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!

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.

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.

Best laid plans

Today at work, I have been out and about.

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

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

I’d only gone two junctions!

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

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not the most productive of days.

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.

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.

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.

Having a shit

toiletDropping the kids off at the pool; negotiating the release of some chocolate hostages; bombing Porcelain Harbour; curling one out; taking a dump.

It’s a natural bodily function. We all do it (apart from Her Majesty The Queen, of course). It’s nothing to be ashamed of.

But we do it in private. Because that’s the polite thing to do.

Cleaning up after oneself is also the polite thing to do.

I’ve mentioned it before.

But, it amazes me sometimes, the mess some people leave behind (when I say ‘people’, I mean ‘men’, as I rarely venture into the ladies loos nowadays).

Many is the time I have stood over the toilet at work, trying to piss away someone else’s skid mark.

Even though, there is a bog brush at the side, some people just can’t be bothered.

Today, I walked in to the loo and judging from the smell, it had only just been vacated.

Wow! What a stink.

It made my eyes sting!

I lifted the lid with trepidation and was met with a heavily soiled pan, despite it having been flushed.

I cleaned it as best I could, but I just hadn’t had enough to drink.

But what distressed me even further, is that when I went to wash my hands, it was quite evident that the previous occupant hadn’t: the sink was bone dry.

How can someone make a mess like that and not even wash their hands afterwards?

I know I’m forever having to drum the importance of hygiene into my kids, but have I got to do it with adults as well now?

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.

Rage Hard

H1The roads haven’t been kind to me this week and I’ve spent a lot of time just sitting in the car.

Monday – Awful journey on the M25. Because it was a Monday. And it was on the M25

Tuesday – Bloody horrendous journey. My normal 90 min journey to Dartford took 3 hours, thanks to an accident causing a 12 mile tailback.

Wednesday – Journey home ruined by a broken down lorry closing one lane of the M1

Thursday – Uncharacteristically busy for a Thursday morning. Ahh, a BMW and  Range Rover had a coming together and we all wanted to have a look.

Friday – A VW camper van caught fire, closing two lanes of the motorway.

In an effort to to quell the raging anger that bubbles within me, just waiting to erupt with a loud “Tsk!”, whilst I sit motionless for hours on our roads, I’ll sometimes put some music on and have a good ol’ sing-along.

Often, I’ll change the words for rude ones.

Because I’m immature.

Over the years, I’ve amused myself greatly just by changing the word “heart” (which is so common in many a tune) for the word “arse”.

There are so many songs where this transposition works so well. Unfortunately though, I can only remember a few:

As Elton John sang to Elkie Brookes “Don’t go breaking my arse”

“Shot through the arse and you’re to blame, you give love a bad name” belted out  Jon Bon Jovi.

And Bonnie Tyler had a Total Eclipse of her arse whilst Tony Bennett left his backside in San Francisco… which was all rather careless.

But, my favourite has to be Sinatra’s “I’ve got you, under my skin… I’ve got you, deep in the arse of me… So deep in my arse, you’re nearly a part of me…”

Well, it helps me while away the time.

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.

Trolley Dolly Folly

easyjet-1I flew up to Edinburgh t’other day, on business.

It was the earliest morning flight out of Luton and the SleazyJet plane was half empty.

Business men and women (and me) were spread out throughout the aircraft, with many of us having a row of seats to ourselves… which was nice. One or two were reading books, but most of us had our noses in the complimentary newspapers.

When the hostesses did their little safety demonstration, I put my paper down and paid attention.

I paid attention because it was polite to do so.

I’d already checked where the exits where and I’d spotted the low-level lighting on the floor. And I’ve been on enough planes now to know where my life jacket is stowed and how and when to inflate it. And I know it has a light and a whistle to attract attention. Which is lovely.

So, I know all that already, but I pay some attention, because I’ve been politely asked to.

But when I looked down the cabin, I could see that I was one of only a handful of people who were actually paying any attention.

It must be quite demoralising for these hostesses (and stewards) to stand there, going through all that rigmarole, day-in, day-out, trying to do their job professionally, whilst knowing that no-one is paying bugger-all attention to them.

So come on people: we know you are all seasoned flyers and we know you’ve seen it all a dozen times before, but surely you can spare two minutes away from the gossip pages to pay a little attention to someone who is just trying to do their job… and don’t forget, they are doing it for your safety.

It’s just courtesy, if nothing else.

I’ll put a spell on you

DSC_5925As you both know, I love a spelling mistake.

Let me rephrase that.

As you both know, I hate spelling mistakes.

I also have an annoying penchant for pointing them out to people.

