Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Royal Mail

What is it with Royal Mail?

Out of all the companies which provide a service, Royal Mail has got to be at the top of the list for the worst service provided. Not only has their daily postal deliveries become later, but they seem to be becoming less frequent as well. I'm convinced that they miss days altogether. The post didn't arrive till 6.15pm last week - and that was mail which should have arrived at least two days earlier!

It's no better when mail is sent by 'recorded post' either. Sending mail that way means that you pay extra for a faster and safer service. I buy a lot of items and have them delivered and admittedly, a lot of them are delivered (eventually), but over the last couple of years there have been an increasing number of items that have "gone missing" and, without exception, every one of those missing items were sent by recorded post. It seems that by sending an item by recorded post, it just makes the package more attractive to any would-be hijackers.

To make matters worse, the response you get when you complain consists of a couldn't-care-less attitude and a form thrust in to your hands with the comments "put in a claim". But it doesn't end there.

Only recently I tried to put in a claim for an item that had gone missing but the Royal Mail refused to pay out. It was only for £17 but I thought that seeing as Royal Mail had lost it, then they should compensate me for it. All that was in the package were five DVD's which had been in my possession for over ten years but Royal mail refused to pay out any compensation because I didn't have the receipt for the discs. Let's face it, who keeps receipts for ten years? I usually keep receipts for larger items, but even then I only keep them until the warranty has expired.

I'm currently waiting for two more packages to arrive. I purchased five items last week - all on the same day, three of them were sent by standard mail and I received them within a few days, but two of the items were sent by recorded post and they are the ones that I am still waiting to arrive. I got an email on Thursday saying that a package had been dispatched that day and that it was sent by first class recorded mail. I assumed that the item would be with me on Friday or, at the very latest, by Saturday. Wrong! It's now Tuesday and there are still no signs of the packages that I am expecting.

It seems to be the 'norm' these days - that the service that you pay for deteriorates, but you have to pay out more for it. I don't think I'm alone in saying this but, if the postal staff ever decide to go on strike, then I certainly won't be supporting them. I think that the Royal Mail should be privatised - and the sooner the better.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Back to South Africa

I've lived in my new flat for almost two years now (if that's the case then I really should stop calling it "new"), and out of those two years there has only been one neighbour who has been friendly and talkative. She is the only one who will stop and chat when we pass in the street, everyone else just says, "good morning" and hurries on their way. But not this lady. She'll stop and talk when we pass and has often been in my flat and had a coffee with me.

She was round last night and we had our final cuppa together. She has no family in England as all her relatives live in South Africa, she never gets any visitors here and spends most of her time alone so I can see why she wants to return - I think I would have done the same a long time ago if I were in a similar position.

She leaves England tomorrow and heads back to South Africa, back to where her friends and family are. I'm going to miss her. Who am I going to chat with now?

And after all this time, I still don't know her name. (She did tell me once but I was unable to pronounce it. She even wrote it down but it just looked as though she had put the alphabet in a box, shook it up, and wrote down the letters as they fell out).

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Close Families

That was something I wasn't expecting.

I have a brother and four sisters, my brother lives in Canada and I haven't seen him for years and years. The same goes for one of my sisters who lives in Ireland. I have three sisters who all live in the same town as me but I don't get to see them very often - one of them I haven't seen for over ten years. It's been a while since I saw the other two sisters, although not quite as long as ten years. With one of them it's coming up to two years since I saw her, but I saw the other just a few months ago. So imagine how surprised I was when she turned up unannounced yesterday.

It's always nice to see family but I think that the longer it gets between visits, the less chance you've got of having anything resembling a 'close' family. My older sister is a perfect example. Ten years living in the same town but as it stands today, I don't know her address or her phone number, I don't know where she works (or IF she works), I don't know where her children live - although my nieces and nephews are not children any longer, but any kind of contact with them is out of the question.

It's not through lack of trying either, it's just the way things have turned out. There's been no arguments or falling out, but just drifting apart over the years. When one has tried to visit the other there always seemed to be something preventing it so the visit was put off till a later date, but that 'later date' never materialised.

So it was a pleasant surprise when my other sister turned up out of the blue yesterday morning. We spent the morning together talking about things in general and how she spends her days, but she also told me of how she's been out of contact with members of the family too. It's not nice to hear but in a weird sort of way, I was pleased to hear it. I was beginning to think that it was just me, that I was some sort of horrible person that they would rather not associate themselves with.

