Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here's to the New Year...

So tonight sees 2006 come to an end and in keeping with tradition, I'll be having a quiet night in. We had a good session yesterday courtesy of several pints of Hobgoblin (from the same people who are responsible for the Father Time picture above) and a dubious "jaffa cake" concoction of vodka, tia maria and orange.

I've managed to stick to my resolution of staying off the cigarettes for another year and I did lose weight, although the bathroom scales this morning would indicate that I've managed to find it again so there's one for next year already. Other than that I've a trip to Toronto planned and I'd like to head south to St Louis again while I'm that side of the pond. There's the second tattoo design that's been in my jacket pocket for long enough and ought to be on my arm by now and I've a room full of musical equipment that deserves a bit more attention. That should be enough to keep me out of mischief for a while.

Anyway, here's wishing you all the best for 2007 and I hope that you enjoy yourselves this evening, however you choose to celebrate...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A little entertainment...

Well that's my entertaining complete for a little while with the family all gone home again after a truly enjoyable Christmas for all. Everyone seemed pleased with their presents, I was certainly pleased with mine and they've all left with wider waists and fuller bellies than when they arrived.

Santa and Rudolph cleared their plates of sweets, mince pies, sherry, carrots and water. In fact, an empty Jack Daniels bottle mysteriously appeared at the scene, but I'll not deny the big man that.

Christmas dinner went exactly to plan and if I say so myself, turned out better than last year. Boxing Day buffet has almost gone although we did all have our traditional big cooked breakfast that morning for which I continued my on-going battle with home-made hash browns. Despite suggestions of "just go out and buy McCains", it has now become a matter of principal - how difficult can it be? Grated potato, onion a bit of seasoning; grilled, baked, or shallow fried, they never seem to come out looking right (although they actually taste ok). I suspect I'm leaving too much moisture in the potato, but I'll keep trying, refusing to give in and buy them.

The family film of choice this year was Elf which was every bit as funny as the trailer had me believe. More importantly (for Uncle Seany's benefit), it features the beautiful Zooey Deschanel who it turns out has a voice that is as enchanting as her appearance.

Continuing with the subject of entertainment, I heard something new on the car radio during the pre-Christmas to-ing and fro-ing which I feel duty bound to tell you about. It's a very talented young fella called Mika who's new single Grace Kelly is to be released next month. Difficult to describe, it's a bit of Freddie and Elton with a hint of Robbie, wrapped up in a 70s glam rock kind of sound. You can hear the full single on his MySpace site and see him sing it live here on "Later with Jules Holland". It's a great song and I'm sure he's destined for big things in 2007.

Not sure about my destiny in 2007 yet although I guess it's time to start thinking about resolutions again...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ho Ho Ho...

I know I wasn't planning to post anything over the festive period, but I took some time out this morning and found something that I just had to share with you all.

Most of us will have used Microsoft Word at some point and been infuriated by this little fella and his feeble attempts to help

Well here's someone who's taken it a step further:

The second to last comment from the woman at the ticket machine said it all for me...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone...

A little early perhaps, but try telling that the the crowds at Tesco at 8:30 this morning. It's madness I tell you. I really pity anyone who hasn't started at all yet.

Anyway, almost everything is bought; would have been everything but for a last minute change of plan for Christmas Eve meal arrangements. A five minute return trip (ok, wishful thinking perhaps) should sort that one out after which I think I'll go into hiding until the family arrives on Saturday.

The lovely people who work for me clubbed together and bought a much appreciated bottle of Jack Daniels, the bottom of which may well provide a very good place to hide.

I suspect it will be a few days before I get back to the blog so I hope you all have an excellent Christmas (or whatever alternative holiday you choose to celebrate) and that Santa is as good to you as you deserve.

There's a little bonus greeting if you click the picture below, although you will need Windows Media Player (available here) and your sound turned up.

'ave a good 'un!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joy to the world...

Well certainly joy to me right now - I left work last night for the last time this year (hopefully). I'm on call for three days next week but beyond that I'm pleased to use up the last of my holidays and forget about the place for a couple of weeks.

Better still, I went out last night for my first midweek pint in a very long time and had a great time at the Christmas Acoustic Culture night at the Tap. When it's on the form that it was on last night, it's a hard night to beat; a great variety of festive music, all played live and plenty of sing-alongs.

I might manage to cram one more night in the pub before Christmas, but I'm certainly not short of things to be getting on with in the meantime...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On the cards...

It really is a time of year for cards.

Firstly the plastic kind which are subject to all kinds of abuse and I confess I've called upon my flexible friend a couple of times already this season.

Secondly, greeting cards which are a controversial subject for me. I have always believed that the purpose of Christmas cards is to send someone your seasonal greetings by post where you wouldn't be able to tell them personally. For years I spent far too long sat at home writing endless stacks of cards with "Best Wishes, Seany", "All the Best, Seany", "Merry Christmas, Seany"; firstly to friends, then acquaintances, then people I occasionally see around the office or in the pub and finally, people I barely knew at all but "felt bad missing them out". Then because I've sent one, the recipients feel obliged to return the gesture and before you know where you are, Hallmark cards have reported record profits again.

In the pub it seems that most people are happier to receive festive cheer in a glass rather than an envelope and I'm inclined to agree with them.

At work we just make a donation of the equivalent value of a couple of boxes of cards to a local charity and it seems to make a lot more sense to me to put the money to use where someone has a genuine need for it. Surely that's what Christmas is really about.

If you want to see something really impressive to do with cards, see what this guy does with them.

Or perhaps this has all been a distraction from the fact that I've missed the last airmail posting date again...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I don't understand it...

I got to leave work early tonight (and that doesn't mean less late)
It cost nothing more than around half an hour of my time
Most of that time was spent chatting with friendly nurses
They gave me a free drink and chocolate biscuit
Best of all, there's a very good chance I saved someone's life tonight

The only disappointment was how quiet it was- what do people want?
Tonight was my 34th donation which could account for 34 lives.
Or perhaps you'd rather think of it as more than:
The top three premiership football teams?
Three cricket teams?
A couple of rugby teams?
The artists in 9 of the current top 10 albums?
(No. 9 is a male voice choir)
What about a generously sized class of schoolchildren?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for praise, I just want to stress how much real difference you can make to peoples lives without considerable sacrifice on your part.

Please give it some thought and click the picture of Billy for more information or details of the next session near you.

I make no apology for posting something similar every four months, next tattoo permitting of course...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A week is a long time...

Well it may be in politics, but the week since my last post has absolutely flown past:

Friday: I was reminded that after three weeks on the wagon, it's more than a tad irresponsible to think you can still consume alcohol at the same pace as where you left off.

Saturday: After a morning of feeling rather unwell, I was back out in the afternoon for a top up to celebrate Nick's birthday the previous day and celebrate the arrival of the oncoming festive season. All followed by a taxi back to Em & Pauls to watch Grease & sing ourselves silly until the early hours.

Sunday: Slept. Lots. Felt better than I had the morning before. Tried to enter Woja's blogday competition but it closed early with comments disabled. Belated Happy 2nd Blogday Woja if you're looking in!

Monday: Worked. Lots. Until late. Slept.

Tuesday: Worked. Lots more. Only a couple of hours over then out with European colleagues for a meal in a local hotel. Conversation was interesting but it was a serious thumbs down for the meal, service, drinks (only one coke and a mineral water), clean glasses, prices, severe lack of parking space, etc., etc.

Wednesday: Worked. Even more. Late again. Got home too late & tired to make tea (aka good excuse to ring out for pizza)

Thursday?: Plenty of work still to do. Must leave on time tomorrow though - time to give a pint of blood again. In fact, forget the thought that this last week has flown by, I can't believe it's 4 months since my last donation...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It must be a gift...

No, not any particular talent of mine, just that I was driving home this evening struggling for ideas for blog posts and tonight, as if it were a gift from the blog gods themselves, two great excuses for a post landed, the first one quite literally on the doormat.

You see it all started at the weekend when I decided I'd finally had enough of my knob falling off. (Sorry cheap gag there for the taking). I've only had my cooker for a year and have already had to call the engineer out on control knob/ignition issues, but having paid for 5 years extra cover, I'm determined to get my value out of it. In hindsight it perhaps isn't the most finely crafted kitchen appliance in the world but the service centre staff are very helpful and prompt when required. As I only needed a replacement control knob, I suggested that they simply post one out to me to avoid them sending an engineer out (and my needing to take time off work).

It arrived today and I couldn't help but chuckle when I read the label (click on picture for clearer view).

Of course, now I'm worried that by installing the item myself, I may have invalidated my warranty...

So with supper duly prepared in my newly-repaired oven, I sat in front of the TV just in time to watch Nigella Bites on UKTV

Ahem. There are a couple of things I ought to point out here (now you're making up your own). Firstly, my interests in Nigella are not [entirely] as you may think - I genuinely enjoy her relaxed style of cooking and the fact that she cooks the sort of food we all like to eat. Secondly, for some reason my cable TV provider is transmitting audio descriptions for the visually impaired on her programme and I can't switch it off.

