Not Yet Dead

Looking at the sad lack of posts on this here site, one could be forgiven for thinking that I have shuffled off this mortal coil.

But that’s not the case.

Things have been happening, I’ve just not bothered mentioning them here.

So what have I been up to?

Well, my garage had an attempted break-in – as I mentioned a couple of posts ago  and I have finally got round to ordering the new door, which should hopefully be fitted in a couple of weeks. I’m really hoping to be able to get my bike out before this mild weather disappears.  Talking of bikes, a couple of us are thinking of doing this years’ Ring Of Red … weather permitting, of course. Feel free to join us if you can. And if you want to.

The mutt continues to dominate the homestead, in as much as we dote on her like a new baby. She’s getting better all the time and is fairly obedient, but develops selective hearing sometimes when she sees another dog and wants to play. Anyone who remembers the video of Fenton will easily be able to visualise me chasing her across the fields, yelling at the top of my voice. Jesus Christ!

I went to the Hamfest up in Newark at the end of September. That was most enjoyable. And I showed great restraint in spending only a ton. Most of that went on a piece of kit called a Weak Signal Propagation Reporter, which transmits a very low power signal that can be picked up by other stations around the world and reported back, thereby giving an idea of how well your aerial is working.  It’s early days and I’ve only tested one of my antennas, but I must say that I’m quite chuffed with the results from my 20 metre antenna¦ which is just a piece of wire strung up in the loft. Especially considering the lack of sunspot activity at the moment.

And, despite it initially looking like it had all gone quite smoothly, since moving my site to a new host, I found that I’ve not been receiving email notifications for any comments that get left.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why, and neither can the Support Desk of my new provider. They have effectively admitted as much and have left it with me. I have spent hours Googling and trying different things, all to no avail. I’m sure that when I do figure it out, it’ll probably be a D’oh! moment, as it is bound to be something simple. Really simple. Bound to be.

And on top of that, the current Mrs Masher decided we should start watching Designated Survivor on Netflix  so there’s three hours gone each evening. Got to admit, it’s bloody good though.

So, there you go: all caught up.

Wasn’t worth the wait really, was it?

Car Insurance

My car insurance renewal came through the letterbox today.

I was taken aback somewhat to see that it had gone up… by 54%

FIFTY-FOUR PERCENT!

That’s just mad. It sent me a little giddy, to be honest.

Once I’d regained my composure, I read further down the letter.

“Relax”, it said. “You don’t need to do a thing, as we will automatically take the money from your account on 31st August.”

“NO YOU FUCKING WON’T!!”, I shouted.

And: “Relax”? Who writes these things? You can’t write to a customer telling him that his premium has gone up by 300 quid, but that it’s all OK and he doesn’t need to worry, because you are gonna take it straight out of his account without him having to do a thing.

“Sit down and have a cup of tea and a biscuit whilst we rob your bank account to the tune of 300 sovs.”

Fuck off.

I rang them up.

The guy at the end of the phone was most apologetic, but there was nothing they could do. It was the car that was pushing the premium up, not the bike (I have a six-wheel policy). “Why has it gone up so much?”, I asked. “I drive a Ford Focus, not a Porche 911 Turbo!”. He didn’t have an answer for me, so I told him to cancel my renewal and that I would go elsewhere.

It took me just ten minutes to check online (because I am soooo Money Supermarket, apparently) and I found I could get it from a different bunch of thieving bastards, for just half that price.

I daresay I’ll probably have to do it all again next year when it goes up again, but I don’t mind too much… not if it saves me that amount of money, and let’s face it, it’s easy enough nowadays.

Those of us of a certain age (yes, you two), will remember having to sit down with the Yellow Pages each year, ringing round the different brokers for hours on end, trying to get the best price. Nowadays, we can compare the market in minutes and then it’s us who do the walking, not our fingers.

Get out of my ear!

I’ve got an ear-worm.

I hate that term. It sounds like some sort of gross infection.

I prefer to call it “I’ve got a song stuck in my head”.

Which I have.

I don’t know where it came from, but Ultravox’s hit, Vienna, somehow made its way into my consciousness some weeks back.

