Feb 08 2016

Numpties

fridgeWell, desperate for a new fridge, I found myself scouring Curry’s website early yesterday morning.

I decided to just get a cheap larder fridge to stick under the stairs, whilst I figure out what to do about the big fridge/freezer: get it repaired or stump up for a new one?  Once we get it sorted, the cheap fridge can go in the garage as a spare/beer fridge.

I found one that I liked, at a reasonable price. “Better check and make sure they have it in stock”, I thought.

Sure enough, my local store was out of stock. The next nearest one that had it in stock, was in Stevenage… on the same retail park we’d visited on Saturday to get the furniture. Typical.

I got dressed and prepared to head out when Mrs M asked “Have you reserved it, just in case?” I hadn’t, so I spent a couple of minutes doing so and then got in the car and headed out to Stevenage, which is about a half hour drive.

I was about five minutes away when the phone rang. “Is that Mr Masher” asked the young female voice at the other end. She went on to tell me that the fridge I had reserved was actually out of stock.

“It said it was ‘In Stock’ on your website”.

“I’m afraid that’s our display model… which counts as stock”

I don’t suppose I can buy that one?”

“No. We need that as our display model”

“To display to customers a fridge that you don’t have in stock?”

“Erm, yes.”

Numpty.

She continued” I’ve checked though and we definitely have some in stock in our Bedford, Watford and Milton Keynes stores.”

“OK, from here, Bedford is probably easiest. Can you give me the postcode please?”

“Sorry. I don’t have that available. It is available if you want to check online.”

“I’m driving. Oh, don’t worry about it, I’ll sort it out”, I said exasperatedly.  I rang Mrs M and got the postcode and headed over to Bedford, a further 30 minute drive.

The chap in the store sorted out the fridge for me and within seconds went straight into his extended warranty spiel: “Now, on this particular item, I can offer you an extended three-year guarantee for only twenty pounds.”

“I don’t want it, thanks.”

He looked at me incredulously as if I was mad. “Sorry sir, but at that price, I can’t believe you don’t want it. That really is a very good deal.”

“Why would I want to extend the guarantee?” I asked.

“Well, if it goes faulty after the one year guarantee expires, then you’re covered.”

“Is it likely to go faulty after only a year, then?”

“It might do, who knows, he said with a smile.

I smiled back. “Well, if it’s likely to go wrong after only 12 months use, then I’m not sure that I want to buy it”, and I turned slightly as if to walk away.

He changed his tack completely. “Oh, I’m not saying it will go wrong, just that it’s possible.”

“I don’t want the extended guarantee”.

“Fair enough.”

Numpty.

Feb 07 2016

Skint

skintWhen we decorated the living room, just before Christmas, we also splashed out on a new telly. Fortunately, it’s a wipe-clean model.

Then we decided that the new telly would look better sitting on a new telly unit.  The glass one we have at the moment attracts dust to it like a… er, dust magnet and so we thought a nice solid oak one would look the part.

Mrs M dragged me from shop to shop until we ended up at a furniture shop in Milton Keynes: A-Five furniture. They are a local mob that have been around for years.

We saw a unit that we liked and I shelled out 250 quid.

“It”ll be a few weeks before it’s available, especially with the Christmas break”, said the chap serving us. “Probably be toward the end of January. Give me your details and we’ll call you when it’s ready for collection.”

Not a problem, we’re in no rush. I gave him my contact details and left the shop, happy that we’d eventually found something.

The weeks passed. The end of January loomed ever nearer and so I started to get impatient. I tried ringing, but it was always engaged. In the end, I took a drive over to Milton Keynes.

There was a sign on the door: Closed due to bankruptcy.

Arse. And with my 250 quid too.

But we still needed furniture, so today I got dragged over to Stevenage to visit another furniture shop.

It had a telly unit that we both liked.

With a matching unit that would fit nicely into our other alcove.

And it had a matching nest of tables too.

AND it was all in the “SALE WHICH MUST END TOMORROW” sale.

The salesman wandered over. “Can I help you?” he asked.

