Thursday, December 31, 2009

Spam Spam Spam

No, not a post in rememrance of the Monty Python tea, good though they were. Rather, it appears my blog has picked up a spamer or two in the comments. Up until now I have not moderated comments but I think I will need to begin to. I don't know what most of the spam means as it appears to be japanese spam - I wonder what japanese spam is and if you can make sushi out of it?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Like Me Like Me Not

The world sometimes amazes me with how ironic it can be without even trying. In the same 7 day period a major rugby star admits to being gay and Uganda introduce laws to make homosexuality a crime which can even carry the death sentence.

It is a mark of how far society has moved on that Gareth Thomas seems to have been besically supported for coming out. Yes, if you go on some forums you can find the gay bashing statements, but the overwhelming line has been that this doesn't affect who he is. And rightly so to. If you respected him before, if you thought he was a good player before, then you should now no matter the label. Of course, if you thought he was a poor player before then again keep your opinions. But don't let a label change how you think.

And then we look at Uganda. Where you can be imprisoned for being gay. In fact you can be imprisoned for not dobbing on someone who is gay (for those not of native english, "dobbing" means telling on and is not a reference to a sexual act!). A country with so many problems and yet they decide to highlight homosexuality. That's putting your head in the sand if anything is.

I've never had any problems with idea of people being gay. Hell, I went to boarding school, it's something that you get used to happening around you! But the thing that proves it for me was something I discovered when I was at vet school. You see, it turns out that there are "gay" bulls, "gay" stallions, "gay" rams. It is natural. It happens. It is not odd, we are designed so that a proportion like the same sex. It's just how it is.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kate On Tour

I've just got back from seeing Kate Rusby at the Warwick Arts Centre. Absolutely wonderful. She's singing carols, but not those that you'll hear in church, these are ones she has grown up singing in yorkshire pubs. Or so the story goes, and I'd like to believe her.

It was wonderful but also slightly weird. Weird in many ways.

First, it felt weird to all be sitting listening to this fantastic music. I couldn't stop my feet tapping anyway but I wanted to be up dancing. Sittting listening to classical is one thing, but this was demanding movement, and singing along, but we couldn't (well ok maybe I did some singing along).

Second, Kate herself is a bit weird. Weird because in between songs she almost seems like a nervous teenager. She has a makes southern Yorkshire accent. She talks as though you are in her living room. She stands holding her hands together. You could almost believe it was her first time. And then, and then she sings. And this ethereal beautiful voice soars out into the auditorium. And it is just something else. This is not a voice that needs a mixing desk to get it right. This is a pure, breath taking sound from the angels.

Thirdly, concert over. I decide to use the gents before drivng home. I do so and am washing my hands when a voice says something along the lines of "well if it isn't insert-my-name-here". I look up and it is the past president of a work association. Now I must admit I am not good when caught by surprise. Even by friends. I am even worse when the thoughts running through my head are "I can't shake hands necause mine are wet - I didn't shave before coming out - I'm not in my work suit - last time I spoke to him he was trying to get us to sponsor something" etc etc.

All in all a great but slightly surreal night.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ten Pygmies Farming



Unashameably stolen from Pignuts posting

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Worlds ???Favourite??? Airline

If you want to get people on your side then striking over Christmas does not seem the best way to go about it. But that is just what BA cabin crew are doing, affecting up to 1 million people, from December 22nd to January 2nd.

Apparently BA staff are paid twice as much as Virgin Airlines. Now, I don't know about the airline industry, but a general rule seems to be that Virgin pay their staff well, so I assume that BA staff are on a very good deal. It appears that the cabin service director of a long haul flight earns £56k a year. Is it any surprise then that BA feel they need to reduce the number of cabin crew. It would seem to be that or to reduce pay. BA are losing money, they need to do something.

At least one occassional reader of this blog will probably come back at me on this, but I have never understood stirke action. Take a beleagured company and make life even harder for it, yes that sounds such a good idea. In the case of BA, a company that is floundering will now have a high percentage of its customers driven away to other airlines. People who have lost their savings and not been able to go on a long anticipated holiday will not fly BA again. Business men will think twice of flying with BA if there is a risk that they might strike. So BA is plunged into further troubles. In the case of Corus, they need to close a plant because it isn't making money. Striking will cause the company more problems and then lead to increased threat to other jobs elsewhere in other plants.

They say that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well there is also no such thing as a free strike. Those striking, and their colleagues, will always end up paying in the long run.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saltimbanco Trailer - Cirque du Soleil

We're going to see this in the summer of 2010 - and I am so excited

Or Colbie and Jason

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Or How About Some Taylor and Colbie Together

More Duffy

It's the mood I'm in -

The White Tiger - Aravind Adiga

I bought this book simply becasue I had already picked up two with a "3 for 2" sticker so I needed a third. It has sat on my "To Read" shelf for probably 6 months. I took it to Brussels with me on Wednesday because I needed something and the next James Bond book I have is a hardback so not great for travelling. I finished it on the flight back on Thursday. Really wuite a rivetting read.

Hard to describe its genre. Fiction yes. But not humour, not thriller, not horror. A social comment on India, maybe. A commentary on one man dragging himself up from the poor oppressed masses, yes. Strangely it talks about escaping from the rooster coop, this is strange because the Terry Pratchett book I just read has a very similar concept, the crab bucket. Its a comment on how those around you will actively stop you clambering up to escape from the gutter.

The style is strange. The White Tiger is writing to the Premier of China to explain about how entrepreneurship works. The White Tiger sees himself as an entrepreneur. And wants to explain what is good about India. The story develops over about 7 nights of letter writing (I won't say why it is at night that the letters are written). And you are sucked into the life of Munna, later known as The White Tiger, learn more about him, from his childhood in the darkness and how he finds an escape. The style is strange, but it works.

Recommended.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sunday, December 06, 2009

70's Coke

How the world has changed:



You just don't get such simple ads now.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Merlin and Arthur Singing "You're The Voice"

Unseen Academicals

This is really a follow-on from the previous posting but, as you may not read the comments, I have decided to give it its own little posting.

Terry Pratchett agrees with me, but puts it much better when referring to the press by getting a character to say "I seriously think they think that it's their job to calm people down by first of all explaining why they should be overexcited and very worried".

Bang

The media can be very misleading. A story running on the BBC this morning is that a man has been shot in Manchester for a laptop. This has the effect of making you think "gosh, scary world, where you can be shot for something so small with such a low market value". The story is running on the tickertape at the bottom of the screen and was mentioned four times in ten minutes. Only once did they explain the entire story, which is that the man was shot for £10k and a laptop. A very different story. In fact the laptop is probably a complete red herring. This is a fine example of just how the media presents the world in a scary, frightening manner in order that we all feel insecure. Why would they do that? Because it makes you watch more news, you want to be sure that the ravening hordes aren't coming down your street.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

West Wing Night

We are currently watching "West Wing", season 2. Now, this is the third time in as many years that we are working are way through the entire 7 series. I have to wonder whether it says something about us or something about the state of current television that I still believe that the West Wing is the best thing I can watch at the moment. It is humorous, it is philosophical, it tackles hard subjects, and it is pacy. The characters make you bond to them. Everything about it screams at you that this is a classic. Everyone should watch it - they will understand more about politics, they will understand more about how the world works, and they will laugh while doing so.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whoosh

As yet another evening seems to have disappeared I am lead to wonder if I simply need a better grasp of time or actually of reality in general.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleepy

Can anyone explain to me how a childs sleep patterns are dictated by weekdays vs weekends? I had to get up early on Saturday, around 0630hrs. I wasn't fully out of the bedroom when there was my daughter standing in front of me. She was awake and refused to go back to bed. I had to leave her playing on her computer rather than disturb mummy. Fast forward 48 hours. I get up at 0700hrs. I move around, I bang doors, I shout. By 0715 she still hasn't stirred out of her bed. When she does come down she can hardly see her way because her eyes are still closed. I can't get a word out of her because she is so tired. How does that happen? What is it in the air of weekends that make them get up?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Silence Please

We just watched "The Secret of Moonacre". Now, I would not actually recommend that you went and got it unless you have a 7 year old daughter but it had its remarkably perceptive moments. Such as when one character observes "suddenly seems .... very quiet" for another to reply "that would be the absence of the ladies then sir!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Listen Up

