Tuesday, 28 December 2010


One thing I've always promised myself I would do one year, is to have a dip in the sea on Christmas Day. Mrs Troy's mother did it several years ago but all I did then was watch safely from the beach as upward of a hundred people stripped off their winter clothes and ran down into the waves. Here's the photo I took at Clacton-On-Sea on Christmas Day in, I think, 2005.

At least the sun was shining and the sea was calm. Afterwards I wished that I too had taken the plunge.

Now let's jump foward five years to 2010. I was determined this year that I too would plunge into the sea on Christmas Day. The event was taking place as usual at Clacton and, even more local to my home, a charitable sea swim had been organised at Felixstowe. In fact all around the British coast similar events were taking place. I decided however that I would prefer to do my Christmas Day swim more discretely in a small cove rather than on a crowded town beach. I suppose I was concerned not to make a fool of myself if I chickened out seconds after my toes first entered the water. The secluded cove I chose does not even feature by name on even detailed Ordinance Survey maps but locally it is called "Anchor Beach".

I suspect many people in Suffolk are unaware of its existance. Certainly I wasn't expecting a large throng of people dressed in their warm winter clothes on hand to witness my Christmas dip. What I hadn't bargained on was the weather! On Christmas Day morning I switched on the TV and selected the News Channel. In big bold letters across the bottom of the screen it said THE BIG FREEZE. Unprecedented low temperatures were being reported across the UK. At this point you are probably expecting me to chicken out?

Troy is not one to be deterred by TV headlines. Once I've made my mind up there is no stopping me. So I hurried down to the cove, stripped down to my swimming shorts and plunged into the sea. It was invigorating and I would recommend it to everyone. After a few minutes in the sea I also had a swim in an outdoor swimming pool. I don't have any photos to show you of my sea plunge but I do have a picture of the sea cove taken a couple of days before Christmas and also a picture of me swimming in the outdoor pool on Christmas Day.

Troy, being sensible, waited until spending Christmas in Lanzarote before having a Christmas Day dip in the sea. Surely you didn't expect ME to do it in the UK? After my dip, Father Christmas came to visit the Troy family on a camel.

I hope you all had a great Christmas and as this will be my last posting of 2010, I wish you all a happy, healthy and enjoyable 2011.

Friday, 26 November 2010


I've seen a lot of discussion in the newspapers about the pros and cons of the SATS tests in schools. Apparently, some schools focus very much on teaching to the test rather than offering a broad curriculum to their pupils. Troy Junior, at his school, I'm pleased to say, enjoys a broad curriculum with enrichment activities and school trips.

Recently Troy Junior's Year 5 class have been learning about our solar system. A recent homework was to choose an element of the solar system (sun, planets, comets etc.) and produce a factual document, poster or presentation on it. Troy Junior chose the sun and diligently researched it.

This week he comes home from school and asks us this question - "What is the hottest part of the sun". After we didn't answer he told us "Page 3". I asked him what was hot about Page 3. He replied with a cheeky grin and a cupping action with his hands.

I don't read The Sun, preferring the sober Daily Telegraph. However I am pleased my son shares my interest in astronomy and heavenly bodies.

(If any readers from outside the UK remain confused by this post, you may enjoy this link)

Saturday, 23 October 2010


The half-term school holiday has come round quickly and yesterday we decided to visit London and Belfast, all in the same day, without leaving England. One of the benefits of being a Daily Telegraph subscriber is that I receive certain special offers. One was the opportunity of joint membership of the Imperial War Museum for the price of a single membership (£35). With children under sixteen entering free, this gives us the opportunity to visit the IWM museum sites in London and at Duxford (Cambridge) plus the Churchill War Rooms and HMS Belfast in London for a relatively modest outlay.

So yesterday we set off down to London on the train. The first bit of good news was, that when asking for two adults and a child off-peak tickets, the nice man at Marks Tey station said that we could have up to four adult tickets for the price of two, with Troy Junior effectively travelling free on the third adult ticket. So that was useful saving; and worth knowing for the future.

Although I used to commute into central London on a daily basis, yesterday was the first time this year that I've ventured into our metropolis. I was surprised to see three new buildings - the Heron Tower close to where I used to work on Bishopsgate, the beginnings of The Pinnacle also on Bishopsgate and The Shard being built near London Bridge. We took some photos of the work in progress. Here's the start of The Pinnacle with the completed Heron Tower in the foreground:-

And here is the The Shard in progress:-

A few people were hanging around the construction. We thought that rather than trying to see in through the glass windows, that we would wait until the building was opened - that seems safer!

But the main purpose of the day was visiting HMS Belfast at its moorings between London Bridge and Tower Bridge.

I've been before, on my own, several years ago when Troy Junior was just a toddler. There are many many sets of very steep stairs onboard so it seemed best to wait until Troy Junior was much older before taking him. At the age of nine he can also appreciate better other aspects of the museum. All in all, there are nine decks to visit on the ship, from the engine room to the bridge. Here's a view from the forward deck looking "aft"

and a photo of Troy Junior doing his best to stop the anchor blowing away.

[Sorry! Mrs Troy has insisted that I delete this photo of Troy Junior so replaced by this view from the bridge]

There are many realistic "tableaux" onboard, using dummies, for example in the ship's galley, an onboard surgery and an onboard dentist.

When Troy Junior was younger, he used to get quite spooked when museums used fully dressed dummies and wouldn't go anywhere near them. Another reason for leaving our visit to HMS Belfast until he was older.

