Archive for the ‘Weird stuff I noticed’ Category

Why Does Everybody Call Me “Big ‘Ead”?

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

As long term readers will remember, Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) and I are registered with a company that sends out free tickets to be in the audience for recordings of TV shows. We haven’t been to one for ages, but she snagged us tickets for a recording of a new game show at the weekend, to be filmed at Elstree studios. It’s a new show that’s never been on before so we were asked to divulge little in the way of detail, but I can say that it’s called “Big Heads”, it will be on ITV on Sunday teatimes and according to the pre-event blurb it attempts to answer the question “What would happen if Camilla Parker-Bowles rugby tackled Donald Trump?”. Leaving aside that the real answer is probably “an international incident”, it promises to make some interesting viewing.

Knowing the way these things work, we got into the queue outside the audience gates for Elstree studios at 5 PM, an hour before the advertised gate opening time, at which time we were about thirtieth in line. By the time the gate finally opened, about twenty minutes late, the queue had stretched to about five hundred people, as well as the usual smattering of first timers who went straight to the security man at the head of the queue claiming “but we’ve got tickets!” – to which the answer is, of course, “so has everyone else, now get to the back of the line”.

Filming started at about twenty past seven, and with the usual technical delays – plus some unexpected ones – it quickly became obvious that the advertised finish time of twenty to ten was just a pipe dream on the part of whoever was paying the studio crew’s overtime bill. I’ve been to one of these before – at BBC Wood Lane – which overran so much that I only just made the last underground train back to Waterloo1 , and this one looked like going the same way – although as we had the car this time it was less of an issue. By eleven o’clock the people sat behind us, who had to drive back to Warrington that night, were starting to get a bit restless, and I was glad we were only going back to Purple Fred’s ancestral mansion half an hour up the road rather than the two hour haul back home. The genial bearded host commented during one of the technical breaks “you came here expecting a nice evening out and it’s turning into a hostage situation!” .

I must add here, in case I’ve given the wrong impression, that it was huge fun and we’ll definitely do similar things again.

We finally left just before midnight – by which time filming still hadn’t finished, but all that was left was the closing scene and the genial host’s final piece to camera, and they’d filmed the audience infill shots for those earlier in the evening so they didn’t need us any more. By then the local McDonald’s drive through had closed, so as well as being tired and grumpy we were hungry and grumpy too…and then I took a wrong turning which added fifteen minutes to our evening, or should I say early morning.

Once I found the A1(M) the only event of any note was when I was going exactly on the speed limit (it was just about the right time for the traffic police to have all their anti-drunk-driver patrols out in force, and although I’d obviously have blown a clean breath test, getting stopped for speeding would only delay our journey). We were overtaken by an Audi going so fast I thought for a moment I’d stopped and parked without noticing.

We were back indoors just after one in the morning, and collapsed into bed, only surfacing ten hours later just in time for lunch!

And for the benefit of anyone younger than me, who may be wondering, the title of today’s piece is a line from a Max Bygraves song.

1 as referenced in this blog post

Egg(head) on Face

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Some of you already know that, along with a few chums, I recently auditioned for the BBC quiz show Eggheads.

Southampton Hospital Radio is sixty years old this year, so Chairman Steve thought it would be a jolly wheeze to enter: he assembled a collective of the station’s geekiest finest minds, nagged us until we filled in our application forms, and put our entry in.

About a million years later – or at least six months – we were called for audition, and this indeed was where we went last Saturday. Chairman Steve, Rockin’ Rob, Neil (who is also called Guy) and yours truly (accompanied by Neil (wiacG)’s good lady), caught a horribly early train packed with already-drunk football supporters and headed for the Nation’s Capital.

We got to London a bit earlier than necessary so we took the indirect route to the TV building, browsing through an open-air book market on the way. We should have browsed more thoroughly, as will become apparent. Anyway, once we arrived, we found we were one of four teams being auditioned – two of the other teams had only brought three of their five members with them, so we didn’t feel too bad about having left our number five, Gary (who doesn’t have a daft nickname…yet) behind – he couldn’t get the day off work.