Perhaps we're not meant to be a 'close' family.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Wasted Days

Three days of doing nothing have just gone by. I've done absolutely nothing over the last three days apart from eat, drink and sleep. The television hasn't been on, the computer hasn't been on, I haven't picked up a book once, nor have I caught up with my letter writing. That's three 'lost' days that I'll never get back. What a waste!

Things picked up a little yesterday though. The other two old codgers called round and we spent the morning putting the world to rights. We had no trips planned for this week but seeing as it was a nice day we took a walk after lunch. We didn't go anywhere special, just a short walk down the road, but while we were out we called into a garage to look at the cars that they had for sale.

They had some nice cars on offer but unfortunately they were all out of my reach. One of the cars on the forecourt that I took a liking to was a used model but even that cost a pretty penny. I haven't had a car for sometime now and I think it would be nice to get back on the road but at £15,000 for a second-hand car, I don't think I'll be driving any time soon.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Customer Service

I know I have a habit of pulling supermarkets to pieces for ripping us off, particularly with their increasing prices for goods that have been reduced in size. I don't think that's going to change any time soon - anyone in their right mind would agree, but it's a totally different story in some other supermarket departments.

I've been trying to get myself some decent trousers for some time now, but I've been trying to get them at a reasonable price seeing as I'm going to have to spend at least another £5.00 on each pair to get them shortened to the right length (thanks to having short, fat, hairy legs). I'd previously bought some on the internet that I thought was a fair price, even allowing for postage. They were my size but when I tried them on they were too tight in the waist. I bought them on eBay and wasn't able to get a refund.

I did the same again a little later - this time it was two for the price of one. Same problem, too tight in the waist, and way too baggy in the legs. Again I was unable to get a refund so now I'm building up a collection of trousers that don't fit - handy for when, or if, I manage to lose a bit of weight, all I'd have to do then is get them turned up.

So I decided to try Tesco Clothing. Their prices are not too expensive and they offer a refund if needed, plus they have a free return service.

I bought myself two pairs of trousers but because of previous problems I though I'd order the next size up just to be safe. They arrived within two days and I tried them on straight away so that I could get into town and have them turned up to the right length. I was getting ahead of myself though. They were far too big and baggy!

I followed the instructions that accompanied the trousers and wrapped them back up for returning to Tesco. I took them down to the Post Office on Saturday morning and sent them back. When I went online on Monday morning there were two emails from Tesco waiting for me. One said that they had received the returned items and the other said that a full refund had been given.

How's that for service?

Maybe I didn't get my new trousers, but there's no way that any complaints could be given about the level of service given. The only problem now is that I'm back to square one. I suppose that I'm going to have to settle for trousers that are too tight at the top and too baggy in the legs (or try a bit harder to lose a bit of weight).

Is this what we have to put up with for getting out of shape, or am I getting too fussy in my old age?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Short Days

I don't like these short days. It's only three o'clock in the afternoon and someone has stole the light! I've just had to close the curtains and put the lights on. The days are far too short for my liking, it seems as though the day is over before it's begun.

This miserable weather doesn't help much either. Although I suppose I shouldn't complain about the weather (even though that's what us Brits are supposed to be good at), I'd rather have it like this than cold and windy. Or even worse - snowing! ...not for me thanks.

I think it's time to have a bit of tea and then settle down in front of the fire. At least, that's what I'd do if I actually had a fire, but seeing as I haven't got one I'll have to settle down in front of the TV instead.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Home Cooking

I really must stop looking at all these blogs about food. There are some excellent blogs out there with even more excellent ideas on food and how to prepare it. But, as a mere male who has never been any good at cooking, no matter how carefully I follow recipes I never seem to get it right. I've come to the conclusion that perhaps I was never meant to be a good cook.

It's so easy to read the instructions on the side of the packet, put some veg into the pressure cooker and knock up a reasonably decent meal, but it's not quite the same as the proper home-cooked meals that I remember. I like good meals, but some of the ingredients mentioned on other sites might just as well be in a foreign language, I've never heard of half of them.

Perhaps it's best if I stick to what I know. At least that way I'm not going to end up eating anything hot and spicy. Ok, where's the eggs... I think a cheese omelette sounds good for tonight.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Never Again

Never again! ....Isn't that something we're supposed to say after a night on the town? Well I didn't have a night on the town - I didn't even have half an hour in my local pub, but I woke up this morning with the worst hangover I've had for a long time. My head is throbbing like crazy, my mouth is as dry as anything, and the room won't stop spinning. I haven't felt like this for a long time - and I didn't even have a drink last night!

I can't even open the curtains. The light is so bright out there even though it's another miserable day. I don't think I'm going to be doing much today, apart from maybe looking for a quieter keyboard, this one that I'm using is so noisy today.

