Archive for June, 2007

DCC

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

With a title like that you might think I was going to tell you about the District Church Council. But I’m not.

Eighteen weeks ago – on my last day before unemployment – I did my six hundredth cache with Rockin’ Rob: I commented then “Wouldn’t it be fun to see if I can do my next hundred before I start work again?” I had a good crack, but fortunately I found a new job really quickly, which kinda restricted my caching opportunities! Anyway, rather slower than originally planned, today I did my 700th :-)

The chosen cache was Easter Surprise, in a wet boggy bit of the New Forest: I persuaded Sarah and George and their doggies to come along: The Tates introduced me to caching, and the last milestone cache I did with them was my hundredth, so I was keen to do this one with them. I think Sarah would have preferred to stay home in the dry – she did end up a bit bedraggled in the rain – but the dogs enjoyed it, especially Lennie, who definitely needed a bath afterwards! Sarah actually found the cache – not where it should’ve been, it was in the river: We think the rain must have washed it out of its proper hiding place, so while writing in the log book we dried the cache out.

Then we had to return the cache to its proper hiding place. Since we didn’t really know where that was it could’ve been a bit of a challenge, but it was fairly obvious where it was supposed to be: Unfortunately we were the wrong side of the river, which was deep and fast-flowing after the recent rain. We decided that the hiding place would be within reach from a small gravel island in the middle of the water – and that was in jumping distance.

Well, it should’ve been in jumping distance.

Halfway through the jump – yes, it was me wot dun it – an overhanging branch that I hadn’t previously noticed hit me in the shoulder, slowing my progress enough to stop me about a foot short of the gravel. SPLASH! Sarah commented afterwards “I didn’t really think you were going to jump it!”

Anyway, the cache is back in its hiding place, my finds count has hit 700, and I’m home, showered and dry :-D . Thanks to Sarah and George for the company – hope the doggies dried out OK!

Blockage

Friday, June 29th, 2007

The train had almost reached Waterloo this morning when I had a text from Jenny:

“Suspect car in West End, you may get held up”.

Of course it’s been all over the news by now. A car bomb had crahed into a pile of dustbins outside a packed nightclub: The driver had done a runner, and Police were dealing with the incident. I find it a little odd – assuming the press reports are right, and I should know better than to trust them by now – that the crash was witnessed by a troupe of nightclub doormen, yet it was an ambulance crew, attending an unrelated incident, who called the Police.

The other thing that’s a bit odd is that everyone’s describing it as an attempt to bomb a packed nightclub: Surely if they’d been trying to bomb the nightclub, the bomb would’ve gone off? The witnesses – those heroic non-Police-calling doormen – described the car going out of control and crashing. Surely it can’t only be me who thinks that it was on its way somewhere else?

Meanwhile, another device “viable and clearly linked” was found near Trafalgar Square, but because it was illegally parked it was towed away and dumped on Park Lane. Looks like something’s well kicking off. So it’s worth mentioning for the benefit of those of you who care about me: If you hear on the news there’s been an “incident” in London when I’m at work – all non-Emergency service mobiles will be disabled, so if you can’t contact me, DON’T PANIC!

Paper Round

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Following on from Tuesday’s submission…

Last Thursday, the Mail published an article about David Suchet – he who plays Poirot on the telly. It was quite a nice article about how he’s become a Christian after years of atheism. It was fine apart from a rather snide comment, something like “…and in spite of claims he’s attended an Alpha course…dismissed by many as a Happy Clappy sect…he says he never has.”

I’ve blogged about the Alpha course before, so I won’t go through that again. I’m not ashamed of the term Happy-Clappy – it sums up pretty accurately the kind of church I believe in, but I don’t see why it has to be used so perjoratively. Anyway, I didn’t think Alpha deserved such a glib dismissal, so I penned the following…

I enjoyed your article about David Suchet’s journey to Christianity – with the exception of the glib off-hand dismissal of the Alpha Course as “having been dismissed by critics as a happy clappy sect”. The Alpha Course – as any of the thousands of people who’ve taken part in one will know – originated at Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, part of the Anglican communion.

While the course certainly can be delivered in Charismatic style, it’s open to being presented in as staid or lively style as the host church chooses. The course has been an introduction to Christianity of all types for thousands of people across the world, not only in the “happy clappy” churches, but in youth groups, prisons and dozens of other settings.

For anyone interested in finding out about Christianity, the Alpha course is an excellent, low-pressure introduction with no obligation to ever come again. Those who dismiss it as “a happy clappy sect” could do much worse than to actually try one.