OK, not terribly interesting in itself, but the guy doing the descriptions clearly had a "less than culinary" interest in Ms Lawson and was hysterical to listen to:

"The luscious Nigella walks across the kitchen..."
"Earthy Nigella roughly chops herbs with a mezzaluna..."
"Curvy Nigella sashays towards the fridge..."
"Nigella casts a come hither look towards the camera..."
"Delicious Nigella takes the sticky mixture in her elegantly manicured hands..."

All genuine quotes, I promise. Now let's not kid ourselves, I'm sure that Nigella is perfectly aware of her ample charms and maybe does flirt with the viewer, but the commentary was bordering on audio soft porn.

Whatever that sounds like...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In search of perfection...

At last I finally remembered to tune into BBC2 at 8:30 on a Tuesday night to marvel at Heston Blumenthal and his unique experimental culinary style. I'd heard plenty about the guy and his revolutionary menu at the Fat Duck, but to hear his down to earth approach, I would never have guessed who he was.

Tonight we were promised a roast chicken dinner and I sat, rivetted to the screen wondering at which point he would load it into a tumble drier with a few shovels of dry straw and a handful of lit fireworks.

In fact, on the surface he didn't appear to do anything overly extraordinary beyond taking rather longer than usual, swapping the chicken to and fro from boiling to iced water then roasting it at a lower temperature.

All of that said, he explained the logic behind everything he did with crystal clarity and a real passion for what he was doing and the end result looked a million times more impressive than anything that will ever leave my kitchen. Count me in as a fan there then.

So next week, I'll have the recorder set just in case I'm not home and I'll bet it's the last one in the series...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The weather outside is frightful...

And so ends an afternoon of festive fun. Having finished wrapping the presents last night, today's contribution was to get the decorations up. A few trimmings and ornaments here and there, the tree's up in the hallway and there's a total of six sets of lights (all inside thank you very much) including the James and the Snowman ones that died last year. On reflection, I think I could be wise to leave that set switched off until the family arrives on the 23rd.

Everything is prepared for next week and I could almost be naive enough to think that ouside of work there won't be much to do for a few days. Except for the fact that there's a six foot fence outside the back door that's currently being thrown around like a rag doll...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Shop til you drop...

With little free time on weekday evenings right now and still inspired by my achievements last weekend, today I tackled the food shop.

Another Friday night off the ale (!) meant I was up, showered, dressed and out to the local Tesco by 8:00 this morning in order to beat the crowds. At least you would have thought so - heaven knows how busy they must be this afternoon.

I approached it this year in my typically nerdy fashion; I'd prepared meal plans for the family's stay over Christmas and armed with the trusty shopping list, I was determined not to be as irrational and impulsive as last year.

With a trolley full to the brim, I was relieved that the young lady at the checkout was much more efficient at helping me pack than last year's muppet understudy. I wasn't particularly shopping to a budget, but that still didn't stop my thinking "no, I must have misheard" as I handed over the clubcard and flexible friend, only to be assured that I hadn't. Time to adopt my best fake "yeah, I knew it would be about that much" expression.

Back home then to wonder where on earth I was going to put this little lot:

For even greater comedy value, when I did get home I was delighted to see my clubcard vouchers still sat on the mantlepiece which would have saved me a few quid. What I hadn't realised until talking to Little Sis this morning, was that the vouchers have a ridiculously long expiry date on them and following my subsequent trawl through the pile of papers to file/shred, I've found over thirty quids worth!

Clearly, I won't need any food until the New Year (except for a few fresh bits) so I might have to buy a load of silly festive stuff instead. Like some more beer maybe...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Well, it generates the bills...

It seems I'm in a week of celebrations. Blogday last week, jobday yesterday and today it is exactly one year since I stumbled out of the estate agents with the biggest bunch of keys I've ever laid eyes on - at least one of which opened the front door to my bungalow.

So what have I achieved with the place in the last year?

Entertaining? I still haven't got round to having a barbie, but I've inflicted my culinary creations upon the family two or three times with another visit scheduled this Christmas.

Gardens? Well my uncle very kindly tidied up the front garden a few months ago but other than keeping the lawns reasonably trim, I've done little else.

Decorating? Admittedly, some of the rooms weren't exactly to my taste but I haven't decided what I want to replace them with just yet.

Alterations? None really necessary, although I took the radical step of putting a noticeboard up in the hallway.

Changed lifestyle? Well just over a year ago, I would have been out almost every night whereas I think I've only been out three of four times in the last month (although I make it count when I do get out).

Do I have any regrets? None whatsoever - I still think it's a great little place and probably one of the best decisions I've ever made...

Monday, November 27, 2006

Well, it pays the bills...

It is eleven years today since I... well, I don't know exactly how to describe this.

Joined the company? Not really, seeing as the company merged and changed name a little over two years ago.
Started my job? Not strictly true either as this is my fifth role there (although I'm pleased to say they've all been progressions).
First walked in the door? No, I'd been there several times previously as account manager when my previous employer supplied labels to them.
I started working in Scunthorpe (we know how proud I would be to claim that)? Well partly true, although I was based at our Grimsby site for four of those years.
OK, it's eleven years since I left the security of my steady job in a small pond to become a small fish in a very large one.

Funnily enough, I remember after the first few weeks, I'd decided it was the biggest mistake I'd ever made and started planning to move on again - clearly without success. So eleven years later, I'm still here; the pond has got bigger (as has the fish) and I'm still trying to figure out how I always seem to find myself swimming upstream in a pond...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

An encouraging start...

As intended, a Friday night in and an early start this morning; everything went exactly to plan and by 10:00am I'd bought all the presents I set out to buy from exactly where I'd intended to buy them. None of that e-shopping angst for me this year thank you very much.

Time to grab a quick cuppa with the folks whilst in town and then set off home through the millions of people who'd obviously also decided that today was a good day to start preparing for Christmas. Still, I got home without too much delay and managed to get all the presents wrapped this afternoon.

The next challenge will be trying to pick an opportune time to get the food shopping in before the hoardes descend on Tesco. I suspect another early morning start may do the trick - the widespread panic buying is bound to kick off before too long. After all, we've only got 1 month to go before the big day and they are only open... hmm... oh yes, every single day and most of those for 24 hours...

Friday, November 24, 2006

A weekend off...

I promised myself a weekend off the pop this week for a number of reasons; the main one being that I'm absolutely knackered, but I also ought to start making some preparations for Christmas in order to change the bungalow from "sleeps one" category to "sleeps five".

As we wouldn't be doing the usual Friday pub supper, I decided to raid the freezer to see what needed using up and happily settled for steak, egg and chips. If I'd paid a bit closer attention I might have realised that I'd taken out a pork steak rather than beef but it did the trick all the same.

Now the topic of Christmas preparation got me thinking of what I would need to buy and equally, what was still left from last year. Right at the back of one cupboard was some lager that I'd obviously bought for someone else's consumption which had happily sailed past it's best before date. Fighting my original urge to just pour it down the sink, I decided there was only one other thing for it - onion rings in beer batter.

Not bad if I say so myself, although admittedly not my most taxing of culinary challenges. Anyway, it was certainly a better alternative to drinking the rubbish...

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Many Happy Returns...

I can hardly believe that today the blog has reached it's 2nd birthday, or that the picture I found is a perfect match for the one used in the last blog birthday post

For as long as I can remember, I've never been successful at keeping a diary or journal for either personal or business purposes (except for Outlook, without which I would now be shamefully helpless). That said, here we are and thankfully my muse shows no signs of deserting me just yet, so I guess I'll keep it going for now.

The observant among you may have noticed that I've stopped the "special" posts every time the counter passes another 1000; not that I'm not extremely grateful for your continued interest, but simply because I thought it had become way too corny (even by my standards).

However, this special occasion provides me with an excellent opportunity to thank all the visitors over the last two years and here's hoping I can keep providing you all with many happy returns...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Todays lessons...

360 degree appraisal feedback: day two.

We discussed management styles but spent the majority of the morning sharing our appraisal feedback with the rest of the team, identifying areas for development and seeking feedback and advice from each other.

After lunch, we learnt that it is possible to build a bridge out of newspaper, sellotape and string that is capable of holding 250g over numerous points at a height of 20cm. And that our team designed the better one. Not that it matters. No, really it doesn't. Well, alright, not much.

Like many courses I've attended it's been extremely valuable, worthwhile and provided a lot of food for thought for the future, but the challenge now is to keep everyone's momentum and transferring what we've learnt into the "real" workplace. I had barely got back to my desk before I was surrounded by 30-odd e-mails, messages on the answerphone, several queries in person and two days of backlog; all of which needed handling whilst considering how I would approach it as the new improved Seany.

Oh and in case you were wondering, it was "Windmills of Your Mind", but the next line wasn't an appropriate title for anything I wanted to say today...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Like a wheel within a wheel...

Reporting as promised at the end of day one of the 360 degree appraisal feedback session.

Well I did say "maybe". I'm afraid modesty prevents from sharing any scores or detailed information, but suffice to say that the feedback was a lot more positive than I'd expected. It was a strange experience sat poised to open a booklet full of opinions from colleagues from all levels within the business and despite the initial ego boost, there's no escaping that there are still plenty areas for improvement.

