There is nothing like a Dane!

Mail to a friend.

Dearest Viking,

Let me be the first to express how delighted I am that your fine country of birth has regained its rightful place at the top of the list of happy countries!

I also notice that Iceland, Norway and Finland are in 2nd, 3rd and 4th places and yet Sweden is only 9th, which must be pissing them off a little. Is there something about snow, trees, herrings, expensive alcohol, undercooked meat, limited daylight, weird music and depressing TV crime dramas that makes people happy?

Let me say, furthermore, that I was about to wonder how one squared the happiness with the high suicide rates but having done some research (just for you) I see I was being lied to about suicide rates in Scandinavia being very high. It is not so. According to Wiki; Russians, Hungarians, Belarusians, Ukrainians, Poles and Latvians all kill themselves more rapidly than the worst of Scandinavian nations, that being Finland in 33rd place. Iceland is close in 35th place and then Sweden in 58th and finally Denmark and Norway in a suicide pact at 81st and 82nd places.

By the way, mentioning Wiki brings on pangs of guilt. Dalling Jimmy W mailed me recently asking for me to renew my 50 zloty donation and I didn’t do it. To be more precise, I tried to give them even more than 50 zloty but it got very complicated with passwords, or card numbers or something technical and I was forced to abandon my attempt. Sorry, Jimmy! I will get back to it when I have time.

One thing that is clear, dearest Viking, is that Burundi is badly in need of cheering up as it comes bottom of the happiness table and is also ranked 10th for suicides. As Stevie Wonder said “It’s that Burundi’s in need of love today, Don’t delay, Send yours in right away, Hate’s goin’ round, Breaking many hearts, Stop it please, Before it’s gone too far.”. I think that says it all.

Hoping this might reach you with sufficient force to deserve a response,

Lord Snoot

Progressive lenses


The above photo is representative of a pair of glasses, similar to but not actually the ones I bought.

Executive summary – progressive lenses are expensive and a bit weird. They might be useful but they are almost certainly not the answer to your dreams.

So here I am at 57 (would that be Heinz age?) with eyes that need three levels of power-up for me to be able to see clearly. Round figures I need;

  • Distance +1.25
  • Mid range +2.25
  • Reading +3.25

That said, I can perfectly happily walk around and even drive without any glasses at all although with driving I find glasses help when I’ve done more than a few hours behind the wheel especially at night.

Let’s go back a few years to when I bought my first pair of half-progressive lenses mainly for use at work to cover the range from computer screen to reading, roughly +2 to +3. Aside from a very short while needed to get used to them, they have been superb. They do, however, only cover one aspect of life, namely sitting near a computer screen, and while this is something I do often, that one pair of glasses had limited use in daily life leading to my collection of about 10 other pairs of glasses ranging between +1 to +3 that I had obtained from shops, opticians and petrol stations in Poland, Italy, Greece and the UK.

Having so many pairs with differing practical uses was getting annoying. I was always having to carry around at least two pairs and often found myself a focal length short of what was needed. I could see what was happening on stage in the theatre but I couldn’t check the football scores on my phone. I could see what was on the supermarket shelves but couldn’t read the labels. Or vice versa. Not to mention that those purchased without prescription weren’t exactly of the best quality!

And so it was that I jumped to the conclusion that I needed to get an eye test and buy some new glasses and furthermore that if I was so happy with the half-progressive pair then getting some full progressive ones that added the third, long distance, dimension might be a whizz of an idea.

Vision Express in Zlote Tarasy is where I went, I explained what I’m trying to do and after many tests they were positively gushing about how perfectly suited my eyes were for fully progressive lenses. Despite the utterly ridiculous price, I ordered two pairs.

When I went to collect them, one pair seemed fine in the shop but the other had a problem when reading such that one side of the page was in focus and the other side was not. They were returned for adjustment and I took the others. All was well until I tried to use them at work with a laptop. Absolute disaster. Could hardly read anything on the screen unless I moved my head around all the time side to side and up and down to try and get some focus. Agghh!