How is it possible to get a hangover like this without having all the fun the previous evening? By rights I should have been out enjoying myself to get what I've got today. It's so unfair! Time to write a strongly worded letter to the Ministry of Hangovers I think. But that can come later - I'm going back to bed for now.

Wake me up when summer comes.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Museum Of Science And Industry

Museum of Science and Industry
We started our day a little earlier than usual and after our pot of tea we set off at around 10.30. It was probably about half an hour's drive and when we arrived in Manchester we went straight to the Museum of Science and Industry.

It's a huge area with exhibitions spread out across five separate buildings. There is no admission fee to the museum and if you can get there without using a car you'll be able to save yourself the £5.00 parking charge.

The 'intelligent pig'
The first building that we went into was the 1830's Warehouse. One of the first exhibits we saw was the Gas Gallery which tells the story of gas supply and how coal was turned into gas. We also saw how gas cookers and heaters have changed over the years and there was a gas hair dryer that had once been in use in a hairdressing salon. Plus I got to meet my first 'intelligent pig' while I was there - a remote controlled device for checking pipelines that brings North Sea gas to land.

A stroll through the sewers
The next exhibit we went to was the story of water and sewerage, which was located in the cellars of the warehouse building. We walked through a Victorian sewer which was built using original bricks from a Manchester sewer of the late 1830's. Part of this exhibition included an array of toilets ranging from communal toilets to a Victorian privy and a 'tipper' toilet. There was also a recreation of a laundry at Moss Street public baths.

The RAF at Manchester
At lunch time we left the museum and went across the road for a plate of fish and chips (no Weatherspoon's this time) and when we got back we went into the Air and Space Hall. Here we were able to look back on the history of flying, from the early days of tri-planes to the more modern jets and helicopters. The are also various cars and motorbikes on display including a Rolls Royce car hand built in 1905, a 1912 Ford Model T Roadster, and a 1916 Royal Ruby motorbike.

After the Air and Space Hall, the next building we went to was the Power Hall but unfortunately I tripped on some uneven paving on the way there and came down hard on my right hip, I was in agony for the rest of the visit. We eventually got into the Power Hall though which tells the story of steam power and Manchester's industrial development, but with all the running steam machinery it was just a little bit too warm and stuffy for me so I went and sat outside while Gaz and Mick looked at the exhibits inside.

Liverpool Street station
A little later we went to explore the Liverpool and Manchester Railway exhibition. We took a walk along the platform of the Liverpool Street station and saw the Planet locomotive and other rolling stock. We also saw the original station bell and sundial and the first and second class booking halls. At the end of the platform there was a Community Exhibition Gallery.

Michael exploring the Chinese exhibition
The displays in this gallery are changed frequently and highlight different aspects of the community.

At the time of our visit there was an exhibition from the Chinese community showing the way of life in China. There was a mini art gallery and displays of traditional Chinese attire, plus displays of Chinese medicines, games, and money. There was also a large Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling and an old rickshaw on display.

Gaz inspecting the Chinese displays
In the same area there was a 'Collected Cameras' display. There were many old cameras on display along with photos of people using the cameras back in the olden days. Not only did you have to be proficient in photography but it looks as though, with some of the cameras, you had to know a thing or two about weightlifting as well. The cameras were huge!

Charlie amongst the Chinese clothing
The Science Museum covers a lot of ground and even after spending a day there I don't think we got to see it all.

There were a couple of galleries that we briefly explored; the Science Gallery, the Underground Gallery and the Textiles Gallery (where there was a large coat made from dandelion seeds), but there were also other areas which we were unable to cover, like the Revolution Gallery, the Making of Manchester Gallery, and the Connecting Manchester Gallery with all the old phones, radios and televisions.

Maybe next time....

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Day Tripping

It looks like our trip to Manchester is back on again. A couple of weeks ago a visit to the Science and Industry Museum was mentioned, but after looking at the costs involved and the distance we had to travel I thought the idea had been shelved. Apparently not. The visit to the museum was mentioned again at the beginning of the week and it looks like the Manchester trip is on again.

Does old age make you more adventurous? Last year the three old codgers used to get together at one or other of our houses and spend the day putting the world to rights. We'd have a pot of tea in the morning, go out to the chippy or a local pub for a spot of lunch, then round of the afternoon back at home with another pot of tea. The meetings seem to have grown since then.

Last summer we signed up for a photography course and spent six week learning how to take better pictures. After that the weekly routine changed completely. We no longer went to a local pub for lunch, we went all over Huddersfield looking for pubs that served food. This summer things were different again. Instead of just sitting indoors and going out for lunch we started going to various local attractions like the National Mining Museum or Standedge Tunnel.