It seems that it's often not as much about changing your personality to suit the corporate mould as finding ways to change people's perceptions. For example, whereas some people apparently find me open, friendly and approachable, others suggested I can be abrupt and could do well to listen to people more. Well anyone who thinks I'm abrupt can go screw themselves.

Joking aside, it has proved to be an enlightening day where we learnt lots about ourselves and each other; not least of which being that we couldn't build a domed shelter out of newspaper and sellotape within 25 minutes.

Tomorrow - personal development plan and I assume we're talking "Plan B"; primary plan still being to get my 6 numbers drawn in Saturday's lotto...

Monday, November 20, 2006

Like a circle in a spiral...

For the next couple of days, I'll be taking a break from my current mayhem at work to get involved in something a little bit different.

Last year, we introduced 360 degree appraisals for our senior management team and it was deemed successful enough to roll out to us lesser mortal managers this year. For those who aren't familiar with the process, instead of a one-on-one appraisal with your boss, this entails completing a questionnaire to appraise yourself, then the same form is sent to your line manager, your direct reports and 6 peers of your choice. Have you any idea how difficult it is trying to find 6 people peeing all at once? Ahem.

Well tomorrow is the start of our 2-day feedback session and I must admit I'm quite intrigued. I think I've a pretty good idea what my boss thinks of me and I'd like to think I'm in touch with my team's opinion, but I made a deliberate point of selecting peers from a broad spectrum across the business to ensure I got a balanced perspective. Sure, it would have been easy enough to pick out half a dozen workmates who were guaranteed to say something nice, but where's the fun in that?

Everyone I've spoken to who has been on the sessions so far said it was quite an enlightening experience and were surprised just how much they got out of it, so by this time tomorrow I will know first hand and I'll share my experiences accordingly. Maybe.

As I've always said, I wouldn't be paranoid if everyone didn't have it in for me...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Diary of Seany...

I can't believe it's a week since I was here last, but I guess if there had been anything worth telling you all, I would made time to write something.

Work has taken up much of my spare time in the last week; by Friday evening, I'd managed to give them a full day's work for free. On a cheerier note, it looks like I won't be working between Christmas and New Year this year, but it's clear that our traditional Christmas shutdown can no longer be taken for granted.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the highlight of the week was Chris and Debi's wedding yesterday. I've quite famously managed to avoid the deed so far, but theirs was just the kind of day I think I would want.

We headed off to the registry office of a lovely little market town not too far from Grimsby where the service itself was suitably tasteful, although surprisingly quick - we were only in there for a little over ten minutes.

Back into Grimsby for an informal but really enojoyable reception with an abundance of buffet and to our surprise, the DJ also had karaoke set up. For those who've never had the mis-fortune to witness it first hand, Seany, alcohol and karaoke are not a good mixture and I knew it could only be a matter of time.

It started with four of us joining the groom for a rousing chorus of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, although we were cut short when the words stopped appearing on screen (I'm not entirely sure why - it's not the most complex of lyrics). Shortly afterwards I was back on the mic singing Rhinestone Cowboy accompanied by Mum and my last song of the afternoon was a re-lived nightmare.

Just to recall it for you, we were at Debi's sisters 18th birthday where they had karaoke and after a bevvy or two too many, I picked out The Diary of Horace Wimp by ELO. The music started, I sang along, following the lyrics and it all seemed to be going OK when the horror suddenly struck me that there was an incredibly high note coming soon. My heart sank and panic set in as I realised I couldn't just change my mind at the end of the first verse so I swallowed what little pride I had left and just went for it. Amazingly, judging by the positive reaction from the crowd, I'd got away with it.

It seemed only fitting (especially seeing as Chris remembered the original event) to put myself through the experience again - hardly confident even though I'd blagged it before.

There was a break for a couple of hours when we retired to the Tap, after which it was back out to the evening reception. More beer, more food, more karaoke but by about 9:30, I'd begun to realise that the Martinis, Malibus, sambucas and Corkys during our "break" at the Tap were maybe not such a clever idea. That said, I can't beat myself up for leaving early - after all, we'd been on the go for 9 hours or more by then.

So an excellent day was had by all and they are both on their way to Thailand for their honeymoon. Unsurprisingly, my agenda back home today has been somewhat quieter...

Monday, November 13, 2006

A little too late methinks...

News just in:

I've just been watching Good Food Live and they've been tasting a few bottled beers including Wychwood Hobgoblin (which was their favourite too incidentally).

"A strong fruity ale, but with distinctive toffee overtones to it. Definitely too strong to be considered as a session beer"


Room with a view...

I'm sure this will mean nothing to anyone else, but today has been a momentous day for me at work. No promotion, no relief of duties and certainly no promise of bags of money, but you have to cling to whatever little perks you can get.

When I first took on this new role about two years ago, I was delighted that it also provided me with my own generously- proportioned office and wait for it... an opening window! OK, it does overlook a car park on an industrial estate in Scunthorpe, but a window is a window and I rarely get time to gaze out of it anyway.

So why the big deal today? Well our main reception and meeting room have both been undergoing some refurbishment and alternatives had to be found.

First the meeting room - now who's got a decent sized office that we could convert? This seemed like a good time to keep my head down and my gob shut (not before time, many would suggest); end result being my office had appeared to go without consideration.

Next the reception, which they had decided to relocate to a portakabin in the car park. Had I escaped completely? Well not exactly - they dropped the portakabin right outside my office window where it stayed for the last couple of months; possibly explaining why nobody had pursued the meeting room idea.

However, late this afternoon, a bloke with a crane (I'd like to think Bob and Lofty, but I didn't actually see them) finally took it away again. Just in time for it to get dark outside...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My work here is done...

Well here it is folks, a bit brighter but content-wise nothing really different from the last incarnation. I still can't bring myself to change the St Michaels Mount header so I've settled for changing the colour scheme instead.

When I first played around with the new Blogger beta templates, I particularly liked the idea of twisties to tidy up the archives but to be honest, couldn't figure out how to apply them to my existing blog. I'd been putting off the alternative because selecting a new template means losing all previous customisations to the old one (of which I had quite a few) but as it turned out, it didn't take too long after all. In fact it still left me enough time to rustle up some supper and iron a fortnights worth of shirts (which serves me right for not doing any last weekend I guess).

So now it's back to the familiar problem of trying to come up with some worthwhile content...

Caution: Man at Work...

Well everything went to plan yesterday and I'm now the proud owner of a sparkly shiny house, even if it did involve my having to work like a person who's not very good at finding similies trying to find a similie to illustrate how hard I worked yesterday.

Today is therefore my day of rest, or more accurately, my day of doing something a bit more along my lines of enjoyable, so I've decided to give the blog another makeover. After all, it will shortly be time to celebrate it's 2nd birthday so perhaps it's an appropriate time for a change of image anyway.

It's quite possible that I won't get it finished today as I'm not too familiar with the Blogger Beta and my html is a little rusty, but I'll have some fun trying. So, if things are missing or disorganised for a little while, please do not adjust your set...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Something for the weekend...

Despite my attempts to throw as many pints of Hobgoblin down my neck as humanly possible last night, I was up with the larks this morning as clear as a bell. This bodes well for the weekend ahead.

I suddenly realised while making a cuppa this morning that I am at the right end of a completely commitment-free weekend as all of my original plans have been cancelled for one reason or another. That's probably not that out of the ordinary for a lot of people, but I can't remember the last time I wasn't either going out, or unpacking from a trip away, or packing in preparation for a trip away, or more recently, full of cold and feeling generally sorry for myself.

So, facing the prospect of two free days ahead, I need to find something to do. I've already lost a few (virtual) dollars at internet poker this morning so I'll give that a miss. I ought to write something for the blog seeing as I haven't updated it since Tuesday but that's not going to take more than half an hour or so.

I guess I'll have to take my pick from cleaning, washing, ironing, gardening, cutting hair, Christmas shopping, building shelves, cooking meals, baking bread, filing away bills, finishing the work I brought home, re-potting plants, and so the list continues.

First things first. Time for another cuppa after which it will be just about the right time to see what delights Rachel's cooking up for us this morning...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sign of the times...

At this time of year it's prudent for us all to keep an extra eye on the roads in the mornings, but today for the umpteenth time, I could see flashing yellow lights in the distance rather like this:

Clearly there was need for caution ahead but as I got closer I still couldn't quite make out the centre panel:

In fact, I was almost next to the thing when the warning finally became fully visible:

I join the motorway at Barnetby Top junction where, irrespective of local weather conditions, I suspect there is some kind of contraption nearby that belches out the thickest of fog into the surrounding area most mornings. In fact, I imagine that the majority of people who pass that way regularly would be more surprised if there wasn't fog in the air.

So, I thought while we are using valuable resources to power these things, perhaps they could consider this hazard warning for fog-free areas...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Food, Glorious Food...

Not that I've had a day of overly excessive eating, but I've certainly heard enough about it for one day.

