Archive for October, 2007

Hurrah!

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I mentioned last night that I have theatre tickets – but don’t worry, it’s a while before we go (38 days, but who’s counting? :-) ), so my cough will be well gone by then.

I’m going with Rockin’ Rob and Sally-J to see Spamalot in London: When some genius first had the idea, I said I’d sort out the tickets – after six months working in London I’m the total Metropolitan Boy, and there’s nothing you can tell me about getting discounted tickets from all the clever places. Only tourists pay full price, after all.

Well that’s not totally true, it seems – the places selling discounted tickets only have them for performances at times like two o’clock on a Wednesday morning: If they’ve got tickets for times when normal people go to the theatre, they’re for shows that no sane person would want to see: the Ricky Horror Show (in which the thick bloke that used to be in EastEnders wears a dress) for example, or The MouseTrip (a version of Summer Holiday with all the roles played by rodents). Most of the online discount agencies have names like “HonestCreditCardDealingsRNotUs.com”, so I was a bit restricted there, too.

In the end I went to TicketMaster, whom I’ve used before for concert tickets and who’ve never sold my credit card details to the Albanian Mafia. Since the only tickets they had were for the fourth row back from the stage it was a bit expen$ive, but since we all get to travel free on the train (thanks to the free tickets that my annual Gold Card entitle me to), it still makes a reasonable day out :-)

Just the venue for eating to sort now…

News Of All Kinds

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

So – we had the Raynet group AGM last night. I’m no longer group controller! Most of you know that I’d planned to not stand again, and a perfectly able candidate put themselves forward, so “Yay and woo!”. I haven’t left Raynet – in fact I’ll be carrying on as group webmaster – but I’m clear of all the bits of that job that I didn’t like. Like the wombatting politics.

In feeling-a-bit-crap related news, I’m still coughing for England. I had to deliver a training session this morning, and I can honestly say they didn’t get of my best: It all conspired a bit, the technology didn’t work properly and I was feeling rubbish just as I was presenting to my biggest group since I started this job – also the group most likely to be critical of what I had to say. Ah well, these things happen.

And in feeling-good related news – I have theatre tickets! That’s really only good news for Rockin’ Rob and Sally-J…and me, of course :-)

Think it’ll be an early night tonight.

Foodie

Monday, October 29th, 2007

News story

Oh wow :-) ! That’s nearly as good as Stilton-flavoured chocolate.

Since so many of our blogchums have been reporting ill-health, you may all like to know that I’ve been coughing and sneezing good stylee myself recently: last Friday and this morning I kept everyone on the train awake. I don’t think I was very popular.

South For the Winter

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I was talking about blogs with my mate Paul S last weekend – apparently he likes my blog best when I go off on a rant.

Regular rant-loving readers will know that I tend to go off on one about this time every year: The basis is that the Great North Run gets a full weekend of prime time TV: The Great South Run – where I spent today working – gets two minutes at insomniac’s hour on some obscure TV channel that less than one percent of the world gets to watch.

A crowd of us took the opportunity to rant at the organiser today – who’s also the organiser of the Great North Run, and the other races in the Great Run series. He had the grace to look a bit shifty, but didn’t come up with much of an answer, so we thought one up for ourselves. The reason is that the Great North Run is the only TV-worthy thing that happens “Up North” – for evidence I offer the fact that when the telly made a series about Geordie bricklayers, they had to set it in Germany. So while they get a whole year’s worth of telly in one event, our ration has to be shared out among the myriad of events that happen down here.

So there. Hope John and Marie are still speaking to me after they read this :-)

Take Four Things

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

Thanks to Pookledo for this one:

Four jobs I’ve done
Chip shop serving person
Farm labourer
Fork lift driver (which was found in some survey to be officially the most boring job in the world, and I’m not disagreeing)
Health and Safety Guru

Four films I’ve watched more than once
Who Dares Wins
Garfield – The Movie
The Italian Job (the original)
Wallis and Gromit – The Wrong Trousers

Four places I’ve lived Will three do?
Southampton
Totton
The other house in Southampton

Four programmes I watch
Spooks
QI
My Family
Robin Hood

Four places I’ve travelled to
Israel
America (twice)
France
Denmark

Four people who e-mail me regularly
John/Marie
The Hospital Radio Chairman
The Raynet County Co-ordinator
Mike

In case my answers to that make me seem really boring, I’ve added…
Four people who text me regularly
Rockin’ Rob
Sally-J
Jenny
Mark

