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Expensive Motoring Month

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The MOT, annual service, road tax and insurance are all up for renewal on my car at the end of the month. I took it in for it's MOT yesterday and thankfully it passed, although the 'check engine' light keeps coming on. According to the manual that means the engine management has detected unusual emissions so I'll need to look into that. The annual service was the only non-compulsory thing so I thought I could wait a couple of months before doing that, but that might need doing sooner rather than later now.

I went to the post office at lunchtime to pay the road tax. Thank you very much Gordon Brown for putting the price up in the budget, meaning I had to fork out £15 more than I was expecting.

I need to shop around for insurance now - I've seen quotes saving me up to £100, which would be very welcome. I just need to decide which one to accept.

National Trust

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We decided to use our new National Trust memberships to visit a couple of nearby properties - Packwood House and Baddesley Clinton, both only a few miles from each other. We had a bit of a walk around each of the houses and parts of the grounds but it was a bit too cold to be spending much time outside.

Packwood House has interesting grounds, having an over-abundance of sundials and a Yew garden set out like the Sermon on the Mount. Baddesley Clinton House is slightly more unusual, set in a moat where we fed our sandwich crusts to the ducks.


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At last there is something worth watching on a thursday night (at last there is something worth watching on Channel 5!). The 3rd series of House has started.

We've ordered the first 2 series on DVD and we're waiting for those to turn up, then we'll have plenty of grumpy doctor episodes to watch.


Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

For the past week or so, Theo (aka Podge) has been very hyperactive and constantly demanding attention. If we walk past his cage he's often climbing or nibbling the bars and if we open the door he'll often flop out onto our hands.

This started shortly after we got Hank and Peggy. It's unlikely to be jealousy, it's more likely to be that he can smell girl hamster and it's making him all excited.

Slow Day

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

The problem with slow days in work is that they encourage me to eat too much. I tend to keep some spare crisps or biscuits in my desk and if work gets a bit boring I sometimes succumb to 'boredom munchies' and start snacking, or head to the kitchen for a 'boredom cuppa'. Unfortunately we are still suffering from a lack of teaspoons in the kitchen. We keep getting more but they keep disappearing.

Piff Paff Poff

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Tonight the lucky viewers of BBC1 got a chance to vote for the act to represent us in the Eurovision Song Contest. After the first round of votes it was narrowed down to 2 acts:

  • Cyndi, with a dull unoriginal 'power ballad by numbers' combining the worst bits of that Titanic song, Wind Beneath my Wings and various others and

  • Scooch, an act reminiscent of the 'Piff Paff Poff' episode of the highly underrated short lived comedy The High Life. It's been far too long since British TV has had a camp Air Steward song and dance routine.

The final phone votes were counted and it was down to Terry Wogan to tell us the winner. He initially announced that Cyndi had won but there was a confused silence then he corrected himself. I had mixed feelings - I thought poor cow, she briefly thought she was going to Eurovision followed by that's more like it, Cyndi's song was a bit crap.

We'll have to wait til May to find out whether our novelty song and dance act is good enough to win.

Morrisons Mystery Bag

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Our local Morrisons supermarket, in common with most supermarkets, has a shelf where they put a lot of the 'reduced' foods - dented tins, damaged packaging, things close to being out of date, that sort of thing. Occasionally they also manage to go one step further and have carrier bags full of assorted reduced items, where the entire bag costs 50p. I've not seen this in any other branch of Morrisons so I don't know if it's common practice or not. My parents haven't seen them in their local shop.

They had 2 such bags on the shelf today so we decided to buy both. They mostly contained a standard assortment of foods - crisps, pasta sauce, tins of tomatoes, mushy peas, tuna, soft drink cans etc. There were also a few surprise items - we weren't expecting the tin of cat food or dog food. Slightly more welcome were the packets of meat-filled tortellini which should normally sell for £1.50 each. Most welcome of all was the Lindt chocolate bunny which was intact with just some scratches on the foil.

You couldn't rely on the bags for a balanced diet (other items included tins of semolina pudding and a pack of chocolate puddings) but they provide some nice bargains.

Modern Food is Rubbish

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Most of the 50 Shocking Facts About Your Food on Channel 5 weren't that shocking or surprising. Most of them must be common knowledge by now (eating too many burgers is bad for you, the French practice animal cruelty as a means of food production, tomatoes contain something good called lycopene).

For me I think the only real eye-opener was quite how rubbish modern fruit and veg are compared to 40 or 50 years ago. According to the programme, vitamin levels have dropped so much that, taking oranges and tomatoes as examples, you need to eat 8-10 times as much as earlier generations did. The blame was put on intensive farming and exessive storage and transportation.

