Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tow Truck

The other day I was watching a poor fellow having his car towed at the supermarket.  It had dropped the front end and was completely immovable.  The tow truck had to back into a smallish space and then haul the car up its ramp to be taken away.  It would have been much easier if the tow truck had been fitted with this device which is an amazing piece of equipment.  Thanks to Tony in England for the clip.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bear Valley Climate

Bear Valley is an interesting place from a  number of perspectives.  Our weather man, Ben Brissey, says there are actually four complete seasonal sites around the mountains, and a local botanist told me there are four distinct types of fauna and flora.
Now just 12 miles away and at the same elevation, we have to watch out for these fellows.  Not my favorites, and if the picture is of a rattlesnake, and I'm not too sure about that, you don't want to bump into him.  And particularly his small offspring.  The babies are more dangerous than the adults as they don't yet know how to apportion the amount of venom they inject, and it can be lethal - particularly for dogs.  We have a house at the other end of the valley where we have a trellis around the deck so that the dogs can't chase anything dangerous in there and corner it.  The only snake I've seen over there was a dead one.  But I've been at the vets and seen owners come in with their dogs bitten.

I'm told there are even scorpions over there and I haven't seen any of them either, I'm glad to say.  One of the nice things however is that down here at the west end we have Stellars's Jays which are cheerful medium-sized birds with a wonderful crew cut.  At the east end we have blue birds which are very different.  They don't seem to cross over.  It's amazing how such a little distance can cause such changes.  Rainfall is much higher in the east during the summer months as storms come up out of the deserts 4000 feet below.  But in the winter at the west end we get snow when often just 12 miles away the sun is shining.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Boy and his Dog

I'm indebted to my friend, Tony, in England for this clip. It's about three minutes long and a wonderful tribute to Labradors - among my favorite dogs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday's Column - Big Bear Lake

Sunday's column was about Big Bear Lake.  Some three years ago I did a series of videos for The Sun on my ten most favorite places to visit in the County.  It went backwards and ended up with Number One, which was Big Bear.  You can still see the video at
In the video I said there was so much to do up here that  it was hard not to write a column each week on the place.  The column stressed that although we get most of our visitors here in the summer and the winter, the very best time to come up is during the other two seasons.

Nonetheless we are now in the height of the summer and all the indications are that it is going to be a really good one.  If you fancy getting out on the lake, then there are six marinas from whom you can rent all types of watercraft.  The para-sail company is working all the time giving a slightly different view to riders.  And of course, there is the ever popular cycling and riding, although you may need a little time to get used to the thinner air up here at 6,750 feet.

You can read the entire column at

Sistine Chapel

My friend, Tony, in England sent me this wonderful link.
I"ve never been to the Sistine Chapel and doubt I'm going to make it.  But this link allows you to look at all the paintings that Michelangelo produced between 1508 and 1512.  Once the image has loaded you can rotate your cursor and use the roller to zoom in.  It's a wonderful visit.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

MUSIC TRACK - Dave Brubek

I'm not a big fan of jazz, but I remember when this first came onto the scene back in 1961.  It's a great piece, I think, and all the players look like bankers!

New Bridge

We have a new bridge to take the place of the one going over the dam.  It opens today after some two years of construction.  It was expected that it would open last December, but the weather turned bad and that put a long hold on it.

Looking west here, you can see the new bridge above and alongside the old one.  The original bridge will still be used by pedestrians and cyclists, but motorized traffic will use the new one.  The cost was $39 million.
Today we have a load of  "important" officials arriving for the ribbon cutting ceremony.  Now here's an idea; as California is completely broke and unable to pass a budget, how about all these big wigs stay in their offices working and not fiddling about here, to do what?  Just a thought!

P.S. I went down the repaired front way earlier in the week and I have to say that the repairs that they recently completed over the last six months look really good. Nothing to do with the new bridge, of course.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I'm indebted to my friend Kevin, who also happens to be a first class dentist for this five-minute clip.
I first went to a dentist when I was about 13, it was a Mr. Pitt-Ford.  He was an old bloke and his equipment was also very old, although at the time I had no way to judge that.  The drill was driven by a pulley system, which although smooth, went at about 1000th of the speed of the modern ones we are all used to.  My how things have changed in the last 60 years!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