Once the audition proper started, the first thing that happened was an individual written quiz: I won’t tell you the real questions as I’m pretty sure that somewhere in the two hundred pages of legal documents we signed, we said that we wouldn’t. But to give you a flavour, one of them was something like “Which American crime writer wrote I, Alex Cross?” As that was one of the books we’d all browsed about thirty minutes earlier, you’d think that would’ve been easy…you’d think wrong, we all had to guess, and it transpired that we all guessed wrong. Another question was similar to “To which island group does Sark belong?” to which I originally put the right answer, then crossed it out and put something else. But first prize for numb-nuttery, at least in this round, went to my answer to a question similar to “What does the S in USA stand for?” Of course I knew the answer (the real question was, if anything, even easier than that), but I totally failed to RTFQ and answered “United”.

Perhaps in some future quiz, I’ll be asked “What does the F in RTFQ stand for?” I’ll probably get that wrong too…the correct answer is of course “flipping”.

Next up was a mini game of Eggheads between the four teams. The first round was Films and TV, so we nominated Chairman Steve, who’s probably seen more films than the rest of us put together. The question was to identify a film from which a particular quote came – he had one of those blank moments where you know the answer but for some reason say the wrong thing. Ah well. Two of the other teams lost a person that round too.

Next up was Food and Drink, which I’d already claimed as my number one sepcialist subject, so I stood up, answered my question correctly, and sat down. At least it wasn’t a whitewash. The next round was Sport, so we put in Neil (who is also called Guy). They asked him possibly the only sports question in the whole world that he didn’t know the answer to, but he put in an inspired guess and was right.

Round four was Science – I wanted to take it as my second-claim sepcial subject, and as there were only four of us, one was going to have to go twice, so I could have done. But Rockin’ Rob hadn’t been yet, and got the question right, so it was lucky I didn’t.

The last individual round was Music: Had Gary (who doesn’t have a daft nickname…yet) been there, he would’ve been our music expert, but Neil (who is also called Guy) stepped up to the plate and answered brilliantly, so we were fine. Three out of the four of us through to the final round!

In short, we won.

The final part of the day involved each team doing a piece to camera about how interesting we are, and what an enthralling episode of Eggheads it would make if we were picked. If we’re shortlisted, we should hear in the next couple of weeks.

Once we left, Neil (who is also called Guy) headed off to join his lady for a day’s research into his main sepcialist subject, Real Ale Pubs of London. We tried to tell him that isn’t a round in Eggheads, but he went anyway. Rockin’ Rob had to get home because he was playing a gig that night, I needed to get home because I had a toilet to mend, and Chairman Steve isn’t safe to be left out on his own, so the three of us headed back to Waterloo. We had a thirty minute wait for our train, so we stopped for a drink and a go on the pub quiz machine.

We played two games of Eggheads on the quiz machine. We lost dramatically both times.

Inspired by the Olympics

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Gosh, another blog-free month :-( The good thing is that it’s mainly down to the fact that I’ve been too busy having fun to write about having fun, rather than anything bad!

Anyway, today marks the end of the Olympic invasion of London, at least as far as commuting days are concerned, so it’s a perfect time to tell you about the genius idea my colleagues and I had. Y’see, Brian, Ricardo and I noticed that in spite of being a huge continent, Antarctica has no representation in the Olympic games. This seems like too good an opportunity to miss, so before Rio 2016 we’re going to register as citizens of Antarctica. Being the only three who qualify, we’re bound to get selected for the team!

We’re a bit worried about events like the 4 x 100, given that there are only three of us: also that we might be expected to turn up for the equestrianism riding polar bears*, but other than that it seems like a plan with no foreseeable drawbacks. And at least we get a month in Rio out of it.

* in spite of the fact that polar bears come from the North Pole, not the South. But I’m relying on the average sports commentator not knowing that.


Sunday, May 27th, 2012

No sooner do I produce a blog about why I didn’t vote on BGT, than I’m now whacking one out about voting on Eurovision.

For my readers across t’pond who may not have experienced this annual phenomenon, it’s a song contest where the nations of Europe (and nowadays the former Soviet Union states, plus a few hangers-on) compete to produce the tackiest song: the “top” 26, as voted for in an excruciating series of semi-finals, get to occupy four and a half hours of prime time television across the continent, and then all nations (including those that didn’t make it to the final) take part in an arcane voting process where the more political nations vote for their friends and a few vote for what they thought was the best song. Although this year had an interesting twist – the national broadcaster of the winning nation has to pay to host next year’s spectacular, so in the current austere times there were a few nations doing their best NOT to win.

