Nov 07 2015

Selwyn Froggitt

DSC_0010Anyone who knows me well, will also know that I have long been a fan of magic.

And by that, I mean illusions, not all that Harry Potter rubbish.

Even as a kid, I always enjoyed magic shows and never missed watching David Nixon on the telly.

Paul Daniels, like him or not – and I know many didn’t – was a very accomplished conjurer and I made a point of never missing his shows on BBC1, either.

Other notable magicians have had television shows over the years and I’ve watched them all. Well, most of them.

And, I’ve even been known to perform a few small tricks myself in the past… just to family and friends, of course. But, it’s something I fell out of doing – enjoyable as it always was to amaze people.

It takes a lot of time to do it properly, see. Time and practice. And practice. And practice.
And I never seemed to find enough time or determination to follow it through. Too many other interests going on.

So, when I see a competent magician performing, I have a great deal of respect for them, because I know just how much effort has gone into what they are doing.

And last night, I went with my friend, Paul (a like-minded magic geek), to see Dynamo, at the Hammersmith Apollo.

It was this: marvellous.

And even though between us, Paul and I figured out how Dynamo did many of his tricks, he still drew a big round of applause from us, because we know how much time and effort had gone into making each trick seem like real magic.

Where gasps and cheers came from the 3,600 strong audience, Paul and I nodded our heads and clapped in appreciation for what we’d just seen.  Of course, we never figured it all out and those tricks that left us baffled, got even bigger cheers from us.

But, one of the highlights for me, was listening to the lady sitting next to me, who was explaining to her husband how many of the tricks were being done.  If she’s right, then Dynamo has had magnets implanted in his fingers and wears a special pair of shoes that allows him to walk on water.

And that is one of the strange things about magic, because no-one is ever content to just be amazed. People always want to know how it was done.

And trust me, when you know how a trick is done, it always loses some of it’s magic.

Oct 30 2015

Last Day

last-dayToday is my last day at work.

For the past six years, I have travelled up and down the country (well, countries, really: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Don’t know why I never made it to Wales) for work.  I have stayed in more Premier Inns than Lenny Henry is ever likely to and, as a consequence, spent far too much time away from my family.

And that’s the reason I’m packing it in.  The company I’ve worked for have been really good, but the nature of their business means that engineers have to go to where the work is… which, for me, has meant a huge amount of travel and staying away. And I just can’t do it any longer.

Of course, having a mortgage, several mouths and two petrol tanks to feed, means I can’t just jack it all in and sit around all day watching Loose Women and Bargain Hunt.  So, I’ve got myself another job, which I start in a weeks’ time.

It’s a bit of a departure from telecoms, which is what I’ve done for the past 35 years, but I’m excited and looking forward to trying out something different, with new challenges. Being able to come home to my family each night is a Brucie Bonus too.

No more trying to help the kids with their homework over the phone; no more looking at the Beefeater menu and thinking “Shall I have it medium-rare tonight… just for a change?” and no more having to get up at stupid o’clock on a Monday morning so that I can be in some God-forsaken place up north by 8am.

So, where am I going? What is this new job of mine?

Well, H²O is where it’s at. Yes, I’m going to work for the Water Board – and only people of a particular generation would call it that – (that’s you lot, then).

So yes, exciting – and slightly moist – times ahead.

Oct 28 2015

H is for “Holy fuck, how much?”

honda-logo-transparentMy car failed its MOT earlier this month.

It failed on three things:

Thing number one: One of the front shock absorbers was leaking.  This came as no big shock (pun intended), as it’s getting on a bit and I’ve piled on the miles in the past couple of years. General wear and tear then.  Of course shock absorbers are generally replaced as a pair, so total cost for parts and fitting was four hundred quid.

Thing number two: The airbag warning light was on, indicating a fault. I was hoping it would be a simple cheap fix, like a dodgy connector or something. But, oh no, it was at the other end of the scale. A faulty SRS unit (the box of tricks that controls and deploys the airbags) that would need to be replaced.  One had to be flown in from Belgium and fitted at a cost of six hundred and fifty sovs. Jeez!

Thing number three: An indicator bulb not working. Now, you’d think this was a cheap and easy fix, wouldn’t you? But, again no. The errant indicator was the one built into the wing mirror and I was damn sure I could fix this one myself, if only I could get into the mirror housing without breaking it.  I spent ages trying to gently coax the two parts of the housing open, using the large blade on my Swiss Army knife. All I succeeded in doing was almost slicing the top of my finger off (the mirror housing was covered in blood by the time I gave up).  It was left to my local Honda dealer to sort it.  How much for a small piece of circuit board with a few LEDs on it? Well, parts-wise, I doubt it would cost more than a few pounds. Supplied and fitted by the dealer… one hundred and fifty quid!!

So, there you go, I’m now legal again.  Hurrah!

As this car is now getting a bit long in the tooth, I’m tempted to look for a new(er) one, but having just spent over twelve hundred quid, I think I’ll hang on to her for just a little bit longer.



Oct 18 2015

The Bard lives on

DSC_0045I was driving along the Thames Embankment t’other day  – incredibly slowly, of course – and stopped at the traffic lights.

That’s when I noticed the two cars in the picture above (taken quite safely, because I was stationary).

Now, there’s somebody with money: gawd knows how much those number plates must have cost!

Her: Whose car shall we go out in tonight dear?

Him: Yes,  do we take 2 BE or NOT 2B, that is indeed the question.

I wonder how many times that conversation must have taken place?

Oct 10 2015

Signs of the times

carparksignStuff like this really annoys me.

