Random Jottings Of Gildersleeve

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Location: United Kingdom

Perhaps you'll learn more about me as you read my blog. For anyone who translates my blog using the translator facility, don't forget if you wish to read the comments in your own language to click on the title of the post down the left hand side otherwise they will remain in english. Also I assume that the translation is accurate but I don't know, so please allow for errors.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

To Pay Or Not To Pay...

Some days ago Nick Ferrari(on LBC)was doing a story on his morning programme about Harrod's Santas being replaced by more up to date Santas. I believe the other part of the story was the suggestion that instructions from Management would alter how Santas went about their work and the ideas were seen as a way to cut back on how long a child spent in Santas company and that this would speed up the amount of children seen and as a charge is often made these days by the stores to see Santa or for the gift that follows, more children...more profit!

So what do you think the going rate is for interviewing someone that comes into a radio studio?

In many cases I suspect guests come in for free as its publicity for them and they probably get extra work out of appearing. Many who are members of the public receive no payment and its the thrill of being in the studio and being heard by family and friends and to appear on tv and radio they probably are out of pocket as they may have to stay in a hotel or travel some distance.

Now, I have no idea what the BBC pays for the people that regularly appear as guests on the late night discussion type programmes on Radio 5 but assume that if they are in the business of broadcasting they do get some recompense and its an accepted rate negotiated by an agent or broadcasting union.

However, Nick Farrari in covering the story on Santas said that one of the "Old" Santas had been approached and asked to give the programme a quick interview. He was to be paid £45 for approx a two minute interview. The Santa refused and said that something akin to for that amount of money it wasn't worth it.

Bare in mind that this is a commercial company but then again until recently officially only heard in the London area as a whole so it was a local radio station(though perhaps being available almost nationwide via DAB perhaps that will change)as will the rates of what is paid to staff and guests that appear on programmes.

You may assume being a commercial radio station that they pay more than the BBC would, then again with the license fee system for all we know the BBC might pay more(or less)

The Santa perhaps seems ungrateful turning down £45 for only two minutes if he's talking down from home but if he had to travel in to the studio there would not be much left from the fee.

Interesting to see how broadcasters run their business and a side the public is often excluded from...It shows how radio is often the poor relation of television and may also prove that not all dj's presenters are well paid. It may be the case on a National or successful station in a big city such as Manchester, Birmingham or London but many in the provinces do it more because they love the medium and have other jobs to supplement their radio work and get paid a set fee per programme. And its not as high as believed.

DAB Or Not DAB...That Is The Question...

Some of this is quite boring unless you are really into radio and what may happen in the future but I hope you'll stick with it...

I love radio and have a smattering of understanding of how it works but my knowledge is very simplistic. Thankfully the internet can and does give access to much information and you can avoid some of the spin that is put out by the broadcasters and manufacturers of equipment.

Sometime ago on a forum at the BBC7 website questions were asked about the reception of BBC7 radio.


Well, for starters people who had invested in a digital radio receiver were I think, disappointed that it was available only in mono(as is Radio 5)even though many shows are in stereo. Hence, I listened via the satellite signal. My next idea was to invest in a Freeview box which though mainly sold as a digital tv receiver, it also offers a limited selection of radio and on this platform BBC7 is in Stereo(as is Radio 5 I believe)but it appears if my information is correct...the limited frequency bandwidth does mean that occasionally some of the bitrate of some stations are borrowed by others when sound quality is a major factor to a certain programme.

Then, I did decide to invest in a DAB radio and some extent though I still prefer the sound and range offered on satellite but as FM signals have been poor for years if you try to hear anything in stereo around my home via DAB radio I can hear stations in stereo with little or no interference, stations that are normally on AM are now available and sound as though they are on FM.

Most are broadcasting at 128kps(whatever that means)some at 160kps and even the mono stations at 64kps are still fine. Especially, if they are speech orientated. But I have heard some tests at a lower rate and they sound really bad.

Even my portable DAB radio only works in certain locations and it doesn't take much to lose the signal so it is consigned to my bedroom. At least I can lie in bed and listen to stations I could not before. I suspect things will improve as long as companies add more transmitters across the UK and add relays to piggy back the signal and fill in gaps. More frequencies are freed up by the Government and the technology improves. An external antenna could pull in a better signal so do look at a better quality feature packed receiver. If more transmitters come online maybe stations lost from neighbouring areas may be available again.

I can pick up a few stations from Yorkshire which allows me to access some duplicate stations(handy if one goes off air)and some that are the same offer different dj's/music in another area even though they have the same station brand. And other stations not meant to be heard here(I can get one called Yorkshire Sound or something)

But my DAB Radio at present cannot pick up BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Radio York which I can via FM.

DAB Transmitters Coming On Line

The world's largest DAB digital radio network, operated by Digital One, has turned on its 103rd transmitter at Dundry East near Bristol. A further 11 transmitters are also planned to be switched on in the next 12 months.

The transmitter at Dundry East brings new or improved national commercial DAB digital radio coverage to the area southwest of Bristol. This allows DAB digital radio owners to enjoy Oneword, Planet Rock, Core, Capital Life, talkSPORT, Classic FM and Virgin Radio.In addition to this new transmitter, Digital One has announced another 11 sites that will be turned on over the next 12 months. These transmitters will extend and improve coverage in Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, West Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Monmouthshire, Hampshire and Essex.

But I did hint earlier that some countries are not as in love with DAB radio as the UK. And that another type of receiver and type of broadcasting could arrive to either work alongside DAB or instead of.

And it would appear that Australia is already looking into it.

Why is it so special and what are the implications for the UK? It will depend if those that run radio in the UK allow this alternative system to broadcast or block it so its available elsewhere around the world but not in this shores to protect the investment in DAB Radio.

You might ask if we have gone down the DAB radio path too soon.

DRM, unlike its DAB counterpart, is designed to deliver digital radio services with FM-like quality sound over bands currently used for AM broadcasts. This could open the way for more stations to broadcast, free up further frequencies and avoid the fading signal that's affected by weather conditions, if using AM bandwidth could it be that stations may be able to cover greater distances as the DAB system does still appear to behave similarly to FM in many aspects but the important thing as far as I can see is that you need to access the AM band and if the spectrum is sold off before this new system is developed it could be killed off before its started.

More information is available here but this is really for those who understand really technical stuff not for the fainthearted.

DRM Forum

It would appear that it is possible to manufacture a receiver that can deliver both DAB/DRM and information suggests that a combined receiver is capable of using less power.

There is from information I have seen, some receivers being built and it is suggested that the first models are going to be made available in Germany.

Also, that there have been some tests of DRM and they have been taking place for at least 3 years.

So the future of digital radio is far from settled and it will be interesting to see where it goes next.

Anthony Newley...

Making a sweeping statement is not always the best thing to do as likely as not you'll find that you'll change your mind or find exceptions that make your original view obsolete.

But I'll risk doing just that.

In general, I am not a lover of stage musicals. I have probably enjoyed songs from shows when performed by singers as part of a concert or on a recording but few if any cast recordings do anything for me.

Perhaps, I have not seen enough over the years so I can be a good judge of this genre of entertainment but I remember seeing a version of A Chorus Line which I knew some songs from and settled down for a wonderful evening of entertainment and was bored and found myself wanting it to end.

Now, I have to admit to knowing very little about the life and works of Anthony Newley...This is more or less as I remember him.

Posted by Picasa
BBC Radio 2 has just completed a four part series on him. Followed by a concert in celebration of his work.

I am amazed at just how much of the music I have heard over the years was written by him and his writing partner Leslie Bricusse.
Of course I am subjective and have favourites from his early career as a "Pop Star" and I usually think of the Novelty songs like "That Noise" "Pop Goes The Weasel" or simple versions of popular songs(often covers)such as "Why?" to some of the great songs composed for their own productions or other artists.

