Apr 21 2016

Newbury Racecourse

The Imperial State Crown: Cullinan IIToday is Mrs Queen’s 90th birthday.

Funnily enough, last week, I was in her box.

She has quite a capacious box, actually.

But, it was surprisingly austere.

Just like you’d expect a rich old lady’s box to be.

Simple but quite roomy.

With lots of pictures of the Queen Mum Gawd Bless Her on the walls.

I was hoping that maybe she had accidentally left her sparkly hat behind.

But no such luck.

Apr 16 2016

Mr Angry

VA Economy seatsOn our flight back from holiday, the chap seated next to me – but across the aisle – was complaining from the moment we got on the plane: the TV screen built in to the seat back in front of him wasn’t working – in fact, none of the screens in a whole section on that side of the plane were working.

He complained to the stewardess, who explained that a reboot of the system was probably required and that she would arrange for it to be done. He sat in his seat, still complaining and swearing. “I ain’t sitting here for eight fucking hours with no entertainment. This isn’t bloody good enough!”

Another stewardess passed by and he stopped her and complained again. She apologised and explained that the reboot would probably fix it, but it couldn’t be done until we had taken off. He sat back in his seat, mumbling and grumbling.

Once we were in the air and the seat belt sign was turned off, he was straight out of his seat and was complaining to a nearby steward who then went to initiate the reboot. Unfortunately, the reboot didn’t work. Steam was starting to come from Mr Angry’s ears by now.

A stewardess explained that they could give him an iPad, which would work over the onboard Wi-Fi and would work just the same as the screen in the seat backs. “I hope they have more than one”, I thought, as there were about 20 seats which had non-working screens.

She duly appeared again a few minutes later with a big box of iPads and started dishing them out. Sure enough, she ran out just as she reached Mr Angry and then disappeared to the back of the plane.

Mr Angry started fidgeting in his seat. I watched with some amusement, from the corner of my eye whilst I put my headphones on and selected something to watch on my fully working screen. He looked like he was about to blow his top. “Well, that’s just fucking great!”, he said, “No fucking iPads either!”

The man in front of him turned round and offered his. “Here,” he said, “have this one. Please.”

Mr Angry thanked him but declined. He was primed and ready to blow… and he looked like he wanted to.

The stewardess returned a moment later with another box of iPads and dished them out to everybody, including Mr Angry, denying him the chance to explode. I continued to watch from the corner of my eye, as I selected a TV programme to watch. Mr Angry was calming down now and was flicking through the selection of films, finally settling on Alan Bennett’s The Lady In The Van.

A half hour later, my episode of Peep Show had finished and I looked over toward Mr Angry.

Dame Maggie Smith was acting her heart out on the little 8″ screen.

Mr Angry was fast asleep.

Apr 01 2016

Sun bronzed Adonis calling

14595080273491334761480 This post comes to you from the Caribbean.

Because that’s where I am.

On holiday.

And man,  is it hot!

We’ve been parasailing.

We’ve been jet skiing.

We’ve been geocaching.

We’ve lazed around in the sun (the shade,  in my case) and we’ve all eaten way too much…  because the food here is fantastic.  If I don’t come back two stone heavier,  I’ll be most surprised.

It’s currently 7 in the morning and I’m availing myself of the free WiFi in the hotel lobby.

Never tried to post using my phone before,  so I hope this works.

See you all in a couple of weeks.

I’ll bring you back a stick of rock.

Maybe.

Mar 25 2016

They must think my penis is big enough now

limp cockTaking the regular stroll through my spam folder – just to check that nothing has slipped through the filters that shouldn’t have – I noticed that my received spam has taken a different direction of late.

“Put a smile on her face all night long”; “The secret to long lasting erections”; “Half price meds for ED” is the kind of stuff that has filled my spam folder for years.

But suddenly (or maybe not so suddenly that I’d actually noticed) it’s all gone.

But it’s been replaced.

Nowadays, the kindly spammers are keen to let me in on the secrets to making thousands of dollars a day. Or they want to show me videos of secret inventions that the government doesn’t want me to see.

And many of my newly found ‘account managers’ are emailing me to let me know that various accounts of mine are being locked down or are being ‘limited’ until I supply them with lots of details about myself… just to prove that the non-existent account really is mine.

So, it seems that they think the best way to make money now, is not in the semi-legal activity of selling dodgy drugs for erectile dysfunction, but in the totally illegal scam of obtaining personal details by deception.

But I’m not stupid: I won’t be supplying them with any of my personal or bank account details.

Because that Viagra I ordered, never did turn up.

