Monday, December 31, 2007

And finally for this year...

I suppose I ought to post something on here to mark the end of 2007 but to be perfectly honest, I'm not entirely sure what or why. Earlier today, I had a scan through this years blog posts seeking inspiration around resolutions kept this year (or otherwise) but didn't come up with a lot.

The one thing clear from this year's posts is that my work/life balance went seriously wrong somewhere and that needs addressing somehow. Sure, it's been fun enjoying the financial fruits of my labours, but there comes a point where you need to offset that against the cost of lost opportunities. One obvious exception to that is the American road trip, an experience which for me remains priceless.

Although I'm still trying to get rid of this blasted cold right now, I've not had a bad year health wise. I lost a little weight but not as much as I'd like and I have managed to get a sensible diet and the infamous running machine into my daily routine. It seems to be a cyclical thing anyway; we spend all week working off excessive weekends or on a bigger scale, spend all year working off excessive Christmas celebrations. The difficult bit is ending up in a better position than the one you started in.

So what for 2008?
Diet - needs to continue. I'm still nowhere near my original weight of 6lbs 2oz.
Work - something needs to change, I want my life back.
Home - I really must start decorating. After 2 years I've hardly personalised the place at all.
Car - Due for a change again next year so maybe I'll drive off in something non-Focus?
Personal life - I've already been threatened with a blind date some time next year, but I fully expect my personal life to remain just that
Travel - I'm due a trip to Toronto in June so there's definitely something to look forward to.

Anyway, enough about me for one year. I hope you've found plenty to keep you interested for 2007 and that 2008 provides me with enough inspiration to keep it going.

If you've chosen to go out and celebrate the change in calendar date tonight, I hope you have a great time (and let's face it, you'll have started by the time I post this). Personally, I'll be grabbing a cuppa as usual then getting some kip before the inevitable firework fest sets in for the night.

However you've chosen to spend this evening, I wish you all the very best for 2008...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A slice of life...

I was very lucky again this Christmas in that amongst a couple of other things, Santa (with a bit of help from the family I suspect) brought me one of these

I baked a couple of loaves of bread yesterday so I had the chance to put it through it's paces this morning and it's brilliant.

The only problem I've found with the bread maker is that the sachets of dried yeast need to be used up as soon as possible after opening and equate to two large loaves of bread, one of which usually gets eaten too soon after baking as it's too difficult to slice fresh bread thinly. Don't get me wrong, there are very few things in life compare with a buttered doorstep of warm freshly baked bread but it easily negates any effort I'm making elsewhere towards a healthy lifestyle.

It could be a great help towards the perennial dieting resolution as long as I resist the urge to leave the machine set to slice very thickly...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sick of it...

I'll not deny that we had an excellent Christmas with Little Sis and family who looked after us very well indeed. The only thing that spoilt it for me was my inability to shake of this blasted head cold that still refuses to budge since we got home Thursday tonight.

Speaking to Mum yesterday it seems she has come down with something similar and I read on Delcatto's blog tonight that he's suffering the same symptoms too.

Only one thing for it, I'm looking at spending my third night wrapped up in a self-imposed alcohol-free quarantine, determined to keep supping hot drinks, popping paracetamol & sudafed and basically anything else that has the slightest chance of unclogging my head so I can start 2008 with a clean bill of health.

Fortunately, it appears to be "Ink Day" on Discovery Real Time showing back to back episodes of Miami Ink and London Ink, so at least I can put tonight to good use trying to decide on the next tattoo...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Seasons Greetings...

Well folks, it's that time of year again when I've got a legitimate excuse for neglecting the blog for a few days in favour of concentrating on festive stuff instead.

In the absence of my desire to perpetuate wealth for the greeting card industry, I've been busying myself preparing another one of my silly animations. I hope you all enjoy yourselves as much as we all did in the Tap last night and wake up the following morning with a head as clear as mine is today. 'Ave a good 'un everyone...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sniffle season...

Despite regular paracetomol popping and sinex squirting, I've still had to miss that last two days of my working year in an attempt to shake off this blasted cold. I don't usually do "sick days" but for once I had the sense to realise that there is nothing spoiling in the office for the sake of two days and that it's far more important that I'm recovered in time to enjoy Christmas with the family next week.

Due to everyone's assorted plans, it also seems that tonight is the night when many of the Tap regulars are doing their Christmas celebrating so I guess it would be rude not to show my face. Purely for medicinal reasons of course...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Fitting tribute...

I don't suppose that anybody likes funerals particularly but we said goobye to Paul yesterday and I'm certain it was every bit the send off he would have hoped for.

The pallbearers brought him in to "A Kind of Magic" setting the tone for a Queen themed celebration of his life. It was a tasteful ceremony, non-religious at Paul's request, full of memory invoking comment interspersed with "Somebody to Love", "Who Wants to Live Forever" and finally we said our farewells as they played "The Show Must Go On".

The size of the crowd illustrated what a popular guy he was, as did the stunning array of floral tributes in the gardens. Always occasions of mixed emotion, I'd like to think he was with us all in spirit and if that was the case, I'm sure he will have enjoyed his leaving party as much as we all did...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reversal of fortune...

I spend enough time on here wittering about the quality of driving I see most mornings so I guess it's only fair that I fess up to this morning's little mishap.

It was a typical journey into work; the only real exception being a Nissan Micra or similar which despite sitting in the fast lane of the M180 facing the wrong way, didn't appear to contain anyone unduly hurt.

So into work and as I reversed into my usual spot I suddenly felt an unusual clunk followed by another one in my head when I realised I'd managed to reverse off the edge of a ground level car park. No, I didn't think it was possible either, but there you go, sometimes you have to stretch the bounds of possibility.

Despite several attempts of screaming engine and squealing tyres, the only thing I achieved was a nice dent in the rear bumper as I repeatedly failed to stop the car rolling back after it had stalled whilst trying to climb the deep, near vertical kerb and hitting a concrete fence post. I resisted the urge to re-enact the famous Basil Fawlty scene and eventually went cap in hand to one of my colleagues who offered to tow me back up.

Perhaps everyone will have forgotten when I get back on Thursday, but then again, perhaps they won't...

Monday, December 17, 2007

A near miss...

A few weekends ago I was checking my bank balance online and saw to my horror that I'd gone overdrawn a couple of days earlier. As a would-be good customer I dashed straight into town to pay some cash in over the counter then rang them as soon as I got back to apologise profusely and beg that another pending direct debit would still be honoured. He assured me that it would, I offered my sincere thanks and we both went happily about our respective businesses.

So I don't think it's unreasonable that I was a bit pissed off to open my statement tonight and find they were trying to charge me nearly seventy quid for my two-day oversight. So I rang them and we had a little chat. The guy at the other end went scurrying off to talk to his boss before coming back and assuring me that he would reverse the charges. I should think so too, the greedy bastards.

Far from the sort of robin I usually associate with the time of year...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In the most unlikely places...

Sometimes I'll find something amusing where I would least expect it.

In need of a couple of bits from the supermarket, I risked life and limb and ventured into Tesco last night, the penultimate Friday before Christmas, and found to my astonishment wasn't that busy. Aside from the things I went in for, I also picked up a couple of varieties of houmous on special offer. It's safe to say I'm quite partial to houmous.

What's so funny about that? Not even a tenuous link between houmous and humorous? No, it was the packaging that made me smile.

Firstly, the sleeve said "to share". Yeah right, like that's going to happen.

Then I spotted it also said "eat within two days of opening". Are you kidding me? I'd be surprised if the lid goes back on at all...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas Tags...

