John Owen Smith’s log for 2010

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27 December 2010

Snow on the ground on Christmas Day, but technically not a 'White Christmas' – go figure!

There were 12 of us round the table on the Day, but when it came to leave at midnight Karina couldn't get her car to move in the ice, so the three of them stayed the night on the lounge floor. In the morning there was sunshine, and the brakes unfroze.

The following day we went to Frensham Great Pond in Steve's land rover and walked round the pond. It was sufficiently frozen to walk on it in places, but we didn't push our luck!

L to R: Zak, Steve, Dil, Zya, Mel, Deb and Richard (Dil's brother)
Merry Christmas to all our readers!!

The ice near the shoreline – blocks had broken then refrozen and it was well thick enough to walk on

20th December 2010

This time last year I wrote: "The planned family invasion here over the weekend was cancelled due to snow," and guess what, it's happened again this year! So we'll have to see what visits can be planned and Xmas presents swapped over the next few weeks.

13th December 2010

More electronic food for thought. From here – from there – from Google – from Amazon

I've started to look into the Amazon offering. Not technically difficult. It seems that I have simply to output my original Word file as HTML, send it to Amazon and, by and large, Bob's your uncle! The result is not the same format as the printed book, but then you don't want that when you're reading on an iPhone.

However, currently they're only running it on their American-based site, and this has tax inplications for non-US citizens. I quote: "non-U.S. members must obtain a U.S. tax identification number (“TIN”) and provide this TIN on their IRS Forms W8-BEN or equivalent documentation." Whatever that is. What it seems to mean is that the US Government will take 30% tax from me unless I have supplied these documents, and signed them in blue ink!! So much for the electronic age.

And since Amazon will be taking 70%, it doesn't leave many pennies for me! I think I'll wait to see when they'll start a UK-based site.

On a sad note, Izzy the cat died last week in the middle of the night. She was 16 years old. We buried her in our allotment, which is fenced and so will deter any body-snatchers of the foxy variety. Her twin sister Wilbo is still with us. We keep thinking she looks lonely, but maybe that's just our human interpretation of it.

6th December 2010

Back from a weekend in Highcliffe. A group of 27 souls shared a house, or at least we thought it was going to be a house, but it turned out to be three separate houses with no internal connection. And one of them had no heating, with the temperature plummetting to well below freezing outside. We called the people we hired from, and they sent a maintenance man, who said he could do nothing about it – so there we were, stuck with an unheated house and nobody prepared to do anything about it. I think we will complain!

29th November 2010

Bought yourself an eBook reader yet? I haven't – I'm still waiting for the real thing. Meanwhile, how about this for the future? Disposable paper eReaders.

We ran the Xmas Fair in the village hall on Saturday – as usual we could have done with more customers, and much of the trading seemed to be between stallholders – but I sold a good number of books and Dil managed to pick up some presents at a fair price, so not all bad. In the evening we were back in the Hall to listen and dance to Unknown Legend. Two bands in two weeks – we must be becoming Groupies!

22nd November 2010

It was 180 years ago today that the Swing Riots swung into Selborne. The next day the rioters walked to Headley and ransacked the workhouse there. Tomorrow we intend to repeat that walk, though I have promised the owners of what is now Headley Grange that we won't touch a brick this time round. I don't know how many will turn up, but I have interest from descendants of the three of the original rioters. See details of the walk.

Over the weekend we held a surprise Debfest in Headley Village Hall – this apparently only happens every 35 years. In fact Deb's birthday was the following day, but no matter – it went very well and it was a complete surprise to her when she turned up at the door with her passport and dressed in a tutu and found us all inside! Star turn of the night was her brother's band The Spirit Box which had travelled up from its home base in Bath for the night.

15th November 2010

A fairly mundane week. Spent some time this week updating the Headley Archives website. Balanced the books for the Village Hall annual accounts – hooray! – though these are still to be audited. Had my flu jab, and didn't feel a thing! Directed a pantomime rehearsal. Had the lounge carpet cleaned professionally (but we've already spilt red wine on it again!). Did two talks on Flora Thompson. Went to a murder mystery play in Fleet. Spent Sunday morning helping to clear out under the stage in the Village Hall. And now it's Monday again. Ready for more.

