Archive for December, 2008

Review 2

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

So it’s the last day of 2008: on the first day I published a list of things I intended to achieve during the year. Shall we have a quick look back and see how it went?

Work out how to make the lappy use my mobile phone for internet access
Partial success – well, total failure, but I solved the problem of mobile internet by a different means.

Finish a few overdue jobs on Grunty, including fixing the radio aerial…
Done!
…a couple of ham-radio installation related tasks…
I can’t remember what they were, but I don’t think I did them
…and fitting the gadget that mutes the radio when the mobile rings
Still outstanding

Spend some time with my Ickle Godson and his family, whom I havenít seen for far too long
Oh dear – suffice to say I’m very embarrassed at how badly I did on this one.

In 2008 I WILL finish my Christmas present shopping by the end of November
I was still doing online shopping on December 22nd :-(

On the other hand…I had a seekrit resolution at the start of the year, which has gone very well indeed :-) . So that’s OK. 2009 resolutions coming tomorrow – Happy New Year one and all!

Review 1 – the Year in Pictures

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

With it being the end of the year and all, I thought I’d share a few pictures that most of you won’t have seen…but first, a Net(doesn’t)work Rail ticket-barriers-at-Waterloo update. I was a bit optimistic about how long they’d last – the ones on platforms 9 – 19 were locked open this evening. Two days.

And so to the photos, and we start with this, taken on the Dartmoor cachepedition:

It’s always nice to have some decent photos of your friends.

Mmm, beer…

..and food. Well, a TraveLodge breakfast anyway.

I find home-cooked food much nicer.

I gave Grunty a bath, after some particularly wet and sticky off-roading. This was the road outside my house, just afterwards.

Money money money…18p in Zimbabwean shillings.

Tower Bridge. I had to have one serious picture – shame about the screening. From the noise I think they were sandblasting.

Train-Related Grrr…

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Back to work – and the joy of half-empty trains (at least in the morning) is tempered by the new ticket barriers at Waterloo.

Net(doesn’t)work Rail have spent the last several months (and several million squids, although they’re not admitting how much) fitting ticket-operated barriers at Waterloo, and today was the first day of operation. A half-empty train led to huge queues and confusion, with Waterloo station staff getting very angry (and rude, in one instance I heard) with punters who dared to be annoyed at the delay.

I don’t suppose it’ll be a problem for long – I give it a month before they start breaking down (probably assisted by some non-gentle treatment from people who don’t want to miss their trains): There’ll be no money to repair them so in the end they’ll have to be locked open, and we’ll be back to where we were before.

In the meantime, next Monday – the first day of return to normal passenger numbers – promises to be interesting.

UPDATE: Coming home this evening, my season ticket – which has four months to run – wouldn’t work the gate. Apparently some of the new gates can’t cope with tickets that are getting old, and I can expect this to get worse until I get a new ticket at the end of April.

Last Weekend…

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

…of the year!

And I did a cache (Sidetracked – Millbrook), went to a posh restaurant and the cinema, and visited friends. I’ve had a lovely time!

Back to work tomorrow – only three days to another bank holiday!

Boxing

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Oh look, that was Christmas!

The holiday sped by in a rush of Midnight service (where the vicar was ridden with flu, making things even more unpredictable than normal); Going to lunch on Christmas Day with my Mum (six courses, yum); Cat feeding and cuddling, present opening and more food eating. It was all rather fab really :-)

Today – as has become the tradition over the last few years – I went Boxing Day geocaching. The fun consisted of:
Bish Bash Bosh, a cache with more mud than even an Omally cache could muster, amd
Solent Way – Lone Tree, which was much nicer.

I also had a crack at Norseman Unplugged, but as it was dark by the time I got to Ground Zero, I’ll have to come back to this one another day :-)

The Skype’s the Limit

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I’ve discovered Skype.

Well, I haven’t just discovered it – along with the rest of the computer-literate world I’ve known about it for ages. But I’ve only just started using it, partly because it’s a gadget and partly because someone I talk to a lot has it, and it can save us both some wad. Unfortunately I only know two people on Skype, and there isn’t much chance of my second-most-called person using it, or it could save me even more!

Persuading the laptop to accept a connection to my Bluetooth headset for Skype purposes was an adventure best left with the veil over it…suffice to say it works now so that’s OK :-)

Anyway…’tis the season to be Merry and Jolly, and to celebrate whatever your particular faith or social group celebrate at this time. Whatever you do, do it joyfully, and have a very happy Christmas.

