crumbs that were left behind.

There has been a lot of talk of going to London recently, but Zac is not convinced. He has always wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower, so what is the London equivalent? Certainly not the London Eye. It takes about five hours to go round and is soooo boring.

A date for your diary is Friday 11th September. Its a date I've got marked as GTF out of Whaley. That's the day the Tour Of Britain cycling race hits the High Peak, including a trip down Long Hill, through Whaley, and on to Buxworth and Chinley. I am tempted to sneak up via Old Road and cause mayhem, getting to the front and then leading them down into Tesco and up the canal towpath. Wont be so much overtaking then!

Sally has an unnatural obsession with cupboards. Every week it seems like a new one arrives, but where can there possibly be space to put them all? The latest was like a dresser. Tall and stately, with a glass front, ideal for putting ornaments or other similar crap in. But no, this was for the cloakroom. didn't fit. Undeterred, Sally decided that it would go in the spare bedroom. So we struggled and pushed and pulled and swore and balanced and juggled and just about got it to the top of the stairs. Then along the landing. Whereupon, we found that it would not simply go through the door to the spare room. It would first have to go into the bathroom at just the right angle so that we could straighten it and then manouevre it into its final resting place. But, it wouldn't go into the bathroom. We twisted and straightened and puffed and swore (a little more aggressively this time) and rested and sighed and heaved and hoed and finally got it onto its side. It will have to go into our bedroom, she said. So we dragged it into place. Or rather, we moved one of the other five cupboards that are already in there out of the way to make room for the ridiculously oversized, ornate and inappropriate for a bedroom cupboard, into where a previously perfectly serviceable chest of drawers sat. The chest remained in limbo, neither in place nor out of place, wondering where next for its stained pine base. The new cupboard sat awkwardly, like a big kid being made to sit with the little kids at school. Who knows where it will finally end up, but eBay's favourite. Of course, buyer must collect.

Today was asthma clinic day. Both Ole and Zac were due their appointments for their asthma check ups, and if only I was able to take them rather than being stuck in Bicester. You see, in my car they would have heard...

How high's the water mama? Five feet high and rising
How high's the water papa? Five feet high and rising
Well the rails are washed out north of town
We gotta head for higher ground
We can't come back 'til the water goes down
Five feet high and rising

...on the Cd player, but in mum's they no doubt had some slushy crap by Rod Stewart. And if they had the Johnny Cash classic on that might have triggered a reaction immediately rather than through the following conversation...

Nurse: Well Zac, how have you been with your inhaler?
Ole: Mum, we need to go home, now
Mum: You are next and then we'll go home
Ole: No, we need to go home now
Mum: Why?
Ole: I've left the water running in the bath
Mum: I'm sorry nurse, I'm going to have to go home.

Well its a five feet high and rising!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Our Survey Says...

Here's a funny thing. Remember the Rusty Duster? Well Dacia have written to me several times asking for my opinion of the car, how its performing, etc. Finally, I have decided to respond. I told them it was a rusting pile of crap and I rejected it. I also told them that the fact that they were unaware of this as evidenced by numerous surveys dropping through my door clearly showed that their customer service is about as good as their cars. Finally, I told them that if they continue to pester me I will invoice them £100 handling fee for each envelope that I have to open. Not heard from them since!

Its that time of year, and for Zac that time of year is bigger than normal. He transitions from Taxal to Chapel School, and his final school report was an entertaining read. Apparently he treads a fine line between informality and good manners. In the part that he had to fill in himself he claimed to have become more truthful. Is this the same Zac that wanted to swap the television in his room for the one in the garage because it was bigger (obviously nothing to do with him breaking his own tv!)?

Zac made his debut for the Under 13s recently, and took a wicket in his first over. With the bat he manged to score 14 and help the side to their second victory of the season. Garry Mason kindly provided the season's stats, which show Zac at the top of the bowling averages. I think I will keep them to myself for now. Playing for the Under 13s was a big cricketing ambition for Zac, and tonight he fulfilled another when he hit a six at Buxworth. It was accompanied by a fist pump, and he now wants to play cricket for the entire winter to be ready for next year's Under 13s.