It's been a pretty lousy week so far for one reason or another and I could do with some festive distraction. Being a somewhat belligerent git when the mood takes me, I have a problem with people telling me what to do, but as Pete kindly left an open invitation for anyone who wants to play, I hereby consider myself tagged. Here goes:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Whichever disguises the present best

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial, and preferably someone else's

3. When do you put up the tree? I think that's a question for the fairy (ahem)

4. When do you take the tree down? By 6th January, if I'm not fed up with it before then

5. Do you like eggnog? The words "bear" and "woods" spring to mind

6. Favorite gift received as a child? One of the many bikes (ask Little Sis)

7. Do you have a Nativity scene? No, I keep frightening the animals

8. Hardest person to buy for? Nobody, it's fun searching for appropriate presents

9. Easiest person to buy for? Mum - "I'd be happy with just a nice card" (I've never dared)

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Being dumped on Christmas morning (all together now - ahhhh)

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I send very few - prefer to give the money to charity instead

12. Favorite Christmas movie? That's a tough one. Elf maybe? Although Scrooged was funny. It's a Wonderful Life ought to be in there somewhere

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? On line, usually late November

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. Well, not yet

15. Favorite thing to eat/drink at Christmas? Has to be Christmas Dinner to eat and it's become a tradition to have a pint or two of Guinness & Tia Maria a few nights before

16. Clear lights or coloured on the tree? Mine's fibroptic, so wherever the spinning disc is

17. Favorite Christmas song? Wombling Merry Christmas (repeatedly on the Tap jukebox)

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It's never a question of "where" but "who with"

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Sure, but they may get some new ones

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? So this angel says to Father Christmas, "What shall I do with this tree I've been dragging around for weeks?" and that's why you always see an angel on top of the Christmas tree

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning? Santa has never brought them in time to be opened Christmas Eve

So there you have it. Feel free to have a go if you want or don't if you don't, but let me know in the comments if you do so I can see if you're as silly as I am...

Monday, December 10, 2007

In complete contrast...

After a weekend like that last one, it would be too easy to moan about the first day of the week back at work, but I arrived home tonight to some seriously bad news and I apologise in advance as it will also come as a shock to many of the regular visitors here.

Mum received a call earlier today to tell her that our dear friend Paul died this morning. We don't know much detail right now but his partner Terry had wanted to let her know as soon as possible as the three of them had planned to meet up for a couple of Christmas drinks tomorrow afternoon.

I never find these situations particularly easy to deal with, but this is all the more shocking as it's not that long since we bumped into him in town and were laughing and joking with the typically extrovert character that I've known for 20 years or more.

My deepest sympathy goes out to Terry who I know will be devastated. Paul will be sorely missed by the huge circle of friends he's built up in the town over the years but I guess we can take a little comfort in the fact that a certain Mr Mercury is about to be re-united with one of his biggest fans...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A full weekend...

After a relatively quiet few weeks on the social front, it was nice to get out and catch up with everyone again this weekend.

It all started Friday night with Debbie's 50th birthday party in the Tap. A good crowd in, the beer was on fine form, the buffet was delicious and we had a live singer entertaining us all and providing the excuse for a rare trip onto the dance floor.

Last night we were back to the Tap again for a surprise party for Nick's 40th birthday. Another excellent night of beer, food and chatter; the "surprise" element having gone to plan which was no doubt a great relief for his fiance Claire. For my part, I couldn't wait to see his expression when he opened his present. A life long Arsenal fan, I was quite confident he'd be pleased with a framed photo of Arsene Wenger and Tony Adams, especially as it was signed by the latter.

Today has been much quieter of course, but the highlight has to be the film I watched this morning. You'll recall that a short while back, Pete and I took his car out for a spin for a few thousand miles across the USA? Well he's done an excellent job of capturing a fornight's worth of holiday into just over 30 minutes of footage on DVD, fully titled throughout and accompanied by Steph's great selection of appropriate backing music.

The only problem with a busy weekend of course is that it always seems to be over that much quicker...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A miracle in minature...

On my route to work there has been a stretch of roadworks for a few months now while they construct a new cycle path. Nothing too unusual there, except that this morning I witnessed something really unexpected.

During daylight hours, they reduce the road to single lane traffic controlled by a set of mobile traffic lights which, of course, were red when I approached them this morning. Unsurprisingly, they stayed red while our queue gazed on and watched absolutely bugger all approach from the opposite direction. In fact, it wasn't until another car eventually approached from the other side that the lights changed to stop him and let us through.

I have to say that I was impressed to see that they've managed to transfer the traditional logic from real traffic lights to the mobile ones...

Like for like...

On the news this morning, they reported that a recent study had revealed that chimpanzees have a better memory than the average university student.

I'm not in favour of animal testing of any kind, but I assume that to keep the trial accurate that the chimps were duly given ample quantities of cheap lager and a regular supply of juana marrows...

Musical messages...

Aside from helping me to shed a few pounds and hopefully inches in circumference, my session on the instrument of torture each morning also gives me the chance to plug in the Zune and catch up on some tunes I've not heard for a while.

This morning's selection from Queen's News of the World Album started well with We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, but when it progressed to Sheet Heart Attack and All Dead All Dead that I had to wonder whether someone somewhere was trying to tell me something...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's where the heart is...

I'm usually keen to spot any tenuous excuse for a blog post so I can't believe I let the 28th November go past without mention.

In which case, it is exactly two years (and four days) since I moved into the bungalow and I've still done surprisingly little with the place. I say that, although it's hardly surprising as like many people, I spend more time either in the office or travelling to or from it than I do here.

All the same, this weekend I finally managed to clear a different desk; the one in the spare room which could possibly be described as a study at last. The immediate bonus is that I can get my all-in-one printer scanner connected up again although if memory of cartridge prices serves me well, it costs about the same run as a small car. Still, I can finally start wading through the mountains of photos that need sorting out and it has provided me with a more suitable work area than the dining room table.

On the flip side of course, it's also provided a space for me spend so much of the weekend working from home...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Power to the people...

I've just been woken up by the sound of my garage alarm going off.

Despite the initial leaping out of bed with prerequisite WTF instincts, it turns out that it was only because we have a power cut so with rechargeable lantern in hand, I've just been out and reset it again to avoid disturbing the neighbours any further. On the way back into the house I suddenly met with the harsh realisation of how many things were now unavailable to me.

~ I have only one little battery clock in the bathroom, but no other clocks visible to me in the early hours of morning.
~ The telephone isn't working, although if I wave the lamp around I know my mobile will probably be in its usual place on the mantelpiece.
~ Making a hot drink could prove tricky, although if desperate I suppose I could manually light a ring on the gas cooker and heat a pan of water.
~ Entertainment is a bit scarce; no TV, radio, CD or DVD players.
~ Fortunately, my PC is a laptop and therefore has the option of battery power so at least I can sit here and tell you all about it.

Except of course that the laptop has battery backup but the router and modem obviously don't so I guess I can't actually tell you about it until a bit later...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


OK, enough is enough, tonight I crossed a line that I'm not entirely sure about.

I'd pretty much had enough of work from the moment I got out of the car this morning so heaven knows why I was still sat there almost two hours after everyone else had gone home. Then the realisation hit me:

Sod it. Go home. You're not going to clear your inbox, let alone your desk tonight so call it a day. What's more, if you leave now you can catch The Archers again on the way home.

It really is time to start scanning those job pages a little more closely.

Oh, and for those of you who were worried, Clarrie Grundy's preparations for the Christmas fair are coming along quite nicely since Fallon offered to help out...

Monday, November 26, 2007


This isn't the first time on here that I've admitted that I don't know anything about sport. In fact it wouldn't be too great a stretch of the imagination to say I don't even know that much.

For some reason this evening, the young lad on the supermarket checkout wouldn't take my word for it as he tried to engage me in conversation:

Him: Do you need any help packing?
Me: No I'll be fine thanks
Him: So who do you think will be the next England coach?
Me: To be honest, I've no idea. Although it probably won't be me...
Him: I think I could do it. I'd have a good go for the money.
Me: Yeah, I know nothing about football but might qualify for a 1/4 million pay off
Him: So you must have someone pegged for favourite?
Me: No really, I've no idea, I don't really follow football at all
Him: So who do you support in the premiership then?

How many clues did I have to give? There's a lot to be said for self service checkouts...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The years go by...

Tonight I'm celebrating my 3rd Blogday. Woohoo!

I'm quietly proud actually that I've strung out enough tenuous meanderings to keep this thing ticking over so long.

Today also saw my old workmate Stuart leave the office for the last time which is an occasion of mixed emotion. Sure, we're all sad to see him leave; he's been with us for 17 years, I've worked with him for 12 of them (ouch) and he was the one responsible for me applying for a job there in the first place. On the other hand he's a superb bloke who's been given a tidy sum and the opportunity for a fresh start so in that respect I'm quite envious.

