Archive for January, 2008

Time’s Wingéd Chariot

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

There is, apparently, an old Chinese saying1 which goes ”a man with a watch always knows the time: a man with two watches is never sure”.

On my desk at work I’ve got two time pieces: The clock on my network terminal and the clock on the phone – as the phone is connected to the IT net you’d expect these two to show the same time. You’d expect…

At one point this afternoon, I noticed that my mobile phone said 15:32, and my wristwatch – which is set to “railway time” – 15:33. The computer showed 15:31 and the telephone 15:37. Luckily we don’t have any normal wall clocks or no doubt they’d all show different times as well.

Is it any wonder I wander around looking baffled most of the time?

1 Or should that be “salad saying”?

Annie Versary

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

It’s a year ago today, that I was told I was being made redundant.

It’s also a year ago today, that I spotted the job I’m now doing advertised, and thought “Ooh, that looks good…I’d like to have a go at that”. It’s a little while before I can celebrate my one-year anniversary in the job, but this time last year was pretty good too :-) . And I’ve since learned that some of the people at Jellies R Us Head Office, with whom I signally failed to get on, have also left, some of them not voluntarily.

I’ll do a review of my first year in the Civil at the appropriate time, but I’m glad I’m out of that job. I liked most of the people I worked with, but they were a rubbish firm to work for.


Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Oh, the shame of it. I think I need counselling to get over my self-loathing.

Someone left a newspaper on the train yesterday evening, which in the interest of recycling, I picked up and scanned through. I became so engrossed that I didn’t notice that we’d reached Southampton, and if the train hadn’t terminated there, I’d have missed my stop.

So what was it that was so fascinating? ”The Wit and Wisdom of Jeremy Clarkson”

It you see me on “Oprah Winfrey”, don’t jeer too much. I’m trying to purge my shame.


Monday, January 28th, 2008

Aparently I was the only person at the MongMeet who took any photos…mwah hah hah! So, we assembled at the Eaton Farm…and true to form, even though Jenny only lives half a mile away, and had the shortest journey by at least fifty miles, she still wasn’t the first to arrive. OK, Lois and I were also late, but we were relying on Jenny for a lift…


Clockwise round the table: Louise, Sarah, Ian, Jenny, Ned, Nigel.

From left: Max, Neil, Tammy, Jan

From left: Simon, Alistair, Alison, Sam

Alison and THOSE socks. I really hope some of her pupils get to see this.

When it was all over, Jan took a few for the journey

Then a few of us went back to Jenny’s house to play with kittens. Nice. So thanks to Jenny for organising the whole thing, and to her and Chris for providing accomodation for Nigel and me. Oh, and the Italian Beef Casserole on Friday, and the lifts to the station, and the entertainment.

When’s the next MongMeet?

I Forgot…

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

…to mention that before I went to Nottyham, I had time to grab a cache near St Pancreatitis station. Back at New Year I’d failed to find a cache outside the British Library…because it was missing. No trouble this time though, so I soon added British Library Cache to my finds :-)

Has anyone been to St Pancras lately? They’ve spent a fortune on making it nice for the Eurostar users, but it’s monkey for domestic users. Three bureaux de change and no cashpoint – whose idea was that? Mind you, the staff are the friendliest and most helpful of any station I’ve used recently.

Riding on Midland Mainline was good too. Free tea and coffee, free wine, free newspaper…I love the fact that if you book far enough in advance you can travel first class cheaper than standard :-D


Saturday, January 26th, 2008

The King of Sweden and I made a pact to blog embarrassing pictures of ourselves on New Year’s Eve. Then we both forgot.

So we moved the arrangement forward to today: Neil’s pictures will be here. And here are mine…

Here’s me finishing the New York Marathon, October 28th 1984

And here I am being the voice of Hospital Radio. I think this is Salisbury Fire Station, no idea which year

The chairman of Hospital Radio took this one. Not only that, he insisted on using it in our station magazine. I hate him.

The Hospital Radio Christmas Special, Christmas Eve 1989. I hadn’t slept for 36 hours when this was taken – does it show?

Back when Southampton had an ice rink, we did a show every Christmas. I have no idea which show, or which scene, these costumes were for.


Friday, January 25th, 2008

I’m in Nottingham again!

Yes, for one week(end) only, the gun crime capital of England becomes the SimonG Meet capital of England – possibly an even less desirable title. For tomorrow, fans of the Mighty Mongers will descend upon the Eaton Farm for a day of Mong-related Merriment. There may also be eating and drinking.

