Archive for July, 2008

Must Blog

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

…is what I’ve thought every day since whenever I last blogged, but I just don’t seem to get there. The trouble is, althought there’s loads going on and we’re having an interesting time (in a good way), a lot of it is covered by patient confidentiality and some more wouldn’t really mean anything to anyone who’s not here. But I can tell you we’ve had a couple of ambulances on site, including an air ambulance, as well as a couple of fire appliances…

A question for you: How much common sense do you need – on a scale of 10 “Super Genius” to 1 “Millwall Supporter” – to realise that if you’re changing a gas canister (hint…the key word is GAS) in a lamp, you shouldn’t do it by candlelight?

I hope to get some caching done soon.

Where Did Those Days GO?

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Friday’s New Wine preparation task was getting up, throwing the last bits of packing into Grunty, hitching up the caravan and driving to New Wine :-)

I’m not sure where the time’s gone since then but I’m told we’ve been having fun! If you’ve been watching the weather you’ll know that it’s been glorious here in sunny Somerset – a bit too glorious really, as the slightly red state of my legs testifies, but we mustn’t grumble. It’s great to be spending time with old friends, working together and having fun.

And staff catering is better than normal…a full Sunday roast today. Oh, and if you know where to look there’s a proper hot shower as well :-)

Oops

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

On my way into work this morning, I passed a fruit stall. I pass it most mornings, but only today is relevant. So I thought “I won’t have any chocolate today…I’ll buy a bag of satsumas instead”. And so I did.

All might have gone well, had it not been for the fact that while I was in Mungo’s Bacon Sandwich Shop, I spotted that they were selling huge slabs of bread pudding – or “wet nellie” as my Gran used to call it. Ah well, at least I had a chocolate-free day.

Except I didn’t – even that failed spectacularly with a bag of Revels (including two orangey ones) at half past three. Oh, and I left half a bag of satsumas on my desk – I wonder what they’ll be like when I get back from New Wine?

Useless Euston

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I took a break from the New Wine preparation tasks today, to do a cachepedition preparation task.

At the end of September I’m going to the Lakes again with Rockin’ Rob and the Lady Sally-J. But while they’re driving up on the Saturday, an engagement1 Friday night means I’ll be travelling from London and meeting them in Windermere.

Train tickets are cheaper the earlier you buy them, so I was keen to get mine before toddling off to New Wine. My usual on-line purchase was stymied by the fact that I had vouchers for almost all of the purchase price, and you can only use them over the counter. So at lunchtime I hopped on a bus to Euston.

Short version
Euston’s “Advance purchase” desk is a pile of poo, I got very annoyed, bought my ticket and went back to work.

Verbose version
There was a mahoosive queue at the “Advance purchase” desk, partly because lots of people wanted to buy tickets, but mainly because only four of the ten available windows were open. Obviously it hasn’t occurred to any of the assembled brains at Euston that lots of people work, and so will want to buy tickets at lunchtime.

It also didn’t help that one of the open windows was manned by someone who wasn’t selling any tickets: he was filling in an interminable pile of paperwork that seemed to involve a lot of colouring-in with highlighter pens.

Things were further slowed by the fact that few of the customers knew what they wanted, and the simplest transaction “I want to go to Manchester next Tuesday” involved price comparison, different routes and on one occasion the choice of going via Edinburgh. I’d done my online research so my purchase would take no time at all: after 40 minutes in the queue I smugly approached the desk.
“Hello, I want to go from here to Windermere on Saturday 27th September, I’d like an Advance ticket and I want to pay with these vouchers and this five pound note.”
“You can’t”
“Eh???”
“Well, you can travel, but you can’t buy the ticket for another two weeks”

By now I was getting annoyed.

“Well I could buy online, so why can’t I buy here?”
“Ah well, they’d let you buy the ticket online, but you couldn’t do the seat reservation yet”
“I didn’t ask for a seat reservation, I just want to buy a ticket”
“Oh, OK”

That fooled her. Still, things should start moving now.

“So, you want an Advance ticket from here to Windermere on Saturday 27th September?”
“Yes please”
“Coming back when?”
“Not coming back, it’s a single”
“OK, a single. Would you like to make that a return for a pound extra?”
“NO!!!”
“OK, just give me all your money and you can have your ticket”
.

And then I went back to work and gently steamed all afternoon.

1 A wedding acksherly, but close enough

Question

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Today’s New Wine preparation tasks were:

  • Buying enough stamps for all the postcards I plan to send
  • Some clothes packing…at last
  • Packing most of the gadget box

Thanks to previous commenters…um, thanks Peter H, I think that was a compliment! And yes Sarah, it’s New Wine at the Bath + West Showground I’m off to. And to the Laird of New Haw…you are who you are, Henry, and if it’s meant to be it’ll happen.