Anyway, this year’s feast of tat included Jedward singing for Ireland, Englebert Humperdinck for the United Kingdom, camp acts from a dozen nations (nothing wrong with camp, it’s a Eurovision standard), and some singing grannies from Russia who sang “Everybody dance, it’s a party for everyone” while baking buns on stage, and who, if they won, were going to give the prize money to save their church.

The maddest dance act of the night (and really the only dance act that lived up to the Eurovision norm) came from Moldova, and the campest was a Village People-esque group of Turkish sailors in capes.

Anyway, we couldn’t decide who to vote for, so as there were three of us – and it was only fifteen pees a go – we had three votes, one each for the grannies – because we thought they were fun; Moldova – because we wanted to see that dance act one more time, and Turkey – for more or less the same reason. In the end it didn’t make much difference, but it was exciting for a while!

And for no better reason than I can, here are those Moldovans…

The Grannies (not sure why, but the audio on this clip makes them sound a lot worse than they did on the night)…

And the Turks.

St Pancras

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

I mentioned in a recent post on The Facebook, “I truly loathe St Pancras railway station”

I know St Panc is a Marmite thing – you either love or hate it – and I suppose it all depends on what you look for in a railway station. When I pass through, I’m not looking for a ten-course fine dining experience or the chance to buy French groceries, and I’m certainly not in the market for tacky souvenirs of a tacky sports event that hasn’t happened yet, and I (and most Londoners) will be keeping clear of when it does.

When I’m on a railway station, the most I want to buy is a bacon roll and maybe a newspaper – but what I really want, and would gladly sacrifice the chance to buy anything for, is to be able to get from the station entrance (and in London, the Underground terminal) to the train as quickly as possible, with the minimum fuss. Whoever designed the refurbished StP was so fixated on making it a major experience that the only way to fit in all the shops and overpriced eateries was to put the platforms so far from the station access that by the time you get on the train, you’ve already walked halfway to where you were going.

Incidentally, you can get a decent bacon roll at St Panc, from the Camden Food Company by the upstairs platforms. Just don’t be in a hurry.

If the designers of this commuters’ nightmare want some ideas for what a railway station eatery should look like, they need to go back in time and visit Kings Cross before the recent “improvements”. They’ll find a lovely old inn called the Duke of Wellington, with reasonably priced food and free wi-fi…all gone now, of course, in the need for modernisation.

But my favourite railway station food place is the sushi bar at Paddington. Not for the food, although I do like sushi, but for the statue of Paddington Bear in the middle. Of course the fact that the statue is also a virtual geocache helps!

Loose End, and a Problem

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

One loose end that I forgot to mention after our Florrie Holly…and a valuable lesson for anyone coming home from temperatures in the high eighties…is that arriving at Gatwick at half past six on a Saturday morning in April, dressed in only T-shirt and shorts, probably isn’t a good idea.

That totally aside, I’ve spent the bank holiday weekend at the ancestral home of the family of Purple Fred (whom I love very much). Soon after we arrived, we were scanning the local paper for exciting “What’s On” items, and as well as a murder mystery play showing at a local theatre, we spotted an ad for the local MP’s constituency surgery. “Come and meet your local MP”, it announced, “and discuss your problems with him”. Now I don’t know what your instinctive reaction is, to an invitation like that, but I’ve always wanted to go along to one, and when he asks me what’s troubling me, say something like “My car misfires at about fifteen hundred revs, but when I take it to the garage they can’t find anything wrong”.

On this occasion we didn’t go to the MP’s surgery, but we did go to the theatre, where the murder mystery was jolly entertaining, and PF(WILVM) guessed the right murderer but the wrong reason, and I guessed the wrong murderer but the right reason – so neither of us won the bottle of wine. And then PF(WILVM) engaged the playwright in conversation, and came away with a catalogue of his plays available for other companies to perform.

The rest of the weekend was pretty good, too.

Oh, and if anyone has any ideas about my misfire I’d be pleased to hear them. It’s a Jeep diesel engine in pretty good nick, and the misfire around fifteen hundred is intermittent, and goes away completely above eighteen hundred revs.


