Charity Shop – The Radio

If you saw one of my previous blogs – Charity Shop – The Trivet – you will know I like a charity shop. A little while ago I spotted a small radioImage 2 in our local Sue Ryder charity shop.

It was a Sony, FM/AM, ICF-S1MK2 which you can see in the lovely photo. An older FM/AM (medium wave) radio from Sony but at £4-50 this was a great purchase. Image 1Very simple to use as it has an “On/Off/Volume” dial, a tuning dial, a FM/AM selector switch and that’s it in terms of controls. There is an aerial, a standard earphone socket and a window with a “stick” that as you turn the tuner dial it moves along printed frequencies showing where you are on the frequency spectrum. There’s a red light that comes on when the signal is strong (something that would be handy in Star Wars -“The Force is strong in that one!”) and a wrist loop so you’re less inclined to drop it. NB – If any of that is “technically” wrong, please send corrections to someone who is bothered!

You have nothing more technical to do than to select FM or AM, turn it on, fiddle withImage 3 the tuning dial until you get the radio frequency you want (maybe move the aerial around until the little red light glows), set the volume and listen. It really does do what it says on the box…although this didn’t come with a box but you know what I mean.

I use it when I’m working in the home office, out in the garden making stuff, having a bath or I just want radio and don’t want to access it through my phone – that’s a phone….

So win/win – I get a cool (hey I was born a long time ago) gadget and the charity gets some cash.

You can also catch me on Twitter: @1966colinblog

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The Redundant Male

I have just recently been made redundant. An awful time not of my choosing but here I am out of work. The caveman within is devastated! How can I put food on the table or money in the account or even be a “man” – whatever that means before people start complaining. I don’t know myself what being a “man” in the modern world is anymore, but that’s a blog for a different day and when I’m in a different place.

I’ve taken to making things out of old wooden pallets or alternatively baking cakes. They are my merge offerings to the family to show I am not scrapheap material but an integral part of the world. I have tried for several jobs since my end date but I haven’t even been selected for interview. These jobs I can do on my head, with my weaker hand and whilst reciting Shakespeare as easy as the next dummy – but I haven’t even been shortlisted for interview! The lady at the career management advice do-dah says it’s because my CV is rubbish (I paraphrase but you get the idea) and I don’t blow my own trumpet enough. Blimey if I could play trumpet I might have another string to my bow, or is that archery!

But hey unemployment is at its lowest since the last time anyone bothered to check and as HR told me “we often find that people made redundant go on to better things”. What if I’m the exception to the rule? What if I don’t go on to better things? What if my world becomes making things out of wooden pallets….

So, I hear you all ask, what are these things made from wooden pallets! First I made a sawhorse as it’s hard to saw wood without a sawhorse – below.

One Sawhorse

Then you have to make a second:

Two Sawhorses

And if that’s not enough you then realise you can make a workbench – just got to find somewhere to store it all now….


Now I’ve got to decide whether I am blogging about up-cycling or redundancy over the next few months. Or whether I’m better off combining them – The Redundant Woodworker has a certain ring to it.

Stay safe out there!

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The Tea Ritual

It was a camping trip around two years ago that changed how I took my tea. One of our cooking utensils is a camping kettle which you fill through the spout and has a whistle that lets you know when the water is ready. As our camping trips use gas for all cooking and boiling of water it’s an old fashioned kettle – no electric! So on the trip I’d put the kettle on, pop a tea bag in the mug and then take a seat and wait for the shrill noise to alert me. During the time of waiting I’d enjoy the view, breathe in the clear air or do a puzzle book or read and generally have some mindfulness time. Spotting various butterflies, birds and bees tripping past. Bliss.

On our return it was back to that quick boil of the electric kettle, throw a tea bag in, chuck the water in, stir and squeeze the bag, grab the milk, remove the bag, add milk…..done phew! And I realised that I was no longer taking the time to “smell the roses”. It was “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” tea.

It was adding to my “bad” health, my general feelings of always being on fast forward, always switched on.

I made a change that has affected a lot of things in my life – I decided to return to an older more relaxed time, a time when tea was savoured. Taking tea was a ritual to be cherished. I went out and bought a whistling kettle that was heated on the hob – Asda if you’re interested – and I’ve not looked back. I now put the kettle on and have time to potter. I can sit and watch the wildlife in the garden, read, write, tidy up some of the bits and pieces that get left when you’re running a household of teenagers! It’s amazing where they leave things around the house – but that’s a blog for another day.

Don’t get me wrong I still use teabags but it’s that slowing of the “rush” of life. It’s similar to when you see a film where the main character is going at normal speed but they have sped everything else up around them. The mayhem of modern life in my tea world is reduced to 0.5 or less normal speed. Bliss.


