Archive for September, 2006

Homeward Bound

Saturday, September 30th, 2006

So…the Great Yorkshire “More Microchips than McCain”, “More Minging than Blinging”, “More Pasta then You Ever Thought Possible” Cachepedition is almost over: We’ve stopped at Jenny and Chris’s on the way home to visit our chums, play with kittens, and eat. I’ll give you the detail later – for now, just know that we found 32 caches and three trigpoints: We walked about seventy miles, visited three pubs, and ate more pasta than you ever thought possible.

Our 28th cache took me to 550 finds, which was rather nice, and the walks were all good: We had three fail-to-finds during the week, but one of those was because someone had “helpfully” moved it. Grrr.

I’ll put together an on-line picture gallery in the week to come – be patient chums!


Friday, September 29th, 2006

I mentioned in a recent blog, in reference to train travel “I didn’t want to rely on being able to get a snack from the on-board buffet – I’ve made that mistake before, and I’ll probably blog about it sometime”.

I was coming back from a walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales with my chum Mark the Buddhist – oddly, not far from where I am now: We were camped about a mile from the railway station and our train was fairly early, so we decided that rather than have breakfast before leaving the campsite, we’d pack up, walk into Settle, and get something to eat at the station. Needless to say, it being a Sunday in the middle of nowhere, the station buffet was closed, but we weren’t downhearted – we’d checked the information and knew that the train from Settle to Leeds – which formed the first part of our journey – had a trolley service.

Except it didn’t.

Because the train was delayed, we didn’t have time to get anything at Leeds – we just had to grab rucksacks and run to catch the London train. Which also didn’t have a buffet, although we were promised it would open at Sheffield. It didn’t and by now we were starting to suffer a bit. To make matters worse it was a stinking hot day and the train was overcrowded – you couldn’t even stand up and walk around to ease your legs, or you’d lose your seat.

Then the train broke down, and with it, the air conditioning.

Needless to say, this led to us being late getting in to London, and although we didn’t really think we’d get from Euston to Waterloo in time for the train we wanted, we decided to have a try. We made it with seconds to spare, but of course we didn’t have time to buy anything to eat on the way. Why worry? Our run of gastronomic bad luck couldn’t go on that long could it? Surely THIS train would have the advertised buffet service?

I’m sure you can guess what happened next.

So that was the day I started in the Yorkshire Dales, and finally got to have my breakfast at half past seven in the evening at the chinese takeaway in Totton. And that’s why I always now carry emergency supplies on the train.


Thursday, September 28th, 2006

I bought a wristband thingy at New Wine.

It looks a bit like a friendship band, except it’s got a buckle and has “W.W.J.D.” embroidered on it. I’ve wanted one for ages, but resisted it because of the kind of work I do: I wouldn’t be allowed to wear it in the food production area for hygiene reasons, so it’s one more thing to take off before I go in, and forget where I’ve put it.

But I’ve finally given in, and I’m wearing it now, so I haven’t lost it yet. “W.W.J.D.” stands for “What Would Jesus Do” – there are a few other acronyms of the same type which Christians use: FROG (“Fully Rely On God”) and PUSH (“Pray Until Something Happens”) are the two commonest. I had a pen with “P.U.S.H.” on it once – either Something Happened to it, or it PUSHed off. Ho ho.

It kind of reminds me of the bangle which all Sikhs wear. It isn’t only an outward sign of their faith: They wear it deliberately loose, so that it slides backward and forwards on their wrist and they keep having to push it back out of the way. It acts as a constant reminder to them of the fact that they’re Sikhs, that practising Sikhism requires some personal sacrifice and inconvenience, and of the meaning behind why they wear it. I think that’s rather good.

UPDATE: I’ve lost it. I think I left it at Jenny’s

Castles in the Air

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

I mentioned in a recent blog that I did a geocache alongside the Three Castles Path.

It was a bit poignant really: The Three Castles Path runs from Windsor Castle to the castle at Winchester, passing the ruins of Odiham Castle on the way. I started walking the path with Mark the Buddhist years ago – about 1996, I think – with a weekend starting at the Windsor end; we always intended to return one day and finish it off (along with the North Downs Way, the urban bit of the Thames Path, and the Pennine Way). Then Mark’s cancer was diagnosed, and now we never will.

That first weekend on the Three Castles was a bit of a disaster anyway: By a combination of bad luck, bad planning and pure incompetence we only managed to get from Windsor to Sandhurst in two days: That was partly because we had to finish a bit early on the Sunday as I had a commitment in the evening, but the main problem came from the combination of:

  • Nowhere in Windsor was serving food on Friday evening1
  • The Youth Hostel wasn’t doing breakfast on Saturday morning
  • The place a couple of miles in, where we’d planned to get breakfast instead, was shut

You’ll understand that nearly 24 hours surviving on jelly babies slowed us down a bit, so we hadn’t gone anywhere near as far as we’d intended by the time we found a pub to eat in Saturday lunchtime. Then we stuffed ourselves so stupid that we could barely move for the rest of the day.