This sign was on a broken ticket machine in an NCP car park in tht London, when I visited it last week.  As you can see, it states that they will be fixing it just as quick as they can.


That same sign was there six weeks ago when I first visited.  I’m guessing it will still be there next week when I go there again. And quite possible next month/year.

To be fair, the car park isn’t that busy, so having one machine out of order doesn’t really cause any problems.  As such, I guess that NCP probably have no intention of paying out to get it fixed.  So, why not just switch it off and stick a sign on it saying Not In Use, rather than post some phoney statement implying that they are working hard to sort it out ASAP.

I’ve seen similar signs on various lifts in buildings that I’ve been working in. “Out of Order. Engineer has been called”, states one.  That sign has been there for nearly a year.  Perhaps they should try calling a different engineer.

There is one of those machines that sells drinks and crisps and chocolate bars for extortionate prices, in a hotel that I regularly visit up north. The machine doesn’t work and has a piece of paper sellotaped to the glass, saying that it has been reported.  That sign has been taped to the front of it for at least two months.  Fortunately, by the time I’ve stuffed my face in the all-you-can-eat buffet, an overpriced and out-of-date chocolate bar is way down my list of sleepy-time requirements.

I still get annoyed by it though.

Sep 30 2015

Where’s my bloody speedboat?

PILennyAs I’m sure you are both aware, Premier Inn offers a Good Night Guarantee to its paying guests. We’ve all seen Lenny Henry burying his fat face into a pillow ready for the best sleep he’s ever had.

I’ve recounted some of my many, many stays at Premier Inn over the years on this very blog, but, despite the occasional bad night, I’ve never once invoked the GNG clause.

In fact, I tend to make a bit of joke of it. “Are you aware of our Good Night Guarantee?” I’m usually asked as I check-in, despite the fact that I am paying with a Premier Inn Business Account card.
“Yes”, I’ll say, “if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I get all my money back.

And a holiday in the Seychelles.

And a speedboat.”

But as I say, despite the odd sleepless night, I’ve never yet asked for my money back. Not that it would benefit me if I did, as the company I work own the account.

Now, on Monday night I stayed in Huddersfield. No problems with the hotel or the accommodation: big comfy bed and when I hit the sack – knackered as I was – I was fast asleep within seconds.
Five minutes later though, I was awoken by the sound of the fire alarm… and crikey, them things could wake the dead!

I lay there wondering if it was a false alarm, which it must have been, because 30 seconds later it stopped.
I rolled over and easily fell back into my slumber, dog-tired as I was.

A few minutes later it went off again and again I lay there listening to its high-pitched, two-tone warbling. Thankfully, it stopped after about half a minute.

This time however, I couldn’t get straight back to sleep – maybe I was half-expecting it to go off again, I don’t know, but it took ages before I dozed off again.

The following morning, the receptionist apologised as I checked out. All down to a guest having a shower and the steam setting off the smoke detector.


Last night I stayed in Stafford. Unbelievably, I was once again dragged from the arms of Morpheus by the godforsaken racket of the fire alarm in my room… only, this one had a bright flashing light as well!

I buried my head under the blanket and waited for it to stop.

It didn’t. Wearily I fell out of the bed and threw on a t-shirt and some trousers, slipped my feet into my trainers and headed out. The corridor was full of guests all wandering around, looking dazed and bewildered, seemingly not sure of what to do. God help us if there really was a fire.

I headed out the fire exit and into the car park where there was already a crowd of people standing around in pyjamas, dressing gowns and in various guises of night-time attire.

It was about midnight and we stood there for 15 minutes or so, shivering, whilst the hotel staff frantically ran in and out trying to find someone who knew how to shut the damn thing off.

Eventually, the right key was found and we were all allowed back in. It took me ‘kin ages to get back to sleep though.

This time it was all down to a guest using an excessive amount of body spray.


Again, I didn’t bother with the Good Night Guarantee, but if they send me one of those “How was your stay?” emails, I’ll be letting Lenny have it with both barrels.

Sep 27 2015

That Nescafe moment

VillagePeopleBikerThis week, I have been working down that London again, at a data centre on the Isle Of Dogs.

Just around the corner from the data centre is a small row of houses and flats. Nestled amongst them is a small betting shop and when I saw this, I was instantly reminded of something that happened there many years ago, back in the late eighties.

I was working for BT, on a project installing satellite dishes for the four main betting shop companies. On this particular day, I had been sent to do a survey at this very bookmakers.

I arrived there with my cohort, Mark. “This looks like an easy one”, I said as we pulled up outside. “You may as well wait in the car. Won’t take long”. Mark was more than happy to oblige and settled himself down for a snooze whilst I made my way into the shop.

“It looks like a flat roof”, I said to the manager, having completed my internal survey of the premises. “How do I get up there?” He directed me toward some stairs that led up to the flat above.

“Just knock”, he said. “I know he’s home today. Nice bloke, he is”.

I made my way upstairs and knocked on the door. It was opened by a young chap, a bit older than me, with blond hair. I explained why I was there and he welcomed me in and led me up some stairs where I then had to climb out of a small window to gain access to the roof.  “Would you like a tea or a coffee?” he asked.

“Yeah, a cup of tea would be nice, thanks.”

“I’m afraid I only have coffee”, he smiled.

“That’s fine”, I said, “Coffee, black, no sugar, please.” and he scurried off to put the kettle on.

I finished my survey on the roof in about five minutes – it was definitely one of the easier ones we’d had – and climbed back in through the window and made my way back down the stairs. My coffee was sitting on the table, ready for me and the young chap returned from the kitchen clutching a packet of biscuits.

