Wednesday 31 October 2007


When we returned from America we settled down to watch some of our favourite programmes that I had set to record on the digibox. But the box decided different! Some programmes had “failed”, some had faulty sound and some just were not there at all. Now, old grumpy does not react at all well when the digibox gives out strange messages and arbitrarily decides not to record a show that I know I have set up. He blames a) me and b) the digibox and moans that between us (me and the digibox) we have to find a solution.

So how do I resolve this problem? Get a new digibox? This one has served us long and well and I feel a certain loyalty towards it so it is with great reluctance that I decide the box has to go. Having made the decision and pumped up with new confidence I then get adventurous. If I have to get a new box then I'll get an HD digibox.

Not being very technically minded I 'phone Sky and speak to a very nice, heavily accented, young man who explains the advantages of the new HD digibox. After several confusing minutes I eventually think, yes, yes, that sounds good, let’s go for it. But knowing how impetuous I can be my daughter had cautioned “Before you go ahead and order you should make sure that an HD digibox works with a non-HD TV”. So sensible!

“Does this HD digibox work with a non-HD TV?” Stunned silence. “You don’t have an HD TV?” “Well, (brightly) yes I do, but not in that room” Many bemused moments later the young man decides that I am a dead loss as far as this sale goes and proceeds to offer me “a free consultation in your own home to discuss the benefits of our Sky talk/TV/broadband package” “Will this make an HD digibox work with a non-HD TV?” Again a stunned silence. “No” “Well thank you very much for your kind offer, but I think that in this instance I will decline the free consultation”.

Damn, now where do I go from here? I know, “discuss” again with old grumpy, let him decide. Good move. He decides to move the HD TV from the bedroom into the sitting room and the expensive Bang Olufsen non HD TV from the sitting room to our bedroom. The Bang Olufsen is really heavy and needs two hefty men to move and the HD TV needs an MA in electrical engineering to get it to work again in the new location. Then there is the problem of the speakers. The HD TV is a wired in home cinema system and a major job to relocate and the Bang Olufsen speakers won’t work with the HD TV. Impasse.

Once the HD TV is installed in the sitting room the digibox starts working again, (wouldn't you know it!) and what we actually have is an aerial problem. New decisions needed here! Get the man out to fix the aerial, order a new HD digibox anyway because we are too knackered to think the whole thing through again, rewire all the speakers and hey presto, we have a working system (maybe) just in time for moving the whole thing around again when the building work is complete. Happy days!

Do you know, I think that I am actually beginning to like retirement now because I can sit and write rubbish like this all day long.

PS - Dear DogLover. You once reprimanded me for using the "F" word and held up wifeinthenorth as an example of how to write without resorting to swearing. If you read one of her recent blog "Postcards No.2" you will see that she swears too! So there!!

Saturday 27 October 2007


It has never been more obvious to me that age is merely a state of mind than when Menzies Campbell resigned recently because he was being taunted about his age. He is younger than me, and is the same generation as Mick Jagger, Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney. The only difference? He grew up. Moral? Don’t grow up. I never will!!

And neither will my fishy friend. This week she reported that her new credit card had not arrived. Here’s how that one went:

Having paid my accounts on time, as a good person does, (unlike when I was 30) I had no problem ‘phoning the credit card company to alert them that my new card had not arrived.

"Wait until the end of the month" says the girl on the end of the phone "It was sent out 15 days ago" Eh??

"OK - as it was sent 15 days ago do you think that it may be lost? Postal strike and all that? Do you think you should be a little concerned - and more to the point, should I not be concerned?"

"Well " she says" it's up to you (yawn, yawn) but if you want to use your account in the next few days perhaps you should just hope it arrives in time. If I cancel your account now and report a lost card you will have to wait for up to 10 days to get new account, card and PIN. We don't want to cause you any concern"

I stop myself saying anything about concern that my bloody credit card is floating around the British Postal system somewhere. In my best Karma self I say politely "CANCEL NOW - that is C.A.N.C.E.L - NOW" and hey that has caused me no concern at all in saying it!!!

A week later the "old" new card has still not arrived - nor has the "new" new card but hey, who's concerned.????? Certainly not the guys who charge 27.5%APR.

Take me home country roads…..

By the way I have just read your blog about your adventures with the Dr's receptionist. OMG!!!! I have an idea. We should set up a vigilante group - zimmer frames at the fore - we will overcome. I am starting to have the slightest inkling of the mind-set of a suicide bomber!!!!!

I say again - take me back, country roads...............

Again I say, age is merely a state of mind. Who can possibly realise that these genteel older folk harbour such thoughts of madness and mayhem?