Back to the shop and explained the problem, which is when they decided to tell me in more detail about how progressive lenses work. A little too late.


As you can see from the above diagram you get a big area for distance, an acceptable area for reading but a small area for mid range that is also acting as a corridor between distance and reading. In real life the effect is very strange. When doing anything other than working with a computer the progressive works very well and allows you to get everything in focus. They work best with distance and reading but even things that are the same distance away as a computer screen are well enough defined as to make them good all-purpose glasses. Get them anywhere near a computer though and try to do some work, web browsing, whatever, and they are utterly useless.

At first we all thought I just needed to get used to them and there’s no question they improve the more you wear them, or perhaps your brain works out how to interpret the signals better would be more scientifically correct, but I’ve been using them for a while now and they are still useless for computer work.

So, my dream of one pair of glasses to cover everything crashed and burnt. The only question was whether to keep them or to change my order. To be fair to Vision Express they were happy either way. What I’ve decided on is a strategy of keeping the progressives for all general use but also having a separate pair of half-progressives for computer work. This could be achieved by only having only two pairs of glasses but given that I want spares of each I’ll end up with four. Two pairs of full progressive, one of which I carry with me each day for general use + my old half-progressives to be based at home for computer use + a new pair of half-progressives based in the office for work use. All three being upgrades on the current set-up.

At least all my glasses will be proper optical quality and not gas station quality and I’ll be able to throw a lot of old pairs away.

Close but no cigar.



Ferrari Day

On Sunday we headed north to the heartland of Ferrari, visiting the museums in Modena and Maranello. 

Modena has two buildings. The modern one houses a collection of cars and gives a short show primarily featuring Enzo and Pavarotti, both born in Modena and good friends. The older building, which used to be the workshop of Enzo’s father, houses mainly engines and a bit more history.

In Maranello it is all a bit more spread out as there is the museum, focussing on Ferrari’s F1 and other sporting achievements, as well as numerous sideshows like tours around the factory (apparently not as good as it sounds, hence we didn’t bother) and a variety of people selling you the opportunity to drive a Ferrari around the town, drive a simulator or other ways to get money out of you.

In my opinion it is worth seeing both but if you only had time for one quick stop and you’re not a Formula 1 fan then Modena is the best bet. It cost us €13 per adult per museum and €5 for an accompanying child under 19. There is ample parking at both sites. There is a bus service from one to the other but we drove and it takes about 20 minutes. They are open from around 10-18 every day but check the websites for details.

The cars with full frame shots in the gallery are the 500 Superfast from the 60s of which only 36 were ever made and the F40 from late 80s early 90s. There will be plenty more when I process those in my camera!

For those who don’t know John Surtees, he is the only person ever to win World Championships on both two and four wheels, done around the time of my birth. He is the oldest surviving Formula One World Champion and the oldest surviving 500cc MotoGP World Champion.



Brisighella, pop 8,000, is a town in the foothills of the northern Apennines close to Faenza. If you drove from Faenza to Brisighella and kept going you would cross the mountains and end up in Florence. 

It’s a town we needed to go back to because our trip last year was cut short by a phone call saying the Volvo was ready for collection and the thought of another couple of days in the loaned Fiat 500 was enough for us to leave immediately to pick up the repaired car.

In temperatures lower than 36C and without the humidity the town offers a good deal of hill climbing treasure with interesting buildings perched on three hilltops around the town. Without the climbing the town is still a nice one to wander through. The tourbook highlight is the “donkey road” which is an old path at first floor level that was used as a safe passage for supplies as well as for defense as you could attack those in the street below from the arches above. 

