Mar 01 2015

Pinch Punch…

pinchypunchyWell, that’s that over and done with. Phew!

It was hard going sometimes, but overall – as it usually is – I found it to be not too bad at all.

I’d like to thank Bren and Dave for accompanying me again and I’d like to thank you lot for reading this drivel wot I write.

Next year will be my tenth year of doing this self-inflicted, February pain… and that’s a sort of anniversary. As such, I was thinking I may do something to make it special. But I’m not sure what.

Maybe I’ll set a theme. Maybe I’ll write each post naked. Maybe I’ll invite some celebrity guests.

Most probably, I’ll do nothing. But, I’m always open to suggestions, so, ideas on a postcard please to:

I Haven’t Got A Bloody Clue
Masher Dot TV
Blogland
BL0 G3R

Thank you.

Feb 28 2015

Going nowhere fast

I was told to be in work early yesterday morning and so, I spent some money (I know!) and hired a child-minder to take Harry to school, so that I could get on the road at a reasonably early time.

I was making good progress up the M1 when the overheads lit up to say that the M6 was closed between J2 and J3.

Arse.

Sat-Nav bird suggested a route down the M45 and through Coventry. “Coventry? At this time of the morning? Are you mad?” I screamed at her and drove on past the M45 turning.

The next suggestion was for the following turn-off, which would route me through the town of Rugby. Long time since I’ve been through Rugby, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Now, Rugby is famous for three things:

1. It’s where the game of Rugby League/Union Football was invented.

2. It is where the erudite Mr Jones now lives.

3. It is home to Rugby Radio Transmitter Station.

I have nothing to say regarding point 1.

Or point 2, for that matter, as I’ve not yet visited Mr J in his current abode.

But, point 3 got me thinking, as I drove very close by to the famous aerial masts (but, having just done a little bit of research on t’internet, I can’t find any reference to what I saw going on there when I visited the site some years ago. And as that particular activity was covered by The Official Secrets Act and may well still be going on today, I can’t really mention it here). So, sadly, it turns out that I have nothing to say on point 3, either!  :(

Anyway… having traversed through Rugby, I then realise that Sharon was routing me toward Coventry.

I decided that it was too late to turn around and that I might as well just continue on my way.

Eventually I found myself on the A45, the major arterial road that skirts Coventry.

It.

Was.

A.

Fucking.

Nightmare.

I finally arrived at work: stressed, with a bursting bladder, and over an hour and a half late.

And I bloody paid for that privilege!

Feb 27 2015

That’s MY bloody award, that is!

awardWell, the kids went back to school this week and we got our dining room table back as a result.

Y’see, both of them had been given homework to do during the half-term break and for both of them, their homework was to make a model. Amelia was tasked with making a medieval castle with all the parts labelled and Harry had to make a living habitat on an alien planet.

Cardboard boxes, empty toilet roll tubes, glue, string, Blu-Tak and paint have littered the dining room table for two weeks. Typically, neither of them were really interested in doing their projects and there has been much cajoling, shouting and crying over the whole affair.

Once I stopped crying, I got down to helping them get their projects completed in time to take them into school as time was fast running out.

Amelia’s wasn’t too bad as we cheated in the end (for various reasons that I won’t go into here) and bought a model castle that was made from balsa wood. Stuck onto a piece of wood, with a moat and grass painted around it, with some miniature trees made from short lengths of dowling and polystyrene balls, I thought it all looked pretty good, but unfortunately, she was marked down for buying a model from a shop. They don’t realise that even though the castle itself was shop bought, it still took her two days to put together!

Harry had opted for bio-domes on Mars, having seen a picture of the domes of the Eden Project on the internet. We constructed the domes from papier maché formed around a balloon and then painted them silver. Red rocks were made from tightly scrunched balls of newspaper painted red and then some more trees were made to go inside one of the domes.

It all looked pretty impressive actually and I wish I’d taken a picture of it before it got taken into school, but I never thought about it. Besides, it was all a bit of a rush: I was still putting on the final coats of paint just an hour before taking it in!

As I said earlier. his enthusiasm for the project waned pretty early on and the bulk of it was put together by Mrs Masher and I whilst Harry sat playing on his X-Box.

Which only makes it more annoying that he came top of the class and won a Head Teacher’s Award for all his hard work!

Feb 26 2015

If Manners Maketh The Man…

good-manners-cost-nothingI got home late last night and Mrs M said she couldn’t be bothered to cook. “Let’s just have McDonalds.”

“Yay!” shouted the kids.

