Archive for July, 2009

100 years of Morgan

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I love Morgans. They’re the type of car that makes you smile as you see one go past. I was lucky enough to have a ride in one once when a friend of mine asked her brother to take me out for a drive in his. That was fun. It was summer and the roof was down and everyone looked as we drove past! He worked for Morgan which is why he had one. I think everyone who works for them drives one, which is certainly good publicity for them.

There have been a lot of Morgans on the roads recently because of their 100th anniversary celebrations. Last week as I was travelling to visit someone, my journey took me past the Morgan factory and there were lots of them parked outside. To see one is fun and exciting, but to see so many of them all together was brilliant.

You can see more about their Centenary Festival here.

I took this photo of a Morgan a while ago in Tewkesbury, and you can see the lovely old buildings of that town reflected in the shiny bodywork. You can also see a bit of a reflection of me!

Click on the photo to see it bigger on my Flickr photostream.

100 years of Morgan

New beginnings

Friday, July 24th, 2009

It’s a week ago now since I heard that my job is going to change drastically, including halving my hours, and my salary. Last weekend and into the beginning of this week, I was in shock. I couldn’t think straight, and kept panicking. All I could think about was that I need to get another job, either as well as or instead of the current one so that I can earn enough to live on.

In the last couple of days, the shock has worn off, and I’ve been able to look at the situation differently. Instead of seeing it as a disaster, I’m begining to see it as an opportunity. Maybe I will find something new and exciting to do. Maybe I don’t actually need to get another job, but could benefit from the extra hours to do all the things that I don’t have time for at the moment.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m feeling excited and hopeful. I’m looking forward to new beginnings, whatever they may be.

Is it a scam?

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

When I answered the phone this morning, a man told me that he was a Crime Prevention Officer. I wondered what on earth he was going to say. Maybe he would tell me that there had been burglaries in my area and to be alert. I also wondered how he had got my details, and was it usual for Crime Prevention Officers to phone people? He told me that they were having a Crime Prevention Awareness day in my road the next day. I asked how I would know it was them, and he said there would be a Police car outside, and that he would have an identity card with his photo on it.

I kept listening but on the alert, as it was an odd phone call. Then he said that they were giving away Burglar Alarms, and that I was eligable for one. It was worth £1,000 and I would get one free and it would only cost me £300+ to have it installed plus running costs. He asked me if I had a partner or any pets. What did he want to know that for? Then he asked me when I was going to be in the next day so that I could have a demonstration of the Alarm that I hadn’t said I wanted.

By this time I was really spooked. I was convinced that I was going to be burgled the next day. What on earth should I say. I didn’t want to say I wasn’t going to be in, but I didn’t want to agree to the appointment he was trying to push me into either.

I asked him point blank if he was a police officer, and he said no he wasn’t. That wasn’t the impression he gave me at the beginning of the call, and I listened to him on the understanding that he was a police officer. If I had realised to start with that he was an Alarm salesman, I would have put the phone down straight away.

But was he really a salesman, was the call from a legitimate company – or not? I asked him for his name, company name, phone number etc. which he gave me. He told what time he’d made an appointment for me and said he’d phone back later to confirm it.

I was really worried. I’d been tricked and I still didn’t know if he was from a genuine company or if it was a complete scam. I rang the number he gave me and they confirmed the name of the company and gave me his surname when I said his Christian name. But then it was the number he gave me so it could have been anyone.

I still wasn’t happy. If he wasn’t genuine, then I was worried about going out and leaving the house the next day. If he was genuine, he had impersonated a police officer, which has got to be illegal.

I decided to phone the police. You have to phone a central number now, and they were very helpful and took all the details. Before long a local officer phoned me back to find out more. She said that they’d had other similar calls from a different town, and when she looked up the company they were familiar to her, so she thought that maybe they were a genuine company but that someone was using their number for a scam.

We decided that she would phone the company to see if she could find out what was happening. When she phoned me back, she said that I could stop worrying. She was happy that they were a genuine company, but that they have very poor and dubious sales techniques and she said that she had given them a serious rap over the knuckles for it. She even said that what the salesman had done was a sacking offence.

Next time someone phones me claiming to be a police officer, I’ll be even more cautious and suspicious.

It’s getting cold

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

It’s only just past the middle of July and it’s getting really cold in the evenings. When I go outside to watch the ISS go over, I have to put my coat on. It was clear again tonight. The current phase of visible passes is coming to an end soon, so I’m glad I’ve been able to see it while it’s had the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to it.

It should be hot and summery in July, but it’s been cold and very wet. A heatwave had been predicted for the summer, but although we had a bit of a heatwave in June, it’s gone completely now. I wonder if it will come back for August. I find that I need some good sunny summer weather, preferably some of it spent by the sea, to get me through the cold and dark of the winter.

That’s one small step for man…….