8th November 2010

We remembered, remembered the 5th November on Friday. The evening was unseasonably mild and dry, and friends came with fireworks for soup & sausages. I dug a small square of turf out of the lawn and we sent a good few quids' worth of sparks and smoke up into the air. A fun time was had by all, which I guess wasn't the original intention of Guy Fawkes when he set his fuses at Westminster. Sorry, Guy.

1st November 2010

We have an Interregnum at Headley. Our Rector has retired, and we don't get another for some time, apparently. Who will steer the boat in the meantime? If businesses acted like that they'd all go under!

25th October 2010

I went to talk to the WI at Everton one afternoon this week – the one in Hampshire, not the football club – and as it was lovely weather, Dil came too with a picnic and we parked by the coast looking out to Hurst Castle and the IoW (see pic right) and ate our lunch sitting in the back of the Berlingo.

Yesterday a group of us did a circular walk from Surbiton to Hampton Court and back, something over 7 miles – Dil has the blisters to prove it!
On the way we saw green parrots flying over the Thames – I wonder what Henry VIII would have thought? Off with their heads!
Meanwhile, back at the Palace …

We approach the Palace from the river path

See this chap? If you took away his club …

…he'd fall over, just like this!

18th October 2010

The second weekend of Are You Being Served? went well, in fact even better than the first; and we also have a cast for the panto – so it's 'all systems go' at HTC.

Today, I dropped Dil off in Guildford to do her OU exam, and in order to pass the time before I had to pick her up again I decided to do something I'd been talking about for some time but never got round to – I visited the restored semaphore tower at Chatley Heath, near to Wisley. It wasn't open so unfortunately I couldn't see inside, but still worth the short walk from the car park. Sadly, as it overlooks the M25 at Junction 10, there's a perpetual noise there, rather like I remember from standing next to Niagara Falls. Hey-ho!

11th October 2010

The first weekend of the Headley Theatre Club production of Are You Being Served? went well.
I play Mr Mash (the Arthur English character) in the first act and Don Bernado (the Spanish hotel proprietor) in the second.

Mr Mash getting the knickers from the model
in the Grace Brothers Stores

Don Bernardo welcoming guests from
the Grace Brothers at his Palace Hotel.

There's still a chance to come and see it this weekend.

In the meantime we hold auditions for the Pantomime this Thursday evening in Headley Village Hall.
No peace for the wicked! (or even the wickered, as my keyboard insists on saying).

4th October 2010

Another week – another year older!!

27th September 2010

We are, as I said last week, now the proud owners of a Citroën Berlingo. Jeremy Clarkson was quite polite about it in his review and was impressed that it 'had a loft'. I hope we don't get too much clutter in it!

On Thursday four of us walked from Selborne to the Red Lion at Oakhanger and back. Once again it rained, as it did when we walked there last November. The Red Lion seems to have this curse on our walks.

On Friday a group of us performed a Murder Mystery at the Holly Bush in Headley. It seemed to go well, and the cast got free food!

We spent the weekend in Corsham. Searched for the northern end of the Box railway tunnel (can't see it due to a metal fence and undergrowth) but did see a Vulcan bomber flying overhead. I assume it was this one.

20th September 2010

Spent the week largely catching up on being away for the previous 10 days! Dil's deep into the last stages of her OU music course, and we're involved in thinking about three different plays at once: Are You Being Served is in rehearsal (do come and see), we perform a newly-written Murder Mystery at the Holly Bush this coming Friday, and we're thinking about the pantomime which starts in rehearsal as soon as AYBS ends. Add to that, I'm supposed to be finishing writing the script of MacHamlet which we propose to perform next St George's Day. Then there was the Village Fete on Saturday, for which mercifully the weather was good – I had a book stall while Dil and the rest of the thespians dressed up as pirates (it was a nautical themed fete) and did face-painting. Oh, and we've just changed our car – sold the old 'P' Reg VW Passat and bought a 'wicked red' Citroën Berlingo, so having to deal with all the paperwork for that too. Happy days!

