Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thoughts on January 10th

January 10th has always been an important day for us.  It was the birthday of both my mother and also my mother-in-law.  They are now both deseased, but the date is also significant for another reason.  Since a couple of weeks before the winter solstice (Dec 21st) the days have been annoying short.  But on Jan 10th there is the very first glimmer of change.  Sunsets begin to get progressively later - by just a minute to begin with.  But now they are ten minutes later each day and soon it will be fifteen.  One thing I don't understand is that sunrise takes about two weeks to make any alteration in it's arrival and stubbornly sticks on 7:00 a.m.  It's creeping earlier by a minute each day now however.
If you want to find out the times for sunrise and sunset and see the graduations in your area, go to this site and type in your city http://www.sunrisesunset.com/predefined.asp

Monday, January 30, 2012


We've recently had to endure an extreme case of T.S.A.S.  Our main bathroom sits on the outside of the house, which is quite old, and it has no central heating, apart from a sort of light/fan/heater thingy in the ceiling.  Therefore it is rather cold until the fan heats things up.  No matter, for the last six years we have had a Toto Japanese toilet and this has an electrically heated seat along with a number of other little gizmo's.  We have rather hard water and it's little bidet jets had become bunged up.  It had to go away for repair.  Hence the immediate effect of T.S.A.S. Which is of course, Toilet Seat Avoidance Syndrome; and particularly with the distaff side of the family it was quite severe. 

This is not mine, it is one in Japan, where they have a remote control on the wall.
During its absence - about a week - I had artfully installed a standard replacement seat and carted the Toto off to the local distributor and service center.  We suffered immediately from the syndrome and avoided the coldest room in the house as much as possible.  Along with the quality of their products, Toto's service was excellent.  I called by to collect our old friend, who had been given an upgrade and whose warm waters now flowed not only freely but with additional vigor.  Furthermore the heated seat caused the T.S.A.S. to disappear instantly.  If you are unfamiliar with this product, I can only tell you it will change your life in many ways.  Here is the link to see how it all works. http://www.performancetoilets.com/s/toto-washlets.html?wmh_source=blog&wmh_medium=seo&wmh_campaign=toto+washlet&wmh_content=shop+washlets

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday's Column - Suburbia

Sunday's column is about the joys of suburbia.  Living now as I do in what might be called "the country" even though it's way up in the air, I do enjoy the odd trip to the Flatlands down below.  Also as my family has moved to the city of Glendale, I have even more reason to go down there.  It's a nice change.
Glendale is a fairly new "city" although it's also a part of that great suburban sprawl that floats around the seriously big city of Los Angeles.  But it's very nice to go there and enjoy a little of the sophistication that comes with multi-storied car parks and expensive restaurants.

The City of Pasadena is of course, much older and even historic - this is City Hall.  The point is that with the opening of the 210 freeway it is now so much easier to get to these fine places and I look forward to my next trip down there.  You can read the entire column as www.sbsun.com/trevorstravels

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Rocking Chair

We looked at the superstition of walking under ladders the other day.  Well here is another one, but only in Ireland.  It seems that there you never leave a rocking chair moving, or it means very bad luck.  The superstition is that an empty chair is a place for the dead to settle and if it's empty and rocking it becomes even more attractive.  Isn't it odd that the superstitions are regional?  A week or so back I mentioned the oddity of black cats being unlucky in America while they are considered the reverse in England.  Many years ago newly wed couples used to arrange to have a black cat walk in front of them as they left the church.  It must all be very confusing for the cats!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Music Track - Stern

One of my favorite pieces of music if the 3rd violin concerto of Mozart.  Particularly the 3rd and final movement.  Here is it played by Isaak Stern.  The best part is around 3:20 of this 6:38 piece.  As they say - Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kflCBsO5C_c

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Using the Blog

The use of the blog has gone up quite a lot recently which only proves that people have far too much time on their hands!!!  I began this in the summer of 2010, and I have written 600 separate posts.  I had no idea I had so much nonsense in me!  For people new to it all there is a very efficient archive system if you want to see what I've written about any particular subject.  If you go the the very bottom, there is a space to type in a subject and then hit search.  The results will be displayed at the top of the blog.  One shortfall is that all the once-a-week Right Tracks, and Tirades are gone forever as they are not saved by the system.  It's a shame really as there were some good ones!
One other small point, for those of you reading the blog on a smart phone.  If you scroll down to the bottom you are given the option of choosing to read it in in the full Web format.  This will give you much more access rather than the shortened version.
For those of you frustrated with not being able to post comments and see the results, Blogger make this quite difficult as they are anxious to protect us blog types from seething comments.  Therefore I have put an email hot link under my profile section for you to contact me directly, with any suggestions or criticisms.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Also Ran Movie # 2

