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?

Time wasting

I got home from work this evening and made myself a cup of tea before settling down to watch an episode of Star Trek on Netflix.

Only two minutes in and the phone rang, so I paused the TV and picked up the phone.  I smiled as I saw the words International Call on the little LCD display. About time I had another one of these!

I sat down on the sofa, took a sip of tea and answered it.

The following is a very abridged transcript of the conversation that then took place.

Hello. My name is James, said a voice with a strong Indian accent. I am calling from The Accident Helpline. Our records show that someone in your household has had an accident in the last year

Hello James. I’m glad you called. Yes, it was me who had the accident

OK. Was the accident your fault? If not, you will be entitled to some compensation

No, it wasn’t my fault. How much compensation are we talking about?

At least two thousand pounds

Is that all? I’d like at least five thousand

Er… I’m not sure if that is possible, but we can try. How did the accident happen?

A car ran into the back of me whilst I was sitting stationary at the traffic lights

Where were the traffic lights?

They were at red. That’s why I was stationary

No, I meant, what was their location?

Oh. At the junction. You know, that awkward one by the Post Office

Hmmm, can you tell me the name of the road, please

Yes, George Street

Can you spell that for me?

Of course. G for… um, George, E for episode, O for organism, R for Rasputin, G for George again and E for… what did I say before for E?

Um, OK. Yes, it’s OK, I think I have that. Can I have the registration of your car, please

I gave him the registration of my first car, dating back 35 years. I gave it three times, mixing the numbers up each time.

I cannot find that plate on our system. It isn’t in the right format.

It was a personalised plate.  When can I get my money?

Er… I think I will need to put you through to my supervisor

There was a pause and then another Indian voice: Hello, I am Robert.

Hello Robert. Now look, James promised me some money, but now seems to be backtracking

Yes, we cannot find your car on our system. We will need to send you some documentation to fill in. Could you give me your name please?

I looked at the TV screen, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard was frozen in time, tugging at his tunic. Yes, my name is Stewart. Patrick Stewart.

Could you spell your first name for me please

Yes, it’s P for Patrick, A for anonymous, T for terrapin, R for rap-rap-rap-rapido, I for ickle, C for crash and K for Keeble Bollege, Oxford

Right. Er… thank you Mr Stewart. Now, could you give me your postcode please

I gave him a fictitious postcode.

I cannot find that on my system either. I don’t think you are in this country

Of course I am. You rang me, remember? Now, how do I get my money?

I cannot arrange for compensation for you if I cannot find you on our system

He was getting slightly irate, by now.

Your system sounds rubbish. Is there someone else I can speak to?

Yes, I will put you through to my supervisor

You have a supervisor too?

Yes, Mr Stewart, we all have supervisors

There was another pause and then another Indian voice, a lady this time. Yes. What can I do for you? she asked, somewhat abruptly.

I want my money. Both James and Robert said I could have thousands of pounds, but they won’t give it to me

This is because you have not had an accident

I bloody well have. James phoned me up and told me so

And, I also do not believe you are in this country

Well, I don’t believe you are in this country, either, so that’s two of us

I think you have been wasting our time

I think you might be right

She hung up. I checked the phone: fifteen minutes… to the second.

Not one of my best, but it was most enjoyable nonetheless.

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.

Sprachen ze lingo?

Well, I’m back from la belle France… and what a wonderful time it was too. A bit too hot for my liking, but an enjoyable getaway, nonetheless.

I’ve been to french France many times over the years and whenever I go, I’ll always have a go at speaking the language, because I’m told that they always appreciate that.

I’ve often joked that I speak just enough French to get my face slapped, but in truth, I could probably muster enough for a kick in the balls too.

Now, I’ve spent many, many hours in the car, listening to Teach Yourself French tapes and have learnt many phrases and words.

Stringing them into a coherent sentence though, that’s a different matter.

This was very evident one night when we went out to the Luna Park and I tried to get some drinks from a stall. As I queued, I practiced what I wanted to say, in my head, and when I reached the counter I confidently spoke the words… with a slight French accent, for good measure.

“Je voudrais une bouteille d’eau, s’il vous plait”

The girl serving behind the counter looked at me, uncomprehendingly, so I repeated myself.

She shook her head, looking confused.

I pointed at a bottle of water in the glass-doored fridge behind her. “Eau! Eau!”

She looked at me and then she looked at the queue growing behind me, and with some very obvious impatience and a condescending look, she said “Please say it in English”.

I fucking hate the French sometimes.

Welsh For A Day

Yesterday, was my future brother-in-law’s Stag do.

Coming from the valleys – as he does – and being surrounded by us English taking the piss out of him all the time (yakki dar), we all decided to be Welsh… just for one day.

To make him feel at home.

And so we went to a local golf driving range – golf being one of his passions.

But we went wearing tee-shirts and pants (over our trousers) emblazoned with the Welsh flag, and with the words “Welsh For One Day” across the back.

And we carried sheep with us.

Inflatable ones.

