Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Time for a new season.

Right. Bored with winter now.

Fed up with cold weather, long nights. The pissing rain.

I want to be able to go out in a Tshirt. I want to be able to drive at 6 in the evening without having to use my headlights. I want to go to the allotment without having to wear 7 layers of clothing.

Let's be having you then, February. I always feel that spring is on it's way when we get to February.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 29 January 2012


Just on a whim, I set myself the task of going downstairs into the kitchen, making myself a cup of coffee, and returning to this room. The challenge was to do it with my eyes closed.

I had a cup on the desk next to me, whichI'd already picked up before I thought of doing this. Then I walked to the top of the stairs.

No problem. I can walk in the dark. I walked down the stairs with my eyes closed too. Even the curve at the bottom was negotiated with a minimum of bother.

The hall was slightly more tricky because there is some flatpacked furniture stacked against the left hand wall as you head towards the kitchen. I stumbled into this slightly and had to use my left hand to locate the wall and orientate myself.

And so through the kitchen door and into the kitchen.

I walked over to the corner where the kettle is and wafted my hand in front of me. I quickly found the corner of the microwave. I pressed the door release to confirm and the microwave started up.

I opened my eyes and looked. Using a microwave without anything in it might not be good for it. After opening the door properly and closing it again to stop it from operating, I closed my eyes again and moved a bit to the right. I knocked into something that wasn't a kettle and opened my eyes again because whatever it was wobbled.

Just a bottle. I closed my eyes and tried again.

This time I found the kettle. It felt weighty when my hand knocked against it. Good. This would mean I wouldn't have to pick it up and try to find the sink, with its tap. I picked it up from its base and confirmed that it had more than enough water in it for a cup of coffee. I found the switch at the top of the handle and switched it on.

Now then. Coffee.

The coffee is in a jar to the left. There are many other jars to the left too. A jar of decaff. An empty jar that should probably be in the recycling bag. Other jars and bottles and packets of cordial, ketchup, salad dressing, etc. I reached out and knocked something, and again opened my eyes, fearful of knocking something over and causing breakage/spillage.

Since my eyes were open anyway, I found the correct coffee jar before closing them again.

I unscrewed the lid. Normally, I don't use a spoon. I just pour what looks like about the right amount into my cup. I generally like it strong anyway. But how could I measure how much to put in now?

I tilted the jar and brought it to the edge of the cup. Carefully. A bit of a shake, and I could hear the coffee granules moving. The noise of the rapidly warming kettle was making it difficult to judge.

I put the coffee jar down and shook the cup. A tiny sliding noise revealed only a few individual granules had migrated from jar to cup. I tried again. No coffee was added. I tried once more. This time, a little more coffee was sliding around the bottom of the cup. It didn't sound like anything like enough.

I opened my eyes and looked. There were perhaps 9 or 10 granules in the cup. I poured my usual dose and closed my eyes.

Now, how to line up spout of kettle with middle of cup? I had my right hand on the cup, and I'd picked up the kettle in my left hand (I'm left handed) but I didn't want to keep my right hand on the cup in case I missed, and poured boiling water over my hand.

Well OK. I'd cross that bridge when I came to it. How about something easier?

Get the milk out of the fridge. I tried to find the opening edge of the fridge, but again brushed agaisnt something that wobbled glassily and opened my eyes instinctively, so that I wouldn't break or spill anything. The bottle of cordial is an elongated cone in shape, and fairly difficult to overturn, but I wasn't taking any chances. I found the fridge door and closed my eyes, groping around in the back of the door for a bottle of milk.

I found one. It felt heavy. the lid seemed to be on.

Was there another bottle, already open? Further groping revealed several things. A plastic bottle that I decided was almost certainly salad cream. Another that I seemed to remember contained brown sauce. Then another glass bottle. This one was lighter, and the foil lid was scrunched and dented.

I picked it up and took it over to the work surface near the kettle and the cup with it's coffee. Then I put the milk bottle down.

I picked up the kettle again, and was still faced with the task of putting the correct amout of scaldingly hot water into a cup that I couldn't see.

At this point, I gave up.

