Monday, 28 December 2015

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

This post is a little late, but my excuse is that I was not well over Christmas and could not drag myself to the computer to do this post.  However, I have recovered enough in time to celebrate New Year and tonight, we are going to see The Force Awakens.  
So hope you all had a god Christmas and have a happy New Year

Friday, 20 November 2015

Half term and an event

In October, which is the UK school’s half term, Grandma (TBH) gets to see her granddaughter. They do not live close, so we spend most of one day going and then most of another day returning home. The distance is not a lot compared to the journeys in other larger countries. What makes travelling around the UK much slower is the amount of traffic. Take all the cars in one American state and fit them into a couple of hundred miles of roadway and you will have a similar situation. Traffic is dense and slow, so what would be considered just under two hours of driving elsewhere becomes six hours minimum over here.

Travelling North on the M6 motorway

Half term extends over Halloween and so we had pumpkins and all the trappings on that evening, with Trick or Treaters arriving at intervals scrounging goodies, whilst The Granddaughter (TG) went out scrounging for her own from other people. I assume there is a net gain somewhere…

Haloween decorations
Whilst we were there we visited Sizergh Castle, which is a stately home, set in some landscaped grounds. Most recently owned by the Strickland family, it was gifted to the National Trust in 1950.

The trees were displaying their autumn shades, and lucky to have good weather, we were able to explore the grounds thoroughly.

It seems that there have been a couple of additions to the family and they were soon at home with their visitors on the occassion of our first meeting with them.

Our journey home was complicated by some fog and we were delayed a little but not seriously, since traffic was fairly light.

As we got closer to home, we cleared the fog, but in half a mile of home it was back once more.  So this short stretch of clear skys was only temporary.

An event
Arriving back home a number of things had cropped up and took our attention. One of those was a Diabetic Workshop we had booked, where we learned all those things one needs to understand to survive type two diabetes. This was held in a local hotel.  We arrived in good time and followed the hand written signs leading us to the worshop registration desk. This had three queues divided alphabetically and we were directed to the middle one, but one of the others emptied first and we were beckoned over. There we were handed our ‘goodie bag’ containing some leaflets, a pen and a note pad and we were then given a personalised name badge. True to modern corporate culture, these were first names only, no titles allowed here. We were then directed to the coffee and tea buffet. Here we helped ourselves to coffee from the awaiting thermos flasks. On our badge was a blue bar which it turned out is the colour of our group. We had been told to go into the first meeting room once we had our coffee which is labelled with the motivational name ‘vision’ We found a pair of empty seats and nursing our coffees we waited for the beginning of the workshop, which was supposed to be at ten o’clock but this came and went and still no start. Although the subject was new to me, the setting was all very familiar. I have lived through many events organised just like this whilst working for several different nationally based organisations.
Some were seminars on team building and other managerial events, but in later years, mostly on how to cope with change or redundancy. Redundancy became a top ten favourite during the 80s and 90s and this venue seemed all too familiar. In fact I have attended business conferences at this very hotel in a previous life. On one wall, dwarfed by the size of the conference room, was a six by six foot screen on which a presentation title was projected. At least it was when we first came in, but a little later I noticed that it only showed the Microsoft Windows logo and no slide show. This turned out to be the reason for the delay. Microsoft one, presenters nil. A more computer savvy colleague was called in and after a short typing session, it becomes one all to the presenters and Microsoft and the slide show began.
The introduction went on at some length and I was able to follow most of it, but the slide show was aimed at people with perfect hearing and tweny-twenty vision. Although, as far as I know, hearing loss is not normally one of the classic symptoms of diabetes, poor vison often is. Many of the slides were illustrated with some kind of representative image which supported the message, but often these images were so large, the text was squeezed down to something I could not read. As a result, I spent so much time squinting at the slides trying to uncover their secrets that I sometimes missed the point being made. Fortunately The Better Half (TBH) had come with me and she was able to fill me in on the bits I had missed. Even she could not hear the questions that were asked by the audience, since they had no microphones for anyone but the presenters. We then had to give responses to questions about our particular experience of diabetic treatment, followed by a session where we had to come up with the fifteen points that the presentation had just gone through. This was done in the tired old method of brainstorming the crowd and writing down responses on a flip chart and then seeing how well we did by making the answers fit the fifteen official answers. This technique is so old, I expect the Mesopotamians did it with clay tablets. Of course we then had to go through the entire fifteen things all over again.
Once this introductory session was over, we were led out of the room by a person carrying a flag, like being on a tour. Our flag carrying person had a blue flag and he took us into another room with the hand written motivational name by the door, ‘Inspiration’. In there we were divided into small teams and given a set of exercise handouts. This was going to be a workshop. However, the start was delayed because they wanted everyone to introduce themselves to the other members of the group, giving when they were first diagnosed and what kind of treatment or care they had received. This took ages and it was pointless. There were well over twenty people in the room, so by the end of this laborious session, I had no recollection of anyone’s name other than the three nearest people. We then had to look at the scenario of ‘our friend’ Margery who was not looking after her diabetes very well and we had to come up with some suggestions for her. I recall doing this kind of thing for Annie the packer and Sally the tea lady, when I was on managerial courses. Poor Annie was always trouble and you had to decide if she should be sacked or not, whilst poor Sally was breaking every health and safety regulation with her tea urn you could imagine. It was exactly the same procedure, but with health risks to your friend if you did not get Margery up to speed on her treatment. We then had lunch and went to the next session in the room encouragingly named ‘Activation’. Overall, it was worth putting up with the tired old fashioned methods and false enthusiasm and I have learned a lot more about living with diabetes, so it did the job. However, mostly because of TBH’s good note taking and the big pile of literature we took away with us. All I have to do now is put it into practice for the rest of my life.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Catchup Blog