This means that tomorrow evening (at a minute to midnight) you get a cheesy cheating pre-written blog. I don’t want to build your hopes up too much, but there will be at least some photos of me that a lot of you won’t have seen before…

But the main reason I mention all this, is to tell all my Scrabulous-playing partners that I haven’t got the laptop with me: The PDA is OK for basic blogging and e-mailing, but you’ll have to wait until I get home to continue inflicting virtual-board-game-induced misery on me. I bet you can’t wait.

Early in the Morning

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

When I first spotted this – at the station this morning – I thought it proved that South West Trains not only have rubbish on-board announcements, but they can’t spell either. But what I suspect it proves is that at half six in the morning, almost anything seems funny.

What’s really sad is that that’s the funniest thing that happened today.

Chitter Chatter

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Regular readers will know that I like to have a doze on the train in the mornings…and sometimes in the evening as well. My morning snooze is normally aided by the fact that everyone else in our carriage does the same thing (apart from a couple of silent book-readers), so there’s little noise to bother us.

Until this morning’s arrival of…THE TOURISTS!!! He and she flopped themselves into the pair of seats directly behind me, and started a stream of chatter that lasted all the way to Waterloo. If I chose, I could relate every detail of her Pilates class last night.

It was worth it though, for the moment or two of sheer comedy as we neared Waterloo. Looking out of the window, she told her companion “Ooh look, there’s Tower Bridge. No, it can’t be Tower Bridge, we’re a long way from there. It’s some sort of castle…I wonder which one?”.

Just on the off-chance she’s reading this…it was Battersea Power Station, dear.


Monday, January 21st, 2008

According to the local paper – not the most reliable source of news, but the only place I could find the story – there’s been an accident at Southampton Container Terminal over the weekend.

Regular readers will know that I applied for the Health and Safety job there last year: I didn’t get it, and after the second interview I’d decided I didn’t want it anyway. The story seems to have disappeared from the Echo website now, but while it was there it was attracting loads of comments.

These seemed to fall into three groups: Docks employees (or people claiming to be docks employees) saying “Health and Safety in the docks is parrot”; docks employees (or people claiming etc) saying “Health and Safety in the docks is first-rate” and a slightly odd side-thread comprising local residents saying “The docks would be a lot safer – and we’d have more peace – if container handling stopped between 8:00 PM and 8:00 AM”. The resultant 50% cut in throughput doesn’t seem to have occurred to them.

Of course, my experience of the docks is limited to what I learned in the presentation about the job that we were given at the first interview, and I won’t pass comment based on that. But in my wide-ranging Health and Safety experience, people who say “Health and Safety here is rubbish” – or variations on that theme – tend to be people who know perfectly well they’re breaking the rules of their workplace but don’t want to admit that any accident might be their fault. In previous jobs I’ve been told Health and Safety was rubbish by people deliberately working on unguarded electrical machinery without turning the power off first.
UPDATE: I found the story here.

We Took the Madding Crowd with Us

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

The pic shows a bunch of geocaching chums in Dorset this morning, hidden away behind Thomas Hardy’s cottage. We’d travelled down to do some caches in the Puddletown Forest – followed, needless to say, by a pub lunch! Having solved a code-breaking puzzle we were able to quickly find a small cache containing the co-ordinates for the next three:
Maisie’s Madcache 1: Sergeant Troy
Maisie’s Madcache 2: Farmer Boldwood
Maisie’s Madcache 3: Gabriel Oak

Not far from the third of these, we already knew there was a virtual cache,
Far From the Madding Crowd, where the picture at the top of this entry was taken. Then we split up, some heading for another puzzle cache while the rest of us first went to a second virtual,
Family Tree. From here we followed our chums to the puzzle they’d already found,
Fair Play.

On the way back to the car, there was of course time for the now-traditional picture of Rob trying to throw Sarah in some mud. Then it was time to head for the pub, the Blue Vinny, named after one of my favourite cheeses, made right here in Dorset. The food at the pub was excellent and the staff dealt with us with good humour – we’ll be back here, I’m sure. We were really lucky to find this place, we only came here because our first choice pub wouldn’t reserve a table for twenty-five!

Then I drove Rob and Sarah home, and on the way home from there I found
Motorway Mayhem M27 J3. And them I went home to clean my walking boots and have a rest :-) . A good day.

