Sunday, October 31, 2004


Does anyone know if it's possibly to plug a Freeview box into a satellite dish?

We have a dish left behind by Mrs Previous Owner, and really crappy reception through our standard television aerial, which will make it difficult to get Freeview in the normal way.

Also, we have a broadband connection. Does anyone out there have any idea if you get Freeview over the internet? I just want BBC4.


I just want to point out two things to those who may be interested:
One, you can access the cached version of the .com site by doing a Google search on it, and clicking Google's cached version, or here if it works.
Two, you might just want to cast a look at this.

Just thought I'd mention it.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Horizon Bloody Horizon 

Why is everybody, including supposedly serious academics, incapable of using the word "very" without inserting another immediately afterwards, like some Tourette's speech pattern? You hear it all the time:

They were very very excited.
They had to act very very fast now.
We were very very convinced this was the result we'd been expecting.
She was very very pregnant.
Yes, I made the last one up.

Surely 'very' used as an intensifier, is sufficient on its own?

PS: have I ever mentioned that I have to take anti-emetics and strong sedatives before The Boff forces me to sit through a session of Dumbed-down Horizon; or "How to spin five minutes' worth of material into a whole 40 minute programme".

I.just.can't.stand.the.programme. I find the content vapid and the delivery tabloid-style and formulaic. It is presented by bimbettes with limited scientific knowledge but high-end meedja skills, it calls upon the highly researched opinions of pseudo-scientists who all *just happen* to look good. It has nothing going for it. Why does it keep being made?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Time management 

I realise that I've not said much about my MA yet. It is certainly challenging for me to be back in a very academic environment, and I'm always reminded in multiple ways in that sort of environment that I am not as intelligent as I make myself out to be. Inadequacy is not the right, but it's a question of the interface between my expectations of myself and the reality of my output.

I never was a particualry assiduous, as the couple of my readers who've known me since unversity will attest. At school I got into very bad habits after dicovering that I could get the same grades or better by rushing my way through- one particularly memorable occasion involved my writing an essay on a book that I hadn't read because I hadn't been able to afford to buy it, but that a friend lent me on the day the essay had to be in. I got a very good mark, 17/20, and earned both the admiration and the jealousy of more nervous classmates.

Anyway, that's a small digression. The point is that I'm still a terrible procrastinator. I hate doing it, but my main motivation for doing everything at the last minute is that I'm a terrible perfectionist.

Makes no sense?

Here's my reasoning: if you do your homework on the day it's set, to hand in, say a week later, then you have six days left in which to twiddle and tinker with your work, during which time you may well remove any stroke of genius and freshness which you brought to it on day one. So why not leave yourself just enough time to complete it without going overboard?

The problem with this, is that I hate ruching around trying to make everything fit in, yet I seem powerless to overcome my basic need for an adrenaline rush to focus my considerably wooly brain.

I both admire and despise -with one notable exception, who happens to be my daughter, and whom I suspect of being a changeling- in equal measures people who can pace themselves, avoiding the trap of getting carried away and wanting to finish it all in one go, who can budget their time effectively so that they are in a position to finish every piece of work with a day or so to spare, and then resist the temptation to go back and change it. How can they hand work in ahead of the day it's due?

Alas, the dream of good time management seems destined for ever to remain a dream. In my defence, I'm very rarely late handing in pieces of work. I always get in it on time, but often it is work that does not meet my standards. Which I suppose makes me an academic under-achiever.

Which takes me back to my MA. I know where I want to go with it, but I remain, in words borrowed from one of my son's school reports "content with little". It's not what it seems, honestly, teacher! I know that if I ignored the lures of Having a Life, ie my children, my husband, my hobbies, my blog, my dog, my hog*, my friends, I could achieve far more. I'm just not willing to give it the time it needs.

Having said that, it's enjoyable, intellectually challenging and rigorous and it should provide me with a job at home, allowing me to enjoy more all the items listed above. I just wish I could bring myself to do my work NOW.