So rather than my usual Friday night in the Tap, it was a couple of pints of shandy with the guys from the office and then driving home for a quiet night.

But if I'm supposed to be celebrating I figured I should at least ring out for a pizza which is a treat I've denied myself for a few weeks. Oh and while I'm at it, might as well open a nice bottle of red to wash it down with. Cheers...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More Travel Tales...

I got an email last night from my old college mate and recent travel companion Pete Frenzy to let me know that St Louis is now only the second most dangerous city in the U.S.A. I know it's been a couple of months now, but I don't remember any adverts declaring their number one status while I was there. What's more, I hope there's no connection between my leaving and it becoming a safer city to live in.

He also sent me a video clip from our trip to the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona and reminded me of the most unbelievable question I've ever heard. Unfortunately, it's too large to share on here but basically, the guide was showing us the jet propulsion system of a Titan Nuclear Missile and explaining the various safety precautions, including a remote controlled butterfly valve to turn the fuel supply on and off. Much to our amusement at this point, someone asked "So these were manned flights?"

Now that would be a really lousy job...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Social Not Working...

During a conversation with Little Sis this afternoon, she told me about a funny video she'd seen through one of her friends on Facebook, but adding that I'd probably have to sign up if I wanted to see it. Now I'd like to think I've done my bit for the blogging community over the last few years, but I've failed to get to grips with these social networking sites.

I set up My Space some time ago and recently discovered a number of Tap regulars have set them up too, but quite honestly, it takes me all my time updating the blog anything like regularly so My Space gets somewhat neglected. The same goes for my pages on Yahoo Geocities, MSN Spaces, Bebo, YouTube and Flixter, although it always makes me smile when I wander onto one of these pages to be greeted with "Welcome back Seany, you currently have no friends"

Call me old fashioned, but think I'll keep my social networking where I'm far more comfortable, interacting with friends in meatspace...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

All in a good cause...

Last night was race night in the Tap which provided the excuse to a) be there in the first place and b) flutter a few quid to support the pub football team. It was certainly a busy night and everyone seemed to be taking part enthusiastically, so I hope that the overall night was more profitable for the team funds than it was for me personally. I guess my "system" wasn't as reliable as I'd hoped.

I'd already bought the new Janet and John CD so I felt no guilt whatsoever in recording the nights proceedings on BBC1 for Children in Need. As usual it didn't fail to impress with all manner of celebrities putting their pride to one side and providing some excellent entertainment; my personal highlight being newsreader Fiona Bruce's outstanding performance of "All That Jazz".

I suspect some of the artists had more questionable plugging motives than others (e.g. re-formed just for tonight - oh, by the way we've enjoyed it so much our tour tickets are on sale from Monday) but the end result of raising over 19 million quid is astounding all the same. It's a shame I had to read about the total on the news seeing as Virgin Media decided to re-arrange my channels during the night which meant I missed the last two hours.

Back to the subject of plugging, I have no shame whatsoever in recommending the new Janet and John Reloaded CD. I was happy to encourage you all to buy the first volume and the second one is every bit as funny, plus there is a bonus CD full of other goodies. As before, all proceeds go to Children in Need so please click the picture below to go to the TOGs website where you can order a copy and find out for yourselves...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When you're chewing on life's gristle...

I'm afraid I really let standards slip tonight and crept out of the office an entire minute early, although my unpaid overtime tally now sits at almost seven weeks so I doubt anyone will complain.

I tuned into the Chris Evans Drivetime show as I usually do if I'm leaving at the right time and tonight they'd invited one of their favourite guests back on; a guy called David Morris who is the World's Whistling Champion. After only a few excerpts it was crystal clear to me why he held the title as he has an extraordinary talent and I'm sure I was one amongst thousands who were trying to whistle along on their journey home. Aside from his desire to entertain, he is also keen to get the human whistle recognised as an "instrument" in it's own right and it was then I realised how rare whistlers seem to be these days. I wonder how many people even remember Roger Whittaker?

Personally, I have rather modest whistling skills. I have never mastered the two-fingered taxi-hailing sheepdog-calling screech that many of my schoolmates did but I can hold a tune. A skill probably inherited from my Dad seeing as from as far back as I can remember, he has always whistled away as he potters around in his workroom or out in the garden.

Grandma always used to say that "a whistling woman and a crowing hen are neither good to God nor men" and although I'd never have argued with Grandma, my mate's wife Jo can whistle better than most blokes I know and seems to have done alright for herself.

By stark contrast there is someone else I know who has perfected the "through-the-teeth, rhythm-is-kinda-there-even-if-the-tune-isn't" technique and quite frankly, I'd rather he forgot it.

But what for the future? I can't ever recall Little Sis or her other half whistling around the house (even though he is a postman) so there's strong likelihood that it's a skill that may completely elude my young niece and nephew. Personally I think it would be a shame to see the art of whistling dying out all together.

Well that's my opinion anyway and if you don't like it, you can whistle. Or perhaps you can't...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Driven to distraction...

Duty calls this weekend I'm afraid so I got the obligatory few beers out of the way last last night allowing me to focus the rest of my time trying to get on with the mountain work I've brought home.

While taking some time out this evening I stumbled across a website on a topic very close to my heart. I've spent enough time on here wittering about some of the drivers I encounter during my daily commute and at BetterDrivingPlease you can actually do something about them.

As I haven't actually memorised the vehicle registrations of any recent offenders, I busied myself playing with some of the tests on there instead. I'm pleased to say that I did pretty well on everything I tried, although my mock theory test was a bit too close for comfort.

Fortunately, I have another 29 years to practise before I'll be tested again for real...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Keeping busy...

There's little chance of getting much sleep around here right now as we enter our third consecutive night of aerial bombardment in war-torn North East Lincolnshire. Well at least that's what it sounds like.

Funnily enough, mere mention of the word "bombardment" last weekend would have had my three year old nephew throwing furry dice at all and sundry based on something he saw on The Simpsons once, but that's another story.

I cheated on Friday night by availing myself of a few long awaited ales to aid the cause, but with the festive season fast approaching, there had to be a more cost effective alternative. So yesterday and today I've spent a couple of days at home busying myself with some of the jobs I've been meaning to get out of the way.

So here we are on Sunday night with everything ticked on the list and the best achievement of the weekend? All of the Christmas presents are bought and on their way. Result.

Next job is to decide what to busy myself with next weekend...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or treat...

Well I've certainly been tricked alright.

While Little Sis was here to stay over the weekend, she mentioned how much she liked my digital bathroom scales. Not that they are particularly stylish or crammed with special features, but the fact that they stated that her diet was going significantly better than she thought (and to be fair, she's doing very well).

The comment didn't really register at the time, but since then it dawned on me that my own weight had been somewhat erratic of late, but the general trend was in the right direction and I'd come out of last weekend weighing the least I can remember for about a year or so. However, it also occurred to me that I've never changed the battery since I bought the scales which could be resulting in inaccurate readings.

Thanks to the newly installed battery, I now appear to have gained 7lbs over night, which given that I've been full of cold and not feeling like eating much at all seems pretty unlikely. I can only conclude that the new weight is the correct one, so my scales have tricked me all this time.

As for the treat?

Well I was two hours late leaving the office tonight which meant that by the time I got home, the trick or treaters had long since been and gone so I now have a bag full of fun-size goodies and no little urchins to give them to.

I guess we know which way the bathroom scales will be moving over the next few days...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Over too soon...

We've just had an excellent weekend as Little Sis and family finished their Autumn half term at my place. If I'm going to be honest, everything didn't go entirely to plan but we proved that it is still possible to have some family fun at a cost of not much more than a little time and effort. What's more, if they can travel 250 miles to come and visit, then I've nothing so important that won't wait for a couple of days.

Friday, we headed out to Woodthorpe Garden Centre where they already have an extensive Christmas display open, but all year round they have a free play area with trampolines and an impressive maze.

