Make Poverty History

Friday, September 01, 2017

How green is my 'Leaf'?

Following my partial retirement, I'm down to three days a week except when I have to cover for holidays.  The way fares have changed in the last few years means that I am paying the same for the bus as I was before.  The journeys are getting worse - longer and less comfortable. The buses more crowded, and the delays this summer have been at the top end of the delays I have ever experienced.  My average time to home as increased to above an hour. So I'm looking for a car.
I'd like one that is at least as environmentally friendly as a bus.  Our buses use bio-diesel, and diesel is not nearly as bad a polluter in large engines as it is in small ones. So, I'm looking for a hybrid (preferably a plug in), or an all electric. So where to go?
We looked at a Hyundai first a very nice car, but the Ioniq has really poor rear visibility.  We also looked at the i10, a very nice small car, although there are no hybrid options, it may turn out the patrol is the way to go.
Other cars we have looked at:
Mini - too claustrophobic for Jo
Micra - too claustrophobic for me (looks too big, feels too small - that's the wrong way round!)
While looking at the Micra we spotted the Leaf, and were offered an extended test drive.  They gave us the car for 4 days.  It's a lovely car to drive, very stable, very smooth, very predictable and above all very very quiet.  It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of other similar cars, that's not really an issue for me.  The price is though, and it is relatively expensive - even with the government 'donation'.  The range between charges is about 130 miles, less than half of the equivalent petrol car.  Not an issue for the commute.  It charged up by being plugged in for about 2 hours on the last day, when the usage was reasonably close to the way I expect to use it.
My question though, is just how 'green' is it.  How much pollution (or at least CO2, there are lots of other pollutants to worry about) is generated by its construction.  Obviously there is next to none after that, and what there is can largely be controlled by choosing a green Electricity tariff.  It cannot be worse than petrol.
Where do I find these answers?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Brody's Recovery

Four weeks of hydrotherapy are starting to have an effect.  On the days he goes, he is definitely more active.  He is also keen to get there and now understands where we are going.  So much so that he jumped into the car this morning - thats the first time since the operation.  He has tried jumping out before and has landed in an ungainly fashion and probably hurt himself.  Today's session was significant because I noticed that his rear feet are almost in line with his front feet when he walks, in the past his rear feet have always made a track that is well inside the track of his front feet.  The video shows just how smooth the right leg has now become - of course there is still a long way to go before he has sufficient muscle, but progress is being made.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Brody's Recovery

Today was the first day of Hydrotherapy, and also the first day of his new drug / supplement regime.  As we expected Brody thoroughly enjoyed himself in the hydrotherapy tredmill.  We were warned that he would probably be tired, but as usual the swim woke him up, and he was walking about all afternoon and trying to get me to play ball.  It wasn't until the last 'walk' of the day that we found out just how hard it had been for him.  His leg is distinctly wobbly, so I brought him back before he had a chance to wander anywhere.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Staycation - Gardens and Cars

After dropping Brody off at the vets we drove to Colchester to visit the Beth Chatto gardens. 
The main garden is the water garden, where there are not only plants, but all sorts of wild life.  Above is undoubtedly my best picture of the day.  The gardens are well kept, we saw a small army of ladies working hard on one of the beds, and pleasing to the eye.  It is also very peaceful before most of the visitors arrive.  Unfortunately it is also quite small for a garden, and I can't help but feel they could make better use of the space and open more of it.  The Beth Chatto gardens is really a large garden centre with the gardens attached, like a lot of large garden centres it has a huge cafe, so we had a cup of tea and planned where we would go for lunch.  If the gardens had been bigger we would have lunched there.
We decided to visit the Wooden Fender, just a few miles away down a twisty Essex country road.  We sat in the garden and had a lovely meal - the food and the service was excellent.  Then we drove back towards Billericay, not knowing quite when we should pick up Brody.  We stopped at the Mini car sales place in Chelmsford, to look at a convertible mini - 4 seats, but only 4 people if the passengers in the rear seats don't have legs below the knees!  Still, it looks like a very nice car and would suite us and Brody, but we would have to find a way of strapping him in.
Back in billericay we visited the Ford garage to look at bigger cars - S-max etc.  Then there was an hour or so to wait to retrieve the retriever.
The poor dog is not at all comfortable after his knee clean, even this morning he is clearly in a lot of pain.  We have to go back to the vet tomorrow to see how he is doing, and are hopig to start hydrotherapy later this week.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Staycation - Despicable Me

Due to various planning difficulties, and Brody having his treatments, the second week of my holiday will be at home this year.

