Archive for June, 2004

In Defence of Grunt

Wednesday, June 30th, 2004

Yesterday, some reactionary twit wrote in the Daily Mail that Gruntmobiles – big 4×4 cars like wot I have – should be banned. I’d provide you with a link to the story, but in spite of diligent searching on the newspaper website I haven’t been able to find it. Anyway, his reasons for this were such gems of wisdom as:
1) They look silly
2) They’re all driven by short women who can’t see over the steering wheel
3) Bull bars murder pedestrians in cold blood
4) They’re only ever used for the school run, where they take up too much space, and they never go off road.

The case for the defence:
Well firstly, they’re not as big as they look – my Gruntmobile is shorter than the Nissan Primera which preceded it, although it is admittedly a bit wider. It’s certainly higher, but the only person who’s inconvenienced by that is me, as suddenly I can’t use multi-storey car parks.

Bullbars: Well, maybe they’re a bit pointless on most 4x4s, but people who have them certainly pay, through extra insurance. And bull bars never hurt anyone, unless they were hit by the car the bars were fitted to: It’s being hit by a car that injures people, not the fact that the car has bull bars.

School Run: The best car to use for the school run is your feet – any car is inappropriate (unless it’s lobstering down with rain).

On the other hand, the high driving position gives much better visibility, especially in the urban setting where I’m much better able to see if small people are about to run out between two cars. In poor weather conditions (snow, ice etc) four-wheel drive is much safer, as the roadholding is better.

On the economic front: I, and many other Gruntmobile owners, need a big car to tow my caravan (or their boat, horsebox etc). If it was economic to run two cars (a big one when needed, and a mini the rest of the time), my Gruntmobile would hardly ever be used, but thanks to the ridiculous way British road tax and insurance rules work, I can only afford to run one vehicle.

Meanwhile, to those people who think Gruntmobile owners should be financially punished: We are. My fuel consumption means that for every mile I drive, I buy nearly twice as much fuel as the driver of a smaller car. And 80% of that is tax.

Oh, and look silly? At least it’s not a Smart Car

You Kan’t Get Krapper Than a Krap-Fit Fitter

Tuesday, June 29th, 2004

I’ve been researching getting an oil and filter change on the Gruntmobile.

Obviously it isn’t due one yet, but I like to plan these things in advance, and through the on-line forum of the Pajero Owner’s Club I’ve discovered that a certain chain of tyre and exhaust centres have given owners great satisfaction, for a really good price.

I phoned my local branch of the chain – for brevity, let’s call them Krap-Fit – and asked about booking my Gruntmobile in. “Ooh”, said the guy, “We don’t keep those filters in stock. Can you ring in a couple of days and check that I’ve got it in, then bring your car in?”. I agreed that I would.

When I phoned back I spoke to someone different; “Ah, you shouldn’t have been told that, sorry sir. What it is, some of the four wheel drives we can’t do, because it needs a special tool. Can you bring it in and I’ll have a look, and let you know”. I agreed to do this, not thinking there’d be any trouble becasue of the POCUK recommendation. When I arrived, it turned out that he couldn’t fit me in – not even for a Kwik…sorry, quick…zip up on the ramp and have a look. So I was asked to go back on a weekday evening.

So today I did. I saw yet a third person, who told me some convoluted tale about how they don’t fit that type of oil filter, because they don’t use the manufacturer’s own make, and the one their supplier makes is prone to leaking and causing engine damage. Very sorry.

So, at one branch of Krap-Fit, I’ve spoken to three different fitters and been given three different stories. I think I might try a different branch. Or maybe do it myself.

Lost and…um…

Monday, June 28th, 2004

I have this real talent for losing things.

If you read yesterday’s blog – and if you didn’t, why not – you’ll know that while geocaching in rough country just outside the New Forest, I lost my mobile phone. Somewhere, in one of the many patches of rough bracken or heather, it slipped out of its case and was gone for good…or at least, until someone finds it. It’s just the latest in a line of things to go missing.

