One of my photos

October 2023

November 9th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

What a depressing month. I’m sure it did not rain all day, every day, but it really felt like that. It was certainly wet and miserable whenever it was a weekend so I didn’t get to go out on the bike at all, except for one short local ride just to make sure the battery stayed charged up. It was so bad that I even drove the car a couple of times, and my smartwatch app tells the story of me not going out for walks anywhere near as much as I should do, and have been doing.

All that not going out much should mean that I did a lot more reading and TV watching, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I have been getting a lot busier at work, knocking off later and later, and one weekend was lost to building a flat-pack wardrobe and moving furniture around in both bedrooms. As a result, I only read 8 books, although a couple of them were more ‘literary’. They get read more slowly than the thriller or crime books I have been reading, because they do generate a lot more thought or, in the case of Time Shelter by Georgi Gospodinov, a lot more confusion about what the hell is going on.

I didn’t watch huge amounts of TV. Just the final season of Ghosts and the John Wick-related The Continental, which were both good in their own ways. I did start watching the new series of Brassic as well, but I am rationing that to only watch one episode per week when it is broadcast and not binge-watching the whole lot on demand. A very old school approach to TV, but its good to have something to look forward to.

I tried to make up for that by watching more films, and soon regretted that when I watched Bullet Train Down on Netflix. I expected it to be a trashy thriller, but it turned out to be a lot worse than that because it is one of those Asylum knock-off films. It does not even fall into the so-bad-its-good category. It is just plain bad. Bad writing, bad special effects, bad plot, bad casting and bad acting. The next night I re-watched the 1999 film Double Jeopardy, which felt like an Oscar-winner by comparison. After that I risked watching Plane, and that turned out to be very entertaining. It won’t win any awards, but its a fun watch.

My ridiculous vinyl-buying habit got a bit excessive in October, thanks to another trip down to Brighton, the first record fair for ages, and some too-tempting-to-resist offers on Amazon – like Judas Priest’s British Steel album for £8.75! I went to Brighton to look for something for Jayne’s birthday, but also came back with half a dozen albums. All cheap and second-hand, but all playable. I also got a bit carried away at the East Grinstead record fair, and because it was pouring with rain I took the car, so no worries about carrying records home on the bike. I came back with 9 albums, though it only cost £40 for the lot. The highlight was a Patrick Moraz solo album which I had never heard before but turned out to be extremely good.

So a miserable month, with the small consolation of some decent records to keep me busy during the winter, and the slightly larger consolation of a £250 win on the Premium Bonds!

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100 and counting

October 15th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

This year I set myself a target, well more of a vague ambition really, to read 100 books in the year, and half-way through October I finished my 100th book of 2023 – Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly.

A quick word about the Billy Connolly book. At times it feels like it is just randomly picking topics, but you realise that those random topics mostly follow some sort of chronology, and it is never boring. You wonder how one person can cram so much into one life. There is also one of the greatest single lines in an autobiography:

“Fuck off”, she hinted

Of those 100 books, only 12 were actual paper books. The rest were all e-books read on my Kindle. Most were fiction, with 16 being non-fiction. I’m so glad I have the Kindle because I really would not have had the space for another 100 books on my shelves.

Some of the books were quite short, but then a couple were thick non-fiction, which always takes longer to read for me, and half a dozen were graphic novels which Jayne thinks does not count. Of the fiction books, four authors account for about half of them!

I think I will now aim for the ‘stretch goal’ of 100 novels in the year.

I am wondering whether, next year, I should go through a major re-reading operation, as a contract to this year where everything was new to me. It would certainly be cheaper! I am thinking I could re-read all my Robert Rankin and Chris Brookmyre books, though I have already read them all 2 or 3 times. Or perhaps I could re-read all the Asimov or Heinlein books?

Or maybe I should just read less and write more? Or get out on my bike more.

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The Continental

October 14th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I don’t get round to watching a lot of TV these days, but this month I did watch the new short series on Amazon Prime set in the John Wick universe; The Continental. I have to say it is a real cracker.