At work, we have a weekly meeting where we review the previous week’s successes and failures.

A report showing a million fact, figures, graphs and various metrics is displayed on the large screen at one end of the room and we painstakingly go through pretty much most of them.

But, there is a spelling mistake on one particular graph, where it shows “Incomming Jobs”. I spotted it in my very first meeting, but I didn’t mention it… as I was the new boy.

But now, several months in, I have decided that I’m going to have to.  It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else – or, maybe not being as anal as me, they just haven’t noticed it – but for me, my eyes go straight to it.

Every time.

And it rankles me.

So, I’ve decided to get it sorted… just for the sake of my own sensibilities, if no-one elses.

And once that’s done, I shall try to remedy the one on the fire escape door downstairs too. That doesn’t seem to bother anyone else, either.

DSC_0011Meantime here are a couple I spotted recently, that I thought I’d share.

The photo at the top is a van on the A13 (I think it was) Surely, being able to spell is a major requisite of a sign-writer’s job?

And this one I took yesterday in a store.

Finest quality coffee, maybe… not so sure about the mugs.

Enslaved

phoneFollowing on from yesterday’s little moan about mobile phones, I thought I’d mention another thing about them that annoys me.

I was on a course a couple of weeks back… just for a day.
An introduction to project management, if you must know.

Now, in the old days, when we used to go on courses, when the instructor stopped for a break or for lunch, everybody would get up and go for a walk to stretch their legs, or they’d go outside to grab some fresh air… or have a fag.

But, we don’t do that anymore, I noticed.  On this course, when the instructor reached a suitable stopping point and announced that we would be stopping for a half-hour lunch break, nobody got out of their seats.

The first thing we all did – and I include myself in this – was to get our phones out and check for missed calls/texts/emails. Most of us would then spend the next ten minutes responding: either talking or tapping away at our tiny keypads, before actually heading over to the tray of dry cheese sandwiches perched on the windowsill.

The mobile phone is a marvelous invention and the ability to send and receive emails and such on it, is wonderfully clever and very useful sometimes.

But, our inability to turn the damn thing off when we are away from the office; when we are on holiday or at the pictures or down the pub, means that we are not just slaves to the technology, but to the workplace also.

We’re watching you

ServerLike most large companies nowadays, the water board (where I work) has a big IT department.

And like most – I should say all – IT departments, they are rightfully very cautious about stuff that goes in and out of their systems.

As such, I have fallen foul of their Big Brother firewall on several occasions already.

The first time was in the first week, when i sent an email to my old mate Spratters, who used to comment here under the name of Arthur Pewty. I just wanted to let him know my new work email address. I started the email with our usual greeting to each other “Allo, you ol’ bugger!”. The firewall bounced it back and listed my email address as sending offensive mail.

I made a mental note not to make that mistake again.

A couple of weeks ago, I searched the office in vain for a 4-hole punch. I decided it would be easier if I just bought one in town at the weekend. So, I did an online search to find out how much a cheap one would cost me. Racking my brains for the name of the large stationary shop in the mall, I remembered it was called PARTNER. When I entered this into the address bar and stabbed at the return key – without looking up from the keyboard because my typing skills suck – I saw the the BB fiewall had blocked access to the webpage and had listed my user ID as trying to access an online dating website.

I made a mental note to be more careful with web addresses.

Then, last week, I failed to receive an Excel spreadsheet that had been emailed to me several times. Turns out, the over-zealous BB firewall had rejected it because it contained the word ‘stopcock’.

The water board banned from using the word ‘stopcock’ in it’s own internal communications?

Now, that one made me laugh.

Owning the road

RoadrageI left for work yesterday morning at my usual time of about 6.30

I drove up Humberstone Road, with several cars ahead of me and a Range Rover behind me. We were all driving slightly faster than the speed limit, in an attempt to get to the traffic lights before they changed.

Looking in my mirror, I noticed the Range Rover had veered out behind me and was now driving on the wrong side of the road, as if he were about to overtake me. “What’s this twat doing?”, I thought.  He pulled back in behind me as we all reached the lights and turned right toward the motorway.

Now, the sliproad onto the motorway starts as two lanes and very rapidly goes down to just one. The logical, obvious and civilised way is for all the vehicles to merge into the single lane in turn: one from the right, one from the left, etc.

The cars in front of me were doing this and dutifully, I dropped back slightly to let a car from the right-hand lane pull in front of me.

Twat in a Range Rover was close up behind me though and obviously had no intention of doing the same. A silver Astra to the right of him was indicating to be let in, but Twat in a Range Rover wasn’t having any of it and kept his speed up to prevent the Astra from coming over.