We sat and talked for a while. I noticed a crash helmet sitting on the side and there were several pictures of classic motorcycles adorning the plain white walls. Having a common interest, the banter between us came easily as I sipped at my coffee whilst he told me about the classic bike club he had set up with a few mates.

The coffee was dark and strong and had a strangely sweet taste to it. I’d drunk about half of the cup when I started to feel a bit strange… a bit heady.

I decided it was time to leave, but when I stood up to go, I came over all dizzy.  “He’s drugged me!” That was my first thought. “I need to get out of here!” was my next.

I quickly bid my farewell and made my way to the door, trying to walk as normally as possible while the room was slowly spinning.  I had visions of waking up butt naked and bent over his kitchen table with my hands and feet tied. I couldn’t blame him: I was young and pretty and fit… hell, I even had abs back then!

I staggered down the stairs as quickly as I could and got into the car, rousing Mark from his 40 winks. “That was quick. Everything OK?” he asked, looking at me strangely.



“Just drive!”

He drove.

Looking back on it now, I doubt there was anything untoward happening. I daresay he was a thoroughly decent chap who just made coffee that was way too strong for my insipid, tea-loving palette.

But then, there’s always the slight chance that I was just one espresso away from being gang-raped by a bunch of gay, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts.

Sep 09 2015

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

memlnI’ve been working down that London this week and it has been a right, royal, pain in the arse.

Major roadworks on the North Circular (they’re rebuilding a bridge or something?) has led my Sat Nav to take me on a magical mystery tour through the city. Of course, the North Circ isn’t the only road in that London to be undergoing major roadworks… they all bloody are!

It feels like.

From the end of the M1 to Bermondsey – where I am working – is only about 12 miles going straight through the middle of town and yet it takes at least an hour and a half… and that’s at six-thirty in the morning!

And what’s the point of that damn Congestion Charge?  There is just as much traffic and it is going just as slow as anywhere else, yet now I’m paying £11.50 a day to sit in it!


Anyway, my journey home yesterday took me up the Edgware Rd and I missed the turn-off for Staples Corner/M1 because I was in the wrong lane and no-one would let me over. To get anywhere in that London you have to drive like a git… but I’m too polite for that.

Tsk, tsk, I thought. Oh well, I’ll carry on up through Burnt Oak… it’s been a while since I’ve been that way.

My family hails from that way, see, and when I was younger we would often go there at the weekends to visit grandparents and the like. As such, I’ve always felt an affinity for the place; a sense of belonging… even though we moved away when I was just two-years old.

And as I drove through there yesterday, memories flooded into my mind.

There’s Nan & Gramps’ flat. They used to wave to us from that window when we drove home. Or was it that window there? Hold on, which flat was it….?

Ahh, and that’s where the butcher’s shop was. One of my earliest memories was of my nan taking me there one day. I remember it having actual sawdust on the floor and I recall being fascinated by the weighing scales. Of course, it’s not there any more. Now it’s a haberdashery shop. Or maybe it’s that shoe shop.  Or is it that overpriced mens’ suits shop?  It was definitely along here somewhere.

Ahh, now, here’s Watling Avenue.  I can remember walking up and down that road with my mum so many times. It had every shop you could think of. Anything that you wanted, you could get down “The Watling”.  I glanced down the road as I drove past it. It’s been taken over by the Indian community now and no longer has the diversity of shops that made it such a joy to visit.

And just along here we have the very first Maplin shop I ever visited. Oh… it’s gone.

Here at the junction with Deansbrook, is Rex Judd’s motorcycle shop. I used to spend hours in there, just looking and dreaming. My dad bought his first motorbike from there and I bought my first one from there too. It’s long gone now and the shop has been bulldozed and replaced with a gymnasium.

And finally, we pass Edgware General Hospital which is where I was born.
Nope, that’s where mum was born. I was born in Kingsbury, up the road. I think.

Oh, I dunno, I give up.

Aug 29 2015

Fifty Shades Of Meh

FS tieThe kids have been away at scout camp this past week. A week in a field in Great Yarmouth with twenty kids…. those scout leaders deserve a medal… or at least a badge.

Of course, with the little darlings being well out of earshot, Mrs M and I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for us to spend some quality (adult) time together – a somewhat rare occurrence nowadays.

Unfortunately though, I ended up working away from home all week – not such a rare occurrence – and so it was not to be.

Last night, I got home from work, absolutely knackered, following a five-hour drive, to find that Mrs M was keen to make the most of what free time we had left. She’d booked us a table at a local restaurant and had had her hair done and was looking all rather splendid.

I quickly showered and changed and we took a leisurely stroll to the eatery, where we had a lovely meal and a couple of glasses of wine.

Back home, to give us time for our food to go down and to maybe help get us in the mood, Mrs M put on the DVD of Fifty Shades… which I have never seen or read.

What a load of rubbish. I really can’t see what all the fuss was about. Maybe it’s a girl thing, because it really did bugger all for me.

And it’s a longer film than we’d realised too. By the time we went to bed, sleep was the only thing on our minds.

The kids are back home tomorrow, so Mrs M and I have have one last chance tonight to make the most of it.

So we’re going to the pictures.

Aug 06 2015

Every cloud…

Alton_Towers_Resort_LogoThe accident that happened some weeks back on The Smiler ride at Alton Towers was a terrible thing, with several suffering bad injuries and two people actually losing a limb.  A fun day out that turned into a tragedy for all those involved.

The knock-on effect from this calamity is that people are staying away from Alton Towers – and possibly other similar theme parks – and it must be costing Merlin (Alton Towers’ owner) a small fortune in lost revenue.

