Thursday, 24 December 2009

TROY'S CHRISTMAS HONOURS LIST 2009

Regular readers that have been with me for over a year will recall that as the year draws to a close I announce who are my "Troy Stalwarts" for the year. I do this by reference to the number of times fellow bloggers have left comments on my postings.

I think one of the greatest things about blogging is that it creates the opportunity for a two way dialogue - allowing fellow bloggers to leave their thoughts and observations in the Comment section. It is always a thrill for me to open my blog and see that someone has left a new comment. I like to acknowledge my Troy Stalwarts who regularly comment on this blog. I'm sure several other readers regularly call by to catch up at things "Chez Troy" without leaving any virtual footprints on my blog and I apologise for not being able to recognise you as Troy Stalwarts - but you know how easy it is in future to remedy that - just leave me a comment, even a simple "Hello".

In a rather sad way (to paraphrase the thoughts of Mrs Troy when I first showed it to her [no sniggering]) I set up a spreadsheet to record who has left comments and thereby facilitate the awarding of Stalwart honours. Here's a photo of part of the said spreadsheet (click on it to enlarge):


Names are down the side and the 37 various postings during 2009 are across the top. When a comment is left then the relevant cell is filled in dark blue and the digit 1 inserted to generate a total per person and per posting.

This year I'm pleased to announce the creation of The Most Excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts. There are three membership catagories - Dame Commander (for indeed they are all female this year), Elite Officer and Cherished Member. I suggest the designatory letters CTS, OTS and MTS are used respectively for these awards.

So without more ado here is

TROY'S CHRISTMAS HONOURS LIST 2009.

The award of Dame Commander of the most excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts in 2009 go to:-

Debs
DJ Kirkby
Ladybird World Mother
(who each left 30 or more comments during 2009).


The award of Elite Officer of the most excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts in 2009 go to:-
Crystal Jigsaw
Lane
(who each left 25 comments during 2009).


The award of Cherished Member of the most excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts in 2009 go to:-
Catharine Withenay
Cheshire Wife
HelenMHunt
Kitty
Sarah
(who each left between 17 and 20 comments during 2009).


It looked for a time that both Kitty and Sarah had fallen by the wayside during 2009 but I was pleased to see them back here as the year drew to a close.

It was also my great pleasure during 2009 to actual meet in real life four of the ten Troy Stalwarts - at book launches, farmhouse lunches and speedboat riding.

In total 49 different people have left one or more comments on this blog during 2009 and (with the exception of one that May be deemed abusive) all were much appreciated.

To all my blog readers - to the those in the most excellent Order of Troy Stalwarts, to those who leave the occasional comment and to those who pass by leaving no virtual footprints - to you all on behalf of Mrs Troy, Troy Junior and your's truly, we wish a Merry Christmas 2009 and a Happy, Peaceful, Stress-free, Prosperous and Healthy 2010.

Friday, 18 December 2009

HARDLY A BLIZZARD

The snowflakes were falling gently as we went to bed last night (which was good as I hate noisy snowflakes) and the forecast was for anything up to eight inches overnight (which for some reason put a gleam in Mrs Troy's eyes). However on waking this morning we had hardly had a blizzard overnight. Just a modest covering of snow; a couple of inches, at best (or worse). Mrs Troy set off to work in her trusty 4x4 and then I walked Troy Junior down to school. It was very quiet everywhere with few people about. There was not the usual throng of people by the school gate - were we late?

No, the school was closed! A couple of inches of snow and the public sector grinds to an abrupt halt. So yesterday, by default, was the last day of the school term and Troy Junior would today have a day of leisure to enjoy the modest snow fall. But first we walked into the village to get my newspaper.

No newspapers! (So not just the public sector!).

I got out my camera to record the scene as snow is such a rarity in East Anglia. This photo is taken close to where I live although it doesn't actually feature our house. All these houses are less than five years old but have been built to resemble older looking houses. I refer to it as "very late Georgian". I personally like that concept as you combine modern build quality with a splash of character.


Here are some other pictures taken within a stone's throw of our home featuring the local village recreation ground and the fields beyond.


Friday, 11 December 2009

REMOTE INTERFERENCE

No, please keep on reading, this isn't a rant about Brussels interfering with our lives. Honestly, this is a much more intriguing local story.

We've had some issues relating to car remote controls. Mrs Troy's in particular has been playing up and she has taken to keeping a spare remote with her after changing the battery in the remote yet continuing to have problems. Last weekend she spoke with the neighbour on our left and he said that his remote wasn't working and he suspected someone was using a "remote blocker". When Mrs Troy relayed this news to me I just shrugged as I thought it was a quite far fetched notion.

Mrs Troy then noticed that another neighbour, across and down the road, who has remote controlled gates, was leaving their gates open which was most unusual. However with the cold weather and the dark evenings we didn't see them to query it. Last night Mrs Troy noticed that the next door neighbour to our right, who also has electric gates, had left their car out on the road overnight. At this stage you are probably imagining Mrs Troy to be like the neighbour in "Bewitched", always peering out from behind the curtains. That's a little unfair, she's just quite observant. It's more Neighbourhood Watch rather than Neighbourhood Witch.

This afternoon Mrs Troy saw that our neighbour was approaching her car, parked on the road, so she dashed out of the house (pink slippers a blur) and she asked her if she was having problems with her remote control. It seems they couldn’t get their gates to open despite having four remote control units. I was beginning to see a common theme developing here!

So Mrs Troy knocks on the door of the neighbour who lives immediately opposite us (this is someone I haven't mentioned so far). She told Mrs Troy that her husband had been having problems with his car's remote control but every time he had taken it to the BMW garage it had worked there.

Let's recap. Our car remotes play up. The neighbour to our left - his car remote doesn't work. The electric gates of the neighbour to our right won't open by remote. The neighbour directly opposite us has problems with his car remote but it works elsewhere. The neighbour further down the road also has problems with their remote controlled gates. Yes there is definitely a common theme working (or not working) here.

Mrs Troy phoned the local District Council and got put through to Environmental Health. They were puzzled and had never heard of a problem like this before. They couldn't help her. I've Googled "remote interference" and the only thing I can find is OFCOM but their website just refers to interference affecting TVs and radios. There’s nothing on their website about car and gate remote controls.

Its Friday teatime (5pm) and I doubt I'll get any answers from anywhere any time soon. That's unless via the power of the World Wide Web any of my readers can shed any light on this intrigue. Any clues anybody? HELP!!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

GAMBLING ON A BID

Firstly apologies for the virtually three week gap between posts. I've been very busy.

Readers who have been following this blog since last year may recall that one of the things I wrote about in November 2008 was investing in gold. Following months of research I discover in early 2008 a great place to invest in gold without paying silly premiums and high storage charges, whilst keeping it safe in a secure vault. I put a link on my posting and have subsequently put a link on my sidebar. £10,000 invested at the end of November 2008 could have bought 598gm of pure gold. Selling it now would have generated a profit, after all charges, of £3,930, or 39.3% in just over 12 months. A US investor, investing dollars, would have made an even higher percentage gain. By no means a risk-free bet but with the parlous state of most economies, gold looked one safe haven in the storm. Of course there is absolutely no guarantee the next 12 months will be the same. Many experts see gold peaking very shortly although the long term outlook for gold still looks good with the risk of inflation from all this funny-money printing by governments round the world.

I'm conscious of course in the present harsh economic climate that many people are being tempted to sell their old gold jewellry as they hear reports of record gold prices. There are several adverts on the TV and in newspapers with companies offering to buy old gold. I've heard some pretty disturbing stories about people sending off bracelets worth about £500 and only getting about £80 and failing to get their item back. A much less risky alternative is to sell to a local jewellers. One in my town has a board outside advertising to buy old 9 carat gold. Today it is quoting £5.42 a gram. I wonder how many are tempted in by the sign?

In my view that is not over-generous, being only 61.5% of the gold's market price. I've discovered on the internet a company based in Hatton Gardens, London that today is quoting £8.40 per gram.