For the second slot in this selection I have to put The Good, The Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.  Or it could have been High Plains Drifter, or Hang 'em High, or even For a Few Dollars More!  I have watched these films over and over for the last 35 years or so and never get tired of Clint's steely gaze and gravelly voice.  I also like Lee Van Cleeve when he's in his pipe-smoking, weapons-expert role.  I have a friend whose wife goes away from time to time.  He always heads to the video store -we still have one here in Big Bear - and rents as many Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis films as he can until she returns.  I assume she doesn't like them much, hence his obsession.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Heavy Equipment

It's a good job we have all this heavy equipment to do the serious work of building roads and other big projects.  But I do wonder if we might have gone a little overboard with it's use.  Recently we had a major upgrade to our dam here in Big Bear.  The old one was allowed to remain but it lost its road over the top and a new road was constructed.  It took over a year and now it is finished.  Except the other day I was amazed to see that they had big cherry pickers - those extended ladders - at work painting.  All the traffic light poles were being painted in situ.
Now had it not occurred to anyone that this job might have been better done when the poles were on the ground?  Sometimes I do wonder if the engineers and the planners are not just a little too clever by half!  But then it's not their money is it?

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'm not sure what the percentages are but I'm certain there must be more snowboarding on our slopes than skiing.  I'm hoping to do a piece on it soon, but from the casual observer's viewpoint skiing seems to be on the downward slope - if you'll excuse my pun.
It's not necessary to actually go on the lifts to check this out as the clothing for the two sports is vastly different.  Skiers have a certain elegance in their garb whereas snowboarders seem to delight in looking like homeless deep-sea trawlermen, while wearing hats that were once only seen at a medieval court on a joker's head.

This picture is not of me as I can barely stand up on two planks let alone one!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday's Column - Himalaya/Bombay

This Sunday's column is about the difficulty of getting Indian food in California.  It's getting better, but in the early day's of our life here, it was almost impossible.  As it happens we have an excellent restaurant up here in Big Bear called The Himalaya.  Although the owner is Nepalese, and doesn't appreciate being called Indian, the food is pretty much the same.  In the same building is a new bar which we've already covered here; it's called Club Bombay and they are a sponsor of the blog
You should be able to figure out who is Bob Curtis and which one is Keshar Bhandari!
You can read the entire column at http://www.sbsun.com/trevorstravels/ci_19789938

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cornish Pasty

Being Brits, we usually have our turkey at Christmas time.  And of course, one of the best things about a turkey is the left overs.  We do all the usual things with it of course, but the very last meal we get out of it is a large Cornish Pasty.  I'm not sure why we have this funny little treat in our family but it's been going on now for a long time.  For those of you unfamiliar with a Cornish Pasty is a very simple thing that was the staple of the tin miners down in Cornwall, who go back to the time of the Romans.

It's a round of pastry filled with small pieces of meat - in this case of course, turkey.  Then added are cooked rutabagas (Swede to the Brits,) turnip, potato, onion, a very little gravy and some simple herbs like sage and thyme, salt and lots of pepper.
The round is folded over to make a large "D," brushed with some egg, and it's baked in the oven until it's golden brown.  The miners used to wrap it in a cloth and take it down the mines with them for lunch.
I once had a friend, who in her early life had been a waitress in a cafe in Cornwall.  Diners there often used to order pasties, as they were the local speciality.  But the secret for those in the know was to wait for the London train to arrive as they delivered what they called Paddington Pasties - those made in London.  They were far superior to the locally made ones.