Those of you who know me will know that I have carpal tunnel syndrome in my right wrist, for which I wear a wrist brace. The brace is really awkward to type with, and rather than just accepting that I shouldn’t type with it so much, I take it off and “manage??? without. I also try to do without it in hot weather, or while doing anything that might get it dirty: As a result, I’ve now lost two braces in six months.

I once typed a letter and put it down on the table while I went into the next room to fetch an envelope: The letter was never seen again. Videotapes, library books and CDs all vanish into thin air within hours of being handled by me. I once drove home from a weekend away and discovered that I’d left my trousers in Eastbourne, and on a Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition I became the least popular person in the group when it was discovered that the tent pegs which had been in my rucksack that morning were now spread over fourteen miles of Dartmoor countryside. My parents bought me a whistling keyring once: I couldn’t find the keys to put them on.

I don’t suppose I could borrow a pen, could I?

Woe upon woe…

Sunday, June 27th, 2004

This afternoon I went geocaching.

Cache with Stile is just outside the western boundary of the New Forest, and it’s quite a nice walk of just over a mile from the recommended parking place to get there.

As soos as I arrived in the area of the cache, I spotted the likely hiding place – no cache. I thrashed around for a few minutes, then decoded the clue. Admittedly it wasn’t much help, but it focussed my search a bit, but I still failed to find.

I sat down on the stile to read the instructions again – there’s often a subtle clue hidden there if you look carefully – and that’s when I noticed that my mobile phone wasn’t on my belt. I was sure I’d had it recently – I have this affectation of every couple of minutes, checking my belt for mobile phone, PDA, keys, camera etc – but much rooting around in all the places I’d been didn’t reveal it.

While I was sitting on the stile, trying to calm down and think clearly, the end fell off of my banananana and rolled in the dust. It says much for my state of mind at the time that I picked it up, wiped it on my shorts, and ate it.

Then on the way back to the car, I was chased by what I can only describe as a load of bullocks.

So, I’m currently mobile-less, although my Mum has kindly loaned me hers for a couple of days while I get things sorted out. Meanwhile, those of you who have my mobile number, I’ll email you with my new number once it’s working. Oh, and if you got a text or message pretending to come from me after lunchtime today…it wasn’t me! The phone, needless to say, is now blocked…

And finally, by tradition, here’s a pic I took on the way to the cache: See you later folks

My Glass is Half Empty

Saturday, June 26th, 2004

I can’t believe the weekend is half over already…

I was woken at an ungodly hour this morning (9 AM) by the plumber ringing the doorbell. Luckily he was impressed with my amateur efforts earlier in the week, and only found enough tasks needing doing to cost an arm and half a leg. Then once he’d gone, I went geocaching.

I think I’ve mentioned my geocache map before: I have a map of Southern Hampshire, with bits of Dorset, Wiltshire and West Sussex creeping in at the edges, and all the geocaches that I hadn’t found at the time I prepared the map are marked with red sticky dots. Those that I’ve found since then are red sticky dots with big letter “X”s on them. There’s a huge patch in the middle of the map with no un-done caches in it*, and borrowing from the old Colgate ad, I call this my “Ring of Confidence”.

If someone plants a new cache anywhere in the map area, my personal rule is that it doesn’t go on the map immediately, but if two weekends pass by and I haven’t found it, it gets a red sticker.

Anyway, this week, a cache was planted well within the ring, and knowing that I wouldn’t have time to do it next weekend (among other things, it’s my Godson’s birthday party on Sunday**), I headed off to do it as soon as the plumber left. Hedge End Hideaway didn’t take me long, then I went home. And to be fair, I have no idea what I spent the rest of the day doing.

Oh well, here’s a pic I took while looking for the cache. Very green and lush, isn’t it?

*Not 100% true.Please don’t mention the geocache known as The Orange Tree

**Note to Daniel’s Mum: Does saying in my blog that I’m coming count as my RSVP?

TGI Friday

Friday, June 25th, 2004

Today I went to work.

