Monday, December 23, 2013

Another year nearly done

OK, so it seems I have been a bad blogger once again this year. I did have every intention of writing more, but life always seems to get in the way of these things and the time to waffle on just evaporates. So, a few things that I wanted to write about at the time of the occurrence, but just never got round to…

We had another great holiday there this year courtesy of MrsB’s sister. They have moved house from Burlington, Ontario to Paris, Ontario since we last visited which opened up loads of new places to explore. Paris itself is a lovely little town and the locals we met all seemed positively charming. Admittedly many of them were trying to sell us things or serve us food, but still they seemed genuine about it. OK, yes we did go down to Niagara Falls again (and took a five hour jaunt into the US while we were there) but I am not sure I will ever tire of seeing all that water doing the falling thing. My favourite pictures from the trip can of course all be found on Flickr, and if each one of them is worth a thousand words then feel free to go look and save me a lot of typing. However, particular highlights were Port Dover which has a smashing seaside vibe, even if the “sea” in question is actually Lake Erie; the beautiful old town of Elora (a bit of an artist’s hotspot) and, just because, the cars. Yes, I'm a sucker for an old American hot rod or muscle car, and there’s loads of them north of the border too. Plus of course it is always good to be with the family.

I can honestly say I am quite proud of some of the things we have achieved this year. The two bus stations in Ipswich have been refurbished and despite the inevitable negativity in the local press I am more than happy with the end results, given the constraints we have to work under. Yes, it would have been nice if we could have done something a little bit more dramatic with them (headlines criticised them for looking a lot like the old versions – well yes, they are still bus stations and we didn't get any more land to play with) and it would have been lovely to have every facility people want but reality has to kick in somewhere. We are also nearly there with getting a decent real time passenger information system up and running in town (and then hopefully across the whole county). Just a little bit more data wrangling to do and then screens can go up early next year, which will hopefully be popular with the public.

50 years of Dr Who
Loved the anniversary special, and while I think Matt Smith has been an excellent Doctor I am really looking forward to the Christmas regeneration to see what Peter Capaldi brings to the part next year.

Other stuff
Looking back over the year it has been a generally steady one with no major catastrophes or major excitements to disrupt the splendid joy of a normal existence. Which is all anyone can ask for really. I’ve listened to a lot of music and read a lot of books, but they will get their own posts over the next couple of weeks complete with the big list of books (and maybe one of music too) as in previous years.

We have had some nice days out – some to London (including the Jack the Ripper and Secret London walking tour I was given as a birthday present) and also closer to home, just enjoying bits of Suffolk. And most of those have also included nice meals in assorted pubs and restaurants. Mind you, one of those also lead to us both spending the week in bed with food poisoning back in the summer, so it wasn’t all good. Although I think the positive days outweighed that one negative experience.

And, without realising it until recently, I think we have both finally stopped being paranoid about money. A maturing investment allowed us to pay off a chunk of the mortgage as well as having the good holiday and leaving us with a reserve for emergencies (hello, new dishwasher and back door frame) and we have reigned in spending on a few things, so no longer do I spend the last week of every month checking the bank accounts to make sure we can hang on until pay day. Which is a wonderful feeling at last.

So, all things considered, a good year. Here’s to 2014!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A death in store

So I woke up at four this morning with the idea for a very short story in my head.  it didn't go away when I finally got up, so here it is.  Probably not very original, but fun to get down.

The spectre of Death drifted, unnoticed, down the High Street of a busy market town. It had visited a bungalow on the outskirts in the early hours of the morning but was now back to regular territory. For the third time this week the shadow wafted through the window display and staked out a corner behind a dusty display. Being present at every death since the dawn of time lent a certain familiarity to the proceedings, this was not an uncommon event after all, but somehow the shade was already feeling a sense of anticipation, even wondering if it would be here again tomorrow.

A few minutes after twelve, the assassin walked into the shop. He did not pay attention to the bright colours of the window display, the smiling assistant behind the till or the stacks of merchandise dotted on tables between the rows of shelves. Instead he headed with grim purpose towards the corner where Death lurked. He did not know that the ultimate darkness was waiting for him, merely that this was where he should find his victim. Scanning his immediate vicinity, the assassin chose his target swiftly and with the knowledge gained in his previous two visits. Secure in his nook, he reached out with one hand and silently grasped his intended. The other hand came in to play and with one swift movement the assassin cracked his victim's spine. There was the tiniest of snapping noises and for a moment the shop seemed to darken as Death, mission accomplished, fled through the ceiling and off to its next port of call.