Mar 17 2016

Oh, the irony

eldoradoYou know when you get a song stuck in your head and nothing seems to shift it?

Well, I have one of those at the moment.

It’s been there for three days.

And it’s starting to drive me mad.

It’s a song by ELO.

And it’s called “Can’t get it out of my head”.

Mar 13 2016

Trolley Dolly Folly

easyjet-1I flew up to Edinburgh t’other day, on business.

It was the earliest morning flight out of Luton and the SleazyJet plane was half empty.

Business men and women (and me) were spread out throughout the aircraft, with many of us having a row of seats to ourselves… which was nice. One or two were reading books, but most of us had our noses in the complimentary newspapers.

When the hostesses did their little safety demonstration, I put my paper down and paid attention.

I paid attention because it was polite to do so.

I’d already checked where the exits where and I’d spotted the low-level lighting on the floor. And I’ve been on enough planes now to know where my life jacket is stowed and how and when to inflate it. And I know it has a light and a whistle to attract attention. Which is lovely.

So, I know all that already, but I pay some attention, because I’ve been politely asked to.

But when I looked down the cabin, I could see that I was one of only a handful of people who were actually paying any attention.

It must be quite demoralising for these hostesses (and stewards) to stand there, going through all that rigmarole, day-in, day-out, trying to do their job professionally, whilst knowing that no-one is paying bugger-all attention to them.

So come on people: we know you are all seasoned flyers and we know you’ve seen it all a dozen times before, but surely you can spare two minutes away from the gossip pages to pay a little attention to someone who is just trying to do their job… and don’t forget, they are doing it for your safety.

It’s just courtesy, if nothing else.

Mar 08 2016

Taste Test Tuesday

DSCF1043Whilst the current Mrs Masher is one for drinking copious amounts of Diet Pepsi, Harry and I have a preference for lemonade.

Usually I will buy a premium brand – R Whites or Schweppes – if it is on offer. If not, I’ll just get Sainsbury’s own brand.

But then, I got to wondering whether we actually prefer one over the other? I think I prefer R Whites, but can I really tell the difference?

The only way to be sure was to do a blind taste test.

So, when I went shopping on Saturday, I bought a bottle of each and yesterday I got Amelia to pour some from each bottle into three glasses.

Without looking, I took a swig from each glass.

The results were pretty much as I would have predicted and here they are ranked in order of preference:

1. R Whites – very fizzy with a distinct lemony taste.
2. Schweppes – not as lemony and not as fizzy.
3. Sainsbury’s – again, not so lemony and less fizzy than the Schweppes, but still pretty decent.

Harry agreed with my findings.

So, there you have it: like Elvis Costello’s dad, I’m a secret R Whites lemonade drinker.

Except it’s no longer a secret.

Mar 04 2016

Parents evening

BlakeIt was Parents Evening at Amelia’s school yesterday and I managed to go for the first time in several years.

We must have spoken to nearly a dozen different teachers during the course of the evening and each one gave Amelia a glowing report.

I’m sure they do the same for most of the kids, but we were pleased, nonetheless.

The maths teacher was first and he waxed lyrical about Amelia’s achievements throughout the year.  I was convinced that he must have confused her with a different girl, because she is rubbish with the simple maths problems that I set her. But no, he was quite happy with her progress.  “Of course”, I said, as we got up to leave, “she gets her maths skills from her father.” Mrs M winced.

Next was Ms Barker, the science teacher.  She too raved about how well Amelia was doing in class. Again, I expressed surprise but was assured that my daughter is indeed a child prodigy heading for a Nobel prize in the near future.  Hmm.  “Of course, she gets her passion for science from her father”, I said, as we shook hands and left.

The French, PE, art, history, geography and humanities teachers, all gave similar levels of praise. “Of course, she gets her love of, er, humanities did you say?… from her father”, I said.

And finally we had the English teacher, Mrs Dean.  Again, she praised Amelia for what she had achieved over the past year, scoring her equally well on both Literary English and Poetry.

“I don’t think she gets her ability for poetry from her father”, I said, “I’m not a fan of poetry, really.”

“That’s a shame. I adore poetry”, said Mrs Dean. “Are there none of the great poets that you like? Wordsworth? Shelley? Blake?”

“Milligan”

“Oh, I love Spike Milligan’s poetry! I read it to the kids all the time.”

So, maybe she does get it from me then.

Mar 01 2016

Pinchy Punchy

IWDIt’s the first day of the month…y.

And that’s the end of another Blogathon.

I’d like to say it gets easier each year. But it doesn’t.

