Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The end is nigh... or is it...

Evenin' all. I hope anyone looking in has had a nice Christmas and is looking forward to the new year.

On the subject of looking to the future, I posted this on Facebook a little earlier, but now I've decided to follow Delcatto's lead and post it on the blog too.

It's important that this message is spread as far and wide as possible. I appreciate that it is a long video clip but please believe me when I say that it is definitely worth taking some time to watch it...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Noughty Films...

An old schoolmate of mine is now a film critic (amongst other things) and he asked us via Facebook to list our top 5 films of the last decade. I thought my reply would be worth a lazy blog post on here - please feel free to comment with your top five:

I don't get to watch many new films unless my niece and nephew are staying so I didn't think I would find much in the last decade. Then, thanks to IMDB, I realised just how long 10 years really is and how tough it is to narrow down my top five!

So here goes and I'll start with a cheat:
Lord of the Rings (Trilogy). I'm probably the only person left of my generation who still hasn't read ANY of the books (despite owning them) so watching the film was my way of catching up

Gangs of New York. I just loved the atmosphere

Casino Royale. In my [controversial] opinion getting Bond films back where they should be

Pay It Forward. Great philosophy that I actually try and live by anyway and top candidate for "well I certainly didn't see that coming..."

Happy Feet. One of my favourite films of all time. Unashamed family fun, great animation, imaginative soundtrack, singing and dancing whilst saving the world and Brittany Murphy sings Queen - what more could you ask for!

Close contenders that didn't quite make the top 5:
Eulogy - very funny but primarily because I'm in love with Zooey Deschanel
Mamma Mia - put your brain on one side, relax and enjoy some fun and Abba music for a couple of hours
Bubba Ho-tep - great film currently residing in my "wtf" category
King Kong - I thought it was an excellent remake up until the nonsense in Central Park which I thought was completeley superfluous

And that concludes the voting for the Seany jury...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Long time no blog...

Well the old place doesn't look much different from the last time I dropped by, although maybe a bit neglected. So what's happened in the last month?

The biggest and best event had to be the wedding of my friends Nick and Claire where I was honoured to be the best man. It was a textbook wedding with everything you (and of course they) could have wished for. My speech seemed to be well received, but the fact that I was the only person at the top table drinking the red wine meant that I was suitably relaxed when the time came.

Christmas has got a bit closer, but all presents are bought, wrapped and where appropriate, posted and received at the other end. The folks are having Christmas Dinner with me this year, I'm at theirs for Boxing Day breakfast, then we're off to see New Year in with Little Sis & Family.

I missed my blogday on 23rd November, but I guess after 5 years of waffling on here, I'm entitled to a bit of a quiet spell now and then.

The big question - what's happening at work? Well nothing new. I'm still there until the end of February, although I can't say I'm looking forward to saying goodbye to my team a week on Wednesday. The good news is that people do appear to be finding jobs and getting interviews, so even though I haven't had any success to date, it seems only fair that those leaving first find new placements first.

So I think that's about everything I have to report for now. I hope it won't be so long before I'm back again, but just in case, I'll take this chance to wish anyone reading this a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh and of course in the time honoured tradition, I've prepared another silly little animation.
'Ave a good 'un...

Saturday, November 07, 2009

New Trick for an Old Dog...

It's been a change of scenery this week as I've taken a few days away from the usual day-job learning how to drive a fork lift truck.

I had been looking forward to it anyway, but it turned out to be much more fun than I expected. There were three of us on the course, all learning from scratch, all approached it with the same sense of humour and all just there to for CV fodder rather than any desperate desire to drive fork lift trucks for a living.

Each day was a gradual progression:
Monday we learned how to manoeuvre the truck both forwards and in reverse, initially in a straight line, then in clockwise and anti-clockwise circles and finally a tight figure of eight.
Tuesday we moved on to the hydraulics, how to lower and raise the forks, tilt them backwards and forwards to the appropriate levels.
Wednesday we built the test course and had a few practise runs as our instructor was called away for the day
Thursday was the first test day where we completed the practical test, theory test, pre-check test and I'm pleased to say we all passed.
Friday was the chance to re-run the practical test again to try and improve our scores, which again, I'm pleased to report we all did. Personally, I was delighted to have knocked a further couple of minutes off my time and with 16 less penalty points to come out top of the class. Little things eh?

So as a qualified counterbalance fork lift truck driver, I'm now trying to get a reach truck conversion course organised to expand my repertoire still further. This would seem all the more possible now they've announced that I will be staying with the company now for a further month until the end of February...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Dipper...

Its almost a tradition for me to moan about this every year so I thought I would get it out of the way early.

Only my second day driving home from work to the seasonally adjusted clock and yet already so many hundreds of motorists have seemingly forgotten the difference between dipped headlights and main beam.

The lights are supposed to be there for them to see or be seen, not to glare all on-coming traffic into driving off the road. Inconsiderate bunch of bastards...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pub Report...

Now a more responsible person in my position would be spending every waking minute trying to decide how he's going to earn a crust after the end of January, but some times you just have ot put other people first. With that in mind, I took a trip out to visit my old mate Andy over the weekend to delivery a present and help him to celebrate (?) turning 40 earlier this month.

Thanks to Sharon who was taking little Laura to a more sensible birthday celebration, we had a lift from their remote farm to Ashbourne to see what delights the numerous hostelries had in store for us. With only a couple of hours or so to spend exploring, the itinerary went something like:

George and Dragon: Leatherbritches Dr Johnsons (and great jukebox incidentally)
Ye Old Vault: Deuchars IPA
The Horns: Wytchwood Hobgoblin
The Green Man: Leatherbritches Goldings
Smiths Tavern: Andy had a questionable Hobgoblin, whereas I opted for the much nicer Jennings Cocker Hoop. Pity we only found out as we were about to leave that Marstons Pedigree was their speciality, but a quick half was sufficient to prove the point.
Back to the George & Dragon, where each pint this time was accompanied by a JD to toast Andy's birthday
Back to the Ye Old Vault, but due to a technical problem the barmaid was having while the queue at the bar grew deeper, we panicked and fled back to the George to cram in one last pint and a game of pool before getting the call to say our lift back had arrived.

So there it was Ashbourne, a delightfully picturesque market town with a plethora of real pubs, full of real people and selling real food and most importantly, real ales. I don't really know what more I can tell you other than "go there".

I might possibly add that after a session like that, it probably wasn't the best of ideas to crack open the bottled real ale as soon as we got back to the farm. Possibly even less wise to then take a trip to the nearest village to partake in a further three pints of their real ales which equally went down a treat, although to this day I couldn't tell you what they were...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Taking it all in...

Two job applications still in progress right now, both of which have outlasted the earlier one (not much of a challenge, I admit).

Monday saw my first meeting with the outplacement consultants and I'm pleased to report that I was very pleasantly surprised. Although he complemented me on the quality of my CV, he went on to give me some good ideas towards improving it further still and provided some fascinating insights as so better ways to launch myself into the job market.

While I'm wading through the elements of the outplacement program, I also started the first of my in-house training sessions today. I'd heard a lot of positive feedback about the Basic Laboratory Techniques course and considering I'm part of the Technical Department, I probably should have followed it up earlier. Regardless, I managed to latch on to the course today and I'm glad I made the effort - it was really interesting with the added bonus that I got to play with some kit I otherwise probably would never have done.

