Archive for September, 2009

Oops

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

I spotted this today at one of our regional offices. Thank goodness it was in a communal area that the landlord is responsible for, not in our bit.

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But you have to wonder what…if anything…was in the mind of the service engineer. “Hmm, it’s failed. Mustn’t forget to put FAILED on the label. And now I’ll just put it back on the hook and not tell anyone…”

Manchester

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

In the city with the second biggest Chinatown in Europe, guess where I ate this evening?

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This is the view from the restaurant doorway…I’m quite pleased with this, it’s sort-of handheld using a lamp-post to lean on, and hoped. My camera’s only a compact with no manual settings, so I reckon that’s a result.

Don’t ask about the train ride to get here. First TransPennine…say no more.

Train

Monday, September 28th, 2009

I’m on the train…and I’m blogging! I love National Express East Coast and their lovely free on-board wi-fi! As well as being able to blog, check your e-mail and tend your Farmville farm (note to self: Squash are due for harvest soon), you get a little moving-picture display of where the train is.

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(Pic is probably copyright National Express)

Last week I found myself in another part of the country, courtesy of First Great Western, a train company that honours all its passengers with seats and windows, all included in the price of your ticket! They also throw in a free adventure, in the form of throwing everyone off the train at Trowbridge – a country town in the middle of nowhere, then after twenty minutes on the platform, letting them back on again.

But anyway, I wanted to really tell you about the hotel I stayed in on that trip…it’s one I’ve never used before, as I normally don’t do an overnight when I visit that office. It was nice enough – free custard creams and chocolate in the room – but the restaurant seemed a bit pretentious and I’d spotted a reasonable-looking pub over the road, so I decided to venture out. And then I discovered that the South Wales Scary Bikers Convention had all met there, and invited their North Wales and England counterparts along for a rumble.

The pretentious restaurant wasn’t bad, really…

Overdue

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Well, I had a text from Jenny last night, enquiring “Fort u woz getting a noo car…where izit?”, which I think translates to “Please could you post some pictures of your new car on your blog?”.

Always ready to please, here she is…Evie.

And here she is again, earning her keep today on the New Forest Marathon.

That isn’t my caravan…Julian, my chum wot I was working with, brought his along for the day.

More pictures…including the exciting photo-story of the fitting of the radio technology…when I have five minutes.

Home from Holiday

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Well, we’re home…and Sally-J has beaten me to producing a summary blog of the trip. I’m just not sure who the “Tit in a Hat” is that she keeps referring to…

Tree Hugger in a Hat

We did lots of nice walks – as well as the climb of Scafell Pike that I’ve already told you about, we did something nice every day: Walking alongside the river in Kendal; a nice almost-circular walk around a ring of six caches, and my favourite, a ridge walk which netted me my 1200th cache. Here I am at the start of the ridge:

At “Top ‘o the First Climb”

Picture 1 by Rob, picture 2 by Sarah.

And if you’ve been following my Facebook status updates, you’ll know that on the last night, I gave my ratty old geocaching trousers a viking funeral. I can’t remember how long I’ve had them, but I do know that I meant to get rid of them after the “More minging than blinging” cachepedition three years ago! If you don’t know what a trousery viking funeral looks like, thanks to Rob’s video skills, you can see it on YouTube – or indeed here:

Picture

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Oh look, a new blog header.

I do apologise, I’ve been messing about with it all evening, so some of you may have seen a not-very-good previous version. It’s a nice pic, though…here’s the original, taken by Rob on the way down from Scafell Pike:
Paul on Scafell, copyright RDA 2009

Sca Fell

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

England’s highest mountain is Sca Fell Pike, at 3209 feet above sea level. And yesterday we climbed it, picking up three caches on the way!

We chose a different route from the one we recce’d last year: that’s kind of the point of the recce. That route had long flat-ish stretches, interspersed with steep, horrible climbs: The one we chose yesterday was just an unrelenting climb, which didn’t vary much from the one-in-five gradient all the way. We thought that was better, as at least, broadly speaking, the terrain was better.

Better yet than that, when we got to the top, there was a view! Apparently that’s really rare, normally the summit is shrouded in low cloud. The cloud had been lifting all morning as we were climbing, and just as we reached the top the last of it blew away and we could see the Irish Sea, and…um…lots of things that were further away. Just because we could see them doesn’t mean we knew what they were! Oh, and Rob’s mobile phone logged on to Vodafone Isle of Man as being the strongest available signal.

