Saturday, 30 January 2010

500 and struggling

Whenever I reach these milestones with the blog I am amazed at how it has survived, remained interesting and attracted the interest it has. In just over two years I have somehow managed to patch together this remarkable log of my life and interest and the things around me that are making me mad or happy. The start of the blog was just after my diagnosis of this dreadful malignancy I am forced to live with. I have tried to put this in the background and get on with living a positive and useful life and I have to say I have and am enjoying writing my little regular contributions to the blog. It now has a regular group of eight registered followers and a small but loyal readership. The other surprise to me is the international aspect with 72 countries visiting the site since thanks to Fat Prophet I introduced web counter.
The misses still thinks I’m crackers writing to myself almost everyday but when she does read it she usually makes a constructive series of comments.
Although at times I find getting about difficult I can usually prop myself up at the computer and blog.
Can I express a warm but belated welcome to my small group of followers? I know two of you but the rest are total strangers. It’s nice to know that despite what my editor in chief says I’m not writing to myself and judging by the regular comments I receive I do have a small but regular readership. So until the next milestone thank you all for your support.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Where have all the birds gone?

Over the last few days our garden has become almost bereft of birds. There is plenty of clean water and the feeders are full with fresh food. During the snow my wife kept steady supply of water and food and we saw birds’ not perhaps as many but usual suspects. Except yesterday one pigeon appeared strutted about for a few minutes and then left. Since then nothing. The garden usually goes quiet when a sparrow hawk has been around but never as quiet as this.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bulletin on the railings

His majesty has asked me to pass on the following brief communiqué. After his regular meeting with his consulting physician his blood numbers are showing a steady movement in the right direction. More importantly though is that his majesty is feeling much better and advises me that he hopes to be able to continue some of his public duties in the near future. He wishes to express his thanks for all the good wishes the family have received.

In real life.
Numbers are moving in the right direction but very slow and they are still dangerously high. I always breathe a big sigh of relief after the consultations with specialist. I am though feeling a lot better and able to do more. My minder however is insisting I only participate after her approval.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Worst meal.

Because my walking is restricted these days the wife tends to drop me off and do the walking whilst I wait. On Saturday she took me to Asda bought me a breakfast whilst she shopped. I think I was feeling sorry for myself because I started to reminisce about meals on my own. It’s not just the food quality that makes a meal but the company and circumstances around it. When I was kept in hospital before Christmas I commented on the quality of the food being the worst I have ever tasted and this was so but not my worst meal ever.
Some years ago during the Major years my wife was diagnosed with what could have been a life threatening condition. She needed surgery quickly. This was in the bad old days of Tory Britain when waiting lists were over 12 months to see a specialist and operations were limited to “if you were lucky”. Fortunately at this time I had private medical insurance as part of my contract of employment so we were able to get the treatment in a timely fashion. I hate the idea of a two tier health service where the rich get the service and the poor wait. The NHS principle of health care when needed not on ability to pay is what I believe in but in this circumstance I had to prostitute my principles and why I do not today trust the Tories with our health service. After her operation she was heavily sedated and for awhile did not recognise me or what was going on around her. I had sat with her for most of the day holding her hand and waiting. In the evening she appeared to be sleeping soundly so I decided to try the hospital cafeteria for a meal. The refectory was closed so after checking on my wife I decided to try the nearest pub. The food quality was I’m sure very good but after a couple of mouth full’s I couldn’t eat I kept thinking about what was happening around me and how the women I had loved for ever was so sick in that hospital bed. I left and went straight back to my wife’s room. I think I fell asleep in the chair with my head on her bed because I was awakened in the early hours by my head being scratched. The concerned smile showed she recognised me and was soon able to talk. We shared her breakfast that morning. Best piece of toast ever. She made a good recovery and came home a couple of days later.
The Tory principle of market forces being applied to health care nearly ruined it. Although Labour has made many mistakes their commitment to the NHS is solid. They have invested heavily in both the infra structure and the health professionals and we must not let the Tories reverse this. A poster on this later. Many young people would not remember those days so it is up to Labour to start telling folks what the real stark alternative are. The nasty party has not gone away just changed it’s coat for the coming election.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

