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...

The price is right...

I took a Ford Streetka out for a test drive yesterday and after a brief spin around town we got down to the inevitable pantomime over discussing price.

To be honest, I get very bored with the whole thing so this time I tried to cut to the chase.
"I'll level with you - I like to buy my cars from here because to date they've always been reliable and I like the quality of the service. You want to sell me a car, I want to buy one, let's not waste time to-ing and fro-ing over the price. How much is this going to cost me a month?"
They told me.
"OK, that's well over what I wanted to pay so I'll leave it for now"
"Well let's see if we can do something to get a bit closer"
"I hope not - that was supposed to be your best offer"
They did shave a few quid off but still not enough to keep me interested.

Then came the words I'd been dreading "The problem is, there is such a difference in price between the car you're trading in and the model you're looking for. I could do you a much cheaper deal on another Focus and we have a lot greater choice". He went back to his office and came back a couple of minutes later with a choice of three cars and three "best" prices.

To cut along story short, it looks like the "silly" car idea has been put on hold again for another year or two as I look forward to driving another newer, lower mileage Focus. I did get the Ghia model though so I suppose that's a little bit flash...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Enough on my plate...

I originally intended doing a bit more research last night before the weekend's foray into the lions den that is the car showroom.

Unfortunately, I had only got as far as the Top Gear website when I became distracted with the thought of a personalised number plate. Oh dear.

I had no serious intentions of getting one but I thought it would be fun to see what was out there and how much a good one would cost. So off I went on my quest in search of:

Not for sale anywhere that I could see but to my complete amazement, I managed to track down this one that is available:

And all they're asking is 85 thousand quid.

Back to the car search tonight then...

A special message...

Well the moment I've been looking forward to has arrived and it's all thanks to you wonderful people!

I've finally passed the 10,000 mark on the Bravenet hit counter and regular visitors will know that it's become a bit of a tradition to post something a bit out of the ordinary each time another three zeros roll over.

This time, by means of a big thank you for your continued interest, I offer this:

Please feel free to click the picture for the full size version, print it, cut it out and there you have your very own limited edition Seany Thanknote, limited only by the number of people who will be bothered to actually go through the effort to get one. You are also fairly safe in the knowledge that Franklyn mint will never advertise framed reprints on the back page of the Sunday supplements.

Given current fluctuations in currency, I cannot guarantee that anyone who presents the note to me will actually receive 10,000 thanks and exchange for Hobgoblin is even less likely, but I will certainly say one very sincere and heartfelt thank you.

So, for those of you with anything remotely better to do with your time, please accept my genuine thanks for the tenth time. Oh yes, and please keep looking in...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Watching My P's and Q's...

I try my best to avoid the subject of work on the blog. We all have good days and bad days and I'm sure mine are no better or worse than any of yours so I usually try to keep references to the day job brief and scarce. Besides, quite a few of you know where I work and although I don't think my colleagues are aware of my blog presence, I'd sooner not have to "go underground" should it become widely known when I'd filled the blog with career-halting honesty opinion.

Today however I'll make an exception, firstly because I'm not just ranting about work, secondly because I think it's an amusing anecdote and finally because it was yours truly who made himself look a complete pillock.

Due to the nature of some of the products we make, we need to have a Qualified Person on site who (amongst many other responsibilities) has to release licensed products for shipment and eventual sale. For those who don't know, Qualified Person is usually appreviated to the letters "QP".

This afternoon we were in the weekly Operations Management Team meeting and as part of the newly revived agenda, we were reviewing outstanding corrective actions in preparation for an important audit due in the next few weeks. Next on the list of observations from the previous audit was something along the lines of "need to provide evidence that a personal development programme is in place". Someone asked exactly what that meant and questioned whether it was referring specifically to the QP role or to succession planning in general.

"No", one of the team replied "it's about the person in that role attending seminars and refresher courses in order to maintain their..."
She was struggling to find the right word. I knew exactly what she was trying to say but couldn't think of a way to express what she meant either.
She continued, "It's in relation to their overall..."
In a sudden flash of inspiration I offered "QP-ness?"

Doesn't look so funny when written down but it's not the sort of word you want to holler across the boardroom table...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Just getting from A to B...

Tuesday afternoon 17th March 1987, I clearly remember walking into the living room having just been dropped off after my fourth driving test, threw my keys onto the table a told them I'd had enough and wasn't going to take any more lessons. Shortly followed by a big grin and the announcement that I'd finally passed.

Unlike a few of my friends, my job at the time didn't pay enough to dash out and buy a car - I was just grateful for any excuse to go out in the works Escort Van (with no clutch) or one of the directors' cars that I was petrified of damaging.

