Feb 20 2017

Driven to distraction

Last year, I bought a new car, because my old one was starting to show its age and – at 175,000 miles – was starting to cost me money on servicing and such.

My new car is nothing special, just a Ford Focus – with an automatic gearbox for driving on that goddamn M25 each day – but, as it’s only a year old, it’s still in good nick and everything is nice and tight and it’s comfortable and nice to drive.  I’m not really a car person. They don’t excite me. But I do like my own car to be of a reasonable spec and to be comfortable and safe.

The kids always prefer to go in Mrs Masher’s car though. Not just because she drive like a loon, but because she also has a new car and it has the internet in it. Well, not the actual Internet, of course – because that is in a small box that is kept under guard by the Elders of the Internet – but it does have a WiFi access point, and as such, the kids can sit on their tablets playing online games and Snapchatting and watching YouTube videos and other shit.

Now, back in my day (oh dear, here we go), we did other things to keep ourselves amused on a long car journey. Like looking out of the window and daydreaming. Or, we would play games involving having to hold your ears whenever you saw a red car and not being able let go of them until you saw a yellow car (a.k.a ‘cheese-on-wheels’).  Dad used to do the driving, but he never played that particular game with us.

And I used to do a lot of reading in the car. I can remember reading my first Spike Milligan book  – Rommel? Gunner who? – during a particularly long drive down to Devon (or Dorset – I can’t remember that bit). Squashed into the back, along with my two sisters and bags of clothes and toys and inflatable canoes and everything else that wouldn’t fit in the boot, I cried with laughter for pretty much the whole journey.

But now, the kids play computer games and talk to their friends and watch films as we drive, and they are just as happy as we were with our silly games, I suppose.

 

The technology may have improved, but the end result is much the same.

Feb 19 2017

Shaking it all about

Long haul always does my head in.

We are home now, and I have just been up to Sainsbury’s to get some essentials.

It felt like it was mid-afternoon and I was surprised to see it was only half-past eleven and it’s strange to think that less than 24hrs ago we were on Ocean Drive.

I feel dog-tired, but I need to hang it out, to get back into this time zone and into my normal routine, as quick as possible.

We flew through the night – which doesn’t help… I hate night flights. I can never get any kip.

It wasn’t helped by the German girl seated in front of me, who was obviously a nervous flyer. Before we took off, she was up and down, changing seats and annoying the hostesses, before finally deciding to settle down into her original seat… in front of me.

And when we did finally take off, I could see she was gripping the seat arms for dear life.

And then we hit some turbulence. Some pretty bad turbulence.

And she started screaming.

Proper screaming.

Now, neither Mrs M or Amelia like it when the ride gets a bit bumpy, and I was seated between them both.

Mrs M had my left hand in a vice-like squeeze.

Amelia was clutching my right arm as hard as she could, doing her best to not burst into tears.

And this German bird was screaming her head off in front of me.

“This is going to be a shit flight”, I thought.

I wasn’t far wrong.

But I’ve just had a proper cup of tea – made with a proper teabag and proper milk – the first for over a week, so things are already starting to look up.

Feb 18 2017

Coming home

This post comes to you courtesy of the 30 mins free WiFi at Miami airport…  so I’d better type quickly!

Well,  we are now at the airport after spending several hours on a couple of open-topped bus tours around the city.

I always enjoy guided tours,  and this one was no exception.

After,  as it is the current Mrs Masher’s birthday today,  we had a slap-up lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe,  where we ordered more food than we could comfortably eat.

As per usual.

On the subject of food,  we have eaten  soooo much on this holiday. I still have a six pack,  but it has become a six pack of sausage rolls!

When we get home,  I shall be looking in earnest at gymnasium membership.

And when I have finished looking,  I shall sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit  and decide whether ‘sausage rolls’  is such a bad look.

Feb 17 2017

Hotter than a monkey’s bum, Your Majesty

Today’s post comes to you from the Bahamas.

About an hour ago,  the ship docked in the port of Nassau.  Bloody amazing to watch it being parked, as it had to be reversed in. I struggle reversing my car into a space sometimes,  but this ‘kin huge vessel just effortlessly backed in to the dock and pushed itself up against the jetty… without the slightest of bumps…  all lined up perfectly.

Anyway,  I ain’t getting off.  It is ridiculously hot out there.  Mrs M has disembarked along with Amelia,  to go shopping  (what else?).  I don’t mind it being warm,  but there’s  no way I’d cope with that heat…  especially whilst being dragged around the shops.  Nope,  me and Harry are quite happy to stay on the boat,  away from the sun.