Four of my favourite foods
Sweet and Sour Chicken
Cheese – especially blue cheese
Chicken Katsu
Pork with proper Crackling

Four places I’d rather be right now
New Wine (that’s an event rather than a place, I suppose)
Stratford-on-Avon
Can’t really think of any others – it’s more about who I’m with than where I am

Four things I’m looking forward to
The next geocaching chums meeting
A theatre trip
The New Wine team reunion in January (assuming it happens!)
The Cornwall Cachepedition

The Road to Hell…

Friday, October 26th, 2007

…is paved with good intentions, so they say. Well, it’s alleged that Samuel Johnson said it, but according to this site – and they should know, he never did. Anyway, my good intention, declared yesterday, has fallen at an early hurdle: you’ll remember I said I was going to use the stairs when I got to work rather than the lift.

I’ve been defeated by insane security precautions – not ours, someone else’s. We have floors six and seven in a shared building, with six shared lifts and two shared stairwells: from our floors we can access the stairwells to go between our floors, or to go from our floors to the ground. We can’t get from the stairwell into any floor other than our own, and no-one can get into our floors without the appropriate swipe card. The trouble is – as I discovered this morning – that although I can go down the stairs and out into Reception, I can’t get from Reception back into the bottom of the stairwell.

If it was a useful security precaution I wouldn’t mind so much – but since, if I wanted to, I could get to the other side of the security door by going up in the lift and coming down the stairs, it seems a bit pointless. Meanwhile, my chances to use the stairs for healthy exercise seem to be limited to going up in the lift to our floor, walking down the stairs and going back up again. Which somehow doesn’t seem quite the same.

Travel

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

I learned an important lesson yesterday. This was: “If you have to plan a working day that includes ten hours on trains, don’t do it during half term”. Bah.

I also had a realisation: In her blog about the Lake District cachepedition, her Ladyship Sally of J (aka Miss PowderVine) remarked on the superior recoverability of her legs after strenuous up- and down-ness, compared to mine and Rob’s, and added “This is the result of working on the sixth floor of a building where the lifts keep breaking down”. Myself, I think it’s more to do with the fact that she’s a dancer, but all that stair climbing must be contributing.

By a staggering coincidence, I also work on a sixth floor: In my case it’s a building where the lifts don’t break down that often, but we can simulate the effects. So henceforth, when arriving in the morning, and returning from Mungo’s Sandwich Shop at lunchtime, I’ll use the stairs. It’ll be interesting to see how much difference that makes on the Cornwall Cachepedition. It’ll also be interesting to see how long it lasts before I get fed up.

Ooh, and finally, I need to tell you that the Lakes Cachepedition photo gallery is now online, complete with humourous captions. You can enjoy it here.

44

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

It appears that while I slept, I’ve turned 44.

Acksherly that’s not totally true – at the moment of becoming exactly a year older I was in the buffet at Southampton railway station, waiting for my birthday bacon roll. But one way or the other I’m now officially middle aged :-( .

Still, thanks to those who’ve sent birthday greetings, especially those who’ve texted. Jenny’s text was especially amusing, but I won’t repeat it here!

Off to the north tomorrow – see you on Thursday.

Home Again

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Well – that appears to be another fabby Conference weekend over – roll on Leeds in March (only a week before the Cornwall Cachepedition too!). Well done as always to John, Marie + the team for arranging it, sometimes in spite of assistance received (ooh, little bit of politics there). My only real criticism of the hotel – and I know this wasn’t our team’s fault – was that the three-pounds-a-day parking charge was automatically added to the bill, even for people who hadn’t brought a car. I was OK – I’d been pre-warned by Jan and Andy, so I came prepared to argue – but I know of at least one person who was entitled to a free ticket who paid, and I bet there were some people who didn’t even notice. It’s easy to say they should have checked their bill, but you don’t really expect corporate sharp practice like that from a supposedly reputable hotel chain.

Of course, there’s an argument that it’s sharp practice anyway to charge parking at an hotel where people are already paying to stay, but that’s another story.

Not sure how much bloggage you’re going to get for the rest of this week: Two meetings – one of which is in the North of England – are going to keep me pretty busy, but I’ll do my best!

