Tuesday, May 29, 2007


I have a bit of a yearning to get into wargaming. I like the thought of buying, glueing, painting the miniature soldiers and then creating the landscape and scenery in which to fight battles. Will anything come of this idea? I don't know. I am reading a Warhammer 40,000 graphic novel at the moment and am enjoying it. I even went into a Games Workshop hobby store at the weekend and the guy in there was really friendly and helpful - he showed me how to play a quick skirmish game and it seemed like good fun. It would be a nice, social hobby for me and the kids. The reason we were visiting a games store like this is that my daughter has entered a competition to design a small 3D garden - so we were visiting model stores for ideas and materials like shrubs or foliage. The guy at the store was so helpful I think I might write to their HQ and tell them how helpful and friendly the staff were.

Monday, May 28, 2007


It's funny when something happens that make you realise how much more dependent we are in todays hi-tech world. I was with my wife last night when BLINK, the power went off. Darkness. Almost total darkness. The funny thing was, my mother in-law had had a powercut the day before and had our matches and candles. I was cursing because I love my Maglite torches but they get used by the family and the batteries were dead. After half an hour or so we were in a better position and had got things together a bit more but the power went off 10pm yesterday and wasn't restored until 5pm today, 19 hours without heating, lighting, hot water, hot food and hot drinks. I did make a few interesting observations:
  • I missed the internet more than the TV
  • I don't feel good if I don't feel clean
  • Torchlight bounced off the ceiling gives a better light for moving about in than torchbeam
  • It's nice to play a game together than do stuff separately
  • We all got a bit stir crazy without our comforts at home
The one thing to come out of this was an educational lesson for our kids on the importance of having an emergency box with candles, matches and other stuff you need for when there is no power. Thankfully, this is a fairly uncommon event in our lives.

Motor Museum photos

Here are some photos I took at the motor museum with my cameraphone, I didn't take many at all. The model in question is a Hillman Imp: a car I've never owned, driven or been in and yet I do have some affection for the design. There were lots of much earlier vehicles on display, including Brum (the kids love Brum), and the resemblance of some of them to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was noted. I love those old cars, they're actually quite small and very sparse inside. I like the long bonnets and big headlamps that are mounted on the body rather than being an integral part of the car and I like the fact that there was a much greater mix of other road users (horse drawn carts, cyclists, etc.) - ah those must have been the days...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Kids laughter

My kids are in the bath at the moment upstairs, they're laughing at Home Alone 2. It's playing on my personal DVD player perched on a stool (it's ok, on battery power). We started watching it during dinner and just this once we've let them watch it while they bath just before bedtime. I love their laughter, its so infectious.

We had a great day today, despite it being really wet and cold. We visited a railway exhibition and a motor museum - photos to follow.

Our washing machine just tripped out the power. Everytime we switch it on, the power trips. It's seven years old now and had been getting louder and louder. It reaches the same volume level as a jumbo jet taking off from Heathrow Airport - I'm surprised the neighbours haven't been around to complain. I guess 7 years is a good long time for a washing machine these days - especially considering how much it is used with two adults and two kids.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cassette Tape RIP

One of our largest highstreet electrical chain stores in the UK has decided to stop selling the blank cassette tape. The technology has long been out of date, no albums I know of are sold on cassette tape these days, and the cheapness of MP3 players that can store many more songs has made the poor old cassette tape obsolete. I have had several cassette tape recorders and tape players over the years, it has been a format that has been a great success.

The cassette tape epoch was not always a pleasant experience: I remember the problems taping songs from radio and waiting with fingers poised on Record and Play buttons, hoping the DJ would leave a little gap long enough for me to avoid his voice. The height of sophistication was using the Pause button.

I had experiences with bedroom recordings - either me playing my own songs or doing comedy sketches (that only I would find funny) and the novelty of hearing my own voice coming through the speaker - or at least something that could have been me - it was hard to tell through all of the tape hiss.

I remember too, my experiences with my first home computer (Sinclair ZX Spectrum) and the frustration of waiting for games to load from my cassette recorder - waiting five minutes only to have the load crash at the last moment.