13th September 2010

Another week away! This time we went to France – four days in Normandy, two in Charente and a day's visit to Nantes on the way back.

View over Goury at the north-west tip
of the Cotentin peninsular.
Alderney just out of shot to the left of the picture.

View over the bay of Vauville,
just to the south of Goury.
Some of the nicest scenery in France.

Dil, Erika and Nick on the quayside in Cherbourg. The stripes on the lamp posts to the right of them shine green at low tide and blue at high tide.

Statue of Napoleon in Cherbourg.
"Pourquoi is that British flag flying here?"

It didn't rain while we were in Cherbourg,
but if it had …

After seeing a model railway on bookshelves in Alnwick on our last trip,
here we saw one under the floor of a café.

A 'paquebot' came in to dock while we were there …

…and two men were detailed to retouch the paintwork
with incredibly long brushes!

Meanwhile Nick and I toured
the nuclear submarine nearby.

A visit to my flower shop
in Ste Mère Eglise.

Dil, Erika & Nick avoiding the dreaded
Andouille in Villedieu-les-Poêles.

Sunlight coming through stained glass
in a church in Charente.

A cardboard table in a
museum in Cognac.

The river Charente at Cognac.

Taking the tram into Nantes …

… where Erika drank all this!!

… and Dil got red beer
instead of red wine.

Rings along the dockside
on the Ile de Nantes.

…and looking through them.

But we had really come to see
the mechanical elephant …

… and he to see us!

There was an emergency exit
at the rear end …

…and a driver at the front!

The mechanics of the ears.

The trunk
which squirts water.

The back legs.

If you want to see someone else's video of the elephant in operation, see here.

A selection of shop signs …

… some more expanatory …

… than others!

And to end with, a view from Avranches over Mont St Michel in the evening.

29th August 2010

This weekend I played the part of Sir Robert Hunter, one of the founders of The National Trust, guiding a group of some 40+ walkers round Hindhead Common. At strategic points, actors sprang from the undergrowth to play dramatic scenes from the history of the place.

Here I am at the start with my alter ego,
the life-size cut-out of the real Sir Robert.

Can you see who it is yet?

I first met Prof John Tyndall,
who had built the first house on Hindhead.

Then moved out onto the Common.

Wrapped in the wrapt audience.

We next met a highwayman!

Then some broomsquires

I pontificate at the trig point on Gibbet Hill.

Dil and Penny witnessing a murder!

Me at the 'sailor's stone' telling the story of the murder.

With some of the 'audience' towards the end.

And then it poured with rain!

By the way, the beard and moustache have now been shaved off, having failed the old grey whisker test!

23rd August 2010

You'll gather by the week's gap that we've been away again. Dil had a OU summer school at Durham and I went to pick her up at the end of it – if you want to know what she was doing have a look at this.

Then we went on to South Queensferry for a couple of nights and returned via York and Mansfield Woodhouse.

The hotel in South Queensferry was the Hawes Inn (no, we never discovered whether she was or not!) situated right underneath the Forth railway bridge. The noise of the trains going over was like a roll of thunder each time, but fortunately they seemed to stop in the night.

The Hawes Inn, right under
the railway bridge.

Another view,
with a dratted train in evidence.

The view from our
hotel room window.

They seem to be repairing the bridge with white Lego bricks – here's a close-up.

Here's a panorama of the two Forth bridges taken from South Queensferry.

I'm told that I was conceived in a hotel in South Queenserry during WW2 – but I didn't know this had been celebrated locally!

We took a train trip into Edinburgh – here's the train disappearing over the bridge after we got off on our return.

A view of the bridge across a field of wheat on the road back from the station.

Another way back to the hotel involved a steep set of steps up the hillside!

The Edinburgh Festival was in full swing – here's a taste of the fringe along the Royal Mile.

Along with using alien words such as 'outwith' the Scots also make their taxis take a stance!

Good news:
Princes Street is to get trams …

…but, whoops!
– the lines don't go very far yet!

We came back into England over Carter Bar.

The inevitable piper was welcoming folk coming the other way.

While on the other side of the road …

…a gang of workmen …

…were making short work of a road sign!