In the interest of full disclosure the picture is actually of a roast chicken and not a turkey!  Sorry about that!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Music Track - Strauss

When I was in the Muzak business, we were told by the ones who were supposed to know such things, that triple time was the most stimulating form of music.  If you listen to this you will understand why.  It takes about 1:30 to get going but they did have plenty of time in those days.  And anyone who has tried to do a real Viennese Waltz will know this is not for the short of breath! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR0InF7LK1o

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Burlington Arcade

I found out the other day that there is a Burlington Arcade in Pasadena.  I'll have to go along and do a piece on it, although I doubt it will have quite the same mystique as the original one in London's West End.
A week or so ago I posted a photo of the original in The Big Picture.  I took it on my recent trip to London.

The Arcade was originally built by Lord George Cavendish and opened in 1819.  It seems the Lord was tired of people throwing oyster shells over his garden wall, and he built this arcade to put some space between him and the hoi polloi.

Originally the arcade, which was London's first covered "market," had 70 shops but over the years this number has been compressed to 40.  The original plan was to build a place suitable to offer ..."jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand, for the gratification of the public."  Still to this day it continues to do so.

I told my grandson (16) when I had walked him to the end of it, that when he had made his fortune and brought his lady here, the idea is to buy her a little something in the arcade, and then when arriving at the Piccadilly end to walk her down to the Ritz hotel for some afternoon tea.  Currently the tea will cost approximately $75 each, so it better be a big fortune!  For more information here is the wikipedia site http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlington_Arcade  where you can read about the stunning jewelly heist carried out in 1964, aboard a Jaguar Mark X.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Also Ran Movie #3

When I went to see Pulp Fiction it didn't do a lot for me.  I didn't quite "get" it.  But I saw it again a few years later and I understood what a very good movie it was.  I think one of the tests of greatness is if you can watch a thing over and over, and I have certainly done this.  All the characters are interesting and although the plot is sometimes a bit confused it really doesn't matter as each vignette is so magnetic.
Pulp Fiction comes in at Number three.  You can check up on it at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulp_Fiction_(film) But not on Wednesday as Wikipedia is going dark for 24 hours!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I read a long article the other day on superstitions, which were defined as ...irrational fears of the unknown or the mysterious.  My mother was a country girl and as such had a great number of superstitions in her life.  The usual ones of crossing knives (unwise), spilling salt (need to throw a pinch over the left shoulder), and turning money over on seeing a new moon (highly beneficial).
Now, we all know that you shouldn't walk under a ladder, don't we, but do you know why?  I certainly didn't.  It seems that with a ladder leaning against a wall it makes a triangle, which represents the trinity.  Therefore to break the triangle you are breaking up the trinity which is considered bad luck.  It just makes sense to me not to push through anyhow.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Serviceman Died Today

I'm indebted to my friend Stan in England for this wonderful poem.  Although English, it's relevant to any nation.

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the bar,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew of where he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For ol' Bob has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a Serviceman died today.

He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife..
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
‘Tho a Serviceman died today.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young
But the passing of a Serviceman
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Serviceman,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

It's so easy to forget them,
For it is so many times
That our Bobs and Jims and Johnnys,
Went to battle, but recall,

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.
Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Serviceman
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Serviceman,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Serviceman,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Serviceman's part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days..

Perhaps just a simple headline
In the paper that might say:

You can make a difference
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life,
wrote a blank cheque made payable to 'Great Britian',Australia' New Zealand' 'The United States' or any other God fearing country for an amount
"up to and including my life".
That is Honour, and there are way too many people in this world who no longer understand it.
If you want to make a difference, I would recommend the Wounded Warrior Project.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday's Column - London

Sunday's column is about the three-day whirlwind London trip.  It was full of places that I knew very well from my days there and also some I went to for the first time - like the Jack the Ripper walking tour.  That gave Evan and I a real look at what life was like at the bottom end of society in the 1880's.  Not nice at all.

Here is a line of commuter bikes that are available for hire.  The system is that you pay in advance for a credit type card, this allows you to unlock any bike and ride it where you want.  There are parking/exchange stations everywhere throughout the city.  This one is near St. Paul's Cathedral.

I read this statement the other day from a supposed wise man: Every man has three cities that are of great importance to him - the one he was born in; the one he loves, and the one in which he lives.

I have to say that my returning to London, cemented my feeling that London fits into the second category for me.

You can read the column at http://www.sbsun.com/trevorstravels

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia

I have in my possession an ostrich egg.  It belonged to my grandfather who was in the Royal Navy.  As such he traveled quite a bit in the Middle East and told me that he had met T. E. Lawrence.  At the time I was quite young and I didn't know who Lawrence was and didn't understand his significance. His large book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, featured quite prominently on Grandad's book case.