And then we made our way down, and picked up two easy drive-by caches on our way back to the cottage, bringing the day’s total to five. Nice one.

Photos when I have a decent bandwidth connection…probably when we get home!

In-sewer-ants, and Other Things

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

I settled on Tesco Car Insurance in the end: They weren’t quite the cheapest for the level of cover, but they give £40 cashback and Clubcard points, which swung it in their favour. Swiftcover were about the same price, but their online payment system was shi not very good, although their telephone finance people were very helpful and reassuring, and assured me that their system hadn’t cleaned out my bank account.

So now I’m on holiday, and Grunty is spending his last week in my ownership guarding the doors of Sally-J’s garage – we’ve gone in her car this time. And by the time this appears online, we’ll either be safely ensconced in Holly Cottage (or in the John Peel, next door but one), or motionless in a horrendous traffic jam on the M6. Only time will tell :-)

Dignified

Friday, September 11th, 2009

I spent most of yesterday on a “Dignity at Work” course.

The title’s a bit misleading – it was about bullying and inclusiveness. And even having sat through it, I don’t really know how it took them all day to say “Treat other people as you’d want them to treat you”.

We all agreed that “Dignity at Work – the Musical” would have been better received, and might have better justified the flash sound system the trainers brought along. And combined with my long-held belief that a musical based on the music of Dire Straits is well overdue, so far I’ve come up with the following ideas:

Sultans of Swing – illustrating discrimination based on social status, be they sultans or paupers.
Love over Gold – discrlmination based on sexual preference.
Two Young Lovers – age discrimination
Industrial Disease – discrimination on health grounds.

I’m envisioning something like, boy meets girl…boy discriminates against girl…boy sees the error of his ways…boy wins girl’s heart, although I’m a bit cheesed that I haven’t found an excuse to include “Tunnel of Love” yet. But I’m sure this can be made to work. It’d be a better night out than “Never Forget”, anyway.

Key Question

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Now here’s a question that I bet one of my clever readers will be able to answer.

Most nouns are able to take an indefinite article: An egg, a train, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, and so on. And then there are some nouns that don’t take an indefinite article: you don’t have a milk, or a lightning, or a water. It looks like this rule applies where you need another noun in front – not just a number – to quantify the noun: a bottle of milk, a bolt of lightning, two glasses of water.

This train of thought was started by a conversation with a security chapess about some stuff she was sending us, basically a more secure version of a PGP key. It’s a form of recording media similar to a USB memory stick, with a HUGE hexadecimal number on it, and she referred to this big number as “key”. Not a key, or the key, just “key”. And I thought that I’d never heard “key” used as a…

And then I realised that I don’t know the name of this type of noun that can’t take an indefinite article, or even if it has a name.

So the question is – does this type of noun have a name? And if so, what is it?

Meerkat

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Since Sunday I have mostly been looking at car insurance.

The last thing I’m going to do is ring my current insurers and get a quote from them – then I can suck my breath noisily and say “Ooh, I got a much better price from somewhere else”, and see what happens – although at the moment there doesn’t seem to be much to choose between most of them.

One website had me scratching my head: on the “driver details” page, it asks “Do you drive any other vehicles?”. As I’m a named driver on Purple Fred’s car insurance, and I’m a truthful fellow, I answered “yes”. Two screens later, it asks “Do you drive a company car?” and “Do you own any other cars” – and I answered “no” to both of those.

It wouldn’t let me go any further – the website isn’t set up to accept people driving cars that aren’t company cars and don’t belong to them. But there must be loads of people who are named on the insurance of other people’s cars – friends, partners, parents or whatever. I can’t believe those insurers are deliberately avoiding those drivers’ business so it must be an oversight.

It doesn’t really matter – I pretended I owned PF’s car for the sake of getting a guideline price, and they were fifty quid dearer that their nearest competitor. So I’m not inclined to struggle to explain the situation to their call centre.

Pull t’Other One

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

Apparently, the mobile phone / internet providers T-Mobile and Orange are to merge (for anyone who hasn’t heard, this isn’t a joke, it’s a real news story).

One suggestion for the name of the merged company would mean that you could surf t’Internet via t’Orange.

Well I thought it was funny.

Terry and Chris

Monday, September 7th, 2009

So Sir Terry of Wogan is to quit his Radio 2 breakfast show, and be replaced by Chris Evans.

I’ve never been Wogan’s biggest fan – I think he’s a bit of a prat really – but I like the music profile of his show, and I can’t see that surviving under Evans. Predictably the silver-haired brigade that make up Wogan’s fanbase are complaining and saying they won’t be tuning in, although I don’t suppose that’s much surprise to anyone.

