Archive for April, 2009

A Bit Frustrating

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

One of the proactive bits of my job is issuing health and safety guidance, relevant to the issues of the day.

I’ve spent the last couple of days writing a guidance note about Swine Flu, and a pretty frustrating experience it’s been: the process is something like –

  1. Read World Health Organisation and NHS Direct websites, and a couple of others I like, and distil relevant information
  2. Write guidance note, taking care to make it sufficiently interesting that people will read it, accurate enough that no-one’s going to tell me I’m talking cobblers, and clear enough that the pedants don’t take the piss mickey
  3. Check back against the websites mentioned above in case official guidance has been updated in the time it took to write the guidance note
  4. Re-write the guidance note
  5. Repeat parts three and four until you get fed up and issue the darned thing anyway.

No wonder they call it Swine Flu – just writing about it is a pig of a job.

Bizarre

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

While looking for new timetable information on the South West Trains website I came across something slightly bizarre.

Apparently from 22nd – 24th May, Bournemouth is going to be hosting the Bournemouth International Rugby, Netball and Music Festival. Now is it just me, or are those three items that you wouldn’t normally think to put together? I can sort-of see the connection with rugby and netball – they’re both ball games, and they both have a stereotype of being slightly posh, but I’m still not sure why you’d lump them together, add music and call it a festival.

But if anyone fancies going along to find out, details are here.

Red Friday

Monday, April 27th, 2009

M’darling Lady Purple Fred sent me this this morning. I can’t do better than to pass it on:

Last week I was in West London attending a conference.

While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer. I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their uniforms, as they began heading to their gate everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering..

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I’m not alone. I’m not the only red blooded Briton who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families… Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work, and enjoy our home without fear or reprisal.

Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers. He knelt down and said ‘hi,’ the little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her. The young soldier didn’t look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her daddy.

Suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek. The mother of the little girl, who said her daughters name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Corporal and had been in Afghanistan for 5 months now.

As the mum was explaining how much her daughter, Courtney, missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up. When this temporarily single mum was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second. Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military looking walkie-talkie.

They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, “I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.” He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a Kiss on the cheek.

He finished by saying “Your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.” The mum at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet he saluted Courtney and her mum.

I was standing no more than 6 feet away as this entire event unfolded.

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause. As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own. That young soldier in one last act of moment turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.

We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it’s good to be an Englishman.

RED FRIDAYS

Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The reason?

Englishmen and women who support our troops used to be called the ‘silent majority’. We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for Country and home in record breaking numbers. We are not organized, boisterous or over-bearing. We get no liberal media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our opinions.

Many English people, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of Britain supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that every Briton who supports our men and women afar will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make Great Britain on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football team. If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family, It will not be long before Britain is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once ‘silent’ majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked ‘What can we do to make things better for you?’ is…’We need your support and your prayers’…

Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example; and wear something red every Friday.

Amen to that. Since we do “dress down” on Fridays, I’ll have to get a red polo shirt.

Reggie

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

A new series of “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin” started on the BBC last night.

It was always going to be up against it – the traditional Reggie Perrin humour would be hard to translate to current PC times, when workplaces and home life in general are so different. And after reading an interview with Martin Clunes, who plays Reggie, this week, I was well set up to not like it. I even saw a review in the week that said “They shouldn’t have remade it, just repeated the original”.

I was better than pleasantly surprised: this ranks with QI as up there in the best new programming the BBC has produced in recent times. They’ve kept the jokes that still work, updated others and been ruthless in weeding out the ones that wouldn’t work in the 21st century. There are subtle nods to the original and some great new humour: Reggie’s experience with his office PC is exactly in tune with the original Reggie.

Well done BBC: Lets hope the standard is maintained!

Wupert

Friday, April 24th, 2009

You might have seen the news about Southampton Football Club, arch-rivals of my own team.

Southampton have gone into administration, and as a result have been fined ten points by the league: if they survive relegation this season then the penalty applies, which guarantees that they do go down. If they get relegated on their own efforts – which seems likely – then the penalty applies next season, so they start next season in Division One with minus ten points.

You might think that as a Pompey fan I’d have an opinion on that, but you could be surprised. If they’d lost ten points as a result of their performance on the pitch, that’d be one thing – I’d have a quiet chuckle and it’d all be part of the rough and tumble of following a footie team. But I can’t believe any fan of football likes to see any club in a bad situation because of poor management, and Southampton’s this season has been dreadful. A chairman who’s only there to make money, and knows and cares nothing for football, and two coaches with no knowledge or experience of English top-level football. The players haven’t helped, getting more column-inches in the local paper for drunken thuggery than for football prowess, but the rot has started at the top and worked down. And that’s not just bad for the club, it’s bad for football as a whole.

