Archive for October, 2006

The Minibus

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

If you didn’t already know, you may have deduced that my job at the Hospital Radio Conference was driving the minibus, picking people up from the railway station and airport, returning them to those locations once the weekend was over, and in the meantime taking them on trips to local radio stations and other places of interest, like footie matches and geocaches.

It may seem a little odd to do Southampton – Norwich via Nottingham, but we like the minibus hire company in Nottingham, mainly because when I write on the insurance form “I am diabetic”, they tick a couple of boxes, get another signature and that’s it – most hire companies go into a mad panic and don’t seem to know how to handle such a basic issue. The downside of hiring from Beeston Van Hire is that sometimes the condition of their vehicles leaves a little to be desired.

When I collected the bus on Friday, the checking-out person was walking round it with me noting damage: It’s important to get this right so I don’t get charged when I take it back, for any damage that was already there. We discovered a number of minor things.
Him: “Bump there…scrape there…scuff on the bumper…scratch there…”
Me: “Bloody hell, it looks like I’ve already been driving it” 1

The best was yet to come, though: When I got it back to Jenny and Chris’s, to start loading our bags on board, we discovered the previous hirers hadn’t been that careful about emptying it out. As well as the usual dried mud all over the floor (and the bloodstain on the step, which as far as I can remember was a new experience), we found a packet of jelly babies and a knitted skullcap (which we threw away), a wooly hat with the logo of Borrowash Football Club (which Chris grabbed), and the grid out of someone’s oven.

1 Acksherly I’m not that bad – but we always have a laugh about the Slough conference, when the minibus was assaulted by a member of an elite suicide bollard squadron.

Weekend Again

Monday, October 30th, 2006

So – I promised you a review of the weekend caches:

Ye Olde School: On Friday afternoon, I took a minibus load of delegates to visit the local independant radio station: Having parked the bus, I checked the map and found a cache just a hundred yards away! Well, it had to be done didn’t it!

Postcard Cache: Another excursion on Friday evening, and the parking put me (and Chris) right alongside the Cathedral. This one’s in the Cathedral grounds, just round the corner from the grave of Edith Cavell.

Amphibian: On conference Saturday afternoon, a party of footie fans like to go to a local non-league game. I took them to Wroxham for their game, while Alistair_UK and I went caching: This one was found after a short walk alongside the river.

Callsign Anglia One: This one’s not far from Amphibian, and we found it in the same trip. The cache is stuffed with fundraising goodies for the Anglian Air Ambulance, which was why we’d wanted to do it. Afterwards we walked into Wroxham looking for a cup of tea – an odd little town, everything is owned by Roy: There’s Roy’s Bookshop, Roy’s Toyshop, Roy’s Department Store, and bizarrely – and I promise you this is true – Roy’s McDonalds.

Roman Hoard: This was Sunday morning’s effort, in the company of Jenny and Chris, and Tony – a brand new cacher. A nice walk alongside the river and a fairly easy find.

Motorway Mayhem M1 Junction 24: I did this one on Monday morning, just as I was leaving Notingham to head for home. Some purists don’t see the point of the motorway mayhem caches – they’re designed to be done as a quick break on a long motorway journey, so many of them don’t have interesting views or locations. This one wasn’t bad, and an easy find as well.

And then I went home. Yawn.

Ugh

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

I’m back in Nottingham.

The good news is that the last day of conference was a good ‘un. It included a nice breakfast and lunch, not too much minibus driving (at least as far as conference itself was concerned), and even a geocache, with Chris, Jenny, and Tony, doing his first cache – he seemed to quite enjoy it so we may have a convert there :-)

The bad news was driving back to Nottingham after lunch: We left just before three, and thanks to endless roadworks on the A47, arrived back at Chris and Jenny’s house just before eight. We’d hoped to meet Stu and Sarah for the pub quiz, but were frazzled and late and hadn’t eaten, so we just unpacked and ordered a chinese takeaway (unless Sarah is reading, in which case we had a nice chicken salad).

Photos and cache links when I’ve got the energy.

Nor-witch

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

I’m in Norwich!

For those of you who don’t know, we’re here for the National Hospital Radio Conference. There wasn’t a blog last night because I was having a hissy fit with BT Openzone – I wrote to them on Wednesday to close my account, and they’ve actioned it already! I wouldn’t mind but I’ve already paid for all of October in advance :-( Anyway, I’ve just bought a limited ninety-minute voucher to blog, and to log the caches I’ve done while I’ve been here – well it couldn’t be ALL Hospital Radio business, could it? I did a cache-and-dash on my own yesterday afternoon, and one with Chris last night. This afternoon, I did two – including one which is a fundraiser for the local Air Ambulance – with Alistair_UK.