After work I was due to go to a Radio Club Treasure Hunt, starting in Lyndhurst, but with an hour or so to kill, I went and did a geocache first. Today’s was Ziegler Passage: There were lovely views but for some reason the digi camera was playing up*, and the only decent picture I took, I can’t post (because it would spoil the cache hunt for anyone reading this who hasn’t yet done it).

Anyway, then I went to Lyndhurst (via the cashpoint in Brockenhurst), and did the Treasure Hunt with my friend Sheila. After an hour and a half of tramping round the village, we came second! A nice meal in The Crown Hotel (who were hosting the prizegiving ceremony), a quick log of a trigpoint, and home.

*Because I’d been fiddling with the settings

Bleeurgh

Thursday, June 24th, 2004

Not much to blog today: I’ve been feeling a bit crappy all week, so I was pleased to blog early last night, so I could sit in front of the telly with a good book and veg.

Then our neighbour rang the doorbell: Did I know that there was water pouring out of my overflow? No I didn’t, so bang went the next hour as I scrambled around in the loft messing with the water tank. I think I’ve sorted the problem, but I’ve got a plumber coming Saturday morning to check over what I’ve done, just in case.

Normal blogging service will resume soon. At least, I flippin’ hope so.

Overseas Mail

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2004

A couple of days ago, ScottJ was kind enough to express an interest in my caravan, after I posted a picture of it in my blog. Admittedly his interest was mainly linguistic – since he resides in that great country across the pond he didn’t recognise the word “caravan??? – but he did comment on the fact that it’s a “pop-up???.

Since he was kind enough to be interested, here’s what it looks like when it’s folded ready for towing…

(The car in the picture is the Gruntmobile’s predecessor), and here’s a better picture of what it looks like popped up ready for living in:

As you can see it’s a bit little, but adequate for one. It’s ten feet long and a two-berth, and in the usual caravan arrangement the dining-table-and-two-bench-seats arrangement converts to a double bed for night time: When I’m away for any length of time I use the awning as a living room and leave the bed made up in the caravan all the time to save hassle. It also has a two-ring cooker with a grill and a small fridge, and a separate toilet compartment.

Ooh, and on the subject of ‘merikans, I’ve just remembered that some Americans were kind enough to post a comment in my blog asking for advice on places to visit in England: If they’re still reading, I promise I’ll reply soon.

Other than that, this morning I had a horribly early start to go to the Isle of Wight for a meeting at our distribution site there: Since there was a severe gale blowing in the channel at the time, the crossing was a bit rough!

Interesting Times

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2004

I was going to blog again about nothing exciting happening today…but then I noticed that I’ve been chosen as the winner of the latest SimonG caption competition (see SimonG’s site)! With this victory behind me, can a lottery jackpot be far away?

Other than that, not much happened (not that I can blog about, anyway), but I did, for the first time in ages, go to the gym this evening, not because I felt the need for exercise, but because it was raining so I didn’t feel like going geocaching or trigpointing after work. As nothing much happened even then, I thought you may like to hear a tale of what happened there a year or so ago.

I’d done my workout, and was in the changing room shaving, in front of the washbasin mirror. Now at the risk of upsetting those of you of a delicate sensibility, I was shaving en route from my locker to the shower, so I wasn’t perhaps wearing as much as I might have been. Let’s put it this way…if the Dressing Up Game this Friday chooses the theme “Paul G0TLG in his Tuesday Night Blog Story”, it’ll be a fairly simple costume, but it might get Simon’s site closed down. Anyway, there I stand, face covered in shaving cream when one of our more excitable members rushes in from the steam room / sauna area:
“Quick, does anyone know first aid? Someone’s had a heart attack in the steam room”
Now the major thing that’s drilled into you, in first aid training, is that in a heart attack situation, literally every second counts, so for our hero there’s a difficult decision to be made here.

And that, yeronner, is why I was in the mixed steam room area wearing only what was possibly the smallest shower towel in the world, with my face masked in shaving cream.

Oh, and Norman hadn’t had a heart attack at all…he’d fallen asleep.

