What a week that was, a week of extremes in many ways, we now have a new Prime Minister who has been selecting his cabinet ministers, we have had weather like I can't remember, and this was how I came to meet Betty, more of which later.
But first behold my chiili plant which has at last started to produce some bambino chilli's, for weeks it seemed to languish in a state of coma, giving no indication it would produce the goods for me. Now the recent sun and rain seems to have kickstarted it into life, and this simple thing has made me happy, which is what my Wife says about me to her friends.
Oh and while we're on the subject of extremes, before I forget we're now on the cusp of another Ashes series at the concusion of which I will either be elated or very downhearted.
Just like my chilli plant the England players need to produce the goods, as usual I'm anticipating a good result, I'll give you my thoughts as the series progresses.
As well as the chilli the Verbascum which has evolved over the Summer has just flowered, its been great watching it grow and the bee's seem to love it, a very large and unusual plant.
The picture above is the core of the plant and looks like something out of a Sci Fi film, and below the plant produced these lovely flowers some weeks back on the tendrils that grew away from the core of the plant.
The bee's really liked these and I managed to get a few decent pictures, taken with my Sony HDR-CX405.
My Sunflowers are now thriving as well, after a dodgy start when one of them was dug up by a cat taking a crap in the soft earth I'd planted it in, I ask you you what an undignified way to go, dug up and shat upon, poor little thing.
A rather large slug took a liking to one of them and that was duly dispatched over the back fence like a duke being hit for six.
My garden is in stark contrast to my neightbours whose lawn looks like a particularly well kept bowling green and where everything is pruned to the nth degree, that's fine but I prefer the slightly wilder look.
Anyway back to how I met Betty, the date was 25/07/2019, this Thursday just gone, I was told I needed to go to London to attend a work related user group meeting, in fact I had to attend two, one in central london on the Thursday, and the other in Hatfield on the Friday.
So together with a colleague who was also going I booked a hotel, somewhere within an easy commute of both locations, so me and him drove down on the Wednesday evening to the Ramada at South Mimms services.
I know what you're thinking and you're right, in a bloody services, well things were about to get interesting, I'm not a cheapskate but I'm restricted on cost you understand, of course you do.
We checked in and I went up to my room, no air con, and it was warm, very warm, so down I popped to reception, which was nice and cool, and asked "do you have a fan", "ah" the young lady said, "I'll have a look for you but I can't guarentee anything", "Ok" I say. and go back to my room.
Five minutes later a knock at the door, a young lady stands in front of me with a a fan, well in better times it had been a fan, now it looked like something that had been pulled out of a skip.
The back cover which hides the electrics that power the fan was missing, the stand was at a 45 degree angle, and the blades had what appeared to be black mould on them, she plugged it in, it didn't work.
"" I'll go and find another one" she said and disappeared to return five minutes later with what looked like a nice clean serviceable fan, and it worked, thank god I thought, otherwise I would have cooked like a medium sized chicken in that room.
The windows were open so I took a look outside,
Not the best view, ah but at least breakfast was included in the cost of the overpriced room, although when we asked at reception we were told, "I can't see any sign of breakfast being included on your booking", "bloody hell" I thought.
My colleague later questioned this and came back with two coupons for a breakfast at the Harry Ramsdens in the services area which would have cosy us 8 quid each, welcome to rip off UK.
After a night of little sleep with the fan droning away in the background Thursday morning dawned and off we trotted to fortify ouselves for the upcoming day, well all I can say is it was interesting, if I'd been charged 8 quid for that I would have been pretty pissed off.
Funnily enough my colleagure had read some reviews left by pevious guests and one comment was "for the love of God don't have the breakfast".
There were lots of very young Chinese people staying in the hotel and they had been queuing in front of us to get their food, when we left after having ours we noticed all these breakfasts still completely untouched on the tables,
I hope they didn't think that's the best we have to offer, they may never come back.
My colleagure got a ground floor room with a broken window lock and which was opposite the area where the smokers fill their lungs with various toxins, and the smoke was wafting into his room, oh and no fan either.
He asked to change rooms which they did only to give him a room which still stank of smoke and but at least had not one, but two fans, two fans, to say I was envious is an understatement.
I later took the view he needed at least one of those fans to redirect cigarette smoke back out of the windows.