Later, after the lunchtime rush had died down, the shop assistant took a few minutes to tidy up the inevitable mess the customers had left behind. She worked towards the back of the store, returning items to the rightful homes, rearranging the order of things on the shelves and straightening the piles on the tables. Then she saw the assassin's victim, lying splayed and broken on the last table. She regarded the limp and wilted tome for a few seconds then sighed, gathered it in her arms and turned to the shelves in the corner. From these she removed all the other copies of the book and brought them with her back to the front of the store. This one was going under the counter from now on – three damaged in one week was enough...

Friday, August 09, 2013

Hey! Hello!

Yes I know, it has been far too long, but I'm not dead just busy. And still got lots to say. So more posts soon, I hope.

Anyway, I did something the other night that I haven't done for years. I sat down and listened to an album. All the way through with no interruptions. Just me, the music and the lyric sheet.

That always used to be how my first consumption of music went. Not background music to dinner or reading or driving or whatever else was going on. Just straightforward songs to focus on and absorb. It is why I know the word to so many tracks and can replay them in my head at will. But life seems so busy these days that this was a rare luxury. One I intend to make more time for in the future though as it really was blissful.

As for the album it question, it was that one up there. Hey! Hello!'s self titled debut. Which is the latest Pledge funded album from Ginger WIldheart (also featuring Victoria Liedtke). I've had MP3s since before Christmas and already feel this to be the best music I've heard in a long while, but when the disc turned up I decided it deserved some reverence.

Bright, breezy pop-metal delights.

Check 'em out on the you tubes then do yourself a favour and buy it.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Done my civic duty.

So it is election day once again. As an employee of the County Council I am probably more concerned about the outcome than many. After all, barring edicts from central government, it is the people being elected today who are ultimately responsible for whether I have a job or not. Having been a Labour Administration when I first started here, we have now been Tory lead for the last two sessions and some of the choices they have made have just been heartbreaking.

So I hope everyone has got off their backsides and made the effort. I always say you have no right to complain if you didn't take part. And whether you support their policies or not, most of our local councillors are hard working and try to do their best for their constituents when it comes to individual issues.

Now, if whoever gets in would like to raise the bus stops budget I'll be a happy chap.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Phone call of the day.

"Hello, Passenger Transport, can I help you?"

"Yes, can you check if a Renault Megane reg ******* is in one of your Park & Ride car parks?  Only my husband drove in to Ipswich yesterday, did some shopping then came home on the bus.  And he can't remember where he's left the car."

"OK, can you give me your details so I can get int ouch with the sites then call you back?"

"I've been through his pockets twice, but can't find any clues and he can't remember if he got a bus in or drove all the way.  And he forgot to get me any shampoo."

"Your name and phone number please...?"

Needless to say we didn't have their car.  I wonder where it was.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A bit whiffy

Six or seven years ago, probably about the time she changed jobs, MrsB and I started using National Express coaches as our preferred method of reaching London for a day out. Rail tickets had just got horrendously expensive and connections from Felixstowe to Ipswich were never convenient. So we sacrificed a bit of time for tickets at half the price and the ease of starting nearer home. And of course the Tourist Information Centre where MrsB works sells the coach tickets so it was a doddle to book a day at short notice. Unfortunately a recent timetable change means it now takes over four hours, and no matter how much you enjoy your coach travel 8 hours in one day is too much.

So on Monday we returned to the steel road, and what a joy it was. Everything was on time, clean, comfortable and as we had booked in advance we got to come back First Class at no extra cost. Which was nice. I know this is not the norm, and have made enough work journeys to have experienced the full hell of train travel, but really can't complain at all. Of course the weather could have been better (unexpected freezing blizzards were not on the agenda when we chose the date) but even they didn't stop things working.

The whole purpose of the jaunt was lunch and a cruise on the river which MrsB had received as a birthday present. We didn't make full use of the river rover, only travelling from Tower Hill up to Westminster, but lunch on the Hispaniola was delicious. And hilarious as the couple at the table behind us were wonderfully opinionated, ex-theatricals and both stone deaf so they shouted at each other with no regard for who else might be listening. I just wish I had noted some of their observations down as all I can remember now is her having trouble explaining to him what a Risotto was, and how she met a friend at the party following the 100th performance of some play she had been in. And then we got stuck on the boat due to extremely high spring tides which had risen up over the gangway. Cue a free coffee then use of Wellys the manager had bought specifically for the assistance of unstranding people who didn't have two hours to wait for the water levels to drop.

As the snow was still swirling and the wind howling we forsook the pleasures of more time on the water and decamped to the National Portrait Gallery. It must be at least ten years since we last went there, and thoroughly enjoyed getting re-acquainted. I think I prefer the National next door, as I like a bit of variety rather than spending all afternoon just looking at people, but still, some very good stuff on display. And we saw Tony Robinson in the cafe so ticked off the required celebrity spot which is an essential part of any trip down the smoke.

