Saturday, April 29, 2006


First off, fortunately, I couldn't find a picture that portrays my disgust at this habit, - which is probably a good thing.

I travel to work each day on public transport and most days there is some callow youth standing on the platform spitting every 30 seconds or so. Some of these boys (I have rarely seen girls doing this) seem to enjoy sniffing up and pulling up enough sputum to sink the Titanic. Rolling it around the mouth as if savoring a fine wine, before ejecting it, with some velocity, onto the ground. It is disgusting!

But why do they do it? I don't need to spit, so why do they? Do they not have any idea what their activity does to other people? Have they no respect for the majority, non-spitting traveling public? Don't they know that they can easily spread disease? It doesn't help when TV have close-ups of sportsmen gobbing all over the pitch!

The other night I got to the station, walked to my favourite spot on the platform, went to put my bag down and noticed what seemed like a pint of the stuff. No, I'm pretty hardy about such things, but this almost turned my stomach.

I have tried to talk to a couple of these yobs, only to be told "F*** Off, Grandad, what you're going to do about it?" If only I was allowed to do what I wanted to do, he would have great difficulty spitting anything!

I'm all for youthful rebellion and contempt for adults, but this is going too far.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Man And His Cat

This story really touched my heart:

A man came downstairs one morning and found his cat, lying very still on the kitchen floor.

Now he was very attached to the beast and didn't like to think the obvious, so he took it to the vet to see if there was anything could be done for it.

"Well," says the vet, "it looks a bit dead to me, but I can examine it professionally if you like. But it'll cost you fifty quid." So the man puts poor pussy on the table, the vet has a poke around its eyes and mouth and so on, turns round and says, "yes, I'm really sorry but your cat is definitely dead."

"But I'm really fond of my cat," says the man, "can I have a second opinion?"

"You can, but it'll cost you more," says the vet."Ok, Ok, anything." So the vet opens the door and whistles, and in strolls a big ginger tom-cat. It jumps up on the table, looks at the moggie, has a sniff, looks at the vet, shakes its head, jumps down and walks out. "There you are," says the vet. "The cat says it's dead. What more do you want?"

"But look, my cat's special, isn't there any hope at all?"

"I could get a third opinion for you, but it really will cost you."

"Ok, I don't care, my cat is worth it to me." So the vet opens the door and whistles again, and this time in walks a big black Labrador. It jumps up on the table, looks at the cat, has a sniff and a scratch, looks at the vet, shakes its head, jumps down and walks out. "I'm sorry," says the vet, "but there's no hope at all. I say your cat is dead, the tom says it's dead, and the Labrador says it's dead. That will be five hundred pounds please."

The man is pretty shocked by this. "You said it would be expensive, but I didn't expect that much. Why is it such a lot?"

"Well," says the vet. "Medical procedures are expensive. You could have just taken my word for it, but no, you had to go for the full CAT scan and lab tests..."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Death Of The High Street

Tesco underlined its dominance of the retail sector today by reporting annual profits of £2.21bn - almost 17% higher than a year earlier. It now commands almost 30% of the market and its position seems unassailable.

Six years ago, we moved to a small town on the outskirts of Wigan, and at the time there was a thriving High Street. There were shops of all kinds, including a super-market which housed the local Post Office, but 3 years ago, the super-market closed, Tesco bought the site and put up a mediumn sized super-market in its place. Of course, with the prices that Tesco is able to charge, there was no competition from the high street, and now a third of the shops are closed and boarded up. The local diversity that once existed has been destroyed, and will probably never return.

But it is their tactics that seem very mercenary and preditary. For example, they have bought large tracts of land in prime locations with the sole purpose of stopping rivals and local competitors from getting a foot hold. These "land banks" have recently been criticised by the Office of Fair Trading and is considering taking it to the Competition Commission. In other places, they swamp the area, again, with the objective of killing off any meaningful competition. Aberdeen has four Tesco super stores around it's perimeter, with a couple of Tesco Metro's and Expresses within the city for good measure.