We have a sort of alarm thing for the bath. It hangs down into the bath, and when the water level rises high enough, it covers two contacts and creates a circuit, which then activates a piercing alarm. Presumably there is some kind of device that blind people can put into their mug so that they can tell when they've put the right amount of water in.

We use our eyes an incredible amount. If I ever do go blind, I will have to be incredibly well organised, or I won't be able to do even the simplest of things for myself.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Towing a caravan on an alien world.

Thrust used to be one of my favourite games back when I had an Acorn Electron (I couldn't afford a proper BBC)

Fight gravity! Shoot reactors! Collect fuel! Squeeze through narrow caverns with a big, inertia laden ball in tow!

All for free on a PC.


driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Wordle for this blog:

Get your own HERE

driving lessons in Wallasey?

The milk of human bickering

A war has been going on under my very nose and for a week, I knew only that things were not quite right on my doorstep.

It all started with a two litre plastic container of semi-skimmed. It appeared outside our front door and although we should have recieved a pint of semi-skimmed in a glass bottle, we thought little of it. A simple mistake perhaps, or some temporary shortage of our usual delivery leading to the milkman providing an alternative.

But the same thing happened the next day.

The day after this, we should have got 2 pints. Instead we got 4 litres. Our fridge was becoming crammed with plastic bottles of milk, much of which was beginning to turn.

The next day was Sunday. No milk. On Sunday night, I put a glass bottle out with a note asking what was going on, stating clearly what our requirements were, and stating that we were not prepared to pay for all this unwanted dairy produce.

The note disappeared along with the bottle. In it's place on Monday morning, there was a two litre plastic bottle of milk.

On Tuesday morning, around 9am, I was awakened by a phone call. The caller rang off before I could answer but I pressed 1471 and got a local number, which I then googled. This number belonged to the Dairy Crest Dairy in Saughall Massie. I gave them a call and was informed (by someone who I think was the dairy manager, or possibly the replacement milkman) that my milkman no longer worked for Dairy Crest, and the deliveries were probably a mistake, and that the manager had recieved my letter. He asked what it said on the plastic bottles, and I dug one out and told him.And he told me not to worry, since the milk was free.

This seemed odd, but I assumed he meant that my old milkman had been replaced, that the new milkman was leaving the wrong amount by mistake, and that because it was the fault of the dairy, we would not be charged for this unordered milk.

The day after, (tuesday) we got yet another 2 litre plastic bottle of milk. This was a surprise. I assumed that since the dairy had taken my note, they would make sure their new and inept milkman got the message, but no. Seemingly not.

And then on Thursday, our old milkman knocked on the door asking for payment.

This too was a surprise, because we'd got it sorted so that it was all done online, with payments by direct debit. Bren refused to pay and demanded an explanation for what had been going on.

So here, as far as I can tell, is what happened...

Milkmen, like so many working people these days, are self employed. They have a franchise. A dairy supplies them with customers and produce, takes care of some of the admin, such as collecting payment and advertising etc. The milkman either pays the dairy a certain fixed amount or percentage of his takings, or buys the milk at a price that is profitable to the dairy. It appears that this last arrangement existed between our milkman and Dairy Crest increased the price the milkman was having to pay them for his milk.

Since he was no longer buying his milk from Dairy Crest, our milkman was sourcing his milk from a different dairy. Why he was leaving us with the two litre plastic bottles rather than 1 pint glass bottles is unclear. Why we weren't being left milk by both the old milkman and the new is also unclear right now.

Our old milkman (who is actually our current milkman - we've chosen to stay with him rather than continue to get our doorstep delivery from that particular dairy) never recieved the note I left, because someone from the dairy, possibly the same person I spoke to on the phone, took it.

This seems bizarre. Was this guy trawling up and down the streets of Wallasey looking for notes in milk bottles, in order to fuck over our milkman? He could have explained things better over the phone. Instead he gave me the impression that our old milkman was no longer doing the job, and that we could have the milk that had been delivered for free. Generous of him, since it wasn't him or his dairy that had left it.

Dairy Crest come across as a right old bunch of snide tossers, and I'm glad Bren chose to stick with our old milkman.