Grape Juice

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There's a news story doing the rounds about how purple grape juice is much better for you than other juices. The report also repeated the recent discovery that cloudy apple juice is better than clear. Unfortunately the vast majority of apple juice available in the supermarkets is the clear filtered stuff and the cloudy unfiltered juice is much more expensive. It's all rather stupid that you've got to pay more for a product which has had less done to it.

I'm sure a few years ago it was possible to buy cloudy apple juice in cartons, from the shelf rather than the fridge. If supermarkets are really wanting to encourage healthy eating they should make it available again at a sensible price. They'll probably whine about how clear juice outsells cloudy but since they offer a greater choice of clear and sell it for less then of course it'll sell better.

Caffeinated Eye Drops

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My eyes have been feeling quite tired recently so I was thinking about getting some caffeinated eye drops to wake them up.

Charlecote Park

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The place is described by the National Trust as a Superb Tudor house and landscaped deer park. I had a couple of days off work so we decided to go along and take a look. It's a bit early in the season and not all of the buildings were open but we spent an interesting couple of hours there.

Despite being a fairly sunny day, it was quite cold especially in the shade. It should be better in the summer - not only would it be warmer but there would be leaves on the trees so it would look better too.

We decided to join the National Trust while we were there. Emma had already decided to join because she gets the cheaper 'young persons' price. I decided to join because they had a voucher for discount membership. This means we'll get free entry to any of their other sites in the UK. Hopefully this will help us to


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Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

I seem to find it impossible to go to Wing Wah without over-eating and leaving feeling full and uncomfortable. I suppose it's because they have such a great range of foods and I don't want to leave without trying most of them. I also have to have some chocolate fountain and ice cream. When I got home I needed a lie down.

Coventry Colosseum

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We went there tonight for Stuart's birthday. It's been a couple of years since I've been in a nightclub and none of us had been to this particular club. It was fairly empty when we got there but soon filled up. The music was ok - different nights seem to have different themes so at least it's not all just crappy dance music. The place was really smoky though and our clothes really stank when we got home. It'll be so much better when the 'no smoking' laws come into force in the summer.

On our way home we popped into the Nazaw Balti House on Far Gosford Street. We were wanting a naan bread and some dahl. They were getting ready to close and were waiting for some 'eating in' customers to finish. We came away with our order plus a free keema naan, which was a welcome and tasty extra.

Hamster News

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1. Photos of Hank and Peggy

I wasn't able to get photos of our latest hamsters at the weekend because I didn't have batteries for the camera. Peggy is slim, quick and very nosey. Hank is slower, rounder and less inquisitive. Emma is changing her mind about names, and occasionally refers to them as Red and Kitty from That 70s Show.

2. Roborovski Update

Alysia and Zosima have been living together for about a month now. It took a couple of days to get them settled together but they seem happy with each other's company. We don't usually refer to them by name any more - they have become Big Silly and Little Silly.

3. The Others

Everyone else is doing fine, although apart from Reggie we seem to have stopped using their original names. Archie is known as Tubble, Psyche is called Pissy or Stinky (because of his habit of using his bedroom as a toilet), and Theo has become Podge.  

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Wheelie Bin

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Our wheelie bin seems to have become a local dumping ground for other people's rubbish. Last week there someone shoved several bin bags in it. This morning when I dropped our bags in it before dragging it to the kerb, I noticed some toys and old videos had been added.

Update 2:30pm
Someone has put our bin back in the front yard. It's unlikely that the binmen did it - I've not seen that happen for years. As the house was empty for several months before we moved in, it's likely that a near neighbour got used to using our bin when theirs got full.


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When we lived in Earlsdon, I used to be able to get my hair cut on my way to work. There was a hairdresser on my way to the station who opened early and seemed to do a brisk trade in commuter haircuts. Since moving house the nearest one is on a bit of a detour and costs almost twice as much. As a result I was several weeks overdue for a cut and my hair was getting a bit too long.

Our solution was to buy a set of clippers and for me to let Emma loose on my hair. We got a set which had the 'number 8' attachment which leaves the hair about an inch long. That's a bit shorter than I usually have it but it doesn't look too bad. The clippers will have paid for themselves after only 2 haircuts.

Hank and Peggy

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We acquired two new hamsters today, from a breeder at a the Great Barr hamster show. Emma had pre-arranged this a few months ago and we'd already decided on names. We were wanting names from a TV family and chose Hank and Peggy from 'King of the Hill'.

The ones we collected weren't the original Hank and Peggy though. After a week together, the original Peggy ate the origninal Hank so we were given two different animals.