Archive for July, 2009

In the Beginning

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Greetings chums.

Since I last updated you, we’ve had two Medical Team barbecues, treated some patients – including some with symptoms suggesting Swine Flu – and consumed 11 packets of chocolate biscuits and seven million gallons of coffee (I blame the doctors for that). On a personal note, I managed to get off site this afternoon and found two geocaches:
Path to Cannards Grave
The One With the Sunset

I’ve also had a personal revelation – I know revelation doesn’t normally go with “In the Beginning”, but there we are: I’m allergic to yoghurt. It doesn’t make me turn green, or my head explode, or anything like that – but let’s just say it doesn’t remain in my stomach for very long. I’ve had this since I was old enough to eat yoghurt.

Needless to say, it’s a while since I’ve knowingly had yoghurt – about thirty eight years, if I remember right, but I’ve eaten it in curries, where I assumed the non-explosiveness was due to the fact it had been cooked. And then yesterday, I had a dessert which I thought had some funny-tasting Angel Delight on it, but turned out to be vanilla flavoured yoghurt. Again, no reappearance of either the yoghurt or anything else I’d eaten.

So I did an experiment today: I bought a peach-flavoured yoghurt from the shop on site, and with the loo ready to receive, and a bucket on my knee, sat in my caravan and ate it. That was ten hours ago and it hasn’t yet made a reappearance, so perhaps it’s fair to say I can now be a yoghurt eater.

Which makes buying healthy-ish desserts much easier.

Arrival

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

So, I travelled to New Wine, getting soundly nagged by the satnav on the way. The A303? On the first full day of the school holidays? Don’t think so! Anyway, I arrived, and set up the caravan

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Then I helped set up the medical centre, saved some lives, and had some fun with my friends on the team.

Today I put up the awning on the caravan – I don’t really need the space but it’s good to have somewhere outside the living area to leave dirty shoes and hang wet waterproofs – it always rains at New Wine! As you can see, between taking that picture up there, and rigging the awning, the site around me has filled up a bit…

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The process of putting the awning up was slowed considerably by the weather – I was fighting a gale force wind most of the time and couldn’t really decide if I was pitching an awning or flying a kite. It also didn’t help that this was the awning’s first outing so it was all new to me, and of course I had to go and look for a caravan shop to get the bits that Towsure had forgotten to include – four rather important clips.

And now it’s raining (again), and I’m snug and warm inside my caravan. Nighty night!

Off

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Well all being well, this’ll be my last bloggage before heading off to New Wine (if you’re a new reader and don’t know what that is, have a look at the blogs from this time in the last couple of years to find out what it’s all about!).

I’ll have internet connectivity with me, so there’ll be at least occasional bloggage while I’m away – I may even have time to keep my online Scrabble games going.

I’ve loaded the caravan and the car, bought food supplies, and packed clothes, gadgets and even the telly (the caravan already has a kitchen sink).

I wonder what I’ve forgotten?

Oooh!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

We had some excitement on the train home the other night.

We arrived in Southampton a couple of minutes late, and the first thing we spotted was a policeman (and a proper one at that, not a plastic policeman), running along the platform. We all piled off the train, to be met by a couple of stolid SouthWest Trains employees preventing access to the footbridge “on police orders”.

Luckily you can leave Southampton station on the platform 4 side and use a different footbridge, which we all did – noticing on the way that
A) they weren’t letting anyone onto the station, and
B) there was a single lonely police car parked outside.

The platform one side car park was a bit livelier though – to the tune of –
– two police dog units (spaniels, so search dogs rather than arrest dogs)
– two armed response units
– six other police cars
– a police van.

As the longer walk round had made me just miss the bus, I had fifteen minutes to watch the action, although there wasn’t much going on – by then whatever it was, was over, and they were all packing up to go home.

Needless to say, the local paper has been silent on the issue, so we’ll probably never find out what was going on. Shame really.