  • Anyway,  better go as Harry wants a go on the Formula 1 simulator.

Feb 16 2017

Ouch.

Today we are having a day at sea.  I’m quite pleased really,  as it will give us a chance to relax –  the last few days have felt a bit hectic.

Much to Mrs Masher’s annoyance,  the weather is rather overcast, so she can’t do any sunbathing.

Unlike me,  she doesn’t do much reading and can’t be bothered to to sit down with her puzzle books.

That leaves  shopping.

Whilst the kids were off doing whatever it is that kids do,  Mrs M and I found ourselves in the jewellery section.  It’s  Mrs M’s birthday this weekend and I thought she might like a new watch.

She did and after a little bit of looking,  she found one  she liked, and so I bought it.

And then I saw one that I liked,  which was twice the price of the one I had just bought for her.  And I bought that one too.

Staying on the boat is much more expensive than  going ashore,  it seems.

Feb 15 2017

Underlay, underlay

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 14 2017

Just checking my offshore accounts

We have just left the Cayman Islands.

Man,  is it hot here!  As I write this,  I am in the cabin,  with the balcony door closed and the air conditioning turned down a notch.  I need some respite.

We have been on an off road tour of part of the island of Grand Cayman.

Mrs Masher elected herself to drive –  I didn’t get a say.

As we bounced along the rough tracks,  in the middle of our convoy,  I could hear a knocking noise coming from the rear off side.  Looking in the side mirror,  I learned that “objects may appear closer than they are”.  But also,  the rear wheel looked a bit wobbly.

Despite expressing my concern on this,  Mrs M continued to hit every pothole she could…  at speed.

Eventually I persuaded her to pull over so I could check it out.  The jeeps behind,  passed us and the convoy disappeared into the distance.

Of the five nuts holding the wheel on,  one was missing and three had loosened so much that they were barely on.  I did them up as tight as I could using just my fingers,  as there were no tools in the vehicle at all. But when we tried to continue our journey,  they immediately loosened again.

Eventually the tour guide came back looking for us.  He looked horrified when I showed him and gave us his jeep instead.  Which drove much better.

Anyway,  then we went to the beach,  had a barbecue and relaxed before coming back to the boat.

Mrs Masher is up on deck,  grabbing the last of the day’s sun.

I don’t know how she does it.

 

Feb 13 2017

Yaah man!

Twenty two years ago,  almost,  the current Mrs Masher had our honeymoon in Jamaica.

One of the excursions that we went on,  was to Dunn’s River Falls  and we have a photo in our album of the two of us sitting amongst the cascading waters. It’s one of our favourites.

Today,  the boat called in at Ocho Rios,  Jamaica,  and so we boarded a bus and made a return trip to the falls,  to recreate that photo,  but this time with kids in it.

It’ll be interesting to see how well it comes out.

Feb 12 2017

Sailing

Well,  we’ve had a bit of a walk around Miami.

Seems nice enough.

And we are now on a boat.

The MSC Divina,  if you must know.  I believe it featured on telly on Friday on Channel Five,  with Jayne McDonald; that bird who used to sing on boats for a living.

Anyway,  it’s an impressive tub –  I’ve hardly seen any of it yet. Our cabin is a decent size (would be more decent if we didn’t have to share it with two kids!).

As I write this,  it’s 5am local time – body clock hasn’t adjusted yet – and we are at sea.

It’s very relaxing just sitting here on the balcony,  in almost total darkness, listening to the sound of the water as the ship cuts through the waves.

Today we are spending the day at sea,  so Mrs M has it planned to get herself sunburnt.  She never actually plans for that,  but it’s what always happens.  I shall probably be relaxing  with a book., although the kids seem keen to get me in the gym.

Not sure what they are telling me there.

Feb 11 2017

I can’t see any Dolphins

Our flight was long and uneventful.

The queue at Passport Control was also long and uneventful.  It took an age.

Our pre-booked taxi was way too small,  despite them being told that it was for a fully-loaded family of four,  and I struggled to get the suitcases in the back.  Our driver,  Alex,  didn’t even get out to help.  No tip for him, then. In the end, one of the cases had to go on Mrs Masher’s lap,  which was far from ideal.

Our apartment is huge and is on the 28th floor. The picture above – of Downtown Miami –  was taken from the balcony. Yes,  a balcony on the 28th floor! It’s quite vertiginous and Mrs M is somewhat wary of going out there. 

