Saturday, 24 January 2009


After posting on Thursday a photograph of my old room at University, I received several comments expressing surprise at how tidy I kept my room. The reason was very simple, I had very few possessions at the time. I may well have also done a wee bit of tidying up - I can't remember after all these years. Whatever, I am nowhere near as tidy nowadays. When I was working, my office desk was always a mess. Every few months I would blitz it - disposing of piles of old printouts and memos and sheepishly handing old supplier invoices (and even occasionally old signed cheques) to my staff.

Now I spend many hours a day in my study at home. I've got an old fashioned style pedestal desk and a computer desk, a double height filing cabinet, a cupboard and an old oak bureau. The oak bureau is special to me. It was presented to my great-grandfather on his retirement on 31st December 1940 after 59 years service to one company. That is not a typo - he worked fifty nine years for one company, a textile company called G.Garnett & Sons Ltd. There is an engraved presentation plaque on the bureau.

Having filled ever drawer, cupboard, bureau and filing cabinet I am now using every flat surface to store things on, as well as resting some pictures and folded boat charts upright against the desks. "Don't waffle!", I hear you cry, "Let's see a photo!" So here, as requested earlier by Trixie, is a photo of my study.

You can see my webpage on the computer screen. On my desk is a black and white laser printer. As a retiree, Troy can't afford colour ink for printing (well it is many times more expensive than champagne per litre). I have a month to view wall calendar flat on my desk so I know what I should be doing. You will also see my "Don't blame, me I vote Conservative" [faithfully since 1974] blue mug on my computer desk. A pocket Oxford dictionary is to hand because I sometimes use bigger words than I can spell when blogging or leaving comments. On the wall is a coloured ink drawing of Scarborough Harbour. It only looks odd because it is reflecting the curtains. All my paperwork that needs dealing with is on the pedestal desk. This desk gets tidied about every three months (ok! twice annually).

There are two photos of Mrs Troy on my desk and a photo of a semi-clad Amanda Holden on top of my filing cabinet. Mrs Troy only appreciates 2/3rd of these photos, I appreciate them all. Also on top of the filing cabinets are some "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" cassettes of a very funny 1970's radio series.

So that's my study. When I'm surfing the web, blogging or replying to your comments, or trading my shares or gold bullion, or listening to Ipswich Town away commentaries I'll be sitting here. It may not be tidy but it's warm and cosy and it's my own personal space.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


This morning I was reading Lane's blog and she has done a photo meme and thrown it open to anyone who wants to do the same (tag themselves) by showing the fourth photo in their fourth folder. Well I went into the folders of the old photos which I recently scanned (from colour slides to digital) and came up with the following:

What is this you ask - have I been in prison or a young offender's institution? Well the latter is closer than the former. Its a photo of my room in University Hall of Residence back in the mid 1970's. Its a small room with a shared bathroom in Hugh Stewart Hall, University of Nottingham. The hall comprised an old block with a beautiful tutor's house together with a modern block. I was allocated a room in the modern block which at least had the (in part) en-suite facilities.

I am awash with nostalgia looking at this photo. You can click on the photo to make it bigger. In pride of place in the room is my "music system" which comprised a Sony stereo reel-to-reel tape recorder. Linked into it via a homemade pre-amp was a Gerrard turntable. I would borrow LPs and record them onto tape. There is an old 10cc album visible - I saw them play at Leicester, an excellent band.

Also in the picture is a poster of Paul and Linda MacCartney, a photo of our black labrador "Cindy" which we got from the RSPCA, and a photo of Filey Bay taken from my grandparent's apartment. My yellow boxes of slides are on one of the shelves. There is a photo of all the Hall students on the board and various postcards received from family and friends. There was a small (2ft 6in wide) bed, a desk and (off camera) a wardrobe in the room.

