Thursday, May 28, 2009

Boom! Boom!

I saw a fox on our back lawn this morning. Manky looking thing it was. However it did bring to mind an excellent show from my past, Basil Brush!! Basil Brush is a British television character aimed at children. He used to be primarily portrayed by a glove puppet (see picture) but has also been depicted in animated cartoon shorts and comic strips. The character has featured on children's (and later adult) television from the 1960s to the present day.
A mischievous character, Basil Brush is best known for his catch phrase"Boom! Boom!", used after something he finds funny, and also for speaking in a "posh" accent and manner, referring to himself as a "fella".
Throughout the 12-year run of the Basil Brush show, Basil was always accompanied by an actor. Initially Rodney Bewes — aka Mr Rodney — better known as one half of The Likely Lads. Bewes was replaced by Mr Derek — Derek Fowlds, later to appear in Yes Minister and Heartbeat — between 1969 and 1973. The subsequent presenters were Mr Roy (Roy North, 1973-1977), Mr Howard (Howard Williams, 1977-1979), and Mr Billy (Billy Boyle 1979-1980).

Here is a public information film starring Basil and Mr Roy from 1976:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

These things are sent to try us

I was reading about a man in China who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. One passer-by made his way up to the distressed man and held out his hand as if to try and save him. He then proceeded to push the man off the bridge, declaring that he was fed up with the desperate man's "selfish activity" which caused huge traffic jams in Guangzhou, southern China. Luckily for the potention suicidee, the police had managed to setup an airbag below so he was not killed.
It made me think, how many times have you been annoyed by something but just put up with it and said nothing? Here are some of my pet peeves:

1. Being in a rush in a store and waiting while the person in front counts out $1.53 in pennies

2. Shop assistants who are more concerned with talking to their workmates than they are about serving you

3. Hairdressers who talk to you constantly through your entire hair appointment
4. Drivers who think the correct sequence is manoevre, signal, mirror

5. Waitresses who ask you if everything is alright with your meal when you are just about to give the punchline for a joke, or just as you squeeze that extra-large piece of chocolate fudge brownie into your mouth.

6. Waiting in a long line at the supermarket/post office/whatever; another register is opened up and the people behind me push by to get to the front of the new line.

7. Getting the trainee checkout operator at the supermarket ("No, of course I don't mind that you've rung through all of my 50 items and then accidently pressed cancel, so you have to ring them all through again...")

One of my favorite movies is "Falling Down" with Michael Douglas. It tells the story of a businessman stuck in traffic, and how his day goes from bad to worse due to a chain of extremely simple, but unfortunate, events. Highly recommended

What? Another one?

It always amazes me how easy it is to spend a lot of money in one fell swoop. In this case, its the purchase of another car. We are now a family that doesn't own a single Ford Explorer ; Tony finally traded in his Ford Explorer for a new Subaru Outback. I must say its very nice, in Blue and Silver. I wonder how long it will stay looking nice? My bets are that there will be a liberal sprinkling of crumbs on the back seat within a week....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Swine Flu update

Up until now, the swine flu "pandemic" has only been something I have read about in the newspapers. But now its become more real - there has been 4 occurances of swine flu in my kids school district, 2 in my daughter's school. Apparently they are only mild cases, but we are stocking up on the Purell just to be sure.

Happy Birthday to my best pal

A very happy birthday to my oldest and best friend Sarah who is the same age as me today (30 obviously ;-)

I have known Sarah since I was 9 or 10, we met when we were both in Mr Blake's class in Lliswerry Junior School in Newport. Her first words to me were "You're weird you are"; not the best start but somehow we got past that!

Since I've been in the US, I miss her company. We don't keep in touch as often as we should (lives too busy), but I love it when we get together when I am back in Wales. We always spend at least one night at a restaurant, drinking too much wine and putting the world to rights.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Nog. Enjoy yourself. Don't forget to stock up on wine and chocolate for when I visit in August!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Southside Johnny

Just back from seeing a concert by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes. Not a bad evening at all. It was at the Hanover Theater in Worcester,MA, which is only a 10 minute drive from our home (pretty handy). The theater was very nice too, apparently just recently refurbished (

I enjoyed the concert, even though I had never heard of any of their songs (Tony is the fan not me). What a strange man the lead singer (presumably Johnny?) is! All arms and legs waving about in all directions. But he has an interesting gravelly voice that suits the type of music they favor; bluesy rock n'roll with lots of heavy brass (Saxaphone, trombone and trumpet).