Good luck Saints – you’re going to need it.

Boris

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

London mayor Boris Johnson has announced plans to let cyclists ignore red traffic lights.

Newsflash for the floppy-haired one: they already do. I know not all cyclists are the same, but the ones who are in the majority in London are the ones who think a red light means you have to shout “LOOK OUT!!!” before proceeding. If a pedestrian then dares to try to cross at the green man, the cyclist is entitled to shout a volley of abuse.

I think London cyclists must be BMW drivers at the weekend.

Dave

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Many of you will know that Gottle HQ gets a bit behind the times on domestic technology.

I only bought a DVD player a couple of years back, and even then it was only because there was a film I wanted to see and Jenny offered to buy me the DVD for Christmas! I’ve never had a satellite dish or cable TV, and until recently I’d never seen digital TV. Or Channel 5 for that matter, which isn’t available terrestrially in our bit of Southampton.

Then Her Purple Ladyship of Fred introduced me to the delights of the Dave channel – the Home of Witty Banter – and I had a bit of a re-think. The idea of a whole evening of Red Dwarf, or non-stop QI was rather appealing, so I started to research options.

On Saturday we went to a caravan equipment show at Broadlands: overall it was a bit disappointing and not really worth the six-quid-a-head to get in, but we did find a stall selling small tellies – analogue, digital, digital radio and VGA monitor – for a pretty good price, and they were 12 volt or mains powered. They even seem to be usable as a digibox to be connected to a conventional analogue TV, although I haven’t tried that yet.

So now I have Dave. It looks like there’s 48 other channels as well, but who cares?

Not So Sob

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Stand down the alert team.

It’s not over yet, but I’m a bit more relaxed about the whole credit card/South West Trains shenanigans I reported yesterday. I also know a bit more about the slightly odd way that credit cards work.

Apparently processing a credit card payment happens in two stages. Firstly the trader says to the credit card company, “Mr Gottle wants to spend a hundred quid, is that OK?”. The credit card company say “Yes, he’s a trustworthy chap, we authorise that transaction”.

Stage two is that the trader says “OK, you’ve authorised the transaction, now give us the money”, and the credit card company dob up the dosh. Sometimes there’s a delay between stages one and two, although it’s normally short enough that it doesn’t notice.

What seems to have happened this time is:
South West Trains: “Hello, Mr Gottle wants to spend four and a half grand on getting to work for the next year. Is that authorised?”
Mungo’s Credit Cards: “Hmm, well that would take him just over his credit limit, but he’s a nice trustworthy chap, so yes, it’s authorised”.

The problem came when, ten minutes later, SWT should have said “OK, you’ve authorised the transaction, now give us the money”. What actually happened was:
South West Trains: “Hello, Mr Gottle wants to spend four and a half grand on getting to work for the next year. Is that authorised?”
Mungo’s Credit Cards: “Ooh blimey, with what’s already on that card, plus the authorised transaction that hasn’t gone through yet, that would take him miles over his credit limit. No, it isn’t authorised”.

…and that was when South West Trains phoned me up, told me the card had been declined and I paid on the Cats’ Protection card instead. Meanwhile, although South West Train haven’t taken anything from my Mungo’s card, Mungo can’t let me have any more credit because there’s an outstanding authorisation for a big amount…

According to Mungo’s nice telephone helpline lady Nicola, the authorisation will time-expire at close of business tomorrow. I hope so.

Sob

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

I renewed my annual train season ticket last week.

I wasn’t going to mention it – whacking over four and a half grand on a credit card is something I’d rather forget than blog about – but it’s turned into a bit of a drama. I originally tried to pay for the ticket on my Mungo’s credit card (I get a good rewards deal with every pound spent), but knowing that it would take the card slightly over the limit I wasn’t surprised when it was declined, and paid with a different card instead. I used a charity card where Cats Protection gets a commission with every purchase, so that’s OK.

Then my Mungo’s card was refused when I tried to buy fuel with it yesterday, and again this morning with an online purchase. I rang the Mungo helpline.