After a quick bite of lunch prepared in their camper van, we went on to Woodthorpe Aquatics where they have such a huge range of pond and aquarium fish available that it's worth going just for a look around even if you are not buying. I'm sure they will thank me for that.

From there, our plans took a bit of a nose dive as we went in search of a working water mill to find that one had closed for the season and the other had been converted to a private house and closed to the public completely.

Undeterred, we took comfort in the wonderful selection of ice cream at Applebys at Conisholme then headed home where I rustled up a Chinese meal for the six of us.

I'd been hoping to fire up the barbie for tea on Saturday but by lunchtime the weather was already looking questionable. We took a drive out to Waltham Windmill where once again the tourist industry had conspired against us and almost everything had closed, but we amused ourselves for a while between the play area and the traditional sweet shop on site.

Cleethorpes seemed surprisingly quiet given that it was half term and the rain had held off so we stopped off at the Jungle Zoo. It achieved the objective of delighting the youngest two of us, but I'm afraid I have to agree with these guys (in this case) that the birds and animals on display didn't appear to be particularly happy and would certainly benefit from bigger enclosures.

As predicted, the weather dictated that the "barbie" was prepared between the oven, the grill and the trusty George Foreman, but everyone had their fill (and still more in my case) and we toasted Little Sis' recent job sucess with a glass of bubbly. As an added bonus, what left-overs there were have now been re-jigged to furbish me with packed lunch for this week.

Before we knew where we were, it was Sunday morning and and despite having been given an additional hour, I was stood in the drive waving them all on their way again. Still, it's only eight weeks until we all meet up again for Christmas.

*Gulp* it's only eight weeks to Christmas...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

I'm so happy...

Although I don't mark these events so frequently any more, I'm all the same delighted to see that my blog counter has hit the 20,000 mark. So, as a token of my genuine gratitude for your continued interest in my ramblings on here, I've prepared little something bit special (and of course, a bit silly too).

It runs on Windows Media Player (which you can download here if required) and for best effect you should have your sound turned up. So with all that in place, click the picture below for a "Thank You" with a difference...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lux like he's ranting again...

I'm sorry, but it gets me rattled around this time every year and with the clocks going back at the weekend, it's going to be a while before it gets any better. How can there possibly be so many people out there who don't know how to use their lights when driving at night?

I have the dubious pleasure of travelling around 70 miles a day, most of it in partial darkness already and despite it being a mixture of motorway, dual carriageway and winding country lanes, both lit and unlit, I almost never need to switch my headlights from dipped to main beam. Even when weather conditions dictate otherwise, I'm blessed with the common sense to know that as soon as anyone's rear lights come into view ahead of me, or I can see the oncoming glow of headlights from the opposite direction, it's time to dip them again.

As I wear glasses, I'm hardly gifted with bionic vision or super heroic talents to see through buildings or around corners, but I am blessed with a sense of common decency for the people I have to share the roads with. Unlike the countless number of thoughtless twats I seem to encounter most days.

So on the off chance that even one of these brain donors may be Googling for advice on the subject, I thought I'd leave a few random suggestions to attract the search engines:

"When should I dip my headlights"
"How do the lights work on my car"
"Can I drive with my lights on full beam all of the time?"
"Does it matter as long as I can see where I am going?"
"Help! I have more points on my license than brain cells"
"Dear Noel, I want to swap my sports car for a space hopper"
"Mummy, it's dark out there. Can you leave the big light on?"

OK, I doubt it's contributed much to road safety but at least I've got the matter off my chest for another year...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sign of the times...

First the serious bit:

I received an e-mail this evening from Richard, one of my fellow Tap regulars that contained the following:

The world-famous Red Arrows have been banned from appearing at the 2012 London Olympics because they are deemed "too British". Organisers of the event say that the Arrows military background might be "offensive" to other countries taking part in the Games. The display team have performed at more than 4000 events worldwide, but the Department of Culture, Media and Sport have deemed the display team "too militaristically British".

Red Arrows pilots were said to be "outraged", as they had hoped to put on a truly world class display for the Games, something which had never been seen before. Being axed from a British-based event for being "too British" is an insult - the Arrows are a symbol of Britain.

The Red Arrows have been excellent ambassadors for British overseas trade, as they display their British-built Hawk aircraft all over the world.

The Arrows performed a short flypast in 2005 when the winning bid was announced, but their flypast at the Games was to have been truly spectacular.

It is to be hoped that common sense prevails

If you disagree with this decision, sign the petition on the link

There is already a reply on there stating that the decision is out of the PM's hands, but it's probably worth adding your name just to labour the point (no pun intended)

Now for the silly bit:

Have a look at some of the [inevitable] rejected petitions on the same site - it's the best laugh I've had for ages. One of my favourites was to make August 1st David Hasselhoff Day. I'd have been up for it - we could all go out, get pissed up, then stagger home and spill supper all over the carpet. In fact we could have one every Friday...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ahead of my time...

Thankfully, it doesn't happen often but I really fancied a cigarette as I left the office tonight. I was imagining myself tearing out of the car park, just so that I could spark up the minute I was officially off site. The clearly ridiculous idea passed as quickly as it had popped into my head, but it shows that you always need to be on your guard and you should certainly never be tempted to carry any with you "just in case".

That said, the news this morning reported that obesity is more likely to kill you than smoking related diseases; a little unfair I thought considering I put most of my weight on after I'd stopped smoking. Although admittedly I've made little effort to try and lose much since either.

Anyway back to this mornings report, failure to take drastic action now will result in the majority of us being obese by 2050. Even in my genuinely lean days I've always exceeded my apparently recommended weight and I doubt that when I'm 85 they will have re-stacked the stats any more to my liking...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Full of surprises...

Not much of a surprise that it's been nearly a week since my last post, but there have been plenty in the meantime:

Friday night was traditional tea in the Tap, which was excellent as usual but I surprisingly had the sense to leave early as there was a long day to follow pending Dom's arrival from Middlesborough the next morning.

Saturday? Well I guess we expected a decent result against Estonia at football and our victory over the French in the rugby was well received, although the latter was somewhat of a surprise given my initial expectations. And although I should know better, I was surprised we managed to see the rugby match in the pub at all given our early start and mid-evening flit across town.

Sunday was someone elses turn as we went to a surprise party for John Boy's 50th birthday. Another great night and fine excuse for much quaffing of ale by all, despite my early departure - quite a surprise there given the Hobgoblin was on sale a reduced price for the night.

I'd already booked a days holiday for recovery purposes yesterday which, to my surprise, was completely unnecessary but I took advantage of the day by getting ahead of the weeks chores about the house. I also sent an e-card to my most recently acquired wife which hopefully will have been a nice surprise for her birthday.

Today was back to work and back to normal, until a discussion with someone in the office late this afternoon indicated that in "reward" for my efforts on our main project this year, I could be spending some time working in Germany early in 2008. Well I certainly didn't see that one coming.

So, it fair to say that I'd be surprised if there were any more surprises tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Missed opportunity...

I've frequently admitted on here that I'm far from any kind of authority on art, although there has been the odd once or twice when temptation got the better of me after reading about some ridiculous exhibit or escapade.

I was quite proud that I'd let the whole crack in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall floor pass without mention, until I heard on the news tonight that they've had to administer first aid to their first three casualties today. Personally, I would have recommended some "look where you're bleeding going" therapy.

All the same, I was disappointed the nobody took the golden opportunity to report that the incidents of people falling into the crack have been reported to the HSE and one of their officials is now looking into it...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

As if nothing had happened...

We got home late Sunday night after a fantastic weekend away with the family.

Then I woke up yesterday morning to discover I'd brought home a cold as a souvenir and spent one of my last remaining days off work sniffling over the ironing and coughing and sneezing all over Tescos. I think I've said before that the man-flu thing doesn't really work as well when you live on your own - stuff still has to get done.

It seems to have been slinging down with rain from the moment I got home.

I returned to the office this morning to see work had piled up as if I'd been away for a week or more.

Looks like everything's back to normal. On the plus side, I guess that means I'll be doing "the usual thing" in the pub this weekend then...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Out for a spin...

We're setting off tomorrow to surprise my [increasingly not so] little niece for her 8th birthday this weekend. It's always good to find an excuse to visit the family, and I'm ashamed to admit that I think this is probably our first trip this year (although they have been to stay at my place).