It was a couple of years later before the fun really started. I'll spare you the photos but I'm surprised when looking back that in the years since, I've only owned eight cars:

1. A bright yellow W plate (that's a plate ending in "W") Mini 1000. I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling sentimental about a first car, but to this day, "Little Min" remains one of my favourites and the only one I ever named (albeit without much imagination).
2. A metallic blue A plate Ford Escort GL was the first car I dared to take any distance; firstly out to the Peak District and eventually as far as Cornwall (with some interesting electrical problems on the way home).
3. A dark blue E plate Rover something-or-other Vanden Plas which I only owned for around 24 hours and never got to take beyond a test drive when the garage suddenly decided that the car wasn't "fit for sale" at the agreed price and suggested they exchange it for something newer.
4. A dark red H plate Ford Orion - boring from the outset but the newest car I'd ever owned. Unfortunately that didn't prevent it from being riddled with faults and following an accident where someone drove into the boot I eventually traded it in saying I would never buy another Ford.
5. A metallic blue K plate VW Golf. Another great car which turned out to be another end of range. Funny that whenever I tried to trade in a car in it always seemed to be "the last year of that shape/spec. Now if you'd only got the later one..."
6. A dark red N plate Daewoo Nexia. An absolute bargain of a car which came with all the gadgets and trimmings that I'd previously only dreamt of. Unfortunately, they hadn't really established their market over here at the time and I eventually discovered it was cheaper to buy a new car than buy replacement parts for that one.
7. A metallic green V plate Ford Focus. Yes I know what I'd said after the Orion and I know what they say about green cars being unlucky but I'd been impressed with the ones I'd hired through work and wasn't over bothered by the colour. I really couldn't fault it so when I noticed the mileage was starting to creep up, it made sense to upgrade to:
8. A dark green 51 plate Ford Focus. If I remember correctly, the spec I gave the salesman was that I wanted exactly the same again but with about 30,000 less miles on the clock. Other than the colour, that's precisely what I got. In fact it's what I drive now.

Have you spotted the theme yet? Other than Little Min, they have all been boring, run of the mill cars; the latter two being excused perhaps for being quite economical and reliable which is important given the 70-odd miles I commute every day.

Saturday afternoon, I received a call out of the blue asking whether I'd be interested in trading my car in as they have a high demand for them right now and may be in a position to offer me a good deal. Hmm... sounds too good to be true.

So now I have a dilemma. Do I get a little 2 seater soft-top something-or-other and continue with the mid-life crisis pantomime? But that puts a stop to the trips out for my non-driving parents. Added to which, I've recently seen the boot space of the MG F and I think I'd find that a struggle. Do I try and recapture my youth by getting a new Mini? Perhaps even a convertible one? It's tempting I admit.

Cherrypie makes a compelling argument that I should get something completely irresponsible just to wind up my mates whose choice of vehicle is now restricted by "other obligations". Equally tempting I have to say.

But then the Focus does take a lot of beating and next year they're launching the coupe cabriolet version which does look rather nice. Admitted, it's bound to be priced well out of my league brand new, but by the time I'm ready to trade in my next one...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Gone Missing...

Taking a quick scan down the blog this evening, I see that most of the buttons and link images in the left hand sidebar have disappeared, having been replaced with mere text alternatives.

I've checked the template and republished the entire blog, but still nothing. I even checked the original image sources and everything seems in order there too. I suppose Blogger must be having one of those days.

I had a couple of posts planned but that's put me off my stride now so I'm sure they'll wait for another night.

So apologies for the reduced down blog this evening. Normal service will be resumed shortly. I guess...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Market News...

I got an early start this morning (for a Sunday) and took the folks out for a spin in the car. There's an old RAF base about 35 miles out of town where they have a sizeable car boot sale and market every Sunday morning and although it's not my idea of a fun way to spend your spare time, they don't often get the chance to go out there and it must be over a year since we last went. Besides, if I decide on an irresponsible two-seater replacement for the current car, this could be the last chance I get to take them both out anywhere for a while.

That David Dickinson and his TV accomplices has got a lot to answer for - when we arrived around 9:30 the market was already sprawling out as far as the eye could see. Everyone either on the hunt for an original Clarice Cliff for 20p or trying to pass something of that isn't for 20 quid. It is noticeable how the overall vibe about these places have changed since the "Bargain Hunt" type programs infested our airwaves - people are actually prepared to haggle now over a few pence. Still, as the saying goes, one man's rubbish is another man's... er... rubbish.

Anyway, after three hours or so or wandering up and down the aisles, we finally called it a day and all I'd picked up was a sun hat for mum and a couple of bags of stuffed olives (well it's healthier than the bacon butties I would usually have bought). Aside from that, I'd apparently picked up something else that made my stomach feel particularly uncomfortable along the way so without sharing the gruesome details, suffice to say that the journey home was particularly quicker than the one going out.

