Tessa's Tête-à-Tête
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Recent Posts:
September 2005


Battle of Britain

Fertility Treatment

The Plumber's Tale of Woe

Learning to Read and Write

Bureaucracy Gone Mad

What is Really Happening in New Orleans

Hurricane Katrina

The Tooth Fairy Forgot to Come!!!

August 2005

More Surgery!"

How I Met Michael Rennie (1909-1971)

"The Sixth Lamentation" - An Excellent Book

French Onions

Edgar Albert Guest (1881-1959)

I'm Recovering Well

Well, I'm Glad That's Over!

Just Me Prattling

The Russian Mini-Submarine

Amazing Animals: The Sturgeon

The Tower Subway

Surgical Pre-Assessment

July 2005

The Coal Delivery

Spyware and Anti-spyware"

Getting Enough Sleep?

An Insidious Cancer

Americans First on the Moon

"The Lion King"

Update on my Biopsy

Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?


Animal Intelligence

Fl./Lt. Dennis G. Hornsey, D.F.C.

The English Language

London Bombs

Marriage Advice?

My Biopsy

A Message for the World's Leaders

June 2005


A 'Perfect' Day

Amazing Animals: The Emperor Penguin

Crowned on this Day in 1509

A Sweet for a Special Occasion

King Solomon's Mines

Father's Day

Tiger, Tiger....


Cockroaches and Human Fertility

World's Best Character Actor

Computer Decisions

Food for Thought


World Ocean Day

Daft as a Brush (or Two)

Douglas Jennings, RAF Evader During WW II

Lord of the Rings

Driving Me Mad

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Sunday, 6 February 2005
May Your Tribe Increase
Topic: In the News
Can you imagine having eighteen children? Possibly - lots of people had very large families in the not so distant past. In Spain in the Sixties, General Franco used to give an annual present of a house to a poor family with the most children. I stayed with my sister in Madrid helping in her English Nursery Class in 1961/62 and I can remember a winner with twenty-four children! It must have been very hard for the runners-up who were persuaded to try for one more child in the hopes of gaining that coveted prize.

So, now you have eighteen children, can you imagine having one hundred grandchildren? And eighteen great-grandchildren? Well, this is the family of a Norwegian couple, Randi and Filip Bekkevold, who have just celebrated the birth of their 100th grandchild. [See this article on the BBC World News]. And they say they know all their names! I know I wouldn't, for sure!

That reminds me of a much-loved teacher in my primary days at the Manor House Convent School in Finchley, North London, who called everyone "Girlie". One day, she was surrounded in the playground by a mass of lassies clamouring for her attention (including me) when the school's Groundsman approached to ask her a question. She turned to him and, without thinking, said, "Yes, Girlie?". She never did quite live that one down!

Posted by Noviomagus at 00:49 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 4 February 2005
A Tale of Woe!
Topic: Miscellanea
Oh, dear! I have been so very good and careful not to use naughty words in front of the Grandchildren until yesterday - and, they just slipped out.

Stephanie and Elliot were eating their supper and we were drinking coffee and eating a biscuit when I crunched on something in my mouth. A stone in my biscuit? No, it looked like a piece of tooth filling, and a second piece. I prodded my teeth with my tongue - it felt like a huge hole. "Oh, dear. A filling's come out", I lamented. "That will cost a bit!" Poke again with my tongue. "What a nuisance!", I said resignedly. Then, out they came, two sad sounding naughty words attributing my woes to a gory hades. OOOPS. (My husband told me later that Elliot's hand shot up to his mouth!) I did apologise straight away and said 'sorry, I shouldn't have said that' or words to that effect but, what is said is said. Naughty Grandma! (Perhaps I'll say that next time I feel like using an imprecation: "Oh, Gory Hades" - I must practise that!)

I had only seen the Dentist four weeks ago for my six-monthly check-up and he had replaced a lost filling then. Now yet another tooth falling to bits. My tongue was getting quite sore rubbing on this one so I rang the Dentist's Surgery this morning to make an appointment and got one 50 minutes later! Friday is his 'emergency' day - one piece of good luck. Got my bike out and pedalled off down the town.

Half an hour or so later and £55.00 poorer, I stepped out of his door feeling much more comfortable. A 'robust, intermediate filling' he called it. I will have to make a decision next June whether to continue with it and hope it lasts, have the whole tooth filling removed and redone, or go for a nice new crown. Better start saving up!