We slept well,  but the five-hour time difference meant we were all awake at about 3am local time.

Roll on breakfast.

Feb 10 2017

Leaving on a jet plane

Well,  here we are at Heathrow airport.  And it it manically busy.  I know it’s the busiest airport in the world,  but even so.

I’m currently sitting in the departure lounge,  availing myself of Heathrow’s free WiFi.  Our flight has been delayed,  but fortunately only by half an hour.

And we have just learned that our plane has been changed…  to a smaller one.  That’s it in the picture above.  They have also changed our seating arrangements,  so that we are not able to sit together.  Due to the smaller plane,  I suppose.

We should be boarding shortly,  so I shall try and post again tomorrow.

Feb 09 2017

Outta here

This post comes to you courtesy of the Wi-Fi at a Premier Inn down near Heathrow.

Because we are going on holiday.

And that wasn’t the royal ‘we’… no, the whole family are going.

Of course, when I say ‘the whole family’, I don’t mean my entire family, because that would be just mad.

Look, me and the current Mrs Masher and the two kids are going on holiday, OK?

Right, I’m glad that’s sorted.

Of course, this may well make it difficult for me to post on a daily basis during Blogathon month. Didn’t plan that very well, did I? So, if I do miss the odd post or two this month, please forgive me.

Also, I’m not taking any laptops or the like with me, so I’ll be using just my mobile phone or maybe one of the kids’ tablets… if I can wrest it from their grasp for five minutes.  As such, any posts I do make, might be a bit short.

But, I have pre-written a couple of posts that I could just drop in, if time is getting the better of me, so don’t be surprised if, after reading several posts featuring me as a sun-bronzed Adonis playing volleyball on the beach, you suddenly find me talking bollocks about the M25 again.

Feb 08 2017

Catch me if you can

I often see – on my travels – Loomis, G4 and Securicor (are they still going?) vans with a sign on the back telling the police to follow them.

And yet, I have never once seen a police vehicle actually following one of these vans.

Or is it a warning to potential bad guys that the police are actually following the van – sort of like the pictures of Alsation dogs that people stick on their doors, with the words “I Live Here”. But they might not.

Another van sign that intrigues me is “Ask Driver For Details”.

One passed me the other day on the motorway. The company who owned the van called themselves London Flood Defences… or something like that, and there was a sign on the doors saying that the driver should be asked all about it.  I’m pretty sure that if I was the Mayor of London and I was looking to bolster the city’s flood defences, I would probably speak to someone quite high up in the company, rather than the van driver delivering the latest load of sandbags.

And yesterday – most intriguing of all – I saw a white van with absolutely nothing written on it at all… except for the words “Ask Driver For Details”.

If he hadn’t shot past me at about 80MPH, I might well have actually asked him.

Feb 07 2017

Slave to the tech

I was awake early today.
Mainly because the alarm went off at 4am for Mrs M to get her arse out of bed.

Now, like many people, I have a routine in the morning. And that routine doesn’t include getting up at 4am. But I’m not one for being able to go back to sleep, so get up I did.

But again, that extra time isn’t part of my routine and it put me right out.
I still left home at exactly the same time as usual, but something didn’t feel right. I put it down to that extra hour making me feel “out of sorts”.

It wasn’t until I hit the M25 that I realised what was wrong: I’d left my phone(s) at home.
I’ve done this before and I didn’t enjoy it, but I’d gone too far into my journey to go back now.

It’s not like I use my personal phone that much during work hours anyway.  But, without it, I feel uncomfortable. I feel… vulnerable. Something could happen; ANYTHING could happen and I wouldn’t be able to let anyone know.

And with the work phone, I spent the whole day envisaging people ringing me and leaving messages. I’d get home and there would be a thousand missed calls.

Turns out there were only 3.

Every time I stood up to walk away from my desk, I would reflexively reach to pick up my phone and put it in my pocket, and again, it felt wrong walking around the office without it.

It’s been a horrible day not having my phone with me. I felt naked without it.

Because I’m old enough to remember a time before mobile phones, it makes me wonder how I used to cope.

I’m slightly ashamed of myself for being so reliant on a piece of technology.

Feb 06 2017

Best laid plans

Today at work, I have been out and about.

Leaving home at 05:45, I soon found myself stationary on the M1, due to a broken down lorry.

Once past that, I was then stationary again, thanks to an accident closing one lane.