Common Sense

Monday, July 20th, 2009

The following “Guide to Common Sense” was posted by the excellent Ron Hunter on the Health and Safety discussion website…

a.Beware the natural environment, the open spaces, the trees, the rocks, the water-courses and the shoreline – all these present hazards to the unwary, above, below and all around you. The natural environment was there first, and it wasn’t designed exclusively for us. It will remain long after we are all gone, and has great capacity to hurt you.

b.The beasts of the field have teeth and claws and sucking mouth parts and can cause you great harm.

c.Teeny tiny things that you can’t even see can also do you great harm, and they were also here first.

d.Watch out for the weather- the heat, the strong sunlight, the cold, the damaging wind, persistent rain, the icy conditions underfoot – all can do you harm, so take care!

e.Learning to swim is generally a very good thing.

f.Gravity is (for most of us) a constant. On the plus side, it keeps us on the ground. On the minus side, if we fall or trip, the ground is always going to be our final, potentially painful, destination – unless something equally hard and painful stops us first. Always respect Gravity. Gravity always wins. Some might say that gravity sucks.

g.People are allowed to sell you goods and services that are bad for you (yes, it is odd that they’re called ‘goods’) and you are allowed to buy them. Other people may try to sell you other things that REALLY aren’t good for you and they will continue to do that until a nice Policeman stops them. Either way, it’s your choice.

h.You shouldn’t really hurt other people, or yourself. The more people who stick to this rule, the better it will be for all of us.

i.In this Country we drive & cycle on the left. No. Your other left.

j.Speed Limits are just that –limits, not targets.

k.In general, roads are for cars and pavements are for pedestrians. This rule also applies to white vans and 4x4s.

l.Sometimes, cyclists are allowed to use the pavement, on the other side of a big white line. Only walk on the other side of that line. (No – the other side)

m.If you look out from the window of your house and you can see more than one other house, you don’t really need a 4×4.

n.If you’re driving or cycling, watch out for other drivers and for people walking. The people walking have right of way. Really try to abide by Rule h. here.

o.If you’re walking, look out for all the things & people that are bigger, heavier and going faster than you are.

p.Your capacity to abide by other rules will be greatly reduced if you are inebriated (remember rule g.) or are distracted by gadgets like mobile phones, personal stereos, Sat-Navs or implanted sub-dermal /retinal scanning information and entertainment systems. Remember Rule h, and also remember that the nice Policeman sometimes has to sometimes stop being nice.

q.If you get lost really easily, avoid places like Milton Keynes and Cumbernauld.

r.Fire burns. So does electricity. Both can kill you very quickly. Treat these things with great respect.

s.If a sign says something like “wet paint”, “danger” or “keep out” then we’ve every confidence you can figure the rest out for yourself.

t.The built environment, our machines, comforts and conveniences were all built by people for people. They all have to be properly looked after. If that’s your job, please ensure this is done. We can all play a part by not breaking any of it, and by letting other people know when something is broken.

u.Don’t use things that are broken or damaged. Don’t use anything that you have no idea or can’t remember how to use properly.

v.Look before you leap. Even better, don’t leap. Remember what we told you about Gravity.

w.Count to 10 before you answer a difficult question, or before you press “send”. If it’s a really tricky one, count some more.

x.If you have a job, you should do what your boss tells you to do, unless this would break any of the above rules.

y.Teach your children well. Your children are your responsibility – look after them.

z.Yes, we know it was sad when Bambi’s Mother died. Remember, despite everyone’s best efforts, life isn’t always fair.

Can’t argue with any of that (except perhaps (m)! )

Purchase

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

I bought a bike!

Bike

And a bike helmet…

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Am I not, as Jools Holland famously once said, a groovy fakir?

I’ve wanted a folding bike for a while – it’ll be good for commuting, and will extend my in-London geocaching range significantly :-) – not to mention being a handy gadget to keep in the caravan. I did some research and found the one pictured above on this website – followed by some more research after a chum of PF’s advised us to look at some more options. We did, and I still ended up ordering the one in the picture.

I’m hoping it arrives in time for New Wine :-)

I Shoulda Known Better…

Friday, July 17th, 2009

…than to get all smug about how easy it was to sort out my train ticket.

As I hinted here, I’d been having trouble with my Oyster card. An Oyster, for those of you not familiar with the machinations of the Nation’s Capital, is a pre-paid swipe card for travelling on busses and the underground. Mine had been unreliable for a while, and had reached the point that it would only work on the bus number 521 – only useful if I only wanted to bus halfway to the office and walk the rest.

