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Failed aspirant aristocrat with lofty ambitions and no motivation

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November already, huh? And for today at least, it’s actually feeling autumnal: it’s seasonably misty and cool and there are leaves on the floor. The weekend was more like summer with rather shorter days, which I guess is just as well as my sister and niece were down in London staying with us for three nights.

We didn’t get around as many places as we’d hoped as my sister has a great deal of trouble with her knees (one is a still- healing knee replacement), so what walking there was, was very slow. Add to that the fact that neither she nor my niece seem to have the remotest idea of just how big London is, well…

Anyway. Among the highlights were a trip on the river bus and a trip to the theatre.

The river bus might not sound like much, but given the aforementioned mobility issues coupled with the need to get from Ilford to the West End on both the Friday and the Saturday, it is a very good way of seeing a lot of London sights without actually doing anything – and the view from the river tends to be rather better than that from buses or street level generally, where you are stuck in the canyons between buildings (though on the right day, in the right weather, that can have its charm, too). That went down very well, I think. On the Friday evening, we disappeared up to Leytonstone, and had a couple of drinks in the Luna Lounge, before taking them to what is probably Furtle’s and my favourite restaurant, The Olive for a Turkish meal. I think they enjoyed that, though it’s hard to tell: at times I fear that my sister is adopted, as she and her family all seem to be resistant to spices and flavour (Mum wasn’t so bad – she’d give most things a try, but Dad’s default was always “I don’t like it” even if he’d never tried something before (we always found the best way was just to feed stuff to him and tell him about it later). Certainly this was an issue when we ordered in a Chinese on the Saturday while we watched a movie and it wasn’t apparently, ‘as good as the choice at home’. I’ve had both and it is, so Ner.

Still, while I’m not sure what my niece thought of the Turkish food beyond finding the sausage too spicy, the halloumi not to her taste, not touching the bread and avoiding the humus and restricting herself to the grilled chicken (she wasn’t fond of the yoghurt and tomato sauce on my Chicken Iskander, either, so there wasn’t much flavour on the go for her.), I think my sister was pleasantly surprised.

On Saturday we went to see Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, famous largely for being the longest running production in history (now in its 60th year). Barbie and Sarah enjoyed that, which is good. It was fun, theatre has to be truly awful not to be able to find something to enjoy, but I have to say that the plot wasn’t the strongest of Christie’s stories and perhaps because it was set in the early 1950s, there was cheese and ham in the performances in equal measure. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable, though I think now I’ve seen it, it can probably stay seen, for another few years, at least.


As a completely unrelated side note (other than the fact it was this weekend), we have finally put the batteries in the cat flap so that we can unlock it and have it react to the chips in the cats’ necks.

The cats have been allowed out before, for short periods under strict supervision, but now we are letting them come and go as they please. At the current rate of in and out, I suspect the batteries will not last the full 6 months, but then, I expect that will calm down a little once the novelty has worn off.

It took a couple of goes to get them to work out what they were supposed to do, but they turn out to be surprisingly quick studies. Peploe? took a little longer to get it right, but I think that is more down to the fact that it’s a relatively snug fit for him to go through the tunnel. Once he got used to it, he was fine.

While they were denied access to the rest of the house beyond the kitchen as usual last night, they had the opportunity to wander outside to their hearts’ content but still come back in for the warmth of their beds and in theory, a snack, though they do tend to scoff the lot when it’s put out for them.

They were already outside when I got up and went down this morning, but it didn’t take long for them to come back in and bounce on Furtle, who was still snoozing in bed, having booked the day off.
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I bought myself some new earphones for my iPod as unaccountably, the last pair went mute in the left, giving me that lopsided-head feeling when I tried to listen to music. Happily I had a spare pair – functional, if inferior in my pocket.

I like those in-ear earphones that block out external noise (or at least as much as is feasible), so I ordered them online as a) in Curry’s they are horribly expensive and b) the Curry’s on Victoria Street seem to have closed down. Not permanently, I hope, but I have little faith in the so-called economic recovery, which only appears to be benefitting those who aren’t affected by the downturn anyway.

I digress. The earphones arrived yesterday and they aren’t bad. Not quite as bassy as my old set, but perfectly functional. Still not the earphones of my dreams, for which I am still searching, but they will do for now. I have two minor complaints, however: firstly, while I knew that they were going to be silvery, I had no feeling for just how silvery. Even the cable is silvery. It’s all rather bling.