So starting with Saturday.  Liz had arranged a visit with Leo to see "Despicable Me 3" at the cinema.

I had won 4 tickets to the Odeon in the raffle at the Carousel concert at St Mary's recently, so we had to go to either Chelmsford or Southend.  Chelmsford is closer, and I don't like the Odeon in Southend, so it was an easy choice.  Not realising we could have book we arrived at the cinema in time to get the last 4 seats together (2 in row A, 2 in Row B).  Things were going our way as I had driven straight into an available space in the car park on the ground floor near the entrance.

We were soon settled in the theatre, enforced toilet breaks taken.  It was FULL.  The noise was horrific.  Next to me two young girls were 'nesting' - they had a blanket, had removed their shoes and were huddled together like birds on a cliff edge in a storm - except they also had mobile phones.

The film started, and the volume it was played at mainly drowned out the noise, only during quieter parts could you here the inane chatter.  Next to me two skype sessions were in full swing, they weren't interested in the screen it seemed, they couldn't see it from under the blanket for part of the time.  Meanwhile Leo sat in his seat eating his sweets and was properly engrossed in the film.  Surely that's what you go to the cinema for.

Ah, yes, the film. It is popular today to talk about fictional universes - so here goes.  The Desipcable Me universe containing Gru,  Dr Nefario (who is still a man (#DrWho), but not in this film), Lucy,  the three girls and the Minions is not as consistant as it should be.  As the minions are looking for the 'most evil  boss' surely they should switch from Gru to Dru (the twin brother) but they don't.  Nevertheless the story is good enough, and the jokes are reasonable and the animation is very good.  There are also some nice asides and cross references for the adults.  Dr Nefario in Carbonite - for example.  So - enjoyable, if not brilliant.

Brody's Recovery

Today we dropped Brody at the vet to have his knees cleaned out.  The process is completed by flushing out the joint using hyperdermics to introduce and remove saline.  The platelets that have been separated from his own blood are injected to hopefully help with some healing of the knees.  The left is not too bad.  The right was very bad.  He is not a happy dog tonight, he does not know whether to stand, sit or lie down, and found it difficult to settle for the first 3 hours after arriving home.  We have also confirmed that the vet has the 'paper work' for the hydrotherapy, and we are hoping that they will respond quickly, so we can get that started this week. His next appointment is on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Brody's Recovery

At the vets yesterday Brody was given the all-clear, so hydrotherapy can start - hopefully mid-week.  The vet asked if he could do the procedure to improve his knees, so we have booked him in for that early next week.
Brody is becoming very active, which is a good thing, but apparently the 20 minute walks are a bit too long for the vets liking, and quite a bit too short for Brody.  The picture was taken by a friend, it captures his intense stare when he's expecting a treat really well.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Brody's Recovery

At the first checkup at the vet's today Brody had his 'bandage' removed.  The vet was pleased with his progress.  He is already starting to put a little weight on the leg and when we walk slowly on grass it almost looks as though he is walking normally.
This morning he wanted to go for a walk so I took him towards Sun Corner.  We got up to the back of the church car park and he decided he had had enough.  We have been advised to restrict his exercise, I believe that will be increasingly difficult.  The drugs routine continues - he is almost used to it, I wonder how he will react when the various courses are finished?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Brody's Recovery

On Monday 3 July 2017 Brody went to the vets to have an operation to remove the Femoral head from his right leg.  The operation was successful.  We picked him up in the early evening, along with drugs - anti-biotics, anti-inflamatory and pain killers. 
He was allowed a little food, which is always a great motivatior for a labrador.  Above he is eating the the first part of his meal and holding his leg in the air.  He was initially quite unhappy, mainly concerned about where his fur had gone, I think.  He would look at his skin, give it a couple of licks then bury his head and give a little whine.  He did not try to lick the white patch at all - as though he knew he shouldn't.  When he tried to sit on his right side he would jump up and walk about for a bit and then give me a very hard long stare.
Administering the tablets is easy, although I do wish they would give me tablets that don't have to be cut up - 1½ of this one and ¾ of that one.  The main motivator is cheese, anything hidden in cheese is eaten with enthusiasm.  The liquid was another challenge.  I decided to give him 3/4 of his lunch, then squirt the liquid in his mouth and quickly follow it with the final quarter of lunch. In the first two days this has worked reasonably well, but he does not like the taste of the liquid.  We also have a cold pack which is supposse to be put on his wound for 15 minutes 4 times a day.  Keeping him still for 15 minutes is a challenge!
On Tuesday his recovery was going well, we know this because he sneaked into the kitchen and stole a carrot (that's a normal Brody trick).  Later that evning he heard a sound in the garden and jumped off the sofa and clearly hurt himself as he stopped very abruptly and took a few seconds before he moved again, then limped very badly.  When the sun goes down this evening I will try a very short walk out the front, only becaause he keeps asking.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Bucklers Hard - Day 5: Breaking up is hard to do