The present price of pure gold is £23,500 per kilo. So 9 carat (37.5% pure) is £8.81 per gram. So the Hatton Garden outfit is paying 95.3% of spot gold price compared to 61.5% at the local jewellers. I've not tested the internet company but on a heavy bracelet the difference in price is quite significant (say £150+).

The reason for my research on this matter is that I found myself discussing the price of scrap gold with another jeweller yesterday. Last week I took a gamble and bought a diamond ring at an auction (as you do!). It was described as a 1.1ct brilliant cut diamond in a 18 carat white gold ring. Here's a picture.


A nice piece of "carbon". The estimate was £800-£1,200. High street jewellers, in store and online, seem to charge upwards of £2,500 for a 1 carat diamond ring. So I closed my eyes (figuratively) and bid at the auction getting it for £840. With buyer's premium and VAT it came out at £1,013. It was five ring sizes too big for Mrs Troy's finger so we took it in the next day to be resized and cleaned. For £35 the jeweller also offered a written insurance valuation. We returned yesterday to collect the ring and both held our breath whilst the jeweller opened the envelope with the written valuation in it.

This certifies the ring, describing it's 4 C's (carat, cut, clarity and colour), as well as it's valuation. I asked the jeweller what happened to the gold removed to reduce the size of the ring as even a gram is worth £17 for18ct gold. That's when we discussed scrap gold prices and he told me that there was no way I'd get anywhere near £17 for a gram of 18ct gold. We took home the sliver of gold as one day we might need it to resize the ring upwards.

Oh, I forgot to say what was on the written valuation...£4,500.00
That came as a relief - I hadn't bought a piece of cut glass! Now it is where it was always destined to be when it was being created millions of years ago deep in the earth's crust - on Mrs Troy's finger.

If you know of any young men thinking of getting engaged then perhaps you should advise them to buy their engagement rings at a reputable auction. For the same money, they should get three times the ring at auction compared to a high street jewellers. And with bigger rings come more kudos from both their fiancees and their future mother-in-laws!

Friday, 13 November 2009

SO, WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?

Before I get into the topic of this posting, I must firstly thank Ladybird World Mother for kindly giving me an award. Here it is-

It is a rather girly pink (and flowery) but based on the "it's the thought that counts" I am very chuffed to have received it.

I also feel somewhat embarassed as I am very conscious that I have been neglecting my blogging readers over these last few months. I've also noticed that many of the bloggers I've been following since starting this milarkey eighteen months ago have likewise either reduced or, in some cases, actually ceased blogging. In my case there hasn't been a great deal going on that I felt was suitable blogging material. Some things seem too personal and some things have to remain confidential (I'll explain more below). I read my daily newspaper and many of the things I read irritate me and give me a strong desire to blog about them but what bothers me doesn't seem to push the same buttons with many of my readers.

When people meet me for the first time and learn that I'm an "early retiree" one of the first things they ask me is "so, what do you do with all your spare time?". Some people actually ask me every day what I do with all this leisure time. These people are referred to on this blog as "Mrs Troy".

So I thought today I would try and answer this question. Having no work committments I no longer need to get up early for a long commute to work. What does stop me staying in bed in a decadent way is the need to walk Troy Junior to school. So I'm up and dressed by 8.30am, at least during school term time. I then walk down to the village to pick up my Daily Telegraph from the village store. Breakfast is now a hearty meal at about 9.15am (I could never eat heartily at the crack of dawn) whilst I peruse my newspaper. Usually the business section first but the sports section on Mondays. I'll then have a quick glance at the Letters page. I've had a few letters published in the Telegraph - about 40% of those I submit. I used to feel most aggrieved when a letter I sent in wasn't published. Recently I learnt that they receive 700 letters a day and publish about 20 - so anything better than 3% success rate is actually a good result and gave me a smug smile!

Time then to boot up my PC. (Truth is that I've already been on my netbook at 8am prior to getting out of bed to catch up on the news headlines and weather forecast. I used to listen to the radio but now prefer to go online and choose the topics myself). I look to see how my share portfolio and my gold bullion are doing. I might do some buying or selling and research for this can take up a good half hour or more of my time. Mrs Troy and I are also looking to invest some of the surplus funds we got from the sale of previous properties back into the property market so I keep a eye on Rightmove and also on several property auction sites. We've done quite a lot of viewing and made the odd offer but so far its come to nothing. Only last week we offered on a house that would have been a great renovation project and potentially would have given great blogging material. But the price it actually went for made no economic sense. I'll never make a fortune as I'm too cautious!

I'll stop for a coffee and have a trawl through the several blogs I follow then "bang, clatter" - it must be about 11.45am. The post has arrived - usually several envelopes for me and I'll spend some time dealing with them.

It's now "post meridian" and my thoughts turn to lunch. I didn't used to "cook" but now I'll do a couple of soft boiled eggs with bread "soldiers" or perhaps pate and toast. (Yes, I include toasting within my definition of "cooking"). I'll take this with a yoghurt and a drink through to the sitting room and I'll turn on the TV. 12.40pm and its half way through "Bargain Hunt". A very silly programme but if I catch it after half way through I enjoy watching the auctions of the things the contestants have bought. Usually they lose money - buying retail, selling wholesale ain't the cleverest strategy after all - but I find it interesting viewing. I keep meaning to apply to go on the programme with Mrs Troy's father - one day! Then I'll watch the One O'Clock News.

Mrs Troy gets home about 1.50pm from her part-time job. So I've just time to remember that I haven't yet washed up the breakfast items and now also have the lunchtime items to clean as well. Usually I just get the washing up done, wiped down all the work surfaces and have gone back to the PC in my study when Mrs Troy gets home. We catch up on her office politics and anything in her mail whilst she has her lunch. I'll show her anything I've found of interest on the internet (properties, blogs, news etc.) and she'll have a leaf through the newspaper's main section (which at this stage I've still to read!).

Time then to collect Troy Junior from school. Mrs Troy likes to do this but usually I'll also come along for the walk. When the weather is fine (Easter to early October) I'll play football outside with Troy Junior but in winter TJ will play with his toys and watch the TV whilst I finally get to read the main section of the newspaper. After dinner, if Troy Junior is watching a ninth repeat of Top Gear on Dave I'll read a book for a while.

That's a typical stay at home day. However, if the sun is shining (summer or winter) I'll jump in the car, head down to the beach with lunch, a rug and a book in a rucksack. I'll walk 2 to 3 miles then have lunch and a read then walk another 2 to 3 miles and get home just in time for the school run. I do love the coast on a sunny day. Other days I might potter round the shops and meet Mrs Troy for lunch.

On summer evenings the three of us may go out for long walks or get our bikes out. In winter its just the TV or the occasional live Ipswich football game. I've also got quite a few evening committments arising from my School Governor role. I'd love to be able to blog about some of the things I see and hear but it's all done in the strictest confidence.

It was a great regret not to have succeeded in the Council election back in June. That role, which also comes with a useful monetary allowance, would have greatly occupied my time whilst serving the local community. I've recently been approached to be co-opted onto the local Parish Council. Not quite the same thing (and not helped by the image set by the Vicar Of Dibley TV programme!) but I've said yes to them.

So, in a nutshell, that's what I do all day. I very rarely get bored although I much prefer the summer to the winter. In a perfect world I'd work, in an interesting role, from October to Easter but so far that concept has proved easier said than done.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

DO YOU WANT A FREE BOOK?

I got an e-mail this morning from the Tax Payers Alliance offering me a free book. This book (available free to the first 5,000 applicants) is written by an academic and envisages Britain in the future - 10 years after it has taken the courage to break free from the European Union. The book, by Dr Lee Rotherham is called "Ten Years On, Britain Without The European Union".


I can't give you a review of the book - so I don't know whether it is a brilliant read or badly written - but if I waited to do a review before blogging then my readers would lose the opportunity to apply for one of the first 5,000 free copies.

Use this website address:-

http://www.greateudebate.com/

to get an opportunity to be in the first 5,000 applications. You'll have to cut and paste it, for some reason it won't add as a link*. I applied at 11am today and got back the message that my free book was on its way.