The second point is rather strange. The phones are not labelled left and right. I don’t suppose this really matters much, but I should like to know if I am listening to a piece of music with my back to the band.

I mean, it’s only polite.
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Hard to believe that we have had the Moogs for four weeks come Thursday lunchtime. This means that we will be taking them to the vets for their booster shots at the weekend. I foresee that our reputations in Catdom will then be mud at least until we next feed them.


We are hoping that a month of living in the Gin palace will have accustomed them to the place and that they now regard it as home. This is important, because we want to start acclimatising them to the outside world, primarily the back garden. To begin with, we will only let them out when we are around and without feeding them first, so that they have an incentive to come barrelling in for their dinner. It might be time, too, for a little classical conditioning. We have a little bell. I think we should start ringing that every time they get fed, so that we can use it to call them back (if they are not wandering too widely) at night. They will still have the cat flap if they want to get out, of course, but some manner of calling them home will be useful.


We are worried that the Moogs will be rather too curious about the main road out front, so we will be semi fortifying the fence and gate at the side of the house, so that they are encouraged to go into the gardens behind the house and not out onto the street. That said, if they want to go that way, there is no real way of stopping them. It probably doesn’t help that they are very inquisitive, being only a week or two past their first birthdays. On the other hand, it doesn’t take much to spook them, either. They don’t like the ceiling fan or the vacuum cleaner, so hopefully the traffic out front will deter them. The main problem is likely to be at night, when it is quiet, so I suspect (forgive the hint of a pun), that we will have to play it by ear.

a series of photos of the brutes largely because velvet_the_cat asked.

The tabby is Peploe? And the black looking but actually very dark brown one is his sister, Moneypenny. They are the same age, but she is about half his size.
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The final instalment of my holidays catch-up continues a full week after my first day back in the office. There was a time I’d have had this half posted the evening I got home. Oh well.

Having done the Shropshire and Derbyshire tour as previously described, we returned home on the Sunday and pretty much just put our feet up after we’d unpacked. On the Monday morning, before the King Crimson gig in the evening, we made our way to Wanstead by bus and promptly got lost trying to traverse the Green Man Roundabout underpasses.

We were in the area to visit Goddards’ vets where the cat rescue organisation (which I think is actually their administrator and a FaceBook page), Poorly Paws to meet two one-year old cats, a brother and sister, that needed rehoming. They had only been taken from their original home a few days earlier and were due to be ‘done’ and chipped on Tuesday. We had been sent photos of the pair and they seemed cute enough, but we were worried that at barely 12 months old they might be too young and boisterous for us, but in the event they were relatively subdued on account of being moved from pillar to post over the past few days and being stuck in cat carriers.

Well, Dear Reader, we agreed to take them and be damned. The tom is the larger of the two: a tabby with flecks of white and streaks of black (which I think is probably in reality, exceptionally dark brown); his rather smaller sister is largely black (or, as with his ‘black streaks’, exceptionally dark brown, with the odd sliver of white underneath and a small white patch on her tummy.

Initially, he was the more obviously nervous, but he soon warmed up with a bit of fuss. She remained relatively quiet and stoical through the viewing.

Anyway, we agreed to go back and collect them on the Thursday lunchtime, unless there were any unexpected complications following their operations. This done, we left them in the kitchen with a cat litter and some biscuits and water to allow them time to get used to their surroundings. Initially we were going to keep them there for a week and introduced them to the rest of the house in stages, so as not to freak them out. In the event, though they have been banned from upstairs rooms unless accompanied by one or both of us, they got to run of the living room and stairs within a few hours.
We did experiment with letting them into the bedroom on one night, but they were far too boisterous, so they have been banished to the kitchen every night since, though they get to roam downstairs in the daylight hours. This weekend we introduced them to the conservatory, where they had a couple of hours exploring before coming back to their usual areas. It will be a few more weeks before we allow them into the garden and then only under supervision to begin with. Once we have them feeling secure and are certain they equate out house with home and safety, then we will unlock the cat flap and install batteries that will allow it to read their microchips. Hopefully they will come back in once they are allowed out. We also need to cat proof the most obvious exits to the main road as much possible and encourage them back into the garden space. I think the noise from the road will help; they are quite nervy about loud noise, though they will get used to it.