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:42 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 2 February 2005
On Getting Old
Topic: Poetry and Poets
I am sure I have aged at least a month over the past ten days! Far too many late nights sitting at my computer well into the early hours. The trouble is that I have been sitting down at my keyboard around 11:00 or 11:30pm, with a mug of coffee by my side (I know, coffee late at night is very bad!) and, two or three hours later, I suddenly noticed the time. Then, when I did go to bed, I couldn't get to sleep!

Someone once said that it is a sign of age if you feel like the morning after the night before and you haven't been anywhere. Perhaps, I should go 'somewhere' and see how I feel? My memory's failing - my head's in a spin... Well, this poem says it all! Someone had bought one of those fun laminated cards and had pinned it on the wall in the corridor of my old office many years ago. I liked the poem so much I took it down and photocopied it. It was printed without any verses so that it could all fit on an A4 card but I think it looks better like this. The author is unknown but I suspect it must have been written by a Senior Citizen! Only a revered elder from the elite club of the retired would know how we feel and how to put it all into words! Hope you enjoy it!

I'm Very Well Thank You

There is nothing the matter with me,
I'm as healthy as I can be,
I have arthritis in both my knees,
And when I talk - I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, and my blood is thin,
But - I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

Arch supports I have for my feet,
Or I wouldn't be able to be out on the street,
Sleep is denied me night after night,
But every morning I find I'm alright.
My memory is failing, my head's in a spin,
But - I'm awfully well for the shape I'm in.

The moral is this - as my tale I unfold,
That for you and me who are getting old,
It's better to say 'I'm fine' with a grin,
Than to let folks know the shape we are in.
How do I know that my youth is all spent?
Well, my 'get up and go' has got up and went.

But I really don't mind when I think with a grin,
Of all the grand places my 'got up' has bin.
Old age is golden I've heard it said,
But sometimes I wonder as I get into bed,
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My specs on a table until I get up.

'Ere sleep overtakes me I say to myself,
Is there anything else I could lay on the shelf?
When I was young my slippers were red,
I could kick my heels right over my head,
When I was older my slippers were blue,
But I still could dance the whole night through.

Now I am old my slippers are black,
I walk to the shop and puff my way back,
I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
And pick up the paper to read the 'obits',
If my name is still missing I know I'm not dead;
And so I have breakfast and - go back to bed.

Author unknown

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:50 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 1 February 2005
Eureka - Another Solution!
Topic: My Web Pages
After all the troubles with my website gear, I realised something else this morning. I had subscribed to two Newsletters from Tripod: Tripod Handcrafted and Gearworks. The last one I received was dated 13th March 2004!

I did vaguely wonder what had happened to Handcrafted but so much happened last year what with back trouble, crashing my computer, updating to cascading style sheets and my husband's health problems overshadowing everything, that it failed to make an impact on my tired old mind.

I have now updated my Tripod/Lycos Network membership details with my Yahoo mail address. What is it with the Wanadoo Mail Servers? They are obviously not on speaking terms with Tripod! What other emails have I never received?

Does anyone else out there in the UK have a Tripod Website and a Wanadoo email address? I'd love to hear from you if you have.

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:45 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Eureka - A Solution!
Topic: My Web Pages
I have had a long few days sitting at my computer - I was getting so tired at the weekend, I tried to pour pineapple juice into my coffee instead of Soya milk. Now that would have been a new experience! Luckily, I stopped just in time. I remember my sister once put a spoonful of instant coffee into my mother's hot lemon juice - I think that experiment went down the sink!

Well, at least I now know that my Feedback Form and my Guestbook emails are working properly. Thanks in no small part to 'Mamagoo', a member of the Tripod Community. I posted a message on the Tripod Community Blog about my problems and this very kind lady went to a great deal of trouble installing a Feedback Form on her website and testing it out. As a result, I have now changed my email notification address to my Yahoo Web Mail address instead of my home email address. All the test messages we sent arrived immediately.

When I first set up my Yahoo account, I put that address on my website but I forgot to check it for several days and of course there was an email patiently waiting there. So, I reverted to my home email address. This time, I noticed that Yahoo now had a free mail forwarding service and I decided to try it out. Set everything up and verified my email address. Sent myself a test email from myself and back it came into my Outlook Express Inbox. So far so good... I then put yet another test entry into my Guestbook and nothing arrived - the notification email was lost in outer space somewhere, probably in the Alpha Quadrant! Went back to Yahoo and had a small panic until I found out how to turn off the mail redirection.

