Monday, 27 April 2009

The Fall Will Probably Kill You

We had a quiet weekend at the Yellow House this week. I have got this week off work, so we didn’t need to rush around so much at the weekend to get things done that we don’t normally have time for during the week. We pottered about the house for most all of the weekend, and worked on our plans for the next few months. Dori and I are working on a long term project together, so we spent quite a bit of time discussing that. I can’t give out any details about that at the moment but when “Project X” is ready for public consumption, you will be the first to know :-)

Saturday night is fast becoming DVD night in the Yellow House. After watching the bizarre ‘1408’ last week, we watched one of my all-time favourite films this weekend – ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’. Starring Robert Redford and the dearly missed Paul Newman, it is a wonderful movie filled with charm and humour. It is superbly written and many of the exchanges between the two main protagonists are a joy. Probably the most famous exchange is when the two men are cornered on a small rocky ledge overhanging a fast-flowing river. Sundance refuses to jump into the river to escape the chasing posse because he can’t swim, to which Butch replies, laughing, “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!” I love that. We also watched a very interesting “Making Of...” documentary on the DVD, in which the director, talking before the film’s release, said how much he hoped the film wouldn’t be hated by the public. If only he knew! It just goes to show that we may all doubt our own abilities, but we just have to plough on and trust that what we do will be well received.

Today the weather has taken a severe turn for the worse, for which I must take full responsibility! It has long been a pattern that whenever I take any leave from work, so the weather heads downhill rapidly :-) It has rained almost constantly today, and the forecast for the rest of this week isn’t too encouraging. We used up today to do our must-do chores in town, and are hoping that we will still be able to get at least a couple of days out during the rest of the week. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Happy St George’s Day everyone! Today is the national day of England, celebrating our patron saint – St George. It is usually a low-key celebration and, sadly, isn’t a public holiday, although there is a movement to try to make it one.

Flag of St GeorgeI was travelling around Wiltshire in connection with my work today and saw a number of cars and buildings flying the flag of St George, which is the national flag of England – the Union Jack being the flag of the United Kingdom. It wasn’t until the sixth or seventh flag that it dawned on me that today was indeed St George’s Day – you see, I told you that it was all low-key! There are a number of ways in which the day is marked around the country, each place celebrating in their own way. Here in Wiltshire, the city of Salisbury is one of the few places in the country to hold a major event for St George’s Day – it’s annual St George’s Pageant. This year’s pageant will be held on Sunday, to give as many people as possible the opportunity to attend (there’s another reason to make it a public holiday!).

Ask most people about St George and they will talk about the legend of St George and the Dragon. The legend talks about a lake-side community who lived in fear of a dragon who dwelt within the lake. The people of the town fed sheep to the dragon to keep him from attacking them. When they ran out of sheep they started to give up their children to the beast, drawn by lottery. One day the King’s daughter was the unlucky “winner” of this lottery and was led to the side of the lake. As she stood there waiting for her fate, St George happened to ride by. He attacked the dragon with his lance, and badly wounded the creature. Subdued, the dragon allowed itself to be led to the town by St George who vowed to slaughter the monster if the town converted to Christianity – which they dutifully did. George then slew the dragon with his sword.

St George is also the patron saint of a number of different countries and cities, including Portugal, Georgia and Moscow.

Today is also William Shakespeare’s birthday, as well as the day on which he died aged exactly 52 years old. Born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, he was one of eight children and went on to be the world’s most famous playwright. A few years ago, Dori and I visited his birthplace, along with a coachload of French students as I recall!

Shakespeare's Birthplace Shakespeare's Birthplace

This was a real thrill for both of us, and especially so for Dori who, as you all know, is a very talented writer :-)

By the way, the title of this post is taken from Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and is the closing line of the famous “once more unto the breach” speech.