Until recently, the only bit I never really looked forward to was the trip itself. With the best will in the world (and a generous backwind), you're looking at a four hour drive and although I quite enjoy driving, I'm running out of alternative routes to keep my interest. Until I looked into air fares which suddenly re-focussed my attention.

Despite which, this is a drop in the ocean anyway compared to the mileage we were clocking up a couple of weeks ago. Well, when I say drop in ocean, I'm kind of hoping to stop before we reach the coast.

Oh, and I won't have a laptop with me on this more modest journey, so I'll catch up with the blog next week. Although you probably wouldn't have even noticed if I hadn't said...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

OK, they got me...

It turned out to be a good presentation this morning after all, despite the content being generally quite familiar territory.

I behaved well and played along, but as I left the building tonight with my new t-shirt (emblazoned with the project name) tucked under my arm, I caught the tag line on the poster by the clock machine which I admit made me leave with a grin across my face for a change.

Aimed specifically at cynics like me, it said:
Been there? Done that? Well now you've got the t-shirt...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

You have to laugh...

Like most reasonably sized companies, ours likes to jump on and off bandwagons in line with the latest trends, albeit Quality Assurance, Continuous Improvement, Six Sigma, you name it, we've probably tried most of them with varying degrees of success in the last 12 years or so that I've worked there.

The latest excuse for welcoming another set of consultants through our doors a few months ago was on another process improvement project. Probably costing several gazillions of Euros which, we mustn't forget, is an investment in our future. People have been buzzing around for months now, putting up posters, recruiting teams, re-decorating offices, posting progress charts all over the place and even holding briefings occasionally to tell us in person what they are planning to do.

Tomorrow is "Communication Event" day; an entire day dedicated to communicating to the masses as to how successful the project has been. The first we heard about it was at a quarter to four this evening when a large proportion of our employees weren't there to read it...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Still smoke free...

I just noticed the counter at the bottom of this page for the first time in a while and noticed that it is now over 1000 days since my last cigarette. So far so good.

Fortunately, temptation has continued to keep it's distance although I have to wonder that even if I did decide to start again, where I would find the time. As I am no longer allowed to smoke at work, in the pub, or even in the car, I'd probably have to learn to smoke in my sleep...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just one of those moments...

As I drove home tonight and looked towards the impending rain clouds, I noticed what was probably the clearest, most perfect rainbow I've ever seen. To top it off, the radio started playing "Somewhere over the rainbow" by Eva Cassidy. Magical.

I've been looking since I got home earlier this evening, but I can't see the pot of gold lying around anywhere.

"Have I checked under the bed" did you say?

No, it's a nice place I've got here with indoor toilet and everything...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

First day back...

I woke up before the alarm went off this morning.

I managed to slip straight back into the usual get-ready-for-work routine.

I remembered to drive on the left hand side of the road and that my car wasn't an automatic.

I even got to work early to get a headstart on the day.

Good job there were only 286 e-mails waiting for me.

Still, it's a little nearer to the weekend...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Enough about the holiday already...

OK, time to shut up about the holiday now. For anyone who's interested, I've created a Flickr account to share some of my photos which you can access here.

Apparently, I'm only allowed to share 200 pictures with the free account, but that should be enough to give you a flavour of what we saw...

The last hurdle...

Well I'm back in good ol' Blighty again although my return wasn't without incident.

The flight back to the UK was fine; 8 hours of just sitting around really, either in airport lounges or on the planes themselves. The fact that the guy next to me for the main flight had the worst B.O. and bad breath I've encountered for quite sometime can't really be blamed on the airline.

My arrival at Manchester airport sailed through so quickly that I was only 20 minutes from sitting on the plane to collecting my luggage and getting on the train. Unfortunately, things came to a grinding halt at Sheffield were they suddenly announced that due to a track-side fire they were terminating the service and nobody seemed to have any kind of clue as to what alternative transport would be provided. After an hour or so of standing around with still no information forthcoming from the station staff, I tracked down an alternative train myself and finally managed to get home.

Having had very little sleep in the previous 24 hours, I got my head down for an hour when I got home, after which of course it was time for some long overdue exercise for the Hobgoblin muscles...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Just for the record...

Anyone who knew me 15 years ago will recall my previous trip to St Louis and the hundreds of photos of the gateway arch I brought back.

Well I couldn't leave here without sharing one with you all so here's a view of the arch from inside the Busch Stadium...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making the most of the day...

As I said last night, today was my last full day so we wanted to cram in as many things as possible, as I guess tomorrow morning will soon disappear while getting everything ready for the flight home.

We started the day with a trip to St Louis Zoo. Yes, I know I was only at San Diego Zoo a few days ago but I had to decide for myself which one was the better and I have to say St Louis won hands down. OK, they didn't have the pandas, but they appeared to have a greater selection of animals, more of each, and they were presented in such a way that they had more room to move around and also to provide clear photo opportunities for us visitors. Oh and did I mention it's free? Well unless you are a St Louis tax payer and even then I suspect it's still a bargain.

From there we crossed Forest Park to look around the St Louis Art Museum. Now I'm not really the art gallery type but this was well worth the look around. Unsurprisingly there were several really beautiful items and equally, some which to my mind were simply ridiculous, but what do I know? Who am I to say when a fluorescent light in a white room becomes a piece of art?

This afternoon we had a brief tour around the city to see some of the places from my last visit, after which we headed into Harrah's; my first time in a "proper" casino. Not even slightly tempted by the poker tables, I settled for grabbing a free drink and blowing an extravagant $7 dollars on the slots before deciding I was far too bored to stay much longer. Still it did provide the first person of this trip to ask if I was from England and whether I lived near the Queen. Of course, I answered that she only lives a couple of hours away.

Tonight in my newly acquired Cardinals shirt and baseball cap, I got to see my first ball game and once again I'm pleased to report that it completely lived up to my expectations. It would have been better if the Cardinals had come away with a decent result, but the atmosphere in the stadium was electric all the same and it was good to see such a range of people of all ages all enjoying themselves without even the merest hint of any trouble.

On the train back, I was chatting to Steph about life, the universe and pretty much everything when I noticed a lady "of advancing years" standing in the aisle and felt obliged to do the British thing and offer my seat, although she politely declined. As we all got off the train she commented to Steph "What a charming husband you have" and despite protestations that we live in different countries, she refused to leave the matter there. So, I suppose you could say that this is the second time I've been out of the country and unexpectedly found myself married.

Oh boy, am I in trouble when I get home...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back to base...

I was told a couple of days ago that there is a country song somewhere that says the best way to see Amarillo is through a rear view mirror. To be fair, the view from the rear view mirror this morning was somewhat obscured as the sun had yet to rise when we left. All the same, it sounds a bit harsh to me as although I admit it may not be the most picturesque place I've visited, the people were certainly nice enough. Except maybe for the guy who appeared to be taking a pee in the ice dispenser at the gas station last night. Takes all sorts I guess.

I was surprised to see the number of speed traps on the last leg of our journey today. It appears that the emphasis here is to hide away and try to catch people speeding, whereas at home there is more focus on deterrent. From what I've seen, both approaches are as ineffective as each other, although of course I wouldn't dream of exceeding the legal speed limits anyway.

We've had a CB handset in the car for most of the journey which has been useful to hear tip offs about delays from local truckers and entertaining to hear the banter between them. We had a nice comment this morning from one guy who had obviously spotted the antenna on the car from his truck "Stick behind me little four-wheeled friend and I'll get you wherever you're heading!"

So this evening, after 11 days covering 4808 miles with and 202 photos (and that's just mine), I'm pleased to report that we made it safely back to St Louis, having covered everything on our original agenda and a few bonuses to boot.

As each of the "lasts" are slowly creeping up, tomorrow sees my last full day here so we have some local sightseeing planned during the day followed by a trip to Busch Stadium to watch the St Louis Cardinals.

Well you have to take in everything you can, it could be a little while before I get back here again...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sha-la-la, la-la, la-la, la...

I know the way to Amarillo - in fact I'm sat in my hotel room there right now typing this.