To cut a long story short, it looks like when I tried to buy my train ticket, even though it took the card just over the limit, because I’m a regular trusted customer they let it go. But then, for some reason, South West Trains tried to put the purchase through again, and that one was refused, quite reasonably. But SWT, thinking the payment hadn’t gone through, took the money again from my other card.

So at the moment I have two 4600 purchases on two different cards, for one ticket, and I’ll be on the phone to the train company early tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it pans out.

Free LongLie and the Speeding Ticket

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

One of the hazards of working in the Nation’s Capital is that on the way home you get hordes of people trying to force free newspapers on you: there are two main ones, the London Paper and the London Lite.

As an aside, I know that giving out free newspapers is possibly the perfect job for people whose English leaves something to be desired – but if I was in charge of recruiting distributors, I’d at least teach them that “Free London Lite” isn’t pronounced “Free Long Lies”. Not exactly the right image for a newspaper, even a free one.

Anyway, what prompted this line of discussion was a story in yesterday’s Free Long Lie…sorry, I mean London Lite. Apparently to mark some festival or other, volunteers are going to be handing out “speeding tickets” on the streets of London, to people who walk too quickly. Apparently it’s part of an initiative to encourage people to be more relaxed and outgoing on their travel around the capital.

I really really hope I get one when I’m hurrying for the train: I can’t wait to see one of these busybody “volunteers” doing a “flaming rooster” with an incendiary speeding ticket stuck up their trousers.

New Experiences

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

I had a couple of new experiences today.

The first – and least pleasant – involved a visit to the hospital, where I had to have various bits and pieces prodded and poked by a doctor – at least, I hope he was a doctor. It would be even worse if he was just a passing porter who fancied a bit of prodding for a laugh. Anyway, the poking and prodding was done and although there’s a bit more to follow, all seems well so far :-)

Anyone see Billy Conolly’s stand up routine on telly last night? Just a little clue there.

Oh, and on the way to the hospital, I had a few spare moments to divert to a cache!
Lord’s Dale Greenway – More Trees
I must do the rest of that series soon.

At this point I could have jumped on the train and headed off to work, but the lady Purple Fred had a better idea, so we spent a happy hour or so browsing around Southampton’s new Ikea store. By which I mean, she enjoyed the browsing, and I enjoyed the bit on the way back to the car where she bought me a hot dog!

The bad news is, it just whetted her appetite for Swedish flat-pack, and we have to return. AND my Mum wants to go too! Still, next time I’ve been promised one of their magnificent breakfasts, so I guess I’ll survive :-)

Happy Easter

Monday, April 13th, 2009

…which may seem like it qualifies for the “One Day Late Blog Title” award…but in the church calendar Easter continues until Ascension Day in 39 days time, so it still counts! And anyway, today’s post is about what a nice Easter I had, so it’s an appropriate name.

On Good Friday I went to church, the usual Good Friday service where our church and the Baptist church join up to d a service together – first we have an indoor service at their church (ours isn’t big enough for the joined congregations), then we join with all the other churches in Totton for an outdor service in the shopping centre.

Then the rest of the weekend was spent with Purple Fred’s family, eating too much, relaxing and geocaching (PF’s dad is an enthusiastic cacher too!). And we went to the Easter Sunday service at a lovely little church which we picked almost at random, but turned out to be absolutely right for us.

Those caches? On the way home from church on Friday I did
Sidetracked: Redbridge and
A Different View of Life

Then over the weekend we did
Nev’s Cache: Mr Angry Pants
Beach Gator’s Inland Fishponds Cache
Darker Deeds at St Mary’s and
SwapShop Set – Music CDs

Oh, and to His Lordship of Hutton, who asked for the code for the cache map on Friday…you can find everything you need at It’s Not About The Numbers

Latest Cache Map

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Since I haven’t posted one for a while…

SatNav

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

No, this isn’t the long-promised review of the TomTom I bought at New Year – although I think I’ve now been using it long enough to give a fair opinion. But this is something altogether odder.

I had a credit card bill today (no Marie, nothing from the hotel yet). As usual, tucked inside were fliers for all sorts of crazy things that I may or may not want, one of which is a Bose Wave Hi-Fi system. Now we all know that Bose make the best hi-fi going, and I do indeed aspire to own one – although not until I’m retired and I have time to sit at home and enjoy it to its fullest extent. But one of the key attractions is its simplicity, and the lack of unneccessary flashing lights, what we techies call the bells and whistles. It’s a good hi-fi, and doesn’t try to be anything else.