All in all, a very enjoyable day out! This link will give you more information on HMS Belfast.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


The school holidays are now over and Troy Junior is back at school. This summer seems to have flown by. Well that's my excuse for not having posted anything since 31st July. I'm wondering how many of my "27 Followers" are sticking by me through this thin posting season? If you do call by, please leave a comment, even if it is just "Hello". It would be nice to know you are still there!

At the start of the school holidays (Summer, Christmas and Easter) I produce a grid on A4 paper with the days across the top and the weeks down the side. Into this grid we then fill in trips away, planned days out and other organised events to ensure Troy Junior is adequately entertained through the holiday period. So much so, that he actually then enjoys his "rest days" when we just laze around at home. At the end of this holiday I asked him if was looking forward to going back to school. He responded "Yes". When asked why he explained succinctly "I need an education". There is no arguing with that, is there?

On the last day of the holiday, Troy Junior and I visited the local Owl Sanctuary. In some ways its a bit misnamed as they have many birds of prey and red squirrels, as well as their rescued owls.I guess it has evolved from its original purpose to become more of an attraction. We had a thoroughly enjoyable time there. The highlight is the flying display.

These birds are very photogenic. Here are a few photos I took during the day.

First an owl which had been raised from a young chick at the sanctuary.

Here's an eagle. They are quite magnificent birds.

And a Red Kite in flight.

This bird actually flew straight over my head several times, missing it by what seemed like inches. However I was too busy ducking and so missed getting what could have been a brilliant photo.

It was also interesting to see the red squirrels. For those that don't know, (let's call you "foreign readers"), the small red squirrel was the native British squirrel but when the larger grey squirrel was introduced into the UK it overran the native species who now only have very few colonies left. At the sanctuary, the red squirrels were in a large caged run but fortunately the cage wire doesn't really show on the pictures I took.

Here's a red squirrel enjoying a snack.

Hopefully I'll be back again with another posting much sooner than last time. Stay tuned!

Saturday, 31 July 2010


I've just realised that it is over four weeks since I last posted here so before July is out, I must do a posting to tell you about our recent trip to France. My father and I have recently had a most enjoyable few days over in Normandy. For more recent readers, I should explain that my father home cares for my elderly mother who has advanced Alzheimers. Ever three months, he has a one week respite break and my sister or I take him away for a few days. He's been to Falmouth and Florida with my sister and to Northumberland (twice) and Hong Kong with me.

This year, he didn't fancy a either long car journey or the hassle of airports so I looked in to local ferry trips from Poole, close to where he lives. We settled on the Poole to Cherbourg ferry trip which is only two and a half hours by the fast (38knots)ferry. The only downside was that it leaves at 7.15am so we were up and out of the house just after 5am! Taking the car on the ferry was simplicity itself and by 11am french time we were heading east from Cherbourg on the local coast road. We took the MGF and toured with the roof down throughout our travels.

Our first port of call was Barfleur from where William The Conquerer set sail for England in 1066. It has a delightful fishing harbour. (If you click on the photos you should get enlarged images).

We then called in at St Vaast-la-Hougue which has an enormous marina before heading down to Port-en-Bessin, central to all the D-day landing beaches, where we had booked five night's accommodation. Port-en-Bessin is a delightful village with an active fishing fleet, harbour and many seafood restaurants. In the picture below you can see the outer harbour but the port itself goes inland beyond the very far right of the photo. The hotel we stayed at is on the far right of the photo and overlooked the fishing quay where the boats unloaded their catches each day.

During our five night stay we visited most of the D-day landing beaches. The next photo shows Arromanches-les-Bains and Gold Beach where British trops landed on 6th June 1944. We (the British troops, not us) actually built an artificial harbour and its remnants can be seen in the photo.

There is a great museum in the town with an excellent guided tour. The tour guide spoke excellent english but with a very pronounced french accent. My father listened for over two minutes thinking the man was speaking french and being surprised how many words were similar in both languages. Then it dawned on him that the man was actually speaking english! "Ze sup-lies were brrrought in-too ze arbour and off-luuded". Once tuned in, he was actually a very articulate and knowledgeable guide.

A few miles inland is the town of Bayeux with its beautiful gothic cathedral and the world famous Bayeux Tapestry. To be honest, I only went to the tapestry because my father was interested, but it is truly fascinating. 70 metres (230 feet) long and full of marvellous details. In 58 scenes it tells of William's conquest of England in 1066. It is amazing to think that this fragile linen has survived over a thousand years whilst buildings have crumbled and disappeared. The centre of the town, around the cathedral is full of old buildings that survived the war. Here is the cathedral.

On the outskirts of Bayeux is the British Cemetery with over 4,800 graves of British soldiers killed in the liberation of Normandy in 1944. It is a poignant sight - row upon row of white headstones. And the ages of dead - 19, 24, 22 etc. All young men buried in a foreign field away from home. This photo shows only a small part of the cemetery.

Here's another view with my father looking at the monument.

Apparently, the film "Saving Private Ryan" gives the impression that only US troops were involved in the liberation of France. This blog isn't so crassly nationalistic. During our visit we saw Utah and Omaha beaches where US troops landed and Pointe du Hoc where US Rangers stormed 90 foot cliffs under heavy fire. And Juno beach which was taken by Canadian forces with Poles, Dutch and Czech soldiers also involved. No one individual army could have overcome the german fortifications along the "Atlantic Wall", it was truly an full Allied effort. Here is the US "Omaha" beach.

Everywhere along the coast there are Union flags, US stars and stripes and the Canadian maple leaf flying in the breeze. The locals welcome their liberators warmly.

Sitting in a restaurant on Friday evening we saw a poster advertising the UEFA Under19 football tournament in Normandy. I went online later and discovered that France were playing 'Angleterre' the next day in Saint-Lo so we even managed to take in an international football game during our brief visit!

