Holiday Reading

Just a note about a couple of books I read in Italy whilst on holiday:

Submarine by Thomas Parrish.

The Secret of Annex 3 by Colin Dexter.



Sport overload

In days of yore, each of the major sporting events would be spaced out enough so that the collisions in scheduling would be minimised. Rarely would you get a Test Match conflicting with The Open.

Yesterday and indeed over the whole weekend, I’ve been running the TV showing the golf, had the radio on with the cricket and had to record Le Tour and the German GP highlights. It’s been mad. And the Commonwealth Games start on Thursday.

I think this shows a couple of things namely sport is more accessible now through the media and the rise of cycling has meant there is another major sport that competes with the usual ones of Cricket and Golf. Bad news if you like all of these but chasing the dollar means that these sports also compete with each other for the spectators attention – or money in reality.

A good thing? Perhaps yes as it has meant I have rested up after a hectic few months and in between, I managed to get some jobs around the house done. However, if you paid to go to one of these events, you would need your phone well charged to keep up with the other events.


Stalin by Robert Service

stalinAt last I have finished this book.After 7 years. I started the book when I went on the Trans-Siberia in 2007.

There is no doubt that Stalin was the ultimate despot – maybe even worse than Adolf. Certainly he was a serial killer in the premier league of such psychopaths.

Why has it taken me so long to read this? Well for a start it is 604 pages of absolute historical analysis – and a lot of it is delving into Stalin’s approach to communism and his interpretation of Marx and his master – Lenin.

So it takes a while to digest it all. And it’s heavy going as some of it is just boring. It does go into detail about the Great Terror and the mass murders after WWII. Also the relationship between the Allies are examined as well as the Cold War starting.

If you are interested in modern life and history since WWII, this is a must read. For example, Putin‘s Grandfather served with both Lenin and Stalin. And the current problems in Ukraine and Crimea all stem from Stalin’s appropriations back in the 1920′s.

I’ll have to work out who was the biggest killer. But Stalin’s regime was paranoid and had a hierarchical command structure only replicated by other communist regimes such as Mao or Korea. Interesting though is the letter from Tito: “stop sending assassins to kill me as we have stopped 5. I’ll send one and I won’t need to send a second.”

Lets hope we don’t have another chap like this arise again in our lifetime with such power. In case you don’t get it, this is why we have armed forces and nuclear weapons. Putin is from the same stock and we need to be on our guard.





Essington Fun Fest 2014

Just about got over Essington Fun Festival after a scoring day running the HQ tent along with the next door neighbour and The Stymaster.

Was it worth 4 months of planning and a load of stress? Probably as I’ve learned so much and been able to try out somethings such as Feng Office and try the social media in a non-commercial way.

Did it work? Well Feng Office worked well as a collaborative tool, but the social media only really worked for the stall holders – I don’t know many who came purely because they followed it by these means. We didn’t use Tw@tter which may have appealed to The Stymaster but we would have to have invested a lot of time building up the audience for this and in the end, most of the village are connected through Facebook.

Also, we’ve learned a lot about running the event and getting things right such as starting earlier, more food stalls and handling the scoring better. But we’ll improve on these for next year.

One personal note was I got press-ganged into the MC bit so my accusations of Compulsive Microphone Disorder directed at one of the family came back to haunt me big time. 7 hours with Stymaster casting doubt as to why I needed an amp and speaker – you can imagine the ribaldry from Surrey.

Anyway, a big thanks to all who helped me get through it – and we raised £2 grand. Not a bad start for an awful disease.


Been a while since I had a moan on my blog about stuff to do with the everyday running of your life but these past 7 days have been a catalogue of everyday stuff failing and requiring repair in one form or another.

Take the car. My good mate and car mechanic had pointed out on the MoT that the back brakes required attention but on the way to Sheffield last weekend, it was exhibiting some strange handling characteristics. So Tuesday, off it goes for a complete overhaul of the system.

Whilst the weather has been good, I’ve taken the opportunity to wash the sofa covers. I didn’t count on the washing line breaking and even some of the pegs at some stage!

Added to the count was the Hi-fi Amplifier. It’s been sounding iffy for ages and years ago, Cousin Ross told me to get it serviced. It’s back now and what a difference! Happily, the place to get it serviced was the same place (different bloke) that I had to have the UPS repaired.

I’m hoping that’s the of the current round of breakages/failures but isn’t uit strange that these things happen altogether? No doubt there is some chaos theory about it somewhere.

