Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Car Horns, what are they good for?

Absolutely nothing.

What are car horns supposed to be for? Ok, warning people people of your impending arrival. But - if you need to blow your horn for that, you are going too fast.

Horns are largely used as a means of venting anger at other motorists, by taxis to announce their arrival to clients and to notify your acquaintance who is walking down the street that you have seen them. None of these is a valid use.

They're too loud. If used to warn a pedestrian with their back to you in a narrow lane that you can't get past, they will jump out of their skin, try opening the window and asking politely instead. A pedestrian warning tone rather like a front door bell might be a good idea.

The solution? Ban them, simply build cars without them. They're unnecessary.

If you agree, toot your support as you go past The Old Mill.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Lighten up Mr Dickens

Having watched a couple of Dickens' classics on film over the holiday - I'm reminded how unremittingly miserable the existence was of most of his characters. Did David Copperfield ever have any moments of light heartedness - hardly a one. Checked out Oliver Twist, looking for laughs - nothing. Great Expectations? Hardly a hoot.

Inventive stories, wonderfully depicted characters but uplifting lives full of happiness - nope. Generated some cracking Christmas Card images though.

A few line changes would help - publishers and Dickens' Trust take note. How much more uplifting if the line

'Please sir, I want some more?

Had been answered

'What a self assured little boy to speak up for yourself like that, yes of course you can. As a reward for your self confidence, here's a groat - go out and spend it all on sweetmeats but don't forget to share with your chums'.

Now that's much better.

Come on Mr Dickens, next time you knock out a novel - introduce a few laughs and jollity. Haven't seen a new book for a while, perhaps you've run out of ideas. Here's a suggestion for a title - 'Carry on Copperfield', should make a good film, I hear Barbara Windsor's free.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A day on the Llangollen Railway - continued.

I became rather engrossed in my book such that I missed my favourite part of  the railway, the bridge over the Dee, not far from Llangollen itself.

Arrival in Llangollen was rather reminiscent of what station life must have been like in the railway's heyday - hustle and bustle and people everywhere.

An enamel sign extolled the virtues of Cornwall, comparing the county to Italy - clever. 

I'd decided to spend a little time in the town and revisit  some of the attractions. But first a few photos from the bridge. 

Llangollen certain has done well in dressing the town in flowers.

Flags are another of the town's signatures because of the International Music Eisteddfod which is held here each year.   

Lunchtime beckoned and I knew how good the Corn Mill pub and restaurant was so I headed there. Crab linguine with ginger, red chilli and coriander spoke to me from the menu and the Coconut Panacotta positively shouted. Finishing a cup of coffee, I took to the streets.

Tried a hiking shop, looking for a servicable UV hat with wide brim. Why don't they fit? Surely it can't be that my head's too big.

I walked to the canal wharf, one of the highest parts of the town which is always a surprise to visitors.

The horse drawn passenger boats were doing good business. I hung about waiting for a good photo.

Time was running out and the three o clock train back to Carrog was not to be missed.

A great day out - but now back home to The Old Mill where Guests awaited as did the computer with its never ending stream of emails to be dealt with.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A day on the Llangollen Railway.

Thought I'd have a few hours away from the business yesterday.

Which way to go at the gate two choices, left or right - it's a difficult decision. I choose left. I feel better for being decisive.

Where next? Caffi Florence at Loggerheads Country Park? I'd read about them achieving an award for being one of the top ten places in the U.K. for breakfast - and knowing them anyway, I decided to head there.

Breakfast was great. Home made bread, baked beans and tomato ketchup [who else does that?] together with locally cured  bacon with local sausage, eggs and mushrooms. A big mug of excellent coffee and today's local newspaper - all in a lovely countryside location.

Following the route of the Flintshire Leisure Tour, Loggerheads is just about a 15 drive minutes from The Old Mill.

I decided then to head for the lovely riverside village of Carrog in the Dee Valley. It has a special attraction for me as the terminus of the Llangollen Steam Railway.

I set the sat nav to Carrog - shortest route. I know the roads but shortest route usually throws up some surprises and today was no exception. I followed a country lane from the Nant y Garth pass, east of Ruthin, to Bryneglwys. I'm sure I've never been on that road before.

Just 30 minutes after leaving Loggerheads I pass through Carrog, cross over the stone bridge which spans the River Dee and soon turn into the car park for Carrog station.

With plenty of time to wander around this beautifully restored country railway station, I passed up the chance of a coffee from the small cafe just off the booking hall as I was still awash from Caffi Florence. There was 10 minutes or so before the train arrived from Llangollen so I passed the time taking a couple of photos and videos.

Carrog station is such a peaceful place when the train has yet to arrive. One or two photographers sipping their coffees fiddling with their exposure setting and squinting at the sky to make sure their apertures were set correctly. A family or two were buying their tickets.

Every now and again a mournful whistle echoed across the Dee valley, steadily getting just that little bit louder. A little boy started jumping up and down "where is it Daddy, I can't see it" Daddy probably felt like doing the same thing but was more restrained. As an old hand, I knew it would be a little while yet.

Finally the engine with its rake of coaches hove into view. That's one of the great things about Carrog station, you get a great view as the train approaches across the fields.

Arrival. Now - all hell is let loose. The train is packed with holiday makers who have started their journey at Llangollen. The platform is suddenly full as the lure of coffee, tea and cake in the cafe proves too strong. A queue forms and heads strain to see what is on offer behind the glass fronted shelves. At the back of everybody's mind is " How long have we got before the train leaves"  and "We must leave time for a toilet visit before we leave - and there might be a queue."