My friend, Dave, sent me this clip.
For those who enjoyed the recent entry on my pathetic canoeing attempts and the resulting splash into Big Bear Lake, you will understand his comment: "If you were this good, you'd still be using film!"
I'm not sure the music is suitable in the clip.  Perhaps Handel's Water Music instead!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New Design

Today is the first day of summer.  As usual it's time to give the blog a slight change in design.  I hope you like it, but if not you can always leave a comment or email me at

Road Open

Unless you live up here in the clouds, this probably won't mean a lot to you.  But our much ravaged 330 road is open, and about three months early.  We had a great deal of rain in December last and as a result, 330 was closed for repairs.  This meant an additional twenty minutes detour along Rim of the World Drive which skirts Lake Arrowhead.  It will be wonderful to be able to use the "front way" again.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mystery Flower - the Answer

I'm indebted to my friend Chana who has provided the answer to the mystery of the flower up here.  It is called Sarcodes Sanguinea - or bloody red thing!  In fact it is more commonly called the Snow Plant and this is the official site to explain it
Thank you, Chana!
P.S. I also heard correctly from Kevin and Claudia about the same issue.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunday's Column - Arrowhead Springs

This Sunday's column is about a famous resort down the hill called Arrowhead Springs.  It was so famous that when it was opened in December, 1939 Judy Garland and Al Jolson were among the artists broadcast "throughout the nation" on CBS radio.  It was designed to be the biggest resort for those wanting to escape from Los Angeles in the days before Las Vegas and Palm Springs.

This fellow was sculpted in 1920 to point the way to the original hot springs resort, and still stands at the entrance of the tree lined avenue up to the main hotel.

Today Arrowhead Springs is owned by an evangelical organisation and is used for retreats and conferences.  It is not opened to the public although the organisers are trying to widen the usage.

I  hope they succeed as this is a wonderful place to look around and you can almost feel the presence of the stars of yesteryear.

Elizabeth Taylor spent her wedding night here with Nicky Hilton - the first of her seven husbands.

The resort is also built on top of a hot spring with the hottest water of any spa in the world.

The original reception area

The cabana pool

You can read the entire column at

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Music Track - Adele

I was on an assignment the other day and had my grandson, Evan (16) with me.  I had asked him to bring his iPod with him so he could plug it into the car's sound system and play me some of his favorites.  The first one he chose was by Adele, and he was mightily impressed that I knew of her.  It was a bit of a fluke that I did, but here is a song of hers that is pretty good .  Let me know what you think.

Mystery Flower

On our regular daily dog walk we often see a strange flower at this time of year.

It comes up out of bare earth with no leaves or buds or any other attachments other than what you see here.

We have asked the few people who live up here in the area if they know what it is but nobody seems to have a clue.

One old man said he thought it was a form of fungus, but he wasn't sure.

Here's another view.  Any help would be welcome.  Either in the comment section or at  Thanks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Joke Goes Wrong

I think we've all had the experience of a joke going wrong.  I caught this on an early morning news program the other day.  It's an Australian telling a joke to the Dalai Lama - that could be the start of a joke in itself.  I don't think I would have attempted, it would you?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The "F" Word

Going back again into the archives just for the anniversary week, this was published one year ago on July 23 2011.

When I was a cub scout, every Wednesday saw me incarcerated in St Andrew's Church Hall in Watford along with my fellow green-jersey-clad, neckerchiefed, and woggled eight-year olds. No doubt we were under the care of some repressed pedophile, who taught us to tie knots, light fires and get splinters in our knees.

One day while waiting for the hall to open so we could take our oaths, we were entertained by one of the "common" boys of the neighbourhood. Now, we may have been encouraged to look down on these larrikins, but they always seemed to have a supply of lurid information of which we were totally ignorant.

This particular example of the lower orders was throwing around the "F" word with great effect. I immediately recognized that this would be an important addition to my developing lexicon.  I practised quietly in my head to ensure that I had the right inflection, and then stowed it away to be brought out later.

It was unfortunate that I chose the sanctity of tea time the next afternoon to launch my verbal missile. I think I used it in its adjectival form, along with a request to pass the jam. To say it did not receive quite the enthusiasm I expected from my mother would be huge understatement. She froze. After an eternity of silence, she asked me who had taught me to speak like that. In panic, I selected the scoutmaster as being my informant, which only magnified my indiscretion.

It proved to be too big a burden for my mother to carry alone, and my father was eventually brought into the fray. The subsequent lecture was of the type that all childhoods (if they have any value, that is) contain. And can still provoke fearful emotions.

