To let

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the smokers might complain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy breather

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

He diagnosed me as having asthma.

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

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

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

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

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


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

Hooray! At last!

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

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

And a CAT scan.

And another CAT scan.

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

What I do have is bronchiectasis.

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

He also gave me some breathing exercises to do.

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


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.

Hazard lights: best motoring invention ever.

Close shave

Having a shave is a pain in the arse.

Which means that I’m probably doing it wrong.

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

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

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

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

Load of rubbish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lasts me three months that lot does.

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

Happy Friday!

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

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

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

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

Could have happened.

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

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

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

High expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I want to be an astronaut, sir.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

And neither of those worked for me.

From father to son

Today, I have taught Harry how to solder.

They are studying electronics at school and each pupil has been given a small circuit board and some components to solder on to it.

Unfortunately though, they have a limited number of soldering irons and by the time Harry’s turn came round, they had run out of time. Harry told his teacher that I do that sort of stuff and asked if he could take the board home to do it, and his teacher agreed.

And so, this afternoon, after school, he sat down at my bench and I showed him how to solder. Some people never get the hang of it and I have seen some atrocious soldering jobs over the years. But, I have to admit, Harry made a pretty good job, for his first attempt. Probably, I’d wager, better than my own first go at it when I was roughly his age.

My dad showed me how to solder. However, the kind of soldering dad did, was with big heavy wires onto big heavy switches and the like. As such, he had a big heavy iron. We could have used it as a cricket bat, I reckon.

But, working with electronics requires more intricate tools and a steady hand… and timing – leave that iron on too long and delicate components can get damaged.

Soldering is a skill and – after doing it for forty years – I like to think I’m quite good at it.

The little circuit we built today was very basic, but I really enjoyed building it with him.

As homework goes, it was probably one of the better ones for me to help him with.

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 decolletage, 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.


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 drives 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 advanced, but the end result is much the same.

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.

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.


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

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

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

That leaves  shopping.

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

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

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

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

Just checking my offshore accounts

We have just left the Cayman Islands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know how she does it.


Yaah man!

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

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

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

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


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

Seems nice enough.

And we are now on a boat.

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

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

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

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

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

Not sure what they are telling me there.

I can’t see any Dolphins

Our flight was long and uneventful.

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

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

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

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

Roll on breakfast.

Leaving on a jet plane

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

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

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

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

Outta here

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

Because we are going on holiday.

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

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

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

Right, I’m glad that’s sorted.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Motorway madness

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

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

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

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

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

Until there is a problem.

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

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

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

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

Because this has happened several times before.

Including yesterday morning.

And again this morning.

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

Because someone forgot to open up the bloody hard shoulder!

Sorry, I have a code

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

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

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

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

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

So far.

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

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

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

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

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

After only half an hour of playing with it.

I’m sure I would have figured it out.


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

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