1 EAGLETON NOTES: February 2015



Friday 27 February 2015

Their Them: A Question of Usage

I have a number of friends (there I go, boasting again!) who have an objection to the use of 'their' or 'them' when what is meant is 'his or hers' or 'him or her'.

Sometimes when a person (you know who you are - and no you are not a lawyer) speaks loudly (I was going to say shouts but that's going a bit far) at the television when a well educated person (frequently newsreaders) transgresses I try and make the point that it is invariably when the gender of the person is not known (or for legal reasons cannot be given) and in the middle of every newscast or sentence where that happens if the person was obliged to use the correct form then it would become cumbersome and intensely irritating for most of us.

I don't seem to be winning the argument. Do I have any support out there?

Wednesday 25 February 2015


A friend mentioned yesterday that on each of the recent posts when I had mentioned a place (Shrewsbury and Christchurch) she had received a postcard (via Postcrossing) which had come from each of those places. So today I thought I'd post some photos of a trip I made to California in 2004.

So far as I can recall it's the only holiday on which I have kept a journal each day of what we did. That's been very useful 11 years later in identifying these photos and also in seeing what I thought of the various places we went.

We rode the footplate of the cable car (tram) from Fisherman's Wharfe (that's not me!).
One of the famous Pacific Coast sunsets (around Cambria or Saint Simeon) 
Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park - 4000' above the valley floor
View from Moro Rock
View from Moro Rock 

Chandelier Tree Drive Thru Park
The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco - it really is one of the sights everyone should experience
Steve hugging a Giant Redwood Tree
The scale of the waterfalls in the Yosemite National Park cannot be appreciated without actually being there
Yosemite again
How small and insignificant is man!

Saturday 21 February 2015

An Earthquake, a Birthday and Memories

Not long after 23:51 UTC (12:51 pm on February 22 New Zealand time) four years ago today I was in The Cottage in New Zealand when I received a text from a friend who was visiting Christchurch.  During the next few hours and for some time after almost everyone with the slightest connection to Christchurch and most people in New Zealand together with the World's press were focussed on the City. I can think of few things that have not affected me personally and directly that had and have continued to have a greater impact on my emotions. At the time I wrote the following post for my New Zealand blog.

Just after 1400 hrs today I received a text from a friend who is visiting Christchurch to say that there had been another large earthquake in the City.   It immediately became obvious that the quake was significantly more serious than the larger quake last September which was further away from Christchurch, much deeper and, most importantly, instead of being in the middle of the night when CBD (Central Business District = City Centre) was empty it happened just before 1pm when the buildings and streets were full.  Communication with the City had been temporarily cut off when power and telecommunications lines were disrupted or destroyed.  It took a short while for the television and radio networks (which were themselves damaged) to get up and running with their independent satellite equipment.

Reference Number3468575[View event in Google Maps]
Universal TimeFebruary 21 2011 at 23:51
NZ Daylight TimeTuesday, February 22 2011 at 12:51 pm
Latitude, Longitude43.60°S, 172.71°E
Focal Depth5 km
Richter magnitude6.3
  • Within 5 km of Lyttelton
  • Within 5 km of Diamond Harbour
  • 10 km south-east of Christchurch

Living in New Zealand one is constantly aware of earthquakes which, generally speaking, do little serious damage.   If one lives in Napier the effect of the 1931 earthquake which destroyed the City with huge loss of life and very significant geological effect in the area one is even more aware of what can happen.

However I cannot explain the feelings of anxiety knowing that someone you know and care about is involved even when you know that they survived the initial quake unscathed.  I cannot even begin to imagine how people with relatives and friends who are missing are feeling at this time.  At the time I'm writing this 65 have been confirmed dead but it is expected that that number will rise.

A State of Emergency has been declared.

The television and radio have been on the air with updating news since the quake.  The friend who texted had no idea of the seriousness at the time because they had no power and therefore no TV or radio.   See TV NZ.  

One of the reasons I'll never forget the date is that it was that friend's Birthday. 