So, could the culprit be my Internet Service Provider! I have always had the same ISP, which started off as Freeserve. From the 5th April 2004, Freeserve introduced anti-spam and anti-virus services and then from 28th April, Freeserve changed its name and became Wanadoo - maybe some of these changes caused a bug somewhere in their Mail Servers? Hmmm... The earliest entry in the queue of entries I found in the Guestbook Gear Manager was dated 25th March 2004. Possibly, they started putting changes in force around that time. I have now contacted Wanadoo but, as usual, received an automated reply! I am writing again and hope to receive a reply from a human being in due course. However, I may never know the real cause of my problems.

I have yet to hear from Tripod whether there is any possibility of recovering nine lost Feedback messages - probably not. However, I have learnt a lesson. No news is good news - BUT keep checking Gear Manager! And, from now on, my Yahoo Mail box.

Posted by Noviomagus at 01:26 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 29 January 2005
Problems with My "Feedback Form"
Mood:  blue
Topic: My Web Pages
After sorting out my GuestBook problems, I looked at the Feedback Form and yes, that is definitely malfunctioning too. The statistics at Gear Manager tell me I have had eleven messages. Nine of those are lost in limbo somewhere on the Tripod Servers! Probably all sent in the last nine months or so. I actually sent myself a test Feedback message last night and it has not arrived although Gear Manager now tells me I have had twelve messages. So, if you are reading this and you once sent me a Feedback, my sincere apologies for not replying. Your message was never passed on to me.

Of course, I have my email address on my website also - masked in various ways to try to beat the email harvesting machines the Spam senders use to scan websites. However, I thought that having the alternative of using a Feedback Form was a brilliant idea, as some people do not have access to email facilities. I have a 'Mail' link in my taskbar so I can call up Outlook Express whenever I want to but not everyone has an email program installed on his or her computer. Some people use a web based email service such as Yahoo. I know that I can open a second browser and go to Yahoo whilst keeping a web page open, but many people do not realise that they can do that - a Feedback Form means they don't have to leave my site. Also, they don't have to give me an email address if they don't want to.

A brilliant idea.... But only if it works!

I have written again to the Support Team at Lycos/Tripod. They must have been aware of this long-standing problem before I discovered it. I can only hope that they can cure the "misconfiguration" and retrieve my Feedback messages but I am not feeling very hopeful at present!

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:44 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 25 January 2005
The Saga of My Disappearing Guest Book
Mood:  irritated
Topic: My Web Pages

I first set up my Guest Book in September 2001 when my website was still in its birth throes and the first people to sign it were my nephew, my son and my evening class tutor followed about six weeks later by my cousin, Michel. I decided to submit my URL to the search engines in November 2001 and waited several months for my site to be indexed. Then two more signatures appeared in July 2002 and one of my Spanish nieces found me in September 2002 and signed it too. One more signature was added in November and this was the first time I realised that Tripod had failed to send me a notification email to say my book had been signed. By the time I discovered the entry, it seemed rather too late to send a `thank you for signing' email.

In 2003, I had 13 entries, including my son again, my daughter and one I put in myself to reply to someone who had left a private entry together with an email address which did not work! Of the rest, I had to delete one and I had to remove the homepage link plus a large picture link from another one inviting everyone to visit the owner's website. (I followed that link only to find myself looking at a ghastly photograph of the rear end of an unfortunate weightlifter who had suffered a severe rectal prolapse. Ugghh!) This unpleasant experience made me change my open format to a moderated one sometime in July 2003. One more signature appeared on 27th February 2004. After that, nothing....

I began to feel extremely depressed about my Guest Book. I must be doing something wrong or perhaps signing Guest Books was just going out of fashion? Certainly, leaving an email link* anywhere on the Internet could result in unwanted Spam flooding your inbox, as I had already found out! Perhaps I could change the format completely? I thought of changing it to a 'Sign for World Peace' Book but I would have liked to include a 'light a candle' feature and I had no idea how to do that. I wrote to my cousin at Christmas and told him I would probably remove the Guest Book as no one was signing it. In mid-January, I finally did just that and removed all the links to my Guest Book from several pages.