I don’t seem to have been blogging very much recently and we have been busy, so here is some of what we have been up to.

Both The Better Half (TBH) and I had been thinking of changing our cars.  Like us, they were getting a bit old and needing more and more TLC to keep them roadworthy.
Cars have been getting better and better mileage and now the difference between diesel and petrol has been eroded significantly enough to consider petrol rather than diesel on cost grounds.  We both had diesel cars and we had been concerned that diesel cars were heading for a political crisis.  This was firstly because the government had encouraged too many people to switch to diesel, which meant that they were now outstripping the supply of fuel produced locally and this means a lot of it is being sourced from abroad.  Secondly it was becoming clear that diesel fuel whilst giving off less CO2 produces more dangerous particles than petrol, creating a health hazard.  So we had both decided that the next time we changed cars, we would get a petrol engine.  Whilst I had no immediate plans to change, I had already decided that it would be in a year or so, but not yet for a while. 
TBH had noticed that the VW garage, where she bought her present car, were holding a special  day and she wanted to go along to see what was on offer.  Like most people, we did not realise that VW had been cheating on their diesel engine tests and so were still more than happy about VW cars, which had a very good reputation (until the news broke).  So we went along to have a look.  Whilst TBH was checking out her choices, I wandered over to look at the new model Golf SV.  I was surprised to find that it ticked all the boxes I had on my mental checklist for a new car and at the insistence of one of the sales reps, took a test drive in a standard Golf model.  I was impressed. 
A few days later, we returned as TBH still had not made up her mind what she wanted.  After much agonising, she had decided to be sensible and not get the Golf R, a souped up version, and would go for economy rather than speed. She is, after all, a reformed girl racer and has calmed down a lot since I first met her.  So we were still looking at Golf models.
The SV I had seen before was still in the showroom and turned out to be a pre-registered model so considerably cheaper than a new one and after some chat I asked if I could test drive it to see how that compared to my present car.  Although a possible sale is a possible sale, they were not too excited by my request, because they had to re-arranged their entire showroom to get it outside.  Soon a host of staff were moving cars around to make an exit for the SV.  The end result was that, although I had tagged along with TBH for her to look at cars, I was the one who bought one.   I was sad to see my old Vauxhall go, but they offered a good part exchange and the SV drives like a dream.  
A few weeks later, another VW Golf (not an SV) was on our front drive alongside mine.  TBH had finally made a decision and bought herself a new car.  Not long after that, the news story broke about VW cheating the emissions tests on their diesel cars.   It seems they did not need to cheat on petrol engine cars, but there have been rumours.  Only time will tell if we have just made a mistake. 
My first question after the news was, what ever happened to honesty and integrity?  Seems to be a rare thing nowadays.

Later that month we once again went to the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) at Fairford.  This year it was based around the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.  This meant that there was a strong presence of Spitfires and Hurricanes, plus one or two other WWII aircraft that were still flying.
and Spitfires, part of the massed flypast.  

They were well spread out, probaly for safety reasons
A modern Typhoon flew with a Spitfire celebrating 75 years of RAF fighter planes
 Amonmgst the flying displays was the Osprey, a strange mixture of conventional aircraft and helicopter.  It is able to swivel its engines for vertical flight, hovering or horizontal flight.