And now I’m going to shower and get my posh suit on, ready for tonight’s gala dinner. More later! (By the way, to Stu and Sarah – we hope to make the pub quiz tomorrow but we’re not sure when my minibus duties are going to finish, enabling us to leave Norwich – Jenny’ll ring you as soon as we know :-) )

Big Boss

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

We had a visit from the Big Boss today. He liked us :-)

Then I drove to Nottyham – I hate radio travel news presenters, especially the smug git on Radio Oxford. What’s the point of tellling us there’s an accident on the A34 nearLittle Gerbilling by the junction with the B134256643, when no-one except the two people who live there know where Little Gerbilling is?

Mind you, I did see one thing I liked – on the A42 there’s a trial running on a three mie stretch where HGVs can only use the nearside lane. Sense at last!

How I Became a Geocacher, and Why That’s Relevant to Current Events

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Many years ago – nearly five, anyway – my chum with whom I was presenting a Hospital Radio show asked me if I’d ever heard of geocaching. I confessed I hadn’t, and over the next hour – in the boring bits while the records were playing – I heard all about it. It sounded like fun, so the next day I signed up for an account on Geocaching.com, and promptly forgot all about it.

Ten months later, that same chum was involved in filming a TV programme about geocaching: The programme was called “Inside Out”, and in the process of filming, a cache – also called Inside Out – was placed. Remember that detail, it’ll become relevant in a paragraph or so. Meanwhile, I’d done nothing more with my geocaching account.

And then I finally got around to actually looking for a cache, although by now it was nearly a year after I’d first heard about the game/sport/obsession. I did a couple one weekend, then the following weekend did one owned by the chum who’d told me about it – which was Sarah, by the way. After a cup of tea to celebrate, at Bob and Sarah’s house, I went off and found a few more that day.

Now, almost four years after that first find, I’ve found 557 caches, but still not done Inside Out – which amazingly is still there. The other day one of my Raynet chums asked if I’d help his group with an event in Sussex, which would basically involve walking up a hill, having a bowl of soup and a hot dog, and walking back down again. Guess what – the route of the walk passes about a hundred yards away from Inside Out.

It’s got to be done really, hasn’t it? So that’s why I’ll be out tramping round the countryside while most people are having firework parties. The walk, by the way, is called “One in 9″, and is in aid of the Breast Cancer Unit at Chichester Hospital, so it’s all in a good cause :-)

Postage

Tuesday, October 24th, 2006

Well…I posted my assignment resubmission today.

You’ll remember that the first attempt was ten marks below pass mark: A resubmission is capped to the bare minimum pass mark, so you’ll deduce that no matter what I did it was only going to get ten more marks. Luckily they’ve changed the marking sheets this time round, and offer much more guidance on where the shortcomings were: This enabled me to work out where most improvement could easily be made and target my efforts.

Time will tell how effective I’ve been – but I’ll be looking out for the next set of assignments posted, and starting research just in case.

In other news, I went to the gym this evening – 1430 calories on the treadmill. Yay!

Hear Hear

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Last week I asked my chatroom chums for some advice.

“I want to buy a bluetooth headset for my work mobile phone”, I told them. “It’s only for work and I’m not likely to be able to put it on expenses, so I want CHEAP. Any ideas?”

A few people offered ideas which seemed to make sense, and then Scott J had a suggestion to make. Being an across-the-pond sort of person he didn’t have any information to offer on cheap UK suppliers, but he did suggest I check out the Jabra 250v, which he described as “clear, comfortable to wear even with glasses, and loud enough for even the noisiest environment”.

In matters audiophilic I’m willing to take Scott’s advice any day, and after a bit of net-based research I found a supplier who had the headset at a reasonable price, and placed an order. I’ve now been using it for four days and I’m impressed – it’s even loud and clear enough that I can wear it in my not-so-good ear, so I can have normal conversations with people in the same room without taking the headset off, or listen to the radio in the car. It’s easy to use, doesn’t look like a 1960s hearing aid, and works with voice-activated dialling for proper hands free operation.

All I need now is for someone to phone me :-D

My Weekend – Part Two

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

My alarm clock went off at 6:15 this morning :-( Quarter past six! On a Sunday!

D’you know, I think I was born to wear uniform…it makes me look so…dapper :-) Of course, today was the Great South Run, and as last year I was working in Race Control at the Portsmouth City CCTV control suite. I was blooming glad I was, too…it was chucking down with rain and freezing cold out there. Of the 18,000 who entered, over 4,000 decided not to run – although that isn’t all weather-related, in any event there’s a percentage who enter and then don’t turn up: They get ill or injured, or training goes badly, ar they have to work…but 4,000 non-starters is more than was expected.