The Joker
A Wonderful Day Like Today
Feeling Good
Gonna Build a Mountain
What Kind of Fool Am I?
The Good Old Bad Old Days
The People Tree
The Candy Man

Without going into great depth and concentrating on background detail can become extreme, certain artists have sung songs and you know that they are singing songs composed by others. Matt Monroe sang Gonna Build A Mountain but I bet many thought when Nina Samone sang Feeling Good it was all her own work, I know that I did. Even though I know such artists sing material from anywhere.

Its impossible to do him justice as this is not a dedicated website and only one entry in a blog full of sketches of my opinions. And there are some very good sites out there with lots of information. Images seem harder to come by.

I have to be honest, until this series I had not really thought about him. Does that show a lack of appreciation or is it as so many things in this world depending on your situation some things just pass you by?

I can see that in some ways he was a charismatic performer and there are more things in his favour than against but remember I can only talk from a personal stance and have to believe that his presence is what kept him in the hearts of his fans during his later performances on stage because I have to say that his voice had changed so much, to be honest he reached a point where I would've been disappointed as a member of his audience to hear if I had paid. Some people who knew him even said that he had become a caricature of himself. So it has to have been his personality that kept bringing them back.

Even during his hey day amongst the very powerful works that are worth hearing there is one trait of his singing that spoils some of his own versions of songs...especially noticeable on words such as "say" or "way" etc...

Its difficult to describe but the nearest I can come to explaining what I mean is when the comedian Norman Wisdom in his films when he used to put on the comic tone as he shouted "Mr Grimsdale!" I've never heard that in any other performer.

Bill Kenwright(the theatre impresario)relates a story where Newley in his later years performed at a venue in a Town Hall somewhere in London and probably less than 150 people had turned up but he still went on stage and gave his all.

But Anthony Newley does deserve his place in British Musical entertainment even though like so many he was perhaps appreciated more in the States or had to go there because that's where the money was.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Latest News On Local Town Developments...

Just an update from a free sheet that dropped through the mailbox last evening...and the continuing situation regarding the neighbouring town of Darlington which will have some effect on my town as people do travel to other areas to shop and its latest development regarding the changes to the town centre which has for at least a year(I think its longer than that) been turned into a traffic free zone. Its suggested that it all should of been ready by around November of this year but...

Like nearly all big plans...its is over budget(by a couple of million)and probably it will not be ready until late Summer 2007(and it is believed that cost will be millions more over budget by then)

Tied in with this, is the campaign for or against the new Tesco Supermarket and luxury flats/new Town Hall development and there have been public consultations taking place in recent weeks and so far though the samples taken so far who have bothered to make their opinions known is small(there are a few more events still to be held) to gauge public reaction... its 75% against. So it will be interesting to see if on this occasion with all the talk in the media there is about Tesco's succeeding every time, this time the project is rejected when it comes back to the council to say yes or no?

Anyone want to take a bet on the outcome?

My own town still awaits the next stage of its development to take place and I do wonder as Winter is just around the corner whether this will be delayed until next year.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Celebrity Or Fame...

For anyone reading this outside of the UK and who possibly have yet to see the programme Top Gear on their television screens if it has been purchased and bought for airing in the international market, it is a programme that once was a show case for news about motoring and showing cars, testing their performance, reviewing them and giving them a rating.

Over the years it has turned into a celebration of cars in a bigger sense but now also has turned into a comedy programme with lots of comic banter between the presenters and they do crazy things with cars but most of what they do involves speed with an element of danger. One such stunt I seem to remember was going over a snow covered slope in cars as you would if skiing or playing a game of ice hockey but using cars instead of people on skates.

So you may have seen over recent days if you have been reading links around some of the blogs I link to an accident that almost cost the life of one of Top Gear's presenters Richard Hammond.

The basic premise seems to suggest that he was trying to break some kind of UK land speed record, strapped into a skeleton like vehicle with a massive aeroplane engine taking up best part of it and it reached around 280mph before something went wrong. I heard someone say today you have to think no further than the Warner Bros cartoons featuring Wile E. Coyote who tries all kinds of inventions to capture the Roadrunner including strapping a rocket to himself.

It would appear though information is scant on his medical condition, reports keep coming out that he is recovering remarkably well and we hear that he is talking, walking a little only days after being air lifted to hospital where the medical staff said that he had a significant brain injury.

Like many, I hope for a complete or as near perfect recovery but question his judgement and those of the programme makers. If he was a trained pilot or stunt driver who does such a thing for a living(accepting the dangers)or he had been trained for months/years I might go along with it but he is(and we are now returning to a topic I have mentioned before but have to return to and others have of late)being treated as a celebrity when what he does is mainly presenting to camera.

What is a celebrity? Can you ever say that anyone really is a celebrity or will it always come down to how each of us class celebrity and it is very personal to each of us?

Do we have real celebrities anymore? Surely, there has always been spin and stories put about by those that are in "Show business" and when Hollywood took off a whole industry was born...magazines, newspaper reports and of course the gossip columnists such as Hedda Hopper and Loella Parsons.

And yet because to some extent these stars were virtually recluses and the only news that reached the public were through the press there still was an air of mystery.

Perhaps now, the immediacy of the media and accessibility to "Stars" means that they have lost something.

Also, many actors of the past seemed to be different to each other James Cagney playing a gangster was very different to Humphrey Bogart as was Edward G. Robinson. Fred Astaire's dancing style was different to Gene Kelly. James Stewart was different to Gary Cooper even if many parts played were on similar lines.

And in his early days up until the film Citizen Kane was produced(and his career was all but brought to a halt by a powerful figure within the newspaper industry)you get someone exceptional like Orson Welles who worked on stage, in radio and finally films.

There probably are some wonderful exceptions today but I have difficulty finding them.

And so the same is true of television. I don't know if its just a problem in the UK or worldwide but being such a small country and having so many channels now in competition with each other chasing an ever decreasing audience that now has so many different things competing for our attention and money, in many cases the budgets available are much reduced and so more and more many programmes are now just someone able to talk to camera and either using the public to do some kind of task or they bring a "So Called" bunch of celebs in to cook meals or ride horses or dance but most of those who are bought in, the public are left asking "Who?" and often no one knows what they are famous for.

A lot of shows are just vehicles for promotion. Davina McColl's recent attempt at a chat show may've failed because of the time it was on, what it was up against but I think that the overall opinion is that it failed because she was not seen as a competent interviewer, we were promised A-list guests and apart from a few, most who came on were presenters form other programmes promoting programmes that they were doing on the same channels Eamonn Holmes talking about his Lottery programme or Vernon Kay and his wife Tess Daley talking about another one of these shows where they bring in celebs to do something(this time it was singing)

Some presenters are very good and I'm not saying that it is always easy. It is a skill and some people come into it as an alternative career move if work is scarce. Pete Murray was actor but had most success as a dj and television presenter. But how many of those presenting now can move into other areas?

It probably always has been a case of promotion on chat shows but at least there was trade off Parkinson, Russell Harty and others in the 70's and 80's did at least get a decent interview out of their guests in return. And having seen recently some programmes featuring clips of those who appeared on their shows it appears to confirm that view. Harty managed to get as many or some different guests to Parkinson but certain programmes were never carried on the ITV station seving this area. London Weekend carried some shows of Johnny Carson as seen in the States and Harty but they never aired here.

Even TISWAS which is always mentioned as a popular children's programme in ITV's history was never shown here.

Now more often than not any international figure will usually try and give as short an interview as possible.

