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?

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.

Theatre Review: Penn & Teller UK Tour

In a dramatic re-interpretation of the rules of this month’s challenge – in which I am going to fail, anyway – I thought I’d do a review on a show I saw on Sunday.

Live at the Hammersmith Apollo (or the Eventim Apollo, as it is now called), the American magicians, Penn & Teller, wowed 3000 of us with their zany, off-the-wall brand of magic.

Watching it with my mate, Paul, we couldn’t fail to be impressed. In a turn around from their TV series, I’m pleased to say that Penn & Teller fooled us.

At least some of the time.

The silent Teller is the real magical maestro of the pair – a fact that Penn Gillette will readily admit – and his sleight of hand skills are unsurpassed.

The trick with the goldfish: Wow! I was amazed when I saw it before on TV, but seeing it live on stage, just a few metres away from me, left both me and Paul even more impressed.

And we know how they got the lady’s phone inside the dead fish, but we can’t agree on how they managed to get it under someone else’s seat.

It was an excellent set from the pair and a thoroughly enjoyable show, marred only by having to sit through it all in an uncomfortable sweat, due to there being no air-conditioning in the theatre.

And afterwards, they waited outside the theatre to greet their fans and have selfies taken with them.  A nice touch.

Film Review: Wonder Woman

We saw this yesterday, as part of a Father’s Day present – followed up with a meal at Chiquito’s, which was all rather splendid.

So, Gal Godot stars as our eponymous heroine, and really, what’s not to like there… on Father’s Day?

Set during WW2, we see Wonder Woman grow into the fighting machine that she is: strong, fast and with lightning reflexes and yet still with her femininity intact. And of course, fabulously shiny hair.

Introduced to the war by an American British spy (played perfectly by Chris Pine of Captain Kirk fame), she and her little band of misfit soldiers save London from a terrible fate… and she defeats a naughty god whilst she’s at it.

The epithet ‘Wonder Woman’ isn’t yet attached to her in this movie, and I guess they are saving that for a later installment. I do hope so, because this film was the best thing to come out of the DC Universe studios for a long time, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing the next one.

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The smell of the greasepaint

Hathi_JrYesterday evening, we went to see Harry’s end of term school play: a slightly revamped version of The Jungle Book.

Eleven year-old kids are bloody rubbish at acting, aren’t they?

Yesterday proved that much, as child after child read out his/her lines in a stilted monotonous voice, with no pausing or intonation or characterisation.

All except for Harry. He was excellent.

Of course.

Easily, the best of all the elephants.

I reckon.

But by far, the best one there was the kid playing Kaa the hypnotic snake. Enveloped in a purple sleeping bag with attached spots, he slithered his way across the floor and had us in stitches as he swerved and swayed around, putting all the sibilance he could muster into his voice.

But, I’m glad we didn’t have plays when I was at school. Up on the stage, in front of people, is not for me.

Another thing I’m glad we didn’t have, is the school prom. Like Trick Or Treat, a relatively recent American import that costs parents a small fortune.  Mrs M has bought Harry a suit for the occasion and he looks very smart in it, but he’ll probably only get to wear it once, before he outgrows it.

And he’s told me he won’t be dancing with any girls. Because – as every body knows – girls smell.

I’m wondering how long it will be before he realises that they can sometimes smell quite nice.

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.

Those that can’t…

boy_scouts_-_troop_leaderToday is my wedding anniversary.

By curious, lucky coincidence, it is also that of the current Mrs Masher.

As such, we would normally celebrate it jointly, such as we did last year.

But tonight, I’m home alone, whilst the kids are at Scouts and Mrs M is out, knocking back lattes with her bestie.

Last week, I too was at Scouts.

I was teaching them Semaphore.

And Morse Code.

And the Phonetic Alphabet.

And they seemed to really enjoy it.

It was the first time I’d ever done anything like that – standing in front of a class – but I really quite enjoyed it too.

I can see now why people go into teaching.

Imparting knowledge on to others is really quite rewarding.

I’ve been asked if I might be interested in going back and teach them some basic electronics.

You know what… I just might.

28. A Favourite Song From The Last Decade

JackoI got nothing. Again.

So…

I can’t remember how long it took, but a while later, Jacko was back on his feet and the concert was re-scheduled. Of course, they honoured our original tickets.

Mrs M and I duly went along, this time with other members of her family, as the original lot weren’t able to make it this time round.

Following on from what had happened to Mrs M previously, we chose to sit down in the seating area, rather than in the crush in front of the stage.

And I was very happy with our seats. Having got there reasonably early, we managed to get a spot quite near to the stage and just off to the right, affording us a very good view.

I don’t remember a support act playing this time round, but what I do remember, is that when MJ came onto the stage and started his first number, everyone went wild: standing up from their seats and shouting and screaming and waving their arms.

I stayed seated, waiting for everyone to sit down again.

But they didn’t.

Everyone remained on their feet.

For the whole set.

What is the bloody point of having seats if you are not going to sit in them?

I wasn’t happy anymore.