It's no wonder I am not blogging as much, that there is a dearth of information here. For I have been seduced. Now, before you all run around spreading rumours, it is not quite as you may think. You see, I used to be a sensible boy. And every morning driving in to work, every evening returning home, I would listen to Radio 4. I was being educated. I was finding out about the world (well, and the Archers, but the principle holds true). But now, oh dear. Seduced I tell you. As my new car, my wonderful new car - did I tel you I have an Audi A5, oh, I did, OK on with the tale then - my car has a DAB radio. And no more do I listen to Radio 4. No, Absolute Radio has taken over, won a place in my world. I keep meaning to go back. My hand hovers on the dial (well the steering wheel controls anyway) but then something happens and I hesitate. And in the hesitation I am lost once again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

En Garde

I bought Wii Sports Resort the other day. Thought it might be fun. And it is. But the SwordPlay mode is almost addictive. As well as being excellent exercise! I've worked up as much as a sweat as I get in the gym. Three different variations on sword fights. The first is very reminiscent of Gladiators, for those of you who can remember the giant cotton buds that they used to hit each other with. In this case you have a sword and you are trying to push your opponent off the podium in to the sea. Then a variation which is about speed. Objects are dropped in front of you (giant sushi, logs, hard boiled eggs etc) and you ahve to cut them in the direction indicated. Then the final version is you against on-coming hordes and you have to battle your way across the bridge, along the beach etc. And all very samurai with music to suit. Wonderful.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pedal Power

Part of our new found love of bikes was to start biking to rugby matches. There have been two home matches that we have been able to attend since this decision. Both we biked to. And for both the heavens decided to open and absolutely pour on us. What was probably even more galling today was that at half time it stopped raining. There was even blue sky. And it stayed that way until the final whistle. In fact until we walked out from the stadium. And then it started raining again. Not only raining but winds that could blow you off your bike. Can't say that "A" really enjoyed the ride back. But all credit to her she stuck it out. And I had to feel sorry for her, so cold.

Plus, it was all worth it. The Saints were playing the Saracens. The Saracens had a 100% unbeaten record. Until today that is when we hammered them!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Big Bang Theory

We went to watch some fireworks tonight. As many have. My daughter, all of 7 years old, is quite happy with the loud fireworks. Possibly, like me, she feels the louder the better. And there were some good, loud ones. Then one went off that was pretty, very pretty, but also quiet. And this voice floats up from my daughter, in an inredibly serious tone, "well that was never going to be good in my opinion".

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ball in

Midweek on Radio 4 this morning had Lawrence Dallaglio as a guest. During the trailer earlier in the morning Libby Purves wanted to wrap up the sound bite with a funny comment, as the presenters often do. I wonder if she really thought it through though, when she made a reference to it being a scrum and that she wanted "to be the hooker".

Cheese

I cannot believe that it is Wallace and Gromit 20th anniversary. I feel old all of a sudden.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Take This Sabbath Day

Should you find that the world, and whatever God you believe in, isn't listening to you then remember this parable from The West Wing:

You remind me of the man that lived by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to rush up and flood the town, and that the all the residents should evacuate their homes. But the man said, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me." The waters rose up. A guy in a rowboat came along and he shouted, "Hey, hey you, you in there. The town is flooding. Let me take you to safety." But the man shouted back, "I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me." A helicopter was hovering overhead and a guy with a megaphone shouted, "Hey you, you down there. The town is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety." But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God will take him to safety. Well... the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter he demanded an audience with God. "Lord," he said, "I'm a religious man, I pray, I thought you loved me. Why did this happen?" God said, "I sent you a radio report, a helicopter and a guy in a rowboat. What the hell are you doing here?"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ask Not

I am no lover of the BNP or of Nick Griffin. I fact I find them fairly abhorrent. However I don't think that the BBC can be criticised for having him on Question Time. They have been condemned for giving him credence, for acknowledging him. Unfortunately the system has already done that. It wasn't the BBC. If it is legal for the BNP to run in elections, if the BNP can have members voted successfully as MEPs, then we have to recognise them. We can ask oourselves why, we can wonder why lessons haven't been learned previously, we can despair. But we have to open our eyes and see that people are voting for them. We have to see that somewhere our society is messing up so badly that ordinary people think that it is right and necessary to give their vote to the hatred.

The BBC has helped us face up to our fears. This is correct, we should not bury our heads in the sand. We cannot ignore what is happening. But we can expose it for what it is and remove the gloss that lies over it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mr Herriot!

What an interesting day. Long, and I now wear the unmistakeable odour of "vet" which I have not had for many years. But interesting.

I went to spend a day out with a "real" vet, ie one still in practice rather than being in industry. Normally this means I am able to lean on gates, chat to the farmer, ask the vet a few sensible questions, then go home. It was clear from the start that this particular vet thought I should get my hands dirty. The second visit was to a calving. Except it turned out that it was going to have to be a caesarian. Just as I was about to say "great, I'll grab my camera and get some photos" I suddenly saw a gown being thrown toward me and heard the vet telling me to scrub in. For a moment I thought he was joking, but the look on his face was enough to know he wasn't. So soon I found myself elbow deep in the abdomen of a cow, something I haven't done for about 9 years. Later, on another farm, I was to be found kneeling in cow s**t, collecting ejaculate from a bull. This is something I studiously avoided doing while I was in practice, so was a real shock. And I promise you, just looking at the electro-ejaculator would bring tears to your eyes.

It was all great fun. I don't want to go back in to practice, but I really enjoyed the day.

And one of the farmers was an ex-Spitfire pilot. How amazing is that!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Slow Down

A friend sent an email to the Highways Agency complaining about the variable spped signs on the M1, and that they were almost INvariably slowing down the traffic. The following is their response, and my comments are after!

Thank you for your e-mail to the Highways Agency Information Line today and thank you for taking the time to comment on our Variable Message Signs (VMS). The Highways Agency values the feedback we receive from the travelling public as this is our primary source of identifying how effective our signs are at keeping drivers informed.

On the busiest parts of the motorway network, VMS are set using an automated system called MIDAS (Motorway Incident Detection and Automatic Signalling). MIDAS uses sensors in the road to detect incidents or congestion and then automatically sets advisory reduced speeds (e.g. 60, 50, 40 mph) and warning messages (e.g. Queue Caution) on VMS.

MIDAS has a number of functions, principally safety related with queue protection being one such example. The system provides advance warning to drivers of the formation of queues on motorways, warning drivers who are approaching the back of queuing traffic. Sensors in the road surface detect slowing traffic speeds and electronic signs advise drivers to reduce speeds as they approach the scene. These messages remain until the traffic flow returns to normal and it can appear that the message is incorrect because there is no queuing traffic when you arrive at the scene.

There is also a secondary benefit to reducing the speed of vehicles approaching queuing traffic. Reducing the volume of traffic in an area of congestion means the congestion clears quicker. The result is that the traffic approaching the area where the congestion was will no longer be delayed in their journey by the congestion.

During changing traffic conditions (such as when congestion is dissipating or an incident is being cleared) there is a time lag between traffic returning to normal flows and MIDAS switching off. This is designed to prevent MIDAS switching on and off at regular intervals in stop/start conditions. In addition, MIDAS often detects slow moving vehicles (usually heavy goods vehicles on hills) and advisory speed limits are set automatically, although this may not be obvious to other motorists.

Should you have any further questions about the above issue(s) or any other Highways Agency related issue(s) please do not hesitate to contact us again via e-mail or telephone us on 0845 7 50 40 30.


So, do I think that I might have some comments. Apart from struggling to believe the MIDAS system even exists, how unsuitable is traffic flow to try and automate!

I love the fact that MIDAS will switch off once the flow returns to normal. But the flow can't return to normal if MIDAAS is on because it is telling us to go slowly. The only way flow can return to normal is for us all to think f**k this for a game of soldiers and start going faster than the signs tell us.

They even recognise that to ease congestion you need to reduce the volume of traffic. So how does slowing us all down, meaning that we spend longer in the zone, actually do that. Cars are approaching the zone at 70mph. Therefore the feed in is fast, but the flow through is slow. If I turn on taps and the water coming in is faster than that going out of the plug do you think my bath might overflow. Doesn't take a great mind to see a fault in their logic.

If feedback from the pblic is the primary source for them to identify how effective their signs are, do you think that they will now have identified that they are completely ineffective.!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

On Your Bike

There's a new poster in the mens locker room at the gym. It is of a beautiful brunette sitting on a bike exerciser in a long red flowing dress that covers the saddle area. She has a very big smile on her face. The strapline is "more pleasure, less pain".

