Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dither of the Day - 7 October 2008

A View from the Bridge (Fatfield Bridge)

Well, it’s the first day I've got out of bed before lunchtime since Saturday! Been in bed for most of the past 3 days due to some kind of bug. Thought it was just a cold that was getting better but it turned into something else plus a severe face-ache, headache and feeling sick.

I'm feeling lots better so I ponder to myself, once I've dropped the kiddiwinks off at school and nursery, whether to:

1. Go straight back home to immerse myself in clearing up the devastation of the past 3 days in bed (husband has just ignored it).
2. Enjoy the fact it’s a glorious day, have a bit of a wander and take some nice photos in my 2 hours of freedom before I pick up my granddaughter from nursery.

Dither, dither, dither. On the one hand the house would be there when I wasn’t as my Mam used to say. So why not go and enjoy what might be the last brill’ day before winter really sets in. On the other hand, the house was a real tip, or to quote my Mam again “like Stageybank Fair”, (not that I ever knew where that was but I gather it must have been a real hole).

Well after a traumatic hour breakfasting and getting 2 grandchildren ready, by the time I dropped them off at school and nursery, the choice wasn’t a hard one to make. The fresh air won out.

In theory I should have left the car at home, but it’s quite a bank to walk up on the way back and not feeling particularly perky, I gave in and took the car.

I often think the place we live in isn’t particularly pretty. The town centre is an awful ‘sixties concrete design typical of UK New Towns. Like most towns we complain that the council doesn’t do enough to improve the environment and some of the residents don’t help. We get our fair share of idiots dumping supermarket trolleys, despite all the schemes they put in place to stop it.

However one of the places I really like to walk down to is the Riverside. It’s changed a lot over the years but it’s a fairly pretty place now with some nice views and although there’s not a lot there, it’s quite a nice place for a walk or to go to eat. So once I dropped the little ones off, I went.down to the Riverside.

I start from Fatfield Bridge looking towards Penshaw Monument. That's the view in the first picture at the top, You can just see the Monument, way off in the distance. My husband says when he's travelling and sees the Monument he knows he's home. Funny that because he was born in Northumberland, but he thinks Washington is home now we've lived here so long.

There's a street running along the north side of the river I have always liked. Wouldn't mind living there apart from the worry of flooding. My worry really, I don't think there have been any floods since we've lived in Washington, that's 38 years now.

I was just thinking about that when I noticed this Environmental Agency River Recorder box. Now I've walked down that street a few times but I've never noticed it before. Nice to know they're keeping an eye on things. Wonder if it's automatic or whether someone has to come out to measure it on the board. Maybe one of the residents does it.

Along the street outside one house, there's a nice little touch even though it's not real. It's an imitation George V1 postbox. Shame it's a modern house though.

Turning back and looking up the river the view is just as pretty, such a clear sunny day. To be honest it's much better than most of the summer days we had. Wonder how many of these we'll have left.

As you walk along the bank you pass the first pub, the Biddick. Not as nice as in spring when the place is full of cherry blossom, but still a pretty picture.

The last roses of summer are showing their faces too on the riverbank.

Next there's the little war memorial. One of the smallest but nicest I've seen. Soon be covered in poppy wreaths.Just next to it is a lovely little sunny seat, but it's empty today.

Next is the Italian restaurant and bar. Had a few nice meals in the restaurant as it's very child friendly and reasonably priced. Note the parasols and patio heaters, rain and cold doesn't stop the party! Also needed by the smokers now in the smoke free pubs and restaurants.
I hadn't noticed before but there's a plaque on the wall above the fascia which you can hardly read as they painted over it. Apparently this building was the Fatfield Branch of the Chester- le-street Co-operative/Industrial Society in 1909. Glad they left a few of the old buildings. Amazing what you see when you stand and stare instead of just walking by as I usually do. Felt like a tourist!

Just opposite on the south side is another street overlooking the river. Hard to believe that this whole area was a thriving village. Now it's just a couple of streets and a few pubs. All to make way for the Sir James Steele Park when the New Town was developed.

Next is the Havelock, another watering hole on sunny days. Mmm it's certainly a pink pub. It gets quite lively here at night and on fine sunny summer days. About as rare as a £5 note in a bank!

