Archive for September, 2008

The Black Hand Gang

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

I’ve got a pair of gloves I like to wear when I’m caching and the weather is bad, like it was yesterday.

They’re an army surplus pair – the army call them “Northern Ireland gloves”, or at least they used to – I expect that name has been replaced with something a bit more politically correct now. Whatever they’re called, they’re designed to be worn in urban riots, because they’re well padded so that if some miscreant whacks you with a baseball bat, it doesn’t hurt so much. There aren’t that many urban riots in the places I go caching (although I’ve cached in both Nottingham and Portsmouth, so you never know…), but there are plenty of sharp rocks and plants, muddy places, and of course cold weather, and the padding provides excellent protection against those as well.

The downside of wearing them in wet weather – like yesterday – is that they’re black, and the dye still runs, even though I’ve been wearing them for years. Since we got in from caching yesterday, I’ve washed my hands loads of times, had a shower and done the washing up, but my hands still look like I’ve been digging coal.

If any of my readers used to be in the army and wore these gloves regularly…how did you stop your hands turning black?


Monday, September 29th, 2008

That’ll be me then.

I know most of you will know what a puzzle cache is, and there are some brilliant ones in the Lake District, set by a chap called DuncScott: In particular there are a couple called “May the Lord Be With You??? and “May the Lord Be With You To???, each of which has no fewer than five puzzles to solve before you can go off and find an intermediate stage: Here you get some information which you combine with the solution to one of the puzzles, to tell you where the final cache is hidden.

We struggled with these last year – four of the five puzzles on each one were easy enough, but there was one more that totally eluded us – we couldn’t even work out what the puzzle was, never mind start solving it. So before we came up this year, I e-mailed the cache owner, told him what we’d done so far and he very kindly gave us a hint that helped us finish the solution.

So yesterday, we decided to start our Lake District trip with these two, plus a couple of other puzzle caches by the same person. We struggled up the hill to the first one – it was a gentle climb but we struggled anyway – found the item that gave us the information we needed, and sat down to plug the numbers into the final puzzle.

Which I’d left seven miles away in the cottage. Boy, was my face red.

I suspect it might be a little while before I live this one down.


Sunday, September 28th, 2008

I’m in the Lake District with Rob and Sarah!

I arrived yesterday afternoon – eventually. We all climbed on the Edinburgh train from Euston…and all got thrown off again when they announced it wasn’t the Edinburgh train. So we all trooped back to the concourse, where they told us that our train had been delayed by a points problem (eh?). So I scanned the available options, and decided to catch the Manchester Piccadilly train, because I knew I could get to Windermere from Manchester.

So when the Manchester train was called, I headed off to the appropriate platform and guess what? It was the train I’d just been thrown off :-(

Sadly for the cause of comic narrative, but luckily for me, I got all the way to Oxenholme without further incident, where I met Rob and Sarah, and we drove to Holly Cottage, our base for the week’s caching. It’s very nice and is seventeen seconds (we timed it) from the pub.


Saturday, September 27th, 2008

I passed my fire safety exam :-)

The examinations people were kind enough to phone me as soon as they had the result. Lucky too – since I’ve already got dates in the calendar for the first few workplace inspections that passing that exam qualifies me to do.

It’s a sign of the public sector way of thinking – which I haven’t quite got into the way of yet – that while I was thinking “Ooh that’s good, I’ll be able to save my employers lots of money by doing those myself”, my boss’s response was “Lucky dog, that’ll look good on your CV…and in the meantime you could get a good second income with consultancy work!”

I’m just glad I passed :-)

Turn the Music Up

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Regular readers will know that I like to have a doze on the train. It isn’t a proper sleep, but that blissful half-and-half state where you could open your eyes and know what’s going on, you just don’t want to.

Proper sleep or not, I do find it difficult to achieve this state if there’s noise going on around me: people chatting, phones ringing (put it on “silent” for God’s sake) or those stupid automated announcements (we know where the safety posters are, you told us five minutes ago). Yet if I plug my headphones in and turn them up really loud – loud enough to drown everything else out – I can drop off in no time.

I can only think that it’s something like people who live in noisy places getting used to it, and being able to sleep in spite of the noise. Because the music I’m playing is familiar, I can shut it into the background and sleep through it.