Now do I need to get my mind out of the gutter or does anyone else see an innuendo there!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Shining Star

I am placed in a dilemma. I am a Conservative. You have already worked that one out from previous posts haven't you. So I should be pleased that The Sun has switched allegiance from Labour. This should be good news, after all it will bring a raft of new voters (like it or not The Sun has historically been shown to have great influence). But, I would have to say that this is good news through gritted teeth, as this also means my views reflect those of The Sun. Which is terrible. Unbearable. I may have to become a Lib Dem. No, actually, nothing is that bad. {Merlin gets ready to be pelted by rotten tomatoes}

Hear Ye Hear Ye

Some things can really bug me, probably to a disproportionate level. One of those is heard on the morning news, not infrequently. It is when a news item starts "x is to announce today that y will happen". Typically where x is a politician or political body and y is a new document or position paper or policy. This bugs me not because I disagree with the y (whatever it is) but because if it is a news item in the morning then IT IS ALREADY ANNOUNCED!!!!!!!!!!! The infomration is out there, in the public domain becasue we are being told about it. x can't then announce it, all they can do is explain it in greater detail. Arrgh

Monday, September 28, 2009

Amnesia

I heard something on the news this morning that I wanted to blog about. I nearly sent myself an email as a reminder (from work to home, not quite as mad as it sounds) but thought I didn't need to. Now I realise I did need to as I ahve absolutely no idea what it was. This is not good, old age is setting in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crash and Burn

If you want an example of how money corrupts then look no further than sport at the moment. The bloodgate incident was a shock in itself. That a rugby player would have a blood capsule on his person to bite into if he needed to come off to allow a replacement on is bad enough. That the physio then cut the players cheek so there was a wound is even worse. But this pales into insignifiance when viewed alongside Renault and the F1 crash. I can't work out if Piquet himself suggested crashing in order to help his team-mate, or whether it was a Renault idea. Whoever thoguht it up should have known better, and no-one should have agreed to go along with it. The number of people put at risk is unimagineable. So for Renault to get off with a suspended sentence is a joke. It shows that the industry is more concerned about money than the rights and wrongs of an action. Clearly motor racing has always been a sport fraght with danger, but that doesn't mean that anyone should get blase about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Swimming Time

Yesterday I went to see the fish ladder in Pitlochry. This was a lot less exciting than I imagined. I thought that this ladder would be designed to allow the salmon to exhibit normal behaviour, jumping their way up the river. Instead it is a series of square pools interconnected by little tunnels for the fish to swim up. This year there have been 3496 salmon making use of the system, but I didn't see any. I return with netter knowledge as I know how it works but also disappointed.

I also have images of all these salmon meeting up in the oceans. The Alaskan salmon regale the shoal with stories about how they escaped grizzlies, outmanouvred eagles, traveled great waterfalls and generally lived the wild and adventurous life. What are they going to think of the Scottish salmon who then explains how they negotiated the great terrors of the concrete tunnel!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Meatloaf

There is a great hooha brewing over a school in Kent. It appears that the Lydd Primary School started rearing livestock. When the time came then "Marcus" the wether lamb was sent off to become lamb chops. A number of people including some celebrities seem to think that this is terrible.

I think the headmistress deserves applause for going through with it and not accepting money from a certain Mr O'Grady who wanted to buy the lamb. The children had it all explained at the beginning what was going to happen. In fact they were allowed to vote at the end. This was set up by the school as a lesson in where food comes from. It would have been a travesty if the final deed had not been carried out. Too many children (and adults for that matter) do not understand where meat comes from. They don't associate the pack in the supermarket aisle with having come from a living animal. This is the true injustice to the animal as it means people don't treat food with the respect they should.

These children will grow up with a better understanding of food, and farming, and that should only be encouraged.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Faster Than The Speed Of Light

Broadband promised to unite the world with super-fast data delivery - but in South Africa it seems the web is still no faster than a humble pigeon.
A Durban IT company pitted an 11-month-old bird armed with a 4GB memory stick against the ADSL service from the country's biggest web firm, Telkom.
Winston the pigeon took two hours to carry the data 60 miles - in the same time the ADSL had sent 4% of the data.
Telkom said it was not responsible for the firm's slow internet speeds.
The idea for the race came when a member of staff at Unlimited IT complained about the speed of data transmission on ADSL.
He said it would be faster by carrier pigeon.
"We renown ourselves on being innovative, so we decided to test that statement," Unlimited's Kevin Rolfe told the Beeld newspaper.
'No cats allowed'
Winston took off from Unlimited IT's call centre in the town of Howick to deliver the memory stick to the firm's office in Durban.
According to Winston's website there were strict rules in place to ensure he had no unfair advantage.
They included "no cats allowed" and "birdseed must not have any performance-enhancing seeds within".
The firm said Winston took one hour and eight minutes to fly between the offices, and the data took another hour to upload on to their system.
Mr Rolfe said the ADSL transmission of the same data size was about 4% complete in the same time.
Hundreds of South Africans followed the race on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.
"Winston is over the moon," Mr Rolfe said.
"He is happy to be back at the office and is now just chilling with his friends."
Meanwhile Telkom said it could not be blamed for slow broadband services at the Durban-based company.
"Several recommendations have, in the past, been made to the customer but none of these have, to date, been accepted," Telkom's Troy Hector told South Africa's Sapa news agency in an e-mail.
South Africa is one of the countries hoping to benefit from three new fibre optic cables being laid around the African continent to improve internet connections.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Voiceless

The man doesn't show even an ounce of nerve. Challenged to a debate, yet again Brown ducks and weaves without giving an answer. His entire leadership style is based on avoiding a direct reply to a problem in the hope that it will be forgotten because something else comes up. And in some ways it works. Something else does always come up. That's what happens when you lurch without making any decision. But each time he fails to show courage, fails to stand by his convictions, then it is another mark against him. Both Cameron and Clegg are willing to take part in a TV debate, what is Brown so scared of? This was a position that Brown hankered after for so long, and yet he will go down in the history books as an also ran who couldn't make his mind up, most remembered for bringing us into a recession.

{I was planning on postng this a few days ago but a few connection issues got in the way}

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Home Comfort

It is somewhat strange being home. Sleeping in a warm bed with a comfy mattress rather than on the hard ground. Having a shower available whenever it is wanted. Putting food in the oven rather than handing over meal vouchers. Real coffee. Alcohol. And what is even stranger is that I am not sure I really missed any of them that much. Yes, lying in a tent wondering if the wind is about to rip it from the ground isn't great. Hearing rain pattering on the canvas and thinking that the shift is going to be a wet one isn't wonderful. But, as a way of life, it isn't bad. There is a lot to be said for the simplicity of a tent.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Round Up

Last night was a rather brief sign off, I was too tired to do anything else, but now I am home I can round up the Greenbelt weekend a bit.

Last night itself was a fairly normal evening. We had some evictions to do, but nothing too difficult. In fact the worst of them was someone who we spotted again later, but this time with a wrist band. It seems he was trying to make a point, however I made the point that we check for passes and evict those without them simply because we are trying to protect those who have paid and who just want a good time.

There was a moment of confusion when a team radio'd in to us that they were mobile again. Zippie took the call, but misheard. So he thought they were reporting in mobile phones being charged in the Grandstand. A five minute rather confused conversation then took place over the radio, with me trying to signal the tell him it was mobiles not that they were mobile.

So, a couple of medical calls, a couple of youths breaking in, a bit too much alcohol here and there (interestingly, I felt that there may have been more alcohol on site but there were less alcohol related incidents), basically the usual stuff.

Considering all the weather forecasts I saw we were extremely lucky, the occassional drizzle but no real rain to speak of, even when it was all around us, the racecourse stayed relatively dry. The wind is possibly another issue. I normally wear a hat at Greenbelt, but not this year, it would never have stayed on.

The team were as awesome as ever. Their understanding of when to joke and when to be serious is part of what makes it so good. We can have fun and enjoy ourselves but the moment something serious turns up then they can switch to the correct mode to handle it. Invaluable. The also have an amazing ability to anticipate where the problems will be. I think that this can be put down to three things. First is that we place them in roughly the right areas when we know things are going to be busy. However, the areas are still large, so the second is that they listen to the radio and consider the implications of conversations so that they are moving in the right direction. Thirdly, but probably most important, there has to be a certain amount of steering from God, just to keep us on the right track. The only real problem with this is that it means the level of challenge for Zippie and myself is rather low now, and I do need a challenge to keep me interested.

