Monday, 30 April 2012

Talking shop...

It looks like it's finally going to happen in just over a week.

Last year, Bren became aware of local government grants aimed at bringing empty retail properties back into use. She applied for a grant, and her application was successful.

She'd identified what she thought was the ideal premises, and hoped at one point to open in January this year. - The Taxi office in the picture below...

Then things started going awry. The estate agents were an absolute fucking disgrace. They were uncommunicative in the extreme. Phone calls, emails, even calling in person to their offices and getting stroppy with the receptionist got us nowhere. Bren managed to speak to the guy in the adjascent property. He was also trying to get it, and we get the feeling that the agents were attempting to play us off each other. In the end, we backed out, and as far as I'm aware, so did the other party. The shop sits empty and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.

Meanwhile, Bren found an alternative shop. Not quite as good footfall, but close enough to the town centre for it to be viable. the premises themselves required a lot less work, and are probably better suited to the use Bren intends to put them to.

The shop will be selling art and craft items made by local artists and craftspeople, and will also be a venue for workshops, either run by Bren, or by other crafters.

She could have been in a couple of months ago maybe, but having engaged a solicitor when she'd hoped to get the previous property, she got him to take a look at the proposed lease.

This led to further delays as negotiations took place over the terms of the lease, but today we got an email that seems to indicate that we will be exchanging contracts and getting the keys next Monday.

We've spent thousands on this, and until everything is up and running, none of the grant money can be paid. Our house is stuffed to the rafters with stock, fittings, laminate flooring, and such like, all of which we've picked up as cheaply as possible. We've driven all over the North West, picking up wardrobes and sideboards to use as display fixtures. All of this stuff will now need to be moved from the house to the shop. We're paying a handyman to lay the flooring, but just about everything else will be done by Bren. I will try to help as much as I can, as I suppose will other friends and relatives.

One other outcome of all this is that we're giving up the allotment. This is partly because Bren can no longer spare the time, but there's a lot more to it than that. More about this in a future post.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


This used to really upset me. The counting song segment always ended with a baker who would proudly announce what he had on his tray, before somehow spilling the lot and falling down the stairs. It was supposed to be slapstick funny, but I empathised with the poor guy. Eight lovely raspberry tart things all ruined. All his hard work had been for nothing, to say nothing of any injuries he sustained.

Anyway, this coming Wednesday is my 8th wedding anniversary. What's that? More expensive than paper but nowhere near as posh as silver.

Ham or petrol I reckon.

Each year on our anniversary, we go up Helsby Hill in Cheshire, and carve our initials and the date into the sandstone. We also recarve the previous entries, which become somewhat worn in the intervening year. This is becoming slowly more time consuming. So far we've been lucky with the weather. On some years it's been a bit chilly, but we've never yet had to do it in anything wetter than a bit of light drizzle.

Generally, after doing the inscripting, we go off and do something interesting involving a pub lunch and a drive through some nice scenery. This year, I want to go to Emley Moor, the site of Britain's tallest building, a communications tower. It's not open to the public, but I can stand at the bottom and look up at it's magnificence.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The world as expressed through the medium of swimming pools

It's long been true that wealth accumulates in some places, and becomes stretched thin in others. This inequitable arrangement is usually expressed in terms of things like food and clean water and money and access to healthcare.

But, thanks to the wonder that is Google Earth, I can show you that the same thing applies to swimming pools.

They need to be outdoor pools. The indoor ones don't really show up too well on Google Earth.

First of all, somewhere where they're doing alright for themselves, thank you very much.

Beverly Hills.

 Here you can see that every home is equipped with a reasonably sized and fully functional swimming pool. A testament to the cult of the individual, and evidence of the concentration of wealth.

Next up, Cuba. A so called "Communist" nation, and thanks to various embargoes, an economic backwater. Swimming pools are thin on the ground here, but they do exist.

This is the Nacionalé hotel in Havana. On the left you can see it has a shaped pool. Ideal for splashing around and lounging. If you can afford it, you can play. To the right and higher up is a rectangular pool. For more disciplined, less decadent swimmers. Overflow water from these pools runs down a hill, over a cliff, and into the pool to the right of the picture. Any old Tom, Dick or Harriet can wander in from the street and wet their elbows in this pool. So the swimming experience here is communal. Yet everyone is catered for. The rich get the pick of the facilities, but the poor huddled masses get at least something.

