Cooking the Books

As we hurtle towards Energy Price Armageddon there doesn’t seem to be much optimistic news about so I thought I’d provide a positive and practical idea which the GLW has come up with (Mrs Rine).

It started when I emptied our loft last week in preparation for a layer of fibreglass insulation as advised by the oddball retirees who were glueing their body parts to the M1 this summer. It took me half a day as there was about 2 tonnes of archived paperwork from our eBay business going back to the early 2000’s.

I separated off the 80% of this treasure trove which we are no longer legally obliged to retain and stacked it in the garage anticipating months of laborious shredding with my little home shredder. But when I got back from an afternoon bike ride yesterday I discovered that Mrs Rine had come up with a brilliant “hack” (which I always think of as cough sweets).

She had soaked a pile of invoices and statements overnight in a tub of water as follows:

Then she had put the soggy mess into a plastic flowerpot and formed little “briquettes” which were laid out in the sun to dry:

This will become a useful source of heating on our open fire this winter, recycling useless old paper into heat. Why not try it yourself using piles of electricity bills and copies of the Guardian? You’re welcome.

Out of the Mouths of Yorkshire Terriers

This is Basil, the tiny but forceful character who rules our roost (with the possible exception of his Tibetan Terrier sister who can sometimes keep him in his place). We have had dogs in the house for many years and one of them (Mr Murph, the Labrador Collie Cross) even had his own celebrated blog where he was ably assisted by another Tibetan Terrier called Oz.

Since the lovely Mr Murph departed us we (me and the wife that is) have contented ourselves with simply having conversations between ourselves “voiced” by the appropriate canine. As I describe this it’s starting to sound like some form of mental illness but I’ll plough on. “Holly says she thinks you may have made an error of judgement not bringing the raincoats” sound much less incendiary than “Why didn’t you bring the raincoats” so perhaps it can be charitably viewed as ongoing marriage therapy rather than some weird disorder.

I’ve taken this concept one step further with Basil (aka “the boy”) by giving him a reasonably authentic Yorkshire accent which I’ve been perfecting for him over the last 5 years or so. Now he will very often burst into the language of God’s Own County at the drop of a hat. “Eee it looks like rain’s on’t way lads” etc.

This got me into some trouble not long ago when I was walking with Basil after a family meet up with the boy on his lead when he stopped to do a poo. I should say he is very proud of his poo and unlike Tibetan Terrier Holly who discretely chooses long grass at the side of the road, Basil insists on moving to the centre of the pavement for maximum impact for his tiny output. (We always pick it all up, I swiftly add before you call the Police or put us on Facebook).

Adopting my very best Leeds brogue I turned to my step son Chris and said “Eee ah’ve joost doon the most ENORRRMOUS Poo tha knows”.

Sadly my step son Chris was 20 yards behind and I was talking to a complete stranger in a similar coloured coat who looked very startled and quickened his pace to a run.

Turn up for the Books

I’m blessed that as a child I was encouraged to use the local library from an early age. Our branch library was situated on the edge of a pre-fab housing estate and was really tiny but always in pristine order with everything perfectly arranged and a waxed parquet floor that squeaked when you swivelled your Clark’s Start-Rites. The only things that didn’t appear perfect were the rows of library tickets with their worn and furry cardboard – and perhaps the stern librarian who was just waiting to catch you out with a threepenny fine.

My day would be made if I came across the latest Jennings & Derbyshire, Billy Bunter, Secret Seven or Swallows & Amazons so I could read about schooldays which seemed rather different to my own. Biggles and Sherlock Holmes showed me exactly how grown ups behaved. Once I actually emerged into adulthood (Ed: have you actually done so yet?) I rather left reading behind apart from BCA and the occasional paperback airport thriller by Alistair Maclean or Frederick Forsyth. “BCA” was “Book Club Associates”, a mail order book club which would hook gullible punters with incredible offers such as “choose 5 Hardbacks for £3” and then force you to choose a book per month at full price for the rest of your days. Most of my friends had, like me, shelves and shelves of BCA novels and non-fiction which were hardly ever opened. Lots were aspirational reference books as these were the days before we all carried around pocket gadgets able to access the entire sum of human knowledge (and stupidity of course).

For the last 20 odd years I’ve been overwhelmed with digital data of varying degrees of quality and had little time for reading books but that changed last month when I bought a Kobo Reader.

I’ve used an Amazon Kindle on and off for a few years but always baulked at the price of their e-books, often more expensive than the physical paperback version including delivery. My revelation came when I read that the Kobo reader could access public libraries, which seems such a sensible arrangement. With the rapid expansion of e-books during pandemic restrictions it’s an idea who’s time has arrived. “Borrowing” a digital copy of a book for two or three weeks makes so much more sense than buying a real book, reading it and then storing it on a shelf or donating it to a charity shop.