I put my coat back on and drove down to our local Golden Arches.

It was quite busy in there, but I eventually got to the front of the queue and gave my order. “That’ll just be a couple of minutes, Sir”, said Anna, a spotty faced youth with a badge bearing two stars pinned to her ample bosom.  I stood to one side as she looked past me and asked “Can I help?”

A bald chap in his thirties stepped up to the counter. His wife and two young boys stepped up next to him.

He annoyed me straight away. “Can I get…”, he said to Anna, “Can I get two Chicken Legend meals…”

Anna tapped away at her screen. “What drinks would you like with those?”

“Coke. And two McNugget Happy Meals…”

“I don’t want a Happy Meal”, said the bigger of the two boys, “I want adult nuggets”.

“Right. Change one of them Happy Meals to an adult nugget meal”.

“OK”, said Anna, tapping furiously at her screen. “What drinks would you like with those, Sir?”

“Chocolate Milkshakes”

“OK. Is that everything?”

“No, I want two hot apple pies and two chocolate McFlurries”.

She gave him the total price, he handed over some money and then pocketed his change without a word.

At no point in the conversation had he offered up either a simple “please” or “thank you”.

As a role model for the two young boys standing with him, he was sadly lacking on the politeness front.

Feb 25 2015

Oblong eyes

Christ, but there’s some crap on the telly, isn’t there?

And the crappiest shows tend to be those that are the cheapest to make, ie. reality type shows.

” Let’s take some ordinary punters from off the street and get them to bake cakes”, said one bright spark at the BBC and before we knew it, the phenomenon that is Bake Off was upon us. And what a huge success it has been, for what must ultimately be very little outlay. I mean, even a good sponge mix from Sainsbury’s is no more than a couple of quid. But that doesn’t take away the fact that it is very dull watching somebody do some cooking.

“How about getting people to buy some tat at a car boot sale and see if they can sell it for more money?”, ventured an aspiring young wannabe TV producer, one afternoon, many years ago. As a result, the dull and dreary Bargain Hunt hit our daytime telly boxes and has been there ever since. It’s made a star of David Dickhead-son, but it’s still dull as dishwater to watch.

There’s even a gardening one, where contestants have to cut the grass and grow flowers at each other.  Yawn.

But the latest offering is The Big Painting Challenge, where amateur artists have to paint a nice picture to win.

We will literally be watching paint dry.

Feb 24 2015

One man’s junk…

yamahaA short while back, I was chatting with my neighbour whilst he was having a sort out in his garage; slinging unwanted items into the back of his van to take to the tip.

He picked up an electronic keyboard that was propped up against the side wall and went to throw it in the van.

“You slinging that?” I asked, rather stupidly.

“Yeah, it’s been here for years. Doesn’t work. Why, do you want it? I’ve got a stand for it here somewhere.” I said I’d take it off his hands and he gladly handed it over.

Back home, I brushed all the dirt and cobwebs off, put it on the dining room table and powered it up. Sure enough it was dead and so I unplugged it, got a screwdriver and opened it up. There must have been about 40 screws to undo!

I soon found the fault – it was just a dodgy joint which I resoldered. I powered it up again and was pleased to see it worked perfectly.

Almost.

Half a dozen of the keys didn’t work or needed to be pressed really hard in order to get a note out them. And so, I stripped the keys section down, cleaned it all up and put it all back together.

Result! It now worked proper perfectly. A rub down with a duster and some Mr Sheen and it was looking almost as good as new. It had taken about two hours to fix, but we now had a fully working Yamaha electronic musical keyboard.

It now sits proudly on it’s matching stand in the corner of the dining room and often, at the weekends, as a family, we will all gather round it… wishing one of us could play the damn thing.

Feb 23 2015

Get Smart pt 2

appsOK, I mentioned a couple of posts back that I have one of them there smartphones and that I love it.

I never mentioned why I love it.

It’s simple.

One word:

The Apps.

OK, that’s two words.

I have plenty of apps on my phone (no games, they don’t interest me) that help me through my day/life. And so, I thought I’d share some of them here with you.

One of the most important and useful is Memento. This is a database app which can be used to store almost any piece of information. I have a Contact List; My DVD Collection; keycode entries for various places at work and details of certain Geocaches that need their details keeping, amongst others. One of its most useful functions is that it syncs very nicely with Google Drive, storing all the details in .csv format. This makes it easy to fill in big databases but it also keeps the data safe and accessable in the event of losing the phone.