Monday, April 30th, 2012

Just for m’lady Trouty (see her comment on Saturday’s blog), here’s a picture of a manatee…


This one was having a doze in the manatee viewing area at Homasassa Springs State Park – we went there for lunch on the day we did the swimming with manatees experience. This was the best view of a manatee we had all day, as the water where we were swimming with them was so muddy, all we really saw was shapes moving in the water.

At least, they told us it was mud in the water – Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) reckoned we were swimming in manatee poo, and I don’t really have any evidence to say she’s wrong.


Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Gosh, it’s been a while since I last blogged, hasn’t it? Still, I’ve got a good excuse…here’s a clue:

Gottle at Cinderella’s Castle

Yes, we’ve been to Orlando to visit theme parks! That’s me in the silly hat, by the way. We had a fabby time, and visited all the main attractions, as well as taking a drive across to the East coast for the Kennedy Space Centre (clicky the piccy for bigness)…

Space shuttle Discovery

…and to the West coast (of Florida) to swim with manatees, have an airboat ride and wrestle with fierce wild creatures…

Paul, ‘gator wrestling

…(I know what this looks like but I’m not really strangling it…that was how the handler told us to hold them). We also visited Gatorland, which the guidebook described as a good way to spend the morning, if you’ve got an afternoon flight. We’d have happily spent all day there, especially as there were not only alligators…


…and white alligators…


… but also turtles,


…baby birds of extreme cuteness…


…and even what my ornithologist friend Mark the Buddhist would’ve called “Little Brown Jobs” (and no, that isn’t a euphemism for manatee poo, although we saw plenty of that as well)


Of coure we also did all of the theme parks, and my favourites were Epcot (for the sciency stuff), Animal Kingdom (for the safari ride, which I could’ve spent the whole day going round and round), and Disney Hollywood, especially for the stunt show


We stayed at the Lake Buena Vista Resort and Spa hotel, which we selected for no better reason than that it has a pirate ship in the swimming pool, and contrary to what we later read on Trip Advisor, we really couldn’t fault it.

American food needs a mention…although to be fair these comments obviously only really apply to public eateries available in the Orlando area and not to the whole of the USA)…it’s a carnivore’s dream, although I was a bit upset when Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) told me up front that I wasn’t allowed barbecue ribs three times a day for the whole fortnight…she knows me so well…so I had to vary the menu a bit. For the Vegetarian In You Life (Whom I Love Very Much) it was a bit of a nightmare, and she was in danger of surviving the whole fifteen days on Caesar Salad and cheesy chips, until we discovered that Frankie Finlays Authentic Irish Theme Pub (which was about as Irish as the Statue of Liberty, but there y’go) did a Portobello Burger which she liked – basically a beefburger but with a giant portobello mushroom instead of the meat.

Oh yeah, and I got four caches while we were there. I wasn’t trying very hard.

So there we are…I may not blog so often these days, but when I do, it’s a good one.

Oh, and hello to my work colleagues Bellend and Dumbass, who discovered this blog by some means while I was away!

Sad Hair

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I washed my hair last night.

You might wonder why I bother to mention that, since I could wash each individual hair in less time than it has taken me to type this so far, but stick with me – there’s something coming to earn this story the “Weird Stuff I Noticed” tag. It took me a while to find the shampoo, since Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) subscribes to the girlie philosophy of “You can’t have too many bottles of stuff in the bathroom” – added to which, we’ve got a lot of bottles of conditioner which we bought without reading the label carefully enough, in the mistaken belief it was shampoo.

So having found a bottle that I thought might be shampoo, I was reading the label carefully to make sure it was (it was), when I spotted, under the word “Shampoo”, the strapline “Ideal for hair that’s dry, appears damaged, or is just a bit unhappy”.

A bit unhappy? Why would hair – even the most badly treated hair – be a bit unhappy? It doesn’t have to work for a living, it doesn’t even have to wake up in the morning if it doesn’t want to – it certainly doesn’t have to get out of bed, more and more of mine stays on the pillow every day. And given how long it is since I last saw the main part of my hair, I think it’s probably sunning itself on a caribbean beach somewhere, from where it hasn’t even sent me a postcard.

And on that subject, by the time you read this, I suspect I’ll be living the high life on a management training course in Milton Keynes. Don’t be too jealous.


Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Last night’s journey home from work didn’t go as well as it might.

