Twenty-five years on. Our silver wedding anniversary

With apologies to followers of my “Eighty years on” blog posts.

Twenty-five years ago we got married on the cheap. Our honeymoon was a single night in the Castle Inn in what hd been voted “Britain’s Prettiest Village”: Castle Combe in Wiltshire. It was only about 50 miles from home, but was enough.

When we reached the prettiest village we opened the doors of the (borrowed from a colleague) Mercedes and proceeded to chase up and down the street, in and out of gardens, the escaped balloons with which our so-called “friends” had filled the car.

Arriving at our room we found that not only was a (pre-ordered) bottle of champagne waiting in the ice bucket, but the luxurious bathroom was well supplied with rubber ducks in addition to the normal expectations.

Next morning we got up early and were first to arrive for breakfast. It proved to be somewhat of a challenge after the previous day’s celebrations and the evening champagne:

We chose the “full English” breakfast (i.e. fried food). Question 1. “How would you like your eggs; fried, poached or scrambled?” Question 2. “Sausages: pork or beef?” Question 3: “Bacon: smoked or unsmoked, back or streaky?” Question 4: “mushrooms, tomato, beans, black pudding?” Question 4: “Toast? 4a: “Brown or white?” 4b: “Wholemeal, granary or plain?” Question 5. “Butter or spread with the toast?” Question 6: “Marmalade or jam?” I avoided the expected 6a “What flavour jam?” by selecting marmalade.

Then we got into stage two. “Tea or coffee?” I foolishly chose tea. You can guess where we went from there…

I may have temporarily confused our waiter by asking for un-grilled tomato, which was not on the (unwritten) selection list, but in the end he won the eight o’clock guest challenge. But I have played adventure games with fewer choices at each node.

After breakfast we drove back home, where we had left about a dozen people occupying what was now “our” home. Arriving home we realised that I had forgotten to tell anyone that my old pop-up toaster no longer popped, and thus we found the lawn covered in burnt bread “for the birds”. And nobody had bought us the almost obligatory toaster as a wedding gift.

As an aside to the wedding story, I was privileged to announce that my bride’s supporter for the day had discovered that she was expecting a baby, and we later found that another baby had been conceived in the house while we were away. Someone clearly had more energy that night than we had ourselves!

Fast forward 25 years. I booked a couple of nights at the same hotel that we had stayed in back in 1994. Once again we arrived in the dark. We unloaded the bags and I set off for the car park in the now partnership hotel a few hundred yards away. Returning to the hotel Chrissy and the bags had vanished. A helpful young man guided me to our room. I began to wish that I had brought a bag of breadcrumbs for a trail to find my way back! And here is the route from the bar/reception area to our room…

We were back to the adventure game mode!

I had booked the room with the “romantic” four-poster bed, but Chrissy told me that we had been given a complimentary upgrade. This room had a bed nine feet wide! I quickly browsed Google Earth to find the best route to my wife’s side of the bed. We later found that the disadvantage was that the duvet was only eight feet wide, so we could spend a couple of nights (as usual) in silent argument about territorial boundaries.

Anyway, despite the restaurant being fully booked, they had found us a table, a mere 30 minutes before the kitchen closed. We obliged and had a single-course meal, which was excellent, if mine was somewhat less filling than the menu suggested.

Next morning we went for breakfast. No longer the multiple choice examination, but a simple choice of egg preparation. The peripheral breakfast items were well presented, but we think our fried breakfast may have spent too much time under a heat lamp.

With a day to spend and no plan we investigated the local church. Surprisingly interesting, as we discovered the mechanism of the 600-year old clock (still working) and, in one of the stained-glass windows, the arms of the local family Poulet (3 swords, joined at the points, on a black background- and yes, I do know the correct heraldic description), which we recognise as the flag of the Marquess of Winchester’s Regiment of the English Civil War Society. the Marquess of Winchester was named Paulet and owned Basing House in the Englisg Civil War.