The typhoon gave a display of sheer power.  Ear defenders necessary for this part of the show.

A summer visitor

Early that month we cleared out our garden shed.  It was almost impossible to get inside and when we piled everything on the back lawn, we could not believe that we had gotten all that inside such a small shed. We had over the years acquired more garden tools than was reasonable, from each having had our own set when we married and then clearing out, TBH’s mother's house, my mother in law’s house and my brother in law’s house we ended up with about five sets of spades, forks, trowels, shears and so on.  Much of the rest was just junk we had not bothered to get rid of and hundreds of flower pots. Unfortunately I did not think to get a picture of the contents when they were all over the lawn.  It was quite a sight, but not very pretty as gardens go.
The surplus tools and some of the better flower pots went to a local charity where they allow people to work in individual garden spaces as a form of therapy.  The rest went down the tip.

The next event was a trip to Ipswich to visit my sister and her number one son’s family.  Her son lives on an island in Essex which has a causeway connecting it to the mainland.  At certain times of the year this is covered by the sea and it is not recommended that one tries to drive across when the spring tides have covered it.  Many cars have tried over the years and many cars have had to be towed to a nearby garage when the tide has returned to normal.  Seawater in the air intakes does not do a car’s performance much good.
Because of an impending extra high tide, we could not spend as long as we had intended with my nephew and his family because we had to get back to Ipswich in a reasonable time.

My sister's computer speakers and her spectacle stand form a curious face
One of the days we spent with my sister, we went to Woodbridge, somewhere we have been quite often, but it is always worth a visit.

 My sister's cat helping herself to a drink of water

The river Deben at Woodbridge

Some curious buildings in Woodbridge

My ancient amarylis bloomed once again

The Goddaughter C came on a visit, with K her newest significant other, and we took them out for a meal.  We then went for a stroll in a local park.   We had not met K before and he seems a nice guy.
 The local park

The next weekend was my number one son’s birthday and that following Friday he came for a visit and we all went to the Cotswold Wild Life Park.

 The zoo has managed to breed two white rhinos and the two babies, John, the slightly larger one and Ian the youngest can be seen with their parents.

 These Mara look like rabbits but are deer from Patagonia

 Some beutiful wolves, intently watching the birds in the next compound

 This shy creature is a Pallas Cat and did not appreciate his photo being taken

The following day the number two son and his wife came for a visit and we took them all out to lunch as has become the routine for birthdays.

Around Town

In the local shopping centre, a chalk artist had been at work and produced this remarkable picture.  Seen from one side it looks very odd, but viewed from the right position, it beomes 3D

 The artist is seen being drawn by the Monalisa as he draws her.

 In another part of town, a pair of WWII aircraft mockups were celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Bttle of Britain.

 Our optician, who once practiced in Cheltenham, close to where TBH lived has moved to Straftord upon Avon and TBH, has followed them there, bringing me with her..  As a result, we visit Stratford fairly regularly.  It is not a long trip from our home and makes a pleasent morning or afternoon outing.

Finally, this year has been the year of the roadworks around our way.  I cannot recall ever having seen so many 'diversion' and 'road ahead closed' signs before.  One after another, roads have been closed and traffic diverted all around our area and we are heartily sick of seeing these yellow signs.

The dreaded yellow sign
In some instances, the signs are totally misleading because there were so many closed roads in the area, the diversion signs were in the same road for different routes, and in several cases they pointed in opposite directions, without any  information as to which particular diversion they were for.  Unless your local geography was up to scratch, you could easily find yourself diverted entierly away from where you wanted to go.  It must have been particularly difficult for strangers to the area.  Another annoying feature of these multiple roadworks has been the use of a notice that simply says 'Road Ahead Closed', without saying if it is the road directly ahead or a turning off the road you are trying to use. A simple arrow would be helpful, but no, you have to keep on driving to find out if you need to turn around or can get through.  This situation has repeated itself for miles around and caused more than a little confusion.
So ending on a moan, that is it for now.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A book review - The Martian by Andy Weir