Unfortunately you can't see the nice view from the window as the photo was taken at night. Nottingham has a beautiful 200 acre campus. When I was deciding to which University to go, all my friends would say things like "I'm choosing X University because they have a good reputation in psychology" or similar words. I got all the brochures (they called them prospectuses for some reason) to decide where I'd like to spend three years of my life. "I've choosen Nottingham, its got a lovely campus".

I think that approach was a lot more sensible.

Anybody reading who wants to run with the tag - fourth photo in your fourth album - is welcome to do so. If you do let me know.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


There is an elephant in the room. It is a very large elephant. When will the good people of England see this elephant?

Let me help you. The newspapers today say that Britain is edging its way slowly to the brink of bankruptcy. Gordon Brown has now written a blank cheque to the banks. Credit agencies are rumoured to be poised to reduce our sovereign debt rating – meaning that they fear for our country’s ability to pay back its borrowing obligations. Just as in 1976/7, a Labour Government after mismanaging the economy may have to turn to the International Monetary Fund to bail us out. This would affect our living standards for a generation (or more). Even if we don’t have this worse case scenario we are still in very “deep doo doo”.

“So what’s the elephant?” I hear you still ask. This is the elephant – it is that Scottish politicians and bankers have brought our nation to the edge of bankruptcy. They were not content with working under a formula that for over thirty years took English taxes and redistributed them generously to Scotland. They were not content with a biased electoral system which saw the English cast more votes in the 2005 General Election to the Conservative party yet still ended up with a Labour Government. No, going beyond this, they had to take actions and deeds that have brought the whole system crashing down on its knees.

We have Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling (both Scottish and put into Westminster by Scottish voters) frantically trying to sort out this mess which occurred on their watch due to regulatory failures taking place under a regulatory framework which they established. This almighty mess is taking place at a time when they (Brown and Darling) had already taken the nation’s borrowings to worryingly high levels. The two banks at the heart of our problems today are the Royal Bank of SCOTLAND and HBOS (can you guess what the S stands for in HBOS?). Both RBS and BOS have their headquarters in Edinburgh. Yes dear readers, we can firmly lay our present economic woes at the feet of Scottish politicians and bankers.

In the hubris created by the false Mother Of All Booms in recent years the Scottish people were edging closer and closer to independence - hence the SNP as the governing party in the Scottish Assembly. The tragedy now though, as they see that Scotland on its own, would merely be a mega version of Iceland, is that their opinions are changing. Many may still loathe and hate the English but they understand clearly now that they still need us. They will not be voting for independence now in a hurry.

But what about the people of England? Don’t we have a say in the matter? Is the Union a marriage in which only one of the parties to it, the Scots, is ever allowed to consider filing for divorce? Where is the fairness in that? When can the English have their own say on this important matter?


Want some other opinions?

What Troy thinks on 20th January appears in The Telegraph on 23rd January.

A view from The Times with interesting comments

Thoughts on Scottish Independence from "The Independent"

See also my comments box for a variety of other views including the scottish take on this contentious issue. Troy welcomes the diversity of views that blogging affords.

Sunday, 18 January 2009



I’m going to do something now that I’ve never done before – I am going to review a book on my blog. So what’s prompted this you ask? Well keen eyed readers of my blog may have noticed a rather odd comment by “Rosy” on my 7 favourite foods posting a week or so ago. Her comment went like this:-

Troy, why don't you have an e-mail contact address anywhere? I regularly read this blog, and your ITFC one (Chelsea, here we come) and I wanted to send you something - a book, actually - but there's no way to get in touch.

(I am not a lunatic stalker.)

Well I was a bit surprised to say the least. I clicked on her name which gave a link to her website and her University of Cambridge webpage which between them gave quite a lot of background on Dr Rosy Thornton. As well as being a senior academic with perhaps a brain the size of a small planet she was also an author with three published novels and an Ipswich Town supporter. I was intrigued. I went onto Amazon to see if they sold her books. And there they were – all three – and each one had rave reviews. One in particular interested me as it is set in Ipswich (my recently adopted town) as well as London and – get this (and I’ll explain more soon) – the story is apparently told just through letters, e-mails etc rather than using normal prose.