Unsurprisingly, this drew interested stares from those around us, but after the fourth pint of wife beater, I wasn’t feeling self-conscious anymore.

And despite never having played golf, it turns out I was actually quite good. Actually, I was rubbish, but I did manage to hit it in the big holes several times. I’d have probably got an even higher score had I not been experimenting to see which bat worked best for me.

Back at HQ, silly games, beer, barbecues, beer, more silly games and more beer all ensued.

All washed down with beer.

As midnight got closer, I couldn’t handle any more alcohol, and switched to softer, warmer drinks as we continued to raucously play silly games and impossible quizzes. Because I’m a light-weight, nowadays, and I think ten hours of drinking is enough for any liver.

This morning, I have awoken to find that my head – and somewhat inexplicably, my legs – are really hurting.

If that’s what it’s like to be Welsh, then you can keep it.

Another Tom

This weekend – the one just gone – the current Mrs Masher and I went on a cruise.

Just a quick one.

Down the Thames.

And a very pleasant evening it was too.

Top notch grub, served and eaten to the sounds of a live jazz band, whilst taking in the sights of London as we gently motored down the river. It doesn’t come much better than that.

Except, it does, because we did it all in good company.

And beer.

Best night out I’ve had for ages.

And now for a quick mutt update:

As per the picture above, she’s getting bigger.

You know when you come in halfway through a conversation…

… well, that happened to me this morning, as I was flicking through the channels and found two old boys chatting away.

OB1: “I struggle with the fingering because of the arthritis in my hands”

OB2: “Well funnily enough, I found that my fingering improved my arthritis”

And they both continued to talk – oblivious to the innuendo – about how they were learning to play the clarinet.

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!

McUseless

Here’s an updated picture of Saber. She’s growing quickly now and has settled in nicely.

Having had her second set of injections, she can now go out, so we have taken her on short walks… with mixed success. She loves the park, when we get there, but she is not so keen on the walk to reach it. I daresay that will soon change.

She has met lots of other people and a few other dogs now and she has not been fazed by any of it, I’m pleased to say.

Apart from doggy stuff, it’s been a busy Bank Holiday weekend, so far.

Lots of walking, courtesy of Geocaching – and Saber, of course.

A nice ride out to Jack’s Hill Café.

Shopping – both food and retail.

Running in a new burglar alarm cable because the old one got accidentally cut by the double glazing people.

And an aching back, thanks to some gardening that Mrs M made me do today. Well, I say ‘made’… but really, I just felt guilty after watching her hard at it with a shovel for two hours, so thought I’d better chip in.

So, when it came time for dinner, Mrs M was too tired to cook and we were all knackered anyway and couldn’t be bothered, so I drove up to our local McDonald’s for some veg-out-on-the-sofa-in-front-of-the-telly grub.

It took a bloody age to arrive. I watched as the girl went back several times to check whether it was ready.

Mrs M’s 5-piece Chicken Select meal came very quickly, as did Harry’s 3-piece meal. Amelia’s chicken nugget meal arrived almost immediately.

It was MY order that was causing them such a problem.  Had I ordered something out of the ordinary maybe?

No. I’d ordered a Big Mac Meal.

Their signature dish, so to speak.

The burger meal that the whole brand was built upon.

And it took them three attempts to get it right.

Think I’ll go to the kebab shop next time.

Alliterative Arses


Spending the amount of time that I do, driving on the M1 and around the M25, I tend see some terrible driving.

I may have mentioned this before.

Once.

On many occasions, the offenders tend to be young lads in VW Golfs, who think they own the road, but of course, I should mention that other vehicle owners are available.

For my own amusement, I have taken to calling these drivers alliterative names, as I see them transgressing the rules of the road and, indeed, general motoring etiquette.

“Git in a Golf”, is ubiquitously used, of course. “Fuckwit in a Focus” is also quite popular.

“Bastard in a Beemer” and “Arsehole in an Astra” crop up regularly, along with the occasional “Prick in a Prius”.

I was also quite pleased recently when I spotted a “Twat in a Twingo”.

Lorry drivers get away with “Lughead in a Lorry”, as that’s the best I could think of.

But, yesterday morning, I was astonished when several cars in front and around me had to brake suddenly to avoid an accident, as a small black Corsa cut across all four lanes at high speed, in an attempt to not miss the exit.

I struggled to come up with a suitably insulting name.

And…..action!

I’ve mentioned before that the business park where I work, has several empty buildings and that a couple of the larger ones are often used for filming – I’m guessing an offshoot from Pinewood, which is just up the road.

It’s quite fun when driving into the estate, to see props and the like laying around the forecourts.

When they filmed part of the latest Transformers movie here, about six or seven months ago, we saw lots of British Police cars being driven in on the back of a car transporter. A couple of weeks later, we saw them being carted away, all dented and bashed up – obviously having got in a fight with some bad robots!

At the moment, they are filming the latest Jurassic World installment and the forecourts are littered with wind machines and large perspex domes – amongst the many trailers being used by the actors.  I haven’t seen any actors yet – although I have seen a couple of chauffeured Rolls Royce’s driving out – but several people claim to have seen Chris Pratt wandering about.

