Monthly Archives: September 2013

Swans in St James’ Park

I was walking through St James’ Park the other day.  For those of you that don’t know the park, there is a lake in the middle, with pelicans, swans, geese, various ducks, and, of course, my heron; the subject of a previous post.

There is a little bridge that crosses the lake; it’s a real hotspot for tourists.   For me, it’s a short-cut through on my walk up to Oxford Street, but that doesn’t stop me enjoying the beauty of what is going on around me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera accessible when I walked over there this week but I saw the most fantastic sight.  A young swan, a sub adult (I believe that is the correct term, this bird was almost the same size as its parent, but still had the brown-grey feathers of an immature bird) came into land on the lake.  It was closely followed by one of the parents.

It was fascinating to see.  The still flap their wings, a bit like the flaps on an aircraft, the way they tilt when the ‘plane comes into land, but it was the feet that got me.  The swans tilted their feet to act like brakes and touched down just like an aircraft coming into land.  I wish there had been more of them to watch.

One of the [many] joys of living in London, there is so much to see, but it’s not all about the man-made stuff.  This is why I love it so much.

©Susan Shirley 2014


Computers, computers

This week’s blog is about a subject that everyone reading this will have some experience….  computers and their faults.  Talk about, “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.”  When they mess up, they really do, don’t they?  I’m half thinking of going back to pen and paper.

A few years ago, my main laptop needed a new hard drive.  I can’t function without access to the interne, so, I had to buy a new one.  I opted for an EePC netbook (which, I now know, is made by Asus).  I love my little EePC, even though it’s XP (which is no longer being supported by Microsoft).  In its heyday, the battery lasted 12 hours on the spin, and I took it almost everywhere, so that I could work when I was out and about.

Anyway, this year, my little netbook started playing up, it fell in love with the letter “W” and put it in all sorts of odd places, so I took it in for repair and looked around for another one to cover in its absence.  I’ll be honest, I couldn’t afford what I really wanted, a Mac, and these Ultrabooks don’t permit the download of Word, etc, which is not a great deal of use to me.  Word processing and spreadsheets are the two main uses of my computer.  So, I bought another Asus netbook.  Which went wrong last week.  Eight months later.   So, I took it in for repair, to the well-known retailer from where I purchased it.  It is, after all, still under warranty.

I got it back a couple of days ago, and this is where my blood pressure rises.  Everything, and I mean everything, is gone.  Somehow (and I don’t know how) the computer has remembered some things, a couple of days later.  I back up all my word and excel files on a couple of cloud based solution, so I didn’t think they’d be a problem, but Microsoft Office Suite has gone to that great computer dumping ground in the sky, and, yes, you’ve guessed it, I can’t get it back.  I’ve e-mailed the company, so I am keeping my fingers crossed, but I am not a happy bunny.  And, one of my cloud based solutions won’t reload so I’ve had to e-mail the company about that.

When I went to collect my netbook, the very clever young man in the shop told me that I had signed to say I understood, and that it had been pointed out to me that I might lose everything.  I had to point out to him that I hadn’t read everything, although I will NEVER sign anything again without reading the small print.  He also then pointed out to me how netbooks are not intended for use in the way that I use them.  Really?  Funny how other people have told me that I use them in EXACTLY the right way and what he told me is the exact opposite.

I don’t know why they can’t explain these things to you in simple terms; it’s time-consuming and frustrating to have to go through all this.  I suppose it will all come out in the wash, but just at the moment…

©Susan Shirley 2013

Wine Tasting

I went out to one of my lunch clubs on Friday.  This is the one where there is (potentially) a large group of us, all of whom have worked together at some time or other, go out.  We take it in turns to choose the restaurant.

Friday’s choice was in the City, and there were six of us.  I won’t tell you the name; I don’t want to cause any embarrassment to anyone.  The food was very good, although there were a few errors, but also, something that none of us understood, so I thought I’d make it the topic of this week’s blog.

I prefer white wine, although I will drink red, and rose, if it’s one I like.  As I was the only white wine drinker on Friday, I opted for red too.  The wine waitress (I won’t call her a sommelier, because, truthfully, I don’t think she was a proper sommelier) was at the wine station and poured a good old slug of our bottle into a glass and tried it.  No asking first, mind you.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen this (and, of course, we made all the usual jokes about changing jobs) but why?  Our discussion in the restaurant was that it is pretentious nonsense.  Is it?

I checked my wine books at home, and they didn’t help at all, so I turned to my friend, the internet to find the answer.

Apparently, once upon a time, the sommelier’s job was to test to see if there was poison in the wine (well, I suppose, that makes sense.  The poor people like me wouldn’t be important enough to be poisoned, but the rich, well; they were at it all the time weren’t they?  Murdering kings and princes, I mean.  I’m sure there was a bit of a BOGOF offer going on, it was so rife.)

Nowadays, however, the role of the sommelier is to ensure that the wine is served in the right condition.  And – and this is the bit that I find priceless – most of us plebs, sorry, consumers, do not have sophisticated enough taste buds to know if the wine is in perfect condition!!!!!!!

I have two comments to make about that – firstly, if they (sommeliers) don’t communicate with me and tell me what I am supposed to be looking for, how will I ever learn?  Secondly, I’ve been drinking wine for a good many years, and, whilst I am by no means an expert, I’ve picked up a few things along the way.  Such as, I know what I like.  When I am paying £30 odd a pop for a bottle of wine, I think it’s my choice who tastes it, and I am more than capable of asking for help if I think I need it.

I am absolutely sure, all those high class waiters blanched when they saw us drinking red with scallops (not my preference, but I imagine they’d have been equally horrified if I’d ordered a bottle of white all to myself, and I flatly refuse to order wines by the glass in these places, even if that’s possible).  But that doesn’t mean that we are heathens who have no knowledge about anything.

So come on you so-called high class restaurants, stop the wine waiters having a slug of someone else’s wine without their permission.


©Susan Shirley 2013