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HSBC: The worst bank in Britain?

Story location: Home / Blog /

I'm glad my account isn't with the HSBC. We went there to pay a bill but it turned out to be one of their many branches where they've got rid of counter service. They had a 'podium' in the middle of the branch where you could wait for service but if there was no staff around, you could be waiting for ages.

It also meant that whenever any staff wander in from the back of the branch, they might not see you waiting and could serve, for example, the bloke who wandered straight to the back of the branch without waiting. It's a bit crappy of the staff to not check whether people were waiting first.

Pretty well anything you need to do in the branch has to be done using the machines. This isn't always self-explanatory. To pay a bill, you have to use the 'Paying In' machine, but nowhere does it mention paying bills. The machine looks like it's designed for depositing money into your account rather than paying bills. And if you ask a member of staff for help, you run the risk of being talked down to in a very patronising manner.

It was not a pleasant banking experience.

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I'd forgotten that March was an expensive month for the car. The road tax, insurance and MOT were all due.

I took the car for it's MOT yesterday but was told that it needs new tyres. The tread was a bit low but looked more than the 1.6mm minimum depth. I got some new tyres fitted this morning and was amazed at the difference it made. Before, the steering had been quite heavy but I put that down the the car's lack of power steering. With the new tyres, the steering is much lighter. The tread is so deep it feels like you could lost a finger if you poked too deep.

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Keeping Hamsters in Groups

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

I have received a number of comments and messages recently, telling me that Syrian hamsters shouldn't be kept in pairs or small groups. I know the people sending these messages are well meaning, but I wish they would stop and actually read my web site.

I do not have any Syrian hamsters. We only have dwarf hamsters, and they can usually be kept in pairs or small groups. Any mention of hamsters being housed together will always refer to dwarf hamsters. I know that Syrian hamsters should be housed separately when they get older but that's completely irrelevant to me.

We briefly looked after some Syrians but they were kept in their own cages. We don't have them any more.


I also keep getting messages asking whether any of the hamsters are for sale. Sorry but they are all pets and not for sale.

Thame Country Show

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

The opening day of this years show was very badly attended. Many people were obviously scared off by the weather forecast predicting hail and snow. We got both during the day but only in small bursts.

We were there as part of the Hamster Show, but got some time off to wander around the show. The arena events had very small audiences compared to last year. Some of the tents and stalls in the further reaches of the site were either empty or closed.  

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Sniff... Sniff...

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

What's that funny smell in the kitchen?
Smells like something's burning...
Oh crap, I forgot about the bread in the oven!

I had put some part baked baguettes in the oven for tomorrows lunch. I smelt them just in time. They were brown but not burnt. We often put bread in the oven then 'forget' about it, especially if we're watching something on TV and we only remember after the programme has finished.

Quail Update

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

On Friday, a couple of people from the Coventry Rabbit and Guinea Sanctuary came for the boy chicks which we were keeping outside. They have an aviary and wanted some quail to keep in it.

We've since moved some of the other birds outside to the hutch, so all the birds now have even more space each. We have a reasonable cock to hen ratio (at least 2-3 hens per cock is recommended) so that should minimize the chance of fighting while still giving us a decent supply of eggs.

Earlier in the year, Emma built a multi-storey quail house, with each shelf having a wide plastic tray where the quail can live. The trays have high sides so they can't kick too much bedding out.

The multi-storey quail house

There are nest boxes in the corners of some of the trays. Yesterday morning we found 'Stumpy' trapped between the tray and the wire mesh. This was in the corner where one of the nest boxes were, so we think he might have fallen off and down the side. In a couple of months of keeping the quail in there, none had managed to do this.

We rescued Stumpy and put him back, but later on to our surprise we found another bird trapped in the same way. We put her back but she obviously didn't learn from the experience because later in the day we found her trapped in the same place.

A quail trapped between the tray and the mesh

After putting her back for the 2nd time, we decided to block off the gap by filling it with rolled up newspaper. We only blocked off the one side near the nest box because we thought it was unlikely that a bird would be sitting on the edge of the tray at the other side of the cage.

This turned out to be a mistake because about an hour or so later we found the same bird trapped for the 3rd time, but now on the other side of the tray. Both ends are now blocked off. You can see the rolled up newspaper in the top photo.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

One of my Guinness t-shirts is wrong this year. Since St Patrick's Day was moved by 2 days the one I wear on March 17th has the wrong date on it.

This year, for one year only, it's on the March 15th instead of the 17th, so it doesn't clash with the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter. I've got my cans of Guinness in the fridge ready to open tonight.

City Farm

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Coventry City Farm is being forced to close soon, due to lack of funds. At the moment it is still open and they are accepting donations so they can still afford to feed the animals. While we were there, we lent our support by dropping some money in the collection box and also by buying a few things from the shop.

City Farm: pigs
Some enormous pigs.

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City Farm: ducks
The duck pond.
City Farm: chickens
City Farm: a family of guinea pigs
A family of guinea pigs eating some carrots. There are actually 3 in the cage. There is a baby eating the bottom carrot but it isn't very clear in the photo.

That's me in the corner, losing my revision

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

We have two exams next week, and everyone must be at home revising because I have the office to myself today. Revision is going slowly. I somehow managed to distract myself by watching the first few episodes of Black Books using the 4OD thing from Channel 4 to watch the episodes on-line.

I also managed to lose a tea bag. I keep a tin on my desk with assorted teas in it - at the moment it has a couple of types of green tea, some earl grey and some rooibos (aka Red Bush). I reached into the tin, grabbed a bag at random, picked up my mug and walked towards the door. I realised I was only carrying the mug, not the teabag, which was nowhere to be seen. Not on the desk. Not in my pocket. Not dropped on the chair or floor. I came to the conclusion that I must have put it back in the tin.