One annoying thing (there's always one) was the guy sitting behind me. He had one of those echoing claps that hurt your eardrums, and he insisted on clapping along to all the songs. It nearly drove me mad...CLAP, CLAP, clap-clap, CLAP. AAAARRRGGGHHH!!

Happy Birthday Nan

Happy 94th Birthday to my Nan. Looking forward to seeing you in August!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

24 : Time to call it a day?

Is it just me or does anyone else feel let down and disappointed at the ending of every season of 24? The final episode of this season aired last night. 24 is one of those shows that starts with a bang, and gets you interested. It tries to keep up the non-stop action, but you actually become de-sensitized to it halfway through, to the point where it gets slightly boring; I have fallen asleep during many of the 'middle' episodes. By the time we reach the last episode all I feel is a sense of relief. Whether Jack lives (he always does) or dies (he won't, because Fox have announced the new season already), I get to the point where I really don't care, I just want it all to be over.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bejeweled Blitz rules

I haven't quite worked out the logic behind Bejeweled Blitz. The instructions are close to useless. If you get 4 in a row you get a power gem. If you get 5 in a row you get a hyper cube. OK. Got that. So now what?
Here's a few "rules" that I have found from my brief exposure to this game (at least I think they are rules, it all goes by so fast I could be mistaken!!)
If you destroy the power gem in a row of 3 or more then you get a small explosion and (presumably) more points.
It took me ages to work out what a hyper cube does. If you swap it with an adjacent gem, then all gems of that type are destroyed with lightening-like flashes, and you get points for each one destroyed.
You can also get a multiplier which, when destroyed as part of a group of 3 or more, will multiply all subsequent points by that amount (2X, 3X etc). It can also be activated by being near a power gem when it is destroyed.
If you drag the hyper cube to a gem of the same type as a multiplier, then you activate the multiplier. But don't make your hyper cube part of a row of 3 or more because if you do, you just seem to lose it as though it was a normal gem. Bummer.

The piece that seems to be pure luck is whether or not a multiplier appears at all. I cannot work out what makes the multipliers (2X, 3X etc) appear, it seems totally random. Mine always seem to appear right at the end of the 1 minute when its too late to do anything with it. There is no way you can get much more than 20K points without using multipliers.

The only other thing I know is, if you go fast you get extra speed points. Big Whoop.

This is the most frustrating, but also addictive game I have played in a long while. Oh well, back for another 1 minute frenzied attempt at 100K...

Bejeweled Blitz update

93900 points. It only took me about 93900 attempts. Slow but sure....

Stand out from the crowd

Schools in the UK are to make changes to their school uniform rules and switch from the traditional tie, to a clip on tie. The reasons being quoted are for health and safety, you won’t get hurt if your clip on tie gets caught in machinery for example. But the change is also to promote a more uniform appearance preventing children from customizing their ties with fat knots and short tails.

When I was at school we did everything we could to be creative with our boring school uniform while just about staying within the rules. Ties with short tails and fat knots were obviously a must. Girls blouses were supposed to be a pale blue color cotton – I managed to get one with some shine in it (it was the 70’s after all!!). It was extremely unfashionable to wear skirts of a regulation length to the knee, and mini skirts were long gone, so we wore our skirts as long as we could, way below the top of our socks. And of course it was essential to wear shoes with as much platform on them as you were allowed to get away with. It’s called style OK??

Tell Me Why.....

I don’t like Mondays. Regardless of how good or bad my weekend was, I am still never glad to be back in work. What is it about a Monday that is so depressing? This particular Monday morning, my hair wouldn’t behave itself even with copious amounts of flat-ironing. I couldn’t find anything to wear that I liked. On my drive to work the roads were full of idiots getting in my way. The weather was grey and overcast (making my hair frizz on the walk from the parking lot). I went to the cafeteria to get breakfast and spilt my cup of tea all over my just-toasted muffin. My calendar was full of meetings I didn’t want to attend. All I can say is just don’t cross me on a Monday ….Grrrr

Below is the obvious choice of song to accompany this blog entry, but with a nice twist - it also shows one of my favorite TV shows with sexy Hugh Laurie (I would never have said that in his Blackadder days!)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

D for Dunkin? or Dunce?