Now we are used to having Brody in the bedroom, we got a reasonably good night's sleep.  Today though I was the one up early, and walking him round the overflow car park in the light drizzle.  What an unusual Saturday morning it turned out to be. We breakfasted in our private room again and enjoyed a very big breakfast.  Both of us opting for even more than usual.  By the time the breakfast rooms were open I had already packed half the car, so after breakfast there was not much left to pack.  We had soon checked out of the lovely hotel and were on our way in the wrong direction, towards Burley to visit a fudge shop. 
Burley is a tiny village and has lots of strange shops, some selling witchcraft paraphernalia.  We found the fudge shop eventually, and outside was a lady offering free samples.  It turned out she was originally from Laindon.

Driving around the new forest this Saturday was more challenging than usual as there was at least one, probably more, cycling events.  I am a walker, a cyclist and a driver and believe we can all share the road, but each has their responsibilities, for cyclists today the responsibilities that were lacking are:
  1. Stick to your own side of the carridgeway: driving down a narrow lane and being faced with four cyclists coming towards you (two on each side of the road) is a bit frightening, where was I supposed to go?  They missed me, I'd stopped.
  2. If you have a child with you do not cycle off into the distance and leave him to cope.  It is grossly unfair and if he makes a mistake you are not there to help.
  3. Riding two or three abreast is now, I believe, recommended, but it is not a good idea to start overtaking each other while cars are trying to pass you.  The 'shape shifting' serpent that this presents to the driver is very difficult to assess and react to, and I can't possibly give adequate space when you pull out a fraction of a second after I start my manouver
  4. Learn how to look behind you without wobbling the bike and changing direction.
 There were lots of cyclists, most of them rode respectfully and sensibly, just the ones above made driving unnecessarily fraught, and will have left some other drivers cursing them and demanding they be licensed.

Then we moved on a little and pulled off the road to take a walk in the New Forest.

We had walked for about 20 minutes when Brody found a bog and jumped in.  He sank in the mud, as he lifted one paw, the rest of him was sucked down a little.  He finally found a footing and hauled himslef out, our chocolate labrador now blacker than a black labrador from his feet up to halfway up his rib cage.  Oh the smell - we kept away from him as shook and shook himself, but the mud stayed stuck. We allowed him back in the car - what could we do?  - and started our journey home.  At fleet services we asked Google for a pub nearby for lunch.  In the list was the Fox and Hounds.  Any pub is likely to be better than a Motorway services, and this one turned out to be well worth the slight diversion.  Plus we had a fly by from the Red Arrows as we were sitting by the canal waiting for our food.  A really good meal, in great surroundings.  I did wonder about getting Brody to swim in the canal - to wash the mud off, but he was almost dry now, and I didn't want the smell to come back.
Then it was back on the Motorway and following google maps advice we went north rather than south around the M25.  A slow journey for a lot of the time.
Eventually, we arrived home, and bathed Brody ready for his operation on Monday.
A lovely holiday, the New Forest is great and Bucklers Hard is very special.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Bucklers Hard - Day 3: Rock and a Hard Stone