Spit and Polish

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Well, you’ll be pleased to know the conference weekend is going well so far – I haven’t managed to get lost in the minibus yet, although it was a close-run thing on Friday, when the 12-hour battery in the satnav went flat unexpectedly after 9 hours. Luckily I was very close to the location where I was supposed to pick up a local who knew the way back to the hotel…

Saturday evening at conference is always the gala dinner – posh frocks and best suits in abundance, and for the last few years it’s always been one of my duties to say the Grace before the dinner. I usually try to make it a little bit topical or appropriate, rather than just the traditional and unimaginative “For what we are about to receive…??? – the Grace before the dinner at Brands Hatch was the only time I’ve ever got a laugh when leading prayer – and this time, I decided to do something relevant to the fact that we were in Wales. The options seemed to be to do Grace with a sheep under each arm, or to do it in Welsh: I found a website – it may have been www.PrayersTranslatedIntoWelshRUs.com, or I may be talking out of my års on that.

Anyway, thanks to whatever the website was called, and some pronunciation advice from Chris, I staggered through it. It was better received than the male voice choir anyway.

Credit Where It’s Due

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

So, since I was a bit nasty about the hotel restaurant on Thursday, let me give credit where it belongs. Friday’s evening meal was top class, AND they’d sorted out the speed of service thing to an impressive degree.

The quiz went down an absolute storm – but Keysey, I was right: They knew the older ones and were totally foxed by the newer ones. You’re already booked to produce music rounds for the next conference in six months time :-)

Finally – and nothing to do with Conference – welcome to the Blogosphere to our chum Sally-J: There’s a link to her outpouring over there as “PowderVine” in “My Blogging Chums”.

But now, with internet acess in the hotel costing a million pounds a minute, that’s all you’re getting. See you later chums!

Not so Great Western

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

That was a bit odd.

This evening I was required to be in Newport (South Wales), ready for the Hospital Radio conference that starts here tomorrow. By coincidence, today I’d arranged to be working in our South Wales office, a convenient two stops up the line. So my luvvly employers had bought me a train ticket, complete with seat reservation. My seat was coach A, seat 27 – that’s not just waffle, there’s a reason I’m telling you that.

The train pulled into Southampton, and predictably coach A was at the front. I climbed aboard, found seat 27 (which didn’t have a ”reserved” sign, but that’s life) and sat down: Plugged in my MP3 player and started listening to the music rounds that Rockin’ Rob had prepared for me for tomorrow night’s quiz.

And by the way, not really relevant to today’s story, but I’d like to record here publicly that Rob is not only a multi-talented genius with electronic music editing, he’s also a really nice helpful guy who’s given up about thirty hours of his life to put this stuff together for us. He’ll get his reward in Heaven – and may even get a pint out of me the next time I see him in licensed premises.

Anyway, back to the story, and all was well until the ticket-collecting person came round and told me I was in the wrong half of the train. Apparently this train divides at Bristol, and the half I was in was going to somewhere like Little-Snoring-on-the-Mudd, so I had to move myself, my laptop bag and my heavy suitcase down to the back of the train.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a bit odd that Great Western trains have a coach A in the front half, and another at the back. And yes, seat 27 in the proper coach A did have a reserved sign.

(Late addition – note to those coming to conference tomorrow. Don’t expect to eat too quickly. 2½ hours from arrival to finishing dessert – and that’s with the restaurant almost empty.)

Everyone Knows it’s Windy

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

It was a bit windy, 20 years ago.

For anyone who’s missed all the news stories about the anniversary, twenty years ago a big storm swept across the South of England, causing huge amounts of damage: My chum Geoff was an electrician with the electricity board at the time, and got loads of overtime working on the teams who went round restoring supplies to people, which was useful – he’d not long been married and had two small children, and the extra cash was handy.

On the morning after the big wind, I had to get to London for a job interview, at no less a place than the BBC. It took me twice as long as I’d expected to get to the railway station because of all the roads that were closed by fallen trees – although it didn’t really matter as there were no trains running anyway. I had the genius idea of walking up to the coach station and getting a coach to London, and was amazed to discover that about fifty thousand other people had had the same idea. In the end I drove to Thiefrow and got the tube in from there.

I didn’t get the job, anyway.

Very Old Cachepedition News

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

During the 2006 Yorkshire Dales cachepedition, Rockin’ Rob and I started a race: we each bought a disposable camera and placed it in a cache, with a travel bug tag and with the mission of getting back to a specific cache in Hampshire.