Monday 22 October 2007


Himself had an eye operation in August and although it’s early days his sight has not improved as well as anticipated. He is, naturally, feeling a little bit down and finding it hard to get motivated. I mentioned this to my lady that lunches and it resulted in this exchange of emails.

“Tell him from me to get a grip or I’ll come round and lash him with a wet hosepipe. He told me that once - with love and concern. Now it’s time for me to reciprocate - with love and concern!”

“He would probably enjoy it if you came round and lashed him with a wet hosepipe! Kinky bugger.”

“Am loading car with hosepipes to fill the Millenium Dome – tell him to be ready!!!”

“He waited in anticipation all night. Standing in a corner with his wet suit on and an orange in his mouth. He is exhausted!…and very, very disappointed ”.

“I spent the night in a huge water tank on the Norfolk coast after the Lincolnshire RSPCA picked me up en-route thinking I was a giant octopus. Sorry to have disappointed”

You couldn’t make it up could you?

Friday 19 October 2007


Didn't I do well in the squandering the inheritance stakes this year? I think that I can honestly say "pat that girl on the back - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"

And a PS on HUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON. I forgot to mention that the surgery gave me a copy of the letter that we then fax off to the hospital from our office 1st time! Strange that!! And when we arrived at the hospital they said that in total they had received the fax from the surgery five times. But the email the surgery had tried sending had never reach them.

And PPS this is what our friend had to say on the subject:

"I thought your description of getting a fax over to the hospital was brilliant. That's exactly how these things happen and our practice would do it exactly the same way. The idea of faxing seems to un-nerve people who ought to know how to do it. I think that doctors are to blame for not making sure how their offices work, but then they themselves have never had any experience of office work and rely on their practice managers to run an efficient office. If they haven't got a good one, they probably don't know he/she isn't any good! It takes our practice several days to get out a letter dictated by the doctor in one's presence!"

He followed that email up a few days later with this actual experience:

"Is that the MRI centre? Have you received a letter from my doctor? I saw her on 10th October and it's the 18th now"

"No, we've got nothing here - perhaps it's been caught by the postal strike"

"I'll get them to fax a copy to you, then"

"May I speak to the practice manager, please. Has the doctor sent the letter to the MRI centre?"

"Yes, it's dated 11th October"

"It hasn't reached them - will you please fax a copy to them"

"I'll need the fax number ... "

"I have it here - it's xxxx xxxxx"

"Thanks - we'll fax the letter off"

[Half an hour later] "MRI centre here - we have the fax from your surgery. Could you come in at 4.45 pm on Monday, 22nd October?"

"Yes, thanks. What will it cost?"

"Well normally it is £500 for an immediate appointment, but £425 after 7 days, but the letter was dated 11th October, so we'll charge you £295 as if you'd had to wait 14 days"

"Thanks" [Thinks "Thank goodness schools don't teach maths nowadays!"]

Moral of this tale: It seems some offices are efficient and willing.

And PPPS What has been the outcome of my complaining to the HR Manager? Zilch.

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Tuesday 16 October 2007


My feet haven’t touched ground since I got home. So how come I’m retired and have so much stuff to do? This weekend our granddaughters two girls stayed for a sleep over on Saturday night, our daughters two boys slept over on Sunday night and yet another daughters two boys are staying for a week while she is in Turkey.

In the middle of all this we had a medical crisis. Following an examination the doctor was to arrange a hospital appointment. “They will probably telephone you with the appointment because of the postal strike”. What does he then do? Sends the referral letter by mail! Naturally it doesn’t reach the hospital because there is, as he quite rightly pointed out, a postal strike. Now forgive me for being gob-smacked, but for someone that purports to be intelligent, wasn't that a stupid thing to do?

By mid-morning yesterday I decided to ring the hospital and they confirm the letter had, indeed, not been received (surprise, surprise), but if we arranged to have it faxed over they had a cancellation at 04.30 pm.

“Hi, the doctor wrote for a hospital appointment, but (trying hard not to sound smugly sarcastic) because of the postal strike the hospital hasn’t received it, can you fax it over please?”

“Just a minute (lots of huffs and puffs and several minutes later) the secretary is at lunch can you ring back?” "OK".

After thinking about this I ring back. “Actually I would rather not wait until the secretary gets back, can you fax it over now please?” “OK”. That was easy.

“Hi, the surgery are faxing over the referral letter” “Do you know who the consultant is, because some consultants like to deal with their own mail and it might be in a drawer. If I know who it is I'll go and have a look?” How sensible.

