Sunday, 10 February 2013


Well, the last post on THIS blog, hosted here...

Like many people, I have been very disappointed to read that many international corporations, such as Google - the owners of this blogging site - do everything that they can to avoid paying their corporation taxes. We would all like to pay less tax (at least, 99% of us would, I suspect), but for the most part, we pay up and shut up, seeing taxation as a necessary part of running a civilised society. Not so for some of the biggest companies in the world.

I have already stopped shopping at Amazon and I no longer buy my coffee from Starbucks (it was filthy anyway). I have a problem when it comes to Apple, who also practice this off-shore nonsense, so I suppose I could easily be accused of hypocrisy in this small step to put the world to rights, but the alternative is probably no better. At least I buy my Apple stuff from John Lewis, who DO pay their taxes and do support the British economy properly.

There is the wider context of buying locally, of course and we are doing everything we can to do that too. The scandal of the Romanian horse meat in ostensibly beef products which has broken this week, demonstrates that even the food chain is completely out of control. We are proud to only buy our meat from the local butcher in town. We are pleased to buy locally produced eggs and "Buy British" wherever possible in Sainsbury's. We do not shop in Aldi, Lidl, or any of the other supermarkets which have a positive "Don't buy British" ethos.

So, after nearly four years of having this blog hosted here, on Blogger, I have moved it, lock stock and barrel to Wordpress. The link will be at the bottom of this post.

I played around with other alternatives, especially Tumblr. I have friends who seem to be able to use Tumblr quite successfully (if their Twitter feeds are anything to go by!), buy I just found it incomprehensible, despite several rainy afternoons of effort. Within one hour of setting up the Wordpress account, it had imported the whole of this blog, including all the photographs, comments over the years and so on. Very impressed. The formatting, or "theme"might need a little tweak here and there, and the number of "widgets" on the right hand side is fewer than this blog system, but overall, the new look is very pleasing.

So, if you do follow this blog, and I am very grateful that you do, I would be delighted to continue our relationship over on Wordpress. Thanks for reading here over the years and the support that you have offered me, both through the comments facility here, and off line. It really is appreciated, and has helped me through a most interesting period of my life.

See you on the other side.

The address is

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Paris and a psychological study

As hinted at last time, we didn't go to London for the weekend.

We went to Paris for lunch instead.

Now, this might sound a bit extravagant and it is. But it made some sense at the time. The cost of a hotel room in London is approaching £150 for a night these days, plus, of course, there's the train fare to get there from the folks' house, dinner to pay for, and so on. Having been a collector of AirMiles (I still can't get used to the name "Avios"), I reasoned that it would cost us a lot less to go to Paris for the day.

The parking at Heathrow T5 Business Car Park - the one with the pods - was the same as two tickets to London from Maidenhead. Two return flights to Paris via Avios was £60. By the time the train at the other end was factored in (more of that in a moment), the whole thing cost a lot less than the hotel in London would have cost on it's own.

So, there we were at around 6 am getting a pod from the Car Park to T5. As always, passing through security there on the way out was a breeze, and we had some breakfast while waiting for the plane.

On arrival at Charles de Gaulle, we had a different story. They were working on the railway link to the city that weekend, and we were forced to get a shuttle train to another terminal, then find a bus to be taken to another railway that was working. This probably added half an hour to each of the journeys that day.

Still, we got into the city at around 11 and made our way to a restaurant recommended by my friend Nigel, who lives in the city. It opened at 12, so we were one of the first people in.

"Le Soufflé" does what it says on the tin. It's a soufflé restaurant. You can have a three course soufflé meal if that's what floats your boat. We chose from the traditional menu, which still had a "mini" soufflé as part of the chicken main course.

Here's Ann, when the first course was brought...

And on conclusion of the pud...

It was a real experience, and easily the best lunch we have eaten in Paris for a long time. A bit bizzarre though...