Now let me say at the outset that I’m not over-dramatising here – I know that for all that I was forty minutes late home, someone has died, and their family and friends, a train driver and all the witnesses had a much worse evening than I did. And I know that whem a tragedy happens on the rail line, trains have to be disrupted while certain things get done.

It’s the information I get annoyed about: People have complained that there wasn’t any information about what was going on, where really the reverse is true – there was too much information, on the platform boards, on the concourse displays, on the official South West Trains Twitter feed and on the website. All of it contradictory and all of it bearing no resemblance to what was actually happening.

I got to Waterloo to be told the Southampton train (or more precisely the Weymouth train, which goes through Southampton) was at platform fourteen – so I went there, to find a crowd waiting to board the train who’d been told it was going to Reading. It didn’t matter, the train was locked down with no crew anywhere in sight, so wherever it was meant to be going, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Then someone had a phone call from someone at home, who’d seen on the website that the previous Weymouth train, which should have already left, was still on platform seven, so we all scrummed down and beetled across to there. Well the train was still there right enough, but so full of people that you couldn’t have squeezed a chocolate swiss roll (or other confectionery of your choice) on board, never mind another person. They must have been taking it in turns to breathe on there, and I wasn’t getting involved with that.

So we charged back to the tunnel again, this time in response to a tannoy announcement that there was a Basingstoke train on platform nine, and that would at least get me partly home and there’s a better selection of trains from Basingstoke. And sure enough there was a train, and there was plenty of space – in fact it was only half full – because the guard had shut and locked the doors, and didn’t open them again before the train left five minutes later.

Then exactly the same thing happened with another Basingstoke train, this time from platform eleven after another dash through the tunnel between platforms.

Then there was a call for a train to Southampton from platform eight: I was one of the lucky ones who made it there before the doors were shut, and as the train pulled out we were told that this had been going to be the Southampton train, but for technical reasons it was going to terminate at Basingstoke, Arrrgh…still, at least I was moving in the right direction.

And then I got to Basingstoke, and after running between platforms one and four three times (because that was what the announcements led me to do, not for fun or anything), I got on a train home which wasn’t run by South West Trains, so went very smoothly.

The thing is, the only sensible explanation for all that confusion – and I use the word “sensible” loosely – is that the person deciding what information goes out to the waiting passengers isn’t the same person who decides which trains will go where – and they aren’t talking to each other. Not only that, but the Twitter feed, website and station information boards are all run by different people as well.

I’m not sure if this is most like Schroedinger or Einstein, but it seems the only way to really know where a train is going is to get on it and go there. I’m sure it didn’t ought to be like that.

Belsize Park, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Tuna Fish

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

There was an interesting piece on the BBC news website the other day about new research into earworms.

These, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are those annoying tunes that get stuck in your head and go round for ages. The research looked at what causes them to embed themselves, and what triggers them. It could be hearing a bit of the tune, of course, or a sight or smell, most commonly associated with the first time you heard the tune. On which subject, I have what might be called a reverse earworm – or maybe,
rather grossly, a noseworm – as every time I hear Crosby, Stills & Nash singing Marrakesh Express, I can smell microwave tuna pasta bake. Don’t ask.

My most common earworm trigger is the phrase “Belsize Park”, which always starts Marillion’s Kayleigh running in my head.

Do you remember, barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars
Do you remember, loving on the floor in Belsize Park

As I see maps of the London Underground quite a lot, I’m exposed to the words “Belsize Park” more than you might think – it’s an area of London with a station on the Northern line. I even tried going up there one morning before work (and doing a cache there, naturally) in an attempt to root the worm out, but it didn’t work.

It’s lucky I like Marillion really, although I prefer Lavender to Kayleigh. At least it isn’t Marrakesh Express.

Can anyone smell tuna?

Lord Preserve Me from GTDs

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

I have once again been on a grand tour of our Northern regional offices.

While of course I’d rather be at home with my beloved Purple Fred (whom I love very much), these trips can be a pretty good way to earn a living. As well as seeing a new work location, in a place that by definition is going to be nicer than London (simply by not being London), there is a touch of luxury in hotel life. Someone else cooks you your dinner and washes up afterwards and if you’re careful not to blow the expenses allowance they’ll bring you a beer as well. And then the same thing (without the beer) happens at breakfast time as well!