Our old milkman could have handled it better though. A simple note left with the delivery, explaining what was going on would have been useful.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Busy bees. Blue arsed flies, etc.

Not much time for blogging.

Some days I'm only doing a few lessons, but with the exception of January 1st and 2nd, so far this month I've only had one day without doing any teaching at all.

I certainly am not complaining. I have another day off this coming Tuesday. I shall be playing a round of golf with my dad.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Little and large

It all started with something small.

At the bottom of each page on my website is a testimonial statement, randomly selected from the comments my pupils have left for me. After making various changes to the format of the main page, I'm very close to what I want, except this particular bit is too far over to the right. I've attempted to move it over by setting it's alignment, but ultmately, the problem lies with the table structure of the page, which has become somewhat chaotic because of the edits and redesigns I've been doing.

The bit I want to change is pretty much invisible in the wysiwig part of dreamweaver, and I'm not getting what I want using the code editor side of things either.

Loading a different, less messed about with page, I find the table structure is much more intact, but that existing table structure no longer gives me quite what I'm looking for.

This is a shame, because I could have just shoved the content of the main page into a temp page for safe keeping, pasted the table from a working page, and repasted the content back into it.

But I'm increasingly feeling like I want to just start again. Obviously, still keeping those lovely bits of code safe somewhere, but making an entirely new table and working things from there. This would then have to be propagated across all the accessible pages of the site, for the sake of coherence.

And all because one little page element is not quite in the correct place.

Still, I think it will be worth it in the end.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Smoke Fairies

Get your ears around this.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sliding ever onwards...

 Now this is something like...


But now I'm not happy with the page layout. I want to make the top banner take up a lot less of the screen.

Might as well do a completely new graphic I suppose.

Watch this space...

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 16 January 2012

Best thing since..

You can't buy thin sliced bread at the supermarket anymore.

I wanted to buy thin sliced bread because a) it would go a bit further. b) I'm trying to lose weight. c) Out of sheer pedantic bloody-mindedness.

You see, in the supermarket, you can buy medium sliced bread, thick sliced bread, and extra thick sliced bread.

Now forgive me, but if I have a small thing, a big thing, and something that is between those two extremes, it's that middle, mean, median, modal one that's "medium". If I take the small thing and replace it with a giant thing, the one that was formerly "big" becomes the new medium.

So I take exception to the thinnest available bread being labelled as "Medium". It isn't. It's "Thinnest" if not actually "Thin".

Preferably, I'd like to see them sell "Thin" again, but presumably because it goes further, there's less bread to be made from it.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Child benefit cuts - the frog in cold water

The theory goes like this:

You throw a frog into a pot of hot water, and the frog will jump straight back out again. Throw the frog into a pot of cold water and it will swim around contentedly, not realising that the water is getting hotter and hotter.

So imagine the outcry if the government announced it was abolishing child benefit.

Instead, they will abolish it for high earners.

Makes sense doesn't it? If someone is earning £1,000 a week, why would they need £20 child allowance?

It will make it more complicated to administer now of course. People will have to assess the income levels of claimants, instead of everyone with a child being eligible. I don't know how much extra this will cost, but more importantly, a principle is being established here.

And a year down the line, it will be people earning £500 a week that will no longer be eligible. And peope earning £200 a week the year after that.

Feeling the heat yet?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 12 January 2012


An ice cold glass of...


I really don't want to take the first step back to where I used to be right now.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Day of rest

Tomorrow, Friday, is the first day off I've had since January 2nd. Even when I've not actually been teaching, I've been doing quite a lot of driving, to pick stuff up for the shop.

So hooray! Tomorrow, I can do what I like.

In practice, I will wake up early because my body clock is so used to getting up early. I will get up, because I just can't lie in bed once my eyes have opened.

My desktop computer has once again developed a seemingly terminal problem with it's hard drive, so presumably, some of my time will be spent shoving a different one back in (I have loads of semi-knackered hard drives to choose from) and  reinstalling the operating system and all the multifarious gubbins that make the graphics card and sound card and wireless internet bits function properly. Again.

