Archive for February, 2008

Morning with Mungo

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

Although I often moan about First Bus Southampton being rubbish, it’s just possible they’ve done something useful this time.

They’ve adjusted some of their timetables, which means there’s a slightly earlier bus I can catch in the morning. If this bus runs exactly to time, it means I can leave home a couple of minutes earlier than I do at the moment, but catch the half-hour-earlier train. And with the introduction of a formal flexitime policy coming to the workplace soon, that could be worthwhile.

Out of three attempts this week so far, the bus has:
– once got me there in time for the early train
– once not got me there in time
– once got me there in time, but only because the train was five minutes late.

However, based on this morning’s experiment, getting the early train means I can get to London in time to

  • Walk to the office rather than bus or tube
  • Stop and chat to my favourite Big Issue vendor
  • Call in to Mungo’s Mother’s Day Present Shop and get something nice for my luvvly Mum
  • Call into Mungo’s Breakfast Shop and get an egg + bacon muffin
  • Sit in Mungo’s Park1 and eat my egg and bacon muffin

…and still get to work in time to rack up half an hour flexi. I think this is one experiment worth persevering with.

1 Tee hee, Mungo’s Park…didja see what I did there?

Grrr…

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

Apologies to those of you who’ve had difficulties locating Gottle’s Bloggy Goodness this week.

34sp – who own the server which is Gottleblog’s home – have changed their service terms, which means that the old address – www.g0tlg.34sp.com will stop working. The new address is www.g0tlg.ismysite.co.uk – I know, it’s rubbish isn’t it? 34sp promised that people using the old address would automatically see the new address for at least a month, to give site owners the chance to tell all their users – as some of you have discovered, this auto-forward is varying between “intermittent” and “non-existent”.

If you currently have a link on your website, or in your favourites, to g0tlg.34sp.com, please change it to www.duell.org.uk 1 – it’ll work then, and when I move to a different host to get away from 34sp’s idea of customer service, it’ll keep working. In the meantime, if you find a link within the site that doesn’t work, please be patient – I’m sorting them as quickly as I can.

1 Jenny – I’ve already sorted the link on your web page :-)

Late in the Evening

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

After I got all smug in yesterday’s post, the journey home wasn’t quite so smooth.

I was on the slow train – which is a bit quicker than waiting for the fast train, but that’s beside the point. We’d reached Eastleigh, and the people who wanted to get off there had done so. Then the automatic on-board PA announced “Would the guard please contact the driver”.

That’s usually bad news, and it proved to be so this time. The guard came on a minute or two later. “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for the delay in leaving Eastleigh. This service will be diverted via Fareham, owing to a fatality at Swaythling”.

So most of us grabbed our bags and piled off the train. As I left the station, there were a crowd of commuters giving the guard a bad time. Why? It’s not like he’s going to say “OK, fair enough, never mind the dead body, we’ll go through anyway” is it? The tragi-comic element was provided by two paramedics laden with equipment, looking for the accident – the guard told them it was a Swaythling, and they ran back across the bridge, jumped in their ambulance, and sped off.

I was standing outside the station, debating whether to ring Rockin’ Rob and ask if his taxi service was running tonight, when a bus arrived with “Southampton” on the board. Three or four of us climbed in – followed by the people who’d been abusing the train guard. They started abusing the bus driver instead, because he wouldn’t change his route and go to Southampton Airport station where their cars were parked.

I was half an hour late home. I’ve been later than that when the trains were OK!

Early in the Morning

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Things worked out rather well this morning.

For a start, all the trains were running 15 minutes late, so when I got to the station, the delayed 6:30 was just arriving – so I got to London a quarter of an hour earlier than normal. Plus, of course, it was a lovely morning, sunny and not too cold. A lovely morning for sitting and eating your breakfast bacon sarnie in the park.

In short, it was an ideal day for discovering that someone’s hidden a new geocache, only a short diversion from your normal walk to work :-)

Puzzle

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Today’s little puzzle is in the form of this photo of the back of Sally-J’s car: See the clean patch on the back bumper, just under the boot handle? What do you reckon caused that? Five house points to the first comment with the correct answer – ten points for the funniest answer…

In spite of yesterday’s early start, there was no lie-in today as I had to be at church at the normal time. It was a nice service though, so it was worth it.