I managed to lose it, last week, but then I received a report by email at work, that had not yet been explained to me.

I replied to the sender: “Lovely report, but I’m afraid this means nothing to me”.

BANG! Midge Ure’s dulcet tones were straight back into my bonce. Aarrgh!

But then, it slowly faded over the next couple of days and disappeared again. For a few hours.

I then received an email from my mate Gavin (that’s him, up on my extensive blogroll), saying that he was no longer in Bangkok as he had relocated to… Vienna.

BANG! Aarrgh!

And it is still there now. It’s been nearly three weeks, I think.

And it’s not even the whole song, just the same bit repeating over and over: “… it means nothing to me / it means nothing to me / Ohhh, Viennaaaa / dummm, dum duddah / dummm dum duddah…” And repeat.

It’s there, all the time, just slightly louder than my tinnitus.

And it’s slowly driving me bonkers.

It’s the drink talking

Last night I went to the pub, for one of our regular BT Curry Night get-togethers.

It’s the first one I’ve been to for quite a while now: sometimes, by the time I’ve struggled home from work on the motorway(s), I just can’t be bothered to go out again, despite knowing that I’ll have a good time once I get there.

So last night, I made the effort. And it was good.

The curry was good. The beer was good. The company were good.

We laughed and we drank and we talked:

Films that stick in your mind
Kids films that play better to adults
People we used to work with (“Now, what was his name?”)
Getting old
The Conservative candidate for Harpenden
Is the space between a nucleus and it’s electron really empty, or is it actually full of custard?
Cheap radios
Talcum powder mines
Surfing
The Beach Boys
TXE4 Cyclic Stores and EEProms
Table tennis
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
The Six Million Dollar Man
Sam Fox is a lesbian? Really?
Paper thicknesses and weights

… are just some of the things we chatted about. I can’t remember the rest.

And it’s just as well, if that list is the best bits!

“Hooray, hooray, the first of May…

… outdoor fucking begins today.” So sang Shag Larkin, a radio engineer that I had the good fortune to know, many years ago.

I’d oft wondered where the phrase came from, and so today, I have looked it up.

It seems it’s a traditional folk song.

Anyway.

And in other news…

Well, it seems there isn’t any. The pic above was taken from the BBC News website this morning.  Apart from some sport, nothing has happened in the world for three days, according to their top 10 news stories, which are all dated April 28th.

In other, other news:

 

Well, apart from me becoming officially old today – thank you Google and Classic FM for reminding me! – not much has happened around here either, that would be considered newsworthy.

 

 

 

The new dog that we haven’t yet got, is already costing a small fortune and Mrs M has visited the local pet shop to get advice, so many times, she is now on first name terms with the staff there. She’s spent an abundance on food and blankets and bowls and leads and chews and just about anything else that the good people of Pets At Home felt it was worth showing her.

I’ve just shelled out several hundred pounds for a new garden fence, as the old one had holes in it that a small pup could squeeze through… and we don’t want that.

And Amelia has spent all of her pocket money on doggy treats and toys, and has chosen the name Saber (sic). Even though Mrs M and I think it sounds like a boy dog’s name – we’re getting a bitch – we seem to have gone with it and it’s now engraved on her collar.

As it’s my birthday, I believe Mrs M is taking me over to exotic Hemel Hempstead later today, for a film and dinner.

So much for outdoor sex then.

Being social

“Ha ha! Look Dad”, said Amelia, flashing her phone in front of my face for a second, before snatching it away again. “I’ve found my teacher on Instagram.”

I cast her one of my ‘not impressed’ looks, as I continued to wash the breakfast things. “You know all that social media crap doesn’t interest me one little bit, Amelia”, I said.

“Yeah, but it’s cool, because I can follow Miss Sullivan now and see what she gets up to.”

“Miss Sullivan? Isn’t she your science teacher?”, I asked, my interest piqued.

“Yes.”

“The young, blonde lady I met at Parent’s Evening last week?”

“Yes.”

“Well, show me, then.”

Spring has sprung…

… the grass is riz…

It most definitely is, because I cut it yesterday!