Regular readers will know that I feel most strongly that the European Union is developing in a very undemocratic way and already it has a significant influence over virtually every aspect of our daily lives. I truly believe that in the years to come its democratic deficit together with the minimal influence that Britain has within the EU will lead to situations similar to those experienced with the IRA for Ireland or ETA for the Basques. Make no mistake, the EU is on a federalist path which aims to eliminate sovereign nation states and instead create a United States of Europe with an ethos and way of life quite alien to the traditional British way. Let's be friendly next-door neighbours with the rest of Europe and trade freely with them but lets not live in some giant commune totally under the thumb of "Big Brother".

If you decide to get the book do let me know what you think of it. I'll do a review here in due course.

* perhaps Big Brother is watching?

Friday, 23 October 2009

A TYPICAL THURSDAY EVENING?

Apparently I belong to a group of two million people. People, who like me, sit down in front of the television and watch "Question Time" on the BBC on Thursday evening. Usually come 10.35pm and the start of QT, Mrs Troy decides to go to bed and I respond along the lines of "I'll just see who they've got on the panel and perhaps listen to the first couple of questions". Nine times out of ten though I end up watching the entire programme and find it generally very interesting though occasionally irritating [eg Shirley Williams].

However this Thursday was different. A further six million people tuned in to "Question Time" and even Mrs Troy delayed her beauty sleep. Only someone who had been out of the country for the past few weeks would have missed the phenomenal publicity the BBC had built up ahead of the first appearance on QT of Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP. Prior to his appearance the usual left-wing Rent-A-Mob had violently protested outside the BBC and Labour's Peter Hain, invoking a Mugabe interpretation of democracy, had tried to get Griffin's appearance banned. The show however went ahead and the BBC, rightly in my view, gave a place on the panel to the leader of a party which has two MEPs as well as growing band of local councillors.

At this point maybe you are wondering (and indeed worrying) whether Troy is a closet BNP supporter? The answer is a most definite NO!! Many of the BNP's policies, other than on "race" are ultra-left wing being extremely socialist in nature. The BNP support comes primarily from the white working class, let down by its instinctive home, the Labour party. I might flirt with UKIP but never BNP.

Thursday's QT was unlike any other QT I've ever watched. It was primarily a case of four panellists, a "chairman" and a largely hostile audience goading and baiting one panellist (NG) about BNP race policies. Attacked from all quarters, including an outrageous performance by the Chair, NG was interrupted and ridiculed throughout. The BBC had taken a calculated decision to reformat the programme away from its usual format of various topical issues being addressed equally to all panellists. The venue, Central London, ensured the BBC an audience representative of 'Inner-City' rather than being representative of the UK as a whole.

NG as an individual did not impress. However despite being in such a caustic, hostile environment he did land one or two solid verbal punches in the discussion. Jack Straw never seemed to recover from a revelation early in the programme that unlike NG's father who had fought in the RAF during WW2, Straw's father alledgedly spent the time in prison having refused to fight the Nazis. Later, Straw's outright refusal to concede that Labour's mass immigration policy had been a significant recruitment driver for the BNP won't have been lost on many viewers. Whilst Labour remain in denial the BNP will continue to flourish. For the Conservatives, Baroness Warzi performed extremely well other than for one major gaffe. At one point, she interupted NG telling him that there was no such thing as a "bogus" asylum seeker. In a clever legalistic way, perhaps she is correct, but I suspect the average BNP-targetted viewer would recognise an economic migrant claiming asylum for what they really are. (And if none are bogus then why are less than 100% deemed genuine and admitted?).

So, what were the final scores? No, the BBC didn't adjust the format of QT to the extent of having final scores - in many other ways they changed it, but not this! My own final scores (out of 10)would be:-

Straw (Labour) 2 [some commentators have since wondered whether he was ill]
Warzi (Conservative) 7 [would have been 9 without the above mentioned gaffe]
Huhne (LibDem) 5 [which is not bad for a LibDem]
Greer (playwright/novelist) 5 [generally a well measured performance]
Griffin (BNP) 4 [better than he could have hoped for given the bear-pit atmosphere]
Dimbleby (Chair) 1 [I think he will look back in shame on his performance as Chair]
BBC 2 [recognised the democratically case to include NG, but radically changing the format of QT showed total bias]

and publicity for the BNP - beyond price (and their wildest hopes).

(So, were you watching the same programme I watched?)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

UPDATE ON THE COSTUME DRAMA

Hadriana kindly asked for an update on my 14th September posting (thanks!) and I started writing a postscript to that posting. However as the PS grew I decided instead to cut and paste it into a new posting. So here it is:-

Firstly I visited a local theatre group in Ipswich who keep an extensive warehouse full of old costumes which they rent out. They only open for costume hire on a Monday but they are much cheaper than fancy dress shops. I've used them before for a Tudor costume to attend a recreation event on the recommendation of another parent. At the warehouse I told them that I was looking for a Dahl character costume for my son. "Which character do you want?" they asked. This completely threw me - I was (rather naively) expecting them to have a rail of Dahl character costumes. A hurried phone call to Mrs Troy at her office produced a very short list of Dahl characters after she had first berated me for not taking any Dahl books along with me to the warehouse (!!!). "We do have a fox costume" and the lady went away and returned with a realistic fox costume (well not totally realistic - there were no tyre marks on it or guts protuding from the body). The big problem however was that it was a one-piece jumpsuit fastening at the neck, which didn't seem ideal for an eight year old to wear all day at school (toilet complications you understand - Troy is a very thoughtful father!). Frankly they didn't have much more to offer in a Dahl theme - thousands of costumes but not much that was "Dahly").

Meanwhile back in Mrs Troy's office a co-worker told her that she could lend her various accessories that would make up a cowboy costume. This would create what I believe is "TV Mikey", a child character who dresses constantly in a cowboy outfit and one who held one of the winning golden tickets in the Chocolate Factory story. Thank God! It was far from being the most imaginative, or even a central character, but it would suffice.

So Troy Junior went to school dressed as a cowboy. Another parent met him in the playground with "Hello TV Mikey!". I was relieved (not having read the books). Many of the costumes worn by the children were amazing - head to toe creations plus significant make-up applied. But our cowboy outfit sufficed. Troy Junior was happy with his holster containing two guns and I think he was quietly relieved not to be wearing one of the large padded costumes or anything that was plainly unsuitable for a whole day in the classroom. We'd also said we'd treat him with the money saved from not having to hire a costume from an expensive hire shop. (Blackmail often gets a child onside!).

Of course he didn't win the class prize but he wasn't in the least bothered about that. He told us that one boy in his class had come in his school uniform and he obviously felt quite sorry for him. Some parents just won't make an effort, will they - I feel like phoning social services!

The final bonus was that Mrs Troy's co-worker said that TJ could keep the cowboy outfit, complete with toy guns, because her son had outgrown it. TJ was very happy with that outcome.

[Finally, many thanks for all your comments on the initial posting. They were both helpful and supportive. It was obvious from the playground that some mothers relish making elaborate costumes and then take much pride in arriving at school with their children to show them off. I, on the other hand, am very proud that my Troy Blog readers don't fall into that catagory.]

Monday, 28 September 2009

STANDING ON THE SIDELINES

Troy Junior has always enjoyed playing football. One advantage of being retired is that after school TJ and I can go over to our local recreation ground ("The Rec") and have a fun kick-around with a football. Troy Junior has also played football in a school club (after school) as well as attending some junior sessions at Ipswich Town Football Club during the school holidays. He seems quite a natural, unlike his father who was always the last one to be picked to play at school.

A lot of his friends in our village played in the local village football team. Being a large village there are teams for each age group. They play in both friendlies and a competitive league as well as having training sessions one evening a week. TJ was keen to play for the village team but Mrs Troy did not like the idea of losing her Saturday mornings most weekends. Also the idea of trailing to away games and spending an hour on the touchline in cold and wet weather was not her idea of weekend fun.

