Sunday, 9 October 2011

Autumn Chill

By eck it's been a chilly day here in Leeds.  The sky has been a mucky grey and we've had wind and rain.  Apart from a trip to the local supermarket I've been indoors trying to keep warm.

We made some malted muffins this afternoon and they're quite tasty - perhaps could do with a bit more of a malty taste but that's a lesson for next time.  We have a recipe book with 100 different varieties - sweet, savoury and healthy.  Looking forward to trying most of them!

I've been getting some CD's uploaded to iTunes today so I can have a change of music on my iPod.  Going away with work for a couple of days soon so good to have plenty of music to pass the time on the train and in the hotel.

Despite the cold I do quite like Autumn.  There are some annual traditions that we enjoy - some English and some from over the pond.

First up is Halloween with lots of kids dressed up "trick of treating".  Must get a few bags of sweets and a pumpkin.  We sometimes spend the night with our friends over the road having some good food and a drink or two.

Next is Bonfire Night - you know, when we celebrate Guy Fawkes failure to blow up the Houses of Parliament.  Anyway we don't usually go to a fire these days but do enjoy watching the spectacular display of fireworks in the night sky.

Towards the end of November we like to celebrate American Thanksgiving with a turkey and all the trimmings.  Good practice for the Christmas dinner about  month later.

November in my family also sees loads of birthdays - my mum, my brother, two nieces and three friends.

So lots to look forward to over the next couple of months.

Finally for today I got the latest newsletter from The Sumo Guy today.  I do like to share this with you and encourage you to check out his website at

His theme this month is about "more is less".

Too much stuff can clutter our mind. Whether that 'stuff' is items in a home or activities in our lives.

You see, when there's too much stuff in our lives we begin to suffer from fuzzy focus. We lack a clarity of focus.  In our desire to improve and keep ahead of the game we maybe pursue too many good ideas rather than focus on a few great ones.  You see;

'Focus brings clarity but clutter clouds your thinking.'

How can you apply this to your own life?  Why don't you set aside just 10 minutes to focus on what you need to do to create some space in your life?

That might be chucking some stuff out, but it might equally mean saying no to some things.  And let's not make having a lack of time an excuse.  Everyone can find 10 minutes.  In doing so you'll begin to create the space to allow great ideas to develop and flourish.  And once you've done 10 minutes you often create the momentum to do more.  Here's a couple of questions to answer:

What's the one activity I need to reduce or cease doing?
What ten minute action can I take today to increase my effectiveness?

Ok that's it for today.  Time to get some tea and settle down to watch the Horse of The Year Show.  It's not that I'm dead keen on horses or anything.  It's just that one of the riders is Jessica Springsteen - and sad people that we are we might just get a glimpse of her dad - Bruce.  If you're not a Tramp then you just won't understand.

Bye for now.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

RIP Clarence "Big Man" Clemons

Photo from BBC website

Clarence Clemons
11 January 1942 - 18 June 2011

We woke this morning to the very sad news that Clarence “Big Man” Clemons had died after suffering a stroke last weekend.
You will find lots of comments from fans on facebook and good news coverage at BBC and the New York Times.
The last time I saw the “Big Man” was in November 2009 when we went to two Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band shows at Madison Square Garden, New York.  So for me that will always be even more special.
I can’t really do justice trying to describe the love and affection that E Street Band followers have for Clarence - so I’m not going to try.  Perhaps if I just say that when I heard  him play it often sent shivers down my spine - even when he didn’t quite hit the right notes.  It was just electric.

I feel sad that I won't see or hear him live again.
My wife (Jayne) bought me a saxophone for my 50th birthday.  I wanted to learn to play Clarence’s sax solos.  I never quite mastered it.  Now I have renewed determination to get to grips with it again so that I can play my own tributes to the “Big Man” any time.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Two moans in one post

I've been getting more and more angry over the last two days.  That's not really like me because I think that I am quite placid and cope reasonably well with adversity - most of the time anyway.  Those closest to me may well have a different view!!

What's getting under my skin?

First is the issue of public sector pensions and the way that the government appears to be handling this at the moment.  There was a review and report done by Lord Hutton a few months ago and the recommendations were then to be discussed and negotiated with all the relevant unions.