I still haven’t slept so much that I missed my stop. Yet.

Santa Clause is Coming by Bus

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

WorstBus Southampton have started their Christmas advertising campaign!

The bus I was on this morning had two posters featuring Christmas WorstBus themed poems by local schoolchildren: One of them had Santa fretting over a broken-down sleigh, then rejoicing at the thought that he could deliver all the presents by WorstBus instead.

The good little boys and girls of Southampton had better practice going to bed early: if he’s going by WorstBus Santa will have to have finished his rounds by six o’clock on Christmas Eve – assuming the bus turns up at all.

Oh Dear

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I was a bit late getting home last night.

M’colleague Dave, who leaves work mid-afternoon, rang me to say that all the trains out of Waterloo were held up because of a fatality at Earlsfield. When a fatality happens, it normally closes the lines for a couple of hours, and then everything slowly gets back to normal. So I decided to stay until my normal time, and hope that things had started to sort themselves out by then.

According to the very useful website, Southampton trains were back to normal just before I left work, but when I got to Waterloo everything was bonkers: according to the information boards every train was delayed or cancelled – in the end they called the slow train leaving 30 minutes late, and it was so full it was standing room only until Woking.

I actually got home about ten minutes later than normal, which isn’t bad. And compared to the fact that today, some family started the rest of their lives without a loved one, a bit of inconvenience is nothing really, is it?

Never Say “Oops” Out Loud

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

I had my hair cut on the way to work this morning.

This led to a discussion among m’colleagues about the relative merits of going to a barber, compared to buying clippers and doing it yourself. I’ve got a beard trimmer which I use regularly, but I’m a bit nervous of DIY haircuts – most of what hair I’ve got is hidden away round the back, so I’d be working blind.

My diet buddy has a set of clippers, and has offered to do my tonsure in future, and that’s an offer I must seriously consider. Although not if it’s going to be done in the style of m’colleague Leigh – according to her, the Golden Rule of cutting someone else’s hair is “never say ‘oops’ out loud”.

Is it Holiday Time yet?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

No, but almost :-)

I had another busy day yesterday: Huge fun, but busy. For the first eight hours or so, I was being an important Raynet person at the New Forest Marathon: We normally reckon this takes fifteen Raynet people out on the course, and a minimum of two – preferably three – in Control. Yesterday, as a result of illness, holidays and other last minute factors, there was me in Control, and six others out on the course. Running Control on your own is hard enough at the best of times, requiring the skills of an octopus in a paper-hanging contest, but on an event the size of this one…anyway, it would’ve been nice if you HAD stopped, Matt, and I’d probably have given you a job!

Once I escaped from there, I headed to my diet buddy’s house to eat hot dogs, watch Garfield II on DVD, and other fun activities :-) . And then I went home to bed.

And this morning, WorstBus Southampton failed to run the number 10, which meant I missed the train to work. Bummer.


Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Mucho hectivity at Gottle HQ – but before I get on to that, let me point you to this fantastic version of John Miles – complete with orchestra and chorus – singing “Music” wot I found on YouTube: here. Those who are into such things should look out for the neat way the oboe is miked round about 5:23, and for the rather nice lady lead violin who appears several times between four and five minutes :-) . Oh, and should any of the ham-fisted monkeys who mix the BBC sound on “Last Night of the Proms” be reading this – listen and learn because that’s the right way to mix an orchestra and audience – i.e. so you can still hear the musicians.

And does anyone else think the conductor looks a bit like SimonG?

Anyway, up early this morning ‘cos I had loads to do, and my luvvly Mum wanted me to take her shopping. It was only once I was up and breakfasted that she told me she’d changed her mind about Sainsbo’s. So today I achieved:

  • Sorting out the caravan – well, a bit anyway. A job that’s been outstanding since New Wine
  • Most of the packing for the Lake District cachepedition – including charging batteries and sorting gadgets
  • Organising the stuff I need for tomorrow’s Raynet – there’s still a bit outstanding at the time of writing, I’ll be off and do that in a minute
  • A bit of clearing in the shed – it wasn’t on today’s list but I had to do it to find some of the things I needed for the other tasks
  • Booking a rental minibus for the HBA conference, and buying some train tickets
  • Making fudge for the cachepedition (and some for my diet buddy)
  • and…

  • Joined a new gym with my diet buddy!