So I discussed the situation with Mrs Troy. If I was in fact going to be encouraging a lunatic stalker (and if you were one, would you admit or rather deny it?) then I wanted Mrs Troy to share the decision (by which I mean of course, the responsibility). I sent “Rosy” an e-mail. She responded by saying she wanted to send me a free copy of her book. I gave her my wife’s maiden name and works address. I told “Rosy” that if I really liked the book then I would review it on my blog and also buy her other two books. That was on a Friday – by the start of the next week I had in my hand a signed copy of “More Than Love Letters” by Rosy Thornton.
Now the fact that you are about to read my review of her book means that I did “really like” it. In fact I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps like me you are thinking that you just can’t write a whole book using only letters (as in correspondence), e-mails etc. Surely they must be linked by normal prose. I mean surely! No, the entire book comprises just letters and e-mails between friends, relatives, colleagues as well as minutes of meetings, and extracts from newspaper articles with no prose. And Dr Rosy pulls it off brilliantly! Just to see this writing style tour de force would be a recommendation for buying the book. However a much better reason is because the book is a most wonderful read. At the heart of the book is a developing love story between an idealistic young single female primary teacher, (Margaret), and her local MP (Richard) to whom she originally writes several letters about issues that concern her. Her MP is New Labour (I still don’t know what possesses an intelligent person to become a Labour MP???) and he initially ignores her, but then later arranges to meet her at one of his local MP surgeries. The two main characters discuss the developing “relationship” by e-mail with their best friends in a truly believable set of dialogues. There are several interesting sub-plots involving a homeless women’s hostel, Margaret’s elderly grandmother, Margaret’s landlady and Richard’s developing career. There are some wonderful twists in the tale including a particularly brilliant one near the end which I was annoyed my sixth sense didn’t pick up.

Now as a book reviewer perhaps you think I would make a good plumber. But trust me – I’m confident that you will thoroughly enjoy this book whatever your sex, age, or political persuasion. So if you enjoy a good read – BUY IT. You’ll see it on Amazon along with some much better written reviews of it than this one. It is probably also available “in WH Smiths and all good bookshops” (although I don’t know why WH Smiths isn’t included in the latter category). Don’t wait for Rosy to e-mail YOU – you’ll be missing an excellent read in the meantime.

That just leaves my other promise – to buy her other two books. They have real girly covers although her reviewers say they too are not “chick-lit”. I could mince up to the bookshop counter and say "Mmm, what pretty covers" but maybe on second thoughts I’d be better off getting them from Amazon.

(If [surely when] you buy the book do let me know – leave a comment here even if its weeks/months later and I’ll see it and so too will my delightful “stalker” and fellow ITFC supporter, Rosy)

Thursday, 15 January 2009


Last Easter the Troy family flew to Lanzarote with British Airways. I arranged the flights and the hotel separately. We had a great time and the holiday was not cheap but I didn't feel I had been ripped off either. I would happily repeat the same holiday this coming Easter. The family could do with a bit of this:

There is however one problem with this plan. British Airways stopped flying to Lanzarote at the end of March last year (one day after we returned home) and the flights were taken over by Easyjet. "Result!" I hear you thinking (clever skill, I know). Surely a budget airline will undercut British Airways - I mean it is now no-frills with no food and no seat allocation. So what price for this "cattle-truck" class?

Well looking back at my credit card statement it appears I paid £589 for myself, Mrs Troy and Troy Junior to fly BA at Easter 2008. I even enrolled Troy Junior in the BA Executive Club (family member) so he clocked up some airmiles. Now I go into Easyjet's website to book for Easter 2009. Several dates to choose from to get 3 seats - obviously not full flights then. What's this...? A charge for each suitcase going into the hold. Okay, lets just take 2 cases rather than 3, Troy Junior's clothes will be spread over our cases. What's this...? Travel Insurance - well we can delete that as my bank account gives me family annual travel insurance. It gets cheaper and cheaper! Let scroll down to the "bottom line". £978! (Remember this is flights only, hotel, villa or apartment extra). I thought I'd choosen the cheapest flights. What if I'd picked other days during the Easter school holidays...£1,730...£1,835...yeah right as if I'd pay this for the Easyjet experience!