Anyway…today’s question. You can buy packets of chocolate buttons, right? Ditto with peanuts in chocolate and Malteasers – in fact, as I discovered at the MonsterMeet on Saturday, you can buy a whole Malteaser-based ice cream dessert.

So why is the orangey one in a pack of Revels not purchase-able on its own? And as a supplementary question, why do you only get one or two orangey ones in a pack of Revels?

I can feel a letter to Mars Customer Care coming on.

Documents

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Today’s New Wine preparation tasks were:

  • Checking water on Grunty (washer bottles and radiator)
  • Checking oil on Grunty (engine and transmission)
  • Checking tyre pressures on Grunty (I did the caravan at the weekend and I’ll do it again before going on Friday)
  • Putting driving docs (licence, insurance, MOT and V5) in the holiday file

Not many people do this latter, and I’m a bit surprised: The reason I do it is that if I had a contact with the Police on the way down (which could just mean someone reversing into me in a car park), I’d have to produce my driving docs at a Police station within nine days. If I didn’t have them with me, I’d have to come all the way home just to find them. So it’d be madness not to have them with me :-)

I’ve also made the list of things that have to be packed in the gadget box. Now I just need to find a big enough box.

Monstah!

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Yesterday’s main event was the Milk Monster Meet – the Family Monster are back in the YooKay for a few weeks, and had graciously granted an audience to those of their loyal fans who were able to make it to a pub near Shedfield. In attendance were Fluffy, Omally, Mr Hedgehog, the Eltent family and of course the Monsters: A fab time was had by all, and Helena managed to prove that sometimes there is a camera to hand just when you need one:

Then on the way home I stopped at a couple of caravan showrooms – just checking the market to see what’s available at the moment – and a geocache, Thornhill Cache ‘n Dash.

Today had church, followed by visiting a friend to provide geocaching advice, drink tea and eat chocklit biscuits. Another nice weekend – ooh, and todays New Wine preparation was folding the caravan and checking the noseweight.

Meeting

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Yesterday was fun :-)

We had a get-together of loads of Health and Safety people from various bits of the public sector. We talked about various H+S subjects, and ate and drank rather well at the taxpayers’ expense (thanks taxpayers!) (but no alcohol needless to say, this being a daytime work event). We met at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall which was top-notch swish, although next time I’m inclined to complain about tourists on the train, I’ll remember the experience of trying to walk along Whitehall past Horseguards and the end of Downing Street.

When I was a kid, you could walk up Downing Street and stand outside the Prime Minister’s front door: now it’s guarded by armed policemen, iron railings and five layers of Australian students :-(

Still, I managed a cache on the way home, The Palace of Westminster – only a virtual cache but they all count :-)

Licence

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

I lost my driving licence :-(

Not as a result of a car-crime-related incident – that would be a bit ironic, wouldn’t it – but as a result of a forgetting-where-I’d-left-it incident. Luckily I found it again, but not before a couple of late-night hours of blind panic. It was in the “important documents” box – well who’da thought it, eh?

I was looking for it because I needed to produce it for something at work: having located it I passed it to Helen in the HR department:

“This is no good on its own, I need to see the photocard as well”

“There isn’t a photocard, that’s it”

“What do you mean? Of course there’s a photocard”

“No, that’s an old-style paper-only licence”

I work with people who’re too young to have seen a paper-only driving licence before. Sob.

Oh, and incidentally Hutters – I wasn’t ignoring your “spike” comment: I’ve seen it before (although I can’t remember where) and the theory it’s based on is sound. I’ll discuss it in a future episode ;-) . And “shared space” – which again, I’m familiar with – is an interesting concept, but I’m not sure British roads are ready for it.

So What…?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

So – following on from yesterday – what do I mean by proper road safety? After all, I’ve criticised the single-issue speed fanatics – I’ve even called them “road safety nazis” – so it’s only fair that I come up with a couple of ideas.

But first – Fred commented that using the term “road safety nazis” was going a bit far, and that’s probably true. In my own defence, I’m only applying that term to the single-issue preachers who’d have us believe (despite a huge body of evidence) that if only everyone stuck to the speed limits, everything would be fine: sadly, even one of Britain’s most respected safety organisations is promoting this line. Speed is a factor, there’s no doubt – but it’s probably the least useful one to enforce, if promoting road safety is the aim.

So if I was in charge of road safety, what would I be promoting?