I was unable to put this book down until absolutely necessary for life in the SNAFU household to continue normally.
The basic plot is about a future manned (and womanned) mission to Mars. During the early days of the mission a powerful Martian dust storm builds up to unexpected wind levels and their return vehicle is in danger of being blown over. Soon it becomes necessary to abort their mission, get aboard and take off before their return module gets damaged and strands them all. During the short trip through hurricane force winds to get aboard, one of the crew is knocked down by flying debris, injured and left for dead. Fortunately, but unluckily for him, he is still alive and so starts the long story of how he manages to survive in a hostile environment using all his skills as a technician and a botanist. At first he cannot communicate because the thing that injured him was the communication dish which is their only contact with Earth. Slowly he is able to learn how to survive, make communication and report that he is alive. Soon he becomes a media event and the whole world is watching his fight for survival. Will he be able to stay alive for the next four years until a rescue mission can be sent? A really, really gripping story. However, this book is written for nerds and space junkies. It uses a lot of technical jargon which is fine for the initiated, but may be obscure to many muggles. The book is factual to a degree that I have not experienced in any other work of fiction that was not based on real events. All the science and technology is as accurate as I can ascertain and not only detailed, but essential to the story.

The book reminded me of another one I had read way, way back called No Man Friday by a writer named Rex Gordon. Same plot but different. No Man Friday was first released in 1956 and Mars was a very different place then, we knew much less about it in 1956, but much of the story line is familiar.

This time it is a British manned expedition to Mars and again only one survivor. In this book the rest of the crew die before they land due to an airlock failure whilst our hero is EVA (outside the ship). The sole survivor crash lands on Mars, not being a pilot, and then has to figure out how to survive. Like the Andy Weir’s Mark Watney, Rex Gordan’s Gordon Holder, (yes same name as the author) creates his own air plant and water recycling equipment. However, unlike the 2015 hero, our 1956 hero is on a Mars with plant life and so is able to cultivate that. The first part is almost the same as both protagonists, using their technical skills, devise sources of oxygen and water. This is where the two books diverge, because the 1956 Mars is populated by Martians who eventually help Rex Gordon’s hero stay alive for fifteen years until an American mission is able to find him and take him home. There are no native Martians on Andy Weir’s Mars, not even bacteria. The book, The Martian has been made into a movie and I have not as yet seen this and await in anticipation to see how well the director has turned it into a visual experience or, like so often happens, mangled the plot and changed the characters around to suit their own interpretation of what could have been a great movie. Ok so I am a cynic, but it happens over and over; my fault for reading so many books.
Mind you, having said all that, the trailer looks hopeful.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Windows 10

Ok so it is free and what is the old saying, “beware strangers bearing gifts”?

First up, whilst downloading (for several days) if you click on the ‘display download progress’ button the current window goes away and no progress bar or anything appears in its place. This may be a forewarning of what is to come.
Finally after more than a week on one PC, it says it is ready to install and then goes off for a further day and a bit to download?? Hadn’t it just done that?
The system finally restarts, but my antivirus software has gone away? No explanation, just gone.
OK so maybe it cannot work on Windows 10, but a warning would have been appreciated.

It has installed Windows Defender, but Windows Defender comes very low on the charts produced by people who know about good protection, so I want my good security software back please.
It next demands that I log using my “Microsoft Account” if I have one, or create a new one if I don’t. As it happens, I had to go through this imposition with Windows 8, so I do have an account and I am not happy that the password is used across the Internet.
It also demands that I log on to use the cloud.
I do not do cloud if I can avoid it. I like to know where my backups are.

I know something about IT security, having worked for a very paranoid organisation responsible for the defence of the realm, and the cloud is not what you may think. It is called the cloud because no one knows what is in it. It is what we used to call a wide area network storage facility. Who owns it? No one knows. Who runs it? No one knows. It is made up of lots of PCs in data warehouses which can be anywhere in the world and owned by anyone who sets up in business and, on the day, complies with the security standards. Where are these computers with all my private data on them? No one knows. So what happens when the company who owns the PCs goes bust, or a regime change occurs, or corrupt staff sells my data on, or a big explosion like the recent one in Beijing happens nearby, or a solar flare knocks out the Internet? That last one may seem a bit Science Fictony, but in 1859, a solar flare, known as a Carrington event, took out the early telegraph services over most of the northern hemisphere and they were using big thick copper cables with no delicate electronics. So that one is still waiting to happen again, only in spades with our present, much more widespread, and terribly fragile technology.
Anyway, off my soap box…

Using Windows 10 is a cross between Windows 8 and Windows 7 so it is a bit less difficult to find the things you need to use and, importantly, to close programs (apps for younger people) than Win 8 was.

