Fifty Years After The Party

Today was polling day.

Junk mail is a fact of life. I understand that it doesn’t take many punters for the cost of sending out such paper material by the normal postal system to be recouped. Recipients can, however, just bin it. Cold telephone calling is more annoying, because you have to get out of your chair and answer the phone, before replacing the receiver with, or without, expletives. The machines are frustrating because asking them politely not to call you again is a waste of time. For the poor unfortunates who actually ring in person, it is their bad luck they they may have to hear a piece of your mind.

Now we have the internet and e-mails, so we can be flooded with spam, far less palatable than its processed meat namesake. Naturally, therefore, this morning I received my usual message, allegedly from David Cameron, who will never have heard of me, thanking me for all I have done for him over the last five years, and encouraging me to help him get back into power. It was the same last time. Numerous mailshots from various members of the Conservative party on the run-up to the election, and, afterwards, one from the leader, thanking me for tramping the streets on their behalf. In fact, I did no such thing. As a floating voter who attempts to make up his mind based on what he has experienced and what he gleans from all the media coverage, I never nail my colours to the mast in advance.

I do not flatter myself that I have personally merited this attention. My e-mail address has simply been purloined and added to a data base somewhere in the clouds. With the press of one button, no doubt everyone on the list is similarly intruded upon. None of the other parties pesters me in this way. Are they crediting us with making our own choices; are they so backward in the use of I.T.; or do they have less resources?

On a calmer, balmy,  morning, I ambled down the garden and the lane as far as Roger’s field and back.

Red hot poker

The first of our red hot pokers proudly stood erect,

Tellima

as did the sinuous tellima saxifrage, flexible enough to have withstood yesterday’s blasts.

Magnolia Vulcan

The magnolia Vulcan basked in its hour of sunshine.

Tree peonyAzalea

The tree peonies and the dwarf azalea have survived intact.

Cow parsley 1Cow parsley 2

Cow parsley, in its rightful place, on the verges of Downton Lane,

Cow parsley and dandelion clocks

passed the time of day with dandelion clocks.

Blossom 2Blossom 1

Pale pink blossom I cannot identify has appeared in the hedgerows,

Buttercups

as have the first golden buttercups.

Fern unfurling

Ferns were unfurling,

Petals on pool

and petals floating on a puddle were reminders of the gales.

As I sat down to upload these photographs, Louisa rang me to announce that she had a project for me for the day. Tomorrow being V.E. (Victory in Europe) day seventy years on, my granddaughter Imogen has to prepare a presentation for her school class. My daughter thought it would be good for Imogen to produce the image of her grandfather and great uncle Chris taken when they attended the Victory Street Party of 1945. She wondered if I had any more of interest.

I had this one taken by Jessica in the garden of Lindum House on 8th May 1995: Derrick 8.5.95 001

Seated on a circular bench built around the acacia tree by Errol’s Uncle Frank, I point to myself in my photograph album. The 1945 picture of that memorable event is featured in ‘Holly’.

I e-mailed both the pictures to Louisa. Apparently it took granddaughter Jessica less than a second to pick me out of the Street Party group. She said I looked like my grandson Oliver.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Milford on Sea where we cast our votes at the Church Hall, and our empties at the car park bottle bank.

Tonight’s dinner consisted of sausages roasted with peppers and mushrooms; mashed potato in superb, thick, chunky, gravy which could have been a meal in itself, and crisp carrots, cabbage, and runner beans. Custard tart was to follow. Jackie’s beverage was sparkling water, whilst mine was Doom Bar.

Getting Heated

Knowing I was once more going to have to grapple with BT this morning, I cheered my Japanese anemone with insectLeycesteriaMyrtle and pink rosebudspirits by wandering round the garden and focussing on the cleared shrubbery alongside the dead-end path.

Japanese anemones, leycesteria, and a pink rose have come into view. Begonias etc over septic tank coverMyrtle shootsThe leycesteria had been choked by a hazelnut tree the nut of which a squirrel had probably buried in the wrong place and forgotten. Because of the proliferation of sports in the myrtle I had been forced to be quite merciless in the pruning. It is therefore gratifying to see the shrub in bloom, and new shoots burgeoning.Fuchsia and heuchera Jackie has planted a hardy fuchsia and a heuchera here, with a labelled vinca for eventual ground cover; and, a little further along, has covered the unsightly septic tank lid with various pots perched on a section of an IKEA wardrobe.