Not to be outdone, big brother Ole played for the Whaley Warriors and starred in the field. Two very good catches and a run out, but he needs to be careful. Fielding like that could well find him in the first team.

The same day as the Whaley Warriors saw the opening night of The Raven. Having watched every run through and corrected every mistake I found it excruciating, but the audience enjoyed it and the cast and crew went home happy. Two more shows were played in front of packed houses, with the young cast gaining in confidence and introducing their own nuances. By the end of the final show we were all glad it was over, happy that we had done a great job. Special mention to Andrew, Caroline and especially Hollie Crankshaw who provided spectacular makeup, to Amanda Neal for her direction, and to Elliot Pickering, a very impressive young man who is a wizard with sound and lighting. So much so that when I had to take over on the final night he had made it so easy that even I couldn't get it wrong! Watch out for a recording of the final show on Youtube. Next year...well maybe, who knows? Rocky's Rock & Roll Diner could well be brought to life. Just got to write the script and a dozen songs!

I've often wondered what the difference is between salt, sea salt, cracked salt, kosher salt, etc. Ive always wondered whether it was just a fad. Anyway, Zac was at the chippy and when asked 'would you like salt & vinegar?' he declined, insisting that the salt and vinegar at home was far superior.

Super mum came to the rescue for the last night of the prom at Taxal, and the result is below. By the end of the night the tie had gone and for some reason the comment 'like father, like son' seems to be prevalent!

Zac seems to be getting his own back in the Ask Zac section. His first question is...'What is beyond space?' Answers on a postcard.

The Nottingham traffic came back to bite me this week, with two homeward journeys bordering on two hours. With the school holidays just starting I am sincerely hoping that they were a temporary aberration!

Not good news from the knee consultant. He has offered three solutions. Firstly, a course of Ostenil. This is hyaluronic acid, and I have had it before. Its not the worst thing in the world, but I am dubious about the benefits and BUPA will only cover one course. Secondly, a knee brace from Ossur UK, This is supposed to have immediate benefits, and at £500 it really ought to! Finally, there is an osteotomy. Is that keyhole? I asked. Oh no. Its 2-4 days in hospital and 6 weeks plus on crutches before recuperation can start. If all else fails its a knee replacement. I bought a new pair of trainers today - I'll see if they make a difference first!

I must admit, cycling to Marple today was a little painful, and it seems to be spreading to my right knee which is starting to feel the strain of my left knee giving up the ghost. Only seven more cricket matches to get through and then its decision time!

Marple was quite pleasant when I got there. Spent a good hour or so catching up with my mate Bernie. Next week we may well meet in the Dandy Cock, half way between. Feel free to join us.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Along The Canalscape (?)

Well the week started with a Facebook message from my ex boss looking for a test manager. Another stint in Nottingham? With that traffic? Well its in a slightly easier part so I agreed to meet the programme director on Tuesday. An hour at Costa and the deal was sealed - and I will be doing 3, 4 or 5 days a week in an office that borders a retail park containing Sainsbury's, MacDonalds and Pizza Hut. Need to get a lot more cycling done. A few days later another old contact asked me if I could help him out with some mainframe training. It never rains....

Wednesday was a strange kind of a day. Zac and his classmates headed up Kinder, whilst I went on a different kind of challenge to an orthotics specialist in Stalybridge.

Zac got about three quarters of the way up Kinder, but the weather beat them before they got to the interesting bit about planes. Anyway, this is the new Zac, and he wants to go back to complete the mission.

Back in Stalybridge the good news is that my previous insoles are almost identical to what I would be prescribed with if I got new ones - just need to remember to wear them. The bad news is that, although I have a lot of trauma around my left knee, my real problem is in my right ankle that is a bit of a car crash. 'Have you had any traumatic experiences on your right ankle?' he asked. 'Have you got all day?'

He got the picture and he wants me back in a month to see if the insoles have made a difference (along with some leg strengthening exercises - but that probably wont happen!)

