Sunday, 28 February 2010

Lunch out on a Friday? That's just decadent

'Where the bloody hell have you been?" I hear you cry; "You disappear for two days without a by-your-leave, and then think you can just swan back in here and write an unpolitically-correct post about killing cats with Bazookas."

Ah. Now you put it like that, I can see how it looks to outsiders. But it wasn't my fault...... truly. I was all set for a nice quiet weekend, when everything went awry, starting with a call from my chum Dave on Friday.

"Oi. Do you fancy going out for lunch?" he shouted down the phone on the premise that being loud would compensate for the fact that my mobile phone has hardly any reception in my house.

" Alistair Darling's eyebrows match his hair?" I shouted back (using the same misguided principle).

"No," replied Dave, "actually they don't."

"Oh, ignore that then." I replied. "Thinking about it, I don't know where the eyebrow thing came from, but I  do want to go for lunch."

"Cool," came the response. "I'll drive though, because I don't want to be seen in your car."

How terribly, terribly rude. That is my chariot that is.

And so at 1.36pm, we ventured off to a new Thai restaurant that Dave said had just opened and that he would like to try. 

Pic.No.1. Dave and me venturing off in his car..... you got new shades mate?

The restaurant was called the Cockadoo, and was located just outside Oxford in a village called Nuneham Courtenay..... if you want to have a sneaky peek, here is their website: Cockadoo Bar and Restaurant.

The outside of the restaurant was fairly unprepossessing, but what they had done with the inside was something else. It was like a trendy Manhattan bar, complete with grand piano..... but for some obscure reason, they hadn't turned the heating on despite the fact that the temperature has been hovering around zero for several days.

 Pic.No.2. Inside the Cockadoo. Yeh baby, those chairs are all upholstered in gold crushed velvet

Pic.No.3. This scarf is staying on as long as the heating is staying off

Luckily though, I could forgive the lack of heating because the bizarre downlighting made Dave look like a career criminal with murdering tendencies, and so added comedy value to the venue.

Pic.No.4. Lunching with a murderer somewhat detracts from the Dim Sum

Pic.No.5. The flowery plates must have been nicked from a little old lady's house

Pic.No.6. I've selected my weapons and I ain't afraid to use 'em

So how was the overall experience? Service great, food good, venue beautifully designed, price a little over the top for a lunchtime meal. So all in all Dave, you did good my dear. And I promise that I won't tell anybody that you didn't eat your lunch with the chopsticks because they were too 'slippery.'!

Cat stalker......... bring it on

Ahh, what a lovely lot you are. Once you became aware of the fact that I was being harassed by a cat stalker, all manner of helpful suggestions came forth to help me deal with the problem. They ranged from; (1) surrounding my house with lion manure; (2) scaring the thing off with a water pistol; and (3) the rather inventive idea that I could eat the cat. Even better, I received a link to a site that explains how best to cook them; How to eat cats (thanks Robert, that is a fab idea with some really useful recipe tips!).

However, I think that the most thoughtful idea came from my chum Andy Brierly, who was seeking a longer term solution to the problem and suggested the following method;

Vid. No. 1. This might help deal with my cat stalker

Thanks matey, not only have you shown yourself to be creative (well being a professional photographer, I would expect no less dahlink), but you have revealed your caring and sensitive side by helping me in my time of need.

Friday, 26 February 2010

I am being stalked

As you know, yesterday I had an uninvited visitor in the shape of a mangy moggy. Not only did it nearly scare me into an early grave by jumping up at the window, but it didn't take the hint when I told it to scram.

So would you bloody believe it ......... there I was this morning, minding my own business, standing at the kitchen sink and colouring Izzy's school shoes with a permanent marker pen (I had run out of shoe polish), when I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched.

A shiver went down my spine, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The first thought that came into my head was that supernatural 'doings' were going on (because my house is about 500 years old), but then I looked up and saw this.....................

Pic.No.1. Bloody cat thing 

Bloody cat thing was back, and was staring at me through the kitchen window this time. Where has the thing come from? Why has it suddenly taken an interest in a house inhabited by a dog that would pick the remains of a cat out of his teeth on a regular basis, given the opportunity?

It was all getting a bit weird, especially as it hasn't been that long since I last got stalked [view stalking post here].

And then it got weirder. I went outside to put my recycling in the bin (located under the roof where Mangy was sitting), when the fleabitten moggy only bloody arched it's back at me and started hissing. Man alive! That's just plain rude.

"Oi, Mog." I shouted at it, "this is my territory, don't you go dissing me with your hisses."