Next training course is week after next when I'm on a fork truck driving course - now that's one I'm really looking forward to. I've no long term ambition of becoming a fork truck driver (or lab technician for that matter) but all of this training is being laid on for free and I figure I should take the opportunity to stuff the CV with as wide a range of experiences and training as possible to make myself more employable.

In the meantime, there is another training course being planned in the background that I'm particularly excited about. I can't say too much right now as some considerable strings are being pulled to get it provided for free, but if it works out as planned, I'll certainly be telling you all about it later on...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Survey Said...

It's laughable really - the application I sent off last night was returned and rejected mid-morning today!

I can't pretend I'm overly surprised as the last time I applied for a position advertised by this particular agency, the rejection came back even quicker. Seriously concerned the last time, I called them for some feedback on receipt of their email, only to be told that the position was very highly subscribed and she "didn't feel the role best suited my skill set". She then went on to reassure me that I had a strong CV and that she would be happy to work with me to find something else, but she would have to get back to me in a few weeks. You could almost smell the sincerity over the telephone and unsurprisingly I never heard any more from her.

Truth be known, it was the salary and geography that offered the main attraction for this role so perhaps there's a lesson to be learnt there. Not that I'm concerned right now anyway, after all, the game has only just begun...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gizza Job...

The moment finally arrived last Tuesday and I received the letter giving me notice that my employment terminates on 29th January.

I had expected it to be a little later than that and I genuinely think its unwise to let me go quite so early in the overall scheme of things, but it is more than most have been given so I can't really complain. Furthermore, I now have the basis to start building my future from. So onto the master plan.

Plan A: to make sure my lottery tickets are always up to date. Hey, let's face facts, I'd rather not have to work at all, or at least would like to have the option to work on my own terms. Admittedly, this is a tad of a long shot.

Plan B: stick with the current job until the end of January. They have now confirmed my redundancy package in writing and it's far too much to just walk away from unless something quite amazing turns up. Next week is my first meeting with the outplacement consultants they have provided to help us all in our move towards a new future. They are also providing heaps of training which I'm taking advantage of; everything from problem solving techniques to fork lift driving.

The second part of plan B is to start looking for a Customer Service Manager role within about 20 miles from home. Clearly I'll be taking advantage of every resource out there on the internet and writing to absolutely anyone who I think may be interested, in addition to whatever the above-mentioned consultants have in mind.

Plan C kicks in around December and basically involves expanding the job search to any managerial position with similar prospects and package as I have now within about 50 miles from home.

If this hasn't reaped any rewards by the end of January then plan D is to take a couple of weeks break then pretty much apply for anything just to buy me a bit more time until a more appropriate opportunity comes along.

Best case, I'll get a better job than I have now that starts at the beginning of March next year. Worst case, I can actually afford to be out of work until the back end of next year if absolutely necessary. Given the choice though I'd rather put my redundancy payout to something a little more exiting than just living from.

First job application has gone off today so the plan is now officially under way and the fun starts right here...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Office Moves...

I spent most of the morning moving office again today even though it's not that long since the last move. It came as a bit of a surprise to many as an office to yourself is a luxury that was only enjoyed by the MD and myself (more by circumstance rather than my status within the organisation I hasten to add) and as offices go, it is quite a nice one...

Truth is, the redundancy letters have started being distributed now (I haven't had mine yet but I know it's on it's way) and I thought the room would be put to much better use as a private area for people to make personal calls to arrange interviews etc., somewhere for people who want to talk in private about any problems or challenges they are personally facing, or at worst, to host some of the countless meetings resulting from the transfers to other sites.

As for me, I'm now closer to my own team as well as being amongst the other teams I work most closely with and now we can all see out these last few months in the same office together...

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Quick Pint...

Despite the title, it's an alcohol free post in all senses; the content doesn't discuss it (from here on) and the writer hasn't had any since last Saturday (and that won't last long either).

I had an appointment at the blood donors for later on this evening, but as I happened to be passing and the car park seemed empty, I thought I would see if they could squeeze me in early. Although officially they were just about to close the afternoon session, they very kindly agreed to sneak me through as the last donor before their break.

Now I don't mind waiting around there and they usually don't keep you too long. Sure, I'm not a big fan of sitting around doing nothing, but the potential end result of my donation far outweighs the importance of anything else I would be doing with that time.

I'll spare you a blow by blow account but I walked in there just before 4:00pm this afternoon and little over 30 minutes later I had registered, been tested, given my donation, downed a coffee and a couple of Club chocolate biscuits and was on my way back home. Never in my 39 pint history can I remember getting through so quickly.

So what else was I supposed to do with the time I'd saved other than come on here and encourage you to do likewise? You know my opinion on the matter by now: if you can't donate that's fair enough. If you can but just don't want to, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you want to find out where your next nearest session is so you can make a donation, click on Billy below...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

No news is no news...

Well we are getting ever nearer to the end of the 90 day consultation period at work and today they have announced that they intend to close the plant a couple of days before Christmas.

Effectively that means that many of the employees will now all finish on that same day. Some will be required to work on for a while afterwards but as yet they haven't determined who that is going to be and how long they will be needed for.

Indeed, some have decided not to wait, forego the pot of gold at the end of the "rainbow" and have already been fortunate enough to find employment elsewhere.

For now though, my plans remain unchanged - I fully intend to sit tight and claim my rightful reward for enduring 14 years there and will not start looking for anything new until I have a clearer idea of a finishing date. I may find out as early as next Tuesday or maybe not until much later on in the year.

It probably wouldn't hurt to have a clearer idea about what I want to do when the time comes. As of right now, I still have absolutely no idea...

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Trichological tale...

Ever since that fateful day about 6 years ago when I had my head shaved in the pub for charity, I think I've only ever paid for a haircut once or twice since, preferring instead to cut my own. Fair enough, I'm into my second pair of clippers, but I'm thinking that as I'm saving about £7.50 every other week, they have pretty much paid for themselves.

Whilst giving my self a once-over at the weekend (I could probably have phrased that better) one of the teeth fell out of the attachment comb so having finished my trim, checking carefully that I hadn't left any rogue black stripes, I set about finding a replacement.

Unfortunately, it seems that everywhere only sells the attachment combs in full sets of six, a little wasteful for me as I only ever use the 3mm attachment. So I rang the Remington Help Desk, where the automated voice gave me an alternative number if I was looking for spare shaver or clipper parts. The company at the end of the other number advised me that they were only available in sets of six, but she could sell me a set at a discounted price (plus postage which then worked out about the same!). I politely declined.

Not exactly angry, I thought I would give the Help Desk another quick call just to share my experience with them as I'm sure it is a quite common problem. To my surprise, without my even having to prompt, she happily told me that they always have spares about the office and would gladly pop a couple of replacements in the post to me free of charge.

So there you have it a happy post, with a little good news twist in these times of recession. Oh and of course, if you find yourself needing to buy a set of hair clippers, make sure they are Remington...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Blog Sulk...

I discovered earlier this year that the file host I've been using to store pictures for the blog is closing in October, but since they announced this they have been assuring me that they would soon be posting simple instructions to transfer my files.

