As you know, I'm avidly house-hunting to be nearer London and Berkshire. And my lovely little model railway (see how it's coming on? Two stations, a halt, a village pub, a school, a vicarage and a rather large church) is now dictating what sort of place I can consider.
Now I can only look at properties with an extra living room, playroom or (heated) conservatory because I need space for my layout - and I have learned over the past few months that I don't like to be stuck out in the cold, in an empty garage, or draughty attic. I am a warm-weather railway modeller. I need to sit on my bar stool (that's the right height for modelling) in homely comfort, with central heating, plasma TV and internet connectability.
I saw a house the other day with an 'orangery' which I thought sounded just right - but it turned out to be a cold conservatory!
My model railway has totally changed my idea of the ultimate des res.
A real challenge for local estate agents!
They're inbreeding - because we thoughtless humans are building our garden fences with concrete bases, and we're building too many walls, preventing hedgehogs from wandering miles to meet other hedghogs from different colonies.
Today we learned that hedgehog population is declining faster in the South East than anywhere else in the country. The recent wet weather is being blamed for causing many more of them to suffer from internal parasites. And now this inbreeding means they're developing deformities, too.
Gill Lucraft, who runs a hedgehog sanctuary in her home in Thatcham, says she's got a couple of unhappy hedgehogs with unusually short stumpy noses.
So, if you want your garden to be hedgehog friendlier - look up the Hedgehog Street campaign. And dig some tunnels underneath your fences!
...is a great reason to celebrate.
Can't really believe it - that 30 years ago we were all trying to 'educate' the great British public that it wasn't sinful to have a TV in your bedroom or kitchen, and that you might actually enjoy some news and entertainment over your cornflakes.
Looking forward then to tomorrow, when I'll be talking to the one and only Green Goddess, who was there at the very beginning - on the BBC's Breakfastime along with Selina Scott and Frank Bough.
Also tomorrow, the Queen of the Aga Saga, Joanna Trollope.
Plenty to talk about then....
That's Wednesday morning's show - on BBC Radio Berkshire. 10am.
A brilliant weekend of tennis - started with the Murray Federer match and ended with a superb final of the Australian Open on Sunday morning. But I cannot get my mind off Andy Murray's dreadful blisters! We were treated to HD close-up shots of his bandaged toes and what looked like weeping sores.
Wouldn't you think a world class athlete by now, after twenty-something years of daily training and the best tailor-made trainers in the world, that one's feet would harden up to the point of NOT developing blisters? But alas not.
BBC Radio Berskhire's sportsman, Ady Williams, a former Reading player, says blisters are the bane of a footballer's life, too.
Room for new technology, methinks.
And build a snowman!
Apparently it all started as a bit of a throwaway comment from a spokesman for the Environment Agency - that compacted, heaped-up snow melts more slowly than even-lying snow, like when you build a snowman!
Then suddenly the Agency found that all the newspapers had picked up on that line and turned it into "Save Britain from Flooding and Build A Snowman".
Their official line: "While building snowmen is great fun, sadly it is unlikely to make a significant difference to the overall rate at which the snow melts across the country and won't protect your home from flooding..."
Well, yes, we get that. But is it true that it could help?
Well, I had to know. So I found me a snow physicist - yes there is one at the University of Reading, Mel Sandells.
She said said while there was some "logic" to the agency's advice it would only work for a "very short time". "It comes down to the rate of heat transfer and energy that can pass through air bubbles in the snow. The more compact they are the slower the snow will thaw but really as long as heat is coming from the sun and the temperature is well above freezing the thawing process will be undeterred."
So now you can make up your own mind.
There I was, sitting in my car for the third hour, in the middle of an enormous traffic jam on the A34 northbound yesterday, and worrying about my dwindling fuel. Then, at last I turned off the main road and was redirected through the village of Sutton Courtenay
. Sat in more traffic jams, for a further half hour.
I didn't know it but I was in the village where where George Orwell is buried.
Didn't know that.
Neither did I know - until this morning - that he grew up in Henley. But now a local publisher and Orwell buff, Peter Burness-Smith, is planning to open a dedicated visitors centre in the town. What's more, we at the BBC discovered a bit more about Orwell's life at the BBC, as a young producer who didn't think much of his own broadcasting voice!
Today I found out things I didn't know I didn't know about Orwell. But there's loads more coming up on Radio 4, starting this weekend. Watch out.
Prince Harry was clearly miffed that, while being on active service in Afghanistan, he was forced to do photoshoots and interviews
with the media. It was all part of the bargain that the MoD
struck with the media so that his latest tour wouldn't be leaked until it was over.
Now the newspapers and commentators are moaning about his attitude, sensationalising his admission that he has indeed killed enemy, and criticising his thoughts on privacy and the press.