Two days later I was at the Alexandra hospital in Cheadle having an MRI scan. Why do those machines make so much noise? Anyway, results are out this week and next week is the follow up with my consultant in Manchester.

Also on Friday I managed to get to Marple on my bike again, and this time I headed off to the right. Not very far, just enough to reach Marple village where there is a very conveniently placed Costa. It was a pleasant cycle, with lots of people on the towpath, and many canalboats slowly meandering from Marple to Buxworth or along some other circuitous route. Now, this may just be me, but as I pass canalboats I see boaters looking listlessly around the canalscape (yes, I made that word up - but you know what it means so that makes it legitimate). Quite often they try to catch your eye, say 'good morning', or give a little wave, then it is back to staring into the distance. Are they still dreaming the dreams that they had when they first embarked on a life aboard a narrowboat? Or are they, as it seems to me, thinking 'why oh why did I invest all of my savings into this tiny craft that travels slower than most walkers?' Or 'I'm absolutely bored shitless'. Its a different pace of life on board one of those vessels, and not one that I would want to get involved with. Still, each to their own! Friday was also a bit of a cookfest, with Beef Chilli, Chicken Fajitas and Chocolate Chickpea Cupcakes all on the kitchen agenda. At that point Ole decided that he only wanted high protein low fat food, such as fish, but I knew it wouldn't last, and later that night he had both chilli and fajitas, spurning the cupcakes for salt & vinegar crisps!

Friday was also the deadline for the Whaley Warriors programmes. Our Under 19s were due to face Hadfield Heat two days later, and I managed to get the programmes printed and copied at Peartree Print. A tad expensive, but they did a really good job.

Saturday was more relaxing, until we played cricket, triumphing over Buxworth by just two runs in a real thriller. Crompton's arrived sparked merriment all round, and also disappointment for the lad himself as Shawy failed to give me out lbw!

Another PCN arrived in Sally's name, and at first I thought it was another tiresome reminder about the Aldi Macclesfield incident, but no. This was a brand new one from the Marriott at Manchester Airport where she had spent three hours in the restaurant. Oblivious to the requirement to pay (now wouldn't that be good if you were going on holiday?) she simply parked, ate and left. The PCN looks very similar to the previous one and, now full of bravado, she is steadfastly refusing to pay. I wonder how many PCNs it would take for Parking Eye to justify actually taking her to court. According to a local solicitor, who shall remain nameless, it would never happen. Watch this space...

Sunday started with rain, and the Under 11s match was postponed giving me a bit more breathing space. It was then on to the Whaley Warriors match, and paella for 50. Actually, it only seemed to stretch to around 35 portions - might have to cut them down in future! That seemed to go well, even managed to get the pan oiled and put away as the cast of The Raven were getting their makeup and costumes done. Time for a less than perfect run through - and it was showtime. The show went well. They all seemed to come alive when the metaphorical curtain rose, and the post performance review was a typical youth theatre review, plenty of praise, but plenty to work on. They have three more performances to improve on the debut, and then its on to the next project. Zac gave his own review after the show ended.

"It was a bit short. Was it just a poem?"
"Yes - it was a poem"
"Why didn't someone just read the poem instead of having all that drama?"

I can see Zac being quite successful as a reviewer.

"Why not just stay out of the water?"

"Why don't they move to a country that doesn't have tornadoes?"

Jurassic Park
"They should have left that dino DNA alone"

Saving Private Ryan
"They should have let him die"

Anyway, we were all packed away, I dropped off in Hayfield, then I headed home, tired and with a long drive to Nottingham the next morning. But...Chapel Road was shut due to a fuel spillage, so it was a quick about turn and up into the wilds of Eccles Pike!

To be fair, the traffic around Nottingham is not half as bad as it used to be (probably shouldn't have said that).

Today was a working from home day. Telephone interviews this morning, and transatlantic calls this afternoon. Add to that the unloading of the car from The Raven, washing cricket kit, making a curry, running an Under 11s game, and doing a bit of writing...I'll be glad to get in bed. Goodnight! x

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Prada Willy My Arse!