Last night I finally remembered to check back in again and these "simple" instructions involve signing up to a $4 a month subscription. OK, it's not exactly a huge sum of money but I'm not going to start paying it out of principle. The only real free alternative it seems is to check each post on the blog over the last 5 years and save the pictures individually. That ain't gonna happen either.

As well as the pending disappearance of many of the pictures, the YouTube copyright police have been removing videos here, there and everywhere leaving even more holes in my blog posts.

I still believe there is a place for the blog, Twitter, and I hate to admit, even Facebook, so I will be keeping it going. Chances are that nobody would have even noticed if I didn't mention it...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sporting Life...

Like thousands of others, I looked on in disgust this morning at the footage on the news of the violence at the Millwall vs West Ham match last night. You can't really call them football fans as it appears that the actual sport is merely an aside to the taunting and fighting that many of them seem to have paid their entrance at the gate for.

Now it is widely accepted that I know absolutely nothing whatsoever about sport, maybe not even that much, but I think I have a solution; a bit off the wall maybe but then you should expect that by now.

If I understand correctly, half of the football grounds across the country are empty on a Saturday afternoon as their teams are playing away that weekend. In addition, most of the clubs could use an extra few quid to top up the coffers.

So I propose that every Saturday the teams go and play each other as scheduled and the fans who want to enjoy a couple of hours with their friends and families cheering their sides on, go along and do so.

We can also assume that there are a proportion of "fans" for both teams who are largely indifferent to the sport but just want to go and kick the shit out of each other for a couple of hours. So why not charge them the same price to be allowed onto the pitch of the other ground (i.e. of the team playing away) where they can merrily beat the living daylights out of each other to their hearts' content?

No police presence, no St Johns ambulance or other medical assistance, just someone to clear up the remains and usher the last few stragglers out at the end of it all. If a few of them get hurt along the way, well surely that's what they were expecting wasn't it? If they want to fight, let them do it, locked in a ground where they are no bother to anyone but each other...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Holiday Fun...

I've just enjoyed great long weekend with the family here and we've surprised ourselves at how much of a good time you can have without necessarily spending a fortune.

Thursday we didn't stray too far from home but we enjoyed the sunshine in the garden while the kids were happily out there playing.

Friday we ventured out to Cleethorpes beach which some would consider brave for a Friday afternoon in the middle of the school summer holidays. A couple of spits of rain en route but I think we were all surprised to find the beach looking like this

What more could you ask for?

Saturday afternoon we took a walk down to the village green to satisfy our curiosity as to what the village show had in store. As it turned out, everything you would have expected: cake stalls, hook-a-duck, face painting, bouncy castles, emergency services displays and a mountain climbing rig that my 5-year old nephew couldn't wait to get his harnessed little arms and legs at.

Intersperse this with plenty of food and drink throughout the weekend and of course, the chance to catch up with everyone, it was unfortunately over all too soon.

All that remains now is some lively exercise to burn off some of the excesses...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Life and Music...

Another lazy blog post tonight I'm afraid.

It's just that every now and then you're directed towards something that really makes you sit up and think and this would seem as good a place to share it as any.

Although I've also posted links to it on Facebook and Twitter...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Something for nothing...

I'd completely forgotten that before my last blood donation, I'd received a letter from them telling me that for donating three times within a year, I could collect a slate coaster as a thank you gift the next time I went.

Unfortunately, at the time they had none left but assured me that one would be posted on when they got some more. Not only did it arrive this week, which was a nice surprise, but they sent me a second one by means of an apology - as if it was necessary.

So if it's not sufficient incentive that you may be saving someones life, or that you or a loved one may need a transfusion yourselves one day, then go along because every now and then they send you free stuff. Click on Billy below to find details of your next available session...

Friday, August 07, 2009

50 bands...

The internet has been infuriatingly slow these last few days and appears to have brought Facebook to a grinding halt. One little gem I did find though (but haven't been able to reply on there yet) was a tag to list 50 bands you have seen live.

Cue a trawl through the memory banks after which I was surprised that I managed to count 50, but I did impose a few rules to get there. I included solo artists aswell as bands, but only counted most of them once. Personally I think Marillion with Fish were a different band than when I saw them with Steve Hogarth, likewise, the remaining Queen members at the Freddie Tribute were significantly different to the Queen & Paul Rodgers show. Having seen Quo a dozen times with several line-ups but with Rossi & Parfitt to the fore, I've only counted them the once.

Oh and I've seen so many pub bands over the years, some excellent, some shall we say less so, I've left them all off the list too. So for anyone who's interested, here they are in approx. chronological order starting from about 26 years ago (gulp) and rather like the pub bands, most were excellent although some were significantly less so...

Spider (my first gig)
Status Quo
Air Race
Meat Loaf
Chas & Dave (Quo's Farewell London Concert)
Little Steven (Quo's Farewell London Concert)
Phil Lynot & Grand Slam (Quo's Farewell London Concert)
Dave Edmunds (Quo's Farewell London Concert)
Jason & The Scorchers (Quo's End of the Road Concert)
Gary Glitter (Quo's End of the Road Concert)
Marillion (with Fish) (Quo's End of the Road Concert)
Nazareth (Quo's End of the Road Concert)
King of the Hill
Deacon Blue
Elkie Brooks
Tears for Fears (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Cliff Richard & The Shadows (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Genesis (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Oleta Adams (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Phil Collins (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Eric Clapton (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Elton John (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Paul McCartney (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Pink Floyd (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Dire Straits (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Paige & Plant (Silver Clef Award Winners Concert)
Metallica (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Def Leppard (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Bob Geldof (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Spinal Tap (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Guns N Roses (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Roger Daltrey (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Zucchero (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Paul Young (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Seal (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Lisa Stansfield (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
David Bowie (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Mott the Hoople (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Annie Lennox (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
George Michael (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Liza Minelli (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Queen (Freddie Mercury Tribute)
Crown of Thorns
Van Halen (with Sammy Hagar)
Bon Jovi
Queen & Paul Rodgers

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Consider me consulted...

It was my first one-to-one consultation today, although actually it was a two-to-one as both my manager and our HR Manager were there.

Do you understand why the closure has been proposed?
Yes, although I obviously don't agree with it

If we close on 31st December, here's how much you can expect to receive. Do you understand how that has been calculated?
Yes, it's pretty much what I had worked out

Any other questions?
Not really - nobody can answer the most important ones yet...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Question Time...

A regular visitor here since the early days, Jeremy from Montreal, left me a few questions to consider and rather than leave my answers tucked away in the comments pages, I thought I would share them here. All of course based on my current knowledge and state of mind.

1. If not working here, where would you prefer to work?
I suspect I have spent too long worrying about where I work. Right now it is important to me to be able to remain living where I do and am really happy, so I would consider working anywhere that will facilitate that

2. What is your passion?
Tricky one. My greatest passion would have to be music (listening and playing) but it's going to be difficult to carve out a lucrative career with my limited talent! A more professional passion has always been around problem solving and customer service, served up with something a bit techy on the side. Perhaps the Geek Squad beckons?!

