Monday, 31 May 2010

Seeing is not always believing

I came across a rather disturbing article in the local news at the weekend. A guy who'd apparently been cautioned by the police for taking pictures of his girlfriend's naked 5-year old son in a park has been cleared of any wrongdoing and awarded £500 damages.

There isn't any context to the original incident, and it isn't clear as to why the kid felt moved to undress in a public park, but while it was probably unwise of him to have started taking photos, it evidently wasn't illegal. However, the chain of events which started with an interfering busybody poking his or her nose into a private family occasion led to the unfortunate child being taken into care by over-zealous social workers, and the police giving a caution - which the guy (who apparently didn't speak much English) couldn't have fully appreciated the significance of.

Cynic that I am, I venture the opinion that if the guy's command of English had been up to scratch, his response rather than accepting the caution may instead have been "See you in Court", and I also venture the suggestion that if the investigating officers were required to pay the £500 personally (which, of course, they obviously aren't) then it might well prompt them to use a little more commonsense in future.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rhubarb, rhubarb

A spell of long-ish showers today prompted me to go and harvest some of the rhubarb in the garden. It didn't do very well last year: it got a bit straggly-looking and went partly to seed at one point, but in the early spring I earthed up its bed well and it's now produced a mass of really thick stalks. I put on my wellies and cut upwards of a dozen or so, which still leaves masses: you can hardly notice any difference. I've no idea how expensive it is to buy in the shops, but it's nice to get free home-grown produce, of course!

I couldn't be bothered to make a crumble or a pie, so I just boiled it up in a saucepan with what I thought was plenty of sugar. It wasn't - when I filled a couple of basins with the results about 15 minutes later and took a spoonful to taste, it was sour as anything. A nice flavour otherwise, though, and should be good with some ice-cream as a dessert!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


One tip I picked up when I was a regular bike rider was wearing leggings or tights underneath your jeans kept your legs nice and warm in the winter! So I did. I must admit I kinda liked the feel of it, too.

Fast forward some years, and I read that it's now apparently fashionable (in some circles at least) for guys to wear tights - as indeed they used to centuries ago - coining the word
"mantyhose". While I'm not really bold enough to do it in public, I do rather like the look and feel of tights with shorts, especially as the weather has turned noticeably cooler this week. I'm not entirely sure I have the legs for it, and I suspect I probably ought to shave them, though my legs aren't particularly hairy anyway. Whatever - I always get a kick out of being unconventional!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Maybe it just seemed like a good idea at the time?

I've been posting pics on a fairly regular basis to my Flickr photostream. They're only snapshots, but it's been quite fun, people seem to like looking at them and commenting on them, and I've joined quite a few of the groups on there as a result.

Now I don't know what inspired me to look, but I searched yesterday to see if there were any groups that might relate to my old school, and was staggered to find a direct match. It had been going a couple of months but only had one member (the Admin), there were no pics or discussion threads, and it said "Anyone who was at Leamington College between 1963 and 1970" which wasn't the exact time I was there. Nevertheless I sent the guy a message saying I was interested in joining (there aren't that many ex-pupils around that he can afford to be too picky over the dates, I thought). I was gobsmacked to get an automated message back in the evening to say the Admin had left the group and as its longest-serving member (a few hours!) I was now the new Admin! I'd thought it was a bit odd that there wasn't any obvious connection with the school in his profile or photostream: I've no idea who he is/was, nor what he set the group up for. I suppose he has his reasons for the anonymity of it all.

Anyway, I'm giving it my best shot at kicking it into life. I've done a bit of spamming and got several members, and between us we've added some photos. In the space of 24 hours, it certainly looks like
it's being used, but realistically I suspect its growth potential is pretty limited. Even so, I've done a better job on it than its previous owner did!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Some like it hot

It's been a glorious sunny weekend, with clear blue skies today and not a cloud in sight. I took the dog for a walk this morning: I'd got a couple of things to deliver, so rather than walk along the road, we took a detour through the park. I could see the stream running through it and correctly guessed there would be a point where the bank was shallow enough to let us go down to the water's edge. Raggs loved it - she paddled along a few yards and lay down in the shallow water, drinking from it. It looked a bit muddy, but at least it wasn't stagnant. After a few moments' rest and refreshment she emerged, shaking the excess drops all over me.