I think that’s enough for today.


Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Did you miss me?

As those of you who were reading last week will know, I’ve been on a course at the National Fire Service College, in the lovely Glawcestershire village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Sadly by the time I booked, all the accommodation at the college, and the less expensive places in the village, were fully booked, so I’ve been slumming it in a luxury hotel. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

The downside of luxury hotels is that the restaurant has a dress code, and in any case has prices considerably in excess of the Civil Service overnight allowance. Not wanting to pay twenty-five squids to eat squid – and to be told my shoes aren’t posh enough – I’ve been trying the pubs in the village: On Monday night the Inn on the Marsh, where I had steak and ale pie, and a pint of something that I think was called Busty Betty. Tuesday brought roast chicken and a pint of BB in the Black Bear. I don’t normally have a starter in the evening – well, not since I started Diet Buddying anyway – but they had whitebait, and I haven’t had that for years. I’ve never had it in breadcrumbs, which was a bit odd, but at least it meant the little critters weren’t looking at me!

Back to salad from today!

Exciting Weekend

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Well I’ve had a pretty fabby weekend: flying to Newcastle (followed by the Metro to Sunderland) included a plane that had a persistent warning light in the cockpit (until an engineer came and took the bulb out), and a rail-replacement bus due to flooded Metro. Then there were rather more bacon butties than were good for me (as my diet buddy was quick to point out), and a stay in a characterful guest house.

Then there was the party :-) . Fab – ’nuff said!

Today’s major event was the flight home being delayed by 2½ hours because the plane was still in Outer Mongolia at the time we should’ve been taking off – which led to us having lunch in a diner in the departure lounge. Which led to someone at a table near me having an allergic reaction because of a meal that wasn’t labelled as containing walnut – much ensuing drama, but all’s well that ends well, and the lady was OK.

Then we eventually flew home, paid an exorbitant amount for a taxi from the airport, and now I’m about to head for beddybyes.

He’s from Cataluña

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

I saw something stranger than usual at Waterloo this morning. There were two blokes – or perhaps I should say “hombres” – on the concourse, dressed as matadors and handing out leaflets advertising “Shopping in Madrid”.

I guess it may be a “man” thing – but I live in Southampton. Within a ten-minute bus ride of my house there’s more shops than a sane person would want to visit in a lifetime, yet I know people who travel to other cities just to go shopping – in exactly the same shops they’ve got within minutes of home. I can understand that people who live in some rural outpost like Much-Thrutching-on-the-Bog would need to travel to the Big City to find a branch of Mungo’s, but why do people go to other places when they’ve got the same shops at home? OK, I know I’ve done Christmas shopping at the Meadowhall, but that’s more about sharing the misery with some convivial company than anything else.

So to return to my original point – why would someone who lives within a train ride of London be interested in shopping in Madrid?


Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

I’m reading a very exciting book at the moment.

Actually that sentence was only partly true – the untrue bit was the “very exciting”. It’s the pre-course reading for a course I’m doing next week, which will make me a lot more clever about fire safety than I am at the moment, and the problem is

  • More than 90% of the book is stuff I learned so long ago I do it in my sleep (and no, I don’t mean snoring. Or farting.)
  • The remainder of the book is really useful nuggets of information that I really need to know – if it wasn’t I could just bin the darned thing and pretend I’d read it!
  • The useful stuff is so well buried I can’t even speed-read it – I’ve got to focus on the whole thing or I’ll miss something.

Ah well, three chapters down, only eight to go. Wish me luck.


Monday, September 8th, 2008

I had a “jolly” out of the office today.

With m’colleagues Tweedledum and Tweedledee, I had to go and visit a location in North London. Tweedledum had decreed that it was within walking distance of the office: Tweedledee wanted to take a taxi, and moaned and griped all the way there. And I was wearing my work shoes which aren’t ideal for walking so now I’ve got a nice blister on my big toe :-( . It reminded me a bit of the time when I was in St John Ambulance and supervised the old people’s outings, only without the bingo. Or the stop at the pub on the way home.