My confrontational approach didn't seem to be making an impact, so I narrowed my eyes and tried a bit of hand-wafting hypnosis (you know - the type that snake charmers do). That failed too and Mangy looked at me with contempt before turning and wandering off with a flick of the tail.

"Hey Mog, you got the attitude but you can't back it up with action!" 

So basically, I need some help here from people who know about cats. Why has this manky feline suddenly started stalking me? Has it run away from home? Does my kitchen emit tempting food smells? (highly unlikely, but I am throwing all into the pot at the moment). Is it abandoned? I don't know...........all comments appreciated!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Cats. Horrible stealthy things

It is a good job that I haven't got a dicky ticker, or I would now be living on a cloud, draped in a sheet, and eating golden pomegranates.

As if I hadn't had enough of the frighteners recently, what with my car and its 'possessed' throttle; this morning I was sitting at my desk when all of a sudden there was an almighty bang at the window.

"BLOODY NORAH!" I shouted, jumping out of my seat and looking up from the keyboard to find that a flippin' great cat had hurled itself at my window in an attempt to get in. It was like something out of a horror movie but without the incidental music.

Pic.No.2. Horrible cat thing scraping to get in my house

The bloody moggy had got my heart racing, and it was a minute or two before I recovered enough to start shooing it away.

"Oi! Cat! Scram." I hollered at it through the glass (in an animal-lover kinda way). Suffice to say, it diligently ignored me, and commenced a sit-in on my windowsill.

Pic.No.2. Cat thing won't scram
I then decided to ignore it, but the cat remained in situ, staring at me calmly.

In case you might not have realised, I am not up there on the list of '100 great cat lovers'. In fact, I think they are horrible things..... all stealthy, and sly looking and killers of all manner of small mammals for fun.

Plus they only want you because you feed them. You'd never pick up a newspaper and read an article about a cat that remained steadfastly by their master after he had fallen and broken a leg whilst navigating an impasse. No sirree. In fact I would put my bottom dollar on the fact that once you got injured, your conniving kitty would be straight outta there, leaving you and your gammy leg for the vultures....... and within hours, their attentions would be levied at someone else's study window.

After 20 minutes of the cat-off, I finally got fed up trying to work with it staring at me.... it was affecting my concentration, so I came up with a plan.

Naughty George was drafted in, and I pointed out the cat to him. Being naughty, Naughty George instantly unleashed a barrage of 'I wanna kill it' woofs, which encouraged the surprised moggy to disappear into the horizon.

Note: No pussies were injured in the making of this blog. Naughty George was kept firmly inside the house to prevent him making an hors d'oeuvres of the hapless feline.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

So Mr Mechanic.... there is something wrong with my car... again?

As if the recent car palaver wasn't enough [palaver 1, palaver 2 and palaver 3], the minute I finally secured my MOT certificate, my car immediately developed a new and potentially lethal fault. Yep, not just a loose screw or funny rattling..... it could have been proper grim-reaper stuff (ooh the drama!).

Basically, my accelerator pedal kept getting stuck in the full 'on' position whenever I used it (which is quite a lot when you are driving), and remained there for the duration of the journey, much to the bemusement of pedestrians witnessing the engine wailing like a banshee whenever I stopped at traffic lights (my car is a manual transmission not an automatic by the way). Thanks to recent developments in the news, the fault has enabled me to indulge in a new verb; my car has been doing a 'Toyota.'

As well as wailing, another somewhat predictable side effect of the fault, was that the car kept accelerating as fast as it could, even when I was not touching the throttle. I had admit that the state of affairs was getting slightly perturbing, especially when I had to stamp on the brakes to stop my car accelerating itself into the back of a 40ft articulated lorry.

Once back at home, I got on the phone to the garage (now graduated to speed-dial); "please could I book my car in for a repair? But before you go ahead with it, can you give me a ring to let me know how much it is going to cost."

 Pic.No.1. If only car repairs were always so transparent

Yet again, my car was back in the garage, and I was chariotless. 

The next day, I received a call from the garage saying that my car was ready to collect.

"I thought you were going to ring to let me know how much it was going to cost before fixing it?" I demanded.

"Sorry, the lad doing the repairs wasn't aware and went ahead and fixed the throttle," the garage owner replied.

Suffice to say that the garage had originally inferred it would only cost about £40.00 and in reality it cost £82.00, making me think that, yet again, I had been jibbed by a garage.GRRRRRRR.