I’ve now rejoined Norfolk Libraries and am an avid reader again. The more popular books have a waiting list so one has to reserve them and wait in the queue (17 weeks for Richard Osmond but normally only 2 or 3 weeks). When a book is borrowed for a specific 21 days it adds a level of incentive to get reading which is not there with a pile of real post-Christmas “to be read” books.

I’m currently working my way through the 75 Maigret novels, interspersed with Anthony Horowitz (his Magpie Murders & Moonflower Murders are wonderful creative plots which are hugely entertaining). It’s also nice to read a review or recommendation and be able to search the library immediately and order it without the risk of it being a dud.

The Kobo reader with a library account has enriched my days – although I do miss making a squeaky sound on the parquet.

COVID’s Metamorphis

Alpha, Beta, Gamma , Delta

“Next Slide Please” says JVT

News develops helter-skelter 

Is this really World War Three?

Call up vaccine troops in all haste

Enter in the deadly fray

“Have you lost all sense of your taste?”

“No, I’ve always dressed this way”

Isolate and social distance 

All new concepts take the bell

What is now “asymptomatic”

Once described as “fit and well”

Like the hurricanes and weather

Every storm must have a name

The next one, let us all together

Hope is “in a teacup” tame.

Trebor – The refreshing sweetness of youth

Isn’t it funny when you can go 70 years without seeing something which is blindingly obvious once you know it’s there? Like the arrow in the FedEx logo for example.

I discovered today that Trebor, the traditional British manufacturer of confectionary and destroyer of generations of teeth, was formed in 1907 in Essex by 4 gentlemen, one of whom was a Robert. The Company name is simply his name spelt backwards!

That was a real senior lightbulb moment to me – the biggest revelation since I realised that the drink Vimto is an anagram of its contents.

I always imagined Trebor was named after the 14th Century composer of polyphonic chansons. (Not really)

Digital Detox – the Dog Poo Diaries Return

My name is Rog and I am an addict.

Three and a half years ago I wrote a blog about giving up Facebook and it went something like this:

“Last week something momentous happened.

Not on the World stage or even village level – it was a lightbulb moment in my head so won’t affect anyone apart from one of the World’s richest men. I’m talking, of course, of Mr Mark Zuckerberg.

Last Thursday I suddenly realised I’d been working as one of his chief suppliers of “content” for 10 years and it was time to retire. Perhaps “content” is a tad grandiose a description for pictures of dogs and endless convoluted puns which I often have trouble deciphering myself when they show up 3 years later “on this day”.  But still. Enough is enough.


I’d wavered a bit after the Cambridge Analytica fiasco but carried on as usual because the profiled advertising revenue model for “free” internet services is no longer novel and I happily trade my soul for the amazing goodies in Google’s cupboard. However, it suddenly dawned upon me that the Facebook exchange model has become grossly out of balance since everything has gone mobile. The omnipresence of my beloved iPhone was encouraging me to open the mobile Facebook app at 6.30am in the morning and, on and off, until I’m safely tucked into bed in my jim jams with a mug of horlicks and digestive biscuit at 9.45pm.

So I deleted the Facebook App from my phone and am realising that life is not lived through a small 6″ x 3″ window trying to entertain or impress people I often hardly know but here in the present. Instead of mindlessly scrolling through other people’s digital lives when I awake, I pop into the other room and practice my guitar. I’m even thinking of reading the odd book.

I haven’t deserted Facebook altogether and have retained a link on my desktop but have taken off most of my notifications and intend simply “popping by” from time to time like the irritating ex-alcoholic at a drinks party. Special occasions or trips may still require a picture and The PBGV and Tibetan Terrier groups may still need the odd picture of our lovely four legged team.

What I won’t miss is:

  1. Political Posts where people feel the need to nail their voting colours to the mast – it’s very un-English, negative and extremely tedious.
  2. Feuds and bitter disputes on the village web site about parking, poo and parish council. These get borderline psychotic post wine-o-clock and make you wonder about the future of homo sapiens.
  3. Twee virtue signalling posts about wisdom, normally involving native American Indians.
  4. Videos from that youthful religious group, “the Lad’s Bible” usually involving swearing and someone getting badly hurt for “bantz”.
  5. Endless adverts for stuff I’ve recently purchased.”

It’s now 3.5 years on and I was rather deflated to discover this posting having just sat down to make a blogging return with a post about, er, giving up Facebook. (shame faced emoji) . I seem to remember the above attempt lasted about 10 days before the desperate urge to post a picture of my Yorkshire Terrier overcame me and the project was quietly shelved alongside “learning French” and “solving World Poverty”. The app was back on my phone and the need to keep liking, commenting, posting and coming up with wordy “jokes” was again assuaged.

