Archive for July, 2006

Untrue Postcards

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

I sent a few postcards the other day.

They said – among other things – “No caching activity so far”. That was true when they were written, but ceased to be true on Friday night. There’s a cache just up the road called “I’m Easy, Try Me”. It’s supposed to be a nice easy find for novice cachers.


In my defence, the main reason I didn’t find it was that it was in a high-traffic area and I felt a bit vulnerable to being labelled a freaky weirdo if I hung around searching for too long. But it’s still a bit annoying.


Friday, July 28th, 2006

If anyone is reading this for the first time – welcome!

Anyone who isn’t reading these notes for the first time will know that I’m on holiday, and working on the volunteer medical team at a Christian conference called New Wine. Some people 1 have asked why we call ourselves “Medical Team” – surely we’re all just first aiders? I’ll tell you about something that happened yesterday2 and let you decide. Everyone in the story, apart from the patient, is a member of the team.

A lady had a potentially life-threatening accident: We were called, and within a couple of minutes a vehicle, crewed by a first aider (me) and a US Army paramedic, arrived and started treatment. We decided that we needed more people, and called for backup: within a couple more minutes another vehicle, with an NHS-trained Emergency Care Practitioner3 and a Royal Navy-trained nurse arrived. They started the patient on oxygen, and a couple of minutes later the doctor arrived.

On Monday we were visited by the local ambulance service manager, who was so impressed with the service we’re able to provide that he’s arranged that if anyone dials 999 for an ambulance from the site, Control will refer it back to us: an ambulance will only be sent if one of our team leaders asks for one. When you think of the consequences for him if something went wrong, he at least must have confidence in us.

I think we’re entitled to call ourselves the Medical Team, don’t you?

1 Well, one person, but it’s an easy blog subject and gives me a chance to tell the story :-)

2 Yesterday as I write this, that is – no idea when I’ll get to visit the wi-fi terminal to post it.

3 A sort of extra-highly trained paramedic.

Still Forgetful

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

I found a wi-fi terminal!

It’s quite funny that my first couple of pre-written blogs for New Wine were based on forgetfulness.

So far, since I arrived, I’ve forgotten that the caravan window was open and walked into it: while helping someone to put their tent up I forgot you shouldn’t stand up in a half-erected tent, and banged my head. I’ve also forgotten something else that led to me banging my head, but I can’t remember what it was.

Still, it all seems to be going well, and the weather’s great.

Forgetful 2

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Well, if the auto-blog-posting thing has worked properly, this should be popping up on the first Sunday of my holiday, although it was written last Thursday. Actually it was written today, as I write it, but last Thursday as you read it…oh, you know what I mean!

I wonder what I’ve come without, this time? Last year I arrived to find that I’d forgotten the groundsheet that I put down inside the caravan awning: Luckily a nearby builder’s merchant had a cheap tarpaulin for a fiver, but at least this year I know my groundsheet is packed. A couple of years ago I forgot my Bible – a bit daft, coming to a Christian festival – and one year I forgot my first aid kit: Goodness knows how, it lives in the back of the car and never comes out – apart from last night when it fell out of the boot and landed on my foot – but there you are.

Mind you, being on the medical team, I come into contact with people who’ve forgotten all sorts of things: Asthma inhalers and antihistamines are pretty common forgotten items. But the ones who wind us up a bit are the people who deliberately come without things, and expect the medical team to be able to help them out. One year a chap came in on day one, and explained that his wife needed a special prescription item every day, and they’d only brought two day’s worth (for a week’s camp), so he’d come into the med centre for more supplies. Not only did I have trouble explaining that we’re a campsite medical centre, not a fully-stocked pharmacy doling out free supplies – but he was pretty rude with it. When one of my colleagues came down the corridor to see what all the fuss was about, he asked her “Do you know what’s going on, or are you like him?”

Still, no-one’s perfect, eh? :-)


Thursday, July 20th, 2006

World President Bush and his puppet are in the news again, for unguarded comments made in front of a microphone which they thought was turned off.

For me, the issue is not that they say and think things that they wouldn’t necessarily want known – we all do that. The issue certainly isn’t that they used rude swears in what they thought was a private conversation. The real problem is that the world’s most powerful man and his dummy – supposedly two leading statesmen at the top of their game – forget the cardinal rule of public speaking, which is “Any microphone should be assumed to be live, until absolutely proven otherwise”. The very newest Hospital Radio presenter learns that on day one of their training, and I can’t believe that Bush and Blair’s image consultants haven’t rammed the message into them over and again.

Of course, no-one’s perfect – I once asked on-air “Where’s that f***ing noise coming from?” having failed to realise that a microphone control was broken – the lever was in the “off” position, but something inside the works was broken so the lever wasn’t connected to anything inside! But I think more awareness should be expected of the two most image-conscious men on the planet, than some useless Muppet doing a radio programme with a dozen listeners :-) .