In the end, the Astra forced his nose in, not having much choice as he was rapidly running out of road.

Twat in a  Range Rover started sounding his horn and flashing his headlights and making wanker signs at the Astra driver.

Like he was in the wrong.

This twat in a Range Rover was fuming… and all because another car had managed to get ten feet in front of him.

He needs to use his rear view mirror more: to take a good hard look at himself and his driving etiquette.

Twat.

Besides, he doesn’t own the road. I think he’ll find the current Mrs Masher holds that particular claim.

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, but…

doggieYesterday, I went up to Wigan and then on to Liverpool.

No, this wasn’t a holiday… it was work related.

However, I can’t really mention it here due to commercial confidence… or summat. Anyway, trust me: it’s nothing exciting.

But, as I strode the streets of Liverpool, I noticed something that I haven’t seen in quite a while.

Dog shit.

I traversed three separate streets and saw dog mess on all of them.

Seeing doggie do’s on the pavement is quite a rarity, nowadays, I find.

Most dog owners are responsible enough to either clean up after their dog, or to not let it do it’s business there in the first place.

But it seems that there are still those that think it is OK for their dog to foul the pavement.

Obviously, the possibility of receiving a fine, means little to these owners. They know that the chances of getting caught are minimal

A recent scheme has been started, where dog owners allow a sample of their dog’s DNA to be taken. The idea is that any dog poo found on the streets can then be sampled and analysed and traced back to the dirty dog that did it.  This is all very well, except that it is a voluntary scheme and so regular offenders are somewhat unlikely to volunteer their dog to be put on a DNA register.

My suggestion is somewhat more Draconian.

The death penalty.

Bring back hanging. Just for those owners who allow their animals to defecate in our streets.

It would only need one person to get caught and all the others would seriously think twice about letting their dogs mess up our roads.

It might seem a rad harsh, but I bet it would work.

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.

Photo Friday

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

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

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

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

Sausage, egg, chips and an Animus, please

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

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

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

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

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

It’s all part of a film set, see.

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

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

Proper Hollywood film stars!  On our manor!

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

I’m sure they can edit that bit out.

Induced

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

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

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Day

last-dayToday is my last day at work.

For the past six years, I have travelled up and down the country (well, countries, really: England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Don’t know why I never made it to Wales) for work.  I have stayed in more Premier Inns than Lenny Henry is ever likely to and, as a consequence, spent far too much time away from my family.

And that’s the reason I’m packing it in.  The company I’ve worked for have been really good, but the nature of their business means that engineers have to go to where the work is… which, for me, has meant a huge amount of travel and staying away. And I just can’t do it any longer.

Of course, having a mortgage, several mouths and two petrol tanks to feed, means I can’t just jack it all in and sit around all day watching Loose Women and Bargain Hunt.  So, I’ve got myself another job, which I start in a weeks’ time.

It’s a bit of a departure from telecoms, which is what I’ve done for the past 35 years, but I’m excited and looking forward to trying out something different, with new challenges. Being able to come home to my family each night is a Brucie Bonus too.

No more trying to help the kids with their homework over the phone; no more looking at the Beefeater menu and thinking “Shall I have it medium-rare tonight… just for a change?” and no more having to get up at stupid o’clock on a Monday morning so that I can be in some God-forsaken place up north by 8am.

So, where am I going? What is this new job of mine?

Well, H²O is where it’s at. Yes, I’m going to work for the Water Board – and only people of a particular generation would call it that – (that’s you lot, then).

So yes, exciting – and slightly moist – times ahead.

Where’s my bloody speedboat?

PILennyAs I’m sure you are both aware, Premier Inn offers a Good Night Guarantee to its paying guests. We’ve all seen Lenny Henry burying his fat face into a pillow ready for the best sleep he’s ever had.

I’ve recounted some of my many, many stays at Premier Inn over the years on this very blog, but, despite the occasional bad night, I’ve never once invoked the GNG clause.

In fact, I tend to make a bit of joke of it. “Are you aware of our Good Night Guarantee?” I’m usually asked as I check-in, despite the fact that I am paying with a Premier Inn Business Account card.
“Yes”, I’ll say, “if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I get all my money back.

And a holiday in the Seychelles.

And a speedboat.”

But as I say, despite the odd sleepless night, I’ve never yet asked for my money back. Not that it would benefit me if I did, as the company I work own the account.

Now, on Monday night I stayed in Huddersfield. No problems with the hotel or the accommodation: big comfy bed and when I hit the sack – knackered as I was – I was fast asleep within seconds.
Five minutes later though, I was awoken by the sound of the fire alarm… and crikey, them things could wake the dead!