Tonight, a part of me thinks I'm thirsty and tired. Another part of me is thinking just how nice an ice cold tequila flavoured lager would be right now, and that having done all that work, I sort of deserve it.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Sliding along nicely....

This is by no means the finished product, but here's where I'm up to.


Currently the images are not clickable. In the finished version, each picture will send the delighted clicker off to it's own dedicated page.

The images themselves are really just to make sure the concept works. The final images will be substantially different (probably) The layout will become more compact. I will have 4 or possibly 5 pictures in the slideshow. The current order of slides is not how things will be when finished.

But apart from that, it's exacly how I want it. :)

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Slip slidin' away

While keeping the same basic format of HOME | PRICES  | CONTACT | LINKS, I have plans to make the "HOME" bit a bit more razzle-dazzle.

What I have in mind is to create a series of images, each of which is made up of text and an image. The text would be in a light colour, the image would be colourful. The background would be #000000. The image would occupy almost all of the area beneath the link bar and logo.

Then, probably after reading this tutorial about a hundred times, I will copy and paste the code and modify it's contents to point to the images I've created.

The result being a slideshow of images, each of which can be clicked to take the viewer to a page on the site that gives more information. Not tonight, mind, but in the next few weeks hopefully.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 7 January 2012

In other news...

You, dear reader, being the attentive and intelligent person you undoubtedly are, will have formed a mental image of me as you've read my musings and mutterings.
I have no way of knowing whether you find me boring or interesting; what I look like in your minds eye (you might have seen pictures of me from time to time on this blog of course); whether your mental image is anywhere near how I wish to be percieved, etc.

Let me add something to the jigsaw and say that I'm not a mechanically apt person. My middle name isn't "dexterity".

"Dexterity" by the way, derives from "Right Handed".

So in the strict sense of the word, I am far from Dextrous. I am in fact, Sinister.


I am also cack handed. Both in the sense of being left handed, and in the sense of being clumsy.

Or so I've always been told.

"It was a Naccident" was a catchphrase my Dad invented for me. It kind of took the joy out of getting a junior toolkit for christmas.

No matter. I have other skills. I'm perfectly dextrous (with either hand) if you give me a steering wheel.

This week though, I've fixed a car.

You heard me right. I've taken a car that had a fault, and done what was required to make the fault go away. I can't take the credit for diagnosing the fault. That has to go to Bren. She reckoned that the HT leads were the problem. The HT leads take electrical energy from the battery, and feed it to the spark plugs, via something called a distributor - the sparks have to happen in a certain order to make the engine turn the crank)

First part of sorting out this problem was to get off my arse and buy the appropriate make and model HT leads from ebay. When we got around to trying to exchange them, we found that although the connections between the spark plugs and the distributor cap were sound, where the lead from the battery went into the distributer cap both male and female connections had completely corroded. Instead of shiny coppery metal, we had green copper oxide dust. It was remarkable that the car would run at all really, but it was only in damp conditions that it would fail to start.

So I then had to buy a distributor cap. And then I had to fit it. It was fitted over the distributor by two screws. The top screw came out relatively simply with a flathead screwdriver, but the awkwardly placed bottom screw resisted repeated attempts with a variety of flathead, and phillips screwdrivers. Then, looking at the screw I had got out, I noticed that the screwhead was not round but hexagonal. Bingo! I brought pliers, adjustable spanners, and a small mole grip to bear, but still, the screw refused to budge.

So I took the screw inside the house and asked Bren if we had a socket that would fit over it. She dug out the small sockets, and I found one that fitted snugly over the screwhead. Having found the right tool, the stubborn screw offered little resistance, and I was able to remove the old distributor head, replace it with the new one, and correctly put the leads back in the right order, having thoughtfully made a note of their positions prior to removing the old ones.

Now I'm sure that anyone reading this with any aptitude for fixing stuff reads this, they'll be saying, "huh? Big Deal. It's a piss easy job." But I'm pleased with both what I achieved, and how I went about achieving it.

Something else I set my mind to has also borne fruit.

As we were returning from one of the furniture runs I wrote about earlier, I got a text message. This was an enquiry from my website contact form. As it happens, I didn't have my diary with me, and it was getting late so rather than phone the enquirer, I emailed her when I got home.