I’d only gone two junctions!

Of course, I was then late hitting the M25 and so I hit all the built-up Monday morning traffic on there.

My planned arrival at my boss’s house in Maidenhead was 30 mins later than I’d arranged, despite me leaving doubly early to get there on time.

Oh well.

From Maidenhead, we drove to Reading to do a Health & Safety audit on one of the dig gangs. We had four planned in to get done today.

They weren’t there. Turns out one of the team had phoned in sick.

So, then we drove to Newbury to do another gang. Their previous job overran and so they arrived late, but we did manage to get an audit done. At last. It was now nearly noon.

From there, we headed over to Swindon. Parking up in the street where the gang were working, I suddenly realised that I had parked right next Alex and Michelle’s house. These are friends that we made in Egypt some years ago. Annoyingly, they weren’t in, so we couldn’t grab a cuppa and avail ourselves of the loo, so I just wrote a slightly cryptic note and stuck it through their letterbox.

The job that this gang were doing went slower than expected and whilst we got an audit out of it, we were frozen to the bone by the time it was finished. That cuppa would have gone down well.

We’d only completed half of the audits we’d planned, but the boss decided that would be “…enough for today. Let’s go home.” Dutifully, and gratefully, I drove him back to Maidenhead… with the car heater turned up to max.

A quick cuppa there, and then the fun journey home along the M4, M25 and M1,

240 miles, six hours in the car and just two audits completed.

Not the most productive of days.

Feb 05 2017

Nearly an armful

I’m a blood donor.

I give blood.

And I gave some yesterday.

I have to admit, it’s been a while since last I donated.  I knew that it had been some time, but I was actually shocked when the nurse informed me that it had been over a year since I last stepped foot inside the donor centre.

A year? Really? Good Lord.

I first gave blood back in the early eighties, when I worked for the GPO, as it was then. A few chaps from work were going and they persuaded me to go along too. “It’s a worthwhile thing to do”, they said, “and besides, you get the afternoon off work.” Well, that sold it to me.

I was somewhat apprehensive. Needles. Nobody likes having needles stuck in them, do they? And when we rocked up at the mobile donor centre after a twenty minute walk, my nervousness was wholly apparent. So much so, that a pretty, young, red-headed nurse held my hand throughout. I can remember the coolness of her touch to this day.

The next time I went, I was a little upset that the gorgeous nurse wasn’t there. But it didn’t matter, I was braver now, having been through it once already.

And then they built a permanent donor centre in town, meaning that I could give more frequently.

I started donating platelets and plasma, which could be donated every couple of weeks and, as such, I soon became a regular visitor to the centre. so much so, that I was not only on first-name terms with the staff there, but I started seeing some of them socially. I think my mum was well chuffed when I started dating a doctor… as short-lived as that particular relationship was.

Over the years, I have donated a lot. I have been presented with badges, plates cups and decanters in recognition of it and I’m personally quite proud of that achievement.

And then I stopped going.

For no real reason… just time and being arsed to go into town.

The Blood Donor Service has been little short of begging me to start donating again. They have been writing to me for the past six months; emailing me; texting me and then, last week, somebody rang me up and – feeling guilty – I promised him I would go this weekend.

And I did.

And I feel all the better for it. Morally.

Now I need to myself back into regular donating.

It’s the only good deed I do and it’s the only thing that is going to get me into that heaven that I don’t believe in.

Feb 04 2017

Hang that bloody DJ

Why do disc jockeys (are they still called that?) play their music so loud?

I’m not talking about the ones on the wireless, I’m moaning about the guys who do the music at a family party.

Every party I’ve ever been to, the DJ has played the music far too loud.

Now, I can (and often am) called a miserable old git for moaning about such things. But that’s not the case. I actually like loud music at a party.

But not TOO loud.

Not so loud that it is literally deafening.

I went to a family party some months back and it was a really good do; lots of people; lots of drink; plenty of food.

But the music was painful.

Not painful in the way that all us old fogeys didn’t recognise half of what was being played – and to be fair, he did play some ‘proper’ stuff too – , but actually painful on my ears.

Because it was TOO loud.

The louder the better, is the creed that most of these disc spinners live by.  But in this case, the music was so loud that it was distorting. The amplifiers could nay take it, Captin.

The music was distorted and my hears were hurting from the sheer amount of decibels trying to force their way past my eardrums.

This wasn’t helped by Mrs Masher also screaming into my ear every time she wanted to tell me something.