There are many things to indicate that Spring has arrived: plants; animals; insects, all sticking their heads out.

Buzzy bees buzzing around; the daffodils and crocuses (crocii?) in full bloom and an increase in the amount of roadkill littering the lanes, is all a sign that Winter is over and that Spring has finally arrived.

But round these parts, they know it is Spring, when Mr Masher finally gives in and cuts the back lawn. The sound of the noisiest Flymo in the world, being dragged around my garden for forty minutes on a Saturday afternoon, is as accurate an indicator of Spring’s arrival, as anything else.

Another good indicator, is the increased number of motorcyclists on the roads. And today, I added to that number.

I pulled the dustsheets off the bike and was pleasantly surprised when it started first time – having not been used since last November. And then I took to the roads and rode to Hitchin, for a pre-arranged meeting with a couple of guys I had never met before, but had spoken to on Saturday, on the radio.

Pete and John turned out to be a most amiable couple of chaps and we took a very pleasant ride through the back streets of Hertfordshire, before ending up at a biker’s cafe on the A10 for a bit of breakfast.

I look forward to meeting up with them again, some time soon.

And now that Spring has snuck up upon me, I really must pull my finger out and get my latest Geocache puzzle built, before Autumn suddenly arrives and I’m too late.

Again.

Getting old

Many of the people I work with in the office are of a younger generation.

Whilst I’m not yet in my dotage, I have, several times, noticed that I am the eldest in the room, in whatever meeting it is I am attending.

Over the past year, the fact that I am older than most of those around me, has become more apparent to me.

Not because I am hobbling about or because I can’t get up the stairs – I’m still quite sprightly in that regard – but usually something that I’ll say in conversation, will draw blank looks.

This happened yesterday whilst I was in a meeting. Presenting a spreadsheet up on the large screen, I said “… now if we scroll down… down, down a bit further… down down, deeper on down…. then we get to this section…”

“Never had you down as a Quo fan”, said my boss, who, whilst being younger than me, is at least of the same generation.

The young girl – and when I say ‘young’, I mean twenty-something – seated next to him looked confused.

“Status Quo”, I said to her, “You must have heard of Status Quo”.  She shook her head.

Every time this happens, I feel a little older and a step nearer to the Wurther’s Originals.

Tony Hancock; Anne Diamond; Alma Cogan; floppy disks; CHiPs; Catweazel; and more, are all things or people that I have mentioned in conversation, that have drawn looks of non-comprehension and I can kind of understand that.

But not knowing the Quo?

Now I feel really old.

To let

The office where I work, is currently having a refurbishment.

This has caused quite an upheaval, as whole departments have had to up-sticks and relocate in other parts of the building, whilst their section is being overhauled. It’s like we are playing musical offices, or something.

But, everyone is mucking in and sitting on each others’ laps and getting on with it.

However, one of the major sufferances that we have had to put up with whilst the work is going on, is a reduction in the number of toilets that are available to us. The men’s toilets, for instance, have reduced from six to two.

That means, for the first time ever, we are having to put up with something that women have to put up with all the time: queueing for a wee.

It’s ridiculous! There have been several times when I have been so desperate to go, that I have considered nipping round the back of the building and peeing in the bushes.

But the smokers might complain.

Last week, I desperately needed a poo. I don’t normally do that when I’m at work, but a large meal at the Toby Carvery the night before, meant my morning routine just wasn’t enough.

With both of the men’s toilets having a red indicator on the door showing that they were engaged, I decided to risk the downstairs uni-sex toilet.

I say “risk” because it has a dodgy lock, so only the most desperate tended to use it, but I was touching cloth at this point, so in I went.

I did my best to make sure it was locked, pulling on the handle to see if it opened… which it didn’t.

Quickly, I plonked myself down on the crapper and started to go through the motions.

I’d only been in there twenty seconds when I heard the outside door open. Immediately, I tried to put my foot in front of the door, but I couldn’t reach, and it suddenly burst open as the busted lock gave way to the heavy shove it had received.

“Oh, I am sorry”, said Linda, looking slightly embarrassed as she turned and fled.

I sat there with my trousers around my ankles and the unreachable door slightly ajar, as I finished my business.