First off this morning came the shock announcement that school dinner numbers are declining as a result of the recent campaign to enforce healthy school meals. I hope you're sat down whilst reading this but they had some kids on camera admitting that they'd rather eat chocolate and crisps than the new healthy dinners. I'm sure at their age I'd have thought similar but that didn't mean to say we got any choice in the matter. Added to which, Mum was a cook in the school kitchen so I didn't dare say otherwise anyway.

I'd just about recovered from this shock announcement when my drive home was disturbed by some indivual from Sustain bleating on about the latest Burger King advert. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a very amusing parody of the 1972 Helen Reddy hit "I Am Woman", except that it consists of several stereotype blokes munching on double whoppers and singing about being men. Believe it or not, this Sustain bunch of do-gooders are asking the Government to prohibit this advert before the watershed as people may associate unhealthy eating with being manly. As if the Government haven't got anything better to worry about. There's a copy of the advert here but you'd better be quick as it will probably be banned altogether before long.

Alright, I know they are entitled to their opinion, but so am I which is why I kept shouting "Oh fuck right off" repeatedly at the radio. Not one of my most productive protests I admit but it was a spur of the moment thing.

Resisting temptation to call in at Burger King on the way home out of spite (any excuse eh?), I drove straight home and made a delicious healthy sandwich of home baked granary bread, roast lamb (trimmed) with mint & mayonnaise dressing. And guess what? I'm still overweight and I don't care...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember...

So this is my first bonfire night since I moved here and I'm guessing that either they really like their fireworks round these parts or someone declared war while I wasn't paying attention...

Lazy Sunday...

I think it will be a quiet one today after yesterdays fun & games.

Knowing what was ahead later in the day, I rustled up a fried breakfast, albeit with gammon as I didn't have any bacon. The trip to the car showroom didn't bring forth any real surprises. There was no doubt that they certainly wanted my car but they had nothing reasonable to offer in exchange, so the sum total of the morning's achievements was a free cup of coffee.

I got to the Tap for 12 noon as agreed, and wondered briefly whether I'd been set up as it was about half an hour before I saw any sign of the other stag day participants. I'll not give a blow by blow account of the afternoon, but I know that by teatime, the party had dwindled to just three of us. I can recall at least 16 drinks of one kind or another in nine different pubs, a train ride, a very nice Indian meal and by 10:00pm, I reached the point where I felt OK but could not physically drink any more [very rare and a little disturbing]. That seemed like a good point to opt for the taxi home, leaving the other two to go and watch some dancers from Poland and Lapland. Or something like that...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Grand Day Out...

Debbie & Chris, two of our Tap regulars, are getting married in a couple of weeks time which means we've some traditions to get out of the way.

Today marks Stag Day. Whatever happened to stag nights? I thought the idea was for a "last night of freedom" before getting wed, but it appears that Chris isn't taking any chances and we're all joining him for a last day of freedom.

Of course, it's not uncommon for stag parties to take place out of town and for whole weekends at a time now, but I think we'll be pleased to get through today. Strange thing is, knowing I've got this ahead of me, I'm sat here writing this at ten past six on a Saturday morning...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Car nt believe my ears...

A little over 2 months ago, you may recall my telling you that a local car dealership rang me to say they had some unbelievable offers on and could do a great deal if I'd consider trading in my car. To cut a long story short, despite a few fanciful ideas at first, I walked out a week or so later with a newer upgraded version of the same car. Just like I had the time before.

I don't think I mentioned it at the time, but the day before I was due to collect the new car, I had a call from one of their salesmen telling me that they had some unbelievable offers on and could do a great deal if I'd consider trading in my car. Feeling charitable, I decided to save him any further embarrassment and told him that one of his colleagues had just beaten him to it on the telesales list.

Well, guess who rang me tonight? Another salesman from the same dealership explaining that they were short of models of my particular car and could do me a great deal if I'd consider trading it in. Let me just remind you at this point that the cars have all been 1.6lt Ford Focus of some description or other and according to the logbooks, have never been owned by anyone famous.

It seems that despite my having assured him about my short-lived ownership, his offer is quite genuine so I've got an appointment this weekend to go and discuss what they've got to offer. This could be my opportunity to live out my original mid-life-crisis plan of buying something a bit silly, but I suspect I'll probably come away with yet another Focus...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Scunthorpe calling...

It occurs to me while typing today's title that it also happens to be a much treaured pastime of mine.

That aside, tomorrow promises a little something out of the ordinary at work. Initially it was looking like another overseas for the latter end of this week but I managed to wriggle out of it on account of other commitments back in good ol' Blighty. It seems perhaps I spoke too soon.

Tomorrow sees the presentation of our new computer system prototype and this posed a bit of a logistical issue as the presentation takes place in one country but there are lots of people in this one who need to see it to but can't all be there. Our new conference room with the latest in multimedia communication gadgets isn't quite ready yet so we've had to improvise somewhat.

So at 9:30 tomorrow morning, the presentation starts in Portugal and I will be in a training room in sunny Scunny surrounded by telephones, microphones, speakers, computers, projectors, screens and a room full of colleagues, trying to facilitate the same full-day presentation from 1000 miles away.

I can't wait - it's got "good glitch-free fun" written all over it...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ticker treat...

What with the foreign cuisine and my winning yet another mixed grill pack in the meat draw last Friday (and eating it all over the weekend in my lethargic man-flu-induced-can't-be-bothered-to-cook-a-proper-meal fashion), it's fair to say my current chances of losing any weight are nil, at very best.

To add to the temptation, I bought a load of funsize bars to reward any suitably attired tikes doing the rounds on my first halloween living here. At a little past 8:00pm, I'm pleased to report that there have been no callers yet and I may have to "dispose" of them myself. Shame. Still, better to play it safe, after all, they may go off if I leave them till Christmas when little niece and littler nephew come to stay.

I ought to get back on the running machine, but I'm still not fully recovered from my recent malaise and anyway, think of all the extra exercise I'll be getting lugging this additional weight around...

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Free time...

It's that absurd time of year again when we all have to run around the house, trying to track down every last item with a time display and adjusting it by an hour. I'll guarantee that in a few weeks time I'll still find something that I've missed.

On the upside, I suppose we are gaining an extra hour this time of year, so I guess the challenge is deciding how to make use of those extra free minutes. Sleep is usually my preferred option, but this year I've chose to embellish that with random fits of coughing, sneezing and wondering whether I can shovel enough concoctions down my neck to be fit for work Monday morning...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dzien Dobry...

Time to update the "30 Things" list again as I add Poland to the list of countries I've visited.

Business again I'm afraid, although I'm pleased to say that after a day of hanging around in airports at Humberside and Amsterdam, we arrived in Warsaw in plenty of time to venture out of the hotel for the evening.

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that my expectations of Poland were pretty bleak, but I was pleasantly surprised at Warsaw. It is an eclectic mix of glass skyscrapers towering above the city and a beatiful "Old Town" area full of beautiful Bavarian style architecture. I'd jumped to my own conclusions as to how this contrast had come into being, but I'm led to believe that even the traditional looking buildings have been there for little more than 50 years.

The restaurant of choice for the evening was U Dekerta where the traditional looking surroundings were curiously filled by English people. I enjoyed fried mountain sheep's cheese with cranberries; veal with red caviar followed by a less traditional sounding chocolate cheesecake and ice cream for dessert. The wine was a bit excitable in price at around 20 quid for a bottle of red, but the overall cost of the meal was very reasonable adding another 30 pound or so to the bill for two of us.

A two hour taxi drive next day took us through surroundings more in line with my original expectations to the site for a day and the real purpose of our visit. After a very busy, albeit informative day, we got a lift to a local, more modest hotel and passed Europe's largest open cast mine en route. For the second evening's meal we were recommended to a local bar where, their English was approximately as fluent as my Polish (we ordered in a mixture of English, French and German!) but we enjoyed so superb home-made pizza (very traditional eh?) washed down with a few glasses of beer.

Most of yesterday was spent travelling home again, but I have to say that I much prefer being able to be back home within an hour of the plane landing in the UK.

Today? Back to my regular office for the first time in almost two weeks, but I suspect it won't be long before I'm back out on my travels again...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Show and tell...

Cherrypie's request for pictures gave me an idea, so here's the how the end of last week went

And here's a clue as to what this week has in store...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More, More, More...

More problem solving and work done today

More roast ox for dinner this evening

More sleep required before it all starts again early tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Off to a flying start...

After a genuinely healthy breakfast this morning, we all jumped in the minibus (classy eh?) and enjoyed a much more scenic route into work than the banks of the M180.

My project brief is separate from the rest of the team, so after arriving at the Portugal factory this morning around 8:45, we parted ways although it was a good 20 minutes before my hosts sent someone to greet me. That said, we made good progress during the morning, covering considerably much more ground than I’d expected.

After a dubious lunch consisting of some kind of soup and something else that resembled burger and mash (classy eh?) I re-joined my English colleagues for an afternoon of data-cleaning merriment.