After feasting on a what was described as a traditional English breakfast, we made our way to Potters Bar train station, a gentle walk of 40 minutes in the coolest part of the day, this involved walking through a nature reserve at the back of the Hotel which was actually quite nice.
Arriving at the station things were now starting to warm up, I hope the train is air conditioned was my one and only thought, when it did turn up it was obviously old rolling stock and no air con.
When you watch people who obviously commute regularly by train you can see in their eyes that with each journey they take a part of their soul dies, they have that blank, resigned sort of look,
We arrived at Finsbury Park and here we had to get on the underground to travel to Victoria, this was the bit I'd been dreading, under normal circumstances I like using the tube, but today it was going to be warmer than a pair of testicles trussed up in a pair of 1970's bri-nylon underpants.
If people on the overground appear half dead then those forced to use the tube on a hot day resemble animated cadavers, with all the seething resentent of vampires forced to live forever in a state of unrest.
With each station we arrived at I ticked off one less to go before we got to our destination, and when we did I was glad we were now near to our final destination which I knew would be air conditioned, whether I would be in any fit state to take in any information was another matter.
I'm sticking in this random image of beer girls at the Adelaide Oval during an Autralia England test match just to cheer myself up, the girls escort you back to your seat with your beer, I didn't avail myself of this service but many testerone filled yound lads did.
If you are a cricket fan and find yourself in Australia the Adelaide Oval is a lovely place to visit.
Below I can be seen with a cock on my shoulder, and it has to be said a bit of a belly, this is beer related nothing to do with eating too much chicken, this is in France, it has to be in France where else could you get a cock so well behaved ?.
Here sans belly and ready to dine at a lovely place in the South of France, I love France, the food and wine, food wise you can't beat a good cassoulet, washed down with a red, it's bloody nirvava I tell you.
What a week it's been for me, the Cricket World Cup has seen me both despondent then higher than a kite, I was convinced we had blown our chances and would be dumped out by Australia.
I tried valiantly to avoid looking at the score but this plan was defeated by a colleague wandering over to me and telling me Australia were 14 for 3, when he assured me he wasn't winding me up my hopes rose.
Then my mind turned to the many times England have flattered to deceive, could Australia still nick the game, the final outcome was too much for me to take in, in a pressure situation England not only won, but won in style.
I was hoping to see the West Indies do really well, that however was not be be, but I would love to see a really strong W.I side in the future.
Now today it's the final, whether we win or lose its been a great tournament, with the Ashes still to come, and now I've got into the tennis as well, sport is consuming me.
The Grand Prix I can take or leave, I used to love it but its become a tad boring in my opinion, in fact I'm more interested in the E-Prix, those cars doing incredible speeds but almost silent, incredible.
Anyway apart from all this an update on my last post.
In my last post I covered some of the ideas put forward in the Council and their partners consulation document which closed last week.
I took part in that and I hope lots of others did too, what the outcomes are from this will be interesting as will how long things take to get moving, obviously as said before lots of thought is required.
I'm hoping the results of peoples input into the consulation will be published as I'm keen to see peoples ideas, we can't just leave this to those who make decisions as they have proved before to be, shall we say "unreliable" :)
Going off on a tangent and before I bore you to death, what do you think of this picture I manged to get a few days back, I was quite pleased with it, watching this stuff is a great antidote to the pressures of watching sport .
An update on the mess I saw last week on Campbell Square, see below -
I reported this to NBC and they responded saying it would be cleared within two days, hopefully it has.
Also I mentioned that I'd walked past idling taxis next to All Saints church belching out diesel fumes where a lot of shoppers are affected, so I passed this info onto the council.
Now lets put this into context, councillors in Northampton very recently declared a climate emergency with talk of making Northampton carbon neutral by 2030, very ambitious but given the councils reply to me probably not attainable.
I'm not going to cut and paste the entirety of their reply to me but basically the gist of it was -
"Whilst I agree that it serves no purpose and is unsessesy for hackney cab operators to idle their vehicles engines during the warm periods of weather, there are currently no Road Traffic Orders in place to prevent any vehicle to idle whilst parked stationary in the town centre. Such orders are put in place by and enforced by the Highways Authority which is currently a County Council function".