*OK, I lied. I have no pig. The word just looked right.

I'm slightly bored with my template. In the spirit of changing everything around me- wardrobes being fitted, trees being felled, insulation being topped up, bank account being emptied, etc- I fancy a bit of a revamp. I welcome suggestions.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Bloody hell, how can anyone lose her own soup in her own house? Anyone seen a bowl of leek and potato chowder at all?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Apparently this storm that's been raging all day is actually quite serious.

Okay, okay, not for you hardy North American peoples; I mean in a British weak and weedy sort of way- we hardly ever get any weather disasters, so of course we over-react massively. Just imagine if you will suffering the same temperature all year round. Let's say 16 degrees centigrade (about 60 Farenheit). Are you imagining the ramifications? No barbecues, no skiing, no sunny summer, no crisp winter. Think Groundhog Day, stuck permanently on wet spring. If you can visualise that, you'll never need to come to England and endure it first-hand. ;)

I do feel sorry for all those people who live further south and west than me, but I can't help wishing that a nice big tree would blow down in some harmless way close to us, so that we can have more firewood. One-track mind, me?

I can really recommend the current issue of Big Fib, for a seriously tongue in cheek "Ten reasons why you should vote for Bush".

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Mad social science 

Number five in our series of wild pseudo-historical/social experiments with our diet (I have this theory that you can teach children all sorts of things through food) is mapping itself at the moment.

Part 5 is going to be an elaborate co-dependency experiment, aimed at illustrating how much we really all reliy on each other within our family. We decided to try to live for a week only on the things that we all liked. I must say that the list is pretty surprising, as was the attitude of the children once they got into the swing of things, and past the stage where they voted tactically to keep their siblings' favourite items out.

Our proviso, to simplify things, was that we could only choose basic, single ingredient items, although to be fair, we hardly buy any processed stuff anyway. This meant that for example, when Dill said no to potatoes, all potato products went: mashed, baked, boiled, chips, crisps, the lot.

So here it is: the list of things that we can all five of us agree on:
nuts but not walnuts
broccoli (At last, exclaimed Sim,we shan't die!)
grapes but not wine (Dill is really gutted about that- mulled wine season is upon us)
olive oil

You will notice straight away that apart from the notable absence of any refined carbohydrates, it is actually pretty balanced, and leans heavily towards fruit. It's virtually a hunter-gatherer diet, assuming that primitive hunter-gatherers were able to fish the deep seas for tuna.

Dill's project is to live for a week on what we have in our cupboards, without having to go to Sainsbury's, which I think is a fantastic one. I wouldn't necessarily want to inflict a combination of polenta, spiced prunes in syrup and 85% cocoa chocolate on any potential guests though, so this week is out for that one.

Sim wanted to live only on single ingredients bought at specialist shops. I pointed out that we mostly did already, but he reckoned we could further cut out the breakfast cereals and once-a-week pasties.

Hen's project is to live for a week on her favourite things: cakes, pasta, crisps, sweets and polenta. I sort of..vetoed..that one, evil mummy that I am.

It remains to be seen whether we will actually go through with Project Five- my World War 2 rationing project- Project One- is meeting with a fair bit of resistance, despite my pointing out that they really to ought know what life was like for their grandparents.

Does anyone know where I can get hold of a power adapter unit for a Canon printer? I've done a quick trawl of the internet, but I can't seem to find any site that will sell spare parts for it. It's a Canon i450, brought back with us from Canada, and we suspect that it dislikes the current we were trying to feed it, albeit through a transforming adapter, and that something has blown inside it.

When I first plugged it in, it came on, but went soon went off again. Now all it does is make a crackling noise when I switch it on. Have I grilled it, d'you think?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Bruce nibbles 

Half term started today for my crew.

Luckily, because I didn't have to be up in the morning, I was up until late last night, and was just about to extinguish lights and head for bed, when I heard the unmistakeable noise of large rodent(s) gnawing, coming from the utility/general junk room. I switched on the light in the neighbouring room, casting light into the utility room. The noise continued, loud as ever- the animal was clearly quite unafraid of people- Egads, how large was the creature? I switched on the light in the utility room.