I lay there wondering if it was a false alarm, which it must have been, because 30 seconds later it stopped.
I rolled over and easily fell back into my slumber, dog-tired as I was.

A few minutes later it went off again and again I lay there listening to its high-pitched, two-tone warbling. Thankfully, it stopped after about half a minute.

This time however, I couldn’t get straight back to sleep – maybe I was half-expecting it to go off again, I don’t know, but it took ages before I dozed off again.

The following morning, the receptionist apologised as I checked out. All down to a guest having a shower and the steam setting off the smoke detector.

Apparently.

Last night I stayed in Stafford. Unbelievably, I was once again dragged from the arms of Morpheus by the godforsaken racket of the fire alarm in my room… only, this one had a bright flashing light as well!

I buried my head under the blanket and waited for it to stop.

It didn’t. Wearily I fell out of the bed and threw on a t-shirt and some trousers, slipped my feet into my trainers and headed out. The corridor was full of guests all wandering around, looking dazed and bewildered, seemingly not sure of what to do. God help us if there really was a fire.

I headed out the fire exit and into the car park where there was already a crowd of people standing around in pyjamas, dressing gowns and in various guises of night-time attire.

It was about midnight and we stood there for 15 minutes or so, shivering, whilst the hotel staff frantically ran in and out trying to find someone who knew how to shut the damn thing off.

Eventually, the right key was found and we were all allowed back in. It took me ‘kin ages to get back to sleep though.

This time it was all down to a guest using an excessive amount of body spray.

Apparently.

Again, I didn’t bother with the Good Night Guarantee, but if they send me one of those “How was your stay?” emails, I’ll be letting Lenny have it with both barrels.

That Nescafe moment

VillagePeopleBikerThis week, I have been working down that London again, at a data centre on the Isle Of Dogs.

Just around the corner from the data centre is a small row of houses and flats. Nestled amongst them is a small betting shop and when I saw this, I was instantly reminded of something that happened there many years ago, back in the late eighties.

I was working for BT, on a project installing satellite dishes for the four main betting shop companies. On this particular day, I had been sent to do a survey at this very bookmakers.

I arrived there with my cohort, Mark. “This looks like an easy one”, I said as we pulled up outside. “You may as well wait in the car. Won’t take long”. Mark was more than happy to oblige and settled himself down for a snooze whilst I made my way into the shop.

“It looks like a flat roof”, I said to the manager, having completed my internal survey of the premises. “How do I get up there?” He directed me toward some stairs that led up to the flat above.

“Just knock”, he said. “I know he’s home today. Nice bloke, he is”.

I made my way upstairs and knocked on the door. It was opened by a young chap, a bit older than me, with blond hair. I explained why I was there and he welcomed me in and led me up some stairs where I then had to climb out of a small window to gain access to the roof.  “Would you like a tea or a coffee?” he asked.

“Yeah, a cup of tea would be nice, thanks.”

“I’m afraid I only have coffee”, he smiled.

“That’s fine”, I said, “Coffee, black, no sugar, please.” and he scurried off to put the kettle on.

I finished my survey on the roof in about five minutes – it was definitely one of the easier ones we’d had – and climbed back in through the window and made my way back down the stairs. My coffee was sitting on the table, ready for me and the young chap returned from the kitchen clutching a packet of biscuits.

We sat and talked for a while. I noticed a crash helmet sitting on the side and there were several pictures of classic motorcycles adorning the plain white walls. Having a common interest, the banter between us came easily as I sipped at my coffee whilst he told me about the classic bike club he had set up with a few mates.

The coffee was dark and strong and had a strangely sweet taste to it. I’d drunk about half of the cup when I started to feel a bit strange… a bit heady.

I decided it was time to leave, but when I stood up to go, I came over all dizzy.  “He’s drugged me!” That was my first thought. “I need to get out of here!” was my next.

I quickly bid my farewell and made my way to the door, trying to walk as normally as possible while the room was slowly spinning.  I had visions of waking up butt naked and bent over his kitchen table with my hands and feet tied. I couldn’t blame him: I was young and pretty and fit… hell, I even had abs back then!

I staggered down the stairs as quickly as I could and got into the car, rousing Mark from his 40 winks. “That was quick. Everything OK?” he asked, looking at me strangely.

“Drive”

“Huh?”

“Just drive!”

He drove.

Looking back on it now, I doubt there was anything untoward happening. I daresay he was a thoroughly decent chap who just made coffee that was way too strong for my insipid, tea-loving palette.

But then, there’s always the slight chance that I was just one espresso away from being gang-raped by a bunch of gay, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be

memlnI’ve been working down that London this week and it has been a right, royal, pain in the arse.

