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...