You might be surprised to know that the afternoon was spent caching with Rob and Sarah (who I should remind you, for clarity, is the same person as Sally-J). We started with a micro that’s defeated many cachers, including Rob on a previous occasion! Very Worthy is a very cleverly disguised little container, hidden in a wood on the site of a Celtic campsite. We found it today though!

By the time we got back to the cars it was raining, so we retired to the pub to wait for the sun to return, and then headed off to Treasure Tree. We could have driven to this one in Grunty – we could have driven to this one in UWN – but we decided to get some exercise, and walked it.

The last one for the day – before retiring to a different pub – was Not Another Micro in a Wood!, a protest cache about people placing micros where a “proper” cache could go. I won’t spoil it for future finders – but it’s a good one!

Have you noticed – no pic of Sarah being thrown in the mud? We must be going soft…

Southampton, Southampton – It Used to be My Kind of Town

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Grunty Gruntmobile had her MOT today.

I’d chosen a garage in the town centre, the rationale being that I could deliver her at opening time, go for some breakfast in one of Southampton’s numerous eateries, then mooch round the shops until she was ready to go. I arrived as planned, and headed off to the cafe in the Bargate Centre. Which apparently only sells things like baguettes, paninis and cold meats and salad :-(

“Never fear”, I thought to myself, “for not far away is one of my favourite food places, the cafe on top of John Lewis’s’s’s’s’s”. Which would have been great, had it been open that early in the day. There’s a food court in the same shopping centre, but open options at that time were Unlucky Fried Kitten, McNasty, or Luigi’s Breakfast Experience de Italia. I quite like Italian food, but not at half past eight in the morning.

Woolworths used to have a restaurant which did all-day breakfasts – but where Woolies used to be is now a building site for a new T K Maxx store. And by now the pangs of hunger were starting to bite a bit.

I ended up at Thyme in the Marlands Centre (Jenny – you’ll remember it as Brophy’s), where I got a proper fried brekkie and a cup of coffee so thick the spoon stood up in it, for four squids. So it wasn’t all a failure – but what’s happened to Southampton? There used to be so many cafes and breakfast bars that you had a major choice: I suppose the fact that I was the only customer using any of them is the giveaway, people aren’t using these places so they’re not staying open. People of Southampton AWAKE! And start using your local services. Or the next time you want a good filling breakfast, you might be stuck with an anaemic bread substitute with some cole slaw in it.

Oh, and my Bank of Toytown security device arrived. It’s rubbish. Still, I’ve paid Marie what she was waiting for (and J&C, you owe me!)

Bank

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Thanks to everyone for their helpful guidance following yesterday’s little moan about Braclay’s Bonk: Rich of March House is probably right, these things are likely to be the way of the future and whichever bank I’m with, I’m going to end up using one. And if someone as savvy as Rich is happy with the security aspects, I guess I should be too. I just wish they didn’t look like something out of the Early Learning Centre…

My main moan was and is with the customer service aspect of the whole debacle: I’ve got someone waiting for me to pay them money – over 300, so it’s reasonable that I’d wait until the last moment to pay, waiting till after I’d been paid or whatever. Then just when I’m relying on the convenience and immediacy of internet banking, they tell me I’ve got to wait a week while they send me some stupid gadget that looks like a Toys R Us “My First Calculator”.

At this stage in my research, it looks like I’ll be opening a Nationwide current account. They pay a decent rate of interest, and the only significant downside appears to be the unauthorised overdraft charge, which shouldn’t be a factor. I’m old fashioned enough to be not totally happy with internet-only banking, and Nationwide have a branch close to home, and they’re the nearest bank branch to work.

More research needed – watch this space.

Bonk

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Barclays Bank, eh?

I’ve been a customer of theirs since I got my first payslip in 1982. At the time they were the only bank that opened on Saturday mornings, so they were the obvious choice for a lad starting his first job. I’ve had several loans from them, which I’ve always paid on time. I’ve been overdrawn a couple of times, but generally always managed to have them owing me money rather than vice versa.

Of course in those days, internet banking hadn’t been invented. I was a bit of a latecomer to internet banking, but have found it really useful for paying bills, and transferring money to chums when I owed them stuff.

Until now.