I’m now convinced that social media “over-sharing” is the 21st Century version of “Dad dancing”, so this is a new and more determined effort to sit in the corner smiling politely at the young people jigging about on the dancefloor.

Acknowledging that a new diet is never going work if the cupboards are stashed with Mr Kipling’s Sponge delights and bulk packs of Twix, I’ve taken things more seriously this time by “unfriending” about 50 “friends” and just leaving family members (who have mostly deserted Facebook some time ago for Tik-Tok or Tinder or whatever) and intend making the full exit soon. I’ve also got a new Kobo e-Reader with access to Norfolk Libraries and am starting to work my way through the complete Georges Simenon canon which is so much better than reading illustrated posts of dog poo in Fenn Street.

One day at a time, dear reader ….

2 Wheeled Ecclesiastical DPD Driver

Last Saturday I set off on my bike with the target of visiting as many of Norfolk’s churches as possible before 5.00pm. This annual charity ride for the Norfolk Churches Trust has gone on for many years but this year seemed a good time to join in as they have just arranged a substantial contribution towards re-roofing our village church.

The weather was spectacular! Clear blue sky, hardly a puff of wind and comfortably warm temperatures made for a cyclist’s dream, and Norfolk is blessed with both a wealth of historic churches (650 of them) and a fabulous network of tiny country lanes to travel between them. I had struggled for a few days trying to plan a route and was extremely grateful when our revered Newsletter Editor passed on his routing experience which I found invaluable (including his tip for the church with the best food!).
The variety of church buildings is breathtaking, from the ancient Norman round towered sites such as Gissing to the brand new modernism of St Henry Morse Catholic Church in Diss, from the simple Baptist Chapels to the most ornate Angel Roofed classicism of the 15th Century.

My ride took me on a loop via Eccles and Quidenham to the south then a long stretch up to Hethel in the north before setting off back down to Diss where the churches are thankfully closer together. In the end I managed 38 visits and thanks to my very generous sponsors should have raised around £500 for the Churches Trust.
The real heroes of the day, however, were the lovely volunteer tellers who waited patiently in the churches to greet intrepid visitors with a smile, a drink of squash and a custard cream. Some were there in the tiniest of backroad hamlets from 9 till 5, only receiving a handful of visits, but they quietly got on with their Catherine Cooksons with no complaints.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and by the time I returned to our village I’d consumed 62 miles (and 38 custard creams).


A Tibetan Terrier Writes (or sings…)

Holly’s Least Favourite Things

Men in bright Lycra on racing bikes leaner

Hoovers and Dysons and all vacuum cleaners,

Black plastic bin liners

Birds on the wing

These are a few of Holly’s least favourite things.

Noisy old trailers and refuse collectors

Men from the Post Office delivering letters

Most breeds of dogs that are too fat or thin

These are a few of Holly’s least favourite things.

When the broom sweeps

When the cat sings

When she’s feeling dark

She simply remembers her least favourite things

And then has a – jolly – good – bark!

On a matter peak…

“Parts of Speech” is one of the few things I remember being taught at school, along with how to use a ruler and the activity table of metal elements.

Many decades later I’ve finally found a use for Zeugma.

“The rep turned up in a foul mood and a fast car. I believe it was a Zeugmatic”.

I’ll get my coat….

Coast to Coast

Well my fourth “Way of the Roses” was completed last week and we were blessed with the most amazingly un -English weather. My brother kept comparing the landscape to New Zealand where he has cycled regularly, and it’s a lot cheaper to get to Morecambe.

A few highlights:

1. We had a preparatory evening meal at the Art Deco Midland Hotel in Morecambe which ticked off one of my bucket list wishes. It was lovely fried fish dishes although the open expanse of glass in the restaurant left us a little fried too.

2. I was surprised at how different the 170 mile route looked in high summer – I’d only ever seen it in early Spring or Autumn before and normally with a touch of precipitation involved. It looks stunning in sunshine and this provides a partial explanation for me (aka Mr GPS) getting lost three times.

3. There seem to have been a few changes to the route since I last completed it. All hills have been made 15 degrees steeper and all mileages extended by 15%. I must report this to the organisers. (I am from Norfolk, it has to be said).

4. Never wear yellow at harvest time. I was pursued by a million little black flies until I ripped off the yellow jersey in Ripon and bought a blue striped t-shirt in the Edinburgh Woolen Mill. Blue striped insects followed me from there to York.

5. It was lovely to have the company of daughter Jemma for three days and she took the challenge at every stage with a smile and a positive attitude. I’m very proud of her.

6. Big Al and his Dad Les raised £2000 from our trip for Cancer Research so that was another happy outcome.

Pieces of Ate

Scoffing and quaffing so you don't have to. Gravy stain on shirt, chip fork in pocket.


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