The final insult is that on one of my PCs, it has installed a 32 bit version on a 64 bit processor! Is that because it is free? What cheapskates! As a result of this, although I have 8Gb of RAM it can only access 4Gb.
I think I will install a dual boot with Windows 7 or maybe Linux, ore more likely both so that I have a choice when Windows 10 does what all previous versions of Windows have done so far, which is slow down to a crawl after a few months of use and the hackers find all the unsecured aspects of the new system, not found by Microsoft’s software testers.

So all in all am not over excited by Windows 10 but will probably end up using it most of the time simply because it is there.

Monday, 20 July 2015

The Cosmosphere and home again

On arriving back at the family’s home, we spent a few days doing the washing and a little shopping whilst The Son (TS) went back to work.  On occasions, I present short talks to my University of the Third Age (U3A) science group on astronomical subjects and I had been researching a talk about the early days of space research, which I had mentioned to the family. The following weekend TS had planned to take a long weekend and suggested a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Centre, which is in Hutchinson not far from Wichita.  Liking the Cosmosphere themselves, they decided it was a must whilst we were visiting them and so it was arranged for us all to go. Hutchinson is about three hours from where the family live and so would take out six hours from a day just for driving there and back, so it was decided that we would book into a hotel. This meant that TS could drive us there after work on Friday, spend most of Saturday at the museum and return the same day. On Friday we got ready and when TS arrived home we set off. On the way we stopped to pick up some sandwiches for our evening meal to eat on route and I bought these rather unusually coloured chips (crisps in English English). They were quite good.

As the sun started to get low in the sky, we saw one of these ice rainbows start to form where a rainbow can actually form a circle around the sun or at night, the moon.

We arrived at our hotel around twilight and checked in and the following morning set off to the Cosmosphere.  By co-incidence both TS and I had decided to wear our Red Arrows tee shirts that day and since we were sharing the hotel with at least two junior baseball teams, here for some baseball heats, we kept getting strange looks from the team coaches who were obviously trying to figure out which baseball team the Red Arrows were and why we were there.

The Cosmosphere originated in 1962, but has since expanded and moved to its current location on the Hutchinson Community College campus grounds.  It is both a muesum and education centre with various educational facilities within the building.  As you arrive, on each side of the building is an Atlas rocket.

Right by the entrance you are greeted with a statue of the last man on the moon, Eugene Cernan. The Apollo 17 mission included Ronald Evans, who is from Kansas and who studied at Kansas University the same university where TS got his degree and met The Daughter In Law (TDIL).

The last man on the Moon

Inside one of the first things that greets you is a full size replica of the Space Shuttle Endeavour which is a great deal larger than they looked when you saw the real ones in service. 

The real Endeavour is in a museum in California and it caused quite show when it wa taken there via public roads.

Further inside we saw a lot of space hardware, some of which is unique to the museum. The route through the exhibits takes you through the history of space flight, starting with the German V1 and V2 which, whilst they were never intended to get into space, were the first steps which led to the present day ability to launch satellites into orbit and send space probes to other planets. In the section about the German attacks by their Vengeance weapons, the V1 and the V2 there is a map of England showing where both types of weapon landed and I was surprised to find marked on the map, Barnet, the town where I was born. Some of the hits shown on the map must have been after I was born and would have been heard by my parents and myself, although I was much too young to remember. I do recall the air raid sirens and the sound of distant bombs, but not clearly. My sister who is four years older than me recalls the sound of V1s and the panic that ensued when the engines stopped. That was when they would fall to the ground and explode and the fear they created was not because they were bombs, but because no one could predict where exactly they would land and if you could hear them arrive, it would be close.

Barnet is just up a bit and to the left of London

The displays then moved on to the Cold War era and the start of the space race between the USA and the Soviet Union. The museum has a lot of Soviet hardware and a lot of the original Gemini and Apollo mission equipment on display.

This is a replica of the tiny Endeavour satellite. The third artificial satellite to be put into Earth orbit and was the first to be solar powered. Launched in 1958, remarkably it is still in orbit when a lot of more recent satellites and space stations have come down. It was supposed to be the first American satellite, in answer to the Soviet’s Sputnik, but the original launch by the US Navy failed and they had to hastily launch the Army’s Explorer satellite instead. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier at the time, scornfully called it a grapefruit and it is not a lot larger than that kind of fruit.
Whilst there we booked to see the show in the Planetarium and also to visit Dr Goddard's lab.  The planetarium was not the best show since the section on Pluto was a childs cartoon and showing a 2D movie on a dome did not work too well.   Dr Goddard was run by the same man who had ushered us to our seats in the planetarium and introduced the show.  In the lab he came into his own and did a pretty good job of teaching about rocket propulsion with demonstrations of rockets, complete with carefully controlled explosions, all supported by a slide show.