Still, is off on its holibobs: You may get some pre-written bloggerage pop up automatically while I’m away (that’s what this morning’s test post was about, for anyone who saw it – and yes, Kouros, it did :-) ), and if I find a way to post it there may even be live bloggy goodness. Play nicely when I’m gone, and I’ll see you when I get back.

Still Hot

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

It was 29 degrees in my back bedroom at half past eleven last night. It wasn’t much cooler when I got up :-( That’s a bit excessive really.

Worse for my Mum though – she’s spent the last 24 hours wearing an automatic blood pressure measuring thingy, which she’s got to take back to the hospital today: Apparently she found it a bit hot and unpleasant to wear. Hopefully the results of that will help diagnose the reason for her recent wibbles – although to be honest she was getting so annoyed with it, it’ll probably show her blood pressure through the roof, regardless of what it was reading before.

Still and all, I think I’ve got nearly all of my holiday prep tasks done: Those that are left are things like putting the packed bags into the car, setting the “out of office” message on my voice mail, that sort of thing. I’m not sure how much I’ll be blogging while I’m away – it depends if Dangerous Dave has got the site wi-fi working this year: The nearest public wi-fi terminal is about ten miles away, so I shan’t be going down there every day, but there are rumours of an on-site network this year. But I hope you’ll check by every so often – if nothing else I’ve arranged for the header graphic to do something mildly interesting while I’m gone.


Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

It do be a bit hot.

I had to take a training session today: We’ve got two training rooms at the jelly factory, one with aircon and one without. Guess which one I was in? :-(

At least one of my readers has been impressed with how organised I am, getting my holiday packing done so far in advance, but it has its downside – tonight I had to cut my toenails so I could pack my nail clippers. The laptop and wireless network card are both packed away in the gadget box, ready to travel, leaving me with interwebby access only on the desktop – which is in the warmest room in the house :-(

It’s all in a good cause though: I plan to get moving as early as possible on Friday, and I’m out tomorrow and Thursday evenings, which means any packing that isn’t done this evening is going to delay departure on Friday. I’d better get on with it then…

Ooh – and I promise this’ll be the last course/exam/diploma mention for a while – I posted my last assignment this morning, so you’ll see “Assignment C” on the progress graphic has gone yellow. Assignment and final exam results both due on October 6th.


Monday, July 17th, 2006

My diet hasn’t been that good over the last few days.

You’ll all have read that last Saturday, I went to a chinese restaurant with chums: Sunday’s birthday party was followed by a chinese takeaway, as was Tuesday’s exam. On the intervening Monday night, I ate in the hotel…and we’ll say no more about that (although I DID nobly resist a dessert). Wednesday was the meal out with Sarah, which, while very enjoyable, was basically cholesterol on a plate, and on Friday I had a pub meal before the treasure hunt.

Having said that, when I weighed myself on Saturday morning, I’d put on no weight over the week, so I can’t have done too badly.

Luckily, I have my holiday coming up – some of you will know that I spend my summer holidays working on the medical team at a Christian festival, and while the people wot do staff catering work very hard, their repertoire is seven variations of salad, so losing weight isn’t difficult. Even with our meals augmented by our own barbecues and chinese takeaways – and washed down with vats of Pimms ‘n lemonade, for those off duty – it’s still two weeks of pretty healthy living, especially combined with the outdoor lifestyle and the hard work. Last year I lost four pounds – although the gastroenteritis I came home with may have contributed to that.

I hope not to bring back that kind of little souvenir this year.

Tired – Again

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

Today we went to Marwell to meet a penguin, and then we had a picnic and then we looked at lots of other animals and then Sarah wouldn’t let me have an ice cream. Then we looked at some more animals and then we went to the gift shop.

Then we went out and found a geocache.

And then we went to the pub where many soft drinks were consumed, on account of it being a steaming hot day. You can see some pics by going here and clicking on the link for “Malibu”.

Busy Busy Busy

Saturday, July 15th, 2006

Those of you who make a point of regularly checking the “Exams and Assignment Progress” graphic at the top of the page will have noticed two changes this week.

The first, of course, is that the module A exam has gone from white (“not done”) to yellow (“result awaited”) after Tuesday: More recently – about ten minutes ago, in fact – the module B assignment has gone from yellow to green – for yea, I have received my assignment result and lo, it was good :-)

Well it wasn’t that good, but it was good enough! All I need to do is get the bare minimum pass mark on the remaining assignment and Tuesday’s exam, and I’m sure of a pass: With the averages I’ve got so far, I’m borderline for a “Credit” overall.

Yesterday’s main event was at our factory just round the corner from Henry Not The Thirst’s gaffe – probably for the last time ever, since it was the closing-down party to say goodbye to all the staff who are being made redundant from there. We even went to the Pub of Extreme Swearification at the company’s expense!