Team Work

Monday, June 21st, 2004

I feel I have the same problem that Simon did yesterday: Nothing much to blog about. It was just another Monday, Ostrich Monday at work: At Hospital Radio we had a giant chinese takeaway eating session, but that’s only really exciting for those of us who were part of it, I can’t really expect all of you to be climbing the walls in delight.

We were hoping that our mate Treez was going to be along this evening with New Baby Josh, but she phoned up and said a man was coming round to mend her computer. I even had my camera with me so I could have posted a picture of Josh for you all – well, the females anyway – to gurgle over.

Oh yes, one exciting thing happened today: I made a suggestion to Simon for the fillum script wot he’s writing, and he promised to consider it! That’s only one step away from me being a collaborationist on an Oscar-winning script! OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I got hold of the latest version of the script and had a little read, and it is very funny. I suspect most of my friends and family are going to be getting DVDs for Christmas. Even my Mum, who hasn’t got a DVD player*.

Of course, that all depends on Simon’s props department finding a Colobus Monkey with a liberal attitude** towards Duck-Billed Platypi.

*Don’t even think it. She’s only just mastered Betamax.

** Where “liberal attitude??? = “acts a bit tarty???

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

Since nothing particular happened today, I thought I’d let you all have a look at my caravan.

As you can see I’m very domesticated with all that washing been done (SimonG take note)…it was the first nice day after a week of rain and mud.

The picture was taken last year at New Wine: This is a Christian event which happens at the Bath and West Showground every Summer. Lots of music, seminars and other good things, or of course you can just chill out. People camp usually with other members of their church in a big group, so it’s really good for togetherness and all that touchy-feely stuff. Last year there were over ten thousand people camping and I’m told that this year there will be slightly more.

For the last few years I’ve worked there as part of the volunteer medical team, a group of Christian doctors, nurses, paramedics and first aiders who work together to take care of the welfare of the delegates on site. It’s really worthwhile and satisfying, and the team are a great bunch to work with.

I mention all this because New Wine will be increasingly mentioned over the next few weeks as I start to get ready to go…

Finally, here’s a pic of the med team from two years ago.

I’m the short fat bald bloke on the far right in the hi-viz top.

Happy Talk

Saturday, June 19th, 2004

The day started well…Postman Prat brought an invitation to my Godson’s birthday party. It’s a couple of weeks away yet, but something nice to look forward to, all the same.

Then I went to the barber. In spite of my all-too-apparent youth, he’s been giving me an OAP discount for a couple of years, on account of how little he has to do: Normally this would mark him down for a couple of months in hospital, but at four quid he’s a lot cheaper than any of his nearest rivals so, up to now, I’ve let him live. Also, he doesn’t make any sarky remarks about sticking it back on.

Almost as soon as I got home, I had a phone call inviting me to go and visit some friends I haven’t seen for a couple of months, and when I came home I put in a couple of hours on PuzzleDonkey, where thanks to the help of my good chum Mort (Grand Duchess of Sweden, Most Ferocious Pirate in Shropshire, and Honorary Total Bloke), I defeated the evil puzzle 1.07, and progressed as far as 1.13 before retiring for the day. Yarrrrr Morty!

Then I washed the Gruntmobile, and put my feet up for the evening.

Oh Ostrich, forgot to mend the washing line: That’ll have to wait for the morning now. Goodnight all.

Friday, June 18th, 2004

Simon’s blog from yesterday was about his Mum not noticing things, and in the comments I mentioned that it took my Mum ages to notice when I shaved my moustache off. I also mentioned that there are enough stories about my Mum for a month’s worth of blogs.

I suppose the archetypal “my Mum” blog concerns the night she was watching EastEnders, when there was a power cut at the transmitter and she lost all TV channels (but still had power herself). She set the video to record the programme, so she could play it back when the transmitter came back on…

Having said that, I love my mum to bits and wouldn’t swap her for the world.

