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Monday, 4 May 2015


"In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king." I fully endorse old Erasmus there. It's blindly obvious....Except.

When it comes to new technology, I like to think I'm up there with the best. I know millions of people who have not the foggiest idea what's going on when they turn on their tablet, switch on their PC or swipe their smart phone. They are blind to the technology that makes their lives so much better (sic). Not me, I'm super connected.

However, as far as digital TV we have been a bit behind the curve. We went digital in around 2000 and as a result are stuck there. Virgin Media  provide our limited choice of TV channels through a set top box(STB)  that is, I swear, contemporaneous with my first Amstrad PC. Our TV, quite the rage when we bought it in 2007, got on well with our STB but had some difficulty engaging with the then state of the art DVD player. However, we co-habited with this mash up of technologies...until we visited some friends.

Their house is a temple to technology with a flat screen super definition, smart TV dripping from every wall in the house. Entering their living room was confusing since the lack of an usher and ice-cream girl initially threw one. One wall was dedicated to viewing with an enormous TV hanging there challenging you to zap it with the handset. Well three actually. One to turn on the telly, one to operate the "sound bar" whatever that is, and a third to call out ADT in case of an emergency.

The thing was it was all there on that one wall. TV, films, internet, You Tube, the local Indian take away: at a click. I can tell you we were impressed...although the electric blinds in the bedroom were really something; but that's for another day.

So, after much cogitation we decided that we needed to upgrade our TV. Going on line at John Lewis we were immediately threatened by a 60 inch curved, 3D monster that would have devoured our front room. Even the 36 inchers looked over powering so we settled for a 22" Smart TV from Samsung. Well we'd bought our tumble dryer from them and it worked well so....why not a TV.

I had a vague idea what a Smart TV was: bit like my smart phone but with a bigger screen. Being John Lewis I could Click and Collect at our nearest Waitrose. A brilliantly convenient way for me to shop at Waitrose when otherwise I'd have gone to Lidl and saved half a month's pension.

I bought the said TV home. I have to own up to a mild sense of disappointment. It was slightly longer and less tall than the model it was replacing, but in area it was about the same. In fact its foot fall was much less than its predecessor's. I read the handbook, I read the on line manual. I Googled. I set about connecting our new Smart TV to the STB and the DVD player.

After much experimenting I was able to get the new hand set to switch the channels on the STB: except no matter what plug I plugged into what socket - there was no picture. After a few hours I managed to get the TV and the internet talking to each other and the TV worked if I used the old handset to change channels on the STB. I could not contact the DVD player.

All the guidance, all the handbooks do not help it appears when your STB is ancient. There was nothing anywhere which helped  me get our new Smart TV to work as it should. I don't know how many times the bloody thing scanned channels to store - with a zero success rate. I tried all the combination of cables, plugs and sockets - nothing.

About 8 years ago we installed a digital TV aerial, but hadn't used it.There it was hanging limp and unused. When we'd connected the TV upstairs to the aerial we'd needed a separate STB to decode the signals, but I thought that our new Smart TV would be able to unscramble the signals without any additional technology.

It was a thrilling experience once again pushing an aerial plug into an aerial socket. I fired up the TV. From the menu I chose "Aerial" and "digital"and there it was: a picture. I went to "Setup" and clicked "Auto tune". Like magic, the little TV gobbled up all the free to air channels and stored them. I linked up the DVD and sure enough from the on screen menu I was able to start "Interstellar". All the other functions worked perfectly. We had our Smart TV working! And the picture is stunning.

And I discovered we had far more channels "Free to Air" than Virgin Media provided and the menu function is much more comprehensive. Part of that is due to the processing power of  the TV, but also because of the antediluvian nature of our cable STB.

Virgin Media will be hearing from me.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Big Sleep

I'm sure you're all gagging to know how my diet's coming along. In a word...Brilliantly. In a phrase....Constantly Hungry.

As I mentioned in my last post; the reason why I've taken on the persona of Billy Bunter is because I mainlined on biscuits,nuts and fudge. Over the last two weeks I have been biscuit and fudge free. And it's working - now I can see my ten little toes. In no time I hope that one eyed dick will hove into view.

However, I am constantly hungry. This is not a problem during the day as I can find plenty to do to distract myself. Self-flagellation, I find, takes one's mind off starvation; as does drawing teeth, which has the added advantage of making it difficult to chew. I had thought of wiring my jaws together, but that was, I reckoned, a step too far.