And I have also returned to the tea ritual of a pot of loose leaf tea. The tea caddy, the tea pot, the tea cosy (always worn on your head after the tea is brewed). Making tea stops the world and I don’t even have to concentrate on mindfulness – I’m in it. Brain in neutral gear, pause button fully depressed and a feeling of time suspended.

And how has that changed other things in my life?

It has just lead to a better understanding of the speed I live my life. I look for the pause button or the slow speed buttons. Where some cameras and DVD players use a picture of a hare and a tortoise to depict fast forward or super-fast forward, I look for the tortoise in activities that can be done in a more relaxed and refined way. It allows my head not to get overwhelmed, not to feel guilty. I’m doing the task and doing it properly but not juggling three other tasks or rushing this one to get to the next one. It’s about smelling the roses in life – we are but here once and it’s those quieter, slower memories that will give us the most bang for our bucks! If someone asks what you’ve done in the last year, you never talk about your work projects but rather your time with family and friends or holidays or weekends. So make the most of that time and saviour the tea ritual.

You can also catch me on Twitter: @1966colinblog

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Charity Shop – The Trivet

We all know what a trivet is, don’t we? In its basic form it’s something that will be resistant to heat and save your nice worktops from being scorched by your cooking pots, pans and kettles. So there’s nothing ingenious or technological about the trivet. It is just a shape of material that takes the heat from things that have been sat on or in the oven.

So there I was in The St Luke’s Hospice (St Luke’s Hospice) charity shop and I saw the trivet in the photo.


Simple design, made of wood and rope and a good size for any pan including ovenware. The clincher was the price tag. Seventy-five pence. That’s right not even a pound. So home it came and now sits on the side quietly doing its job. No batteries, no plug, no recharging – just goes about its business with efficiency. As this photo demonstrates it working – splendid.


Footnote:- I love a charity shop. I can give to charity whilst buying items that I need/like but maybe can’t afford at their full cost. The absolute definition of “win-win”


You can also catch me on Twitter: @1966colinblog

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Talking Dutch

We love holidaying in Holland or The Netherlands (Nederlands) if you wish, and there are certain things that really stand out for me. The culture of the bike, the flatness, cafe life, small towns and villages interlinked by long straight roads, and much more beside. Of course I recognize the difference between a two week holiday compared to living somewhere year to year. I would notice the graffiti a lot more – and it’s everywhere – the taxes and cost of living, having to pay the bills. Is unemployment high, does medical care cost, are the schools any good, foreign policy, homeland policy, the far right, the far left. The realities of living somewhere is all too often dependent on your own personal time in life.
So what am I going to write about?
On our last trip we rode our bikes to the nearest town from our campsite. Twenty minutes on the flat and on a purpose built, probably been there for years, cycle path. The road is separate from the cycle path which is only on one side and so you have powered vehicles operating both ways in their dedicated lane and then human powered vehicles (apart from the odd scooter) working both directions in their dedicated lane. Safe and relaxing. It was one of those nice long straight roads and so you can just pedal at the speed you wish, not having to chop and change gears, get out of the saddle, head down type riding you have to do in the UK. Also the Dutch bike is a “sit up and beg” style so very comfortable and everyone rides that style. I would guess some people pass them down through the generations as they never change.
So we rode and we talked! And this is the thing that has stuck with me. In today’s 100 mile an hour world, this was like setting the world on slow mo. We could ride two or three abreast and we could talk. We weren’t hunched over our handlebars, we weren’t continually having to go up gradients and down again. We just rode, in a straight line, sitting in an upright position and next to each other. We couldn’t use our smart phones and get immersed in those. We didn’t have to worry about lorries, vans or any vehicle getting too close to the cycle path we have in the UK – the painted line separating traffic types – I don’t know about you but I don’t think painted lines have ever been successful at holding back anything!

And it got me to thinking – dangerous I know, but hey sometimes it makes sense in my head – are Dutch people better at talking and having conversations within their families, parent to parent, parent to child, sibling to sibling. Do they understanding each other better, is there less angst and friction as they are able to really unpick some of the family stuff that besets us all? Do they have better relationships long term with their children? Do the kids “get” the parents? Does “technology” and the modern way we are all connected all the time not affect (this is a matter of opinion and is my view rather than any scientific research) the Dutch family in the way I think it affects my family.
Or in my mind is Holland still in the 1930s and actually now they drive everywhere and sit in silence listening to the music or their kids arguing in the back of the car. Do I think all the low land countries live in black and white, on cobbled streets and a simple life bereft of the modern ills?
I’d love if anyone who reads this and knows of the Holland way of life or someone has family and friends there and they could shed some light on my (based in my head) theory. Is it just in those areas away from the bigger towns and cities, do families interact better? Or is it generally all over? Can my “Escape to the Country” become “Escape to another Country”?