Later on I realized that the word should not be used indiscriminately or it cheapens the language. For instance, I once heard out of the mouth of a recently discharged member of Her Majesty's Armed forces about a piece of equipment that had broken: "F*** it, the F***ing, F***er's F***ed!" Ah, the eloquence of it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Aging - Speed

Ono of the most obvious signs of aging for me is that I'm starting to appreciate speeding limits!  Now, aboard a motorcycle they are a better guide for speed than in a car, but nonetheless, after a lifetime of seriously exceeding the speed limit, I'm finally getting into line.
Of course, I'm assisted in this by our wonderful CHP (California Highway Patrol), who have decided that our local roads are a bastion for earnings that have shrunk because of economic problems - and we need to keep those pensions and benefits going!  You don't see the CHP doing much on the freeways these days, as everyone is going about 75, which seems to fit with the local conditions.  But by golly, if you go 35 through Running Springs, you'd better look out!
I remember the days when a new road was an immediate challenge to see just how fast I could get her up to.  Ah, the memories!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday's Column - RAFFMA

Sunday's column was about RAFFMA.  That is the new name for the art museum at California State University, San Bernardino.  On my visit there, it was pointed out to me that along with every other aspect of life, in tough times, art has to pull in its horns a little.
Eva Kirsch, pictured here, is the director of the museum and she told me that they now have to be a little more careful in selecting exhibitions as they are expensive to put on.

Therefore they are currently showing some local artists whose works under Eva's care are shown off to great effect.

Also on show is some work by the Russian artist Nicholas Smoliakov, who was the director of Russian Life, a magazine devoted to showing how wonderful things were in the USSR!  He could not produce his real art until Gorbachev took over from the old men.

The permanent exhibition is of ancient art and there is a lot to see if you make the trip.  The Web site is

Twice Remembered

As this is the anniversary week, I'm going to post some of the early pieces some of you may have missed.  This was one of the first posts published just one year ago on June 11th 2010.

I'm afraid that we have to say goodbye to an old friend. His demise has been a long time coming and as with all old timers, it's a sad business all around. I refer of course to the death of the word "TWICE."

Many years ago I was in a third word country and my companion had to speak to someone whose command of English was obviously very limited. In order to make himself understood he reverted to pigeon English. "We come here two times," he said. I smiled at the use of baby English, which is of course, exactly what pigeon English is.

Over the last twenty years, I have heard "twice" used less and less by all and everyone. The other day I noticed in an advert for some soap powder the presenter said that washing the garment two times was now no longer needed. It still sounds very odd to my traditional ears.

But it's not the first time it's happened. English is a changing language after all. When I was a boy, my grandparents and their generation often used the word "thrice" for three times. I don't think I ever used the word myself as by then it had become very outdated. So along with Thee, Thine and Ye, we say goodbye to twice and try to accept two times. It won't be easy.

Do you still use twice? Or have you already been corrupted?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Music Track - Gypsy Kings

I see that the Gypsy Kings are coming back to play at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.  We saw them there about 20 years ago.  I'm sure the program has not changed much.  Here is one of their favorites, this time recorded at a live performance in Japan.  Good stuff!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Anniversary of the Blog

Saturday is the one year anniversary of this blog.  Frankly I'm amazed I've managed to do it for so long.  I had no idea quite how it would progress when I began last June, but since then I've published 375 different posts, and that doesn't  include The Right Track and Trevor's Tirade both of which become deleted each week.

I'm rather shocked that I had so much nonsense in me.  Blogger does allow one to put postings in a book, which I shall probably on this anniversary, and then add it to the small collection I have of my writings on the shelf - no doubt for my relatives to throw away when I'm gone!  But it's one year down and I'm not quite sure of the future of the blog.  Any suggestions?