On the other hand though, I don’t think it’s getting any harder, either ( a sign of age, methinks).

In fact, I found writing all twenty-nine posts to be relatively easy. I was quite regimented about it though, and made a point of sitting down each night to write the following day’s post. That’s why so many of them start with the words “Yesterday, I was…”

Once again, I’d like to thank Bren and Dave
for keeping me company throughout and for putting themselves through this pain – something they really don’t have to do.

I’d like to thank those who commented, for letting me know that there is at least a couple of people out there reading this drivel.

Also, a big thank you to me, for believing in me and not letting me give up when the going got tough.

I’ll go now, as this is starting to sound like an acceptance speech.

Feb 29 2016

29 for the price of 28!

huggingYep, you lucky folk get an extra post, this year. Marvelous.

Now, my question to you for this, the last day of the Blogathon, is: what’s with all the hugging?

I can remember a time – and it’s not so long ago – when men would just shake hands upon greeting each other.

If you watch any celebrity chat show today, you’ll notice that hardly anyone shakes hands anymore.  Instead, the guest will walk out from backstage, grasp the host firmly by the hand, and then they will both pull in to each other and have a little cuddle and pat each other on the back.

Where did THAT come from?

You can kind of understand it with celebs, because they’re a weird lot. And with girls, because they’re, well… they’re girls.

But this act has now transferred over to us men.

Your best mate – who you had known for years – would get a firm, hearty handshake from you, following his prolonged absence whilst he was away at sea for six months. That was all that was required. No hugging. No cuddling. A proper handshake said it all and you both knew where you stood.

But nowadays, everyone goes straight for the cuddle. Anyone you know as more than a passing acquaintance, seems to want a hug rather than a manly handshake.

My best friend, Paul, he’s a hugger. I’ve known him for 38 years, but we don’t see so much of each other nowadays, due to him moving away and getting married and shit. But when we do meet, he always goes straight for the hug.

When we last met – to go and see Dynamo in January – we’d arranged to meet at the train station. Whilst I waited for him, I decided there and then to avoid the hug and just go for the shake.

He walked round the corner, we smiled at each other and before I knew it, we were embracing.

Maybe it’s just me.

Maybe I’m really huggable.

Feb 28 2016

I’ll put a spell on you

DSC_5925As you both know, I love a spelling mistake.

Let me rephrase that.

As you both know, I hate spelling mistakes.

I also have an annoying penchant for pointing them out to people.

At work, we have a weekly meeting where we review the previous week’s successes and failures.

A report showing a million fact, figures, graphs and various metrics is displayed on the large screen at one end of the room and we painstakingly go through pretty much most of them.

But, there is a spelling mistake on one particular graph, where it shows “Incomming Jobs”. I spotted it in my very first meeting, but I didn’t mention it… as I was the new boy.

But now, several months in, I have decided that I’m going to have to.  It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else – or, maybe not being as anal as me, they just haven’t noticed it – but for me, my eyes go straight to it.

Every time.

And it rankles me.

So, I’ve decided to get it sorted… just for the sake of my own sensibilities, if no-one elses.

And once that’s done, I shall try to remedy the one on the fire escape door downstairs too. That doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, either.

DSC_0011Meantime here are a couple I spotted recently, that I thought I’d share.

The photo at the top is a van on the A13 (I think it was) Surely, being able to spell is a major requisite of a sign-writer’s job?

And this one I took yesterday in a store.

Finest quality coffee, maybe… not so sure about the mugs.

Feb 27 2016

Enslaved

phoneFollowing on from yesterday’s little moan about mobile phones, I thought I’d mention another thing about them that annoys me.

I was on a course a couple of weeks back… just for a day.
An introduction to project management, if you must know.

Now, in the old days, when we used to go on courses, when the instructor stopped for a break or for lunch, everybody would get up and go for a walk to stretch their legs, or they’d go outside to grab some fresh air… or have a fag.

But, we don’t do that anymore, I noticed.  On this course, when the instructor reached a suitable stopping point and announced that we would be stopping for a half-hour lunch break, nobody got out of their seats.

The first thing we all did – and I include myself in this – was to get our phones out and check for missed calls/texts/emails. Most of us would then spend the next ten minutes responding: either talking or tapping away at our tiny keypads, before actually heading over to the tray of dry cheese sandwiches perched on the windowsill.

The mobile phone is a marvelous invention and the ability to send and receive emails and such on it, is wonderfully clever and very useful sometimes.

