Still Not Reading

I have mentioned before about how I seem to be unable to concentrate on books since the start of the pandemic. Last night, I went to bed earlier than usual, intending to try to continue with Cindy Bruchman’s second book in a series. The third one might be published this year, and I am only halfway through that second one.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48559025-inside-the-gold-plated-pistol

This is no reflection on the story or the writing, both of which are compelling. I read the first half of the book in two sittings.

Then there was a pandemic, followed by lockdowns. And despite all the vaccinations, it continues.

At first, I thought this was a golden opportunity to read more. To really get into the TBR list of books downloaded on my Kindle Fire, and perhaps open some real books too. But it was not to be.

Within days, I could no longer concentrate on books. I would lie in bed at night re-reading the same pages, or flicking back to a previous chapter to remind myself of why a character was in a certain situation. A year earlier, i had read over twenty books, good going for me.

Then it all stopped.

It wasn’t as if I was unduly affected by news of the pandemic at first. I wasn’t worrying about it to the extent of noticeably affecting my mood, or my sleep. I was still reading lots of blog posts every day, and writing more than ever. But when I tried to settle down in some peace and quiet to read, it didn’t happen.

It will soon be two years since I have finished a book, and that upsets me. Not only do I like to read and review books published by friends in the blogging community, I have many more that I was still routinely buying. That has also had to stop, as there is no room left on the bookshelves, and too many downloaded onto my Kindle Fire.

All I can do is to hope that this strange spell will break soon, and I will be a happy and contented reader once more.

It feels like a curse waiting to be lifted.

Ollie’s Ears (Again)

Just before we went on holiday in September, Ollie had a bad infection in his left ear. I took him to the Vet, and they tried a new gel treatment, administered directly into his ear. It worked so well, he was on the mend within 24 hours, and by the time of the second dose a week later, completely cured.

That was only a month ago, but Ollie started to shake his head again last Wednesday. By Thursday, he was hanging his head to the right, and that ear felt hot. Out on his walk, he started to rub the right ear against anything he could find, followed by frantic shaking of his whole head.

So I arranged to get him to the Vet last Friday, and another dose of the gel was given, into the right ear this time. That evening, he calmed down considerably, and by Saturday afternoon, he was even quite playful.

Next Thursday, I have to take him back for the second dose, as it can only be given by a qualified Vet. This is nothing short of miraculous though, as previous treatment involved 10 days of antibiotic and steroid tablets, which became increasingly difficult to get him to take.

If you have a dog that is prone to ear infections, ask your Vet about this product.
https://www.dechra.co.uk/search/search?q=Osurnia
(I gain nothing from this recommendation, just so you know.)

Autumn 1 Pete 0

It is only the second of October. At this time of year, I am usually still wearing shorts, have the windows wide open, and wouldn’t dream of putting on the central heating.

But this October has begun more like winter than autumn, and I woke up feeling cold this morning.

After wrapping up well, I still didn’t feel right, and sitting at the PC earlier today I could feel the cold creeping into me.

At 11 am, I surrendered to the inevitable, and put the heating thermostat up to 20 C.

If it carries on like this, it is going to feel like a long winter indeed.

Thinking Aloud On A Sunday

Selfishness.

Following the media hype about non-existent fuel shortages, the last few days have shown us the worst side of human nature that exists in this country. A blatant display of selfishness and disregard for others that always makes me ashamed to be English.

There have been confrontations in queues at petrol stations, and examples of flock mentality that makes me question the intelligence of English people in general. Hard to work out when this happened, but it is a long way from the pulling together and genuine community spirit that got this country through WW2.

Not content with filling up the tank of their car, many drivers rushed to also fill containers with extra fuel.

There were also people on Ebay trying to sell full containers at inflated prices. Shame on them.

This idiot was photographed filling unsuitable plastic water bottles with fuel, turning his car into a potential bomb.

I woke up this morning thinking about people like those pictured. People who don’t care about essential workers needing fuel to get into work to serve the community. People who feel satisfied when they have bought as much petrol as they can cram into any available container, then presumably drive home with a smug smile, hoping to boast about their exploits to family and friends.

They are not me. I am not one of them. They disgust me.

Vitamin B: An Update

In June, I wrote this post about taking Vitamin B tablets to ward off biting insects.

Vitamin B, and Biting Insects

Three months later, and close to the end of ‘the biting season’, I have a very positive update.

Since publishing that post, I have had just FOUR insect bites, including the one mentioned in June. Compare this to the regular 3-4 bites I used to get almost every day, even when I was wearing some heavy-duty insect repellent.