We woke, after a couple of disturbances from Brody, to a dry morning. Breakfast was in a shared room as other dogs have joined us in the hotel, when we got there that table was laid for three, so another was laid for us. I ordered the kipper, when it arrived it had been skinned - don't think I've
ever seen that before, also the backbone had been removed - a very good kipper.
After breakfast we walked Brody through the woods on the path to Beaulieu, round and back along the gravel path. He doesn't like walking on gravel, but he still follows me even when there is grass to walk on.
A little over an hour later we were queueing with a load of school children for the river boat cruise.  Fortunately, they all sat outside, so we could sit inside. First we saw the docks where they built Nelson's favourite ship - the Agamemnon.  When ships were built at Bucklers Hard they were first moved a little down stream to an area known as Fiddlers Reach.  The ships were left here for plimming - allowing the wood to swell and close up the joints between the timbers.  At the end of this time a party was held to celebrate a new ship.  The music was provided by fiddlers - hence the name.
During war time the forerunner of the spitfire, and a missile, on which the cruise missile is modeled were both built in the yards on the banks of the Beaulieu River.  Now it is very peaceful and quite, and mostly a nature reserve.
For lunch we visited Beaulieu village, and found "Steff's Kitchen".  Very nice sandwiches, but a few uninvited guests that have to be tolerated.
One, as you can see, is helping himself from another customers plate!
The cafe is attached to a garden centre so we got a few ideas for the garden, and then took a short walk through some barley fields.
We then moved on to Exbury Gardens, arriving too late for the train, but it was still good to wander around. The azaleas and rhododendrons would be amazing in may, but there are still a few left.
There are also some amazing hydrangers, lots of little formal gardens, and some stunning views of the river.
We can't leave Beaulieu without mentioning cars, so here's my next car:
... well maybe for a day - one day!  I'll have to be careful because there are still cows on the road

So to Lyndhurst for tea, and some award winning fish and chips from Bertties, now back at the hotel watching supervet.

Bucklers Hard - Day 4: Hard Sell

Friday started with an abrupt wake-up call from Brody. He got up, turned around and sounded like he fell over. There were voices outside apparently, which must have disturbed him, but I didn't hear them.  Later we were back in the private dining room for breakfast where we spoke to our Aussie- waiter-on-a-gap-year for so long he was called back to work by his boss! 
After a brief walk - the woodland walk is mis-advertised, it is barely long enough for more than a few strides, so after that we headed for Hatchet pond which we were told was 'just down the road'.  After a while I checked google maps, it is 2.7 miles away. It seems that when the shipbuilding stopped, so did the local's ability to measure.
Back at the hotel, we split up. Jo went to the garden to cross-stitch and dog sit, and I went to the Maritime Museum.  I was there for a little over 1 hour 30 minutes and had only followed the history to just after the end of WWII.  Defense spending in the 1700's was brutal.  The navy commissioned ships and put them out to tender.  There were bonuses for building quicker than agreed, and penalties for building later.  All the timber had to be cut and seasoned for two years, so don't even bid if you don't have the wood.  That, of course, has to be bought before it is cut down.  The story of Bucklers Hard is a story of multiple bankruptcies.  Except for Henry Adams, so he is the local hero.  I learned the origin of the phrase 'money for old rope'.  Old rope is untwisted and re-twisted into a soft string, like course wool.  It is then pushed inbetween the timbers of the ships hull and covered in pitch.  The hull is therefore waterproofed.  Clever sailors collected (for free) rope that was being replaced on other ships, then SOLD it to the ship builders.  Hence 'money for old rope' = money for nothing.
We went to the Captains Cabin the Bucklers Hard restuarant for lunch and had the 'traditional' (almost) for us - soup and jacket potatoe.  Slightly expensive, but quite good.
Very full, we headed for Lymington.  There we walked along the high street and down to the quay.  Now is my chance to get a picture of a black headed gull.  btw their head is a dark grey/brown colour, but looks black in flight. Mostly, by the time I get the camera zoomed and focussed the bird has flown, this one was watching something else.
We also had ice cream, which transformed Brody's attitude from bored and scanning the pavement for food, to actively watching one or other of us.  So much so that he was walking into things on the street, and generally entertaining the public.  He did eventually get the last of the cone from each of us.  Then is was back to bored.
St Thomas' is an unusual church, both in its shape and because they have all the major building developments and their sponsors listed on plaques around the base of the balcony.
We moved on to Milford-on-sea.  This is an exageration, the sea is half a mile from the village.  Presumably they have been expecting coastal erosion for centurys.  We walked round the traingular village centre, and Jo went into the Co-op. Next door is a charity shop, I was browsing when a lady came out.  The conversation went something (just a little) like this:
"Can we help you?"
"No, thanks, just browsing.  My wife is in the Co-op, I can't take the dog in there"
"You can take the dog in here, come and have a look around"
"No, thanks Auntie Wainwright, I just wait here"
After a walk out along Hursts Spit (we didn't get far, it's too stoney) we returned to the village for dinner at the Smugglers Inn.  If you've arrived here via Facebook, here's a Friday Food picture for you.
Hunter Chicken was on the specials board, it tasted much better than it looked.  Nicely filled we returned to the hotel, where Brody was more than ready for the marrow bone a kind cleaning lady had given him this morning.