Security has definitely been increased, with security guards on hand each morning checking that we work there and directing us to our usual parking bays to make sure we don’t stray where we shouldn’t.

I wouldn’t go anywhere near the film set anyway, I’m not stupid: I’ve seen Jurassic Park and those dinosaurs are bloody dangerous!

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.

Hazard

Did you know that it’s actually safe and legal to drive at high speed on the hard shoulder, if it is empty and the three lanes of the motorway are at a standstill, so long as you put your hazard lights on.

No, I didn’t know that either.

But I know it must be true, because I have seen so many people doing it recently.

And if you are a motorcyclist, it is OK to drive between the lanes of motorway traffic, at stupidly high speeds, as long as you have your hazard lights on.

Because they will protect you from someone pulling out in front of you.

And if you are driving along a busy road and you want to pull over to the kerb, then the best thing you can do is put your hazard lights on and then pull over, because the car behind will have instinctively figured out where you are going.

Best motoring invention ever.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

No fun

fonejackThe phone rang earlier and it it wasn’t a number I recognised.

I answered it anyway and was greeted with a few seconds of silence before an Indian voice cut in and introduced himself as Alex from Microsoft.

“Excellent, a scammer”, I thought, “Haven’t had one of these for ages.” and I readied myself for some fun.

“Firstly, can I check that you are the owner of the computer at your house”, Alex said, going straight into his spiel.

I assured him I was.

“That is good”, he said, “Unfortunately, we are getting many alarms spreading on to the internet from your PC”.

I tried to sound shocked. “On the Internet, you say? From MY computer? Oh dear.”

At that point ‘Alex’ suddenly started giggling, but he tried to continue. “Yes… [snigger] we have traced the alarms… [chortle] to your computer [titter} and…”

I cut in: “You’re not very good at this, are you Alex?”

“No, I’m not”, he guffawed, as he put the phone down.

I was genuinely disappointed.

Please Alex, get some training from your scamming mates and ring me back soon.

Driven to distraction

traffic-jamI spent six and a half hours on the road yesterday.

Six and a half hours!

I only went to Dartford and back.

Six and a half hours to do 120 miles.

It would literally have been quicker for me to have gone on my pushbike.

Of course, this was all down to stupid people.

Stupid people who have accidents on the road.

They drive too fast.

They talk on the phone.

And they fucking text whilst they drive.

I’ve seen it: people driving with their phone on the steering wheel in front of them, so that they can answer the oh-so-important text that they have just received: “Gr8 time last nite babe. LOLZ”.

This sort of thing goes on all the time and despite threats of larger fines and penalties, it continues, because 9 times out of 10 people get away with it.

But it causes accidents, and whilst for most of us that can mean the considerable inconvenience of being stuck in traffic for hours upon end, for those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of an idiot driver’s actions, it can mean a hell of a lot more.

I found this video on the YouTubes and it shows quite graphically what can happen when stupid people are let behind the wheel.

Unfortunately – as is evident from the comments below the video – stupid people seem to outnumber the rest of us.

Honest John’s Motors

ArthurDaleyThe current Mrs M has bought herself a nice new car.

This meant that she needed to sell the old one, of course.

Not being one to want to faff about with a constant stream of visitors wanting to take test drives, and looking for a quick sale, she thought she’d give WeBuyAnyCar dot com a try.

So, having done some research on prices of similar cars of similar ages and condition, she entered all the details into the WeBuyAnyCar website and was pleasantly surprised when it offered her a price pretty much around what she wanted and expected – £1850. Of course, this was all subject to a proper evaluation, so she booked an appointment with our local WeBuyAnyCar office – a portacabin in the corner of Currys’ car park.

On the day, I took the car up for it’s appointment, as Mrs M was delayed at work. I presented the chap with all the paperwork and details of it’s full service history by a local Vauxhall dealer. And both keys. Then, armed with his clipboard, he took a walk around the car, checking things over, before we went back to his ‘office’, where he offered me eight hundred and fifty quid.

A thousand pounds less than what the online quote had offered!

And on top of that, there was a £49.00 admin charge!

When I queried this new offer, he explained that the car wasn’t in as good a condition, as had been entered on the online form. Really? Trust me, there was nothing wrong with the condition of this car. Yes, it had a few very small scratches and marks, but nothing more than what you would expect from an eight-year old vehicle. In fact, for its age, it was in a bloody good condition.

He also pointed out that the mileage was higher than had been stated: Mrs M had put 56,000 down. It now read (two days later) 56,020.

I politely told him that I wasn’t interested and walked out.

Dejected, Mrs M said “Fuck it, I’m gonna stick it on ebay”.

Within an hour, it had forty people watching it and then, four hours later, it was sold. The following day a chap came round to collect it and, having given it a once over, he paid the full asking price of 1850 quid without a quibble… in used twenty pound notes.

OK, I know WeBuyAnyCar is a business and needs to make money but, by offering less than half of the car’s true value?

Seems a little unethical to me.