At least we learned the lesson there, never to travel without some sort of emergency supplies, even if you don’t expect to need them.

1 Or at least, nowhere we could afford to eat.


Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

As I blogged a while ago, work have issued me with a camera phone.

I’ve been having a little bit of a play with it: It’s got all sorts of settings – for example, I can not only take pictures in “normal” mode (albeit in this case, normal with a slightly odd colour balance)…

But I can also do monochrome…

…relive the olden days with sepia…

…solarise the pictures (if you’ve got a really old monitor it might not look any different!)…

…or simulate a colour negative

The question has to be…why? Surely anyone who wanted to mess around with their digital photos to that extent, would be doing it on their computer, not in the camera? And if it comes to that, wouldn’t anyone interested in photographic effects would use a decent digital camera, not a 3.2 megapixel camera phone?

I guess it’s all part of the rush to put new features into phones: The designers have more or less given us everything we might really want in a phone with phone calls and text messages, and the miniaturisation of the units has been stopped, not by battery size – which used to be the limiting factor – but by the size of controls needed by human-sized fingers. So to keep coming up with new features to make us upgrade our phones, they have to keep on inventing useless features: Phones with games, phones with mp3 players and radios, phones which take photos and shoot video, even phones with which you can edit the photos and video you’ve just shot.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ll use the mp3 player, at least until the novelty wears off, and I love my “Barmy Sheep” ringtone – if only because it annoys m’colleagues. But I’d’ve much preferred higher resolution, and a better implementation of the autofocus. Still, I suppose you can’t have everything :-)

Our home from home

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006

Our home from home, originally uploaded by gottlegog.

Our home from home

Shifty Business

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Lots of years ago, ambulances and other emergency vehicles in the UK switched from using two-tone sirens to the wail/yelp type they have now.

The reason given was that the public were more accustomed to this type of warning, since it was what emergency vehicles on TV used – ironic, since the reason TV companies used these alternative sirens was to avoid confusion with real emergency vehicles! Anyway, there was much comment at the time that people found it difficult to tell where the new-style sirens were coming from.

I was reminded of this the other day: I was driving home from work, and heard an ambulance siren – I’d already seen the ambulance coming towards me, and there was nothing I needed to do in terms of getting out of his way, so I carried on in my own sweet way.

Then it dawned on me that the ambulance I’d seen didn’t have blue lights flashing, and that was when I checked all around properly: sure enough, the ambulance with the siren was approaching from behind. I’d seen it in plenty of time to get out of its way, but being unable to tell as soon as I heard it cost a couple of seconds reaction time which in heavier traffic might have made a difference. It isn’t just me, and it isn’t about driving skill – the comments I referred to above were on the Institute of Advanced Motorists discussion forum.

I think it’s something to do with the way the ears use doppler shift to help determine where a sound is coming from: the constantly-changing note of the new-style sirens confuses the hearing sense, which is expecting a steady note with overlaid doppler. The result is either that the sound seems to come from all around – like out-of-phase stereo – or from a false direction.

If any emergency drivers are reading this – and I’m fairly sure there’s at least one among my regular readers – I’d be interested in how common you think it is for people to misjudge where you are.


Sunday, September 24th, 2006

There’s a shop near me called “Sell Things On”

Apparently, if you have stuff you want to sell, you take it in to the shop, and they sell it on eBay for you. They charge a commission – on top of eBay’s commission – and auction the goods on eBay.


Now alright, I know there are people who don’t have computers or internet access…but surely the whole point of eBay is that you can do the whole thing yourself, and NOT have to pay anyone commission. If you can’t – or don’t want to – use eBay, there are plenty of places like Cash Converters where you can sell your surplus goods.

Still, they’re still in business, so I suppose somebody must use them.

Two Nations, Separated…

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

An Englishman is visiting his friend in America. Having used the bathroom, he has trouble washing his hands and calls down to Hank:

“Hank, I can’t get the tap to work”
“The WHAT?”
“The tap…I can’t get it to work”
“The WHAT?”
“The tap!”

After a few seconds silence…

“I forced it, now it’s come off the wall!”

In four hours I’m on holiday. You can tell I’m ready for it, can’t you.

Food Fight

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

As previously mentioned, I had a chinese at Sarah’s house last night.