We had a few people shadowing us this year which was good. I specifically want to say that we were not actively poaching but were approached by stewards interested in the Support Team. I hope they enjoyed it and they were all welcome. We have so many in jokes that I sometimes worry we can appear a clique. However, it seems that the team see new blood as a new excuse to tell the stories again, so no-one seems to be kept out of the loop for long.

We issued the team with pedometers this year. A bit of a competition to see who walked the furthes. Ignoring the people who shook them up and down in their hands, or who jumped on the spot, it appears that our team walk approximately 8 miles over the 8 hour shift (the record was 10 miles). Armed with that information I dread to think how far we used to walk as Night Security at Castle Ashby or Deane Park but, even so, that in itself deseres a round of applause. Thank you all.

End Of

It's over. Considering how, on Wednesday morning, I couldn't get motivated to come here, it has gone incredibly quickly. I have left the team to go to the beer tent (having learnt that it is best for me not to be there worrying about them) but the last shift is finished and Greenbelt 2009 is finished, except for the packing away of tents.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Hole Problem

Reports this evening of some locals breaking in through the fence. From the description of where given over the radio I know exactly where it is. It has been used before. A team were dispatched to check it out. Once there they inform Control that there is a hole on the fence. To which Control ask "what kind of hole". I think the team can be forgiven for taking a breath before answering "for someone short of stature". They were then asked if they were still in attendance. While the answer seemed simple enough, basically no because there was a fire truck parked opposite, this then seemed to turn into a prolongued debate about what kind of fire truck it was.
In other news, it was reported that Huggy, Handbag and Chris were all seen running. To be more accurate, in the case of Chris at least, this involved full power but as it was uphill nothing much happened. Exactly how running fits with the normal operational plan for escorting off site is not exactly clear, but I understand that a last minute swerve was required in order to avoid actually catching them and thus invoking extra paper work.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

On tenterhooks

Whoops, 4 am and I just woke my daughter up. Have you any idea how difficult it is to get into a tent quietly! All those zips and things. Anyway, I think it was only a brief break in her slumber.
There are a lot of tents at Greenbelt. Of the twenty thousand or so people attending the festival, the majority are campers. A few always manage to lose their tents. Being asked to help find a green tent among a sea of green tents may not rank highly as a favourite pasttime for stewards. So to be volunteered to drive not one but two lost campers when the only thing they can really tell us ia that the tents are not together wasn't an ideal way to end the shift. To be fair, the guy wasn't too bad, but the woman rraly has taken out the book on dizzy blondes. {An aside, these two knew each other from university fifteen years ago, and they didn't know they would be here. How's that for coincidence}. Driving around the curfew campsite she was more interested in offering us muffins (no euphemism intended), trying to sing us a song, and asking what nickname she would have if she was on our team (Happytalk comes to mind). Anyway talking so much that she completely misses her tent despite us asking if she recognises anything, so we end up having to so another sweep. She fails to understand why we can't drop her in the middle of the campsite in the middle of the night with no idea where she is going. No, somewhat like Mastermind question, once started we must finish. And, I am pleased to report that, after a false start when she opened the wrong tent, we did get her back safely.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cold Thought

There are a lot of reasons I come to Greenbelt. Ignoring the "it's what I always do" one which might suggest something of a rut, I meet with friends, I get to do something very different to my every day, I get challenges that push me beyond my comfort zone. I also get a chance to reflect, to think. About myself, about humanity. Sometimes those reflections are happier than at other times.
This year there is an ice sculpture sitting out on the grass. It is a cube about three foot by three foot by six foot. Inside it are crosses, rossaries, a model of Jesus. It was beautiful, not so much because of how it looked but because of the thought behind it - that over the weekend it would gradually melt and these items would be released. The ice was clear and it shone. When I came across it last night my heart lifted.
But humans are a destructive species. We are yet to learn our lessons, and maybe never will. By this morning this cube tells a different story. Instead of the elements doing their work, and maybe a warm hand making a fleeting impression which will vanish as the surrounding ice melts, the cube has been attacked. The column on the top has been broken off. People are chipping away at the ice to get at the buried treasure. The ice is no longer crystal clear, it is now fractured, stress limes running through it. Instead of smooth molten surfaces there are jagged edges and holes.
Maybe it has turned into more of an analogy than it's makers ever dreamed off. It tells the story of how we let greed blind us to beauty, and how our desire for personal gain means that we deny others the chance to see something that can touch their soul.

Boing

Tonight is the first proper nights work. By that I mean that the Greenbelters are here having fun so we really are looking after them. As for the last couple of years we have a sweep through the campsite in the early hours of the morning to make sure everyone ia settling in, there are no problems, and to just highlight that we have an effective security presence. Again we get to use the golf buggies but, to my disappointment I end I driving the 4x4 and give others the chance to drive the buggies. And they are so much more fun, but it is good to share the experiences and two new drivers had a great time (although moments of concern when decaff couldn't find reverse).
A rather surreal moment, or half an hour in fact, when the main topic in the radio was of a stolen kangaroo. Of the inflatable and not the live type. It was the mascot for the organic beer tent and they were very upset to have lost it. Luckily another of our team found it being carries through the catering area. It was amazing how many people volunteered to take it back, I am sure not swayed by the thought of what the reward might be.
And yes, we may work late hours, but walking back to my tent at four in the morning I get to see a shooting star. How lucky am I!

Friday, August 28, 2009

First Night

Yes, the first night is over. After a hectic day I am settling into my sleeping bag - last nights hotel a distant memory. I. between two training sessions we managed to put up my tent, the wind being less, well, windy basically. Knd of ran out of time for anything else though so not unpacked. I have my sleeping bag and that is about it. Hopefully tomorrow after the mornings training session I will get time to come back and sort it out.
The training went well. We give the stewards some role plays and try to make it all as interactive as possible. It's strange how the dynamics of groups can be so different. Some get a lot more amdram about the role plays than others. The irony of telling stewards to loook after themselves and then realising at 1800hrs that I haven't eaten anything does not escape me. But then I have always seen an irony in telling them not to overdo it, when I full well know that I used to do 23 hours a day when I was a younger steward, and the one hour of sleep was spent in the steward tent just in case something came up. On the plus side it makes me well qualified to say how silly it is, if for no reason other than the drive home at the end.
And then we got the team out for their shift. The first night should be quiet as it is really stewards stewarding other stewards, no campers yet on site. So more a chance to familiarise themselves with the site. This seems to involve quiet a lot of familiarisation with the layout of the tea urn and biscuits. We can afford to cut them some slack though, after this it gets harder and they may not see a cuppa all night. The idea of the Support team is to be able to fill in wherever neede. Tonight saw a first when two were left in charge of Front Desk. Whether we ever will be again remains to be seen but, for the record, I can categorically state that it was not me who put the pig, the sheep and the cow on top of the panelling (clearly stuffed cuddly toys and not real farmyard animals).
When our team are not gainfully employed - in other words being kept running around site - they do seem to create there own amusement in weird and wonderful ways. I still haven't worked out how a theological discussion degenerated to the point of one of the team being a satanist. I do however think that the slaughter of virgins in a Monday night is a terrible waste of virgins.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Chalk It Up

So up and awake, standing outside Rymans. I need to buy a flip chart for the training. I've got the easy job, Zippie has to find a room for us to use. If you're starting to get the impression we aren't fully organised then you may be right. I've been working at Greenbelt for approximately 21 years and yet it always sneaks up on me. Which I have to say seems indredibly ungrateful of it considering my dedicated service! Instead of a flip chart I may try a magic white board (as seen on dragons den woo woo) although not 100% convinced they will work.
While I am up I suspect the others are having a lie in and making the most of hotel facilities. It felt so wring to be in a hotel. I am completely off kilter now.