Last night I tried to transfer some money to the people organising the next Hospital Radio conference. I’ve paid them on-line before, but Barclays “Pay someone I’ve paid before” option refused to recognise them, so I tried to set them up as a new customer. Which you can’t do any more, until they’ve sent you a swipe card thingy to plug into your computer, to swipe your debit card through.

HOW CHUFFING RUBBISH IS THAT???????

I want to pay money to a registered charity, to whom I’ve paid money before. Online access to my account is protected by, effectively, three different passwords. And there’s been no warning of this stupid new system. And that’s before you consider my reluctance to plug anything into my computer without understanding what it is, AND my reluctance to swipe my debit card through anything without being reasonably sure what it is.

I’ve asked them to send me the gadget, of course – if they’re going to inconvenience me, I can at least cost them a few quid. Anyone recommend a good bank that’d like my business?

UPDATE: Minutes after writing this, I had a letter from my building society, offering me a current acocunt with them. Anyone know what Nationwide banking is like?

Pictures

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I thought that those among my readers who have a little sadism in their character might enjoy this one: It’s at the end of Sunday’s very muddy cross-country race, and the competitors are queueing up to be jet-washed, before being allowed into the nice clean changing rooms. I’m wondering if I ought to take the jet-washer next time we go caching, ready for when Rob throws Sarah in the mud?

I should really have asked him to jet wash Grunty’s wheel arches out – MOT man isn’t going to be very pleased with me on Saturday :-(

And on the subject of pictures, have you ever seen anything as cute as this lot?

Zzzzz

Monday, February 18th, 2008

Given that I spend about 4 hours a day commuting, you probably won’t be surprised that I like to have a sleep on the train, especially in the morning – I’ve been doing this most days since I started, gently dozing away at least part of the journey.

But this morning was the first time I’ve been nudged to stop me snoring :-(

In other news, remember I wrote to my MP a few weeks back? I was encouraging him to support an early day motion about regulating the Health and Safety profession, so that only people who actually know what they’re doing could be Heath and Safety people. Well, I’ve had a reply – Alan Whitehead MP won’t be supporting the early day motion, because he’s taken advice fron the Department of Work And Pensions, and they think the existing system works fine. I wonder if the families and friends of the 250 people killed at work last year would agree?

Ah well – I didn’t vote for him, anyway

Race

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

In spite of Rob’s comment, I’m quite glad I missed Basingstoke last night. My throat was still rough when I got up this morning and I hadn’t slept as well as I could. Still, I’d agreed to go and work on the Meon Valley Plod, so off I went.

It was a fantastic day – the ice was over an inch thick on some of the puddles, but the sunshine was glorious. There were paragliders over Small Down, visible from checkpoint one, and towards the end of the afternoon there were a couple of hot air balloons overhead. And I took Grunty offroad, over Teglease Down :-)

The bad news was that I didn’t get to the caching chums meet, which was only a couple of miles away. I got held up on the event, and by the time I phoned Sally-J to see if the meet was still going on, it wasn’t.

I did find a cache on the way to the race, though! Wild West End is a fun little puzzle, and a lovely location.

Koff koff

Croak

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Remember I said my throat was better? Bah. Or should I say, “croak”.

Still, it didn’t stop me doing most of what was planned today – a haircut in the morning, and some light shopping – accompanied by meeting a friend for coffee – in the afternoon. Oh, and a trip to the gym. The only bit of the day that didn’t work out, was that I didn’t get to Basingstoke to see Rob’s band play. Which was a double blow, because I could have made a rather useful delivery for him while I was going…

Ah well – busy day tomorrow, and I have to be in good order. And I’m sure TRU will play again – preferably somewhere that isn’t a vicars and tarts party!

Oops

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

Well that didn’t work quite how I intended…

I had to go to Hospital Radio this evening, as I was on duty as the locking-up keyholder – but with m’colleague Rockin’ Rob on a three-line-whip to attend some kind of Valentine celebration with his lady, I wasn’t doing a show. So I resolved to take the lappytoppy and get some useful stuff done – a bit of programme preparation, some work on a talk I’ve got to do in six weeks time (ulp!), and maybe even finish the minutes of the meeting six weeks ago – double ulp.

Except that during an exchange of texts this afternoon, Rob told me how to do various clever things at the studio that I’ve been meaning to learn for some time. So: amount of faffing about – sorry, I mean “practising new techniques” done: Plenty. Amount of useful stuff done: Rather less than plenty.