The dog mess is back

The misses and I decided to clear up at the front of the house after the snow. There was some litter which I suppose was inevitable when the bin men came in the snow but two weeks late. What I did not expect though was the amount of dog mess on the front grass. This irritates me as much as the smoking at the hospital and I see it as a serious social evil. The irresponsible owners couldn’t be bothered to clean up after their pets in the snow. I think it’s time for another poster but not so polite this time. We have a dog mess disposal bin on a lamp post about 300yds away and two nice new litter bins one at each end of our road.
On the bright side the garden seems to have survived pretty well with only a few casualties and a lot of new growth starting to form. Many spring flowers were starting to peep through and my favourite crocus fairy rings were starting to show.
The hour in the garden though really tired me out and reminded me just how much my physical condition has deteriorated since I last did some gardening. With any luck though I hope to continue to be able to at least mow the grass for a few more months when spring is here.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Posters 4 a bit more

My posters are an attempt to show my views on the policies that could help labour win the coming election. They are not necessarily policies that Labour is following. I am tempted to do a poster with a picture of the PM and the headline “Gordon Brown will go” with the sub headline “for a better country vote for a Brown free Britain”. Perhaps that’s a bit hard and not at all helpful but I believe he is the biggest reason the party are where they are. To change at this stage though would be even worse particularly as he has been doing better at PMQs and generally but I fear he has left it too late.
I watched PMQs on Wednesday and thought he had Cameron on the back foot. He would have won the day until Cleggy stood up and asked about Cadbury and why Kraft were borrowing heavily from our taxpayer owned bank RBS to help fund the deal which will make workers in UK redundant. GB could have answered this in many ways but he chose to attack the Liberals instead of giving a caring answer to a question that is worrying thousands of people in the midlands even his second attempt was less than reassuring. I wonder would he be answering this way if the workers were in his constituency or in London. I doubt it. Good news on unemployment though. I designed this poster before the recent figures were announced.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A really bad day

Tuesday it was disease 6 Bob 0 which was a poor result for me. I had to cancel a couple of meetings and was washed out all day. Things were bad because I watched day time TV in the afternoon between naps and I fell asleep watching the Manchester derby. I’m pleased to be able to report I’m a lot better today and normal service can be resumed. Perhaps it’s about time I did another “Bulletin on the railings” next week is test and treat week so perhaps that is a better time.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Energy savings

You may remember at the time of Copenhagen we invited Warm Zone to check on our preparedness for energy saving. At that time we seemed to be on top of most of the obvious things without major financial investment. Warm zone loaned us an electricity monitor which revealed some anomalies. After the Christmas lights bonanza had ended I started to look more closely at what it was showing us. The electric kettle for example at 3.1 kilo watts was one of the biggest users of electricity. I like my cupa tea. During the night we were still using approx 190 watts and even allowing for clocks on cooker micro wave and bedside this seemed high to me. On investigation I found we were using a number of extension leads which contained warning lights. I have now replaced these with no light versions which I had in my little electric store and I am getting a saving of 40 watts per day. Warm zone supplied us with an Eco kettle which is only 2.2 Kilo watts. The time to boil is slightly longer than the old model but nowhere near a third longer. The other advantages of this little beauty is it has two water compartments a larger storage one and the heating compartment with a clever little devise on the lid which enables you to fill only the amount you want to heat. Because of the large window on the heating compartment you can see very clearly when it boils and although it contains an auto cut off I have not used that yet because at 2.2 KW, seconds are expensive. I almost always allowed the old kettle at 3.1 KW to auto switch off.
We have ordered an energy monitor from British Gas which will monitor all our energy. I wonder what else we are going to find.
Has anyone had any experience with Halogen cookers? On the face of it these seem to show a substantial energy saving. I have found dealers on the web but have not been able to find a store that stocks them. I want to have a look and feel before investing in one of these.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Guest blogger two

From youngest grandson 8yrs old Oscar over in the Tennessee valley this lovely piece on their trip to England last year.

