Friday, 31 January 2014

People watching in the supermarket cafe...

Supermarket cafés - all human life is there, isn't it?

Truthfully, they're not places I usually visit as I like to support independents, but I had a recall on my car so had half-an-hour or so to waste in an out-of-town location so had little option.

As I sat nursing my 'mocha' - actually it tasted like all the contents of the drinks machine emptied into one cup, but adding sugar and stirring vigorously made it just about drinkable - I took a look round at the other occupants on this cold Friday afternoon.

An elderly couple had come in for their fish and chips.  A great discussion ensued as they decided who was going to put the number card in the holder so the assistant knew at which table they were seated.

He tried and couldn't, so she wrestled it from his grasp, gave him a look of disdain, then triumphantly placed it in the correct position.

A young couple arrived with only child.  They had to carry a high chair from the front of the café, narrowly avoiding taking out several tables in the process.

Near me sat a mismatched couple, whispering conspiratorially and holding hands across the melamine table.  It looked for all the world like a clandestine meeting, but why you'd choose to hold it in this particular location was beyond me.

Behind me was an extended family enjoying their late lunch.  They ate happily and noisily, having selected nearly every hot meal from the menu, in an eclectic mix of taste sensations.

Sitting alone, and looking rather forlorn, was a shabbily dressed man with a very swollen nose.  He had a plate of chips, which he ate very slowly and carefully.  I could be wrong, but I'm guessing he was perhaps homeless, and came in here for something to eat and to get warm.

As I got up to leave, a smartly dressed couple entered.  They were obviously newcomers to this party, as they didn't collect a tray and stood gazing at the drinks machine, wondering which buttons to press.

Perhaps I should have warned them about the 'mocha', but I walked off into the sunset to collect my car and head for home, leaving behind the supermarket café and its wide variety of customers. 


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The story of Chalky, the white stag of Brookfield Plantation, and his friends (for children)

Once upon a time, in a beautiful woodland full of tall oak trees, there lived Chalky the Stag.

He was quite magnificent with a full set of antlers on his head, and he was as white as a ghost.

In fact, he cut quite a ghostly figure as he roamed about the woodland at night.

Chalky lived in Brookfield Plantation, an area of trees just outside a busy town called Corby.

He was happy there with all his friends - Delia, his best friend, a doe; Barry a badger; Rufus, a red kite; Gerald, the great crested newt; Norma and Norman, the smooth newts; Lizzie, the lizard;  Freddie the fox; and Sid and Nancy the grass snakes.

Happy, that is, until one day, when some people with clipboards arrived at the wood.

Rufus, soaring high above the trees, spotted them first and called down to his friends:

"Oi you lot!  There's some people coming - quick, hide!"

Chalky and Delia, who'd been playing in a glade, scampered off into the trees, swiftly followed by Freddie.  Barry scuttled back to his sett.  Lizzie disappeared into a hole in the ground.  Sid and Nancy slid off into the long grass.  Gerald, Norma and Norman swum underwater in their pond.

Only Rufus remained, flying high above the people's heads, listening.

When the people had gone, Rufus called out to them again:

"They've gone, you can come out now!"

The friends all re-emerged from their hiding places and gathered in the glade.

"What's going on then Rufus?" asked Chalky, as he munched quietly on some grass.

"Well", said Rufus proudly, knowing that he was the only one in the know, "They're talking about building a waste plant."

"What's a waste plant Chalky?" asked Delia.

"I don't really know"  said Chalky, "but I'm sure it's probably not a good thing for us."

"Did they say anything else Rufus?"  Chalky enquired of his feathered friend.

"Yeah, something about a park.  Is that where the humans have fun?  I've seen parks with swings and stuff in the nearby town.  The little humans seem to like it there."

Um, thought Chalky.  He wasn't sure what it all meant.  But the sun was shining and it was peaceful in the woodland so he wasn't too worried.  He went back to playing with his friends and eating grass.

A few days later, Rufus called to the group of friends again:

"Oi, you lot - they're back again!  Hide!"