Pic.No.2. Ooooh. It's gonna cost ya love..... 'oh really? again? what a surprise'

The upside is that I have my car back. It now has its MOT certificate, and it has been relieved of its Kami Kaze tendencies. Fingers crossed that this is the end of the car saga!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

I hate buses me, but I like weekends

'So', I hear you cry..... 'you've been a bit quiet over the last weekend.'

Pic.No.1. Saturday morning in my garden - bright and snowy (albeit short-lived snow)

Actually, thinking about it, yes I have been a bit quieter than usual, but me being quiet isn't a phenomena that normally leads to complaints........

Suffice to say, last weekend was pretty chilled both literally (it snowed) and figuratively, with only one proper 'going out' episode on Saturday. I had arranged to meet a chum in Oxford for an afternoon in the Pitt Rivers Museum, and given the fact that parking in the city is completely horrible, I decided to go to Thornhill park and ride and get a bus into the centre (ugh, public transport).

After half an hour of driving round Thornhill trying to find a parking space, I eventually ended up having to illegally abandon my car in a disused flowerbed in order to get into town before the Christmas shopping season started again. [Note to Oxfordshire county council; The Thornhill Park and Ride is infuriatingly too small for demand. Please add more spaces (or even disused flowerbeds which do the job admirably) to save the motorists time and money]

As if using Thornhill and public transport wasn't bad enough, for no apparent reason, the bloody bus decided not to stop at the main station in the city centre, instead dropping everyone at the arse-end of town, meaning I had to walk myself (using my feet) back into the centre, adding at least 10 minutes onto my journey. Sacre Bleu!

Aforementioned chum was waiting on a bench outside Christ Church College as I approached, blowing him a kiss and looking humble (i.e. wringing my gloved hands ashamedly) in an attempt to mitigate my lateness. He was remarkably gracious, brushing aside my enforced inconveniences as though it were dandruff on a shoulder.

"So," he said, "it's probably a bit late to go to the museum, shall we do something else instead..... how about just chilling out and catching up in a pub beside the river?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," I concurred, and so we ended up here:

Pic.No.2. Entrance to The Head of the River pub

If you are interested in going to this pub, The Head of the River is the ideal place to go during summer when you just want to sit beside the river Thames and watch the world going by. The menu was just a standard 'chain pub' menu, so I wouldn't think about eating there, and the drinks were quite expensive. 

Pic.No.3. View of the Head of the River pub from the bridge

After a pleasant afternoon, it was time to go home, and I suddenly realised that I didn't know how, or where, to find the buses to take me back to my car at Thornhill. And therein lies one of the fundamental problems with buses, you can't just ring 'em like a taxi and have them come and get you. You actually have to find out where they stop and wait there. It's barbaric.

In my case, I walked up and down St Aldate's (the main bus street in Oxford), four times until I finally found a bus-stop that would take me to my chariot. The problem was that I was looking for a bus-stop with a destination written on it, but instead the bus companies tend to give buses numbers (far more intuitive, obviously). Now if I known that a 400 was taking me home, I would have been sorted pretty quickly, but as things were, it was 36 mins from me trying to find a bus to actually embarking upon one.

Pic.No.3. The bus-stops lining St. Aldates
Pic.No.4 The inside of the bus

I did manage to get a quick shot of the inside of the bus so that you can see the conditions for yourself. Sorry it is a bit blurry, but the bus was moving and I didn't want to take any more pictures because it just looks downright weird sitting on your own, on a bus, taking photos of it.

Before I go, I am putting together some suggestions for improving public transport with the intention of sending them to my local government.

Things to improve buses:

1. Have it so you can ring them and they come and collect you
2. Make them drop you off where you want to go, rather than their favoured bus-stops
3. Turn the top deck of the bus into business class, and serve passengers hot flannels using tweezers
4. Install VIP cubicles which serve complimentary drinks and snacks at all bus stops 
5. Make them drive faster than their customary 20mph, so that less time is wasted and traffic doesn't snag up behind them
6. If the above doesn't improve the 'bus experience', then I suggest that the local council sell all the bloody buses and use the proceeds to buy all the would-be passengers a car. 

I should be the transport minister, me.

Monday, 22 February 2010

This one is for adrenalin junkies! It's ace

Ok, I am not much of a sport-watcher (unless the sport involves an engine or the word rugby), but still, I decided to try and do my bit to support our English athletes at the winter Olympics. After pondering the best way to feasibly 'do my bit', I decided that I only had one option - to watch it on TV.

So, I settled myself in front of my television set with remote control in hand, and tuned into the latest snowy event.

'What the bloody hell is going on here?' I thought to myself, aghast at the sight of a gaggle of lycra-clad women seemingly sweeping an icy arena with brooms, 'surely this isn't a sport? Or maybe it's a bizarre division of the extreme-ironing clan'.