“Yes,I want that”, said Mrs M, pointing to the TV unit. “And that. And that over there.

I gave her a quizzical look. “That’s way outside our budget”, I whispered.

“I ain’t fuckin’ about”, she said, reaching into her handbag, “let’s just buy it now and get it done. We’ll have to do some more overtime or something.

Back home, I went up to Sainsbury’s to get some food shopping as the fridge was bare.

“Hmmm, this is a bit warm”, I thought as I stacked the fridge upon my return.

I checked it: it’s dead. In fact, it feels warmer inside the fridge than out.

So now we need to get a new fridge.

But I can’t afford one cos we just bought a shed load of furniture.

And all the shopping that I bought yesterday is going off, because even though it’s winter, it is so mild out that we can’t even keep it cool outside.

Double arse.

 

Feb 06 2016

Bacon Sandwich

Kevin-BaconThe NYT reported this week that TwitFace has worked out that the six-degrees of separation theory no longer applies.

According to them, we are all now only 3 or 4 degrees apart.

This, of course, is a load of old tosh.

For those that don’t know, the six-degrees theory states that everyone on the planet is connected somehow to everyone else, with only six steps between them. IE: I know Bob; Bob knows Vic; Vic knows Elizabeth; Elizabeth knows Walter; Walter knows Eric and Eric knows Ernie, therefore Ernie and I are connected via six other people.

It’s an interesting concept, but  surely it’s not provable.

Yes, I daresay that there are many cases where the theory applies, but it’s impossible to show that it applies to absolutely everyone.

TwitFace’s own calculations are fatally flawed as it is only looking at people who have TwitFace accounts and – as impressive as that number might be – that’s only a quarter of the population.

So, in theory, I am only six introductions away from, say… Vladimir Putin. So I’m sure that, given enough time, we shall meet up at some point. Probably when I take up my new hobby of bare chested horse-riding.

On a similar note, listening to one of my science podcasts yesterday, I learnt that we only have to go back less than 4000 years to find a common ancestor.

An ancestor that is common.

To us all.

That astounded me.

So yes, it seems we are all connected… but not by six degrees.

Feb 05 2016

Photo Friday

IMG_5838_1200I was deleting a load of old photos from my phone, when I spotted this one that I took at work one day. It was early last year, I think.

That’s my boot you can see at the bottom of the picture, and that’s my car you can just about see near the top.

I titled this post Photo Friday. Now, whether that means I shall post photos here each Friday, this month, I don’t know.

I’m making this up as I go along, you see.

Feb 04 2016

You can lead a horse to water, but…

horsewaterScience and technology are my thang. I have been interested in both ever since I was a kid.

And so, with my own two kids, I’m keen that they both be interested too.

Over the years I have often talked to them of scientific breakthroughs and events. I’ve set up small experiments with oil and water and detergents and litmus paper and lemons and and and.

I’ve tried to explain to them in simple terms about gravity and space time and the laws of thermodynamics.

I’ve shown them how my radio equipment can be used to talk to people around the world and how it can listen to the astronauts on the International Space Station

I’ve not tried to force them to like science, but rather to develop an interest in it through my own enthusiasm.

But it hasn’t really happened. Amelia is semi-interested, but she hasn’t really warmed to it.

Harry was my big hope though. Aged 11, he has shown an aptitude for maths and I’d hoped that might follow through into the sciences.

But no.

Yesterday, on his white board, I did a rough drawing of the solar system and asked him to write the names next to each planet. He did so. With ease. And then went straight back to his Minecraft videos on YouTube.

And so I continued, explaining how another planet had been possibly found: Planet Nine, as it is currently being inventively called.

“So, do you know what they call people who watch the stars and planets?”

“Nerds”, he said, with hardly a pause.

I was pleased with his comedic reply, but at the same time disappointed at his obvious lack of interest.

Feb 03 2016

The final indignity

“It’s bleeding”, said Mrs M, peering intently at my backside. “Quite badly. I think you should go to A&E”

“No way”, I replied, “I’m not going to Accident and Emergency with a case of hemmo… haemaro… I’m not going to Accident and Emergency with a case of piles”.