Monday, July 20th, 2009

It’s 40 years ago today that man first stepped onto another world. While Michael Collins orbited the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended the last 60 miles in the Lunar Excursion Module for the first Moon landing. The world watched and held it’s breath while Neil descended the ladder of the LEM. He paused to check how far the ladder had gone into the surface of the Moon which was only a couple of inches and not the several feet that one scientist had predicted.

Then he stepped down onto the surface of the Moon and uttered those now immortal words “That’s one small step for man….one giant leap for mankind.” Buzz Aldrin followed him as the second man to walk on the Moon, one of only 12 men to do so.

On the September 12th 1962 at Rice University, John F. Kennedy made what’s become known as his “We choose to go to the moon” speech.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win……..
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”

This day 40 years ago on the 20th July 1969 that dream came true, and the world has never been the same since. This other world exploration gave people hope and let them feel that anything was possible. Over the years since then that hope seems to have melted away as the harsh realities of life and war and economics took hold.

But now there’s talk of new Moon landings. Space exploration hasn’t been forgotten. At this moment the International Space Station is orbitting the Earth with the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to it. There are a record 13 astonauts above us. They are continuing to enlarge and build the space station where astronauts from different countries work together to experiment and push the boundaries of science.

This photo is my tribute to today’s historic events and is also on my Flickr photostream. I created it using a Vintage Lego Space Crater Moon Base Plate No. 305.

That's one small step.....

Clear skies

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

This evening when I went out to watch the International Space Station go over, it wasn’t dark yet. The sky looked blue. It didn’t look as if it was cloudly but I couldn’t see any stars so I wasn’t quite sure. Then a few stars started to pop out, so I knew it would be good visibility.

Right on cue over the tree at the end of the road came the ISS with the Space Shuttle Endeavour docked to it. It was coming from the West which is my favourite trajectory because it goes right overhead as I stand in my front garden and travels parallel with the road I live in. It was lovely and bright and as it was clear I could see it for the whole of the pass. It always amazes when I see it to know that it is over 200 miles high.

I’d like to imagine that it looked different and bigger with the Shuttle docked to it, but it really didn’t look any different from usual. It was exciting watching it knowing that, although I may never go to the USA and see the Space Shuttle, it had come to me, right along my road and that there were 13 astronauts gliding above me – a new record set by this mission.

Exactly 40 years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had just enterd the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module) ready for their Moon landing the following day.

Cloudy skies and Endeavour

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

At the moment where I live we are in a phase of visible passes of the International Space Station. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I love to watch the ISS glide gracefully overhead around 240 miles up and that it fascitates me to know that there are people living and working on it.

I went outside earlier this evening when the first of tonight’s visible passes was due but I was disappointed to find that there was thick cloud above me. I knew that I wouldn’t see anything, and I usually go back inside, but tonight I decided to stay outside while it was gliding overhead even though I couldn’t see it. Tonight was special because the Space Shuttle Endeavour is docked to it. I would have loved to have seen them both go over together. When I went back inside I knew that it would only take them just over an hour and a half to travel all the way round the earth and be back again so that I would have a second chance.

This time it was dark, too dark to tell if there were clouds above me, but I couldn’t see any stars which isn’t a good sign. I waited, hoping that there would at least be some gaps in the clouds, and then I saw it. It wasn’t big and bright and right overhead as it had been a couple of nights ago, it was further south and not very clear because of the cloud, but I could see it for at least part of it’s journey overhead. It looked bigger than usual and a different shape, so I thought I could see the Space Shuttle, but it could have just been my imagination!

Endeavour was launched on it’s sixth attempt. It had been held up for over a month by gas leaks and bad thunderstorms storms over the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. Eventually it began it’s journey to the ISS the day before the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on it’s way to the Moon and man’s first Moon landing, using the same launchpad that had been used to launch Apollo 11 on 16 July 1969.

With the addition of the seven astronauts on the shuttle, a new record has been set as it’s the first time that 13 people have been in space together, breaking the previous record of 10. I hope that during the 16 days of the shuttle’s mission, there will be some clear skies for me to have a good view of the ISS and Endeavour docked together.

What a shock

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

I had a meeting with my Senior Managers yesterday. I knew that things were difficult in the current economic climate and I knew that they were looking at what they could do about. They say they have to cut expenses and one of the ways they’re going to do it is to cut my hours in half.

That leaves me in a very difficult position. I love my job and I’m good at it. I’m good with the customers and I’m good at selling and sourcing the right product to stock in the shop, and knowing what’s likely to sell and what isn’t. I have serious doubts that it’s possible to do the job in 15 hours a week, even with the reorganisations that the management want. I don’t want to find that I’m expected to fit a lot more hours worth of work into the shorter hours which would be very, very stressful.