This time, Chalky and Delia hid close to where the humans were so they could listen to what they were saying.

Men in suits were talking and pointing at the trees.  Then Chalky heard them say something which made his heart beat even faster in his chest - they were talking about cutting down the trees.

Delia heard it too.

"Chalky, what do they mean?"  she said.  "Why are they cutting down the trees?"

Chalky looked at her very sadly, then told her "They want to build something called a 'resource recovery park' to go with their waste plant.  It's not a fun park for the little humans.  It's a group of buildings where I think they'll bring in waste for processing before it goes into the big waste plant."

Delia's eyes filled with tears.  "But what's going to happen to us?  Where are we going to live?"

"I don't know Delia, I really don't.  Let's go and tell the others and see what they say."

Chalky and Delia waited for the humans to leave, and then they gathered their friends together in the glade.

"We've got some bad news friends.  The humans want to chop down our trees."

The creatures looked shocked and upset.  Barry, the oldest and wisest badger, spoke first:

"That's bad news Chalky.  Where are we going to live?  Can they do that?"

Gerald, the great crested newt, spoke next:

"But I'm special, I'm very rare you know.  They can't just move me."

Barry replied, "Actually they can Gerald, in fact, we're all special.  We can be moved, it just makes it more expensive and causes the developers and council more paperwork."

Sid and Nancy hissed "We can slither off, we'll go and see what's over the other side of the noisy smooth bit, see if we can live there."

Rufus called to them "Don't waste your time Sid and Nancy, there's nothing there.  Big racetrack with noisy cars is that side, if you even make it across there with all the traffic that uses that road.  You'll probably get squished."

"What are we going to do Chalky?" sobbed Delia.

"I don't know"  said Chalky, "We just have to hope that there are some good humans out there who like us and the trees and want us to stay where we are.  Not all humans are bad you know.  Some of them like green spaces and fresh air.  So I've been told anyway."

"It's true"  said Rufus.  "Some humans are good, I've seen them.  We have to hope that there's enough good ones who will do something to save us."

To be continued...

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Wake up and protect the wildlife...

Would you be surprised if I told you there was an area very near Corby, home to 85 protected and notable species?

It has great crested newts, badgers, bats, red kite and grass snakes - all species protected by law.

Not only that, there's a white stag and his herd.  In some cultures, white stags are considered lucky, and people travel from miles around in the hope of getting a glimpse of them.  It's considered very unlucky to harm them too.

There's lots of other wildlife also, including bumblebees, hedgehogs, lizards, dragonflies, damselflies, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, toads, frogs, rabbits, foxes and spiders.

There are numerous ponds, some containing the aforementioned great crested newts, as well as smooth newts, fish, frogs and aquatic insects.

It's composed of a large area of trees, with species including significant stands of broadleaved varieties - oak, hazel, sycamore, poplar and elder - and coniferous trees including Scots pine, Corsican pine, European larch and Norway spruce.

Between the rows of conifers, there are more oak trees, and ash, birch and beech.  Lots of varied grasses and other plants also.

You wouldn't be surprised to hear it's a designated Local Wildlife Site, would you, given I've listed all of the above.

But you would perhaps be surprised to discover that the area I'm talking about is Brookfield Plantation, the same area that is under threat from plans to build a 'resource recovery park'.

Approximately 50 hectares of trees - including some oak - will be destroyed if this scheme gets planning permission.

Most of the information I've listed above is taken from the new documents the developer's agent has submitted to Corby Borough Council.

The same information that local people opposed to the scheme were told wouldn't be available on-line, but could be seen either in person at the Council offices during office hours by appointment or could be bought from the developer's agent for £10.

Public pressure and the intervention of Councillor Rob McKellar saw Norman Stronach, Chief Executive of Corby Borough Council, overturn this decision, and also extend the deadline for objections.

So, people of Corby and the surrounding villages, now it's your turn.

Please take the time to read the documents - now freely available on the council's website - and let Corby Borough Council know your objections by 21st February.