Rounded off a busy day with pancetta and melon, fillet of roast ox with the strongest (and most delicious) garlic mayonnaise I’ve ever tasted and a crème brulee for pud – all washed down of course with a couple of glasses of local red and the obligatory 20 year old tawny.

Yes, I still have a whole heap of work and travel ahead of me, but right now, the work-life balance feels about right. Suspect it could feel different in the morning though…

Monday, October 16, 2006

If I hear the word "jolly"...

Left the office around 12:30 and arrived at the hotel a mere 10 hours 15 minutes later. The drive to the airport went without incident and the flight itself was only half an hour or so late taking off, needing a rather turbulent half an hour longer than usual to deliver us at Porto airport in torrential rain.

Personally, I really enjoy flying and still find it difficult to accept how we climb into metal boxes, hurtle off at hundreds of mile an hour and just leave the floor, while everyone sits there going about their usual business taking it all for granted. Except for one of our number who unfortunately is so traumatised by the very thought that he has to fill himself with happy pills before even considering it. Well, that's his excuse anyway.

Its soo easy to complain about hanging around waiting in airport queues waiting to be checked, searched, scanned, checked again, scanned again but personally, I would rather get on board the flight knowing such security measures are in place. If I were to complain it would be about the hundreds of morons who have apparently missed all of the notices in the news, ignored all of the signs at the entrance door, check in gate and everywhere else and decided they were special enough to ignore the rules and try to carry on an extra bag, or that pair of scissors, or that bottle of drink.

When we finally did arrive at the hotel, it seemed that they hadn’t got my reservation – despite my showing them an e-mail with the details on it. Fortunately, they had rooms available anyway.

So, we’re here and I’ve managed a couple of conciliatory Super Bock Stouts before bedtime. Let’s see what the rest of the week has in store…


I've decided to invest in hotel internet access this trip (a lavish 25 euros for 24 intermittent hours) so although I'll probably have to take a few liberties with dates (i.e. cheat), I can keep the blog updated with any interesting happenings. I anticipate most of them will involve beer or food and hopefully very little about work - the reason I'm actually out here...

Friday, October 13, 2006

I know what I like...

When you have a few minutes to spare, check out the website - a kind of quiz where they show you two pictures and you simply pick your favourite. After a few answers it tells you something about yourself and I have to say I was impressed by it's accuracy when I tried it.

If you're after something vaguely similar but entirely more trivial, there's always the Who'd You Rather game on the Liquid Generation site.

Reminds me of the story about the little boy stood in the central aisle at Tesco, crying his little heart out.
A concerned shop assistant stopped, "Oh dear, what the matter?"
"I've lost my Mummy", wailed the boy
"Well, what's she like?", asked the assistant, thinking she could put out an announcement across ths store
The boy replied, "Big willies and cheap vodka"...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Superstition ain't the way...

You've got to hand it to Stevie, he certainly knows how to throw a tuneful ditty together; I just wish I could go along with the above lyric.

I've posted before about my absurd obsession with magpies (twice in fact) and how I feel duty bound to salute whenever I see them.

I'm fully aware that we have a Friday 13th day after tomorrow, but it also happens to be Mum & Dad's 44th wedding anniversary (note: 4 years before I was born, contrary to popular belief) so it's certainly brought them both their fair share of luck.

Hell, I even manage to fret about wearing the right socks (although I got it wrong yesterday, forgetting that I had taken Monday off).

Aware of my need to spend around 4000 miles in the air over the next week or so, I'm sure a bit of extra luck wouldn't go amiss, so you can imagine my reaction when I spilt a container full of salt all over the kitchen floor this evening. I immediately knelt down and picked up a pinch with my right hand and threw it over my left shoulder (cop that you little devil) then looked on in dismay when I realised I would just have to run the hoover (or more accurately, Sanyo) even further round the kitchen floor.

Question is, what do I do when I come to empty the vaccum cleaner into the bin? Does that count as spilling it again? Then,what about when I put the bin liner into the wheelie bin?

Either way, it's lucky for Tesco I suppose as I'll have to buy some more salt...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fun in the forest...

After a less than pleasant end to my working week last week, it was good to hop in the car in the early hours of Friday morning to collect Mum and clear off down to the south coast for the weekend to visit Little Sis & family.

The primary reason was to surprise my little niece by meeting her from school on her birthday which I'm pleased to report went pretty much to plan. As a bonus, we also got to collect her little brother from nursery which was a (hopefully nice) surprise for him too.

Despite all the parties and other pre-planned activities I think the event that amused us all most was during an impromptu trip to the New Forest. They are very fortunate to live a short drive away from such a beautiful area and it proved the perfect venue for a last minute "KFC picnic" yesterday afternoon. I'll skip the various attempts required to get the moronic youth behind the counter to understand our basic order but eventually, we piled the food and drink in the back of the camper van and headed off for Lyndhurst.

Zinger Tower Burgers, Fries and Popcorn Chicken may not be traditional picnic fare, but they served their purpose of leaving us all feeling too full to walk very far although we had been looking forward to taking a wander in search of some New Forest ponies (which are seldom too far away). As luck would have it, three of them wandered right up to where we had parked the van and one of them stopped to see what we were up to.

In fact, he decided to inspect the van at such close quarters that we began to wonder whether he would actually get in! Incidentally, I say "he" as at one point he proved the matter beyond doubt.

(Apologies for picture quality - I'm still trying to work out all of the features on the new mobile)

After a brief snack on a discarded french fry, a plastic beaker, a loose curtain and my brother in-law's arm, he eventually moved far enough back for us to push our way past and close the door.

Well, there's something you don't get to see every day...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Clumsy bugger...

Something I neglected to mention in my previous post, was to confess that somewhere between clambering out of the taxi and arriving at my front door on Saturday night, I managed to drop my mobile phone. Into a puddle. Which bizarrely enough did not contain distilled water. Suffice to say it wasn't very well on Sunday morning and despite lots of dismantling and leaving out to dry, it had to go to the big Carphone Warehouse in the sky.

Regular readers may recall that it was only a few months when I bought this last phone and although I'm notoriously (and inaccurately) known for changing them every time something new comes along, I suspect that 5 months is a new personal record. It is also considerably within the minimum 18 months I'd signed up for. Rather amusingly, I'd also decided at the time that insurance was a bit of an unnecessary luxury.

For those who don't know, there is a considerable subsidy paid by the mobile networks to provide handsets at throw-away prices and it seemed I was looking at the wrong end of 300 quid for a sim-free like-for-like replacement. Alternatively, I could start up a fresh contract or buy a pay-as-you-go deal, but I would still be looking at 13 monthly payments above and beyond whatever the new unit would cost. Things weren't looking too bright.

Sometimes it's good to have mates in the know and today I was reliably informed that as long as my old sim card was in decent nick, it should work in "any old" mobile configured to the same network. Big grin on face, I fled work this evening (you have to take these chances sometimes when no-one's looking) and made a beeline for Argos, who for a much more reasonable sum (less than a third of the above), provided me with mobile phone number seven:

Although it is a lesser model, it boasts most of the same features as it's predecessor. Better still, I get to keep my previous number, free minutes/texts and the only inconvenience is having to re-enter the contact details. I also opted for insurance this time; considering it the preferable option to wearing it on a heavy chain around my neck in a heat sealed plastic bag...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It's alright for some...

I can't imagine what is must feel like to wake up on a Monday morning knowing that you don't have to go to work any more, but that is the well-earned luxury that awaits Mum tomorrow.

Having left work for the last time on Saturday afternoon, I'm pleased to report that her efforts over the last 11 years in that particular job were rightfully rewarded and her house is probably displaying more flowers than the local Interflora.

We both enjoyed one of Dave's delicious specials from the menu after which we joined a great turnout of the regulars for a few drinks and rather a few too many flavoured sambuccas.

So no prizes for guessing todays main activity for me, but I'll say that it involved not moving very far and expelling a lot of "z"s...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

So long, farewell...

There's a sad sort of clanging from the clock in the hall...

In fact it's probably a relieved sound of sighing now that dreadful prime-time audition show has finally finished on a Saturday evening. Not that I watched a single episode; usually favouring some quality control (to excess) in the Tap or watching something more interesting on the other side. I enjoyed the film (especially at the cinema when I first saw it) and the songs are all classics, but stage auditions to not entertain me in the least. Okay, maybe I'd think differently if they were auditioning for Evita, but I digress.

Today's post shares the title of the song I expect to be singing to the remains of my social life for the foreseeable future following a video conference call I was involved in this afternoon. I've already successfully restricted social activities to Fridays and Saturdays, avoiding beer on school nights at all costs, but it seems even that may need trimming down further. Today I suddenly acquired a workload of epic proportions with a deadline of... oh, there it went.

So plenty of early starts and late finishes to look forward to and plenty more short notice to-ing and fro-ing across Europe, which always manages to sound a lot more glamorous than it is in reality.

Somewhere in between I have a Mum who's finishing work to enjoy a long overdue and much deserved retirement and a special little Niece who's about to turn seven. Obviously, these celebrations will remain at the top of the "to do" list because as far as I'm concerned, some things should always take priority over work.