Next year it is my intention to return to New Zealand and my spiritual second home.  Next year it will be 5 years since that particular earthquake. Next year I hope to return to Christchurch and see how much has happened since the 'quake and implant new memories of the City in my mind.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Thankful Thursday

What a joy it was to wake up this morning.

What a joy it was to wake up this morning and discover that I still had a broadband connection.

What a joy it was to wake up this morning and discover that I still had a broadband connection and had a cellphone connection.

Such little things but such important things - to me. It has been so irritating without them.

Then I listened to the news: the plight of those in eastern Ukraine and so on.

And my important things become so insignificant.

I had lunch with Gaz - home yesterday for a couple of months - and went out to see how his house was coming along.

And those things so important and so terrible in the rest of the world selfishly meant nothing to me for the afternoon: my family is safe.

And I am thankful.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

The Lost Art of Gratitude

Perhaps what I mean is the lost art of expressing gratitude. Perhaps not.

Today I went to the gym in town. I stopped for a car on the single track road. The person for whom I gave way didn't acknowledge that nor cheerily wave in thanks (which is, I have to say, the norm here on the Island).  I stepped aside to let a lady and her child through the entrance to the Sports Centre. She didn't thank me (and thus failed to teach her child that thanks were due). I stepped aside twice inside the building to let girls through first. Neither acknowledged that: one was busily chatting to a man who also walked through without any thanks. 

It struck me a long time ago that thanks for birthday, Christmas and even wedding presents were not always acknowledged by the younger generation and that expressions of thanks were even more rare. 


Sunday 15 February 2015

18 Hours

is all it takes for the Island to be transformed from this:

to this:

Yesterday was a beautiful, still, if fairly cold day: wonderful for working in the garden. So I built a raised bed for vegetables and gave it it's first coat of preservative. A few days previously I had built the large composter to take the contents of my plastic ones which were full.

The first thing I had to do was gather the old plastic composers and put some very heavy bags of peat and so on inside them to stop them blowing away. When the wave photos were taken the wind was only gusting at about 46 mph (74kph, 40 knots, Beaufort 8). 

Now it's way past that.

Ho hum.

Thursday 12 February 2015

A Visit to Jayne

In January I visited Jayne, the friend from New Zealand who had started me on the road to years of enjoyment on the croquet lawns in New Zealand (and occasionally in Scotland). She was staying with her sister and her partner near Shrewsbury. I had stayed there with them before and they are wonderful hosts.

We decided on a visit to Shrewsbury which is the delightful historic county town of Shropshire in England with lots to see. It’s a town I have only visited once recently (with Jayne) although I've spent time there in my younger days.

I will share some of the things I think may be of interest over the next few posts. 

I have no idea at all what the first building is or was or even if it's one of the 660+ Listed Buildings in the town. It was certainly a curiosity though.

This house is a private residence in the town centre
Bear Steps between Fish Street and Grope Lane
Old Market Hall (which has been converted upstairs into a cinema and coffee shop).

Tuesday 10 February 2015

An Antidote to HSBC

I received an email from a friend today. It seemed to epitomise all that is wrong with the way that Government and big business communicate with people. Perhaps this is why people turn to HSBC for help.
No wonder folk don't pay tax.

I've been trying to register on-line for Self-assessment for weeks. I used to be quite clever and moderately computer literate. I've done it ?3 times, still no success. Sooooooooooooooo, I thought (despite my inclinations otherwise) I'll phone the SA Helpline. Well, there's a misnomer if ever there was one. After listening to interminable lift music and giving all but my blood group, I was told to phone another number.

Phoned and eventually (after listening to interminable lift music and giving all but my blood group - there's a theme here) spoke to Desh. Explained..............given another number to phone........................(after etc - you get the drift) spoke to Steve. Explained everything. He said he couldn't help, but at least he had a personality, and he gave me a number to phone. He sounded a mite crestfallen, when I told him that was the number I had phoned when he answered. So, instead of getting me to go through the whole malarkey again, he transferred me to the department I needed to speak to. Why Desh couldn't have done that, I have no idea.............or maybe they make money out of these phone calls. 
I got through to someone with no sense of humour or obvious personality. She told me I'd phoned too soon and to try next week...these things take time, you know.

