Archive for January, 2009

Tesco Game, Set and Match

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Some of my readers will have been in Blogland long enough to remember Henry’s Tesco Game: to cut a long story short, it was a legal way of leaving Tesco with more money than you started with, and your shopping as well.

I’ve recently been playing a 21st Century version of the game, recycling everything recyclable at the Tesco recycling bank in exchange for Clubcard points – last Summer I collected enough points that all my holiday grocery shopping was free, which made the effort worthwhile.

Over the last few weeks the machine has been playing up, either not recognising my Clubcard or recognising it but not giving me any points. Last night it gave me “nil points” in return for 80 recycled items, and it’s had its last chance: from now on, it goes in the recycling bin.


Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I mentioned a while ago that I’d followed Simon’s recommendation and picked up a Christopher Brookmyre book at the library.

That was A Tale Drawn in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, which I enjoyed enough to move straight on to All Fun and Games Until Somebody Loses an Eye. Both were exciting, in a lightweight escapist crime thriller kind of way, but neither offered the comedy that the blurb had lead me to expect.

That changed with my latest read, Be My Enemy (or, F*** This for a Game of Soldiers), which I’m currently half way through. It’s still exciting, thrilling and escapist: Last night I was laughing so much I couldn’t sleep.

I think I’ll read a few more of these.

Give Us a Lift Mate

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

In my capacity as a workplace first aider, I had to send one of m’colleagues to hospital yesterday.

Not for anything mega-serious, thank goodness – she was back at work today – but it still involved an ambulance. One of the advantages of being in London is the speed of ambulance response when you need them – the last time we needed one, they’d arrived before we had someone down to the ground floor to escort them in. They weren’t quite that quick this time, but the motorbike paramedic arrived fairly quickly, with the “normal” ambulance not far behind.

Where it nearly went a bit wrong was the lift: M’colleague Brad had held the lift for the paramedic, and as soon as he was on board, pressed the button for the sixth floor. Which was the cue for three or four other people to pile into the lift, and their thought processes obviously went:
“Hmm…motorbike paramedic in uniform, carrying two big bags of equipment…lift’s on it’s way to the fifth…I don’t see any reason not to make the lift call at all the intermediate floors on the way”.

Jerks. Luckily, Brad’s no shrinking violet, and pretty quickly made it clear to them they’re jerks!

Lots of Fun and Low Mileage

Monday, January 26th, 2009

I had another fun weekend! It does seem that since the lovely Purple Fred and I have been ”an item” my weekends have been even more full of fun things than they were before.

Since I last blogged, I have:

Been to the theatre twice to see various chums in various things.

Had a pub lunch out with fambly of Purple Fred

Played numerous games involving indoor forts, and go-gos (although I’m still not totally sure what they are!)

Been geocaching! We found
Park Post and
Bigface’s New Face

I’ve also been to the gym – darned rowing machine, I thought for a minute I’d never walk again – and booked Grunty in for her pre-MOT work. In the course of which I discovered that since last February she hasn’t covered 2500 miles yet!

Stoned Crows

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I did another London cache today :-)
Pigeon Square

Then at lunchtime I spotted this rather odd advertisement…if we didn’t have strict rules about that sort of thing in t’office I might have been tempted to try one.

Is It Me?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

In our London office, we decided quite a while ago that as few people as possible would know in advance about fire drills.

This was for two reasons: first we wanted to be sure that people were responding genuinely. If there’s a real fire and fire wardens are goiong to take five minutes to get back to their desks and collect their hi-viz jackets and their radios, we’d rather know about it in advance. If they know about the drill, they’re only human, and they’ll make sure they’re near their desks.

The other reason is that if people know there’s a fire drill at quarter to twelve, there’s going to be a spate of early lunches that day and it’ll be me, the fire wardens and the office cat doing the drill.

So I was a bit narked when the landlords sent an email round the other day, not only telling us when the fire drill was going to be, but calling a briefing meeting for fire wardens half an hour before! I may as well send round an “all staff” e-mail saying “Would everyone please meet at the fire assembly point at 11:47″. Which of course is exactly what would happen in a real fire.

Strangely reminiscent of an episode of “Fawlty Towers”. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so serious :-(


Monday, January 19th, 2009

Well what a lovely weekend that was :-)

It started with getting the caravan moved to its permanent storage location, which was a major job off my to-do list, and then I helped Purple Fred do a couple of items on her to-do list. And then after lunch, we changed into our getting-muddy gear (which proved to be a sensible move) and went geocaching!

First was
My ‘ampshire no. 7, a clever little hide where we bumped into old caching chums Kitty Hawk and family. Then came
My ‘ampshire no. 6, after which I suggested retiring to a tea shoppe for hot chocklit: PF, however, is made of sterner stuff, and may be just a little bit geocaching-obsessed, so we carried on and did
My ‘ampshire no. 5, where we met new caching chums MuppetMel and family, and then
My ‘ampshire no. 3.