GB Not GBH

What can only be described as a fairly inauspicious start to Greenbelt this year. Now, in the last week I have driven past Cheltenham Racecourse four or five times. Each time the weather has been poor veering towards miserable. So trying to summon up the sheer willingness to set off this morning wasn't easy. Home was sunny, I could already see from comments on Facebook that Cheltenham was not only NOT sunny, but was also windy. Wind and my tent do not go well together. It's fine once it is up, but for the last two years it nearly took off with someone holding on to it as we were erecting it. So I was not encouraged. Finally I set off, about 4 hours later than I had planned. And just as I arrived in Cheltenham I got a phone call from one of the team. They had been trying to put up a tent and it just wasn't working. They were giving in and going to find a hotel for a night. I got to the racecourse to meet them and sure enough it was a strong wind. Plus it had started to rain. I couldn't exactly ask for help with mine could I. Add to the mix that I had to write a training presentation for tomorrow (I had my previous stewards training session on a USB stick that blew up about 6 months ago, I thought I had back up but it turns out I didn't, or at least not somewhere I could find {although, now thinking about it I may just have realised where} so I got an old version off someone else but it needs tweaking) and the battery was running low on my computer. All in all I felt that the fates were conspiring and a dignified retreat to a hotel was called for. I just remembered why, for a few years, I hired a caravan. Anyways, it feels completely wrong to be at Greenbelt and in a hotel. Hopefully tomorrow will see the tent going up (inbetween running training sessions).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Destroying Dreams


It's sad when we make our children grow up too quickly. When their quirkiness is seen as a problem rather than something to be enjoyed. When we forget that our children can remind us how to live.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yellow

You have to wonder what we did to deserve him don't you. The man who wrote a book called "Courage" seems perfectly able to comment on the deaths of Jade or Jackson, feels he needs to pop in niceties about sports teams and music stars, is able to show concern about "Britains Got Talent", but he is completely incapable of making one sensible statement about Lockerbie. Even when he does finally speak he doesn't actually say anything. In fact, anything that is trivia and "happy", then he is jostling to the front of the queue, but when real issues strike up then he is nowhere to be seen. There is a wringing of hands, a washing of the blood, a finger pointed at another saying "it was them", but no evidence of courage and a willingness to be counted. He was trained well by Blair.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Doctor In The House

I feel sorry for these poor doctors who thought they had passed, only to later be told that the results were wrong. It must have been a horrible experience. After almost 20 years I still have nightmares about not passing my exams (this is the honest truth) where I dream of standing in front of the noticeboard and seeing "Fail" next to my name. It is such an intense time, so much pressure, and seeing a pass is an amazing sense of relief. To have thought you were clear and then get dragged back doesn't bear thinking about.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lightening McQueen

And yet again he knocks over another world record. The guy is unstoppable. But you ahve to wonder how he came to have a surname like "Bolt" don't you? Talk about written in the stars.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Student Days

Right, last night I said I had things I wanted to say but was too tired, so I had better get on with it tonight. Unfortunately have kind of lost my thread a bit, but here goes.

Student loans have raised their head again. At a time when households are having problems with money it was revealed that a student can expect to leave university with £23000 debt. There is some argument that this isn't true debt, in the way that credit cards are debt. It gets paid off through the pay packet and can get wiped out if not paid over time. However it does cause students stress, and does hang over people. Personally I am incredibly grateful for the fact that student loans didn't exxist when I went through university, and I realise that I was incredibly lucky.

But I believe the real problem is that we are now at a stage where everyone thinks that they have a right to go to university. This all started a long time ago, with polytechs striving to be rebranded, and Labour saying that they wanted everyone to go to further education. Now, I do beleive that it is incredibly important that everyone goes to school and has a proper education, that they learn to read and write properly (and not just emoticons) but that is not what university is for. University should be about learning particular skills for a job (OK, you might call it a vocation but it is still how you earn your living). And not every job requires people to go to university. We have done our youth a disservice by placing the ideal of university above things like apprenticeships. Rather than sending everyone off to do Film and Theatre Studies we should be giving them other options such as learning to become a plumber or an electrician - both as essential to our lives as a veterinary surgeon.

What we shouldfocus on is making sure eveyone has a future and can make a living for themselves and theeir family. We do not all have to be equal, in that we must all go to university etc. We have a right that we will be supported by our society but that support can be different for different people. We should not try to force round pegs into square holes simply becasue we think that everyone should be square.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Whew

I ought to blog. I have things to say. But I don't have the energy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Long Distance Haul

Can someone tell me where London ends? Because it seems to be stretching further every day. Yet another airport is now billing itself as "London", this time it is London Oxford. Anyone who has been to either London Luton or London Stansted already knows that these are a signficant distance from the city itself. No commuter in their right mind would pick either of these if they wanted London for the day. And using either of these two I have previously wondered how they get away with the "London" tag. But Oxford, a beautiful city with great history and heritage, why would that even want the tag of "London". It doesn't make much sense.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Getting Catty

I was planning a blog on a story about a man who is blaming his cat for downloading 1000's of porn pictures to his computer. After all there have to be some jokes and puns hiding in there. However I am currently experiencing some major problems with my wifi connection. I don't know whether to blame Virgin Media or the computer itself. Actually hoping it is Virgin as they are coming out next week to upgrade me to 50mb anyway. If it is the computer, and please god don't let it be the computer, then I have to go back to Yoyotech and I am not sure I have the energy to do that. Anyway searching the web for corroboration of stories is currently not possible, so signing off for now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Speak Clearly

I've been asked to fill in a quick customer survey. In moving to the new computer I had a problem with Photoshop. Now Adobe did a good job and actually gave me an extra licence. And a few weeks later they want me to complete the survey on how well they did. I clicked on the link thinking I would give them a glowing report. And yet on the first page I am already so annoyed that I don't know if I can continue. Why am I annoyed? Because they ask what is my preferred language. The choices are "English", which clearly I am about to click on, after all I live in the UK, it is our native language, OR, and this is where I get annoyed, "British English". What the hell is that about? I have seen similar when loading other programmes and the language choice is English (US) or English (UK). I am sorry, there is no such thing as English (US). English is English, it is how we speak in the UK (allowing for minor welsh and scottish variations, OK and northern, and south west and....... oh you get my point). What it definitely is not is American. That's right English (US) is not English, it's American!!!!!!! America might think it is a superpower rather than just an upstart, but it can't have our language.

No, I'm sorry, you did a wonderful job Mr.Adobe, but you have now upset me too much, I am not going to tell you how well you did. After all, you might not understand my accent.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BOGOF

There is a certain ironny in a government that have spent a decade running down the farming industry now suddenly deciding that we need to be careful about how much we waste becasue we will run out of food. But the move to ban Buy One Get One Free offers in favour of half price offers shows a marked lack of understanding of sales and marketing.

The BOGOF has an important role to play in pricing, or more specifically maintaining prices. It is in the buyer perception. Say I want to sell a punnett of strawberries for £2. I make a good margin and am happy at this price. The consumer is happy and willing to pay this price as well. Now, I suddenly have some strawberries that I need to get rid of quickly. If I put them on display at half price then they whiz into the baskets and everyone is happy. But next time my consumer enters the shop their mental recollection of the price of the strawberries is £1 (they forget that this was half price) and this is what they expect to pay. Cue one unhappy consumer when they see the price of £2, twice what they expect to pay. Now, what if we do this as a BOGOF, then the perceived price remains £2, after all that is what they paid for their strawberries. Therefore happy consumer when they come in next time to find the price of strawberries hasn't gone up (although in reality they end up with half as many strawberries as last time. See, BOGOF keeps the price at the level the market one while managing to shift stock, half price offers slice the overall market price for the long term.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Holiday Blue

That really was too much of a shock to the system. Back to work after two weeks off. Apart from a little flurry half way through when some issues cropped up that I had to sort, I basically managed to forget about work for a fortnight. Unlike last year when I was getting up at 0200 hrs to check my emails on the computer every day. And while relaxing was good, it makes it all the more cruel when you get back. And whereas last year I could just move onward with the day, today I had to catch up on 480 emails. I have a system for that, first go through relatively quickly and delete those that aren't important or file those that are just informing me of something. Then go back and deal with the ones that will take 5 minutes or less, such as organising meetings. Then go back through them again and deal with the ones that need more input. And finally do the remaining ones. It works quite well and tomorrow will now be a "normal" day. But I was absolutely shattered by the end and didn't get home until very late so I was very naughty and didn't go to the gym. I will go tomorrow instead though. That is unless I have run off to Menorca.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Book List

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?

Look at the list and put an 'x' after those you have read.

