Archive for November, 2008

A Boatie Shop for Boatie People

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

I need a gas changeover switch for the caravan…one of these in fact.

The manufacturer’s website shows that one of the local stockists is a boatie enthusiasts’ shop not far from me, so after a little light geocaching yesterday, Diet Buddy and I called in there on the way home. There was some initial confusion caused by there being two shops with the same name, a hundred yards apart, but we soon found what appeared to be the right place.

We scoured the shelves, and in particular the gas fittings department, without success, and in the end I asked a spotty young assistant: he’d never heard of the item I was looking for and went to ask the manager, who gave his opinion from the other end of the shop.

“No, we don’t stock them, and we never will: We had the rep in trying to get us to stock them just the other week, and I told him, I did: That sort of thing’s alright for them caravanners, where a small gas leak soon blows away, but on a boat it just settles in the bilges and BOOOOOM!!!”.

I was about to tell him that it was all right because I wanted it for a caravan anyway, but the look in his eye made me think he’d probably hurl us from his shop on the grounds that he didn’t want our sort around there. So we bought a small D-shackle, just to reinforce the impression that we were boatie people, and left rather quickly.

As you can see from the link up there, my local Calor Gas shop seems to stock them, so I’ll give them a try soon.

The only other thing to add is that the geocaching started with a maintenance visit to one of my caches, and then we went on to find Durley Mill: It’s a lovely cache, and Rob…you’ve got to get Sally-J to do this one before the mud dries up…oops, I mean before the Autumn colours fade!


Friday, November 28th, 2008

My friend and co-presenter Rockin’ Rob likes to set me musical quiz challenges. A year or so back, he played me a few bars of a song and asked me which musical it was from: my thought process was

  1. “It’s shit
  2. Rob likes it
  3. Must be Les Mis”

I was right, as well.

After a lifetime of avoiding Les Mis, I was finally persuaded that I shouldn’t be so rude about a show I hadn’t seen, and last night was the big night: a HUUUGE meal at a local curry house was designed to help me nap through at least the first half, but we were in the front row and it was a bit loud (which at least masked one of the effects of the curry). And I’d forgotten to charge my MP3 player, so one way and another I had no choice but to watch the show.

To be honest – apart from the fact that the storyline can’t sustain a three hour show, it’s pretty good: Technically it’s well staged, the musicians and singers are good, and I actually rather enjoyed most of it! Where I think it falls down is that if I was going to write a musical about a revolution in France…I wouldn’t choose an obscure student revolt that no-one’s ever heard of. I might instead choose…oh, I don’t know…the French Revolution?

To summarise – did I enjoy it? To my surprise, yes. Would I go again? If someone wanted to go and asked me to go with them, yes. Would I prefer to see something else? Probably, yes!

Still it was a nice evening in excellent company, and that’s what really counts :-)

More Snow

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

I suppose having been so enthusiatic, I should give you a bit more detail about Slava’s Snow Show.

Slava is Slava Polunin, a Russian clown, and this is his third annual UK tour with the Snow Show. There are bits and pieces of stereotype clown slapstick in there, but it’s much more than that. Mime, comedy and action, and loads of pure fun :-)

The audience arrives to find the auditorium floor covered with “snow” – well, it’s flakes of tissue paper, but it’s like snow – so well before the show starts you’re having fun throwing snow at your friends, and at complete strangers sitting around you as well. Then the show starts and there’s all sorts of comic business, occasionally involving the audience: There’s a giant “cobweb” which engulfs the stalls, bits of slapstick – if you’re in the front few rows, take a brolly – and an amazing “blizzard” of snow which blows out over the audience.

If you haven’t seen it, and you’re going to, don’t read the next paragraph
The finale starts with two large coloured balls – eight foot diameter or so – being pushed out into the audience, with others of varying sizes following, turning into a giant audience game of keepy-uppy, while the clowns on stage bimble about reprising some of the business from the show.

As I said up there, this UK tour seems to be an annual event, and I’ve made a note in my diary for next Summer to check the 2009 dates. Well recommended :-)

Let it Snow

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Tonight I went to the Mayflower Theatre to see Slava’s Snow Show – thanks to m’chums who invited me to join them. I’m not going to say anything else about it except – check the tour dates, and if it’s coming to a theatre near you, go and see it.

If you have to work that night – resign. If you can’t afford a ticket – sell something. But if it’s coming to a theatre near you, go and see it.

Come to that, if it isn’t coming to a theatre near you, move.

Can you tell I liked it?


Monday, November 24th, 2008

I think I came home from the station this evening in the company of Bus Driving Stig.