One evening early this Summer Troy Junior and I set off after our evening meal to have a kick-around on The Rec. When we arrived there the children in the village team were having a training session and then a practice game. TJ wanted to watch them. He sat on his own football, chin in hands, watching the other children play. He looked a very sad sight sitting there just watching the others. I asked him if he wished he could join in - his eyes lit up. On returning home I explained to Mrs Troy how sad TJ had looked watching on but not being involved. It didn't take long to decide that we would let him join the village team. We got all the registration forms, paid the dues and subsequently turned up for the first training session of the new season.

The other players are all his friends from school, all are the same age and most are in his school class. He was welcomed with open arms. The coach said TJ was a natural player and would go straight into the A team. They play seven-a-side and there is an A and B team with about eighteen players making up the squad. During the training games Troy Junior played as a central striker.

The first competitive league game of the season was on the home ground on a warm and sunny Saturday morning. A complete contrast to the cold and miserable weather we had always envisaged for these "winter season" games. TJ had a couple of early touches and passes of the ball but these didn't amount to much. Then a cross came over from the left, TJ caught it cleanly on the volley - Back Of The Net. One-nil! The score by half-time (there are 20 minutes each half) remained the same. In the second half TJ scored again. Two-nil. The other team then got a goal back and we had a nerve-racking, clock watching, few minutes before the whistle blew for full time. TJ was name "Player of the Match" and was chosen to captain the team for the next game.

The second game, also played in warm sunshine again finished two-one to TJ's village team. By now both Mrs Troy and I were thoroughly enjoying our football. Last Saturday morning (26th), saw us arrive bright and early for the third game of the season. Yet again in warm and sunny conditions. Some parents make cake and buns and there is also a large urn for teas or coffees. There is a great atmosphere among the parents. They can however get quite vocal during the games! We've taken folding chairs to sit on but I'm too nervous to sit down - I like to stand and cheer. Troy Junior scored again "a natural poacher's finish" with the outside of his right boot and yet again the match finished with a two-one win. Three games, three wins (all 2-1), nine points out of nine and TJ as the leading goal scorer!

We have the cold, wet or freezing weather still to come but I for one can't wait for the next game.

If only it was this good down at Portman Road watching Ipswich Town! They, in contrast, have had a truly awful start to their season.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A COSTUME DRAMA

Mrs Troy and I are both not happy. Troy Junior's school have a 'policy' of having dress up days where they ask all the children in a particular year group to go to school dressed in a character costume. For Troy Junior's year group, last year it was as a superhero, this year it is as a character from a Roald Dahl book.

The problem is that neither Mrs Troy nor I have any skills at costume making. We are not being modest, our skill levels really are negligible. I'm the one who walks to school with Troy Junior and last year I told Mrs Troy point blank that I would not take him dressed in his school uniform when (virtually) all the other children would be in costume. We did finally send him to school wearing a Spiderman T-shirt but I must confess that my heart went out to him as the other children turned up in costumes that would have made Superman's girlfriend or Batman's butler do a double take before realising it was actually just a child dressed up rather than being the real superhero.

Some of the costumes were homemade but with obviously a great variety of materials purchased and then painstakingly made up. Other parents had obviously hired costumes from fancy dress shops. A couple of parents told me that they had paid £18-£20 to hire a costume for their child. They resented the fact that they had felt obliged to fork out this money but they didn't want their child to be the odd one out with no costume on the day.

So I'm wondering if Troy Junior's Primary School is the exception or the rule when it comes to these dress up days? If you have, or have had, children of school age have you experienced these school dress up days? Have you hired, at considerable expense, a costume for your child or have you taken the time to make a really good outfit from scratch? Do you approve of these school dress up days where parents have the pressure of hiring/making costumes for their children?

We are in a quandary. We really don't want our young child to suffer the trauma of being the only one in his year group not to have a Roald Dahl character costume on the day. However we feel it is wrong that parents are pressured into hiring expensive fancy dress costumes if they don't have the dress-making skills to improvise from scratch.

I'm really keen to hear other people's thoughts on this matter. (And, if you have any ideas how to meet the "dress as a character from a Roald Dahl book" easily and simply please, PLEASE, let us know!).

Friday, 4 September 2009

A TORNADO PASSES THROUGH ESSEX

The heading may sound like a disaster but in fact this is a heartwarming story. The tornado in question is actually a steam locomotive pulling a very special train called "The Winton Train". The journey commemorated a series of eight train journeys that occurred seventy years ago at the outbreak of World War Two. Those trains carried hundreds of mainly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to new foster homes in Britain. They were organised by a 29 year old clerk called Nicholas Winton. The last leg of the four day route was from the port of Harwich in Essex to London's Liverpool Street Station. Today, a now 100 year old Sir Nicholas Winton was at the station in London to greet 22 of the original travellers who, along with their families ,had reinacted their earlier historic journey.

Although it is heartwarming to think that these children escaped to safety and went on to new lives in Britain it is also a sad tale as most, in not all, of these children waved farewell to their parents from the train as it departed and never saw them again. If you click on this link - here - you can read more about the 1939 journeys and today's 70th anniversary event.

I first became aware of this story when I heard that the steam locomotive "Tornado" was hauling a train from Harwich to London. This steam locomotive itself is actually a very interesting, unique engine. Rather than being a preserved and restored old engine it is actually brand new - the first steam locomotive to be built in Britain for nearly fifty years. There were 49 similar locomotives built in 1948/49 but the last one was scrapped in 1966 when the network went diesel and electric. Unlike many classes of engine not one saved - all went for scrap. Someone in 1990 had the ambitious idea to built an entirely new one from the original plans. Money was raised and over a eighteen year project the new loco 60163 "Tornado" was built. You can read about the project here.

This morning after dropping Troy Junior at school I drove to Marks Tey station in Essex. There, at 09.45, along with many other onlookers, I saw "The Winton Train" pulled by "Tornado" come through the station at speed. Here are two photos:-


It was a fantastic, albeit very brief, sight as the train hurtled passed, commemorating a very heartwarming story.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

GOING TO PIECES IN SOUTHWOLD

We've had some enjoyable days out over the summer holidays. One of nicest local places to visit is Southwold, which is about 30 miles from our home. Unfortunately the East Anglian roads north of Ipswich leave a lot to be desired in terms of speed from A to B and that 30 mile trip takes a good [or should that be "bad"] hour. However it is worth the tedious drive behind drivers who we assume have never dared ventured beyond 3rd gear.

Southwold is a delightful and genteel resort on the Suffolk coast. Nothing is brash or garish, just a beautiful restored pier selling tasteful sounvenirs, gaily painted beachhuts lining a promenade behind a sandy beach and a photogenic white lighthouse.
Here are two photos taken from the pier [click on them to enlarge] - the first photo is looking south towards the town:


the second photo is looking north over beach huts and the beach:


Here is a view from the southern part of the beach looking back towards the pier:


In one of the estate agent's windows we saw a beach hut advertised for sale by sealed bids with a guide price of £50,000. Further down the coast at Walton and Clacton they can't shift them at £5,000! Mind you, £50k for a wooden hut with no running water ain't cheap is it?

Southwold is a delightful place for a day out or even a weekend away. Unfortunately it is well off the beaten track unless you happen to live in East Anglia so for those of you who don't, I hope you enjoy the photos.

By this stage though you are probably wondering why the header to this post refers to "going to pieces"? Well, as we wandered through the town passed the lighthouse I saw a sign on a church hall "The world's largest commercial jigsaw puzzle - 24,000 pieces". Intrigued we went inside to have a look. Earlier this year they assembled this enormous jigsaw puzzle measuring about 14ft by 5ft. Apparently they did it in a record time and will be officially in the Guinness Book of Records. The jigsaw puzzle was only on view for two days so we were fortunate to call by at the right time. Here is a photo of the jigsaw puzzle:


The photo doesn't do justice to the detail and vivid colours. As it is a commercial jigsaw puzzle you could buy one yourself to make up - if you had both the space, a large enough table and a phenomenal amount of patience. Here's a link if you fancy buying it (for US$280) and that link has a much better photo of the jigsaw puzzle on it.