I took the kids to Alton Towers on Tuesday and whilst it wasn’t actually deserted – as some of media are claiming – it was certainly not very busy.

Walking around the park was a breeze as there were no crowds, and queueing was almost non-existent. Bearing in mind that this is the summer school holiday, you’d expect it to be packed, but we literally walked straight on to both the Oblivion and Nemesis rides, without any waiting whatsoever. I can remember queueing for over an hour for each of those rides several years ago.

There was some waiting though:  we queued to get into Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for quite a while, until they announced that there was a delay due to a technical hitch. At that point, we lost interest and abandoned the queue.

Another problem ensued at the Air ride – another ride that has featured in the news for  technical hitches. We climbed into our seats and were duly strapped in. The floor dropped out of the way and the seats swung back into a horizontal position. And then nothing happened. For ten minutes.  Red jacketed attendants busied themselves around us, pulling at seat belts and double-checking restraints. By now, Amelia was in tears: having read about The Smiler incident, she was convinced that this was another accident waiting to happen.

Eventually, the seats were lowered back into an upright position and we all disembarked so they could send it off on an empty test run.  We climbed onto the next train  – apart from Amelia, who decided that fate had given her an opportunity to give this one a miss – and this time we were off with no hesitation.  The carriage flew around the track, darting in and out of the trees, coming so close that at one point I felt sure my feet had actually brushed against them. It was only when we disembarked that I realised that what I’d actually felt was all the loose change coming out of my pocket and hitting my foot as they fell to the ground. I lost over six quid on that ride!

But all in all, it was a great day. We left tired (and penniless), having been on most of the rides – something that wouldn’t be possible if you had to queue for an hour at each one.


Jul 30 2015


ambulanceMrs M took a phone call in the office yesterday afternoon.  It was from a member of the public, saying that she had found a postman collapsed in the street.

Being only a couple of streets away from the office, Mrs M legged it round there. It only took a few minutes for her to arrive and she found said postie laying sprawled on the ground.

He wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse. Luckily, Mrs M is a trained First Aider and immediately started to administer CPR, whilst calling for an ambulance at the same time.

It took five minutes for the ambulance to arrive and the paramedics then took over, having to shock the chap to bring him back.

Of course, Mrs M has received much praise for her actions from both the ambulance crew and her colleagues at work. She undoubtedly saved his life.

But the question that has everyone puzzled, is: why did the woman who found him, not ring for an ambulance instead of the local Royal Mail office?

Jul 23 2015

The pain, the pain

Agony; that’s what I’m in.

As you both know, I’ve long been a martyr to my back. It doesn’t take much to put it out, and that’s exactly what I did at the weekend.


On Monday morning, the pain was so bad that I had to ask Mrs Masher to put my socks and shoes on my feet for me. Now, several days into the week, it is only just starting to get better.

I’ve been walking around like I’ve shit myself. I think it’s impossible to look any other way, when one has to walk so gingerly that the slightest jar can send pain spasming through your body.

At work, I had to get one of my colleagues to carry my toolbag for me… as I hobbled ten paces behind him, looking like I’d badly soiled myself.

Fortunately, driving hasn’t been too bad – I’m currently working in Northern Ireland and there is plenty of driving required – although getting in and out of the car has been a slow process.

So, what caused this terrible inconvenience?

What was I doing to cripple myself so badly?

Well, I’ll tell you: I was playing “Smacka-dat-bum” with Amelia.

I’d just caught her a cracker on the backside and was running up the stairs gleefully, with her in hot pursuit, eager to get me back. As I ran for the safety of my big swivel chair in the shack, I wiggled my arse at her in a taunting fashion.


“Ha Ha”, I said, “You can’t catch me!”

Then something clicked and I stopped suddenly as a bolt of pain shot through my lower back.  A second later, there was another painful sensation, as Amelia’s hand delivered a stinging slap to my posterior. She giggled as she quickly turned and made her retreat, whilst I limped into my room and slowly lowered myself onto the chair.

“Don’t you want to play anymore, Daddy?”, she asked, walking into the room cautiously. I grimaced a smile at her and shook my head.

“Have you hurt your back again?”

I nodded.

“Bother!” she said.

“Arses!” I agreed

Jul 19 2015

Rotten Tomato

10000 daysMrs M is a bit rubbish when it comes to films.

We can go see a big action blockbuster at our local picture-house and then, six months later when it’s shown on Channel Four, she’ll sit down to watch it again, swearing blind that she’s never seen it before.

And she’s really good at picking out rubbish DVDs too, which is why I cringed last Sunday when she returned home from the shops with a cheery “I got us a DVD to watch after dinner”.

She has a passion for the post-apocalyptic genre: 2012; The Day After Tomorrow; Deep Impact… that sort of thing.

And so we all sat down – as a family – after a full-monty Sunday roast and watched 10, 000 Days, a film about the survivors on Earth after it has been hit  by a large comet and has entered a new Ice Age.

There were no “names” in the cast list, save for the little-known blond-haired bloke out of the Dukes Of Hazzard TV series… and he wasn’t up to much.

So, what can I say about it? The acting was terrible, the storyline was truly awful and the special effects were atrocious.

Both kids left the room after about five minutes and Mrs M fell asleep half an hour into it, waking ten minutes before the end to exclaim that “it was a bit of a weird ending”.

I sat through it, determined to get our three quid’s worth, but it has to be one of the biggest piles of poo I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.

If you see this DVD going for 99p in your local pikey Asda store, you’d do well to steer well clear.

But, it’ll probably be on the telly soon anyway… and Mrs M will be able to enjoy all again.


Jul 07 2015

Weekend away

DSC_0015 (Custom)Last week, the current Mrs Masher and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.