Most people, I guess, when they have chinese at a friend’s house, go home and brush their teeth afterwards: Having to go home and wash my hair to get rid of the strawberry ice cream was a new experience even for me. Don’t ask ;-)

Something I forgot to mention is that when I saw the nurse yesterday, she gave me some tablets which I’ve got to take four times a day on an empty stomach…my stomach isn’t empty four times a day :-( I guess I’ll cope – if need be I’ll have to wake up overnight and take them!

Doctor Doctor…

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006

I had to go to the doctor’s today, for my annual checkup with the practice nurse.

Just before leaving home, I checked the appointment letter to make sure I had the time right, and spotted the bit that said “Please bring a urine sample to this appointment”. Isn’t that just taking the pi…didja see what I did there???

Anyway, she was pretty please with progress, although she seemed to fixate on the spot on the end of my nose rather more than I was really comfortable with. She also thinks I’ve got interesting urine, so it was worth taking the sample after all :-) AND she thinks that cheese is one of the better foods to have a weakness for.

I didn’t risk telling her I’m having a chinese this evening.


Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Yarrr! It do be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I ‘opes that all me beautiful readers1 knew that already, of course, and ye’ve bin shiverin’ timbers and splicin’ mainbraces all day long. For sure the Spanish Main – or that bit of it near Eastleigh, anyway – has bin ringin’ with the sound of piracy from mornin’ till night! Pieces of Eight! Pieces of Eight! An’ while I think about it, I can think of a particular shipmate I’d love to see walk the plank, while there’s a chance of getting away with it.

Meantime, me buckos, it’s time I started packin’ for the Great Yorkshire Treasure Huntin’ Expedition. I be a bit better organised than Rockin’ Rob, but not much ;-)


1 And the ugly ones

As I Was Saying…

Monday, September 18th, 2006

…sorry about the falling-asleep thing yesterday, but it WAS a pretty long day!

I was being an Important Raynet Person on the New Forest Marathon: Because it’s such a long day, I take the caravan along for us to work from, and we site it next to the St John Ambulance and Police controls, so everyone is working at the same place. Nothing went dramatically wrong, some new technology we were trialling worked pretty well, and most importantly the St John people proved themselves as always to be efficient providers of tea, coffee and bacon rolls.

The caravan is now back on the driveway, full of junk – which will probably have to stay there for a while, I don’t see me having the time or the inclination to sort it out, sepcially as I need to be doing some packing ready for the Great Yorkshire Cachepedition which starts this weekend :-) . I can’t wait!

And on the subject of holiday, fret ye not my dear readers…I’ve produced pre-written quality bloggage for every day I’m away which should pop up automatically. See how I care for my fans?


Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Long Day


Tell you about it tomorrozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…….


Saturday, September 16th, 2006

Since I was talking about the gym yesterday – and showing you the picture of my caravan step on fire – I really can’t think why I forgot to tell you this one, but…

As I was getting out of the shower at the gym last night – and yes, I do mean just out of the shower – the fire alarm went off! Being the true Health and Safety professional that I am, I forewent the stuff with the towel and just threw my clothes on. Well you didn’t really think I was going to go charging down the fire escape in just a towel, did you?

Of course, I was the only one who was taking any notice of it at all. Everyone else in the changing room carried on with what they were doing – including heading for the steam room. And when I came out of the changing room into the main gym – just after the alrm had stopped – everyone was on the machines and obviously hadn’t interrupted their workouts.

Perhaps they’d like a professionally-done fire risk assessment. I’m cheap.

TGI Friday

Friday, September 15th, 2006

Not much to say today – and certainly no cache to tell you about :-(

Still, being Friday I managed to leave early, and went to the caravan shop to get a new caravan step. In case you’ve forgotten why I needed one, I found this picture being used in a caption competition by my chum John – as you can see, I’m not letting the destruction of my step put me off my burned burger, while Sarah takes practical measures to control the conflagration!

Incidentally, that red barbie is the one I told you about that I got mega-cheap in Robert Dyas. You can tell why it was cheap, can’t you.

And then I went to the gym, where I managed to creep a bit nearer my target calorie total for the year. Ho hum…hope the weekend (well, tomorrow anyway) is a bit restful.

Memories Are Made of This

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

At Church Group last night, one of the subjects under discussion was “Do you have a good memory, and what do you do to help you remember things?”.

I’ve got a really good memory for stupid irrelevant facts I learned twenty years ago: As Jenny will tell you, I can also remember things she’s done or said back in the dim and distant, and trot them out ad nauseam. For example, have I told you the story about the “Girls v Boys Trivial Pursuit” competition back in 1992…?

*Paul gets sharply kicked in the ribs by Jenny, and gets the blog entry back on topic*

My problem is with all this phenomenonenomenal memory, I still can’t remember things that happened last week, or stuff that I said yesterday I’d do today. Most people said much the same thing, and said the only way they can keep track at work is to make lists: Whenever I try that, I lose the list – mind you, those of you who’ve seen the photos of my desk won’t be surprised at that.