1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien - x

2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen - x

3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman - x

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams - x

5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling - x

6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee -x

7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne -x

8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell - x

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis -x

10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë - x

11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller - x

12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë -

13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks - x

14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger - x

16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame - x

17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens -

18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott -

19. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres - x

20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy -

21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

22. Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling -x

23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling -x

24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling -x

25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien - x

26. Tess Of The D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy - x (well half read)

27. Middlemarch, George Eliot -

28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving - x

29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck - x

30. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll - x

31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson

32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez - x

33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett -

34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens -

35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl -x

36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson - x

37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute - x

38. Persuasion, Jane Austen-

39. Dune, Frank Herbert - x

40. Emma, Jane Austen -

41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery -

42. Watership Down, Richard Adams -x

43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald - x

44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas - x

45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh - x

46. Animal Farm, George Orwell - x

47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens -x

48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy

49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian -

50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher

51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett - x

52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck - x

53. The Stand, Stephen King -

54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy - x

55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth

56. The BFG, Roald Dahl - x

57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome -x

58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell -

59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer

60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky - x

61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman

62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden - x

63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens -

64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough

65. Mort, Terry Pratchett - x

66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton

67. The Magus, John Fowles - x

68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - x

69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett - x

70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding - x

71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind -

72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell

73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett - x

74. Matilda, Roald Dahl - x

75. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding - x

76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt

77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins

78. Ulysses, James Joyce - x (attempted)

79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens -

80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson

81. The Twits, Roald Dahl - x

82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith

83. Holes, Louis Sachar -

84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake - x

85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy-

86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson

87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - x

88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons - x

89. Magician, Raymond E Feist - x

90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac-

91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo-

92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel -

93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett - x

94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

95. Katherine, Anya Seton

96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer - x

97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez - (reading now)

98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson

99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot -

100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie - x

So I score 56, not including the unfinished one and the ones on my shelf to be read soon. Reasonable I suppose. But looking at the list, rather than making me pleased, it concerns me that the BBC think most people will have only managed 6. It isn't a list of absolute classics, of inaccessible books. It includes popular culture and childrens books. So an average of only six is a sad inditement on our society.

PS - I think this is taken from the BBC Big Read list, ie the top novels voted by listeners to the BBC. However there are a number of different versions floating around and I can't find anything that references the BBC as saying only 6 will be read on average. Still an interesting list though.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Computer Age

I so may regret this, but the saga of the computer may be over. Trying to buy a new computer has been a nightmare. Well, not so much the buying, but the setting up. It all sounded so promising with an "A" list rating from PC Pro but instability bugged the first one to arrive. Sent back for a new motherboard they then decided that the hard drive was also faulty. When the computer arrived again then the hard drive was at an angle that would be called jaunty if referring to someones cap, but when referring to a hard drive could only be described as wrong. Given one more chance they took longer to build a brand new computer than expected, but as I was away it wasn't too much of a problem. New computer delivered, missing windows verification number and with some sound issues. However both those are now sorted and all barr one piece of software loaded. Everquest is taking ages to download, but I think that is Virgin Media capping me and I don't think I can blame the computer. In fact Everquest is taking so long to download that it seems to be going backwards. At 1800hrs it was supposed to take 3 hours to complete the download, it is now going to take five and a half hours. Maybe leaving the computer alone overnight will do it.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Adventuring

The weather men nearly blew it for us. At the beginning of the week I checked to see the 5 day forecast for around Chessington World of Adventure. There was a discrepency between the BBC and the iPhone. I decided to trust the BBC, and we therefore elected for a trip today. Which wasn't good news when we saw the weather forecast last night which indicated rain. Lesson 1, the iPhone is more reliable than the BBC. Lesson 2, weathermen can't see into the future. Lesson 3, don't plan based on the british weather (I so miss Menorca).

Anyway, we decided to go no matter what the weather. And, for the most part, were lucky. It only started raining around 1700hrs, so we got some sun. As normal my daughter was looking for the fast rides. I promise I don't egg her on (well not much). And we found Dragons Fury, a neat rollercoster whcih spins you around as it goes along. Quite unnerving actually, at times it feels as though you are going to be thrown off the track. So we had to go on that twice. And Vampire, which is the first dangly down rollercoster she has been big enough to go on. Hanging down in a seat is, of course, an extrememly different experience from sitting in a car. So we had to do that twice as well! Along with a few other rides we ran out of time so didn't get to the zoo.

Overall not greatly taken with Chessington - badly laid out, not a lot of attention to the "experience", disgusting drinks (although branded drinks they were more sweet and e-numbery than normal). Drayton is better.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Cat Life

Simon's Cat videos are good because the capture the pure essence of cat. All that illogical behaviour which starts off sweet and then develops into irritating. Hard to capture in words, much easier in video.

Last night I was watching TV. Every so often there was a soft bang. Initially I tried to ignore it. However it gradually got louder and more frequent. Looking around the room I finally realised it was Shimmers tail, being swished from side to side with ever increasing agitation. Although it was pitch black outside he was staring through the patio doors. What could be out there anoying him so much. I got up and took a few steps. Couldn't see anything. I got down on my hands and knees and looked in the same direction as him. Still couldn't see anything. "J" turned on the light, but that didn't work as it was even harder to see out. Shimmer still stared intently at a set point. "J" turned off the light, went out and turned on the conservatory light so that it shed light outside. I still couldn't see anything. "J" came back and also got down on her hands and knees. We both got as close to the glass as we could. At which point Shimmer looked at us, came over, nuzzled both of us once, and then sauntered off with an air of "got you" about him!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Splashing About

Whoops. Seem to have forgotten to blog while away. I was full of good intentions but Menorca distracted me. Bit of a shock coming back today though. After a week of temperatures between 29-31 and hardly ever a cloud in the sky, torrential rain and thunderstorms of the UK are not inspiring. Even considering hopping back on a flight.

I haven't been abroad to somewhere like Menorca for a very long time. So I wasn't sure what to expect. And the initial introduction into package holidays "Hi I'm Jasmine, your rep for the week, are we all ready to have fun ..... not loud enough, are we all ready to have fun" filled me with certain foreboding. But when I discovered that the sea really is as blue as the brochures, and that it is great for snorkeling (something else I haven't done for about 30 years but I have now been bittne by the bug), and that we could get out on boats then the holiday took on a different outlook. I haven't driven a car all week, which was great as it meant cold beer at lunch time was an option. And sangria in the evening helped mellow the day away. The boat trips made it for me though. The first was despite a daughter taking a sulk and just wanting to stay by the pool. And I almost caved, but then I decided it would be good to get out and that I would put up with a sulky daughter if need be, because staying by the pool was going to "do my head in". As it was "A" loved the trip, we talked about pirates and imagined where they hid, we swam in the sea, we had icecreams (I think she averaged about three a day in the end) and it was all such a success that she first apologies and then asked if we could go on another one. So very last minute we arranged one for the last afternoon, which was a great trip, around the north coast in a renovated Scottish fishing trawler, just eleven people on board including the two crew. And when we stopped at a beach I was able to go snorkeling again off the side of the boat. In fact "A" tried snorkeling as well, starting at the beach and she took to it like the proverbial duck to water, very excited to see the fish.

Fresh air during the day, swimming, boating, and then able to read my books in the evening. All in all a nice way to spend a week.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Therm Or Lobster

The first two days in Menorca and I felt that my tan wasn't coming on quick enough. Factor 15 suncream (as opposed to the factor 30 for the rest of the family) was blocking too much. As a result I may have been slightly less rigorous today than was sensible. Not helped by being out on a boat and swimming in the sea, both of which can be rather misleading. And the Menorcan sun really is quite strong. I will learn in the morning if these currently red and tingling shoulders are going to turn into something I regret. Oh well, a good lesson for "A" as to why her mother plasters her in suncream every five minutes.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bare Facts

We arrived in Menorca for our holiday. Early start having to leave home at 0300 hours but the advantageof this is that we had a whole day here.