Pic.No.1 Extreme ironing - yes it really is a sport

After consulting the TV guide I discovered that I had stumbled upon a sport called Curling, which, to be quite frank, left me wondering about the mental state of the person who invented it...... how on earth did that sport not only originate, but come into public consciousness as people thought 'hang on, that's a good idea'?

The only theory that  I could muster is this; approximately a 1014 years ago, an artic dweller accidentally dropped a newly-roasted duck onto a frozen lake (I have got to work on the link as to why the chef would take the duck outside), and that the hungry guests tried to retrieve their dinner using long broomsticks. Following a few scuffles, they discovered that chasing a duck around a frozen lake was actually quite good fun. So, after eating their booty, they decided to give it another go at the next dinner party...... and so Curling was born.

Enough of that weirdy weirdy stuff, and back to proper sport; in particular, the promise of adrenalin that I have given you.

Whilst on the BBC Sports website, I saw this superb video of a BBC Reporter who asked to have a go on the Skeleton Run, and thus, was granted his wish. Not only did he manage some semblance of narration during his run, but he managed to refrain from swearing  ........ enjoy...............I loved it ....... [click below - it opens in a separate window].

Vid.No.1 BBC reporter decides to brave the Skeleton Run

How cool was that? He was travelling at 85mph...............

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The car saga concludes..... or does it?

Whoops. What with all the drama surrounding my loss of internet, TV and phone, I have got all out of sync with my blog postings. But then I remembered that I hadn't told you what happened with my hapless car after all the drama in the last couple of weeks [read about saga 1 here and read about saga 2 here].

Basically, the rotting heap my chariot failed its MOT roadworthiness test a while ago, and after a hefty bill to get it up to standard, it then needed to have a repair, repaired because it (the offside brakelight) still didn't work.

But after all the palaver, at long last my car was ready for an MOT re-test, and so back to the MOT garage I jaunted.

Pic.No.1. I took this sneaky shot of the inside of the MOT garage (the ramp on the right hand side is where they do the tests)

I handed the keys and the repair documentation to the mechanic, who looked at them and sucked the air through his teeth, shaking his head seriously.

"What?" I asked, starting to feel a little irate (again).

"You were supposed to have all the repairs completed within 10 days of the original MOT test," he sighed.

"It is 10 days isn't it?" I questioned in exasperation, but secretly knowing what he was going to say.

"Nope. It's eleven," he grinned, "that means you'll have to have another complete test."

"That will cost another £50! Please don't make me go through this again..... I have been to hell and back..... in the last few weeks this car has nearly cost me my friends, my family and my livelihood," I pleaded, exaggerating a tad for added emphasis [see what I did there? Yeh?].

"Ok," the mechanic sighed, "I'll do the retest free of charge, but don't tell anyone.... you'll have me put out of business if word gets around."

So I watched with bated breath as a series of tests were undertaken with various diagnostic equipment, and finally the mechanic declared himself finished.

"Did it pass?" I asked hopefully.

"Nope," replied the increasingly maddening mechanic, "your brakelight isn't working."

"Are you kidding me?" I demanded, coming close to hysteria, "the bloody light has been fixed twice now!"

"That one is fine, it is the other one that has stopped working now," he replied. ARRRGGGGGHHHH!

Sensing my increasing frustration, the mechanic made a suggestion; "there is something I could try to save you having to pay for any more repairs,"

"Go for it," I replied, jumping into the last lifeboat.

What happened next, left me a little agog to say the least. He walked up to the brakelight and gave it a bit slog with his fist........ and can you believe it? ............. the bloody thing started working again. 

All I can say is that it's a good job that I didn't employ those techniques when I worked in aerospace. It wouldn't have inspired the confidence of passengers if I placated them with; 'I've just given one of the wings a quick knock with me 'ammer and you should be fine for take-off now".

Anyway, back to my car - I snatched the MOT certificate from the mechanic's hand and hotfooted it out of there..... hopefully that will be the last of the car-sagas for the timebeing.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Too much violence in the news these days

I'm back! BT have fixed my line, and they did it within six hours of me reporting the fault - I never saw that coming...........

So back to posting, Hurray! Well it would be hurray, but unfortunately, the news is often filled with gratuitous violence, so it was with a heavy heart that I watched yet another brutal report:

Vid.No.1 Yet another violent news bulletin

And then I laughed my head off...... particularly at the bit where the fighters' legs ended up in the air.

