The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

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Friday, 27 September 2013

Plant Quiz - what is it!

Following the completion of the Greenhouse Project (see earlier post) I contact my favourite seed supplier and ordered their lucky dip. If you survey the catalogue of Chiltern Seeds you can imagine that their lucky dip contains some unusual items.

I bought a pack of 'lottery mixture' which contained lots of seed - maybe 700 or so.

It was late in the season to start germinating seeds for this summer but nevertheless I set to it and obtained many young plants for my efforts. As a gardening novice however I've no idea what I have grown.

This is one of the most remakable specimens. As soon as it left the pot for the flower bed it shot up. But what is it?
If you click on the picture you can zoom in for a closer look!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Commuters favourite ...

 Many hundreds moved through these blue doors every day in both directions. Week after week, month after month for many years.

But who crossed the threshold up above? What business was transacted through that brown door?

Friday, 20 September 2013

Ready, Steady ... Challenge?

That giant among surgeons Mr Sean O'Leary was all ready this morning to attempt to repeat his great success in stabilising the right knee (see story in December 2012).

This time the focus was on the left side. As you can see the process starts with an arrow drawn on the ankle below. And finishes with the bandage above - or more completely with another joyful and painfree crossing of Scotland with the TGO Challenge.

This time there was no oversleeping and the pictured leg was first on the list so Mr O'L was ready to follow the black arrow at 8:30 am. Pieces were removed or smoothed or trimmed and I was in recovery 20 or minutes later.

And eating breakfast by 10am.

There are pictures taken inside the joint during the procedure, but not yet shared with me. Look at the Dec 2012 story if you want links to sensible information about the knee arthroscopy.

NHS vs BUPA? Same surgeon. Same quality surgery.

Possibly more and better equipment in the NHS. There was more paperwork and more thorough safety checking with the NHS. The competence of the support staff with NHS seemed much higher, and they were much busier. The NHS promise to deliver a solution within 18 weeks, and it is about that length of time or a little more since I first contacted my GP.

The tea and the jam with the toast was better with BUPA.  Overall the previous job took about 8-10 weeks from starting with the GP, though Physiotherapy, to Consultant to Operation using BUPA.

By coincidence the October edition of TGO magazine appeared yesterday. And, although not announced on the front cover I felt sure the Challenge application form was inside.

Perfect reading and dreaming during my few hours recovery in hospital before discharge around 12:00.

Last year I missed out expecting the October edition to appear in October and the entry to be completed soon after the end of the month.

This year we have until 26 of October to get the entry in. So buy the magazine and start dreaming now! And don't miss the deadline for entry.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Home phone for disabled

Pensioner with robot phone friend c 1990
The Amstrad phone was playing up. Voice messages weren't being recorded, the display screen was flashing without reason, and it hadn't been used as an email station for years. It was time to find a replacement.

Priorities? To record voice messages again. Easy operation for the almost blind. And variable volume control for the hard of hearing.

Where to get advice? Which? This stalwart of consumer interest from a previous age still has some useful information, but actually their coverage is limited. Their most recent review in 2010 covered 11 phones and each 'best buy' is quite poor in some important respects.
How about RNIB ? They support the blind and partially sighted, and there is also a useful shop with suitable gadgets - sticks, watches, magnifiers ... and phones! There's a range of telephones with very large buttons and other features, but suprisingly most do not record messages. And once I started to check prices on Amazon I began to find contradictory reviews - 'this sound is too quiet', 'this is too complicated'.

Discovering the best phone became a mini project - unearthing brands on sites supporting disabilities then verifying comments on Amazon - which eventually led to  the Geemarc CL455!

The great features of this phone are:-
  1. Most actions can be confirmed by voice - this includes the stored address book, incoming calls, missed calls, and pressing the number buttons
  2. The volume control covers a wide range - there's an on-off control, then loud to VERY LOUD
  3. Messages can be played back at half speed
  4. Numbers can be assigned to 3 special colour-coded keys and 6 other keys for quick or emergency dialing
  5. Incoming calls are indicated by a large flashing light as well as a ring-tone or voice announcement
  6. Missed calls and messages are indicated by a light

The main difficulties for the visually impaired centre around the functions controlled through the display screen. It is necessary to be able to read the content of the display for set-up, and to take advantage of some of the functions such as caller dial-back.

Suprisingly the instructions make no concessions for the disabled. While reasonably comprehensive the booklet lists and describes the features one after another with no sense of priority. It was impossible for this user to begin to navigate his way to an understanding of the operation of any feature of the phone.

In response we prepared these notes with enlarged and adapted schematics tailored to the operations that seemed important. 

The most noticeable difference with this phone comes from the talking announcement when someone calls. If the number is in the stored address book a pre-recorded voice prompt is played alternating with the ring tone - .....brrrrring 'Jo calling from his mobile' .... brrrrrring 'Jo calling from his mobile'.... Which means our elderly friend often knows who is there before picking up the phone.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Blackberry Way

 It's that season again. First one patch with special characteristics - maybe more exposure to sunshine, or perhaps slighlt different genetics - and those berries dark, shiney, invite a testing taste. A mental note to return with a box and a little more time for picking and saving.

But a week, ten days pass and the berries which were pristine and tasted so good have been attacked. The surrounding grass trampled by human feet, and the ripest fruits that are not picked are pecked by birds or else overblown and with little flavour.
But never mind because there are more and more. Over the days so many brambles present their fruit. A sequence of ripening which follows the same pattern each year. Always the berries close to the path are soon picked, but on the other side of the hedge, on the inside of the fields, behind the wall of nettles, there are more and more.

Always best 50-50 in the pie with apple?

And of course blackberries can prevent and maybe even cure cancer!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Real sheep, real hills, etc


I'm missing the hills while waiting for the next knee operation. And last week I realised I miss real sheep.

 These Thames Valley sweeties are no substitute.

A llama can carry your pack - upto 25 kilos. I'll be scanning the rules for the next TGO Challenge - I think dogs are mentioned and forbidden but not other animals. And 25 kilos would allow me to improve my diet a lot over my normal carrying limit of 15 kilos.
There seems to be a small industry for Llamas and trekking in the UK. The image below comes from here.
Header image

In the US farmers use llamas to guard sheep against coyote - despite their cute appearance they can kill a dog if it makes trouble.

Llama manure is valuable and much preferred to horse manure as it does not need composting.

Llamas don't like wet feet.

Buy a llama here - looks like it'll set you back £200-£500. But as they are social / herd animals one will not be enough. Whereas sheep available here can be bought for £50-£200 depending on breeding status.