For the first two hours of the afternoon, my BT battle continued. The best report I can give is that, having satisfied the robot, I did not have to wait to speak to an adviser. I don’t think he is all that familiar with either Apple or Blackberry. However, the poor man did his best. When I had tried to access e-mails on the iMac I was shown a circular symbol with a wavy line inside it. This, I have learned, means e-mails cannot be accessed. I clicked on it and read that they were unobtainable because of the server being off-line. ‘Connection Doctor’ was one of the options I could select. I did, and was linked to a Yahoo site which wasn’t much use in providing a cure. That is why I had phoned BT. The auxiliary nurse to whom I was linked tried a number of avenues, but I don’t think he recognised the symbol I was describing. Eventually he guided me through opening a second account, which did, temporarily it transpired, receive e-mails.

He was even less successful with Blackberry, and I told him I would try to resolve that one myself. I had a bit of a rest, then felt brave enough to tackle the Blackberry. It was, after all, Blackberry whose message provided me on 11th of my first inkling that there was anything wrong. Instructions were given as to how to verify the account. The option of using the device was exactly the same as the BT adviser had tried. The other option was the on-line version. I tried that, but was told I was giving the wrong password. I tried the ‘forgotten password’ option, which meant they would send it to me by e-mail…………………… I think you know what comes next.

A call to O2 furnished me with the password, but I still couldn’t do anything with it. Never mind, I thought, Apple doesn’t really need anything with it, if it is suitably cooked. It was then that I found that the Apple had gone off the boil. I now had three accounts showing; two with the wavy lines, and one indicating that I had a new message. But when I clicked on that no message came up.

It was now time to telephone Apple Care. Paul, when he heard what was on my screen, and even more when he saw it, described it as a mess. Apple have an interesting way of helping whilst viewing your screen. Instead of taking your screen over, as do BT, they have a red arrow with which they indicate what they want you to click on.

‘What have they done?’ was what he needed to discover. But first he had to erase it all and start again. He then got me up and running, hopefully, this time, permanently.

The process employed by Apple’s Paul, puts me in mind of the tale of the unprepossessing pins, recounted by Bill Eales many years ago. As I recall, the unfortunate owner of these legs, on entering a classroom, was asked where he got them, and told to ‘rub ’em out and do ’em again’. Maybe it was apocryphal.

Jackie in bottom of gardenWhilst I was becoming gradually more heated in the cool of the sitting room, Jackie was attempting to keep cool in the heat of the bottom of the garden, the sun reflecting off the concrete, where she continued her transformation of that area.

We dined this evening at Daniels (sic) Fish and Chip restaurant in Highcliffe. The food was very fresh and crispy and the service excellent. We both had cod. Jackie supplemented hers with onion rings. My choice was calumari. She drank diet Pepsi and I drank tea.

One of the e-mails I did receive when we returned home was from BT, promising a month’s free broadband.

Recycling

This morning, the BT e-mail problem remained unresolved, so I went onto the website that I had received the text about yesterday. This was the update message:

‘We’d like to apologise for a technical problem that meant a minority of BT Mail customers weren’t able to access their email accounts in the past few days.

We’re in the process of restoring access to the affected email accounts and expect to have the service working again later today, so if you’re still unable to access your email account, please wait and try again later.

We’ll be contacting all customers who have been affected by this fault, but if you’d like to get in touch with us, you can use our online form, or email us atBTMessaging@bt.com.

Once again, we’re very sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, and we appreciate your patience as we work to resolve the problem.’

Were I able to speak to a real BT administrator about this, I would ask why the first paragraph, when the problem still exists, features the past tense. I would also like to know what constitutes a minority. Brian Clough, the celebrated football manager of the 1970s     famously regarded himself as ‘in a minority of one’. Somehow, I imagine the minority into which BT have assigned me, is rather larger than that.

I suppose I should not be surprised that a twenty first century telephone company does not provide the facility of actual conversation with a management decision maker, or anyone who can explain what is going on. But to suggest that people who have, for days now, been frustrated by the inability to access their e-mails should send one to the above e-mail address seems crass and insensitive.

Once again I am left speculating that this whole problem has resulted from a divorce from Yahoo.

Jackie with table at EffordJust before lunch we took another trip to Efford Recycling Centre, ostensibly to dump more rubble and plastic. We certainly brought back considerably more plastic from the Sales Area than we had deposited. Jackie was delighted to find a large garden table, ideal for potting up plants.