Those of you who – unlike me and Ned – subscribe to the Mail can check Tuesday’s copy and see what they actually printed :-)

Mr. E

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Well, Mrs E, really…but I didn’t know that at the time.

A few weeks ago, I was on my usual morning train, when I received a text message. That’s pretty rare in itself – the number of places along the line from Southampton to Waterloo where a mobile keeps a signal for long enough to receive a text are pretty few and far between. That aside for one moment, the key fact about this text was that I didn’t recognise the number it came from. It said “At last we’re off on holiday! We’re on our way to the airport now – I wonder what we’ve forgotten?”. As I said, the number was a mystery to me, but it seemed harmless so I replied “Tickets???” – which elicited the response “Bugger!”.

I racked my brain for anyone I knew who was going on holiday, but couldn’t think of anyone – well, I could, but I know Jan and Andy’s mobile numbers and it wasn’t either of them. It was obviously some harmless eccentric sending texts to a wrong number.

A couple of weeks later – by which time I’d kinda forgotten about them – I had another text. “Eek!” it said, “we seem to have had an offer accepted on a house”. Now I was really confused. Firstly, who says “Eek” these days? And secondly, who goes on holiday and then buys a house?

I was still none the wiser when sitting in the pub with Jenny earlier this week when I received a text telling me it was cold back in Blighty. Hoping for a clue, I replied that at least it wasn’t raining in Nottingham, only to learn that that was because it was chucking it down on the M3.

Jenny, of course, said I just ought to send a text back saying “This is really embarassing, but who are you?”. Wimmin’s logic, eh? I knew I could work it out in the end, and that evening in the chatroom – when one of the chatroom regulars was telling us how jetlagged she was, and showing us all pictures of her new house in Merkinland – I figured it out – it was the Mum of Multiple Milk Monsters!

See Helena, I said I’d get a blog out of it.

Stop Thief!

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

According to a story on the BBC news website yesterday1, the law-abiding majority is a myth, and more than six out of ten of us commit crimes like paying cash to avoid VAT, or “borrowing” stationery from work. 18% of people in a Keele University survey admitted to nicking stuff from work at some level.

I’m surprised it isn’t more than that: Is there anyone who isn’t walking around with a work-owned pen in their pocket, or who hasn’t made a personal call on the work telephone, or done a bit of illicit photocopyiing? It may only be two or three pence a throw, but it either counts or it doesn’t: everything else is just haggling the price.

I s’pose it just depends what’s acceptable: If the personal photocopying is flyers for the church fete, you might regard it as your employer supporting the community without knowing about it: If you make work calls on your own mobile and can’t be bothered to work out the expenses, then perhaps the occasional personal use of the work internet is no big deal. And if you’re in that category you might not consider it stealing when you’re asked in a survey.

I still think 18% nicking work pens is a bit low, though.

And on a different subject – thanks to Rob for tipping me off that the Daily Mail published my letter today: it would’ve been nice if they’d published what I wrote, rather than their own version, but you can’t have everything2 :-)

1 Sorry it’s late – I’d already posted yesterday’s entry before I spotted this one.
2 Besides, their version was more grammatically correct.

No Dirty Nappy, Sherlock

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Today’s picture was taken in one of South West Trains’ finest facilities – to be specific, the facility in the buffet car on the 18:05 from Waterloo. And on which subject, if you’re not sure what I mean by “facility”, just muse on the name “Waterloo” and you’ll soon get the idea. Now I know there’s a theory that having kids scrambles your brain, but anyone stupid enough to need a sign telling them not to use the table in the upright position ought to be on “Big Brother”.

Mind you, this is the same train company that waits until the train is pulling out of the station – with the next stop an hour away – and then does a public address announcement saying “You must buy a ticket before you get on one of our trains”. It’s also the company where every morning when the train arrives at Waterloo, does an announcement “This train is now at its final destination”…(pause)…“Petersfield”

Of Cats and Church and Getting Annoyed

Sunday, June 24th, 2007
Three cats

These are Jenny’s cats – from the left, Eric, Button and Pickle. I also took a lovely pic of Jenny with Pickle, but Jenny would have hated it, so you’re seeing this one instead.

Anyway, we went to Jenny’s church this morning – a bit odd when you’re used to a more low-church service, but nice enough. And then after church Jenny and I went for lunch. Some of my readers will remember the Harrington, where we had lunch the day after Chris and Jenny’s wedding: Well, we went there, except we almost didn’t – there was some stupid event going on at Elvaston Castle and the COMPLETE GORMSTER directing traffic seemed determined to not let us get where we were going until we’d missed our table booking.