There were a few bits of drama – one race steward was assaulted by a motorist who didn’t like the road being closed (even though it had been signposted for weeks), and another driver – being told by a different steward that he’d have to go a different way – said “F*** that” and ran the steward down with his car. Still, the steward was uninjured and the driver was arrested, so all’s well that ends well.

I normally like to do a couple of caches after an event, but even though I’m no fair weather cacher, it was a bit extreme for me. I tried and failed with a cache-and-dash on the way back, if the weather had been better I’d have looked a bit harder.

And finally – to add a bit of symmetry – I said last night that I was wearing my birthday pressie from Lizzzzeeeee – tonight I’m drinking my present from Sarah :-) Cheers – hic!

Ooh, and happy first bloggiversary to Jenny!

My Weekend – Part One

Saturday, October 21st, 2006

Woo! Every Saturday should be like today :-)

Apart from a rather ordinary start to the day – the barber followed by final sorting out for tomorrow – the rest of the day was spent with a bunch of caching chums in a pub, celebrating my almost-birthday – although to be strictly accurate, it was Matt’s birthday bash as much or more than mine since his birthday’s tomorrow and mine isn’t till Monday.

Anyway, it was a lovely day with some lovely friends, and thanks to Sarah driving I was able to have a drink or three (hic!). I had some nice pressies too, which I opened even though it isn’t really my birthday, so I could thank people in person rather than waiting till I saw them. Lizzzzeeeee, I’m still wearing yours, and will do for the rest of the evening!

Best abusive comment of the day related to my pressie from Tim and June, which had a picture of Desperate Dan dressed as Santa on the front:
Sarah (pointing): “Paul…it’s YOU!”

Grrr :-)

TGI Friday

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Another week over – today was one of those days. One meeting and it wiped the whole day out :-(

Still the clocks go back next weekend, so today was likely to be my last chance for a Friday-after-work cache: Valley Hide was the chosen recipient of my caching attention. It didn’t take long, although after the recent rain the underfoot was a bit squelchy – lucky I had my new walking boots to keep my feet dry.

Then it was on to the gym, and home to prepare for the weekend. Of which more to come…

More Fuss

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

Following on from yesterday’s comments, another hot item currently in the news is the statement by the Prime Munster of this fair land, Tony Bliar esq, that the full veil worn by some ladies of the Muslim faith are “a mark of separation”.

Well of course they are: The Muslim veil is a mark of separation, although I prefer the term “distinction”. The Sikh turban is a mark of separation too, as are the Jewish yarmulke, the Buddhist prayer scarf and the cross that I and other Christians wear. They say “I am different to others: Not better or worse, higher or lower, but different. I have chosen a path for my life and this sign expresses that choice”. Choosing to mark yourself with a symbol of your faith isn’t a bad thing – and in any case it’s human nature to want to be part of an identifiable group in some way. Whether religious, social, national, professional or sporting, we all in some way consider ourselves to be part of a particular group, and most of us carry some outward marking of that group. Consider footie fans wearing their team’s shirt; people of Celtic origin wearing their clan tartan; members of various organisations and their car stickers and badges.

Of course there are “concerns” that the full veil is demeaning to women – although I’ve not found any veil-wearing women who consider themselves demeaned by it. The row has further been inflamed by British Airways check-in worker Nadia Eweida, a Christian who is currently on unpaid leave following her refusal to remove or conceal her cross: according to the BBC news story BA has a uniform policy which states that “all jewellery and religious symbols on chains must be worn under the uniform” – although they make an exemption for turbans and hijabs, which obviously cannot be covered. Miss Eweida is suing British Airways under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 – it looks like an interesting case. On the face of it it does look as though BA are treating Christians less favourably than employees of other faiths, although there may well be factors we don’t yet know about. For example, Miss Eweida has worked for BA for seven years, why has this only just cropped up? Long term readers of this blog will remember the case of Sam Morris, a pupil at a Derby school, who complained loud and long about being refused the right to display her faith in the form of a cross on a chain. Further research – which as far as I know only ever appeared in the public domain on this blog – revealed that she had never attended her school’s Christian Union, was unable to name the church she attended, had only bought the cross a few weeks previously, and had been offered the chance to wear other symbols of her faith: Only the long chain on which she wore her cross was banned.

I don’t want to cast aspersions on Nadia Eweida, and I’m in no doubt that Christians need to stand up and be counted: I’d just like to know a little more before I jump on the anti-BA bandwagon on this one.