DJs need to understand that the music needs to be loud enough to fill the dancefloor, not the entire room.
Because I looked around that night and whilst there were plenty of us boogying away on the polished wooden dancefloor, there were also plenty of people at the far end of the room, shouting at each other to try and be heard.

When I got home that night, my ears were ringing, as oft happens when I get home from a party.

They were still ringing the next day.

And the next.

And now, four months later, they are still ringing. Not quite as bad as the day after, but ringing nonetheless.

It seems that as a result of that overly loud music, I have developed tinnitus.

Much of the time, I can ignore it. But there are other times, like right now as I write this, or when I’m sitting in the car in silence, or I’m trying to get to sleep but I’m not tired… these are times when I’m acutely aware of the constant whine in my ears and, trust me, it can drive you to distraction.

Ironically, it seems there is no proper cure for tinnitus… other than to drown it out with loud music.

Feb 03 2017

Motorway madness

Some years ago, they (whoever they are) did some extensive work, adding an extra lane to a large stretch of the M1.

From junction 10 all the way down to the M25 turn off at junction 7.

Two years it took, but it was worth it, because it made a big difference to the traffic flow once it was finally completed.

Annoyingly, they didn’t extend ithe extra lane further up the M1, choosing instead to go for the cheaper option of opening the hard shoulder to traffic at peak times.

And that works too, making a big improvement to the traffic flow at peak times.

Until there is a problem.

To get to the M1, I have to drive a short stretch of the A505… about half a mile of it. It generally takes me about 60 seconds.

But not yesterday. Yesterday morning, it took me twenty minutes. Because the hard shoulder hadn’t been opened to traffic, and all the vehicles were backing up down the slip road and up the A505.

When I finally got on the motorway and managed to squeeze myself in to the traffic, we crawled along for three miles up to the next junction. There were no vehicles stranded on the hard shoulder. There were no accidents. There was nothing; just an annoyingly empty lane.

I think the man whose job it is to press the button that tells the motorists that the lane is open, just forgot.

Because this has happened several times before.

Including yesterday morning.

And again this morning.

He doesn’t forget to switch on the overhead signs though, does he?  With messages like “Don’t Drink And Drive” and “Remember: Sleep Kills”. Oh, and what’s that other one that I see just about every single bloody day? Oh yes: “Incident. Slow Down”  Slow down? We’re already going slower than a tortoise with a limp!

Because someone forgot to open up the bloody hard shoulder!

Feb 02 2017

Sorry, I have a code

Harry came home from school last week and told me how he had been playing with the BBC micro:bit.

Those of you of a certain age and – it has to be said – of the male persuasion, will possibly remember that back in the eighties, the Beeb introduced the BBC Micro computer to schools. It’s fair to say that the BBC Micro introduced computing to  a whole new generation and probably kick-started an interest in computers and coding in this country.

And now the BBC – along with sponsorship from several other companies – has brought out the micro:bit.  This credit card-sized device has a limited capability, but its main goal is to encourage youngsters to get coding. And to help with this, Microsoft have developed a simple coding interpreter that allows the user to drag and drop colour-coded blocks of code, that click together on the screen and can then be converted to hex code before being uploaded to the micro:bit board.

I was excited that Harry had shown an interest in this and promptly ordered one from ebay so he could play with it at home.

And I’m pleased to say, that he is showing a genuine interest in it.

So far.

I help him when he asks, but I prefer to leave him to try and fathom it out for himself.

Not least because I struggle slightly to get my head round how the interpreter works.

I’ve never been a strong programmer (far from it – although I was pretty good with BASIC, back in the day), but I was/am used to lines of code… the old fashioned method.

Dragging colour-coded lumps of code together is a bit alien to me.

I was a bit embarrassed (although also pleased) when I incorrectly showed Harry how to nest loops… and he corrected me.

After only half an hour of playing with it.

I’m sure I would have figured it out.

Eventually.

So, this colour coding lark definitely works for the youngsters.

Maybe I can apply it to other aspects of life that he seems to struggle to remember; like flushing the toilet and cleaning his teeth.

Feb 01 2017

A Day At The Races

Well, not quite.

Earlier this week, I went to Ascot Racecourse.

Not to watch the gee-gees (dobbin racing doesn’t interest me in the slightest), but to meet up with several hundred of my peers for a Managers Conference.

The Water Board loves a conference. I’ve only been there just over a year now and this is the third or fourth one that I have attended.

