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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Sugar, Sugar

I used to like sherbet. Sherbet dips were my favourite: a thin tube full of lemony, sugary confection and a licorice straw with which to suck up the sweet. That was until the straw got soggy and clogged up so you couldn't suck up the sherbet. That's when you turned the straw upside down and used the soggy end to pick up the sweet. Great days.

Then there were sherbet flying saucers. Saucer shaped rice paper confections full of  tingles  which I would put into my mouth whole and melt the rice paper to reveal the tangy, effervescing contents playing on my tongue. A brown paper bag full of saucers and a packet of sweet cigarettes with sparkly red coloured tips would set me up for a day at school. Life was so simple back then. No iPhone, no intertnetty or InYourFaceBook: just simple pleasures like trying to make the girl next door cry and stealing fruit from the trees of the old age pensioners across the road. Happy days.

In liking sherbet I had very little time, in fact I can say with confidence, no time for Schubert. I hadn't heard of him. He hadn't hoved into view above what, I must admit, was a fairly limited musical horizon. Ask me then about the Laughing Policeman, Three Little Fishes and The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, and I'd be talking for hours. But Schubert..who he was when he was at home: not a glimmer. He wasn't alone in being excluded from my musical universe. There was Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Listz - all dead to me. Well, actually they  were dead, but that's not the point. At a young age I was a philistine.

As I grew older, some might say matured and as St Paul might have said had he seen me "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Sorry wrong passage -  "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." - I developed taste and discernment. 

I began to like wine, fast cars and even faster women. I went to the theatre ( Raymond's Review Bar counts doesn't it?). I listened to serious, thoughtful music - Motorhead and Deep Purple, as well as Val Doonican and Frank Ifield. My tastes became refined.

Until one day I happened to turn on the radio, mistune and found myself listening to some rather plummy voiced young lady introducing a concert from some orchestral hall or other. It was the Third Pogramme: you know the one between Radio 2 and Terry Wogan and 4 Extra and "Round the Horne". Anyway I was just about to retune to something more appropriate when this announcer mentioned that the composer whose work we were about to hear had had recurring bouts of syphilis. Well, I had to learn more.

Apparently this guy Shubert was riddled with it. No idea where he got it from but it possibly did for him. That or mercury poisoning - a "cure" for the pox in the early 19th century. And then out of the blue, I'm being told we're about to hear his Ninth Symphony in C Major. My immediate thought was that it might be better if I worked my way up to number 9, starting at 1 and slowly but surely making my way thro' the canon. But no, it was not to be. Straight in at the deep end. Bit like hearing "Sergeant Pepper's", without the benefit of going via 'Love Me Do", "Penny Lane" and 'All You Need Is Love".

Well, you could have knocked me down with a penny whistle. This Schubert boy is something. That Ninth blew me away. God knows what would have happened if he's finished his "Unfinished" and lived a bit longer that his 30 odd years. Magical...

I hadn't heard it for years and it so happened Radio 3 (the old Third prog) was relaying the work from  this year's Proms. It rekindled all those tingles of yesteryear. I romp around the house humming it - well the bits I can remember. I have a smile in my soul and as I snuggle up in bed next to the cat and the missus, I plug in my earphones and head for nod land in the company of a piece of sheer heaven in sound.

Then there's that guy called Mozart. I hear he's pretty nifty on the old ivories. Maybe I'll look him up.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Attack of the Crab Monsters

As I mentioned in my last post, our dripping tap was sorted. Except it didn’t end there water-wise. Oh no!

You’ll recall that at night, to prevent serious flooding from our incontinent tap, we’d turn off the stop cock in the kitchen. It was a venerable stop cock having been around for many years. It had not experienced the trauma of being turned on and off so many times in so few days. In fact as it recalls the last time its head had been so rudely turned was in the late 1990s when the kitchen was last kitted out.

The thing is all the turning on and off had gone to its head. The day after our plumber had fixed our tap, we discovered that our stop cock had been dripping all over the place. Her waters had been breached and we had a near flood on our hands. As the waters were lapping my chin I managed to text our plumber. Miraculously she received it and within half an hour was with us, wading through the Biblical waters, and shepherding the animals out of the Ark and on to dry land.

She saved the day. The water’s receded. A rainbow formed and the sun shone.

Which wasn’t the case the next day. Soggy, wet, damp, drippy Monday. It was like living underwater. Constant wetness. Clouds so low they scraped the pigeons off the roof.