Our cameras have wandered about the place a bit – at one point mine must have been within a few miles of the finish point, as it zipped past on its way to Devon. But now, for me, the race is over- a group of cachers from Devon had their caching gear stolen from their car, and among the items to go missing was ”Paul’s Racing Camera”. I had an e-mail from them today :-( .

Oh well- we just have to hope Rob’s camera arrives safely.

Wot I Did on my Holiday

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Yes, we’re back from the Cachepedition – and you’ve probably already guessed that we had a fabby time. We stayed at a rental holiday cottage right in the centre of Bowness-on-Windermere, the main village in the South of the Lake District, and it was probably the best-equipped place we’d ever seen – every time we opened a cupboard we found yet more stuff, although we DID leave it a bit better equipped than we found it – unless Rob or Sarah know something they’re not telling me, I left a DVD in the player. Still, the only real problem with the place was that my bedroom had the boiler in it, so it got a bit over-warm sometimes. But we wouldn’t let that stop us going there again.

We managed some walking and some good caching every day, but the highlight – for me at least – was Wednesday’s ascent of the Old Man of Coniston, where I found my 800th cache and Rob his 400th. The climb was tough enough to give a sense of achievement, and the weather clear enough that we had some decent views: We then had a nice high ridge walk with more views, followed by a descent and a walk down the valley bottom back to the car. Nice. We did a couple of other long walks, some gentle lowland stuff, and a day of drive-bys, the Lake District has EVERYTHING, no matter what sort of caching you like you’ll find something to suit you here. There was even one lame pointless micro, for people who like that sort of thing.

The Lakes have quite a few puzzle caches, and with Sarah being an ace puzzle-solving champion – or something like that – our confidence was high. We’d solved a few of the puzzles before we went, but two continued to defeat us – May the Lord be With You and May the Lord be With You To. The basic code breaking didn’t take us long – well, didn’t take Sarah long – but there was still something we’d missed. On the last morning we thought we’d had an inspiration, but although we saw some more nice locations, it was easy to tell we’d got it wrong. Still, they’ll still be there next year…

About three quarters of the way through day one, we established a tradition of stopping at a pub on the way back to the cottage, to celebrate another successful day, and more importantly to allow Sarah to relieve the pressure on her bladder (she’ll kill me for that!). We saw pubs that had live music, pubs that had expen$ive food and pubs that had excellent lakeside views, but our favourite – as in, we went there three times – was the John Peel, within two minutes walk of the cottage. We ate there on the first evening and decided to do so again on the last – initially we were all impressed with the food, but on the return visit Rob’s lamb shank was so tender it just fell off the bone – sadly, half of it had fallen off the bone before it got to the plate.

Evenings were mainly spent enjoying Rob’s cooking and planning the next day, but you can’t say we didn’t see the wild side – one evening we stayed up until gone ten o’clock watching a Wallis and Gromit DVD. Now THAT’s Music With Rocks In™. So we got to the end of the week and none of us wanted to go home, which I guess is the definition of a successful holiday :-) – we’re already planning the next one.

Pictures will follow soon in a proper gallery page, but in the meantime, those caches were:
Day One
Red Scree
Red Scree (Sc)ramble
Rose H Kershaw
Dora’s Field

Day Two
Sadmuppit’s Treasure Chest
Gridlock
Loughrigg Fell
Lunga number 3
The Magic Duck
Diana’s Looking Glass
Galava Fort

Day Three
Bass Rock
Thomas West Windermere on Water Station
Thomas West Rawlinson Nab Station
Gotcha Graythwaite
Beech Hill Wood Windermere on Water

Day Four
Coniston Old Man – the joint 800th / 400th
Dawn Recon 4
What’s for Pudding?

Day Five
Waiting for the Ferry
Councillor C B Ross
Thomas West Brant Fell Station
Lift Thine Eyes to the Hills
Elba Monument
The Scream Point
I’d Rather Heath
Millennium Hunt
Swift Visit

Day Six
Hawkshead Hunt
Aira Force
Memorial Seat

32 is NOT enough!

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

As if a week caching wasn’t enough, today I joined up with some chums and did a few more! It was a shame Rob and Sarah couldn’t make it, but they’d been gigging last night, so they still had all the stuff to do that I did yesterday :-) – mind you, it DID give me the chance to get in first with some of the funny stories about the trip!