Advent Calendar

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

I’ve noticed that on a few of the blogs I regularly read, there’s been a background theme of what pictures the advent calendar has had each day. Aware that Gottleblog hasn’t totally been fulfilling its advent-calendar-related obligations, here’s a quick summary:

Week one: A black kitten, a pair of white cats, a black cat, a ginger cat, a tabby cat and a tabby kitten.

Week two: a grey Persian, a black-and-white shorthair, a grey kitten, two white kittens, a ginger cat, a black cat and another ginger cat.

Week three: A very fluffy pale ginger kitten, a Burmese, a Manx, a tabby cat, a pair of black cats, a black cat and a white cat, and a grey kitten.

Can you guess it’s the 2008 Cats’ Protection advent calendar?

Why?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

According to the paper being read by the bloke in front of me on the train this morning, the key question of the day is, “Strictly: Did the Right Couple Win?”. Since I don’t know which couple did win I can’t really comment, but from the accompanying photo it looks like at least one of them was wearing a pink fluffy dress, so that’s ok.

I was quite happy that both Strictly AND X Factor have finished for the season…until I discovered that a new series of Big Brother is about to start :-(

Anyway, to more important things…I came out of the office this evening and the road outside was crowded, not with the usual going-home-commuter crowd, but with families with small children. OK, I know the school hols have just started, and I can understand them going to London for shopping or shows…but there’re no shows anywhere near where I work and no shops of the kind that would interest a family on a day out. The oldest building is about thirty years old, and we’re not on the way to anywhere famous…so what’s the attraction?

My theory: They’re all blog readers I didn’t know about, on a Mungo-spotting tour. ‘Tis the only possibility.

Tee Vee Too

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I made an exciting discovery last weekend.

Many of you will be aware of the BBC iPlayer, a system by which BBC programmes are available to watch on the BBC website one hour after transmission. I knew about it, but I’d never made use of it, until last Sunday night I found myself with a spare hour to watch the final episode of Spooks that I’d missed on Monday.

Browsing the site, I found that you can not only watch programmes on-line while you’re connected to t’internet: You can download them to watch later when you’re not connected to t’internet…in a boring business meeting, for example, or in a remote cachepedition cottage, or on the train. Better yet, you can download a low-res version to play on a PDA…and it’s all free!

This week my homeward-bound train journeys have been enlivened by two episodes of Real Rescues, the episode of Top Gear where they enter the 24-hour race, and one of Sean Locke Live at the Apollo. The quality is a bit crap and if I’m going to keep watching stuff on the tiny screen I’ll either need some new reading glasses or a party pack of headache pills. But hey…it’s free :-)

Review…Reviewed

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Most of you will know that one of my favourite TV programmes is QI. On which subject I heard a brilliant spoof of it on the radio a while back…QI, presented by Stephen Cambridge, with contestants David Cambridge, Robert Cambridge, John Cambridge and dear little Alan Comprehensive. You get the idea.

But that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk to you about…I just thought I’d mention it. Its relevance to today’s subject is that I often find myself watching Newsnight on Fridays, not because I like it especially but because when QI finishes, I’m sitting there with my laptop and I can’t be bothered to get up and turn the TV off.

Newsnight is a pretty standard news programme, but on Fridays it includes Newsnight Review: A presenter is joined by three guests from the world of art and literature and they review the latest cinema and book releases. The guests are invariably the sort of people who regularly feature in Pseuds’ Corner in Private Eye and are all so important – and with such important opinions – that they just have to talk over each other, so that their Very Important Opinions are fully communicated to the ordinary people, who couldn’t possibly understand difficult things like films and books without their help.

My favourite from recent weeks has been Germaine Greer’s summing-up of Australia, the new film about…Australia.
“You’d expect a film like this to be full of panoramic shots of the craggy Australian scenery…but it’s just full of close-up shots of Nicole Kidman’s craggy face”

Ooh…saucer of milk for the Australian feminist writer.

Strictly Speaking

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I was going to blog about the latest BBC rigged voting scandal, relating to last Saturday’s Strictly Come Dancing. But then I realised that I didn’t care either way.

Although I guess I should say that I’m writing this a day in advance, so by the time you see this that may have been superseded as the latest scandal – but then, if there is a new one, I’m not likely to care about that, either. I’m one of those people – as I’ve said before – who totally fail to see the point of these phone-in vote programmes. OK, back in the far-off days of last year, when the BBC’s profit on the Strictly calls went to charity, I can kind-of understand it, although I still don’t see the motivation for spending money on a phone vote – a portion of which goes to charity – rather than not phoning and giving the whole amount to charity.

But then, I don’t understand why anyone would watch Strictly anyway, so there’s obviously some hidden meaning that millions have spotted that I’ve missed.