Help me! I am cyber-stranded

Oh dear. As I tried to boot up my laptop this morning, it repeatedly refused to connect to my wi-fi.

'Ummm, bummer,' I thought. Then I came up with an idea - see if the TV works because that comes through the same cable. It didn't.

Which meant that I had to resort to a call with an Indian call centre on my landline, which was making bizarre clicking sounds every two seconds, because it too, operates through the same cable.

After 40 minutes of diagnostics, the (actually very helpful) lady concluded that there was a fault with the line that was beyond my control.

"So what now?" I asked.

"An engineer will call in the next 48 hours to discuss the fault with you," she replied.

"48 hours?" I replied incredulously, "And they will only be 'discussing' the fault rather than fixing it? I don't have internet or TV!" I added, close to hysteria.

"Sorry, that is the best we can do. Thankyou for your call."

So that is it. This post comes courtesy of 3G connectivity, but beyond this I am currently residing in a cyber outpost, surrounded by digital tumbleweed. You gotta love BT (the gits).

Sent from my iPhone

Here is a late addition....... the BT Troubleshooter on the phone asked me to take the front off my tele-comms socket. I did, and then she asked me to put it back on again...... apparently, it was part of a diagnostics test..... how exactly does that work then?

 Pic.No.1. My tele-comms socket being diagnosed by a Indian call-centre worker

Friday, 19 February 2010

My bloody car ...... the saga continues

So. As you will probably remember; not so long ago my car failed its MOT (Ministry of Transport) roadworthiness test [read original posting here]. Consequently, it meant that I had ten days to rectify the problems, otherwise my vehicle would be taken from me by the Prime Minister, put into a big pit, nuked, and any surviving atoms would be sent back to me in an envelope with a note saying;

"Ha ha ha! I bet you now wish you'd changed the passenger-side wiper blade, don't ya? Regards, Gordon Brown".

Hey, no flies on me (but you can see where they've been)...... I had already got the work done, and was ready to go for an MOT retest. That was until Sarah pointed out that my offiside brakelight was still not working.

"Grrrrr. I have only just had it repaired," I groaned, as Sarah laughed and pointed in sympathy.

There was only one thing for it; I needed to take it back to the garage (a different garage to the one that did the MOT) to have it re-fixed (is that a word?). Fifteen minutes later, I was stood on the garage forecourt, in the pouring rain, with a mechanic holding my brake-light mechanism in his hand, shaking his head.

"What?" I asked, getting exasperated.

"Some of your wiring is loose," he replied.

"So can you fix it?" I demanded as a drip fell from the end of my nose.

"Yep, give me a minute," he answered, pulling a cable-tie out of his pocket, and tightening it round the dodgy wiring.  "There you go. All done." he said, handing me my brakelight fixture for inspection.

"Are you sure that this is ok?" I asked dubiously.

"Yep," he said, popping the fixture back into the car, and disappearing into the garage, leaving me wet, miserable and strangely unoptomistic about the longevity of the brakelight repair.

 Pic.No.1. Cat with its head stuck

Luckily for me, I would have erred on the side of a bad mood if I hadn't seen this picture of a gormless cat with food tin stuck on its head.

Now normally, animals like this fall victim to natural selection. But not this moggy.  The lucky blighter managed to do a four-paw-stagger into a tree-hugger's back garden, and was promptly taken to the Vets to have the thing cut off.

Call me picky, but I think it looks more amusing with it on.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wild animals? Bring 'em on

After living in the countryside for a year, I am starting to turn into a bit of a wildlife guru. In fact, I am probably a cat's knacker off being able to track animals down using their footprints..... as long as they are dogs or cows.... and as long as they walk in mud for their whole journey. 

My increasing spiritual bond with animals made me want to keep Izzy close to nature for the duration of her school holidays. So it was with this in mind, that Sarah (my friend who is staying for the weekend) and I, decided to take her to the 'Cotswolds Wildlife Park,' in order for her to witness animals in their natural habitat.

Actually, I use the phrase 'natural habitat' loosely.... most lions would probably disagree that a small, cold and waterlogged field in Oxfordshire accurately recreates a grand African plain.

But let's not get bogged down with the detail, and concentrate instead upon my amazing wildlife tour:

Pic.No.1. A pair of ducks

Ok, ok, not such an auspicious start, but give me a chance. I do get more exotic, trust me.

Pic.No.2. A bactrian camel chewing the wire and bolt fence commonly found in its natural habitat

A Bactrian camel is distinguished from other camels beause it only has one hump. I confidently told Izzy that the hump was used to store water, before being interrupted by Sarah; "Apparently, it is a common misconception that the hump stores water. It actually stores fat reserves." Oh ok, a bit like ladies thighs then. 