“Well, you need to get it looked at, ‘cos that ain’t right”, she said, pointing an accusing finger at my posteria.

“OK, well we’ll see how it is tomorrow… it might have stopped by then”, I said.”If it hasn’t, I’ll book an appointment at the doctor’s”.

“Alright, but in the meantime you’ll have to wear a sanitary towel or something, because I don’t want you bleeding on the sofa again”.

“I ain’t wearing no bleeding sanitary towel!”, I said indignantly,, but  nevertheless pleased with my little pun.

We argued about it for a short while and I inevitably lost.

“I’ll go fetch one from the bathroom cabinet”, she said, a little smirk crossing her lips as she did so.

“I want one with wings”, I shouted after her.

Anyway, half a pack of Always Ultra later I managed to get an appointment at the doctors.

“Hmm”, he said thoughtfully, as he checked out my bum, “That doesn’t look good”.

I’m now booked in for minor surgery next week.

Seven days away.

Time for me to take a shopping trip up the feminine hygiene aisle to re-stock the bathroom cabinet, I s’pose.

Feb 02 2016

Moooon River

men2Well, after several days of ointment application, there hasn’t been much in the way of improvement.

And so, Mrs M took a trip to the chemist to see if the pharmacist could recommend anything.

She returned a little later with a box of Germaloids, which is a mix of haemmor… a mix of pile ointment and Germoline – an antiseptic, I believe. These are combined into one handy suppository.

Now, I’ve never had to use one of those before, so this was going to be quite a new experience for me.

Again, Mrs M drew the short straw and got the job of erm…  shoving it up there.

Sweet Holy Mother of God!!!

After that, I tell you now: I am NEVER going to have a prostate examination. Jeez!

In all honesty, I don’t think they have made much of a difference, but I have noticed that my farts now smell of root beer.

Feb 01 2016

Piling on the pain

PilesI am afflicted!

A few days ago, I came down with a severe case of the Farmers.

Haemoorr… hemmor… hemmerro… piles is something that I’ve suffered with a couple of times before.

But never like this!

It’s so bad that I had no choice but to ask Mrs Masher to apply the ointment (not an enjoyable experience for either of us!) because trying to apply it myself was almost impossible..

“Do you want me to put the cream on for you?” asked Mrs M. I declined at first, as I’m somewhat coy when it comes to that sort of thing, but after a couple of days, it just got too painful and so I sheepishly asked if she would do the business.

Throwing dignity to the wind, I got on my knees and stuck my arse in the air.

“Is it as big as it feels?” I asked, “cos it feels bloody enormous”.

“No”, came the reply, “it’s only about the size of a walnut”.

A walnut? A fucking walnut! Is that not big enough then?

But I nearly lost it when one of the kids knocked on the bedroom door. “What’s for dinner?”

“Meatballs”, Mrs M replied.

Jan 31 2016

Oh dear

Well, it’s nearly February already (soon be Christmas) and, of course, that brings with it my self-imposed annual Blogathon thing.

This will be the tenth year that I have done this, and in that time it has become an internet sensation, with literally a couple of others joining me in the challenge each year.

Sometimes.

And as this year is a milestone tenth year, I thought I might do something different: have all the posts follow a theme or do each post in the nude. Or something.

But, I haven’t.

I’ve approached this year’s event, exactly the same as I have done for the past nine years – with no preparation whatsoever.

Well, it’s always worked out OK.

Sort of.

And of course, this year is a leap year, so you’ll be spoilt with a whole extra post.

And I’m pleased to say that Young Mr Jones has picked up the gauntlet and will be joining me throughout, with his own inimitable posts – each of which will financially benefit  a worthy cause. Top fellow!

At this late stage, I don’t know if anyone else will be joining us, but as usual, the blogathon is open to all.

Anyway, as with Bren, I apologise profusely for what you are about to read.

Good luck.

Jan 25 2016

Breaking News

Two guys from the house four doors up, have just been taken away in handcuffs, by the police.

Residents of this sleepy cul-de-sac say they are shocked and concerned that such a thing could happen here.