Now things have really kicked off in the last couple of days.  Public sector workers voting for industrial action and the government - in the form of Danny Alexander (Lib Dem) the Treasury Minister seeming to say that policy decisions have been made and are not up for negotiation.

Today according various news reports the Treasury is stepping back from this stance and appears to be saying that no final decisions have been made and that negotiations with the unions are still on.

I've been a public sector worker for over 41 years and was looking forward to retirement in about two years.  Now I know that things change in life and that there are no guarantees about anything.  I also accept that the pensions world is in a mess and that many working in the private sector have had their pensions devalued.  So it seems only fair to me that public sector employees should share the pain.

But that pain needs to be inflicted fairly and not as a result of some political dogma.

Being so close to retirement I feel particularly angry about the prospect of my pension being reduced - so I hope that some protection can be put in place.  I do think that public sector employees will have to contribute more to their pensions and that the retirement age will need to go up.  But does that have to be for everyone currently in the scheme?  or for those close to retirement?  I don't know what the definition of close to retirement is except that I think it means me.

So come on Government and unions get it sorted.

The other thing that is getting me cross is the closure of Tetley's brewery in Leeds.  Beer has been brewed on the site in Leeds since 1822.  Tetley's is owned by brewing giant Carlsberg and I think that it's an absolute disgrace that the Vikings are raping and pillaging our country again.  So let's just imagine the advert shall we.......Carlsberg don't do mistakes, but if they did, this would probably be the worst mistake in the world ..... RIP Joshua Tetley.

Ok rant over now settling down to watch Lee Mack on telly.

Monday, 30 May 2011

SUMO Latest

If you've read Utter Drivel before then you might remember that I am a fan of The SUMO Guy - Paul McGee. Here's a link to The SUMO website.

I thought I would just share with you his most recent newsletter.

SUMO stands for Shut Up, Move On and is a helpful philosophy to deal with difficulties in life.  I used this approach a lot in my last job as a staff welfare officer.

Paul has been working with education bodies and has now launched SUMO4Schools.  When working with schools he changes what the SUMO acronym means - Stop, Understand, Move On.

So I thought I would just put this out there for my readers to consider what's going on for you in your life and whether SUMO might help.  Do you need to take time to Stop and Understand?  What does Moving On mean for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. What's going well at the moment?
2. What's going less well?
3. What do you need to do more of?
4. What do you need to do less of?

Moving On can sometimes mean letting go - and this can seem really scary.

And finally - you can tell you're getting old when the phrase "Happy Hour" means time for a nap.

Right I'm off to get my head down for a couple of hours!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Seaside Special

Well it was a lovely sunny weekend in Sutton-on-Sea, Lincolnshire. Never heard of it? It's on the coast (as the name suggests) between Mablethorpe and Skegness.

My brother in law and sister in law live there. They run a high class delicatessen called Espley's.

If you haven't tried it you don't know what you're missing.

One of the highlights of a few days with the "outlaws" is spending time at their beach hut or chalet. I'm never too sure what they are actually called. Anyway, this is right on the "prom" overlooking the beach. The chalet has just had a makeover and is now painted lilac and white.

There has been a spate of arson attacks on the chalets over the past couple of weeks. It must be a nightmare for the people who own one wondering if theirs is going to be next.

Jayne and Irene had a walk on the beach while Ian cleaned out the inside of the chalet and I had a doze on a deck chair.

On 31 January 1953 the east coast was hit by devastating floods. The Sutton-on-Sea flood defences were breached and the High Street and much of the surrounding area was under water. The only thing remaining of the original sea defences is this "Lion Pillar" in the photograph.

In the last few years some major work has been done to reinforce the east coast flood defence system. Most recently at Sutton sand dredged from the sea bed has been piped to the edge of the beach creating a man made slope. This prevents the sea ever reaching the sea wall. Not so much fun but definitely safer.

I guess the holiday season hasn't started yet - perhaps it will get going after Easter. I hope so because it was really quiet. There was a hardly anyone about - the beach in from of the chalet was really deserted.