Later we set of on a random tour of the area, looking for interesting places. We came close to a monument (too long a story…) in an ancient hill fort with a carved white horse in the hillside. Many years ago we had ridden on horseback around this hill fort and considered, briefly, walking up to it. Then we reconsidered and set off for Avebury.

Avebury is an ancient monument, comprising stone circles. The village of Avebury is largely within the ancient circle. We walked the ring, declined to pay the fee for visiting the manor, museum, etc. during the school holiday/Halloween special attraction period, and bought some Christmas paraphernalia in the National Trust shop.

Moving on we discovered the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Regiment) museum at MOD Lyneham. Surprisingly Chrissy said it might be interesting. For me it was. I have some new ideas for converted 6mm models for WW2. She beat me on most of the children’s interactive games, including a complex modern vehicle recovery situation involving, a surround video, two joysticks and a soundtrack of shouty oeople.

Returning to the hotel we found that Moonpig had delivered the flowers and the hotel staff had placed them in our room as requested, but also taken the initiative of placing them in a kilner jar. I was amazed to find that the “multi-coloured roses” included some roses with multicolours on a single stem.

Apparently the process to produce these flowers is secret.

We went to the restaurant for dinner and were greeted with two glasses of complimentary champagne. The waiter appeared a little nonplussed as I had previously advised that I avoid alcohol. I was granted a dispensation for one glass. The hotel staff had taken the trouble to acquire my non-alcoholic alternative for the rest of the meal.

Dinner was far more tasty and exquisitely presented than the menu suggested. Although expensive I think it represented value for money. Our second morning’s breakfast proved to be equal to the previous night’s dinner. The muffin, smoked salmon and poached egg with hollandaise sauce was to die for!

After breakfast we checked out and took another walking tour of the village. This is a favourite “English village” for film directors, having been used for, amongst others: “Dr. Doolitle” the “Poirot” TV Series and Spielberg’s “War Horse”. Local regulations prohibit street lighting and visible TV aerials and satellite dishes.

Castle Combe. England as she used to was.

And so that was our mini-break. Sorry to be a bore, but some folks may glean something useful for their own holiday from my ramblings.

From little acorns…


A few weeks ago the Memsahib received a fairly large Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) compensatory refund. At the same time her PC began to “play up”. She decided to use the windfall to buy a new laptop computer. After much searching she found one, costing at least a couple of hundred pounds more than the incoming funds. Everyone agrees that it has far more capacity and processing power than she will ever need, but I am sure that Microsoft et al will soon find a way of using it all up!

“Before setting this up, I think the office needs a good clean and a lick of paint”, she said. Uh-oh. Well, it has been twenty years since the last redecoration.
“So we will need to clear it out and re-organise.” Uh-oh.

My turn. “Before we redecorate, why don’t we get more electric sockets installed”, says I. Our needs have grown since we adopted the smallest bedroom as an office when moving in in about 1997. On examination we are currently running a 4-socket extension, which is run from a 6-socket extension, which, together with an 8-socket extension is run from a 4-socket extension, which, together with a halogen uplighter with 2 sockets, is run from the single wall socket (with a residual current breaker fitted). Altogether plugged in, but not all active, we had 3 computers, 3 printers, the light, 2 desk lights, 2 storage drives, 2 USB powered hubs, the BT telephone and wi-fi connection, the wi-fi router, the burglar alarm, a label printer and various phone charging adaptors.

Now, from out of the blue, comes the idea that we need to replace both desks and review the wall-mounted shelving. My old desk will move to the shed (which will therefore need a complete reorganisation) as an extra workbench. Her desk (essentially a large table) will replace the table in the back end of our living room as my indoor hobby table.

And so, absolutely everything has to be moved out. Shelves are cleared. Filing cabinets purged and emptied into Really Useful Boxes. How come the contents of the smallest “bedroom” now fill every inch of spare space in the two next biggest rooms?
My desk is broken down for removal. Holes in the wall are being filled….