Finally, Freetown, in Sierra Leone, is just 8 degrees North of the Equator. It's hot, and humid, and the locals would surely enjoy splashing around in a sparkling blue pool of clear cool water.

As you can see, there are no swimming pools. Not one. The locals, if they want to splash around, will just have to wait until it rains, and find a puddle.

Of course, I didn't have to travel half way around the world to find such a place. Just a few miles down the road from Beverly Hills, in East Los Angeles, you'll find the same story as in Freetown: People live closer together, and they don't have swimming pools.

Now, when it comes to water itself, things tend to flatten out. Put a big pile of water in one place, and no water next to it, and before too long, unless you do something to maintain this situation, the water will spread out into the bit with no water, and eventually both places will have an equal height of the stuff.

Same with the air around us. In some places, the air is at a higher pressure than at other places. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the air rushes to redistribute itself equally. The laws of physics are egalitarian like that.

So why aren't the swimming pools of Beverly Hills full of people from East Los Angeles, who have no pools of their own?

Arise ye swimmers from your slumbers.

driving lessons in Wirral?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Light work

And away it went...

This is a stop motion animation entitled "Luminaris" and it tells the story of a man who makes light bulbs in a society that seems to consist entirely of people who make lightbulbs. If you didn't watch it before the curtains were drawn I hope you get the chance to see it.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Finally got around to re-doing the website....

I really wasn't happy with it. I'd farted around with it and ended up with a messy, bloated pile of cack.

So it was time to simplify. Back to basics. Mainly anyway.

I took another very straightforward site as a template, but Bren reckoned it was boring. She liked the home made feel of my earliest efforts.

So I've kept the effective bells and whistles - The contact form, which works as it should and passes any enquiries onto my mobile phone within a minute of hitting the "send" button, and the random testimonial generator stays too, but the slideshow is gone, as are most of the graphics. Just a banner and 4 buttons (I couldn't resist making them rollovers!) and just 4 pages.

My website has gone from almost 3 Mb to 249 Kb. This should make it more phone/tablet friendly, and if I need to update it in anyway, it should do so much quicker.

And everything works!

...Nearly everything.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

April Fool

Last night I got drunk.

I started with a 330ml can of Jack Daniels and cola. 6% abv, 2 units of alcohol.
Next up was a 500 ml bottle of tanglefoot. 5%abv. 2.5 units.
Then I popped the top on a 450ml bottle of Grolsch. 5%abv. 2.3 units.
This was followed by a big (750ml) bottle of Innis and Gunn original beer. 6.6%abv. 5 units. It's matured in casks that have previously been used to store whisky, and that gives a unique flavour.
Finally, a 500ml bottle of Moonraker. 6.5%abv and 3.25 units.

I woke up in my chair without having done or said anything I'd regret, either online or in real life. Kept poor Bren awake with breath like mustard gas and roses and awoke without too much of a hangover when my alarm went off.

There's about 200ml of the moonraker left but I won't be drinking it.

And that's it now until May.

driving lessons in Wirral?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bittersweet Symphony

These, I suppose, are the best of times. It can't possibly last.

I've not been in tip top shape over the last few days. A bit under the weather. Some kind of virus infection. One symptom of this was that no matter how deeply I tried to breathe, I just couldn't get enough air into my lungs to feel comfortable. This was uncomfortable, and occasionally pretty scary. I suppose this kind of thing will happen more and more as the years go by. So anyway, I've been falling into some black patterns of thought, and at the same time, I've been counting my blessings.

I've been spending time with my Dad. This is a good thing for sure. I can't imagine how bad I would have felt if we'd somehow never got the chance to get past our differences.

I have a truly wonderful life partner, who's intelligent, practical, loving, and pretty damn sexy.

I have money. There have been times in my life where I've had no food in the cupboard and no electricity supply. All self inflicted, but the point is, I appreciate what I have. We're poor according to the standards of the UK, but we get by. We make do, and our lives are the richer for the challenge.

I have a job that's rewarding, and where I get to do things the way I want. I am not Alienated.

So why dwell on the future? Just me being me I suppose.

driving lessons in Wallasey?