But, our inability to turn the damn thing off when we are away from the office; when we are on holiday or at the pictures or down the pub, means that we are not just slaves to the technology, but to the workplace also.

Feb 26 2016

Text mad

textWhat is it with texting? Why don’t people actually want to talk anymore?

It used to be that texting was a cheap way of conversing with people whilst not using up your valuable talk minutes.

But most people nowadays have a million minutes on their package, for every different network, and so chatting shouldn’t be a problem.

But they still prefer to text.

The current Mrs Masher spends ages texting back and forth between her and her best friend. “Just talk to her!” I’ll say, exasperatedly, as her phone pings with a text notification for the upteenth time in half an hour.

But, she’s not alone in preferring to type rather than speak.

Spend anytime sitting in a restaurant or on the train or even sitting outside having a sandwich and you’ll see plenty of people staring at their phone, thumbs flying over the tiny keyboard as they send little messages with smiley faces to all and sundry.

I remember seeing a woman being interviewed on the news just a few weeks back, during the floods they had up north:
“Well, the water was getting higher and higher and I was getting a bit worried. Once it reached the doorstep, I texted my husband to tell him that he needed to come home. Then it started to come over the doorstep and was coming into the house. I was getting in a right panic, so I texted my son and told him to bring some sandbags.”

Now, I’m sorry, but if your home is in imminent danger of being flooded, I think something a bit more urgent than a bloody text is required!

Thank heavens the fire service doesn’t have a text service. You could watch your home burn to the ground as auto-correct informs the fire brigade that “My horse is on tyres. HELL ME!”

Of course not EVERYONE is text mad.

We are now 25 days into February and I’ve just checked how many texts I have sent so far this month.

Eight.

Feb 25 2016

We’re watching you

ServerLike most large companies nowadays, the water board (where I work) has a big IT department.

And like most – I should say all – IT departments, they are rightfully very cautious about stuff that goes in and out of their systems.

As such, I have fallen foul of their Big Brother firewall on several occasions already.

The first time was in the first week, when i sent an email to my old mate Spratters, who used to comment here under the name of Arthur Pewty. I just wanted to let him know my new work email address. I started the email with our usual greeting to each other “Allo, you ol’ bugger!”. The firewall bounced it back and listed my email address as sending offensive mail.

I made a mental note not to make that mistake again.

A couple of weeks ago, I searched the office in vain for a 4-hole punch. I decided it would be easier if I just bought one in town at the weekend. So, I did an online search to find out how much a cheap one would cost me. Racking my brains for the name of the large stationary shop in the mall, I remembered it was called PARTNER. When I entered this into the address bar and stabbed at the return key – without looking up from the keyboard because my typing skills suck – I saw the the BB fiewall had blocked access to the webpage and had listed my user ID as trying to access an online dating website.

I made a mental note to be more careful with web addresses.

Then, last week, I failed to receive an Excel spreadsheet that had been emailed to me several times. Turns out, the over-zealous BB firewall had rejected it because it contained the word ‘stopcock’.

The water board banned from using the word ‘stopcock’ in it’s own internal communications?

Now, that one made me laugh.

Feb 24 2016

Owning the road

RoadrageI left for work yesterday morning at my usual time of about 6.30

I drove up Humberstone Road, with several cars ahead of me and a Range Rover behind me. We were all driving slightly faster than the speed limit, in an attempt to get to the traffic lights before they changed.

Looking in my mirror, I noticed the Range Rover had veered out behind me and was now driving on the wrong side of the road, as if he were about to overtake me. “What’s this twat doing?”, I thought.  He pulled back in behind me as we all reached the lights and turned right toward the motorway.

Now, the sliproad onto the motorway starts as two lanes and very rapidly goes down to just one. The logical, obvious and civilised way is for all the vehicles to merge into the single lane in turn: one from the right, one from the left, etc.

The cars in front of me were doing this and dutifully, I dropped back slightly to let a car from the right-hand lane pull in front of me.

Twat in a Range Rover was close up behind me though and obviously had no intention of doing the same. A silver Astra to the right of him was indicating to be let in, but Twat in a Range Rover wasn’t having any of it and kept his speed up to prevent the Astra from coming over.

In the end, the Astra forced his nose in, not having much choice as he was rapidly running out of road.

Twat in a  Range Rover started sounding his horn and flashing his headlights and making wanker signs at the Astra driver.

Like he was in the wrong.

This twat in a Range Rover was fuming… and all because another car had managed to get ten feet in front of him.

He needs to use his rear view mirror more: to take a good hard look at himself and his driving etiquette.

Twat.

