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No longer digging it

The dream is over. This week we relinquished tenancy of our allotment plot. Nearly eight years have passed since we took it on. Back then, the decade had only just started, bank notes were made of paper and I didn’t need a hat on a sunny day quite as much as I do nowadays.

We were thrilled to bag our large plot. OK, it was waist-deep in weeds, but we had high hopes, untapped energy and boundless optimism. We would turn this patch of green stuff into a fruit and veg-based paradise. It would become an oasis of tranquil productivity. A sanctuary of bountiful (and edible) goodness.

My first ever encounter with a slow worm, whist hacking at the undergrowth with shears, did involve me believing I’d stumbled upon a highly venomous snake (the screaming and running away wasn’t my finest moment). A little research revealed my wriggly chum was, in fact, a kind of leg-free lizard and a slug-consuming bonus for allotmenteers.

He had friends, too. They moved into the warm compost bins, and in the h…
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Tom’s Running Down a Dream

Last year was rightly heralded as being a bad one for the music world, with numerous stars leaving us too soon. The chameleonic-genius that was David Bowie. The hugely talented, diminutive, star with just the one name – Prince. 80s pop-God with the amazing vocal range, George Michael.

Each were individuals I admired and appreciated for their raw talent, their influence on others, and their contributions to my listening pleasure through the 1970s, ‘80s, and beyond.

But the news this week that American rocker Tom Petty had died, as the age of 66, hit me harder than Bowie, Prince or Michael, or any of the other talented musicians and singers we’ve lost in recent times.

Unless you count briefly landing there on the way to a holiday in Mexico, I’ve never been to the USA. I’m not specifically a fan of American music, but something about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ songs struck a chord with me.

At a point in my life when I couldn’t have been more into music unless I lived inside a louds…

No news is bad news

Today’s newspapers are tomorrow’s chip paper. Wholly unhygienic, obviously, but you definitely can’t eat your greasy fried spuds off a website. The problem is, the printed paper used to be a main source of news. Now, with the instant convenience of the internet and 24-hour rolling reports, the poor old printed format often seems hopelessly out of date by the time you unfold it.

Significantly, even if you’re willing to accept a notable time-delay by modern standards, why would you want to pay for something you can get free on the world wide web?

For national papers, the draw of expert journalism, in-depth analysis and insight can still win over readers who yearn for more than the instant short-form gratification of website articles.

For local papers, it’s that local – even hyper-local – news, which the regional sections of larger news organisations simply can’t keep up with. This isn’t about what’s happening in your ‘region’, it might not even be enough that it’s about your town. Somet…

F1 star pulling a fast one

I love the smell of petrol and hypocrisy in the morning. As a fan of the fast-moving circus that is Formula 1, I’m used to people pointing out that there’s nothing exciting about some over-paid guys driving round in circles for two hours. I’ve also become accustomed to being preached at about all that flying around the world and petrol-guzzling engines being terrible environmentally. Shame on me for supporting it, etc.

One of F1’s biggest stars, Lewis Hamilton, has certainly made my life a little harder when one of those conversations kicks off next. He’s told the BBC in an interview that he’s going to adopt a vegan diet, for health reasons and because he’s worried about emissions... from cows.

When he points out that pollution from the back end of our bovine chums is “more than what we produce with our flights and cars” he’s actually pretty much bang on. Our love of beefy stuff and the unfortunate by-product of guffage, does mean that we’re massively polluting the planet whilst we en…

Gas firm in hot water shock

If you paid someone to make you a wedding cake, and they took your money but delivered it two weeks after the wedding, you’d be pretty annoyed. If, after that marriage failed dismally because your partner just couldn’t forgive you for the cake debacle, you were getting married again and the cake showed up 4 weeks late, you’d be livid (and possibly wondering why you decided to go back to the same cake creator after the first incident).

Whilst not quite as ruinous to my relationship – I’m pretty OK at that without outside assistance – my energy supplier is pulling a similar stunt. I won’t give away their name, but they supply Gas, and they’re British.

Anyway, living in a draughty old house whose windows were installed immediately after glass had been invented, I really need to know that my boiler will be in tip top shape, and there for me when I really need it.

To help with this, I have one of those monthly payment insurance schemes, with rapid emergency call out should something go hid…

Making a Swift buck

Singing megastar Taylor Swift doesn’t like ticket touts. But she loves her fans. If only there was a way to put the two things together and just make everything all lovely. Luckily for her, her chums at ticketing agency Ticketmaster in the US have helped her come up with a smashing idea that foils the touts (boo!) and rewards the fans (hurrah!).

No-one wants those nasty ticket touts buying up all the scrummy tickets for her gigs and depriving her adoring “Swifties” of their chance to see their heroine in all her shiny live splendour.

So they’ve come up with the idea of letting her fans improve their chance of getting a ticket by letting them earn “boosts”. These could be for things they’re already doing, such as downloading Taylor’s albums, watching her videos on youtube, posting selfies, and buying merchandise.

The touts won’t be doing that, so the people who deserve to get tickets are higher up the queue and access a ticket pre-sale. So far, so sparkly.

But hang on a moment – when I…

The tracks of my fears

What to do on a Bank Holiday, we wondered? Anywhere in the Lakes would be heaving with tourists gawping at the views and parking badly. So we decided to go to Edinburgh. True, we failed to spot that it was the Fringe Festival, but who doesn’t like a nice, big, crowd? They also seem to be knocking down a chunk of the city, but never mind – it’s big. There are plenty of other un-demolished bits to enjoy, presuming you can get near them amongst all the other people.

Whilst the south of the country basked in temperatures pushing 30C, the over- crowded bit of Scotland was a moderate 18C, with a breeze sufficiently strong that what’s left of my hair took on a ruffled look.

We’d travelled up early for our day of intellectual shop-browsing and cappuccino consumption, letting the train take the strain, and had even spotted an interesting bridge from our luxurious carriage. Some web-browsing subsequently revealed it to be the just-about-to-open Queensferry Crossing. Bonus – we’d already done so…