I waited for a few minutes.

I thought.

It occurred to me that we were hamster-sitting for our neighbour's eldest child, while they snatched a few well-earned days away. I decided to check the cage before thrusting my hand behind a large box, and into tooth range of a vicious, large, scared rodent.

The children must have been in holiday mood last night- the cage was wide open, the beloved hamster -we've only got him for five days, for heaven's sake!- patently absent.

Luckily, the poor little thing was nobbled by a large piece of sticky tape stuck to his foot, so catching him was somewhat easier than I'd feared. He must have trodden on it on his way around the junk room. Or possibly as he ate his way into our wardrobe box, looking for a nest.

I'm sure that the damage will appear in due course- last time we had a loose hamster, the best nesting material he found was Sim's (new) concert uniform: two white shirts and one pair of black trousers.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Just checking 

How hungry would you have to be to eat a roast dinner that had fallen from your lap onto the floor, upon which happened to be sprawled a large dog, and assuming that most of the dinner fell near his tail and hind paws?

In my defence, I'd hardly eaten anything today, and frankly I get a little odd after a few hours without food.

Roast lamb. Yum.

Extra dog hair? Why not?

Of all the days, and in all the places to have Jehovah's Witnesses knocking, and having been politely told that I'm busy, to then ask me about my weather stick... Will I ever get this finished?

Isn't it fascinaing how very interesting washing-up and cleaning become when you've a tight deadline to meet? Someone should do a study.

Also, without looking it up, tell me what you think 'fulsomeness' means, please. It's to do with my translation. I'll tell you why later.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Busy busy busy today, finishing a hard translation for university tomorrow. Some colleagues of the Boff's from Canada are over at the moment for a symposium, an dthey're coming for dinner tonight, si I know I won't be able to work then. Got to finish it now. I've procastinated till now, so must get on.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004


We've been back from Canada for two months now, and I'm still suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

You see, everything is wrong here. The air is too damp, the mornings too cold and dark, the infrastructure too creaky, the people too unsmiling and evasive, the drivers too aggressive, the prices too high. I'm struggling to think of any good reason for coming back. I never felt like this in North America, maybe because we were there for a limited time only.

So, enough moaning. I need remind myself what the good points about this country are, so I'm starting a list. Please feel free to add more -if you can.

Good Things about Britain:

Very Old things: buildings, institutions, village, people, school classrooms (Oi! That's not the spirit)

Hedges: Nice edging for fields, much better than fences

Village Fairs: England at its best; community spirit and making do typified.


So far, the profile of a country you'd want to go on holiday to, but not live in. Twee and picturesque. There must be more.

Monday, October 18, 2004


A cellophane cigarette wrapper, casually discarded by a careless driver, turns and twists in the updraught from passing cars, flapping and writhing in the morning sunshine like a landed fish, marooned on the asphalt.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The least I can say about my health is that it never does things by halves. I've been in bed most of the day, struck down by a malicious combination of cold, period and cricked neck (again).

The cricked neck thing has been going on all week, and I thought that it might have something to do with the cold coming -when you live in a house full of snivelling, sniffling children, you get the chance to see these things ride in from a long way off, a process more usually known as "contagion"- but as this sleepless, crippled week has worn on, I'm beginning to have my doubts... I may have to find a doctor if it's no better by Monday.

And the very worst thing about being ill is that because you're spending a lot of time sleeping, your mind races about all the things you'd like to be doing, most of which pre-suppose a basic amount of strength or at the very least the ability to hold one's own head up without help: things like clearing flower beds and lugging compost around for example.

Ho hum. I should go and have a snooze I suppose.

Friday, October 15, 2004

White elephants 

We live in a retired school, built, along with its companion matching church, back in the 1870s for the estate workers of the manor house.