3. What contingency plan have you put together in case you lose your job?
There is no "in case" here I am afraid. Despite the political noises the company are legally obliged to make, the site will close, it is just a question of when (currently not known). The trick here is mainly around timing - trying to ensure I can find alternative employment without jeopardising the significant proposed redundancy package by leaving too early.

4. If not this job, where would you NOT prefer to work?
My only negative criteria right now is that I can't foresee any way from here that I would consider permanent employment with this company again. Beyond that, I expect that I will become significantly less choosy as the big day gets closer

5. Have you sought information from those people you visited on your job? (clients/suppliers/other locations)?
Not yet although I have been networking with colleagues past and present. Most of our clients and suppliers are either outside of the UK or much too far away for my considerations in point 1

6. Do you have a goal date in mind to put into action your contingency plans?
Well I can't make any firm plans until I know when they no longer need me. As I am on three months notice, I currently plan to take a more active approach to job hunting as soon as my notice is served.

7. It is always good to have a plan even if it is remote, so that you are not caught unawares.
My current general plan is to stay there as long as they need me. Despite whatever I may be feeling emotionally, the option of walking away from my current salary (which is proving difficult to match locally) to potentially nothing has to be delayed until absolutely necessary.

Apologies if this post comes across as a bit self indulgent, but I thought it may answer some questions that may have occurred to some of the rest of you...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ever changing moods...

Its safe to say that the mood at work has certainly been a strangely unsettled one since they announced our potential closure later on this year.

Even though I am in the thick of it all with 150 or so of my colleagues, I still find it interesting to see how people are coping with the situation and the difficult challenges that lay ahead for us all. For some reason, I keep relating it back to the seven stages of grief that people apparently go through.

Shock/Disbelief. Although we all figured it would happen sooner or later, very few of us had anticipated that it would be quite this soon,

Denial. I've had or heard the conversation so many times, the longer term implications don't seem to have been thought through very well and they can't possibly close the plant at such short notice.

Bargaining. Some may have hoped that there would be some sort of rescue plan for the site, although given that the parent group are not in financial difficulties, this was never really likely.

Guilt. Strange, but only natural I suppose. Could we have worked that little bit harder or smarter? Is there anything we could have done to avoid or at least delay this action?

Anger. Oddly enough (or maybe not), I jumped straight in at this one. I've worked damned hard and sacrificed a lot of personal time over the last 14 years, but now it makes no difference, we are all down the road together, exceptional efforts and achievements or otherwise.

Depression. The job market is not a healthy one at the moment. How are we all going to find jobs? What are we going to do next? How am I expected to pay mortgage/feed family? Little wonder people are worried

Acceptance. Well there is nothing we can actually do about it. Although officially it's still only a proposal, we know damned well that the place is going to close, so lets just try and leave with the best package and prospects possible. Better still, use this as an opportunity to pursue something you always wanted to do with your life.

I know I have been through all of these in varying degrees and even been back to revisit a couple of them before arriving at what I now believe to be some level of acceptance. When I look at some of my colleagues though I am not quite so sure.

Some are still hopeful that a plan will emerge to get things back as they were, some are still as infuriated as they were the day they found out, while some still seem quite numbed by the whole experience and still find it hard to believe what's happening. But, for the best part, most are still flitting in and out of each of these stages rather than following them in any particular sequence.

I guess we have as much a responsibility right now to try and support each other over the coming months and try to look out for those at the more vulnerable stages than others...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

As years go by...

Just another one of my random musings.

As someone born halfway through the sixties, I also witnessed the seventies, eighties and nineties along with many of the rest of you.

At the turn of the last century, or milennium for that matter (and what a huge anticlimax that turned out to be) we welcomed in the "noughties". Oh how amusing the media are when they set their mind to it.

But what happens at the end of this year? The teenies? Seeing as many of us are going to be unable to afford any extravagant holidays, I thought perhaps we should enter the new age of camping with the tenties...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can We Have Your Glasses Please...

On the continuing subject of people on YouTube who are far too talented for their own good, I stumbled upon this unbelievable talent on there.

Now I like to think I'm quite musical but I don't recall ever managing to do this with even a single glass...

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Little More Harmony...

The car sailed through its MOT this morning needing only a new tyre and that, coupled with the half price test fee, would seem to be a lucky escape so I think it's time for a cheery post.

Last October I posted a couple of YouTube clips on here to demonstrate some excellent examples of acapella singing and to be fair, I thought they would take some beating.

Well take a little listen to this. Sure the song itself (Africa, originally by Toto) is impressive enough, but get a load of the way they introduce it...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Death by tray...

No news on the job front and none really expected this early in the proceedings. Lots of uncomfortable shuffling in-house and no shortage of inaccurate reporting via the press, but no, nothing to report yet.

Oh, except my CV. That was my quest for this weekend, I've updated the CV to bring it up to date and to try and make it a tad more appealing than the other 2 million or so I'm going to be in competition with in a few months time.

Anyway on to far less serious matters. Take a look at this video I found tucked amongst my YouTube recommendations - I think it's hilarious . Perhaps its just that I find most material by Eddie Izzard hilarious. Perhaps its because I've decided to pour copious quantities of Jack Daniels down my neck this evening. I guess I will know for sure when I look at this again tomorrow. Of course if I then decide it isn't funny and I delete it before you have seen it, then you may never be any the wiser. Anyway, take a look...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

What you talkin' about...

I was in a bit of an odd mood yesterday evening and looking back now, I can see that my previous post was maybe a bit cryptic! So what is actually going on?

UK employment law states that you cannot make more than 100 people redundant without entering a consultation period of 90 days, essentially to ensure that the best options for all parties have been considered.

Technically it is only a "proposal" from those on high that we cease production in the UK and transfer the work to our other plants but realistically, I can't see why it won't be followed through.

Being pragmatic about it, I'm trying to see this as a fantastic personal opportunity as they have now forced me into doing something I should have pursued further a long time ago. For too long now I have really enjoyed my job and working with many of my colleagues there, but found it challenging to respect the organisation I've been doing it for.

As it turned out, my instinct wasn't far wrong but there is no place for self pity when you are one of around 200 people in the same position, many of whom are probably wondering how they are going to support their families and keep a roof over their heads.

Sure, its going to be tough looking for new employment in the current climate and especially coming from an industry which is quite unique in its nature. Personally, I have been fortunate to have gained a variety of experience during my time there and will be trying to pitch the various aspects of that to anyone locally who is remotely interested.

I can't go into too much detail as while I retain some level of anonymity on here, I can speak freely about how I'm really feeling about things and added to which, my current contract specifically restricts discussions on personal blogs about company matters.

So I'll keep the blog updated as this forthcoming adventure unfolds, but maybe not always at such a ridiculous hour of the morning...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Always look for a positive...

Well today has been an interesting day at the office.

Suffice to say that when the management team are suddenly summoned to the boardroom at short notice, it's seldom to tell us anything particularly pleasant.

Then an hour or so later after the site briefing when you are all handed a letter that contains the phrase "consultation period", it is seldom bearing encouraging news.

I'm increasingly inclined to agree with Little Sis that these things usually happen for a reason. The reason in this case is that I've spent the last 14 years of my life working for a bunch of...

No, that would be unfair as it's only in recent years that things appear to have taken a bizarre direction and gone pear shaped, not solely down to reasons of global recession.