And look at the line-up Parkinson offered for his programme yesterday evening Helen Mirren(well, I guess she is an actor of note)but again she's a new film playing The Queen so its a trade off but the other main guests were Trinny Woodhall And Susannah Constantine. Who?

Exactly, two people who present a programme telling members of the public what they are wearing is wrong and choosing what they say is correct for them and yet I often think that they need help to choose what they wear themselves.

And why have them on the programme? Because they have moved from the BBC to commercial television and they have a new programme starting very soon on the same channel.

Using Noel Edmonds as an example, he is a capable broadcaster and did his best work on radio(probably)but he can at least put across a programme in an acceptable and professional way but even he would not class himself I am sure as a celebrity and its the newspapers that build him up in that way.

We've just had Celebrity Master Chef...what celebs? Richard Arnold and Hardeep Kholi amongst those chosen to take part.

In days gone by if someone like Sammy Davis Jr came over and appeared in a television special it was something worth staying in for. Programmes like Sunday Night At The London Palladium always managed to bring people to the UK that you probably would rarely see on television or in a theatre unless you went to specially to London.

Even the Royal Variety show used to be something I remember being a highlight of the year but now I rarely watch it or keep channel surfing.

And I have yet to talk of Big Brother(have you ever really seen anyone that you like or would want as a friend)or How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

For those old enough to remember real celebrities I think that we can say that we have witnessed the demise of the term, for those around today the term has been redefined.

Since writing the above I have heard Matthew Kelly interviewed and perhaps what he said he makes things clearer...he suggests that we confuse celebrity with fame and they are two seperate things. But is it our problem or is it again created my the pr machine and they are getting it wrong?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Isn't the Human Body Strange?

I can't believe that I'm writing this...

For years I have had a clicking jaw...or rather if I opened my jaw it would get to a point where it kind felt like a spring being released and if it reached that point you could see that it was not a smooth movement not that I deliberately opened it that far if I could help it but sometimes it gave a kind of relief. In fact it was probably opening too wide.

And having heard a medical programme only weeks ago the consultant explained that it is a complicated joint but relatively easy to fix with the help of medical help and/or dentists. The cartilage slips out of alignment. And its a very common ailment.

In the last ten days after all these years(most of my life)its corrected itself. I don't think that I could make it behave as before if I wanted to.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Its A Quiet Day

In fact its been quiet right across the board. Is it because its Monday?

Well, I updated a blog entry about the so called television quiz channels that are all over the UK media and another story broke in one of the tabloids(unknown to me)but it was amusing that in the middle of a game on a channel that has not been visited by the police and appears to be doing everything correctly within the rules laid down a caller asked if the game was genuine and the presenter without naming the channel being investigated and awaiting a possible court case(or perhaps not)had to say that it was another company and that the one she had phoned is all correct.

But it was a dodgy moment because they would not be expecting that question to come through and equally to make her disappear suddenly would not look good. The presenter tried to explain without commenting too much and probably had a producer giving instructions into the presenters earpiece.

If you were looking for a conspiracy theory you might wonder if the call was genuine and not made to make viewers wonder if this channels is to be trusted.

I do wonder if the bubble will burst and this kind of tv is here to stay or will disappear pretty sharpish. Its a fair bet that rules will change.

TV Quizes

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Town Centre Woes!

I cannot help but return briefly to the ongoing situation of my town and its development or lack of regarding the town centre.

An anecdotal story that on the night of the election where our PM was voted in(again)that 2am in the morning even though our small streets and town centre(which is enclosed so if you block off the few ways into the pedestrian shopping area there is no way in or out)and still at 2am as he was around to hear the result one man managed to walk right under the nose of security to his bank atm machine to get some money out of his account. Anecdotal maybe but I trust my source. I understand that the officer concerned was in trouble over the incident.

The local free newspaper also last week made the point that just perhaps if our PM steps down he'll maybe be seen more and do something for this town in what remains of time in Parliament.

Oh, of course there are national and world events that have to be dealt with but the paper argues as many residents and businesses have, perhaps if you want an MP that can be contacted reasonably easy and that can work for the community that voted them in, don't choose any that is the leader of a party because once they are Prime Minister, you've all but lost them.

At best they'll turn up for an opportunity where there is some tv coverage of them opening some building where they can give a speech that will be reported on local news and/or nationally so they can make a wider point with lots of spin.

Does anyone know when our PM steps down that he'll complete his term and work the remaining years helping in his constituency? And with a home in London and possibly elsewhere, various lecture tours and who knows what else, does anyone think he'll stay in the area afterwards? I'd like to be proved wrong but I think its a safe bet the answer will be "No!"

We had perfectly good MP that served the area before Tony won any seat or became PM and he continued for a good few years afterwards too but the boundaries were changed and suddenly this town was no longer in the previous MP's constituency. He wasn't happy. And since until his retirement, there were quite a few times stories appeared in the press and on the tv and radio that showed this to be the case.

I used to see the PM's agent around town quite often doing his shopping.

And now as my bank decides to move to the new part of the town centre retail area and take just about the last retail unit I can say that other than Argos and Tesco's every unit has been occupied by businesses that already existed in town and have just relocated. So practically no new business generated if at all.

I heard a report on the radio last week that the high street store Woolworth's may be taken over or sold off to a supermarket chain and many may close so just maybe unless rents are balanced against profits and performance, the Woolworth's branch that has been in this town from the start might close. There has been nothing to say that it will but if all other shops are suffering, in the older part of town...it has to be a possibility.

I do wherever possible support my local shops but as practically all the food is in the new part of town, the new area of town and Tesco's get my custom. And for ages they have been about the only store that offer online delivery. I have now discovered that Sainsbury's and ASDA have an online service to my town so I may switch or share my ordering around a bit in the future.

Speaking of which the free sheet carries a story today that gives us an idea what a unit in the new part of the shopping area costs.

Someone wanted to open a designer clothes shop in this town but found that the rents were more than double of those available in Darlington. He'd looked at the new shopping area here and found that the new shops near Tesco's were £500 per week(so you can guess that the rental being paid by my bank, an opticians, a solicitors, the job centre and the like)must be paying somewhere around that figure(maybe more)

Shops in the older part of town(due for demolition...so why would you want to be in one of those?)were about half the price on a short term lease but still more costly than something offering double the floor space in Darlington. Adding on rates and council tax, you can imagine it was out of the question.

So he looked at the town of Richmond in Yorkshire that gets many visitors, is busy and also gets lots of tourists and even there the cost was only £170 per week.

Finally, he found a unit in Darlington with two stories on a 3 month lease and close to the busiest part of Darlington where all the big stores are and is a focal point of the retail area for less than even Richmond was charging.

Obviously, you are going to look for the lowest price that you can find to run a business and you could say that he was looking for something for nothing but it does tend to prove the silly prices that are being charged here and what is keeping away shoppers that could be spending their money and keeping local retailers in business and bringing much needed revenue into the town.

Perhaps if profits increased then the retailers would not mind their rents etc...going up as they'd have revenue to cover outlay but if profits are decreasing who is going to stick around until they are in too much debt to continue in business?

I have been thinking things over since writing the above and one does wonder just how low a retailer expects to get a retail unit and someone could say that as designer clothes are to sold and because someone most have faith that a profit can be made on what is a luxury item perhaps the prices of the units here were not as bad(in the older part of town)

I also quoted that units in the new area of town according to the newspaper report were £500 but a few people have said to me that units in the new part of town are set around £1,500 mark so we'll have to work between those figures but it might explain perhaps why national retailers, banks and solicitors have taken up most of the units that were available. There is a local optician located there, surely he's not paying such a price?

How could I forget to add this to my entry...

The Advertiser free newspaper had a story which as far as I am aware has not been mentioned on local tv and radio news(or perhaps I have just missed it)maybe because I do not buy any newspaper local or national.