Besides, he doesn’t own the road. I think he’ll find the current Mrs Masher holds that particular claim.

Feb 23 2016

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, but…

doggieYesterday, I went up to Wigan and then on to Liverpool.

No, this wasn’t a holiday… it was work related.

However, I can’t really mention it here due to commercial confidence… or summat. Anyway, trust me: it’s nothing exciting.

But, as I strode the streets of Liverpool, I noticed something that I haven’t seen in quite a while.

Dog shit.

I traversed three separate streets and saw dog mess on all of them.

Seeing doggie do’s on the pavement is quite a rarity, nowadays, I find.

Most dog owners are responsible enough to either clean up after their dog, or to not let it do it’s business there in the first place.

But it seems that there are still those that think it is OK for their dog to foul the pavement.

Obviously, the possibility of receiving a fine, means little to these owners. They know that the chances of getting caught are minimal

A recent scheme has been started, where dog owners allow a sample of their dog’s DNA to be taken. The idea is that any dog poo found on the streets can then be sampled and analysed and traced back to the dirty dog that did it.  This is all very well, except that it is a voluntary scheme and so regular offenders are somewhat unlikely to volunteer their dog to be put on a DNA register.

My suggestion is somewhat more Draconian.

The death penalty.

Bring back hanging. Just for those owners who allow their animals to defecate in our streets.

It would only need one person to get caught and all the others would seriously think twice about letting their dogs mess up our roads.

It might seem a rad harsh, but I bet it would work.

Feb 22 2016

Shady character

ArnieYou know when you see those idiots who wear sunglasses indoors?

And they don’t take them off, even though they are indoors and there is no sun.

You know them idiots?

Well, that’s me, that is.

Having to wear glasses is a pain, especially as I’m short-sighted.

And long-sighted.

And middle distance-sighted.

But to varying degrees in all of them.  That means I have to carry several different pairs of spectacles with me at all times, because I never know which I’ll need.

When I had my regular checkup last year, I was offered varifocal glasses to try. I’d struggled with them in the past, but decided to give them another try.

And they are brilliant!  It took me only a short time to get used to them this time round, and it’s soooo much easier not having to keep swapping glasses depending on whether I’m driving or reading or watching telly. Or doing all three.

So pleased was I with how they had transformed my spectacles habits, that I decided to take it a step further and asked for them to be Reactolites – you know: the ones that go dark in bright sunlight.

And again, they are brilliant: they go from completely clear to pretty dark in under a minute.

The problem is with going back indoors, because they take bloody ages to go clear again.

Ten minutes after being outside, I’ll see people in the office looking at me strangely, because I’m wearing shades indoors.

Like an idiot.

So self-conscious of this have I become, that I have taken to removing them and sticking them in my pocket when I get out of the car, then putting them back on again once I’m inside.

I even did this last Sunday, when I met Dave for a drink in a pub in Harpenden.

I didn’t want to walk in looking like Bono.

Because then he’d really think I was an idiot.

Feb 21 2016

The country where I’d quite like to be

essi-poystiA couple of weeks ago, I went to my cousin’s birthday party. Actually, it was a joint party for him and his wife, as they are only a couple of months apart agewise.

Anyway, John is six years older than me and was always a bit of an inspirational figure for me when I was a teenager, as he was a bit of an electronics whizz kid, something that i was getting seriously into and saw as a future career.

I remember being round his house one day (well, his mum and dad’s house). He’d just passed out of university, I think. The half-built digital clock that he was making, sat on a tea tray strewn with electonic components and bits of wire and was pushed to one side whilst he took a break,lounging on the sofa, reading a Spiderman comic and listening to Hawkwind through an enormous pair of headphones.

I had never been able to do that – and still can’t – I find if I’m listening to music, it distracts me from whatever else I’m trying to do. I can’t read and listen. I can’t build and listen. And if I do have music on in the background, it has to be so low as to be nearly inaudible and certainly not being blasted through a pair of headphones. Driving is maybe the only thing that I can do whilst listening to loud music.

Anyway (again), John always liked rock music… and still does, judging by what was played at their party.
His son, is lead guitarist in a band and very good he is too: good enough to be touring with T’Pau when they next hit the road on their comeback tour. In fact it was rumoured that Carol Decker may make a surprise guest visit to the party… but she didn’t.

The band (not T’Pau) played at the party and were quite brilliant. Their rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love was as good as any I’ve heard!

But the other attraction at the party was the attractive, tall, leggy blonde in the red dress, who was attracting the eyes of most of the men. Turns out she was Miss Finland.

Miss Finland 2009.