Fuss

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

The current hot news story is Madonna adopting a Malawian half-orphan.

Actually I’m not sure if you can be a half-orphan or not: This little lad has lost his Mum, and his Dad can’t care for him, so Madonna’s adopted him. The main fuss seems to be that Madonna – because of wealth and celebrity – is said to have bypassed the normal adoption procedures, effectively just waltzing in as if she was in a pet shop and saying “I’ll have that one”, and breezing out again, leaving a bodyguard and a nanny to bring her new toy…sorry, I mean child…home.

She says that all she wants to do is make life better for a child, and on the face of it, that’s difficult to argue with.

  • Is it a good thing to make a child’s life better? Well, yes, of course it is
  • Is a child better brought up as a millionaire’s child in London, than a pauper in Malawi? Well, undoubtedly – at least in purely material terms

But I can’t help thinking that if Madonna and her husband just wanted to make someone’s life better, her money would have been better spent making it financially possible for the boy to grow up in comfort with his own family. For the financial commitment they’re accepting in bringing baby David to the UK, they could sponsor dozens of children growing up in their own home communities. Of course adopting a child isn’t only about money, it’s about love – although I have to wonder how much love is shown in leaving a child to be escorted to his new home by a bodyguard and a nanny?

I don’t want to appear judgemental – for all I know, Madonna may sponsor a hundred children through various charity agencies, and there’s absolutely no doubt that David will grow up a lot more comfortably for his adoption (assuming it’s confirmed of course – it’s only interim at the moment). But I can’t help being a bit uneasy that normal procedures appear to have been sidelined, and wondering why.

Frustration

Tuesday, October 17th, 2006

I went to High Wycombe today.

It was my first experience of the M 25 since that section (the M3 round to the M40) was widened: it’s pretty good – all it needs now is someone with a twelve-bore to take out those stupid “variable speed limit” units and it’ll be quite a user-friendly road.

If you’re wondering why I went the long way, it’s because I took one look at the traffic jam on the Basingstoke ring road and thought “Sod that!”. Of course I’d failed to consider the jams that crop up on the M3 in the rush hour :-( . And on that subject – and reference the twelve-bore mentioned above – there’s a woman driving a red Astra who’s a prime candidate for a charge of double-O gauge up the fundament. Grr.

Oh, and this evening I went to the gym. There was a power cut, and we were all thrown out. Ah well, I tried :-)

Phishy Story

Monday, October 16th, 2006

In all the excitement of being told I was famous yesterday1, I forgot to tell you about the dodgy e-mail I had yesterday morning.

I had this e-mail from eBay: In excited tones it told me that the item I’d previously bid on, which I’d been outbid on, had become available as the winning bidder had been unable to complete the purchase. All I had to do to resubmit my previously unsuccessful bid was click on this link…

It seemed a bit odd for a couple of reasons: The first was that the link web address didn’t look totally like a legit eBay link, the second was that it was addressed to “Dear Customer”- legit e-mails from eBay are addressed to your eBay user name, and my user name isn’t “Customer”. But the main thing arousing my suspicion was that the unsuccesful bid had been 6500 for a gert big chrome-englistened motorbike.

In as much as any scams are clever, it’s quite a clever one: If only one in a hundred people receiving the e-mail are daft enough to clicky the linky (in panic at how they’ve been suckered into bidding for something they didn’t want), the first thing they’d be faced with is a convincing-looking eBay login screen asking for their username and password. And by the time they realise they’ve been suckered, their legitimate login details have been used in some kind of scam.

And in other news – I have a working work mobile phone2! This is the third one – I wonder how long this one will last?
1 Or as Sarah commented when I told her, “Infamous, more like”
2 At the time of writing, anyway.

Oooh!

Sunday, October 15th, 2006

I was paid a compliment today!

But before that…much of the day was spent on the Solent Half Marathon, where my Raynet group (assisted by some chums from the next-door group) were providing the communications. The day stayed nice and sunny, nothing particularly went wrong, and we did everything we were supposed to do. So that was good :-) Even our mate Julian – who had to cry off because of a clutch failure on the way to the event – called in to let us know he’d got safely home without much trouble, thanks to a Very Very Nice Man.

Once the event was over and we’d packed our kit away, the afternoon was still young, and I was just a mile away from a cache I hadn’t done! I soon found my way to the recommended parking for If You Go Down To The Woods Today…, and before long was close to the cache location. Much searching ensued – with the GPS going barmy under the tree cover – until I spotted a couple of people coming towards me, one of them checking his own GPS. They were, of course, other cachers, and in conversation they asked my caching name:
“I’m Paul G0TLG, or Paul Gottle”
“Ooh, you’re famous, aren’t you?”