On this egg is a black ink sketch of an ostrich and this, my grandfather told me, was drawn by the great man himself.  I have no way of proving it, of course.  But the egg is a lovely thing and getting close to 100 years old. Lawrence of Arabia died in a motorcycling accident in 1934.  A few years ago on a visit, I drove along by the exact spot.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Music Track - Ray Charles

I miss Ray Charles.  I didn't realize quite how much until I saw the movie, Ray, the other night with Jamie Fox in the role.  He was extrenmely good by the way.  So for those of you who miss him too here is one of the great tracks of him, along with the Blues Brothers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN5V-6yCbpg

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Neti Pot

I suffered from a headache a few weeks back.  It wasn't a really bad one, just an annoying presence.  I couldn't seem to shake it with my normal two Aleve, and it wasn't there all the time.  I even went to the doctor and he doubted my prognosis of a brain tumor.  He said he didn't see those very often - only about once every five years.  He didn't quite see the humor of that when I asked him how long it had been then, and he said about five years!  The redoubtable Mrs. S mentioned something about a Neti Pot, which I ignored as it sounded somewhat obscene.  But one day she brought the above home.  It looked like something that small girls play with along with their dolls.  I read the instructions cursorily and you know what, the headache disappeared.  I never actually had to use the nasty little thing.  Just its presence was enough.  Now that is some powerful medicine.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Also Ran Movie # 4

This list is of the movies that didn't make it into the top ten - it's the "also ran" list.  If you want to see the original list of my favorite movies then go to the box at the bottom and put in movies.  This week we reach number four, which is From Russia with Love with the original part of James Bond played by a youthful Sean Connery.  In fact any of the early Bond movies would have been OK in this spot as the late ones moved away from the original intention of Ian Fleming.  This was, to have a smooth ex-Etonian in exquisitely tailored suits using his wits to fight the bad guys.  I think even Sean Connery would not have made the cut in Fleming's eyes as he wasn't quite polished enough.  Sadly the latest ones are a little too wizz bang and although very good, Daniel Craig is further from the original than Connery.
In this movie Bond's adversary, Robert Shaw, lets himself down by ordering a red wine with a fish course, which immediately alerts Bond to his true status.  There follows a heck of a fight in the compartment - guess who narrowly, but decisively, wins it!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Awesome Video

I'm not a big user of the word "awesome" but my brother-in-law Tony sent me this video with the adjective attached and it truly is.  It's a combination of nature and human exploits that deserve the name.
We all live very busy lives but occasionally it's good to spend a moment looking at something truly inspiring.  This takes just under five minutes - take the time to watch.

Monday, January 9, 2012


There was in interesting article in the paper the other day.  It was about the world champion dart player, who happens to live in San Bernardino.  His name is Paul Lim and in his career he's earned well over a million dollars.  He picked up the game in England's pubs and then moved around quite a bit, ending up recently in Hong Kong where he won $130,000 in one competition alone.

I was never particularly good at "the arrows," when I used to go to the pubs in England.  For a start I was a saloon bar fellow and mostly dart boards hung in the public bars. I did play from time to time and although not a total fool at it, it was not my game.  It also required a certain dexterity in the arithmetic department which made it doubly difficult for me.  All that counting back from 301 and having to start and end on a "double."

The game has changed a lot these days.  No longer are the darts sharp-pointed or the board made of cork like the one here.  Today, soft-nosed darts are thrown into a rubber electronic board that keeps the score for you, and for international matches scores are automatically logged onto a central computer to keep all the stats.  It seems that even in the lowly world of the dart player, progress is all around.  We have a big dart competition held locally every year at Nottinghams in Big Bear, and one thing I have noticed that has not changed - dart players all drink like hell!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sunday's Column - UK

I'm not sure what has happened to The Sun as they have not posted my column on line for some four weeks or more.  I shall have to pay a visit to them personally to sort it out. However, this week's column has been fairly well covered here as it's the first of two on our visit to the UK.  So regular readers of the blog won't miss anything.  Normally the columns can be read at www.sbsun.com/trevorstravels
Well, wouldn't you know it, the Web site is up and running again.  Must have been my threat to come down there in person!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Music Track - Turner