Regular readers will know that I walk my dog Ollie every day without fail. Those walks include a long riverside path, as well as woodland areas in the shade. Both of those locations are favoured by the usual midges and mosquitoes that have always craved my blood.

Even though I have still been able to see and hear those insects over the past three months, I have been unaware of any bites whatsoever, while out in the countryside. In fact, I am sure the four bites I did receive were done at night in the bedroom, when I was asleep.

Whatever bit me must have been desperate, and ready to overcome the effect that Vitamin B has on my skin.

My conclusion is that the experiment has been a SUCCESS, and I will continue to keep taking my daily tablet of Vitamin B. Especially as a year’s supply only cost me £7.99.

Irresponsible Media

Recently, one of the large supermarket chains had difficulties getting supplies of petrol and diesel delivered to a couple of its locations. It was announced to customers that this was caused by a shortage of lorry drivers, because many European drivers had left the country after Brexit.

The next morning, the tabloid newspapers were splashing stories all over their front pages that petrol stations were going to run out of fuel very soon.

Of course, the TV and radio news latched onto this ‘breaking story’, even though it didn’t actually exist. With the result that panic-buying of fuel started, and continued into this morning. Every fifteen minutes on the rolling TV news channels, a sombre reporter showed images of huge queues outside some petrol stations, and that has resulted in a scramble to buy fuel, bordering on mass hysteria.

So now some petrol stations have actually run out, after selling as much fuel in 24 hours as they might have done in a month. So the real story that didn’t previously amount to much was blown out of all proportion, becoming a reality in the process.

Yes, stupid sheep-brained panic buyers have some responsibility for this chaos.

But the irresponsible media are the real culprits, and should be ashamed.

More Camera Stuff

This is about a camera, and technical photography stuff. If you have no interest in that, please skip the post with my blessing.

A few years ago, Panasonic released a new compact camera, the Lumix LX100.

I was immediately attracted to it, as it had a Leica zoom lens with a range of 24mm-75mm (equivalent), and impressively fast maximum apertures of f/1.7 to f/2.8. In a portable body that will fit in a coat pocket, this seemed to me to be a one-camera/one-lens option that had a great deal going for it.

There was also that rather ‘Retro’ look of it, something like an old rangefinder camera. Add to this the inclusion of a Micro-Four-Thirds (MFT) sensor, which at 17mm X 13mm is almost twice the size of the 1-inch sensor in my Sony RX10, and my excitement was growing the more I read about it.

Unfortunately, quality comes at a price. And at the time of launch that price was £700. Too rich for my blood, and not something I could justify spending the money on, when I already had perfectly good digital cameras.

More recently, an upgraded model was released, the LX 100 Mark ll. That sent secondhand prices of the early model crashing, and I was able to buy a used one at a great price through Amazon Marketplace. It was delivered yesterday morning, and I charged it up immediately.

It was missing any user manual and the DVD software extras, but operation is simple enough for anyone used to using digital cameras. I still downloaded a (free) 90-page fully-comprehensive manual from the Panasonic website though.

If you read about my recent experiences with the Nikon Z5, you will know I am a fan of knobs, buttons, and dials, over the electronic menu systems becoming widely used in cameras like the Z5.

Just look at the top view of the LX100.

Exposure compensation dial. Aperture selection ring. Zoom ring. Focus selector on the side of the lens. Selector switch for 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1 ratios. Shutter speed dial with an ‘A’ selector to use when shooting in Aperture Priority, and an additional zoom control lever on top around the shutter button if you don’t want to operate the zoom using the ring on the lens.

That’s my kind of camera!

Photos to follow soon.

Off The Grid

You may recall that I am going on holiday on Saturday.

(Weather Forecast; ‘Showers/Rain/Windy’. 😦 )

**Update**
Getting warmer from Monday! 🙂

I have a few things to do before that, like taking Ollie to the Vet today, and to the groomer on Friday. Then I won’t be back until the 11th of September. That means no posts from me for a while after this one, and I doubt I will be catching up with or commenting on the posts of those of you I follow.

Fresh start from the 12th. With the return of the short stories, and hopefully some news about how the holiday went.

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

A Busy Day In Beetley

I am not used to being busy. My life is usually unhurried, with a certain familiar routine that comforts me in my retirement. But when a holiday is on the horizon, there are things that need to be done.

So there was much activity chez beetleypete this morning, including a rare trip into the heart of Dereham. (Sounds impressive, but it’s a very small town)

Up early, in the bath, dressed and ready by the time I am usually contemplating my second cup of coffee. I left a glum-looking Ollie wondering why I was going out without him, and drove through the gloom and light drizzle. In town, I was very lucky to find a nice big free parking spot right opposite the bank, my first destination.