Next is mSecure, another database, but this one is geared around saving passwords and login details. It holds all my banking info as well as various passwords and login information for a multitude of websites. It is password protected and the data is encrypted for safety. It also backs up automatically to Dropbox, saving an encrypted file there every time any change is made. A  desktop reader for the PC is also available to make data entry quicker and easier. (It should be said that Memento also offers an encrypted database function, but I never realised that when I got it.)

Eyewitness is an app from The Guardian newspaper and it features daily pictures taken from their news photographers. I love eye-catching photographs and this app features some fantastic and inspiring ones.

c:geo is a geocaching app… for those moments when I’m feeling particularly nerdy and don’t have my GPSr with me.

TV Anywhere is VirginMedia’s app that allows me to remotely set up my TiVo to record programmes I might otherwise have missed. It has proved fruitful on more than one occasion!

Of course, I have an array of amateur radio apps: IRLP Finder; Echolink; RF Signal calculators; Morse Code tutors and  – the most used one – Repeater Book, an app that lists all the VHF and UHF repeaters in a 50 mile radius from wherever I am, detailing input and output frequencies along with CTCSS access tones. Brilliant!

And of course, there are a host of other apps that just help me get by: Unit converters, hotel bookings; Swiftkey Keyboard (marvellous); Satellite Finders; Flashlight; Google Maps, etc.

And that’s why I love my phone, because it’s not just a phone, it’s a tool. It’s a Swiss Army Knife Phone.

There’s an app for almost anything, it seems.

What ones have you got that I might find useful?

Feb 22 2015

Flicks

We took the kids to the pictures yesterday afternoon.

There are plenty of films about at the moment that I’d like to see:

  • The Theory Of Everything
  • The Imitation Game
  • Blackhat
  • Kingsman
  • Jupiter Ascending
  • The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • American Sniper
  • Ex Machina
  • Birdman

to name but nine.

But, as I say, we took the kids and so we ended up seeing the animated Disney superhero film Big Hero 6.

It was alright.  It made me laugh and I enjoyed it overall. The kids, of course, thoroughly enjoyed it and Mrs M thought it was a load of rubbish.

The cinema wasn’t exactly packed out either and I’m not surprised. I’m sure many people can’t afford to take their kids to the pictures nowadays.

We got a Family Ticket – the cheapest option – and that cost us thirty-three quid!

Not wishing to pay stupid prices for drinks and sweets, we bought some bottles of soft drinks at the Poundstretcher just down the road, but once we were in the cinema and settled in our seats, Mrs M decided that it wasn’t right to watch a film without popcorn and disappeared down to the foyer.

She returned ten minutes later – and twenty quid lighter – with four small bags of popcorn. And when I say small, I mean small: I could only just get my hand in the bag.

So, a trip to the cinema cost us not far off sixty quid!

OK, I know that it’s not the same, but you can understand why piracy is so rife when it’s possible to sit and watch the latest blockbusters at home with the family for just a couple of quid.

Feb 21 2015

Get Smart

smartphoneI have one of them there flashy smartphones.

And I love it.

Not that I am one of those people who cannot live without it, because I’m sure I could… if I had to.

But, there are plenty of people – not just youngsters – for whom their smartphone isn’t a luxury item, but a thing of necessity; it’s something they literally cannot do without. I’ve seen them on the train and the tube this week: the second they sit down, out comes the phone.

“Update Facebook status: I’m on the train.”

They sit reading or watching or playing with them. No-one does any thinking any more. No-one loses themselves in daydreams. JK Rowling famously conceived the idea of Harry Potter on the train. She wouldn’t have done so if she’d had a smartphone, I’m sure.  I noticed on yesterday morning’s journey that of the eight people I could easily see – four on my table and four on the table next to me – seven of them were tapping away at their phones, including the colleague I was travelling with.

People walk along the street, staring at their phone, not paying attention to where they are going; walking on autopilot whilst reading the latest breaking news on someone’s Twitter account that they’ve just had their “… 3rd bowl of cornflakes. Yum”

In the class I was in this week, there was one chap who had his phone on the desk and he would check it every five minutes. He looked genuinely disappointed every time he turned it over to see he hadn’t received any messages.

The wife’s besty friend has an iPhone and I don’t think I have ever seen it not in her hands. She is on it constantly; always tapping away at it’s little screen. And because it is always there, it has become the norm; one hardly notices now… until, in conversation, she will suddenly have an answer to the question you asked just ten seconds ago, because she can Google faster than anyone I know  (to Google… just when did that become a verb?!).