All too soon, our five days had flown by and it time to head back to England. I can thoroughly recommend Normandy for a short vacation. Lovely scenery, gorgeous beaches, excellent museums and a special history are to be discovered only a short journey away from the UK's south coast. The roads are quiet, the parking is free everywhere (a refreshing change from the UK!) and the food excellent.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


In London you can pick up the Sunday newspapers from about 10pm on a Saturday evening. However with the internet now you can read those same Sunday newspaper articles from about the same time on a Saturday from the comfort of your house out in the sticks. That's what I did yesterday. I logged onto the Daily Mail website and thought it was April Fool's Day. The headline that greeted me was "EU To Ban Selling Eggs By The Dozen". Here's the link - unbelievable - so you can tell that I'm not making this up.

So the EU (or the Evil Empire as I prefer to call it) is now telling shopkeepers and I assume also direct farm sellers that their eggs must now all be weighed and then sold by weight not by numbers. Do you know how much an egg weighs? Well no one in the Troy family did either, in fact Mrs Troy has never mastered non-Imperial weights at all. So I got out my precious metal digital weighing scales, changed Troy ounces (well they have to be named after someone!) to grams and put a medium sized egg on the scales. Ladies and Gentlemen, a medium sized egg weighs 65.4gm.

So how good is your mental arithmetic. Suppose you want to buy six eggs - what would you now ask for? In true Monty Python style your conversation may go...

You : "Good morning, dear shopkeeper, I'd like 392.4gm of eggs please".

Shopkeeper : "Sorry Sir [or Madam], this is a cheese shop".

For those not too adept at mental arithmetic what you have just done above is attempt to buy six eggs from a specialist cheese shop.

You probably think I'm being silly. You wouldn't ask for such an odd amount of weight down to one decimal point now would you? Instead the conversation would probably go something like this...

You : "Is this an egg shop?" [good, you're not getting caught twice]

Shopkeeper : "Yes Sir [or Madam], we sell only the finest eggs. Didn't you notice our Royal Warrant?. We sell eggs to the Prince Of Wales".

You : "Excellent! If they are good enough for Charles and Camilla, they are good enough for me! I'd like half a kilo of eggs please".

Shopkeeper : "No problem Sir [or Madam]...(counts) one, two, three, four, five, six, seven (pauses then mutters under his breath - "err, four hundred and fifty seven point eight grams"), "You did say half a kilo?"

You : "Oh yes please!"

Shopkeeper : (egg cracking sound) "And this (picks up part of shell containing some yolk and some egg white) makes its exactly half a kilo. I'll put the seven whole ones in a bag but you'll need to carry the broken one home carefully".

You : "That's fine, I've still got nearly half an egg back at home from the last time I purchased eggs, so this will just make up the eight eggs I need for my baking".

The European Union has come up plenty of stupid schemes in its time but this surely is one of the most ludicrous. Early this morning we took Troy Junior along to his Sunday morning cricket practice and I asked several of the parents there if they'd seen the article about eggs having to be sold by weight not by number. All, without exception, thought I was pulling their leg.

The English are an apathetic bunch who have let Johnnie European get away with 'murder' since we joined the Common Market. Maybe, just maybe, something as small as an egg could be the catalyst that gets us to wake up to the sheer stupidity as well as the total democratic deficit that is the EU. Perhaps we are 'happy' to borrow money then ship £8billion a year of it across to Brussels to build roads and bridges in Ireland and Greece but maybe (please!) we will finally revolt against the EU over buying eggs by weight and regain our freedom?

UPDATE - Wednesday 30th June. According to the BBC this was a false alarm by The Mail On Sunday although I think there has been some behind the scene pressure as initially an amendment to save the "selling by quantity" had been rejected. See this link

Saturday, 19 June 2010


Along with another 21 million people here in the UK, I turned on my TV to watch the match at 7.30pm yesterday evening.

Watching the images relayed from the stadium, it made me proud to see such fine, upstanding, clean cut, hard-working young Englishmen representing our country in South Africa.

But enough about the Princes William and Harry. What about the English football team - weren't they CRAP??

Thursday, 3 June 2010


When I was a child I lived within half a mile of the showground in Harrogate where they held the annual Great Yorkshire Show. This three day show was THE big event in the local calendar and one of the largest agricultural shows in the country. The traffic on those days was choatic but at least we could walk to the show. Probably the last show I went to was in the late 1960's.

Here in Suffolk, the county agricultural show is instead rather aptly named the Suffolk Show. This year we decided to buy tickets in advance and attend the show. I always hate buying tickets in advance given the unreliableness of the British climate but we took the gamble. In fact both yesterday and today we've had glorious weather - not a cloud in the sky - so our gamble has paid off.

We planned to get there mid-morning but the traffic queues were horrendous so took off down to Felixstowe for an hour, ate an early sandwich lunch watching the container ships at Felixstowe Dock and were then able to drive straight into the show without any congestion. Initially the place seemed heaving with people and as we passed countless trade stands, most of which Troy Junior wanted to look at, I was beginning to regret renewing my experience of agricultural shows. It wasn't as if I was in the market for a tractor or a combined harvester. The show site is vast but after an extensive walkabout we sat down near one of the show rings. Bowler hatted gentlemen in pinstriped suits were setting out a table of trophies.

A uniquely British scene!
The first event we witnessed was heavy horses pulling gleaming carts at speed through gaps only one foot wider than their wheelbase (the carts' not the horses' of course).
Here's one of the horses with its cart.