Over the last few weeks we have been going further and further away from home to find somewhere to visit. We've been to attractions in Gomersal, Halifax and Bradford, we've had a wander around Wakefield and gone to Leeds to visit the Royal Armouries Museum. Now we're going to Manchester.  I think I ought to start packing my suitcase if we're travelling that far.

Now, where did I put my passport....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Supermarket Rip Off

The big supermarkets just love to rip you off. I've just done a bit of shopping at Asda and they are at it again with their 'shrinking' goods. Occasionally I buy some large cheese-topped teacakes, but I won't be doing so again. They used to be roughly the size of a CD, perhaps slightly larger, but now they are no bigger than a jam doughnut. I used to buy a pack of two cheese and onion pastry slices every now and then, but that's another thing that I won't be buying again. They're just half the size of what they used to be. They seem to be reducing everything - and putting the price up at the same time. Do they really think that we're not going to notice?

It's not as though I can change supermarkets or buy my food elsewhere. With not having a car I can't get to another supermarket and travelling by bus is out of the question. Apart from the high cost of public transport, I don't relish the thought of catching two buses while struggling with heavy shopping bags, or paying out a fortune for taxis. If it wasn't for the fact that we have to spend a minimum of £25 when shopping online I'd quite happily pay the delivery charges (they work out cheaper than a bus or a taxi), but when I'm only doing a bit of 'top-up' shopping I'm not always going to spend £25.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Dream On

Life isn’t about what you don’t have, it’s about making the most of what you do have. Happiness and contentment is something that we’d all like to achieve but it’s not all about material belongings. I bet there’s not a single person who has not wished for more in life; “If only I had the latest digital camera”, “I’d love a large screen TV”, or perhaps, “If I just had an iPhone then my life would be perfect”.

But do we really need them? Nine times out of ten we only want certain things simply because we don’t have them (or because someone else has them and we want one too), only once we have the latest Play Station or the latest Wii, it’s just going to be left lying in the drawer once the novelty has worn off. Besides, if we did get ‘this or that’ then there is always going to be something else that we long for and we just have to get.

I’ve just read those two paragraphs on someone else’s blog and the first thing I thought was, “What a load of bull!” Life would be pretty boring if no one wanted for anything, I want all of those things that they mentioned. I’ll probably never be able to get them, but there’s nothing wrong with me wishing that I had them – it’s good to dream.

And that's where I'm going right now. Seeing as I can’t afford a fancy digital camera, I think I’ll go surfing and drool over some of them online. Let’s see how much I could spend if I had the money.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Pure Snobbery

I've just read an article about the monthly £1 million Premium Bond prize. Someone stated that the prize should not go to anyone who only holds £5 worth of bonds. It sounds as though someone is more than just a little bit jealous. Everyone knows that the more bonds you hold, the more chances you have of winning one of their monthly prizes, but to make a statement like that is just pure snobbery. Why shouldn't the prize go to a £5 bond holder? They've paid their money and they are entitled to the prize just as much as the next person, the value of their holdings shouldn't come in it - what's the betting that the guy who made that comment holds the maximum £20,000 worth of bonds (and thinks the prize should be his).

It's so easy for people to become obsessed with money and for it to take over their life creating loads of problems. Personally I don't have any of those problems - I don't have any money, so I don't have any problems. Although I did come into a bit of money today. I couldn't believe it! The hard bit now is trying to decide what I'm going to spend it on. As I opened my door this morning, I hadn't gone more than a couple of steps outside and there it was. There was a shiny 5p piece on the floor just calling out to me, my luck is definitely changing for the better - things are looking up at last.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Lazy Saturday

Another Saturday and another quiet day in the old codger's caboosh. I've got absolutely nothing planned for today (now that is unusual) so I think I might spend the day catching up with a bit of reading. I've had a book on the side table that I started a few weeks ago but haven't picked up for a while. For some reason I always seem too busy to read lately, but I can't understand why though, it's not as if I'm actually doing anything constructive.

I had a phone call from my little girl last night as soon as she landed at Heathrow. She's back from Iceland and she told me that they've had a brilliant time (apart from the whale watching part - rough sea took away the enjoyment for that day). She had to end the holiday in the same way it started, with a nine-hour coach journey, so the plan was for her to go to her cousin's house and get a bit of sleep before going home. (she'll be asleep now so if anyone is reading this, make sure you read it quietly so as not to wake her up).