Still, many of us have said that perhaps its the kick up the backside many of us needed to start making some serious decisions about our future. I'll settle for that as a positive right now while I try and figure how what the hell to do next...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Quick Plug...

What a brilliant idea this is...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess...

You can't beat an opportunity to help friends celebrate something really special, even more so when they go to the extent that Andy and Sharon did this weekend for their wedding.

I'm not going to post a minute-by-minute account of the weekend's activities, but I doubt that any of the 90 or so guests involved would have any cause for complaint whatsoever.

The actual ceremony had everything you could asked for, from the beautiful bride to a sincere but light hearted service from the local vicar. For those who like to keep track of that sort of thing, the bride entered the church to "Heaven" and they left to "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" both sung by Bryan Adams with yours truly at the controls. OK, CD player.

There were mountains of food throughout from the generously stacked barbies on Thursday and Saturday to the heavily laden tables with all manner of things sweet and savoury to make sure that everyone had their fill throughout the afternoon and evening receptions. All skilfully co-ordinated by our friend and chef Dave.

You are possibly familiar with the phrase "enough booze to sink a battleship" but I think I may have actually set eyes on such an amount this weekend. In the marquee erected behind the holiday cottages were drinks of every conceivable description. Countless bottles of real ales, a paddling pool full of cold water and cans of beer, cases of bottles of red, white and rose wine and bottles of every spirit you were likely to look for. And yet with all of this free alcohol available, it was reassuring to see that nobody seemed to be abusing the situation. Sure, I guess all of us drank more than we know was probably good for us but we still left plenty behind this morning.

Yesterday afternoon we took a couple of the cars out for a scenic drive around Derbyshire on our way to Bakewell (you've got to love sat nav eh?!) and I'd forgotten what a charming little town Bakewell is. From the stone buildings which are quite commonplace throughout the area, to the trout in the river Wye being admired by the passers-by and of course we couldn't leave without stopping off for a quick cuppa and a Bakewell Pudding (not to be confused with Bakewell tart).

So there you have it, three days of total excess and excellent company in some absolutely beautiful surroundings. I highly recommend that you discover the area for yourself and you can book one of their holiday cottages here, but I would respectfully ask though that you don't hassle them expecting any of the free booze and food that we've just enjoyed...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Movie Subtitle Mistakes...

I know that Twitter has been taking a bit of flack in that many people, celebrity or otherwise, are using it to share every boring minute detail of their day to day lives.

Sure there is an element of that sometimes, but you always get to choose who you "follow" and you can easily "unfollow" people who are guilty of that. With a bit of effort though it can really bring out the imagination and talent of some people and this last week has been an interesting one.

On Monday night, they hosted a live comedy gig with comedians (unsurprisingly) invited to tweet a set each with material in chunks of 140 characters at a time. It went fairly well given that it was really quite experimental, but I'm sure they will get even better as they organise some more. The full transcript if you're interested is here.

This weekend, twitterers were invited to join in a game of movie subtitle mistakes by being a bit mischievous with photo editing software and there were some hilarious results. My contribution was from Goodfellas, which I didn't think was too bad until I saw the sort of talent I was up against. My personal favourites were from Superman, First Blood, Silence of the Lambs, Fight Club, Airplane, Snow White, Gone With The Wind and the one that went on to win, Sixth Sense, but if you want to see them all, follow the Twitpic links from this page.

I accept that Facebook is maybe more easily accessible, but I've never known it as entertaining as that...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Pause for thought...

Reading Delcattos blog this morning, I was reminded of a story I heard on Radio 2's "Pause for Thought" a few weeks ago and decided perhaps it was worth sharing with you all.

A Buddhist student had travelled far and wide in search of a wise old teacher and after many days of travelling through treacherous conditions, he finally spotted him on the other side of a wide, fast flowing river.

He glanced up and down the river bank and with no apparent crossing place, he became frustrated that the end of his journey was so tantalisingly close, but unattainable. He called across to the teacher, explaining about his long journey and asked how he could cross to the other side.

The wise old man looked up and down the river, paused, then eventually replied "but you are already on the other side"

Don't get me wrong, it's not my intention to preach to anyone, the sentiment behind the story applies to me as much as anyone here...

Friday, June 05, 2009

Calling all the heroes...

No apologies, you know the drill by now. I've just got back from the blood donors and once again I'm going to get all self righteous about how simple yet important it is.

To those that already go, good on yer, I think we have every right to feel proud of ourselves.

To those who don't (and can) please believe me, there are few opportunities to do something so potentially heroic with such little effort. Just ask yourself when was the last time you took about an hour of your time to do something which very realistically could save someones life?

Please click on Billy's picture below to find the next session in the UK near you...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Virgin on the ridiculous...

I'm ashamed to admit I've been 'ad.

Further to my last attempt in January, last month I rang Virgin Media to check what special offers they had running as I've been itching for an excuse to upgrade to 10MB broadband but (quite typically) wanted to pay as little as possible for it. The best they could offer at the time was an upgrade to 10MB, keep my existing TV package and switch phone package to include free evening and weekend calls, all for the princely additional monthly sum of 45p. In a moment of uncharacteristic extravagance I agreed to accept the deal there and then.

Now it wasn't the end of the world, but I was a bit irritated that a couple of days later I received both email and a leaflet in the post explaining that as a valued customer, they were upgrading my broadband to 10MB for free. I figured this was just unfortunate timing on my part but rang them anyway just to clarify what was going on and sure enough, my upgrade and their offer had crossed somewhere along the line so I would still have to pay the additional 45p. Irritiating sure, but not exactly going to keep me awake at night, then my bill arrived today with a couple of unexpected surprises.

Firstly, despite a month's notice they had not updated my bank details and as a result had not taken my direct debit payment last month. In fact they were so annoyed that they had neglected to take my money, they decided to charge me a late payment fee of a tenner for good measure.

Secondly, my monthly charge had actually increased by £2.45; again not exactly the end of the world but this coupled with their absurd late payment charge led me to think that perhaps it was time we had another little chat.

Fair play, they accepted that their late payment charge was unreasonable and refunded it. As for the new bundle fee she couldn't understand why I had only been quoted 45p extra - twice actually, I reminded her. Not only are they unable to keep to the quoted price (which unfortunately I only ever had verbally), but I couldn't even revert to my previous package because the phone deal it included was an old one that is no longer available, so I'm stuck with it.

I realise we aren't talking enormous sums of money here, but with a few pence here, a couple of quid there and the occasional charge that many people may feel too uncomfortable to challenge, it's little wonder they are making money...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Holiday in the sun...

Well who would have thought? I finally got around to taking my first full week off since last June and the weather has been superb. So much so, that I've overdone it a little over the last couple of days and I'm a bit too sore to venture out into the sun again this afternoon.

As May is our family birthday silly season, Little Sis and family have been staying at my place for the latter half of the week and the weather has meant that we could all actually venture out and see some of the local attractions between munching birthday cake and other goodies. And yes, I did say local attractions.

Thursday we headed out to Willingham Woods for a walk and thanks to a couple of recommendations from Delcatto, also managed to track down the giant golf ball on the top of the Lincolnshire Wolds and sample a multitude of different flavoured chocolate at Special Edition Chocolate before stopping off at Brigsley on the way home for some home made ice-cream.