In fact the 'detour' turned out to be a shortcut, as I spotted a bridge a little further along which led out onto a path towards the road where we wanted to be. We came back the same way, enjoying the sunshine among the other dog walkers and footie players. It's still warm and sunny this evening, so I've just been out watering the tomato plants in the garden. They're still not much more than seedlings, but are slowly starting to grow. The strawberries are a mass of flowers, and are putting out runners quite freely, much to the envy of my neighbour, whose plants aren't doing at all well and have nearly all died off for some reason!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Boo-hoo, I lost my ball!

I made an unwelcome discovery on Monday: a ring glistening up at me from the bath! I knew straightaway that I'd lost a piercing, and also that I wasn't sure which one. It turned out to be my cartilage ring. The ball at some point must have worked loose or been caught on something, and - free to rotate - the ring had simply fallen out. I guessed it had happened some time over the weekend, and therefore there was still a chance of saving the piercing: I'd had it about eight years, and it had been a fairly painful, troublesome one to heal, so I didn't really want to lose it!

So on Tuesday morning I gathered up my free Centro travelpass and took the train into Birmingham. I headed straight over to
Modern Body Art, fully prepared to have to go through the hassle of having it re-pierced or at least tapered open again. But no worries: a very friendly piercer (whose name I forgot to ask) sat me down on a bench, reinserted the ring without so much as a twinge of pain and secured it with a new ball in a matter of a couple of minutes.

Since I was wearing a sleeveless top, he spotted my BME tattoos, and we exchanged notes about how sadly the site had declined of late. Since I "left" almost two months ago towards the end of March, I've visited occasionally, but I'm afraid I've seen nothing to tempt me back. Shame, really, especially considering what it once was, but nothing lasts forever.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Attack of the killer bugs

I've been laid low since the weekend with a bout of what I discovered was/is shingles.

I'd heard the name, and that it was nasty, but hadn't really appreciated just how nasty. I'd had a very disturbed night's sleep on Sunday, full of a dull ache in my side that kept me awake, and when I eventually had dropped off to sleep with the aid of a couple of ibuprofens, I discovered to my horror the next morning a nasty rash extending in a huge arc across my ribs underneath my right arm. At first I thought it might be some sort of insect bites but it looked a bit too severe for that.

I surfed around before making a "diagnosis" of
shingles, and got some contradictory advice over what to do about it: some indicating that it would clear up naturally of its own accord and others that prompt attention of a doctor was advisable. I rang the surgery mid-morning and the receptionist told me that my doctor was "on long term sick leave" and the earliest I could get an appointment was Thursday - though I could have a chat to the other doctor on the phone on Tuesday. It seemed to me that describing a rash over the phone was a bit of a non-starter: surely the doctor was going to need to see it in order to make any sort of confirmed diagnosis?

I gave NHS Direct a ring. They were pleasant if a little beauracratic, taking down quite a few bits of information they didn't really need just to give a bit of general advice on whether it might be shingles, and if so, what I should do about it. After toying with the idea of a visit to the NHS walk-in centre, I hit on the idea of an appointment to see the surgery nurse: surely she'd at least know what a shingles rash looked like? I got to see her at 2.30pm: she took one rather aghast look and told me I really ought to see the doctor. As I was about to find a polite way of phrasing it, she took me aback by saying I could come back at 4.50pm. I suppose the surgery must maybe 'hold back' a number of appointment slots just in case the nurses find something that needs urgent attention?

The doctor said it was a very characteristic shingles rash, which extends in a wide arc from the backbone, tracing the path of a nerve under the skin round under the arm towards the front. It's apparently like an adult version of chickenpox: the same virus which had caused that when I was about nine or ten I guess had lain dormant all these years and for some reason had become active again. I asked whether it was something that would recur, but he said not: within about ten days it would scab over, fall off and that would - hopefully - be the end of the matter. He did give me a course of
Aciclovir, an antiviral, to assist in the process. I shall be decidedly pleased to see the back of it!

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Basil Fawlty lives... ?

A slightly disturbing news item I came across yesterday reports the case of the gay couple who were refused the accommodation they'd booked at a B&B because of the owners' Christian beliefs - and the fact that they've now decided to sue. I'm not going to comment on this sort of Christian attitude towards gay people, but it certainly doesn't sit well with my own Christian beliefs. And while I don't doubt the sincerity of their beliefs, to claim they're not "opposed to gay people" seems oddly at variance with the action they took. However the bottom line is that what they did was and is against the law. They're in business - to make money out of their guests - and they can't pick and choose which laws to follow and which to reject.