My trip to England

The first time I went to England, it was incredible. I remember getting off the airplane, and I about passed out. My grandparents were waiting for my family and me. I ran into my granddad's arms and never wanted to let go. Finally I reached my Nan and gave her the biggest bear hug.
I and my dad went to get the rental car and we got in on the wrong side. I had no idea how to drive! But thank goodness I didn't have to!
It seemed like every house was crammed together! It was defiantly not Tennessee!!!
The first place we went to was Cadbury World. The greatest place on earth! The chocolate was so wonderful. I think I could've had it for every meal of the day. That was my favourite place of the whole trip!
We also went to the Black Country Museum. We got to ride in a canal boat and use our legs to push us through a tunnel. They had the best fish and chips ever! All the old vehicles and houses were very interesting. I went down into a mine that was somewhat creepy, but very cool.
London was excellent. It was the first time I had ever rode in a Double Decker bus. And of course I rode on the top. The London Eye was huge! It took us awhile to go all the way around, but it was amazing to see all of London. I saw Big Ben while I was on it. Buckingham Palace was amazing! There was gold on every gate. I thought saw the Queen but it was just a carriage. I saw the Guards change position. I tried to get their attention, but it didn't work.
I loved spending time with my family. My experience was great! I would love to go back again!
Well done mate.

Monday, 18 January 2010


Just occasionally I get a comment that is blatantly wrong or on occasion I think mischievous. Yesterday I got one of those from anonymous who believes Labour are going to “kick the s*** out of older people” This comment almost did not get published because it veered close to bad taste on a family blog but it was so incorrect I thought the record needed to be put straight. The following is a press release on the subject:- 22/10/2009

"Health Secretary clarifies Government position on disability benefits.
The Secretary of State for Health has made it clear that Disability Living Allowance for the Under 65s will not be affected by Government plans to create a National Care Service.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services Conference in Harrogate, Andy Burnham MP said: "I am encouraged by the response to our Big Care Debate and welcome the fact that other political parties are beginning to put their ideas on the table. There are big differences between what we are saying but we are beginning to create what I wanted to see - unstoppable momentum for legislation in the next Parliament.
"But, while the debate is moving quickly, I do want to stress that the door is wide open for discussion. We are still in a consultation period. No decisions have been made on funding options. We are still listening – about funding, about structures, and about how to build a forward-looking system of care.
"One avenue I do want to close down, however, is the debate and controversy over Disability Living Allowance.
"We recognise that this is an important benefit for disabled people, and I can state categorically that we have now ruled out any suggestion that DLA for under-65s will be brought into the new National Care Service.
"This is because, whilst there will be increases in the numbers of disabled people of working age who need care, the majority of the people needing care in the future will be older people.
"However, we do think there may be a case for bringing together elements of some disability benefits, such as Attendance Allowance, with social care funding, to create a new care and support system to provide for the needs of older and disabled people.
"But the important principle is that people receiving any of the relevant benefits at the time of reform would continue to receive an equivalent level of support and protection under a new and better care and support system.
"And let's not forget, everyone - regardless of wealth or asset base – will benefit from the protection and piece of mind that the National Care Service will provide."
The Government is currently carrying out a consultation – the Big Care Debate - on the new National Care Service, a vision for which was set out in July’s Green Paper Shaping the Future of Care Together. The Big Care Debate continues until 13th November".

I hope that clarifies the position.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Posters a bit more.

This political poster campaign is intriguing me. The more I see and the more I think about it I realise just how powerful a media it is. Where are Labour and the Liberals for that matter in this race? I saw the Cameron bill board poster for the first time the other day. You know the one “We can’t go on like this” “I’ll cut the deficit not the NHS”
Some wag had done a bit of careful painting out until it read “We can go on like this” “I’ll cut the NHS” Now this is nearer the truth.
Doesn’t Cameron look scary on these posters or is it just my natural aversion to Tory leaders? I think my Labour posters are much better. Theirs are really posh though with all that lovely blue background and the logo and all. Come on Gordon time to bring in Bob the Black Country Brummie.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Permission to publish

You might remember in my last proud granddad post I mentioned a picture painted by eldest granddaughter well I got permission to publish. I hope you like it as much as I did. Fear ladies and gentlemen by Freddie. Who knows we might even get a post from her in due course. Grandsons seem totally indifferent to contributing in fact eldest gave an emphatic NO. The face top left reminds me of the Magic Roundabout character Doogle.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


You will remember there are three issues that I am campaigning to improve
1) Smoking outside Sandwell Hospital
2) No 16 bus driver
3) Clinic in the Tanhouse Community Centre

I am able to report some progress but there remains a lot to do.