I think it's a great pity he had to do the interview at all. We know he's a serving soldier, and in my view he should have been left to get on with the job. His advisers gave away too much when they struck the deal. They should have agreed to release a couple of photos and that's it. For heaven's sake, Harry has a job to do, like the other troops out there. Our media should respect that, and shouldn't expect deals and bargains to guarantee his security. What he gets up to in Las Vegas in his own time is a different matter, but when Harry's in the army, he should be left well alone.
...is just one of the many species out foraging for food at the moment, and easily seen if you fancy taking part in your own Winterwatch
. It's the Waxwing.
Also look out for the Mandarin Duck, around urban ponds, and winter visitors, the long-tailed and blue tits that can be seen by day particularly at the Loddon Community Reserve, just west of Twyford, or anywhere locally in hedges and scrubland.
If you fancy staying indoors, then don't forget its Winterwatch's finale tonight on BBC2. It's been utterly brilliant all week. Watch out for the Red Squirrels food challenge!
It seems that Britain has been reeling in shock and disgust today at the revelation that there's been horsemeat in some of a top supermarket's "Value" beefburgers.
Of course that's bad - because meat sold as beef should be nothing but.
But, speaking as a veggie, I do wonder why everyone's so up tight about eating horse. If you're a carnivore, why is it any different really from eating beef, lamb or pork.
Stick to veggies, I say. When you look at an asparagus, you know exactly what it is.
...just a single molecule thick and conducts electricity?
It's graphene, one of the thinnest, lightest, strongest and most conductive materials known to man and the wonder material that was 'isolated' by two scientists at Manchester University, and for which they won the Nobel Physics prize in 2010.
Yet most of the patents for its use already lie with other countries, notably China and Japan. It means we're not putting UK money where our mouth is, according to Professor Averil MacDonald, of the University of Reading.
And Apprentice winner Tom Pellerau, who's busy marketing his S-shaped nail files and super-duper nail clippers, says it is still easier to protect your intellectual property if, for instance you're a musician, than if you're a scientist or inventor.
Write a song and you are, at no cost, the owner of its rights, which are protected for up to seventy years. But invent something and it costs thousands of pounds and up to two years to take out a patent, which will protect your rights for only a very limited time, and that's if you're lucky.
As I left the house this morning, the radio announcer warned me to make sure my car had all the necessary emergency items
to help the average abandoned driver in a snowdrift.
So I took my bottle of water, tool kit, ice scrapers and even a packet of biscuits. Plus the Diamond family 'standby' dressing gown. This is for any member of the family, visiting or otherwise, who hasn't got theirs with them. It's a cheapy, so it's totally man-made fabric (fleece) but given that, it's incredibly warm AND it's a double XL so it's like a thermal tent.
Just what you need in a snowdrift.
A great investment. It's coming with me wherever I go over the next few days.
...and perhaps as much of a famous location as Highclere Castle
has, thanks to Downton Abbey. This is Hedsor House
near Taplow - right at the other end of our BBC Radio Berkshire patch - which is the backdrop of the new movie, Quartet
, starring Billy Connolly, Pauline Collins and Dame Maggie Smith and which is a directorial debut for Hollywood actor Dustin Hoffman.
Hedsor is still privately owned (for the last four generations, it has belonged to the Shepherd family who now run it as a business).
It has a history going right back to the 12th century - and King George III and Queen Charlotte helped design the present house and chose the location high above the River Thames because of its stunning views. Queen Victoria was a regular visitor from Windsor Castle a century later with historic diary entries of the Royal children playing croquet on Hedsor's lawns.
In the 21st century, like Highclere, it is a favourite wedding venue and location for fashion shoots - but now mega movie exposure may give business a further shot in the arm. And so for the first time over the next few months, Hedsor will be open to the public. Tickets are already selling out.
There is one gold postbox
in Sunningdale, where she was brought up, one at Royal Holloway College where she did her degree, and one in Maidenhead where she now lives!
Congratulations to multi-gold medallist from the Paralympics, Sophie Christiansen - who got an OBE in the New Years Honours.
2013 should be an interesting year for her. Only 25, she's clearly got lots more Olympics in her sights (she says her closest British rival is 65 years old so she could keep going for many years yet) but her horse may be too old for Rio. So Sophie is holding "X-Factor" auditions for a new mount this year.
Good luck and congrats, Sophie.
...then why, oh why, are we buying and eating white bread ourselves?
Today, we were warned by the RSPB
not to feed the ducks with white bread. It's clogging up their systems, upsetting their digestive systems,leaving them "bulked out", undernourished and struggling to fly away from predators. It provides only empty calories - the sort that make you fat but give little nutritional value, and yet the birds - like us daft humans - develop a taste for it. Like us, they then and become reluctant to forage for nutritious natural vegetation, which they need to remain healthy and agile.
So why do we buy the stuff at all?
Perhaps we should all learn to feed the ducks again - and then learn a lesson from them.
And by the way - Happy New Year!