Zac is probably the messiest and least organised person that I know. Many parents of 11 year olds would doubtless say the same thing, but if you ask Zac to move a pair of socks from off the floor and into his sock draw, there is a 95% chance that the socks will end up either on a different part of the floor, or in the wash basket even though they are unworn.

In addition, he constantly loses stuff, he has no idea what time any events at school start, and most days he doesn't know what day it is. Surprisingly, last Saturday he was scheduled to come with me to cricket at Buxton. He would have been there all day, but when I came home from dropping Sally off for her excursion (more of that later), he announced that he was off to the park. I told him he couldn't as he was off to Buxton, but he had that covered. "I'm going to Lewis's later," he said. "Do his parents know?" "Yes". So I called Lewis's dad who was clearly unaware of the arrangements. However, he quite enjoys having Zac round so that was that. Until, five minutes later, Zac appeared with a plastic bag full of football kit. "Can you drop this off at Lewis's? I am staying over tonight and going to the football tournament tomorrow." Another phone call, same result. John knew nothing of the arrangement, but again he didn't mind. "Have you got everything?" "Yes" "What about your toothbrush?" "I just need to get that" "And your inhaler?" "Its in my bag" "Are you sure?" "It will be when I get it from my bedroom" "And your brown inhaler?" "I'll get that when I get my blue inhaler". Eventually he went off with full bag and we didn't see him until the next morning. Three days later the bag is still not unpacked.

Sapphire is getting increasingly aggressive towards Bobby. I'm sure he just wants to play, but the consequences will indeed be dire. He is definitely going for the snip next week to calm him down.

So, the excursion was a train ride on board the Northern Belle from Derby to York, and Sally and Helen were very excited about the prospect. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day, but Helen admitted to eating all of her own food as well as much of Sally's. "Its not my fault, its Prada Willy syndrome," she said, at which point the rest of us looked in disbelief. She explained that it is as a result of never feeling full, therefore you just have to eat. When I was at school this was called "gluttony", and I wonder how many other syndromes are just a lazy excuse to be able to get away with one of the Seven Deadly Sins?

I told you Zac was disorganised! On Monday morning he couldn't find his Pirates Of The Curry Bean script for school. Super mum came to the rescue and found it buried in a corner of his bedroom. Then he couldn't find his headband. Once again Super Mum came to the rescue - this time it was in the office. There is only one explanation for this - she must share the same messy tendencies as he has, to be able to find the stuff that he misplaces.

Tuesday was something of an eye opener for Zac, or maybe for the rest of us. It was his taster day at Chapel High School, and he set off for the bus at approximately 8am. At 8.05 he was back. "Mum, can you take me to school?" Mum was concerned. "Did you miss the bus?" "No" "Were there kids bullying you at the bus stop?" "No" "Well why didn't you get the bus?" "There were too many people at the bus stop". So, was it the intimidation? Well, Mrs Cadman was concerned, so much so that she got Jan to call to see if he was ok. Simon from the Drum recognised him and asked me later where he was going, and Elliot, our tech guy and year 10 at Chapel also wondered why he was heading in the wrong direction. The good thing is that he is instantly recognisable, and his movements will be traced meticulously. My thoughts are that it is yet another thing that he has in common with his mum. She doesn't do public transport either, preferring her silver chariot to mixing with the hoi polloi. Like mother like son!

Things move fast in the IT Consultancy world. I wasn't really looking for a new role, but an ex boss of mine called me on Monday and asked me if I was available. Technically I was, so he arranged for me to meet his new employer in Nottingham on Tuesday morning. An hour later I had a new position, starting next Monday until October. The cycling will suffer, although there will be work from home, and their office is right on a picturesque cycle path.

Speaking of which, Sergeant Morten informed me that I need a licence to cycle along the towpath. I Googled it and found conflicting advice. Then I found this...

Cycling Permit

So I can download my own permit and sign it - but who will check it? I shall carry it with me at all times and look forward to the day that I am challenged.

The Raven is intensifying as the first performance looms on Sunday. We did a tech rehearsal yesterday and it went quite well, but that is the last chance we will get to use the venue before we are live! We have a costume and make up session tomorrow, and a full costume and makeup session before the show on Sunday, so we may get just one more run through, Squeaky bum time!