He wasn’t wearing the silly crash helmet or anything, but I don’t think a Worst Southampton bus has ever gone that fast before. Mind you, I think the last time any bus went that fast was the time one went over a cliff at the end of the last episode of The Young Ones.

In other news, some of you already know I was poorly sick at the end of last week, and spent most of Thursday in bed. I wasn’t up to much on Friday either, but things brightened up over the weekend and I’m now firing on at least three cylinders. My “tablets per day” count has gone up by two, although at least this one’s only temporary :-)

Be Patient. It’s on the Cards.

Friday, November 21st, 2008

With the latest series of I Used to be a Celebrity, Please Give Me Another Chance at a Career gracing our screens – or at least, the screens of anyone too lazy or terminally bewildered to switch off – I thought the following wilderness survival advice, which I read somewhere years ago, would be appropriate:

When travelling solo to remote locations, take a pack of playing cards. If you get lost, injured or lonely, just sit down somewhere and start playing Patience (Solitaire, for the non-English readers). No matter how lonely or remote the location, within fifteen minutes someone will look over your shoulder and say something like “That red ten could go on the Jack of Clubs”.

Then you just ask them for directions to the nearest waterhole/hospital/branch of Mungo’s Burger Bar, depending on your most urgent need, and Bob’s yer uncle. Alternatively, if you’re really annoyed at them spoiling your game, you can kill them and eat them.

Tootle Tootle

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I mentioned a while ago that a steadily-growing team of Eastern European buskers had appeared in the underpass outside Waterloo station. I commented at the time that if they carried on increasing their number at their current rate, by Christmas they’d have the Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra down there.

Well they didn’t carry on growing – in fact they vanished. I didn’t take much notice, in London buskers come and go, but the other day they were back! Not in the underpass this time, they’ve moved their pitch to the railway arch near the bus stop, but they’ve cheered up their repertoire and were banging out freeform versions of Christmas carols.

They’re pretty good too, I hope they make plenty of dosh.

Get ‘orff Moi Laaand!

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

I think I might buy a couple of acres of land, stick up a decent security fence – maybe employ a security gecko or two – and open a caravan storage site.

It seems to be a seller’s market at the moment: all the storage places near me at the moment are full, with significant waiting lists for spaces. Sites with the highest security ratings can charge upward of fifty squids a month, and even the cheapest ones are probably doing OK.

The problem is, of course, that I’m trying to find somewhere to keep my new caravan: the place I bought it from has it at the moment, but it’s in their car park rather than a proper storage area, and they were only prepared to keep it until Christmas. They recommended me some storage locations to try, but they’re all full and although they usually have people giving up spaces and selling their caravans after the Autumn half term, that doesn’t seem to be happening this year. The new ‘van is too big for the driveway where the old one lived, so I have to put some urgency into the hunt. Hence my proposed business venture.

Mind you, having seen the price of land in Hampshire, I might have to re-think my plan. Anyone know where there are decent-sized warehouses for rent?


Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

My extra rams have arrived – they came at the weekend – so hopefully TechnoBuddy will be squeezing them into the laptop for me during this week. I’ve no idea why they’ll solve the problem, I guess it’s something to do with the ewe ess bee ports.

Sorry about that.

The only other thing I can really comment on today is that the cold is progressing nicely, having now grown one of those whole-body-shaking coughs that makes you feel like your head is going to explode. Luckily the Benylin Day-and-Night I mentioned yesterday is doing what it says on the packet, and keeping the worst of it under control.

The Baileys is helping, too :-)


Monday, November 17th, 2008

Today I have mostly been feeling crap :-(

I think it’s the beginnings of a cold – it may even be man flu, but whatever it is, it led me Mungo’s Emporium of All Things Healing, Energising And Decongesting – henceforth known as MEATHEAD – at lunchtime. I picked up a packet of Benylin Day and Night Cold Cure, quite literally the best thing since whatever was the best thing before sliced bread, and headed for the payout station.

“Thank you sir,” said the Meathead salesperson, “would you like a bag with that?”

That seemed a reasonable question, and in the interests of environment-friendliness, I declined.

“And would you like any stamps with that?”

Oddly enough, I HAD wanted stamps earlier today, but m’colleague Leigh had gone to the post office and got me a book of second class, so that was OK. Again, I declined.

“How about a mobile phone top-up or SIM card?”

Is this some kind of parallel universe? There’s a mobile phone shop next door, why on earth would I buy things like that in a pharmacy? Anyway, I escaped with just my tablets, and retired to Mungo’s Sub Shop…where they didn’t try to sell me anything except a ham and turkey sub :-)

Weekend Away

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

So…the first caravan weekend away :-) . The pictures…or at least those appropriate for the internet…are on the “My Caravan” page, so head over to the linky on the right and enjoy.