It was an impressive sight seeing these big beasts being steered on the gallop between such narrow gaps. If the obstacles were hit then the tennis balls balanced on them would fall off. It didn't happen very often, mostly they cleared with inches to spare.

The trophies shown in the first picture on this posting were for all the various class winning animals. There was a particularly impressive bull, being lead by a small young lady. Even the commentator in the ring marvelled at how she was able to control the animal. Mind you, if she hadn't, I suspect you would have already heard about it on the national news rather than seeing it first on my blog.

A part of that bull quite impressed Troy Junior. (Well I guess that's why he said "look at its balls" in a loud voice).
As well as Mr Bull, Mrs Cow and child, also won trophies. Mrs Troy was impressed with how clean they were.

Moving on to another show ring we were treated to some horse jumping. It was the first time that Mrs Troy had seen live show jumping and she was amazed at the height of the jumps. I stationed myself next to the last jump to get a photograph but most of the horses had faults (a technical term meaning they knocked off a rail) and retired before reaching the last jump. So I was lucky to get this photo before Troy Junior wanted to move on.

Finally to complete the photos from the day here are some horses and hounds pretending to be hunting a fox.

All in all, a very enjoyable day out. I left the show thinking that I mustn't leave it another 40+ years before visiting my next one.

Monday, 24 May 2010


Last year one of my Troy Stalwart's, "Debs", entered her shed in the Shed Of The Year 2009 competition and was a catagory winner! I'd forgotten all about the competition until on her blog today I saw a reference to the Shed Of The Year 2010 competition. These sheds, including Deb's very own shed, are rather splendid edifices - glories to behold. Now Troy is rather proud of his own shed although is realistic enough to realise that his shed would never win a prize. Not in a national competition, not in a County competition. In fact, I'd probably struggle to win in a village competition. So instead I thought I'd enter it into the "Best Self Erected Shed In Troy's Back Garden" competition.

When I blogged about our garden makeover, way back in 2008, I actually ignored my shed although it does feature in the very corner of one of the photos. That's a shame bacause as I said above, I'm rather proud of the Troy Family Shed. We built it ourselves (well I suppose strictly speaking that should be "erected" rather than "built"). We levelled the ground and then the shed's components were delivered:-

Then Mrs Troy and I set about erecting it. Here we are part way through. I'll just leave this photo on here for a few days as I don't generally include photos of ourselves on the blog. However I'll give regular readers a sight of the delightful Mrs Troy as well as myself until the end of the week. Notice the dexterity with which I'm handling the specialist equipment. It's a bit like Doctor Who's sonic screwdriver although the actual technical term for it is "hammer".

When it was finished it looked like this - just a pretty ordinary shed you are thinking. Well that's what I thought. It looked very wooden (not surprisingly!) and didn't particularly blend into its surroundings.

I contrasted the white render and exposed lower bricks of the garage and hatched a plan to help the shed blend into its location. Two pots of paint later (large pots and several coats to be exact) it was transformed to this...

See how the garage roof corners, the white render and exposed brickwork are mirrored in the colour scheme of the shed? Mrs Troy also got some film to go over the windows to obscure the contents of the shed. Click on the photo above for a better view of Mrs Troy's contribution.

So this is my entry into the "Best Self Erected Shed In Troy's Back Garden" competition. Entries are now closed. I'm confident of winning because I'm also the judge of the competition. It's also the only entry which should help it somewhat. However do feel free to leave any complimentary comments you wish as the judge is happy to be helped in reaching his verdict.

Saturday, 8 May 2010


I only did one blog posting about the election. And now, two days later, the election should all be in the past and the winning party should be getting on with governing the country. But it hasn't worked out like that, has it?

England voted for a fresh start. 82% of the nation, in 532 constituencies, via the ballot box sent the collective message "Bye bye Gordon". A government of England would have 297 Conservative MPs, 191 Labour MPs, 43 LibDem MPs and 1 Green. Enough to carry forward the Conservative manifesto and dig the country out the enormous hole it finds itself in (well, actually the enormous hole that Gordon Brown put us in). The bottom half of England - taking a line from the Severn to the Wash - voted even more overwhelmingly for the Conservatives (C 191, L 48, LD 30 I 1). So why can't we have what we want? Its simple, it can be summed up in one word. SCOTLAND.

Scotland, a nation which has its own parliament which has many devolved powers.

Scotland, a nation which has benefited from high levels of public spending due to the generosity of the English taxpayer.

Scotland, a nation whose banks were bailed out by English taxpayers.

So now we have Scottish socialist MPs (Labour and SNP) swarming down over the border, heading south to London to prevent the democratic will of the English, despite the Scots having their own parliament. Scottish MPs voting on many matters that affect the English only since so many policy areas have been devolved to the Scottish parliament. Scottish MPs voting on matters that don't affect their own constituents!

Wake up good people of England! This is a constitutional crisis.

We need to regain control of our democracy. If the Scottish people want a system of big government, central control, high taxation and high public spending then they should be allowed their choice as an independent nation. It might resemble Albania, Cuba or North Korea but it would be their choice. And the English likewise should be free to live under a system they have chosen. Where we find ourselves (both English and Scots) after this election is INTOLERABLE. So e-mail your local MP [I already have, but then he and I are on first name terms :-)] and tell him/her to put pressure on his/her party leader to break the Union and let both proud nations go their own way with the governments of their choice. David Cameron, in particular, needs to ditch his out of date attachment to the Union.

Here's a link to a great article about this in the Sunday Times.

Another interesting article in The Independent that concludes with the sentence "Although not many English yet realise it, their independence movement started last Thursday."