Of course the other problem is that halving my hours will halve my salary to a level that it’s not possible to live on. I’ve already been working part-time hours on a very low hourly rate and I know that what I’m earning at the moment just about pays the bills with enough left over to buy food and petrol. So that leaves me with a dilema. The managers expressed the hope that I would be able to find another part time job to make up the shortfall. Is that realistic in the current conditions? I don’t think so.

Even though my job is very important to me, my priority will have to be earning enough to live on. That means that if I do find a suitable job, it may not fit in with my new hours and so I would have to leave the Bookshop where I’ve worked for the past 15 years. I find that possibility very distressing and upsetting.

So now I have to be proactive and start looking for a job. I may find that a miracle happens and I can find another part time job to complement the Bookshop, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Lift off, we have a lift off

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

“Neil Armstrong’s just reported back it’s been a real smooth countdown, we’ve passed the 60 second mark, power transfer is complete, we’re on internal power with the launch vehicle at this time, 40 seconds away from the Apollo 11 lift off, all the second stage tanks now pressurised, 35 seconds and counting, we are still go with Apollo 11, 30 seconds and counting, astronauts report it feels good, T minus 25 seconds, 20 seconds and counting, T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal, 12, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, all engines running , LIFT OFF, we have a lift off. 32 minutes past the hour. Lift off on Apollo 11″

The world watched and held it’s breath as these words were spoken.  Forty years ago today on 16th July 1969 this countdown sequence accompanied the launch in Florida of the first manned mission to the Moon. Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were making history and heading for the Moon. It would take them 3 days to travel the 250,000 miles at 7,000 miles an hour.

What an amazing achievement it was. With computer technology in it’s infancy compared with what’s available to each one of us today. There is more technology is the small mobile phone that I carry around with me than there was in Apollo 11.

The men who worked on this project, every one of them, were pioneers. Armstrong and Aldrin were the ones to walk on the Moon, but they couldn’t have done it without every man involved in the project. They were working at the cutting edge of technology, inventing things, doing things that had never been done before.

Man’s first journey to another world. Although it was Neil and Buzz who stepped on to the surface of the Moon, the spirit of the whole world went with them. They represented us, mankind, and took our hopes and future with them.

The interesting thing is that although they were exploring another world, one of the most amazing and enduring discoveries of the Apollo missions was that for the first time man was able to see the Earth, blue and beautiful, hanging in space. For the first time we saw photos of what our beautiful world looks like from space and it started to change peoples attitudes. We saw how small our world looked, and realised that we should stop wars and work together and care for and look after our planet.

Thank you to Neil and Buzz and the other 10 men who walked on the Moon on our behalf and changed us here on Earth.

See here for the countdown sequence and launch of Apollo 11 and here for a close up.

This photo of the Moon showing the Sea of Tranquility where Apollo 11 landed was taken by Astronomer B.A. Kinglsey who has kindly allowed me to use it on my blog. See here for his photostream on Flickr and how he created this amazing image.

Local radio

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

When I’m in the kitchen, I listen to a local radio station. I like the mixture of good music and interesting banter. My favourite presenter is on in the morning. He discusses all sorts of subjects and invites listeners to send in their comments to join in the debate. I often think that I have something interesting to add, or I know some information that he’s asking for.

At first I used to phone in, but although they thanked me very politely for my contribution, that was the last I heard of it. So next I tried texting, but again, I never heard my comment on the radio.

Then I discovered that I could send my comments in by email. Success at last! Every time I’ve sent an email, within a few minutes I hear it being read out on air! It’s quite exciting sitting at my kitchen table typing my thoughts, and then a few minutes later hearing them coming out of my radio!

The presenter is very thoughtful and knowledgeable and has stong opinions about what he thinks and believes, but is always very fair about reading out opposing comments. I love the way he reads out contributions – especially when they’re mine! He puts so much emphasis into it that they come over really well.

Today’s subject was cats and had got a bit heated. He was just saying that cat owners should keep their cats in their own gardens and not let them foul and damage other people’s gardens. I so agree with that, which is why I wanted to add my comments. Unfortunately he was being accused of encouraging people to treat cats badly, which he wasn’t doing at all, and he said so very eloquently.

This was my comment that I sent in…..

I like cats and if anyone wants to keep them that’s fine. But please would they keep them out of my garden.
They sit in it and sunbathe as if they own it, which means that I never get any birds coming into it that I can enjoy watching.
And of course the cats always leave those little presents that I don’t want. Why don’t their owners train them to use their own gardens?
A few weeks ago I planted some little bean plants and was looking forward to fresh organic runner beans to eat.
But my little plants didn’t survive. Every night a cat dug up the plot and used it as a toilet. I’m very upset about losing my beans.
The cat’s owner does not have the right to let their pet destroy my garden.
Keep the cat, but keep it at home. Let it destroy the owner’s garden instead of mine.
Although is was the slugs that caused the final demise of the beans, I do wonder that if they hadn’t been so disrupted by the cat, they might have been strong enough and tall enough to survive the onslaught of the slugs.