And the English seemed to think the Scots needed reminding of the rule of the road!!

On the way home we visited both York and the Chesterfield Canal. They deserve better coverage, but here's a quick photo from each

The walls of York. Well worth a walk.

The Chesterfield Canal – restored locks near Shirebrook.

9th August 2010

I went over to see Sarah (daughter #1) in Handcross this weekend while Dil was away, and on the way I stopped off to see work at the new lock on the Wey & Arun Canal at Loxwood. The lock is complete but the canal upstream still isn't in water, giving the strange view below of a new lock going nowhere. Work continues to complete restoration of the entire navigation – if you want to help see the Wey & Arun Canal website.

Sarah's husband Rick is starting to sell Garden Tunnels, which I had never seen before. Here they are with the one in their own garden. For information on these see the Haygrove website, but contact me to buy through Rick!

Currently the 'end of the line'
for the Wey & Arun Canal at Loxwood

Sarah & Rick with their Garden Tunnel;
You want one too, don't you?

Today I dropped in on the local Sculpture Park – I'd often passed it but never bothered to stop before. For the princely sum of £6 (or £3 for seniors and kids) you can wander through magical woodland paths which seem to divide and go on for ever – and there's a new and even stranger sculpture round every corner. Do go! Open 10am to 5pm every day. Their website doesn't do them justice.You could spend a good half day there for your money, and then there's the Pride of the Valley opposite to give you refreshment.

You follow the metal arrows – four colours for four trails

It starts with a scary one
by the Reception cabin

They use their lakes and streams
to good effect

This one bolted!

Monsters lurk by the stream!

Something more exotic too;
shades of Bond girls.

A light-weight elephant

and a heavy-weight lion

Damsel of the orient

and an Egyptian line-up.

Never get between a hippopotamus
and the water!

Which game did these two escape from?

2nd August 2010

Did a couple of interesting walks over the week – first with my grandson Ben to the 'Atlantic Wall' on Hankley Common – and second with Dil and friends to 'The Pub With No Name' (actually the White Horse!) near Priors Dean.

The information plaque on the 'Atlantic Wall'

Steel reinforcing in the foreground;
the 'Atlantic Wall' in the background

Showing the way towards Froxfi[eld] on the way to the Pub With No Name

… and the final approach to the pub through a field of rape!!

26th July 2010

It was the annual Rustic Sunday at the Rural Life Museum in Tilford yesterday. I had an outdoor stall, the weather was kind and so were the purchasers of books. I was outside the wooden chapel and next to the jazz band. I also had the shire horses stopping opposite as they gave rides through the day.

Each stallholder has to bring a 'craft' – mine is papermaking. Unfortunately this gets your hands wet, which doesn't go well with then handling books for sale! Never mind, all was well on the day.

My stall …

…and the horses and cart.

The two days before saw performances of our 'War to War' music hall at Headley Theatre Club, which was a great success. Next week we'll be into auditions for 'Are You Being Served' – no peace for the wicked!

19th July 2010

On my hobby horse about electronic publishing again. If you're in doubt about where it's going, read this from the LA Times.

I'd love to convert some of my existing local history books into 'living' eBooks like the ones mentioned in the article, but frankly I don't know how, or where to begin and where to end. The two problems, as ever, are contents and delivery, and of those the main sticking point is delivery.

Once you've gone to the trouble of adding links, images and perhaps even sound clips to your book, how the heck do you distribute it as an eBook?

As far as I can tell, all these Kindles and iPads can access eBooks only from certain sources, and those sources are well controlled by 'publishers'. In other words your book has to be accepted by them, they take their cut on the sale, and the concept of 'self-publishing' doesn't really exist yet in the eBook world.

Dear friends, if you know differently, do let me know.

12th July 2010

I'm having to troll up to the allotment early each morning during this dry spell to water the plants we've invested in – but ironically for the past two days I've encountered drizzle in the air while I've been doing it. It's all a con. By midday the sun will be blazing down again. So far it has been the 'barbecue summer' they promised us last year – we were at another one yesterday – and of course we're starting to get the complaints of it's too hot, too dry, etc.