Friday, 7 August 2009

IN PRAISE OF HP

It has been quite a few years now since I first took the plunge. It was in Stansted Airport. I was wandering around WH Smith bookshop looking for something new to read (which is just as well as they don't sell used books!). You can tell how long ago it was by the fact that the book I had in mind wasn't at that stage in the adult book section but was instead just in the kiddies section. And it had a very childish looking cover. However I was intrigued so I picked it up and took it to the pay counter. I must have looked a trifle uncomfortable buying a children's book. The person serving me looked at me and said "you'll enjoy that, its a great read". So, before all the hysteria and hype, I read my first Harry Potter book. And I was hooked!

So why am I writing this now? Well I've just spent a thoroughly enjoyable few days rereading the Harry Potter 6 and 7 novels. I've enjoyed them more the second time of reading than the first - and I really enjoyed them the first time round. I was prompted to reread them after reading film reviews of the latest Harry Potter film. Despite being a great fan of the books I've only seen one of the films (the first one) and I was disappointed with it. The magical fantasies and wizardry images that seem so real and believable inside one's mind whilst reading the books instead seem rather ridiculous on the big screen. Is it just me? I can imagine someone flying on a broomstick or doing magic with a wand quite sensibly in my head but on the screen it just looks well...rather ridiculous.

But back to the books. I cannot praise too highly the cleverness and complexity of the plot and how everything fits so neatly together over 3,000 pages and 7 novels. I just sit back in total wonder and amazement at how JK Rowling can have ever been so inspired as to create this story. The characters, the imagery, the humour, the drama, the whole magical world that is Harry Potter.

You may be wondering why I just reread HP 6 and 7 rather than start again at the beginning. Well having read the film reviews I was tempted to go along and see the new film of the 6th novel so I thought that before going along I would reread the book of that film. Having got quickly through book 6 I just had to go on and reread book 7. Previously, on first reading them I had had to wait a full year between those two books. Perhaps reading them back-to-back is the reason for my even greater enjoyment the second time round?

Having read them again and finally this morning putting down HP7 on completion, I realised that there was no way that I could spoil the fantastic imagery I had in my head by going to see the film.

If you are Harry Potter fans I'd really like your take on how you think the books and films compare. I'm interested to know if my regular readers are fans or whether the whole thing leaves any of you cold. And finally, if despite the hype and hysteria over the years, you've never read the books then I do thoroughly recommend them to you. There is a world of difference from the earlier books to the later ones but together they make up a story that is truly in a class of its own.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

A BREEZY WEEK IN "SUNNY HUNNY"

Four weeks since I last did a blog posting - disgraceful! What's my excuse? Well I've been busy but given that I don't actually do any work I guess it's not the strongest of excuses. Last week though the Troy family was on holiday in the neighbouring county of Norfolk. We rented a lovely small home in Hunstanton, or "Sunny Hunny" as its known to its devotees. Its the only resort on the east coast where you can watch the sun set over the sea according to its publicity blurb. We were very pleased with our seaside retreat which is pictured here -

Unfortunately it was only the part of the house this side of the hedge but it is bigger than it looks with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms as well as a large living room and more than adequate kitchen. Its set in a nice private garden close to the cliffs and within walking distance of both Hunstanton town centre and the sandy beach and dunes of Old Hunstanton.

During our stay in Norfolk we did however visit a somewhat larger house . Sandringham, the "Queen's Country Retreat in Norfolk" is only a short drive from Hunstanton and the house is set in lovely grounds. It is used by the Royal Family solely for holiday breaks rather than any official business and so the rooms open to public view have a nice family feel to them (in a Royal sort of way!). There is also a great museum as well as the beautiful grounds to admire. The last time we visited there, in 2000, the house was closed to the public but it was a Sunday and we actually saw the Queen and the Queen Mum coming out of the local church. Obviously there is no Queen Mum there now but Charles and Camilla are staying at Sandringham this week. Here's a photo of the house and grounds -

If look closely you can see that it is somewhat larger than the house we rented.

There are some excellent beaches on the north Norfolk coast. When the tide is out you can barely see the sea. When the tide is coming back in it advances at quite a pace and it is easy to get trapped on a sandbank island. On one beach, Brancaster, where we spent the day, there was ship wreck visible in the distance. This photo, taken by telephoto lens, brings it in a little closer.

I wanted to take a close-up look but there was a water channel in the way. Afterwards (back home) I googled "Brancaster Beach Wreck" and discovered that the wreck is the SS Vina and it was used for bombing practice during WW2 (although I could see little resemblance to Dresden). The water channel near it is quite treacherous and many people have got into difficulties trying to cross it to get to the wreck. Feeling very sensible, but frustrated, I didn't attempt it on the rising tide.

One evening we went to Thornham Quay. It was high tide and the road had a caution sign noting "Tidal Flooding". This was indeed correct - the calm water in the foreground of this photo is in fact the road down to the quay.

The quay is where the two yachts are moored. Finding the quay end at high tide involves stepping from one foot deep water to twenty foot deep water in one step (not recommended).

We had a very quiet but most enjoyable week and we can thoroughly recommend the Norfolk coast for a lazy peaceful holiday.

Hopefully you won't have to wait another month for my next blog posting.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

FAVOURITES

"Favourites", or rather because the software is American, "favorites" are a very useful feature of Windows Internet Explorer. Having a few minutes to spare before my evening meal, I decided to count how many websites I have in my own "favorites".

And the answer, which totally took me by surprise, is......

568.

Five hundred and sixty eight! Wow! That's a lot of favorites.

Now because I'm a qualified accountant, you shouldn't be surprised to learn that I do in fact have my favorites neatly filed into 23 named folders. And indeed, some folders have folders within folders (ie. sub-catagories) so there are in fact more than 23 folders altogether. I'm not going to count them all though, as that would be rather nerdy.

I'm now wondering if I'm alone in having so many website favorites all neatly filed in folders? Do let me know.

Monday, 15 June 2009

LADIES HAVING FUN ON THE BEACH

The title of this blog may encourage some unwanted hits from Google but as you read on you'll see that it very much sums up today's experience.

My father and I are having a few days up in Northumberland, staying with old friend of mine. He told us that today we should witness something unusual and interesting on Bamburgh beach. So we got down their late morning to see a hive of activity. Most of my photos of Bamburgh beach comprise the castle, the dunes and beach together with a wind swept couple and their dog. But today the beach was quite crowded...

On closer inspection the hive of activity was a crowd of ladies from the Women's Institute (WI) making sand sculptures. In all there were 13 groups from various parts of Northumberland. The local Bamburgh ladies can be seen here...

Their industrious approach with spades and buckets of water put the nation's children to shame. Working labouriously on their hands and knees, spades furiously digging, hands gently caressing the sand, buckets of water making just the correct texture of sand. Then out of mounds of sand there slowly arose elephants, turtles, lions, seals, hares and rabbits. Oh, and of course an armadillo. Following a brief soujourn to the pavilion for fish and chips (the WI not us) it was time for the judging. The winning entry was this excellent elephant.

Another sculpture was this rather dashing hare.

Then after tea and cakes the WI ladies assembled for a group photo on the cricket pitch and a local celebrity (aka my old friend) drew the winning raffle ticket.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

MY BLOG'S FIRST BIRTHDAY

Tomorrow - Wednesday 27th May 2009 - marks the first anniversary of my blog. One year and 57 posts after my first tentative posting. It does feel to be more than a year ago that I first set up this blog and said "Hello" to the world.

I've just spent a few minutes looking back over the postings made in these last twelve months. It was a quite nostalgic and enjoyable experience. I've resolved that I must print out all my postings and keep them as a family record. This last year was supposed to be one of quiet retirement - stress free relaxation. I think on the whole I've achieved that whilst at the same time having some varied and interesting experiences.

I changed my name. I first registered on Google as "East Anglian Tory" to enable me to comment on my friend's blog about his own attempts to become a Conservative Councillor in Northumberland. (My friend stopped blogging there after the election but still blogs here). I then set about exploring the blogsphere leaving comments as I went and then someone incorrectly referred to me as "East Anglian Troy". I actually liked that name so when I started blogging on my own account I became East Anglian Troy with Mrs Troy and Troy Junior making up the remainder of the family. However several people then started calling me "EAT" which I felt just wasn't me, so I decided, like Madonna and Cher, to be simplify matters and became just "Troy".