Friday, 4 November 2011


It's time fireworks were banned! Or at least restricted to Guy Fawkes night and official displays. People have been letting off their fireworks for going on for three weeks now and I think enough is enough. It's time for them to stop. They say that we should be stop being so miserable and let them have their fun - "it's only once a year". I say that they should stop being so selfish and let others enjoy their own lives without having to listen to the racket that they are making.

Last night was all quiet up till around 7.00pm when there was an almighty explosion just outside my window. Damn near gave me a heart attack, it frightened the life out of me. I was having a mouthful of tea at the time and I ended up wearing the whole cup full. Thanks very much - I hope you are all enjoying your fireworks.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Aurora Borealis

I am really pleased. My little girl travelled all the way to Iceland in the hope of seeing the northern lights and she actually got to see them on the first day she was there. I was a bit concerned that as it was a natural phenomenon it might not happen during the four days she’s there, or that it might have been too cloudy to see it. The trip to see the aurora borealis was planned for the second day of her trip but the weather report said that it was going to be a little overcast on that day so it was changed to the first day.

Tracy rang me from Iceland on the second day and told me that the sky was wonderfully clear the previous night, and that they were able to see what they had gone there for. She got to see the northern lights and I think she’ll remember her trip for a long time to come. I am so jealous, but at the same time I am really, really, pleased that she got to see them. The plan for the second afternoon was to go out to sea and do a spot of ‘whale watching’ – she’s certainly having a holiday with a difference, she’ll be having a whale of a time.

When Tracy told me about this trip at the beginning of the year I went through a whole range of emotions. She told me about it just a few weeks after nearly dying from a combination of pneumonia, a chest infection and swine flu. She had been in a coma for two weeks over the Christmas period. She was in the final month of pregnancy and her baby had to be removed from her while she was in a coma. I was a wreck for the whole time, it was the worst period of my life. She was released from hospital on new year’s day and I was just pulling myself together a few weeks later when she hit me with this Iceland trip; I was angry, I was upset, and I was hurt all at the same time, but most of all, I was frightened.

Now that she is actually in Iceland those feelings have subsided and I’m happy that she’s enjoying herself. I’ll feel a lot easier when she’s back at home though. But she has to remember that when she gets back to England she still has to wrap up warm, our winter is just beginning and we don’t want a repeat of last year’s events. I think she knows that I’ll be nagging her for the rest her life that she has to wrap up warm, I don’t care how fed up she gets of me saying it.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Old Friends

My daughter has to take a ninety minute train journey to get to work. Usually, on her journey home after work, we get the chance to send a few texts to each other, putting the world to rights and having a little chat about all things under the sun. I missed that last night. Tracy is away in Iceland for a few days to try and catch a glimpse of the northern lights and we were unable to do our regular texting. Isn't it strange how we take things like this for granted then miss them when they're not there. Remember the days before mobile phones?

And, talking of those days, I received a letter from an old friend in Malta yesterday, someone who I haven't heard from or seen for going on forty years. That was back in the days before emails and texts and we had to keep in touch by writing letters. We used to write loads of letters to each other back then but that all stopped in the 70's. Helen hasn't got a computer, and international phone calls can be expensive, so the only way to keep in touch now is by writing.

It's not going to be easy - it's been years and years since I last wrote to anyone but I'm going to give it a try though, it should be fun.

Now, where did I put that writing pad....

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Christmas Is Coming

My Christmas tree
Ok, so that's it. Halloween is over for another year, the 'trick-or-treaters' have been and gone. The fireworks are still going off though, but I should imagine that will all end in a few days time. So, if it's November, then that must mean that people up and down the country will be rushing to try and  be the first in their street to get their Christmas decorations up.

I'm afraid I've beaten you all to it this year. I'm the first! It's taken me all morning to put them up, but I thought I would put a picture of my decorated Christmas tree on here for you all to enjoy.

Kim and Tracy
My little girl can't wait for the snow and the cold weather to arrive though, she's so impatient for it that she's jetting off to colder climates to try and find it (let's just hope she doesn't bring any snow back with her). She sent me a text early this morning to say that her and her cousin Kimberley have arrived in London, after travelling for nine hours on a coach to get there. At the moment they are at Heathrow airport enjoying a cup of coffee while the are waiting to board a flight that will take them to Iceland.

Iceland of all places! They could have gone to town and gone to the local 'Iceland', it wouldn't have been so much of a struggle to get their shopping back home then. But then again, the local Iceland wouldn't have given them the chance to see the Aurora Borealis. NASA has already predicted that there will be record northern light activity for winter 2011/12 and that it will be the strongest in fifty years. So, after a nine hour coach journey, I really hope they get to see it.