About 350 of us gathered together to listen to our high level managers talk about how they envision us going forward; how we are to improve ourselves as a company and how we are going to improve things for our customers.

Thing is, I’ve been around the block a few times now and I’ve heard all this sort of thing before, so it would be very easy for me to be negative about it.

This sort of rhetoric abounds in large companies and, by and large, nothing ever comes of it.

However, this ‘feels’ different. There is an obvious and genuine enthusiasm for us to make this work. Not just from the top, but filtering down to the workforce on the ground.

And to make it work, we all have to play our part.

I feel genuinely enthused by it and hope that at the next conference, we will see some evidence that it is working.

Jan 31 2017

Hey! Guess what day it is tomorrow!

Yep, it’s that time of year again.

Twenty-eight days of posts.

Every time I do this self-imposed challenge, I think it’s going to be incredibly difficult, but ultimately, it generally turns out to be easier than I’d thought it would be.

Hopefully, this year will be the same because, at the moment, the task ahead of me looks nothing short of impossible.

I’ve tried to be clever (yes, I know that doesn’t suit me) and plan ahead a little: come up with a few ideas to write about.

So far, I have three.

Three.

It doesn’t bode well.

But I see that my usual compatriots haven’t let me down and are joining me once again during this period of nonsense. French Dave and Bren of The Valleys will be posting their very own rubbish during this time and I urge you strongly to support them (remember, we don’t do this for charity).

Since I started this back in nineteen filthy-lie – and now in it’s 11th year – the February Blogathon has become an internet sensation, attracting over one extra poster and sometimes commentors that can number up to half a dozen at any one time. Millions of people completely pass it by on a daily basis, making it their number one site to avoid each day.

Make sure you bookmark this page now… to avoid you stumbling on it by accident.

Jan 24 2017

Poorly

It’s not just my PC that has been ill (all sorted now, by the way), but the family as well. In fact, there appears to be a pandemic, as so many people seem to be ill at the moment.

Harry was ill earlier in the week, with a cough and a high temperature, so we had to keep him off school on  Tuesday. Dosed to the eyeballs with The Most Holy Calpol, he made a quick recovery and was back at school on Wednesday, albeit, still with a bit of a cough. But that day off ruined his 100% attendance record, which was quite annoying.

Mrs Masher caught it from him though and spent the whole weekend hacking her lungs out and looking like death warmed up. Neither of us got much sleep.

I was surprised – but pleased – that I never contracted it.

Until yesterday, that was.

Last night, it hit me like a sack of spuds, and I awoke this morning, feeling like my head was going to explode.

My legs ached. My arms ached. even my teeth and hair ached.

And I had a temperature so hot, you could have made scrambled eggs on my forehead.

And snot; there is just so much snot!  Where does it all come from?

And so, today, I phoned in sick. So there goes my 100% attendance record too.

This is the first time I have phoned in sick, in over ten years. Probably more, as I can’t actually remember when I last did so.

The military strength doses of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen that I’m taking, are helping with my head, but my nose is still running like a tap. Last night, I took to sleeping with a small wad of toilet tissue shoved up each nostril as my pillow was getting soaked through!  Even then, I still had to get up and change the tissue several times in the night.

I’m hoping to be back at work tomorrow, but I won’t go in if I still feel like this… it wouldn’t be fair on everyone else.

Jan 17 2017

“It’s dead, Jim”

Well, it was.

For a few weeks now, my PC has been randomly locking up, with just a blank screen showing.

It wouldn’t even switch off and the only way to get it to do so, was to get on my hands and knees and crawl under the desk and feel around the back for the power supply on/off switch. Once it had been power cycled, everything would be OK… until the next time, when I would then have to become a desk rabbit once more.

It was quite annoying and – on more than several occasions – I told myself that “I really must get round to looking at that before it fails completely”.

Last night, it failed completely.

No amount of turning it off and turning it back on again, would bring it back to life.

It would power up and then just sit there. No beeping. Nothing on the screen. Nuffin.

Procrastination had got the better of me. Again.

“Probably time to get round to looking at that”, I thought.

I suspected the memory at first, and swapped that out from the old PC up in the loft. But that didn’t work. After a bit more faffing about, it turned out to be the graphics card that was at fault.

The old one that I have put in, was actually quite a good card… in it’s day.

It’s day though, was sometime in 2007. I know this, because the receipt was still in the box.

And can you get Windows 10 drivers for a card that is ten years old?  Can you ‘eck, as like.