Ahem…anyway, lunch was very nice (and had salad in it – although admittedly only as a very small percentage of the total meal :-) ), and then I left and headed south. Because it was oystering down with rain, I decided to avoid the maniacs that congregate on the motorway in bad weather, and came down through the pretty back lanes. Where I met another COMPLETE GORMSTER who thought the “National Speed Limit” signs meant “Do not go faster than 25 under any circumstances”.

Still, I’m home now, and it was a lovely weekend!

Round Up

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

OK – I told you today was the New Wine training day, didn’t I? Well, for reasons we don’t need to explore, it turned into a meeting of the team leaders – basically we were the only ones who turned up! Anyway, a round-up of what’s happened since you last had a non-pre-written blog:

Tuesday: went to Sarah’s after work – she’s already blogged the key points of that evening so if you haven’t already, nip over to Tate’s Gallery for the latest.

Wednesday: Quiz night. Staying in a youth hostel on Oxford Street and hoping to sleep is stupid STUPID STUPID

Thursday: not much happened but thanks to Maris for offering extra book proof-reading. And to Jenny – non-technical is great, I want to know if it’s comprehensible to the average reader.

Friday: Drove to Henry’s place to park my car: there was a big sign saying “Permit holders only” and a warning about clamping: Henners didn’t reply to my text about whether I was in the right place, so I went in the station car park. Sorry Henry

Then after work I went and parked on the M25 for an hour on my way to Stratty youth hostel, and arrived with barely half an hour before closing. And then this morning I went to the meeting you already know about, stopping for a cache on the way: The RSC – Romeo and Juliet was my 699th – and coincidentally, only a mile from my 499th. And now I’m at Jenny’s playing with cats :-)

Strattifelarious

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Another cheesy cheating pre-written blog I’m afraid:tonight I’m in Stratford on Avon, and while the place I’m staying in has wireless internet, it’s about fifteen pounds a second so I don’t think I’ll be using it.

I’m in Warwickshire because tomorrow is the training day for New Wine: For new readers I’ll explain that New Wine is a Christian festival that I attend every Summer: The event has its own medical team to look after the 12000 delegates, and I’m one of the first aiders who work alongside the the nurses, doctors and paramedics on the team. We’re all Christians and we’re all volunteers who give up two weeks of our summer holiday to come along and do it, so it goes without saying that although during duty time we work to the highest standards, we make sure we have some fun as well!

Anyway, tomorrow (as long as I get this to post on the right day) is the day we all meet for our pre-event training. It’ll consist mainly of those of us who’ve been before telling the newbies how it goes, although we’ll all be doing a Basic Life Support refresher, to make sure our qualification in that is as up to date as it can be. I haven’t seen any of my New Wine chums since last year’s event, and two of them have got married (to each other) since then, so I’m really looking forward to it.

And luckily for you, my loyal readers, the place I’m staying tomorrow night – the Earwash Cat’s Shelter, aka Jenny’s Gaff, does have free wireless internet, so you might acksherly get a real-time blog :-) . That’ll be the first one since Monday!

Gadget Again

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

I told you all last week about the keyboard I’d bought to go with my PDA: Here it is in situ, being a useful commuter tool on one of the little tray tables South West Trains provide.

Also in the picture you’ll notice another useful commuter tool, also provided by South West Trains.

If you could see properly what it said on the PDA screen, you’d deduce that I’ve made a start on writing the book that I told you about a few weeks ago: Provisionally entitled “Playing it Safe”, it’s going to be a guide to basic health and safety, for small community organisations who can’t afford all the hassle and expense of doing it the way workplaces do – but can’t afford to get it wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it – or if a publisher will take it on if I do. But it’ll be an interesting experience to write it, and I’m sure I’ll learn loads.

And don’t worry – I’ve already hand-picked those of my readers who’re going to be guinea pigging chapter one when it’s finished: Jan and Andy, Jenny and Sarah…polish yer reading glasses!

Quiz Night

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

I didn’t get the train home this evening.

At least, I hope I didn’t – this is one of my cheesy cheating pre-written blogs, so by the time you read this anything could have happened :-) . But hopefully I’m going to a quiz night in London this evening, not far from the office, and then staying in superior accommodation (alright, a youth hostel) just round the corner. The youth hostel is about a mile from the office, but because I knew I’d have my overnight bag and my briefcase, I decided to research the appropriate bus route.

That was when I discovered that the bus is slower than walking :-( . The underground only takes a couple of minutes, but the Central Line will be heaving at that time of night. Since I’m writing this before we know what the weather will be doing, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow – or maybe even longer – to see whether I braved it or not! Mind you, I’ve got two hours between finishing work and the quiz starting…and there’s caches in them thar streets…

Eavesdrop

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

I normally listen to my MP3 player on the train in the mornings – in fact as I type this, I’m listening to Disk 7 of Robert Rankin reading “The Antipope”. But the conversations going on around the place can also be worth following.