Sadly, due to falling numbers and increased car ownership, it became more expedient, sometime in the early 1970s, to shut the school and send the children to the next nearest village. We have gained a lovely house, the village has lost a school of 20 children. Swings and roundabouts...

Within the last five years, the Church of England -which had the responsibilty for the church from the time the estate was handed over to the National Trust in 1942- took the decision to decommission it because of dwindling to non-existent congregations (we're a ungodly lot on this barren island...).

Three years ago, they put the church building up for sale, with a very large and restrictive number of conditions attached to its sale. Essentially, they could be summarised under the short heading: "Should be run as a church, but not by us." Unsurprisingly, the building remained unsold, despite many curious and interested visitors and a fairly low price tag.

A year and a half ago, they put it back on the market. Same price, fewer restrictions on its potential use, but still fairly narrow scope for development: any eventual purchaser, for example, would be allowed to alter neither the outside, nor, probably, the inside.

Loads more people looked round it, including us. We decided that much as we'd love to buy it and preserve it as a public space for the village, as a village hall maybe, it would be nothing but a money pit which we really could not afford.

While we were in Canada, we heard that it had sold, possibly to an antiques restoration place. Since we've been back however, there has been no sign of any work, maintenance or any other activity.

Today, though, some very reserved people, who evidently had the key, were there, taking pictures of the outside. The dog escaped into the churchyard (Bad dog!) to say hello to them, so while I was retreiving him, I tried to prise some information out of them. Nosey, me. No luck however. They were very cagey.

He looked rather more professional than she did. Could he have been an architect? Could that explain his caginess, which may have been nothing more than professional confidentiality? We watch and wait.

We have a way to go... 

We live on the edge of a National Trust estate*, which means that most of our neighbours are tenant farmers of the National Trust, and that we live in a mobile phone mast-free zone. Tenancies on the farm pass down to the next generation if one of the childnre wishes to continue with the farm. I don't think that the rents are particularly high, judging by the rent on the bit of our garden which belongs to the National Trust.

However, our nearest neighbours are dairy farmers, which means that at best they make a pittance each year. Somebody told me recently that many farmers were actually losing money on every litre of milk, because the supermarkets continually drive down prices by cutting the amount they pay the producers.

When I was a child, growing up in France, I saw all sorts of animals summarily dispatched in the farm yard, and subsequently turned into sausages and steaks. If animals are your living, you see, you can't afford to be sentimental about them. Despite this, and despite what must be immense money worries, our neighbours continue to treat their animals kindly.

The thing I'm finding so hard to deal with, is how guarded they are towards us. I'm sure they have good reason to feel that way- everyone and his dog tries to complain about how our food is produced, and I can well understand why our neighbours might be worried that we will try to interfere. This was brought back to me acutely a few weeks ago.

I was upstairs, happily vacuuming away, when in a break between two rooms, I heard a small calf bellowing. I don't normally worry about this, since it usually means that young airhead has wondered a little too far away from his mum, and will soon be reunited.

Then I remembered our other neighbour telling me that sometimes the calves fall into the ditch between the nursery field and their garden, so I went out to investigate. I was just in time to see my neighbour, Julian, shooing a tiny newborn calf and a small herd of cows back across the field. It was such a lovely, bucolic scene, of a farmer and his herd at dusk, that I stood and watched, shading my eyes against the sun, which was quite low at that time.

Julian turned round a couple of times, glancing back at me. I sort of half waved and smiled at him, and he carried on towards the farm.


A few days later, he came round, and apologised. He hoped I hadn't thought he was manhandling the calf. What? said I. Oh yes, said he. The calf had worked its way through the barbed wire fence into our hedge, where it had been spectacularly silent, despite sitting in a pile of brambles, and had only begun bellowing when Julian tried to lift it over the fence.

The only way he could get it back over the fence was by bodily picking it up, not a light job even with a newborn. The only way to entice the stupid creature back to the farm was by going to fetch all the other cows, already all lined up for milking.

