No more flies!

Fly trap
Fly trap

Yes my friends, this small, sun-like disc of sticky plastic is my new best friend.

This is the chemical warfare of the future.

This is the thing that will release me from my daily burden.

This my friends, is Fly Death Star!

I sit each and every night in the heat, frustrated that I have to open the windows because I know THEY will invade. I despise flies and why scientists haven’t found a way to make them extinct I don’t know. They serve no purpose!!

I actually sat one night, covered in insect repellent, a tin of RAID spray in my hand, trying to squirt each and every one of them as I worked on the laptop.

So I set off looking for one of those tape type fly-catchers, a spiral of sticky stuff that hangs from the ceiling and traps the unwary fly for eternity in a gooey death. I never did find one but, I did find these stickers from RAID. I don’t know what they do because they’re in French but, I saw the name RAID and thought they’ll do.

So the idea is you stick them on your window, and they keep the flies away. Yeah right I thought, but I’ll try anything once so I put one at the front  and one at the back.

Now here’s the weird bit. They are only slightly sticky, so there’s no flies stuck to them, but there’s been no flies in here for the last 2 days. I have seen the odd one, then it’s disappeared. Whether it dropped down dead, was transported to another dimension or simply buggered off I don’t know but I do know that not one fly has stayed in here for longer than a minute or two!

So I am in heaven! This is fantastic! For €3 I am fly free! All praise to the mighty RAID guys and thank you!

Lord of the Flies

Flues are a constant problem during summer as most people know. Especially so when I park beside cornfields and other wooded areas, or fields with cattle in.  So I decided to try a fly catcher I found in a supermarket. Made by RAID, but they are sticky plastic flowers that you stick to your window.

Fly catcher
Fly catcher

I can tell you now that they really do work! God knows how, no flies stick to it, so maybe it’s just poisonous? I still get flies coming in, but they don’t last long before they’re off out again. I think I paid something like €4 for a pack of 3 and each one is supposed to last a month, so great value if you ask me.

I am now…The Lord of the flies!

It’s good, but it’s just not Babylon

Hanging basket

Well I wanted a hanging basket for the van but after weeks of searching I could not find one small enough to fit, and look good.

So I spotted a wicker candle holder and bought it for a quid. Inside was the candle holder bit itself so I unwired that and threw it away, then found a B n Q and got some thin brass effect chain.  Add a gold effect hook that I already had and hey Presto!

Check it out! ^^

So far I have had 2 ivy plants and a spider plant in it and they all died. My youngest daughter Keighly, made me some cuttings last year of an Aloe Vera plant she had and she guaranteed it would grow because as she said “They’re tough and grow anywhere and you just can’t kill them!”

Well Keighly, the Aloe Vera plant you made for me lasted about 2 months before it finally lost the will to live 🙁

So, my hanging basket looks all forlorn as it hangs emptily in front of the window. Any suggestions as to what hardy plant might live in there are welcomed.

Ouch! Scalds hurt!

My scald
My scald

Yesterday I was making a cuppa and you know when you’re doing more than one thing and sometimes you get your limbs mixed up? lol

Well, that’s what I did and as I reached out to open the window with my right hand, I was flicking the lid off the just-boiled kettle with my left and … well they met lol

Now I’m certain that steam is even hotter than boiling water so although I don’t want to man-flu this, a scald is worse than a burn!

Anyway, there it is with a bit of blister.  Painful but of course, I don’t complain and just get on with things 🙂

The Sucata run

What the heck is the Sucata run? Well, sucata is Portugese for junk. Here’s an explanation from the sucata website at

The Sucata run boys
Some young men driving the Sucata run that I met in Rouen

The Sucata Run is a bargain basement banger rally tour where teams of up to 4 people drive to Europe’s most westerly point in 4 days, in bangers costing no more than £250. It takes place over the August bank holiday weekend (27th – 31st) and culminates at the breath taking Guincho beach on the Portuguese coast.

I met up with some of the boys on the quay at Rouen. Pictured are Lindsay, Ross and Richard from the Top Gun team. Their Volvo is cleverly disguised as a fighter jet and they are cleverly disguised as Maverick et al lol

The lads say they saw the challenge on Facebook and decided to sign up for it as Richard so eloquently explains, “Well it seemed like a bit of a laugh and raises a few quid for a good cause so why not. ”

The boys were very tired when I met them but were all set for a night on the tiles in Rouen later. I couldn’t help but grimace when, as I walked the dog next morning, I saw them being roused and moved on by French cops at 5:30am.  Ohhhhhh their heads!