But Darlington which is approx 7 miles from here is now also being wooed by Tesco's. And campaigners even in a town as popular and successful as Darlo are worried about the affect this store if allowed will have again on local retailers. Its not as if Darlington does not have enough supermarkets centrally and on the outskirts of the town as if my memory is correct there are branches of ASDA, Morrisons and Sainsbury's. There could even be a Co-op. I think that there is also a Lidell's and possibly an Aldi but my argument is that it is well served already. Much of the town centre has been changed already and more and more of it has been changed to how I remember it all the years that I used to visit and it has become practically traffic free and even public transport tends to drop you off quite a distance from shops(perhaps ok if you do not have much to buy or are not disabled)

There is a major development taking place bringing in many more businesses but it has again not been welcomed by all because the historic look of the town and the main feature known as High Row has been changed and so the character of the town as been altered too. I have mixed feelings as in on breath I like to keep some of our past but can see why some areas have to change and try to modernise.

Well, this newspaper reports that there are proposals for a development with 130 flats, a superstore and a new town hall for the borough council.

This campaign is not just a case of local business worried that they will not be able to compete with Tesco's and the loss of trade but the campaigners are trying to get branches of national retailers based in Darlington to back the campaign because there business is likely to suffer as well. It could even result in the Covered in Market and out door market that has been in Darlington for 50+years might close if the proposal goes through.

The area where this may happen is also close to St Cuthbert's Church which dates from 1180 and will no doubt affect what is an historic and important building in its work and appearance.
The paper states that the Borough Council also admitted failing to disclose a rival supermarket's interest in plans for a town centre store.

The only good thing to come out of this now is that the information is in the public domain and that the council has launched the biggest public consultation exercise in its history over the issue.

I'm Not A Hypercondriac Honestly...

Now having promised not to mention LBC for awhile, the plan is to avoid mentioning illness for as long as I can but as an earlier entry went into great detail of my situation(who would ever have thought we'd share such confidences)I better let you know that I saw my consultant on Thursday and all was very very well. All tests were as they should be.

I may've also managed to drop a few lbs in weight(those who receive e-mails already know)that I tend to remain around the 10st(140lbs)mark at home and that's only about 1/2 stone heavier than I used to be and not bad when you are unable to exercise much. At present its nearer 9st 10lbs(136lbs)And much improved than when I was on steroids, the images may've been removed but there were some pictures on the net some years ago and it was not a pretty sight. I have also learnt that whatever I weigh myself on our bathroom scales(which are in the kitchen as you are supposed to place them on a hard floor to get a more accurate reading)that the digital scales at hospital always add 5lbs so I automatically add that on when at home.

I am really happy to have this news and is the best that I could have.

If all remains well, I do not have my next appointment with my Consultant until January 2007.

I Probably Will Not Mention LBC For Awhile, You Can Only Say So Much...

There are other things happening but I guess the fact that LBC FM went nationwide and only managed to because of digital radio it is an event, as it is(even if still based in London)as close to Talk Radio that we had around 10 years ago and some presenters are now at LBC or return to fill in when the regulars are on holiday. Unfortunately, because of the set up DAB Radio in the UK many stations are having to broadcast in mono and at a bitrate less than many feel acceptable for quality. I do wonder if DAB radio can take off over here or its a inbetween step towards another sytem that will be brought out in the future. For anyone thinking of getting DAB radio I'll put a link up for you to see what the situation is in the UK and around the world.

LBC has decided to put up some new photo's of some their presenters and there are more than I show here. I am not intending to break any copyright as if anything its publicity for their station and again I will be posting a link to their site so you can read what is there and see more images.

Steve Allen
And its good to see some decent pictures made available of Steve Allen which are very hard to find on the net or anywhere for that matter.
Nick Abbot
The fact that LBC has taken a publicity shot tends to suggest that as long as Nick wants to stay at LBC there is a job for him and again he does have a big following...oh how I wish I had recordings of some of the material he broadcast when he was on Talk Radio overnight...one routine about the Queen Mother was absolutely brilliant.
Bill Buckley

If you haven't seen Bill for some time, he's done much over the years but was one of the most regular panelists on Easter Rantzen's consumer programme that aired on Sunday nights on BBC1 called That's Life. He may take some recognising because back then he had a full head of hair.

Its personal but I think that the best material on LBC is to be heard roughly between Midnight and 7am weekdays as the overnight programmes are less franatic and there is time to talk. And Midday - 2pm weekdays with Anna Raeburn. Saturday Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am. Overnight is ok again at weekends. And of course Sundays Midday - 3pm with Steve is pretty good.

What still baffles me is how(and its probably very simple in reality)in all the locations now listening to LBC at various points throughout the schedule there are opt outs for more localised news and traffic information and some is more detailed than what I can hear locally.

Also, I do wonder if there are satellite studios across the country or if whether all the localised bullitens are played in from London via computer and though reasonably up to date are recorded as I tuned into a neighbouring version of the station and though it was the same person reading the script the contents were different.
Its all very clever.

As promised here is the LBC link again

And here is the DAB site

New National Jazz Station Launching Soon

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire...Spoiler!

I can enjoy a quiz show when I am looking for something not too demanding but practically all such shows that once were question based now often you get money for doing very little and very few game shows are quiz based. Will they ever find their way back?

Whatever you think of WWTBAM it was one of the more recent formats to sell worldwide and was an easy way to spend an hour. If I remember correctly it was live when it started which added to the excitement but once it became recorded, much of the excitement went out of the show. I wish more programmes were live again(its especially important for some quiz shows)or at least less information was released to spoil the excitement. I rarely see anything on television that is what I call must see entertainment. I used to rush home from work or sometimes not go out in case I missed something. That either means that I was sad or there was more things that I enjoyed and it was, for me a golden time of broadcasting.

How long do you think Millionaire will continue to run in the UK? I notice that this weekend upon its return its not been placed at the centre of ITV1's schedule but at the earliest time to be included as part of the evening's entertainment at 5.45pm and what would've been Millionaire's slot now taken up with another series as a vehicle for Ant And Dec.

And LBC mentioned today that the fifth official Millionaire has won on the programme. And the story is already in the papers so when Ingram Wilcox comes on we'll know that he wins. It also appears that he tried before and failed on the fastest finger test so it pays not to give up as you can get onto the show again.

If Span is reading or anyone who saw one of my previous entries about the man who "Banged the gong!" at the start of the J Arthur Rank films(there was more than one)but the selection in the answers asked of Ingram on Millionaire that won him the £Million, it was which of the boxers listed was it and it was Bombardier Billy Wells. What a coincidence.

Millionaire Story

Nuisance Calls

Some time ago you may remember that we were being blitzed by a double glazing/conservatory company by receiving calls every 10 minutes or so(even more often)and even after requesting that they stop and receiving assurances that the calls would stop...they didn't.

We were told that we had been removed from the computer etc...then later on it was obvious that we had not been because the operator said we will take you off our system which they'd already said.

It resulted in us deciding to sign to something called The Telephone Preference Service. Its not been too bad this past month or so but by signing up on the phone rather than online(where it would've come into force immediately)you have to allow 28 days for the registration to come into force.

We have received some calls over the last two days which have been strange and its taken some getting to the bottom of, Mum could not understood that the number she has been phoning back is a recorded message and has not understood what is being said and why the phone line disconnects after what sounds like someone speaking. I suspect it is an automated call and those who do get get connected to an operator either gets cut off or receives this message.

I have done some investigation and discovered that it is a tele Marketing firm that claims to work on behalf of some well known charities such as Age Concern and Marie Curie amongst others but with no explanation of what they want or are selling and no way to leave a message or of talking to a live person this can not be verified.