Friday afternoon, we took our lives into our hands and headed off towards Cleethorpes beach (bound to be quiet on a sunny half term afternoon). As it turned out, it was busy but not as packed as you would have thought. Plenty of opportunity for a bit of sandcastle building, shell collecting, donkey rides, general laying about frying on the beach and finishing with a trip on the Cleethorpes Coast Light Railway.

Yesterday morning, the five of us headed off to Weelsby Woods with our bikes. Aside from being surprised to see how they had cleaned the place up since I was last there (a considerable number of years ago), it was interesting discover the number of cycle routes surrounding the area that are within easy reach of home. We rounded of the day with a barbie which despite my efforts to keep helpings modest, still ended up with far more than we could eat between us

So everyone has gone again now and I'm sat with the remains of last nights barbecue to finish off, all the while wishing I'd been a bit more liberal with the sun screen and trying not to think of what might be waiting for me at the office tomorrow...

Friday, May 22, 2009

More musical perspective...

Even though I can claim to have a little sister who is celebrating her 35th birthday today (Happy Birthday Sis!), I've never been particularly bothered by age.

As I am quite generous with my working hours Monday to Thursday, I feel no guilt whatsoever in trying to claim the odd one back by getting a flyer on a Friday afternoon. If I get away early enough, I get to hear the non-stop oldies feature on Steve Wright's radio show on the way home, although I do sometimes struggle with the concept of what some people consider to be "oldies".

Amongst today's collection I heard a song I'd completely forgotten about which despite my initial horror at not being an "oldie", I discover this evening is 29 years old. Now there is a girl who works for me who is mystified by those of us that refuse to admit to middle-age and firmly believes that nobody should indulge in bedroom activity after the age of forty - this song is older than she is.

Back in the day of course, we were mid Mod-revival and having found myself much more comfortable in the "rocker" category, could never have owned up to thinking that this was actually a good song.

These days of course, I'm too o... actually never mind. Let's just say that the passing years have allowed my musical tastes to become much more eclectic and I'll say that I think this is a good song without caring particularly whether anyone agrees with me or not...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hidden messages...

Driving into work this morning, a magpie flew across in front of me and as I instinctively did the saluting thing, I was surprised that at that very moment Stevie Wonder sang out from the radio "Superstition ain't the way". Hmmm... strange coincidence.

On the way home tonight I glanced over the horizon to my right and at the split second that the church tower of St Mary in Wrawby came into view, Labbi Siffre sang out "bless you and bless me". Hmmm... that's funny, something similar happened earlier.

It's only when I sat down and worked out that I spend about 400 hours a year sat in the car, listening to the radio, generally gawping at the scenery as it goes past, that I realised that this probably goes on all the time and I just happened to notice it today...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A quiet evening with my mate Jack...

Although I happily managed to avoid the selection process itself, there was clearly no way the British media was going to let this year's Eurovision Song Contest go by without playing our entry to death at every concievable opportunity.

I'm in no place to criticise Mr Lloyd Webber as a songwriter and you can't deny that Jade Ewan is a very talented singer, but as I have heard said many times before and since, it just wasn't "Eurovisiony" enough to win.

As a result, there didn't seem much point watching this year when you can't cheer on your own team, but sure enough, come eight o'clock I found myself watching it regardless and in hindsight, I'm glad I did. Not that the actual songs were any better than usual but I thought Graham Norton did a great job on the commentary given the restrictions he would have been working under.

Better still, there was a much funnier unrestricted alternative commentary on Twitter courtesy of Jonathan Ross, Sarah Cawood and Phil Schofield. Being the open forum that it is, it also meant I was able to contribute about 30 tweets on the event and with a bottle of JD at hand to help the evening go by, its the best laugh I've had (on a night in) for ages.

So spasiba to the Russian hosts, until this time next year in Norway...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hey Big Spender...

I doubt I'm the only one who has heard enough about the current politician expense scandals. Initially, it seems ridiculous that people of such responsibility who already earn a high salary should go to such lengths to claim items of varying levels of trivia on expenses.

Stephen Fry clearly believes that it is more a question of media frenzy by journalists who surely should have something more important to investigate/report and to an extent, I'm inclined to agree with him. After all, plenty of us have bought a meal in a restaurant/hotel/service station way beyond the price that we would ever spend from our own pocket. Significant difference here being that first of all, its our money being spent and secondly, not many of us have had the opportunity to extend such perks into thousands of pounds worth of personal luxuries and home comforts.

I suppose the breaking point for me was today's comment that Health Minister Phil Hope has decided to repay over 40 grand in expenses to help to restore his integrity. If we are talking about real integrity, then surely the real reason he has decided to repay it is because first of all he was wrong to claim it all and secondly because he got caught...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Motivation? It Pays The Bills...

I fully accept that I am not alone in working in challenging surroundings.

All too frequently I find myself struggling with the cultural differences of some of my international colleagues, disappointed at how difficult it is to make my seemingly valid opinions heard, or more recently, utterly astounded and the issues considered to be most important to the future of our business.

Unfortunately for me, I have a reputation for not being afraid to speak up (I like to think tactfully) when I believe something is wrong. Where in the past such behaviour was nurtured and encouraged, we are now fast becoming an organisation who storms ahead based on knee jerk reaction and with little regard for the people managing the business nearer to the coal face. We left that behaviour behind 10-12 years ago but it is difficult to draw the fine line between being someone who thinks he has some ideas worth sharing and being the gobshite who thinks he knows it all.

After a wave of redundancies and an order book far quieter than many of us can remember, you would have thought it appropriate to start pooling the resources of the management teams and formulating a strategy to secure our company a place in the future. However, it has been decided that we should tackle this by getting everyone to move offices again. After all, it's been almost a year since the last one.

Cue weeks of disruption, lost telephone and PC links, disorganised workstations and general frustration. Everyone is being pissed about because someone on high has decided to put the music back on while we all run around in circles, quietly hoping that a seat will still be available when it stops again.

Unfortunately, the harsh truth is that we all have to be grateful that we are in work at all. Deep breath and count to 10... again.

If you're lucky, amidst all this sort of nonsense something comes along to cheer you up and this video received from one of my colleagues did just the trick this morning - with apologies to the politically correct brigade out there...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tim for a song...

Another one of my lazy posts, but I hope you'll agree, something worth sharing.

This guy is Tim Minchin, a relatively new name to me, Australian now living in the UK and the rare combination of an incredible musical talent who is bloody funny too. After some recent research on YouTube, my current favourite is called "Not Perfect", more for the fact that it's a beautiful song than it's hysterical comedy content. Certainly worth a look.

This one however is a love song which I'm confident will have a wider appeal...

Apologies - due to further YouTube censorship, the videos I originally linked to have been removed. Don't let that discourage you, just search for Tim Minchin Inflatable You or Not Perfect to see them as someone is bound to keep re-posting them...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

On Yer Bike...

I remembered last night that in return for changing my current account, I have apparently got £100 heading my way, so I thought it would be appropriate (and traditional) to spend it before it arrived.

I've been meaning to get a pushbike for years now but I had no idea how hard it would be to get a reasonably priced one. Every bike shop and sports shop I visited seemed determined to push some overly featured contraption my way for hundreds of pounds but basically, I just wanted something to get me from A to B in a healthier and greener manner.