You can also catch me on Twitter: @1966colinblog

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Morse discovery


So a recent visit to a charity shop – in fact a new tradition/habit where every Saturday I drop my daughter at gymnastics and head into the local shopping centre. There are three charity shops of varying “quality” and I love to potter round, checking out the vinyl (another renewed passion that will appear in a future blog), books and some of the gadgets. Anyway where was I?

So a recent visit to a charity shop and I picked up the complete set of “Inspector Morse Mystery’s” in a lovely box set for a mere £5-00. That’s thirteen books and a box to keep them in for £0-38 each. Incredible value.

A confession. I have never seen any of the TV episodes that starred John Thaw and Kevin Wheatley and so have no preconceived idea of how Morse should act or respond at any particular incident or during the investigation. And now I’ve read the first book I don’t see Thaw as Morse. So when I’ve finished them all I’m going to have to find the programmes and see whether he did play him differently. More visits to the charity shop.

The first book is “Last Bus to Woodstock” and without giving you any spoilers, it’s about a murder near Oxford which Morse and Lewis investigate. Well Morse is a police detective so no surprises there! The immediate thing that struck me was the language and I must say it took me a while to get accustomed to it. But there was something else as it was like reading about my childhood, my upbringing. With a mention of “lighting up time”, lots of letter writing, no mobile phones and actually not every house has a house phone. And get this, no computers. A world of typewriters and handwritten statements. It all becomes clear when you check the year that Colin Dexter wrote this first Morse novel.

1975 – before a lot of you were born!

However taking it as a murder mystery of its time it is really good. No quick fix DNA result from the lab, it’s all based on good general detective work plus a bit of “gut” thrown on. Having never seen a minute of one of the programmes I’ve been able to imagine Morse and Lewis as I want and I bet they’re different to how the actors portrayed them.

What has also occurred to me is that the books go from 1975 to 1999 so I’m going to be going on a journey with Morse and Lewis through computers, mobile phones, emails and DNA – so really fascinated to see how that pans out and how it changes the way they work. Will Morse “get it” – technology or will he always turn to his trusty sergeant?

Also I want to watch the series now. First TV one was 1987- so did they base it in 1975 or was it tweaked to the year it was filmed in? Twelve years later. Intrigued.

As for the books, I’m already onto book three and so will have to catch you up with them in future blogs.

For now Morse is a slip back to an age gone by, my childhood but so, so different from the world we inhabit now. I wonder if we have seen such a leap in the human race since the industrial revolution? And what could be the next one?

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Saturday 4th June – why I’m back!


So after my “break” from blogging I have spent a lot of time thinking about why I want to write and how I go about it. Last time round I got a little too morose, too sad, too “oh woe is me”.

And that’s not really me. Yes I might be going through a bad period of my life but I have always been a happy fool. In medieval times I would have been the court jester. I just have to quip my way through every situation in my life.

So why do I want to write? Well I’ve always enjoyed writing and apart from the unfinished (to be honest, unstarted) novel/screenplay and 12 part TV series, a blog makes sense for all those short bits which don’t fit anyway else. So a channel to talk about my life – an English guy in his second half of a century (WHAT!!! When the f did that happpen?); a dad; a husband; a dog owner; a football coach; a worker; London born, bred and long since displaced – so a window on that life that people might find interesting, amusing or just social history.

Next I realised I was putting myself under more pressure because I have set up WordPress to send me notifications when people I follow post – in the words of Julie Robert’s in Pretty Women – “mistake, big mistake!”. What that did was play on my sense of not being worthy or good at writing. Why was everyone else better than me? Why did they have constant ideas and things happening in their lifes? So I’ve turned off all those notifications and I’ll write for me, not to “better” someone else. And I will just check in more regularly to see what those wonderful people are upto.

So that leaves the “how”. I originally was writing straight into WordPress and had to get it done in one sitting. Of course more pressure. So now I’ll be writing in a word processor application and taking my time. Writing on one day and then returning a day later to check it over.


I’m also trying to read more blogs and these are the ones I’ve read this week:

Then I’ve added a Twitter account for those daily observations that only need 146 characters. Follow me on the twit-sphere – @1966colinblog

Next blog could well be about my recent “Snug” build – the writing room of my dreams (or just a shed extension of 1 square meter if you’d prefer!) or about my love of technology from the 1950s – kettle on the hob, vinyl record player, real tea.

You’ll see when I decide – because it’s all about me these days! (smiley face)

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