“Hi, could you give me the name of the consultant” Duly given and the information telephoned over to the hospital

“Hi, have you received the fax from the surgery yet” “No” “OK, I’ll give them another call”.

“Hi, the fax hasn’t been received yet” “We’re still trying to fax it over” “OK”.

“Hi, this is the practice secretary. I have no record of you having requested this referral to be faxed. We mailed it on 11th”. Her tone was very confrontational and again I resist the urge to mention the mail strike. “No, we didn’t ask for it to be faxed, but now the hospital has not received it because of the postal strike (there I go again) they asked for it to be faxed” “Oh, I see, OK we’ll fax it”.

In the meantime the hospital receptionist entered the loop calling the surgery and me several times. Still no fax.

A simple request had resulted in dozens of telephone calls between me, the surgery and the hospital, culminating in me jumping into my car, storming into the surgery, upsetting everyone and reporting one of the reception staff.

As I walked in I heard the receptionist say to the secretary “she gave me the wrong fax number”. She then looked at me and said “You gave me the wrong fax number” ”Or maybe you wrote it down wrong?” “I didn’t write it down wrong you gave me the wrong number. Now the hospital has given me another number and we still can’t get it through. Their fax isn’t working”. So, now the hospital is included in her accusations. An increasingly heated exchange went back and forth for a while. Impasse!!

She then turned her back on me, started muttering “She did give me the wrong number”, picked up her handbag and marched off to lunch. I was furious It was quite likely that I had given her the wrong number, but I couldn’t be sure, so how could she be so sure. “I want to speak to the Practice Manager” “We don’t have a Practice Manager, do you mean the HR Manager” “I don’t know what I mean, (steam coming out of my ears) I just want to report that receptionists appalling attitude”. They got the message. I was quickly trollied into a side room and given the professional smarm treatment until I finally submitted. I don’t have enough life left in me to fight these wars anymore. That’s how they get away with it.

Thursday 11 October 2007


My mad friend and co-blogger sent me this little ditty that she suggests should be sung to the melody of the Beetles song. If you saw us in the street you would think we were two ladies that lunch (which we are, except we partake in liquid vallium lunches!) but I cannot stress how mad we really are.

The wind is up, the sky is grey
Expect nought else, it's Saturday
Dear Prudence
Life's a whole load of crap!

Born's house next door needs to be done
AT LAST the builder has returned
Dear Prudence
Let's give him a big clap (or smack round the ear for having disappeared for three weeks)

The Company's sold, New owners in
No change to us, How it's always "bin"
Dear Prudence
Yeah!!!We'll carry on 'til we wrap

The tooth's stopped hurting, that is sound
Still need NHS but they're not found
Need dentist
Let us look at the map

Have "pulled" a rib, can cope with pain
At my age tell me how I don't do it again (please!! This is the second one this year)
Dear Prudence
Don't let any of them snap!!!

Have seen your blog and where you are
Have wished to goodness I was there
Dear Prudence
Send the airline tickets asap

So here I am on Saturday
Just wishing I was far away
Dear Prudence
Could I please win Camelot, buy my Granny flat in Manhatten, holiday in the sun over winter and get a new body soonest

Tuesday 9 October 2007


So here we sit in JFK

Trying to while the hours away

Trying not to eat the stuff

That makes me fat - and that is rough

Trying to be alert and gay

Wishing boredom would go away

The airport lounge is dull as hell

A good book they do not sell

But count your blessings I was taught

So thank the lord and pass the port

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Sunday 7 October 2007


In the few square miles around this hotel we were able to add to the list of biggest, 1st, etc.

In Intercourse (I kid you not) they claim to have "the world's largest collection of country knives".

In Harrisburg they claim to have the "most humongous teddy bear store on earth".

They claim that Hershy county is the "sweetest place on earth". I'm not sure that Cadbury would agree with that statement.

By 1915 it was claimed that Milton Hershy had "the largest chocolate factory in the world'.

And, last, but not least in the Hearshy Museum they claim to have the "8th wonder of the world. John Fiester's scientifically marvelous and artistically beautiful monumental apolostolic clock". Personally I prefer on the in Prague.

We visited an Amish House Museum and enjoyed a guided tour. It was very thought provoking commentary by a very knowlegable guide.

The Amish originally came from Switzerland (not a lot of people know that, I thought they were Dutch) and their way of life is very attractive in todays busy world.

But, I asked myself, if I was an Amish would I be allowed to squander the inheritance, indeed would I be allowed to squander full stop? I came to the conclusion that I am probably constitutionally incapable of behaving myself suffice to be Amish. Pity, because I think I would have been an asset to them.