Ever since we decided to get a cat or cats, the subject of names has vexed us. I had always said the price of a cat was to name it Fenchurch, but that was a wind-up. Although I think it is a fine name for a cat (I was also thinking of Willsden, or Bentley), you do have to meet the cat before you name it. In the end, after some consideration, she is Moneypenny after the Bond movies/books and he is Peploe after the Scottish Colourist. Except that it is more properly in his case, Peploe? with the question mark, after Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street, which is a Furtle Favourite. I won’t spoil you with an explanation. Just read the book.
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I have been a fan of King Crimson since about 1971 when my then best friend introduced me to In the Court of the Crimson King, the band’s influential debut. In the intervening 44 years they have had their musical ups and downs between numerous line up changes and hiatuses (hiati?), but with some notable exceptions, they have produced more music that I like than they have that I don’t.

When they toured the UK and Europe regularly, I was too young to get to see them and later, never had the money, opportunity or passport (or confidence to wander off abroad solo even if I had got a passport) to see them play live. Then they seemed to either be in hiatus or touring only in the US or Far East. To be fair, who can blame them? For some reason progressive rock has become the one musical genre that dare not openly speak its name in the UK. I accept that fashions change and that at its height prog was remarkably pompous and self-regarding, but similar things can be said of other styles that may now feel dated or unfashionable, but which retain at least the glow of nostalgia

I digress. The point is, I assumed after 44 years of enjoying their music, that I would never see them play live. About 12 years ago, I attended 3 gigs by the 21st Century Schizoid Band (reviewed on this very journal), a band made up of ex-Crimso Alumni plus Jakko Jakszyk and thought that would be as close as I ever got.

But I was wrong. They are currently in the middle of a world tour and I got tickets for their gig at the Hackney Empire on Monday 7 September. All the result of an idle internet search after Furtle had scored tickets for UK’s farewell tour back in March (possibly noted in LJ, possibly not).

So there we were: Hackney Empire to witness the latest line up, a seven piece including no fewer than three drummers. I didn’t recognise all the numbers they played, but there were enough from what I (and I believe most Crimso fans) regard as their golden era to keep me happy. The three drums set up gave me some pause for thought before the gig, but it worked. Not every song required three sets, so the middle drummer doubled up on keyboards, while Pat Mastelotto provided “percussive layering” from time time to time (by which I mean he wound up a clock into the microphone, hit metal thingies and riffled aluminium foil into the microphone). I don’t quite know why, but it worked.

At other times the three drummers played related, but different rhythms that provided a rather richer tapestry (!) before coming together for some quite pulsating output where they each played the same riff.


Set List:
Walk On: Monk Morph Chamber Music (Pre-recorded outro to Islands)
1. Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part One
2. Pictures of a City
3. Radical Action (To Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind)
4. Meltdown
5. Hell Hounds of Krim
6. The ConstruKction of Light (Instrumental)
7. Level Five
8. Epitaph
9. Banshee Legs Bell Hassle
10. Easy Money
11. Interlude
12. The Letters
13. Sailor's Tale
14. One More Red Nightmare
15. Starless
16. Devil Dogs Of Tessellation Row
17. The Court of the Crimson King
18. 21st Century Schizoid Man

Gavin Harrison, Bill Rieflin, Pat Mastelotto, Tony Levin, Mel Collins, Jakko Jakszyk, Robert Fripp
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Monday was our first day back in the office after a fortnight off. Can’t say I’ve missed the place, but there you go.

We started our holiday with a trip to Shrewsbury primarily for a party that my sister had organised to gather together as many of Mum’s side of the family as possible. I was the unwitting instigator of this as I observed at Mum’s funeral that we only seemed to meet for sad occasions nowadays. Barbie took me at my word and organised a do.

I have to say that while I’d spent the whole period from the funeral to the party fretting about how well it would go, it went really well, and people had a good time, with many long lost cousins and one of Mum’s two surviving brothers turning up out of the murk. Sadly, Barbie and my eldest niece got absolutely blootered, so we didn’t get to see anyone on the Sunday (though we entertained ourselves well enough). We managed to say hello for an hour or so on the Monday before we drove to Buxton, though.