The job of rescuing one small dim calf had taken over half an hour out of milking time. Despite that, he was worried that I might think he was manhandling the animal. He thought that I was watching him to make sure he wasn't mistreating it further. He must really think we're townies... It'll be a while till we fit in, I think.

*The National Trust is a large conservation organisation in Britain, set up to rescue bits of our heritage which would otherwise disappear through neglect, unbridled development or lack of money. Our nearest National Trust estate used to belong to a private family, who were to give it away because of money worries. This was very common in the 1940s and 50s.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Am feeling unnecessarily spooked by the fact that I could walk straight past Kitchen Witch in the corridor of our university building without knowing it, the classics department being but a few inches from the French department.

Even more spooked by the thought that I could end up meeting and chatting with her in the senior common room without realising that she is she until the penny drops.

I hope I'm not going to turn into one of those people who paper over their windows and live off tinned beans for three years without ever seeing the light of day.

*Thinks* Maybe we should meet deliberately? What say you, Kitchen Witch?

What is it? 

An overdue stove pic 

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Quite apart from the fact that they always seem to ring during supper preparation time or while we're actually eating, I'm finding that cold callers are developping an increasingly irritating telephone manner.

I mean, granted, it must be very confusing for them to have had so many people registered at this address over the last eighteen months- previous owner, five tenants and now us- but really, there are limits.

Tonight's offering went something like this:

Telephone rings

Sim answers, politely.

Cold caller: Hello, could I speak to Mrs Old Owner?

Sim: I'm sorry, she moved out a year ago.

Cold caller: Could I speak to your mother?

Sim hands me the phone. I am in the middle of cooking, and am not in a good mood.

Cold caller: May I ask who I am speaking to?

Me: No, you may not! Goodbye!

Did she:
a) Want to amend her records so she carry on pestering us using the correct name? or
b) Want to track down Mrs Old Owner, her elderly and beloved aunt, who is coming into a massive inheritance? or
c) Want to try sell her insurance/ double glazing/ telephone contract to me instead?

I would really hate to be a cold caller. I almost feel sorry for them, having to call people like me all day.

Here's a joke I heard on the radio yesterday.

How many doormat wives does it take to change a light-bulb?

"Oh don't worry about me, I'll just sit here in the dark."

I thought it was quite funny.

One of the best things about having a large, soppy, bouncy labrador dog, for me, is that come rain or shine, sniffle or being under the weather, the dog will need a three or four mile walk every day.

Earlier, as I listlessly put the finishing touches to my homework for tomorrow (more about my MA in subsequent posts), I was aware every time I stood up, of the dog's baleful glare. I was waiting in for the modem, you see, and it was raining, so I'd postponed walkies till later.

I wasn't that keen on going out for a walk at all in fact, feeling as I do a little tired, but when the dog came out with me to the post box, and then stood resolutely behind the car waiting for me to let him in and take him to the forest, I decided to take him anyway and risk missing the modem arriving.

Of course he was right. There's nothing like walkies for clearing the head. And just as we pulled back into the drive after a fast four miles in the forest, the delivery van arrived with my modem.

Effing 'ell. I can't believe it. I'm actually online. Properly. At 1 Meg. I must go and lie down for a few minutes.

Monday, October 11, 2004

This is what has happened about the Broadband thingie.

I ordered the BB. I do not want to "go wireless" as I have no desire to fry my brain with an amount if background radiation whose effect is at yet undetermined. My BB provider, Bulldog, advises me buy their ethernet router, as it is the only wired product they sell which is Mac compaitible. I decline, feeling that a router is a tad unnecessary (Yes, I know...), and instead buy an ADSL modem from PCPlanet which claims to be Mac compatible.

Bulldog supposedly switches on the service on the 18th of September. I plug my newly acquired modem into it. Does it work? Does it buggery.

I hassle Bulldog for two weeks on and off, spending hours over the two weeks on an 0870 number while they struggle with their telephone system. Every time, they fob me off by saying that it looks fine to them. Eventually, I snap, and subtly threaten a customer services person with poor publicity via Blog. They arrange for an engineer to call later that week.