Pic.No.3. A bird thing on a log

Ok, I have to come clean here. I took a picture of this beautiful bird, but have no idea what it was because there was no label on its cage. But using my knowledge of wildlife, I think that it may be a species of colourful chicken.

Pic.No.4. An Amur Leopard

The wildlife centre has an Amur Leopard which is amazing because they are a critically endangered species, with only about 200 of them left in the world. If you ask me, the Cotswolds Wildlife Centre is missing a trick. If they made it into handbags, they would rake it in.

Pic.No.5. A peacock

Here is an interesting fact - I used to have a pet peacock called Henry when I was a teenager. He lived in my garden, was hand-fed cheese chunks, and used to hate my dogs of the time (same old, same old ..... roll on Naughty George).  Then my next door neighbour shot him for making mating noises at 6am. It was a disgrace.

Pic.No.6. A Zebra

I look at zebras and always harbour a secret desire. It is based on the premise that basically, they are just stripey horses. I would love to tame one, saddle it, and ride it through the village where I live. Just imagine the raised eyebrows if I acted as though it was just a normal dobbin.

Pic.No.6. Izzy in the Kiddy Park

"Oi! Izzy. Stop playing in the park and come and interact with some wildlife!"

"Don't want to. Wildlife is boooooring," she replies. She obviously hasn't inherited my countryside / animal - loving genes.

"I don't care, you are going to come and interact with a goat and sheep, and what's more you are going to bloody enjoy it." I shouted back.

Pic. No. 7. Izzy and Sarah touch a goat

I took this photo of Sarah and Izzy stroking a goat, and for a second.... a split second mind you.... I had to check who was the goat. [note to self: don't dress Izzy in fur coats when visiting wildlife parks].

Pic.No.8 White Rhinos

Who? I demand, who? named these creatures 'white rhinos'? My beef is with the fact that they aren't actually white. They are a sludgey-brown colour. So I suspect that some posh southerner decided to out-pet their friends and couldn't bear calling their new animals 'sludgey-brown rhinos', and thus renamed them as 'white rhinos' to impress the Jones'.

'Hey you! your rhino is brown! What you gonna do about it?'

 Pic.No.9. Me. With sheep

So, after all the exotic animals in this wildlife centre, I end up with....... sheep. How uncool is that.... especially as I am now at one with the countryside. Even more weird..... have a look at Izzy... is it me or does she look superimposed on my arm?

Vid. No. 1. Otters are well more exciting than you think

And so the blog ends with the funniest animals that I saw there all day - Otters. They actually made me laugh out loud with their antics.... which made me think... they need a word with the Cotswold's publicists about raising their game in the wildlife park. They deserve it... watch the video and judge for yourself.

A tour round the top-right-hand-side of Oxford

Right that's it. Today I decided that we, (that is my friend Sarah, my daughter Izzy, and me) were going to explore the top-right-hand-side of Oxford. I have lived near the city for over twelve months now and have never been to that particular bit, and now it was time to make like Captain Scott (without the dying bit.... obviously).

Actually, thinking about it, if we were to 'do a Scott' and die during an exploration of Oxford, it would be a pretty poor state of affairs given that we are probably never more than 200m from a Starbucks. It would probably be akin to being run over by a motability scooter in terms of embarrassing deaths ..... yep, you would never live that sucker down, no matter how dead you were.

Pic. No. 1. Top right hand side of Oxford city centre

Anyway, enough of weedy deaths, and back to the matter in hand. I parked the car in familiar territory (bottom right hand side of Oxford), and formed a human chain as we crossed Oxford High Street and took a narrow back passage into aforementioned unchartered territory.

Pic.No.2. Izzy and Sarah heading down a narrow lane into unchartered territory

And man alive, as always, Oxford's history kept spewing forth.

Apparently, King Henry II commenced the building of Oxford University in 1167 after banning English scholars from attending universities in Paris.... so as you can imagine, everything in Oxford is really bloody old, and especially the stuff in the the top right hand side.. which is where the building started, and where we are exploring.

Pic.No.3. Sarah and I outside St.Mary the Virgin church which is well old (circa 1327ad)

Pic.No.4. Ancient University colleges (All Saints) with ancient Sheldonian Theatre on the left

Pic.No.5. Actually, here is a pic of the the not-so-ancient Sheldonian Theatre.. it is a virtual new build (completed in 1668) compared to most of the other stuff

After surveying the vista for a while, I suddenly became aware of a sign outside a church called St Mary the Virgin, advertising that the church tower was open so that people could view Oxford from above.