Last night saw the Fringe launch party, and we sent two Nosferatus to preview the show. It was something of an ordeal for our youngsters to perform in front of a full adult audience - but they did fine. Really looking forward to the opening show on Sunday!

I think he has a look of Dave Vanian!

Friday, 3 July 2015

Watching The Money Rolling In

Isn't technology wonderful. My Sky Broadband speed dipped to < 3 frequently, even after the upgrade, so I followed the steps on their website. This included bringing up a DOS command prompt, entering a ridiculously complex command, and then interpreting the result. Now, I'm IT literate but the majority of people would not have a clue what was going on. Really Sky? Can you not build an app that would do all of this? This is to determine which channel you should use, and one of the settings, in fact the default, is Auto, which is meant to pick the optimum channel every time. Anyway, that didn't work so I gave them a call. A very nice chap advised changing the channel to 6, which seemed to work fine. Auto? No, don't use that. It often picks the wrong channel. FFS!

Thursday was an interesting day. I picked up the remainder of the T20 kit from Bouncer Sports, and they included free WBCC Caps. Nice gesture, and maybe we will give them some more business. Prior to that I met Gabi for lunch. She is already trying to plan Christmas! There's still a very long time until P... Ooops - that's a surprise, is born, and she is already having problems getting behind a steering wheel. She is also a bit concerned that Zac will be the most important person at the birth.

A lot of people have asked this, and No I have not had an apology from the idiot who decided to gatecrash the after prom party. Not really expecting one either.

Concerned about the Greek economy? Me neither - though I do worry about what it will do for the price of olives and Greek yoghurt, Not too bothered about vine leaves. Never did like them.

Props got delivered this week thanks to Andrew Crankshaw and Rainford Models. These included a lectern and a coffin. Very realistic, and I think I will leave it on display for a few days to scare the postman, couriers, meter readers and anyone else who calls round.

Discovered that the pub near Gabi's, the Roaches Lock at Greenfield, can be reached via canal from Whaley Bridge. Its about 8 and a half miles to Marple on the Upper Peak Forest Canal, another 8 to Ashton junction on the Lower Peak Forest Canal, and then just over 7 up to Greenfield on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Should take around 110 minutes each way! Might just try to get to Ashton first. Today I headed for High Lane again, and reached the Bull's Head which was, this time, open. It seems they only do food Wednesday through Sunday, so Monday and Tuesday they are probably closed at lunchtime. Anyway, I asked for an Americano and got a Latte, asked for a pint of blackcurrant and soda and got a half, but it was a very pleasant environment sat in the beer garden, genuinely overlooking the Macclesfield Canal. The route between Marple and High Lane is very bumpy, and not for the faint hearted. Plenty of opportunity to lose balance and fall in!

Sally and Helen are off on a vintage train journey from Derby to York tomorrow. It is the northern equivalent of the Orient Express and promises to be an entertaining day out. The company sells this journey as York At Leisure, but they also sell a similar trip called National Rail Museum York. This is the same train - its just that some travellers will be going shopping, drinking cocktails and getting merrily pissed, whilst the other half are trainspotters. There is bound to be an incident - I will keep you posted.

Zac should probably have his own blog - and here's another of his gems. Not many people get one over on the Magpie, but Zac can certainly claim to have done so. Last weekend was carnival weekend, and for once it was a scorcher. I gave him £5 so he could get a laser kit that he seems to buy every carnival, and then I went off to play cricket, Sally took him down to the stalls at the club, gave him £10 and left him to it. Ever resourceful, Zac came across Uncle Simon and saw him as an easy target. Putting on his cutest urchin look, he brought out a sob story. "Can't believe my mum has left me here with no money to get a drink in this heat," he moaned. "£3 should cover it," and he quickly pocketed Simon's donation. Was he trying to buy a pint of Carling? No. £3 just happened to be the cost for one of the games in the fairground, and he didn't really need a drink as he still had £15 in his pocket!