5th July 2010

The hot spell continues, and we enjoyed it in Suffolk this weekend, at the wedding of my niece at Butley Priory … a good time was had by all.

Outside my sister Di's allotment, this year's themed scarecrow points the way to the wedding!

At the event, the theme was black & white

And for some reason David chose to MC the family quiz dressed as a squid!!

Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, a plaque was being unveiled to Flora Thompson in Fringford, which was her 'Candleford Green'. See details.

28th June 2010

At the Hairy Tongue folk club tonight, in the garden of the Holly Bush pub, I gave them a rendition of my News of the Week (to be sung to the well-known tune of "tooralai tooralai tooralai ay"). This of course included such gems as: the longest tennis match ever, the sacking of the American General with the unlikely name of McChrystal, and the early exit of England from the World Cup – the only similarity with 1966 being that it was a West Ham player who scored the only English goal!

21st June 2010

It's a lovely warm summer solstice today! Shouldn't be a surprise I suppose, but my recollection is that most years the day is usually dreary and dull (weatherwise, that is).

14th June 2010

We went up to Ronnie Scott's in London on Wednesday to see Kyle Eastwood (that's Clint Eastwood's son) and his band. He's a bass player of some talent and made me feel like I should commit mine to the bin. But we thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and I will persist in playing!

On Sunday we organised a walking treasure hunt from our house for members of Headley Theatre Club. The weather was kind and the 15 adults and 4 children all enjoyed it – or at least they're not telling me if they didn't.

PS. The beard has gone! It vanished suddenly at 7am on Sunday morning after I could no longer stand the feeling of having a brillo pad on my face. Dil took a last lingering shot of me (left) before the dreadful deed was done – and then after I'd cut it off she told me that she'd preferred me with it on!! Hey-ho – it will probably be back for the August play (see below).

7th June 2010

Those of you who had a good look at the photos from last week's show will see that yours truly grew a beard for the occasion. The question now, dear friends, is – to chop or not to chop? [see above for answer!]

Opinion (other than my own!) seems to fall generally in favour of keeping it – and since I'll need it again when I play Sir Robert Hunter on Hindhead Common at the end of August, I'll probably leave it for the time being at least. After that … we shall see.

31st May 2010

If you want to know what I was doing this weekend, see here!

24th May 2010

Seasoned readers will realise that we've been away for the week (ie. there was no entry last Monday) – we were with friends on the Oxford Canal, and we had some beautiful weather.

Cap'n Smith at the helm …

… of the good ship Marseilles
– both in the countryside …

… and in the town, in this case Banbury.

Coming out of a lock and 'gunning' for the next bridge!

The girls put their backs into working the locks.

The wildlife keeps a watchful eye on it all.

Under bridges of various types – this is a 'roving' bridge where the horse's tow-rope would fit through a gap in the ironwork, now closed off.

This is a lift bridge – thankfully most, though not all, were left open.

This is an ordinary canal bridge reflected in calm morning sunshine – at Aynho Wharf, which is the nearest canal point to Flora Thompson's Lark Rise.

Every bridge is numbered, and some renumbered.

Bits of cut hedgerow lodged in lockgates continue to sprout!

Sometimes the canal is filled with strange life-forms!!

We moored by the old limestone quarry at Kirtlington which has been converted into a leisure area with interesting walks – make your own limestone picture!

The street where you live?
In Cropredy, famous for its annual Festival founded by Fairport Convention. This year Status Quo start the proceedings.

All went well until Dil fell off the boat in this charming location on the last full day of the holiday. Fortunately nothing worse than a cut leg, but it gave us a shock at the time.

10th May 2010

On Thursday we did our democratic duty (see picture right) and held the Headley Theatre Club AGM in the local scout hut.

I have to report that there were no queues to get in the door, and in fact we needed no vote as the existing committee was returned unanimously.

Meanwhile, just down the road another election was happening which, as I write on Monday morning, still hasn't been resolved!

PS. It was 35 years ago today that BOPS went live at the Merton Branch of Wiggins Teape. There may even be some readers here who know what I'm talking about! If so, do get in touch.

3rd May 2010

Proper Bank Holiday weather – cold wind with rain showers, but we visited an open-air museum and had a barbecue anyway – it's what makes us British!