Twenty years!

But working away from home (as I always am) is no way to celebrate and so we had a weekend down that London. N.K.A.

No Kids Allowed.

I booked us into a snazzy hotel: the one above Charing Cross Station on The Strand.

We’d stayed there before – on our tenth anniversary – and had thoroughly enjoyed it’s opulant, old worlde splendour.  So this time I decided to push the boat out a little further and, instead of booking the bog-standard room that we’d had last time and had been so impressed with, I opted for a deluxe room with a king-sized bed.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. The first thing I noticed when I opened the door was the size of the room: it was half the size of the one we’d stayed in before – indeed, it was half the size of the Premier Inn room I’d stayed in two days earlier in Edinburgh, at a third of the price.

DSC_0013 (Custom)The next thing I noticed was the bed. As can be seen from this photo, it was twin beds, not a king-size.

I went straight back down to reception to tell them that they had obviously put us in the wrong room. But I was assured that  we were in a King Deluxe room and that not all of the King Deluxe rooms had a king-size bed… many had twins.

Huh? How can a King Deluxe room NOT have a King-sized bed… especially when it is advertised that they do?

I wasn’t happy. Here we were, celebrating our twentieth year of married life together and we were going to be sleeping in separate beds!

It took a while to rectify the situation, but eventually we were moved into another room and I was happy.  The picture at the top of this post shows our eventual room.

I cannot fault the staff at the hotel, they bent over backwards to try and sort us out and we received complimentary AKSdrinks and a partial refund as recompense but, Amba Hotels: you cannot advertise king-size beds on your website, when you don’t have them!


We went to see a show… The Woman In Black.

“A Masterpiece” – The Guardian.

“Nerve Shredding” – The Daily Mail.

“Meh” – Masher

I mean, it was OK, but I didn’t feel it lived up to the hype.  Mrs M thought likewise.

After that we went to Planet Hollywood for a slap up meal. Mrs M just lurves a half-rack of ribs… and as far as she’s concerned, no-one does them better than PH.

Stuffed to the gills, we then made our way to the IMAX and watched the new Terminator film.  Bit of a curate’s egg, that one. It was well made, but I thought it all very contrived… as though the script had been worked just to get Arnie back in to it. That can’t be the case. Surely?  We enjoyed it nonetheless.

The following morning, we stuffed our faces again at breakfast and then visited the James Bond exhibition… which was all rather splendid. I thoroughly enjoyed that and easily have spent more time there, but we needed to get home and collect the kids from the kennels.

It was a brilliant weekend, marred only by Mrs Masher dropping her phone onto the unforgiving cobblestones of Covent Garden.

I would get her a new one for her anniversary, but I’m afraid that was last week.

Jun 28 2015

Deep Thought 7

OK, it may not be able to provide the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, but it’s a hell of a lot faster than Deep Thought 6: my old pooter.

6 was getting slow. No, actually, 6 WAS slow. Frustratingly slow. There were times when it seemed to just grind to a halt.

I cleaned it; I tidied it; I defragged the hard drive and I gave the registry a damn good wash, but nothing seemed to bring it back to it’s old self. I could re-format and reload Win 7, I s’pose – that would probably do it – but this seemed like an ideal opportunity for an upgrade.

And so, armed with expenses money that I’d accrued from travelling up and down the country, I scoured the web and made several orders from various suppliers.

Last weekend I found the time to do the rebuild and DT7 (because this is the seventh incarnation within the same PC case) was born.

I’m now having all the fun of transferring files from one to t’other.

But, I have to admit to being a little disappointed because, when I checked the Windows Experience Index, it wasn’t actually much higher than the old machine.  This, it seems, is all down to me skimping on the graphics card. With a possible top subscore of 7.9, each component is performing pretty well (especially the SSD HDD), with the exception of the graphics card which comes in at a miserly 4.2


I looked at graphics cards long and hard before deciding that there was no point in spending a small fortune on one: I don’t do gaming and my old card coped easily enough with the limited amount of video editing that I do.

And so I compromised by buying not the cheapest of cards, but certainly not the most expensive. And that’s what is giving me a poor WEI.

But maybe I shouldn’t worry so much about the numbers and actually just enjoy my new machine, because SHE FLIES!

At the moment.

Jun 22 2015

Daddy can’t win

Happy-fathers-day-pintFor Father’s Day yesterday, the kids wanted to treat me to a trip to the pictures, so we went to see Jurassic World… which was a lot of fun.

Cost me thirty-two quid, that did.

Afterwards, they said that as I was the “Best Dad Evuh”, they’d like to treat me to Sunday dinner in the local carvery. We had a most enjoyable full roast. Lovely.

That cost me another forty pounds.

By way of a Father’s Day pressy, I got a card and some socks!

And of course, I had to get something for my own father and that came to twenty-five nicker – not that I begrudge paying that one little bit, but, at the end of the day, Father’s Day has left me nearly a ton out of pocket.

Is that how it’s supposed to work, then?

And Mother’s Day seems to work in a similar way: I’m left a hundred quid short at the end of it.

Something’s not right, I tell ya.

Jun 18 2015

Do you want fries with that?

Metro BankI was driving through Sluff yesterday morning, when I spotted a high street bank that I’d not seen before.With it’s glass facade and it’s colourful red, white and blue signage, it stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the drab and dreary shops on the high street. But, the bit that caught my eye was the sign that said it offered Drive Thru (sic) banking.

Drive Through Banking? How does that work then?

Does it work like a McDonalds Drive Through?