What astonished me was, each asked me why I wanted to register, and seemed bemused when I replied, well, I thought I should pay tax on the income I've earned.

Deficit? No wonder there's a deficit.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Thankful Thursday

My central heating is on the blink and the heating engineer is so busy it could be a while before it's mended. The newish mobile gas fire I keep as backup for power cuts failed today and I took it back to the supplier. My broadband still varies between non-existent and slower than dial-up. 

I went into town this morning (to  return the gas fire) and decided to treat myself to coffee and crossword in the Woodlands (to discover that their broadband which was to have been repaired in February will now have to await BT's incompetent pleasure in March). An acquaintance came in for coffee having just had two altercations with the ground which she had hit after falling off the bow of the 17' yacht she had been getting out of the water with the help of a friend. Whilst talking I managed to spill a large coffee all over my cellphone, crossword book and everything else that a large cup of coffee can cover. After they had left I discovered that the helping friend (whom I had treated as a stranger) was a former colleague in another department from my time as a bureaucrat (which, in my defence, was 20 years ago).

As mornings go it was not one of my best. Being thankful wasn't really at the forefront of my thought processes.

Then driving home I suddenly changed my mind. My central heating may not work but I can still heat my house one way or another quite adequately and the gas fire supplier lent me one whilst mine is  being repaired. If BT don't raise their game I shall get satellite broadband. My cellphone survived the soaking. The staff who had been brilliant whilst I dried my phone as first priority brought me another cup of coffee. I had lots of things for which to be thankful and, in any case it was all small stuff and I learned many years ago not to sweat the small stuff (for very long anyway).

Most thankfully of all, though, is that I am here to have these problems. Think on that.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

On Duvets

Duvets are one of the most intriguing and best things ever invented.

Some facts:

Our first duvet was bought when duvets were still a novelty: in 1969 in a Scandinavian bedroom shop in Shandwick Place, Edinburgh. (Sorry but as I could actually remember that I wasn't going to waste it).

As Frances said recently if you put a duvet cover into a washing machine (or a tumble drier for that matter) everything else ends up inside it.

The theory of getting a duvet cover onto a duvet (or a duvet into a duvet cover depending on which way you do it) is easy. The practice is not.

IKEA used to produce duvet covers with the most useful of designs whereby one can put one's hand into the 'closed' end of the duvet cover to draw the duvet into it. See pic. Why did they stop doing that? Why has no-one copied the idea?

Duvets are a superb relationship guide. When you stop having fun and laughing when you jointly try and put a duvet and a cover together to form a single item, then your relationship is not what it should be.

Sunday 1 February 2015

When Loyalty Doesn't Pay

Loyalty is one of the traits I with which I was fortunate enough to be born.

I tend to be loyal and I tend to assume loyalty in return.

One thing, however, that does its best to try and keep destroying my faith in that quality is big business where loyalty is demanded (though bribery, loyalty schemes and so on) but not earned. And therein lies the crux: loyalty has to be earned.

I know that what I am about to say is reasonably well known and, indeed I blogged about insurance fair deals a few years ago and suggested shopping around each renewal. Of course I've never taken my own advice: the principal reason being that I'm in NZ when my principal policies coe up for renewal.

Anyway my latest irritation stems from my house insurance renewal. This year the sum came in at just under £1400. My house is a modest pad in an extremely safe part of the world from almost every point of view. I got fed up and went to a very reputable insurer which gets great plaudits from consumers. They wanted £550 for similar cover. No contest there then. What's more there is a linked price rise guarantee so I won't suddenly find myself in year 2 with a huge hike in premium.

Now it looks like I'll be able to go to another reputable insurer and more than halve my car insurance premium.