1) Smoking, it was a good idea to involve PALS in this complaint. Since I first contacted them they have been very pro active in following it up and in communicating with me. It seems the current position is that a quote is being sought to clean up the entrances. A technical meeting of directors is being held in January to discuss the problem and my suggestions are tabled for discussion. New banners have appeared at the out patients entrance giving advice on help available to stop smoking. This does not seem to have worked because the other day in the snow I saw a lady with her husband in a wheel chair under the No Smoking sign, he was smoking and she had a lit ciggy in both hands. The misses gave me the don’t even think about signs took the car park ticket and left me to get the car.
2) No16 bus, West Mids Travel eventually got back to me on this issue. Although I had crossed the Ts and dotted the Is they wanted to check they had the facts right. It appears that the drivers are not required by law to make sure you are seated safely it is courtesy on their part to see that you are. This policy if it is true is totally potty and I wonder if it was challenged in law it would stand up I think not. They are however going to pass the complaint to the driver’s manager for a full investigation. More on this I’m sure.
3) Our clinic, this seems to have gone really quiet. A small positive piece in one of the freebie papers and I am advised a report in the PCT communications newsletter which is nothing new. The concerns remain about delays and likely scrapping of the project. They were supposed to notify me of date & time of board meeting but of course this has not happened. The even bigger worry is why if all the other hurdles are jumped we should have to go to another lengthy consultation process when it is our community who have been demanding this. I do intend to attend the board meeting. Much more on this I’m sure the greased snake (PCT) continues to wriggle. If there is one group of NHS bodies that need reform its PCTs.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Posters 2

I designed this before little Nicky Clegg shot himself and his party in the foot. I don’t believe they are serious about getting elected and their attitude to pensioners is becoming clear. We did not do well under Brown & Co but I firmly believe under the other two we will do much worse. Get the deficit fixed at any cost seems to be their only real policy. What’s the hurry is my view. We will need to increase taxes but not at the expense of the old and vulnerable in our society.
So Mr. Clegg & Mr. Cameron go have another look at what can be done. BBCB is always here for help and guidance should you require it. During the last local elections I outlined top ten local issues which needed attention. Strikes me some of this is needed nationally.
Any news on Brown meeting last night?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Posters 1

A couple of days ago I did a post on logos and included posters and sound bytes and how they had won and lost elections. With our election campaign getting underway several posters have already been published. The above is my first attempt on this campaign it’s a bit negative knocking the Tories but so are the Tories posters. I’ll do some positive stuff over the next few weeks with policies I think might help Labour win. Ps I’m a lot cheaper than Saatchi and Saatchi and just as good.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Guest blogger

After reading a piece of creative writing by my eldest granddaughter I asked my grandchildren if they would like to write a piece for my blog. No restrictions were placed on subject matter or length and I promised not to edit the work except for anonymity aspects. The following is the first of their creations from the Tennessee Valley USA. Thank you LOLA


The best thing in the world is family & friends, and being with them. Every other weekend, in the summer, for about 3-4 months, my family gets together at the lake. One way we bring our family closer by wakeboarding. Encouraging and pushing each other. But most importantly… Having fun. The best times of our lives. I’m going to explain a little more about the sport of wakeboarding.
Wakeboarding is a very physical sport that requires a lot of balance and coordination. It also requires much muscle strength. All of your muscles are working together so that you may be able to pull off this amazing and incredible trick. It’s like magic…
Imagine…you look across the water; it’s as smooth as glass. You feel a little tug on the rope, your up and riding the wake. Time stands still as you soar through the air. You stick the landing and your friends in the boat cheer you on. That’s a good afternoon.
Wakeboarding gives you that rush and adrenaline that makes you want to push yourself all the way.
My cousin’s husband, Randell, is phenomenal at it. He has taught me everything that I’ve learned, and of course with the help of his wife. If it wasn’t for him I would still be trying to stand up. And look, I did a 180 this year!!! Who would’ve thought that??
My English family doesn’t get to experience this feeling, but when I’m wakeboarding, I know that they are there also. 6 hours ahead. Across an ocean. Cheering me on.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Some folks never learn.