I've really enjoyed blogging although recently I have lost momentum (and I some readers) due to the time committment needed to run my own County Council election campaign. However a number of blog friends have stuck by me through thick and thin. At the end of 2008 I announced my first listing of eight "Troy's Stalwarts" and now its time to update it. Three of those Stalwarts have dropped away - Trixie, who sadly has left the world of blogging; Hadriana, due to other time committments (although she and Trixie will remain "Honourary Stalwarts"); and Carol, who stopped following this blog after I met her at DJ's book launch. I like to think it was some perceived anti-Scottish sentiment I expressed here rather than her meeting me that turned her away!

Anyway, without more ado - the first birthday Stalwart listing....(cue drum roll)...

From the initial roll call of Stalwarts we still have:-
Debs, Crystal Jigsaw, DJ Kirkby, Ladybird World Mum and Brit Gal Sarah.

and introducing four new Stalwarts:-
Kitty, Lane, Helen M Hunt, and The Dotterel.

So now we have a total of nine "Troy First Anniversary Stalwarts" as well as the two Honourary Stalwarts mentioned above. A great big THANK YOU to you all for your support and encouragement.

You may be wondering how I determine Stalwart status? Well all these Stalwarts have on a regular basis left comments on my blog and, after all, that is the only record I can have of your visits. There are three others who have left several comments - Catharine, Cheshire Wife and Granny. I hope you'll continue to converse with me over the remainder of 2009 - it would be nice to end 2009 with a dozen Stalwarts.

So one year and counting. A year of garden makeovers, several memes to help you get to know me better, some rants and ravings about Government incompetence and borrowings, Hong Kong and other trips, book and entertainment reviews plus day-to-day observations and musings. It was great meeting several of you in person during the year and I'm look forward to meeting at least one more stalwart very soon.

Once this election is out of the way after June 4th I hope to get back to blogging on an at least weekly basis, hopefully even more regularly. In the meantime, here's a new badge for my first anniversary stalwarts.

Finally I'd like to also express my appreciation to my 20 Followers - I know some of you are reticient when it comes to commenting but its nice to know you are there in the background. The more the merrier!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

SOME RANDOM MUSINGS (HOPEFULLY AMUSINGS?)

Let me first apologise to my decreasing band of regular readers for my lack of regular postings to this blog in recent weeks. It seems however from visiting other blogs that, with a few notable exceptions, I'm not the only one neglecting blogging duties. I wonder why that is? Perhaps the warmer days and brighter evenings are taking us away from our keyboards?

One of my valid excuses for neglecting this blog is my election campaign is now getting into its stride so I've been doing some blog postings there and will be ramping up those postings even more as the campaign comes to a climax over the next 28 days. Also interesting developments at my local football club, Ipswich Town, as the football season has drawn to a close has generated postings on my football blog.

So what's been happening Chez Troy other than matters mentioned above. The short answer is not a lot. However reading my daily newspaper has brought to light some matters that caught my attention and caused some amusement....

The first is the hoo-haa regarding Marks & Spencer choosing to charge more for their bras sized DD and bigger. Apparently they charge £2 more for the larger sizes and this has caused complaints and the establishment of a pressure group on Facebook (shouldn't that be Titter?). It got me to wondering if these same people go into a curtain shop and expect to pay the same price for their curtains irrespective of the size of their windows?
Curtain Shop Customer : "I'd like to buy a pair of curtains for my living room."
Curtain Shop Assistant : "Of course Madam, this range here goes from £50 to £140 and is very popular."
Curtain Shop Customer : "Surely the price is the same for all size of curtain?"
Curtain Shop Assistant : "Oh no Madam, the larger curtains contain more material and involve more stitching."
Curtain Shop Customer : "I can't believe you charge more to people with larger windows, that seems so unfair. Next thing, they'll be charging more for larger bras!"

Another article that caught my eye was headed "Adult TV shows lead children to have sex earlier". I think adults too can learn from this. If like Mrs Troy and I, you stay up until 11pm to watch "Desperate Housewives" and then need to get up early the follow morning, all you want to do after turning off the TV is to get a good night's rest. So much better to follow the children's lead and have sex earlier in the evening!

The Scottish sporran is under threat from the European Union. Apparently they are made from sealskin and the EU is banning the sale of seal products. Synthetic materials cannot produce the same results according to the kilt industry. It will be a shame if Scottish men have to make a fool of themselves by wearing synthetic sporrans.

Finally, I read that Hertfordshire County Council is spending £5,000 a year teaching children how to catch a bus. Why the controversy you ask - I mean surely you can't expect parents to teach children how to catch a bus?

UPDATE - FRIDAY 8th MAY

Following this posting yesterday and the several comments made by my readers it now appears (for surely it can be no co-incidence?) that M&S have now changed their policy regarding charging higher prices for larger bras.

When I opened my newspaper this morning, the following advert for some reason - I can't think why - immediately caught my eye:-

Not only are M&S eliminating their £2 premium for larger bras but for the next two weeks, commencing this Saturday, are reducing all their bras by 25% (that's price not size). As a shareholder of Marks & Spencer I would encourage you all to go grab a bargain and "fill your boots (sic) up" whilst the prices are reduced.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A MOST ENJOYABLE POST EASTER JAUNT

Today's posting will be a collection of photographs taken during the week after Easter when we had a delightful few days on the South Coast of England. Having stayed a few times in Travelodges I get regular e-mails from them telling me about their special £9 or £19 room sales. A sucker for a bargain, back in February I put together a few nights of cheap Travelodge rooms for the week after Easter. I tried various intineries including Bristol and the West Country but each time a rather inconvenient £50+ room kept breaking into the cheap set. Now a Travelodge room at £19 is good value (you get what you pay for) but £50+, well I ask you! So finally I got two nights in Portsmouth (where I'd stayed for DJ and Chopper's joint book launch) and two nights in Eastbourne.

Now the weather forecast at Easter for the following week showed as "sunny intervals", "light rain", "heavy rain" and "heavy rain" for the four days we would be away. I was half tempted to cancel - I mean Eastbourne for two days of heavy rain! However the actual weather was "quite warm and sunny", "warm and sunny", "warm and sunny" and "quite warm and sunny". And by "sunny" I mean clear blue skies. So much for the BBC 5 Day Weather Forecast. I wonder how many people actually did cancel their plans based on the erroneous forecast?

On our first day in Portsmouth we met up with DJ, her N3S, Leigh, Leigh's husband and her three children. So Troy Junior had some good company and so too did Mrs Troy and I. We had a lovely few hours on the beach at Southsea, watched the IoW Hovercraft come in (most impressive run off the sea up its slipway) and had fish and chips in the fresh air. Here's the hovercraft charging into towards the beach:

The next day, the three of us went up the Spinnaker Tower. This is a remarkable landmark in Portsmouth. Oringinally planned for the new Millenium but I believe was completed a couple of years late and (again I believe) well over budget. However it now is a wonderful attraction on the waterfront. A real asset to the city. This is the tower:

The view from the lookout area is impressive with views out over the Isle of Wight. In the other direction is the naval base and the historic dockyards which include HMS Victory (Nelson's flagship) and HMS Warrier (the first iron-hulled warship in the world). In this picture the two historic ships can be seen (click on photo to enlarge) plus HMS Invincible aircraft-carrier and in the distance the brand new HMS Daring destroyer.

On the way to Eastbourne we parked at the Seven Sisters nature park and walked down to see the chalk cliffs where the South Downs meet the English Channel.

Later in Eastbourne we walked up to Beachy Head. It was a long way but fortunately Troy Junior is a good walker (he's had a lot of training in his eight years). It was worth the walk as the view from the cliff top down to the Beachy Head lighthouse is well worth seeing.

The only downside to holiday was that someone vandalised my car on the last night we were there. Just the wing mirror but most annoying. Eastbourne obviously has its share of mindless morons as well as nice genteel folk.