So we are back to the old, "this is somebody elses remit", now where have we encountered that before ?, oh yes, in the saga of who was going to be responsible for the repair of Saint Eleanors Cross,
Then we get -
"There is legislation that makes it an offence to leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily whilst parked under the Road Vehicle Regulations (1986). A £20 fixed penalty notice can be served under the Road Traffic (Vehicle Emissions) (Fixed Penalty) (England) Regulations 2002. To the best of my knowledge, Northampton Borough Council have not adopted a policy to enforce this legislation thus enforcement officers are not authorized to enforce the legislation. Consideration has been given in the past to such actions but in order for a fine to be issued the driver of a vehicle has too refused to turn their engine off after being asked to do so by a council official".
So I think you can see that for the council to declare a climate emergency and then state the above is a bit of a joke.
They want to make the town centre a better place to be, well in my mind that doesn't include having to breathe in diesel fumes, there is absolutely no reason for an engine to be running when stationary.
I know that central govenment hasn't helped here in that the example it sets is less than perfect, and they have given councils less to spend, this was published in the Guardian newspaper back in 2016.
"Last March, the supreme court required the government to produce an action plan, but nothing much has been forthcoming apart from extending low-emission zones"
We're now more aware of the dangers of dirty air, so this should be at the top of the agenda, the council used to operate a park and ride form the council offices on the Bedford Road into town, I used it regularly.
Why not bring that back and keep the traffic in the centre to a minimum, seems like a relatively easy fix which could at least go part of the way to a solution.
The big ugly space which is where Greyfriars bus station was could be partially greened, more trees would enhance the place visually and help mitigate some of the pollution, a great opportunity to really make a positive difference.
I've often sat in a green spot in central London and had some food and a drink, it a makes a big difference to the tarmac and concrete environment, to leave this space as it is would be criminal.
Back to the consulation and I've been keeeping abreast of what others think on Facebook, there is some discussion but most of it seems to come from the same people, and most of it seems to be negative.
We all look at things through the prism of our own past experiences and yes we all know the town used to be vibrant, but the factors I've mentioned before have changed things and they are not going to change back overnight.
Some people seem to be upset at the councils proposal to put a food market on the market square making the point that we had one before in the form of the Fish Market, a good point but not necessarily a bad idea.
Shopping was the main reason people went into town, I used to regularly go in to buy albums back in the day, if the primary reason for most people has gone with the advent of shopping online, what will replace this ?.
Can the affect of online shopping be mitigated by creating a more diverse mix of shops, restaurants, pubs, and other facilities?.
From a personal perspective I love to read, and yes I do buy books online but I also like to wander round a bookshop and look at books, maybe more variety in term of shops would tempt people back in ?.
I stopped going to the cinema many years ago, mainly because of the distraction of people on mobiles etc, but a few years back the Errol Flynn cinema opened in the town, now I regularly go to see new films.
The last one I saw was "Yesterday" a brilliant film, watch it if you get the chance, I watched in a great little environment, quiet and comfortable.
So now most of my trips into town are to watch films, what would I do before of after the film, go for a drink, have a meal, and there are some decent pubs and restaurants in the centre.
I've already mentioned that for the town to become attractive again we need a visible police presence, and this was born out by events on Saturday just gone at Sol Central, the entertainment complex.
I was on my way into town on Saturday evening for a night at the Roadmender, and as the taxi approached Sol Central we saw three police cars all with their blues and two's on and the entrance was cordoned off with tape.
This was obviously not a traffic accident so me and the taxi driver assumed that some sort of fracas has happened, and we were right, a group of men had been fighting and someone had been stabbed.
This was bad enough but the following day somebody was shot and stabbed on the football fields on the eastern side of town in front of spectators.
Earlier in the week a man was robbed at knifepoint in an alleyway, the problem we have is with the rarity of seeing a policeman the n'er do wells are pretty sure they won't be caught and this makes it easy for idiots to engage in anti-social behaviour.
Old and young alike are not really going to have confidence that they will be safe if this continues, and it needs to be stamped on very quickly, because otherwise it's only a matter of time before we have have a fatality.
On a brighter note I had a great evening watching this band who I only became aware of recently.
They were supported by Jared James Nichols
Living Colour are well worth checking out, as is the splendid Mr Nichols who does a great rendition of Mississippi Queen