Then late last Sunday afternoon, I decided to see what changes could be made to the Tripod Guest Book format if I started again; and so I logged into Gear Manager. That's when I discovered that there were a large (for me!) number of entries all waiting to be approved for publication. I had not received any email notifications. I was furious with Tripod and I ranted and raged until I could see my husband wasn`t listening anymore. I was also very upset that people had not seen their entries appear and extremely mortified that I had not been able to thank anyone for their comments. I searched the Help pages at Lycos/Tripod to see if there were any alerts regarding technical problems with email notification. Finally, late Sunday evening, I filled in the form to report an error.

Monday afternoon, a reply arrives from Lycos Customer Support:

Dear Tessa,
The Tripod/HTML Gear Mail Servers are not functioning properly due to a misconfiguration error. Some members may receive delayed notification emails after their Guestbooks or Feedback forms were signed by visitors a while back. The error is not the result of an action on your part and all of the signed entries are kept in our database. We apologize for the inconvenience that may have caused you".

A misconfiguration error that is eleven months old! Tripod - that is just not good enough!

I will be reinstating my Guest Book links on my website as soon as possible and in the meantime, my sincere apologies to all those visitors who never saw their entries appear. I will alter the settings to "open" and I will have to check on a daily basis until Tripod resolves this technical mess or I find a more reliable Guest Book from somewhere else. In the meantime, I am still feeling extremely MIFFED! (Yes, I know, it's bad for my high blood pressure and I am trying to calm down).

Well, wouldn't you be annoyed? Also, I feel a complete Nerd for assuming my Guest Book was an utter failure and for not checking out Gear Manager on a regular basis - that was really stupid of me. Why didn't I think to look - anyone else would have checked it out except yours truly and ..... Arrghh... I must calm down, I must calm down, I must calm down...

* To mask your email address from the automatic Spam gatherers, write 'at' instead of using '@', which is one of the giveaways , and write 'dot' instead of a stop. Any human being can decipher that with no trouble.

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:54 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Thursday, 20 January 2005
Email Hijacking and Phishing Emails
Topic: Computer
I have had a tremendous amount of trouble with Spam recently. Twice, I have had a large number of emails I didn't send returned marked `undeliverable'. It seems my email address may have been hijacked. The first time this happened was at the end of November/beginning of December. I saw all these emails appearing on MailWasher. I immediately logged on to my Wanadoo Webmail Account and saw that another 260 or so had gone straight into the Junk Email Folder. Panic. I have Norton Anti-Virus (which automatically updates itself when I am on-line) and email protection from Wanadoo, as well, so I was sure it wasn't a virus email that had caused the problem. I did an immediate virus scan - everything was clean.

For a couple of weeks, I used my webmail account instead of Outlook Express. I downloaded additional programs such as SpywareBlaster and Ad-Aware. Eventually, I opened Outlook Express. Of course, all the mail I had read on Wanadoo downloaded as un-read. Then, it all happened again on dates between 30th December and 2nd January. I was worried that Wanadoo might close my account for sending out Spam so I wrote to them for advice. Their reply was vague, just telling me that some Internet users use spoof email addresses and that many viruses also take email addresses from the address books of infected computers. They also told me how to report Spam by copying the IP address from the email header.

In November 2001, I opened an attachment and got the Badtrans.B worm, which immediately emailed itself to everyone in my "cache" so I know about viruses using address books. This 'sporadic hijacking' is different so what is causing it and can I do anything about it other than changing my email address? Have I got something nasty on my computer or is it an external problem? My Outlook Express folders are now in a total mess and I still haven't got round to sorting and deleting all those `unread` emails!

Do you know anyone this has happened to? I would appreciate any advice!

Now, a warning: a few days ago, I received an email telling me that I had just received a virtual postcard from Aunt Edna. I don't have an Aunt Edna, so I was suspicious. BUT, could it be someone I know being facetious? The postcard came from 1001 Postcards so I did a Google search and found the site. A very nice postcard site, I thought, but my pickup code of "35-dodge-treads-aunt" didn't work and I got an "ooops" message. Sent myself a postcard. There were some slight discrepancies between the two emails notifying me of my postcards, not least of which was the address for making a donation at VERY suspicious by now. No way was I going to click on any of the links in the first email. I even went to the trouble of filling in the comment form at 1001 Postcards telling them that I suspected I had received a phishing email supposedly from them. Well, if it was your postcard website, you would want to know wouldn't you? They might want to put a warning somewhere on their pages.