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Memorial

Watching the recent Royal Wedding I noticed a new memorial along Whitehall.  Having left England close to 30 years ago, it's noticeable that some things have changed since my departure and this is one. 
My friend Paul, ever helpful in checking stuff out for me, sent me the information that the new memorial is in fact not that new.  It was dedicated in 2006 by the Queen, and it is a memorial to all the women - some 7 million - who served in WWII.
This link will show you some of the details of the bronze monument.
I had an aunt who served as a WRAC - Women's Royal Army Corps - as an ambulance driver.  The horrors of her experience turned her hair into very wiry stuff - like a Brillo pad.  She was a very nice women, but always struggled with her hair.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Diappearing Car Doors

My friend Stan in England sent me this interesting video.  As he said in his email, it's surprising that no one has thought of this before.  Although the cars are American, the video seems to have been shot in the UK.  The houses are typical of the ones that EVERYONE owns in England!
The video lasts about three minutes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gas Prices

The subject of gasoline prices came up the other day in an email I received.  Of course, we are laboring here with $4 a gallon costs, and there's no doubt it's affecting things badly.  However, be grateful that you don't live in the UK where the costs are far more.
I'm indebted to my friend Paul for the arithmetic here as it's way outside my puny skills.  Currently, gas, or petrol as it's called in the UK, is dispensed in liters.  And it's one pound thirty-three pence per liter.  So the math goes like this and remember that the US gallon is smaller than it's UK counterpart.
One US gallon equals 3.783 liters.  At 1 pound 33 pence times 1.6, which is the current exchange rate, it comes out to $8.05 a gallon.  Phew, and we thought it was bad here.  At least in the UK they don't normally have to drive quite so far.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Canoeing - Revisit

I was asked by a reader the other day to explain a little more about the canoeing episode that I posted last week.  It was a reprint of the article that I wrote for my regular weekly column in the The Sun back in 2004.  As I like to take Evan on the odd assignment, he accompanied me on this little trip that the local Discovery Center has in its visitor's guide each summer.

This isn't Evan and me, but it might have been - before the "event."
As I said in the article, we had some instruction in the ways of paddling around Fawnskin Bay, but it did not include the important words: "If you drop your paddle, don't lean out to retrieve it!"  It would be a useful thing to say at the start, especially if there is a nine year old aboard.  Sadly the inevitable happened and Evan did drop his paddle, and began to lean out before I was able to disabuse him of the exercise.  The result was a speedy exodus from the canoe with resulting splash.  I have to say he was extremely scared, and after flapping around for a minute or so, I put my foot down and found that we were only in about four feet of water.  I was able to wade ashore with him in tow, and we waved goodbye to our fellow boaters, who had retrieved our canoe.  On the way back in the car, we talked up our courage significantly and revelled in the prospect of greeting grandma in our drenched condition.  It was as spectacular a homecoming as either of us could have hoped for!  We talk of it to this day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sunday's Column - Justice Brothers Museum

Sunday's column was about a little known museum in Duarte.  It's the main office of Justice Brothers who manufacture car care products.  It was back in the 40's when three brothers came out from Kansas to build midget racing cars.  In my ignorance, I thought that these were cars for very small people, but was assured that they were in fact small cars for normal people, but very popular to race in those days.

There are well over 100 cars on show at this interesting place including some "exotics."  This is an Isetta which was one of the popular "Bubble" cars seen around English roads in the 60's.  The original model made in Italy had two small rear wheels, but for the UK market this was reduced to one, making it the same as a motorcycle, and therefore cheaper to license.

It had one serious problem.  The only door was the entire front end and if you parked up against a wall, you couldn't get out.  There was no reverse and so you had to wait until someone could push you back to open the door.  You only made that mistake once, I think.

Justice Brothers is only open during business hours from Monday to Friday.  Their Web site is

The entire column is available at

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Music Track.

My friend John in England sent me this.  He said it had caused some derision in his home and how did I like it?  Well, I think it's rather fun.  I wonder how old Ludwig would like it.  I suspect being rather a rhythmical fellow he would quite enjoy it. 
See what you think.


When we arrived out here, we had no idea about Mexicans.  Our knowledge consisted of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (Who it turned out was actually a Jewish bloke from the better part of LA) and Speedy Gonzalez.  Not an impressive in-depth amount!  We also had the idea that Mexicans sat in blankets under huge sombreros - like this one.

In fact in nearly thirty years I have never seen a Mexican wear a sombrero unless it's in a mariachi band.  Also far from being lazy, Mexicans in general work like heck, and a lot of businesses would close without their efforts.
I employed Roy, his name is really Rojilio, for several years when I managed a condominium complex.  He also comes around when I need him to clear all the brush from around the house.  Even after being here for about 15 years, his English is still very bad, but he is 100% reliable and works very hard.  He has a wife here and five daughters all of whose English is fine.  He doesn't wear a sombrero!

Thursday, June 2, 2011


My friend Paul, in England, wanted me to do a piece on my camera and why I use that particular model.  Well, I use a Canon Powershot S1 IS and it's a bit like this one.