Chuck Key’s In Love

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

The DIY-er’s Prayer

Lord, help me to remember…

  • …when it says in the catalogue “Easy to follow instructions”, that only applies if you’re fluent in Serbo-Croatian
  • …when it says on the box “Fit with ordinary DIY tools”, that means you need more tools than B&Q
  • …when it says “All fixings included”, that means they’ve given you some screws made of a weird material that looks like metal, but is actually Play-Doh
  • …that ten seconds before you start the job is not the time to discover the batteries on the cordless screwdriver are flat. And the charger’s broken.
  • …that the eleventh commandment of DIY is, “If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth getting a proper man in to do it”

The Gottle Towers burglar alarm is in. This is all your fault, Pringle :-)


Friday, January 18th, 2008

A couple of little updates for you…

My letter to my MP, reproduced here last week, elicited a postcard, thanking me for my communication, “which will be dealt with”. So we’ll wait and see…

My letter to First Bus – complaining about the disparity between their New Years Day services, and what they’d advertised on their website – so far has had no response at all. Which is a shame, because I’m about to write another one. About six of us were waiting for the bus home from the railway station this evening when it came round the corner.

And went past.

I wasn’t the only one jumping up and down and getting a bit annoyed about that – and with twenty minutes till the next bus, I walked home. Ah well, good exercise.

Face the Board

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

According to an article I saw today on the BBC news website, the copyright owners of “Scrabble” are pressing Facebook to close down Scrabulous, their on-line “Scrabble-esque” game.

I can sort-of see their point: if it was set up without their permission then their design copyright has been breached. But I can’t really see what they’re losing by it, I don’t suppose anyone is playing Scrabulous instead of Scrabble, and it’s probably introducing the board game to a generation that doesn’t play board games.

From a purely selfish point of view, if Scrabulous goes, I’ll have lost my principal reason for using Facebook and I won’t use the site anywhere near as often as I do now. On the other hand if it was a pay-to-use application, so that Mattel and Spears Games could get a royalty, I’d pay a reasonable subscription to use it, because it’s fun. But if it goes altogether, I can’t help thinking that the licence holders will have thrown away the best free advertising they’re likely to get.

Facebook now has a fast-growing “Save Scrabulous” group. If you’re on Facebook, and you think as I do, please support it.

Stupid Too

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

I expect after yesterday’s blog, someone out there was thinking “Hah, what a hypocrite! He lambasts The Idiot Clarkson, yet he watches Top Gear!”.

Erm, well, yes – but I watched Titanic, may God forgive me, but it doesn’t mean I think that driving ships into icebergs is a good thing. Or that I think Celine Dion can sing, or Kate Winslet act.

For my readers from Forrin – and yes, there are a couple – I should explain that Top Gear is a comedy programme where three idiots pretend to be doing a serious motoring programme. It’s amusing in its own way, the real problem is that there are some people young and stupid enough to believe that the standard of driving displayed by Clarkson is acceptable behaviour. These people then drive that way themselves – when they haven’t yet learned judgement or gained maturity – and if they’re really lucky they learn the hard way. The unlucky ones don’t get the chance to learn.

In my own defence, I DID once watch something with Ricky Gervais in. I’ve learned from that mistake, too. .


Monday, January 14th, 2008

I see the idiot Clarkson is up to his usual stupid standard.

In his column in last Friday’s Times (sorry, can’t be arsed to provide a link), he describes the Health & Safety profession as “Hi-viz Nazis” and goes on to imply that Health and Safety is the reason that everything takes so long in the UK.

I wonder if the families of the 250 people killed in workplace accidents every year agree with him?

I’ll be the first to say that some stupid rules have been made by people who think they know about Health & Safety – the latest story about a volunteer coastguard being hounded out of his job for daring to rescue a child stuck on cliffs is a good example – but that doesn’t make the Health and Safety profession a bad thing, any more than Harold Shipman meant that all doctors are murderers.

If the government are serious about removing petty, unnecessarily restrictive Health and Safety rules – and at the same time improving workplace safety – the answer doesn’t lie on Planet Clarkson. The answer lies in regulation of the profession, to root out the cowboy practitioners who have to ban everything because they don’t know any better. In sweeping away the dross, employers will be able to focus on the real risks and perhaps some of those 250 won’t die next year.

And incidentally – anyone see the Best of Top Gear last night, where they sailed home-made amphibious cars across the channel? Funny how they showed none of the safety measures that Clarkson himself insisted on, before he’d leave the safety of the land.


Sunday, January 13th, 2008

When a tree gets old and gnarly, you can sometimes see faces in the wood. They’re not often as realistic as this though…

As you might guess, yesterday afternoon I went caching with Rob and Sarah. They’d never done one of my caches, Bob’s Box, and I wanted to go and do a maintenance visit, so off we plodded through the mud.