On Friday, Mr Bemused BT Engineer comes at 1 o'clock. It does not take him long to work out that there appears to be only one socket in the entire house which supports the service I've ordered. The one into which my modem is plugged is not that one. He tries to convince me to move my centre of operations to the study, which I decline as I like to supervise internet usage for homework purposes, to make sure that no short-cuts are taken through games arcade dot com.

He duly runs an extension, on a "grade 5" cable, from the working socket to the place where the computer is. His laptop works on it, my computer does not. We decide that it is my modem which is at fault.

He leaves at 5pm, the BB is still not working, and I have lost the will to live.

On Saturday, I take the PCPlanet modem back to where it came from and get a refund. On Sunday, I order an ethernet router from a website. It should come tomorrow. We shall see.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Broadband saga 

AAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. *breaks down sobbing*

And I still can't use it. And I don't even feel any better for all that screaming.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Those townies among you might be under the impression that as soon as you move to the countryside, you start driving around ultra-slowly, with a straw stuck between your two front teeth, a hog peering over your shoulder in an inquisitive way, and mostly, painfully slowly.

All you people cruising along on the highways of life, barely ever slowing to below 45 mph, let alone 30 miles, think that we slow-witted country bumpkins have trouble processing the information thrown at us at what seems like warp speed.

Well, I'm afarid to tell you that are very wrong if you think that. You may think that 30 miles an hour is so slow you feel as though you're reversing, but consider for a moment 30 mph in a dark tunnel- tall hedges flank every road, most of which are barely wider than a single car, with a visibility limited to 10 metres at most by blind right angle bends-should I apologise for mixing imperial and metric? I don't think so- on a surface slick, with, for example, slurry, in gentle drizzle which multiplies your braking distance by three.

Driving above thirty mph in these conditions feels like 90 on a motorway: manageable, but with that little frisson of adrenaline. Hit 40, and you can feel the palpitations starting up: best to keep your foot very near the brake pedal. Anything over 40 is just suicidal- you'd be advised to test your reaction times at frequent intervals.

You'll do this anyway, as at any moment, you might round the corner straight into the front of one of those fearsome maize silagers, that look like something out of Mad Max, complete with gigantic saw teeth.

In conclusion, I have this to say: if you think you're a lean, mean, driving machine, who would as soon drive at 30 as eat his (or her) own hands, come and test your skills on the roads round our way. I invite you. Just don't be in my way during the school run, and then pretend not to be able to use your reverse gear top access the passing-place just behind you. Thank you.

I really shouldn't say this, being married to someone in the know, but I've just started doing exactly the opposite of what the weather forecast says. Today, for instance, we were forecast heavy rain all day, so I did three loads of washing. Result? Three loads of dry washing, needing just their customary ten minutes in the drier -this is Devon, after all- after a few hours on the washing line. I should have washed the car and planned a BBQ as well.

My dear husband tries very hard to make excuses, saying that give or take 50 miles is an acceptable error margin, and that it's only because we live on such a small island that we notice it at all. I say nothing; I merely tap my nose knowingly.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

And in other news...

My broadband connection is still not up and running, despite hours spent in their various phone queues. However, a mention of the power of blog seems to be working wonders: they've made an appointment for an engineer to come to my house on Wednesday lunchtime to sort it out. We shall see...

Devon skyline 

We live in a very rural area, heavily dominated by dairy cattle. One of the views from our house, where you can actually see over our overgrown hedge, is this hillside about 500 metres away- I used a touch of zoom.

Every dawn and dusk, the cows make their way to and from their milking parlour. At dawn, they trip out lightly, freshly milked, and eager to begin a day's grass munching. At dusk, heavy with milk and biochemical worry about their lost infants, they trudge up the hill like over-worked housewives; mooing pitifully for their mechanical calf, they pause at the silage heap, sometimes against a pink sunset but more often against a slate-grey sky, before going in to be milked.

This page is powered by Blogger. 
Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com