Today’s caches in the “Inkpen Inklings” series were:
Trapshill
Ashton’s Pool
On the Common
Foxhill
Kiln House
By the Stream

Sadly I forgot to take any pics while I was walking round – so here’s a picture of the lunch I had in the pub instead :-)

Hopefully tomorrow, there’ll be the proper blog about the Lake District trip – watch this space!

Home Again

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Hi chums, I’m back!

I’ve been cachepeditioning with Rob and Sarah in the Lake District – we had a great time, found 32 caches, 3 trig points and one letterbox (we’ll tell you about that sometime). It deserves a better blog than I’ve got time to write just now, so here are some photos to keep you going:

Day One, the cachepedition team: From left, Sarah, Rob and me.

Expedition planning in the cottage – or “Six Quarry Brow???, as it’s rather unimaginatively known.

At the cache “Loughrigg Fell??? – it was a bit misty that day.

Rob once again committing culinary magic on behalf of us all.

As you can see, we ate well and we ate plenty. This is Wednesday’s evening meal.

Coniston Old Man, from our start point. It’s a long way up.
Pic © Rob Arnold

We made it – here’s Rob, at the trig point on Coniston Old Man. We’d just done simultaneous century caches – his 400th and my 800th.

This is the view from “Dawn Recon??? – that peak on the right of the picture is Coniston Old Man. The lake in the distance is, of course, Coniston.

Rob looking intrepid – this is very near the cache “Memory Seat”

At the last cache of the cachepedition, and by his time we’d acquired nicknames, which may or may not be explained later: from left, Shrimp, Plankton and Great Uncle Bulgaria

Feedback

Friday, October 5th, 2007

Alistair’s comment on yesterday’s offering can be summarised as “You can make all the laws you like, but enforcement of existing law is what’s needed”.

Yer man Ali is quite right, of course – my suggestion would be putting enforcement back in the hands of the people who stand to benefit: in the particular case I was thinking of, the neigbours who are inconvenienced by the selfish ostrichholes blocking the road outside Co-Op. In Southampton, parking enforcement is in the hands of something called the “City Patrol”, which is the new name for what used to be the council dog mess picker-uppers. Which means that in practice, no-one is enforcing parking or picking up dog mess.

Lorry makes a fair point too – about cyclists who ride on the road rather than using cycle lanes. Although back in my days as a cyclist – admittedly a few years back now – you HAD to ride on the road: if you used a cycle lane, you’d either smash into an illegally-parked car, get yelled at by a pedestrian who thinks the cycle lane is a pavement, or bash your brains out on a low overhanging branch because those same council geniusses who installed the cycle lane didn’t think they needed clearing. Or more likely, just didn’t think.

Yawn. Holiday starts tomorrow. I think I need it.

If I Made the Law…

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

if I made the law, right, it’d be the law that every time you went out of the house, you had to take a hammer with you.

And it’d be the law that if you saw a car parked on double yellow lines, you HAD to use your hammer to smash the windows. If they were not only on double yellows, but were also blocking one of those sepcial wheelchair access ramps in the kerb, you’d have to smash the lights as well.

And if all this happened outside a convenience store, and they’d “just popped in for their lottery ticket” you’d ALSO have to slash the tyres.

I’m still formulating my policy on cyclists who don’t stop at red traffic lights, who ride on the pavement, or who ride at night without lights.

Intolerant? Moi?

I’m My Own Gran’pa

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

And “Maw, will ya get down off the dang roof?”. Only in certain parts of the Yoonited States could this happen.

So yes, major confrontation with Mungo of the Sarnie Shoppe today. Well, not really – I went in there clutching my 500 Ugandan shillings (see yesterday’s offering if you don’t know what I’m on about)…but he was a bit busy, so instead of berating him for handing out foreign currency in change, I used it to pay for my smoked salmon and watercress sandwich. I’m sure technically that’s wrong, but since I got it from him in the first place I expect it comes under the heading of “Fair exchange is no robbery”

You Know When You’ve Been Mungo’ed

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

I went over Mungo’s Sandwich Shoppe at lunchtime.

In my change was a pound coin and a handful of other bits of coinage, which I stuffed in my pocket without paying much attention. Mea culpa :-(

About mid-afternoon, in need of a sugar fix, I took myself off to the vending machine – which refused my pound coin. I tried it a couple of times without success, before giving up and going to the alternative vending facilities on the ground floor. It didn’t work there either. Rather too late, I examined my quid.

Five hundred Ugandan shillings. Or in English, about fourteen pence. I think I’ll be back to have words with Mungo tomorrow.