Do you have to drive up to that speaker thing and then shout your order into the microphone: “I’d like to take out fifty pounds please and I’d also like two hundred pounds of Swiss Francs and three hundred pounds in Travellers Cheques.  And a hot apple pie.”

Then you drive to the next window where everything is handed to you in suspicious-looking brown-paper bags.

And when you get home, you open the bags to find they’ve given you forty quid in used notes and two hundred pounds of Malaysian Ringgits, there’s a book of Travellers Cheques missing and your hot apple pie has been substituted for a chocolate doughgnut.

Think I’ll stay where I am, ta very much… McBanking’s not for me.


Jun 14 2015

I’m back

Not that I’ve actually been away. But I just don’t seem to have found the time or inclination to write anything here. For ages.

I’ve been working in England for the past few weeks.  All of it, it seems.

From Carlisle in the north-west to Newcastle in the north-east to Bristol in the west and Great Yarmouth in the east… and lots of bits inbetween.

This week I shall be starting off in Canterbury in Kent and then onto… well, who knows where.

England, probably.

As you can gather, much of my time is spent on the road, travelling from site to site and I’ve stayed in more Premier Inns in the past weeks than Lenny Henry is ever likely to in his life.

Drive. Work. Drive. Sleep. Drive. Work. Drive. Sleep. Drive… well, you get the picture.  And of course, that doesn’t leave much time for blogging. It also doesn’t give much material to write about, hence the dearth of posts recently.

And so I’m going to make a bit more effort, I have decided, and post a bit more – even if I have nothing of interest to say – because I seem to have lost the writing habit and I want to get it back.

Prepare yourselves for drivel.

May 24 2015

Signs of the times

Fly Tipping SignOver the past couple of months, there have been several instances of fly-tipping in the corner of the car park of our local Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Sainsbury’s management have taken steps to prevent this from happening again, by putting up a sign that says “No Fly-Tipping”. Yeah, that’ll do the trick… because people who fly-tip have high morals and obey the rules.

Don’t they?

In reality, it’s a pointless sign, as people who fly-tip are not going to pay any attention to a sign asking them not to.

I saw a pointless sign on the motorway the other day – one of those electronic, temporary roadworks signs that they stick on the side of the road, sometimes.

“14 vehicles ran out of fuel in April” it said.   So, what’s that telling us? It’s telling us that some motorists are stupid… and I think we already know that.

And I’m intrigued by the speed limit signs within the roadworks.  Not the ones aimed at the motorists, but those aimed at site traffic actually within the coned off roadworks area.  10mph would be a reasonable speed to adhere to, you’d think. But I’ve not seen a sign for 10mph. I have seen signs for both 9mph and 11mph though. Unbelievably, I’ve even seen one stating a 9.5mph limit.  How good must your speedo be to be able to stick to exactly 9.5mph or less? OK, yes, less is easy. But, a maximum of 9.5mph? Really?

There’s a small village up the road from me and as you drive off the main drag onto the road that leads to it, there is a sign telling you to slow to 50mph.  Just thirty or forty metres  further on, there is another sign telling you to slow to 30mph.  So, you can drive at 50mph for about 40 metres?  What’s the point of that?

And driving along the motorway the other day, the overheads took great pleasure in informing me that that the roads are likely to be busier over the Bank Holiday weekend.

I need to stay in more.

May 10 2015

I have nothing to say

… apart from adding to my driving woes… which all gets very boring after a while. It seems to be all I write about, lately, so I won’t mention it again here.

Other than to say that I have spent yet more countless hours, sitting in traffic this week.

I mean, have you ever tried getting out of Liverpool on a Friday afternoon? It’s a bloody nightmare!

It’s not all bad though. On Thursday afternoon, I had an wonderful drive through the Derbyshire Dales which I thoroughly enjoyed. The sun was out; the view was gorgeous; there was hardly any traffic about and Just A Minute was playing through the car stereo. All in all, it was a lovely journey.

I even skirted around Manchester with ease.

But then I hit the M62 going into Liverpool and suddenly I was in a world of frustration.

We sat  almost motionless for what felt like three hours… but was actually only two.

And a bit.

How many hours of my life have I lost, just sitting in traffic?  I started to calculate a rough figure in my head, but stopped when I realised it might just send me over the brink.

Sitting behind a wheel driving somewhere, I don’t mind, even if it’s a ball-ache of a long journey, because it’s actually achieving something: it’s getting me to my intended destination. There’s a purpose to it.

But just sitting there, going nowhere, for hour after non-productive hour, just drives me fucking mental.

May 01 2015

Going nowhere fast

trafficThis week has been all about travelling slowly. Not through choice, I might add.

On Monday, I had to work in that London.  SE8, to be more exact.

I left in plenty of time… or so I thought. But I hadn’t taken into account that London is a shit-hole of a place to drive in.  The last 3 miles took me nearly an hour.  The journey home was a barrel of laughs too.

The following day, I was working in the same place and so I left even earlier, but also took a different route in.  All seemed to be going well, as I flew along the various motorways, before grinding to a halt somewhere behind City Airport. As we inched along at a snails pace, I noticed in my rear view mirror, a rather attractive blond in an Audi, behind me. I took even more notice when she started taking her top off.  Because of the Audi’s steering wheel,  I couldn’t tell if she was wearing a slip or was just sitting in her bra.

I watched as she started to put her face on. The full works: mascara; moisturiser ( I think); lipstick. All very well, but I wondered why she had removed her jumper.

And then she started shaving under her arms, with a razor.

I kid ye not!

Then she started doing her hair, taking it down and brushing it before putting it up again. Then doing it again. And again.  I half expected her to produce a hair dryer and tongs.