Which makes it all the more surprising that they’re advertising this as “Now available with a free satellite navigation system”.

Bits an’ Pieces

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Well first of all – I know not all my readers are followers of Omally’s blog, so you won’t all have seen his link to the “Save Bletchley Park” petition. In summary, Bletchley was the home of “Station X” during the second world war, the home of the code-breakers who broke the German Enigma code (or to be accurate, developed an earlier crack to a practical, rather than theoretical, level).

If you saw the film Enigma – it was nothing like that because the film was crap. They wrote out the character of Alan Turing completely for the worst of possible reasons – because he was homosexual, and firmly “in the closet” until after the war, he couldn’t be the centrepiece of a traditional Hollywood love story, so they told the story of Bletchley Park without him. And telling the story of Bletchley without Turing is like Born Free without the lions.

Ahem…rant over. Anyway, you can read more about Bletchley Park – and even sign up to be a Friend of Bletchley Park, if you want, here.

And you can sign the online “Save Bletchley Park” petition here.

I was going to tell you abut a couple of caches I’ve done this week, but that can wait for another day now.

Park ‘n Ride

Monday, April 6th, 2009

For reasons various, instead of walking to Southampton station this morning, I drove to Parkway station and travelled in from there.

This involved parking at Parkway, where they’ve got one of the new “pay by phone” systems: you can still choose to pay with coins in the slot, but I’m not sure anyone’s got that much coinage. Anyway, I’ve used this kind of thing before – in Bournemouth, on March 14th 2007 – so I was confident the process would work. I checked the number to ring and the location code, and dialled in.

Ring Ring
“To pay to park your white Mitsubishi registration GRUNT 1a, please press 1 now”
.

Eh? What? OK, I know I’m parked under the CCTV camera but…I calmed down a bit when I realised that the parking is operated by the same company as two years ago, and they’ve used Caller ID to call up the details I registered then, but it’s still a bit “Big Brother”.

It reminded me a bit of the time I was the first car to stop and help at an accident on the M40: I stopped on the hard shoulder, dialled 999 on my mobile, and gave them the details.

“Oh yes Mr Gottle…that must be you in the Nissan Primera with two aerials, on the hard shoulder?”.

a May or may not be Grunty’s real index number.

Protest

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

You may have been surprised that in spite of working in the Nation’s Capital, I haven’t spoken this week about the protests around the G20 summit.

Well really, it hasn’t affected me all that much: On Wednesday my bus to the station in the evening was delayed by a traffic policeman from Wales (he had “Police/Heddlu” on his jacket and on his motorbike), who was directing traffic on the Aldwych, possibly in the mistaken belief that he was somewhere else, but apart from that it’s been pretty quiet around our way. There was a family of protesters on the train on Wednesday morning – Mum, Dad and two teenagers, on their way to a jolly family day out smashing bank windows and throwing bottles at Police officers – who felt the love of everyone else in the carriage – especially the third time the daughter was shushed by those around her for laughing too loud, and told “people are trying to sleep, y’know”.

The train home in the evening carried a fair number of protesters – worn out after a hard day chucking bricks – but apart from that the only sign that there was anything going on was an increased presence of real policemen on the railway stations.

But it did inspire our colleague Den to tell us a story from long ago – about three years ago, to be exact: He was sitting on his train home at Waterloo, which was due to leave in two or three minutes, when railway staff and Police officers made them all evacuate the train because of a suspect package. They were made to get off the train, walk the length of the platform under the glass roof, across the concourse and past the suspect package and out into the rain: Meanwhile, their train left on time, without them.

You have to hope they’d be better organised now, but I’m not hopeful.

Nothing to do with Bananananananas

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

So, why did I call t’other day’s entry “Fyffe Dace”?

Well, let me refer you back to last Tuesday, when I teased you about the sepcial feature arriving on Friday and called it “Tree Dace”. That phonetic mispronunciation of “Three Days” was a tribute to a character called 71-hour-Ahmed, who appears in Terry Pratchett’s tale of derring-do and silliness, “Jingo”.

So when I wanted to tell you about the five days when I hadn’t been blogging – at least, not in real time – I called it Fyffe Dace. Silly really, but that’s me :-)

In other news, the shoulder, neck and back thing turned out not to be rucksack-weight-related – I kinda wish it had been. It was actually a symptom of a posture problem exacerbated (my word for the day) by two hours of laptop use on the train from Manchester to London on Monday afternoon :-(

Which for an ergonomist is even more embarrassing.