Out in the lobby, Linda was seated at the reception desk. I smiled and she gave a knowing nod as I walked past, but we’ve not spoken since.

I’m sure we’ll be fine… once she gets out of therapy.

Heavy breather

Many years ago, when I was roughly half the age I am now, I visited our family doctor as I had a wheezy chest.

He diagnosed me as having asthma.

Personally, I never felt that I was asthmatic, but well, I’m not a doctor.

As the years passed, I have had to visit the doctor many times with my wheeziness and at the surgery that I currently visit, it’s pot-luck as to which doctor you will get to see.

But each doctor has done exactly the same thing: they have looked at my notes and said “Ahh, you have asthma”. I think that once it is on your notes, that’s it. No further diagnosis required.

“I’ll prescribe you a new inhaler”, they say.

I explain that the inhalers do nothing. So they prescribe a different inhaler. I’ve had all the different colours: blue, brown, pink, purple.

Nothing.

The last time I visited the doctor with this particular ailment – last year – I kicked up a bit of a fuss when he again prescribed me an inhaler. “Hmmm… this HAS been going on for a while. Perhaps we should send you to see a chest specialist”, he said.

Hooray! At last!

And so, over a period of some weeks, I visited a very nice man at the local hospital.

He put me through a series of varied blood tests and lung capacity checks on special breathing apparatus.

And a CAT scan.

And another CAT scan.

And at the end of it all, he told me something I already knew: I don’t have asthma.

What I do have is bronchiectasis.

He then prescribed me a different inhaler. Different from any that I’d tried before.

He also gave me some breathing exercises to do.

And you know what, my chest feels the best it has been in twenty-five years.

Close shave

Having a shave is a pain in the arse.

Which means that I’m probably doing it wrong.

I don’t enjoy shaving. It’s a bind. But I have to do it, because I’m not man enough to grow a beard and I don’t look good with stubble: less like David Beckham and rather more like a tramp on his first day out.

Over the years I’ve tried all different sorts of razors.

I’ve had a range of electric razors, but they are just never as good as a wet shave… despite Victor Kiam’s claims.

A few years ago, Philips brought out an electric shaver that could be used in the shower, giving the best of both worlds. I bought one of them too.

Load of rubbish.

Nothing beats the simplicity and closeness of a wet razor… and there are plenty of them on the market to choose from.

Over the years, I have vacillated between the two main protagonists, Gillette and Wilkinson Sword, as each bought out their latest multi-bladed, swivel-headed, contoured razor, costing stupid amounts of money.  And then I’d swap again, once I’d seen the extortionate price of the new blades.  Wilkinson Sword even brought one out that had 5 blades.

Five! The head was so big, it felt like shaving with the spine of a paperback book against your face!

And then there’s all the different soaps and creams that can be used to lather up the beard in readiness.

I remember buying a tiny, tiny little bottle of shaving OIL for 8 quid, after reading in a men’s magazine how this was the very bestest thing for a close shave. Didn’t seem to make any difference to me. At all.

I’ve tried creams and soaps and foams from all the different manufacturers, and they are all much of a muchness.

But, I’ve finally hit upon a winning formula (well, for me, anyway).

A Palmolive shave stick that costs 75 p from the chemist and some disposable Gillette razors that come in a pack of 8 and cost only a fiver when Sainsbury’s has them on offer.

Lasts me three months that lot does.

And my face is as soft as a baby’s shaved bum.

Happy Friday!

When I worked in cable TV, back in the nineties and early noughties, I spent some time working with Little Jo – so called because her name was Jo… and she was quite short.

Little Jo had a similar sense of humour to me and we got on quite well as a result.

One day – a Friday, it so happens – she wished me a good morning as I came into the office. “Happy Friday!” I replied back. She laughed and the following week we both greeted each other with “Happy Friday!”. And the next. And the next. It became a bit of a thing.

Nowadays, I often hear people say it in the office and I’ve heard it said on the telly, and I wonder whether I actually coined that phrase and it spread through people hearing Jo and I say it way back then. Because back then, it wasn’t a phrase at all.

Could have happened.