But, even though I’m not THAT obsessed with my phone, I do love it; I do use it and I would probably be a bit lost without it – as was proved earlier this week when I had to resort to Google Maps to find my way from Liverpool Street Station to my training course.

Of course, there are those who decry the use of smartphones. I know several Luddites people who have just a basic phone and don’t want – or need, apparently – all the bells and whistles that the latest phones can give.  “As long as I can make and receive calls…”, they’ll sneer.

And that’s just fine.  As long as that call doesn’t interrupt the box set of The Partridge Family that they’re watching on their Betamax video recorder.

Feb 20 2015

Not hungry

SaladAs mentioned before, I have been on a training course this week, down that London.

One of the highlights of the course was lunchtime.  This is because our lecturer had a company credit card… and he wasn’t afraid to use it.

And so, throughout the week, we have visited Italian, Turkish and Mexican restaurants, where we have stuffed our faces.

The afternoon training sessions have been hard going with a full belly, it must be said.

I got home Wednesday evening, absolutely stuffed to the gills with mixed kebab meat, pitta bread, and all the Turkish accoutrements that go with it.  I really didn’t want any more to eat.

It was Mrs Masher’s birthday.

“Hurry up and get ready”, she said, “You’re taking me out to dinner, for my birthday.”

“I am?”

“Yep. I fancy a right ol’ nosh up, so I’ve booked us into The Harvester”.

The waitress took our order: Harry went for a big chicken burger; Amelia plumped for the sausages in mash and Mrs M went for half a pig and chips. “Can I just have the free salad?”, I asked the waitress.

“Well, it’s only free if you have a meal, really”, she said, “But yeah, I don’t care”.

And so, whilst the family stuffed proper British tuck down their gullets, for Mrs M’s birthday, I sat and picked at a small bowl of green leaves, carrots and tomatoes.

I made it last two hours!

The next day, the overpriced sandwiches at Pret a Manger took quite a hit.

Feb 19 2015

Still learning

examI’ve been on a course this week and on Friday (tomorrow) I have an exam to sit.

Being in a technical job, one has to keep on top of changing and emerging technologies. This invariably means that we are in a constant state of learning.

But, I’m in my fifties now and sitting in a classroom doesn’t come as easy as it once did.  The old grey matter doesn’t seem to pick things up as quickly as it used to. And I’m too bloody old to still be taking exams!

But, even though I still enjoy the industry I am in and the challenges it sometimes produces, I do sometimes look with envious eyes upon those who have taken early retirement and now choose to earn a bit of spare cash by working in the local DIY superstore.

I could do that, I sometimes find myself thinking; I could wear an orange apron and do a carefree, not-having-to-think-too-hard job, just helping customers find their weekend requirements. “Paint? Oh yes madam, I know where all the paint is. You just follow me…”; “Nails? Certainly sir, there ain’t much I don’t know about nails. Do you want big ones or small ones?”

I like helping people, so yeah, I could do that.

But I wonder for how long for.

When would the boredom set in?

How long before the lack of a challenge drove me mental?

Ideally, I’d like to do a job swap with someone, so I could try it for a couple of weeks. Spend a fortnight wandering around directing people to customers services and advising them on what grade of sandpaper they need, before handing my apron back in and going back to what I do.

So, if you work at B&Q or Homebase and you fancy a job swap for a couple of weeks, please let me know.

And if you’re shit-hot at 100G Packet Optical Platform Networking, then you can start straight away.

There’s an exam tomorrow.

Feb 18 2015

In the doghouse

In-the-Dog-House-IDHI got in last night, after a hard days’ thinking and learning, and greeted the family.

Mrs M made some pancakes, which I devoured along with a cup of tea, before sitting down in front of the telly for a bit.

Mrs M sat next to me on the sofa, in silence, before eventually announcing that she was going to bed early because she didn’t feel well. And then she walked off. No kiss goodnight or anything.

There was a slight chill in the air and my spidey-sense told me instinctively that something was wrong, but I shrugged it off and carried on watching the telly.

An hour later, I went upstairs to get ready for bed. Mrs M was sitting up in bed reading her mucky book. “Alright dear?”, I enquired.

The harrumph I got back indicated that she was far from alright.

I went into Amelia’s room to kiss her goodnight. “I can’t believe you haven’t noticed mummy’s new hair-do”, she said.

“New hair-do? Eek! When?”

“Today.”

“Shit!”  I went into the bedroom and lavished some praise on the new barnet. “I hadn’t noticed before, but your hair looks really nice. Have you had it done today?”

“Don’t give me that! Amelia told you.”

“Yes, she did. Still looks very nice though”, I continued desperately.

