Search This Blog

27 February 2008

The Earth Moved

At about one o'clock this morning England had a fairly rare experience .. an earthquake measuring 5.2 on the Richter Scale, centred on Market Rasen in Linconlnshire. Noise and vibration were experienced here in North Yorkshire, and apparently the effects were felt as far north as southern Scotland and as far south as the south coast of England.

I slept through it.

When my wife told me this morning that the earth had moved I just thought she was being polite.

24 February 2008

The Appletree Inn, Marton, North Yorkshire

I make no apologies for devoting this post to the delights of The Appletree Inn, Marton (a tiny village a few miles west of Pickering, North Yorkshire.) My wife and I decided to have Sunday Lunch there, having read good reviews of the place.

We were not disappointed. Since 2001 it has been run by Melanie and husband "TJ" and they have turned the place into a friendly and comfortable pub serving food with a difference, cooked and presented stylishly by "TJ" who works alone in the kitchen. How he manages is a minor miracle. They also make sure that food is sourced locally, and much of it is grown in their own vegetable garden. Can't get much more local than that!

We enjoyed a pre-lunch drink in the lounge area, sitting in comfortable arm chairs in front of a good log fire. Newpapers were provided.

For starters my wife had delicious smoked salmon and a side salad whilst I tried (for the first time) carrot and chestnut soup. When we moved on to the main course it was two more "firsts" for us: my better half had steamed hake on a bed of risotto, and for me roasted loin of hare on a bed of shredded cabbage with redcurrant sauce. We had no difficulty in being persuaded to order desserts, and I tucked into an excellent dark treacle tart accompanied by lemon curd ice cream and lime sauce - washed down with a glass of sweet wine .. a "Noble Reisling".

None of this comes cheap of course, but good things are worth paying for. My wallet was thinner to the tune of £70 by the time we left, but I didn't feel in any way cheated. One should splash out once in a while, as nobody has yet found a way of taking your money with you when you die.

It comes as no surprise that The Appletree was awarded "National Dining Pub of the Year" in the The Good Pub Guide 2008. This is added to a list of eight other awards picked up since 2001.

I don't get free meals for life for writing this piece (though it might be worth a try!)

The title of this Post links to the Appletree Inn Website.

Bon Appetit!

17 February 2008

Letter to our Prime Minister

Dear Gordon Brown,

After ten years of Labour Government it seems appropriate to review our situation.

I write as a one-time active supporter (and paid-up member) of the Labour Party.

I am no longer a paid-up member and you are becoming perilously close to losing my support as well.

So, what's gone right? Well, not much actually. All I can think of from my personal point of view as a "senior citizen" is that I have benefited from an annual payment of a winter fuel allowance and I also have a free bus pass. So thanks for that (though even the winter fuel allowance is now looking a bit sick against the huge rise in energy prices these past few months).

I used to think devolving power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was a good idea. It still is a good idea except that you made a botched job of it by completely ignoring England in the process, so we now have MPs from the Celtic fringes determining the laws that govern the English, but the English have no say whatsoever in the laws governing the domestic matters of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I've nothing against having a UK Prime Minister who is a Scot representing a Scottish constituency, but you'd better wake up and smell the coffee that is the resentment currently brewing in England. So - only 5 out of 10 for devolution.

As for the rest, well it's all been downhill...

  • We have been committed to an illegal war based on false intelligence.
  • Our children are being tested to destruction to meet targets.
  • Our hospitals keep incoming patients outside in ambulances to meet bed targets.
  • It's almost impossible for most people to find an NHS dentist.
  • Indirect taxation has gone through the roof.
  • Billions of taxpayers' £s have been used to shore up a badly managed bank.
  • Immigration from eastern Europe, Asia and Africa is completely out of control.
  • Personal data held on government IT systems have been lost on a massive scale.
  • Children in parts of our cities are totally out of control, shooting and knifing each other and beating up and killing anyone who dares to confront them.
  • Children are getting drunk out of their skulls on a daily basis using easily available and cheap alcohol.
  • Many town centres are no-go areas at night unless you enjoy watching drunken idiots (many of them women) urinating and vomiting in the streets.
  • The Family Tax Credit system is so complicated and badly managed that it is not being used by those who need it, and those who do use it find themselves being told they've been overpaid, and face demands for it to be returned.
  • The Police are useless because most of their time is spent on paperwork.
  • We pander to the sectional demands of immigrant groups instead of encouraging them to integrate into British society.
  • We translate leaflets and signs into dozens of different languages instead of insisting on the learning of one common language.
  • The condition of our roads is a disgrace, and if we want to travel by train we are faced with the most expensive railway system in the whole of Europe.
  • Our Members of Parliament misappropriate our money in outrageous expenses claims, including the payment of family members for work that cannot be quantified, or for trivial maintenance jobs on second or third homes.
  • We are subjected to a constant barrage of Government exhortations and regulations as a substitute for real policy or sense of direction. It is micromanagement to the nth degree.

I will close by reminding you that it is generally the case that Opposition Parties do not win general elections, Governments lose them. This, I strongly suspect, is what is going to happen to you at the next General Election, and it will be well deserved.