Unfortunately, I thought we were already covered by this service but today they inform us that they have a date of the 23rd August 2006 for registration so we have 6 days to go. Though I am sure I heard TPS say that if they are selling something the calls will stop but if its a survey...perhaps not.

Discussions with a helpful person at BT and also TPS, its been suggested that this call could actually be a silent call even though we have been given a number and an explanation possibly originating from a computer so we have also signed up to another service called Silent Call Guard.

Unlike TPS this is a voluntary service that tries to stop silent calls/those phoned by computer software. The disadvantage is being voluntary its very much a case of who is on the register and any originating from abroad may still get through. Unlike the TPS which once signed up you have nothing else to do, the silent call service has to be re-registered annually but comes into force immediately.

What sounds interesting but it is, in a way, promoting a product(and as yet I have not stayed online long enough to see what it costs)whilst registering if you stay online you can talk to someone who will explain about something called a Call Blocker and the information online says that this will stop all silent/computer originated calls from the UK and abroad.

I will wait to see what difference being registered makes and if the problem still continues I may think about buying this product if it stops them 100% as claimed. I will be interested to see what the product costs and whether it would affect my internet access... it appears to be programmable.

I have discovered that it costs approx £50 and it stops Computer Generated Silent Calls, Unwanted Tele Sales Calls, Pre-recorded Premium Rate Calls, Unwanted Fax mail Shots and only allows calls from invited calls. So its a bit like putting a spam filter on your phone line.

Of course the above affects people within the UK only but I assume that other countries have similar schemes and can help put a stop to these calls.

One advantage of late which came about due to a campaign of a person who was being pestered by many unwanted calls is that many companies now do supply a contact number and many also tell you who they are rather than you being left wondering who called.

I cannot however endorse the Call Blocker, it is something you would have to evaluate. Also be careful where its purchased from if on the internet. Useful links and telephone numbers below:

Silent Call Guard Telephone 0870 4443969

Telephone Preference Service Telephone 0845 0700707

Information on Unwanted Calls and Mail etc...

On Your Behalf

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Death Of British Humour

In a recent poll conducted among 35 nationalities, some tourists rated us the least funny people in the world.

Can this be traced to changes in society? Is it the natural progression of how things have always moved on? Is it a generation thing? Is it political correctness and is it that the media reflects society or vice versa.

A pretty good article appeared in the Daily Mail today written by Leo McKinstry - The death of British humour (Killed off by the forces of political correctness and bureaucrats who are beyond parody...)

I quote "I see it in the tragic decline in British TV comedy. Once the finest in the world, it has become an embarrassment destroyed by political correctness and reduced to depending on shock values.

The recent BBC series TittyBang-Bang, a women's sketch show, set a new benchmark in this."
I know that humour is subjective and there has always been cruel or humour that is intended to shock or what could be classed as bad taste.

Here's another quote "Apart from censorship, the ugly face of political correctness can also be seen in the way TV comedy is so fixated by the demographics of its diverse audiences.

Because we no longer have shared values, media executives think that they have to devise different shows for different groups based on gender and race.

As a result, instead of universal laughter at shows such as the Two Ronnies or Morecambe And Wise, we have 'women's shows', such as Smack The Pony and the wretched TittyBangBang."

I find myself agreeing though some things brought into the article I would not necessarily equate with comedy, humour or the main subject which is our lack of humour.

Another quote:"The brilliant black Yorkshire comic Charlie Williams, who died last week, achieved huge success largely because he could talk to his northern audiences in their language about shared experiences of growing up in the Depression and the Blitz.
He was also superb at dealing with racism. To hecklers in his working-men's clubs, he would say: "You just be careful, otherwise I'll move in next door to you," simultaneously exposing and puncturing their prejudice.

But that sort of response does not suit the modern political establishment, which prefers censorship to humour. Thanks to its obsession with race and gender, our national instinct for comedy is being undermined."

Now, I suspect some will see what Charlie did as giving in and would say that he was being soft but perhaps at that time, it was the right thing to do and as I often say, we are now looking back with the benefit of hindsight which either means we learn from mistakes made or perhaps we analyse too much and we are in the wrong because we were not around at the time. I mean there are too points of view as to whether Till Death Do Us Part and the character Alf Garnett was laughed because he was the fool or whether people actually agreed with his take on life.

When the writer and many people who talk about comedy always made it clear that in many cases it was like holding up a mirror and showing us perhaps a side of our nature we really should feel uncomfortable with.

Political correctness and pressure groups killed off one of the most original comedy shows ever produced "Soap" so it is amazing what is allowed today and it would be interesting to see if the problems British humour is facing, is a problem in countries across Europe, Australia or America. And how they cope with it or get around it. What problems it causes.

And we haven't come onto censorship and many other things that affect humour.

I'm not going to say that some things that are produced today do not make me laugh but I am more likely to laugh at comedies from the far distant past whether in literature, radio, television or films and I suspect if I started to write a list of all the comic actors/comedians I rate they would be seen as quite ancient but without companies taking the risk to release DVD's or CD's of Radio material, I would find that what I like would be unavailable to me because often for various reasons the broadcasters will no longer broadcast the older material in case it offends, or its not in the highest super dooper quality, or they think the amount of viewers it will attract will be too small. And of course we have to take into account the problems of having some material not released due to copyright.

If you want to read I have found that the link that I attempted to put here to it seems to be working.

The Daily Mail

I think that the above article needs to be seen in its complete form and I am sorry that a link refuses to work.

I think the above also may've been written on the back of the following which mentions a survey and how people outside of the UK see the British and what is a lack of humour in our character...I do hope that this link works.

Daily Telegraph

Monday, September 11, 2006

Do Call Again...And Often...

Ok, its a personal opinion and you may I am sure have your own on the following but somehow over the past year or so a new type of programme has hit commercial television in the UK.

The suggestion was made that we have been so successful at this new form of entertainment representatives of the media companies producing and claiming copyright on these programmes have been going around the world selling it to other broadcasters and I understand that Italy have their own versions as do Australia. Not sure that its something to be proud of.

Its not so bad I suppose if they are on satellite or cable and have bought access to a transponder or use spare capacity from the main channel but unfortunately what is annoying many viewers is that these type of shows are duplicating or even broadcasting their services on some of the main channels on terrestrial television. Or some established channels are launching special channels instead of perhaps improving the channels that they already have.

Admittedly, often during the early hours where viewing figures may be low and only those who perhaps cannot sleep or work strange shifts or have come in from a late night at a pub or a night club are watching.

To call them quiz channels or quiz shows insults what I see as having been quiz shows that we have grown up with whether the light and not too demanding type of show like Family Fortunes to Mastermind.

An odd person will be lucky and that will always be so. I am sure that the television companies in between making large profits, can also show statistics to prove that lots of money has been won or given away and the old argument is there that if people are silly enough to watch and or part with their cash on the off chance they'll get through to the studio...so who are the fool's?

Well, I can think of all sorts of ways that persuade callers to phone in, too long to mention here. But considering that it can cost 50p-£1 to phone in and there is no guarantee that you'll reach the studio, no matter how often you phone, its not hard to see how the cash prizes given away soon mounts up from those who never got through or when they did a wrong answer was given.

To others like me these channels are just taking up time that once was available for some programmes(though was anything shown overnight in the UK really ever worth watching)
The truth is that advertising revenue is down(you can decide if its due to the fact there are so many channels and too much competition)or that people are unhappy with the programmes more than ever and have found more interesting things to do than watch as much television. So this is a cheap way to bring some cash into the broadcasters.

Over at ITV because of the cutbacks on local programming(costs has to be one of the main reasons)many ITV Regional news or documentaries are all starting to also include competitions where you phone in with the answer to a question that is so simple to bring in revenue because they can(with the right prize)be a good money spinner and it also helps them gauge how many viewers are watching.