“Bloody well should do… it cost me a hundred and ten quid!”

“A HUNDRED AND …??!!!  Well, it looks really nice dear. Worth every penny”.

“Harrumph”

Feb 17 2015

“… and we’ll teach our kids science, not poems and rubbish…”

rixl

So said the delusional soldier (David Essex) in Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, as he sought to find a way to overcome the alien invaders.

Since I was a kid, science and technology have always been my ‘thing’.

But, in the Masher household, I appear to be a lone fan of the genre.

Sitting down to watch an episode of BBC2’s Horizon (currently being repeated on BBC4) will clear the living room faster than one of Mrs Masher’s farts. And, in one respect, I don’t mind that because I can enjoy the programme in peace.

Each year, I record the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures and watch them – on my own – when no-one is about. This year I decided that it was time the family learnt a bit about science and so I forced persuaded them to watch an episode with me. It shouldn’t be too hard for them to grasp, surely? I mean, the Christmas Lecture audience is aimed at children and young people. It is designed to explain science in an easy, interesting and fun way. Indeed, its captive audience in the auditorium is comprised mainly of school children and the lectures themselves are delivered not by some stuffy professor in a tweed jacket, but by luminaries with a stage presence and a knack for talking in an entertaining manner, like Professor Brian Cox or – this year’s presenter – a heavily pregnant Professor Danielle George.

And so, the four of us sat down to watch episode two, which was all about communication. One of my faves.

Twenty minutes in and I noticed that Harry had put on his headphones and was surreptitiously playing a game on his tablet. I told him he could either watch the telly with us or he could go to bed.

He chose to go to bed.

Ten minutes later, Mrs M said that she’d had enough and she was also going to bed.

Amelia proclaimed that she was enjoying it and wanted to see the rest of the programme.  Five minutes later, I spotted her playing on her phone and then she sneaked quietly out of the room, thinking I hadn’t noticed.

I watched the remainder of the programme on my own, as I usually do, somewhat disappointed in my family’s attitude toward the sciences.

I have one episode left to watch and I shall watch it alone, this evening, after they have all gone to bed.

They’ll be sorry when the aliens land, and the only thing we can fight back with, is one of Mrs Masher’s farts.

Feb 16 2015

The Commute pt2

Well, y’know what, it wasn’t so bad.

We caught the 07:28 train, which is the same as the one I used to catch years ago.

Some things were different. Some were exactly the same.

The price: well, that was different: nearly fifty percent more expensive than it used to be when I used to make this particular daily commute.

The carriages: also different. Better seats, with tables. And more carriages so that they weren’t so crowded.

The people: now, they were the same. It amused me to see that some people still thought that placing their bag on the seat next to them, would stop anyone wanting to sit there.  A few people talked quietly to each other, but in the main, everyone sat either reading or listening through headphones or just sat alone with their thoughts.

But I was a bit disappointed not to see The Girl From Harpenden.

Maybe tomorrow?

Feb 15 2015

The Commute

overground-trainThis week I am on a course, down that London.

It’s been a while since I worked in the capital, but one of the things I remember enjoying the most, was the journey.

Because I didn’t travel by car – no, that would be a bloody nightmare – but rather, I let the train take the strain.

I’m lucky, in that my local station is far enough down the line that the train is fairly empty when it arrives, so I am pretty much guaranteed a seat. Several stops further on and it’s a different matter and it becomes standing room only.

But I generally always enjoyed the journey. I’d load my portable gramophone up with various podcasts and music for the week and then, with either a book or the free copy of The Metro, I would lose myself in a pleasant world of my own for the duration of the journey.

So, I was quite looking forward to the London commuting experience again. I started amassing podcasts in readiness and I’ve downloaded a new book onto my Kindle.

And then it changed: I’m no longer travelling on my own, but with a colleague from work.

And he’s a nice enough chap; I have no problems at all with him. But he’d probably take umbrage if I were to plug my headphones in and ignore him for the whole journey.

There and back.

For five days.

Bugger.

Feb 14 2015

Awww…

AwwMrs M’s besty friend recently got a new puppy – a Golden Retriever.

Last night, Mrs M and her BF went to see the mucky film that they have long awaited. That meant someone had to do some puppy-sitting.

I was kind of dreading it at first, as I was sure that as soon as they left, the eleven week-old would start to fret.

Not a chance. I have never met a mutt with a temperament that was so serene and placid.  It wasn’t worried at all that it had been left with a complete stranger (this was the first time I had met the dog) and was content to curl up at my feet as I watched the telly.