Still, the good news is I’m feeling much better today, thanks :-)

Brrm Brrm

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Hi chums – just a brief blogette today I’m afraid. I’ve been feeling a bit rubbish, sore throat and sneezy and all that kind of thing. So an early night is going to be the order of the day…errm, night…at Gottle HQ.

But I must just reflect on the news that’s keeping the nation’s capital buzzing. To the existing congestion charge has been added an emissions charge – “gas guzzlers” entering the congestion charge zone will pay a total of 25 a day, compared to the 8 fee for most cars.

The new charge has been heralded as a tax on urban 4x4s. I don’t know why it’s so fashionable to hate 4x4s, but anyway – the funny thing is that a lot of ordinary family cars will be hit by the charge, including several models of Vauxhall Zafira and Vectra, Honda Accord and Volvo V70. And even funnier is that in the unlikely event that I take her to central London, dear old Grunty Gruntmobile – being over 7 years old and under 3000cc – is exempt :-)

Picture Perfect

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Today’s “Let’s spark off the reactionaries” in the Echo (why oh why do I read that twaddle?) focuses on the new street lights that may be coming to Southampton: As well as lighting the streets at night – in the brief span between installation and vandalism – they MAY offer mini wi-fi hotspots, and/or have fitted cameras as part of the CCTV network.

Thankfully, not even Echo readers are dim enough to believe that the city is going to provide free wi-fi, but the CCTV business has got people hot under the collar. Apparently – according to the more excitable correspondents – Big Brother must be stopped right now. At least one correspondent firmly believes that the government are going to store all the CCTV recordings, then criminalise some currently normal everyday behaviour. They’ll then scan the recordings, and use them to prosecute people who broke the new laws before they were laws.

Regular readers will know that I’m no fan of the government, and certainly in the days when Bliar was in charge I’d believe most things but even I’m not that paranoid.

Apparently the new blanket CCTV coverage (in the brief interval between installation and breakdown, assuming it ever happens at all ) will make it possible for “them” to know where every citizen is, all day every day. Leaving aside the “well maybe, but why would they want to?” question – just how many CCTV operatives do these paranoid loonies thnk “they” are going to employ?

If it makes one would-be mugger think again, bring it on.

I Promised you Some Photographs…

Monday, February 11th, 2008

…of our day out caching on Sunday. I’ve woken up a bit now so I’ve managed to sort them out…

Wasn’t it a lovely sunny day? We spotted a highland cow on our way to the first cache. That’s Old Winchester Hill in the background.

While Rob reads a book he found in the cache, Sarah fills in the log book. This was at the cache “Conkers Bonkers”

We promised Sarah, “No more pictures of Rob throwing Sarah in some mud”. So here’s a picture of Rob dropping Sarah in some mud.

Oh look, there’s Old Winchester Hill again. This is toward the end of the afternoon, while I was trying to shake off a headache caused by the bright sunshine!

Here’s the best of my pics of a tree at sunset. I expect Rob’s are rather better, but I haven’t seen them yet.

This was Rob’s lunch. He cooked it himself. In case it isn’t clear from the picture, this is what it looked like before he ate it.

And this was my evening meal in the Queens Head. It was every bit as fabby as it looks – and that isn’t gravy, it’s barbecue sauce. Oh, and for anyone wondering about my diet, I ate Rob’s salad as well as my own :-)

Unseasonably Warm

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

It was unseasonably warm today – Rob and Sarah and I did an eight-mile caching walk, and we didn’t need pullovers or coats at all, all day. Our walk around the Meon Valley took us first to What’s in a Name, which unfortunately we couldn’t find. Even after Phoning a Friend (the Honourable Nobby, who found it recently), all we could find was a cache-sized hole in some greenery, so we think it might be missing :-(

A couple of miles walking brought us to The South Downs Way Jolly Up Number 4, a nice cache, well hidden alongside a stream. And then it was on to Conkers Bonkers, where we thought we were being really subtle until some passing people called out “Hello cachers!”. Ah well…

Up the hill – oh, the steep hill, puff puff – brought us to The South Downs Way Jolly Up Number 3 another clever hide with excellent views. And finally to one I’d already done, but Rob and Sarah hadn’t: Beacon Book Box.