It's at night that the gnawing ache is at its worst. I lie in bed, in freshly pressed jim-jams and instead of counting sheep I count calories - the ones I'm missing. Images of doughnuts filled with yummy jams and custard, soaked in icing sugar float tantalisingly at the end of the bed. Herds of jammy dodgers and Mars Bars, stampede past the bedroom window, bellowing, inviting me to join their orgy of nightly noshing.

Sleep has deserted me. Morpheus has been handed  his P45 and  replaced by a bunch of Centaurs, determined to test out our local authority's much lauded quick response noisy neighbours Task Force. I toss, I turn, I toss again. I sigh, I sit up, I look at my watch - still five hours to breakfast and a boiled egg and one slice of bread.

Melvyn Bragg came to my rescue. In desperation I downloaded loads of "In Our Time" podcasts. With head phones on within a minute or so of Mel saying "Thank you downloading this "In Our Time" podcast", I'm off. Melvyn and his guests may be nattering away about Aristotle's Poetics or the Age of the Universe - I hear none of it. Mind you, I do have the weirdest of dreams.

I had thought of writing to the BBC to congratulate them on this wonder treatment for night starvation: but thought better of it. After all they do put in a lot of effort in making the programmes and Mel might be upset to learn that I use them to send me off to nod land.

I find Tony Blackburn has the same effect as does Kisty Young and Desert Island Discs. I tried it with the News Quiz but that was a total disaster, since it's quite disconcerting for your sleeping partner being woken up out of a dream about Aidan Turner and riding breeches, by a guffawing hubby.

No I'll stick to the soporific Melvyn as my night cap. 

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Thin Man

Well, Pilates didn't last that long. One class.

The thing was I realised that I just couldn't manage being the only man surrounded by nubile young women. It just wasn't fair on them. Also, I was completely knackered after the class. No, I'll join an over 60's cage fighting class: much less painful.

Continuing with the "me" theme. I forgot to mention that before I saw the consultant  at the hospital the other week (see previous post) I was weighed by a delightful young man from the Far East. I couldn't quite place his country of origin but I guessed it was somewhere near the Java Sea: hugely exotic - in a Richard Branson sort of way.

Anyway, I weighed over 13 stone. I'm not tall, or heavy boned so basically my shape was that of a cube: a fatty cube at that. I was shocked: I mean as a young man my mother would worry because she could see my ribs.

It didn't help when I complained to my consultant, a lovely young man from, I think, the Indian sub continent: I could be wrong he might have been born in Golders Green. Anyway, I complained that I got breathless climbing lots of stairs. The thing is the medication I'm on can affect the lungs: not sure exactly what, but something nasty nevertheless. I thought he'd say something reassuring like " Oh don't worry, the drugs you're on do that, it's either dying of breathlessness or your joints seizing up when you're on a zebra crossing and being run over by a juggernaut". But he didn't. He said "Well fatso what do you expect carry the equivalent of 20 sperm whales' blubber round your arse." - or words to that effect.

I was shattered, so shattered was I that after driving myself home I immediately hopped on a train to Gospel Oak - Michael Palin lives there - and went for an hour long walk on Hampstead Heath.

It's good to go for long walks - gives you time to think. All the literary giants did that.Wordsworth, Keats, Byron and Shelley: no he went for a long swim and drowned. Anyway, a long walk is good for the soul and importantly, if you're lucky there's no feeding station in easy reach.

You see I realised, as I avoided large, sprightly dogs dragging rather light weight owners across the Heath, I'm a ungulate. I use that word in its broadest sense. I spend my whole day - grazing and binge feeding. I may not eat all day and then like a cow let into a field of fresh, sweet grass I gorge until I burst. A packet or two of shortbread will be in the cupboard. Not for long. A packet of peanuts,  a new loaf: devoured, finished off, topped with Sandwich Spread and a large lump of cheese. The excessive intake of alcohol is but a mere minor addition to my calorific excess.

There and then, as I breasted Parliament Hill and gazed on our beloved metropolis, I determined to do something. I would only eat at meal times and not at any other time.

I've been constantly hungry ever since as a result of this self imposed torture. I haven't had a biscuit for a week. not one tinsy winsy peanut has passed my lips. It's a boiled egg for breakfast with a slice of bread and marge. Lunch is  tuna and beans. Evening meal a vegetable bake and roasted rhubarb and yogurt.

I hope it works. It bloody well better.