This morning one of the people sitting near me was telling her companion about a quiz night she’d been to on Sunday. “The questions are getting impossible,” she moaned. “This time the first round was all about the Queen. One question was ‘Who is the Queen’s eldest son?’ I mean, how is anyone supposed to know that???” She then went on to describe how her team had come third.

I think I might try to find out where this quiz night happens. I think I might do rather well there.

By Sepcial Request

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Those of you who aren’t asleep will have noticed that I’ve gone back to the previous version of my blog header pic.

I wasn’t that happy with it anyway: it seemed a bit…I dunno…brash? But I wanted a header pic with me in it – after all, it’s my blog, not Grunty’s. Then yesterday, George commented that he preferred the previous version as well, and since that was the only comment I’d had about either version, that was enough for me. I like to keep my readers happy! I made the change yesterday evening, and shortly afterwards Sarah commented that George had liked the change, so it was all worthwhile :-)

I do have a better picture of me which I can use for another attempt, and I’ll see about making a new header when I have a moment. Checking my diary, I think that’ll be about 2009.

Bikes and Caches

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

I’ve been a bit busy today.

This morning Raynet were working on a sponsored bike ride on behalf of Marie Curie Cancer Care: I’d hoped not to work on this one – see the next paragraph for a reason – but we were a bit short of people, so I compromised and put myself on the first checkpoint, so I’d be free and clear nice and early.

Then it was over to Winchester – well, near Winchester – where a bunch of geocaching chums were getting together for a barbie and some caching. Sarah cooked our barbie – which meant that nothing much caught fire – and I got involved as a judge in the cake-baking competition, as there was a tie for first place which the real judges couldn’t sort out! Then we went caching: Firstly Sarah and George and I teamed up with our chum Blitzy to do Follow the Path of Least Resistance, which Sarah went straight to – once June had given her a bit of help! Then as Sarah and George were packing to go home (part timers!), a crowd of us piled into three cars to go off and do A tribute to Gullivers Monumental Journey, a lovely fun cache in an historic caching location, followed by Via Romanus, a tricky puzzle and a tricky find.

Yawn. I seem to finish my Sunday blogs with that quite a lot!

Number One Caravan Mending Person

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

You might remember when I came back from Devon, I needed to do some bodywork repairs on my caravan. You’ll also remember that my attempted repair didn’t work, and I had a throwing-toys-out-of-the-pram moment. If you don’t remember, see here

At the time, I commented “If my Dad were still alive, he’d have repaired it in no time: It wouldn’t have been pretty, but it would have worked.”

As you can see, I decided today to follow his example. It isn’t pretty, and that little rat’s nest took me five hours to get right. But my caravan is mended! On the way there was quite a bit of swearing, and towards the end, quite a bit of “ARRRRGH! I am DEFINITELY getting too old for this!”. I also had to borrow some tools from a neighbour, and go to the tool shop over the road for a 10mm drill bit.

So a job that I REALLY wasn’t looking forward to is done, and I’m heading for the gym. Via the off licence.

Brand New Keys

Friday, June 15th, 2007

I’ve got a new gadget!

When I knew I was going to be a train riding commuter person, I treated myself to a new PDA – the rationale being that not only could I use it as an MP3 player, to help while away the journey: I could use its other functions to do Raynet work, write blogs, and stuff like that.

Unfortunately I’d failed to account for the fact that using the stylus input, on a train that’s madly rocking from side to side, is a non-starter. OK for quick notes, but the route to madness if I try to use it too much. Not to mention the danger that one day I’m going to poke the stylus right through the screen.

So, after a bit of intermaweb research, I treated myself to a mini folding bluetooth keyboard. It’s the same size as the keyboard bit of my lappytoppy, so it fits a treat on the tiny tables South West Trains supply: It’s going to take a bit of getting used to – the keys are just slightly smaller than I’m used to, and it flexes just slightly under finger pressure, so the key action isn’t as positive as it might be. But I’m using it right now, and I haven’t madetoo manny typinf errors yet.

Oops.

The instructions say you have to install drivers on your PDA for it to work, but I didn’t – I just switched it on and it worked. Which is pretty fabby.

I LOVE technology!

Watch Out!