A notice informs us that 86% of last months rubbish was recycled. The Sales Area is probably a recycling achievement that doesn’t feature in these figures.

This afternoon, I returned to the path behind the shrubbery alongside the garden of the empty house. Discovery of the blackbird’s nest containing incubating eggs had caused me to abandon it for a while. I confined myself to digging out various unwanted tree roots, and cutting one of our own shrubs down to size, before extending the IKEA wardrobe fence a bit more.

Whilst I was engaged in this, Jackie was having a switch around. Having now completely cleared the skip pile, making use of a number of its contents and dumping the rest, she was free to turn it into a potting area.Potting area The potting area had, until now, furnished by the butchers’ blocks, been situated under the pergola outside the library/utility room door. Jackie set up the Recycling Centre table, moved the butchers’ blocks in behind it;Pergola seating and supplied a couple of seats to create a new pergola seating area. Thus:

Someone’s garden table became Jackie’s potting centre; the now empty skip pile, some of the contents of which has become a fence, became its home; and the previous potting centre became a seating area.

Soon after 5 p.m. I logged on to the web link given in BT’s message. This carried a box saying the problem was solved, and if you were still unable to access e-mails you should clear your cache. A link for instructions on how to do that was provided. I did it. I still couldn’t reach my e-mails. So I reached for my phone. I rang the help line and waited twenty minutes for an adviser who discovered that my account had been locked because of my unsuccessful attempts to log on. After an hour of fiddling about with changing passwords and having them rejected, I was able to open my account. One of the rejected passwords, which had been accepted three days ago was said not to have the correct numbers of characters today. Clearing the cache meant I also lost my automatically recognised passwords for such as WordPress. I had to have three goes at that one before I could write this post. I still cannot access e-mails on either my Apple or my Blackberry. I think I am beginning to crumble. Aaaaaaarrrrrgggghhh.

With our spicy Bolognese sauce this evening we dined on penne pasta. Possibly Jackie wasn’t confident about my new expertise in spaghetti consumption. Penne’s easy. You can even dispense with the spoon, as you skewer the pasta by prodding the prongs of the fork through the tunnel in the middle. You can get two on the fork at a time. My lady drank Hoegaarden, and I had some more of the chianti.

 

 

Spaghetti, And How To Eat It

Rubble bagsThere is quite a lot of rubble and other kinds of rubbish scattered about the garden. We have been bagging it up for transfer to the Efford Recycling Centre which is our municipal dump. We thought two trips would be sufficient. There was, however, a queue to enter the site, probably because it was Monday morning and people had been clearing their homes and gardens at the weekend. We will wait a day or two for the next visit. We have only visited this location once before, but have been, as we were today, impressed with the friendliness and dedication of the staff. This day it was ‘Andy Manager’, as his T-shirt informed us, who advised us where to put what. This is clearly not just any old job for these men. Andy demonstrated a passion for his work, as he explained what would happen to various items and why which material went where. There is apparently only one landfill site left locally at Ringwood and this would cause problems, ‘not in our lifetime, but for our children’s children’.

Naturally, Jackie just had to buy some more plant pots from the Sales Area.

Twenty four hours after I had been told by yesterday’s BT adviser that the problem with e-mail access would be resolved in that time, it wasn’t. I rang again. This time the robot on the other end of the line informed me that BT were well aware of the problem, so I didn’t need to wait in a queue to report it. Engineers were working to resolve it and the company was very sorry for the inconvenience caused.

We have a saying, relating to constant change, which is: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. (This, translated into correct English, would read: ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’.) I would say to BT: ‘I wish you hadn’t changed it. Now it is broke, do fix it’.Broken tilesIKEA wardrobe fenceShells

This afternoon we continued clearing up rubbish, and in the process found a pit of broken tiles that we began to bag up. Whilst I was away, Jackie had transported most of the remaining IKEA wardrobe sections to the path adjoining the deserted garden that I had cleared a couple of months ago. This is to reinforce the non-existent boundary. We carried the rest across, and I began to prop them in place, at the same time lopping stubbornly invasive brambles.

Along with liberal bits of plastic and chunks of polystyrene, we have been somewhat mystified by the number of sea and escargot shells scattered among the soil in the garden. Jackie thought they should have been crushed but wasn’t sure what the purpose was. We also wondered whether our predecessors had a penchant for seafood.