Oh, and I'll try to update the blog as often as possible but for tonight, I ought to be getting an early night.

The sun has gone to bed and so must I...

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Protein overdose...

Today's lunch has been brought to me by the words "tap", "meat draw", "George Foreman grill" and the sound "hmmm".

For the second week running, I've bagged the mixed grill prize in the pub meat draw and for the second time, I've greatly over-estimated the amount I can comfortably eat in one meal.

The prize itself consists of two rump steaks, pork steaks, gammon steaks, lamb chops, six linconlshire sausages and a couple of tomatoes, so I didn't think it unreasonable to freeze half and grill the other half with a couple of fried eggs. I'm pleased I didn't bother with any chips, mushrooms or onion rings as it was all I could do to eat the miniature farm that was laid out before me.

I really don't antipate much activity taking place this afternoon and can't remember feeling this disgracefully over-nourished since, erm..., last weekend...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What Friday nights are for...

Earlier this week I was invited to join the Tap football team.

Surely, you didn't even consider that I might actually play? No, they had a bowling night planned for last night and a few of us were invited to go along on the understanding that there could possibly be a beer or two along the way somewhere. Chances are, the younger ones would finish bowling and head of for a wild night in Cleethorpes and the "more responsible" among us would sneak off and get a meal somewhere.

Do you ever start reading a post and instantly know what's going to happen next?

It had all the elements of an excellent night out. I threw in a half decent game of bowls, there was the ancticipated high volume and variety of beers, visited a few bars I've never been in before, fish and chip supper, one of the guys anounced he's about to become a Dad, another celebrated his birthday, there was even a very attractive stripper amongst the proceedings.

It's surprising how many people have cameras on their mobile phones these days...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fair's fair...

I'm fully aware before I even start typing that I'm venturing into delicate subject matter, but what the hell, this is something that has been on my mind for several years now and I was reminded of it again this morning.

I spend a considerable amount of my working hours these days attending refresher courses or updates on employment law; usually as a result of amended legislation being introduced to actively discourage discrimination. Although our litigation-obsessed society is clearly here to stay (thanks Uncle Sam), I am genuinely in favour of any changes to make the working environment a fair one, albeit grounds of sex, race, religion, age, physical stature, or anything else you care to dream up.

Without getting competely on my holier-than-thou high horse, I think there is enough tension around this planet of ours as a result of someone feeling or being undermined by someone else.

So on to my case in point. Tonight at the Royal Albert Hall, London sees the 11th annual MOBO awards. MOBO in case you weren't aware stands for music of black origin. Please believe me when I say I am by no means racist and I am aware that the awards are open to musicians of any race performing music of black origin, but still, can this be seen as politically correct? Would the concept of a music of white origin awards be considered appropriate? Many would argue (maybe correctly) that the other major music awards ceremonies are already fulfilling that role.

Surely, the way forward is to open the minds of those selecting categories in non-discriminate awards ceremonies rather than creating these divides?

Idealistic? Maybe, but I thought it was worth a mention...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

'kin spiders...

Todays title is one of my favourite exclamations of recent times and often heard in the vicinty of a certain long-haired mate of mine.

However, my rationale for the phrase of choice this evening is not that I have been surprised by anything particularly, but simply that I am getting sick of 'kin spiders, although to be fair, it's not so much the little critters themselves.

Admittedly, I've never really been much of a fan and I deliberately searched for an arachnophobe-friendly illustration, but having spent a lot of money on a place of my own, I'm not about to give it up for some little eight legged intruders. As with the crane flies I've mentioned before, I'm not keen on killing them either, preferring wherever possible to perform the time honoured glass tumbler and postcard trick.

No, my raison de witter this evening is the very subject of the photo above - I've had enough of walking into their bloody webs. Anyone who's actually seen me would testify that it's an impressive web that would capture me long enough for Boris to come along and satisfy his appetite, but they can stop you in your tracks in a second, with a sudden need to flap and brush the miles of sticky silky thread from about your person.

I think things reached a head when I noticed one had spun a web across the entire width of my drive between the bungalow and the fence. There he was, sat in the middle of it, with a menacing grin [probably], watching me park the car on the other side of the gate and awaiting my countergambit. My crude response was to walk around the perimeter of the bungalow with an upturned brush, sending them all on their merry way to set up home elsewhere (hopefully still outside).

Of course, what I hadn't bargained on was that while I'd been busy at work all day, so had they. Like I said, 'kin spiders...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Calling time...

It's been a busy weekend, what with sampling the limited edition Hewitts Ale at the Tap (even more limited now I've had my fill) and re-aquainting myself with the regulars and my little friend the Hobgoblin, I hadn't had chance to ring Little Sis.

I know we now have the open forum of Blogger to hurl coments back and forth about who had it toughest as a kid (bikes, pianos, smoking mothers, blah, blah, blah), but we had the serious matter of the my niece's forthcoming birthday to discuss. Problem is, her reading is improving at such a pace that I daren't risk giving anything away on here. Come to think of it her daughter, Little Z is a pretty good reader too these days. Oh-oh, Seany's in trouble.

For once I remembered Jajah before I picked up the phone, so I took advantage of getting a free long distance phone call as I recently discovered that if you don't use their services for two weeks, you have to re-activate your account, which is a little inconvenient. I also discovered this evening that if you haven't said everything you wanted within an hour, they disconnect your call.

Still I'm not complaining, even with these limitations they are still providing you with a free telephone service and it's not like anyone talks on the phone for more than an hour. Except for me and Little Sis apparently.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I can assure you that I have no connection with this company at all and I'm not on any kind of commission arrangement with them, it just seems to good a deal to keep to myself...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Geek shame...

Way back in my BTEC Computer Study days at Grimsby "College of Nolledge" as it was affectionately known, we were let loose on the pinnacle of modern technology that was the Commodore Pet. (I'd probably better quickly brush aside the fact that I found that picture on a computer museum site). It was on one of those machines that I was first introduced to VisiCalc and the concept of spreadsheets; a fascination which I've been unable to shake off since.

Since evolving through SuperCalc on my BBC Model B and Lotus 1-2-3 on the office PC, I eventually settled down with Excel and despite my years of working with the things, I'm still fascinated by what you can get them to do and learning new tricks all the time.

I sat for a couple of minutes at work this afternoon feeling rather pleased with myself having just finished the testing on my latest creation. It is a veritable symphony of cross-references, control buttons with macros and nested logical formulae that would make the hairs on the back or your neck stand on end.

Did I mention I've not been to the pub for 4 weeks? Can you tell? Well, the weekend is almost here and I anticipate some serious priority re-alignment for a couple of days...

Fingers crossed...

I just wanted to send a quick "Good Luck" message to Little Sis who has been out today and will be out again tomorrow visiting schools on her quest for a teaching post.

Of course, it would have been nice to be able to leave a comment on her blog but Blogger won't let me in...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What a waste...

I've just finished watching a documentary on ITV - Freddie Mercury: A Kind of Magic and the same thought is going round in my mind - what a complete and utter waste.

I'm not referring to the great man himself, except that it still seems a dreadful waste that we were deprived of his talents so soon. However, I said my piece on that topic a few days ago. No, this is another swipe at our increasingly tabloid style of media (to be fair, not the BBC for a change) and their fascination with spending considerable time telling us absolutely nothing whatsoever.

In a 45 minute documentary, they had exclusive interviews with Freddie's mother, sister and an old schoolfriend during which you would have hoped they could give us a bit of an insight to the man behind the stage persona we all remember.

Unfortunately no - the entire documentary appeared to be obsessed with the fact that he was gay. Sure, it was undoubtedly a major facet of his personal life but this was hardly groundbreaking news to the world at large, let alone any Queen or Freddie fans.

I have to wonder whether his family would have been so keen to contribute had they known what utter drivel they were scheduled to be part of...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Fun with Blogger...

I thought it would be fun to have a nose around the new Blogger Beta this morning and see what it had to offer. There are some nice new formatting facilities on there but unfortunately it doesn't transfer any customised features you've added so when you've made as many changes as I have, it's difficult to see why I would want to change just yet.

However, it looks like I am no longer able to leave comments using my Blogger ID and reading Delcatto's post this afternoon, it seems that there are problems leaving comments here too. Now that is certainly less than convenient.

Sorry guys, but it won't let me change back again so if you are leaving a comment on here, please make sure you use the "Other" option when choosing an identity or make a sneaky copy of your comment somewhere before posting just to ensure you don't lose it.

Isn't progress a wonderful thing...

A sense of patriotism...

I'm not sure where I'm heading with this one as I'm not exactly sure if I'm supposed to be proud to be English or British or perhaps both. What are the English are supposed to be good at exactly to make me feel proud? When the British are good at something, it seems that any individual responsible is seldom English. As an English nation, we don't have a national anthem or parliament to ourselves, but those are maybe points for discussion another time.

We certainly seem to have a bit of a mixed identity where sport is involved. As English, we were happy to gloat and support our football team in the recent world cup, but as Mr Henman has failed to achieve a Wimbledon tennis final once again, future hopes are now pinned on the young Brit, Andrew Murray.