Dooo Dahh Dooo Dahh!!!

It just occurred to me that since I came to France, I’ve rarely seen the police or other emergency services and rarely heard a siren, even in Paris. But since I came to Rouen on Sunday I’ve heard nothing but, every single day without fail, at least a dozen times a day. When I can spot them, it’s a fair mix of fire, police and ambulance.

I don’t know if they have a different policy in this city that they must always use sirens, but it’s weird that when I first drove in I had the feeling of not liking the place for only the second time since coming to France. (The other time was Reims) There was a period today where for 20 minutes solid there was a siren sounding. Weird.

Do blondes really have more fun?

Well … this one doesn’t!


See I’m in Rouen, lovely city where they burned Joan of Arc. England was actually run from here once over. Anyway, the Seine flows through here and there’s a fair to middling trade from the barges which sweep up and down the river most of the day. These barges are 4,000 tons and 150 metres long lol Oh yer they big buggers.

Anyway there’s some smaller ones too, about 12 feet wide and 40 feet long. Where I’m parked on the quay there’s 2 such barges, clearly being lived in now and no longer working.

So there I was working away on the laptop when I spotted this blonde walking her dog. She headed back to the second barge off the quay and clearly she lives on it.  About a half hour after walking the dog, (9 am) she comes out with some bright red marigolds and a red handled broom, even a matching bright red bucket! hehe So she sets about mopping the deck part of the barge.

Well after a little bit I pay attention cos she’s standing on the barge taking her trousers off! Hehe turns out she has shorts on underneath but as I had the camera ready I snapped a couple of pictures of her working away anyway, as I knew I was going to write about her.

Anyway the point is, she worked ALL day. I mean from about 9 am, til just about the time I finished work at 4 pm. She scrubbed with a scrubbing brush, she wiped with a cloth and she brushed with her red broom and she cleaned that entire 12 ft by 40 foot boat by herself, getting down on her hands and knees and constantly dipping her bucket on a rope over the edge to fill from the river.

Not just the deck mind, she cleaned the windows of the deckhouse, the gunwales and even the mechanism that controls the anchors. Believe it or not she even leaned right over, dipped her broom in the river and brushed the anchors themselves clean!

Apart from an hour for lunch she worked the whole day cleaning that boat and I almost felt like going over and congratulating her and asking if she’d do my camper lol

(Actually I cleaned mine from top to bottom last week, inside and out using babywipes but that’s another story :))

So … whilst she clearly is a clean and motivated person and should have a gold star for being so house proud, she is living roof that blondes do not have more fun. In fact, it looks like she has about as much fun as Gordon Ramsay at Sunday school.

Egg-ceedingly good news

For some time now I have had an upset stomach when I eat eggs.


Now, I love eggs: I poach them, scramble them, fry them and boil them. I make them into omelettes, I add them to rice and I chop them up and mix them with salad cream mmmmm.

However, for some reason some years ago, they started upsetting my stomach. If I ate 2 I’d be fine: slightly upset but nothing I couldn’t cope with. The more I ate though the worse it got. So if I had a 4 egg omelette, I could be quite uncomfortable for some time. I have no idea why this change occurred, but I simply had to live with it because I loved eggs.
So, whilst travelling around France I bought some eggs and as you can see from the photo above, I used 4 to make an omelette. It was delicious. I added chopped tomato and onion which had been quick fried in some oil and basil. As I’d used 4 I waited for the pains and guess what? That’s right, no pains! I waited and waited, and nothing happened. I even decided to have a  fried egg sandwich a little after the omelette and, no pain! What was going on?


I got talking to a colleague from work and mentioned about the egg thing, and she believes that all eggs in France by default are organic. I have no idea if this is true or not, but she suggested that it was true and was the probably reason I had no pain. Battery hens are rife with infection and bad things, organic, or at least, free range hens tend to be healthier.
I had no way to test the theory of course until I returned to the UK, so I’m adding this bit in after I came back to the UK.

I tried normal eggs, they made my stomach upset. I tried free range, no upset. I bought organic, no upset. I tried some more standard ones, upset stomach.

Conclusion: I don’t even want to know what it is they do to battery hens that makes their eggs upset my stomach, but free range is the way to go for me now.

Death makes us ponder…

I just heard tonight that someone I knew from when I was a teenager had died through drugs. His name was Keith.