So I went in to the local ticket office and explained the problem. Mungo took my card and swiped it through his problem-ticket scanner.
“That’s working OK”.

I explained again that it was an intermittent fault, at which he sighed, rolled his eyes and gave me a form to fill in. This involved things like my name and address and date of birth, but surprisingly nothing about what was wrong with my Oyster card: eventually it was complete and I rejoined the queue to hand the document back to Mungo: sadly he wasn’t available so I handed it to Mungo’s Mate.
“This card’s working OK”.

I explained all over again, and agreed that I’d have to pay the deposit on the new card – I only realised afterwards that I hadn’t got back the deposit on the card I’d handed in. There was a great deal of tutting and muttering, it seems like the process of transferring credit from the old card to the new is still done by abacus.

It was done in the end, so I suppose I shouldn’t grumble too much. Just got to see now if it works.

Check Out

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

According to this news story, a number of children’s authors, who go into schools as part of various literacy programmes, are being asked to submit to Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. They’re not happy and many have said they’ll just stop visiting schools.

Unless you’re totally new to these hallowed thoughts, it won’t be news to you that I’m not a fan of CRB checking: it’s a pain in the bum to the innocent, no barrier to most of the guilty until it’s too late, and lulls many parents and carers into a false sense of security. But until someone comes up with something better, and there’s the political will to resource it and enforce it, it’s the best we have and probably better than doing nothing.

The real question here – given the number of people who already have to CRB, from teachers to taxi drivers, not to mention the voluntary sector – is, why weren’t they being checked already?

Waterloo Too

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

On Monday, I closed the story of my non-functioning train ticket with “If the Travel Centre at Southampton is ever open when I’m in Southampton, I’ll have a go at getting a replacement ticket out of them. I’ll let you know how I get on.”

Sadly for the cause of exciting narrative, what happened was I told the man what’d happened, he commented that “we get a lot of those”, and he gave me a new ticket. We’ll see how long this one lasts.

Coming soon (I hope) – the story of how I sort out my partially-functioning Oyster card. This one’s really odd – it still seems to work on the 521 bus, but not on any others. Hmm.

En Francais

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

Regular readers will know that I like to have a quiet kip on the train home in the evening.

I’m not the only one – people who stay awake are a bit of a minority, and when I started this job, m’chum Brian – who’d just retired from a job commuting to the Nation’s Capital – told me “you’re not a proper train-riding commuter person until you’ve woken up one stop beyond where you wanted to get off.”

I’ve never yet achieved that, but the other night I thought I’d gone one better: I woke up as the train was pulling into a station, and all the passengers around me, sorting their bags ready to get off, were speaking French.

OK, it was only Winchester and they were exchange students, but it gave me a nasty moment.

Waterloo

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Remember back around Christmas I had a whinge about the new automated ticket barriers at Waterloo? I said at the time that it would be interesting to see how long it took before they started to go wrong.

Well, apart from initial teething troubles, they haven’t. What has happened is that people’s tickets have stopped working: the season tickets that people have at the moment weren’t designed for the constant wear and tear of being put through the barriers, so the magnetic strips are wearing away. The ticket no longer works the barriers so I have to queue for the gate that’s being manually operated and show my ticket to the attendant – and explain how my ticket doesn’t work any more.

I’m not the only, or first, person it’s happened to – it’s a regular topic of conversation on the 06:30, and apparently season ticket holders on the Reading/Windsor/Waterloo line were having problems some time before us. One user (at least) has been told that he has to replace his valid ticket within three days of it failing to work the barrier, or he’ll be done for fare-dodging – in spite of having an in-date ticket for which he’s paid. Worryingly, when he raised this on one of South West Trains’ regular online Q+A sessions, there was no attempt to say that this was wrong information: the response focussed on the new barriers being of benefit to all rail users – although it didn’t say how.

If the Travel Centre at Southampton is ever open when I’m in Southampton, I’ll have a go at getting a replacement ticket out of them. I’ll let you know how I get on.