On the way back home near Edenbridge we met up with an old work colleague of mine who we hadn't seen in about 12 years (well before Troy Junior was born). So new friends, an old friend and some great sightseeing in excellent weather - all in all a great few days away.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

40TH ANNIVERSARY TODAY

No we are not that old to be celebrating our 40th Anniversary today! In fact we've only been married just over two years having lived "in sin" for about fifteen years.

The 40th anniversary to celebrate (and to some extent also mourne) today is the first British test flight of Concorde. On this day forty years ago the British prototype of Concorde took to the air for the first time from Bristol. If you click here you can see archive footage from the BBC. Older readers will feel nostalgia too in hearing the unique voice of commentator Raymond Baxter.

Concorde was, and remains a wonderful achievement. We got it wrong economically in so far as we should have been making a "Jumbo Jet" equivalent of the Boeing 747. However Concorde was an amazing technical achievement. I remember following its development in my youth; the collaboration with the French, the cost overruns, the initial intransigence of the Americans in not allowing it into their country because they hadn't built it, the effects of the oil crisis in 1973 and the resulting poor sales.

Much later, in the 1980's when I lived in first Kew and later Brentford, I would see (and/or hear) it fly past on its way into Heathrow at 6pm and 10pm each evening. On a Sunday evening we'd quite often drive up to Heathrow by the runway end to see the 6pm flight come in. An amazing audio-visual experience of which we never tired. I never got to fly in Concorde, but I almost did. I actually booked a special flight through Goodwood Travel to take Concorde to the Monaco Grand Prix. I got it at a real bargain price but the organisers subsequently reneged on the deal I booked. I think they mispriced it and then cancelled my booking.


So to my lasting regret I never flew in her before she was withdrawn from service. On her last Sunday in service we took a very young Troy Junior to see Concorde land. He was too young to remember it but he can still say that he saw her. On the day of her last flight I took the afternoon off work and took the Piccadilly line out to the station before the airport. There, along with many others, I saw three Concordes come in to land one after the other, capturing it on video forever.

Concorde is also unique in so far as when she was withdrawn from service she was not replaced by something superior. Instead the withdrawal marked a backward step for aviation. So if you've a few minutes to spare in your busy day take a nostalgic click on the link above and see vintage footage of Concorde's first British test flight.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

THE NIGHT SKY

On Friday evening I attended a meeting held in a village hall deep in the heart of Suffolk. I followed the winding country roads for what seemed a long way through small villages that were quiet and very dark. At last I reached my intended village and peered through the darkness for some sign of a village hall. Then at a small junction near a church was a sign "Village Hall" pointing up a narrow lane.

I parked the car and got out. What immediately struck me was the pitch black sky illuminated with a myriad of stars. Having spent a lot of my time living close to London and now, more recently, in a large village with street lights, it was a rare and marvellous sight. The last time I remember seeing the stars so clear and bright was several years ago on holiday in rural Yorkshire. Then, like on this Friday night, the sky seemed to be teeming with stars.

To the casual observer there seems to be little pattern to these stars and the reality is actually the same - stars seemingly close together in the sky are nearly always in fact at quite different distances away from the earth. And a bright star can in fact be many times further away from us than a much fainter one. But people in ancient times saw patterns in the stars that made figures, animals, items. They had good imaginations!

Since I was a young child I have known and recognised these patterns or constellations. I used to buy I-Spy books from a village shop close to my Grandma's home. One day when I was about eight I bought "I-Spy The Night Sky". When I took this home (amazingly then it was deemed safe to go to the shop on my own!) and showed it to my family they wanted me to change it for a more suitable I-Spy book; not some book full of complicated night time constellations. But the book fascinated me, I dug my heals in and kept it.

I soon learnt to recognise all the major constellations. Now when I see them at night it's like seeing old friends. Often with just a small area of sky visible the stars there can be easily recognised. The constellations remain the same year after year but their position in the sky, or even whether they are visible or not, varies with the passing months and seasons.

On Friday night I had a few minutes before the start of the meeting. I looked up and looking back at me was Orion (the Hunter). This is one of the easiest winter star groups to see. At his feet was Canis Major (the Great Dog)with its very bright star, Sirius ("the dog star"). High above Orion was Taurus (the Bull) and Gemini (the celestial twins) and overhead Auriga (the Charioteer). Rising in the east was Leo (the Lion) which presently includes the planet Saturn. Above and to its left was Ursa Major (the Great Bear) seven of who's stars form "The Plough".

I gazed in wonder at not only these major stars but also the myriad of fainter stars around them. All these stars are like our Sun and many will have planets around them. By the law of averages there must be life out there - at truly mind-blowing unimaginable distances away from us. Somewhere up there perhaps someone is blogging right now about their night sky.

I said a quiet goodbye to my old friends the constellations then walked into the village hall to meet some new friends at the local Conservative Association AGM.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

THE NEXT ELEVEN WEEKS SHOULD BE INTERESTING!

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would be interested in standing as a candidate in the forthcoming County Council elections. After giving the matter due consideration I replied "Yes". So soon I will be starting a new blog, which I'll write under my real name, and which will follow my election campaign from start to finish. It should be interesting; I've never done anything remotely like it before. I'll start posting on that new blog very soon - first I just need to sort out what legal niceties I need to comply with. Then I will put a link to it on this blog.

I've already written my election leaflet, or at least the part about myself and why I'm standing. I sent that to the election agent on Friday, not sure what to expect back. It did however get an enthusiastic reception. "I liked your words (they made me chuckle). They hit just the right note". That response was most encouraging. Now I just need to persuade over 2,000 people to vote for me!

I will have an uphill battle against the present incumbent County Councillor, who I assume will stand for re-election, and who has been the County Councillor for my division for eight years. He got one third more votes than my party last time. Its a nice area and the majority of the people I've met appear to be conservative with a little c. I just need to persuade more of them to be Conservative with a big C.

I hope you'll join me on my new blog as the campaign gets underway and follow my new adventures. Keep an eye on my sidebar for the link to it.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

OUR MGF HAS DIED : 1998-2009 R.I.P.

In February 1998 Mrs Troy was the proud owner of a brand new blue MGF. It was the first brand new car she had ever owned. Both Mrs Troy and I have always had an interest in cars. She, as a teenager, helped a neighbour rebuild a "Frogeye Sprite" and I in my twenties owned 3 MGBs over a period of several years. In particular, I had a rare MGBGT with a V8 3.5litre engine which was my pride and joy.

For many years in the 1980's and early 1990's you couldn't buy a new MG sports car so we were both excited when the new MGF model was announced. On its launch we were straight round to the local dealer admiring the new MGF. However at the time (1995) we couldn't justify buying a new one as I had a company car and Mrs Troy had an almost new car of her own. But it didn't stop us having lustful eyes everytime we saw one on the road. For me it was pure nostalgia for my youthful wind in the hair motoring. Mrs Troy just loved the look of them.

By February 1998 we could hold out no longer. We went down to the dealer in Winchmore Hill, north London and gave them the best part of twenty grand (inclusive of part-ex) for a beautiful new one - Tahiti blue with ivory leather seats and trim. This was Mrs Troy's new baby. Troy Junior was still three years in the future and to me this seemed a cheaper alternative anyway! Mrs Troy used this MGF as her day to day car. In August 1999 Mrs Troy and I went to France in the MGF to see the total ecplise of the sun, a very special experience.

The growing bulge of her pregnancy in late 2000 prevented her from getting in her car. Then for several months, she drove my company Lexus and I drove her MGF. When "TJ" arrived we had a dilemna with the MGF - two seats and three of us. Also MGFs do not readily take prams and pushchairs along with all the other paraphernalia that real babies require. We got a new four seater Mazda 323 for Mrs Troy but she couldn't bear to part with her beloved MGF, so we kept it as a fun car for me (...and her). Here's two photos of it outside our old house back in 2004. Over the course of its life its had 3 registrations - this boring regular one and two cherished (in US "vanity") plates.