Let's see what price I'd pay if I didn't have to travel in the school holidays, maybe a week in mid-March. Oh, £454 for the three seats, well what a surprise.

Budget airlines = cheap flights? Not if you are travelling as a family in school holidays. Then you are well and truly screwed.

That's the great thing about having a blog. I can let off steam here rather than just shouting at the wall.

And I can also ask you this you know anyone with a private jet with three spare seats this Easter? We are not fussy, anywhere nice and sunny will do.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

D.I.Y. - LESSON #27

It has been quiet in the Troy household since the New Year. In many ways that is a blessing but leaves little inspiration for blogging purposes. So today I'm bringing you "Do It Yourself Lesson #27" in a series of DIY lessons starting after #26 and ending before #28.

This lesson explains how you can change a wooden fire surround for a stone fire surround for less than £35. In today's economic climate this is a valuable lesson.

When we bought our house there was one feature that we did not like. Our living room featured a coal effect gas fire in a large black fireplace with a dark wood surround. As a picture paints a thousand words and to save me typing a longer description, here is a photo of said fireplace:-

Maybe you like it. Obviously the people who had installed it must have liked it (?) but Mrs Troy and I didn't. It went on our list of "things to change at some stage in the future". After we had settled in we started to look at new fireplaces. The gas fire itself is fine and we were not fussed about changing it. Even the black mantle was okay, it was just the wooden surround that was not to our particular taste. We quickly discovered that fire mantles came in a variety of widths and heights. At this point I should explain that Troy is more an ideas man than a practical DIYer. In fact in our household I concentrate on concepts, ideas and the finances and Mrs Troy does the practical things. Hence when improving our garden (see earlier posting) I was more the designer and Mrs Troy the digger of borders. Even when it came to having a family I made the initial contribution but Mrs Troy delivered the project. It took her nine months, but I digress. The problem we found was that if a new fire mantle was larger than the existing one then we would have to make adjustments to the skirting board. This could get messy and involve lots of redecoration. Or if the new one was smaller there would be a gap left in the skirting board. This again would test our DIY ability. All the fire surrounds we saw were either too big or too small. The project was "on hold".

Then one day whilst surfing the internet I came across some "stone effect paint". It was especially developed for wooden fire surrounds. At less than £35 for the undercoat and top coat (2 tins) I thought this was worth a gamble, better than spending well in excess of £1,000. So I bought the product online and it arrived the next day. Mrs Troy and I together put on the undercoat which was a strange goey mess. As I had to be away from home for a few days after that I left Mrs Troy to finish the project, whilst I phoned for regular progress reports (being a diligent staff manager). The top, stone-effect coat has to be put on by building up about four layers whilst allowing each layer to dry between applications. Mrs Troy reported that she was pleased with the outcome. On my return home I was greeted with this:

We were both very happy with the outcome. It is much less dominant than before. When we had visitors we would ask them if they liked our new stone fireplace. Oh what fun we had when we told them it was wooden! I feel the £35 gamble paid off very well. Without my internet surfing I suspect we would still be looking at our old firesurround.

Friday, 2 January 2009


For all those who have eaten to excess over the Christmas period and to all those who have gone on a diet as part of their New Year Resolutions this posting should probably come with a health warning.

I am now coming to the end of this marathon meme where I've been tasked to enlighten my readers with various lists of seven things about myself. So this is the last one - my seven favourite foods.