She called today and I will be giving her son a driving lesson tomorrow. She's talking about doing an intensive course with me, which mean's he's potentially worth several hundred pounds of business to me, which makes the 10p the enquiry cost me, and even the £10 or so I invested overall seem like very small beer.

Good times within the greater gloom. Still smelling smoke. Tired out and bedbound. That's all for today.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Smoke gets in your eyes.

As I was saying the other day, I've not smoked for quite a few months. Prior to me giving up, I'd never smoke indoors. Tobacco smoke is a migraine trigger for Bren, and even if that wasn't the case, a tobacco smelling house is unpleasant for non-smokers. When I lived on my own, I'd happily smoke in my living room, bathroom, even occasionally the kitchen or bedroom, but since moving in with Bren, I'd go outside, come rain or shine. So the ban on smoking indoors in public spaces was just a small progression from that.

Bren, by the way, has been a busy lady over the last few weeks and months. She'd planned to open up a space offering locally produced art and craft goods for sale, with a space for crafting workshops. These plans were facilitated by government funding to help bring empty shops back into use. She found the shop she wanted, applied for funding, and had her application approved.

So wheels are turning. She's had to battle to view the property thanks to the lax attitude of the estate agent assigned to the property, but having done so, she's at the point where she's trying to get a business account (and overdraft) at the bank, attempting to engage the services of a solicitor to sort out the lease, and putting together a planning application for a change of use from a taxi office to a shop/workshop. This should be straightforward. The shop needs a lot of work doing to it, both decoratively, and to a lesser extent, structurally. Internal walls need to be removed. Fixtures such as sinks and hot water boilers need to be installed. And the whole thing needs cleaning up and repainting. (the ceiling in the office behind the front of shop is dark brown with nicotine and general grubbiness. The upstairs has a functional bathroom, but everywhere is filthy.

Until the lease is signed and the key handed over, there's nothing we can do about this side of things, but Bren has been buying all sorts of stuff on as slim a budget as possible using ebay. Bookshelves, Wardrobes, sideboards. All will find function as display cabinets. Hopefully giving the completed shop an air of shabby chic. So we've been out and about in her Son's Ford Mondeo Estate. An amazingly roomy car. We managed to fit two large shelving units in it on our trip to Frodsham. A 7 foot 6 inch bookcase was accomodated with a rope and slightly raised tailgate on a trip to St Helens, and the wardrobe we will be picking up from Chester (or is it Bolton?) should go in if flatpacked. It could probably manage a python if you folded it in half. The python I mean, not the Mondeo.

As well as such fixtures and fittings, Bren also picked up some stock. Crafting materials from a house in a place called Clock Face.

Clock Face is only about 20 miles or so from where I live, on the outskirts of St Helens. I'd never ever heard of it. Despite living so close, I was totally unaware of the existance of a place with that name.

The river mersey is a psychological and cultural barrier as well as a geographical one. I could name pretty much every little hamlet and suburb on Wirral, even parts of Wirral that are about the same distance away. Ask me where Little Stanney is, or Puddington, or Poulton Lancelyn, and I will take you there unerringly.

Anyway, at least one of the people in the house, from whom we bought the crafting materials,  was an indoor smoker. We were there for about 45 minutes while Bren went through the stock, selecting the stuff she was interested in buying. That was about 24 hours ago now.

And somehow, I can't get the stink of stale tobacco out of my nostrils. I've washed my hair. Changed my clothes. Shaved my facial hair. But all day, I've been intermittantly plagued by this smell. And not just the smell. It's even making my eyes sting. In the car. In the living room. Now, in my computer room.

It's not something that induces craving. No sirree.

Nobody else seems to be aware that I smell of cigarettes strongly enough to may my eyes sting and my nose wrinkle with disgust. Could it be psychosomatic?

Still not drinking. Emphatically still not smoking. I don't think my weight has changed much. And I'm working for ten days straight. My first day off since the 2nd of January will be on Friday 13th. Good job too. We have to find the money for the wardrobes and sinks from somewhere.

driving lessons in Wallasey?


Funny what you remember.