Unless, that is, you're happy to lose trees in this Local Wildlife Site and have them replaced by concrete...

Monday, 6 January 2014

Blue Monday...

One job I really dislike doing is taking down the Christmas decorations.

I know it's a necessary evil - otherwise it's bad luck etc - but the house looks so bare with the tree down, lights removed (fairy lights that is, not lightbulbs, although if electricity bills continue to rise at the current rate anything's possible).

I decided this year that I would make it less of an arduous task by playing some uplifting music.

Heading for a compilation CD, I found Now Dance, thinking that this could provide the necessary soundtrack for the task at hand.

I'm not sure the other inhabitants of the house necessarily agreed, but I listened quite happily to Disc 2 featuring Yazz, Dr Alban and Haddaway amongst others, singing away at the top of my voice while removing baubles and scattering pine needles over the carpet.

Lab puppy did look quite taken aback at times, particularly when I broke into a chorus of Everybody's Free by Rozalla - it was perhaps a little high-pitched for his sensitive ears.

I'm not a fan of the Winter months - I'd gladly hibernate if I could, wake me up in March please - but I do find that singing and dancing improves my spirits.

Perhaps I'll need to play the whole album on 'Blue Monday'...

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Jumping the shark...

If you haven't heard this expression before, it was coined to describe the point at which a popular TV show starts to decline.

It originates from a scene in Happy Days when the Fonz jumped over a shark when water-skiing - this unlikely scenario was the death-knell for the once great show, and it never truly recovered.

I, for one, didn't rejoice on hearing that Only Fools and Horses would be coming back.

On further investigation I discovered that it's only for a Sport Relief special, which is all in a good cause so is forgivable.

But without the late, great John Sullivan writing the script, I'm concerned how this is going to pan out.

I would argue that Only Fools should have stopped when Del-Boy and Rodney became millionaires.  From that point on, I think the story lost its way and 'jumped the shark'.

Truly classic shows know when to stop, leaving the viewer wanting more - Fawlty Towers is a good example.  Father Ted is another, although this was sadly due to the death of Dermot Morgan.

It's unfortunate, but some TV shows carry on far too long, or some films bring out too many sequels - step forward Last of the Summer Wine and Shrek, please - so the original impact fades.

I may be in a minority here, but I didn't like the Open All Hours re-vamp that appeared on our screens on Boxing Day, and I certainly won't be tuning in to the newly revived Birds of a Feather.

Why aren't we nurturing original comedy creations instead of reviving and re-heating those which are past their best?


Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year's Resolutions

How's 2014 treating you so far?  It's only just started, but I imagine resolutions will have been made and broken already.

I'm guessing for those who woke up on New Year's Day with a hangover, your resolution was probably not to drink again.

I'm again guessing for some smokers it will be to try to resist the lure of nicotine.

There will also be the usual pledges to lose weight, swear less, be a better person etc.

Mine wasn't as noble as any of these though.

My New Year's resolution was to join Twitter. 

I know this was something I said I wouldn't do, but I felt I was missing out and thought I should give it a try.

I mentioned this at home in late December.

I was met with the usual responses I've come to expect from my technophobic husband - 'Is that the one where people say they've had a cup of coffee and been to the loo?'- and my (Mum, you're so embarrassing) daughter 'Mum, you can't do that, you don't know what you're doing!'

So, what did I do?  I joined there and then, thus starting my resolution about two weeks early.

Daughter's right in a way, because I don't really know what I'm doing, but I read other people's Tweets, comment on them if appropriate, and send a few of my own if I feel like it.

And husband's wrong, as I haven't seen anyone talk about what hot beverages they've recently consumed or if they've had a comfort break - but maybe I'm just following the wrong (or right) people.

If, like me, you'd like to try Twitter but don't know where to start, I found a very good guide on AgeUK's website -

I also read the following blog about improving your Tweets from a local sales and marketing consultant,

If you'd like to follow me on Twitter, you can find me @HelenBachNhants