Well, I've enjoyed the walk, now it's time to go home and face the midden that's posing as my home!

Am I the Only One Who Can’t Take House Seriously?

Come on now, please tell me. There must be somebody else out there who looks at Hugh Laurie as he's barracking his medical colleagues and says the immortal words of John McEnroe:

“You can’t be serious man!”

How on earth did they think we could take him seriously? Well maybe they thought because it was set in America and he had a different accent we wouldn’t recognise him. Not a chance!

Could you ever forget seeing him prancing about as mad King George in Blackadder the Third? Not a cat in hell’s chance! King George .

Or what about the simpleton Lieutenant George’s drag act in Blackadder Goes Forth? Lieutenant George Well, maybe they thought we had short memories. Think again.

Then there was the slapstick and musical parodies in A Bit of Fry and Laurie They were just brilliant.

My favourite was Jeeves and Wooster where he played Bertie Wooster “the witless socialite”. Sheer bliss. Jeeves and Wooster

Now Stephen Fry's another story. Whilst his characters have been just as hilarious and anarchic somehow the character choices he’s made since then have been more believable. Take Kingdom for example. He’s absolutely believable as the lawyer whose good nature is sorely tried by his siblings and work colleagues. No problem. Kingdom

So what’s the problem with House then? Well I don’t think it’s Hugh Laurie to blame, well not really. Maybe I just can’t believe in the character. Yes, that’s the problem! House just isn't real. Never mind he got a £2 million Los Angeles mansion out of it so no problems there.

I haven't used any of the photos from the BBC or ITV's websites. I wouldn't dare, they're hot on copyright!so if you want to see for yourself I've put in the links BBC Comedy ITV Comedy Classics

To end with, if anyone remembers the Blackadder TV series each episode ended with a song, every episode had different lyrics. The words to one episode in series 2 seem very apt at the moment with the financial crisis some banks have led us into. They’re a little bit naughty but…..

“Take heed the moral of this tale,
Be not a borrower or lender,
And if your finances do fail,
Make sure your banker's not a bender.

Blackadder, Blackadder,
He trusted in the Church,
Blackadder, Blackadder,
It left him in the lurch.

Blackadder, Blackadder,
His life was almost done.
Blackadder, Blackadder,
Who gives a toss? No-one!”

Friday, 3 October 2008

Think I Need a Good Laugh!

I've been counting how long it is to our summer holidays. Saddo aren't I. It's just we've had no summer this year and gone straight to what feels like winter not autumn.

I need a good laugh and there hasn't been any good comedy on TV recently so I think it's time I read the David Niven autobiographies again. Each time I read them I laugh for ages at the antics he and his friends got up to. He was such a good writer.

Another author who makes me laugh is Bill Bryson. Well let's face it, he's got to have a good sense of humour hasn't he, he's chosen to live in England poor soul! They made him Chancellor of Durham University in 2005. Wonder if it was because he was so nice about Durham in Notes From a Small Island?

I remember reading one of his books in Malta's airport when we were standing in a massive long queue waiting to go through passport control. They officials seemed to have taken a very long coffee break. I was trying to keep my laugh in but eventually I started laughing out loud. It's always embarrassing when you do that, you feel such a loony. A German woman further up the queue smiled at me and gave me the thumbs up. Probably wished she had my book.

I have a friend who puts a long letter in with my Christmas card each year and when I read it I start laughing. She's brilliant, all she does it update us on their activities, nothing weird or outlandish, it's just her take on life. It's hilarious. The last one was about how they have bought a caravan to tow and her husband's obsession with buying an awning. She didn't want one as she's seen too many "awning antics" on their travels. Needless to say he got his way and the letter was full of the perils of awnings. I would never have believed anyone could write so humorously about this. She can literally write about anything and make you laugh.

I keep telling her she should write a book but she says she hasn't got time.

We met as mature students doing a degree at Sunderland in the 'eighties and she was great fun. We went on a field trip to what was then Yugoslavia in the Polytechnic's bus. Yes a bus, and we laughed all the way across Holland, Germany, Austria and into Yugoslavia. Our faces and stomachs ached from laughing all day and into the night. I think the young students thought they were travelling with a bunch of escapees from a lunatic asylum. We meet up on occasions and we always talk about the daft things that happened on that trip.