Major roadworks on the North Circular (they’re rebuilding a bridge or something?) has led my Sat Nav to take me on a magical mystery tour through the city. Of course, the North Circ isn’t the only road in that London to be undergoing major roadworks… they all bloody are!

It feels like.

From the end of the M1 to Bermondsey – where I am working – is only about 12 miles going straight through the middle of town and yet it takes at least an hour and a half… and that’s at six-thirty in the morning!

And what’s the point of that damn Congestion Charge?  There is just as much traffic and it is going just as slow as anywhere else, yet now I’m paying £11.50 a day to sit in it!

Anyway.

Anyway, my journey home yesterday took me up the Edgware Rd and I missed the turn-off for Staples Corner/M1 because I was in the wrong lane and no-one would let me over. To get anywhere in that London you have to drive like a git… but I’m too polite for that.

Tsk, tsk, I thought. Oh well, I’ll carry on up through Burnt Oak… it’s been a while since I’ve been that way.

My family hails from that way, see, and when I was younger we would often go there at the weekends to visit grandparents and the like. As such, I’ve always felt an affinity for the place; a sense of belonging… even though we moved away when I was just two-years old.

And as I drove through there yesterday, memories flooded into my mind.

There’s Nan & Gramps’ flat. They used to wave to us from that window when we drove home. Or was it that window there? Hold on, which flat was it….?

Ahh, and that’s where the butcher’s shop was. One of my earliest memories was of my nan taking me there one day. I remember it having actual sawdust on the floor and I recall being fascinated by the weighing scales. Of course, it’s not there any more. Now it’s a haberdashery shop. Or maybe it’s that shoe shop.  Or is it that overpriced mens’ suits shop?  It was definitely along here somewhere.

Ahh, now, here’s Watling Avenue.  I can remember walking up and down that road with my mum so many times. It had every shop you could think of. Anything that you wanted, you could get down “The Watling”.  I glanced down the road as I drove past it. It’s been taken over by the Indian community now and no longer has the diversity of shops that made it such a joy to visit.

And just along here we have the very first Maplin shop I ever visited. Oh… it’s gone.

Here at the junction with Deansbrook, is Rex Judd’s motorcycle shop. I used to spend hours in there, just looking and dreaming. My dad bought his first motorbike from there and I bought my first one from there too. It’s long gone now and the shop has been bulldozed and replaced with a gymnasium.

And finally, we pass Edgware General Hospital which is where I was born.
Nope, that’s where mum was born. I was born in Kingsbury, up the road. I think.

Oh, I dunno, I give up.

Fifty Shades Of Meh

FS tieThe kids have been away at scout camp this past week. A week in a field in Great Yarmouth with twenty kids…. those scout leaders deserve a medal… or at least a badge.

Of course, with the little darlings being well out of earshot, Mrs M and I thought it would be an ideal opportunity for us to spend some quality (adult) time together – a somewhat rare occurrence nowadays.

Unfortunately though, I ended up working away from home all week – not such a rare occurrence – and so it was not to be.

Last night, I got home from work, absolutely knackered, following a five-hour drive, to find that Mrs M was keen to make the most of what free time we had left. She’d booked us a table at a local restaurant and had had her hair done and was looking all rather splendid.

I quickly showered and changed and we took a leisurely stroll to the eatery, where we had a lovely meal and a couple of glasses of wine.

Back home, to give us time for our food to go down and to maybe help get us in the mood, Mrs M put on the DVD of Fifty Shades… which I have never seen or read.

What a load of rubbish. I really can’t see what all the fuss was about. Maybe it’s a girl thing, because it really did bugger all for me.

And it’s a longer film than we’d realised too. By the time we went to bed, sleep was the only thing on our minds.

The kids are back home tomorrow, so Mrs M and I have have one last chance tonight to make the most of it.

So we’re going to the pictures.

Yellowjack!

ambulanceMrs M took a phone call in the office yesterday afternoon.  It was from a member of the public, saying that she had found a postman collapsed in the street.

Being only a couple of streets away from the office, Mrs M legged it round there. It only took a few minutes for her to arrive and she found said postie laying sprawled on the ground.

He wasn’t breathing and he had no pulse. Luckily, Mrs M is a trained First Aider and immediately started to administer CPR, whilst calling for an ambulance at the same time.

It took five minutes for the ambulance to arrive and the paramedics then took over, having to shock the chap to bring him back.

Of course, Mrs M has received much praise for her actions from both the ambulance crew and her colleagues at work. She undoubtedly saved his life.

But the question that has everyone puzzled, is: why did the woman who found him, not ring for an ambulance instead of the local Royal Mail office?