  1. Vehicle spacing – a large proportion of accidents, especially the huge motorway pile-ups, have their beginning in people driving so close to the car in front that if something goes wrong they can’t possibly stop in time.
  2. Distractions – A considerable body of research has shown that using a mobile phone while driving – even using a handsfree kit – has a more severe effect on concentration and reaction times than being just over the legal alcohol limit . Ban all mobile use while driving, enforce it properly, and apply stiffer penalties.
  3. Disqualified Drivers – For drink driving and a range of other offences which come under the heading of deliberate actions (excessive speed, mobile phone use, no tax or insurance etc), you lose your licence automatically. If it costs you your job, tough – you should’ve thought of that before. And anyone who drives while disqualified goes to prison.
  4. Sensible Speed Limits – One of the key reasons people speed is that they’ve no respect for speed limits: it’s well known in the accident prevention world that if you have three safety rules, and two make sense and one doesn’t, people won’t discriminate – they’ll ignore all three. The recent fad for 20MPH limits outside schools is a good example of a senseless rule: During school start and finish times, twenty is too fast, the rest of the time it’s too slow.

I’ve got loads more ideas, but these will do for now.

Speed

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

According to this news story, Swindon council are reviewing their funding arrangements for speed cameras. Apparently they’re not convinced that speed cameras are an effective aid to road safety.

It’s no great surprise, is it? Leaving aside the fact that it’s as possible to drive like a jerk within the speed limit as above it, speed cameras don’t slow traffic: they create a situation where people drive generally at the appropriate speed for the conditions, and brake sharply – often to well below the speed limit – at the camera site. They then speed up as soon as they’re past the camera.

If anyone doubts that cameras are just intended as revenue raisers, just ask yourself why so many of them are placed at the one point on a stretch of road where it’s possible to safely go a bit faster. For those of you who know Southampton, think of Millbrook Road westbound: you pass playing fields and a school, cross a flyover and a tricky junction (caused by poor design of the flyover) and then you come to the camera.

The best example of this is on the A303 near Warminster: you’ve been driving on single carriageway for miles, with blind bends and hilltops – in short you’ve had no chance to overtake. Then you come to a short dual carriageway stretch where it’s safe to speed up – and that’s where the speed camera is. Worse still, the camera is placed as you approach the end of the overtaking zone, just where NOT slowing down could well be the safer option.

I know that supporters of speed cameras say “if you’re not breaking the speed limit, you won’t get caught” and that’s true enough, but why are these the same people who insist “they’re not speed cameras, they’re safety cameras”? If they’re there to prevent speeding then fair enough, but at least call them by their proper name. And if they’re there for safety, put them where traffic needs to slow down, not where it could safely go a bit faster.

Speed cameras were originally supposed to only be placed where speed-related accidents have happened, but the enthusiasts have been too liberal with the definition of a speed-related accident: if an accident has involved a driver who was speeding, that’s counted – regardless of the fact that the true cause of the accident was the cyclist who didn’t stop at the red light, the pedestrian who walked out into the road without looking or the motorist who was inside the speed limit, but didn’t stop at the “give way” sign.

Speed cameras have their place, and traffic light cams are even better, but they’re not the cure-all that the road safety nazis would have us believe. And perhaps now Swindon have had the courage to challenge the sacred cow, other local authorities will follow suit and start implementing some proper road safety measures instead

Book Review: Deric

Monday, July 14th, 2008

No, not Derek…Deric.

I first came across Deric Longden’s work rather a lot of years ago: He was the guest speaker at a Hospital Radio conference, and spoke with gentleness and humour about his life and his cats. After the formalities, he was selling – and signing – copies of his books, so I bought “The Cat Who Came in From the Cold”, and Jenny bought “Diana’s Story”. The latter I didn’t think would appeal to me at all, luckily Jenny knew better and bought me a copy at Christmas that year: It’s the only time I’ve ever written to an author to thank him for a book, it’s excellent.

We met Deric again at the Hospital Radio Conference in Manchester – it was the only good thing about that weekend! By then I was an established fan and read all his books up until he dropped off the literary radar a few years back.

This year’s publication – “Paws in the Proceedings” explains the absence. It goes on to talk about the cats who featured in the earlier books – now quite geriatric moggies – and introduces a couple of new furry contenders, as well as updating readers on the goings-on of the human members of the family. I’ve read it in the last couple of days and now I’m going to read it again, which should tell you all you need to know.

If you’ve read the other Deric Longden books, read this one. If you HAVEN’T read the others, then don’t read this one yet – go back to “Diana’s Story”, about Deric’s life with his first wife, and read them in order. The latest one will wait for you, and it’ll be worth it!

Tri, tri again

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Today I have mostly been being an important Raynet person on the ForestMan – a full ironman triathlon in the New Forest, consisting of a 3.5 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26 mile run. The fun started just before six in the morning as the competitors were plunging into Ellingham Lakes, and finished in glorious evening sunshine at ten – with a buffet that was more like a banquet for all the helpers who hadn’t gone home to bed.

One of the runners lost half an hour when a bull chased her into a bog, but that’s the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, isn’t it.

Crawl

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I had another Southampton-bus-related frustration yesterday.