Of course it doesn't really help having the then shadow Home Secretary saying that people running B&B in their own homes should have the right to reject homosexual guests. Or maybe Muslims, black, Irish.... as indeed used to be the case years ago before discrimination became illegal. If you're throwing a party in your own home, you can please yourself who you do or don't invite. But if you're running a business or providing a service for payment, you can't - it's as simple as that. And if your beliefs stand in the way of it, then maybe you're in the wrong business.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Working on the land

There's been quite an unseasonable chill in the air this week, especially during the evening and at night - not much like May at all. However, for the most part the daytime has been reasonably dry and pleasant, so I've been out in the garden quite a bit making the most of it. Tuesday I donned my old 14-hole Doc Martens and did some weeding and tidying amongst the tomato plants. They're still only seedlings, and unless we get some warmer weather pretty soon - which they need to put on a spurt of growth - I have doubts as to whether they're going to amount to much.

In contrast, the raspberries, which I worked on today, are doing much better with some good strong canes and masses of small flower buds already. In my 10-hole DM boots and my 3/4 Reebok trackies, I hacked away at the weeds and filled the wheelbarrow with all the assorted unwanted foliage. I didn't bother last year and the raspberries went on to produce their best-ever crop, so although it looks better tidy it may not actually have mattered that much. It didn't take all that long, anyway and was quite good exercise I suspect: I've lost about half a stone in the last three weeks or so! Yippee!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Blast from the past

I had an unexpected but very pleasant exchange of emails over the weekend with a fellow ex-pupil from my old Junior School - Minden Row. He'd just posted some pics on Friends Reunited, which although I joined some months back I've never found at all fruitful in terms of being "reunited" with anyone I knew. We weren't in the same class, in fact neither of us could remember anyone else's names. And neither of us could remember very much about the school itself either. However, as we looked at each others' photos and started reminiscing a bit, one or two long-forgotten memories re-emerged. Not nearly as many or as vivid as the ones I have of Leamington College, but then I was there longer and it was - albeit only slightly - more recent.

It may perhaps bring forth other ex-pupils with more pieces of the puzzle. I don't know what happened to the school: there isn't anyone listed there after 1964, so I'm guessing it may have closed down then, in which case there probably aren't going to be that many ex-pupils. I may still get another nice surprise or two out of the blue one day, though.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Beside the seaside

I spent a happy hour or two last night going through an old photo album, scanning in some polaroid photos of me on holiday in the 1980s. A friend from work had a caravan at Warren Bay on the North Somerset coast just up the road from Watchet, and it was great to spend a week or so down there walking along the beach with the dog running in and out of the sea chasing the gulls ineffectually. I don't think dogs are allowed on public beaches anymore now which is a bit of a shame: she really enjoyed it.

Throwing caution to the winds (which is what people traditionally do on holiday!) I used to wear skintight jeans, studded leather belt and armbands, and 14-hole black Doc Marten boots! The big boots had only just come out as I remember in the early 1980s, and the first year a couple of lads came up to me and rather cautiously asked where I'd got them... I think they were afraid I was going to kick them off the habour wall with them. In 1983 when Wham! shot to fame with "Bad Boys" I looked the part with a Wham! T-Shirt to go with the rest of the outfit.

We used to go in early June, and most years in fact the weather was gorgeous for at least part of the time: I loved stripping the waist to take full advantage. The shot of me in my skimpy cut-off denim shorts and DMs epitomises a somewhat devil-may-care attitude, I have to say... but it was fun, and that's what holidays are all about.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Breathe in.....

I daresay its probably one of those association-of-ideas things, but since I got back into the corset habit a couple of weeks or so ago, I've been taking a bit more of an interest in it once again. I've watched a few videos and commented on them, and filled in a little survey-thing this afternoon on Flickr with my experiences of wearing a corset. I realized how much I enjoyed the habit and missed the benefits it had brought me in terms of keeping my weight and shape under control.

However, a little perseverence and application has paid off: I've lost almost half a stone in weight, and have just found my 30" corsets are only just tight enough when fully laced, so I went in search of my 28" one! It's been so long I couldn't find where I'd put it, but I eventually retrieved it from the bottom of a box, and wa-hey.... I laced it up. I can't quite lace it fully again yet but it's lovely and snug, and it always was the best-fitting one of all my corsets. Strange to think I actually own more corsets than I do shirts, but then since I left work I don't ever have occasion to wear a shirt any more!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Me in high heels

I guess it's probably not unrelated to my love of wearing a corset, but from time to time I've gone in for wearing high heels. I'm neither proficient enough nor brave enough to do it in public but I nonetheless love the feeling and sensation of walking around in high-heeled boots. Whether I have the legs for it is something else again! A significant downside is actually getting hold of a pair that fit me: I variously take a size 8 or 9 in "normal" shoes/boots depending on the style, which translates into a 10 where stilettos are involved, and that's not always a guarantee of a good fit. I have found that a 10 can be a bit tight whereas an 11 will give better room initially but will tend to let my feet slip forward too much when I start walking in them.