So far, the police have made no comment.

Film at 11.

Jan 17 2016

Look into my eyes, not around the eyes…

Last night, I went down to that London with my mate Paul, to see Derren Brown’s stage show MIRACLE.

Unfortunately, as the audience were asked to not reveal the contents of the show, I can’t really comment on individual ‘acts’ that he performed, but suffice to say, he is a master of his craft.

As with our trip to see Dynamo last year, we both sat there trying to figure out between us how many of the ‘tricks’ were done. But, as I say, Brown is a master and he performs a very different kind of magic and, as such, I think we only sussed out less than half of the entire performance.

Which was great, because I enjoy being amazed and mystified by it all, just as much as the next man.

But, one of the most amazing things of the evening, was when we went to the bar at the interval.  A bottle of beer and a glass (plastic cup) of red wine: £13.50

Thirteen Pounds and Fifty New English Pence!

How they get away with that: that’s the miracle.

Jan 09 2016

Sausage, egg, chips and an Animus, please

acpicOn the industrial estate where my office is based, there are plenty of unoccupied buildings.

On my first day, I drove into the estate and was pleased to notice that the ground floor of one of these buildings had been turned into a café – the imaginatively named Greasy Spoon Café – “That’s handy”, I thought.

But over the days and weeks that followed, I never once saw anyone in there. Through the windows, I could see that the lights were on, the menus were up on the wall and the fruit machine was sat there blinking away, but not a soul was to be seen inside.

Until this week, when there has been a flurry of activity around said café.

Huge arc lights lit up the outside and large swathes of green screen hung to the side of it, whilst hosepipes sprayed rain-effect droplets everywhere.

It’s all part of a film set, see.

Yes, they are making a film. Not in the famous Pinewood or Elstree studios, but in a disused office and factory unit near Slough.

Assassins Creed, is the film they are shooting – should you be interested – starring Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Irons, as the two main protagonists.

Proper Hollywood film stars!  On our manor!

Mr Fassbender is yet to be seen, but someone in the office bumped into Jeremy Irons the other day: he was standing outside the gates having a quick cough and a drag.

I’m sure they can edit that bit out.

Dec 29 2015

She just can’t wait to take them down

In the run up to Christmas, the wife is just as excited about it all as the kids. She loves all the kitsch and would have the Christmas tree up in November, if I’d let her.

But once it’s over, it’s over, as far as she is concerned.

For Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the house looks like a tip, as bits of wrapping paper and torn packaging litter the living room floor amid the thousands of opened presents, whilst we sit amongst it all on the sofa, shoving homemade mince pies down our gullets as we watch Madagascar on the telly for the umpteenth time.

But the day after Boxing Day? Well, that’s it: Christmas is over… despite what the Radio Times may say.

The tree is taken down and put back in the loft for another year. The baubles and the tinsel and the lights are packed up and are too stored away until next year and Christmas cards are un-BluTak’ed from the walls and thrown in the recycle bin.

Then the black rubbish sacks come out and all the Christmas packaging is separated into bags of paper and cardboard and a miscellaneous bag (or three) of plastic and polystyrene.

Old dressing gowns and slippers – changed for shiny new, soft and cosy replacements from Marks and Sparks – are also bagged up and thrown in the back of the car, ready for disposal.

Then, whilst I’m arguing with some Romanian council worker at the tidy tip –  because he’s spotted a bit of cellophane as I’ve emptied my bag of cardboard into the appropriate skip – the kids have locked themselves and their new toys in their bedrooms while Mrs Masher, Mr Muscle and Mr Sheen go ape-shit around the house.

I return to find a gleaming abode with not a hint of Xmas to be seen.

Normality has been resumed.

It’s just a Sunday.

Dec 22 2015

Induced

heroin-drugsI had my company induction the other day.  It seems a bit late, considering that I’ve been there six weeks already. (Six weeks! Where did that go?) But I suppose it’s not worth their while to run it too often. There were about twenty of us and some had been there for a couple of months whilst a few had only just started, so I suppose I was right in the middle.