After a couple of hours, I gave it some dinner, which it scoffed voraciously, licking the bowl so clean that you’d never know there had been any food in there. And then it quite happily curled up  on it’s blanket and went to sleep.

When the kids got home form Scouts, it played happily with them for a bit before it’s ‘mum’ returned to take it home.

Mrs M and the kids have been badgering me for a while now to get a dog and last night’s experience has gone some way to persuading me.

As long as I can have that one.

Feb 13 2015

Birds and bees

Mrs M was telling me how Amelia came into the bathroom for a little chat with her, whilst she was having a bath.

Amelia had had a sex education lesson at school.

“Is it true”, she asked of Mrs Masher, “is it true that the man sticks his thing into your… thing?”

Mrs M nodded an affirmation.

“Urgh”, she said with a shudder, and walked out.

As my daughter’s father, I’m more than happy for her to think of it that way, for many years to come.

Feb 12 2015

What a trooper

I have dragged myself from my sickbed to tell you the following – because I have to tell you something today, it’s the law:

I think I am dying.

I am now going to return to my sickbed.

(I haven’t phoned in sick or anything, as I have some paperwork that I will be doing from home, so as far as I am concerned I am still working. However, my get up and go hasn’t got up enough yet to persuade me to switch on the laptop. I’ll try again in an hour).

Feb 11 2015

In Sickness And In Health

teddy_bear_ill-1366x768Thanks to an accident closing two lanes of the M1 last night, my journey home from the office took three hours. Three bloody hours to do eighty miles! That’s an average of just 26MPH for the entire journey.

By the time I got home (19:45) I was tired, fed up and miserable.

Walking into the living room, I asked Mrs M how she was feeling. “Hungry”, croaked a feeble voice from under a crumpled duvet laid out on the sofa. “I’m hungry. I really fancy chicken fried rice. Will you go and get me a chicken fried rice please?”

I sighed and put my coat back on. “Oh, and we’re out of milk…”, she continued, “and Harry needs picking up from cubs.”

Three-quarters of an hour later, I sat down and tucked into my beef curry –  if I was going to the chinky anyway to get a fried rice, then I might as well get something for myself – whilst we watched some shitty “true life story” film on some obscure cable channel.

At 3am, she had a huge coughing fit which roused me from my slumber… but not her, oh no, she slept right through it somehow. It took me an hour to get back to sleep.

When I awoke this morning, I felt like crap: tired; throbbing headache; sore throat and legs that feel like they’ve just run a marathon.  OK, it’s taken a while, but it looks like she’s finally given me her lurgi.

Right, so now it’s my turn: where’s that fucking duvet?

Feb 10 2015

Smelling Pistake

I took Harry to school this morning and was reading some of the stuff that had been written and stuck up on the walls in the classroom.

In the middle of one wall, was a large piece of paper, with bullet points written down on it in very neat handwriting.

“Who wrote that?”, I asked Harry.

“My teacher, Miss Jones”, he replied, “why?”

“Because it has a spelling mistake on it”, I said. “Can you see it?”

He looked carefully and made several incorrect guesses at it. To be fair, it was a subtle mistake, but he found it eventually… after I had virtually spelt it out for him. “Tell your teacher “9/10, see me after class”, I said jokingly.

Before I knew it, he had run to the front of the class and was pointing her toward the wall. She peered at the wall intently then nodded her head and congratulated Harry at spotting the error. Harry said something to her and then pointed at me. Her gaze turned my way and she gave me a little smile before immediately turning away to one of the other children who was demanding her attention.

Harry returned to his desk. “I hope you didn’t tell her that I wanted to see her after class?”, I said to him, slightly anxiously.

“No, I just said you had seen the spelling mistake”, he replied, and I breathed a sigh of relief. A phrase like that could easily be taken the wrong way, when said by a ten year-old with no sense of irony in his voice.

Feb 09 2015

Plagued

Avoid-the-plagueHarry went away on a week’s school trip, recently, to a farm up near Whipsnade Zoo.

He returned full of stories and tales of what they had got up to. He also returned with a particularly virulent strain of bird flu.

I hasten to add that this isn’t the H1N1 pathogen that led to the 2009 pandemic, or even the less severe H7 variant that was found earlier this month in some chickens in Hampshire.

No, this – whatever it is he has picked up – has seriously laid low my bird: the current Mrs Masher.

Whilst Harry had a bit of a temperature and a sore throat (he was better within a couple of days and now just has a bit of a cough), Mrs M has contracted the full works. Sore throat; bad cough; headache; back ache; leg ache; ear ache; hair and teeth ache, she’s got the lot!