I’m talking about politicians of course and yesterday’s disgraceful behaviour by Hoon and Hewitt. The whole of the country is covered in six inches of snow. Trains and flights are cancelled, roads closed and power lines down. Schools, offices and factories are empty and the economy is going to pot. Food is running out in some areas, we have predictions of gas running out and not enough grit to clear our roads. But what is the priority for these two? Getting rid of Gordon. Three months ago I would have been on their side, yesterday no chance, the country has other more pressing requirements. Whatever happened to the concept of having a minister for crises? We could do with one right now and away with this silly political posturing. If either of these two were my MP I wouldn’t vote for them. We can do without politicians like them.
The Tories though rather slipped up with their poster which portrayed this pair with the one liner “Even these two can’t stand it any longer”. It’s what I said in my previous post though the Tories have a lot of advertising money and they seem to be using the Blair one liner approach which helped him win in 97. Come on Labour time to fight back.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Since I retired I have developed an interest in logos and catch phrases (politically they’re call sound bytes). These seemingly innocent little designs can have a powerful influence on all our lives. I’ve designed a few for small local activities and enjoyed it very much.
The picture is a logo from a company I worked for for almost thirty years. The designer is unknown but it would have been designed in the mid fifties and was the company’s trade mark until its absorption into AE Piston Products in the late eighties. The company was Aeroplane & Motor Aluminium Castings and our speciality was die cast pistons for cars and boats and trains plus the odd aircraft and a few tractors. We were the largest producer in Europe. The logo expressed who we were and what we did. Our customers included RR, Bentley, Austin, Morris, Jaguar, Rover, Cadillac, Buick, Lada, and Ford in fact we used to claim that if it moved our products moved it. I was very proud of our logo and the products it appeared on. Unless you were involved with advanced manufacturing no one would ever see our logo because the products were built into engines. In fact my kids thought I produced nothing of importance.
Some logos are instantly recognised like BBC or NHS not because they are of good design but because they have been around for so long. Which brings me to catch phrases? This Christmas a couple have caught my eye as outstanding. An ad for alcoholic drink “See your wife’s face light up this Christmas! Buy her a torch” and the best “If you pull a cracker this Christmas make sure you wear a condom”.
Advertising has won and lost elections and I can think of several good examples The Tory ad “Labour isn’t working” on a poster with a long dole queue. Labours campaign in 97 with the theme tune things can only get better, brilliant, but their advertising campaign was just as good. Simple ads referring to class sizes getting smaller, waiting lists coming down. The Tory campaign representing Blair has the devil just turned people off and the phrase Michael Howard used “are you thinking what we’re thinking was total rubbish. With the election campaign now in full swing we can expect to see the ads start appearing. Some pundit this morning was complaining that the Tories had so much money to spend on advertising they must win this aspect of the campaign. Nonsense, but Labour has to think carefully and creatively about their output. It’s difficult to image that any ads approved by GB will have flair or creativity associated with them. I might do a couple of designs for each side.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Daily Moan

My posts these days are a bit like waiting for a bus. You wait forever then two come together. A friend of mine suggested that my blog had some negativity about it these days and having my health in mind suggested that positive thoughts were much better for me than some of the negative stuff I have been writing lately. She asked my wife if she could speak to the editor of the Daily Moan, well honestly, I don’t know what the world is coming to, us wrinkles are supposed to moan, it’s what we do. I’ll do my best to be more upbeat but it is very difficult when every third week your blood numbers come under review and increases in one specific antigen mean bad news. Thank you Gerry for your concern I know it’s my best interests you have in mind. I love the title though I’ve been looking for a new name for the blog. The best I came up with so far was Great Barr Bob or perhaps the Great Barr Groan. Wadaya think?

Proud granddad a bit more

I haven’t mentioned the grandkids much lately for several reasons. It’s not that they haven’t been doing much or excelling at what they do, more that granddad gets a lot of criticism from them over what I write, that is when they read it or I tell them about it. I need to be careful. Recently though eldest granddaughter entered an art portfolio competition for Birmingham secondary school pupils. 160 pieces of art work were chosen for a book of kids’ art. She chose a subject that both puzzled and surprised me “fear” and her semi abstract painting showed a remarkable maturity around the subject as did her description of it which was extremely well written. Whenever we looked after them has little ones we always participated in constructive activities until recently when they decided they wanted to come to our house to “chill out” which means watch the box and be waited on. In respect to her art she is definitely granny taught and my wife has done an extremely good job. She is of course doing art at school and there is an influence there but the basics come from Nan Pat.
I wouldn’t dream of publishing the picture itself without her permission which I will seek in due course. While writing this I just wonder that perhaps she might be persuaded to become a guest blogger.