I am getting tired of being served in stores by assistants who are too wrapped up in their conversation with workmates t0 pay attention to their customer. What ever happened to customer service? But I know I am getting old because today in Dunkin Donuts, whilst trying to explain why my order was incorrect to a girl who was chatting happily to her friend, I sternly told her "for goodness sake will you pay attention!". I sounded just like a head teacher....

Murphy's Law

Yesterday it was a beautiful warm, sunny day so I decided to do some work in my garden. I am making a raised flower bed, so dug a trench ready to lay some walling stone. Tony and Robert put the gazebo up, but had no ties to secure it in place properly ; we'd get those later in the week. And I temporarily moved my hanging basket/bird feeder stand to a different part of the garden while working.

This morning I awoke to heavy winds and rain. The gazebo is blowing around like a, well, like an unsecured gazebo. I fully expect to have to recover it from my neighbors' yard tomorrow. My wall trench is filling up nicely with rainwater, and my hanging baskets stand has toppled over scattering the contents of the birdfeeder all over the patio. At least the birds are happy...

This is known as Murphy's law; If anything can go wrong, it will. In the UK it was known from earliest times as Sod's Law because it would happen to any poor sod who needed such a catastrophic event the least.

Here's a couple of add-ons to Murphy's/Sod's law, taken from

O'TOOLE'S COMMENTARY ON MURPHY'S LAW. Murphy was an optimist.
THE FIRST COROLLARY TO SOD'S LAW. Anything that is to go wrong will do so at the worst possible moment.
THE UNSPEAKABLE LAW. As soon as you mention something, if it's good, it goes away; if it's bad, it happens.
NON-RECIPROCAL LAWS OF EXPECTATIONS. Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield negative results.
HOWE'S LAW. Every man has a scheme which will not work.
ZYMURGY'S FIRST LAW OF EVOLVING SYSTEM DYNAMICS. Once you open a can of worms, the only way to re-can them is to use a larger can.
SKINNER'S CONSTANT. The quantity which must be multiplied by, divided by, added to or subtracted from the answer you get to give the answer you should have got.
LAW OF SELECTIVE GRAVITY. An object will fall so as to do the most damage.
JENNING'S COROLLARY. The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet.
BARTH'S DISTINCTION. There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types and those who do not.
NINETY-NINETY RULE OF PROJECT SCHEDULES. The first 90% of the job takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the other 90%.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Open wide..

Children of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani origin use NHS dental care less frequently than any other ethnic group, research shows.
Three-quarters of under 16s in England have been for a check up in the last year - but the statistics are low for all British Asian groups; 45% of boys and 46% of girls of Bangladeshi descent have visited the dentist in the last 12 months.

But the really worrying thing is the Department of Health say more Asian students are applying to attend dental school than ever before.....

Sounds to me like your next dentist will look like this…..

Conkers? Or just Bonkers?

From the BBC news this morning:

Many children are living in a "prison-like environment" surrounded by technology, the chairman of the Independent Schools Association warns. John Gibson says such experience does not prepare children for adult life.... Recent research suggests five to 16-year-olds are spending up to six hours a day online or watching television.

Mr Gibson, who is head of Stoke College in Suffolk, said "playing out" as a child and taking part in activities such as putting an oily chain back on a bike, or playing conkers, exposed children to emotions such as disappointment which would prepare them for adulthood.

I can honestly say that in all the difficult phases of my life I have never once thought, “Thank goodness I played conkers as a child, otherwise I would never have been able to get through this”. And I’m not sure why putting an oily chain on a bike exposes a child to disappointment; I guess Mr Gibson was not very adept at bike mechanics….

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bejeweled Blitz

I have to admit that I am getting addicted to the online game Bejeweled Blitz (a Facebook application, also available on the official site at It is similar to Gem Swap, where you are presented with a grid of different “gems” and you have to swap adjacent gems to create a row of 3 or more matching ones. However Bejeweled Blitz has a frustrating 1 minute timer, which means you have to be super-quick! It also gives you the ability to create “power gems” that multiple your score up by a factor. It is so addictive and that one minute seems to go by extremely quickly (if only minutes went by that fast during workdays!).