Seven years out of date, but that didn’t stop many of the blokes queueing up for a picture with her.

I hasten to add that I didn’t have my picture taken with her. To this day, I still get terribly shy around beauty queens.

Feb 20 2016

Really?

LabeoufAs I type this in the dark, early hours of Saturday morning, Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf is in a lift in Oxford.

He has been in there for over 20 hours.

He’s not trapped.

He hasn’t occupied it in the name of some cause.

It is – apparently – part of an ‘arts performance’.

Being streamed live on YouTube,

I thought I should check it out before I decry it as a load of rubbish – as I usually do with such things.

I checked it out.

It’s a load of rubbish.

I’m told that anything can be considered art if it makes you think.

Well, I’ve just spent 15 minutes watching several people talking in a lift.

It’d be rude to tell you what it is making me think.

Mr LaBeouf will be starring in the lift until 9am this morning.

If you missed it, trust me, you didn’t miss much.

 

 

Feb 19 2016

What a catch!

torquewrenchYesterday was the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

And like the loving husband that I am, I drew upon our many years of being together to pick out the perfick birthday present for her.

I got her a voucher.

From NEXT.

Which is quite possibly her favouritist store.

Ever.

Y’see, picking out a birthday present for Mrs Masher, is just as hard as picking out a Christmas present.

But, after minutes of scouring the internets to try and find something, I realised that it’s true what they say: It’s the thought that counts.

And so, I thought “Fuck this, I’ll just get her a voucher.”

She seems happy enough with it.

More than she did with the torque wrench that I got her last year.

And then, last night, I took her out for a meal at a snazzy restaurant.

Well, I say ‘snazzy’… it was actually a Beefeater. But, it’s just been refurbished, so it’s still quite snazzy.

Oh yes, I know how to treat a girl.

And at the weekend, I’ll be inviting her to take a trip with me up to the Tidy Tip.

She’s one lucky lady.

Feb 18 2016

Going soft

fieldsI had a day out in the field, yesterday.

Not an actual field, of course.

I try to get out of the office at least one day a week, and I like to go visit the guys at the sharp end, those blokes out in the streets, digging holes; laying pipe; fitting meters; dealing with customers.

I’ve found that it’s very easy for us to sit in our meetings, poring over data and complaining about what we get back from the guys out there doing the actual physical work. Which isn’t really fair. We don’t always know the issues they might be having, or the constraints being placed upon them, for whatever reason.

And so, I decided that before complaining about them, I should walk a mile in their shoes… or safety boots, to be more exact.

And each time I have been out, I have thoroughly enjoyed my day.  The guys have been accommodating, the weather has been good and I’ve learnt something each time.

And yesterday would have been no exception… except that it rained. And an icy wind blew. And as I stood in this street for several hours, just outside Reading, clad in my bright orange PPE, my feet froze, my hands went numb and I got absolutely soaked.

At the end of the day, I sat in the car with the heater on full, shivering with cold.

Thanks to the wintery weather finally arriving, it was not such an enjoyable day.

I’ve decided that next week, if it stays like this, rather than have a day out of the office I might just sit down with a cup of tea and look out of the window for a bit.

Feb 17 2016

Banking on having a good memory

downloadI needed to ring the bank today.

It’s not often that I ring them, as most of my banking – like many others’ – is done online nowadays.

But, I needed to discuss something, so I gave them a call.

“I’ll just need to take you through security, Mr Masher”, said the young chap on the phone.”Can I take your postcode and first line of your address, please?”

I told him.

“Now, could I have the third and last letters of your password, please?”

I told him that too.

“Finally, could I have your place of birth please?”

“Colindale”

There was a slight pause at the end of the phone.

“Er, North London?” I queried.

“Ummm…”

“I can never remember what I said originally. It was a long time ago. Was it Burnt Oak, maybe?”

“I’m afraid you have failed the security questions, Mr Masher. Not to worry though. It just means that we’ll have to go through some extra security measures. Could you confirm the long number on your card please?”

I confirmed the number and then he asked me several other personal questions, all of which I luckily knew the answers to.

Once we’d finished and he was satisfied I was who I said I was, I asked him to confirm my place of birth for me.

“It was Burnt Oak”

“But I said that!”

“Yes, but I’m afraid I have to take your first answer.”

And there was me thinking I was talking to someone at the bank. Turns out I was speaking to a Chris Tarrant wannabe.

But, isn’t it a pain having to remember all these details for various banks and organisations and websites? I proved there and then that I can’t even remember details that are personal to me!

I only wish I could.