My first personal portable cassette player with headphones was a Sanyo. A huge heavy reddish coloured brick with chunky white buttons and shoulder strap. The innovation was a tape counter that allowed me to fast forward and rewind to the songs I liked - great (except I never used it, the only way this would have worked was if I wrote down all of the numbers for all of the songs on a tape and ensured I started from the beginning of the tape each time: far too tedious ).

I only ever bought ready-made music tapes when they were on sale or were much cheaper than the vinyl or CD (later) equivalents. This accounts for a rather strange collection of audio tapes. The idea for this post came about because while clearing our shed I have come across my cassette tape collection and am now engaged on a project to transfer them to MP3 format. This is probably a project that will never get finished, already I am disappointed by the sound quality but I'd hate to lose some of this music.

The equipment for playing tapes can still be bought, so the death of the cassette tape will be a long and slow one. Many of us still have favourite mix tapes made by friends or by us for friends or lovers. I have several made for me by various girlfriends of the past, I don't have the heart to throw them away just yet.

Here is an example of one of my cassettes. I bought many of my commercial tapes in the 1980s (the height of highstreet gadgetry was a Sony Walkman), so this is probably why my collection is a bit odd. Debbie Bonham was the daughter of now deceased Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham. This was possibly her first album and is classic 80s rock with guitar riffs, emotionally charged songs and the overuse of synthesizers (because you could do that back then). It's pity I can't play the songs to you, I don't think it was ever released in the US - it was published by Carrerre Records. You can find Debbie Bonham on My Space now, going under her name Deborah Bonham. While you can enjoy her songs on My Space, I'll be re-living the 80s with this album, For You and The Moon. Have a good Sunday!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My Top 3 Eurovision Song 2007

It's been a week since the final of the Eurovision Song Contest and it just occurred to me today that my favourite songs from the competition might be on You Tube. Well, wadda-u-know they are! Now I can relive the memory and you can enjoy my top songs from the competition this year, the web is a wonderful thing.

In order my top 3 are:

Hanna Pakarinen - Leave Me Alone (Finland)

Natalia Barbu - Fight (Moldova)

Magdi Ruzsa - The Unsubstantial Blues (Hungary)

Note for obsessives:
I know my scoring last week had Russia as the top song and indeed it was a catchy pop song, however the scoring included dance and outfit in there. I'm just going on song and performance only this week, so Russia would have come 4th on those things alone.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bloggers Block

I've been suffering a bit lately from Bloggers Block: when I wake up in the morning I generally have an idea for a blog post or I'm at work or travelling and another idea comes up but somehow it just seems to vanish as I sit down at the PC and open Blogger. So here I sit desperately trying to remember what it was I was going to say and nothing comes...but this. So, my apologies folks. I hope normal brain function will be resumed soon. But do any of you have any tips for overcoming this affliction? And what's been your longest break from blogging since you started?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Board Games

A few weeks back we attended a few car boot sales and bought some board games. One of them was Monopoly (a classic) and another was the board game from the TV series The Crystal Maze. I've posted before about this show. The board game is devilishly hard to win because you have to complete small mini-puzzles before the sand runs out of the egg timer. There are a few of these that are impossible to beat in the time limit. The games looks better than it actually plays:

Eurovision 2007

I watched the Eurovision last night with my beer and my unhealthy snack food, it was great. The production just seems to get better and better each year - it must cost millions for the host country to stage. I enjoyed the songs and performances and my own scoring (I'm a sad, sad man - taking this far too seriously) produced the following top five:

1. Russia
2. Finland
3. Moldova
4. Hungary
5. Greece

I woud also have given points to Georgia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Lithuania and Spain. My scoring is based on the official scoresheet and is a combined total score - song, performance, dance routine and outfit are also scored (just to add to the confusion). I tried to score fairly strictly concerning dance routine and outfit so that they didn't have a great impact on the total score, so I concentrated my attention on the song and performance.

Here are the actual results for the Eurovision Song Contest 2007, but if you want a quick look at the top five here they are:

1. Serbia (268 points)
2. Ukraine (235)
3. Russia (207)
4. Turkey (163)
5. Bulgaria (157)

The winner was a complete surprise and Turkey's final position was good too. The UK came second last, drawing with France, and poor Ireland came bottom (they also got the lowest score on my scoresheet).