And, classical music aside, I’ve never been to another concert since.

Nerdfest

ddrcbootYesterday, I went to the annual Dunstable Downs Radio Club bootsale.

As I do every year.

Whilst there, I was pleased to meet up with Dave, a ham friend of old, who is just too damn clever for his own good. I find Dave’s enthusiasm for radio and electronics so inspiring and I always enjoy spending time at his place, talking geeky stuff over a cup of tea and a biscuit. Unfortunately, he lives just far enough away for me to be unable to make more frequent visits.

I also met up with Alan, a mate who I met through ham radio back in the eighties. Since he moved down to the south coast, we’ve been unable to keep in contact via the radio, but we’ll keep at it. And there’s always the twisted pair to fall back on, I s’pose.

Following a pre-arranged meet, I finally managed to put faces to voices as Dave and Paul from the Saturday afternoon local net, wandered over and introduced themselves.  Having spoken to them for hours over the past months, it was good to properly meet them for the first time.

And then, whilst casually wandering down the final row of trestle tables, loaded up with what Mrs Masher refers to as “a load of old tat”, but is actually really useful stuff (honestly), I bumped into Chris. Chris used to live near me and we would often chat on a couple of walkie-talkie type radios via the local repeater before his job required him to move away oop north. We’ve not been in touch for about twenty years, so it was really good to make his acquaintance again, brief as it was.

The sun shone throughout the day, I met up with some old mates and I managed to get a couple of bargains.

Best Sunday I’ve had all year.

Mad as a tree

Geocaching-LogoFor several weeks now, I’ve been keen to get my Open Sesame geocache back out there. But things have conspired against me – the inclement weather being just one of those things.

Due to the nature of the cache, the opening mechanism doesn’t work too well in the cold weather and so I tend to bring it in for hibernation over Winter, replacing it in the Spring.

Anyway, it was playing on my mind last night and so, with just an hour of daylight left, I fitted it with some new batteries, got in the car and drove five miles up the road to where it was to be hidden. From there, it’s a further ten minutes of brisk walking to the final hiding place. Most of it uphill.

Sweating like a bastard, I pushed my way through the growing vegetation and replaced the box back in it’s hidey hole.

Emerging from the woodland and walking back down the winding path, I passed a young couple making their way up the hill. We exchanged greetings as we passed and I found myself wondering whether they might be fellow Geocachers, actually on their way to find my cache. How cool would that be?

So, once they had rounded the bend at the top, I turned round and started making my way stealthily back up the hill. If I saw them disappear into woods at the same location as where I went in, then that would be proof positive and I would go and introduce myself. If not, then I’d just turn back and carry on down to the car.

The light was fading fast and as I made my way up, I could hear them talking, as the young lady had quite a loud voice. Then suddenly it went quiet. I surmised that they had indeed left the path and had gone into the woods and so I quickened my pace so I could catch them up.

Suddenly, the voices were back and it was evident that they hadn’t gone into the woods, but rather had turned round and were now heading back toward me. I wasn’t going to look like a friendly, fellow Geocacher to them now: I was going to look like some lunatic stalking bloke who had turned round and followed them surreptitiously up the hill.

Which is exactly what I had actually done.

Quickly, I turned round and legged it down the hill as fast as my 39 year-old legs would carry me, hoping I could make it to the next bend, before they rounded the one behind me.

I managed to get round the next bend OK, but by now gravity had got the best of me and I was struggling to slow down.

My foot slipped on some loose earth and I went arse over tit, coming to a stop a little further down.  I lay there for a few seconds: nothing felt broken or sprained, thank heaven. Grass stains and scratches were the only testament to my fall.

The voices were getting near again and so I gathered myself up and continued down the hill, walking as quickly as I could.

I arrived back at the car, puffing and panting and looking like I’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

Geocaching is meant to be a gentle sport.

I’m obviously doing it wrong.

 

Children are alright…

masher doodle… as a concept.

Of course, we all love our kids to bits, don’t we?

They enrich our lives and bring joy and boundless love to our hearts.

But isn’t it fucking great when you can occasionally get rid of them for a few days?

My two are at Scout Camp this weekend, thereby allowing the current Mrs Masher and I to do what we want, how we want and when we want. And at half the price too!

Last night, we went to see Bastille Day at the pictures – an enjoyable action romp – and followed that up with a face stuffing session at Nando’s.

Today, we are going out for a meal with family and – unencumbered by kids who bore easily in adult company – we’ll be able to stay out as long as we like.

And get pissed.

And tomorrow? Well, who knows. The world is our lobster, Terry.

The only downside to them not being here this weekend though, is that they will miss my birthday, which, as Google reminded me this morning, is today. They were keen not to miss my ‘special day’ so I have agreed to move it to tomorrow afternoon, when they return home.

So, my real birthday is today, my official birthday is tomorrow.

I doubt Google will pick that one up.

Newbury Racecourse

The Imperial State Crown: Cullinan IIToday is Mrs Queen’s 90th birthday.

Funnily enough, last week, I was in her box.

She has quite a capacious box, actually.