Seany epiphany alert.

I was lucky enough to catch the second half of the Last Night of the Proms and it's the first time for years I remember taking time out to watch it. My attention was initially caught by Nicola Benedetti, not for her physical appearance (delightful though it is), but for her performance of Meditation by Thais; one of my all time favourite pieces of music. In short, it was beautiful. However, the fact that this enormously talented 19 year old hails from Scotland, or Great Britain if you prefer, wasn't the motivation behind this post.

It was soon time for the big finale and as sure as Queen would always finish with "We are the Champions", we heard the traditional choruses of Land of Hope & Glory, Rule Britannia and Jerusalem.

Now in recent years, and I'm guessing as a result of overwhelming demand for "Last Night" tickets, they have held simultaneous outdoor Proms in the Park concerts. So in addition to the 6000 or so in the Royal Albert Hall, massive crowds were also assembled outside in London, Swansea, Glasgow and Belfast (oh, and Manchester) and all were united in frantic flag waving and singing their hearts out.

For a fleeting moment I actually felt an overwhelming sense of national pride. I'm not exactly sure for what nation; English, British, or whatever, the point is that it really doesn't matter. As individual countries or as a United Kingdom, we certainly know how to have a bloody good sing-song...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thoughts of Faraway...

While I had a little time to spare this afternoon, I finally got around to adding the moon phase panel to my collection of links down the left hand side of the blog.

My wandering mind being what it is, I suddenly found myself thinking about Moon Face from Enid Blyton's Enchanted Wood and Magic Faraway Tree stories and how incredible it is that my little niece is now enjoying the stories every bit as much as her Mum and Uncle Seany did when they were her age. When Little Sis told me they were reading the book with Curious Connie, I found I could easily recall the various characters who lived in the magical tree and some of the lands that used to visit the top of it.

Curious myself to see if the stories had much of an internet presence, I surfed around and was shocked amongst my searching to discover that apparently, the characters have had to undergo a few changes. The three children have now changed names from Jo, Bessie and Fanny to Joe, Beth and Frannie. Even Cousin Dick is now Cousin Rick. All in the name of bringing them up to date and reducing the possibility of offence. Political correctness gone mad!

Anyway, for those who are interested, you can read the Wikipedia entry here and there is a great site here full of pictures and links.

I really must get back out to the pub again next weekend...

Friday, September 08, 2006

The right to reply...

Or more accurately, the reluctance to reply - yes it's the next episode in the "Auntie" story.

You may recall from a couple of posts back that I had entered into correspondance with the BBC trying to track down a TV series "Songwriter's Circle". To save you looking back I'll quickly recap:

I sent them an e-mail (when I eventually found a "general enquiry" form)
They replied saying they can't guarantee a reply to all e-mails
They replied again saying they couldn't me help without further detail
I replied to that message with more detail
They replied saying that they couldn't access my reply on their e-mail address
I re-sent the reply using their their enquiry form

They have since replied again. Firstly to remind me that due to the volume of enquiries they receive, they cannot guarantee a reply. They then replied once more to say there were no plans to repeat the programme but if they did, it would be included in TV listings such as "Radio Times".

I suspect the latter was another standard reply as it referred to a programme rather than a series and they clearly couldn't pass up the chance of advertising their listings magazine of choice.

Furthermore, they went on to say that if I wanted to suggest the "programme" be commercially released, then I should put my request in writing. I suspect rather like the two written requests I've just sent then?

Do I pursue it further, or just give up? Should I be typically insenced at the fact that they've rattled through my enquiry without paying any attention whatsoever to the content? Quite frankly, I'm a little disappointed but I just can't be arsed.

Conversely, perhaps I should feel honoured that despite the large volumes of enquiries they have to deal with, I was fortunate enough to have them reply to two of mine in a row...

Afterthought: If you have reached this post by Googling for Songwriter's Circle, please leave me a comment if you have more success with the beeb than I have...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

There can be only one...

Today marks the birthday of Freddie Mercury who would have been 60 today.

I have always had a huge respect for Queen, who were one of the few bands prepared to venture into unchartered musical territory and pursue what they wanted to play rather than following the mainstream chart fodder. That said, they certainly had their fair share of success.

When he died (an unbelievable 15 years ago), it was to become one of my great regrets that I'd passed up the chance twice to see them play live. The nearest I got was the following year when, thanks to my brother-in-law being in the fan club, we managed to get tickets for the tribute concert at Wembley Stadium. To this day, it remains one of the most amazing concerts I've seen with a whole array of musical heroes assembling from all corners of the globe to join the remaining band members and 72,000 fans to pay their respects to the great entertainer. Possibly the only time I've been so happy and yet so sad at the same time.

I read today that the government in Zanzibar (Freddie's birth place) have received numerous objections from the local Muslim community calling for a celebratory gala party to be cancelled on the grounds that it is tantamount to promoting homosexuality. That's an argument I'll leave with them, but I think we all know that wherever he is, Freddie will be partying like a good 'un, pleased to know that he is still uppermost in so many peoples thoughts today and that indeed, the show does go on...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Back to square one...

I've never actually been to the Old Kent Road so I can't really go back, but the point is, I'm back where I started just over a week ago, having missed the opportunity to pass go and pick up my obligatory 200 notes.

In a nutshell, it was the first day back to work today, the holiday now a distant memory and the return every bit the non-event that I had anticipated. Only 47 e-mails waiting in the inbox which isn't bad for four days; many of which weren't worthy of reading and 9 of which were requests for me to complete the new 360 degree appraisals for my colleagues. That's this weeks work taken care of then.

On the subject of getting nowhere fast, I wrote to the BBC this weekend. Not to pass comment on the "skills" of our evening news reader, or even to state my almost honourable intentions for his female colleagues on the breakfast news. I'm trying to track down some information on one of their programmes.

About 6 years ago, BBc2 broadcast a series of programmes called "Songwriters Circle" where two or three singer-songwriters would take to the stage, tell us a little about some of the songs they had written and throughout, perform live acoustic versions of the songs in question. Aside from the fact that they would provide a valuable insight to the somewhat lesser talented boys and girls occupying the airwaves of late, I thought they were genuinely interesting and entertaining programmes.

Unable to find any trace of them on the BBC website (or even Google for that matter), I decided to drop Auntie a quick line and ask whether they were ever likely to be repeated, or if not, whether I could in fact buy the series on DVD or video. I should have taken heed of the fact that the BBC seem reluctant for you to e-mail them through their own site for "general" enquiries. Having waded through pages of FAQ's and attempts to answer my question before I'd asked it, I finally reached the hallowed enquiry form and sent my message.

Almost immediately, I received a reply stating that the BBC receive lots of e-mails and it is unlikely that I would receive a personal reply. Keen start there then.

I was delighted tonight to find amongst my e-mails a message from the BBC until I read "I understand you wish to obtain a BBC recording of your father-in law". Well that would be a nice surprise for him, not to mention the wife. Assuming of course that either actually existed.

I hit the reply button, explained politely that I was short in the father-in-law department to the tune of one and repeated my original request with a few more dates and details I'd discovered in the meantime. Another immediate response followed stating that they no longer monitor the e-mail address that had written to me and that I may find it useful to visit their website and use one of their pre-designed forms.

Let the games commence: ctrl a, ctrl c (copy whole e-mail), ctrl v (dump the entire contents in their enquiry form) and sit back waiting for the next e-mail explaining why they don't want to help one of their exorbitant license fee payers...

Friday, September 01, 2006

The great escape...

I'm pleased to report that although it looked unlikely at the beginning of the week, I managed to get away to visit Little Sis and family for a couple of days after all. I should also set the record straight that this was purely as a result of winning over the cold rather than the threats that have been alledged elsewhere. OK, maybe a bit of both, but a guy's got to keep some sort of self respect.

Anyway, I'm glad I made the effort as we managed cram a lot of fun in over two and a half days:
~ surprised my little nephew by meeting him from nursery
~ trip to the beach where same little chap enticed me into the sea (except his Mum was ready with a change of clothing)
~ watched little niece (who is decreasingly little every time I see her) honing her cycling skills while her brother had a rather less enjoyable attempt at stunt riding
~ singalong/playalong-a-Seany where we sang every nursery rhyme and song that Uncle Seany could rustle together with three chords
~ quick guitar and chess lessons for Little Sis (no, not simultaneous)
~ playing the board games where they don't usually have enough people to play with
~ the obligatory pub lunch to give the chef a day off
~ loads of other good food at home including a hugely excessive (but delicious all the same) ice-cream sundae last night

All in all, a great week off, despite the slow start, which finally had the desired effect of getting work off the brain for a few days...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Fair means or foul...

I commented amongst the mutterings in my last post on my displeasure that I appeared to have caught a cold just in time for a week off work. Well judging by the fact that I'm sat at home, still feeling crap and writing this post right now, you have probably figured that my "fair or foul means" were clearly insufficient to facilitate the trip away that I'd been planning.