Things ain’t like they used to was.

I am very disappointed with the quality of products nowadays. The latest to land on my disapproval list is Swan Vestas matches.

Apart from reducing the sandpaper from both sides of the box to one only, the company has also developed a detachable match head that flies off in preference to actually catching fire.

After trying to light my pipe this evening, here are the remnants of the vestas.

The pipe is still not lit.  I will try again with cooks’ matches.

Meanwhile I have five new pieces of 1/300 scale timber. 🙂

And, by the way, nostalgia isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

Banks!!

Today I was notified that a mobile telephone company had previously taken, and is planning to take, payments from my account for a telephone that has been destroyed, the account closed, and for which all direct debit authorities have been cancelled.  I have today again cancelled the direct debit authority using my bank’s online facility, just as I did before.

My bank informs me that I can cancel the direct debit authority, but the payee may revoke the cancellation and take the money in any case.  That is not how I understood the agreement with my bank and I am disputing it.

The agreement was for a flat fee of £5.00 per month, including a set level of calls.  The telephone was destroyed some months ago, so why did they take without authority £9.88 last month and intend to take £5.19 next month?

Quotes

“Direct Debit is the safest way to make payments in the UK. The Direct Debit Guarantee gives you a right to immediate refunds for any payments which shouldn’t have been taken.” (Gocardless.co.uk)

“Money shouldn’t be collected from your account after you have cancelled and under the Scheme rules, an organisation would have to obtain your authority to reinstate a cancelled Instruction.” (www.directdebit.co.uk/DirectDebitExplained)

“Yes you cancel it anytime , we never will stop you for that, but the signed agreement is with virgin , you can control standing orders but direct debits are all governed by the companies with whom you have the set up.” (HSBC chatline 30/10/2018)

So, I assume that Virgin Media is simply ignoring the agreement and making up its own numbers each month, and that HSBC cannot be bothered to dispute the fact that I said “No more.”

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Since posting I have spent over an hour failing to create a user account on the Virgin Mobile website so that I can register a formal complaint.

 

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ACORN

ACORN – A Comment On Random Nomenclature.

In recent news it appears that the MOD (Ministry of Defence) uses far too many acronyms.  In fact many are not acronyms, as in ACORN, but initialisms.  They seem to be designed to include “those who know” and exclude “those who can only guess”.

Some years ago, at a business seminar, the assembled middle management was requested to write on “post-it” notes what was wrong with the company.  These were stuck on the wall and chosen at random for discussion*.

One of mine was selected.  “Too many TLAs”  The obvious first question – “What’s a TLA?”.  “A Three Letter Abbreviation.”  Point proven.

It does appear that frequently projects and departments are named specifically to provide an acronym from their name.

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* A second note that I submitted: “Nobody told me that we had a communication problem” was also discussed.

Anachronisms and organisation

Someone on Channel 5’s “Great British Model Railway Challenge” first episode commented that in the recent film “Dunkirk”, the characters boarded a 1960s train.

Sorry, but that film began to lose me within the first two minutes when our hero walked past an obviously late 20th century building. I think the producers or directors may have been too caught up in the actual location to seek a realistic location.

And today, while clearing up and meticulously filing (yes – I am getting organised) models from my most recent wargame I have “The Cockleshell Heroes” on the TV in the background. A gratuitous and unnecessary* side shot of a German warship clearly bearing a British frigate reference number. Showing the crew wearing German hats a few moments later does not rectify the glaring error.

But while organising my 1:285 and 1:300 scale models I see that I have far too many 1940 Germans representing 1944 types – exactly like most film costume designers.
And I have created Arnhem with British church ruins and Normandy shops. Who am I to criticise?

Incidentally, during a TV advertisement break in the film I was informed that Colgate toothpaste is created by professionals. Well, that’s another worry resolved!

*Gratuitous and unnecessary. Is that tautology? I stand open to correction from fellow pedants.