26th April 2010

On Saturday we held an Elizabethan Banquet with entertainment in the village hall to celebrate St George and Shakespeare. I'll post some pics when I get them!

19th April 2010

We're back from a fortnight in Corsica, and there are stories to be told!
We went there for Steve & Angelique's wedding in the little hill village of Pruno just south of Bastia.

Intrepid travellers arriving in Nice have a meal before taking the afternoon ferry to Bastia

On our first day in Corsica (Easter Monday) we had a picnic on the beach
– bring your own seat!

This is Pruno where the wedding was to happen – driving the road to get there was interesting to say the least.

Before the wedding we had to replace the old church window with one Made in England.

The window is out …

Health & Safety – what's that?

First section of the new window going up.

Making the top section on site, now we know the size required!

Finally the new window is in place …

… so now we can get on with the wedding!

By Corsican custom, it seems, the bride fires a couple of rounds of live ammunition into the air after the ceremony!

After the wedding, Dil and I and our friend Sarah took a break in Calvi.…

This is Calvi from the beach near where we rented an apartment.

Sarah with a 'friend' in Calvi…

That man gets everywhere!

And this one got a long way too!!

Sarah on a 'dare' – look no barrier!

One of the hollow rocks common in the area.

This bike wasn't going anywhere …

…but this one was up in the air!

By the beach, beware of le train.

And here is 'le train' – but it wasn't operating while we were there.

The French Foreign Legion are here – but give warning to the local population in English – I suppose because they're foreign!

They're a parachute regiment …and here they are just dropping in!

Clearing up the market in Calvi – don't forget to take us monsieur!

Someone else was laughing though.

We saw what we thought were flashing manhole covers in the pavement – till we found they rose to become traffic bollards.

Jo heads for a hole in the wall hoping it's a loo – it was!

We visited L'Ile-Rousse, which we liked very much. Worth a longer visit next time.

Flowers tumble down to a clear blue sea.

And the lizards were friendly too!

A rare sight in Corsica!!

A colourful visitor to Bastia port. Our ferry to Nice was a less exotic yellow-painted job.

Bastia from the deck of our ferry as we left. We nearly caught the wrong boat which would have taken us to Italy!

Dil and our luggage after the overnight train from Nice to Paris. Nearly home.

But our thoughts were still of views like this. Will we go back? Maybe.

29th March 2010

The launch of Apple's iPad in the USA is imminent – watch this space (among others) for news of how it goes and what it means. I'm interested to know how independant self-publishers can sell their wares on them.

The saga of the Epson projector continues. The supplier finally admitted that the EB-W7 is not the true replacement for the EB-W6 – apparently we need the EB-W8 if we want to operate without a computer attached. So they are prepared to make the swap and I wait for the EB-W7 to be picked up by courier today. Meanwhile I've made contingency arrangements to use someone else's machine if my replacement hasn't arrived by Thursday, when I'm due to make a presentation. [It did]

Up to now I've resisted using a projector for my talks – I always think the best talks are just that, a talk which is a memorable performance by the speaker – and I too often watch PowerPoint presentations where the speaker simple repeats the words you can read on the screen. Boring!! Also I find that dimming the lights tends to put the audience to sleep, particularly if it's just after lunch. However, I have two talks in my armoury which really do need the audience to see images in order to be effective. I only hope I can do a more stimulating job of speaking over them.

I apologise in advance – I will not be reporting for the next two weeks – I'll make up for it when I get back!

22nd March 2010

The new laser printer arrived and works – and because it's the same model as the old one we can re-use the toner cartridges in it, which are probably more valuable than the printer itself!

The broken printer was 5 years old, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Epson still sold the same model. Not so with projectors. I wanted to buy one (EB-W6) which was advertised as not needing a computer attached when you give presentations – it was all supposed to run from images stored on a memory stick. Great idea. Only when I went on-line to buy, I was told it had already been superceded. So I took delivery of the replacement model (EB-W7) only to find that there was no A-type USB port to stick said memory stick into. On enquiring, I was told that Epson had now standardised on B-type USB ports, so I'd need an adaptor (not supplied). I've now ordered one of those for the princely sum of £2.97 and hope it will do the trick, but I'm not 'appy.