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra12L1Bl0Z4  This is the official video of Simply the Best by Tina Turner - quite a number!  I nearly put up Private Dancer, which is one of my favorites by I remembered at the last moment that I had posted it a year ago.  In the notes for that video however it is reported that Ms. Turner told her dancers that any of the band members were fair game; "But the sax player - he's MINE!" Quite a woman!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Twelfth Night

Today, January 6th, is Twelfth Night.  It might also have been celebrated last night as it rather depends on whether you start Christmas on Christmas Eve or not.  In Medieval times Twelfth Night was a final feast complete with a lot of wassailing - we don't do much of that in our house these days.  But this is also the last day to enjoy Christmas decorations. 

Now I know that in some places it's fashionable to see if they'll hang around until July 4th, but the general rule is that on Twelfh Night they all come down.  And that includes the lady who has had hers up on a tree locally for FOUR YEARS!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

SR - 71

Last week was the 47th anniversary of the launch of my favorite plane - the SR - 71, known as The Blackbird.
This photograph was taken at the US Airforce Base in Mildenhall, Cambridge in England.  It's a notoriously difficult plane to photograph and my attempts on the couple of occasions I have tried have not come out too well. It had a top speed of over 2,000 miles per hour although the actual top speed was never published.  Back in the late 60's stories circulated of this black dart of a plane leaving Cambridgeshire in the early morning and then returning by lunchtime.  It had been to Washington D.C. and back!  It made the trip across the US once in 64 minutes!  I have seen two of them up close; one at the Dryden Flight Museum out in the Mojave Desert, and the other on display at the March Air Museum near Riverside.  The plane was finally retired in 1998.  If you want to learn more this site will tell you. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR-71_Blackbird

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Also Ran Movie List - #5

One of the most indelible scenes from any movie has to be the one where in Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O'Toole in the title role sees the mirage of a man astride a camel coming towards him in the searing desert.  The rider, Omar Sharif, is a black robed prince and fortunately for Lawrence he speaks English.  He points out to Lawrence that drinking from another man's well is punishable by death.  But he allows it for the Englishman. It's a great movie and comes in at Number 5.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I try not to talk about weather here.  Everybody has it and it's not that interesting to those not cowering from whatever effects the climate is having on you.  However this season, in spite of Al Gore's dire prediction, has been exceptionally cold.  We started snow in early November and we keep on getting it.
I believe the Eskimos have about 50 different words for snow, but they generally accept it and leave it alone.  Down here however we fight it and become obsessed with clearing it away from our drives and pathways.
With this in mind I would like to introduce you to the latest tools in our regular fight - on the left a new shovel which scoops the snow away and avoids the need to lift it.  On the right is a new product by Toro, which is an electric blower.  Both these tools are extremely effective with up to about eight inches of snow, and I can clear the drive in about 20 minutes.  If there is more than that, then the big boy comes out - that's the petrol driven snorting beast that will handle up to four feet.  If it's more than that we only have one recourse - S.W.M.B.O*.  She is dynamite with a shovel!  Often as I'm inside with a mug of hot chocolate in my hands I have to admire the way she can clear it away.  It almost makes me feel guilty.

* She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Take Off!

Many thanks to my friend Jim in Pasadena for this wonderful clip of the new F-35B vertical take off tests. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki86x1WKPmE  Naysayers said that it would likely burn holes in the deck or blow seamen into the sea!  Neither of which happened.  When I see this type of thing I'm reminded of a remark a man said to me in New York as I watched the ticker tape parade for the returning astronauts from the moon.  It was my very first visit to America in 1969: "Never underestimate the technological capability of the Untied States!"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday's Column - Zzyzx

I'm sure many of you recognize this sign on the way south out of Baker on the way to Barstow.  Those of you who drive to Las Vegas surely do.  Sadly someone tried to deface the sign and the local authorities have patched it up as best they can.  It's a curious name and it's history is even more curious.  It was a name invented by a Dr. Stringer who was known to want the last word in any argument.  He made this up so he could have the last word in any encyclopedia.  He took the rights for a piece of land to the east of Rte 15 and opened a sort of quack clinic using some of the minerals he mined there.  You can read the entire column here (if The Sun gets its act together and puts it up on the Web site!) www.sbsun.com/trevorstravels