Now I must warn you from the start that I’m no gourmet, so don’t expect anything fancy in my seven favourite foods. I was brought up in the late 1950’s and 1960’s in Yorkshire by parents whose own formative years from a food perspective was World War II with all the rationing that went with it. I think my mother still thought of bananas as exotic fare well into the 1970’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good food prepared well. However there are many places that use good ingredients and cook them well without having to spend an arm and a leg. So without more ado are here my seven favourite foods:-

All Day Breakfast – there is a café close to where we live that fronts onto a lake. The lake is used by fishermen (well I’ve never seen a woman fishing there before anyone corrects my wording) and the café caters for them. Here sometimes I meet up with Mrs Troy for an “All Day Breakfast” at lunchtime after she’s finished her part-time work. For £3.95 we get bacon, egg, scalloped potatoes, tomato, beans, fried bread, buttered bread and a cup of tea. The plates are always left spotlessly clean when we’ve finished and we walk back to our cars feeling comfortably fed and full. We only go about twice a month at the most so we aren’t overdoing it with the cholesterol.

Porridge – from October through to May I like to start the day with a bowl of porridge, topped with a sprinkling of sugar and cold milk. I actually prefer syrup to sugar but keep forgetting to buy it. I make my porridge as soon as I get back from taking Troy Junior to school, having picked up my Daily Telegraph on the way home. Porridge is a great slow release energy food to keep one going through to lunchtime.

A Nice Sirloin Steak – an occasional treat down at the local pub “The Crown” when I’m feeling peckish. I’m not particularly bothered about the extras like sauces or onion rings but I do like some strong English mustard with it.

A Chinese Takeaway – it’s always nice to pick up a well prepared Chinese takeaway. I call it "eating by numbers". But as the numbers will mean nothing to you I'll give you the details. Egg fried rice (I can’t take it boiled like the Chinese eat it) and chicken with cashew nuts will suit me fine, or with sweet and sour pork. Or with both. Also the meal should include some prawn crackers. However the best Chinese dish has to be Crispy Aromatic Peking Duck – lovely, very tasty and quite messy.

An Indian Restaurant Meal – it’s been a long time since we had one of these as Troy Junior doesn’t like spicy food. Whenever we eat Indian we always seem to be either the only ones in the restaurant, or one of just two couples present. It seems everyone else eats Indian food after the pubs close but Mrs Troy likes her evening meal nice and early. The very first Indian meal I ever had was with “friends” after watching a football game in Manchester. I told them I’d never had an Indian meal before so I would rely on their judgement as to what to eat. They ordered me a Vindaloo. I actually enjoyed it.

Scones, Jam and Cream – on a warm summer’s day there is nothing to beat scones, jam and cream sitting in the late afternoon sun. All washed down with plenty of tea. I think it is impossible not to feel civilised whilst enjoying afternoon tea in England.

Snickers bars – when feeling peckish there is nothing to beat a Snickers bar. I’ve enjoyed these since the days when they were called Marathon bars. I read somewhere that they are going to change the name back to Marathon bars (or was I just dreaming that?). Warning – they may contain nuts (hopefully several).

Biscuits – the eighth in this list of seven favourite foods. I couldn’t miss out my biscuits with a cup of tea of coffee. There are so many nice ones to choose from – custard creams, ginger biscuits, HobNobs, milk chocolate digestives – actually, the list is almost endless. When I was student I bought Rich Tea as you got more for your money with those. I think the very best biscuits are ones I that haven’t seen recently – Abbey Crunch. These just melt in your mouth and are so very tasty. However HobNobs come a very close second. They are so moreish and require discipline not eat and eat and eat and eat and…

Now I suspect some of my readers may have actually put on weight just reading about my favourite foods. This is a high calorie posting. I’ve always been a strong believer in the view that it doesn’t matter how many calories you intake as long as you burn them off afterwards. Since childhood I’ve always tended to burn off the calories – I can’t stand still for a minute. However recently I have started to put some weight on (probably due to sitting down and blogging non-stop). So I have to be more careful and ration my intake of these favourite foods. But that just means I enjoy them all the more when I treat myself.

I look forward to hearing if you share my taste in favourite foods.