So what's been going on? Well yesterday was our last day in Arizona, the weather came up trumps so we spent the day catching up with more local attractions. Firstly off to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where I got the chance to see plenty of real grown up cacti rather than the tiny attempts I've nurtured at home in the past. As a bonus I got the chance to handle a snake (stop making your own jokes up) while we were talking to one of the guides there.

In the afternoon we visited the Titan Missile Museum; a local missile silo complete with Titan missile intact. Do you know, they are really sensitive about which buttons they'll let you play with?! Joking aside, this is a genuine silo, complete with missile (both obviously long since rendered safe) and the extremely well-informed guide managed to keep us interested and one particularly over enthusiastic smart-arse in his place (no, it wasn't me). Kind of scary when you realise exactly what this single installation would once have been capable of, but really interesting all the same.

We've had 11 hours on the road today, including my first attempt at 6 lane driving through Albuquerque, and I'm pleased to report car and passengers survived the ordeal. We arrived at the hotel as planned this evening and you can't spend the night in cattle country and not enjoy a steak dinner so tonight we headed out to Hoffbrau Steaks just down the road who obliged in excellent form with a 10oz porterhouse with steak fries and salad. I'm hardly a lightweight these days in terms of appetite or physique, but still chose to overlook the numerous offers of eating a whole 72oz steak to get it for free.

I'm sad to say that it's all coming to an end rather too quickly now. Tonight is the last night in a hotel and tomorrow is the last day on the road, but there's still a few exciting events lined up in St Louis before I fly home so please keep checking in...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weather's here, wish you were beautiful...

White man came to desert and brought rain. Lots of rain actually, complete with thunder and lightning. It's not the tragedy that it might initially appear as the rain is needed in this part of Arizona and so far, we have managed to keep the to-do list ticked and up to date in the dry spells. So seeing as I am stuck inside right now waiting for the sun to re-appear, I'll give you a quick update.

Yesterday morning we paid a visit to San Diego Zoo and as zoos go, it is a very good one. Very well laid out with a variety of walks and enclosures exhibiting almost every kind of animal you would wish to see.

The problem I find with zoos is that once you have seen a few good ones it's hard to find something new, but here of course I got to see pandas for what I'm quite sure is the first time.

Three pandas in fact; one sleeping in his tree, another munching through his bamboo breakfast and the new arrival via the Panda Cam that you can also see here. All wrapped up in around three hours and then time to hit the road again and wave goodbye to California.

Seeing as Pete had done most of the driving to L.A. and back the previous day, I thought it only fair to take the lion's share of the journey from San Diego to Tucson. It started of predictably as a pleasant drive through a 107 degree California desert, but as we crossed the border into Arizona we hit rain and dusts storms - an unexpected module of my international driving skills course. There's little you can do really other than slow down and get on with it, but I'll admit it was a relief to come out of the third consecutive storm intact.

Bright weather again this morning so we headed off to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson. I've never been much of a plane spotter, but the huge array of aircraft on display coupled with the fascinating commentary of our guide made for a fascinating trip out.

Well it looks like the sun has appeared again and there's still plenty to get done before we leave Arizona Tuesday morning and head for Texas ...

Friday, September 14, 2007

Well, seeing as we are there...

As I said from the beginning, the biggest advantage of a holiday such as this is the flexibility to deal with whatever ideas arise and make spontaneous changes to the original plan.

Much as San Diego is a lovely place, it did seem a shame to be in California and not take a trip to visit one of the most well-known places in the world - Los Angeles. It was about a three hour drive from where we were but I was genuinely excited at the prospect of touring Hollywood and the surrounding districts, although it turned out to be remarkably different from my expectations.

First we went through to Beverly Hills and found a bargain parking spot at only $1 an hour, then set about looking around the shopping area in Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard before taking a drive around to look at the hugely extravagant dwellings that apparently pass as homes for some people.

From there on we drove into the areas where I expected to see a more traditional Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard, but I was surprised to see a complete contrast to our previous location. Sure, we got pictures of the Chinese Theatre and Kodak Theatre and waded through the multitude of souvenir shops in the area. Unfortunately, I was completely taken aback by how run down the surrounding area was and the number of people who were literally rummaging through litter bins apparently looking for food. Talk about how the other half lives.

To end on a more positive note, I finally got to dip my toes in the Pacific, polished off another excellent meal in the same restaurant as last night and finished off the evening with another set of photos of that incredible sunset.

And to think everyone complained about the number of arch photos I took last time I was across here...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Halfway point...

After a morning driving through the deserts in Arizona and California, we arrived in San Diego just after lunch and exactly as planned. SeaWorld occupied most of the afternoon and despite being swamped with souvenir shops and corporate sponsorship blurb, the performing dolphins and killer whales probably justify the entrance fee alone.

After a delicious seafood platter at The Green Flash overlooking Pacific Beach, we just got out in time to see the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.

Nothing more to say today really...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Clear skies ahead...

I could write all night about the amazing scenery as we drove from Santa Fe through New Mexico and into Arizona, but I'll save it until I get the photos on Flickr or somewhere similar. Most importantly, we've finally left the rain behind and the long awaited sunshine came out to greet us to the southern leg of our journey.

As a result of another spontaneous change last night, we decided to bring forward something from next weeks agenda and I now need to update the 30 things list as I add Mexico to the countries I've visited. That said, I can't say that I've really seen Mexico; having spent around 25 minutes wandering around being constantly hassled by touts to buy dubious Rolex watches, genuine Mexican jewellery and pharmaceutical products of all descriptions, we decided we'd seen enough and headed back to the border.

We headed back north to a little town called Tubac just north of the Mexican border where they had an intriguing collection of sculptures. We also stopped off at this point for some genuine Mexican Green Chilli Stew which went down very well despite it being around 97 in the shade!

This afternoon we headed up Madera Canyon where aside from the beautiful views over Green Valley (here he goes with his scenery again), we got a chance to check out some of the local wildlife.

Early night tonight in preparation for another early start tomorrow, but all being well we'll get to San Diego for lunchtime to see what delights await us there...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lost for words...

It's not often that words fail me but today they did.

The weather has done it's best to dampen spirits, but a combination of dogged determination and the ignorance to ascend 13000ft up a mountain in t-shirt and jeans have rewarded me with the most incredible scenery I've ever seen.

From the plains of heading into Colorado, to the top of Pikes Peak (or as near as weather would allow); through the Garden of the Gods and into the beautiful backdrop of the New Mexico horizon, the imagery I've seen today has left me absolutely gobsmacked.

As an added bonus, we made up enough time to skip our intended stopping point tonight and we got to Santa Fe in time for an unexpected look around which was a real treat (despite my camera batteries dying on me).

I really ought to be posting loads of pictures to support this lot, but I also need to get on with enjoying the break. So in the meantime, I'll leave you with the little taster above and tomorrow we'll see what Arizona has to offer...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

And they're off...

It's fair to say that the weather has been less than kind since my arrival in the USA, although yesterday we managed to get out between showers to re-visit the Gateway Arch (OK guys, I've not taken any pictures this time - yet); finish off shopping for the last few essentials and catch Sh-Boom playing a free gig in a local park.

Sh-Boom are clearly a really talented bunch of guys and although we didn't manage to catch the entire two hour performance, the hour or so that we did see would indicate that they put on a very entertaining show. I doubt we'll ever see them in the Grimsby area, but do check their website and if they are playing near you, I recommend you go and see them. Oh, and don't pay any attention to the continued references to "oldies".

It seems my trips over here obviously imply some kind of baptism of fire. The last time I came across, I had never flown and chose to take my first flight over 10 hours. This time I had never driven abroad and after a brief spin around a local car park I contributed today to around 350 miles in the first leg of our 4200 mile journey.

The weather forecast continues to look "interesting" here in Colorado, but temperatures in Arizona and California over the next few days offer some serious sunshine potential. So time to sign off and get some kip; if the weather is clear enough tomorrow morning, we've a 13000ft mountain to climb.

Don't be silly, of course I'll be climbing it in the car...

Friday, September 07, 2007

What a hoot...