It Was No Picnic…Oh Hang On, Yes It Was

Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Tonight I am very tired. Tired enough to fall asleep right n…zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Eh? Wassup? Oh yeah, blogging. Well y’see, on Saturday, as I’ve already intimated, the play that m’darling Purple Fred was in had its last night. So Saturday was spent in Last-Night-Party preparation tasks, including buying presents (related to things that happened in the play) for the director: A lovely selection including a Dinky Toys Bedford van and a plastic turd.

Seven hours after we got back from the last night party (including presentation of the above pressies), we were sorting out for the Big Picnic we’d organised (well, PF had organised and I’d made suggestions for) in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care. We hadn’t given ourselves enough time and the weather forecast had a lot in common with the plastic turd.

And then we went to the picnic, the weather turned out to be lovely, everyone who came had a lovely time, and the games all went down really well :-) . Thanks to everyone who came, and well done to PF who did most of the work!

Sign

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Remember a few weeks back I was staying in a posh hotel, and I showed you the sign on the inside of the safe, warning of a suffocation risk?

I was back there again last night, and this morning spotted this in the conference suite – which seems to sum up everything that’s wrong with management speak.

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.

Mind you, we also spotted this on the menu…

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New World

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I had a glimpse into a new world at the weekend.

M’lovely Purple Fred is a lady of some note in the local Amateur Dramatic community, and their latest offering is about to hit the stage: Tonight as I write this she’s on her way home from the dress rehearsal, and yesterday afternoon – while I was Giving It Some Large in the gym – the whole company were involved in the “Get In and Technical”, which seems to be basically actors trying to rehearse, while all around them men with hi-viz jackets and hard hats swing from the ceiling and drop heavy lights on each other.

For the second half – by when I’d gymmed enough – I sat in the auditorium, probably in a much better seat than I’ll have when I go to see it for real. It’s fascinating, and I can see why PF and her chums find the whole experience so addictive.

Which is lucky, really…apparently in next year’s production, there’s a role (a non-acting role) with my name on it. Don’t tell PF, but I’m quietly rather chuffed :-)

Reaction

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Well, yesterday’s post got a bit of a response, didn’t it?

Let me make clear – in case I didn’t – it ISN’T that I don’t want to help, and it isn’t that I wouldn’t happily help every pushchair lady in London on and off the bus. Maybe I’m overestimating the liklihood of my motives being misunderstood; maybe I need to be a bit more brave in offering.
I especially liked Prickly Peter’s comment: “pedo paranoia is rife, but is being totally paranoid about pedo paranoia isn’t the answer”

The thing is, if I was the kind of person who’s happy to look the other way and do nothing, I wouldn’t get up at stupid o’clock on Sunday mornings to drive the church minibus, and I wouldn’t give up twelve days annual leave to go and volunteer at New Wine. The important difference is that in church I’m known, and my motivations aren’t questioned: At New Wine I wear a badge that identifies me as a team member, and anyone who cares knows that that means I’m CRB checked, my vicar has given references, and I’m accountable for my actions to a known team leader. On a bus in London, I’m just another face in the crowd.

My friends, people I trust, have told me to think again, and I will. I don’t guarantee a 180 degree transformation in my approach, but I will think again.

No Help

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

There was an interesting discussion in the lunch room the other day.

Two of the H.R. ladies were discussing something that had annoyed one of them that morning. Apparently, she’d seen this lady trying to get on the bus, struggling with a pushchair and baby: Meanwhile, half a dozen male commuters just stood and watched. Why didn’t one of them help?

I was able to contribute, because I’d recently had a similar discussion with m’lovely Purple Fred. Even after that discussion, I can’t think of any way that if I was on my own, I’d try to help a lady with a pushchair: The chances of a smack round the ear for being a suspected baby-snatcher are just too high. Worse still, the world – or at least, our bit of it – still seems to believe in “Guilty until proven innocent” where accusations of being “Peedo Skum” are concerned. Even an unfounded accusation could cost me the security clearance I need for my work, and the Enhanced CRB I need for the hobbies I enjoy.

If I had PF with me, I’d get her to ask the struggling pushchair lady “Would you like my partner to help with that?”. But on my own I wouldn’t even ask.