[And just to let you know how things went locally. The candidate I was helping got more than 50% of the votes cast in our constituency. I was invited to the count which declared at 2.40am. I stayed awake until 5am watching the other results on the TV. The neighbouring constituency, the town of Ipswich, turned blue and turfed out a Labour minister. In fact now, every square inch of Suffolk is Conservative!]

Friday, 30 April 2010


I've never really considered doing a marathon. 26+ miles at one go seems impossible. Actually the idea of me running more than several hundred yards at one go seems inadvisable. Yet over the last few weeks I suspect I've actually walked several marathons. I've been helping our local Conservative candidate with canvassing and leaflet delivery. One very small cog in one very large wheel, but with time to spare I felt I had to do my bit. Like Spike Milligan's account of the war "Adolf Hitler, my part in his downfall" I'd hope a better title for this blog would be "Gordon Brown, my part in his downfall". However we'll have to wait another week to find out whether my efforts have all been worthwhile. I've had an enormous grin on my face these last couple of days however since Gordon's brilliant executed own goal in Rochdale.

Back to my marathons. I volunteered to deliver a couple of leaflets in our village and two neighbouring villages - about 1,500 houses. Mrs Troy and Troy Junior have helped out although Troy Junior seems to always get an urgent toilet break ("No.... I need a pooh!") when we are furthest away from home. It is amazing how quiet the villages are during the day with very few people at home, or out and about. One day, our candidate came to help out but the heavens opened and we got soaked. He came back to our home and we had a good chat whilst he dried out. Mrs Troy said afterwards that if our candidate could talk to everyone in their living room for 30 minutes then he would win by a landslide. He's such a nice guy! I suspect though that he'd have to start now to get round everywhere before the next election.

I've also helped out by assisting in the canvassing. I've marshalled up to five people as they've gone door to door whilst I've manned the clipboard recording their feedback of the voter's intention. We talk in code like "She's a C" which I've recorded as a positive result. I suspect Gordon Brown often says much the same thing about members of the public he meets, even when they are not Conservative.

It's not easy trying to control and record five canvassers. Their pace varies so much as some find no one home, so quickly deliver a "sorry we missed you card" before moving swiftly on. Others find themselves in conversation for several minutes. Meanwhile I'm scurrying along ahead to ensure canvassers don't knock on doors that have only moments earlier have been knocked by someone else. Then the waylaid canvasser catches up "they are Against at number 74" by which time I'm on a different canvas sheet on the next road. In villages where the houses have names rather than numbers it is actually much more tricky. The electoral rolls rarely seem to list the house names in the same order they appear on the road. I suspect I've done a good job though as they now always offer me the clipboard. I prefer this explanation to the alternative - that they don't want me to meet people!

Some people walking in the street actually seek us out with "can I have a poster for my window" or "good luck, you've got my vote". Always nicely spoken, nicely dressed people. Others, often passing in tatty old cars, put up their middle finger or yell out an obscenity. They don't seem to mind us paying our taxes to support them though.

I suspect most of the public and perhaps many of my readers are already getting election fatigue. Have you been watching the TV debates? Are you sick of seeing "how these polls would result in the number of seats in Parliament" graphics on every news programme?

That's why I've only done one blog posting on the election. I couldn't ignore it but one's enough.

I'll leave you though with a very sobering thought. The task facing the next Government is truly horrendous. The Conservatives always, at some stage, have to come in to pick up the pieces of failed Labour regimes. Some of the economic vandalism this time though is completely unreversable - the Nation's gold reserves sold off at rock-bottom prices, the destruction of the private sector pensions, our EU rebate thrown away. It will take at least a generation to repair the deficit and control the enormous debt burden. In reality, the position may possibly be already irretrivable - like Greece. The Governor of the Bank of England is reported as saying in the US that whoever comes in will have to make such difficult and unpleasant economic decisions that they will make themselves so unpopular that they'll be unelectable for a generation. That doesn't sound a great prize to win come next Thursday. There would be some irony if Gordon, perhaps with his new friend "I agree with Nick", had to stay and clear up his mess. But that wouldn't actually happen, it would be the IMF and our international creditors calling all the shots.

[I realise that some readers may wholeheartedly disagree with some of the sentiments expressed here. Let's not fall out but rather be thankful we live in a democracy where we can all freely express our views. Not just the sound ones expressed above but also others!!!!]

Thursday, 15 April 2010


I can't believe I've gone a whole month without blogging. Mind you, I can't believe how quickly the last four weeks have flown by. I've been very very busy, goodness knows how I ever previously found the time to earn a living! And I've been faced with so many choices, choices, choices.

I last reported about the new apartment I was buying in the centre of town. Having signed the paperwork on the 6th March, I exchanged contracts on 23rd March and completed on 30th March. The legal process was short but intense. In the meantime, two letting agents were actively seeking my business and getting the keys from the sales office to show potential tenants around. Both agents found me suitable tenants so I had to make a choice between agents. The agent with the lower upfront charges found me a divorced lady of a similar age to myself. This was someone who I felt would take care of my new apartment, so I went with that choice.

Having completed the legal process on 30th March and assessed what additional things were needed for this already "full-furnished" apartment - things like a cutlery tray for the kitchen drawer, towel rails for the bathrooms, loo roll holders, doormat etc. etc. - I had to hurriedly buy these (choices, choices, choices) and place them in the apartment. Then having liaised with the builder over the "snagging list", the tenant moved in two days later, on April 1st.