In response to Tesco's "booming" profits today, Friends of the Earth (FoE) said it was "time to put the brakes on the Tesco juggernaut". An FoE campaigner, Sandra Bell, said: "The government and competition authorities must recognise the value of small shops to local communities and create an environment that allows retail choice to flourish."

I'm not against super-markets in principle. They do have a role to play, but I feel that it is dangerous when one company has such a stranglehold in the market, and is openly searching for ways to increase that share. There has to be room for diversity, or we will all be living in Tescoland!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Holiday Over

Tomorrow, it's back to work. Oh joy!

My small week of freedom and liberty has come to an end. No more the pleasure of getting up and making my own decisions about the day. No more the delight of looking at the weather and deciding that a day of day-time TV is just what the doctor ordered.

No! It's back to routine. Catching the train, walking to the office, the same problems day in day out, the lack of choice in how I choose to conduct my life.

It's not a bad job as jobs go, and I suppose I should feel privileged to have one, but I just feel that I'm missing opportunities in those parts of my life that matter.

I'm fed-up!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Huddersfield Narrow Canal

For our first major bike ride of the year, I decided to search for pastures new and chose to do a stretch of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. This canal starts in Ashton-Under-Lyne, about 8 miles east of Manchester at a point where 3 canals meet. The Ashton canal that runs to Manchester, and the Forest Peak canal that runs south towards the Peak District in Derbyshire. The canal rises very quickly through numerous locks towards the Pennines and at Diggle, it enters the Standedge Tunnel which runs for approximately 2 miles under Pule Hill to Marsden. Unfortunately there isn't a tow-path, so for us to reach Huddersfield, we'll have to go over!

Jayne and I, armed with our Greater Manchester Ranger tickets, set off by train from Hindley to Greenfield which is about 5 miles north-east of Stalybridge, about 9 miles up the canal from Ashton-Under-Lyne. Here, we joined the canal and started riding north-east up the canal towards the Pennines.

It becomes very quickly apparent that this canal is not for the faint hearted. It is a rugged, tough, no-nonsense canal. The locks are many and most of them have steps rather than a slope up the side so bikes have to be pushed. However, the hard work is rewarded by the magnificent views of the hills and the changing countryside the canal transcends.

We cycled on to Diggle and stopped to re-assess the situation. I could clearly see the hill we would have to go over, and in our present state of fitness, I felt it would be a step too far, so I decided we would descend the canal and cycle down to Stalybridge. This was a reasonably straight-forward ride, and it was interesting to see how the countryside changes from rugged moorland to a softer, more gentle countryside the further down we went. Throughout the ride, we never really lost site of the dark imposing bulk of Saddleworth Moor, and the canal has constant companions in the form of the railway and the River Tame.

Stopped for lunch at the Tollemarche Arms in Mossley and enjoyed a refreshing pint of Hatters. In the beer garden, there is a bench that commemorates a favoured local - now that's the way I would like to be remembered! From there, the canal drops down towards Stalybridge, running through Scout Tunnel which has a towpath. It was a bit creepy in the middle, but there were railings to stop us from falling in.

Arriving at Stalybridge, we found the station, and in particular, the station buffet bar which is a reasonable restoration of a 1930's/1940's buffet bar, - think Brief Encounter. It serves good food, and an interesting range of real ales, - mine was a pint of Miller's. From there we got the train back home.

Not a massive ride, but a tough workout none-the-less. I saw enough to make me want to go back again, and a few more rides will ensure that we can make it over the hill next time, - even if we have to walk it!

For a complete set of pictures, you can find them here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I'm Supporting The Boston Red Socks

Red Socks - Again, originally uploaded by markhsal.

I've been given to believe that there is a rounders team in America that many support called the Boston Red Socks (for some reason, some people spell it Sox - very strange!). As red is a favourite colour of mine and Jayne, we decided to become supporters too and get some red socks. As you can see, we also got the tea out so we could have a party - Earl Grey of course!