Of all places, I eventually found exactly what I was looking for at Tesco. It was clear from the box that I would actually be assembling it myself and there were considerably more parts in there than I'd expected. Sure I used to dismantle and tinker with bikes as a kid, but they didn't have anything like disc brakes or dual suspension.

The good news is that it actually came in exactly on budget. Well the bike did. I had overlooked that I would need a helmet, a pump, a speedometer/milometer (OK, perhaps I didn't really need that) and, sign of the times, a bloody substantial lock. The other significant extra I opted for was a rack for the car which means I can now look forward to some rides amongst scenery further afield than Lincolnshire.

It also means that if I fancy a crafty few beers, I can drive into town and leave the car, then when the beer has worn off the following day, cycle in and collect it again. Aside from burning off some of the the earlier excesses, it would also save me best part of £20 in taxi fares each time.

So I just need to start going to the pub more often again and this lot will practically pay for itself in no time...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

By George...

Happy St George's Day!
Another year and again barely a mention anywhere.

To my complete shame I usually find a suitable tipple on Paddy's Day or Burn's Night but I've no English spirits to hand and it's too late to go out and buy something now. In fact I was so late getting back from work tonight that I'm afraid I'm not even going to manage a cuppa having barely found time for a quick moan on here before turning in.

However, I heard about this a little while ago which makes me curious and although it may prove to be a bit of a gamble, I'm tempted to try it, if only to make sure I'm not caught out again in future...

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Run like hell...

Ever since I started using the running machine regularly, it's always been tucked away in the back of my mind that once I have lost the weight I wanted to, what would happen next?

I was always lousy at sport as a child and although I don't actively partake in any now, I sincerely doubt anything has changed particularly. Having been reasonably successful so far in terms of weight loss though, I had recently begun to wonder.

Since the London Marathon first started in 1981, the family would sit around the TV at home to watch it and Dad would invariably say that perhaps he should start training and give it a go. I can report that in the subsequent 28 years, it hasn't happened yet but I have been told by several people I know who actually have run marathons that it does give you a tremendous sense of achievement.

So what are my chances? I know I have a brother-in-law waiting in the wings who would jump at the chance of someone to run a marathon with, but I guess my biggest problem is that I don't really enjoy running or jogging that much.

In all honesty I am an intrinsically lazy person and the only reason I keep to my current daily routine is that a mile or so each morning seems little effort on my part for the great results in weight loss I am achieving in return.

But never say never I suppose. A couple of years ago, I would never have believed that I would be prepared to jog over a mile every weekday morning, or even be able to for that matter. It isn't beyond the realms of reason that a mile or two could soon become three and 3.1 miles is the equivalent of a 5k race.

Whether 5k goes on to become 10k, 10k goes on to become half marathon and the half becomes whole remains to be seen, but certainly don't go looking out for me on TV next Sunday. I'm a long way away from dragging my still bulky frame around that sort of distance, even at a jog.

Perhaps a more appropriate title would have been: Run? Like hell...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nothing to do with me...

I know, three posts in one day - it doesn't happen often, but I've just noticed the site stats and I'm amazed to see its passed the 30,000 hits mark!

Of course, I'm delighted that the old blog is still generating interest but as usual, the truth is revealed when you examine the detail. However, informative, amusing, or just generally verbose I try to be on here, there no denying that most people land here as a result of image searches:

In fifth place, searching for this photo of Nigella

In fourth place, actually searching for "Seany" (I doubt they're after a picture)

In third place, searching for this photo of Emily Maitliss

In second place, searches for this photo of Samantha Janus

In first place, even though I posted the image at Easter 4 years ago, searches for this photo of some bunnies

In fact to be honest, given the choice of looking at those delightful people, or reading my inane ramblings, they've probably got the right idea.

However, to those who do keep coming back for the genuine content, no silly pictures, songs or videos this time, just my sincere thanks.

And of course, this post will have done nothing to help matters...

In the interest of completeness...

Another couple of items I picked up this morning were the original ingredients for the chocolate cake in a mug recipe.

So purely to fulfil my service to the reader you understand, I made another one tonight using caster sugar instead of granulated and self raising flour instead of plain. I suppose the sponge did come out very slightly lighter, but the difference was so insignificant that it wouldn't warrant buying the ingredients in especially.

I would have taken another photo for you but it seems to have disappeared already...

A Few Words About My Mate...

They say you either love it or hate it and I have never made a secret of the fact that I love Marmite. Indeed it's been mentioned on here before, whether I'm lathering it on home made crumpets, or trying to decide the best addition to cheese on toast.

I have dabbled in the Guinness and Champagne limited editions and have tried the supermarket own label, but there is nothing quite like the real thing. You can imagine my delight then when I spotted these in the supermarket this morning.

As I'm usually very careful with what I eat during the week (what about the cake in a mug I hear you ask), I like to pick up a treat, usually something like a pack of crumpets to dowse in the aforementioned spread or very occasionally bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon (trimmings on my budget).

My brother-in-law introduced me to the delights of humous on rice cakes last weekend so there was this weeks treat sewn up. Humous on Marmite rice cakes, absolutely delicious and as a bonus, reasonably healthy.

Seeing as I did a bonus mile on the running machine this morning, I'll bet neither pack lasts the day...

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Sneaky Advert...

I know the other blog is supposed to stand on it's own merits (or otherwise) but seeing as it's been not been updated for a while, I thought a quick plug wouldn't go amiss.

It's a bit of a far stretch from the music I usually listen to, but I suppose it's a classic of sorts and I'd had a few ideas while away with the family last weekend. So please feel free to check out my latest futile attempt at video entertainment here...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here's one I made (and ate) earlier...

You have been warned. Not that this post is concerned with any intrusive examinations of any nature, but I'm about to share something that you may just wish you hadn't read.

Last week on Chris Evans' Radio show, they made a chocolate cake in a mug and tonight was the first opportunity I've had to see whether it actually works. I had to improvise using ingredients I already had in the cupboard, but as you look on the net, there are lots of variations on a similar theme out there.

The recipe is quite simple:
4 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp sugar (granulated)
2 tbsp cocoa
Mix these thoroughly together with a fork in a large mug, then add
3 tbsp oil
3 tbsp milk
1 egg
Continue to mix these together until you get a smooth mixture.
Apparently at this point you can mix in extra ingredients if required such as orange peel, chocolate chips, or a splash of vanilla essence, whisky, rum, etc. I chose to keep mine simple for the first attempt.

Then microwave at full power for 3 minutes - this was sufficient in my trusty old 750 watt machine. Don't be surprised when the mixture rises above the top of the mug (thankfully, mine didn't spill over).

When it's done, leave to cool for a few minutes and empty out onto a plate. Or if you really can't wait, get a spoon and just dig straight into your mug.

Unfortunately, it is as simple as that, it really does work and if mine was anything to go by, it's delicious.

So there you are. You are now only ever 5 minutes away from a freshly baked chocolate cake. Don't say I didn't warn you...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A blog too far...

I gave much consideration before writing this post tonight as some things are probably best kept to yourself.