Then in the evening, I went to a treasure hunt organised by the radio club – needless to say there was a cache, Dune’s Micro Number 1 on the way – and then our team won the treasure hunt as well – bad news is that that means we’ve got to organise next years. Oh well, there’s a while to think about that…


Thursday, July 13th, 2006

Sorry, I had to give you one more exam story.

You’ll have spotted from my blogs on the subject that I’ve been revising a lot of law, both criminal and civil. I’ve been revising loads of other stuff as well – lucky really. One of the guys was telling us on Monday Night that he was weak on a few areas of the syllabus, but he had the law side off pat and he was going to make up the marks on that that he lost elsewhere.

There were no criminal law questions at all. And one part of one question – worth about 1.6% of the total mark – on civil law. Oh dear.

And in the afternoon, once the exam was over, I visited Shakespeare’s birthplace: interesting enough, but not worth seven quid :-(


Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

I’ve been amazingly tired today.

I’ve been watching my blood sugar fairly carefully, so it isn’t that – I think it may be just the post-adrenaline slump that comes from the exam being out of the way, combined with some of the tedious mindless carp I’ve had to plod through at work today.

Still, this evening was nice…Sarah and I took advantage of the nice evening to have a meal at the Jolly Sailor, and good it was too. I don’t forsee my blood sugar going low for at least a fortnight!


Tuesday, July 11th, 2006

You’ll remember that a few weeks ago my old school chum Mark the Buddhist died.

If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll also remember that last year, he got married. And if you’re Jenny, you’ll remember that while we were driving down to Sussex on Sunday, I commented “I must ring June, today would have been their wedding anniversary”. June wasn’t in, so I left a message on the ansafone saying “Just to let you know I haven’t forgotten what today is, and I’m thinking of you, and if you want to chat give me a call”.

In an idle moment last night, I was scrolling through the diary to check what’s coming up, and on next Sunday’s page it says:
Mark and June’s Anniversary

Then this morning, I got up an hour earlier than I planned to. No wonder I hadn’t heard the alarm; still, with a bit of luck that used up today’s quota of rubbishness, since of course the main activity of the day was my last diploma exam. I think I did OK – I’ll let you know on October 6th. Oh, and there were no questions on any of that discrimination stuff.


Monday, July 10th, 2006

One of the legal bits of my revision that I haven’t blogged about yet, is employment discrimination legislation.

Basically it’s illegal to discriminate against almost anyone for a wide variety of reasons, but the key point of this bit of the syllabus is knowing the main exceptions: for example the Race Relations Act makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of race or national origin, but you CAN refuse to employ African races in some parts of the water supply industry because they have a genetic predisposition to sickle cell anaemia. Women (protected by the Equal Opportunities Act) generally cannot be discriminated against, but they can be refused employment in processes using certain chemicals which are known to affect chances of conceiving, or the unborn foetus.

My favourite, though, is the Disability Discrimination Act: employers can refuse to employ or train people with certain disabilities on safety grounds – for example, you can refuse employment as an electrician to a colour-blind person. But the best bit is the list of general exceptions: It is always lawful to discriminate in the cases of disabilities relating to:
Pyromania or paedophilia…
Yep, I can see the point of that.
Drugs, alcohol or tobacco…
OK, I can see where we’re going with this…
Tattoos or piercings…
Right, fair enough…
…or hay fever.


Anyway, tonight I’m in Stratty, ready to do my last exam tomorrow, so you’ll be pleased to know you won’t be getting any more revision notes or diploma-related angst. Well, not until the results come out in October anyway :-)

Wot I’ve Done This Weekend

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

In all yesterday’s excitement, I never got around to telling you what my weekend has consisted of.

Saturday started with an early appointment with the barber, as a result of which I have a much tidier beard and hair, and I’m supporting Italy in the footie tonight – not that I care that much, but when an Italian’s holding a sharp blade near your throat, it’s a good idea to support his footie team. After that I took my Mum shopping, and while she was stripping the shelves of Sainsbos, I called in to the local gents’ outfitters and splashed some cash on smart clothing.

After lunch was the optician appointment I told you a little about yesterday, which left my credit card a little lighter – FOUR HUNDRED SODDING QUID LIGHTER!!! Ahem, sorry about that. Still, I do get a pair of prescription sunglasses included in that, but the ordinary pair are varifocals. Bah.

Jenny was down for the weekend visiting Sarah and the children for the weekend, so in the evening Jenny, Sarah, Bex, George and I went for a meal: we started at TGI Fridays, who’d assured Jenny there was no need to book, and when we got there told us there was a two-hour wait for a table. In the end we went to a Chinese restaurant very close to my house, which meant I could have a few beers and stagger home afterwards :-)

And today I’ve been to my Ickle Godson’s Piratey Birthday Party. YARRR! Daniel! Jenny drove me there – she was going anyway – then dropped me at the railway station on her way home. And SouthWest Trains took me the rest of the way home.


Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Stu’s blog of today, and the comments that go with it, draw heavily on the “responsibilities” which ought to go hand in hand with the “rights” of the individual.

I was glad to have read it when I did, as it showed me an alternative view to something that happened to me today. As I was sitting in the optician’s waiting room, with the time getting later and later, I was starting to get angry that they couldn’t get something as simple as running appointments to time right. When I found out the reason why they were running late, it taught me a lesson.

I had a right for my optician’s appointment to start on time.

The chap who had the appointment before me – who was being given some unexpectedly bad news about his eye test results – had the right to have his fears and concerns treated with tact and compassion.

The optician gave “chap before’s” rights priority over mine, and I’m glad she did. I wouldn’t want to be a patient of any medical practitioner who gave timekeeping priority over patient care.

Mind you, what I’m paying for my new glasses will send the optician’s entire staff – including the cleaning lady – to Barbados for a fortnight’s holiday, so I think when I go to pick them up, I’m entitled to dancing girls at the very least.


Friday, July 7th, 2006

You’ll be all too aware by now, that I’ve been working on a big multi-cache for the last few Friday evenings.

The cache has nine puzzles, each of which – once you’ve solved it – gives you the co-ordinates of the next one, except that the last puzzle gives you the co-ordinates of the final, traditional-style cache. There are all sorts – clues to collect, number puzzles, secret codes, game puzzles and a so-called “general knowledge” question which entailed a twenty-minute phone call to Rockin’ Rob and his internet connection – thanks dude!

You’ve probably guesed that tonight I finished Enigma Variations 2: The Nine Knights Templar. There should be more caches like this – although I’ll be glad to let my diesel usage return to normal for a couple of weeks!


Thursday, July 6th, 2006

I wonder how many of you remember what the number one story on the news was, a year ago today?

Tomorrow, of course, is the first anniversary of the London bombings, but a year ago we were celebrating because London had beaten Paris to host the 2012 olympics. My very own blog on the subject included the phrase “eat dirt, cheese-eating surrender monkeys”. But whatever you think about us getting the olympics, it was rendered trivial 24 hours later.

I’d like to think that the events of July 7th are much clearer in the public conscience than those of the day before, and that that’s a result of a sense of perspective: I suspect it’s mainly because of the relative importance shown to each in the news.

A Trampoline King

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006

…and a short bearded bald bloke.

Music Music Music

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

It’s funny how music can trip you up.

Of course everyone knows that music comes with associations. Most tunes that I like always remind me of the first time I heard them, or somewhere I was going when I played it on the car stereo. Judie Tzuke’s Stay With Me Till Dawn brings back a meal at a restaurant in the New Forest with Jenny and her then-beau: Cher’s Shoop Shoop Song is sunny days and extreme exhaustion!

Last night I was helping out on the request show on Hospital Radio, when we played Love Theme from Sparticus – if you’re more than about 30, you’ll remember it as the theme from The Onedin Line. The funny thing is, if you’d asked me what music we had at my Dad’s funeral I’d have struggled to think, yet as soon as it started I was there: if I closed my eyes I could see the whole thing exactly.

For some reason, Crosby Stills & Nash’s Marrakesh Express always reminds me of microwave Tuna Pasta Bake. I hate tuna.


Monday, July 3rd, 2006

I’m worried.

I’m worried because I’ve been making my list of holiday-preparation jobs I still have to do before I go. Given that I’ve done almost no preparation so far, this list ought to be as long as my arm – in fact, it should be as long as the arm of someone who hasn’t got stupid stumpy short arms. Yet really, it’s amazingly small: There’s clothes packing – which I can’t do until the last minute, because I won’t have enough clothes to go to work for the next three weeks; There’s packing the food into the caravan, which I can’t do until I’ve bought the food, which I can’t do until nearer the time because it’s things like milk and bread. And there’s packing all my gadgets, which I can’t do yet because I’m still using them.

Working down the packing list is worrying too: Nearly everything apart from those items mentioned above is in the caravan already, yet normally the Gruntmobile is loaded to the roofline with last-minute packing. Even if all the food, clothes and gadgets go in Grunty they won’t take up that much space. So what have I forgotten?

Note: Jenny – sit down before reading any further

I also need to do some clothes shopping before I go. I hate clothes shopping, as those of you who’ve seen how I normally dress will realise. But my stock of polo shirts good enough to wear for work is diminishing, and a friend suggested on MSN last night – rather meaningfully – that I ought to buy some new shorts. So I’m off to the Oxfam shop in the near future ;-)