I wasn’t well having tripped over in my slippers (old people and slippers- a death sentence) – and whanged my hand. It swelled up beautifully, so much so, it being my right hand, I had great difficulty holding my John Thomas. As you can imagine this turned peeing into an art form. Doing anything with my right hand was problematic – I will say no more.

Anyway, I wasn't well and was moping around the house. The skies were heavy with rain and I noticed water dripping out of one of the electric sockets in the kitchen. This had me slightly worried since as far as I knew water and electricity don’t mix and water streaming out of an electric socket wasn't normal.

The immediate thought was of a leaking roof. I dashed upstairs into the bathroom. I opened the window and leapt  onto the flat roof. The rain was unceasing. It was cascading off the roof, into the gutter and through the gap between my neighbours guttering and ours. Finding a small hole in the brickwork, the tenacious stream of water managed to course its way down the brick work of the party wall and emerge, ever so energetically out of one of our electric sockets.

I was able to reunite the two sets of guttering and using the opportunity of getting completely soaked, cleaned the gutters of the years of accumulated detritus. This fixed the problem.

I was greeted as the all conquering hero by an adoring wife and was invited Ttoput my feet up and rest my throbbing hand accompanied by a nice cup of tea and a sticky bun.

We do have quite a bit of water damage in the kitchen to sort out but that’s for another payday.

As today is August Bank Holiday Monday, the rain is draining out of heaven's water closet and I am regularly checking all the electrical sockets in the house. You can't be too careful.

Sunday, 23 August 2015


Well the printer is working. I ramdomly pressed a button and a whirling took place and what was meant to happen but hadn't up 'til then did. There we are up and printing...not that I've anything to print but I did a sample page and it was stunning.

With this printer you print from within the application. Sounds good doesn't it. No idea what it means but it's all the rage. Anyway I tried a sample print -and it worked. I had been on the edge of my seat for the last week over this printer thing. You know how it is: do I phone up John Lewis and insist they take it back or do I acknowledge that I might not have got the set up quite right.

I blame it on the instructions: they just weren't clear enough. There ought to be instructions for everyone and separate instructions for the over '60's. Large easy to read icons; pictures of people like me fumbling with a keyboard and a help line to Age UK. When a PPI person called I engaged them in a 10 minute conversation on how to get my printer working. I hear that subsequently our phone number's been deleted from all telesales databases.

Fixing our printer had reduced the week's angst factor by 50%. However there remained the dripping tap.

2 years ago, as regular readers will recall, we refurbished our kitchen - more Homebase than Smallbone. We had our tap replaced- with a Franke... to go with our overpriced Franke sink. The Franke tap wasn't cheap and being German I thought it would last until the next outbreak of war.

2 months ago it started to leak. Not seriously to begin with, but after a while I texted our friendly plumber, a Project Manager for Transport for London, who has a thing about s bends and plungers. As she was on holiday she wasn't available until the end of June when on her return she'd get in touch. She didn't, but as the dripping tap wasn't a problem I left it.

The tap drip got worse. Rubber bands initially stopped it. Rubber bands doubled were required after a time. The drip became a torrent, but I realised that the extremely strong rubber straps we used for securing our trees might be the solution. They were for a while. We were then forced to use Duct tape along with the rubber straps.

This was getting serious and I texted our plumber. She replied. Having dropped her phone in a loo on a job, she'd lost her texts and had no record of my earlier one, but knew there was a request out there. Anyway, she came around. I took a photo of the tap and she contacted Franke UK, a small outfit in the wilds of West Sussex.

Things went down hill rapidly. The only way to stop a Niagara Falls was to physically press against the tap. Magical incantations sometimes worked. The missus hit on turning the mains off and then slowly turning it on again until the point where the water ran but the tap didn't leak. In the end at night, and when we were out of the house, we turned off the water and the boiler, just in case.

It was hell. You'd go to the loo at night, flush the toilet, and go down stairs to turn the water on to fill the loo so that it wasn't empty should we use it again.

Anyway, yesterday our plumber texted saying the part from Franke had arrived and she'd be around today, Saturday, to fix our tap.

Never has a plumber been so welcomed. We went out and bought biscuits especially for her. Nothing was too much for her. A range of teas and coffees,  a comfortable chair to relax in between the arduous process of replacing our ceramic valve. In less than an hour we were drip less and over the moon.

Franke even supplied the replacement part cost free as it had failed so soon after being fitted.

I am a man reborn. Not only is our expensive printer working but our tap is not driving us insane.

The world might be ending, financial melt down is imminent, and social breakdown is just around the corner, but do I care. Well, I will now that local domestics have been sorted.