We stayed in Buxton for four nights in the rather grand Palace Hotel. I say ‘rather grand’ – it clearly once was, but now it has settled into a sort of fading grandeur. They seem to have confused the concept of free wifi with ‘wifi-free’ as there as none for the first two days, then the lift – an ancient and rickety device with a one button push memory (it only went to the first floor chosen, which meant that some olds at the back of the lift must have gone up and down two or three times before getting off on the floor they wanted). The breakfasts were reasonable, but a touch greasy. I didn’t ley this worry me too much, though. Furtle was more critical of them than I was. I cannot find it in my heart to be too hard on a help yourself meal that includes bacon, sausage, black pudding, egg, mushrooms, baked beans and hash browns, plus toast and coffee.

We used Buxton as a base for trips out to the Derbyshire Dales. The foirst day we went to Lyme Park, which was famously used as the setting for Pemberley in the mid 90s TV version of Pride and Prejudice. We didn’t get to see the gardens, though as the rain started to hammer down after we had walked around the sizeable park, so we just went into the house itself.

We had a small lunch in Castleton before driving out to look at the Treak Cliff Blue John Mine, where I managed to clock myself on the bonce several times in the low-ceiling tunnels. Other than that it was quite fun to wander through the caverns and Furtle availed herself of some blue john earrings etc in the shop.

The next day we drove out to Bakewell for a bit of exploring. We picked up a proper Bakewell Pudding and a Bakewell Tart for comparison (it’s the law) and some Homily Pies for lunch. We then carried on to a little place, the name of which escapes me, and walked along the disused railway lines that now form part of the Monsal Trail. I got to try out my Nordic Walking poles (well, one of them, anyway) in earnest and we yomped a few miles through some pleasant scenery and through three tunnels. Weeds that we are, this was enough for us and we came back to Buxton and found a pub before wandering out for a very fine Chinese meal.

Thursday saw us at Eyam the plague village and then back in Castleton for a quick look around and a light lunch before driving out via a couple of detours around the reservoirs, to Stanage Edge, which we ascended in leisurely (slow) fashion up what was probably the easiest route. You have to make allowances when you are my size and level of fitness, but it was worth the effort. We ate a couple of Eccles Cakes while taking in the view and then made our way back down in time to get back to Buxton for a further period of recuperation in the pub.

Friday saw us leave Buxton and drive down the A515 to stay a couple of nights in a B&B called the Jug and Glass Inn, a mile and a bit outside the village of Hartington. Having checked in, we drove to Hartington and visited their famous cheese shop, where we bought provisions for a walk around the area, following a small river and then up into the Dales.

That evening we had a fantastic meal in the Devonshire Arms, an unlikely gastro pub in the village, miles from anywhere. I give the place an unreserved five stars and recommend it to anyone visiting the area (though there really isn’t room to sit and just drink booze – you have to go there for a meal. We started off with mushrooms in a stilton sauce and I moved on to steak with mushroom and (more) stilton sauce. I forget what Furtle had, but it was equally toothsome. We had thought we might have dessert, but we just fad room for coffee.

Saturday was the fair at Chatsworth House. Very good, very large, very tiring. Just think of any county agricultural show you’ve ever seen and triple it. Then add a bit more.

Sunday was the drive back home, ready for our second week of holiday.

Next: King Crimson and cats.
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Today is our last day in work before we take a fortnight off and to say that I am de-mob happy is an understatement. That’s true for Furtle, too.

Tomorrow we are scooting off to Shrewsbury for a couple of nights. I made the tactical error of mentioning at Mum’s funeral, that the only time these days the extended family gest together is for sad occasions. The hatchings and matchings are largely done; we are mainly left now with prospective despatchings. My sister took my words to heart and has organised a clan gathering for Mum’s side of the family, a large and scattered group, many of whom are complete strangers to me, and an equal number, acquaintances at best. Still, over all it’s a good thing, though I very much expect that we will limit our participation to the evening part of the event, otherwise it will be 9 or so hours in the pub and I don’t think my liver can take that, much less the finances.

After we have done Shrewsbury, we are driving up to Buxton in Derbyshire on Monday. We will be spending the remainder of the week exploring the Derbyshire Dales. Four nights in Buxton, followed by two in Hartington, with the last day spent at the Chatsworth Country Show.