Personally I can’t decide if this decision by BBC bosses is brave or stupid. Evans will certainly attract a younger audience, and the older generation haven’t been Radio 2’s key target audience for some time. But that slot between the soporific tedium of Sarah Kennedy, and the gentle fun of Ken Bruce, would seem to be more naturally filled by something less brash than Evans – and come to that, something less brash than Wogan.

It’ll be interesting to see how much of the Wogan format remains. But somehow I’ve got a feeling that Chris Evans gently teasing Rabbi Lionel Blue in the introduction to “Thought for the Day” isn’t going to work.

Weekend Event

Sunday, September 6th, 2009

It’s been quite an eventful weekend.

PF and I have done loads of DIY jobs at her gaff, and last night I cooked something from her that I’d never cooked before – and she really liked it. But if you’ve seen my Facebook status, you’ll know that yesterday, I traded Grunty in for a newer model…

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Presnting “Son of Grunty”. And no, I haven’t thought of a name for it yet – but based on the reg number, “Evie” is a strong candidate at the moment.

…and calm.

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I realised the other day that of the last six weekends, I’ve spent four Saturday nights in the caravan, one in a friend’s guest room and one in a slightly dodgy hotel. It’s all been fun, but it’ll be nice to be in familiar surroundings this Saturday night – especially as in a week’s time I’m off again, this time with Rob and Sarah for the 2009 Great Lake District Cachepedition.

I predict a couple of late nights packing between now and departure day: just the gadget list seems to get longer every year, and with at least one walk on the list that’s more major than any we’ve done in recent years, there’ll be more safety kit than usual too. I hope R and S won’t mind too much if I sleep in the car on the way up – at least I won’t be driving. I’ve already tested the MP3 player’s “extra loud” setting, in case Rob insists on playing “Les Mis” all the way up the M6.

Perhaps a couple of early nights during this week would help. I suppose I might manage it.

Scott

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Today’s blog is a response to a post by Scott J on his blog.

In the middle of 1999, I was stuck in a dead end job: I was Quality Manager for a company that didn’t care about quality, which is a pretty disheartening situation to be in. But the popular perception – which turned out to be wrong – was that the company was going down the tubes, and I’d been there long enough that the redundancy money was worth hanging on for. Also, it may have been mind-numbing, but having a job where no-one cares if you work or not, in a company with no block on personal internet use, had at least a few compensations.

On 5th October 1999, I was having one of my famous hour-long teabreaks and watching the morning news on the canteen telly. A train had crashed in north London, causing huge numbers of casualties. Later news reports made much of the fact that doctors, nurses and other emergency staff from local hospitals had come in to work on their day off to help out. That really focused my mind on how little use I was being to the world – at least in the day job. Hospital Radio is fulfilling – you have to do it, and meet the patients you’re talking to, to realise just how much you can brighten someone’s day – but work is where you spend a third of your life and there needs to be some point to it.

Most of you know at least some of the rest of the story – I not only managed to retrain as a Health and Safety specialist, but I convinced the company it was their idea and got them to pay for it. As I finished the academic part of the training, I was wondering how long I could would have to stay before I could decently leave. A week later they solved that little dilemma by making me redundant, giving me a year’s salary and telling me to go away. On the day they gave me that bit of news, I spotted a job advertised, and thought “Ooh, I’d love to have a go at that, that looks really interesting”. Three months later (the security checks take ages), I started the job.

So now I do an interesting and worthwhile job, working for an organisation which only exists to make the world – or at least, a bit of it – a better and fairer place. I work with a good team, and meet lots of interesting people, and I’m able to get directly involved with helping some of them. And I’m able to use my professional skill – backed with 25 years experience of working in the real world – to come up with ways to help our front line teams do their jobs safely, without the Health and Safety getting in the way.

And of course, for the last eighteen months or so, I’ve been doubly blessed with the love of a lovely lady, who’s shown me that life can be fulfilling and exciting on a personal level, as well as in work or hobbies.

Life’s good. Mid life crisis? I don’t have time for one of those!

To Scott – and anyone else who feels the things he wrote in his blog: Keep at it: You touch more people in a positive way than ever you realise. The smile you gave someone today could have been the thing that turned their day around. The people who love you, love YOU – exactly because you’re who you are, and not anyone else. Thinking of you, and sending cyber-manly-hugs across the pond.

Night night chums