10 February 2008

Canterbury Tales

The Archbishop of Canterbury has stirred up a hornets' nest by expressing the opinion that Britain will inevitably have to come to some accommodation with Islamic Sharia Law in the interests of social adhesion.

I have never heard so much garbage from the mouth of a Church Leader. He claims to have been misunderstood and misreported, but I should have thought that a man in his position would be able to string a few words together in a manner that can be understood. But then making himself understood has never been his strong point.

We are all equal under the Laws of the United Kingdom - laws that have been developed by general consensus over hundreds of years, many of which have been underpinned by the teachings of Judo-Christian Faiths. The problem with Islamic Sharia Law is that there is no one interpretation of what it means. It is applied in different ways in different Islamic communities. One thing is certain: men and women are not accorded equal value under Sharia Law. And we all know how the law is applied in some Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia for example. Are we saying we want to come to some accommodation with the concept of female inferiority, punishment by stoning, punishment for being a victim of rape? I don't think so.

I had some sympathy with a view put forward by someone on the radio the other day. He said all Anglican Christians should now be beating a path to the door of the nearest Catholic Church to begin the conversion process!

To end on a lighter note, perhaps the contributor to Terry Wogan's morning radio programme had it right. Archbishop Williams was trying to persuade the Blairs to return to the Anglican Church by saying we should reach an accommodation with Cherie's Law!

05 February 2008

Dental Hell

Yesterday I suffered the Dental Appointment from Hell. I had been looking forward to the worst, and I was not disappointed.

It was 1 hour and 45 minutes in the dentist’s chair with two dentists and a nurse buggering about inside my mouth. First they had to slice away a bridge using a tungsten carbide disc and this took about 45 minutes. Then they spent the next hour trying to an extract a rotten tooth that had been supporting one end of the bridge. This stubbornly refused to budge, and the dentists were taking turns to get a purchase on it and tug it from its moorings. Half way through they set up a large cooling fan. (This wasn’t for me, it was for them as they were now breaking into a sweat!)

The tooth progressively broke up into three bits, leaving the roots. The three good ladies (it is an all-female dental practice) then had to resort to cutting away some gum, and even that wasn’t enough: they had to cut away some bone as well before the two roots threw in the towel and came out. During this delightful procedure they had to give me several shots of local anaesthetic three times during the operation.

I returned home for an hour’s rest before embarking upon my afternoon school transport runs.

My evening dinner was soup and pain killers.

This morning I was well healed and relatively pain free, and (better still) I only had to pay £43.60 so .. let's hear it for the ladies of the Pickering Dental Health Practice!

03 February 2008

Phones, Poetry, Predictions & Purgatory

Sunny Sunday morning and I awake to the sounds of a starling outside the bedroom window doing phone impressions (that's the bird, not the window). I wonder if there really is a phone ringing inside the house somewhere but there isn't. I ignore the bird and wait for it to switch to the answering machine but it doesn't. The starlings in temporary residence in the ivy outside the window here are a constant source of entertainment to us. Some are given to serenading with long drawn-out upward rising whistles and then back down again, much like that novelty wind instrument that looks like a bicycle pump and has a pitch variation depending on how far you have pulled or pushed the plunger.

I read an interesting snippet about the late Brendan Behan, famous Irish writer (and drinker). He was once asked by a literary lady to define the difference between poetry and prose in his work. He replied:
There was once a young man called McFee
Who worked for Accles and Pollocks,
He went for a walk by the sea
And the water came up to his knees.
"That's prose, Missus," says Brendan, "but another few inches of water and it would have been poetry."

The race for the US Presidency is providing much interest and excitement and I feel that we are being treated to a higher-quality range of candidates than was the case the last time around. But that's not making it any easier for me to adopt a preference on the outcome. (Not that I have any say in the matter, being English. The outcome, however, is still important to people outside of the USA because of that country's power and influence for good or for evil.)

Of course, anything or anyone is going to be better than the small shrub currently occupying the White House. Although my heart and soul resides more naturally within the philosophies of the Democratic Party I am not awe-struck by either of the two front runners. Is it going to be America's first black President or America's first female President? I am neither influenced by colour or gender in this matter .. although I might sit up and take notice if there was the possibility of a first black female president. Come to think of it, perhaps that would be the dream ticket - President Hillary Clinton and Vice-president Barak Obama (or vice versa).

But in all honesty I do not find Barak Obama to be the charismatic orator that some claim he is, nor can I find it in my heart to actually like Hillary Clinton. As for the Republican candidates I find myself strangely drawn towards John McCain. I like his style, his depth of experience, his sense of humour and his preparedness to cross party lines where necessary and his unwillingness to feel constrained by the dogmas of his own Party. I think he's in with a chance.

So my predictions are as follows: Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate; John McCain will be the Republican candidate; and the next President of the USA will be John McCain.
(You heard it here first, folks!)

One side of my face has been on fire for a week (notwithstanding a cocktail of antibiotics and pain killers), and so I am actually looking forward to visiting my dentist tomorrow. I have a bridge supported at one end by a tooth that has given up the will to live and which will need, in all probability, to be extracted. This means the bridge will first have to be demolished .. sounds like a job for the Royal Engineers. With the bridge gone and the tooth gone there will be a huge space.

Watch this space.