She has even taken a couple of days off work: that’s how ill she is.  Mrs M is one of those people who has to be on her death bed before she’ll phone in sick.

She has spent most of the weekend laying in bed, dosed up to the eyeballs with Ibuprofen and Night Nurse.

I hope she gets better soon as I hate seeing her like this.

Besides, that pile of washing and ironing isn’t getting any smaller.

Feb 08 2015

Time on my hands

I’ve been very busy of late.

Except, I haven’t.

Far from it.

I finished the last project at work, at the end of November. Since then, apart from tidying up some paperwork and doing  a bit of training for the next project, I have done bugger all work-wise.

Of course, having all this time on my hands, has presented me with the opportunity to get lots done at home.

But I haven’t.

Because I put things off. I procrastinate terribly (or very well, depending on how you look at it).

And the more time I have spare, the worse I am. Knowing that I have free time for the next month or so turns “I’ll do that tomorrow” into “I’ll do that next week” rather than “I’ll do that now” , as it should be in both cases.

It’s a problem that I really wish I could sort out – even though I have tried several times in the past and, evidently, failed.

My dad has the Nike philosophy of Just Do It, whereas my ethos seems to be more that of the Caramel Bunny.

Feb 07 2015

Ring ring, ring ring…

ringtoneBren’s post, yesterday, got me thinking about mobile phone ringtones.

Everyone customises the ringtone when they get a new phone. Don’t they? And I daresay – or at least, some trick cyclists would say – the chosen ringtone probably says something about the phone’s owner.

It’s rare nowadays to hear the – very recognisable – tune of Nokia’s default ringtone (taken from the 1902 piece Grande Valse by Tárrega ) and yet it does still occasionally happen and it makes me smile when I hear it because it means that person either doesn’t know how to change it or he just can’t be arsed to … or it’s my dad.

Mrs Masher’s ringtone is something poppy from the music charts. A young chap called Olly Murs being her current favourite.

The ringtone on Amelia’s phone changes on an almost daily basis, but whatever it is, it’s an awful racket.

And a mate at work has two ringtones. Being a big Star Wars nerd, he has March Of The Stormtroopers for any work related calls and the Star Wars Theme for friends and family.

Personally, I have five different groupings on my phone and each has it’s own ringtone. They are all British TV themes from the sixties and seventies, so, depending on who is calling me, I will hear:

If people from a particular generation (I’m talking about my g-g-generation) are around me when my phone goes off, I am often asked “Oh my God, what IS that tune? I recognise it but can’t …” .  It’s even happened in the supermarket.

So, what tell me, what have you changed your ringtone to… or can’t you be arsed?

Feb 06 2015

Set Spell Checkers to maximum!

DSC_5875_1Last night was the final for the Year 7 Spelling Bee at my daughter’s school and Amelia was in it. I went along to support her – only just making it, following a holdup on the M1 at Watford Gap – Mrs M and Harry stayed at home, both suffering badly with a dose of the lurgi.

Amelia didn’t win, but did get into the last six, so I was quite proud of her. She, on the other hand wasn’t pleased at all with her performance, hence the unhappy face in the photo.

I apologise for the picture being a bit crap: I only took a quick snap with my phone, at the end, forgetting to switch on the flash and remove the protective case – which always inhibits the phone’s otherwise quite excellent picture taking abilities.  It had been a long day; I’d had no dinner and had just had to sit through an hour and a half of listening to kids spell some pretty mundane words, so I didn’t have my photography head on.

I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty good speller – and achieved 100% in last night’s final – but, this morning, whilst looking on the internets to try and find out just why it’s called a spelling BEE, I happened across this spelling test from The Guardian. Give it a go, it’s actually really hard and – like Amelia – I’m somewhat disappointed with my performance. Nine out of twelve is above average – apparently – but I should have got ten really because the test claims I didn’t answer the last question… which I bloody did… and got correct..

But I still haven’t satisfactorerally  found out why it’s called a bee.

Feb 05 2015

Teleportation, where are you?

Yesterday, I had to travel down to Ringwood, near Bournemouth

A distance of 116 miles, it took nearly two and a half hours to get there.

I showed my ID to the nice lady – the reason I had to go there in the first place – and then I left.

Taking the same route back home took another two and a half hours.

I was actually on site for just twelve minutes.

In this day and age, there has to be a better way.

Surely?

Feb 04 2015

Bath Time

bathI had a bath last night.  First one I’ve had for ages.