So, until I get round to getting a new card, I’m going to have to put up with the default settings.

Do you know just how horrible the internet looks at 800 x 600 resolution, 4:3 ratio?

It’s all big and horrible.

And everything else is horrible too.

Just typing this post has taken ages, as there is so much scrolling needing to be done and none of the buttons are in their usual places.

So, I’ll be searching Amazon’s website for a new graphics card at some point.

When I get around to it.

Jan 08 2017

Dry January

December was quite a hectic month, what with Christmas and New Year’s Eve an’ all.

I had three Xmas parties in all, plus a birthday bash, Christmas Day itself and the traditional New Years’ Eve riot at my dad’s house.

I probably hadn’t, but, I felt like I’d had more food and drink in one month, than I’d had all year.

So, whilst I’m not one for New Year resolutions, I decided that a Dry January was in order… coupled with a mild diet, as my trousers definitely feel that little bit tighter this year.

So, on January 1, I resolved to drink no alcohol for the rest of the month and also to cut down – even if just a little – on the amount of food that I tend to shovel down my gullet.

And I was doing really well.

For six days.

Having completely forgotten that we were away this weekend.

This past two days caused me to fall off the wagon quite spectacularly.  We have spent the weekend visiting friends in deepest, darkest Gloucestershire, and I (we) have eaten and drank with as much gusto and excess as I (we) did in December.

Purely to be sociable, of course.

At the moment though, I feel like a great big Christmas pudding.

And that doesn’t mean I fancy eating one, it means I feel like I AM one!

We have a holiday coming up later this year, and If I’m going to be able to squeeze into my regular pair of budgie smugglers, then I need to seriously cut back on the food and drink.

A Dry February it is, then.

Dec 31 2016

Pah!

Once again, I’ve been overlooked in the New Year Honours list.

I’ll be honest: it upsets me a little.

I mean, even Posh Spice got one this year.

Yes! Posh Spice!

For services to… being a skinny, sour-faced, multi-millionaire.

Probably.

Oh well, maybe next time.

Happy New Year to you both.

Dec 11 2016

Bah!

Well, we are well into the Christmas season now.

Rather like King Canute’s failed attempts to hold back the waves, I have been trying to resist the oncoming tsunami that is Christmas. But it hasn’t worked, and now all I can do is come to terms with it… rather like a convicted man finds peace, shortly before he faces the hangman’s noose.

Commercial indications aside – hell, Sainsbury’s had mince pies for sale back in October! – the first sign for me, that showed Crimble was imminent, was when we received our first family Christmas card from cousin John. “Hope you are having a wonderful Christmas”, he’d written in it.

“No, John”, I screamed back at the card, “we are not having a wonderful Christmas, because it’s still only NOVEMBER!”

But now, a few weeks on, and with the 25th of the month marching inexorably nearer, we are starting to ‘get in to it’.

All (most) of the presents have been bought (I’m still working on what to get Mrs Masher. Christmas is a traditional time of year, and traditionally I leave it till Christmas Eve to get her something. And then I panic and spend way too much).

The man from Iceland (not the country) knocked on the door yesterday morning, and unloaded enough food into our hallway to feed a small third-world country for a month.

And yesterday – after much badgering – I reluctantly went up into the loft and brought down the tree, and all the lights and tinsel and shit. It’s downstairs now, sitting in the corner of the living room, looking all gaudy and blinking annoyingly and making it difficult to see the telly.

We had our first Christmas do last weekend; Mrs M has had her works’ do this past week and I have two works’ functions to get through, this week.

I went to Sainsbury’s yesterday and got in the beers, wines and spirits. There’s now enough beer, cider, whisky, vodka, rum, and Tia Maria in the house, to sozzle half of the sailors on the Ark Royal.

Christmas eh? Well, we only do it for the kids.

Nov 29 2016

There’s a BAFTA on it’s way, I’m sure of it

Last Friday, I was ‘working’ in that London and so I decided to “let the train take the strain”… that’s an old British Rail advert, as I remember.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I travelled into that London by train, for work purposes, and I’d forgotten just how busy it gets, but luckily, getting on so far up the line always assures me of a seat.

And so, as we chuffety-chuffed our way to the Big Smoke, I sat and watched my fellow passengers – always a favourite pastime.

Unfortunately, I never saw The Girl From Harpenden, but the rather attractive red-head in the leather trousers who sat opposite me, made up for that.