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Saturday 6 October 2007


Our NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL tour was dramatically changed yesterday when we saw the motel that we had booked into.

I was beginning to have doubts about the soundness of spending three days and nights in rural Vermont. Beautiful though it is, it is very "Deliverance". Our friend comes from Oregan and had wondered what made the settlers move across country.

In Vermont we had our answer. They had made the push west because they decided that they didn't want to stay and mate with their own kin. That is a little harsh because it is such a beautiful place, but still, I wouldn't like to walk in the woods alone at night.

The state is empty apart from this one motel that is on a busy road. The worst of two worlds! So on we moved to Albany, the State Capitol of New York.

So now our tour now is how many State Capitols and we squeee into two weeks. So far we have:

Boston, State Capitol of Mass - done that.

Albany, State Capitol of New York - done that.

Concord, State Capitol of New Hampshire - done that.

Providence, State Capitol of Rhode Island - done that.

Harrisburg, State Capitol of Pennsylvania - done that.

Annapolis, State Capitol of Maryland - going to do that.

So here we are in Amish country in a beautiful Hilton Hotel ready to hit the road tomorrow to photograph the poor innocent people of this state.

By the way, NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL. Wonderful, wonderful colours and scenery, but after hundreds of thousands of acres of empty roads and more bloody trees we thought "let's get the hell out of here before we fall off the planet".

By the, by the way, when we left the "The Bates Motel" mine hoste announced he was a refridgeration expert and offered to fix our faulty vehicle aircon. We agreed, he announced we hadn't set the conrols right, fixed them - not, and yesterday we spent a hellish day with temperatures in the mid 80's and all the windows open.

We swapped the wonderfully comfortable eight seater top of the range vehicle for a very inferior and very small saloon car, but at least it has aircon that works and with tempertures still crazilly high we sure need it.
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Thursday 4 October 2007


In my travels I have noticed that every town/region/country has a USP. In this small area of New Hampshire they have the oldest continuously used theatre in the country (the Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem), the longest candy counter IN THE WORLD (23' long in Littleton) and the first cog railway IN THE WORLD (on Mt Washington).

These claims sometimes sound pretty dubious to me and I think someone should start recording them because I'm sure they "overlap".

I can't remember all the biggest, fattest, oldest widest, most expensive claims that I've ever heard but I know I have mentioned that the defibulator and aircon was invented and first used in Belfast where they also have two of the the largest cranes IN THE WORLD. Incidentally, I love Belfast.

In Denver they have, if my memory serves me right, the oldest newspaper in the USA and many, many other world beating claims. Incidentally, I love Denver.

In New York they had the first skyscraper IN THE WORLD. Incidentally, I love New York.

In Boston they have the oldest commissioned war ship IN THE WORLD. Old Ironsides. Undefeated in (I think) 38 battles. It earned it's name when it had taken a particularly hard pounding and someone commented "is that ship made of iron or something? (I paraphrase!). To retain it's commission it is sailed for one hour once a year. Now is that useless information or what? Incidentally, I really love Boston.

London had the first subway trains! We are not so good with promoting this wonderfulest, bestest, brightest thing. Too self depreciating. It might sound too boastful. Incidentally, I love London.

One random memory I just had was when we were travelling back to our hotel on the New York subway into our carriage stepped a man who announced to all and sundry in a VERY LOUD AND ANGRY voice. "I was a gunner in the US army" at which time I thought "oh fuck, where's the gun". "I was in Dessert Storm and now I have applied for welfare. What I want from you people is money for something to eat". For several minutes he glared at us. No-one moved a muscle and then to everyones relief he moved on to the next carriage where we heard him make the same announcement. Whew! That was a close one. If he's going to shoot, let him do it in the next carriage! Incidentally, I love New York.

Tomorrow we move on to Vermont. If you don't hear from us to a while, make enquires as to our welfare at the Bates Motes.

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Originally uploaded by anninfotel

Wednesday 3 October 2007


Here we are in New Hampshire staying at the "Bates Motel". Only kidding, except it really does feel like an upmarket Bates Motel.

The owner has an unnerving habit of suddenly appearing at your side and takes great pains in telling us that he is an ex-marine and this is his home that he is welcoming us into.

He gave us the rules "if you want your room cleaned don't leave the "do not disturb" notice on your door" What? "and don't leave any belongings on anything. I don't touch belongings. If your belongings are on anything I won't clean it" What? "And if you want trash emptied you godda tell me otherwise I won't do it" What? "And no swingers or parties". Definately, what? "Coffee is available from 0700" (It wasn't) and breakfast is sharp at 8.30 (it was, despite the fact that everyone had been waiting since 7.30!).