Wasn't it always thus before we became a car bound society.

There's no need to worry, there's plenty of time. However the suddenly emptied carriages do mean that those of us who have been waiting can now saunter on to an empty coach and pick out the best seat available. Crafty eh?

The engine has uncoupled and has run around its coaches, coupling up again ready to pull us all back to Llangollen.

Before too long there is a lot of door slamming and the clamour of voices rising as travellers get back on board. Luckily, nobody is muttering "That bloke's pinched my seat"

There's some flag waving and whistles being blown - and off we go. The scenery really is fantastic, I love it, especially as we approach the Berwyn Tunnel.

However, a book that I'm carrying with me is pulled out and I start to relax.

Aren't days off pleasant.
More to come about our arrival in Llangollen and the sites to see.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Impressionable Minds

We expect our children's schools to teach them how to respect their fellow pupils, encourage their strengths and help them to overcome their weaknesses [or opportunities for improvement in modern P.C. speak]. Indeed as a parent myself I hope that I showed these traits myself when ours were young ( quite a long time ago).

So if this is the right thing to do and it is of course, how come the BBC shows a quiz program, The Weakest Link, in prime 'home from school' time that enables the belittling of others, causes personal embarrassment and uses verbal tactics that remind one of playground bullies. All in the name of entertainment.

The panelists know what they are in for before they sign up, but young impressionable minds watching the show may just soak up how someone in authority can make others suffer.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Supermarket Home Delivery - A step too far?

We're supermarket tarts, no not the lemon ones, we like to shop in different places now and again and are not particularly loyal to one company.

The weekly run to Tesco can become a bit, well - dull. Same old products in the same old place. Interleaved with a bit of excitement when they put in self service tills or move the aisles around a bit. So now and again we go wild, and go to Asda instead. Green is a bit more calming than Red and Blue anyway and I quite like a bit of calming every now and again.

We use online food shopping, delivered to our door for a few pounds and that can be a real time saver. Yesterday we had a delivery from Ocado at 10.30p.m because it's only £2.95 delivery charge at that time of night. As I unpacked the various coloured bags and read the label on the lamb chops which said "Specially prepared for Mrs Susan *****" I began to think......This doesn't feel quite right.

This is really as far removed from Man(kind) being hunter gatherers as you can possible get. Exotic foods from around the world, all available at the touch of a button and two for the price of one at the same time. No effort, no thought, just order on a whim. Our parents simply could not have imagined this utopian state of affairs during the dark far off war days of the 1940s when buying a banana was impossible, you joined the end of a food queue without knowing what you were going to get and a lamb chop was something you saw walking around in the field. Internet shopping would have seemed like the most far fetched Science Fiction in those days.

It's almost too good to be true. So how is it possible? The Supermarkets must be making a very good percentage on their cost prices. If the items are supposed to be so cheap with Roll Back, two for one and offers offers offers, how come our grocery bill is so large?

Sir Terry Leahy is retiring having massively increased Tesco's profits, I like to think that we have played our part in his success. It's a high performing British company and we do need more of those.

Candidly, Susan and I must be paying more than we need for the food we buy. Perhaps it is simply that we are buying more higher priced items than we should. With so much good local quality produce available, perhaps we ought to be widening our scope somewhat. We do buy local produce as much as possible for our B&B business, guests rightly expect it - but we are not so principled when it comes to ourselves.

The (U.K. Government) budget looms large, we've all been warned that things are about to change in the U.K. for generations to come. Belt tightening is bound to be the order of the day.

So, market stall vendors, low cost supermarkets that you actually have to go to - and those who sell vegetable seeds for the garden, hold on - hold on - your day is coming.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Some technology never dies - A lament for my AST computer

These days, when technology hardware only seems to last for a short time before it's out of date or becoming faulty, my AST Bravo LC P/100 computer stood out, quiet and proud.

It's sat on the office desk year after year chugging away in its own sweet time simply getting on with the job. Around it, other PCs have come, become unwell, caught nasty things, been fixed and finally been disposed of.

A new fangled laptop and LCD screen now adorn the office, concepts in their infancy or not even conceived when the AST was bought back in the steam driven pre internet, pre email days of 1995.

In its day, the AST was used for everything that a busy Guesthouse
required of it, letters, brochures, accounts etc etc. It's 8 megabytes of RAM ( that's 250 times smaller than a modern computer), later upgraded to a whopping 24MB - and diminutive hard drive coped perfectly with everything thrown at it. The P/100 I think meant Pentium 100.

How many computers are still running Windows 95? This AST is.

You couldn't burn CDs on it nor copy files via USB nor connect it to a modern network - because it hadn't got any such fancy things. This became a problem. When I finally decided that we really ought to be running on a higher spec computer, my database files were too large to copy onto floppy discs (remember those?).
Hours of trying to transfer files with a cross over cable connected to the modem port ( remember modems?) didn't work. Finally managed it using the Windows File Transfer Wizard and some old floppies dug out of our ancient business records in the loft.

So there we have it - suddenly, we didn't need the AST any more. It sits in the store room, still in perfect working order, awaiting me taking a lump hammer and cold chisel to its hard drive before off to the recycling centre.

The secret of why it just kept on working? It was very well made and I never connected it to the internet with all its viruses and massive security and program updates. If I had it would have had to go years ago.

So thank you Albert Wong, Safi Qureshey and Thomas Yuen (Credit wikipedia), you made me a great computer.

Goodbye old friend.