On Sunday we helped out at the Stubbington Green 10k race and did a couple more caches:
Solent Way: Hill Head Steps and
Norseman Unplugged, as well as dlscovering a rather nice new lunch venue. As I said, a LOVELY weekend!

Oh, and this morning I achieved another cache,
Back on the Grid, on the way to work!

A Sign of Something…

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Busses in London – or at least the ones I ride on – have a message board inside, which tell you the name of the next stop, accompanied by a recorded announcement.

As an aside, there are a few different voices used on the announcements – my favourite is the lady who does the route 168. The way she says “Old Kent Road, Tesco” is sooo sexy.

Ahem…anyway, these signs are really useful. In a city where probably half of the bus passengers are strangers, and may not understand English too readily, being able to look out for their destination in written-down (or maybe written-up) format must be really helpful. And the spoken announcements are helpful if you’re ratted and otherwise likely to miss your stop…at least according to m’colleague Roddy, who has some experience in this field.

Worst Bus Southampton have just started installing similar displays on their busses: There was one on the bus I came home on this evening. It said “8 to Lordshill”.

Is it my imagination, or would most people have known that before they got on the bus?

Nick III

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

There’s discussion on the BBC News website – here – about nicknames, and in particular the “Sooty” appellation given to Asian polo player Kolin Dillon.

Dillon himself says the nickname is “a term of affection with no offence meant or felt”. A commenter on the site disagrees, and says that the nickname has “slight overtones of white supremacy”. According to this person, it’s an offensive nickname even if the person it’s applied to isn’t offended.

But that can’t be right, can it? Almost every nickname in the world is offensive to someone: I’ve got a mate we call “Plankton”, which is bound to upset somebody, but because of the circumstances of him getting that name he likes it. Rob and Sally-J call me Great Uncle Bulgaria, because I’m 14 years older than them – but just because it’s ageist, is it offensive? Of course not.

And at school I was “Captain Caveman” and my Scouts called me “Wookie”.

So we’re left with the conclusion that either
A) Racially offensive is worse than any other offensive
B) All nicknames are bad because they all have the potential to offend someone, even if not the person they’re applied to.

Or that the person who made that comment is talking out of his hat.

Screen Test

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I told you that I treated myself – with the gadget money my Mum gave me for Christmas – to a new gadget. It was the TomTom One Traffic, and one day I’ll do a review of that for you, and tell you why I moved to a standalone satnav unit, as opposed to running the TomTom software on a PDA as I’ve always done before.

But today I want to tell you about the screen protector I bought for it. It’s basically a piece of clear sticky-backed plastic, cut to size, that you stick on the screen to protect it from scratches and dirty finger marks. I bought it from that great emporium of all things top quality, eBay, so I was expecting good things.

Well, it was cut to the right size.

To be fair, it’s pretty sticky as well: The main problem – apart from the difficulty of getting all the air bubbles out – is that they’ve put a tab in one corner which is supposed to help with lowering the protector on to the screen. The trouble is, the tab sticks to the protector like…umm…a very sticky thing, and so far I’ve only got it half off, leaving an unsightly mess in the middle of the screen.

That’ll teach me to buy cheap. I think I’ll abandon it and lash a few quid on a decent one.

New Game

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Just when you thought geocaching was as much fun as you could have with a GPS, I’ve come up with something new…

For this game, you’ll need:

  1. A GPS (probably with a SirfIII chipset, as you’ll be using it inside a train)
  2. Accurate co-ordinates of a number of railway level crossings
  3. A train where the on-board loos flush on to the track – any one where they loos have a sign saying “Do not flush while the train is standing in a station” will do.

Go to the loo, and pour something brightly-coloured down the pan: Flourescent paint would be amusing. I was originally going to propose playing the game with something a little closer to what the loo was originally designed for, but that might be a bit unpleasant. Although less likely to get you banned for life from trains.

Having put something appropriate in the loo, watch your GPS: Your aim is to flush the loo at exactly the right time so that your glo-paint, Richard the Third or whatever splats in the middle of the level crossing.

A couple of points to note…

1) – this is a theoretical exercise only – I’m not encouraging anyone to pour anything in a train loo that would probably block it!

2) – I bet Omally will be the first to try it – and not with paint, either :-)


Sunday, January 11th, 2009

If I ran a health club, I’d call it the Life Gym.

Then after I’d had it redecorated, we could all say “It’s Life Gym, but not as we know it”

Ahem…anyway, I went this afternoon, not to the Life Gym but to the one I actually belong to. It was a bit of a rubbish workout, only a sign that I need to go more often! And they’ve got some whizzy new CV machines that definitely deserve more investigation.