Keith was at 16, everything I aspired to be. He was taller and thicker set, strong and fit, mean and quick witted. Although we were friends I looked up to him a little without letting him know I did. More people wanted to be his friend, girls flocked round him and there were many who respected him or indeed, were afraid of him.  I was never jealous, just slightly bitter that I’d been born short and skinny and dull witted.

We grew apart as lads do, I got married and had 3 kids then divorced and we got together after the divorce and drank a lot for a few weeks. He was clearly unhappy and weirdly, stated that he was envious of the life I had! I said anyone can go straight and do well for themselves, they just have to want to. After a while I got my head together and went to Uni and lost track of him again. I do know he was still til then being violent as he had to be to continue his life of drug dealing. We kept bumping into each other over the years but as I live this roaming lifestyle now I haven’t seen him in about 3 years.

So tonight I get a text to say he’s died doing what he did, drugs.

Although I’ve thought it before over the years, I think it so clearly now, that really he should have aspired to be me, not the other way around. Yeah I’m sure most people will say of course! But sometimes you need things to put your life into perspective.  I wish I knew when I was 16 what I know now, although sometimes I truly think ignorance really is bliss.

The unbreakable joss stick.

The unbreakable joss stick
The unbreakable joss stick

Yes folks I bring you here a picture of the amazing, the confounding, the must-be-real-magic of the indubitably fantastical … Unnnnnnnn … breakablllllllllllllllle … JOSS STICK!!!

See how despite burning down to within an inch of the base, it has bent smoothly and gracefully into a lovely arc of unbroken ash, and laid it’s head as if to sleep on it’s resting pyre.

Indeed below it’s majestic wave of death, you can clearly see the turd-like remnants of the stick that had gone before, alas not so prettily or gracefully.

I did nothing to hinder or help this stick but I think it may well be a sign from the Gods. Of what I know not, perhaps a lament for the time to come when the bull of my manhood will droop it’s tired head?

Tomorrow, I’m going to see how mighty it is and jack the van up with it 🙂

Revolutionary Magic Tyre fixer!

Puncture repairer
Puncture repairer

Well there I am in Feu Vert, France’s answer to Halfords trying to find one of those compressor type things that inflate your tyre. I’ve had a slow puncture for weeks now thanks to a screw in the tread, but my tyres are Vanco 2’s so you can’t repair them. There’s still life left in them though so I’ve been topping up now and again but it’s cost me € far just in tyre inflating machines.

Sitting in an aire once I got chatting to a British lad who loaned me his Dad’s compressor and it worked a treat, so I promised myself I’d get one. It would come in handy for the bike too. But here they are in Fey Vert’s for a whopping €75! Feck that! But the lad is really nice so i let him sell me his cheapest bottle of puncture repair squirt. You can pay €12 but he had the one pictured for a fiver so I said aww what the heck I’ll try it out.

Well you’re not going to believe this but, I filled the tyre and it’s been 6 days now and it has not gone down one little bit! Bloody marvellous! So I have been to Carrefour and now have two of them as spares. I admit to being a cynic but these things really do work. God knows how though as I can’t read the instructions 🙂



This lasted me until I got back to the UK 2 months later, and 1 month after that got up north and had some new tyres fitted.

OK here it is … a pic of my knob.

Gear knob
Gear knob

I just had to do it. I was getting fed up of the original broken one. I broke it when I lost reverse gear. Snapped the knob clean off the shaft one day trying to get reverse.

So because of this I took the housing off and had a look at the assembly. I could clearly see what turned out to be an adjuster, so now I have either reverse and 1-4 forward gears, or 1-5 forward gears and no reverse.

I celebrated by buying this new knob which set me back €20 but it was  a necessity. Hope you like it much as I do 🙂

(Typed on an Acer Aspire 8930. Probably the worst laptop I have ever owned or used.)

Dust is the enemy!

Dust kit
Dust kit

Earlier, I complained about a cleaning brush I’d bought from Jessops. The post is here if you wish to read it.

As a result I had to buy the kit pictured here. I finally found one in Evreux and it cost me a massive €73. The guy who sold it to me emphasized that there were 50 wipes in the kit so it should last a good while. Indeed there are and once used you can re-use them as lens wipes, or safe wipes for your spectacles, so you do get value from the kit.

However it’s become an almost daily thing, cleaning my sensor. I’m not quite sure where I’m going wrong, but I clean the sensor thoroughly then the next day there are marks on my photos again. One appeared from nowhere and I almost had to scrub the sensor with the cleaning fluid to get it clean.

I’ve thoroughly cleaned again tonight so I’ll see what tomorrow brings but I’m starting to think there’s a problem somewhere 🙁

Check out my shiny knob

And here it is….