What I had forgotten was that topless sunbathing is the norm here (in fact accidentally stumbled across nude sunbathing as well but that's a seperate story). Now, topless sunbathing doesn't shock me. I think people should generally be allowed to show what they want of their bodies, we all have them after all (admitedly some are less nice to see than others though). However, what has shocked me, and makes me very uncomfortable, is that the little girls of seven or eight years old are often topless as well. I'm trying to work out if this shock makes me a prude. Is it just that we get steeped in a media culture where child abuse is a constant recurring story? Is it the child protection issues hat have been drummed into me over the years managing security at festivals have made me over-sensitive? Adults showing their respective bits (or irrespective depending on how you look at it/them) seems one thing, children quite another.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Splatt

OK, how about this for an excellent idea. Rather than fingerprints the police should start taking noseprints. Now, to be honest, I don't know if everyones nose is different, but that's not the point. Just think what a deterant it would be. I mean it's easy enough to hide an ink stained hand in a pocket but how could you hide an ink stained nose? So everyone would see that the police had been checking you out. Isn't that fantastic? No-one would want to be spotted with an inky nose. And you could colour code it as well. Purple would mean that you had nicked a tuppence sweet from the local store, magenta would mean you were doing 50 in a 30 speed limit, red for murder. For serious crimes use a long lasting permanent ink. For those just being printed so they can be eliminated from enquiries then you use an ink that would wear off quickly, like within 24 hours, and maybe black and yellow stripes so they could pretend they had been at a party and there was face painting.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kate Rusby - Planets

I can see the planets are aligned in front of me
I cannot read them for the futures growing old behind me

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

You said turn around so I cannot see your tears falling
You don't make me proud you see there is a new day dawning

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

On nights like these I could fly up to the sky above me
Like superman I would change the course of earth below me

Across the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

I can see the planets are aligned in front of me
I dare not breath for them the clouds will fall and then deny me

Through the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

Across the world I am wandering, wandering
Soft breeze blowing I am wondering now
Through the world I am wandering, wandering
These happy days I live now

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Zapped

In a really weird way, the news of the O2 network failure is actually an incredible relief. Any follower of my blog, or Facebook, or Plurk, or any IT support in the UK, will know by now that I do not have a good reputation when it comes to computers. I get through them at an alarming rate. 5 in 8 years at work, approximately 11 or even 12 in 17 years at home. I am now convinced that the aura I have, while a healing one for animals, is a fairly damaging one for computers. All of which is bad news when one is a bit of a gadget freak. So when my iPhone decided that it wasn't going to download emails or let any apps run this afternoon I thought I had managed to destroy yet another chip set. So, finding out that the whole network had crashed is a positive thing for me.

Alternatively I have single-handedly managed to crash an entire country-wide phone service. Something I would prefer not to think about.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fine Idea

I am slightly surprised that this seems to be slipping past wqithut anyone noticing. But, then again, this government are masters at sneaking through things without being up front. It appears that victims of assault and violent crime are to receive less compensation if they have been convicted of speeding. For instance, a rape victim will receive £37500 less if they have points on their licence. This is all in a move to save the government £25 million in compensation. It even stretches to murder, so a parent of a murdered child will receive less compensation if they have been fined in the last 5 years. Now, I in no way think monetary compensation is going to do anything to relieve the pain a parent would be going through, but this seems to just add insult to injury.

It is hard to express how shocked I am by this. The two things are so totally unrelated. How can anyone argue that someone who has been attacked and paralysed deserves less money just because they were caught speeding in the past. There is no justice in this, it is not fair. It is simply picking on an identifiable group. This is a despicable and cruel policy that shows the level of this governments inhumanity.

{I would like to point out that, while I have been caught speeding in my past, I currently have a clean licence. Although once the Audi A5 arrives......}

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Dark Times

Phillip Pullman has been complaining recently that authors need to be CRB checked before they can go into schools. He thinks this is a terrible thing. Well, putting aside the fact that I believe that anything stopping Pullman meeting children is a good thing, I couldn't disagree more.

First off, let me address my issues with Pullamn personally. It isn't that he has written anti-Christian books that worries me. I think debate is a good thing and I generally welcome anything that will challenge beliefs. After all, it is only by being challenged that we can grow stronger. No, it is the way he does it. I have read "The Dark Materials" trilogy, and I found it a completely dishonest and subversive way to get a message across. He only owns up to his position, which is anti-god, very near the end. You are drawn into a story which later turns out to be a lecture. And I don't think that that is the right approach. Be open, ask the questions, make people think about what they believe. But don't mislead them.

So, having got past that, should childrens authors be checked? Well, as someone who generally says that children are too protected these days, I would have to say that this is actually the right approach for once. Childrens authors are like heroes in the school. If you meet someone who writes the books that you enjoy then you would be willing to walk through fire for them. It is an incredibly powerful position. It is only right that we should check that the power isn't going to be abused. A good author commands more respect than a sportsman when you are talking about young children. Someone who can talk to them at a level they understand, can appear to know what is happening to them and write about it, is going to achieve an almost god-like status (hmm, some irony there possibly). And with things like Facebook a single meeting can develop into more. So, don't wrap children in cotton wool, don't take them out of school because of a single case of swine flu, but do check that those in powerful positions are fully checked.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cash Point

There seems to be a rather neat fix to the "cash for peerage" problem. As the government are no longer to give away seats in the House of Lords for money they seem to have found a different route for getting those they like in there. You have to wonder if less than two years service is really enough to qualify for a lifelong position don't you. The idea of the Goats (government of all talents) was a dubious one anyway, a clever way to get people into power without them ever being elected, and a way to skew the votes to favour Labour. But they should have at least had a contract with a minimum service period. If you are going to get a peerage then I want you to work for at least 5 years for the country, if not ten. Did Lord Darzi not think that being a minister and also remaining a doctor might just be a little difficult and possibly, just possibly, over-committing. Very nice that he now wants to give his patients some time, but indicating a certain short-sightedness than is worrying in someone who could wield a scalpel.

{Sorry, a bit late picking up on this one, but I have been away for a few days}

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who threw that - assegai

I'm quite used to sitting watching the South Wales Borderers singing "Men of Harlech" as the waves of zulus come charging over the plains. It brings tears to my eyes. Within a period of 24 hours the British army saw one of their greatest defeats and one of their greatest victories. No one battle ahs ever had more VCs awarded than Rorke's Drift. Men stood tall, and they did it for each other. Sure, they never really sang "Men of Harlech" (this version sung in the chapel at Rorke's Drift by the RoyalRegiment of Wales), but I wish they had. 150 men against 4000, defending a small supply station with Martini-Henry rifles and a lot of guts.

I am not sure that "pool of Harlech" has quite the same ring to it. But it has been a fight none-the-less. The swimming pool in Harlech has been under threat of closure for over a year. And it was down to the wire (should that be lane), the end of this month would have seen the doors locked for the last time. But a group has been fighting the council in order to keep it open and, great news, Gwynedd council have accepted their proposal today.

This is a Welsh swimming pool, although there are some foreigners in it mind.

{And yes, before someone points it out, I know that they weren't the South Wales Borderers until 2 years after the war}

{And if you don't understand the title then you need to listen to some Max Boyce}

Monday, July 13, 2009

F***** B****** S*******

Next time I am caught swearing I can at least justify it. It isn't simply me being mindless, swearing serves a function. It appears that using bad words can actually increase your pain threshold. I often think that it is strange that the swear words we use are generally derived from either normal bodily functions or, even more strange, the physical act of sex, which is generally an enjoyable thing. But the one thing they have in common is the amount of force that you can get behind the words. It appears that these test subjects were asked to either repeatedly use a swear word or a word to describe a table when in a situation of pain (hand plunged in ise water). I can understand that the use of f*** is going to be rather more cathartic than the use of "regency". And they managed to keep their hand in the water for longer when using the swear word.

I think I am going to introduce a "freedom to swear" day at work.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Technorush

I may be accused of being a glutton for punishment. As I write this on my old computer because the new Water Dragon has completely fallen over, while this one has only partially fallen over, I have gone out and bought a laptop today. Now, to be fair, the laptop isn't for me, it's for my daughter. And I am not entirely convinced that buying a laptop for a 7 year old is a sensible decision. However, we just had her SATs results and the end of year report. I am not going to give scores, but let me say (as a proud father) she has done extremely well. And what impresses me as much, if not more so, than the results is that the report says how helpful she is, that she shares her ideas, shows others how to do things when they are stuck etc. While I may not exactly recognise the girl who, with us, is often a bad loser, I am very happy to have a report that says what a pleasure she is to have in the class. So I told her she could have a present. Bless her, her opening gambit was to go to the cinema. Which is lovely but not really as big as I was thinking. Then, from mummy, came the idea of a TV for her room. I was a bit reticent about this, I think she watches enough TV anyway. So I suggested a laptop, she loves playing online games, she loves using Powerpoint (at seven I think she can write better presentations than some of the people I work with), and a computer can be educational as well. It seemed a good (albeit expensive) option, and "A" was eager. So we went in to Comet and bought an off the shelf one. Which, despite my loading on things like Microsoft Office and basically fiddling, is still working 10 hours later.

Which leaves me with two desktops, two laptops, an iPhone, 4 iPods and an iPAQ. Hmm, gadget overload.