Anyway, after work today I went and did a virtual geocache, Ibsley WWII RDF Site. A virtual cache is one where there isn’t a cache hidden there (because of landowner rules, or because it’s environmentally sensitive, or whatever), but there’s something worth looking at. You take a photo of yourself at the site, or answer a question about the location, and claim it as a normal cache. This one had great views

AND I managed to bag a trigpoint while I was there!
.

Then I watched the Dressing Up Game with the other SimonGophytes, and now I need a beer!

It goes both ways

Thursday, June 17th, 2004

You’ll remember a few weeks ago (May 14th actually) I blogged about being a bit cheesed of with work. They’d refused to fund the second part of my diploma course, telling me to go off and research getting an NVQ Level 4 instead. Apparently that’s cheaper because I can do it locally, thereby saving the accommodation cost that goes with the diploma course.

Well, maybe I’m a snob, but I’d rather have the Diploma than the NVQ, although obviously my preferences count for nothing in this situation. Anyway, I put theresearch off for as long as I could, but today I didn’t really feel like working too hard, so I did a bit of Googling. Apparently the nearest I can do the NVQ course is in Dartford (for those who don’t know, I’m in Southampton)! While the point of NVQ is that you do most of the study in the workplace, there would still be some attendance down there, and I’m sure accomodation in Dartford will be no cheaper in Dartford than Birmingham. The person in Dartford who can give me the exact detail is on leave for another month, so I’ll have to wait till then for the full scam.

Other than that, I’ve put three items on eBay: I’m not sure if they’ll sell, but it’s free listing day so it’s worth a try.

Toodle-pip folks.

Shrug

Wednesday, June 16th, 2004

Well to be honest, not much happened today. I was so tired when I woke up this morning, that I decided not to go out this evening: So I came home straight from work, took a few photos of things I plan to sell on eBay (free listings day tomorrow), and now I’m listening to the radio.

Sorry if you’re bored – can I recommend you visit the football badgers*, or the SimonG chatroom for more entertainment?

I’ll try to do better tomorrow.

* Have the speakers turned on

…Bork Bork Bork!

Tuesday, June 15th, 2004

Can anyone remember all the words of the Swedish Chef Song from the Muppets?

Today was one of those days at work. I’ve been set a couple of tasks, neither of which I really know how to do, so I’ve spent the day alternately fiddling (unsuccessfully) with the world’s rubbishest database programme* for one task, and researching on the internet (equally unsuccessfully) for the other.

Oh, and I had a letter at home today, addressed to the Membership Officer of a national charity, a job I stopped doing twenty months ago. I opened it, intending to ring the new incumbent and tell him what I’d received: It was a membership application form, with the new bloke’s address clearly on it. Makes you realise maybe there ARE people thicker than Jade Goody out there.

Much more importantly, after work I went and found my 150th geocache, McToy, planted by my good caching buddy Paul Blitz and his family. I left a travel Ludo game in the box, in exchange for a McToy of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets…hence my opening question.

Oh yes, and I did some research on Broadband connection, to replace my creaky dial-up. One day…

*Yes, worse than MS Access. You never thought that was possible did you?

I Don’t Like Mondays

Monday, June 14th, 2004

Yesterday Blogger did something very strange…it made me try three times before it would publish my blog, then it published it three times. Anyway, hopefully it’s sorted by now.

After all that blogging I did, encouraging people to vote in the elections, I haven’t yet said anything about the results; well, Blair and his bunch of lying, cheating bushbabies were given a right good kicking, which is obviously a good thing. Hopefully the Labour party will now dump Blair and his thuggish deputy in a dole queue somewhere, although frankly they’re all responsible with the exception of the small number of them who had the bottle to rebel against their ludicrous policies.

And of course we now have 12 MEPs from the UK Independence Party*. It will be interesting to see how they develop, will they stay true to their stated principles and oppose Euro-expansion at every turn, or will they stick their noses in the trough and ride the gravy train** like all the other Brussels leeches? Only time will tell, but for the first time in ages I actually have hope that the Euro-sceptics can win over the British public, in the crucial referendum on the Euro-constitution (assuming Blair keeps his word and lets us have a referendum), and at whatever time in the future we get to vote on saving Sterling.