All phrases and sayings probably start with one person saying it and then it spreads, so maybe it propagated through Jo and I saying it to each other and to others. Who knows?

Similarly, I am old enough to remember when Diet Coke became a big thing in the UK, all them years ago.  And I can remember feeling quite pleased with myself when a barmaid asked if I wanted normal coke or the new diet coke. “Diet? I don’t want anything that’s diet”, I said, with more than a little indignation. “I’ll have the full-fat coke please”.  And she laughed and then I heard her mention it to a fellow barmaid.

Again, most everyone calls it ‘full-fat’ nowadays. And whilst the logical jump between ‘diet’ and ‘full-fat’ is a simple one that many people could have made around the same time, I like to think that maybe, just maybe – even though it’s unlikely – that that’s one of mine too.

High expectations

This evening, Mrs Masher and I had to visit Amelia’s school, for an open evening to discuss Amelia’s ‘options’.

This is where she has to pick which subjects she wants to study during the remainder of her school years.

Obviously, it’s wise to pick not only subjects that one might be interested in, but ones that are going to help you on your chosen career path, once you leave school.

Problem is, Amelia – like so many kids of her age – has absolutely no idea of what she wants to do when it’s time for her to leave school and get a job.

I always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I remember the ‘Careers Officer’ visiting our school and we all got to spend ten minutes with him on a one-to-one basis.

“Ahh, young Masher. Come in and sit down. Now tell me, what do you want to do when you leave school?”

“I want to be an astronaut, sir.”

“An astronaut eh? Erm, right, let’s see now… ahh, what about banking? I see you are quite good at maths.”

“No sir, I want to be an astronaut. I want to travel to the stars.”

“I think it rather unlikely, boy. No-one from this school has ever gone on to be an astronaut before. Or even an airplane pilot, for that matter. I urge you to consider banking. It’s a bloody good job. Lots of perks.”

“Astronaut”

“Right, I’ll put you down for banking then. NEXT!”

Obviously, I never went into banking. And, thanks to my flat feet, I never become an astronaut. But my love of electronics set me on a career path that would see me alright for the next forty years.

Unless Amelia can set herself a similar vision, she’s going to end up joining the Army or marrying in to money.

And neither of those worked for me.

It’s a man thing

Miami Airport is a sprawling mass of buildings and tarmac and terminals and gates.

The quickest way to get from one side to the other, is to take the Skytrain – a kind of shuttle that whisks along the outside of the terminuseseses.

It’s only a couple of minutes journey, but as I sat there on the hard plastic seat, I couldn’t help but notice the cleavage on the blonde seated opposite me.

The top she was wearing was quite low cut, revealing a decent amount of décolletage, and the lacy, frilly bits around her bra were just about visible, forming a sexy frame along the bottom of the neckline.

Completely unaware, she leaned forward slightly, affording me a better view for a few seconds, until the swaying of the train caused her to lean back against her seat.

Then – much to my delight – the train swerved the other way, and once again she was thrown slightly forward, giving me a perfect view of her knockers.

For a moment, I was transfixed and couldn’t take my eyes off them… until I noticed her looking at me with a steely stare.

“What’s wrong with you?” she said, sitting back in her seat and straightening her top, “You only saw them this morning! Right, come on, this is our stop.”

I grabbed our suitcases and followed her out the door.

 

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Tish Tash

tashThis month is Movember.

Yes, I spelt that correctly: Movember.

So called, because it calls upon all men to grow a moustache.

For charity.

Now, I’ve done many things for charity, over the years. I’ve walked and I’ve cycled and I’ve abseiled and I’ve jumped out of aeroplanes.

I’ve even sat in a bath of baked beans for a day.

But I will not grow a moustache. Not even for charity.

Because I can’t.

I’m just not man enough, y’see.  If I have a shave on a Monday morning, I’ll start getting a five o’clock shadow sometime around Wednesday tea-time.

Which is fine with me, because I’m not the hirsute type.

So, I won’t be growing a moustache for charity.

Instead, I shall be sponsoring the current Mrs M… hers is much better than mine.

Drilling for gold

idtheftI went to the dentist today.