Finally, today is also UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day which promotes reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright throughout the world. A very literary day indeed!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Ten Characters, at Least Two Digits

How many passwords did you have to remember today? It is a phenomenon of modern-day living that we all have to memorize an exponentially increasing number of passwords, user names, PINs, etc. At my workplace alone I have 6 different login IDs / User Names with 6 different passwords to remember, all of varying lengths from 6 characters to a finger-numbing 16 character minimum. Then, back at home, I have accounts for three webmail addresses, my ISP account, Twitter, Blogger, web hosting accounts, ebay, credit card PINs, ...the list is very nearly endless!

And then of course, a number of these (especially the work-related ones) periodically expire and I have to conjure up another random, and yet easily memorable combination of letters and digits. It would be a superhuman task indeed to commit all of this information to memory and be confident that you will be able to retrieve the correct combination of ID and password when needed. So, what do we do? Most of us resort to either writing them down on Post-It notes, a scrap of paper in the wallet or to using very weak passwords, such as your partner’s name – all three solutions obviously posing very real security risks. Using the same password for a number of different applications is also a very common, but risky, practice.

I wish I had the answer to this problem, but I don’t :-) Hopefully technology will come to our aid in the not-too-distant future. Other identification techniques that could be used, such as fingerprint scanning, retinal identification and facial recognition are all advancing fast and are already being used by some companies. Rolling out these technologies to the wider internet-using public may take some time, but it would at least save my brain, for one, from exploding with information overload!!

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Sporty Saturdays and Slow Sundays

It’s been a low-key weekend here at the Yellow House. On Saturday we ventured out briefly to get some essentials that we were running low on. We stayed close to home and supported the local shops as we only needed those few bits and pieces. We also sent off an item of post, which I will tell you more about once we receive the reply – I do like to create some intrigue! ;-)

The rest of the day was spent pottering about the house, doing those tasks that we don’t have time for during the week. As is usual on Saturday afternoons, I kept one eye – or ear – trained on the football (soccer) scores even as we were completing our other chores. My team is Swindon Town and I have been a supporter for what will be 30 years come August. During that time success has been a little thin on the ground – although the period between 1986 and 1994 was a golden age for Town fans and saw the team rise to the heady heights of the Premiership. Their stay in English football’s top flight was, naturally enough, short-lived and things have returned to the norm with the team now plying their trade in the third tier of the game. They are currently fighting to retain their position at that level and avoid relegation to the bottom division. The end of the season is just a couple of weeks away, so it is nail-biting time right now! On Saturday a last minute equalizer earned the team a draw, and one more point towards survival in their current division. Fingers will remain crossed though for another two weeks until that survival is, hopefully, assured.

As Saturday evening TV seems to have taken yet another dive lately - and I really didn’t think THAT was possible - we decided to watch a DVD instead. Have any of you seen “1408”? If so, could you let me know what it was all about?! It was very interesting in parts, and as always with Stephen King’s horror stories, it was also a little off-the-wall. We enjoyed it well enough, but I have to say the ending left me with way more questions than answers!

Sunday was a lovely sunny spring day. It was a very relaxing and restful day and we just enjoyed hanging out with nothing much that we felt we had to do. I do love a quiet Sunday, which is ironic because as a kid it was the quietness of Sundays that I hated. Nothing ever happened on a Sunday, except for maybe being dragged off to visit various far-flung relatives. Of course, looking back, those days spent at my Grandmothers’ houses in particular are actually some of my most treasured childhood memories. Eating salmon sandwiches and drinking tea from bone china teacups whilst watching Black Beauty on TV is perhaps how I best remember the time I got to spend with my paternal Grandmother. If only you could put an old head on young shoulders and truly treasure those times as they occur, rather than just in retrospect. :-) Now, as an adult, I do cherish the slowness of a Sunday, when I get to spend the whole day with my beautiful wife, Dori, and we can enjoy each others company without the pressures of the working week imposing. Bliss!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Raking the Moon

Dori and I dwell in the county of Wiltshire in the south of England. It is probably best known for being the home of Stonehenge – a World Heritage site. Built approximately 4500 years ago, it remains a mystery to this day exactly what its purpose was. The fact that a number of the very large stones there were transported from over hundreds of miles away just adds to its mystery and mystique. I quite often pass by Stonehenge whilst I am travelling for work in the area and we are hoping to experience the summer solstice celebration there sometime soon.

