Hi y'all
  I hope you guys are getting as good a summer as we are, it goes a bit grey now and then, but it's wall to wall sunshine most of the time. Global warming might have a bit to do with it, but I can't help thinking we have had a particularly good few months. I guess the jet stream has a hand in it, curiously the meteorololologists (difficult to end that word, like bananananana) still won't talk about it unless forced to. When the overall temperature is higher all around us, but the UK seems to be in a cool pool, then you can be sure the jet stream is looped around to the south of us, and we get arctic air. If it is to the north we get the mediterranean stuff instead. The long periods of hot or cold are when the stream buckles and stays buckled around us. I'm told that happens when it is weaker because the arctic is getting warmer. You can get a pretty good picture of it at :-
 http://www.netweather.tv/index.cgi?action=jetstream;sess=   (it takes a cycle to load up the animation)

  It looks pretty churned up at the moment 14th August, so you do get an idea of what the meteor....metor.....forecasters are up against. and why it usually changes so fast here in Scotland, especially the Western Isles.
    Anyway, the weather was fine for our quick visit South, again it seemed to go by in a rush, which is odd because almost everybody we visited was between 80 and 100. Obviously, and quite unfairly, I'm getting older, so my friends and relations are too, but it does show how our world has changed when, going back a bit, at the time of my birth, well to quote the Standard Life web page at :-

"In 1952, life expectancy at birth for men was 66.7 years and 71.8 years for women. That has risen to 77.2 years and 81.6 years respectively. And one in three babies born today can expect to live to 105."

That page is not guaranteed to be what all statisticians will agree with, but it puts the gloom merchants in their place. House prices, I agree, have gone up but that comes down to people offering more because the banks will lend more, and banks lend more because they make a bigger profit, and they don't really care about anything else. 
 Getting off my soap box and back to last week, we popped over to the Isle of Wight to see Helen. Mum and Dad were offered a house there for £200 a while back, but £200 was harder to come by then. Helen wasn't feeling too good when we arrived, but felt much better by the time we left. There are two ways of looking at that sequence, I choose to believe the other one. She is after all about 50% older than I am, I shan't be any more specific than that without written consent. 
The trip over on the ferry was quite quick, although it involved a bit of waiting at each end. We took the car, although it was only really needed for a few hundred yards, because it was £15 cheaper than walking, even with the need to use the chain ferry from east to west Cowes. (£2)  We went back the long way round to get a view of the island, and save £2. I think it's a bit like the rest of Hampshire, but a few years back in places, rather like Shetland. Perhaps it's an island thing, the first yard of sea water takes you back a year, the first mile takes you back a decade. Logically, a piece of wet string across your path should put you back to last Thursday.
    The weather held for our return and we spotted a few odd craft identified by James Orr ---"It is a mexifloat. A pontoon with an engine or 2 on the back ! Also can have a small chacon(metal shed) on the back for shelter and cooking. Used by the Logistic Corps to transport men, vehicle stores etc from ship – ship/shore. Not surprisingly, men have died on them, from exposure and drowning mainly."
   Happily the men on board, identified as soldiers because they all seemed to be grabbing a spot of shut-eye, seemed to be enjoying the trip.
   I was born long ago and far away which automatically makes me very wise, so I approached Marwell Wildlife (Zoo Park) with mixed feelings. It is half a mile from Low Hill Farm (OK it's not the most imaginative name, but it is Medieval) where I was born, this being before the invention of hospitals, or Doctors with wrist watches.
  I'm moderately happy to report that while I didn't get any younger, I also avoided any reduction in cognitive function. (though it is difficult to prove)
   Anyway, it happened that I visited Marwell for the first time in 40! years, that's an exclamation mark, not four hundred +1, and it's very good. Last time I was there it was just Marwell Manor where some of my chums from Eastleigh Tech lived, then their Dad, John Knowles, started the whole thing up. They must have gotten going before we sold the farm, Dad found European Otters, a Night Heron and a Secretary bird. I think the Night Heron feeds exclusively on ugly fish, which I guess is why they only come out at night.
  We couldn't go to Marwell without getting a look at the Snow Leopard and her 3 Kits, and I must admit they were quite a sight. Perhaps we should ask the Chinese to stop eating them, and threaten to stop buying the products they make out of rainforest, ivory, copper cables and manhole covers.
Oops, I've gone off again, sorry.
Here's a picture or two
I forget what these chaps below are called, but I don't think they care. Above is the obligatory Meercat. Ideal zoo type, there's always one  on guard and visible. Furry with forward facing eyes, vaguely human shaped, and small enough not to be threatening. And they can pay for luxury accommodation as they have a good deal with an insurance company
   On our way south and on the way back we stopped off at the M6 Junction 21 (Warrington) Premier Inn. I wouldn't normally make much of a fuss about routine accommodation, but I'll make a special effort to recommend this one. The staff are friendly and helpful, there's a nice ambiance, they take the 'good night's sleep' seriously. The food's good and the beds large.
I'd say the Premier inn chain is good value generally, but this one's special, certainly with the reduced rate we manage to snag most times. It's not 5 star, but I've been in a few 5 star hotels that weren't as nice. I remember one in Tenerife, acres of marble, big rooms, surly staff, and the ambiance of a work-house dining room.
    Much more pleasant than most is Keats, a restaurant in Ampfield on the Romsey road out of Winchester. We managed to drag Stephen there, much against his will because he's about 150, and forced him to eat too much. That and several other large meals didn't help our diets much, there's a very nice Pizza Express at Bridge street (the south end of Winchester High street), where you can look out over the mill stream and a gently refurbished old pub in Alresford called The Swan. Tom, my Uncle, took us there, and very nice it was. Still after all those, and other, large meals and a week off the 5/2 regime, it may take a while to re stabilise at our new weights. If I'd thought of it I could show pictures of my before and after shape, mercifully I didn't.
    There were a few things to fix at Mum's place, nothing too difficult, and I think I got most of them done. One really weird thing was a single hot radiator in our bathroom, when the rest of the central heating was turned off. I thought the electro-mechanical valve that sends the heat to the hot water tank or the radiators had failed, and that's quite a lot of work. Fortunately, before I took it apart, we found from a neighbour that the houses are plumbed like that on purpose, I think it's to make sure the bathroom is always warm, but I still think it's a bit daft, and certainly over complicated.
  On the subject of over complicated, I have just received the six little valves that I hope will make my pressure washer work. It has cost a couple of hundred to get it working, and it cost me a hundred to buy, if memory serves. If it works it'll be valued over £1000, if it doesn't then it's scrap. 
   Once that's working I can knock the paint off the house and start re-painting it. I think it was done by a company called Aquatek or something, Now gone bust, and probably trading under another name. 
   Small update....the Pressure washer is working at last, good enough to remove the paint. Possibly the harling (pebbledash) too.