Whilst all this was in progress I also spent a lot of time in March coordinating the recruitment of a new Headteacher at Troy Junior's school. I haven't mentioned much in this blog about being a school governor as the details have to remain confidential. But having taken over as Chair in January, one of my first tasks was this recruitment. Meetings to decide the wording for the advert, draw up the information pack for applicants, review application forms to create a shortlist for interview, decide on the interview process - choice of questions and projects. Then a day and a half for the interview process itself. This all clashed with the apartment purchase requiring a lot of time juggling. I did however find the entire recruitment process (choices, choices, choices) to be a most rewarding and enjoyable experience and I believe we've now recruited an outstanding new HT.

Good Friday was my father's 80th birthday so early that morning we drove down to Bournemouth to be in good time to take him out for a special lunch. My sister and her husband together with my dad's best friend since his schooldays also joined us. Here's my dad, looking a tad silly, but also throughly enjoying his special birthday.

I mentioned before about wanting to buy a property to renovate then sell on (or rent out). No sooner had I bought the new apartment than our local property auctioneer posted their new auction catalogue which had several properties being sold by a housing association. Previously this association used a central London auction house and I was loathed to spend a whole day travelling up to London just to be outbid by others with deeper pockets. But now there were some great local properties being auctioned locally by a small family auction firm that we already knew. We viewed four properties shortly after Easter. At the guide prices they would all make great purchases (choices, choices, choices). Having got the apartment sorted - bought and tenanted - I was looking forward to this next challenge.

Then I got a call from the builder who sold me the apartment. The few remaining apartments in their final phase, the tower block, were being sold off at special low prices. In fact the prices quoted for this final phase were 20% less than I was quoted in March (remember I thought them then a little overpriced). In fact they are actually now going for less than half the price the builders had initially envisaged when the whole development started a few years ago. Troy has an eye for a bargain, so we went back to have another look. These prices seemed just too good to miss - but then I couldn't buy another apartment AND a property at auction. Choices, choices! After a lot of deliberation I decided to buy another new apartment! They won't be finished until the end of May at the earliest but here's a photo of the tower block as it is now:-

My apartment is half way up, so above the neighbouring roofline, with a westerly outlook. With so much glazing it is very light and airy. The balconies have still to go on and landscaping completed, and then they should look like this:

The letting agent went for a look then e-mailed me "I think it is fabulous and a great buy".

So, a hectic four weeks have flown by. No blogging done, but days full of choices, choices, choices. I've spent all my "ready cash" so will now need to carefully watch the pennies over the next few months. Its a shame I couldn't also buy one of the auction properties to renovate - I would really have enjoyed that challenge. I will hardly dare look to see what they sell for in the auction next Wednesday. But no doubt I will.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


I've spent the last couple of years reading auction catalogues for property sales and then viewing potential purchases. We've seen some truly awful properties being sold by housing associations. Well, not awful in themselves, but trashed by the previous tenants. Appallingly amateur interior paint jobs, children's grafitti on the walls, broken or missing kitchen doors, soiled carpets, filthy toilets and baths. All being sold with low guide prices but ultimately too depressing for me to buy. I've viewed repossessed terrace houses with small back yards full of countless dog turds. How do people live like that? We've also looked at some new build developments but so often the rooms are so small that it takes a lot of ingenuity by the designers to furnish the show apartments [US = model homes] to create any illusion of space.

I've viewed many of these whilst Mrs Troy was at work during the morning. Keeping myself busy trying to invest spare cash now the banks pay such trivial rates of interest. The ones with potential, I've gone back for a second viewing with Mrs Troy, and often with Troy Junior in tow. He's becoming quite a property expert, making quite savvy comments. However until very recently I haven't found my ideal purchase. That was a shame because I think a series of blog postings about renovating an old wreck or trashed house would have made interesting reading.

When we first moved to the Ipswich area a new building development had just been started centrally by the river. As well as several low-rise blocks, it also included an eleven storey high-rise block of apartments although for a very long time, through the credit crunch, it was just a concrete shell - looking more like a multi-storey car park than housing. Driving past, on the other side of the river, I often said to Mrs Troy that I'd love to see the view from the top. Then earlier this year they started to fit out the concrete shell and the builder put adverts for these flats in the local newspaper. We viewed them, including the duplex penthouses, wearing our hard hats. I was interested but thought them still a little overpriced so took it no further. Then I got a text message saying the prices had been lowered. So we returned to have another look. We were then told that the sale of an apartment in one of the "Sold Out" blocks had fallen through and that "Head Office want it sold this weekend". It was fully furnished (to show standard) and was a very generously proportioned apartment with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and two balconies overlooking the river. As soon as I went in, it felt really comfortable and spacious and somewhere I could happily live.

That's always been my problem with property - using my heart rather than head - thinking "could I live here myself?" rather than the hard-headed approach of a seasoned property developer. That's why we've certainly missed a number of opportunities in the past and I've pushed Mrs Troy's patience to the limit (although I'm sure she really enjoys having a nosey around anyway).

I made an offer to the builder as a "cash buyer". They grimaced and said that Head Office would have to approve it but they would push to get it through. They would want a very quick exchange and completion. Well I'm pleased to say the purchase is now going through with completion stretched out a little until the end of March. Already, two letting agencies have given it the thumbs up and are actively looking for suitable tenants.

Here are a few photos - I know you've been patiently waiting for them through all the verbiage above.

This is a view of the apartment block with the footbridge over the tidal river and with the other, previously mentioned, high-rise block to the right.

Here's the view from the balcony looking across the river. It is only a couple of minutes walk to the Ipswich Borough Council headquarters and to its left, the Suffolk County Council headquarters. To the right are the County Court and the white floodlights, centre of picture, are Ipswich Town Football Club. It's a level 6 minute walk (I timed it) to the railway station and trains to London in just over an hour. The main shopping area is within a ten minute walk, as is the marina.