And finally, on matters European – I see our footballers let us down last night. Who on earth had the brilliant idea of letting Beckham take the penalty against the goalie who used to be his normal penalty practising partner? Still, we won the cricket and that’s all that really matters.

*at the time of writing, it may have increased by the time you see this
**What a horrible image

Feeling Hot Hot Hot

Sunday, June 13th, 2004

It’s too hot to think, and it’s certainly too hot to produce much in the way of quality bloggage, but we’ll see what happens.

Yesterday was the Grand Cachers’ Barbie up in Savernake Forest near Marlborough. Basically, the Tates and I booked a barbecue site, told all our caching mates that we’d booked it, and sat back to see what happened. About fifty people turned up, most of whom did some caching while they were there, and it seems like a good time was had by all.

Needless to say, I couldn’t resist the temptation to grab a cache while I was there, the aptly-named Savernake Forest. Actually, “Waist-High Nettles” would also have been a good name for it.

As you’ll know if you read Friday’s blog, I was planning to stay up there for the weekend in my caravan, but circumstances prevented that. I was invited to stay in the Tates’ campavan last night, but I’d not really been well on Friday anyway, and really wanted a night in my own bed, so I drove home. Lucky really, as I slept in until ten this morning. Then I went to the caravan shop to buy the bits I needed to put right the damage to the caravan, and this afternoon did the work, and (touch wood) the caravan is better than before. Oh, and I did some fiddling with the barbecue-photos website (link in yesterday’s blog) and watched England make a fantastic victory in the cricket. Let’s hope our footballers can wallop the Froggies tonight as well!

Yaaawwwwnnnnn

Saturday, June 12th, 2004

No blog tonight folks…I’m tired and I smell of barbecue so I really need a shower. Instead of reading what a nice time I had today, you can see the evidence at this website.

Goodnight!

Surprise Blog

Friday, June 11th, 2004

Well now, I wasn’t expecting to be here providing you with top-quality blog this evening, but there y’go. See, a bunch of my bestest chums are having a barbecue tomorrow, with a few staying on a nearby campsite: My plan was to haul my caravan up there after work today, staying until Sunday and enjoying the barbie, finding a few geocaches and enjoying a couple of beers.

Anyway, I was up early this morning, getting the car hooked up to the caravan and things like that – it saves over an hour in the evening if I take the caravan to work, y’see, ‘cos I would otherwise have to fight through heavy traffic back into Southampton, collect the ‘van, then fight through more heavy traffic to get back out again, to more or less where I started from.

Anyway, I skived off work a bit early and was heading up the M3 when I noticed in the mirror that the gas bottle box cover was flapping open. I thought this was strange.
“Strange”, I thought (see, I told you I did). I pulled onto the hard shoulder and got out to close it, and that was the point at which I noticed that the wire which controls the caravan lights (indicators, brake lights, stuff like that) wasn’t connected. In fact, it had been ripped out of the plug (and looks intentional).

Well, I wasn’t staying there to fiddle with it – more people are killed on the hard shoulder of UK motorways than in actual carriageway accidents*, so I drove on to a place where I could pull off the motorway and stop in a layby. A quick examination showed that the necessary repair was beyond the tools I had with me, so I headed for home**, and will head up to the Barbie in the morning.

*May not be true, but it’s something like that

**By a route I expected to have no Police cars

Still Sunny

Thursday, June 10th, 2004

Just a quick blog tonight, as my evening meeting went on a bit and I have an early start in the morning. But I just had to tell you…I finished the geocache Little Toe’s Trilogy Part 2! This is the mighty multicache that wanders around the Hampshire countryside, which I’ve done over a few evenings. At the last location before the final cache, I met up with the local landowner, who was fascinated with the idea of geocaching and made me explain it in great detail. we may have a convert there, folks!

And then I had a Raynet meeting, and now it’s bedtime. There may be no blog for a couple of days – normal service will be resumed as they say…