I have a theory about why so many people these days have memory problems: It’s not that our memories are getting worse, it’s because we have more and more stuff to remember. I read somewhere – can’t remember where, which is appropriate – that an average man in the thirteenth century came across less information in his whole life, than now appears in one edition of the New York Times. Even then, they used memory tricks to help them remember the important stuff: “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning” was the limit of meteorological knowledge back then, or the seafarer’s equivalent: “If mast go ‘bong’, wind be too strong”. I guess if you’re a peasant farmer spending your whole life up to your knees in ox manure, you don’t have too many important appointments to remember either.

What a Difference…

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

I’m glad I didn’t blog before I left work.

I was going to blog about what a rubbish day I’d had: No detail, but several things had gone wrong and work had just been frustrating – the sort of day when every ten-minute job takes an hour. Then a couple of other things seemed to go belly-up as well.

But then a longer than normal gym session sorted out loads of surplus adrenaline, and then I went to church group for the first time in ages: Most things don’t look much better, and tomorow at work promises to be no less frustrating than today, but I’m a lot more relaxed about it all :-) . Oh, and one of the things I’d thought had gone wrong seems not to have done.

Today’s lesson: When you feel like posting a miserable blog, leave it a couple of hours and see what happens!

Serious Discussion

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Today’s serious discussion at work was inspired by this week’s special offer leaflet from Lidl. Oh yes, we know how to live…

Perusing the German foodstuffs, Graham was wondering what the difference is between brockwurst and bratwurst. Needless to say, looking it up on the net would have been too easy, so instead we made something up. The best we could do was that “brock”, of course, is an old Hampshire word for badger (as in “Brockenhurst”), so brockwurst must be made of badger meat.

Brat, of course, is an annoying small child. Hmmm.

And this evening I am officially Not Happy :-( . Tomorrow morning I have to have a blood test, which means I can’t eat after 7 o’clock this evening, or drink anything other than water. Which is bad news for a man with Dorset Blue Vinny and a bottle of wine in the fridge.

Pete Tong1

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Today has been one of those days.

The first thing we discovered on arrival at work this morning, was that Diane, Lord of the Tea Kitty2, had taken a week’s holiday: No tea bags, coffee, milk, biscuits, bread or buns :-( . I dunno, and we pay a pound a month – each – for this kind of shoddy service.

At lunchtime I finally decided to do something about my PIN code for my new credit card: In line with the instructions, I’d carefully shredded the letter telling me what the code was – unfortunately I discovered, the first time I tried to use it, that I’d omitted the rather crucial stage of memorising the number first. According to my statement, I could get the PIN displayed on screen via the card issuer’s website – it sounds a bit insecure, but you need information from the last two statements AND the card itself, so I suppose unless you’re really careless with what you do with things, it’s safe enough. Anyway, it turned out to be a bit like one of those Russian matroshka dolls: Every time you get through one layer of security questions and precautions, there’s another layer beneath. Eventually, you get to the bit where it says “Click here to display your PIN on screen”, to be told…

Sorry, the server is down at this time. Please try again later

I opted for the “notify me by post” option instead.

Mind you, m’colleague Graham’s credit card story is better than mine: He used his in a cashpoint at the weekend, and it came back out with one corner missing.

1 For my forrin readers…it’s rhyming slang. “It’s gone Pete Tong” means “It’s all gone wrong”
2 I know it should be “Lady of the Tea Kitty”, but it didn’t sound right. Besides, she isn’t.


Sunday, September 10th, 2006

Needless to say, my comment yesterday about setting part of my caravan on fire (which Sarah seems not to have noticed ;-) ) was a slight exaggeration.

As I said on Friday, disposable barbecues weren’t allowed at the site we were going to, because they cause the grass to be scorched, so I brought my old caravan step along, to stand the barbie on: The step was a bit old and rusty, and my logic was that if the plastic on the step got a bit melty and spoiled, I’d have an excuse to buy a nice new one. Melty and spoiled I was expecting…the flames came as a bit of a surprise. As the picture shows, though, I did get my excuse to buy a nice new one :-)

One other good thing happened yesterday that I forgot to mention: One of the fox’s stops was in Minstead, where there’s a rather nice cheese shop: We didn’t have time to call in, but I hinted quite strongly about my favourite cheese. I was hoping someone would buy some, and I’d pay them back, but in the end our chum Lizzzeeeee bought me a nice chunk of Dorset Blue Vinny and wouldn’t let me repay her :-) .

And today I’ve been working my socks off getting ready for next Sunday’s Raynet. Except there’s onething I still have to do, so that’s the end of this blog ;-)