The other downside (as well as being away from PF(WILVM)) is that being public sector and looking to make the most efficient use of public money, we generally have to do these trips by public transport – which invariably brings us into contact with what I call “the Gobby Taxi Driver”.

What makes these people think that just because I’m paying them to drive me somewhere, I want to have a conversation with them? I wouldn’t mind quite so much if it wasn’t always the same conversation:

GTD: “Nice hotel, yeah?”
Me: “Yeah, it’s OK.”

GTD: “How much do they charge there?” (Translation: How much can I screw you for on the taxi fare?”)
Me: “Don’t really know – the company books it centrally and I know they get a huge discount” (Actually I do know – regardless of how nice the hotel is, Government contract rate is sixty quid B&B per person per night)

GTD “What sort of work do you do?”

This is the killer – if I tell them what I really do, I’ll get a rant that’ll last the rest of the journey about how Health and Safety is a waste of time, all common sense, killing the country etc. OK, I’ve heard it all before and it’s water off a duck’s back to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to volunteer to hear it again. And if I tell them who I work for, that brings its own tale of woe.

While I’d really like to tell the guy to mind his own business and concentrate on driving, I do still need him to get me where I’m going without driving round the block 89 times to rack up the bill – or as one driver did to me, taking me to the wrong railway station (and I hadn’t even upset him – he was just daft). So I let my creative juices run – in the past I’ve been:

  1. A fire safety adviser – for some reason this doesn’t attract the same unpleasant response as general Health and Safety
  2. A personal safety trainer – I teach people who have to work in nasty areas how to avoid getting mugged or stabbed
  3. An electrical safety inspector – I don’t use this one any more as I’ve had too many grisly descriptions of people the GTD knows who’ve been electrocuted
  4. An asbestos consultant – sadly nearly everybody knows somebody who’s been affected by asbestos so I never get the mickey taken when I use this one
  5. An accident investigator – GTDs understand that ‘cos most of them have had to give statements to road traffic accident investigators at some time.

The funny thing is that all of these are more or less true, I’ve done all of them at some time in my current job. But listing each one individually seems to be more socially acceptable (to GTDs) than all together!

Save a Life

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Having blogged twice already this year, I didn’t have much to add…but then I came across this. Soccer hard man-turned-film-actor Vinnie Jones is fronting the British Heart Foundation’s latest life saving campaign.

Research has shown that the main thing preventing less experienced people (by which I mean anyone except medical professionals) from attempting resuscitation on unconscious cardiac patients revolves around the mouth-to-mouth part: it’s clearly yucky and unpleasant, there’s a perceived (although largely non-existant) risk of cross-infection, and a fear of the consequences of getting it wrong – although frankly if a patient needs resuscitation, quite how things could be made much worse escapes me. There’s a lot of urban myth about people being sued after unsuccessful attempts to give first aid, although it’s never really happened in the UK and the rumours seem mainly to be attempts to sell personal liability insurance to first aiders.

Anyway, the Resuscitation Council have been promoting for some time, the fact that “compression only” resus is almost as effective as full resus, and certainly better than nothing, and that’s what this new campaign is promoting: compression-only resus moved partly-oxygenated blood around the body and certainly gets enough oxygen to the vital parts to keep the patient alive until paramedics arrive.

So if you’re not resus-trained – or even if you are – check out that link and see the instructional video that goes with it. You might save a life one day.

Pub Review

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) and I went for a pub lunch today.

We first tried the Swan, at Sherbourne St John, just outside Basingstoke. You may want to make a note of that name. The Swan, at Sherbourne St John.

We sat down and checked out the menu, and I was despatched to the bar to get the drinks and find out what the vegetarian roast of the day was. There wasn’t a long queue, and there were three people serving, but it took ages to get served anyway. The veggie roast was mushrooms and pasta, which seemed a bit odd, but at least it was nut free. I reported back, and PF(WILVM) went to order.

She was gone some time – long enough for me to play ten games of Angry Birds – and whn she came back it turned out we weren’t eating there after all. They’d stopped doing food for a while so the kitchen staff could have a rest – not only that, but the person in front of her in the queue had asked to see the manager as he wished to make a complaint. The manager – standing right alongside – told the barmaid “You deal with it. I don’t want to listen to complaints, even if I am the manager”.