I was ten years old, and had recently moved house. New house, new school. I was in either 3rd or 4th year primary school, and the teacher, who's name eludes me right now (she was a female teacher, married to a male teacher with the same surname - Mrs Veats?) was reading us a story.

It was actually just a bit of a story. She would have read the preceding bit the previous day. She would read the next bit on the day after.

This is part of what happened when you were at primary school. Teachers would read you stories. I had Jonathan Livingstone Seagull read to me when I was perhaps 8 or 9 by Mr Dolby, my teacher in my previous school in North Wales, and I can still recall the sense of wonder I got, even if I didn't really understand it in the way I would now.

Anyway, on this occasion, Mrs Veats scared the living daylights out of me, because she ended that day's segment staring at the class, round eyed, and saying, "They weren't stars at all. (dramatic pause...) They were eyes."

There is nothing else I remember of this. Just that one fragment, and until about 10 minutes ago, I'd never thought I'd be able to expand on that. But of course, these days we have free and easy access to everything that ever was thanks to the internet, and typing that one phrase in revealed that the book it comes from is called "The Owl: A Novel of Extraordinary Fantasy" By Allan Sussman.

If you're ten years old, I strongly recommend it.

Edit: Just looking further, ths one was written in 2009, so it's not the one I thought it was. Ooops.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Keeping track...

Here is at least some of where I've been today. (First lesson the logger was being charged)

 Starting in Wallasey, I drove to Saughall Massie, and collected my pupil. We then spent two hours driving around, mainly working on improving her ability to reverse. With it being a 2 hour lesson, we had both the headspace and the physical space and time to be quite relaxed about things. And it worked wonders. Whenever she struggled, we were able to work on each thing. Now this pupil can really make a car go backwards around a corner!

I chose to take her to Meols Promenade, because I wanted her to experience as strong a wind as possible (today has been stormy.). She was fine with that too.

If you're interested, you can download today's route by clicking on THIS LINK

The more observant and logical reader may, on close examination, be able to work out where we did a turn in the road, where we did a bay park, and possibly even where we reversed around a corner. The resolution of the logger is even good enough to show where we parallel parked.

Total logged journey distance: About 34 miles.

Today's weight. 13 st 4 lbs. Change in weight: 0

Alcohol drank today: None. Amount drank this year? None.

Finally, welcome, Tabloid Watch to my blog roll. Assiduous they are, in pointing out the weaselly hypocricy of the British Right Wing Tabloids. A worthy addition, I'm sure you'll agree.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Resolutions, in higher resolution.

I intend to be quite structured and organised about things this year. There are tools at my disposal.

First off, there's a Wii, with a Wii Fit board. I intend for this blog to be a record of my weight (and waist measurement)

I shall try to do this weekly, but not necessarily every seven days.

Second tool for me to organise and tabulate my life with is a GPS logger that I bought with the Amazon vouchers I asked people to get me for christmas. It records a track that I can import into Google Earth. I intend to use it to publicise the fantastic and adventurous things I do with my pupils, to record the track of any bikerides or walks or anything, and possibly just to show where I've been on any particular day.

You, the Eagle Eyed Blog reader will no doubt have read my earlier contrite post when I announced to the Whole Damn World that I'm a reformed character, and would no longer be drinking.

You'll also no doubt have noticed that I failed to record the fact that I'd started again.

Guilt and shame are harder to post about than good intentions.

Anyway, I'm trying again now. I hope I have the courage to admit I've slipped, if I do slip.

The day, in figures:

Distance Travelled: I don't know. I didn't have the logger with me. Went to Moreton for Lunch with Family. Came home. That's about 10 miles I reckon. All done by car.

Alcohol drunk: None. Cigarettes smoked: None.

That is a success story. I have no desire to restart. It's just a non-issue. I suppose it's about 5 months since I had one. I will try to record the 6 month and 12 month milestones on this blog if I remember.

My weight is 13 stone and 4 pounds. I'm 5 foot 8-9 inches tall, which makes my BMI somewhere around 28.5.

The middle number is unlikely to change much. The other two should hopefully diminish.

driving lessons in Wallasey?