Fair? It doesn't seem to be but hey, it's only a cold. I ought to point out that the "man-flu" thing doesn't really work when you live on your own and it's still down to me at the end of the day to provide appropriate pills, potions, food and drink. To be fair, the girl who came into the office coughing and sneezing was probably more concerned with company absence policy than the desire to spread germs. Most importantly on the theme of "fair", it would have been selfish to inflict my germs on Little Sis' family just to get myself out of town for a few days.

Foul? Well other than feeling foul, the only connection I can make there is the meal I've just eaten in an attempt to sweat the rest of this thing out - chicken curry...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Mutter, mutter, mutter...

~ BBC breakfast news gave us another pearl of wisdom this morning. Apparently, as people are living longer, they are more likely to get cancer of some description. It is also more likely that the older we all get, the more likely it is that someone will develop a cure. So where exactly is the "news" to report there?

~ I also heard on the radio news about a fire station that's just been built, but for health & safety reasons they've not been allowed to install a pole. So some of the few modern day heroes we have left will run down two flights of stairs, hurtle through traffic-filled streets at full speed and run into a burning building to save someone's life, but heaven forbid they should endanger themselves by sliding down a pole.

~ To the guy in the convertible Bentley who tried persistently to park in my boot on the way home yesterday: having a nice car does not give you any priveleged right of way or personal highway code - it just makes you a tosser who clearly has too much money.

~ I've been looking forward to tomorrow afternoon and leaving work for my first break in four months and have every intention of heading south to visit Little Sis & family for a few days. Imagine my delight to wake up with a sore throat & runny nose this morning. Sorry, no time for man-flu right now; by fair means or foul I'll be rid of this damned cold by tomorrow night.

Glad I got that little lot off my chest - I'm feeling better already...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Feeling flush...

I was invited to a poker game last Friday night, but I politely declined as I needed some time to scrabble around and find the paperwork to trade in the car. Oh, and I'm not entirely sure how to play poker which I thought may not be the best of tactics in the pursuit of retaining my wallet contents.

Still, I guess it is one of those things that everyone really should be able to do like riding a bike or swimming, so I started trawling the internet. I've heard much talk of people playing poker online so there ought to be a tutor out there somewhere.

It didn't take long before I found myself at Pacific Poker which ought to be fairly trustworthy seeing as their sponsorships seem to be all over the TV. Sure, you can play for real cash if you want to but a novice like was much happier in the Practice Play area.

As it wasn't going to cost me any real bucks, I decided to skip the tutor and sit myself at a table just to see how much (or little) I did know about the game and within an hour, I'd accumulated $125 in winnings. Well that seemed easy enough - I decided to leave it there until I had time to come back again and pay closer attention.

And that time was last night. Armed with the little red guy on one shoulder saying "Go on, you could have earnt some real money there" and the little haloed white guy on the other reminding me that I'd blagged my way through and been sensible enough to quit while I was ahead. I then proceeded to lose over $200 so it's a good job I listened to the right voice.

Back to the online tutor then and time to practise my best poker face in front of the PC monitor...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sad news...

I received the sad news tonight that Tom Hemmingway, one of our pub regulars and former neighbours has passed away. After all of my wittering last night about giving blood and saving lives, it just goes to show what little influence we really have in the grand scheme of things. I always knew Tom to be a true gentleman and generally "good bloke" who I'm absolutely sure will be sorely missed by everyone who had the pleasure to know him.

I also read earlier this week about four local men who were involved in a yachting accident 30 miles of Spurn Point. I was further saddened to read that the one man who didn't survive the ordeal was Adrian Piggford, the Production Director of the first printers I ever worked for. Although it is 16 years to this very month since we worked together, I remember him as another real gentleman with a great sense of humour.

My first job there was as receptionist and I had the difficult task of trying to entice him away from the factory floor and get him to answer the phone by means of a bell that was operated from a button on my phone. To avoid confusion, we developed a code: ring the bell once for Adrian, twice for Peter the Sales Manager and three times for Mike our Salesman. I remember how we all laughed at Mike's comment after we'd explained it to them all, "So Adrian, remember you're a one bell".

Although it's good to look back with a smile, my sincere sympathies go out to the friends and families of them both...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A quick pint after work...

Not only did I stop off for a long overdue pint after work today, I left work early especially to avoid the queues. "Good grief, does that man think of nothing else but alcohol?", I hear the cries, but for once you would be wrong.

I remember when I was a youngster that Dad would sometimes come home from work and with hardly enough time to get his coat off, would turn around again and head back out telling me that he had to "see a man about a dog" or occasionally "a dog about a man" and when he came back he would fascinate me with tales of the "hole in his arm" that lay hidden beneath a newly placed plaster.

For as long as I can remember, Dad has been a blood donor and I always promised myself that as soon as I was old enough I would go too. Sure enough, only a few days after my 18th birthday I trotted off on my own to the local session and donated my first pint. Just as I'd always been led to believe, it was absolutely no big deal at all except that I had possibly just saved somone's life. Now that is a big deal, but I still remain unsuccessful in convincing many people to attend regularly.

You would think the fact that a complete non-hero like me could have saved so many lives by doing little more than lying down for 5-10 minutes every few weeks ought to be convincing enough.

However, alone or otherwise, I still continued to attend regular sessions twice a year and then three times when they increased the frequency but then for some reason couldn't make it to a session. Then I missed a few more, a minor operation prevented me from attending for 12 months and by then I'd just got out of the habit.

Last weekend, a leaflet dropped though my door saying that there was a session scheduled at the local village hall today - exactly 6 months and one day since the tattoo which meant I was elligble and available to give blood again.

Thinking back, it must have been around five years since I last gave blood and I walked into the hall feeling suitably ashamed. I'm pleased to report that it was a packed session but all the same, they were as grateful of my contribution today as they were for the 32 that have preceded it.

So here goes my pitch to a hopefully wider audience.

Apparently, only 5% of people who can give blood actually do, which is apalling given how simple and painless it is. Especially when there are actually peoples lives at stake. Please click on Billy's picture below to find out more, or to see when and where your next convenient session is, whether it's your first or perhaps just your first for a long time.

And if saving lives isn't incentive enough, just look at that smile on little Billy's face. Go on, do something amazing...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Chip off the old blog...

It seems that my constant nagging to Little Sis has finally paid off and she has revived her blog.

Going under the modest nom de plume of "LuvlyLittleSister" (which of course she is, but never quote me on that), she shares my particularly ambitious outlook on life not to mention quirky, if sometimes bizarre, sense of humour. That said, we've both taken quite different paths to get where we are today and before she says anything, yes, I have had a considerable few years headstart.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to what she has to say. Please pay a visit to her blog and Sis - remember to play nice...

Believe it or not...

There are some regular readers who will be looking in at this and I suspect will never forgive me for what I'm about to share with you.

Last night following the unnecessary shirt-purchasing expedition, I rang out for a pizza rather than cooking tea. No great surprise there, it's been known to happen at least once a week.

Full of seafood pizza, tomato garlic bread and guilty thoughts about the food that remained untouched in the cupboards, I resolved to plan something in advance for supper tonight and began to throw a few bits into the slow cooker. To date I've had some acceptable offerings from the afore-mentioned pot but nothing worth writing home (or on here) about. No real surprise there either then, many of my meals are little more than fortunate accidents.

So in it all went: stewing steak, onion, garlic, salt, and gravy granules. Oh, and a can of Wychwood Hobgoblin. Can you believe I sacrificed a whole 500ml of alcohol from one of my favourite tipples in the name of culinary experimentation? You betcha - it was a gamble worth taking for the delicious meal I enjoyed earlier this evening and I'd do it again.

What next - perhaps one of these Jack Daniels recipes? Not a chance, I'm not a big fan of canned beer anyway, but to waste Jack like that? That's just rude...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Things I've learnt...

...particularly over the last 48 hours.

Don't put your washing in the machine until your head is clear of the previous day's alcohol.

Check the washing machine is empty before you throw a whole week's worth of work shirts in.

A dark red towelling dressing gown will still run colours into other items despite being several years old and not in an overly hot wash.

Dylon "Runaway" actually does what it says on the box and does remove colour run marks.

Consider the above option before dashing out to buy replacement shirts

A Lotto syndicate win for the second week running doesn't necessarily mean you get to spend your winnings on anything worthwhile...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Talk is cheap...

When my phone bill arrives every month, I can almost guarantee that there is only one number makes it onto the itemised call list and that belongs to Little Sis.

We usually only call each other once or twice a week but you can pretty much guarantee that these calls usually last for about an hour. To save us both a few quid, I suggested last week that she downloads Skype which would enable her to call other Skype users (i.e. me) and talk as long as she likes for free. The only downside is that you need to be near your PC, although Tesco are currently selling internet phones that plug into a USB socket which simulates the feel of standard phone usage.

She'd obviously mentioned it to Dad who never enters into such things without thoroughly investigating them first. During his research today he discovered Jajah and I've been looking into it myself this afternoon. Basically you just register with them on their website and there's nothing to download. You enter the number you want to call on the web page, they ring you on your landline, then ring the other person on theirs and connect the two - simple. And free.

It's good to talk, but it's better to talk for nothing...