I don’t enjoy baths, see…  I’m more of a shower person.

But last night I had a bath, purely because Harry had had a steam bath to help clear his chesty cough and the water was still clean when he got out. Letting a whole tub of hot water go down the plughole seemed such a waste and, as Mrs M – a regular bather – had already had one, I thought I may as well give it a go.

I lay in it for about five minutes before losing interest and getting out.

Many people love taking a long soak in the bath, but I really can’t see the attraction.

The current Mrs Masher has a bath daily (sometimes, two) and she’ll lay in there for up to an hour!

Others, I am told (mainly women, it must be said), like to place lighted candles on the edge of the bath, whilst laying in the water, as they get all prune-like.

Candles? What’s the point in that? Just turn the bloody light on!

I am assured that – for a special treat – these same women also drop rose petals into the water.

Now, who wants bits of soggy flowers sticking to them whilst they try to bathe? That can’t be nice, surely?

Apparently, various oils and unguents can also be added to the soup, along with bubbles. For what purpose, I don’t know. I mean: bubbles. Really?

But, this is called Luxuriating.

Apparently.

Rubbish! This is how you should take a bath: get in, have a quick rubdown with a bar of carbolic and then get out again.

Nuff sed.

Quick poll in the comments, please: Bath or shower?

Feb 03 2015

State of the union

divorce cakeThe day after Harry’s birthday party weekend – as mentioned yesterday – I took him to school and into his classroom, as I usually do.

There was much chatter between him and his mates, regarding the events of the weekend. They’d all had a great time and were still excited by it all.

As I sat on Harry’s desk, helping him with his morning challenge, there was a tugging at my coat. I turned to see one of the boys from the previous night’s party. “Harry’s dad… Harry’s dad…”, he said, still pulling at my coat.

Realising that he now had my attention, he stopped yanking at my coat and looked up at me. “Harry’s dad,” he repeated, “I’ve decided that I’m going to have my birthday party at the same place as Harry did. I’m inviting Harry and you can come too”. I think the kids had enjoyed having an adult play along with them… one that they could shoot at with impunity.

“Well, thank you”, I said, “that’s very nice of you. However, I’m sure it would be better if your dad was to go”.

He looked me in the eye and said, in a very matter-of-fact way, “I’m not allowed to see my dad. My mum and dad split up four years ago and I haven’t seen him since”.

At that point, the teacher started her ten-second countdown and so I gave Harry a kiss and left the classroom.

As I walked back to the car, I thought about what this young lad had said and then I thought about the others that Harry had invited along to his party.

There was K, who had just spoken to me. His mum was a single parent.

There was D, who’s mum was also a single parent.

There was M, whose mum and dad had split up several years before and he now lived with a single parent.

There was A and G, the twins, who live with a (single) foster parent because their father is in gaol and their mother has “issues”.

And there was L, who had been invited but couldn’t make it, because he was away visiting his dad that weekend.

Fifty percent of the kids Harry had invited, came from a single parent family!

I do hope that that particular sample group isn’t representative of the school – or indeed, the country – because that would be a pretty damning and somewhat sad statistic.

Feb 02 2015

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

book-coverWas a phrase that was recently brought home to me.

For Harry’s tenth birthday, he decided he wanted a party and so we booked an evening at Quasar, the laser quest game place in Hemel, and told him he could invite ten friends.

That evening, we loaded the kids into three cars and set off. I had Harry in mine, along with three others.

They jabbered noisily and excitedly as we drove along.  “Can we have some music on?”, Harry asked. I nodded and he reached across and pressed the button.

The last thing to which I had been listening, played out of the speakers, barely audible above the din that was coming from the back seat. It was Jupiter, from The Planet Suite by Gustav Holst.

Harry immediately started scrolling through to find something more suited to a bunch of excited ten year-olds.

“That’s Jupiter”, said a voice from the back. “Have you got Mars? That’s my favourite”.

I was taken aback slightly, but impressed nonetheless that this young kid had not only recognised a piece of classical music, but had actually demonstrated some knowledge about it.

Before I could say anything though, the car was suddenly filled with the not-so-dulcet sound of Gangnam Style.

I looked in the rear-view mirror to see him happily bouncing on the back seat in time to PSY’s one-hit wonder, along with his mates, his dreadlocked hair flailing about, Medusa-like, threatening to take someone’s eye out.

I would have been surprised if any of the kids had recognised a classical piece, but for it to be him, kind of shocked me.

And it shouldn’t have done.

And I shouldn’t judge someone by their looks.

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