Eventually, we got past the roadworks that were causing the hold up and went our separate ways.

Again, I was late for work.

Wednesday was my final day there, and I left even earlier and took a further different route, but still struggled to arrive on time.

Problem is: I’m not a London driver. I’m too polite.  Whenever I found myself in the wrong lane (which was more often than not), rather than barge my way in, as the other drivers were doing, I’d find myself driving in the wrong direction for a couple of miles before being able to make a U-turn.

Sat-Nav didn’t help.  “In one hundred yards, turn left” is alright elsewhere, but in that London  “In one hundred yards, turn left, but be aware that the road quickly narrows and if you don’t get in the right-hand lane straight away, you’re fucked”, would be far more useful.

The other problem with Sat-Nav is that it picks up on slow or stationary traffic and tries to re-route your journey through the more minor roads. Unfortunately, the minor roads are also chock full but being minor roads, there are no sensors to inform Sat Nav of this. So, on my journey home on Wednesday, I decided to ignore Sat Nav and use The Force to get home.  Unfortunately, The Force told me the A13 would be the best route to take, but it was completely unaware of the accident that had closed one lane.  Another shit journey.

Yesterday, I was was working up in Birmingham. I left early as Mrs M wanted me to attend Amelia’s parents evening at school.  The M1 had other ideas though and an accident in the fast lane, through the roadworks, brought the motorway to a standstill. My usual 100 minute journey actually took over three and a half hours.

I missed parents evening.

Today though, I am working from home, because I can.

And because it’s my birthday.

Apr 26 2015

I’ve been busy

signpostBedford on Monday. Well, that was a nice easy one for me. Just up the road.

Preston, Doncaster, York, Leeds and Manchester for the rest of the week, before getting home late on Friday.

The company that I am doing this particular project for – and I won’t name them here – provided me with a list of addresses to all their sites across the country, which was very handy.


Except that, so far, not one single address or postcode has actually got me to site.  Some of them are nowhere near. Take the address I was given for Doncaster: it was more than two miles away from the postcode I was given! I spent two hours driving around, trying to find it.  It’s almost like someone had got a map of Doncaster, stuck a pin in it and said “It’s about there. Probably.”
It doesn’t help that none of the sites have any signage on them either.


Last night, we took the kids to the pictures to see the new Marvel Avengers film (yeah, like I wouldn’t have gone to see it anyway, kids or no) and it was all rather marvelous… pun intended.

We went to the new Odeon complex on the new retail park that has been recently built in new Milton Keynes/old Bletchley.

Traffic around there was horrendous, thanks to the rugby match between Northampton and Saracens. Roads were closed and traffic marshals were in abundance, trying to route people round the long way.  Although we had plenty of time, Mrs M – who was doing the driving – is an impatient soul and after trying several routes to find a quicker way in, she cut across the carriageway, blocking all the traffic as she did so and told a bare-faced lie to the traffic marshal to get him to let us in, whilst I sat there with my head down, pretending I wasn’t there.

We had a great nosh-up in Nando’s, and then watched the film, having paid a bit extra for the premier seats, which were very comfortable and afforded extra leg room.

The journey home wasn’t so comfortable though, as it was pissing down with rain and the blower on Mrs M’s car decided to pack in. We had to drive in torrential rain with the windows open, to try and stop the windscreen from misting up. Either that or hold our breath for thirty minutes.

We arrived home at about midnight, tired, wet and full of popcorn.

Apr 15 2015

Tsk tsk


“No, I haven’t got Tourettes – you really are a CUNT” 


Now, I’m no prude and I’m not averse to swearing. I’ll even use the “C word” occasionally…  though usually just for comic effect.

But I happened across the phrase above, at the weekend.

Where? you might ask.

Was it said by some bawdy comic on a late night stand up comedy show on Channel 4?


Was it some jovial banter between a couple of mates chatting in the pub over a pint?

Again, no.

Maybe it was some graffiti on the wall of an underpass in one of the grimier parts of town?


I’ll tell you where I saw this crude and rather unwitty remark: it was emblazoned upon the tee-shirt of a chap sitting at a table, no more than three or four metres from where my family and I were having Sunday lunch.

Now, as I say, I’m really no prude, but there are times and places for wearing such apparel.

And this chap had chosen Sunday lunchtime.

In a crowded family restaurant.

With kids around.

Including some on his own table.


Apr 11 2015

Going nowhere

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANothing of interest has happened this week.

I’ve been working up in Edinburgh, which is a hell of a drive from Luton, I can tell you.

And that’s about it.

Several people said – when I told them where I’d be working – ” Oh, you’ll enjoy that. We went for a weekend break there and it’s lovely”… or words to that effect.

The same with Morecambe last week: “You’ll have to go down to the beach and get your picture taken with Eric”, I was told by a few friends who have visited in the past.

But, it doesn’t usually work that way.  Normally I’ll arrive on site after several hours of driving and then it’s work, work, work before going back to the hotel, have a bit of dinner, watch a bit of telly, catch up on paperwork and then bed.

Repeat until job is complete and then drive home.

With exception of my nine month stay down in Devon, that is pretty much how each job goes.

I suppose. I can say that I have visited many, many towns and cities around the country… but not actually seen any of them.

Bit of a shame, really.

Apr 03 2015

Catching up

DSC_5903_2It was Amelia’s 12th birthday last Friday. I know: 12! Where did that go?

She and a few of her friends had a trampolining party. Yep, that’s a new one on me too.  In my day *cough* when we had a birthday party, we had a few friends round for tea and jelly and ice-cream and we played Pass The Parcel and Pin The Tail On The Donkey.

