Saturday, 28 March 2009


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


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


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.