I've suffered from senior moments before, but this was one of the more extreme.

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Degu and Crackers

Story location: Home / Blog / degu /

We were watching Torchwood on BBC2 and had the degus out for a bit of a run. We were also eating a few crackers for supper. The degus (or Podge Rats as we sometimes call them) seemed rather interested in them.

emile eating a cracker
Emile seemed to really like the cracker, snatching it and trying to eat it all himself.

remy eating a cracker
Remy was less bothered and took a nibble, but didn't try to take the whole cracker.

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Farmers Harvest

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

A couple of weeks ago, I read about a new beer from the Warwickshire based Purity Brewery. Called Farmers Market, it was the first alcoholic drink to get the 'Red Tractor' mark for British ingredients. We found a bottle of it in the Wayside Farm Shop at the weekend and got around to opening it tonight.

First impressions were of a fairly light flavoured beer, but after swallowing, the depth of flavour become more apparent. It's a tasty brew and I hope it finds its way into pubs, rather than being restricted to bottle sales.

Purity is only a small local-ish brewery and its beers are available in a few pubs in Coventry - I don't know whether they're as readily available in other parts of the country.

Automatic for the People

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

I was driving a hire car today. I don't know whether the University regularly hires automatic cars but that's what I got. It's only the 2nd time I've driven one - I'm more used to a normal manual gearbox. It feels weird driving a car without a handbrake or a clutch, and the sluggishness from a standing start is a bit annoying (although the last point may have been because it was also a diesel).

When I got back this afternoon and returned the car, I got back into my own car to drive home. It then started to feel weird needing to press the clutch. The steering also felt strange - the hire car had very light steering whereas my car doesn't have power assisted steering so it felt very heavy.

While I was out, I heard about an unexploded 2nd World War bomb found in the city centre. Later this afternoon I read about the ring road being closed in an anticlockwise direction, but it was open and moving freely when I drove home. It looks like I got home just in time.

Outdoor Quail

Story location: Home / Blog / quail /

The quail chicks (5 weeks old and almost full sized) were getting a bit 'overcrowded' indoors. They had plenty of space in their 1m x 0.5m cages but they occasionally stampede, which they don't do if they have more room. We put half of the birds outside, in the rabbit hutch we bought last year. There are 8 birds in the hutch, so they have a lot more room now. The birds indoors have been split between their existing cage and the newly vacated one so everyone has extra space.

We were waiting for the weather to improve, to minimise the change of freezing nights. Unfortunately we put them outside before we saw the weather forecast and the impending storm. We checked on them this morning and they were all ok. Emma put them in the top part of the hutch last night, and they had kept dry.

The rabbit hutch where the quail live
The rabbit hutch.

The small hutch extension
One of the quail, in the small hutch 'extension'.

The Domestic Fowl Trust

Story location: Home / Blog /

Photos from the Domestic Fowl Trust, near Evesham. They have lots of different types of birds, including chickens, turkeys and guinea fowl. Some of the more unusual chickens included Seabright (their feathers look like they've had outlines drawn on them with marker pens), Silkies (very soft fluffy feathers). There were also some enormous cockerels (not including the 7ft model in the museum).

While we were in the area, we decided to visit a few other places. Broadway was a picturesque Cotswold village, but not somewhere to spend a lot of time. We couldn't find an affordable pub lunch or anywhere to buy a newspaper, so we left and drove towards Evesham.
Along the way we stopped at the Wayside Farm Shop. We bought a few bottles of cider, including some traditional scrumpy.
Next stop was Evesham for lunch and a quick look around the town before driving home.  

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Sideways Ducks

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

It was very windy as walked into town this morning. We pass a pond, and I noticed some ducks swimming in the middle. As I was passing, a sudden strong gust of wind blew them sideways, almost capsizing one of them. They seemed to have difficulty swimming in a straight line.

Drink up, It'll save the world

Story location: Home / Blog / food_and_drink /

According to the BBC News website, scientists in Scotland have found a way of using whisky to clean up contaminated land. They are actually using a by-product rather than the whisky itself. It's good to know that as well as tasting good, whisky is also good to the planet.

Double Glazing

Story location: Home / Blog / house /

We had double glazing fitted last week. We decided we needed it last year after Emma nearly put her foot through the rotten window frame in the front room while we were decorating.

It has definitely made a difference. We don't get a cold draught coming through the hallway at night. The back bedroom window isn't constantly covered in condensation. The bathroom seems warmer.

I know that double glazing isn't very cost effective. It may reduce heating bills, and it adds a small amount to the value of a house, but probably not enough to recoup the installation cost. It makes the house more comfortable, and that's what we're paying for really.

Perl 2006-2008

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Perl the robo died in the night. She'd been looking very old and frail for the last few days. We adopted her last year because she was being beaten up by another hamster, and their owners didn't have room to separate them.

She lived with Ruby (aka Little'un or Babykin) for a while. When Zosima (Little Silly) died, leaving Alysia (Big Silly) on her own, we put the three girl robos together.

Orna and Friend

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Here is a photo of Orna, with her new friend. Yesterday we called him 'Mysteron' (shortened from Mr Orna), but his name seems to have settled on Ornald. Although I sometimes call him Bjorn (shortened from Boy Orna).

2 hamsters
Ornald is on the left, with Orna on the right.

Alcester Hamster Show

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We went to a hamster show in Alcester today. I took a short break during the day to walk around the town. It looks like a nice historic place, with plenty of old buildings.

an old building in Alcester

We went with 3 hamsters - Orna and Graaf were being entered in the show. Vande came along to keep Graaf company. We came home with 4 hamsters. Emma decided to buy a 'boyfriend' for Orna.