The receptionist smiled at me as I approached the desk. “Can I help you?”

“Yes. The name’s Masher. I have an appointment at 8:30 with Miss Patel”.

She looked at her screen quizzically for a moment and then: “Ahh yes, here you are. Could you confirm your date of birth for me, please?”

“Why?”

“It’s just an extra security question”, she said.

I gave her my date of birth, but then, as I sat down, I got to wondering.

Why?

Why do they need extra proof that I am who I say I am?

I’ve already given her my name, the time of the appointment and the name of the dentist I am seeing. Surely, that should be enough.

I know that identity theft is rife nowadays, but would someone who has stolen my ID and is impersonating me for financial gain (yeah, good luck with that one), really go so far as to attend my dental appointments too?

I don’t think so.

It’s been so long…

numbers… since I wrote here last, that I actually struggled to remember my log in password!

 

So, what has been happening?

Not much really, hence the dearth of posts.

I’ve been to a couple of family functions in ye olde Ruislip: a funeral and a 50th wedding anniversary (I was a page boy at that particular wedding 50 years ago – I looked bloody gorgeous).

I visited Newark Showground at the beginning of the month, where I spent a happy few hours in the company of a couple of thousand nerds, at the UK Hamfest – the country’s largest Amateur Radio rally.  I showed great restraint in only spending a couple of hundred pounds. Mrs M would be so proud of me… if she knew.

And I’ve spent a fair amount of time pondering Graham’s Number: a number that is so indescribably huge, that if you wrote a digit on a grain of rice and then filled up all the empty space in the universe with digitized grains of rice, there still wouldn’t be enough room for Graham’s Number.

And yet… we know it ends in a 7.

Wow!!

Anyway, other than that, I have just been working and sitting in traffic – which I’m fed up with moaning about. So I won’t.

But hasn’t the M4 been a bag of bollocks lately?

At least the inevitable drawing in of the dark winter nights has been brightened up with the welcome return of Strictly to our telly screens. Although, this weekend, the great British public showed that once again that they can’t be trusted with a democratic vote.

First we had the debacle that is Brexit, then on Sunday night, Naga was voted out of the ballroom, when EVERYBODY knows that it should have been Ed Balls and his God-awful rendition of a Paso Doble.

“With great power, comes great responsibility”, a wise man once said (I think it was Spiderman’s Uncle Ben).

Perhaps those words should be flashed up on the screen as a reminder, before every voting opportunity.

Taste Test Tuesday

TTTwaterWorking for the water board, as I now do, and having seen what goes into providing clean, safe drinking water to the populace, I find myself advocating tap water over mineral water, more and more.

In truth, I used to do this anyway, long before I was actually involved with the wet stuff. I’m an educated man, y’see; I read books and I watch the Discovery Channel, so I was already aware that tap water goes through so much cleaning and filtering that by the time it reaches the consumer, it is as clean and safe to drink as any of the “Bottled at source” waters that can be bought off the shelves of one’s local supermarket.

Now, the current Mrs M is prone to buying bottled water and I always moan at her about it and again extol the virtues of Affinity Water’s finest.  And her argument is always the same: “I don’t care how clean and safe it is, it just doesn’t taste as nice as bottled water”.

I wondered whether she was right. A blind taste test would tell us and so, I purchased some bottled water: Evian – probably the best known of all the brands – and Sainsbury’s Scottish Still Water and I stuck them in the fridge along with an Oasis bottle that I had rinsed out and filled with water from the tap, so that they would all be at the same temperature.

This evening, I decanted the water into three identical glasses – A, B and C – and presented them to Mrs M for tasting.

She took her time, sipping from each glass several times to be sure, before announcing that she preferred the taste of Glass C.

I could barely contain my victory dance: Glass C was indeed filled with water from the tap.

Of course, as everyone knows, Evian is backwards for naive.

I’ll say no more.

Innit hot?

pigeonRight, that’s enough talk about the weather.

Regular readers will be aware of me using my blog to rant and rave and moan about the pigeons shitting on my car, on numerous occasions.

Both of you may even remember me saying that if I had half a chance, I’d kill the little blighters.