Rounders is a game loved by lots of girls and women over here, and I'm sure they would love to come across and play against the American rounders teams like the Red Socks.

I also hear that there is a team that plays in white socks! I wonder if other teams play in different coloured socks? How about green, brown, yellow, - perhaps pink, that would be nice. Mind you, it would be easier to spot if the kits were different colours, - socks must be very difficult to spot from a distance.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Happy Easter

Here's hoping you have a good, relaxing Easter Day, and that the Easter Bunny brings all your favourite chocolate.

If it hasn't got to you yet, it is on the way, - our back garden is full of the stuff! Mind you, with the world cat problem increasing each year, it does get tougher for it, - especially around Texas!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

It's Finished

The decoration of the hall and stairs is now finished, and I think it looks a lot better. The space is lighter and feels more welcoming, but now we've got to find the right pictures to go on it to give it some colour and highlight.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Are We Or Are We Not Monkeys?

Two stories from the papers this weekend have brought into focus the evolution/creationist debate.

In the Guardian newspaper on Saturday, came a report about an animal, scientists have called Tiktaalik which provides evidence of the 'missing' link between fish and animals. This animal showed that the transfer from sea to land happened slowly, with fish first starting to inhabit shallow water, before moving onto land completely. Further details of this fascinating animal can be found here.

But then I read in the Observer newspaper, that John Mackay, and Australian geologist and leading member of the creationist movement, is coming to the UK to visit schools, universities and churches to put the view of 'Intelligent Design'. One of the arguments used by the creationists is that there are breaks in the fossil record, well, the story above which was first published in Nature, and hopefully, rigorously peer-reviewed, should knock a further dent in this particular 'scientific' theory.

I am very much an evolutionist, but as a believer in free speech, John Mackay has the right to his point of view. It's just that I wish the creationist theory could be debunked sooner rather than later, so mankind can move and evolve forward.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

To All My Subscribers

My apologies to my subscribers who have not been receiving notification of changes to my blog, but there seems to have been a problem with Bloglet, the site that controls this activity. It appears to have lost its connection to my site.

Hopefully, that has now been restored.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Hall & Stairs - Preparation

This week we have embarked on a long over due renovation and decoration of the hall and stairs. The reason it is overdue is because neither of us have either the time or inclination for DIY (do-it-yourself), so this time we are going GSI (get-someone-in) which has become the new DIY.

So far the experience has not proved too stress full.

If you look carefully at the picture, you can see the ghosts of previous decorations on the walls. Quite weird really!

I'll post further pictures of the completed job in a later post. All comments, as long as they are favourable, are welcome!!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Only The Government Was Surprised By This!

A draft report has been seen by the Observer newspaper that states that Britain's involvement in Iraq was a major contributory factor for the four London Bombers last July. This flies in the face of Blair's assertion that the decision to go to war would make Britain safer.

At the time, Blair and the Government played down the importance of the conflict as motivation for the bombers, - but they were probably the only people in the UK who believed that. Other factors included social and economic deprivation, but the premier reason by far, was our involvement in Iraq.

Even more worrying, Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ring-leader, who appeared on a video released after the bombings, confirmed the reason as Iraq. Khan had apparently been monitored by the security forces, but that monitoring was withdraw as Khan was seen as a "peripheral" player in terrorist organisations, and that they were considered 'nothing exceptional' about them prior to the attack.

Tony Blair pleads with us not to connect the bombings with Iraq, but how could any thinking person not make that connection!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Who Paid For This Criminal?

I don't want to waste any more time on this topic, but I do have a question. Whose footing the bill for this war criminal Codoleeza Rice's visit, in particular the security and disruption that has been such a feature of this 'private' visit?

I hope my taxes are not paying for it, - not when wards are being closed in hospitals for lack of funds. Mind you, a few more dead people is not going to worry someone such as her, - not when there is the possibility of a half decent photo oportunity which can be spun for her personal political advancement!