My shiny knob

Nice eh? What happened to the boring old grey one then that came with the van? I hear you ask. Well, there lies a story….

As I drove it was becoming ever more difficult to select fifth and reverse. I was really using a lot of strength to get fifth or reverse. I did go to a garage to have it seen to, but although Citroens are identical to Peugeots, they refused to work on it. They sent me to a Peugeot garage which after almost an hour of driving around I gave up trying to find. I reckon they sent me on a wild goose chase.

Anyway, it got worse, and one day close to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I couldn’t get reverse at all no matter what I did. I was at the time across both carriageways of the road too, as I’d been in the process of making a U turn. Well, you can imagine my horror! lol

Nothing I did could get reverse and in the effort of trying, unbelievably, the knob snapped off the gearstick. I just sat looking at it, I couldn’t believe it. You just can’t break those things. So, in desperation, a drove forward pretty sharpish til I hit the grassy bank by the side of the road, then let the van roll back from the slight incline I’d hit. It took 3 attempts but in the end I got far enough back to be able to turn around and continue driving. Phew!

I found a car park and decided to look at the gear stick assembly to see if it can be adjusted. After dismantling it I found it could easily be adjusted, but that would mean I could either have reverse or fifth, but not both. Result! At least I got reverse, I can live without fifth.
It turns out that the gear linkage had seized as the water draining from the windscreen pours over the linkage and corrodes it. Built in fault, thanks Peugeot 🙂

Anyway, I got my shiny new knob for a few Euros and I hate it cos on cold mornings it’s freezing!

A cracking eggs-splanation for a bad tum ….

When I was a teenager I was a tad lazy and didn’t bother to use my culinary skills, like most young lads I suspect, egg and chips … apart from taking forever to make, is pretty simple and very tasty. So, that’s what I lived on. I would come in at stupid ‘o clock in the morning and make egg and chips,  cos you can’t go to bed on an empty belly. Ask any teenage lad.

I even developed the best way to make them: if you can be bothered, parboil them first, then drown em in red hot fat. Otherwise, just drown em in red hot fat. Lard I mean, not this poncey oil they use now, real proper ‘ard man lard. Bloody good for you it is.

Then get some lard from the chip pan into the frying pan and put your egg in and as soon as it hits the pan start splashing fat over the top of the egg. When the yolk goes milky white, it’s done so get it out sharpish like and lay it beside the chips. Not on the chips, that’s crude, make a space for it beside them. Make a space for them I should say cos any growing lad will need two eggs 🙂


So this was how I lived for several of my teenage years and laugh if you like but, how many of you know that potatoes are super food? Aye see that got ya there didn’t it. Well they are. And eggs are good for you, well they’re bad for you but, no they’re good for you but, maybe only when they’re not bad for you … oh bugger, Edwina! are they good or bad? I forgot!!

So, fast forward to my adult years. As a newly divorced man, egg banjos were a staple fast food. Especially with some onion salt mmmm.

Fast forward again, this time right to my forties. Some time ago I noticed that whenever I ate eggs I got a slightly upset stomach. Nothing that gave me the runs and no pain enough to distract me from my daily business, but quite uncomfortable and directly related to how many eggs I had eaten. I thought this was odd, but I put it down to developing some extremely mild allergic reaction over the years. I have been told this can happen, especially with dairy products.

Now here’s the weird thing.

Since coming to France I’ve enjoyed the freshness of their fresh fruit and veg. It’s on par with what Asda’s used to be like, til Asda’s started to be off before you even got it home. So it was a while before I tried their eggs but one day I bought half a dozen, mainly to make Yorkshire puddings with. (I make a mean Yorkshire pudding I do, you could almost abseil off them lol)

So one day I’m working away and I fancy a snack, except I rarely buy snacky type things anymore so I looked in the fridge and thought, yup, I’ll make an egg sandwich and sod the upset belly cos it’s bearable, but hunger isn’t. So I made one and guess what?

Yup … No bad belly!!

Not at all. Not so much as a twinge or a colon fart. I was most impressed!

Since then I buy eggs every shop to use in cooking, to poach and scramble, to make omelettes and banjos, boiled on salads and stirred into rice, I do the full range. Not once so far have I had even a hint of a bad belly.

So … what does it all mean? Someone suggested to me that by default all French eggs are free range. Well firstly I can’t verify that and secondly what does free range mean? It’s not organic, but are organic any better anyway I don’t know.

I haven’t got the answer to the why, all I can tell you is, if you like eggs but they make you ill, come to France. 🙂

What is the BBC twittering on about?