Friday, July 10, 2009

In The Head

A somewhat curious observation made tonight. When I go to Whittlebury Hall spa the women outnumber the men by a ratio of approximately ten to one. And yet in the spa at the gym it is the other way around. It isn't that women don't use the gym, although it isn't quite 50:50. But clearly a greater proportion don't use the spa facilities. There isn't really a lot of difference between the two places so this must be a psychological thing. For the men going down the gym is manly so anything associated with it must also be so, but a spa club is "girly". For the women a hotel spa facility is feminine while the gym has too much testosterone. It's amazing what location can do to something and how it can change perception.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Under Pressure

OK, here's a piece of advice should you ever need it. When at the gym, if you have had a good session, don't ask them to increase the levels on all your equipment in one go! Last night that is exactly what I did. And today wasn't pretty. I tried to get them to swap me off the treadmill, which I detest almost as much as computers (dong this blog on my iPhone as my new computer is so unstable as to be almost unusable), and my attempt was in the vein of "I can't run on the treadmill as my shins can't take it so I am not sure I get enough exercise on it". Their response was to leave me on the treadmill but to increase the incline. But without thinking I asked them to increase everything else.

As it is, the treadmill on an incline is knackering. So when I moved to the hand bike I was feeling as though I was running on empty. And the one I normally use, standing up, was occupied so I used a sittting one which is clearly a different angle. Result was that I struggled. Then I found another problem. I use constant power settings. Normally with the hand bike I have a good momentum going before it piles on the pressure. But I was so tired I lost momentum. So much so that I stopped for a few seconds. Only to discover that it increased the resistance so much that I couldn't get going again. Not my best look really, sweat pouring down my face, mouthing swear words, and most clearly absolutely and utterly stuck.

I was so tired by the end that I almost didn't have the energy to use the sauna.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Gurgle Gurgle

Health and Safety. It's enough to strike fear into anyone. In a world gone mad the H&S people take the biscuit. Or, in this case, the water wings! What am I going on about? A school has banned swimming goggles because they could snap back and hurt a child. I would be really interested to see the statistics showing just how much of a risk this is. And do we not think that maybe teaching the children how to put on and take off the goggles might be better than simply banning them. At some point we have to trust people to take responsibilty for themselves. The more we encourage this nannyism then the less people think. The way to deal with it is not to say "there there let us take the risk out of your life" because finally people will be surprised that stepping off a cliff killed them, and there will be outcry to ban all cliffs. No, we need to say "what, it hurt, so what did you learn about that then and what are YOU going to do in the future, what have YOU learnt". Empower people, let them be responsible for their own lives, adn you might be surprised how much more you can get out of people.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Bang

There is something vaguely disconcerting about finding yourself in a hotel that supplies ear
plugs on the bedside table. I mean, what do they know. Why do they come with the not so cryptic message -we wish you a good nights sleep? Am I only going to get a good nights sleep if I use them? Do the bin men come at an early hour? Are
they expecting an RAF fly past? Are the neighbours screamers? All very worrying.

As it was there was nothing. At least nothing more than the usual nature getting on with life and the occasional car passing. I know this be wise I lay awake waiting for whatever the big noise was going to be. The big noise that never came!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Final Roar

It's the third, and last, test for the Lions against South Africa. They have already lost the series. Importantly they have also lost a large number of key players. And yet, when the cards are finally dealt, they come out with every intention of winning. And they do. Emphatically. Considering the other two matches went to the last whistle, this is the most convincing play by either of the teams. In fact on total points, and on tries scored, the Lions actually win. However, that's statistics, South Africa won the test and we can't take that away from them. Some players today really showed their mettle. I won't ever understand why Martyn Williams didn't start the other two matches, today he was inspirational, always there and in the thick of it. Only really eclipsed by Mike Phillips who controlled the game as scrum half and then stood tall when he was moved out to centre.

Three fantastic amtches. The Lions are not a spent force, they have a role to play in the modern game. And they were so close to winning it all.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Deuce

It was almost predictable wasn't it. The hype just got so high. It's as though we never learnt from Henman. Whats almost more amazing is that The Telegraph manages to turn this into a bad thing for Roddick. Now, I'm no tennis fan, and I have to admit to only watching because I don't like Murray and wanted to see him beaten, but it seems to me to be extemely unlikely that Roddick could be sorry to have beaten Murray, no matter how often he has lost to Federer. The media are strange. A week ago they had Murray through to the final, despite the distance to go. They even managed to forget the match a few days ago when he was taken to the line. This morning they were talking about a man on top of his form, but this is a man who was lucky to get this far after nearly being unseated by Wawrinka. And with Roddick they are already writing him up as losing the final. Time to let them get on with playing.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Full Monty

Dress down Friday is one thing, but dress off Friday quite another. I am sorry, but there are quite a few of my work colleagues that I really, really wouldn't want to see naked. And they would feel the same about me. Team building events are bad enough, having to all muck in and build a raft, or see how many balloons you can hold between your legs, but this is a team getting too close and intimate. Why do I feel that David Taylor, the one who came up with the idea, was really doing it for a bet. I suspect that one evening down the pub he told his mates that he could get anyone to take their clothes off for him and that they would pay him obscene amounts for the priviledge. So the next job was a poor unsuspecting lot from Newcastle, and the next thing they know is that their "things" are receiving rather excessive attention.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Room With A View

When you hear that a conference is going to be at somewhere called "Eynsham Hall" I think you automatically imagine a rather grand place. This is emphasised, when you get there, by the long drive leading to a rather grand house with more windows than I have had hot dinners. What you don't therefore expect is for the first two colleagues you meet to tell you that they had to request different rooms. One because he found frogs in his (both live and dead), and the other because brown gloop came out of the taps rather than water. Having heard this I wasn't expecting much from my room but finding that the shower didn't work (and no bath) did not make my day. I told reception that I would put up with it for one night but I wanted to be moved the next day. This should not be too difficult as a number of people weren't staying after we had booked rooms for them.

The next morning I went and reiterated my request. Their opening gambit was that the duty manager had fixed the shower the night before. Thi answered one question, I had been wondering where the dirty footprints in my room had come from, as I was certain my feet had not been that muddy the previous night. However, I felt that they had a different definition of "fixed" than I had. As far as I was concerned, the dribble that came from the shower head did not indicate "working". So their next gambit was to say that they didn't have any better rooms to move me to. At this point, and with others around, I did rather go down the mean route and said "well if that's the best room you ahve then I'd hate to see your worst". I followed with explaining why this was not good enough. When I came back in the afternoon I had been moved. And I was in the main building (so a bigger room) and on the first floor (so no frogs). At this point I accepted where I was. I am loathed to defend them too much though, so have to point out that there were holes in the side of the bath and the shower rail.

If the hotel inspector called I somehow don't think she would be impressed.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quack

It has been an incredibly "english" day. Around us all the villages have started vying for attention now that summer is here. So they all start to put on fete and events. One local town, Olney, had their annual duck race and raft race. The duck race is first and is a way to raise some money for the scouts. Simply put, you buy a raffle ticket but rather than a straight draw the ticket numbers are painted on to rubber ducks, whcih are all then thrown in the River Ouse and the first to reach the bridge is the winner. There were over 1100 entries this year. And we came second - go us!

Then the raft race - a number of slightly deranged people build a raft, dress up in fancy dress and paddle down the river. And this isn't a short race, they have to go a long way. About half way along they have to go under a bridge, which is lined with people armed with water pisotls, flour and eggs. It's all rather cruel. At the end there is a bit of a party going on, live music, vintage cars, bouncy castle, ice cream van, and in the background a game of cricket. Throw in a morris dancer and it couldn't have got more english!

Mad dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well, we were all there.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Fantasy?

You say you don't believe,
Don't believe in unicorns,
In the pot of gold
At the end of the rainbow.
You've never seen
A dragon in flight,
Or a choir of elves
Singing to the skies.

But within me
The dragon lives,
In my soul, giving fire,
My ears hear song
That lifts me high,
I found the gold
(and lost it, I know),
And one day,
One heart stopping day,
I will see
The unicorn
In front of me.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Backwards

Finally watched the last episode of "Ashes to Ashes" tonight. A strange series. In many ways enjoyable. But would have been so much better if it had just been a straight cop drama. The flash forwards and mysterious "caught back in time" bit of the storyline didn't just not work, it actually spoilt the story. OK, so I have to overlook the fact that the Masons were rather picked on (and I admit that back in the 80's there may well have been some corruption anyway). But the music was good, and the starring car was the forerunner of what I have just ordered (I think the A5 is descended from the Quattro!). Philip Glenister as Gene Hunt was excellent. Not really happy with the ending, again, the bullet in the brain part of the story letting down the otherwise great acting.