I am amazed at the scores than some people get. I have only recently broken the 50K mark, but many people routinely get over 100K, and there are even articles out there that claim it’s possible to get up to 1 Million points! Click below for a YouTube video of someone getting 227,000 points in 1 minute. There’s no doubt about it, you’ve gotta be fast!!

Canadian research suggests that women are better equipped than men to fight off infection, such as cold and flu. A Canadian study indicates that the female hormone estrogen gives women's immune systems added bite at fighting off infection. The researchers believe women may have evolved a more robust immune system because of their key role in producing and nurturing young; in evolutionary terms it only takes one male to reproduce with lots of females, but females are much more important in terms of producing offspring.

I think I can put it more simply than this. Women fight off colds quicker than men because they have to. When a man has a cold he stops everything and makes small whimpering noises while lying on the sofa watching TV. No incentive to get better there! When a woman has a cold, in addition to her usual chores, she has the added task of blowing her nose.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Restaurant review - Il Forno

Just back from a very pleasant dinner at Il Forno's restaurant in Westborough, MA ( This restaurant is a welcome change from the norm, not being part of any chain. It also allows BYOB (or wine) which is very handy and saves you quite a bit of money on the bill.

The place was packed at 6:30pm when we arrived and I was glad we had a reservation. I'm not sure if they normally do reservations or if this was a one-off for Mother's Day. Restaurants usually like to get you in and out quickly and would prefer not to tie up one of their tables for the night.

We were seated in under 5 minutes and given a basket of garlic bread to keep us going while we perused the menu. Emma and I chose the meat lasagna ($12), Tony had a salad consisting of Mixed baby greens topped with walnuts, fresh strawberries, and Wensleydale cranberry goat cheese served with balsamic vinaigrette ($12), and Rob had a brick oven sausage pizza ($5).

All the portions were enormous. Needless to say we are having lasagna and pizza for dinner tomorrow. We finished up with cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory and a cup of coffee. My only disappointment was that the coffee was served with a couple of those small cartons of half n' half, rather than bringing cream in a jug, which seemed a bit cheap.

All in all a very enjoyable meal with sufficient to fill us up tomorrow as well. I am now at home enjoying the remainder of my wine, accompanied by some Mother's Day chocolates. Yum! Makes it all worthwhile :-)

Mother's Day 2009

Today is Mother's Day in the US and I was treated to breakfast in bed (waffles with strawberries and a cup of tea), a bunch of flowers (yellow roses) and some chocolates. Tony has also booked us a table at a local restaurant this evening so I don't have to cook. Very nice too!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Mam!

A very Happy Birthday to my mother, Norma Watkins. Enjoy your special day mam, and let dad do all the cooking (you do like beans on toast don't you?!)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Bulimic Cat

I'm sure my cat Loki is bulimic. Within 2 minutes of eating he brings it all back up on the rug. It looks the same as when it came out of the can! Next time I'm going to cut out the middle-man and just throw the can of food onto the rug....

Emma's birthday

Happy 9th birthday to my darling daughter, Emma. Its hard to imagine that my little girl is growing up so fast! Lots of love, Mom xxx

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Roller Kingdom

Emma's 9th birthday "bash" this year was a party at Roller Kingdom in Hudson with 6 of her friends (Caralyn, Kara, Alexandra, Alyssa, Anna and Kseniya). Roller Kingdom is an indoor roller skating rink, with lots of flashing lights and mirrored walls. The music is loud and its full of kids, ages ranging from toddlers to teens, skating round the floor with varying degrees of proficiency. We had pizza and ice-cream cake, and lots of sugary drinks to give everyone more energy than they could ever hope to work off on the rink.

I was fascinated to see the different skating styles on the rink. There were mom's desperately trying to keep their 3 year old upright, 14 year old girls holding hands as they skated around trying to look indifferent and not fall over, teenage boys casually skating whilst browsing through texts on their cellphone, and finally the dads trying desperately to look cool but really just looking slightly foolish :-)

Anyway, I think Emma and her friends enjoyed it, if the noise they made is any indication of that. They did lots of skating, laughing, dancing and endless trips to the bathroom "en masse"...when one of them needed to go, they all went!

From Left to Right in the photo below, Alexandra, Anna, Kara, Kseniya, Caralyn, Emma, Alyssa)