It's around 2:20am here, but as my body thinks it's 8:20 and that it should be awake I thought I'd sign in and say hello. The noise from the crickets takes a bit of getting used to again; honestly, if I hear Peggy Sue one more time tonight...

Anyway, greetings from the USA. I made it across, around 21 hours after my alarm went off this morning and several hours behind schedule, but I'm here nonetheless. To be fair, the journey was pretty smooth and the only real delays were in avoiding bad weather and in immigration where nobody could decide where we should be queuing and kept moving us all back and forth for an hour or so. I did get the chance to read the whole of Peter Kay's autobiography "The Sound of Laughter" though which is a bloody good laugh incidentally and well worth a look.

The unfortunate outcome was that by the time they'd finished questioning, taking finger prints and digital photos, I'd missed my connecting flight and had to collect my bag and book another one. No big deal; I've seen too many episodes of Airport to get as stroppy and animated as many of the others had chosen to.

No, the only hairy part of the journey was at the very beginning when the taxi driver dropped me at Cleethorpes station shortly before 5.00am with the kind warning "Oh by the way mate, don't go wandering off the station on your own, the pubs haven't been closed for long and there's plenty of idiots out causing trouble." Marvellous. I'll just hang around a deserted station platform on my own for half an hour then trying not to get mugged. What a great start.

Anyway on a happier note, we rounded the day off with Pete treating us to a meal in a local restaurant. Have you ever heard of Hooters? No, I bet you haven't; OK, whatever you say. It's a great place - great food; very reasonably priced; they serve a great iced tea and the waitresses? Clearly they have an established selection criteria and I'm certainly not about to complain. In fact, I wonder if they open for breakfast...

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gullibles Travels...

I really thought I'd organised everything to slip away from the office un-noticed really early this afternoon, but having dealt with all of the "just before you go's" I had to settle for a little early.

Whatever, at least that's it for a while now and I'm certainly ready for this break. We're planning to have a laptop with us and there are several WiFi spots along the way so if I get the chance, I'll be posting blog entries in lieu of postcards.

Either way, sooner or later, there's bound to be details of the 2007 American Adventure on here, so watch this space...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Weight watching...

People who know what a routine freak I am will not be surprised in the slightest to hear that:

~ My bags were packed for the holiday almost a week before I was due to set off.
~ I have a handful of envelopes with all of my travel documents sorted and separated for incoming, outgoing, important documents and copies of everything
~ I have sent copies of the rough itinerary and contact details throughout to Little Sis and the folks
~ My taxi is booked to arrive at the station well before the train is due to leave.
~ The train tickets were bought in advance to ensure I get to the airport three hours before the flight is due.
~ I carefully planned out and selected what I need to take with me to ensure it would all fit in my smallest case, which is small enough to constitute hand luggage. I even re-measured my case to ensure it met regulations. Which it did.

I've been following a checklist for the last week or so to make sure everything is done by the time it needs to be and I thought I'd been pretty thorough, but there's always something else.

For some reason, I awoke at an unearthly hour this morning and realised that I hadn't checked the maximum weight (of hand luggage) I was allowed to carry on and it's a good job I did. 6kg!!! I've taken heavier packed lunches to work than that. The empty case weighs over 2kg!

Even with my most economical packing, there is no way I can get it that light, so it looks like I'm checking my bag in. And if that's the case (no pun intended), I might as well re-pack and take a bigger one, allowing room for a few more souvenirs.

Honestly, I've never planned so hard for such a spontaneous event...

Monday, September 03, 2007

A couple of reasons to smile...

I spend enough time on here wittering about drivers being inconsiderate, but today praise is due to the Morrisons petrol tanker driver I followed home earlier this evening.

Fair do's, I sighed when he didn't turn off where I expected him to and headed off into the windy country road ahead of me. However, as soon as we reached the first reasonable passing point he flashed his left indicator tolet me know the road ahead of him was clear and I could get past. Top bloke indeed.

Secondly, we were discussing TV themes in the pub Friday night (as we are inclined to do after a beer or two) and I was delighted tonight to find the opening and closing themes to one of the ones we were trying to remember.

For the opening theme follow this link, scroll down to "Listen to samples" and listen to track 4
For the closing theme follow this link and listen to track 8.

Now, if you are about the same age as me and were brought up in the UK, you should have memories come flooding back of watching telly while you were on a sickie from school...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Game over...

Last night saw the latest reality TV spectacle come to a close; let's hope for the last time, as each series seems to plunge further and further into the depths of superficiality.

Despite initial interest in this years activity in the BB house (due to it being populated in the main by young females), I rapidly lost interest after the media attention grabbing episode when Emily got evicted. I can't deny that her use of the n-word was inappropriate and incredibly naive, but there was clearly no malice intended when she used it and I still believe she was a scapegoat for Channel 4 & Endemol to make amends for the earlier celebrity fiasco.

I didn't go out of my way to watch the final eviction show last night, although it was playing to a minority of half-interested people in the corner of the pub. It was a surprise to overhear that Brian was the winner - I really thought the twins had the prize in the bag.

Still, I doubt there are any losers when they will all earn a tidy sum in return for selling their souls to the media over the next few weeks.

I doubt I'll be the first or last to say it, but at least this years winner will be the first one in the UK who actually is a big brother...

All meat and a real treat...

One of the highlights of a typical Friday night in the Tap is the meat draw. Although sometimes dismissed as a bit corny, it is somewhat of a pub tradition and despite what some might think, there's no shortage of ticket sales in time for the big draw around 9:30.

Why would I be posting about it partcularly? Well it's fair to say that I've had my fair share of good luck in it. I've seldom bought more than a couple of strips of tickets, but my continued success has become something of a standing joke at the bar.

On more than one occasion, I've tried to disprove any possible "fixing" by swapping tickets with one of the regulars, but my numbers are still called and invariably they are numbers received during the swap.

As a result, my freezer is now generously stocked with two pork joints, two gammon joints, a lamb joint, a chicken and several remaining cuts from grill packs so I'm guessing the regulars will be pleased that I will not be there for the next three Fridays.

And when I get back from my trip, I suppose it might be a good idea to look into the Atkins diet...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Telesales with a difference...

I'm pleased to report that my registration with TPS has lived up to my expectations and on the very rare occasion I do get an unwanted call, a brief reminder that I'm registered with TPS sends them running with their tails between their legs.

To date, I've been fairly lucky in avoiding unwanted texts and calls to my mobile, so when I got a telesales call on it this week, I was caught a little off guard...

CPW: Hi, this is the O2 team at Carphone Warehouse. We're just calling to see that everything is going OK
Me: Erm... yes... everything has been just fine
CPW: Well I don't know if you've realised, but you've reached the end of your initial contract and qualify for a free upgrade on your handset
(I become immediately suspicious at the propect of something for nothing)
Me: Well I say everything is fine; to tell the truth I've been pretty unlucky [careless] with my handset and had to replace it. I've bought a pay as you go model and switched my SIM card
CPW: Oh, sorry to hear that...
(I'm now expecting serious sales pitch on the benefits of their insurance policies)
CPW: What sort of handset do you like? Is there any particular make you prefer?
Me: Well yes, but I've replaced it so recently that I'm quite happy with it and don't need to consider replacing it just yet
CPW: Fine, I understand. Well perhaps we could just reduce your monthly payment by £10 a month and you'll still get your 200 minutes and 200 texts included

Clearly, I took them up on their generous offer. Gobsmacked is hardly the word - fancy receiving a sales call and ending up with something I actually wanted...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Em to please...

I know this is my second stats related post in just over a week, but I just spotted another one that amused me.

Eight people from the last twenty that ended up here from search engines were looking for Emily Maitlis, presumably as a result of the recent "flashing" incident which offended some BBC viewers.

She was only ever been mentioned on this blog once before today when I stated in one of the comments last April that I'd just Googled her. Unfortunately, it sounds as sordid now as it did back then.

Now I don't usually post celebrity photos as there's plenty of other sites out there providing a more than adequate service. Apparently. All the same, it's fair to say that she would brighten the place up a bit.

Most importantly, I feel obliged to post a picture if for no other reason than to offend the kind of small minded moron who takes offence at the thought of an attractive newsreader having legs...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Short Film Review...

