Welcome
to the world of John Robinson the Umpteenth of Upminster

see copyright notice. Page created 2-Jul-2015 updated 18-Jan-2023. Use the button groups above to navigate quickly around the site.

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[Original photo by Valerie Goldstein]

Much as I loved my parents, I do wish they'd given me a more distinctive name! During my (comparatively) rebellious teenage years, when we were identified at school only by our family names (or sometimes an irritating short-form, such as "Robbie"), I adopted the fictitious middle name "DeQuincy". But I soon realised that there were better ways to stand out from the crowd.

For the sake of disambiguation: I'm the one who was schooled at Engayne, Brentwood and Cambridge; worked at the BBC, Goldsmiths' and King's Colleges; walks everywhere, takes lots of pictures, and collects big old computers. You can read more about me on the 3 pages of this CV. To complete the profile (and just so that everyone knows): I'm British, male, single, heterosexual and omnivorous (and determined never to be denied the pleasure of eating well-reared and skilfully-cooked meat). I respect all religions, but personally hold sacred only the balance of nature - howsoever it came about - which I believe to be catastrophically threatened by burgeoning human numbers. Best stop there, before the profile morphs into a mission statement! Oh, and another thing - I can't be bothered with "political correctness".

This website first appeared in 2000 (as www.genre.fsnet.co.uk). Most of the popular pages are still here, with a smattering of new stuff and lots more in the pipeline. If you're looking for specific content, the site map will locate it faster than the navigation buttons! The latter are handy for jumping around the tree of pages; a white name shows where you are at each level, red ones in the same group link across to alternatives. Throughout the site, images with red borders are links which will open in a new tab or window. I welcome all constructive comments and enquiries via the contact page.

Quick links

Site mapPhotos of mammalsChristmas cards 2013-2019Homebrew bitter recipeSloe Gin recipeTV receiversShoppers' Glossary

Recent changes (latest first)

Updated! 18-Jan-2023 D-I-Y face mask - intro changed to past tense
Updated! 10-Dec-2022 Christmas cards 2020... - 2022 design added
Updated! 02-Nov-2022 Map-it-Yourself - the plot reaches new heights!
New! 16-Sep-2022 Map-it-Yourself - a web app for geolocation
New! 18-Jun-2022 Lawnmower repairs - 37 years old and still afloat!
New! 11-Mar-2022 Upminster in 1982 & 2022 - photos compared
Updated! 11-Mar-2022 Upminster photos - windmill re-assembly added
Updated! 07-Mar-2022 Virtual Paper Tape Reader - virtual punch added

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Cactus vivat

[Forest cactus flower]

27-Dec-2022: For as long as I can remember, a "Christmas Cactus" took pride of place on a table in a shady corner of my late parents' landing. It didn't bloom every year, but on those occasions when it did there was a sense of wonder and joy in the house. Sadly, it was relegated to a window ledge in a spare bedroom some 20 years ago, and registered its disapproval by producing no further flowers, as far as I know.

When I cleared out the house contents, the cactus was in a sorry state; barely recognisable as such, with just one or two faintly green branches surviving among a mass of shrivelled grey stems. Nonetheless I re-potted it, and it's gradually recovered and made some new growth over the last 5 years. Its revival has finally been confirmed by the appearance of this solitary bloom, which opened bang on schedule on Christmas day!

Naming of the Brew

[Mahonia in bloom]

3-Sep-2022: Well, after 8 weeks of infusion I've decanted the Mahonia Gin (see 8-Jul-2022) and survived the first sample. As expected, it's disappointing aroma-wise, with just a faint whiff reminiscent of beetroot. The flowers do much better (pictured in early spring). But it redeems itself with an intense, inky-red colour - several shades darker than Sloe Gin - and a refreshing fruity taste that's somewhere between raspberry and pomegranate. I'll certainly be making more if there's another sloe famine, but I'd like to give it a snappier name. Ideas so far:

I'd welcome some guidance, and/or further suggestions.

Watchwords

[Watch repair kit]

1-Aug-2022: How many tools does it take to change a watch battery? I've done this countless times before, with a variety of watches, but the one I bought a couple of years ago presented some new challenges.

When none of the usual screwdrivers, kitchen knives etc came close to prising the back off, I decided it was time to get the proper tools for this and other watch jobs. So I ordered a cheap-ish repair kit, along with two (minimum quantity) of the cells my supplier's website specified. When these arrived, I opened the watch without much difficulty - only to find that the cell was a completely different, incompatible type [why oh why are there so many different ones?]. Muttering unrepeatable (and, fortunately, impractical) threats of vengeance, I put in another order, and two days later restored the watch to life. The only task remaining was to snap the back on.

After several minutes of fruitless manipulation, and nursing two very sore thumbs, I gave up and ordered a watch press. Once again the operation was a doddle with the right tools. But I'm left questioning my sanity, after realising I've spent rather more on all of these than the original price of the watch...

Sour "Grapes"

[Bunches of Mahonia berries]

8-Jul-2022: I'm running short of Sloe Gin! Last year, having stocked up with gin and sugar, I couldn't find an adequate crop of sloes in any of the usual places. However, a viable alternative might be growing in my own garden; there are two fair-sized, self-sown Mahonia aquifolium (aka Oregon Grape) plants, bearing masses of berries which turn out to be [sort of] edible - they rival sloes in terms of mouth-puckering tartness. In fact they look like miniature sloes, but with crimson-red juice and several seeds instead of a stone inside.

As an experiment, I'm making a bottle of "Mahonia Gin" using the same added ingredients and method as for Sloe Gin. I've read mixed stories about this on other websites, and so far I can confirm that the colour is instantly deep red (perhaps because it derives more from the juice than from the skins), and the aroma is more vegetal than fruity - but also quite intriguing. It took a lot longer to process the berries, which are like redcurrants to handle; I ended up strigging them onto the palm of a (gloved) hand, then using a cocktail stick to jab and transfer them, one by one, to the bottle of gin and sugar. More anon.

View earlier Low-down items

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