I'm still not feeling particularly good but now it's worse as I realise I've missed out on Mum's home-made meat pie for Sunday dinner...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

And the beat goes on...

It's almost a year ago since I bought myself an electronic drum kit to help wile away the long winter evenings in my new home. I connected it up to the PC and enjoyed trying it out but had to pack it all away again soon afterwards in preparation for moving house.

What I didn't get around to mentioning, was that a few weeks later I also bought myself one of these

This allows you to play the kit independantly of a PC and directly to an external amplifier (or headphones). It also effectively gives you 30 different drum kits for the price of one. Only 10 months later, I finally got around to connecting up this little gizmo for a long overdue trial run and in so doing, happily lost several hours this afternoon.

I'm still no Cozy Powell, or likely ever to be for that matter, but I have to admit it is great fun trying.

Somewhere along the way I've also managed to take the first steps in upgrading the car, but I'll save that for another post...

Winning Streak...

I don't usually consider myself a particularly lucky person but I can't complain about this last week.

Earlier this week, we discovered that our lottery syndicate had work had got four numbers at the weekend and although we won't be jetting of to Rio, we don't have to pay into the fund for the next few weeks.

I took Mum out for our usual Friday tea in the Tap (delicious as usual) and I was pleased to hear on my arrival that I'd won 25 quid in the draw the previous night - without even being there which was a bit of a result.

Last night's entertainment was courtesy of the football team who had organised a race night. Not, as had been suggested, a chance to stand at the bar wittering about the increasing number of immigrant workers in the town, but the opportunity for a flutter on some pre-recorded horse races. I only backed one winner but my winnings were enough to cover my stakes for the evening so that was another result.

Strange how I still didn't have much money left this morning though...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Silent running...

I was flying out of leaving Scunthorpe rather hastily this evening after another fun packed day, facing the prospect of another drive home in gloomy weather when suddenly Chris Evans stopped talking mid-sentence.

There seems to be quite a few people about who don't like Chris Evans but I've never been able to fathom out exactly why. I've always enjoyed his humorous take on presenting from early days on TV-Mayhem, via the best years (in my opinion) of Big Breakfast through to his current slot on the Radio 2 Drive Time show. Perhaps it's the typically English thing of disliking anyone who's worked hard and done well for themselves.

Still, like him or not, there was no disputing that my radio had just gone silent and the display had gone off too which would indicate that Mr Evans probably wasn't exhibiting any new-found broadcasting shyness. By all accounts, a lead had probably worked loose at the rear of the unit which wasn't a major problem except I didn't have the "wire thingies" in the car to remove the radio and check it so it looked like a quiet journey ahead.

It was even too dark & miserable outside for a decent game of church-spotting - I got a personal worst of about three if you must know. So that was it, only a couple of mp3 tracks on the phone which I was reluctant to operate whilst driving and otherwise, no other sound to accompany my journey than the scraping of wiper blades on the windscreens and the occasional whoosh of something travelling in the opposite direction.

I'm seldom happier than when I'm driving away from Scunthorpe whatever the conditions and my journey tonight didn't actually take any longer than usual. It just felt like bloody hours...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Now there's a meal...

They do say that sometimes it's the simple things that bring the most pleasure. I like to share my culinary experiments with you all from time to time but for supper tonight I tried something I've not eaten for ages. No fancy recipe or gadgets required this time either.

Having left the office late and driven back through the pouring rain, I decided to call in at the local Chinese takeaway on the way home, forgetting that they close on Tuesdays. Fortunately, there is a chippy next door which I'd been meaning to try and it suddenly struck me that the last time I could remember eating fish, chips & mushy peas was about 16 months ago.

That one time (no, I've never been to band camp), one time last March was when an impromptu stag night involved a stop at the Seaway chippy in Cleethorpes for a delicious piece of cod with chips and mushy peas, all of which we've still recalled and remembered fondly as recently as last week.

As a rule, Grimsby folk won't eat cod, "bottom feeders", "full of worms", you'll hear them all cry, but frankly I prefer the taste and the alledged worms can only mean additional protein. I don't originally hail from Grimsby anyway (despite having lived in the area for 38 years or so) so I'll settle for being a Southener who doesn't know any better.

No cod tonight, but the haddock was certainly full of flavour and big enough to have given Captain Ahab a couple of decent flashbacks; the chips were a perfect balance of fluffy potato in a wonderfully crisp casing and the mushy peas were made from real peas that didn't glow in the dark during the drive home. Amongst my kitchen toys, I've deliberately avoided getting a deep fat fryer so this was a real treat.

Diet? What the hell. Like all good diets, mine starts again tomorrow...