Most of those seated or stood around me, had their heads buried in their phones: either playing games or reading or texting or watching videos or listening to music via the ubiquitous white earphones that hung from their lugholes. Indeed, the young chap in the blue suit, seated across the aisle from me, was having a whale of a time as his fingers flicked across the 4.8” screen of his smartphone. Whatever he was playing, was pleasing him greatly, judging by the enormous rictus-like grin plastered across his face for most of the journey.

But it wasn’t long before I reached my destination and so had to curtail my people-watching activities.

So, what was I doing in that London? Well, it was a bit of a team-build event.

And we were building the team with Plasticine!

Some animators from Aardman – the people wot brought us Wallace & Gromit – had set up their own company to do these sort of events and, with their help, each team made a small animated film (Water Board based, obviously).

The end-product is in post-production and I doubt I’d be able to show it here, but here are a couple of photos I took with my phone.

dsc_0042

dsc_00455dsc_0041dsc_0043I always knew that patience was required for stop-motion animation, but I never realised just how much. It takes about ten minutes and a VERY steady hand just to make your character blink! (our team decided that, as effective as it looked, our characters probably only needed to blink once throughout the entire sixty-second film).

It was a lot of fun, but I don’t think I’ll give up my day job just yet.

Nov 20 2016

All shopped out

oxford-st“I’m stressed and I need some retail therapy”, wailed Mrs M, yesterday morning.

I had to admit: she’d been working a ridiculous amount of hours recently and it sounded like she’d been having a torrid time of it at work.

As much as I hate going shopping with her, she deserved a little treat, and if shopping was what she wanted, then I felt I could put up with it for a couple of hours.

“OK”, I said, “what if we pop into town later and then we can grab a bite to eat afterward?”

“I don’t want to go into “town”’ she cried, indignantly. “I want to go to Oxford Street!”

I explained, in a quiet and measured voice, how that probably wasn’t a good idea, what with the higher prices and the difficulty in parking and the overcrowded streets. And everything.

I explained that it would end up being a very long and tiring day and that it would be so much easier just to nip into town.

I explained that Harry and I could probably just about cope with a couple of hours in town, but that a full-on shopping trip with females would probably see us off.

And so it was, that a couple of hours later, we found ourselves in that London, squeezing into a parking space just off the Bayswater Road.

 

Mrs M and Amelia set off at a goodly pace, darting into every shop containing female apparel, whilst Harry and I followed dutifully behind, taking the opportunity to sit down at the entrance to the store, whenever the chance arose.

We walked from one end of Oxford Street to the other.

And then we walked back down the other side.

And then we walked back up again… to check out some shops that we had missed or that hadn’t yet opened when we passed them the first time round.

“Oh look”, she said, “they’ve got a Jessops. Do you want to go in and have a look?”

“No. I’ll just want to spend money. And I really don’t need anything anyway. I’ve got all the camera gear I need.”

“Well, it won’t hurt to take a look then, will it?” she said, walking through the door.

With a heavy sigh, I followed her in.

Twenty minutes later, I came out again.

With a new camera.

D’oh!

We walked some more and headed down Regent Street, where the kids forcibly dragged us into Hamley’s.

An hour and several shopping bags later, we managed to escape and continued our way down to Piccadilly Circus and onto Leicester Square, where the M&M store enticed the kids in, wide-eyed and trance-like, as if the Pied Piper himself were leading them in. Within about ten seconds, we’d lost them as they scattered every-which-way, excited by all the red and yellow chocolate wares that were on show. I don’t know if either of you have ever been to the M&M store, but it is a massive two (actually three, as it has a mezzanine) floor shop that is entirely devoted to the American M&M, candy-covered-chocolate-which-are-not-as-good-as-British-Smarties sweet.

Jeez.

Anyway, once we had extricated ourselves from there, we piled into Chiquitos – one of our favourite restaurants to visit. God, we just love Mexican food!

After that, it was a brisk two mile walk back to the car – despite my insistence that we should take the tube. Mrs M’s postie legs are obviously used to such exercise and she and Amelia set off at a quick pace, whilst Harry and I followed behind, trying to keep up and not lose sight of them in the crowds as they pulled further away from us. Curse my short legs!

The drive home was scary, as Mrs M put her foot down.  Everything I complain about in other drivers – going too fast; driving too close; cutting in and out of lanes – is encapsulated in Mrs Masher’s driving style. I find it best just to close my eyes and keep my fingers crossed.

Last night, I slept like a dog.

A dog that had been walked to exhaustion and was full of burritos.

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