I had nothing better to do so, though I did not phone in I watched an early edition on ITV Play of The Mint but how thick are some people that play these games?

You can see that ITV Play's number is 0901326888 and at the time this happened(this screen capture was later) you had to guess a 4 letter word that fitted a puzzle diagonally but had to make up the missing letter of 4 words horizontally.

ITV Play is on Satellite on Channel 856 and at the time there was a male presenter.
Quiz Call is on Channel 855 at the time there was a female presenter asking for people to match up a list of Movies and Place Names but again the games are different, the sexes of the presenters were different and Quiz Call's phone number is again totally different to ITV Play so its not even a case of dialling carefully its 0901232323.

So at least twice some woman called Elizabeth managed to get through to ITV Play and firstly gave an answer of Phil Mitchell and the second time the name of a film.

Even though the presenter tried to explain she was phoning the wrong channel you could tell she was totally confused. And as I say it was costing 75p a time and that does not tell us how often she'd been phoning without getting through to the studio.

What can also be annoying is that even if you decide just to watch to fill time, sometimes if a game fails or time runs out they will give you the answers that have not been guessed or as with the above puzzle with the missing word, they kept it going at least an hour I'd guess and said after the last caller they would get rid of it, so you hope you'll see the answer but no they just take it off so you've spent all that time not to see the conclusion either with someone winning or the answer revealed.

Update:18th September 2006 The above letter grid was shown again last evening(I do not know if the same answer was required)or it was the same grid but you had to find an alternative word to fit the space but again it was taken off at midnight at the end of the programme without a winner or a solution for anyone who had watched the whole programme...and I mean all the programme because they ran the same game from 7pm-Midnight, that's a period of 5 hours!

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There is no proof that any have broken broadcasting rules but one channel shown has been visited by the boys in blue and there is a document with the prosecution service waiting to either be dismissed or taken further.

There are also some MP's looking into whether these can really be classed as a quiz or are more like a lottery and if run as such, at some stage in the future they may find that just like the National Lottery they will have to give 20% of the profits raised to good causes. BBC Radio 4's You and Your's broadcast a feature on the investigation into one of these channels and only a week or so ago followed it up regarding the whole subject. And the broadcasting regulators are also becoming interested. Now this could affect all of these channels but perhaps by then they'll be so big paying 20% will not be a problem or perhaps the format will change.

Again, its personal and if the money is out there and you can launch a quiz channel, you'd do it but it wasn't so bad when only one or two exisited and the best is Quizmania because they do at least try to entertain between the puzzles and usually everything is given away even if they have to eventually give clues even though they too use similar tactics to persuade viewers to phone in and know how to get more to phone if the response is flagging. Also the presenters have a bit of personality and you feel you having fun. Also the camera crew are included. Some presenters have their own websites or people who have set up such sites.

It was almost been killed off but it still came back.

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It was available on satellite and the prizes were modest.

Then suddenly it was a sustaining service on ITV1 when the satellite service closed for the night and the prize money shot up.

Then, it was only on ITV and nowhere else. Then it was shunted off to ITV2 which many viewers suddenly could not receive. And there have been various times where its almost disappeared or been moved around via ITV1 again and/or the new ITV Play channel that does many of these games almost 24/7. ITV even launched a new game that they ran rather than broadcasting another production companies product but through all this, either management has realised or viewers have spoken and its resulted in Quizmania now getting a regular slot of 7.30pm-1.30am weeknights on ITV's Play channel and The Mint remaining on both ITV Play and ITV1 7 night a week usually starting around 1.30am until 4.30am so at least this allows ITV to have programmes that are not of this nature for a little longer into the night. The prize money has been reduced, the highest that I have seen of late being around £6,000 for an answer. As more people get ITV Play on a variety of platforms this could increase again.

Its even more complicated than this but this is pretty close to the situation but it would become even more anoraky to go into greater detail.

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Mysteries Of Life

Oh there are all the usual questions...Why are we here? What are we doing here? Where are going? And then those daft and silly questions that in reality have absolutely no importance whatsoever but remain a mystery such as...I realised that I had not refilled the feeders that contain peanuts at the back of the garden and it was only by chance because I caught a glimpse of a little blue tit in the distance trying to get a peanut realising just how empty the feeder was.

I should check more often but feeders can last weeks if the starlings have left the area and at present they appear to have. The leaves on the trees hide the feeders and the birds but you know that you are helping them and offering them protection and privacy.

So before I went out for my check up at the Dr's I started to fill the feeders. There was nothing unusual. I filled the first. I filled the second and now to the last one. The plastic bracket that the branch of the tree goes through was there but no feeder. Oh, its fallen to the ground, I'll pick it up, fill it and re-connect it.

I have looked over every part of the garden, directly below the branch and the surrounding area and beyond. There is no feeder. The wire mesh part is missing. Either full or empty its not there. Luckily, I had a spare feeder that fitted the bracket but of course that does not explain where that feeder has disappeared to.

Its not likely that someone would climb into a garden to remove a feeder or half a one, besides you have to climb over numerous 6 foot high fences in every direction that divide all the gardens or over buildings to access the gardens so I am at a loss to explain where the feeder has gone.

Unless you have an explanation.

Birds are still not as many as earlier in the year but even with all the alterations next door which I believe have played their part, its still to do with the time of year and the abundance of food elsewhere. Though as I write this I can see three collared doves, two sparrows and a blackbird so there are a few still popping in.

Well, seeing as I mentioned seeing my own Dr and and an earlier entry mentioned my medical history...I may as well(in passing) let you know how things are progressing and whilst mobility and other things could be better...I think(and hope)that the original condition is still being controlled and/or slowed down. I don't need to see him but my thinking is that, he can give me the information that has come through from the Consultant and willing for me to be checked out before I see my consultant so I almost already sure that I am ok before I see him. Or prepared otherwise.

Also, having a check up between hospital visits anything slightly untoward will be picked early and considering I felt ok originally hence not seeing a Dr, had I visited whilst thinking I was ok again the condition may've been spotted sooner thus prevention is better than the cure...right?

So anyone reading this and feeling fine, don't worry or go overboard but if its been a while since you went to see your Dr or you have not done so because you feel fine...do yourself a favour and check out the basics. You go to see a Dr only when you feel ill is the wrong answer.

Weight(though I'd like to lose a little)is constant and considering my lack of exercise I am only around 7lbs heavier than I used to be, blood pressure is stable(even if its helped with one blood pressure tablet) urine sample is as it should be and now I await the results of a blood test that I shall have taken on Monday. Unbeknown to me though my bloods have been very good they had been heading ever so slightly in the wrong direction but the last one actually improved again so I hopeful that this one will be as good but until the results are back I won't know but as everything else is alright, I am daring to think that the blood test will be fine too. Its important because on Thursday of next week I have my quarterly appointment with my consultant.

So for now, I feel positive and have to admit that I will be happy whether its good or bad news when the appointment is over. But I am ever thankful that I have been given the care and continue to be monitored, in one way its like having a regular check up which I could not afford privately.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Some Of The Wildlife In My Garden...

I suppose that I am talking of perhaps two years now. We've lived here for decades. Yes, I have always kept an interest in the garden and remember scattering a bit of bread and my dad and myself starting to buy money nuts, stringing them up on the line and eventually attracting blue tits. Hours of fun watching them but equally it took ages to make up them up. You'd hang them and for hours they would peck away at the shells and the nuts inside and a lucky one would manage to get it out and fly away.