So – no service, they chuck in random food stops because the kitchen staff can’t do their jobs, the manager is rude to her staff in front of customers, and isn’t interested in complaints. In case you missed it, that’s the Swan, at Sherbourne St John.

There’s a much nicer pub about a mile away – the Queens College Arms at Pamber End.


Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If a Star Trek fan is a “Trekkie”, what’s a Doctor Who fan?

The reason I ask is that last weekend, Purple Fred (whom I love very much), MiniFred and I went to the Doctor Who Experience, at Olympia. We went by train, which was a pretty good deal – as a holder of a South West Trains annual season ticket I not only travel free, but I get a certain number of free off-peak tickets for people travelling with me. So the whole day’s travel cost us a fiver for parking at the station, and two and a half returns from Clapham Junction to Olympia, which not being operated by South West Trains isn’t covered by the free offer.

PF(WILVM) had a more expen$ive day as she bought the admission tickets. We tried to redress the balance by me buying lunch in the Olympia cafe, drinks on the trains, and our evening meal, but I still came in with the slightly cheaper day!

So, the experience itself…it was pretty darned good, they seem to have realised that in every group there’s going to be one person who’s not as dedicated a Who-ist as the others, and designed it to be interesting for them as well. There was techie stuff, costumes, designs and props and scenery from the early series of the canon, and of course a display of daleks through the ages. Most fascinating to me was the fact that the Doctor Who programme team includes a choreographer whose role is to study the various monsters – who made them, from what, for what purpose etc – and create a walk for each monster that fits. There’s even a video presentation where you can learn to walk like a cyberman or a scarecrow. Presumably walking like a dalek would be too difficult, unless you come with wheels.

Sepcial mention, however, must go to the bloke in the queue for the walk-through just in front of us. A man in his thirties and there on his own, so obviously a Who-ist, so his Doctor Who T-shirt and satchel were within the realms of “normal”. It was when he started fiddling with his sonic screwdriver (and no, that’s not a euphemism) that we realised we were in the presence of an obsessive.

Good Idea

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

I think it’s generally known that I’m not a dog lover – but this displays an attitude to customer service (and making money) that I do like…


Seen at the Worlds End pub near Wimborne in Dorset, last weekend…

Regional Stereotypes

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The organisation I work for is updating its fleet of vehicles. The new cars are smaller and more fuel efficient (and therefore cheaper on road tax and congestion charge) than their predecessors, which’ll please the accountants and the tree-huggers, if not the drivers. Or any passengers unfortunate enough to have to ride in the back.

The new vehicles are being deleivered to each office in turn, and today was the turn of our Manchester office.
The cars were delivered at 10 AM
The first hubcaps were nicked before 11 AM

Now I’m not saying that Mancs are all scallies – I know a lot of Manchester people and the ones I know are all good people, even the Man U supporters. I’m just pointing out the parallel to regional stereotype…

And in an astonishing parallel to Civil Service stereotype, by mid afternoon the first diesel car had been filled with petrol. Which as we know is an easy mistake and even the best people have done it.

Krap Fit – Even Krapper

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

In this blog entry I described my encounter with a chain of tyre fitters I referred to – in order to anonymise the guilty – as Krap Fit. Almost seven years later, I’ve clearly not been learning from experience.

One of my over-winter caravan jobs was to take the caravan wheels to a tyre fitter and have new tyres fitted – the old ones were five years old, and that’s how often it’s recommended tyres are changed for safety. So I whipped one of the wheels off, got out the spare wheel (which I bought and haven’t got round to getting a tyre fitted to yet) and headed off to my local independent tyre specialist.

They were shut, on account of it being Sunday. On my way home, with wheels still in the back of the car, I passed the local Krap Fit, who were open. “OK” I thought, “I had one bad experience with them, but that was years ago…surely they must have sorted themselves out by now?” So in I went. They didn’t have the tyres in stock – which I was sort of expecting – but they could get them in and everything would be ready for me to collect the following Saturday (because I work in London I can’t be in Southampton during their weekday opening times).

“Great”, I said, “and while you’re doing it, could you fit Tyron safety bands?”. Tyron safety bands are a pretty standard thing to have on caravan wheels and almost every caravanner either has them, or wishes they could afford them. And Krap Fit are an authorised distributor. “Never heard of them, what are they?” asked the tyre fitting sepcialist. When I described them, he said he’d heard of something a bit like it, but didn’t know where to get them from and didn’t think their tyre fitting machine could fit them.