On leaving the restaurant, we did the usual stuff of walking along the river, into Notre Dame and finding a place for some coffee, before heading back to the airport, arriving back in Maidenhead at around half nine. A really good day out!

Now, I have also been to see my consultant for a three-monthly "watch" part of the "watch and wait" regimen that I am now on. Nothing untoward found, which is good and the news is that he won't be going to Australia until May at the earliest, so I will be seeing him for a last time in April. 

He has also asked me to take part in a psychology study being undertaken by a PhD student at Chester University; something I have gladly volunteered to do. The session will take place next Friday. The have some concern that they don't have the opportunity to offer much in the way of psychological counselling as part of the standard diagnosis and treatment, so they are looking for volunteers to offer their experiences. Let's see what we discover at the end of the week.

The new car is going very nicely, but I am currently disappointed with it's fuel consumption. This will no doubt improve when it's properly run in, and the warmer weather comes, but I am only getting mid-high 40s, when I think I should be getting in the 50s somewhere. BMW's claim of 60 mpg is, as usual, complete nonsense. I do wish that te EU would get their act together and provide realistic figures.

Venice to look forward to next, but lots of work to do before we get there. I am starting to put together a new project that may see us through another few years and it's good to be starting something new.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Buddy news and the accidental car?

Further to a post back in the summer, after a terrible delay caused by having the forms in my briefcase and not posting them off, I have now been invited to attend one of the Lymphoma Association's "Buddy Training Days". This will be in Aylesbury in early March. Fortunately and by coincidence, I will be in that part of the country in any case, so the time and venue are ideal.

A day is all it takes, apparently, and I assume that the training involves telephone technique and how to be a good "listener". We will see.

Now, a quick post-post Christmas and New Year catch-up...

Despite not having any offspring at home over Christmas, for the first time in 26 years, we had a great couple of days. I cooked the dinner on Christmas Eve, which we enjoyed with a bottle of Léoville Barton that I had bought during the summer. It was the most expensive bottle of wine we have ever had, but it was delicious. The memory of the taste stays longer than the memory of the cost - honest.

On Christmas Day we went to Arneside, just south of the Lake District. We had a nice walk along the Kent estuary and across the viaduct between there and the north bank. It seems that Network Rail turn a bling eye to people walking across on Christmas and Boxing Days, when the network is closed. There were dozens of people out there and obviously there is a unique perspective to be had both of Arneside and the hills.

There weren't many people around and the roads were clear so, with our turkey sandwiches and mince pies, we had a great day out.

My current car has now got 93,500 miles on it, despite being only 2 1/2 years old. When I got an invitation to test drive a new VW Golf Mk VII, I decided that it would be an interesting experience to see how the car had improved since my Mark VI. Well, it has improved, but unfortunately, the cost of the car means that I am not prepared to pay what VW want as a rental. On driving away, I went next door to the BMW dealer, to see what they had in the used 3-Series Touring department... Handy that lots of car dealers seem to gather on certain arterial roads, no doubt for just this reason.

Subject to what VW finance can tell me on Monday, I appear to have bought a new shape 3-Series Touring, with 5 miles on the clock, for about £10k less than the asking price. Why anyone buys a NEW BMW, I don't know - if you are prepared to compromise only slightly on your ideal spec, and don't mind being the second owner, then there are some serious discounts to be had. End of December / end of June are the best times as they are BMW UK's half and full years and they pre-register a LOT of cars to make up the numbers.

So, within half an hour of walking into the BMW showroom, the salesman had a holding deposit from me, pending a settlement figure from VW. Scary that you can do this and not even break out into a sweat.

As in some previous years, we had planned to have a weekend (well, Saturday night) in London at the end of January. I was looking at hotels and somewhat baulking at the price of them. Then another idea came to mind... more in February...

Finally, we need to find some time to get to Edinburgh in the next couple of months - maybe a good place to test the new car (if it works out) on a long trip?