As Mags said earlier, if you dug the garden over it was not unknown for a black bird come very close or even a robin. Until a few years ago I was still managing to mow the lawn and a robin started to feel so comfortable if I walked away, it would sit on the handle of the lawn mower. One of my Uncles used to tell stories of how one used to sit on his shoulder as he gardened. And having seen one of Bill Oddie's television programmes showing something similar that must be a wonderful feeling to have nature trust you.

In the last few years my bothering to feed birds more regularly the variety of birds has improved. I am sorry that my dad did not see this and especially the surprise that greeted me one morning. Two or three very young squirrels feeding and chasing after each other. Because of where we are located so close to the town centre and some busy roads that have to be crossed it really did amaze me.

Oh, I know grey squirrels can be seen as a pest and have caused problems for the native red but they were introduced to this country so long ago and its taken until now for them to be seen around here and I am unsure that there have ever been any reds around here. Also, the numbers here are not enough to cause problems.

The following photos were taken when the squirrels were more easily seen around my garden perhaps two years ago and you can see how young they look.

Posted by Picasa These few pictures taken around the flower tubs were taken when the previous owners of the house next door were still living there so I think that they can be posted. So I do wonder if this is the last we'll see of our furry friends or they'll turn up again. They rarely caused any problems damaging flowers or bulbs and by actually supplying food(Monkey Nuts)and in fact keeping all the local wildlife happy, this actually saved plants and helped stop birds attacking other birds or squirrels perhaps attacking young birds so it helps the local environment.

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This was taken from my bedroom window and is about the best I can make of some of the earliest photos as they are not as focussed as they could've been, they looked ok until they were put onto the computer.

Just as I mentioned the drop in the bird life since alterations took place next door, I cannot help but think that it has also affected the squirrels too. Or have they moved out? Or have they come to some harm from being attacked by a local pet or a neighbour that did not look on them as kindly as the rest of us have.

It must be five weeks since I saw the last squirrel in my garden and I had just started to gain its confidence. Getting it to come almost to my feet to take food. I felt especially close to this squirrel and wanted to see it survive because as some people know this one over quite a period obviously had damaged its tail and it looked withered and yet it was lively enough. The last few weeks before it disappeared that damaged part must have dropped off because the tail was shorter. And I think it was actually more nimble and happier without it. The next two are more recent

Span has already seen this picture but it disappered a while ago when I was finding it difficult to post images.

I've always been a bit of a softie...and I still have yet to post up the few pictures I still have of the time I managed to rescue a collered dove from a sparrow hawk and bring it back to health and it took somewhere around 6-8 weeks earlier this year(I think it was)and I just have a feeling that it still visits the garden and whereas many are easily frightened, one seems less inclined to fly off when I am around the garden.

Again, opening this area out has also to some extent made the birds that visit easier prey for any hawk that happens to be flying over. They may be called sparrow hawks but usually in my garden I have ocassionally lost black birds, doves or wood pigeons but rarely any of the little birds. Its nature I guess.
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The Birds And Wildlife That Share Our Living Space...

I feel good! In that I fortunately have a little bit of a garden. I would hate to think that one day for some reason I find myself in a house without one. What do I do in my garden? Very little...In fact I never been really one who sits in the garden for hours in chair with patio furniture. I probably prefer looking at my garden from the house.

I prefer keeping it simple by having a basic lawn(which if I am honest)I do need to kill some of the weeds growing amongst the grass but you only notice them, if the grass is allowed to grow or you get really close to the lawn and inspect. There are a few trees and shrubs around the perimeter and recently a few tubs with flowers. I have taken to putting bulbs in the border that runs down one side as that means colour and various plants appearing at various times of the year, every year.

Generally, I have kept the design(perhaps by accident)more like a nature garden that a bird or other animals will feel safe or protected when they visit.

I don't mind if there is a dark corner. The birds hide in the trees or in or under the shrubs.

The other reason for me not using the garden much is because I want them to see the garden as theirs. Though if they do see me around they do get used to me and realise that they have nothing to fear and its me who feeds them and gives them access to water.

I would not say that I feed them any more than any one else but whilst I am able to afford to, I do make certain that what they are fed is the best from various grains of seed or nuts, fruit or oats...whatever.

If I have not managed to eat all my own food(especially things such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, pears, grapes etc...)they'll get it.

I am sensible enough to put out only what is the right amount for the amount of birds/animals visiting so nothing remains that could cause problems with rats or whatever. And if I saw a dramatic increase in what visits the garden or a problem I am also sensible enough to stop feeding or reduce what is put out. And then wait a few weeks before commencing again.

I am fortunate to get at the right time of the year blue tits, green finches, chaffinches, collared doves, sparrows, blackbirds, magpies, robins, coal tits, gold finches and the like. But each year is different and one year I'll see more of one than another. That also is true of starlings and wood pigeons. Those I do not encourage as much but if its an odd wood pigeon or an odd visit from starlings as they only visit at certain times and work their way around the different gardens(whether I feed or not)what I do will not cause an increase in their numbers.

Besides wood pigeons and starlings can eat so much I could not afford to continue to feed any bird.

I mainly feed from feeders hanging on trees or a washing line. But occasionally, will put a little food on a garden path because to be fair some birds are not built to sit or hang on a feeder like some of smaller birds. And so they are going to miss out.

The pleasure(as stated in an earlier post)was knocked out of this simple task because new neighbours felt it necessary to complain to the authorities resulting in a visit, even though my family has been doing this for over 40 years at the same address and that practically every other neighbour also feeds our feathered friends. With so many television programmes making a case for the environment and the wildlife that we share our lives with it seems crazy that we were singled out.

I notice looking at the official website of the local authority that their advice for feeding of birds flies(sorry about the pun)in the face of what most bird experts or organisations that look after birds would suggest. It says that there is no need to feed birds during the summer months. And the only time that they seem to suggest that its ok is in Winter. So I think that the official advice is not the most accurate of information. In fact it is not very detailed.

Well, I would say Winter is a must. I would also include Spring when the young are being raised as they need food as do the exhausted parents. I have also discovered that early Summer is still popular and again some birds have more than one brood. And late Summer into Autumn, it gets busy again.

But again every year is different. If there is a period where feeding drops off I would say between August and early September. And birds have been fewer since the visit from the council which again makes it even more sillier that someone was asked to come and see me. And many birds travel abroad so the busiest time for native birds is October to June.

No one, not even the official that called seemed to take into account that this area's character is that the gardens and neighbours around here have mainly stuck to a plan of having lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers and the feeding of birds.

Whereas(and in time perhaps they will replace some items)but since moving in the neighbours have taken out every tree, shrub, bush. The lawn has practically disappeared(and I think as a rough guide)there is only about a third of the lawn remaining. I know its your own personal choice what you do and how you want your house but a fancy patio has been built that resembles something like a town square(that takes approx a third) In the next few weeks a conservatory is to be built but the gardens are too small and not really suited to such buildings being added and that will take the other third. The front garden has been changed because they took out a long established hedge and erected a wall with columns that surrounds two sides and so little birds like sparrows have lost some habitat and more have moved into the hedge that we have allowed to remain.

The conservatory will be taller and near the panel fence so we will see it from our garden and possible it will be a little darker in our garden because of it. The patio was built higher so if they sit on their patio furniture they are looking into our garden because they can see over the fence and this also means that they may have a view into our kitchen and dining room(as wherever we move, we can see them)

Since they've changed the design of their garden, by making it so open I have noticed more larger birds visiting the area as a whole because trees and shrubs or obstacles which put off large birds, as its harder for them to land and take off or fly around a garden have been removed. I have seen crows and wood pigeons land in their garden or sit on their fence so if a little bit of bird poo was a problem, they may well find that it is more of a problem in the future and the neighbours or myself cannot be blamed. This time I really would put up more of a fight or talk to other neighbours about the situation or seek legal advice. It may never happen again.