Nowadays, there are all sorts of specialist parties that the kids can have: bouncing; swimming; juggling; going ape-shit in a padded fun factory; dancing; ten-pin bowling…, the list goes on.  Harry went to a party a few weeks ago where they were all taught how to street dance. He came home and showed me his ‘moves”. I threw a few shapes back at him in response, but he wasn’t impressed with my efforts.

Mrs Masher’s bestie made Amelia a cake – that’s it in the picture above. Cool eh? We made short work of that, I can tell you.

This week, I have been working away oop north. Morecambe, to be precise. I had to work nights. Outside. I’ve never been so cold!  I had two pairs of everything on, but I was still freezing.  At three in the morning it was cold enough anyway, somewhere around 2C, but it was blowing a gale and the wind chill factor made it feel like -20C. My teeth were chattering so hard, my eyes wouldn’t focus, as I tried to wire up a new MUX unit.

It was so cold that some penguins started pestering me. Or maybe I was starting to hallucinate. Anyway, a passing polar bear saw them off.

Yesterday afternoon, Mrs M asked if we could go to Ikea to get some bookcases for Amelia’s bedroom. She showed me the ones she wanted on the website and as they seemed reasonably priced, working out to about eighty pounds, I readily agreed.  This wouldn’t take too long, I thought, as we had already sorted out what we wanted.

I should have known better. Four hours later, at 9pm, we finally emerged from the store, full of Swedish meatballs (well, you’ve got to) and two hundred and fifty quid lighter, having bought something completely different that was bigger and three times more expensive than what we had originally planned for.

Well, I now know what I’m going to be doing this Bank Holiday weekend.

I’d better put my electric screwdriver on charge.

Mar 27 2015

Plates update

“Well…”, said Dr Death, as I sat before him in his private room, “I have some good news and some bad news.”

I visited him a couple of days ago, to find out the results from the numerous scans and tests that I’d had over the past few weeks.  Unable to get the whole day off work, I’d had to leave early and travel down from Birmingham, hoping that the motorway traffic would be kind to me for a change and allow me to make good time, which, luckily, it did and I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare.

Knowing that I wouldn’t have time to go home first to shower and change, I had taken a flask of hot water, a towel and a change of clothes with me.

Arriving at the hospital, I reversed the car up against a line of trees in a semi-secluded part of the car park. Upon opening the boot though, I realised that although I’d brought the flask of water with me, the towel and change of clothes were still in the carrier bag… which I’d left by the front door that morning.


I had to do something though: I was a bit whiffy from working flat out all morning in order to get away early, and my feet had been stuck in a sweaty pair of safety boots all day.

Fortunately, I was wearing a vest underneath my polo shirt and so using that as a towel, I managed to give myself a half-decent wash behind the car. God knows what anybody would have thought if they’d seen me: stripped to the waist and barefoot, pouring the contents of a flask over myself. Anyway, it worked, because despite having to put the same clothes back on, I felt fresher and more confident as I sat myself down on the high-backed faux-leather chair in front of the consultant.

“I have some good news and some bad news”, he said, as his face developed a small frown “The bad news is that we can’t actually find anything wrong with your feet, so unfortunately we don’t know what is causing the pain that you are feeling”. He paused for a moment. “The good news”, he said, his face brightening, “is that as we can’t actually find anything wrong with your feet, the chances are, that whatever is causing you this pain, probably isn’t too serious.”

We discussed my options going forward… which pretty much boiled down to me having to put up with it.

And, after all that palaver in the car park, at no point did he ask to re-examine my hooves.

Mar 21 2015

Quite a day

There was an accident on the M6 yesterday morning, causing huge tailbacks. As such, my Sat Nav routed me around the edge of Coventry on the A46 and A45.  It was very, very busy and I was now late for work.  I also found myself racing the moon in an attempt to get to work before the much hyped solar eclipse happened.

The light took on an eerie twilight feel as I pulled into the car park, just minutes before the eclipse reached it’s maximum. I found my colleagues peering through the tinted window glass in the training room, all holding bits of paper with holes in.

Nine thirty-one came and went, and to us – badly equipped for viewing this astronomical event as we were – it was all a bit of a letdown.

“Has it happened yet?”,

“I think it has. I’m not sure”.  What a load of rubbish.

1999… now, there was an eclipse!

Later on that day, I met the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield.

I know it was him, as he introduced himself as he shook my hand: “Hello. I’m the Right Honourable Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield”.

We chatted briefly. He seemed an alright kind of guy, actually.

After that, I had an interview on the phone. Not an interview for another job, but just a technical assessment by a client, to see if I was of the ‘right calibre’ to work on their equipment.  For fifty minutes he grilled me and I was a nervous wreck at the end of it.

More heavy traffic on the way home meant another three-hour journey. By the time I got home I was shattered and I fell asleep on the sofa at eight-thirty.

That’d be why I’ve been awake since 03:15 this morning then.

Mar 14 2015

Not very PC

blue motherboard“I’m thinking of doing a rebuild on the PC”, I said to Mrs M earlier today, “it’s slowed right down. It’s about due for an upgrade anyway”.

“Oh, OK”, she said.

And then, out of nowhere, she asked “What motherboard are you going to get, then?”.

I was taken aback slightly as, not only has she never shown any interest in the internal workings of a computer, but she certainly has no real knowledge about them, as far as I’m aware. But, I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

“Well, I’m not sure yet which one to go for”, I said, “but it’ll most likely be an AM3+ socket with USB3, DDR3 RAM and a SATA3 interface.”

She rolled her eyes at me and at that point, I realised the correct answer that I should have given was: “I’m going to get a blue one.”

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