Stonehenge is not the only stone circle in Wiltshire though. In the north of the county an even older stone circle can be found at Avebury. The stone circles, and other prehistoric sites, at Avebury cover a wide area and are well worth a visit if you are in the vicinity. Avebury has been voted one of the top 5 most spiritual sites in the country and is also the home of Silbury Hill – the largest man-made mound in Europe.

Wiltshire is also famous for its White Horses, the oldest of which can be found just outside Westbury in the west of the county. It is thought that this particular figure may have been created to celebrate a battle victory for Alfred the Great. The White Horses are formed by carving the shape into the chalk hills that make up a great majority of the Wiltshire landscape.

Wiltshire is also home to the city of Salisbury and its famous Cathedral, which has the tallest spire in the UK, and is also home to Europe’s oldest working clock and to one of only four surviving original Magna Carta. Add to this the town of Swindon, which grew as a railway town and is home to the mighty Swindon Town FC (!); Lacock Abbey where the world’s first photograph was taken; Longleat – the site of Britain’s first safari park, and Stourhead – a beautiful house and gardens which holds special memories for me and Dori, and you have just a taste of the wonders of Wiltshire. If you get the chance then this county of mine is well worth a visit. :-)

Stourhead Gardens

People born in the county of Wiltshire are known as “Moonrakers” – and this has nothing to do with James Bond!! Legend has it that a group of local smugglers were transporting their ill-gotten gains (in the form of brandy caskets) through the county, pursued by excise men. Fearful that they would be caught with their contraband, the smugglers threw the caskets into a nearby pond and disappeared into the night. Returning to the pond when they believed it to be safe, the smugglers were trying to retrieve the caskets using some hay rakes when an excise man happened upon them. The taxman asked the men what they were up to. Seeing the reflection of the full moon on the water, the smugglers quickly responded that they were just trying to rake in the cheese that they could see in the pond. The excise man looked at the moon’s refection, smiled to himself at the foolishness of these simple country folk, and went on his way to tell all and sundry about how dim-witted these Wiltshire men were. The moral of the story, of course, is that although we may seem to be simple, slow or unworldly, Wiltshire folk are just as sharp-witted and worldly-wise as the next man. Never judge a book by its cover :-)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

And So It Starts....

Hi, and welcome to my new blog!

Some of you may know of me through reading the wonderful scribblings of my wife, Dori, at From A Yellow House in England. I have invaded her blog on a couple of occasions but have now decided to branch out on my own. :-) I would like to thank Dori for all the help that she has given to get me this far - and for all the help that I will no doubt require in the coming weeks as I build up "Getting Busy Living" .

So, where to start? Well, there's no better place than explaining the title of the blog. I am sure that many of you will know the origins of Getting Busy Living, but for those that don't, let me explain. It comes from a line in my favourite film – The Shawshank Redemption. Towards the end of the film the two main characters are having a conversation about their situation and the concept of hope in such a terrible place – a corruptly-run Maine prison. Andy, played by Tim Robbins, tells his friend Red (Morgan Freeman) that you have to “get busy living, or get busy dying”. To me, this sums up the whole message of the film (and previously the book), ie that you may suffer extreme hardships or injustices but you have to maintain your hope and look forward and work towards a better day. The alternative would result in those who are against you winning the day and life would become a downhill slope. These are words to live by, and by which Dori and I strive to improve our lot. We all only get one shot at life, and we must surely make the absolute most of it.

I should explain that my name is Brit Boy. To be fair and honest, that wasn't the name given to me at birth but was conferred on me by Dori, who hails from Georgia in the US. We love to explore and have fun with our differences, although we are much more alike than we are different. I am a sports fan, and a West Wing nut and Dori and I are avid concert-goers. We have seen Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Simply Red and Tina Turner in the last few months and are always on the lookout for the next good show.

This blog is likely to be very varied in content as I will blog on anything and everything that may cross my mind. Expect the unexpected, and follow our travels and travails. I hope that you will enjoy the ride!
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