The bus which takes me to the railway station – nominally the 6:15 from outside McDonalds – was late arriving to start with. Apparently the driver’s ticket machine was playing up and not giving tickets. When that happens on Solent Blue Line busses, there’s no messing about – trips are free, to help make sure the bus runs on time. On Worst First Bus Southampton, everyone gets a little hand-written ticket from the driver.

When you’re planning to catch the 6:30 train, it’s a bit annoying when the bus arrives outside the station at 6:28. I made it, just, but I was so annoyed, the train had got to Winchester before I calmed down enough to fall asleep.

Regular readers will know I’ve written letters of complaint to First Southampton before, and not even had the courtesy of a reply. This time, I’m going to write to someone who styles himself as Southampton City Council’s “Cabinet Member for Transport”, with the delightful name of Gavin Dick. I’ll let you know wha happens.

Don’t Bash the (Lady) Bish

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

The big fuss at the moment – in some circles at least – is the Church of England decision to ordain women as bishops. It was even the vox-pop question in yesterday’s Daily Echo, Southampton’s local “paper”, and a journal that makes the Daily Mail look like a serious newspaper.

Anyway, back to the story – or non-story, as it might better be termed. The church decided to ordain women priests in 1992, and I really can’t believe that it wasn’t obvious then that if women became priests, one day there’d be women bishops. I’ve made clear my opinion on that subject in the past, I don’t care if a priest is male or female – the question of whether they’re a good or bad priest is much more important than what they keep in their trousers, and the same is true, a stage up, with bishops.

But whatever I think, it’s the latest row that threatens to split the Church, coming as it does in the middle of the “gay bishop” row. With the world coming apart and millions starving – not to mention war, genocide, corruption and slavery, much of it with “religion” as an excuse – it’s a pity the main protagonists on both sides of the arguments can’t find something more important to unite them, rather than letting these matters come between them.

Underground Overground

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

When I first became a London-going train-riding commuter person, I quickly worked out that the most efficient way to travel the mile-and-a-half from Waterloo station to the office was to walk, which is what I normally do when it isn’t raining: If it is raining, then I use the underground. One look at the bus queue outside Waterloo had convinced me that I’d be in the queue longer than it took to walk, so I discounted it.

The other day I decided that now I’ve got some more experience of how public transport in London works, it might be worth looking at the busses again: I discovered that what had seemed to the novice to be a pretty chaotic queuing system was actually well planned and organised. The route I take to work operates bendy busses, which have three doors. Not only do three queues form – there are actually three stops and three shelters, spaced so that each door opens right in front of the queue. The bus is quicker, drops me even closer to work than the underground (right outside Mungo’s Breakfast Shop, in fact), and is almost half the price (90p compared to 1-50 for the tube). Public transport in London is pretty cheap – at least compared to Southampton – but a 60 pees saving isn’t to be sneezed at.

The Official One

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Handsome, aren’t I?

Tired

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

I seem to be writing entries with that as a title quite a lot these days.

The reason I’m so tired is that I’ve had a really fun weekend, including (but not limited to) going to a rather fun party, and meeting some new friends. It’s all left me a bit tired, but if every weekend was like this one I wouldn’t mind being tired on Sunday evenings!

Early night tonight, methinks.

Another Daily Mail Rant

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I haven’t had a rant about the Daily Mail recently.

That’s because I’ve been working through a stack of library books which were almost due back, so I’ve not been needing the Mail for my daily dose of escapist fiction. It’s a bit of a shame because I might have missed some good stuff, although I doubt if much can exceed the “ridiculous” rating of something I spotted in Tuesday’s offering…

Apparently, Britain’s schools are full – absolutely jam packed – with asbestos. The “newspaper” fumes that this asbestos is being left in place, in schools, hospitals and workplaces. They gloss over the fact that asbestos is only hazardous as an airborne dust, and as long as asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are sealed and undamaged, the safest thing to do is to leave them undisturbed, combined with a regular inspection by a competent person to make sure they stay in good condition. If they become damaged, it’s best to just leave them in place and re-seal: Removing ACMs is the worst of all worlds – it releases fibres, creates ACM-contaminated waste (like the protective clothing the removal contractors were wearing), and then it all has to be safely disposed of.

Still, good practice has never been known to get in the way of a rabble-rousing Mail story, has it?

Sore

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

I’m suffering a bit.

Remember I told you that I went to the gym on Sunday? Normally I just do cardiovascular stuff – the treadmill, bikes, that kind of thing. I haven’t done weights for ages. But I’ve noticed that my arms and shoulders are getting a bit flabby, so I thought some gentle weight work would be an idea.

I woke up yesterday to find my arms were a bit sore. This morning they were even worse. Still, on the basis of no pain, no gain, it does at least seem to be working.