Am I the only one to have noticed how much the BBC is advertising Twitter? Almost every single day it appears in some form or other and in my view it’s tantamount to advertising.

I’m not a great supporter of the “We will jail you if you don’t give us money!!” BBC, greedy wasteful bastards that they are, but I do like their news website.

At least I did. Nowadays trying to find news on it is as hard as trying to teach a rocking horse to jump fences, their onsite search tool is appalling nd the content is blatant advertising a lot of the time and the propaganda on there beggars belief.

I am heartily sick to death of hearing about that stupid Twitter which supposedly everybody uses but I actually don’t know a single person who does?

Battered by batteries!

Last night I was sitting working on the laptop when I smelled a most peculiar smell. I had the gennie running, and as the smell was coming from under where I sat, where the 2 charging units and the 5 batteries are fitted I thought I’d better move pretty sharpish like so I jumped up and switched off the gennie, then came back with the fire extinguisher and lifted the cushions. . . Yes … my toast was done.

Kidding 🙂

No actually nothing had burned, but the mains charging unit was so hot I could not touch it. I suspect it was the thin plastic film that protects the fascia from scratches that was smelling, as it was curled and sad looking. That got binned. testament to the robust build of the Sterling charger, it appears to have suffered no ill effects.

So tonight I set about finding out why that had happened.

First thing I did was check all connections, then I disconnected all batteries bar one, and set the generator away. Small drop in speed as it chugged away so that was fine, I connected the second one, another small drop but that was fine, and I connected them all one by one until I came to the last one, the brand spanking shiny sealed Elecsol that they sent me as replacement for the one that blew up. Nah I thought, as I realised that the magic eye was red. Oops. It shouldn’t be. So I connected that one up, started the gennie and … the gennie struggled to cope. It was as if it was under massive load. So I disconnected it straight away, as last night when I smelled the smell, the charger was actually on float stage and had been for an hour, so theoretically all batteries should have been totally charged.

Very weirdly, the charger is so hot to touch tonight too, even though that new battery is disconnected. I really can’t say I’ve ever noticed it running hot before.

Anyway, out of 7 Elecsols I’ve owned 2 have failed so that’s about 28% failure rate which is enough for me to say, enough. I don’t even want this one replaced. I think I’ll just go with standard wet lead acid batteries from now on as I’ve never had any problems with them in the past. (If you’ve never seen a battery that’s exploded, check the photo out. Remember this was full of sulphuric acid too. The mud is from where it was thrown very quickly out of the door of the van.)
I’m not deliberately dissing Elecsol here, I have no axe to grind at all. Just reporting back the experiences I have. I will ring Sterling tomorrow though to find out if that charger should run that hot, as the B to B charger runs that hot too.

Time’s up for Blunderfone

If you have a complaint with a mobile phone provider in the UK, you must go to Ofcom, who say there is nothing they can do so go to Otelo, who say you have to wait 12 weeks before they can do anything, that’s 12 weeks AFTER you have exhausted Vodafone’s own complaints department.

So finally the time is up and Vodafone have run out of time to respond to my official written complaint, this is about what was started in March of this year. Wow we consumers are really looked after hey?

Anyway so I rang Otelo who said, send us the letter you sent them, then we’ll draft a letter up and we’ll send it to you for confirmation, then you send it back and we’ll send it to Vodafone.

Kind of makes you think … consumer rights, yes it would be very nice to have some. Oh this by the way is the civilised Great Britain that we should all be thankful for living in because it’s so wonderful and modern and people are looked after.


Profit and power rules and everyone knows it.

I’ll wait with bated breath to see how long Otelo take to turn this around.

Ronald Biggs it up for the last post?

BRAZIL BIGGSRonald Biggs it up as a free man, after aiding in the killing of the brave Jack Mills who said Norfolk n Chance when they told him to move the train. He was beaten with a cosh and later died of his injuries as a result of his stoic bravery.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about him being released. I mean, he’s served about 9 of the years he was sentenced to, but none of the other members of the train robbers, most of whom were also on the run for years or escaped from prison, have served that many more. The getaway driver Roy James served the most, with a hefty 12 years under his belt, whilst Buster Edwards, who had a film made about him fgs, served only 9. Buster remember was supposed to have been the man who actually took the cosh to Jack Mills, leaving him with fatal injuries.