"Oi, Sarah. Fancying going up the church tower?" I asked. Sarah didn't answer - Izzy got there way in advance.

"Yes! I want to go up the tower!" she shrieked with excitement.

"Sorted. Let's go," I replied, striding towards the church of St Mary the Virgin, and pushing open the heavy medieval door. 

Pic.No.6. Sarah and Izzy inside St Mary the Virgin Church (with a superbly unbelievably great stained glass window in the background)

As with all tourist attractions, we were completely fleeced when we arrived at the narrow, winding stone stairs that were to take us up the tower. 
"That'll be £3.00 for an adult, and £1.50 for the child," smiled the lady behind the counter. 

"Flippin 'ek! Does that include a three course meal?!" I asked incredulously whilst Sarah elbowed me in the ribs. And the worst thing was, that I couldn't back out of the tower, because Izzy was so excited about it.

Vid.No.1 Izzy stranded on the narrow stone stairs inside St Mary the Virgin church tower

And so we climbed, and we climbed........ oh yeh, all those £3.00 entry fees were not put towards a Stannah stair lift as you might imagine........... and then we reached the top. It was at that point that I remembered that I was scared of heights..... bummer.

For people who aren't scared of heights, it goes something like this; you clock the height, your head goes all woozy, and it feels like the building you are standing in is moving. 

Luckily, if there is something to stop me falling (in this case a wall), I can get my head to think logically ("I cannot fall, there is a wall there") and in that way I can handle it. That is unless a 'humorous' (cough) friend decides to lean over the wall as far as possible shouting; "Woo hoo! Look at me! If I slipped now, I'd fall down there and get scooped up with a spoon!"

Anyway, you will be pleased to know that I managed to get some birds eye views of Oxford for you to look at...... here goes!

Vid.No.2. The new-build Sheldonian Theatre

Vid.No.3. High Street Oxford - this is one of the main shopping streets

Vid.No.4. Brasenose College (part of Oxford University)

Vid.No.5. The spectacular All Saints College, Oxford University

Finally, the sun was setting and we decided it was time to get back, but not before I took an arty photograph of the sun setting over Oxford. 

 Pic.No.7. The sun sets over the most historic Oxford quarter

 Once back at my house, Sarah asked if she could watch the TV. 

"Yeh, course you can. What you watching?" I asked.

"A programme about vampires," she replied, choosing the channel. 

I tell you now, this girl is weird. Not only is she obsessed by vampires, but she then went on to watch a programme about a werewolf, vampire and ghost who shared a house.

I am looking on the bright side though. For years she had an obsession with Star Trek, and a crush on Jean-Luc Picard. At least I don't have to sit through episodes of that, or converse with her in Klingon any more. Very odd. Anyway, that's it for today..... I have work to do. See you later. 

Monday, 15 February 2010

Valentine's day is pants

What an absolute load of complete tosh Valentine's day is. Yep. I am a miserable git and I hate commercialism.

Every year, the 14th February comes up as a day when you are supposed to extraordinarily appreciate your partner by purchasing tat like, for example, a polyester teddy bear holding a heart with the slogan 'I love you'. Don't cuddle the thing too vigorously or you might need to invest in an earthing strap to prevent those nasty electric shocks.

But then I got wondering exactly why February 14th has gained this significance? 

Well, after a bit of research, I found out that about 1514 years ago, there was a Christian martyr (handily named Valentine) whom, it is reputed, tried to convert Emporer Claudius from Roman Paganism to Christianity. He failed, and (even more of a bummer), he was executed for his efforts.

Not all was in vain, however (although I should imagine this is of little comfort to Valentine). Following his death, his antics were brought to the attention of Pope Gelasius I (in the year AD 496). After hearing about the sheer front that Valentine had displayed with Claudius, big Pope G decided to use Valentine's burial date - 14th February - as a day when people would show affection for each other.

So there you go....... the theory behind the exquisite sentiments that lead to romantic compositions such as this..........

I know, I know. It's beautiful. Happy Valentines day!

Anyone up for a gig in Witney?

Blimey, Saturday sure was a busy day. Straight after leaving the theatre in Oxford, Sarah and I had to hotfoot it back to my cottage, to get ready for a night out in Witney. I have a friend, Dave, who is in a band called '1000 Mile Highway', and he was doing a gig at a venue called Fat Lils.

"Are you taking any underwear?" I asked Sarah.

"No. What for?" she asked, looking puzzled.

"To throw at the band. That's what you do at gigs apparently."