But one thing I did notice, was that I was the oldest in the room. Even the instructors were half my age!

Time marches inevitably on and there is bugger all I can do about it. Probably be dead before I know it.

Oh well.

Whilst at the induction, I was called out and taken to a small room to be tested for drink and drugs. I wiped a cotton swab around the inside of my mouth and this was then placed into a small device which checked for evidence of cocaine, heroin and a range of other narcotics, whilst I blew into an Intoximeter to have my blood alcohol level checked.

Of course, all tests showed negative and I was sent back to the induction while the next lucky contestant was taken away for testing.

Whilst we chatted idly over lunch, one of the young chaps standing next to me asked how I’d got on. “So, did you pass the drug test OK?” he said, with a bit of a grin.

“No”, I replied, with as serious a face as I could muster. “I tested positive for Junior Disprin.”

The look on his face was one of amazement and confusion and so I left him with it and wandered back to my chair.

Now I can’t lip read, but I’m sure I then saw him asking someone “What’s Junior Disprin?”

Dec 13 2015

Trying to fix Xmas tree lights that were working fine when I put them away last year, but now half of them are dead

xmas treeWell, there’s three hours of my life that I won’t get back.

Seated at the bottom of the stairs with the floor of the hallway covered in Christmas tree lights, half of them twinkling, the other half not.

Bulbs with wires so small that it’s almost impossible to check them with a meter.

Packets of spare bulbs litter the bottom of the Xmas box that I’ve just retrieved from the loft, yet NONE of them fit the string of lights that I’m trying to fix.

I find a broken wire and fixing that starts a set of about twenty lights blinking furiously.

Eventually, I manage to get about 90% of them working and they get wrapped around the tree. No-one is going to notice a few dead ones anyway, not with THAT amount of baubles and tinsel and tat thrown over it.

The tree sits in the corner of the living room, blinking away, drawing my eye from the television every so often and reminding me that  the big day draws ever nearer and that I haven’t yet bought anything for Mrs M. and that I’m getting panicky because I have no idea what to get her,

I hate this part of Christmas.

Dec 05 2015

Mob mentality?

AudienceI watched the Davis Cup last weekend. Not all of it, but the good bits: the bits where we won.

And there was some damn fine tennis being played. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What I didn’t enjoy so much was the raucousness of the audience. Shouting; screaming; singing; stamping; playing musical instruments. What a racket!

Tennis never used to be like this. It was a refined sport for gentile folk. Like me. A top-notch rally would be followed by an appreciative round of applause, not a riotous din that goes on so long that the players need to wait for it to die down before they can continue playing. Obviously, I can understand how people want to show their support, but this sort of behaviour is just so over the top.

Even Wimbledon audiences have let themselves go in past years: yelling; shouting and jeering, throwing strawberries.

In a similar vein, the audience on Strictly are ruining my enjoyment of the show (and I’m a big Strictly fan, I don’t mind admitting).

The slightest critical comment from the judges is met with booing and jeering – despite the fact that the comments are correct.

“Fantastic performance, darling, I really enjoyed it. Your best dance yet. You just need to hold your head a touch more to the left” BOOOO!!!!

Likewise, the tiniest bit of praise will elicit enthusiastic clapping and cheering: “You dance like a sack of potatoes on stilts… with two left feet…” BOOOOOOOOO! “… but I really like your shoes.” “YAAAAAAYY!!!

Idiots.

And I have to laugh when the scores are given: Seven and up receive applause and approval, whilst a score of five and below is roundly booed. A six, however, throws them, and a sort mumbling murmur makes its way around, as no-one is quite sure as to whether they should be cheering or booing a six.

Anyway, now that twat Andre is out of the way, it’s getting hard to choose who should go next: the standard is so high. I’m not too fussed at this stage about who should win it – they are all very good,

I don’t think he will, but, I’d love to see Anton go all the way… after all these years, he deserves it.

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.

Rubbish!

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.

Apparently.

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.

Apparently.

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.

“Drive”

“Huh?”

“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.

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

Yellowjack!

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.

Badly.

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

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