Having changed the cache camera for a fresh one, we headed off for a nearby cache which none of us had done, Knockin’ on Oven’s Door. The tree in the picture had an oven door cut from it many years ago, and that’s what made it the interesting shape it is now.

And then we went to the pub :-)

This morning I was being a Raynet person on the Stubbington Green 10k Race, after which I enjoyed an afternoon’s geocaching – and as you can see it was a bit wet – I’d just crossed this bridge! There’s a lovely series of caches along a stretch of the Solent Way, and in an eight mile walk, I found
Solent Way – Cliff Top
Solent Way – Brownwich Farm
Solent Way – Wight View
Solent Way – Solent Breezes
Solent Way – Calshot View
Solent Way – Hook Park
Solent Way – Old Wall
Solent Way – Titchfield Haven

And then I went to the car wash to give Grunty a bath, and then I went home and had one myself. Is it bed time yet?

Emm Pee

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

Given that I have a reputation for being a bit bolshy sometimes, you might be surprised to know that I haven’t written to an MP for ages…so long that it was back when a Conservative was our MP. Anyway, I was delighted to discover that thanks to a website called write to them, it’s as easy as. You type in your postcode and it tells you your local councillor, your MP, and your Euro representatives. You click on a name, type an e-mail, and it sends it for you.

So, what excited all this…excitement?

Dear Alan Whitehead,

I am writing to draw your attention to Michael Clapham’s Early Day Motion, EDM 234, calling for the regulation of the Health and Safety profession.

I’m sure you’ve seen the newspaper stories about so-called health and safety rules imposed by companies and public bodies, which defy common sense. These rules come about because there are a small number of people working in health and safety who have no knowledge and little experience, and so resort to a “ban everything” approach. This imposes unnecessary, costly and inconvenient restrictions on workplaces and public life, and brings the health and safety profession into disrepute. More importantly, it distracts attention away from true areas of risk.

Regulation of the profession could lead to all health and safety practitioners being focused on true areas of risk, with a removal of the pointless restrictions and an improvement in workplace safety for all.

I commend the motion to you and ask you to support it.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Gottle
Health and Safety Professional

I’ll let you know what happens.

Where the F*** is Winchester?

Friday, January 11th, 2008

The train was just pulling out of Waterloo this evening when a last-minute boarder had this conversation with the buffet attendant:

“What time does this train get to Surbiton?”
“This one doesn’t go to Surbiton – well, it goes there, but it doesn’t stop”
“What? Oh s**t! You’re joking! Oh…what about Woking?”
“It doesn’t stop at Woking either”
“First stop on this service is Winchester”
“Winchester??? Where the F*** is Winchester?”

I’m trying hard not to laugh – it’s only a matter of time before I do something that daft myself. At least the Eurostar doesn’t go from Waterloo any more, so I’m not going to find myself waking up in Brussels.

And on the subject of slightly sweary, has anyone spotted the posters for a new film called “PS I Love You”? It stars someone called Hilary Swank.

Hilary Swank. Now there’s a name that’s crying out for an apostrophe.

If Only…

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

We were discussing sport at work today.

In particular, m’colleague Pam and I were debating the relative merits of cricket and tennis as spectator sports: cricket won because as Pam pointed out, “If it rains at the cricket you get drunk: if it rains at Wimbledon you get sung at by Cliff Richard”. Fair enough, can’t argue about that.

But it made us wonder, who made the decision that Cliff Richard was suitable entertainment for a tennis crowd? OK, it seems to make sense that a crowd who’d pay to watch Tim Henman would have pretty low expectations of their entertainment, but I suspect the reason he was given a microphone was that he was there, and he offered to do it for nothing.

Which, coincidentally, is about what I’d pay to see Cliff Richard, but that’s irrelevant.

So it seems likely that the qualification for being the rain-break act at Wimbledon is to be there. Which in turn made us think…

Wouldn’t it be great if Lemmy from Motorhead liked tennis?

Mungo Meals

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

Just for a change, I called into Mungo’s Porridge Shop on my walk to the office this morning. The usual menu listing today’s porridge selection was missing, so I asked the lady what was on offer.

“What’s on the list”

I looked around helplessly until she retrieved the list from its hiding place under the counter and deigned to put it on public view. I chose what I wanted – listed as £1-70 – and she charged me £1-50. I wasn’t inspired to argue.

And then at lunchtime, m’colleague David pointed me in the direction of Mungo’s Toasted Teacake Shop, which was much better organised.