This weekend was spent sitting amid a whirl of wedding preparations. Dil's son is getting married in Corsica so we'll soon be off to the sunshine – we hope. We've decided to go by train under the tunnel via Lille to Nice, and from there by ferry to Bastia. Has anyone out there done the journey before and can give us travel hints?

15th March 2010

It was a nice sunshiny day yesterday, so what did we do? Went to the cinema in Guildford! I also bought myself a cream linen suit in M&S – smart or what?

Today we had a quick stroll over part of Ludshott Common thinking Spring had sprung at last – but although not gloves weather it still seems to be woolly jumper weather. Let's hope things warm up (weatherwise at least) this week.

Last week my laser printer had a paper jam – nothing new there, except that this time it wouldn't start again after I'd cleared it – kept saying one of the covers wasn't closed although they all seemed as closed as they could be. I found an Epson dealer quite close to me in Bordon, heaved the printer into the car and took it over for them to look at. No joy! They could only suggest that I bought another on e-Bay and transferred the cartridges to it!! Dil played around on the web and discovered Amazon selling them as cheaply as anyone (only £150 for a colour laser printer these days – incredible – no wonder nobody bothers to mend them) so now we wait for delivery. Meanwhile we're learning to live without printing, which is probably good for the soul once in a while. Rather like fasting for Lent!

8th March 2010

Spring seems a long time coming (where were all the daffodils for St David's Day?) and I feel sort of hunkered-down waiting for the air to warm up so I can go outside without my extremities going numb. Having said that, we did do a 6-mile walk yesterday on a bright sunshiney day, but it was still definitely a day for gloves.

Last week I did a 3-hour course on basic First Aid – so now I can put you in the recovery position but I'm not yet qualified to resuscitate you – sorry. Strange to think that this is the first First Aid course I've ever been on, at my advanced age. I remember doing triangular bandages in the Scouts, but that was about it. It's all to do with being a walk leader for the 'Walking for Health' scheme. I had to laugh when they said to make sure your mobile phone could get reception on the walk you were about to do – we'd have to have about three phones on different networks to do that around here!

This week we start rehearsals for Dick Barton, Special Agent. I'm a baddy (which is good!) and apart from the spoken lines I have to sing along to Nessun Dorma and Hall of the Mountain King. We perform at the end of May. Come watch if you dare!

1st March 2010

Seven of us were involved as film extras at Cowdray House in Midhurst over the weekend on Saturday. Have a look here to see how we got on.

It was a long and somewhat chilly day, but thankfully the forecast rain stayed away. The filming company was expecting more people to turn up, so we had to be shot from different angles and in different positions to make it look like there was a bigger crowd on the final film. They're hoping to put it into the Cannes Film Festival, so we may be famous one day!

22nd February 2010

I'm due to give an unscheduled talk to the Headley Society in April because the scheduled speaker has had to pull out; I was called on Tuesday and asked to give a talk on Wednesday evening in Alresford for the same reason; and the next day I was phoned by another organisation whose speaker was indisposed. I seem to be becoming known for being available at short notice!

This is all very nice, but it's playing havoc with by book ordering. I'm now running short of books on three different subjects as I hadn't expected to be selling them in great numbers at this time of year. 'Print on Demand' is all very well if you can forecast the demand.

Other than that, it was a quiet week. Work on the Headley Report has progressed, and apart from a bit of tidying up we should be on target to get it to the printers by the end of this week.

15th February 2010

To Kent this weekend for the second time running. This time to Herne Bay where we indulged in performing a Murder Mystery among friends. It turned out that I was the murderer!

Valentine's Day lunch at the Duck in Pett's Bottom. No duck on the menu, but one of our number braved the pheasant with chocolate sauce.

Today (Monday) I'm supposed to have this year's Headley Report typeset and ready for inspection. It probably won't be, as we haven't had all the copy in yet.

8th February 2010

We spent the weekend in a National Trust cottage at Ightham Mote near Sevenoaks with Jill & Louis, and enjoyed it despite the occasional flurries of snow!