Tour de France – Cote de Bradfield

IMG_2065This summer has been pretty spectacular for sport and it’s as if all your birthdays came a once this past weekend if you like sport. World Cup quarter finals, Wimbledon, F1 British Grand Prix and “Le Tour de France” in England. How good was that?

Well, so good for me I begged an overnight stay with Mr & Mrs Five Pints in Sheffield and on Sunday morning at 9.00 am sharp, off we trot to “the Cote de Bradfield” , along with Jane the Social Worker whom had tagged along as well (along with three bottles of Prosecco!).

It was a unique experience. We camped out by the roadside along with tens of thousands of other people by the roadside opposite a filed with a big tent and lots of food places and a beer tent.

The race eventually went past at 15.49 pm so you can imagine what the wait was like – all for about 15 minutes of action. We amused ourselves with reading a book, the paper and getting “locked in” the field by the pompous and officious personnel minding the gate into the field. Oddly enough, our police were excellent, really joining in with the event and enjoying the atmosphere. I do have to report though Major Orton, that we were invaded by a the French Police as there were lots of Gendarmes mixed in with our lot. All part of the package I suspect but they seem to have this crowd control thing well organised I must say. There are some things the French do well and Le Tour is one of them. They have a way of spinning it out though as “Le Caravane” drives through doing all things French and chucking out cheap knick-knacks on the way through and lifting he crowd into the dizzying heights of scepticism. All part of the fun though and it does build the anticipation well, especially as we could se the rider descend into the valley from our vantage point.

I’ve followed this event since C4 first started broadcasting it back in the 80′s and I’ve always enjoyed it – along with The Proms, it’s the height of summer for me. To see it really up close was fantastic and a real day to remember. As a spectator, you can never get so close to the participants as this whilst they are competing. It really is fantastic. And it’s for free!

I managed to get some videos whilst they were whistling past and I’ve uploaded them on my YouTube account so it saves my bandwidth:

  1. The Leaders including Contador and Froome.
  2. Second Group
  3. Chasing group split up by the terrain
  4. Final Group.

And next month it’s the Commonwealth Games and The Golf!

Anyway, a big well done to the Yorkshire organising committee for a job well done!

Spam, spam, spam, egg, chips, bacn egg and spam

I was fortunate enough to be invited by my good friend, Mr Five Pints, to see Monty Python Live (just) at the O2 arena in Greenwich.

I’ve never been to the O2 before and  it is quite impressive with 16,000 others there.

The show itself what the Guardian writer said really – it’s like seeing your old friends larking about down the pub reciting sketches you’ve heard for years – and I have – my Uncle Rob introduced me to Python back in the early 70′s and we’ve been spamming mates ever since.

It was just that though, touched with a sense that that’s the final time we’ll see such comic genius. Irreverent and always having a go at the establishment, it was good to see the beloved sketches done live just once. And that was the point – it was unique. Just once.

Our second day a in that there London was also good, as for once I enjoyed the experience. We had a good hotel, the transport all worked very well and the weather was warm and very sunny/ A call into the National Maritime museum was very good as well.

How well does London work when it’s all hooked up? As opposed to the rest of the country……?

The last wedding of The Cousins

EandD1 (1)Well, apart from me I suppose.

Yesterday, my youngest Cousin Emma married long time partner Dan the Man at Holy Trinity and a splendid day it was too.

Even the handing over of Harold’s silk WWII Map went off alright but I do find it difficult to speak in front of the family when I haven’t rehearsed that well.

Anyway, me and The Nephew were messing about during the service which helped me through that bit and of course everybody was splendidly dressed and behaved themselves quite well. So all in all, a good day out. I’m tired today though as it didn’t finish until 12.15 am.


Not a great start to Sunday

After Emma and Dan’s wedding yesterday, I was pretty tired and didn’t make it awake until the Church Alarm went off at 9.55.

So I got up and went down for breakfast and turned on my mobile phone only to be greeted by a hail of text messages from one of my most important customers with an urgent problem.

So turning on my computer I’m greeted with the dreaded M$ message “can’t connect to all drives” and no internet. In fact, no network at all.

Off to my data centre :-) I trots to find total silence. After a bit of switch throwing – a dead UPS is the cause of the problem.

So having everything connected back to the mains, it’s all powered up now and customer was fixed in a further 10 minutes.

So that’s two dead things today so far.