Track ‘n Trace

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

The organisation I work for often has the need to send secure packages.

We’ve tried various means, including a couple of public carriers who are government-approved for the purpose, but we’ve never been totally happy about the trackability being suitable for the security level we want. Then today, someone suggested GPS tracking: there’s a device consisting of a GPS connected to a mobile-phone-like device that you put in your parcel, and whenever you want to know where it is, you send a text message to the phone, and it replies to tell you where it is (or where it was when it last had a GPS signal).

We know the technology works, we’ve used it on a few geocaching events to track a mobile cache: but the whole idea started us thinking of possible upgrades…

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a TomTom-type device that you could fit to a parcel? As well as helping the delivery driver find where he was going, it could keep an eye on time (“You call this express delivery? We should’ve been there by now!”), and avoid those delivery errors (“Not here you numpty, next door!”).

There’s got to be a business venture there…

Yooman Nature

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Another news story from the it restores your faith in human nature files, from yesterday’s BBC News pages:

News story.

I remember the local furore when the original news story erupted, with predictable comments like “They should be made to pay for the rescue” and “Should’ve left them there!”. I’ve got a feeling it was on Seaside Rescue on the telly as well.

It’s nice to see a positive outcome.

Newsletter (part 2)

Monday, December 15th, 2008

So, to part two of the totally fictional Christmas newsletter…

July was fairly quiet, as I spent most of it in Kathmandu and at Everest base camp, preparing and acclimatising for August’s attempt on the summit. Some of you may not know that I became the first person to climb Everest, not only without oxygen but also without any food other than Kendal Mint Cake and home-made chocolate fudge – a feat which led to me spending a week recovering from the effects of oxygen deprivation and tooth decay.

September was pretty ordinary – I saved the life of our good chum Sally-J, as Rockin’ Rob has already hinted in last Thursday’s comments, in what could have turned into the world’s most bizarre accident involving a mobile phone, a flock of sheep, a geocache, a small pack of sultanas and an indelible pencil. I’m sure I don’t need to draw a picture (indelible or otherwise!).

As happens every year, October featured my birthday: it was nice of Dire Straits to reform, just to play at the party, and of course both Renee Zelweger and Cameron Diaz took time out from their busy schedules to come along. Not sure if they really enjoyed the party or if they just saw it as a chance to be photographed with me, but it was good to see them anyway.

And as for the final two months of the year, well what can I say…following the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency, I’m going to be the first non-US-citizen to be a presidential sepcial advisor, in my case dealing with both health + safety and geocaching! It won’t mean as much transatlantic commuting as you might think, as apparently we’re going to communicate mainly by writing on each other’s Facebook walls.

Merry Christmas and a happy 2009 to everyone!

That was fun…I might actually send it out next Chrimbo.

Delay

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

OK, so part two of the newsletter has been delayed…if you’re lucky (for a given value of lucky) it’ll appear tomorrow. Unfortunately by the time I got home on Friday – after the team Christmas meal – I was just a little bit too…umm…bladdered to write deathless prose :-)

In the meantime I thought you might like this lovely new portrait pic of me, wot I took in the early hours of last Sunday morning, in the back of a Land Rover outside checkpoint 12 on the Tour de Trigs. If you’re thinking I look a bit cold…I was!

Newsletter (part 1)

Friday, December 12th, 2008

I had my first Christmas e-mail newsletter last night.

I’ve always been quite impressed by people who do these – they always seem to be full of interesting things going on, well-written and always with a surprise or two, even with people you know pretty well.

I thought of doing one myself this year, if only to take my mind off the fact that I only started writing Christmas cards today, and I’ve still got loads of pressies to buy – as well as at least one person waiting for me to think of something I want. But what would I write? Everyone I’d be likely to send one to reads my blog so they’re up to date on all the current information anyway. The only solution would be to make something up.

Well, another exciting year at Gottle HQ started in January, when my intended week of missionary work in the Orkneys turned into a month snowbound in a shelter made of moss and twelve pliable birch twigs, with only Ben Fogle and a small fluffy kitten called Gonzo for company!

And of course, you’ll all have seen me on the TV news in February, when in the middle of a mediterranean cruise I was the only person on board not to be struck down with the Black Death. Bringing that ship into Gibraltar single-handed was a close-run thing, I can tell you.

Thank goodness March, April and May were a bit quieter, with the only newsworthy item being the time I spent writing the winning song for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest: Yes, I know it was crap…it wouldn’t have won otherwise, would it?

