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…

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.

Anyway.

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?

No.

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?

Nope.

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.

Cunt.

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.

Arse.

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.”

Mar 11 2015

The Friendly Sadist

soloFollowing an awful journey down to Southampton this morning, which took ‘kin ages (40 mins to do 1.5 miles!  I ask you!  And there wasn’t even an accident causing it, just roadworks and inconsiderate drivers… but I’m not going to moan about it), this evening I met a very nice man: an Australian called Brian, who stuck electrodes on my hands and feet and gave me electric shocks that hurt. He also stuck big needles into my feet  – so deep that it drew blood. And all the while, as he tortured me this way, we talked about resistor colour codes and Wheatstone Bridges.

As I say, a very nice man.

Mar 08 2015

Football crazy

footyYesterday afternoon, I watched somewhere around 36 games of football, one after the other.

I’ve never been a big footy fan, but I do loosely follow the misfortunes of Arsenal FC. This is solely because many years ago, when I walked into the office of a Monday morning, everyone would be talking about the weekend’s games. I would often be asked how my team did, but I didn’t have one, so I chose Arsenal, because at the time they were at the top of the league. And alphabetically they were also top of the league. Not the usual way of choosing a team, I know, but as I was born in North London, I felt those three criteria validated my choice. But anyway, as I say, I only follow their fortunes with a mild interest – thinking about it, I can’t even name half the players in the squad.

My dad didn’t mind watching a bit of footy, but he wasn’t a big fan and we never sat down to watch a match together, when I was young. And he certainly never took me to any matches, probably because he could see that I never really cared much for the game.

Harry has also shown little to no interest in it, which pleases me really. Some of his mates are well into it, of course, and play at the weekends. The thought of me having to stand around a football pitch every Sunday, alongside lots of excited dads screaming at their kids to “… pass the ball … get in there! Tackle him!!”… go on… GO ON!”  just fills me with apathy.  I can think of better ways to spend my Sunday mornings. Even washing the windows and cleaning out the guttering sounds more appealing.

Anyhoo, back to yesterday.

Yesterday was the annual Scout Football Competition Thing that they do. And Harry – for some reason – wanted to be in it. And of course, he wanted me to stay and watch.

So I said I would.

I never realised I would be standing there for four hours!

I had planned to just watch Harry’s game and then go, but as he had several games throughout the afternoon, I had no choice but to stay.

The games were mercifully short as the youngsters tired pretty quick, plus there were about a dozen teams, all of which had to play each other.

Harry played in goal, because it was preferable to all that running around, and he had very little action throughout the afternoon, as his team were actually quite good and most of the play was at the opponents end.

We came home in the evening and he was full of beans and still excited from playing.

I flopped onto the sofa, my back killing me from standing there for four hours.

I hope this isn’t the start of him getting ‘into’ football.  I’ll need to engage him in some different sports to take his mind off it.

Now, where did I put that chess set?

Mar 04 2015

Dr Death

Yesterday I paid a visit to a consultant neurologist, regarding the ongoing saga with my plates.

I’d been advised that the waiting list at the hospital to see such a person, was horrendous and so I went to a private hospital that had been recommended to me. It’s the first time in the fifteen years or so that I have had private medical cover that I have actually made use of it and… it was really very good. It’s certainly a very different world to the NHS (Gawd bless it).

My doctor had the unfortunate moniker of Dr Mort – hence the post title – but in every respect he was a splendid fellow – easy to talk to yet very professional –  and he gave me a very thorough checking over.  His conclusion, was that I am most probably afflicted with something called Peripheral Neuropathy, but to double check this, I have further appointments later this week for blood tests and an MRI scan.

Mar 01 2015

Pinch Punch…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

Feb 28 2015

Going nowhere fast

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

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

Arse.

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

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

Now, Rugby is famous for three things:

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

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

3. It is home to Rugby Radio Transmitter Station.

I have nothing to say regarding point 1.

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

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

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

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

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

It.

Was.

A.

Fucking.

Nightmare.

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

And I bloody paid for that privilege!

Feb 27 2015

That’s MY bloody award, that is!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 26 2015

If Manners Maketh The Man…

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

“Yay!” shouted the kids.

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

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

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

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

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

“Coke. And two McNugget Happy Meals…”

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

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

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

“Chocolate Milkshakes”

“OK. Is that everything?”

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

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

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

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

Feb 25 2015

Oblong eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will literally be watching paint dry.

Feb 24 2015

One man’s junk…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost.

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

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

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

Feb 23 2015

Get Smart pt 2

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

I never mentioned why I love it.

It’s simple.

One word:

The Apps.

OK, that’s two words.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What ones have you got that I might find useful?

Feb 22 2015

Flicks

We took the kids to the pictures yesterday afternoon.

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

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

to name but nine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 21 2015

Get Smart

smartphoneI have one of them there flashy smartphones.

And I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 20 2015

Not hungry

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

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

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

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

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

It was Mrs Masher’s birthday.

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

“I am?”

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

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

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

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

I made it last two hours!

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

Feb 19 2015

Still learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I wonder for how long for.

When would the boredom set in?

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

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

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

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

There’s an exam tomorrow.

Feb 18 2015

In the doghouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“New hair-do? Eek! When?”

“Today.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Harrumph”

Feb 17 2015

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

rixl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chose to go to bed.

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

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

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

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

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

Feb 16 2015

The Commute pt2

Well, y’know what, it wasn’t so bad.

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

Some things were different. Some were exactly the same.

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

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

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

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

Maybe tomorrow?

Feb 15 2015

The Commute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There and back.

For five days.

Bugger.

Feb 14 2015

Awww…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As long as I can have that one.

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