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

According to a story in yesterday’s paper-and it was ”the Times”, so it’d better be true – George Dubya Boosh, in the course of a walkabout, has had his watch nicked. Yes, you read that right – the world’s best protected tyrant, surrounded by his thuggish minders, has been mugged. The paper included TV footage of the crime, together with a carefully-drawn guide on how to do it, to show how difficult it would be to totally guard against such a thing, but easy or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that the so-called Leader of the Free World – the man who appointed himself the world’s policeman – has been robbed, in full view of the best-funded security team there is.

Is it just my imagination, or is that the funniest thing since Tony Bliar fell off the roof?

Oh – apparently Tony Bliar hasn’t fallen off the roof. Ah well, everyone needs something to hope for.

Steve M – in case you haven’t seen it, the comment you left on yesterday’s blog, I answered in the comments :-)

Promotion

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

No, not that sort of promotion – my fabby new job is going well, but not that well. Not yet anyway.

On this occasion I’m referring to the rather rubbish promotion going on in The Upper Crust, the chain franchise that runs buffets on railway stations. They’re my breakfast providers of choice, and you can currently get a hot crusty bacon roll and a medium coffee for £2-99, which compares very favourably to London prices. I’d originally thought it only applied in the South West Trains area, so I was delighted the other week on my Grand Regional Tour to discover it’s also available at Derby. It’s about the only good thing about Derby station – other than that it’s in Derby, of course1.

The reason why this promotion is so rubbish is that they don’t tell anyone about it – if you ask for a roll and small coffee, they’ll explain that because of the promotion, a roll and medium coffee would be cheaper, but there’re no signs or posters or anything. I always thought the idea of promotions was to promote them, but maybe I’m being silly and old-fashioned.

Ooh, and an update on the train-riding partygoers I told you about a couple of weeks back: the one whose birthday it was that weekend is awaiting the birth of his first grandchild. There’s been a bottle of bubbly on the table every morning this week – so far it’s remained unopened2.

1 Thought I’d better slip that in – I’m in enough trouble with Jan already.
2 UPDATE: Grand-daughter born yesterday. Champagne opened this morning. They’re barmy, the lot of ‘em.

Worse Karma

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Remember my Spam Karma related problem last week?

I had another lovely e-mail from the 34sp people yesterday: this time it was Jenny’s blog which had gone up to 270 meg :-( . Investigation revealed two million lines in her Spam Karma log files, which when deleted neatly solved the problem.

The funny thing is, SK has never worked properly on Jenny’s blog – for some reason it corrupts the MySQL database every time it tries to do anything. She’s running the same version of WordPress as me, and the same SK2 version: I need to investigate further, but first I want to see if these phantom log files reappear.

Life’s never dull, is it? Incomprehensible, but never dull ;-)

Mobile Moment of Madness

Monday, June 11th, 2007

I had a rather odd phone call last week.

Not the kind of odd phone call I’ve told you about before – for a start I knew who this one was from. Back in my days at the Jelly Factory I had a company-issue mobile phone, so they could ring me at two o’clock in the morning and ask me where the keys to the first aid room were kept. To save carrying two phones all the time, I had the company one set up to divert to my personal mobile one whenever it was switched off.

I bet you’ve all just guessed where this is going, haven’t you?

So, I’m sitting at my desk at my fabby new job when my mobile vibrates (office rule – personal phones must be set to silent). I don’t recognise the number although there’s something a bit familiar about it.
“Hello?”
“Hello, is that Mike?”

I immediately recognise the voice as belonging to a Jelly Factory production supervisor called “Chicken”.
“No, I’m afraid you’ve got a wrong number.”
“Is that Paul?”
“Yes it is – I think Mike must have taken over my old mobile and it’s diverted to my personal number.”
“Oh that’s OK, you’ll do – Pete’s had an accident, what should I do?”
“Um…you DO know I don’t work there any more, don’t you?”
“Yes, but there’s no-one else to ask”

Needless to say, being a good humanitarian person, I gave appropriate advice. And needless to say, my bill for consultancy services is in the post.

Another Long Day

Sunday, June 10th, 2007

Today has been another day of working very hard.

Raynet have been providing communication cover to a sponsored walk on behalf of Naomi House, our local children’s hospice: my day has consisted of sitting on checkpoints watching walkers go past – although it wasn’t all bad, some of the laydee walkers were rather nice to watch ;-) The new header picture is me, at the first of four checkpoints I worked on during the day.

I also managed a cache on the way: No Place Like Home was the one, and our chums Nobby and Kathy appeared while I was finding it, so I had a few minutes to chat with them. I tried for another cache while I was out – Nobby knows which one – but it is apparently rather difficult to find, and I ran out of time. Still, it’ll be there another day!

I even managed to read a few pages of my book.

Yawn…