Oh yes, and the final joy of the day (and another reason to travel by rail) was a visit to the international cheese shop at Liverpool Street (I think they also have one at Victoria) to obtain some Danish Esrom. My favourite cheese, and one that has a peculiarly pungent aroma than gained us strange looks on the train. Heck, even one shower and at least four hand washes since making my sandwiches today I can still smell it on my fingers...

Friday, January 25, 2013


Is it just me, or when the road signs say "Severe Weather Forecast Today" does anybody else then picture Carol Kirkwood in black leather?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

2012 books

2012 books by The original SimonB
2012 books, a photo by The original SimonB on Flickr.
Yup, it's that time of year again, a list of all the books I read last year. WIth a fancy word cloud from Tagxedo.  Audio books marked with *, but I've not gone so far as to distinguish between paper and Kindle books!

John Farndon - Do You Think You're Clever?
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Bill Bryson - At Home
Alistair Maclean - The Dark Crusader *
Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo - Asterix At The Olympic Games
Henning Mankell - The Dogs Of Riga
Terry Pratchett - A Hat Full Of Sky *
Ken Livingstone - You Can't Say That
Jules Verne - From The Earth To The Moon/Round The Moon
Michael Palin - Around The World In Eighty Days *
Hardeep Singh Kohli - Indian Takeaway
Arthur Ransome - Secret Water
Alan Moore & David Lloyd - V For Vendetta
Dan Brown - Angels And Demons *
Manjit Kumar - Quantum: Einstein, Bohr And The Great Debate About The Nature Of Reality
Paul Brickhill - The Great Escape *
Naomi Novik - Temeraire
Nicholas Crane - Great British Journeys
Peter Ackroyd - London Under
Mike Gayle - Mr Commitment
Terry Pratchett - Going Postal *
Brian Switek - Written In Stone
Daniel Defoe - The Fortunes And Misfortunes Of The Famous Moll Flanders
Diana Preston - Before The Fall-Out *
Mark Mason - Walk The Lines
Arthur Ransome - The Big Six
Carl Sagan - Life In The Universe *
Bill Bryson - I'm A Stranger Here Myself (Notes From A Big Country) *
Andrew Marr - The Diamond Queen
Michael Palin - Pole To Pole *
Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo - Asterix And The Cauldron
Joe Casey, Chris Burnham, Marc Letzmann & Rus Wooton - Officer Downe: Tough Shit
Tim Powers - On Stranger Tides
Julian May, Marion Bradley & Andre Norton - Black Trillium *
Dava Sobel - The Planets *
Simon Singh - The Code Book
Terry Pratchett - Thud! *
Henning Mankell - The White Lioness
Dave Mustaine with Joe Layden - A Life In Metal
Bill Bryson - A Walk In The Woods *
Arthur Ransome - Missee Lee
Dan Brown - The Da Vinci Code *
Simon Loxley - Type
Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot *
Jules Verne - Around The World In Eighty Days
Stephanie Pain (Ed) - Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers : And other odd events on the way to scientific discovery
Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo - Asterix In Spain
Julian May - Blood Trillium *
Arthur Ransome - The Picts And The Martyrs *
William Gibson - Spook Country
Emma Kennedy - How To Bring Up Your Parents
Naomi Novik - Throne Of Jade
Craig Taylor - Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now - As Told by Those Who Love It, Hate It, Live It, Left It and Long for It
Mike Gayle - Dinner For Two
James Hamilton-Patterson - Empire Of The Clouds
Michael Palin - Full Circle *
Rene Goscinny & Albert Uderzo - Asterix And The Roman Agent
Julian May - Sky Trillium *
James May with Ian Harrison - James May's Toy Stories
Charles Dickens - Oliver Twist
Bill Bryson - Down Under *
Dan Brown - The Lost Symbol *
Nicholas Rankin - Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception 1914-1945
Arthur Ransome - Great Northern?
Gerry Davis - Doctor Who And The Cybermen *
Simon Pegg - Nerd Do Well
Michael Palin - Hemmingway's Chair (Abridged) *
Terry Pratchett - Wintersmith *
Sissel-Jo Gazan - The Dinosaur Feather
Ian Marchant - The Longest Crawl *
John Lloyd and John Mitchinson - 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off
Helen Dyrbye, Steve Harris & Thomas Golzen - The Xenophobe's Guide To The Danes
Jon Savage - England's Dreaming
James Robinson et al - Batman: Collected Legends Of The Dark Knight
Jen Campbell - Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops

Oh, and yes I am doing it again this year. And because I am a total loon I am tracking all the music I listen to as well and doing a picture a day project on flickr...