But you really want to see inside don't you? (Its okay you're not nosey, just curious). Here's the spacious main bedroom which has an ensuite bathroom and full length glass patio doors onto a balcony.

It will need some personal touches to make it look less like a hotel room and more like a home.

Here's the kitchen. Everything was included in the sale price, not only fridge/freezer, washing machine and microwave but even down to a set of kitchen knives, kettle and toaster.

The living area and kitchen are open plan which isn't really to my taste. I would have preferred at least a partition and archway but apparently the younger generation like to be open-plan. Here's the living area with dining just to the right. There's a another full length wall to ceiling glass wall/patio doors onto a balcony. Everything, bar the child, was included in the purchase price.

If I was 25 to 30 years younger (and childless) I'd happily live there and commute into London. Hopefully I'll find a young couple who'll think the same and rent it off me. With everything brand new inside (and it has been fully carpeted by the builder since the photos were taken) I'll be envious of them!

Although the property market is still weak and will most likely dip again before recovering I'm glad to have moved some money from cash to property. I'm concerned that higher inflation is waiting round the corner. Even if not, I still hope I've got myself a bargain. A spacious new 2-bed, 2-bathroom apartment, centrally located overlooking a river in one of England's county towns for a price only just into six figures. There are not many places you can do that here in England are there?

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Well judging from the lack of comments, that last posting "2 weeks in Basel" (now deleted - but now reinstated, see comments for background) obviously went down like a lead balloon. It was a departure from my norm and obviously not to my readers' tastes.

Blogging is an experimental art - we live and learn.

I'll be back sometime over the next few days with another posting.



I thought I'd share with you an interesting exchange of real e-mails that went between various people who organise fund raising/social events locally. For confidentiality reasons I won't identify the organisation or the real names of the people involved.

A recent event was themed as a ladies "pamper" evening just prior to Valentines Day. The chief organiser, let's call her "Brenda" is pregnant and wasn't well in the week leading up to the event so her husband took over her organising duties. Another helper, let's call him "George" enjoyed working with Brenda's husband and teased her with how much better it had been working with him instead of Brenda.

The event proved to be very successful - both as a community event and financially.

A couple of weeks have since passed and now the organising committee (Brenda, George, Susan, William and Troy) have just exchanged the following e-mails:-

Brenda : "I will have to give my parting goodbyes at this point as I am going to be as lazy as possible from now until the baby comes"

George : "does this mean your husband will be stepping in"

Brenda : "Hmmmmm unfortunately not. You seem to have taken a keen liking to him!"

George : "He's nicer than you!"

Brenda : "So you've said before. I'm sure he'll be afraid, very afraid when I pass on your unswerving compliments....or maybe not?"

George : "Maybe you don't know your husband as well as you think?"

Susan : "Hi everybody, when did we say we would meet again? Can't find my notes at the moment. George, I can arrange for some support if you are thinking of coming out of the closet so to speak."

William : "By my calculations we have four Tuesdays to choose before Easter. I can make the 16th or 30th March..."

Troy : "I can't make the 30th but I'm okay with the 16th after 7.15pm"

George : "I cannot do either as I am in Basel for 2 weeks"

Troy : "Having read the string of previous e-mails, I hope you and Basel have a happy two weeks together. PS - I don't think you needed to have been so graphic about it though!"

Monday, 22 February 2010


If you've arrived on this page hoping to learn about ancient Greek history then it is time to hit the backspace button. However, if you are regular readers of this blog then today I'm taking you on a trip back towards the middle of the twentieth century. Well mid 1960's to mid 1970's to be more precise.

Somewhile ago I scanned a number of my old Kodachrome slides into digital format. Then more recently I photographed a number of old photographs in my parent's album. I've just been looking at them again and I thought I'd use a few of them in a blog about the early days of Troy.

Here's me, with my sister when I'm about 10 and she's about 6. We are at Sewerby Park in Bridlington on the Yorkshire coast.

The next photo is taken towards the end of August 1966 when I'm eleven years old and about to start at the local Grammar School. I've always looked younger than my age and the short trousers in this picture don't help matters. Most of the boys in the first year at the Grammar School (now called Year 7) wore short trousers. It contrasts with Troy Junior, who has worn long trousers in winter and short trousers in summer to school since the age of seven or eight. Note too my school cap! It must be realised here that I'm proudly wearing the full uniform including the cap as the photo is taken just prior to me starting at the school. Later of course, I wouldn't be seen dead in a school cap although the prefects tried to enforce the uniform policy. Also, array of pens in blazer pocket (cringe!).

It's a photo of a photo and not very clear, but you get the general picture.

The next photo is taken about eight or nine years later. Away from the parental home I've grown my hair long in the style of Dave Davies from one of my favourite bands, The Kinks. Here, I'm running the shop in my university hall of residence. As we were fully catered with three meals a day, the shop just supplied the extras; chocolate bars, peanuts, biscuits, coffee, tea, sugar as well as things like washing powder. Looking at the photo, I'm also surprised to see cigarettes as I have absolutely no recollection from the time that we ever sold them.

Being elected "Shop Manager" by our Junior Common Room was, so far, my one and only election success in life. I won it by a landslide. My favourite memory of running this shop involved coffee speculation. In December there was an article in the newspaper regarding very poor coffee harvests. So at Christmas, instead of running down the stock and banking the money over the holiday, I instead used virtually all our funds to buy coffee from the cash-and-carry. In January we were short of most stock but the price of coffee had gone up about 80%. I was selling jars of coffee below supermarket prices but still making a substantial profit. When I was asked how we could undercut Sainsburys, my response was simply "bulk buying".