Is this the house that Jack built?
It's Laundry Cottage where we stayed.

Our secret door into the main grounds of Ightham Mote

The mote itself …

Jill takes possession of the property!
(It was closed)

Louis and Jo went walking in Knole Park
and found the fallow deer …

… which were almost too friendly

1st February 2010

So, the Apple iPad was released last week. I've been going on for a long time about electronic book readers (see here) so is this it at last?

Well, not yet but it's a start. It's a bit big to put in your pocket, so I think it will have to fold or be flexible enough roll up eventually. Also it doesn't use 'electronic ink' which displays a page without using any power until the page changes, so its battery life will be limited. But on the other hand it displays in colour, which electronic ink doesn't yet.

But assuming it takes off, authors and self-publishers will have to think their way through the thorny question of: how will electronic books differ from paper books.

For a start there needs to be agreement on a standard for the digital file structure. Even paper books are already 'digital' if they have been created from a computer, but their format isn't really suitable for experiencing the full potential of electronic book readers such as the iPad. So we need to create new file formats, and we need to have the tools for doing this easily.

Second, having created the file we need to understand how we can sell it to the public. The public will be downloading from electronic libraries, but how do we self-publishers get our works included on them?

Lastly (but actually to be considered first in a way) – what sort of books should we now write to benefit from the features which electronic readers give?

I'll give you an example. The gadget can know where you are (by GPS) and what time of day it is – so if, for example, you're reading a travel guide it can tell you what you can see from where you are standing, and whether the nearest pub is open! Writers of travel guides (and in my case walks books) need to think this through. Imagine producing an interactive guide to walking the South Downs Way.

Soon – but not yet, dear lord, not yet!

25th January 2010

It really doesn't seem like only a month since Christmas. Since then we've been snowed in for a week and done a whole pantomime. Now life is returning to what I'm told goes for normal! More next week.

18th January 2010

We got an audience of 20 for the first night of the pantomime on Friday – not brilliant, but far more than we'd dare hope for when we were snowed in a few days previously. And they were enthusiastic, which was just as well because it was the first time we'd managed to get all the cast together – more like a dress rehearsal really. Over the weekend we gave two further performances on the Saturday and the cast became more confident – let's hope not too overconfident for next weekend's shows.

On the right is a rather unfocused picture of me in the band. I'll try to focus better next week!

11th January 2010

There's really only one topic uppermost in our minds, and that's the weather! The snow started to come down on Tuesday evening just as we were about to go out – so we stayed in then, and the cars have stayed snow-bound in our drive ever since.

Fortunately we can walk to local shops, and to the local pubs (which have been doing a roaring trade), and we had no burning commitments to get out other than to pantomime rehearsals. These were cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday anyway as not enough cast could make it, but those who could walked down to the Village Hall on Thursday to carry on painting scenery, and yesterday we ran a full rehearsal which all but a handful of the cast managed to attend.

As I write, our cars are still snow-bound and the forecast doesn't seem to give much prospect of a quick release. Our first night for the panto is on Friday – we just hope we can get an audience as well as a cast! [We did, both]

Now you know why they recommend outside doors to open inwards!

A foot of snow on the patio

And the car wasn't going anywhere!

So we set out manfully (and womanfully) to the local shops …

… which are thankfully within walking distance

… and noting the new sculptures on the way

Meanwhile, and on a totally different subject, old readers will know of my interest in the future of electronic books. I've always maintained that these won't catch on until a sensible apparatus is available to read them with. The current stuff (Kindle, etc) don't cut it as far as I'm concerned – but watch out for what Apple are coming out with their iTablet. And also this article and video gives an interesting insight as to what's likely to be on offer in the near future.

4th January 2010

We didn't just have one Christmas, we had at least three by the time all the various groups had met at various locations and various times. It's a way to spin out the pleasure. Finally, Dil and I had a day to ourselves on the Tuesday and opened the presents from people who we hadn't visited.

Now on the 10th day of Christmas (isn't it? – see here) we're waiting for the Lords a-leaping to arrive. Tomorrow the decorations come down for another year.

Continued …

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