Of course there’s plenty that the pictures don’t show…including me getting thrashed at Scrabble, and getting my revenge at Trivial Pursuit. Then there’s the slop-on-a-plate (with slop sauce) that we ate on Saturday night, and the work experience guy who served us in Tesco cafe Saturday lunchtime (“Blimey – are you sure you want this? This food is crap!”).

But it was a fun weekend, and yes, the TV didn’t work too badly.

Digital Bits

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Thanks to everyone who’s commented on my rants of the last few days :-)

I solved the Maplins problem by going to the branch on Waterloo Bridge the next morning: it’s on one of my walking routes to the office anyway, it opens at eight o’clock and the staff all know what they’re talking about :-) . The King, in his comment, suggested “…or buy online…”. That’s what I normally do, but I wanted the caravan gadget (of which more shortly) in time for this weekend. Anyway, the staff were friendly and helpful and I bought the four items I wanted without trouble.

The caravan-related object was a USB stick to turn my laptop into a digital TV – it seemed the cheapest and least-hassle method to get a TV in the caravan. It works, too…I shan’t be trying it in the caravan until tomorrow, but connected to the rooftop aerial at home it gets loads of digital TV and radio signals. The picture does freeze occasionally – my technical advisor tells me I need more rams, so I’m off to the livestock market on Sunday. Goodness knows where I’m going to keep them, but there y’go…

There’s also the puzzle of why as soon as I try to watch Sky News, the software crashes. TechnoBuddy reckons there’s some sort of good-taste filter.


Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I’ve been meaning to ask you all this since last weekend – I’m sure one of my clever readers will know the answer.

Last Saturday morning I came out of Mungo’s Towbar Sorting Out Shop, and turned on the car radio: Richard Allinson was playing Who Are You, by The Who. Now my more musical readers will know there are two versions of this: the one that’s normally played on the radio, and that was the UK single, contains the line “Aah, who the hell are you?”. The album version – occasionally played on the radio when Rockin’ Rob the presenter isn’t paying attention – has the rather more basic “Aah, who the f*** are you?”. Unfortunately last weekend I switched on toward the end of the song and missed the key line.

From Allinson’s comment immediately afterwards – “Well I think we got away with that” – I suspect I know the answer, but did anyone notice which version it was?

UPDATE: There are three versions on record: The album version and the original single both include the “F***” line: The one I’m calling the single version must have been a radio edit.


Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

This happened yesterday, but I didn’t want to overshadow Armistice Day by having a rant…

Maplin Electronics send me a sepcial offer catalogue every so often, and there’s usually something intriguing in there. Last week’s had something that would be ideal for my luvvly Mum for Christmas, and there were a couple of bits that I want for the caravan, so at lunchtime I headed off to the nearest branch – Mungo’s Maplins – to the office. My plan was simple – buy the four items I wanted, hand over my squids, then round the corner to Mungo’s Jacket Potato Shop to get my lunch and back to the office to eat. Total time – minus the eating bit – fifteen minutes max.

But I’d reckoned without how crap this particular branch of Maplins is: two things I found fairly quickly, my Mum’s Chrimbo pressie I never found at all, and the fourth item, the caravan gadget, I found in a locked display cabinet. I waited twenty five minutes for a member of staff with a key and a brain cell to be available, then gave up, dropped the two items I had managed to locate on the floor, and stomped out in a grump.

And by then, I only had twenty minutes of my lunch break left, and the queue at Mungo’s Jacket Potato Shop was out the door, so I had to go to Subway instead :-( . The only good part of the whole experience was that the low-fat sweet chicken teriyaki sub is on sepcial offer this week.

Two Minutes

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

One of the many ways in which my job is better than my previous job, is that at 11 o’clock this morning we all observed the two minute silence.

I don’t mean that at the Jelly Factory no-one cared about Armistice Day or anything – it’s just that with a continuous production line, to ensure that the whole line was silent between eleven and two minutes past, would have meant a four-hour shut down. And the mega-bosses at Head Office didn’t care about Armistice Day that much. Not that that’s too much of a criticism, there are probably loads of people who were in a situation where they couldn’t stop for two minutes reflection: Aircraft stayed in the air, landed and took off; traffic continued to move, and undoubtedly loads of other service and manufacturing industries rolled on. No disrespect is intended – it’s just that those people had to do their honour to the fallen in another way.

It was nice, though, that in our office, the only sounds were odd rustling and movement, until the bugler on Sky News played the Last Post.

We Will Remember Them.