My mood wasn’t improved by the fact that we passed close to three geocaches on the way, but needing to keep an eye on the Bickering Brothers I couldn’t go and look for them. And we were gone so long, by the time we got back to the office I was an hour and a half late for lunch – which isn’t a very diabetic-friendly thing to do.

Luckily the three of us are good mates, so the banter saw us through :-) .


Sunday, September 7th, 2008

I made some shortbread for John and Marie’s party, like I promised. Lucily I then made a second batch, which worked. The cooking later the day – spaghetti bolognese – worked much better :-)

Today I went for a really nice walk. I didn’t find the cache, and at one point got really tetchy with my GPS, but it was a nice walk anyway. And I know roughly where the cache is so I can always go back another day!

Ooh, and I wrote the first version of the cachepedition packing list. An amazingly successful and pleasing weekend.


Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I went to the pub on Thursday night :-)

I’d been invited to a beer and skittles night being run by a club that a friend belongs to. I haven’t played skittles for aaages – as was quite apparent from my performance – and although I occasionally have a beer, it’s been yonks since I had HSB – or “Pickfords” as we used to call it in my youth. Ten house points to anyone who can guess the slightly yucky reason why we called it that.

The downside of a lovely evening out – and the rediscovery of HSB – was that I spent most of Friday with a headache. Don’t understand that…

Blog 1:01

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

If you’ve not already read it, go and have a look at this post on Rockin’ Rob’s blog.

He’s writing about the harm that can be done – to friendships and sanity – if people take blog entries too literally. In the time that I’ve been blogging, I’ve time shifted stuff, changed names and otherwise disguised things, without actually changing the truth of anything. Most people only tell the bits of the story that make it funny, or poignant or whatever, or change some details to protect people who don’t want to be written about1.

Hopefully no-one will be too surprised to discover that the shops around where I work aren’t really owned by Mungo: Because of who I work for, I have to maintain confidentiality, and if I blogged the real names of the shops, it would be pretty easy to work out where I am. Other people, for their own reasons, disguise what they actually do for a living – either because they don’t want people pestering them for jelly-making assistance, or so that anyone at work stumbling across their blog won’t recognise them.

I’ve got something pretty major going on in my life at the moment, and if you’re reading between the lines you might have a good idea what it is: If you’ve seen my Facebook profile you might have put two and two together, as Jannypoos did. I’m sure I’ll blog more details one day, but there’s someone else involved and they have their own reasons for maintaining confidentiality at the moment. And those who need to know, do :-)

I can’t say it better than Rob did: Blogs are an individual’s shop window, and only contain what the blogger wants to be on show. So don’t be surprised if they don’t match what you know about the blogger’s life!

1 Bad preposition there


Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

They say – or at least P. T. Barnum said – there’s one born every minute. But on this occasion I don’t mean that sort of sucker.

In an effort to not leave cachepedition planning to the last minute – remember I mentioned that? – I’ve been doing on-line shopping. Yesterday I bought a new battery for the laptop, to avoid having to spend evenings within six feet of a mains socket: today I ordered something more obviously caching-related. One of these, in fact. My luvvly new rucksack, which I bought to celebrate finding my 1000th cache, has a sepcial pocket for a hydration bladder1, so it’s time I had one. I’ll report back when I’ve tried it out :-)

1 aka “posh water bottle”

Lovely Weekend

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

So the latest round of excitement has included going walking with my diet buddy and all-round good chum Purple Fred, and finding the cache
Bratley Wood

For anyone able to do a bit of New Forest caching, this one has to be recommended: it’s a minimum walk of three miles from the nearest parking, through some excellent New Forest scenery, featuring ponies, deer and bunny rabbits. It’s also a quality cache in a decent hiding place, AND the car park has a resident ice cream van (but watch his diet Coke: it’s cheap, by New Forest ice cream van standards, but it’s warm) :-)

In other news, I’m trying to make sure my planning for the upcoming Lake District Cachepedition1 doesn’t get left till the last minute, getting ready to head to the Far North for a party, and doing the pre-reading for a course in a couple of weeks!

1 Already provisionally named the “But look how steep that bit is!” cachepedition