I am hoping for cool, sunny weather. We propose to do a fair amount of walking and I have even equipped myself with a pair of Nordic Walking Poles to try and take some of the strain off my poor, knackered knees. I’m also hoping that we can do some relatively flat walks along the paths that follow abandoned railway lines. I am happy to do a couple of extra miles for the benefit of a relatively flat route. Last year we did a knackering six mile walk up and down and it nearly killed me; I am just too out of shape for that, so distance over the flat is better. The walking poles should help with a little cardiac benefit, too.

Once we get back to Ilford a week on Sunday, there isn’t much planned other than snoozing, though we have tickets to see King Crimson on the Monday night at the Hackney Empire. Now THERE’S a band I never thought I’d get to see live. Prior to this, the nearest I managed was the 21st Century Schizoid Band 10-11 years back.
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Well, the Tube strikes scheduled for tomorrow and Friday have been called off.

This means that the bulk of the country, who couldn’t care less will be spared the saturation coverage of hundreds of thousands of Londoners getting agitated and TV news presenters trying to say something different, new and interesting about bus queues every fifteen minutes or so on News TV, against a backdrop of an ancient Route Master bus, which has probably been projected in mirror image so that it accidentally looks continental.

For those of us who live down here, the lack of strike this time around is a blessing. Well, it is for me. Normally I would just work from home and enjoy a sleep in before logging on earlier than I normally would do, having trailed into the office. And twice this week, too, had it happened. The thing is, though, Friday is my last work day for two weeks and it is actually useful to be physically present in the office this week. There are meetings and there is stuff to do. Rubbish stuff, granted, but stuff that won’t go away of its own accord. So while I usually enjoy me a good Tube strike, I’m glad there won’t be any this week.

At the same time, I rather hope that negotiations don’t break down while I’m on holiday. They can wait until I get back from my holidays; there’s no point wasting them. One day, of course, I’m certain to win the lottery, so this will all become irrelevant as I shall be living the Life of Riley in obscene luxury, miles and miles from the city. In the meantime, though…
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I have just confused the Hell out of a barista by proffering £10.20 to pay a £5.10 bill. I really just didn’t want a pocket of change…

It was quite fun to watch: he rang up the items, took the money without particularly thinking and then lost it when the change came back the same as the price. Cue much checking of till roll and receipts to see what he’d done wrong. If only I’d had a 10p piece instead of a 20p all that existential angst could have been avoided.

The coffee is only adequate anyway.

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The plan then, was simple: we bought all the stuff – enclosed litter tray and litter, a bunch of soft blankets and such, some bowls for food and water, biscuits and a huge amount of tinned cat food. We even acquired a scratch post, although that was more in hope than expectation. We decided not to buy beds until we knew what the cats we ended up with actually like, though we have a couple of big boxes for the short term.

Everything then, was ready. We tidied up the kitchen, and moved furniture around to accommodate newcomers and by Sunday morning we were ready for our midday appointment to find some cats.

And then we got the phone call.

We were honoured, I suppose, it was Celia Hammond herself. And it transpires that she is rather mad. She seems to have thought that we had tried and failed to get a cat from her cat rescue place before. Well, she was partially correct. Furtle emailed and then followed up with a phone call some months back, but got no response. That didn’t seem to matter, as the sainted Celia still assumed that we had been rejected once and were trying to somehow game the system. Further, she refused to accept that she had homed three cats with our lovely neighbours, six or seven years ago, despite the fact that they are there to be seen.

Anyway, once we had cleared the ‘gaming’ point up, the sense of the surreal continued to build as it was suggested that we effectively turn our garden into a giant cage, and/or somehow persuade our neighbours on the other side to fence off their property from the road so the cats can’t get to it.

Eventually we got back to the point we had agreed with the inspector who visited the Gin Palace a couple of weeks ago, whereby we will put some chicken netting over the top of the gate and fence outside the back door so that any eventual cattish inhabitant will be channelled in through the cat flap in one direction, or down the garden in the other.

Nonetheless, we do not yet have a cat. Despite the fact that they are crying out for people to take cats, the refuge’s cages are preferable to the remote possibility that a cat will try to cross a busy road, eschewing a large garden with easy access to other gardens, to climb over an uninviting gate and fence to get onto a loud, smelly and even less inviting road, which has nothing the other side to attract a cat.

Plan B is to wait now, until after our holiday at the beginning of September and then approach the RSPCA, or similar.

Next time Celia Hammond opens a cupboard and a dozen cats drop on her head, I hope she recalls the fact that we would have taken two and given them a comfy home and pampered existence.
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