I went on line and sought the answer, which was provided by doityourself.com. These shells, when crushed, are regarded as a useful mulch. The website advises that most seafood restaurants are happy to provide them for punters. ‘The best time’, we are advised, ‘to add this organic mulch is later spring or early summer when the soil is warm. As the shells decay they ‘will provide the soil (with) the minerals and calcium’ it needs. You will ‘save money in the long run on soil additives and amendments’.

‘Yes. Same as getting a bit of lime’, our head gardener sniffed scathingly. She thought, especially in their uncrushed state, that these shells might take some time to do their job.

Six years ago, when I was going through my hip replacement period, my GP, Dr O’Connor, bless her, told me I would never have a blood pressure problem. I do hope she is right, for it was severely tested this afternoon. With BT still not having resolved the e-mail problem, I received a call on my mobile phone from O2 who wanted to check that I had the most suitable contract for my needs. We got as far as the initial identification stage. When asked for the first line of my address and the postcode, I was informed that the first line was correct, but the postcode wasn’t. Believing that I was the best judge of where I lived, I terminated the conversation, and checked the address O2 had put on my last bill. The first line was correct, as were most of the others, but the postcode was that of our previous abode. Goodness knows how it reached me. Possibly full marks to the Post Office. I prevailed upon the unfortunate young woman who answered my call to change the company’s records. Matthew, bonfire 9.83

Later, I ambled down to the Spar shop and back, to buy matches to light a bonfire soon afterwards. Matthew is quite good at bonfires. In September 1983, he helped Jessica’s, sadly late, cousin Anthony with one in Aunt Elspeth’s garden in Rugby. I haven’t been able to locate the negative of this photograph, but the print, after more than thirty years, is still serviceable.

At 7.49 this evening I received a text from BT apologising for the e-mail problems, saying they were trying hard to fix it, and pointing me to a web-site for updates. Well, I suppose that’s something.

For dinner we enjoyed Jackie’s scrumptious spaghetti arrabiata. I thought I would try the other half of a bottle of Via di Cavallo chianti 2013 that I had opened a couple of days before my recent French trip. I immediately decided it would be more suitable in a sausage casserole, and opened another. And drank some. Jackie drank Hoegaarden.

Spotted T-shirtDuring dinner, I received a lesson in the consumption of spaghetti. Jackie has patiently tolerated my efforts over the years, but today’s performance was too much for her. She guided me in the correct procedure. You take a spoon in your right hand (always assuming you are not left-handed), and a fork in your left. What you don’t do is twist as much spaghetti as possible around your fork, simply using the spoon as a guide, and try to suck up the slithering pasta before it slips back onto your plate. You don’t bite off the last bits and let them drop into the sauce, spotting your T-shirt with a tomato based preparation. What you do do, is take just two or three strands, twine them round your fork, and withdraw the tines, letting the coil perch on your spoon, from which you then consume it.

Embellishments

This morning was wasted trying to access e-mails. Just two days after BT changed their system, possibly indicating a parting from Yahoo, I could log on to BT but not to my e-mails. After wrestling with the problem for far too long, I eventually gave up and phoned their help line. This was clearly inundated with similar issues. Having forged my way through the machine response, I had to wait half an hour to reach a real live, and very helpful, individual, who took over my screen and grappled with it for another half hour before acknowledging that BT had suffered an ‘outage’ which they were working on. I should be able to access my e-mails within 24 hours. When the system was changed I had to provide a new password. Today I had to produce another. Don’t they realise old fogeys have memory problems?

In the last few days, whilst I have been gallivanting, Jackie has, among numerous other Cleared back fenceFuchsias, petunias etctasks in the garden, virtually cleared the skip pile and completely eradicated the extraneous foliage from the back fence; embellished the area with hanging baskets; chopped up most of the branches into suitably sized pieces for the pyre; and transferred them to the site for burning. After I had posted yesterday’s entry, I completed this latter task.Petunias, violas, etc CosmosI look forward to the new embellishments developing into the maturity of those Jackie planted earlier.

KiwiThe Kiwi sculpture Michael and Heidi gave me for my birthday now perches alongside the patio.

This evening we dined at our neighbours The Royal Oak. I enjoyed my ham, eggs, chips and peas, as did Jackie her chicken wrapped in bacon and cheese. Her sweet was chocolate fudge cake and ice cream. My choice was apple crumble and custard. She drank Becks, while I drank Doom Bar.