And in other news…following a recommendations from the amazing SimonG, I found a Christopher Brookmyre book1 in the library. Not bad…he’s no Terry Pratchett, but then who is2? I’ll certainly be reading a few more, as long as Shirley Library has them.

1 “A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil”
2 Other than Terry Pratchett, obviously

Oh Bum

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Given that I ended yesterday’s offering by saying “it’s nice to know some things work the way they should”, it’s a bit ironic that I managed, in the course of posting it, to overwrite Wednesday’s blog. Oops.

Lucky it wsn’t worth bothering with really :-)


Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I’ve been quite impressed recently.

I decided to bow to the inevitable and change my old paper driving licence for one of the whizzy new photocard ones. It goes against the grain a bit – on the grounds that if the guvmint want me to do it, it can’t be good – but I’ve been tipped off that the car hire people in Lanzarote can be a bit awkward about accepting paper licences, and while if I was on my own I’d be inclined to stand my ground and be equally awkward back, as I’ll have chums with me I just want it to go smoothly.

So – I checked the DVLA website and it told me I could do the whole process online. Although a good chum of mine who works for DVLA tells me that isn’t possible, I thought I’d give it a try…and it worked! You fill in all your details and tell them your passport number…the system goes off and gets your photo and signature from the passport database and viola – or other stringed instrument of your choice – ’tis done. Better still, it arrived in a week, including the New Year bank holiday :-)

It’s nice to know some things work the way they should :-)

A Festival of Incompetence

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Don’t get the wrong idea from the title…I’ve had a brilliant New Year weekend. It included…but was not restricted to…

  • Buying a new gadget (technically I bought it with my gadget money my Luvvly Mum gave me, so it was her Christmas present to me)
  • Lunch at a restaurant I’d never been to before (although Purple Fred had)
  • A whacking good evening out to celebrate the Lady Sally-J’s birthday
  • Lunch out with Jenny, to celebrate her being down in t’South for t’weekend
  • Learning to play Poker with Purple Fred (we blame the fact that she beat me on my miunderstanding of how she read the rules to me :-) )
  • A little light caching, finding two rather nice caches:
    Not another Pointless Micro Protest Cache
    A Traditional Cache for Christmas

…and of course loads of time with the lovely lady Purple Fred!

The festival started when we tried to book our overseas holiday for later in the year…luckily PF did the phoning – I’d have given up long before the end, told them to stuff their useless holiday and their useless website and their useless staff, and we’d have ended up going to a B&B in Weston-Super-Mare instead. But she persevered with their useless telephone people and now we’re off to Lanzarote in May!

The second bit of incompetence comes from the traffic division of Hampshire Constabulary: I knew there’d be trouble getting home from Purple Fred’s house because Southampton FC were playing at the Gasworks Ground, and for some strange reason Northam Bridge is always closed to traffic when the footie turns out: Still and all, I got to the approach road and the “Bridge Closure” warning signs were turned off, so I guessed everyone was all clear, and proceeded.

And sat in the middle of the bridge for twenty minutes while miserable Saints supporters, and cheerful MU supporters, streamed past. Once I finally got moving, the traffic lights at the other side of the bridge were red, but a policeman was waving us all on…until we stopped at the pelican crossing a hundred yards further on, where the lights were also red. A WPC ran up and waved us on, but they should’ve had someone there all along, or turned the pelican lights off. There’s a camera on those lights…if I had my picture taken I shan’t be pleased.

So, two bits of Police muppetry so far – turning off the warning sign and not patrolling the pelican crossing. But they’d saved the best till last: careful Police planning meant that all traffic was approaching Charlotte Place Roundabout from every direction – and staying there gridlocked, because they didn’t have any officers on duty there.

And this morning I had to walk to the station and missed the 06:30 train, because First Bus are, as I may have mentioned before, sh*te.

New Year, New Targets

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Following yesterday’s review of my massive success (ahem) with my 2008 objectives, these are the ones for 2009. Y’never know, I might actually achieve some of these.

  • Lose a stone compared to my January 1st weight, by February 28th
  • Lose a stone compared to my February 28th weight, by 30th May
  • Pass the IAM Advanced Towing Test by year end
  • Climb Sca Fell (sort-of dependent on the Autumn cachepedition with Rockin’ Rob and Sally-J happening, and the weather when we get there)
  • To which I’ll add a reprise of those from last year that I failed negatively succeeded on most spectacularly:

  • To get to see ickle Godson and his fambly
  • To complete all present-related shopping a month before it’s due (with the exception of Shrimp’s birthday present, as I’ve failed on that already!)

I wonder how well I’ll do with these?