In fact this one is a little younger I think as I bought mine in the summer of 2004.

Until then I was using a Nikon 35mm which I bought second hand in the local pawn brokers.  He was rather impressed that I asked to try it out and then took several shots with a ten picture roll, removed the roll gave him back the camera, and went off to the local fast developer.  I then came back and showed him the results and bought the camera.

I went digital after I had an upset in a canoe with my grandson on the lake - lost the camera and my dignity all in one fell swoop.  Until then I used to have pictures developed, mail them off to The Sun and they would scan the photos in.  Rather unwieldy and I converted to digital once the Nikon was at the bottom of the lake.  As for the choice of model, well, it was the one the salesman in Best Buy recommended.  He did a good job as it is a very good camera.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I was looking in my files to see when I converted to a digital camera, and knew it was immediatley after I took my grandson, Evan, out on a canoe.  It's not something either of us will ever forget!  As a result of my search I re-read the piece I did on the expedition and thought it had some merit.  It was published in The Sun on July 28th 2004.

I rather envy people who are good with children. I consider them to be fortunate. For myself, I have always been wary of the smaller of our species. I quite like new born babies – well not exactly completely new born – more after a few days, once the wrinkles have ironed out.
I find new babies quite fascinating; particularly when one considers where they have been domiciled for the last nine months or so. It amazes me to consider the potential of their lives, where they might end up, and what talents they might provide to mankind; also they sleep a lot.
Once infants are able to escape the confines of the crib or playpen, I tend to retire from active duty, as I’m never quite sure what to do with them. They are extremely self-centered, selfish, and demanding – all traits which I enjoy myself. I therefore consider them to be serious competition.
I think I am generally better at the ‘being with children’ game with my grandchildren than I was with my own offspring. After all, grandparenting can be as simple as filling them up with sugar and returning them to their parents, if you’re lucky. Parenting on the other hand is a far more serious responsibility and the results of one’s efforts much more likely to revisit one.
My eldest grandson has just reached the second age of acceptability as far as I’m concerned. He has just turned nine, and has seemed to have forgiven me for getting in the way of immediate access to his grandmother, from whom all blessings flow. We can sit for spells of time without jabbering away at each other and he is beginning to experience things in his life which are actually interesting. He even told me who will win the presidential election this year, which I found of interest. We did not discuss this, as I feel at his age, there are some things from which he should be protected.
Even though Evan has reached this small stage in his life - that of being acceptable to his much older relative – I am still grateful for an opportunity to experience something with him that will not bore us both.
Living in the mountains is a wonderful place for such inspiration, and the good people of the Discovery Center are an enthusiastic source for a number of ideas. So it was with some anticipation that my grandson and I went on their ever popular canoe trip around Fawnskin Bay. And it was quite nice that he had had more experience of this activity than I. (My last attempt at Canoeing was in Hawaii, and caused my wife to nearly strain her innards laughing, as I ignored the advice to be careful of the slippery stones and fell so many times in the river, that I was the one who strained something.)
Determined to listen more carefully this time, and not go for a repeat of the previous experience, we met up with eight other canoeists at the Center at 4.45 p.m., where the instructor had an impressive knowledge of the area. After a short introduction into the arcane ways of the paddler, he safely navigated us through the flat waters of the bay.
Paddling is quite hard work especially if the front seat is taken by a small boy, who can get bored quickly if there is not a flickering screen within immediate view. However, there were many stops along the way and several opportunities to look at the plentiful wildlife that lives along the shore.
The spectacular upset caused by the loss and somewhat disastrous attempt to retrieve a paddle is the subject of perhaps another essay, but suffice it to say that the water is never deep, to which I can personally attest.
I hope the experience of a late Sunday afternoon will remain with Evan as a pleasant one with his “Grumpy Grandad,” as I am occasionally known. We only have a few short years before the onslaught of puberty strikes us. This is a time where the residents of my native England raid their savings accounts, and any dark corners of forgotten drawers, to find the funds necessary to send their progenies off to boarding schools.
This alleviates them from the horrors of the future years and allows professionals to cope with the untimely rush of testosterone. After a decent interval, the recipients of such care are then returned to their anxious parents with decent table manners, a measurable reduction in acne, and a halfway chance of carrying on a conversation.
In my own family’s case, we have a little time for more adventures like canoeing, before we have to face that challenge.