The town was busy with numerous live events in the streets, musicians and market stalls, and there was a steady stream on traffic coming up from Faenza. We enjoyed an ice cream at a large outdoor cafe in a corner of the Parco Ugonia before wandering the town and returning to the park for dinner at Trattoria la Casetta. The food was good but this is a restaurant that has grown too big. It is huge, it was full and there was a queue of people waiting for tables. That meant slightly confusing and slow service, things arriving at not quite the right time and generally the feeling that it would better if half the size. It was also hot as hell when sitting outside as we were, even at ten in the evening. We returned to the cafe for a coffee before heading back home.

The journey from Roncofreddo is about an hour using the autostrada or 90 minutes using the non-toll highway. We took the scenic route there and the autostrada back. The toll of €3.30 is worth paying.

Our satnav lady gives three choices of route – fast, easy or short. You choose short if you want a bit of excitement as I’m sure she just tries to find the nearest roads to a straight line no matter how crappy they are. An example of a “short” road is seen below. 

Zosia is telling me I need to get in the pool so, goodbye for now!


Pizza, libraries and one-eyed cats

Another day by the pool yesterday followed by a late afternoon trip into Cesena for some shopping and then a pizza dinner in Longiano on the way home. Zosia was tempted by the patapizza, as you can see below. We shared a grande fantastico or whatever it was called that had four different toppings – Parma and truffle oil, mushrooms, mozzarella-tomato-basil and lastly rocket with Parmesan and tomatoes. 

Oh yes, culture, there was some culture yesterday as we visited the UNESCO listed  Malatestiana Library in Cesena. One of a few “chained libraries” remaining in the world. Very old, quite interesting, no air conditioning and with a curator who was determined we should see everything no matter how much sweat was pouring from our brows. He was, without good reason, a little embarrassed about how poor his English was and his memory of what there was in the library that might be of interest to English speakers came in fits and spurts so we’d read whatever he pointed us to and then just as we were half way to the exit he’d say “Eeenglisz!” and then point us to another manuscript or map. He gave us an audio guide, gratis, such was his feeling he was letting us down in some way. I tried to find the rewind button and then got stuck with nothing more than “welcome” in German and French. This went on for a long time but eventually we escaped and had a cold drink at a cafe watching the robot parking elevator taking cars down and slotting them into bays underground. We didn’t see any come back up.

Good news! Blanca the one-eyed cat survived the winter, which is more than can be said for the first one-eyed cat we met here. Mind you, we are told that Blanca lives next door so perhaps she is being looked after.


Swallows & Swimming pools

When our swimming pool is not being used by humans it serves as a perfect bar for the local swallows (jaskółki) whose superb flight skills, and I guess eyesight as well, allow them to run the length of the pool and just take the slightest sip of water before pulling back up into the sky. Sunbathing with a scene from The Dam Busters (1955) as entertainment.

Surprisingly, I managed to capture the moment on the iPhone a number of times but as the birds were side on they were hard to see. I did however get the one below where the bird was kindly banking away and so easier to identify – left hand side above the flippers.


Bella Italia

So here  we are again in beautiful Roncofreddo, Emilia-Romagna, Italy.

The journey down followed the usual route. Day one was a long drive out of Poland, across Czech and almost all the way across Austria, stopping in Klagenfurt for the night. Day two roughly half the distance, 500km, out of Austria, through the Dolomites down to Udine and then across to Venice, Bologna and down close to Rimini before turning right and up into the hills.

It was a case of third time lucky. The first year we had a smashed windscreen. The second year we had a massive delay in Brno and a buggered alternator. This year, so far at least, the journey has been trouble free with no delays and a car that was a joy to drive. Award for bad roads goes again to Czech. They are in ever worsening condition and the amount of roadworks on the motorways is ridiculous. The award for angry drivers goes to Austria. Either they don’t like Polish people (or Polish registration plates at least) or my driving was worsening as we got closer to the end of a long journey but it was the only place I had two people gesticulating at me to suggest they would be happier if I were not on the road. Fuck them!

Here’s Zosia enjoying our first breakfast before she headed off to the pool.