On the way across Germany we stayed at a strange hotel. Quite an ugly sixties concrete type of thing. The World Cup was on and I got fed up with watching it so I went to bed and missed all the fun. My friend stayed up chatting to some of the students at the bar. She had drunk quite a bit and was being chatted up by one of the male students on one side and on the other side of her was what she thought was a woman wearing a lot of make up. Suffice to say it was the "woman" who was eventually doing the chatting up and other things which I won't go into here. However my friend says due to the alcoholic haze she took ages to cotton on to it. The evils of drink!

My friend is convinced we were staying in a house of ill repute and it was full of transvestites and prostitutes. I have to say the women did look a very rough bunch the next morning at breakfast, I hadn't noticed that the night before.

Another time they decided to take us to view the fjord where The Vikings was filmed. Well it was supposed to be a geography trip after all. All went well until the driver, a German ex prisoner of war who never returned to Germany after the war (and that's another story), navigated the bus down a narrow road. He drove us into a campsite, a nudist campsite and couldn't reverse back out of it! The lecturers were shouting at the students and telling them not to laugh but it was hard not to. The funniest thing I saw was three nude men walking along carrying a canoe over their heads. I totally lost it at that point. We never got to see the fjord either!

I keep telling her we ought to get together and write a book about all these things before we forget them altogether.

I feel better already just thinking about that trip! Need to ring her to meet up soon for another laugh.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Eat Your Heart Out Apple, I'm a Windows Media Fan!

Now this is a bit of a saga. So in true Watch with Mother style, "Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin."

The time had finally arrived for me to buy an MP3 thingy to listen to music and other stuff. I had got sick of carting about a compact CD player and multiple CDs, especially on holiday. Last time I used it on holiday it was a pain to have to get up of the sun lounger to take out the CD, put it away and faff about looking for Disk 5 of Michel Thomas’ Larn Yersel’ Spanish.

Now I'd heard all the hype about Apple's great design skills and how they beat the pants off Microsoft stuff. I did a bit of research on various “thingies” and I listened to my daughter and some friends waxing lyrical about the merits of iPods. So off I went to the shops just before the family holiday in May, intent on getting one to reduce the amount of luggage I had to carry. This would be “numero uno” in the MP3 thingy justification stakes to improve my Spanish while I relaxed by a quiet pool in Rhodes.

Had a look at a few and have to say the iPod did look the business, neat and a nice choice of colours. So after about 5 people in the shop had asked me if I needed any help, I finally said yes to one. The chappie recommended the iPod, it had excellent sound reproduction, was very popular, (which I knew already) and very “intuitive”. Well the warning bells should have gone off straight away then. Intuitive my ****. If anyone ever says that again I might just deck them.

Foolish person that I am listened and finally decided on a mid price iPod in a nice shade of blue (I don’t do Barbie pink, yuk!). After all I still had to justify the purchase to my husband Eric, so I didn’t go berserk!

Took the little thingy home and opened it up. What a tiny thing to get for such a big price! The only cost comparison I can make is with my diamond engagement ring and that was forty years ago! Never mind I was going to have a great time listening to all those CDs that had been languishing upstairs for years. Wasn't I? Justification, numero dos!

Next surprise, no instructions. In fact no nothing, just the little "thingy", a usb cable and a little pair of ear plug things. Now I have to admit I’m an instruction manual person. Not for me diving in to assemble an Ikea chest of drawers, producing a wonky bookcase, being left with 5 spare parts, then going back to read the instructions and starting again. I always read the instructions. It’s a woman thing I’m sure.

Must just plug it in to the lap top and it’ll play I thought. Well that’s what you do with a lot of stuff like digital cameras and flash keys. Microsoft stuff! So did that & what came up? A folder full of empty Real Player files. Now here’s where I should have heard those flipping warning bells again. This is where I made a BIG mistake, I should have gone to the Apple site and tried to find out a bit more. However as Real Player had popped up I wrongly assumed that’s what I had to use. Must be something to do with the way the lap top is set up.