So, in comparison to his thieving companions at least, Biggs has probably served a fair sentence. So why does he only achieve release after becoming terminally ill? Is it because he went on the run and only returned to get health care? OK So he was being punished for escaping, rather than for his crime. So what sentence would he actually have served? I really can’t say how long he should serve, I don’t even know what part he took in the robbery. But I do know I have read of people committing murder and attempted murder only to be released within 8 years. What’s that about? You deliberately attempt to take someone’s life and you get less prison time than some men who steal some money? Yes they coshed Jack Mills and he died. That’s callous to cosh him and tragic that he died but then are all members of the gang to be sentenced for murder as they were present, or just the one who wielded the cosh?

The money Ronald Biggs has cost us in keeping him in prison and his medical care could well be used by someone who deserves it after leading a good and honest life. I think the best sentence would have been to have denied him his return to the UK. What was the justification to allow him to return? To punish him? Clearly jailing him and giving him the best health care is not a punishment. In my view, the British Govt has it’s head screwed on backwards and is keeping it safe up it’s own arse.

My guess and the only sensible conclusion I can come to, is that the ministers involved in returning him to Britain probably wanted to pick his brains to find out how best to scam the people who elected the numb-brained fools and who best to ask than an old lag like Biggs?

Lightroom does have flaws!

Lightroom screenshot
Lightroom screenshot

Lightroom is a fab piece of software that I use for organising my pictures but it let me down today.

I had been viewing some 48 photos and keywording them using the grid view. They were all selected for the general keywording.  A feature of this nasty horrible piece-of-shit- acer laptop I have is that if you don’t do anything on it for about 20 minutes it completely freezes. You can’t do anything with it at all. The only option is to shut the laptop off without powering down.  Well I had been on the phone so it did freeze, I had to shut it down then restart it and when I rebooted I went straight back into Lightroom to continue my work.

Now I’ve found in Lightroom that when you have multiple files selected, it’s actually not as straightforward as you think to deselect them all. I’ve got into the habit now of using the file menu to deselect as it’s the most dependable method.  Well, I assumed that as I’d had to power the lappie off improperly that the files would have been deselected. They certainly weren’t obviously selected when I went back in, but clearly they were as when I went to delete a file, I deleted all 48 photos in the folder. Now as anyone who uses Lightroom knows, delete from Lightroom if you are deleting from the disk does not have an undo feature.

So, not panicking yet I went into the recycle bin. I have two drives, and the backup drive has recycle bin turned off. Oops.

Still not panicking, I plug my external drive in and look for a recovery program that does not require an install. I found an old copy of DataRecovery by Tokiwa and yes before you ask, of course it’s free 🙂 I ran this little program and within less than a minute it had not only the entire folder I’d deleted on screen, but almost 3500 other files, some that were deleted so long ago I’d forgotten about them. I had to check some just to make sure I still had them! 3 of the files once recovered were corrupted and had to go and that’s one of the minor drawbacks of this program, it doesn’t tell you what state the files are in. Neither is it completely accurate about file creation date, and it does not tell you what date the file was deleted. All of that info would be seriously useful. However, it does actually warn you if you try to recover to the same drive that this will probably fail. It is also very fast and free and once you’ve done the initial scan you can do a deep scan, for those situations maybe when you’ve reformatted. Much slower but much more accurate. So bar 3 files, 2 of which I didn’t want anyway and 1 which was not critical, I got my photos back in about 10 minutes in total. Excellent piece of work Tokiwa. You can download his free program from and as always, if you like and use a piece of freeware, consider donating a few quid to the author.

Life almost ends at 41!

Well work today was a badger, not because of work, but because the temperature reached a massive 41.3 degrees with 28% humidity. Sitting still in the van at the laptop is a task and a half in those conditions, so I was more glad than usual when 4 pm came.  Why doesn’t someone invent solar powered air con that only costs £50?

I think Jack felt the heat today too and I took him outside at lunchtime and gave him a cold shower. Good job he’s not a long haired dog!

Hooray for the RSPCA

home_logoI just tried to contact the RSPCA and I found that they are using 0300 numbers across their contact number range.

This is an excellent step forward, as 0300 numbers are included within your free minutes allowance on your mobile, unlike 0800 numbers. If you have no minutes left, then they charge you at the same rate as from a landline. Cool eh? Way to go the RSPCA lets have more organisations doing that.

Sadly their website needs tidying up. I spent about a half hour on it, then I rang them on their shiny 0300 number, then I searched the site again with an assistant. She had the worst telephone voice and manner ever and it took ages to find where we should be. Their website is NASTY! Saying that, most business websites are, they might score 95% for looking good and amount of content, but usability on most websites I come across is about 20%. Oddly, the RSPCA’s website uses around about 40% of the space available on the screen, yet the text is tiny! Come on RSPCA, who designed your appalling website and more importantly, what incredibly ridiculous price did you pay for it!