Many would say this is inconceivable, but I never really got into the Star Wars thing. In fact, I've only ever seen the first three. Well, the second three. Well, the fourth, fifth & sixth. You know which ones I mean - the first three to be released.

I've never really done the "short film" thing either. In my experience they always concentrate too much on being arty farty rather than trying to get a decent story or message across. Sweeping generalisation I know.

That all changed this morning. Unable to sleep at a ridiculous hour, I went through and put the TV on and caught a great little film on the Sci Fi Channel called "George Lucas in Love" which I supposed you could say is the real first episode of Star Wars.

Fortunately, people have had the foresight to post it on YouTube so take a look for yourselves here - I think it's 8 minutes of movie that's well worth seeing...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Height of ignorance...

Until recently, I'd never really given much thought as to why the Americans have elevation signs at the roadside, but when Pete mentioned how some people suffer from elevation sickness, I decided that perhaps it was time to look into it further.

I'm not a big fan of heights; it's rare enough that I'll work at the top of a step ladder, although if I'm in an enclosed environment such as a plane, car, or a building observation deck then it's never been a problem.

Now I've had a chance to put things in perspective and in my typically geeky fashion, I plotted the elevation of the various stages of our forthcoming trip and although it is exaggerated by our visit to Pikes Peak in the Rocky Mountains but a considerable remainder of the trip is around 3000 feet:

The dotted red line represents the height of Mam Tor in the Peak District which is probably the highest place I've ever been. It doesn't look that significant here at a mere 1696 feet, although it seemed bloody high up at the time, especially when we thought my mate Rob had jumped off. (There was in fact a plateau beyond the point that we'd believed to be the escarpment edge and we'd bottled out before getting that close).

So, I guess I'll find out when I get there and in the meantime, assume that's what people are referring to when they talk about a natural high...

Update: I've been reminded that I have actually been higher than Mam Tor - the Sears Tower Skydeck is 1353 feet high, but 1948 feet above sea level, so the graph has been updated accordingly. I'm sure you were all really concerned...

Doctor Seany...

I continue to be fascinated by the reasons people end up here and enjoy the diversity of referrals I get, but this morning I found something a little different.

Although I appreciate that most of my ramblings are about working too hard, partying too hard (is that possible?) or being pestered by morons on my daily commute, there's seldom much very sensible to be found here. Pictures of bunny girls or Samantha Janus (sadly I have no combination of the two) continue to reign as the most popular reason for landing here from search engines.

I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I found an incoming referral from Right Health website with a direct link to one of my posts in their Best of Health section. Ironically, the post in question was about my planning a lazy day, having eaten far too much from a meat pack I'd won from the pub.

Hmmm, what a shining example of healthy living I must be...

Suddenly I see...

A week or so ago I thought it might be fun to see if there are any interesting gigs that coincide with our American tour next month and was quite pleased when I spotted somewhere that KT Tunstall was playing in St Louis on one of the nights we would be there.

Whilst suggesting the idea to Pete yesterday, I was having difficulty finding any ticket details on either hers or the venue's website despite the fact that elsewhere it clearly said that she would be playing there on 20th September. All we could find were tickets for a gig in New York (sadly not on our already extensive agenda) or reviews for the last time she'd played there.

It was only after some extensive searching that the penny finally dropped and I realised that St Louis was actually included in her U.S. Tour - on 20th September 2006...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Road Trip...

It's quite a few weeks now since I last posted about this year's holiday and having spent three and a half hours on the phone discussing plans this afternoon, I'm now as excited as a child on Christmas morning. And there are still three weeks to go yet.

Yes, three weeks today I should be at Pete's place in St Louis making the last minute preparations for what I hope will be the holiday of a lifetime. Basically, we'll be driving from St Louis to San Diego and back again, taking in Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, California, Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma along the way.

We've pre-booked hotels to coincide with our loosely planned agenda, but the true beauty of this trip is that it will be mainly spontaneous. If one particular place really appeals we could stay longer and conversely, if something doesn't live up to our expectations we can just move on elsewhere.

All told, we will be driving around 4,200 miles over a period of 70-odd hours and earthquakes, dust storms, tornados, etc. permitting, we should get to take in some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world.

I suppose you could say it's just a really extravagant way of taking a trip to the zoo...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Difficult time...

I was saddened to receive a phone call from my mate Steve this morning telling me that his Mum finally lost her battle against cancer and passed away yesterday morning.

These situations are never easy to deal with, but much as we are all extremely upset at her passing, I'm afraid I can't also deny a sense of relief that she's no longer facing her daily battle against unimaginable pain and discomfort.

An incredibly brave woman with an enormous sense of loyalty for her family, I'm pleased to have known her and to have bestowed upon her the dubious honour of being the nearest anyone has got to date to becoming my mother-in-law.

After all of the challenges that the last few years have presented, the phrase rest in peace does actually feel incredibly appropriate...

Monday, August 13, 2007

The big barbie...

The Tap football team had their annual fundraising barbie this weekend and I'm pleased to say that once again it delivered everything we expected.

It was certainly no place for non-carnivores, although there was some very tasty red snapper to be had. There were the obligatory scattered showers which failed to dampen the spirits and on the subject of spirits, there were plenty of cut price drinks to help wash the food down and toast Julie on her 50th birthday.

Quite how the two most determined of us had managed to finish off in a nightclub three and a half miles away and nine hours later is another story entirely. Luckily, I know myself well enough now to book following days to such events off work and keep both my job and my driving license intact...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Life imitating art...

I guess it's been on the cards for some time that with such an important project coming to fruition at work this week, I would have to put in quite a few hours from home this weekend.

Still, having worked into the small hours this morning and been awake enough to start again about 6 hours later, I felt that I'd earnt the right to stop mid afternoon, get a few chores out of the way then plant myself with a cuppa in front of the telly for a couple of hours.

The listings didn't have a lot to offer, but I did spot Groundhog Day was on again. Yes, I know we've all seen it plenty of times before but it is one of the few films I can watch time and time again, still laugh at the same jokes in all of the same places and enjoy from beginning to end.

Good job I don't have the DVD, I could watch it again already. Then watch it again...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Life imitating art...

I guess it's been on the cards for some time that with such an important project coming to fruition at work this week, I would have to put in quite a few hours from home this weekend.

Still, having worked into the small hours this morning and been awake enough to start again about 6 hours later, I felt that I'd earnt the right to stop mid afternoon, get a few chores out of the way then plant myself with a cuppa in front of the telly for a couple of hours.

The listings didn't have a lot to offer, but I did spot Groundhog Day was on again. Yes, I know we've all seen it plenty of times before but it is one of the few films I can watch time and time again, still laugh at the same jokes in all of the same places and enjoy from beginning to end.

Good job I don't have the DVD, I could watch it again already. Then watch it again...

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bit of a sore head...

Thanks to a bit of forward planning, I'd booked the day off today expecting to feel a bit delicate after the inevitable celebrations that would come with my mate Dom turning 26 yesterday.

We started with a football match between the pub team and a team of regulars at the local college grounds. I missed the event last year so I was probably more surprised than most at what a great performance the regulars put on. Admittedly towards the end there were about 16 "regulars" players on the pitch and following a seven all draw, it seemed a bit harsh that we should lose it on penalties. Irrespective of the score, they raised over £100 to be split between a local school and scout group.

From then on, there followed a leisurely afternoon in the Tap sat on the balcony , occasionally jumping to our feet to admire the large fish swimming below, but generally supping beer and exchanging tales of varying degrees of filth and offence from each others mobile phones.

Early evening and a dozen of us hopped into taxis to cross town and enjoy a superb carvery dinner. Next stop, the worlds smallest pub for a beer festival where we probably should have stayed for the remainder of the evening as the subsequent venues in Cleethorpes proved to be either closed, full of idiots, too noisy or carrying an odour reminiscent of an open sewer.

In total though, a really good day. Why the sore head? No, not the hangover that you're all expecting to read about, the drinking was maintained at a suitably modest level. No, it seems that despite the fact that I've sported a number one haircut since a charity head shave several years ago, I still haven't realised the importance of covering my head when I'm out in the sun all day...