One of my offshore accounts has a small fortune sitting in it and I could be sitting here in the lap of luxury.

If only I could remember my mother’s maiden name.

Feb 16 2016

So much easier in the old days

GoodOldDaysAs I mentioned earlier, I’m toying with the idea of getting a new camera.

And of course, when it comes to buying a new toy, the internets is a boon for doing some research on it.

Or is it?

In the old days – before the internets – if I wanted to buy something, I would generally just go and buy it, after having slobbered over it in the shop window for a couple of days.

If it was a more expensive item – like a camera or a piece of hi-fi equipment – I might go to WHSmiths and buy What Expensive Item Monthly magazine, to give me some guidance before parting with my hard-earned.

But now we have the internets.

And if I want to buy something – a camera; a piece of Hi-Fi; a radio; a TV; some furniture; a fridge; a fondue set; a cuddly toy; almost anything – I will look it up on the internets first.

I will look at different retailers and compare prices.

Then I will read the customer reviews.

And that’s where it all goes wrong. Because I only have to read one review which isn’t so good, and I’m suddenly torn. I’m no longer sure if that’s the item I should be getting.

There could be forty-five 5-star reviews and then one person gives it a 3 and I find myself questioning my prospective purchase.

I’ll look around for a similar item by a different manufacturer.

And once I’ve found one I like, I’ll start reading all the reviews for that one.

And so it goes on.

Despite making it so much easier for me to choose, the internets have made it so much harder for me to choose.

It’s just as well there’s only one internets, because if I had to choose one and then started to use the internets to research the internets that I’m going to be choosing for researching the internets, I’d rapidly find myself going round in ever decreasing circles, until I eventually disappeared up my own backside in a puff of ill-informed logic.

Feb 15 2016

Blog meet!

shaking-handsI had a busy day yesterday.

I changed the ball valve in the water tank in the loft, as it was continually running. Not quickly, but enough to be annoying.

I also changed the valve in the toilet cistern, as that had stopped closing correctly and was causing the overflow to permanently drip.

I fixed the Sat Nav in the car. Not true actually. But I spent quite a while on it before figuring out what the problem was.

And I cleaned the car… because it needed doing. Not only do the birds in my tree drop their load on it, but so do the ones in the car park at work.

I went round my sister’s, as it was my niece’s birthday.

And then I met up with Dave -AKA Kennamatic – he of uptheworks fame. And what a splendid fellow he is!

We met in a pub in Harpenden and a very pleasant couple of hours passed, as we put the world to rights over a couple of pints of shandy and a packet of crisps.

Because that’s the way we roll.

Despite never having met before, we both knew each other pretty well, having read each other’s blogs for as long as I can remember. So, for me, it wasn’t like meeting a stranger, but rather a friend I’ve just never met.

But I do hope that we do so again, one day.

Oh, and his write up of this meeting is so much better than mine!

Feb 14 2016

Sticking it out

wedding-ringsOn the telly a little while back, Michael Caine was roundly applauded when he announced that he and his wife had been married for 43 years.

Of course, it’s nice to be congratulated, having been married for such a length of time, but then, isn’t that how it should be? When people get married, they are doing it for life.

Supposedly.

Yes, I know that ‘things’ happen and that circumstances can change and where there is good reason, I can fully understand why people split up and divorce.

But, it seems that more and more people part their ways for what seems like no reason at all. I don’t think people enter into marriage nowadays with the same level of commitment that we used to.Especially when it comes to celebrities, many of whom nearly always separate after just a few months with  “It wasn’t working. But, we’ll always be friends”.

And that is why, I think, that Sir Michael received the round of applause that he did: because no-one expects celebrity marriages to last nowadays.

[At this point, I was going to do a short list of failed celebrity marriages, by way of an example. However, after about ten minutes of research about some of these celebrities (many of whom I don’t know) I got so bored, that I just couldn’t bring myself to actually ,write about any of them!]

But:

The current Mrs Masher and I celebrate 21 years this year. Which is pretty good going considering what she’s had to put up with.

My own parents managed forty+ years, before my mum passed away.

My grandparents reached a healthy sixty or so years together.

And this year, my dad’s eldest brother (and his wife, of course) celebrate a staggering 70 years of marriage.

Seventy years!  Way to go, Uncle Charlie.

Now, THAT deserves a round of applause.

Feb 13 2016

R.O.B.bers

dootythreeI’ve been thinking of buying a new camera, for use on our forthcoming holiday later this year.

As usual, the one I fancy is a bit pricey, so I’ve been looking around t’internet, trying to find the best price.