Maybe I should have a worst websites section on here lol

Anyway, the RSPCA like a lot of other websites, places a whole lot of importance on control and they force you to give lots of personal information about yourself to register before you can even email them! There is an issue about privacy here. Why do the RSPCA need so much personal information that they refuse to let you email them unless you give them the info about you that they require? Sounds a bit suss to me! Surely the information you have about the welfare of animals is more important than who you are?

The other issue is, for a caring organisation their website is arrogant and unbending in forcing information out of you before you can complete even the most basic of tasks, emailing them. So, sadly, despite my serious misgivings about the welfare of some animals, I refuse to bend to petty control and long winded processes simply to be able to tell someone what I saw and photographed.

RSPCA, If you dont care enough to let me easily give you the information, I don’t care enough to jump through hoops to get it to you.

Stalemate. The only losers are the animals.

Why are so many organisations so very arrogant in the 21st century? I think that’s a subject for another post entirely 🙂


I’ve just downloaded their last financial postings … bloody hell! Did you know that 100’s of millions of pounds go through the RSPCA every year??? They’ve still got over 80 Million in reserve! Bloody Nora! All I can say is too many people giving wayyyyyyyyy too much money to help animals, when there’s starving and abused kids who could use the money. I’m actually shocked at the amount of money that they get through. I would never have guessed.
I should have though, I have worked for many charities in my time and I have seen money squandered left right and centre. I vowed some time ago I would never give another penny to any charity under any circumstances. I’ve stuck to that too. (I’m not of course even hinting that the RSPCA squander money, just that every other charity I have ever worked for has, to varying degrees, wasted money. One of them wasted a significant amount but, lets leave that for another post eh? 🙂

Another tooth on the way out

Bloody hell, ever since I gave up smoking I’ve had nothing but problems! No really, my health has been terrible since giving up smoking and I wonder if it’s actually possible to cause yourself problems by stopping so suddenly? I mean, 35 years of non-stop smoking … it has to have had some affect on me.

Anyway … this time the filling in my molar has finally given up the ghost and now no matter what I eat, it feels like a team of navvies are ramming gravel into my teeth and splitting them apart. It’s going to be a long time until October I can tell.

Thinking about it though, I’ve been a heavy smoker for 35 years, rolling my own as well as tailor-mades for 33 of those years, yet I have had 2 molars extracted by the dentist, 1 by me, and another which may be saved but may have to come out. Don’t they say you lose 1 tooth for every ten years of smoking? Well, that’s my four for four decades, so maybe with any luck I won’t lose any more? I’m not sure how true it is though as  the other top ‘fang’ is dead I’m sure, it feels the same way as the other one did before I had to remove it.

Crikey, I may well end up Gummy Gurning Gary hahahaha


The palace of Versailles
The palace of Versailles

Visiting the Chateau de Versailles has long been an aim of mine but for one reason or another I’ve never been before now. As I have a friend over for the week I decided we’d spend the last day in Versailles before heading back to the airport.

I’m pleased I made that decision as the palace and grounds are fantastic.

The satnav brought us to the coach park right out front which was €53, so we headed for the massive car park next door which turned out to have height barriers on. So I quickly swung a left and headed roughly in the direction of the south side of the palace. Sure enough, within a mile I’d found a place to park right opposite some little used gates. 🙂

There’s two little huts, made to look like tents on either side of the gate entrance. (It turns out there’s lots of gates as the grounds are absolutely enormous!) As we look beyond them we can see a path that continues for about a mile dead straight, lined with trees either side. In the middle is what looks like a lake, but when you get up to it it’s the grand canal which is about a mile long they tell me. When you reach it, look east and you see the palace about 400 metres in the distance. It’s bloody huge!

We decided to waste no time and headed up toward it, past the fountain that turns out to be Apollo. It’s very reminiscent of the Trevi fountain, with men blowing horns and leading horses as they charge out of the water. I suspect one inspired the other somewhat. The marble statues that line the path up to the main palace are of Bacchus, Saturn, Apollo etc. All marble, real major works, none of your plaster B n Q jobbies. A lot of steps takes you up to the palace back door. Even before you get the map you know this is going to take more than one day.