They do not seem to realise also that by taking out all the trees and shrubs etc...any birds that once were living in their garden had to look for new homes and so spread out to the surrounding gardens and probably over populated the other gardens. To keep the peace we also allowed the neighbours to shape a tree in our garden that was not over their side as such but near the fence but by the time they finished, it was such a mess, it was removed and to prove the point around teatime, birds that had flown away earlier in the day returned to find their home was no longer there and it really was a sight to see them looking for somewhere else to spend the night or confused by the loss of habitat. As a peace offering they have replaced the tree(with probably a better one)but it will take that long to become established I suspect that I will be quite old to see the results and assuming I am still living in this property.

So now, through all these changes(not of our doing)I am going to have to see about planting some shrubs and/or climbers to give colour, height and privacy(which again will not grow over night)and I want to have them at least 6 to 8 inches above the height of the fence. I also hope to plant some varieties that will offer berries that birds will enjoy during the late summer/winter.

My bedroom view has been spoilt and I cannot do much about that but at least at ground level our garden will look something like it used to and has for over 50 years. It is annoying when none of this was of our doing. Our garden being more open is not being used as much as before so I do hope I can reverse this situation and enjoy my hobby again.

One great piece of news is that the last few days some robins have returned so perhaps things are looking up again.

I am more concerned about the pigeons living streets away in the shopping precinct from a health point of view, at least a little bit of bird droppings can be lost in grass or soil especially when it rains more of a problem I would think now most of their garden has been built on. And I'm not having a go but they own a large dog and it always leaving deposits around the place which to me is more of a health problem.

And so this last year has been quite stressful, not only because of all the above but the alterations over this time has caused lots of noise. The other week it was so bad I was on the other side of our house from their's in the kitchen and holding the kitchen draining board I could feel the vibration. But we are the neighbours you'd love to have...helpful and friendly, never interfere or complain or trouble anyone. Maybe I should start but its not my nature...I disappear into the background and am at my most outspoken on my blog or some of the meesageboards that I visit.

For all the above I am prepared that in the end all will work out ok and because I dislike problems, I have given in on all that has happened to date but now I do not think that there is anything else that could affect me.

This was taken before any alterations were made and the natural break on the left was still ok.

Just to give you an idea of what my garden is like this picture was taken just after alterations had started and what was a natural break had been thinned so much because a fence was to be built and what had been left of the break was no longer any use.

Posted by Picasa And this is how the natural break now looks, replaced with a fence and our tree of over 40 years removed and the new replacement in place before we get a chance to add any shrubs and more flowers so there is a bit of work ahead.

To be fair I have no real problem with the fence replacing the original natural break but its just that its all extra un-necessary work.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Latest On The Town Changes...

Firstly, I have been looking over some of the entries from months ago and found that a few people have kindly left some comments. I have tried to pop back and leave some kind of response not knowing if they will be read or I'll be thought of as a so and so for not answering, if that is the case I am sorry.

If Gildersleeve is reading(yes, I have a real namesake)as opposed to my alter ego, I have mentioned that I am happy that you are well. In relation to your mentioning of Lyme's Disease I do believe that it has a connection to being bitten by ticks. If treated early enough and correctly it can cause little or no symptoms/complications but that due to climate change it is seemingly becoming much more common in the UK and that was reported only today in a National daily newspaper.

Damien, I too have seen your quote regarding the song that was sung in the television ads for March the Tailor, that sounds about right ;-)

Mentioning shops is rather appropriate as I once again return to the subject of "My" town centre.

I am sure that behind the scenes there are a lot of negotiations taking place over the changes.

Still, the shops that were due for demolition as part of the next phase of the redevelopment has not taken place yet. The larger retailers have been frantic looking for new units to move into and again the older part of the town seems once again to be suffering because even my own bank appears to be moving into the new units that were built next to Tesco's. I could be wrong but I believe that there are only three units still available there.

So far the retail units are occupied by an optician, a solicitor and the job centre(who relocated for at least the third time) Argos and Tesco's were the new retailers. So if Lloyd's TSB Bank take one of the empty retail units and the final one being considered turns into either an amusement arcade or bookies, what will the final unit contain?

Now, with a lick of paint and a few repairs and careful management the older part of town which must be 50 years old could look quite good, with the right mixture of shops we could probably hold our own and survive but when you do not have a decent shoe shop or even a shoe repairer on the town(which is pretty basic stuff)its no wonder people shop in neighbouring towns and what ever the Government says about global warming and using cars less and public transport more, I cannot blame them if they have transport doing so.

And unfortunately more and more locally owned shops continue to close, though even retailers that have outlets around the UK are deciding to leave for many reasons that have to include a reduced margin of profit in relation to the running costs.

The older part of town is in better shape and more pleasant in its appearance than the newer part. I'll try and make that statement more clearer. Phase One was two lines of shops with a small road down the middle.

Phase Two the road was closed and became a pedestrian precinct and one side of the existing shops had a an upper floor added to give more choice.

In a previous entry you saw a picture of the following from behind, this time you see the front of the health centre that serves this town. Thankfully, when the demolition takes place these buildings will also come down and be rebuilt brand spankingly new as will the town library.

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Then, as part of this phase a new block in very dark brick and concrete and in a strange design that looked more like a prison some more retail outlets were built. But again, shops in this block have never stayed long and for some years few if any have even wanted to fill up the empty units that were available. Some essential businesses had they stayed there could've probably helped this part of town survive and keep business flourishing for passing trade but as the local council moved its rent office to its own leisure centre foyer, that space became empty, then the post office went into partnership with a local newsagent so again there was an unused space and then the job centre moved out so it killed off part of the existing older part of town still further.

Phase Three is now where Tesco's(see a previous entry)and the other shops have relocated is now affecting even the part of town that has survived the longest.

I have heard of various attempts to get more visitors here in recent years and all have fallen through.

I found out recently in the running for the Durham County Cricket Club to build its ground here but it ended up in Chester Le Street.

Then there was talk of building a cinema or even an ice rink, again...these plans all have come to nothing...

And you do wonder how may stories are genuine or true.

On the other hand a neighbouring town is revamping the whole of its town centre and is spending millions on bringing in more shops and some that are more special than we've had before and also a big cinema amongst other things so again as that is only 6-7 miles away its a fair bet that people will go off town for their entertainment and shopping needs.

And then, when they finally knock down some of phase two here and replace it I have seen no plans to give me an idea whether the area stays open or new retail units are to be built and if built, I do hope that the design fits in the area and please no more of these dark, dismal buildings. Lets get some light into the area and use materials that will last and not again fall into disrepute as easily.

I want to be proud of the town and it has so much going for it, it is quite green and open and close to countryside and historic locations.

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And to try and show that we are surrounded by quite a lot of green stuff, here's an aerial shot of my town...the clues are out there but I try to keep a little anonymity as many towns in the UK are small and not everyone is in a city the size of London or New York or somewhere...

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Obviously I cannot take credit for the picture and nor am I attempting to breach anyone's copyright so more pictures of the North East are available via this site...

Dave Robinson's Photos

Late News: Since the above entry was written I have discovered that in the next few days that Tesco's is having a refit(nothing much in that)except that I have been told today that this also includes an upstairs department being added which will turn it into an "Extra" store and that though even I have to say will mean bargains in electrical goods...probably with an eye on Christmas sales...I can only see it doing further harm to the town centre that is already struggling and many residents are less than happy with the design that Tesco's were allowed to build in the first place which was supposed to fit into what is a focal point of the town and to not be such an eyesore for people living in houses that face onto this retail area as it does look very functional(not unlike a tin shed)much of it is made out of corrugated steel sheeting. If my source is incorrect I will happily correct the mis-information...

5th September 2006