And then, I wondered about actually buying it from the Duty Free shop at the airport.

Now, I’ve never bought anything from these shops, as the prices don’t seem much keener than those on the high street but, I thought it worth a look. You never know.

And so I compared prices between goods from the Dixons Travel website – which reflects the prices of their stores in the airports – and those of a high street retailer.  My suspicions were confirmed.  Bearing in mind that these goods are supposedly being sold without VAT (20%) on them, they didn’t seem that much cheaper.

So, here are a few comparisons (you’ll note I’ve done all the maths for you and some of the figures are rounded up/down to the nearest quid):

Fitbit watch: High Street  – £100.00  Dixons – £95.00  A saving of £5.00 = 5%
iPad Pro:  High Street – £680.00  Dixons  – £640.00  A saving of £40.00  = 6%
Apple Watch: High Street – £250.00  Dixons – £224.00  A saving of £26.00  = 10.5%
Fujifilm Instax 8 Camera: High Street – £64.00  Dixons – £63.00 A saving of £1.00  = 1.5%
Sonos Play1 speaker: High Street – £160.00  Dixons – £159.00 A saving of £1.00 = 0.6%

Of course, I could be comparing the prices with those of a ridiculously low priced high street retailer. But I’m not. The high street retailer I am using is Currys… whose parent company is, of course, Dixons.

A little search on the net revealed that it is the Duty Free shops themselves that are benefiting from all this, as they avoid having to pay the duty on each item, but they are not passing that saving on to the customer.

Another example of Rip Off Britain?

Feb 12 2016

All I want is a room somewhere

SshhhInnit strange?

In my last job, I spent a lot of time working away from home. I’d leave home on a Monday morning and return on a Friday afternoon.

Obviously, that put a bit of a strain on family life. My weekends would flash by so quickly and I’d be upset that I wasn’t getting to spend much time with the kids. I felt like an estranged father sometimes.

Now, I get to go home every night. We all eat together at the dining table before settling down to watch a bit of telly. Or I’ll spend some time helping the kids with their homework before disappearing upstairs to have a chat on the radio or do some updates on the computer. Or something.

It’s family life.

It’s nice.

And yet.

There are some aspects of living in a Premier Inn that I miss.

Having dinner cooked for me and then not having to worry about the washing up.
Sitting by a proper fire with a glass of beer and a good book for a couple of hours.
A bed that is more comfortable than the one we have at home.
Peace and quiet.

I tend to be a fairly outgoing person. I like talking to people; visiting people; spending time with people. I enjoy few things more than a sit down with a mate and a cup of tea whilst we have a good ol’ natter.

But, I’m also comfortable with my own company. I don’t mind being on my own. It gives me time to just sit and think and contemplate. Time that I don’t seem to get anymore. Time to plan and plot and design. Time that I sometimes need.

I’m finding myself craving some solitude again.

Not a lot. Just one day a week, maybe.

In a Premier Inn.

On my own.

Just me, a full belly, a pint of beer and my thoughts.

Oh, wouldn’t it be luvverly?

Feb 11 2016

Gone

end-of-motorwayI drove to Chingford yesterday morning.

Northeast London.

Now, whenever I drive that way, my satnav always tells me to take the M10.

However, ever since they did the major changes to that area of the M1 some years back, I’ve always missed the M10 turnoff. I assumed this to be because they moved the sliproad and I haven’t shelled out to have my sat nav updated. And I’ve never noticed or been bothered by it, because I just continue down to the M25 and turn left. No problem.

But, yesterday morning I made a concerted effort to look for the M10 turnoff and take it.

But, I never saw it.

It wasn’t there. How can it not be there? How can a whole motorway disappear?

If anyone would know, it would be SpratNav. I gave him a call and he explained that the M10 had been declassified. It was now the A414.

Declassified? Well, I know it was quite short and not that busy, but it always had a lot more traffic on it than the M45 which goes between the M1 and the A45 to Coventry.  You can sometimes drive on there and not see another vehicle.

So maybe they’ll declassify that one too.

And what’s with this whole declassifying thing anyway? What’s the point.? It’s a working road with working road signs that tell people where they are going. It works. What’s the point of changing it all?

Or ,maybe it’s a conspiracy with the Sat Nav companies, forcing people to upgrade and then they split the profits.

And where will it end? Small towns could get declassified and converted to villages.

Rutland could get declassified and become part of Northamptonshire.

Wales could get declassified and… well, you get the idea. Whole countries could get declassified.

Hell, they might even consider declassifying whole planets next.

Oh, hold on…

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