The voting usually follows a very predictable pattern with Western Europe and Eastern Europe countries voting within their own borders but sometimes the odd surprise vote comes along. Terry Wogan, the UK commentator, made some comments about the Eastern European countries "block voting" but, to be frank, I thought the songs from Western European countries were poor: with only Finland, Spain and Greece entering songs that were contenders.

Ah well, all the excitement is over for another year...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Collectormania 10

Here are some photos I took at this event on Monday. All Dr Who related, these were the most photogenic objects - if we'd been there on another day I think there would have been more to see. Ah well, there's always the October Collectormania to look forward to!

Don't ask me what all these things are because I'm not sure I can answer (apart from K9 and the Dalek of course!).

Sunday, May 06, 2007


We have a limited run of life on this planet. Many of us will die of natural causes or illness and some will die because of those seemingly random acts of violence encountered through accidents or crime. Some of us will die because of our occupations. Thinking of these things often makes me pause and ask am I using my time on this Earth to the best effect? The answer is usually a "no" but I suspect it is the same for many: the hard bit is to recognise what would make life better for us and then implement a change process in our lives to achieve what we identified. Sounds all very simple doesn't it? Well, it's not really. What makes life better changes as life itself brings changes we couldn't contemplate into our reckoning. I was once quite a social person and seeing as many friends as possible on weekends and evenings was my goal. That changed a lot when first I met my girlfriend (now wife) and it changed even more when I married and then again with the arrival of children. Now, an observer would say I was not very social at all. I guess the point of that is to show how my goal of being a social person changed to be more family-centric. My goals now are about fun, love and care for my family and friendship is probably not a high goal at the moment but I know I don't want to ever lose that.

This weekend is the May Bank Holiday in the UK, which means I have a long weekend because Monday is counted as a holiday by my employer. We have several Bank Holidays in the UK each year and with every one of them so far I've not really capitalised on the extra time available: I suppose that's because it is only one extra day and weekends just seem to fly by anyway that it doesn't seem so big a deal when it comes down to it. But somewhere within me I feel I should be doing more on these days than I actually do. However, perhaps tomorrow will feel different than other Bank Holidays have this year because tomorrow I'm attending Collectormania again - last year was great, so I'm hoping for good things this year.
I'm looking forward to next weekend when The Eurovision Song Contest is on Saturday Night. I'm going to eat loads of unhealthy food and drink beer and enjoy the competition. I hope Scooch do well but the quality of performance and songs just seems to go up and up each year. I love it, even though I know lots of people hate it and call it naff. I love the little promo clips for the countries that take part. The only sad thing in a way is that there has been a move away from the traditional dress/song to a more generic Euro-centric dance beat, that's OK but it does mean there are less of the strange and bizarre acts than there used to be. Still good fun though.

Friday, May 04, 2007


My car is getting pretty long in the tooth, which is OK for a runaround vehicle for the kids but I worry about it on the longer journeys I have to make for work (there have been more of those in the last few months and no sign of that changing). So I'm having a little trouble matching my expectations with my principles and my price range. I always drove small hatchback cars until my last one, which was a Honda family saloon: I love it because it's an automatic transmission and it is very comfortable for long journeys. Part of me thinks I should go for something smaller because it is going to be a little greener and will be less expensive to tax. On the other hand I want a car that matches up to my home and work needs - at home it needs to be comfortable and zippy, but at work it needs to make me look good (professional, stylish etc.). The practical side of my nature says I only need something that gets me from A to B safely and comfortably. I also look at the prices and my heart sinks. Why are cars so expensive? The other ambition I have is to buy a newer car than the ones I normally seem to buy. I know newness isn't everything and I don't think I'll ever be able to afford a brand new car, regardless of my income - it sounds daft to say that but that's a feeling I have. I know someone who has a car that cost 32,000 pounds and to me that's just INCREDIBLE: (a) I don't know how they found a car so expensive (b) why even contemplate spending SO MUCH on just a car is beyond me. I'm going to be thinking about cars a lot in the coming days, I just thought I'd pass on my worries since I've found little time to blog on other things the last couple of weeks.