I have many happy memories of my time at the University of Nottingham. I'll leave you with a couple of photos taken on the campus, one in summer, one in winter.

Monday, 1 February 2010


I can't believe it is February already! Where did January go? So much for my resolution to blog more frequently - nothing posted since 12th January!

I thought I'd better give you a News Update.

Firstly, my computer has packed up working. Well when I say it won't work, what it actually does is open to the initial Windows screen. Here I have four users - Troy, Mrs Troy, Troy Junior and Guest. The first two are password controlled. Whichever one is clicked on, Windows opens for about four seconds showing the background screen but no icons. Then it logs back off and reverts to the first Welcome screen. So none of us can get into Windows and get at any of our files on the C drive. Now fortunately I've got all our digital photos backed-up and also some of my excel files but there are a handful of important files that I can't access and for which I don't have any back-up copies. AAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHH!

I also have a netbook and I've now got that connected to a proper keyboard and a large widescreen but that still doesn't get me to the files I need - tax return details, all my savings details (which are spread around several banks) and "interesting" things like my cars' petrol records etc. etc. It would take "forever" to recreate them. I was told that I could get into Windows "Safemode" by hitting the F8 key on boot up. I did that but even the various safemode options log me straight out of Windows when I try to open it. The data is safe on the hard drive but presently totally unaccessible. Any ideas anyone? £25 reward to the person who comes up with a satifactory fix.

Secondly, I owe you an update on the problem we were having with our car remote controls and all our neighbours' electric gates etc. We got a person from OFCOM to come out but the first time (Sod's law) everything was working okay. He came out a second time and then discovered that someone (not us!) had installed a faulty device to their TV to transmit signals around their home. This device was faulty and effectively sending out jamming signals to our remotes when it was being used. So the situation is now sorted.

Thirdly, almost a year ago I told you about how my MGF car had died from a totally broken engine. We finally got a quote for £1,864 to replace the engine with a new one (and put in a new clutch whilst the engine was out). We decided to go ahead but the new engine supplied was faulty and wouldn't rev past 1,500 rpm (ie. useless). The company fitting the engine had a long run in with the engine supplier and finally they got a further engine from a different supplier. The whole episode started at the end of last February and we didn't the car back until late May. That was still in time to enjoy the "barbeque summer of 2009" with it being a convertible. It's now done about 2,500 miles on its new engine and last week passed its annual MOT without any issues (thank goodness!).

Fourthly, I had to take over, with no notice, as Chairman of Troy Junior's school's board of governors. Just as the Head Teacher resigned! (No connection!!). I can't say anymore for confidentiality reasons, but already year-to-date I've spent nearly 30 hours just on this voluntary position! And the HT recruitment process will take up a lot more of my time over the next couple of months.

So, I've not had a lot of time for blogging, or indeed surfing the Internet in January.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I've choosen a rather enigmatic title for this posting. It is not often you read about "Imbies" but I wanted to find a title that both fitted the posting whilst not attracting loads of Google hits.

Now don't get me wrong, I love getting new readers but I want interested readers who will stick around not people who just stumble onto this blog in error, show up on the analytics as 3 second stayers before retreating in search of what they were really looking for in the first place. For that reason I always try and find a posting title that won't attract people in error. If you look back over some of my earlier postings you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, today I'm posting about my Self Build IMBY (hence the title). For several years I've fancied the idea of self-building my own home. Finding a suitable plot of land in a lovely location and then building the house of my dreams. All the aspects of a perfect house whilst incorporating all the latest environmental features. I've imagined spending months living on site in a caravan whilst we worked (or supervised) the project to reality.

Turning the idea from concept to reality would also make an interesting blog. At least I hope so although I would hate to build up your expectations too highly at this stage.

Finding the plot is the hardest part of self-build. Securing it in a competitive situation is difficult. There is nothing more frustrating than losing the plot. Now where was I? Oh, right, I remember! Recently I read in the newspapers about how many new houses have been built in the gardens of existing houses. This gave me the inspiration for my plot. You may recall seeing the following picture on a blog posting I did about fourteen months ago about our garden makeover:-

I'm showing you this photo again (a) to show you the plot for my new house and (b) because I think it is important at this stage to establish my recycling credentials.

It's important to me to use materials that are local, natural and cause minimal pollution both during occupation and when the property ultimately end its useful life. Many aspiring self-builders could start with such noble purpose but ultimately compromise in its execution. I was determined not to fall into that trap.

I was also determined to go for a minimalist approach to the design and to incorporate an open-plan layout. I showed my initial plans to Mrs Troy and Troy Junior and both felt I had achieved these objectives. All three of us decided that we wanted to be thoroughly involved in the construction stage and even Troy Junior volunteered to help with the brick laying. I felt this would be a great education for him as he quickly grasps concepts such as load-bearing walls. Construction-wise, the biggest problem is the roof but even here I wanted my green credentials to be clearly on display.

You are probably now anticipating lots of blog postings over a period of several months but the simple truth is that when Troy gets a bee in his bonnet he just gets on and quickly completes the job. So the fact is this "Self Build In My Back Yard" is already finished. Here's a photo with Troy Junior already in occupation.

The building has a negligible carbon footprint. It is minimalist, open-plan and at home in its environment. The roof is plastic, due to load bearing issues, yet manages to be the most green feature of the house! For those of you that worry about recycling, the house has natural drainage and in fact my most recent photo of the house clearly shows this in action.

Oh well! Back to the drawing board. At least now I can't be accused of being a "Nimby".