Well…

On Saturday, I took my car up to the local car wash so that they could use their high-powered jet wash on all the bird crap that was covering my car. The sods crap on it daily as they fly into the tree, and after just a couple of days, there is a right mess.

And in this warm weather, it dries out and goes hard and is bloody difficult to get off with a sponge and warm water.

So, I got it cleaned and parked it on the drive, all shiny and gleaming.

A perfect target.

Two hours later, I went out to get something out of the boot and there was this enormous green and white bird poo – still wet – sliding down the side of the car.

I was bloody annoyed. Incensed. Bubbling with anger. “Grrr”, I said.

I got some wet paper towels and cleaned it off, all the time muttering to myself about the bloody pigeons and how I was gonna kill one and nail it to the tree as a warning to other pigeons.

As I walked through the gate, into the back garden, there was a pigeon, just standing on the path, outside the back door, just a few feet away from me.

I swung a kick at it, not really expecting to connect. And I didn’t. But rather than it flying off, as I’d expected, it sort of hopped and flapped it’s way down the garden path, obviously injured somehow. I gave chase and soon had it cornered between the garage and the shed.

This was my chance!

But I couldn’t do it.

If it had been in the tree and I’d had an air rifle or an AK47 or something, I am 100% sure that I’d have had no qualms about ending it.

But, kicking it to death with my slippered feet, as it just lay there looking terrified? I couldn’t do it.

So, instead, I gave it a damn good talking to.

It continued to just lay there, its chest rapidly rising and falling in terror; unable to escape, as I gave it a verbal dressing down.

“.. and if you and your mates carry on shitting on my car, I won’t be so fucking lenient next time!”

That was four days ago.

Unbelievably, my car is still clean.

Out of touch

mobile phoneI left my phone(s) at home yesterday when I went to work.

This is something I’ve done a little too frequently, but luckily, I normally notice when I’m just a few minutes down the road.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I realised I was phoneless when I was about halfway through my two-hour journey to work.

I wasn’t going to turn round and go back!

“I’ll just have to be uncontactable, for the day”, I thought.  I actually thought it might be quite liberating.

It wasn’t.

I found it quite traumatic, actually.

Being uncontactable by work colleagues was a worry to me. What would they think? That I was skiving off somewhere?

But not being able to be called by any friends or family was even worse – even though it’s fairly rare that any of them do call me during working hours.

It was just that thought of being incommunicado for a whole day that worried me.

What if one of the kids has an accident and the school can’t call me?

What if my dad falls off a stepladder and no-one is able to let me know?

What if there is a major incident at work and I can’t be contacted to escalate it?

What if…

Of course none of that happened, but it did leave me wondering how I coped, back before mobile phones were invented.

Two-wheel triumph

policebikeToday, I have been out riding with a police motorcyclist.

The feds do a Ride Safe scheme, y’see, where you go out for a ride and a police motorcyclist – on his police bike and wearing all his police garb – follows you closely and then afterward he critiques your riding performance.

And it’s all for free!

Now, I consider myself to be a competent rider – hell, I’ve been riding for thirty-seven years! – but also a careful one.

But, in thirty-seven years, it’s easy to pick up some bad habits, so I thought being assessed by a professional would be worth a go, just to see how my level had dropped.

Especially as it’s free.

The idea, of course, is to ride how one would normally ride. There is no point in riding like you are taking your test.

And so, I tried to forget he was there – not easy when you have a hi-viz clad policeman looming in your mirrors all the time – and just took a normal Sunday ride. Maybe, just maybe, I paid a tad more attention to the speed limits!

Back at the station, Gareth gave me my assessment. I have to admit to being quite chuffed.

“Have you had any further rider training since you passed your test back in… when was it…1979?”

I shook my head and he seemed genuinely surprised.

He went on to explain that I was riding pretty much perfectly, for my level (ie, not advanced) and that if he had to pick me up on anything (he had to, of course) then it would be that I didn’t make enough use of the available road when positioning the bike.

Other than that, I was the dog’s bollocks.

Based on that, I’m kind of tempted to train for the advanced test.

If nothing else, it’ll get me out on the bike a bit more.