Somewhat on impulse (because they were half-price in a sale) I bought a pair of Pleaser 1002 black rubber ankle boots. They arrived yesterday and seemed a pretty good fit when I tried them on: I've been wearing them most of the morning - just in the house! - and somewhat to my surprise they're really comfortable and feel great on. The 5" heels are a bit of a killer, as walking naturally in heels that high isn't something I've practised enough to carry off with expertise, but I reckon with a bit of perseverence it should come a bit more naturally.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Time for a spring-clean

Looking around me in the house this morning, the realization dawned on me that it's about time - well past time, in fact - that I had a proper clear out. Between the stuff that doesn't fit me anymore (some of which never did), the stuff I don't like and don't wear, the stuff I bought on impulse and never used..... you get the idea. So since coincidentally I got an email from eBay last night saying there's a free listing weekend this weekend, I'm going to try my hand at selling.

I've never sold before, only bought - so I'm not sure if it's best to cram in as many listings as possible on the theory that buyers like a lot of choice, but I shall be glad to see the back of some of the accumulated junk if only to make more room to live in. It's certainly something I've toyed with doing before but never got round to, so I just need to motivate myself to whip out the camera, start taking some pics and writing a bit of "copy". I'll perhaps start off with the what's in best condition first since that's what theoretically is worth the most - though on eBay that doesn't always follow! It sounds like a bit of fun anyway: I can always try again later with what's left: the only real alternative being to simply throw it away.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Diversity? Epic fail!

Recent years have seen a move towards emphasizing the importance of "diversity" in everything. I don't particularly object to seeing the word "partner" (in place of wife / husband / boyfriend / girlfriend etc), used to denote a person with whom you may have any sort of semi-permanent relationship: it does avoid the potentially awkward question as to whether there's a legal basis for it, notwithsanding the sex of the person concerned. Similarly I'm happy to write he/she where the person I'm writing about could be either.

But then I'm not writing something like an ad or a set of instructions for public consumption. I'd instinctively assume those who are would be doubly conscious of the need to be aware of the realities of these things. Hence my surprise at buying a new fragrance of shower gel - Lynx Twist to be precise - yesterday, and finding written in the blurb on the back:
"A blast of fresh fragrance to make a good first impression which twists into long-lasting refreshment to keep her tantalized and intrigued by you"
Huh? "her"?
Perhaps it ought to have a warning on the label "Not recommended for gays"? I didn't check the other Lynx fragrances to see how the slogans on those were worded. Or perhaps I just inadventently picked the one marketed at boys aiming to impress their mothers? Yes, that must be it.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

More mud

It had rained heavily during the night (and had turned quite a bit colder, too), so wellies were once again the order of the day as I took Raggs walking in the woods this morning. I brought my digital camera along, as I was hoping to get some pics of her lying flat out in the mud like a hippo wallowing, but she decided she didn't want to co-operate and spent most of the time snuffling round in the grass - and apparently eating copious chunks of it.

So I took some pics of me, instead. I didn't lie flat out in it, but in places I did sink up to my ankles in it, hearing the now-familiar slurpy squelching sound as I pulled my boots free. Perhaps understandably there weren't quite as many other people out walking their dogs there this week. I daresay playing in the mud isn't everyone's idea of fun, though I must say I enjoyed it today just as much as I used to when I was a boy. Maybe seven-year olds don't go in for such simple pleasures as sploshing around in their wellies any more these days - probably not?

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Dodging the showers

After a prolonged dry spell since Easter, the weather has turned much more like the normal seasonal British Bank Holiday weekend - wet with the promise of more to come! At least it was pleasantly warm this morning in a spot of brief sunshine, so I took the opportunity to mow the lawn. I'd in fact already begun to wish I'd done it sooner while the grass was still dry, but fortunately it hadn't grown too long and slippery, so wearing my trusty wellies I soon got it licked into shape with the mower, and snipped the long straggly bits down the side with the shears. Sorted!