As I do not yet cooperate with ‘Internet Banking’, occasional trips into the branch are necessary. This time I had to transfer funds from a savings account into a current account to ensure there was enough to pay the bill on Saturday week. Then there was a standing order to increase, and a transfer payment into our joint account. Second stop was across the road, to ‘Abigail’s’. This is a privately-owned gift shop that also sells a range of greetings cards.

When we are on holiday, it is our wedding anniversary on the Friday, so I had to make sure I had a card to take.

Back in the car, and less than a mile to the nearest supermarket. It has a petrol station attached, and I wanted to fill my car to the brim with diesel, ready for the longer than usual drive coming up. After waiting behind two cars, I was frustrated to discover that the diesel pump in that lane was ‘Out of Service’. Not wanting to drive around again to a different lane of pumps, I drove just over a mile to a much bigger supermarket where I was able to fill up immediately with no issues.

(*Worth noting here that the fuel prices have increased dramatically. The cost to fill my car has gone up from £55 to £63 today, in a matter of weeks)

Time to go back home. A very early lunch, followed by Ollie’s dog walk. (In light drizzly rain of course) After that, I had to fill the garden waste bin with hedge cuttings, so it can be left out for collection while we are away. I also sorted the regular waste bins while I was at it.

The time was now fast-approaching 4pm, and my next task was to iron the clothes I am taking on holiday. With chilly weather and occasional showers forecast for next week, it was an easy decision to take thicker shirts, and warm tops. I also washed a warm coat and thick fleecy cardigan, as I presume both will be needed.

It is now 5:15pm, and I am getting hungry. I think that is partly because of the early start, but also because it is decidedly cold for August, at barely 15C. Too early for starting dinner just yet, so I came in here to check blog posts and emails. (I also had been doing that between jobs, and when the iron was heating up)

For those of you with genuinely busy lives, my day might well seem like a holiday, I get that.

But I predict an early night for me!

In Praise Of Honest Mechanics, And The NHS

Ten days ago, I wrote about my car failing the MOT test, and needing two new tyres.

Always Something

I didn’t use it after driving it home, and then three days later, Julie used it to take her daughter and grandchildren out for the day. They did a fair few miles, and had an enjoyable day. However, when she returnd home that evening, she said she could hear a ‘rubbing noise’ when turning right. I drove into town and back, and couldn’t hear it.

Last Friday, she cut her hand at work. It was in an awkward place on the edge of her right hand, and bleeding badly. So I drove to collect her, leaving her car in the car park. We had two options then. Either drive the shorter distance to the main Norwich Hospital, and possibly wait for many hours to be seen, or drive up to Cromer on the north coast, where there is a minor injuries unit open from 08:00 until 20:00. That seemed the better option, and off we went.

Arriving close to 7:30pm, we wondered if we were going to be too late. But no. An efficient receptionist booked her in, then asked me to wait in the car park due to Covid-19 restrictions. Less than ten minutes after I got back to the car, Julie appeared, her wound closed with steri-strips, and a dressing covering the injury. When you hear so many complaints about our health service, I think it is only right to balance that with praise for the marvellous service we received last Friday.

Well done the NHS.

On the way home, we used the main relief road to avoid Norwich, and it has many roundabouts. Once negotiating those, I could hear the ‘rubbing noise’ that Julie had spoken about previously.

On Sunday morning, I returned to the car repair dealership I had used for the MOT, service, and tyres, and asked them to investigate the noise. The manager drove the car around the forecourt, and agreed he could hear the noise. However, after some examination of the wheels and steering, he was unable to speculate on what might be causing it. He suggested I leave it there overnight, and he would get a more experienced colleague to examine the car today. (Monday) I agreed, and Julie collected me and took me home. Although this Monday is a public holiday in England, they were open from 10:00 until 16:00.

Me being me, I feared the worst. Major repairs just before our holiday, and yet more eye-watering expense. While I was out walking Ollie, Julie rang them just before 1pm, and they said the car was ready. They had found a loose back plate on a front brake disc, and that was moving enough to cause the rubbing sound on full right lock. As they had worked on the car recently, they said they would not be charging me anything at all, because of the possibility that they may have caused the temporary fault.

When I collected the car, they gave me a Diagnostic Wheel Alignment report, telling me they had additionally checked the alignment to put my mind at rest. This alone usually costs £59, but there was no charge. I think good service like this should also be praised, especially for a large chain of car repairers that doesn’t always have the best reputation here.

So, well done to Dereham branch of Kwik Fit too.