Here’s where it started to get really painful. I realised that all my CDs were installed on Windows Media Player. Now I know lots of people don’t like Windows stuff, well that’s up to them. I for one absolutely love Windows Media Player and won’t have a word said against it, it’s so colourful and easy to use.

I realised the files wouldn’t be compatible with the iPod but couldn’t be bothered to go down the file conversion route. Had enough of that with my phone. Now in retrospect, that’s why Real Player probably came up on the lap top. Funny how it all comes back to you when it’s too late!

So off I went loading my CDs again for a few hours. Well I didn't have anything better to do did I? Only packing to go away in 2 days! They all showed up great in iTunes on the lap top and I transferred them over to the iPod without a hitch. Brilliant I thought, let’s get cracking. Only one problem, no music showing up on the iPod. Time to give up and sleep on it I thought, come back to it in the morning. Big problem. How do I switch the rotten little thing off? There are no instructions and it isn't obvious. No off switch. Have to ring my son in law to find out.

Morning came, took all the files off and put them back again. Still no luck and the iPod showed over a gigabyte of space used up, so the files were there, somewhere. Now it was time to go to the Apple site and do what I should have done immediately. Find some online instructions!

Have to say there was a really good video on how to set up your iPod so I watched that. After that, I knew that iTunes apparently should have “popped up” as soon as I connected the iPod to my computer. It didn't though and there was no information on what to do if it doesn’t! Still at least I knew I should be using iTunes and not Real Player. So I had to register with iTunes and guess what? Give my credit card details before I could download it, what a bloomin' pain!

Next I had to reset the iPod back to its original state. The instructions were good on how to do that, thank goodness.

Reloaded all the files again (hours of this) but again I couldn’t face file conversions. Great! So now I have all the files showing up on the lap top and I have to transfer them (which was a doddle on Real Player). Not so with this, nothing happened when I tried it.

So now it’s time to go through the diagnostics tests. Get through all of these apart from the last one which says there is a problem, the iPod isn’t “syncing” with the lap top or vice versa. Gives you a great file to save and print out to give to “someone who might be helping you with this”. I ask you! We don't all have an ICT technician lurking in the cupboard. I thought that diagnostic tests would also help you sort out the problem. Well pardon me but Windows does this, so why can’t Apple?

So I go back to the installation video again. I watch it noticing that you have to manually “sync” with iTunes. Problem sorted!

Now I always believe in feeding back to the company, after all they're not psychic and don't know I hate their stuff with a vengeance do they? Well they do now.

Just a few suggestions about this experience for Mr/Mrs Apple (whoever they are) which I sent them.

1. Get your act together and put a note on the tiny bit of paper in the iPod box to say what should happen when you plug in.

2. Give a url to go to in case it doesn’t start up correctly. Not everyone has bought an iPod before and it certainly isn’t intuitive to me.

3. Do something about the diagnostics tests and help people to sort out their problems.

4. Do something about iTunes! It's RUBBISH! Looks out of the ark. Take a look at Windows Media Player.

5. Do something about the registration process. Why should I have to go through this horrendous registration when all I want is to set up an iPod? Maybe I’m unusual but I don’t want to buy music at the moment. Take my card details when I do.

6. Art work! The process isn’t automatic the way Media Player is. Also why can’t it pick up the correct artwork? I’ve selected the correct version of the CD so why can't it find the correct art work. Hate to say it again but Media Player does this no problem.


Not surprisingly, I wasn't very happy with the iPod. Hopefully that would change

I decided to continue to use Windows Media Player on my lap top, it’s a much simpler process and a better experience. Problem is now I would have to buy a separate hard drive to store the duplicate music!

Well that was in May this year.

Now how do I feel? No better!

The whole experience put me off using the iPod. On holiday I hardly used it but my husband really liked it. Well he hadn't had the trauma had he!

I haven't uploaded any more music until today when I found some CDs I really like.

Give it a go, you've had time to get over the grief I thought. Well I got some more today.

Today the iTunes background screen turned purple for some unknown reason and I could hardly read the text to upload the music.

I hate iTunes with a real passion!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If I ever buy another MP3 thingy it won't be an iPod.

Rant over.

My Singer 338!

Well here it is my very first sewing machine, the one I got for my 21st birthday in 1966! I know it cost my Mam  a lot to buy it for me...