It's a cute looking car isn't it? (sob, I mean wasn't it)

Fast forward now to 2009. We've had years of fun motoring with our little convertible. It has still only got 35,000 miles on the clock. Only once did it not start when it needed a new distributor cap. We've put it nervously in for its annual M.O.T. (a check for roadworthy safety for US readers) but each year its passed with flying colours. There were no problems this year. However 22 miles after a service and MOT test I could not get it to start in our garage. It made some rather unpleasant noises instead. The engine fired for a few seconds but sounded terrible. A local motor engineer kindly came to look at it and noticed from the dipstick that the engine oil level was far too high - had it been overfilled during its service? He thought this may have damaged the engine's cylinder head - could be £1,000+ to repair. The company that serviced the car agreed to have it towed back there for examination. I followed in my car as I wanted to be there when they drained the oil to see how much had been put in. The car went up on the ramp the sump plug was removed. Instead of oil, green anti-freeze and water drained out. After about 2 litres (4 pints?) of this, the oil started flowing - the correct amount of oil. The oil had been sitting (floating) on top of this water so the dipstick made it look overfull with oil.

The cylinder head gasket had blown letting the water coolant into the engine. The service centre reckoned it could be £600 to repair, they would strip down the engine to examine it.

Yesterday afternoon we took a phone call. The extra water had completely ruined one cylinder piston and piston liner. The other three cylinders were fine but the damage to the one meant it requires a brand new engine - "loads of money, megabucks". As an eleven year old car, albeit with low mileage, it is just not economical for us to repair it. We'll get it towed back home, get its cherished plate put onto a retention certificate, then put it on ebay for "spares or repair". There are a couple on there now with bids above £500. I've got a hardtop for it which I'll also sell separately pre-winter.

We are fortunate that Mrs Troy now has a real baby (well he's now 8 years old) but I can still see the pain and loss in her eyes. Her little MGF is no more. I'm bearing it like a man but inside I'm crying.[edit : Mrs Troy has just read this and burst into tears]. This blog is therapeutic, I need to get my feelings out. And I'm half tempted to go out and buy one of the new "Chinese" MGFs which have been made in a "Limited Edition of 500". What this space.

MGF 1998-2009 R.I.P.
No flowers please.....but donations are always welcome.

Monday, 9 March 2009

INTRODUCING IGNATIUS

We have a new member of the Troy household. In fact, we've had him since Christmas and I've been rather remiss at not introducing him to you before now. You are almost certainly aware (especially if you live in the UK) of the expression "A dog is for life not just for Christmas" and the Troy Family totally support and endorse that sentiment. So I can advise you that we haven't got ourselves a dog although Troy would very much like one. Pets can tie you down at holiday times and I'm sure that Mrs Troy had that in mind when she was choosing what to get me for Christmas. I think, and I'm no mind reader, that she was looking for something significantly more self-reliant as she already has a small child and a "large child" to look after.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, she went out just before Christmas to get me this present, wrapped it up (!) and gave it to me on Christmas Day. I was very pleased and immediately christened it Ignatius. Ignatius is quite a free spirit and I felt that it was more appropriate that he (for it is indeed male) lived in our garden rather than in our house. I found him a nice spot in the garden within a flowerbed. I'm pleased to report that he has lived there happily since Christmas, looking very pleased with his environment despite the bad winter weather earlier in February. He has been absolutely no trouble whatsoever and he settled in immediately. He has overseen the spring bulbs coming to life and now has some dwarf daffodils for company.

I can't really introduce him properly without showing you a photograph. The Troy Family are shy of appearing on photographs on this blog but Ignatius appears to suffer no such qualms. So here he is.


Ignatius, the Ipswich Imp
His family tree shows a lot of crossbreeding with Gnomes. You can't see the tree in the photo.

Although I missed it at the time, this was my 50th posting. A big thanks to all my loyal followers that I have picked up along the way. Here's to the next 50.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

SPACE ROCKS! (plus a rude joke)

I've always been interested in astronomy. Outer space fascinates me. So you would understand why I would say "Space Rocks!". However what I want to tell you about today is a near miss from a space rock. At a quarter to two on Monday afternoon (GMT) an asteroid the size of a ten storey building narrowly missed the earth. When I say narrowly, it was 44,000 miles away, but in space terms that is absolutely nothing.

This rock is apparently the same size as an meteorite that hit Siberia in 1908 creating a giant crater and flattened trees over a 800 square mile area. It hit with the force of 1,000 atomic bombs. So if Monday afternoon's object had hit the earth, especially a densely populated area, the consequences don't bear thinking about. Even if it had hit water (and over 60% of the earth's surface is water) then I suspect the tsunami created would have dwarfed the Indian Ocean tsunami of a few years ago.

Apparently this near miss object was only first discovered on Saturday. This is rather worrying as that seems remarkably short amount of time to track it and to deal with it (not sure how though) if it had been on collision course.



After that sobering bit of news I think you all deserve a joke. It's a rude joke so if you don't like rude jokes look away now. Okay you were warned, and I suspect everyone is still here, so here's the joke........

A couple are at their financial wits end due to the credit crisis. "There is only one thing for it" said the husband "You'll have to take up the world's oldest profession".
"What shall I do?" asks the wife.
"Dress appropriately then stand on the corner by the pub,I'll pop in for a drink and I'll be there should you need me. Charge £100 for sex" explains the husband.

She gets changed and then they put the plan into action. Very soon a guy in a car pulls up to the kerb and asks her how much. She tells him £100 but unfortunately he only has £30. She asks him to wait a minute and she rushes to her husband in the pub for advice. "Charge him £30 but just give him 'manual relief' for that money" he instructs her. She goes back and agrees to get into the car with her punter. He then unzips his trousers and what he gets out is huge. Not only is it huge but its also perfectly formed and the nicest one she has ever seen.

She gawps in awe then says "Just wait a minute!" She runs back into the pub and says to her husband "Can you lend this guy £70?"


Well, I hope my lady readers enjoyed that joke. Mrs Troy has started blogging again and has composed a short, poignant and ultimately tragic story. You can read it here although the link will only work after you've left me a comment.

Friday, 20 February 2009

THE FAMILY HAS A CHUCKLE, OR IN FACT TWO

A TROY ENTERTAINMENT REVIEW

If you’d told me ten years ago where I’d be spending this Friday afternoon I would have laughed. Laughed at you that is, rather than laughed at the event. However having an eight year old son does at times change one’s entertainment choices. So Friday lunchtime saw the Troy family get into my car for the short journey across to Felixstowe and its Spa Pavilion. And what were we going to see there? None other than the Chuckle Brothers in “Chuckle Trek, the Lost Generation”. Now this viewing did come with a recommendation – from Mrs Troy no less, who had previously taken Troy Junior last year to see the Chuckle Brothers at the Ipswich Regent Theatre. She came back full of praise for them. I’ve watched them a few times with Troy Junior on the TV and must admit I have chuckled at them more than I expected.

It was a beautiful spring-like afternoon at Felixstowe. The Spa Pavilion sits on the seafront at Felixstowe and today the sea was calm and the sun was shining. It looked quite tropical in fact:

We had a picnic lunch, skimmed a few flat stones into the sea then bought some popcorn and settled down in the auditorium. I looked around, the average age was seven or eight, with a sprinkling of dads and many more mums. The lights went down and various space theme tunes were played and the show began. I won’t spoil the “plot” but Capt. James T Burke of the USS Exercise is short of crew. The Chuckle Brothers, Paul and Barry, are beamed up onboard, they boldly go where no one has gone for some while, they cause mayhem along the way but ultimately defeat the enemy robots lead by Dark Wader. It did what it said on the tin – we chuckled. In fact we laughed a lot, both the kids and the parents. It was very silly but in a pleasingly silly way. At one stage they invited three fathers and one mother to join them on stage. Mrs Troy and I slid down in our chairs whilst Troy Junior pointed to us. We were relieved not to be chosen. With the slapstick that followed we were increasingly relieved. At the end of that scene, when they said the four volunteers would each be getting a Suzuki moped, surplus due to the recession, we were disappointed rather than relieved.

Troy enjoyed himself, Mrs Troy enjoyed herself and Troy Junior enjoyed himself. What a pleasant way to spend a school half-term afternoon. If you are looking for a matinee show to entertain your young children you could do a lot worse than to boldly go along to watch the Chuckle Brothers. They are doing a nationwide tour.