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September 2023

October 1st, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

September was a month packed with events and excitement, or at least what passes for excitement at my age.

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August 2023

September 1st, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The sling came off at the beginning of the month, so it was back to work. This meant a lot less time for reading, but I did still manage to read 10 books in the month, 2 of them non-fiction. There was also a lot less time spent watching television, but I did watch the second season of The Lincoln Lawyer, the limited series Who Is Erin Carter?, and re-watched the first two series of The IT Crowd. I also watched the Heart of Stone film which must have been a bit underwhelming because I can’t remember anything about it, though maybe that is because I had a large pina colada while watching it – only the fifth time I have had an alcoholic drink this year.

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July 2023

August 1st, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life

July was a month of mixed fortunes. A month of profit and pain.

After June broke my run of three months in a row of Premium Bond wins, I bounced right back in July with three wins that came to £175 in total. I was still glowing from that when I received a big gold envelope in the post that turned out to be notification of a £1000 win with the Postcode Lottery! I had won a tenner in June and considered stopping it, but never got round to it, so I feel I have been rewarded well for my procrastination. I also had a decent refund from Ovo energy who I had been running a surplus balance with, so it was a very profitable month. I celebrated by getting two new tyres for the car (which I still haven’t really driven this year), and treating our son and his new girlfriend to a meal , which cost nearly as much.

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June 2023

July 5th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Music

After months of dreary rain, cold, and high winds, I finally found some days suitable for flying my drone. The first attempt was just me on my own, down at Wytch Cross to get the hang of it. As I managed that without any disasters, I went down to Arundel to meet up with our daughter and her drone, so she could give me some flying tips. It was OK, but a very hot day so I was only wearing a summer mesh jacket on my bike and the heavens opened when it was time to go home, so I ended up soaked.

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Avoidable deaths

June 26th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Politics

This story caught my attention on the radio news this morning (“UK’s high rate of avoidable deaths linked to NHS woes”) and I think the headline is more than a bit misleading.

Read a bit further and it says “The UK had one of the lowest levels of life expectancy – although the study acknowledged this would be affected by many factors, aside from the quality of NHS care” but the NHS is the only factor mentioned in the headline, and what these ‘other factors’ might be is not expanded on at all in the story on the BBC website.

The brief story on the radio news focussed on cancer survival rates, of which I have a little experience. I don’t deny that having sufficient trained doctors, oncologists, nurses, beds and facilities is important. Also I am sure that having more scanners so we can have more screening and earlier diagnosis would help greatly, but I really started wondering about some of these other factors.

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King of Glastonbury

June 26th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Last night I watched Elton John’s Glastonbury set with a big grin and moist eyes. It was absolutely monumental. Yes he is getting on a bit, and everybody moaning about his voice is missing the point. He knows very well that he does not have the range that he used to have, hence the adjustments to the tunes. He is a lot more self-aware than the armchair critics give him credit for. (Contrast with Axl Rose the night before!) His piano playing has not diminished at all though.

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Flying High

June 4th, 2023 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology

Photo of Skuds taken by a drone hovering 2 feet away
Close-up selfie taken by the drone

Well I finally got round to getting my drone off the ground today. My drone app said that it was not good to fly, because of the wind speed, especially the gusts, but I just couldn’t wait any longer.

Because of the no-fly zone around Gatwick I can’t fly in the back garden or over the local playing fields, which would have been my first choice for getting the hang of the controls, so I hopped on the bike and went down to Ashdown Forest, making sure to get to a secluded area so nobody would see if I completely cocked up.

It was only once I had everything plugged in and ready to go that I realised it is at least six months since I read the manual and have forgotten everything, particularly the various camera controls, but I did manage to take a few pictures and videos.

One thing I am sure of: I really do live in the wrong place if I want to make this a hobby!

Photo of Skuds taken by the drone from a lot further away
Longer-range selfie

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