Owner’s Manual

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I went to Mungo’s Caravan Shop on Saturday afternoon for the technical run-through on my new caravan. This is where one of Mungo’s service engineers demonstrates all the technobits on the caravan, partly to show the new owner how things work and partly so that it’s proven that at the time the new owner took delivery everything WAS working.

Although I’ve been a caravanner for years, I’ve never used a caravan this new, so things like hot water and showers were all a bit of a new experience for me…at least in a caravan. But I now know all about water storage heating, cassette loos, extractor fans and all the other stuff it comes with. It’s also got an oven, and although he showed me how it worked, the use of such an implement is still a bit of a closed book to me :-)

And speaking of books, I’ve now got a box file full of instruction manuals: instructions for the loo, the water heater, the central heating, the oven, hob and fridge…although as I commented at the time, when you get a five-page instruction manual for the TV aerial, it’s time to question somebody’s sanity :-)


Sunday, November 9th, 2008

This should restore your faith in human nature just a little bit.

Also restorative was yesterday’s trip to Mungo’s Towbar Sorting Out Shop, where they sorted my towbar-related problem related here in less time than it took me to browse round their shop…and wouldn’t charge me anything for having done it. So if you’re in the Southampton area and have a towbar-related problem, I can thoroughly recommend Towbar Services of Pavilion Close, Fair Oak…lovely people :-)


Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I had the opportunity to play with the “fireworks” mode on my camera last night.

I went with some friends to a firework display at the Rose Bowl, the home of Hampshire County Cricket Club. We ate hot dogs and drank coffee, and we listened to a four-song set by “Hope” – apparently they were on X Factor last year. The rain held off at exactly the right time – it stopped just as the fireworks started and started again when they finished.

Anyway, needless to say the high point of the evening was the fireworks, and they were pretty jolly good. For half an hour or so we went “Ooh” and “Aah” and generally had a lovely time. The pictures I took don’t go anywhere near doing it justice, it was a lovely display, and it got me all philosophical. There will be those who’ll say that the money spent on those fireworks could’ve done all sorts of good works if it’d been donated to charity, and I suppose that’s true, but think of the effort that went into the display.

There was the research and design on the fireworks, and the manufacturing process: Somebody designed the display, then somebody ordered, processed, delivered, and placed the fireworks. Finally, so clever performance person set them all off in the right order to make the display work. All that effort put into something whose only useful purpose is to look pretty and give people a fun evening.

I think perhaps if a bit more effort was put into fun, and a bit less into wars and greed and stuff, the world would be a much better place :-)

Rubbish Loo

Friday, November 7th, 2008

I spotted this in a caravan shop t’other day.

In case the picture doesn’t show it clearly enough, it’s a small stool frame (see what I did there?) with a loo seat on it, and a plastic bag underneath. I can honestly say, having been camping for nearly forty years, I have never seen anything like it!

Just for information, should any of my readers ever have the opportunity to camp or caravan with me…I PROMISE I’ll never make you use one of these :-)

Regime Change

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I’ve been getting a bit lazy recently.

As you may have inferred from previous blogs, I’ve got into the habit of getting the bus from Waterloo to the office: It’s so convenient, and if it’s raining I’m hardly not-under-cover at all, as I get off the bus right outside the office. The downside, of course, has been the effect on my waistline and overall fitness.

So with the help of my diet buddy, that’s all changing: I’ve started wearing my ankle weights again, and this morning I walked from the station. In fact I walked by a longer route than normal, as I picked up a cache on the way in. AND I walked through a filming location for the new series of Sherlock Holmes on the way – I considered trying to wheedle a bacon roll out of the location caterers, but I thought that might be a bit necky and went to Mungo’s Porridge Shop instead.

I’ll be on the bus tomorrow because I need to be in as early as possible – there’s “something going on”. But after that, look out for the new regime :-)

Nuts. And Bolts.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

If you’ve been paying attention you’ll know that I’ve bought a new caravan.

A new caravan needs a new towball on the car1: of course I already have a towball with associated mounting bracket, so all I have to do is undo two bolts, take the old towball off, put the new one on and do the bolts back up. How hard can it be?

When the bolts are that solid, pretty damned hard is the answer :-( . Even with my mighty extension recalcitrant-wheelnut-undoing tool on the case, I was lifting the back end of the car rather than loosening the bolts. Even after a generous application of 3-in-1 it didn’t want to know.

So I spent Sunday afternoon building self-assembly furniture, with the assistance of the splendid Purple Fred. Luckily the equally splendid Towbar Services of Fair Oak are going to sort out my nut-and-bolt issues on Saturday morning. Fingers crossed.

1 For those who are interested, new caravan has an Alko stabiliser, so needs an Alko-compatible towball