Gosh! Then we found the cache, then I went to see Sarah and we took Maggie for a walk, and then I went home and had a chinese takeaway.

Nice day. Good ‘un :-)

Tired – Yet Again

Saturday, October 14th, 2006

You’ll remember I’ve had a bit of a busy week. I made up for it this morning by not getting up until half past nine!

I only got up then because my luvvly Mum was taking me out to lunch (on account of it nearly being my birthday) and I thought perhaps I ought to get on and have some breakfast before I left the house! Lunch at our favourite restaurant rocked big time – must admit I et far too much, but hey – it’s only nearly my birthday once a year, right?

Other than that I’ve been working on my assignment resubmission, and sorting stuff out for tomorrow. And now I’m going to bed :-)

Ooh, except to say…my camera travel bug wot I placed in a cache in Yorkshire has been picked up and is on its way to Morecambe. Meanwhile Rob’s TB – which mine is racing against – hasn’t moved! GO ME!

Over

Friday, October 13th, 2006

I’m glad that week’s over.

Those of you who read Rockin’ Rob’s blog will already know part of this story: Coming out of Hospital Radio last night, we discovered that the theiving scumbags – or “neighbours” as we have to call them – had struck again, smashing the window of his company car, nicking his wallet and some personal bits that will cost him rather a lot of cash to replace. Rather than going to our respective homes as we’d planned, we hung around for nearly an hour while he phoned the Police: He spent ages talking to the lady on the line – in fact I think he may be in, there – giving her loads of detail. Needless to say the chances of any of these scrotes getting caught is less than not much.

Coming at the end of a day when I’d got up at five o’clock, I really didn’t need that, although of course Rob needed the hassle even less.

Anyway, ’tis Friday – guess how many caches I did after work today? None, that’s how many. I went to the gym and “gave it some”, and then went home to work on my assignment resubmission. Bah.

Sign of the Times

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

That picture I posted on yesterday’s blog – makes me laugh every time I look at it!

Driving home from work on Tuesday, I spotted a sign saying
“Roadworks start here 16th October: Expect delays for 16 weeks”

Lovely.

Last night it wasn’t there: Being Eastleigh, I just assumed someone had nicked it. But no, tonight it was back with a slight alteration:
“Roadworks start here 23rd October: Expect delays for 16 weeks”

Flippin’ typical: Even the delays are delayed!

(and to Sarah, reference your comment on last night’s blog: Wait and say thanks if it proves to be a permanent fix!)

Laugh

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

This hasn’t been Photoshopped – the can of adhesive you see is exactly as Mike bought it from Jewsons!

Something else funny happened yesterday, a little too late to make it into yesterday’s blog: I was visiting Sarah’s, and sorting out a problem on her computer, when her phone rang. Sarah and George were in the garden, so I checked caller display – it was Jenny!
Me: “Hello, Sarah Mansions”
Jenny: **Shocked silence**
Me: “Heh heh!”

On reflection it might have been even funnier to pretend I was answering at home, which could potentially have kept her confused for ages. It wouldn’t have been the first time we’d done something like that: A few years ago our chums Jan and Andy were visiting Southampton, and hadn’t told anyone they were going to be in the area. They’d contacted me and we met up for a meal, and I loaned Jan my mobile to ring Jenny – she rang her mobile to make sure it’d come up on caller display.
Jenny: “Hello Paul!”
Jan (acting puzzled): “No, it’s Jan”
Jenny: “Eh?”

We kept that one going for a while before we owned up, as well :-D

Ongoing

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

You know it’s going to be a bad day when you get to work and there’s already a voicemail message telling you that a delivery driver has broken his arm at a customer’s premises.

Bad-day-ness is confirmed when, after an hour and a half travelling time (and getting lost on the way), you’re five minutes into the accident investigation when you’re told he’s just been discharged from hospital, his arm is only bruised, and he’ll be back at work tomorrow. You’ve then got another hour and a half journey to get back.

Still, it got me out of this morning’s meeting, and I got a bacon buttie and a cup of coffee at Whiteway’s on the way back at the company’s expense. You have to take these things where you can get them :-)

And to update you on last Friday’s news: I’ve decided to have a go at resubmitting the old assignment with some changes made. In months to come I may wish I’d done the little extra to get the higher grade, but in years to come – when the whole achievement is only nine more letters after my name and a line on my CV – I won’t care what the grade was, only that I passed. So there :-) (thanks to Rob and Helena for the advice!)