But, it was surprisingly austere.

Just like you’d expect a rich old lady’s box to be.

Simple but quite roomy.

With lots of pictures of the Queen Mum Gawd Bless Her on the walls.

I was hoping that maybe she had accidentally left her sparkly hat behind.

But no such luck.

Sun bronzed Adonis calling

14595080273491334761480 This post comes to you from the Caribbean.

Because that’s where I am.

On holiday.

And man,  is it hot!

We’ve been parasailing.

We’ve been jet skiing.

We’ve been geocaching.

We’ve lazed around in the sun (the shade,  in my case) and we’ve all eaten way too much…  because the food here is fantastic.  If I don’t come back two stone heavier,  I’ll be most surprised.

It’s currently 7 in the morning and I’m availing myself of the free WiFi in the hotel lobby.

Never tried to post using my phone before,  so I hope this works.

See you all in a couple of weeks.

I’ll bring you back a stick of rock.

Maybe.

The country where I’d quite like to be

essi-poystiA couple of weeks ago, I went to my cousin’s birthday party. Actually, it was a joint party for him and his wife, as they are only a couple of months apart agewise.

Anyway, John is six years older than me and was always a bit of an inspirational figure for me when I was a teenager, as he was a bit of an electronics whizz kid, something that i was getting seriously into and saw as a future career.

I remember being round his house one day (well, his mum and dad’s house). He’d just passed out of university, I think. The half-built digital clock that he was making, sat on a tea tray strewn with electonic components and bits of wire and was pushed to one side whilst he took a break,lounging on the sofa, reading a Spiderman comic and listening to Hawkwind through an enormous pair of headphones.

I had never been able to do that – and still can’t – I find if I’m listening to music, it distracts me from whatever else I’m trying to do. I can’t read and listen. I can’t build and listen. And if I do have music on in the background, it has to be so low as to be nearly inaudible and certainly not being blasted through a pair of headphones. Driving is maybe the only thing that I can do whilst listening to loud music.

Anyway (again), John always liked rock music… and still does, judging by what was played at their party.
His son, is lead guitarist in a band and very good he is too: good enough to be touring with T’Pau when they next hit the road on their comeback tour. In fact it was rumoured that Carol Decker may make a surprise guest visit to the party… but she didn’t.

The band (not T’Pau) played at the party and were quite brilliant. Their rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love was as good as any I’ve heard!

But the other attraction at the party was the attractive, tall, leggy blonde in the red dress, who was attracting the eyes of most of the men. Turns out she was Miss Finland.

Miss Finland 2009.

Seven years out of date, but that didn’t stop many of the blokes queueing up for a picture with her.

I hasten to add that I didn’t have my picture taken with her. To this day, I still get terribly shy around beauty queens.

Going soft

fieldsI had a day out in the field, yesterday.

Not an actual field, of course.

I try to get out of the office at least one day a week, and I like to go visit the guys at the sharp end, those blokes out in the streets, digging holes; laying pipe; fitting meters; dealing with customers.

I’ve found that it’s very easy for us to sit in our meetings, poring over data and complaining about what we get back from the guys out there doing the actual physical work. Which isn’t really fair. We don’t always know the issues they might be having, or the constraints being placed upon them, for whatever reason.

And so, I decided that before complaining about them, I should walk a mile in their shoes… or safety boots, to be more exact.

And each time I have been out, I have thoroughly enjoyed my day.  The guys have been accommodating, the weather has been good and I’ve learnt something each time.

And yesterday would have been no exception… except that it rained. And an icy wind blew. And as I stood in this street for several hours, just outside Reading, clad in my bright orange PPE, my feet froze, my hands went numb and I got absolutely soaked.

At the end of the day, I sat in the car with the heater on full, shivering with cold.

Thanks to the wintery weather finally arriving, it was not such an enjoyable day.

I’ve decided that next week, if it stays like this, rather than have a day out of the office I might just sit down with a cup of tea and look out of the window for a bit.

Blog meet!

shaking-handsI had a busy day yesterday.

I changed the ball valve in the water tank in the loft, as it was continually running. Not quickly, but enough to be annoying.

I also changed the valve in the toilet cistern, as that had stopped closing correctly and was causing the overflow to permanently drip.

I fixed the Sat Nav in the car. Not true actually. But I spent quite a while on it before figuring out what the problem was.

And I cleaned the car… because it needed doing. Not only do the birds in my tree drop their load on it, but so do the ones in the car park at work.

I went round my sister’s, as it was my niece’s birthday.

And then I met up with Dave -AKA Kennamatic – he of uptheworks fame. And what a splendid fellow he is!

We met in a pub in Harpenden and a very pleasant couple of hours passed, as we put the world to rights over a couple of pints of shandy and a packet of crisps.

Because that’s the way we roll.

Despite never having met before, we both knew each other pretty well, having read each other’s blogs for as long as I can remember. So, for me, it wasn’t like meeting a stranger, but rather a friend I’ve just never met.

But I do hope that we do so again, one day.

Oh, and his write up of this meeting is so much better than mine!