And then we went to the pub, where we had a really good meal and planned our Dartmoor weekend. There’ll be some photos of today (including a rather nice one of Rob throwing Sarah in some mud) in tomorrow’s post – for now I’m off to bed. G’night all.

Tired

Friday, February 8th, 2008

I’ve had a busy couple of days. The short version is that I’ve been training and auditing at one of our regional offices, combined with spending rather a lot of time on trains. The good bit is that I got to stay with Jenny and Chris – and play with kittens – last night.

Those of you waiting to read what I think about the latest furore over the Archbishop of Canterbury, will have to keep waiting – unlike the Daily Mail – and many others – I’m not going to comment until I’ve had a chance to properly read what he said.

Still, I’ve got a good weekend coming up – a theatre trip tomorrow, and geocaching on Sunday. Hurrah!

Eye Eye!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2008

Yesterday’s source of all news great and trivial, the Southampton Echo website, carried a non-story about a taxi driver whose private hire licence renewal was turned down by Winchester City Council, a decision overturned by Andover Magistrates. The reason for the original refusal? He lost the sight of one eye to diabetes four years ago.

Anyone who knows me at all well will realise that I was interested in following this one – I like driving, I have diabetes and I was born with only one working eye. Given that it’s taken the council four years to do anything about this bloke – and given that the story is in the Echo – I can’t help thinking there’s some relevant fact we’re not being told, but the great and the good who comment on the Echo website aren’t known for letting the facts get in the way of a good rant.

Of course we had the usual tired old myth trotted out that one-eyed people shouldn’t drive because you need two eyes for accurate distance judgement. That’s partly true, but as a more-than-usually astute correspondent pointed out, it only makes a difference with distances up to arm’s length, and if you’re judging distances that close when you’re driving, you’ve already got a problem.

The discussion was ended – or it had ended at the point when I was too bored to follow it any further – with this pithy exchange between two correspondents:

Person 1 “That unusually astute commenter was right, one-eyed people can drive perfectly safely”

Person 2 “So would you feel safe if you knew your taxi driver only had one eye?”

Person 1 “Yes, and I’m an optometrist so I know what I’m talking about”

I’d like to add Collapse of stout party, but I don’t suppose anything as inconsequential as informed medical opinion will silence the keyboard army.

Pancake

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I booked Grunty’s MOT test on-line! How cool is that?

Well, probably not all that cool in the grand scheme of things, but I was impressed.

Rather less cool is the story in today’s news – in several sources – about the traditional pancake race (dating back a whole ten years) at Ripon Cathedral, which couldn’t be held this year “because of health and safety fears”. Needless to say delving into the truth of the matter – which only the Grauniad bothered to do, as far as I could see – showed that the cancellation had very little to do with health and safety: There weren’t enough participants or volunteer marshals to make it worthwhile, the council wanted a not-unreasonable 250 to close the road for the day, and yes, the insurance company wanted a risk assessment.

So there was a health and safety requirement, but hardly the “mountains of paperwork” the organisers were moaning about. I haven’t seen the location, and I wouldn’t try to do a risk assessment without, but I’d be amazed if the risk assessment for a pancake race took up more than two sides of A4. I’d be pretty surprised if they could stretch it to more than one side, but there you are. And if the organisers couldn’t find someone in the diocese competent to do a risk assessment for something so simple – and who was prepared to do it for nothing – then they weren’t trying.

It’s a shame the children’s pancake race was cancelled, whatever the reason. But don’t blame health and safety. Now pass the Jif lemon and the caster sugar, somebody.

Free Lunch – Well, Snack Anyway

Monday, February 4th, 2008

As I came out of Waterloo station the other day, I was met by a pair of young laydeez handing out small paper bags, with the immortal line “free muffins!” Now you don’t get an offer like that every day, so I took advantage of their generosity.

The bags didn’t only contain a free muffin, oh no. There was also a free notepad, with each page carrying the slogan “The Office – an American Workplace. Series 2 out on DVD now!”. I can’t help wondering just how well that’s going to sell: Take a programme which was rubbish in the first place, then Americanise it, and then try to sell it back to the original audience.

Mind, I have to admit that I only ever saw one episode of the original, which I watched to see what it was like based solely on the premise that Lucy Davies was in it, so it couldn’t be all bad. Apart from that experience, my assumption of its rubbishness is based purely of the presence of Ricky Gervais.

The muffin was nice though.