I decided to do another google search and found confirmation. Yes, it is a phishing email. Clicking on any of the links sends you to a Trojan Site and opens a socks proxy on a random TCP port leaving you vulnerable to a particularly nasty trojan called CoolWebSearch. If you get a postcard notification from Aunt Edna, delete it immediately. If your name is Edna, don't send any postcards from 1001 Postcards to your nephews and nieces! They probably will bin them!

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:57 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Tuesday, 18 January 2005
Learning From Your Grandchilden
Topic: Grandchildren
Did you make any New Year resolutions? I have been feeling very guilty ever since Thursday, 6th January, when my six and a half-year-old twin grandchildren told me their resolutions. Stephanie said she had made two: to eat her meals nicely and not to `strop' so much! I certainly noticed the difference when she ate her supper up quickly - no playing with the food and letting it get cold. Elliot said he had made two resolutions as well: not to keep crying out when he was in bed and to eat all his vegetables! "Have you made any New Year Resolutions, Grandpa and Grandma?" Well, no, actually we hadn't. "Mummy has made two New Year resolutions, too!", he said. Does being a Senior Citizen absolve you from making resolutions? No, of course not! I am far from perfect. I have lots of bad habits I should be doing something about.

Last Friday evening; I finished the packet of chocolate biscuits I have been eating with my evening drink before I go to bed. I have turned into a secret biscuit eater! Sometimes, I even eat some with my afternoon coffee. Always, when my husband isn't looking - although I suspect he guesses! He comes shopping with me and must notice the biscuit packet falling into the trolley. Does that tell you something? Well, yes, I have been putting on weight steadily for some time. Too much to eat and not enough exercise. I see myself in the long mirror at the bottom of the stairs in my daughter's house. Ugghh! I look awful. My tummy is very obvious and I have a layer of fat just about everywhere. I can remember some years ago seeing a fat person in the street and saying to my husband, "I hope I don't become like that person!" Well, if I haven`t quite, I am well on the way!

So, time to do something. From last Saturday, I have resolved not to eat any more biscuits in secret with my afternoon and evening drinks. Well, it is a small start but at least it is something positive. Thank you, Stephanie and Elliot, for your good examples.

Posted by Noviomagus at 12:45 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 16 January 2005
Some More Problems with the Language!
Topic: Humorous
Here are a few more mistranslations that may make you smile.

This first one happened to me in Spain in 1961 or 1962 when I was staying with my sister, Maud. I was having trouble with my foot - couldn't put my weight on it. It seemed to be a recurrence of my flat foot problem - probably due to the shoes I was wearing. Anyway, my sister decided I needed to see the doctor. Now, when I was sixteen, I had been prescribed some leather arch supports and had a course of treatment which entailed putting my feet into a bowl of water on top of two metal electrodes which alternatively contracted and relaxed the foot muscle (a very odd feeling!). So, naturally, I wanted to tell the Spanish doctor about it and that I had worn supports in my shoes. I looked up 'support' in my little pocket dictionary. The most suitable word was 'sostén'. Well, I made the error of pluralizing it and explained to the doctor that I had worn 'sostenes' in my shoes. Well, did my sister laugh when I came home. I had actually told the doctor that I had worn a bra in my shoes!

My eldest sister, Marie-Claire, who is a nun in the religious order of the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice, told us this story about the Papal Nuncio to Paris (I think it was Archbishop Roncalli, the future Pope John XXIII]. He gave a speech to a group of Church Dignitaries on his arrival in France and inadvertently said "When I look at my behind..." [Quand je regarde mon derrière..."] when he meant to say, "When I look back on my past..."

There is another trap that English people abroad can fall into - using a foreign word that sounds like the English one you want to use. My sister made this bloomer when she first visited Spain. She is an inveterate chatterbox so, when she was introduced to a handsome young man at a party, she was not put off by her (at the time) limited ability with the language. She was recounting an embarrassing episode that had just happened to her so she said "Estoy muy embarazada". She didn't realise until later that what she had said was not, "I am very embarrassed", as she thought! What she actually told the young lad was, "I am very pregnant"!

Another extremely unfortunate incidence of this kind of mistranslation happened when an English speaking Army Chaplain wished to bless some French speaking soldiers on their way to the battle front. "Soyez blessé" he said. Whoops! Not "May you be blest" but much worse, "May you be wounded"!

Bonne nuit!

Posted by Noviomagus at 17:48 GMT Post Comment | Permalink

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