Once we had seen everything, we exited via the gift shop and I bought myself a souvenir baseball cap.

On the way home we went cross country instead of the faster interstate route.

Up ahead is a 'sunny interval' as the weather people would say

 A rare sight in the USA, but becoming more common now, a roundabout.
We went towards Topeka via Emporia and on the city outskirts saw this rather unusual welcome sign.

Shortly after we left Mitchell we came across this sylvan scene which was fairly typical of a herd of cows.

 All across South Dakota we had seen a number of herds of different kinds of cows spread out over a wide area like this but as we went further along the road to Topeka, we saw a lot of herds bunched together for no apparent reason.
For several miles each new herd we passed was clustered in groups and not scattered across the meadows as we had seen earlier and it puzzled me as to why they should behave like this.

Eventually we arrived home and on our next shopping trip, I bought myself a Kansas souvenir baseball cap, just to round off my collection.

Back home we went to the cinema to see the latest Pixar movie, Inside Out.  It was preceded by one of the most awful short cartoons I have ever had the misfortune to pay for.  It was about a lonely volcano wanting to meet a lady volcano and kept singing a dreary song which added to the torture.  As I said afterwards, a volcano is not exactly a romantic thing, they are dangerous, destructive and effectively a zit on the surface of the world.  No one in their right mind would attempt to anthromorphise and romanticise a zit, so why a volcano?  The main feature was quite good, but not as good as other movies released lately.  We had also been to see Jurassic World, which was more entertaining, despite being death on a large scale and terror all round for the participants of the theme park.  I am glad none of the wild life parks I have visited have such a bad safety record.  After all, this was the fourth attempt to introduce the public to dinosaurs and each time it was a disaster.  Still, it made box office records and earned the company who made it oodles of cash, by pretending to kill and maim lots of people.  At least they don't do it like the Roman Games, with real people and real animals, we have advanced just a litle bit since then.

For the next few days we tried various combinations of packing in order to get everything into our suitcases for the journey home. Someone had bought far too many books, tee shirts and baseball caps to get them to fit easily into our cases without deforming the peaks on the caps. We managed in the end.

On the day we were to catch our connecting flight to Chicago we were driven to Kansas City airport by TS and we arrived in good time to check into our flight and we soon had checked in the four largest suitcases. We then went through security, emptied our pockets, took off our shoes and took our laptops out of our hand baggage.  Once this was done and we were scanned and passed through as no security risk, looking at the departure board, we discovered that our flight had been cancelled. The next flight was now going to be seven hours later! This meant we would not catch our booked transatlantic flight.
Fortunately the family had waited to wave a final goodbye, so we left the secure area again and re booked our transatlantic flight and then sat around for a while until lunch time. For lunch we all went to a restaurant and ate a gloomy meal. We returned and waited for a while but the family had commitments for that afternoon and so we said a second farewell and went back through security once more to be scanned etc and wait on the flight side of the departures lounge and waited for our new flight, hoping they would not cancel that one. Finally our plane arriveed and we left Kansas and two hours later arrived at Chicago with just enough time to make the connection. When we had re-booked the transatlantic flight, the desk staff had told us that we were being upgraded, but instead we found ourselves a few seats away from the seats that we had originally booked which were unoccupied!  Before we had time to talk to the flight steward a single passenger was shown to these seats, who expressed surprise that was where she was to sit. Meanwhile we wondered about the standard of staff working for this airline. There were several unoccupied seats within the section we were in so it would not have been hard for them to have arranged for us to sit where we had booked and incidentally paid an extra fee for the privilege. We are still negotiating. Once back home, we were confronted with a wild flower meadow instead of a back lawn and after recovering from the inevitable jet lag, I went out and mowed the meadow until it looked like a lawn once more.

Now all I have to do is find space in my wardrobe for a number of baseball caps that seem to have arrived back home with us.

 It is amazing what how many caps I have managed to accrue over the years.  Only three of these do not come from the USA. The Red Arrows, Virgin Balloon Flights and Cawdor Castle are British, whilst apart from the Canadian CN tower cap near the front, the rest I have gathered over the years touring or on business trips to the USA.  The sun hat at the front is brand new, like the sun hat I lost in the grand Canyon, I managed to lose another one this year by leaving it behind in a rental car right at the end of the holiday and have been able to find another to replace it.
That is all for now, no planned next blog.