June’s main event was spending time with the British Antarctic Survey’s project teaching penguins to speak English. Modesty forbids that I go into too much detail – let’s just dwell for a moment on the fact that the most successful teaching method is now called “Gottle’s Method”

I think that’s enough for now – you can have the second half of 2008 tomorrow.

Not Here

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Bloggage will probably be missing for a day or two, my chums.

As this appears on line – it was written last night – I’m sitting in a Land Rover in the middle of nowhere, being part of the safety team on the 24 hour walking competition, the Tour de Trigs. And by the time I get home tomorrow I’ll be so knackered that I’ll be straight into the shower, scoff something unhealthy and off to bed.

And then I’ve got an exciting round of travelling all over the place, visiting a chum and going on a course, and I won’t be back home and in internet contact until late on Wednesday. By which time, hopefully I’ll have a mega blog for you. There may even be something interesting.

TeeVee

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Did anyone see the Fun Police -a so-called documentary about health and safety professionals – on Channel 4 last night?

I didn’t, I was doing an important phone call at the time, but it’s been fairly heavily discussed in the health and safety chatrooms so I think I’ve got a fairly good idea what it was like: Daily Mail-esque anti-H+S lampooning in the first half, and a bit better and more sincere in part two. I wish there’d been a bit more of how the programme finished, with a Health and Safety Executive officer telling how he had to discuss the details of a fatal workplace accident with a bereaved family, followed by a statement that that’s the sort of thing that health and safety professionals work to prevent.

Apparently the H+S person who featured in most of it – who, for whatever reason, isn’t a member of the Health + Safety professional body – didn’t do himself any favours, playing up to the stereotype image, but a lot of that’s down to how the film was edited.

Anyway, for some reason it seems to be fun to blame the health and safety profession for all of society’s ills: banning conkers and hanging baskets, cancelled donkey derbies and pancake races and the like, in spite of the fact that these are invariably the work of people who know nothing – or worse still, a little bit – about health and safety, but are “playing it safe”. A true professional looks at how problems can be overcome so that things can go ahead, and if any of those events had sought professional advice (which is often available free to community groups), rather than asking some bloke down the pub, they’d almost certainly have gone ahead.

Can you tell I’m a bit steamed about it?

Nekkid

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Out for my lunchtime walk today, I spotted an advertising hoarding proclaiming “Look good naked. Eat salad”.

I suspect in my case it might need a bit more work than that.

The reason I was walking that way was that Maplin are run by idiots. I’ve already had a moan about the branch nearest to the office – today I tried the other branch that I walk past on the way in. In spite of the fact that their website says they have three in stock, they’ve taken them off the shelves to make space for their Christmas tat range, and rather than keep them in the stockroom, have sent them back to head office.

And while I could order the item from Maplin Mail Order, I need it in time for Christmas – this Christmas – so that was a non-starter. So at lunchtime I headed off to Mungo’s Better Than Maplin Shop, and in ten minutes had what I was looking for :-) ten pounds dearer than Maplin but at least I’ve got it!

Hotel (Again)

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I mentioned a few weeks ago how I had to stay in a Travelodge on a business trip, because everywhere else in town was fully booked.

I’m on a course next week which will involve a night away: on this occasion I actually wanted to stay in the Travelodge because it was most convenient for the course venue…but in a lovely example of “what goes around, comes around”, the only place that isn’t fully booked is a rather nice looking Thistle. Quelle Domage, as our chums across the channel would say.

On the downside, I’ve been warned that this is the most boring course available to the public sector. Joy.

Woodie

Monday, December 1st, 2008

In last week’s blog about The Miserables, I mentioned in passing a huuuge meal at a local curry house: It deserves a bit more of a mention.

I only know the bits of London closest to the office, so when I knew I was going to the Queen’s Theatre with a vegetarian, I asked my work chums for recommendations. One of m’colleagues recommended The Woodlands Restaurant, and after a quick perusal of the menu – you can peruse it too, it’s on the website – we decided to book.

We hadn’t had time for a proper read of the menu before we arrived, and it runs to several pages: None of the descriptions meant much to me, and Diet Buddy isn’t used to having a choice anyway, so we stuck pins in the menu and ordered a Woodlands Thali and a London Royal Thali. The waiter pulled one of those faces that means “Oh blimey, the cheesy English people have ordered enough food to feed a regiment”, but he covered it well. There was quite a lot, but apart from a few bits of rice, and some concoction that was too spicy for either of us, we scoffed the lot :-)

So – if you find yourself in the vicinity of Panton Road, call in at the Piccadilly branch of Woodlands Restaurant: Don’t worry if you’re not vegetarian, the food is great anyway and you won’t miss the meat.

Mind you, a Thali is a bit much for one…