"No way am I throwing my underwear on stage. It cost good money," retorted Sarah.

"Actually, that is a good point. I might just take the ones that turned grey because I accidentally put them in with a dark wash," I mused.

Underwear sorted, we jumped into the car and 25 minutes later arrived at Fat Lils.

Fat Lils is a great venue for a band because although there is plenty of room to sit, stand or dance, it is also small enough to have an electric atmosphere.

At 9.15pm, the place was buzzing and the band came out onto the stage to rapturous applause. Because Sarah is a bit of a photographer, she kindly took some photographs for you to look at. My chum Dave is the guy doing lead vocals. 


As you would expect from two hardcore party animals, we stayed out late into the night soaking up the atmosphere as well as a plentiful supply of gin and tonics.

"Shall we go and dance?" asked Sarah as one particularly boppy song was being played.

"No thanks. I would rather chop my own leg off with a rusty blade than ritually humiliate myself by dancing in public." I replied.

"Are you sure?" she asked, as though there was a semblance of ambiguity in my answer.

I shook my head despairingly and turned my attentions back to the stage. The band was brilliant, and the crowd were dancing, cheering and singing along to the songs. Unfortunately, because I had had to pre-book a taxi for 11.30pm, I missed the encores, but I am sure they were as funky as the rest of the gig.

If you would like to know more about this band, I encourage you to become a facebook fan like moi. Then you will get to know when they are performing.

Vid. No. 1 1000 Mile Highway - a video for you to have a squiz at

Sunday, 14 February 2010

A trip to the Theatre

What with it being the school holidays 'an all, my friend from up North - Sarah - decided to indulge in some culture by heading south to spend a few days in Oxford.

Being the kind hearted, nay, saintly soul that I am, I had lined up a few things for us to do, starting with a trip to the Theatre on Saturday.

It was a matinee performance of the comedy classic 'Porridge', so the viewing was at 2.30pm. Given that parking is a bit of a nightmare in Oxford, we decided to use the 'park and ride' [for the US readers, a 'park and ride' is a huge carpark outside a city centre where you leave your car, and get a bus into the city centre].

Pic.No.1. Redbridge Park and Ride 

"Are you sure about this?" I asked Sarah, as I parked my car in location F3, "it means that we are going to have to get on a bus.... with random members of the general public."

"Don't be daft," replied Sarah, striding in the direction of, and embarking, a two-storey bus. I followed close behind and approached the driver; "Excuse me, would it be possible to upgrade to business class?" I asked the confused-looking chap behind the wheel.

"Ignore her," intervened Sarah, pushing money into the driver's hand and dragging me inside the bus.

Pic.No.2. Me on a bus
Unfortunately, we had chosen the bus that took the long route into Oxford, which in turn necessitated a mad dash down the main shopping street in order to get to the theatre in time. But luckily, we arrived with just enough time to collect our tickets and enter the auditorium.

Pic.No.3. Hot-footing it down Cornmarket Street to the theatre

We had booked the cheap seats, but before the curtain rose, I spotted some empty seats in the expensive bit, so we snook down, and voila! A perfect view of the stage.

 Pic. No. 4. Quick! There are some empty spaces in the expensive bit

"We shouldn't do this," Sarah hissed at me, "it's fraud."

"No it's not. You are looking at it all wrong," I whispered back, "Firstly, the theatre's overheads aren't increased by us moving to the expensive seats. Secondly, we are far more likely to enjoy the experience if we are sitting here...... and are therefore more likely to return to other performances. Don't forget, repeat business is king."

"Ummmm," sighed Sarah, still looking a bit dubious as the lights dimmed and the stage lit up.

Pic.No.5. The curtain opens
The show was ok, which I agree is a little nondescript. If I was to rate it out of five stars, I would give it three. It was moderately amusing, the performances were good, but it just didn't ...... what's the word? ........sparkle.... or make me laugh out loud, which is generally an intrinsic factor in any comedy.
Pic.No.6. The actors performing

Plus, I got told off for taking the photograph above. An usher came running down the aisle and politely told me that photography wasn't allowed.

"Eh?" I queried, "I read the signs on the door into the auditorium, and it said that 'flash' photography isn't allowed, and I'm not using a flash."

"Well, since then it's been changed to cover all photography," the usher whispered, starting to get a little flustered because people were starting to tut at her.

"No problem, I'll stop taking pictures," I hissed back, sparing the poor girl further embarrassment - it wasn't her fault that management hadn't updated the signs.

And so endeth our afternoon at the theatre. We need to get home quick, we are out to see a live band this evening....... more to come!

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