So on Thursday, Darren rang and told me the job was done and I could collect my wheels and tyres Saturday morning. Saturday was a bit fully booked but I wanted the job done, so I made time and called in.
“Oh, are you just picking them up? We thought you were bringing the caravan in to have them fitted”.
“Oh that’s a good idea, I’ll just go and get…ah hang on…IT’S GOT NO ZARKING WHEELS ON IT!!!”

At this point – remember they told me the job was complete on Thursday – they started to fit the tyres to the wheels. I went and got a cup of tea from the machine and a six month old Top Gear magazine, and sat in the customer waiting area. When I came round to check progress fifteen minutes later, they were stuffing plastic bin bags inside my tyres (yes really). Apparently because caravan tyres are a bit sepcial, they were having trouble getting them to inflate – they didn’t explain the function of the plastic bags, but I’m sure it’s all legit and above board. Anyway, they finally admitted defeat and said they’d have to get their mate, who fits lorry tyres, round with his sepcial tool, but that wouldn’t be until Saturday evening. I agreed to return Sunday morning.

Sunday morning: “I was here till seven o’clock last night inflating your tyres!”. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with that information, so I just commented “OK, as long as it’s done” – only to be told they hadn’t finished balancing the wheels, at which point I may have gone a bit nuclear.
“Hey, I was here till seven o’clock doing your wheels last night – that’s service above and beyond, that is…”
“Sorry, the fact that you were here till seven o’clock finishing a job you were supposed to have completed three days ago doesn’t impress me in the slightest”
. Was I being unreasonable (the person I was having this conversation with was the same one who’d phoned me on Thursday, and who’d failed to know what Tyron bands were)?

So, I paid and ran away – having already decided that I was going to take the wheels to an independent tyre fitter who I trust (and who I should’ve given the job to in the first place) to make sure they weren’t still stuffed with plastic bags, and to get the Tyron bands fitted. As a bonus, I came away with the old tyre – it still has pretty good tread and I thought it might be useful to have a spare around, as they’d had trouble getting hold of them (or at least that’s what they told me).

So it was particularly annoying to check the invoice, to find they’d charged me for “ecological disposal of two tyres” – partly because there was only ever one tyre, and partly because their “ecological disposal” was to give the tyre back to the customer.

So in summary…

  1. The tyre fitting specialist has never heard of a standard tyre safety device for which his company is an authorised distributor
  2. They lied about the work being completed on Thursday
  3. They were unable to fit tyres, and resorted to what I’m pretty sure was a cowboy technique to make it look like they had
  4. They tried to make the measures they’d had to take, to cover up their own inadequacy, look like they were doing me a favour
  5. They charged me for tyre disposal without disposing of any tyres, and then allowed me to take the “waste” tyre away (which I’m pretty sure is an offence under the Environmental Protection Act, as I’m not a licensed waste carrier)
  6. …and I’m pretty sure, given the time it took, that they didn’t balance the wheels properly either

So to repeat what I said seven years ago…I am NEVER going to Kwik…er sorry, Krap Fit EVER again.


Monday, March 7th, 2011

Two blokes were standing near me on the bus this evening – what follows is the unabridged entirety of their conversation…

Bloke 1: “Steve”
Bloke 2: “Steve?”
Bloke 1: “Steve”


Bloke 2: “Chris?”
Bloke 1: “Chris”

I’d love to know what that was all about, but I don’t suppose I ever will.

Radio vs Theatre

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

Blimey – nearly a month since I last blogged! I’ve been having outrageous amounts of fun (and working very hard), which has left little time for blogging, but I thought I’d better give you a quick update to avoid a SimonG-esque four week gap between blogs.

My lovely Purple Fred – whom I really do love very much – asked me to put together a compilation of music for the interval of the play she’s directing. So I produced something, and the outcome perfectly illustrates the difference between radio people and theatre people.

The interval is going to be 20 minutes long. The music compilation I produced is nineteen minutes fifty-nine seconds.

PF was concerned about the music fitting the mood of the play. I was worried about the missing second.


Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I spotted this while standing at the bus stop…


“Guaranteed Finance Subject to Status”…in other words, finance not guaranteed at all?