To the credit of whoever runs the palace the majority of it is actually open to the public. (Once you get in as there are only 3 people taking payment and only one of those can take debit cards!) Oddly though despite most being accessible, we were finished in about 4 hours. Later I came to the conclusion that this was because the interior of the palace is nowhere near as splendorous as the exterior. There’s simply not that much to see. The audio guides are brief with very little detail, and apart from some chairs, desks, clocks, beds, mirrors and paintings, there is just so little to look at, ponder about and ‘Oooh’ over. The spiral staircase in Chambord is way better than any in this palace, and the great hall in Chenonceau is almost as impressive as the one here. I did find 2 paintings of Psyche, which as you know from my visits to the Louvre, Canova’s sculpture of her revival with a kiss is one of my most favourite pieces of art. It was fascinating as I spent quite a significant effort trying to photograph Psyche’s face, which in the sculpture is very difficult, but I managed. It is pleasing to see that there is a definite resemblance between the painting and the sculpture. Maybe you don’t think so or maybe you can see it, I think it’s definitely there though.

Going back to the grounds, you could spend a week here. There’s Marie Antoinette’s former estate to explore, a farm, miles of grounds and miles of tree lined alleyways with little and large pieces of art dotted everywhere. Rowing boats and cycles to hire and woods and forest to explore as well as the mazes and gardens. I also spent the entire Saturday in the grounds after my friend had gone home and most of today (Sunday) despite the poor weather. Try not to buy anything in here it’s incredibly expensive. The smallest 50cl bottle of water is 3 euros, the boats are 11 euros per 30 minutes. The pass to enable you to see everything is 20 euros per adult. The pass is excellent value for money, you will I am sure get your 20 euros worth easily if you go early and stay late. If you don’t have much time pay 13.50 euros per adult and that gets you the major part of the palace. The gardens and grounds are free. You can spend the entire day there if you wish. It’s only the palace and other buildings that you pay to access. However there are special shows sometimes, such as the evening firework display, musical fountains etc which are included in the ticket price and the gardens are locked for those. If you really are stuck for time and want to ooohh and ahhh I’d consider foregoing the palace itself and visit the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon instead.

As always I’ve taken some photos, which mostly follow linearly the order that I visited the palace and grounds in.  I rarely take photos of people, but I took a few this time as I felt they could express something better than I could:  families enjoying their time on the boats; an old Englishman writing his diary; a Spanish girl who stood for ages staring at the palace in amazement.  I’ve sectioned the photographs, so go here for the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s estate and finally here, for St Louis cathedral and some general pictures of the city.

I’d recommend the Chateau de Versailles to anyone visiting this part of France as a fantastic day/weekend out and a must see.

Jessops gives me the brush off Grr!

Rubbish brush
Rubbish brush

I bought a small air-pump and brush from Jessops. It was only a couple of quid, and “Yes,” enthused the young lad behind the counter, “this should be in every photographers kit and is specially developed for digital SLR’s such as the Canon 5D. Furthermore … ” he excitedly told me, “it will save you loads of money as sensor cleaning is about £20 a time.  Not only that … ” he fervently continued, “but you can use it for your lenses too, and all the hard to reach areas such as the viewfinder window and around the controls.” OK I’m sold on it then. Sounds to me like my life hasn’t been properly complete without it.

So, sitting in the garden of the Chateau de Versailles I decide now is the time to clean my sensor as I’m getting tiny marks on every single picture I take. Out with my infallible high-tech cleaner and lets be at it then. So, the first brush against the sensor makes one thing clear and one thing not clear. It’s clear that despite frantic pressing of the small rubber bulb, I’m not going to get enough air out of this thing to dislodge a feather. You can’t hold something stable and press it that hard and that frequent anyway. Hmmm.

Also, it’s left streaky brush marks on my sensor! Grr! OK out with the trusty optical cloth and wipe those nasty marks away. I’ll start again. Ahhh but … starting again has the same effect. Not only is this device useless for blowing air out of, but it’s also leaving streaks on my sensor.  Now let me tell you these sensors are not cheap to replace!

Now another problem. The optical cloth is guaranteed not to scratch your glass, so I always carry one for the lenses. However, they make no guarantee about lint from the cloth. So now I have hundreds of tiny hairs and dots all over my screen. After much huffing and blowing, I reckon I’m about 100 times worse off than when I started. 🙁

The moral of the story is, do NOT believe the spotty kid in Jessops who says those £2 blowers are good for digital cameras. They are cheap, ineffective CRAP! and look up ^, there’s a mug shot of one of the beastly things. I’m now off to find a decent camera shop to get the sensor, mirror and screen professionally cleaned.