His wife Carol had prepared yoghurt and granola, sausage and pancakes. Not exactly a cullinary delight that took much effort - and for this we waited until 8.30. You godda be kidding.

As I type he is lurking in the background and I'm terrified in case he appears at my shoulder and reads this guff.

But despite his best efforts we had a good day with delightful people who are building a house and run a website called

The autumn colours are quite disappointing at the moment, but the good company and food more than makes up for that. As the days progress hopefully the colours will become more vivid. Although that's a poison challice, because it needs to rain for the colours to come out and we don't want rain. Today has been a really pleasant and sunny day and that is how we would like it to remain.

We took our laundry in for a "wash and fold" service this morning. We asked what time she closed "you want it tonight!" she reeled back in horror. We timidly consulted each other and decided that tomorrow would do "Well, whatever suits you, tomorrow?" "Make up your mind - do you want it today or tomorrow?". Then she saw my husband, smiled and was putty in his hands. She agreed that today would be fine. How does he do that? I asked him "How do you do that?" "easy!". I want to kill him again.

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Tuesday 2 October 2007


Clues: crab, cream pie, tea party - BOSTON -Yeh!!

Impression - compact, safe, clean, WASPish. Home to the Kennedy clan, and the American War of Independence. Like Belfast, it is a diddy place with a big, big heart and many claims to fame.

We have done three trolley tours, one walking tour and one harbour tour and now I am an expert. So what's new!

We have eaten in a first class fish restaurant (Anthony's on Pier 4), a kooky place where the staff insult the diners (Dick's Last Resort), the oldest Italian restaurant for lunch , an over expensive breakfast in the Marriott and finally The Old Parker Hotel, inventor of the Boston Cream Pie where Mau Tsi Tonge once worked (if that's how you spell it) and where we ate - Boston Cream Pie. Tomorrow we plan to have breakfast in McD and then head out of town to rural Bethlehém to see NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL.

What have we learned in Boston? Many things that other cities have claimed. The biggest, first, original, tallest whatevers. The suspension bridge is a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but bigger. So wide in fact that they are planning to install lights underneath the bridge because the fish are becoming disorientated in the dark!

But I forgive them their dodgy claims. It is a wonderfully compact and interesting city with a friendly and humourous population.

Acid test - would we come back, yes we would.


Three guesses where we are. Clues::- yellow cabs, big apple,
New York cheesecake. Got it? Wrong! We are on the train to Boston. Moral of this? Don't be taken in by the obvious. Just travelling though Conneticut.

I am overhearing a conversation with another group of passengers. American: "I travelled across Switzerland in a train and it was 1st class", "Like Orient Express?" "No, but very good" "I happen to live in Switzerland and I know the train you speak of. We had a terrible summer there". I want to get involved "I have been on the Orient Express, and the summer in Switzerland was great compared to England", but I resist! Hard for me to do that!

So, New York. The taxi from JFK must have been the worse taxi in town. Beat up and shabby, no aircon. (temperature of 85F and humid) and a driver that didn't speak English.

So. New York. Impressions. I like the humour and smartness of the natives. Almost European in style. Not very American at all.

There was a UN congress in session and the security had to be seen to be believed. I thought I was back on the Orient Express again. Our hotel was being used by diplomats so there were many shaddowy FBI/CIA/Security/dog handler characters around. I was tempted to point out to a guy in the lift that he had a wire growing out of his neck, but I resisted. Probably the thought of being wrestled to the ground and dragged off to god knows where acted as a deterant. Mind you he was cute so it might not have been all that bad!

On our first day we took a couple of tour buses. The first guide was very informative, but incomprehensible he had a very heavy black accent- is it very un PC to say black? Well.fuck it, black was what he was and black was what he sounded like and no-one could understand him.

The second tour guide was very irritating, he called us "my friends" - well I for one was not his friend. By the end of the tour I wanted to kill him.

Highlights of New York were meeting up with my mad mates beautiful son who has become a native New Yorker and, incidentally, too tall and thin/being moved by Ground Zero/having a great lunch in Wall Street (I can testify that lunch in NOT for wimps) and viewing Mathatten at night from the Statten Island Ferry.

We saw all of Manhatten including Central Park, the UN Empire and Chrysler biuldings, Brooklyn, in short - all of Manhatten. Our feet are sore and our legs ache, but we had a great time.

Let's hope that Boston is equally as good.