It's a a tough time for anyone running a business in this quiet seaside town and the recession is really hitting them hard. Here's hoping for glorious summer weather.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Goodbye Wellington

This has been a very sad week in our house.  We said goodbye to our fluffy cat Wellington.  He was born on 11 January 1997 and died on 24 March 2011 - 14 years old is a pretty good age.

Wellington was a Persian Blue Colourpoint.  His pedigree name was Toffynose Bluebyou - but we called him Wellington, or Wellie for short, because he had grey/blue markings on his feet just like wellington boots.

His parents were Brujeana Scallywag and Brujeana Meeka Blueorchid.  Some of his grandparents and great grandparents were champion and grand champion show cats.  That wasn't ever going to be an option for our Wellie because he didn't cut the mustard as a show cat.

So he ended up living with us in Leeds.

He had a particular liking for tuna, cheese and home cooked chicken.  I'm not too sure what Morrisons are going to do now that we won't be buying so many of their chicken breasts - they're bound to wonder why sales have dropped so drastically.

We couldn't make toast without him trotting in to the kitchen for his own slice with a good coating of butter of course.

One of his very favourite pleasures was being brushed, and brushed and brushed.  Whatever you might be doing he would come up to you meowing and you were absolutely required to follow him to the rug in the front room.  There he would flop down just waiting.  And the purrs would just start and never stop until you did.

Wellie was mainly a house cat but he did go out on some adventures.  In his younger days he used to jump over the back fence and scuttle around in the undergrowth eventually coming home with all sorts of foliage stuck in his fur.

When he discovered that there was life away from our garden we often had to go in search of him when it was time to go to bed.  Shouting his name as we wandered up and down the street he would appear from a neighbours garden with not a care in the world as he nonchalantly strolled across the road oblivious to the dangers of any oncoming traffic.

Fun times included chasing frogs around the garden and occasionally bringing one into the house carefully nestled in his mouth.  He never once hissed at, scratched or bit any other cat or human.

Our garden seems to be a mecca for neighbourhood cats and Wellie wasn't at all territorial - he would just sit at the door or look out the window as trespassers wandered around his patch.

Wellie was never short of admirers.  If he sat at the front door passers by would often stop and comment about him.  When the doorbell rang he usually made for the hall stairs and would sit there staring until the caller had either gone or they had come in and he judged it safe to see them.

He wasn't popular with everyone though.  My brother (Trevor) doesn't like animals at all.  So when he came to visit it was as if Wellie could sense that Trevor didn't care for him so Wellie would be all around his feet and making a nuisance of himself.

On the other hand a number of people would have been happy to take him to live with them, especially Laura, my sons partner.

Wellie had been unwell for a while - he had cancer - so he was on borrowed time.  I don't think there is a good way to deal with these things.  When one of our other cats (Willow) was poorly we asked the vet to put him to sleep before he became too ill and his quality of life was so bad.  We beat ourselves up for that for a long time.  Wellie died at home but it was a difficult decision again.  He was really poorly, experiencing very regular seizures - the cancer had gone to his brain.  So we agonised about whether we should ask the vet to let him go.

In the end nature took control and we were there when he died.

So a fond farewell old chap - have a great time with Willow and Horlicks (our first cat).

Friday, 4 February 2011

Dodgy Knees

Been to the doctors today - and for me that is a rare event in itself.  I needed a new prescription for anti-inflammatory tablets for my arthritis.  While I was there he had a feel of my knees - you know the thing, moving your leg backwards and forwards checking for wear and tear.

Anyway it seems that there is a bit too much wear and tear in my right knee and he predicted that I would need a replacement before too long.  That made me feel really old.  Perhaps my body is getting on a bit and has been abused - but I still have the mind of someone younger.  I suppose I will have to give it back sometime - bum tish, I thank you!

Knee replacement surgery is quite a routine operation with over 70,000 done in England and Wales each year.

I've become quite attached to my knees - I've had them for almost 58 years.  But if I have to have a replacement I've been thinking what sort of knees would I rather have.  There are so many to choose from - fat knees, thin knees, chubby knees, knobbly knees.

There are even place names that celebrate the knee - Wounded Knee (USA) , Neasden (UK) and Kneeden (Germany).

When all is said and done I think I will stick with the ones I've got for now - they're quite attractive in a funny sort of way.