On the other hand, the whole raison d'etre of this thing was to share new experiences with you all in the hope that it may be informative, or at the very least, I could provide some amusement in the face of my adversity. So apologies in advance. You may wish to stop reading now, as today's tale revolves around somewhere entirely opposite from my face, adversity or otherwise.

The past couple of mornings this week whilst going through my daily routine of getting ready for work, lets just say I spotted something unexpected and rather shocking during my time spent in the bathroom. Not that I was in any physical discomfort or that there were any physical anomalies that I was aware of, but something was clearly quite wrong.

I tried some internet-enabled self diagnosis last night which (unsurprisingly) scared the bejeepers out of me and convinced me that having "cheated death" (man-flu stylee) from the mysterious shadow behind my eye, other gremlins could still be lurking.

So this morning, I thought it best to nip down to the surgery and get myself checked out. I explained the situation to the stand-in GP. It's very rare I get to see my actual GP first time, but in the hope that it may help me get in and out of the place quicker, I'll gladly talk to any professional in there who is prepared to listen.

I told him the details and the shocking potential diagnoses I'd found on the internet which led me to be there. His reply surprised me "So you were bothered you might have cancer then?" rather in the same tone as a big kid in the playground would have jeered and said "What are you scared of dogs for?"

Now clearly I'm no doctor, but from the little I do know about cancer, it is something to be pretty fucking scared about. I should also add that I didn't for one minute think that actually was my diagnosis, but I did think it was something worth checking out. What I hadn't thought through, was how I would be examined as he went on to explain it was going to be that examination; the one we have all heard about and laughed at on American sitcoms, but secretly hoped you would never actually encounter yourself. The surprise was such that I missed the opportunity to tell him that he ought to at least buy me dinner first.

Not long afterwards, I was called through to one of the exam rooms where I was shortly followed by the above-mentioned stand in and my regular GP who had decided to come along for the show. "Are you OK?" he asked. I couldn't avoid the absurdity that I was sat there in collar and tie from the waist up and below... a pair of socks, but said yes regardless.

I'll spare the rest of the details (as if anyone was still reading by now anyway), but everything is OK and as embarrassing or uncomfortable as the experience was, it is still a close call as to whether I would rather have been at work.

So how on earth do you finish off a post like this? With a song of course! Not the original video I'm afraid while the YouTube/PRS debate continues, but I couldn't think of anything more appropriate...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dear Santa...

Tonight's challenge is to take a few minutes to watch this video clip, then tell me that you don't want one...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Just doing my bit...

I'm a bit late on this one really and should have mentioned it earlier, but yesterday evening I took part in earth hour. Not heard about it? No surprise really as it didn't seem to get much media coverage. I just happened to read something about it on... well, you know where.

The idea was that everyone, wherever they are in the world, should vote earth by turning their lights off for one hour from 8:30 to 9:30pm and I went for it whole heartedly. When the time came, off went the lights, TV, DVD player, cable set top box; I even unplugged the laptop and ran it on battery power for an hour. I'm not too sure what I achieved as I'm already quite frugal with the power I use and I doubt any global leaders were peering in with concern to see how fast my meter was spinning. At the very best I've maybe saved a few pence of my next electric bill.

I also read this morning of another eco-initiative, but I can already state categorically that I will not be taking part. Monday 27th April marks the start of Walk to Work Week 2009. Now I'm all for contributing towards a good cause, but this goes a bit above and beyond the call for me.

At a steady 3.5 mph it would take me 10.5 hours to get to work, that's 21 hours both ways leaving me 3 hours to spend at the office (where presumably I would feel the need for sleep, or maybe grab a bite to eat). Were I to step the pace up to a 5.5mph jog, then I would only travelling for 13 hours of the day.

Now by coincidence, my daily running machine programme alternates between both of the above mentioned speeds (albeit on a steady incline) but I usually find that after the first mile or two, I've pretty much had enough. Now that would barely get me to the neighbouring village let alone to work, Not to mention the harmful CO2 I would be exhaling in huge quantities along the way.

The Americans and Australians have a much more modest approach with a walk to work day. At least that way I could just take the day off...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Will you please change the subject...

I'm sorry guys, but there's no denying that it's considerably easier (ok, lazier) to blog at 140 characters at a time, but I will keep coming back whenever I've done anything more exciting than eat, work or sleep.

I've got Mum and Dad coming over for Sunday roast tomorrow to celebrate Mother's Day and I've already managed to get the chocs and flowers sorted earlier this morning. So once I'm finished here, I need to get all of the the weekend chores out of the way today.

So until next time, here's a couple of things that made me smile, courtesy of the the very same application that's been keeping me so distracted of late.

Firstly this one, via the great tweeter himself, Stephen Fry, which throws the whole Twitter and Blogging habit into question

Secondly this one from Jason Manford (8 Out of 10 Cats team captain) for no other reason than that it really made me laugh...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tee Hee...

More lazy blogging from me I'm afraid, but I just had to share this link that I picked up from Alan Davies on Twitter earlier...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How Cool is This...

Not exactly sure what I'd use it for, but I want one...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Yes, I'm still going on about it...

More about Twitter I'm afraid. No, I'm not afraid, just enthusiastic about it.

I got a better idea today of just how many pathetic people there are out there who have set up Twitter profiles in celebrity names and then imitate them in order to pass false or misleading information out to their fans. What can they possibly get out of that? Pricks.

But don't let that deter you. On a lighter note, I had my first tweet from a genuine celebrity today, which more than made up for any earlier irritation.

Now I know a few of my regular visitors have looked into this already and signed up, but for those who are looking for a little more info, have a listen to this guy, Evan Williams. The clip is about 10 minutes long but it's well worth listening to as he knows what he's talking about. Well I guess he ought to seeing as he is a co-founder of Twitter.

Incidentally, he is also responsible for Blogger, without which I wouldn't be sharing this with you right now...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quick update...

Updates on here seem to be a bit sporadic again, but I've been continuing to find my way around Twitter.

In fact, I'm so impressed with it that I've decided to give up Facebook for Lent this year and all of the annoyances that go along with it. I'd expected it to be much more of a challenge to ignore it completely over the last few days, but now I'm thinking it may become a longer term decision.

However, as much fun as micro blogging is, I can't always say what I'd like within my 140 character per tweet allocation, so I still have every intention of keeping this blog going.

Oh and on the subject of updating blogs, I thought it was about time I posted something new on the other one...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Enough to make your eyes water...

I can't say I'd been particularly looking forward today. I don't like hospitals at the best of times and this time I wasn't just there in visitor capacity.

You may recall that during my eye test last month, they spotted a "mysterious shadow" behind my right eye and decided it needed further investigation. Even with the aid of the detailed photos, my GP (or rather, his stand-in) was unable to make a confident diagnosis and referred me to the eye specialist at our local hospital.

Having been forewarned that I would be ill-advised to drive, I made my way down there this afternoon by taxi. Unpredictably, the taxi rolled up a couple of minutes after I called which meant I arrived well before the "no longer than 10 minutes before your appointment" sternly stated on my letter. A cup of filthy hot water vaguely disguised as coffee helped pass the time.

After a brief conversation with the grumpy receptionist who told me she didn't have me on her list, then mysteriously did, I took a seat and waited.

First was the visual field testing, having to stare at a central light then click a button each time I saw another light flash in my peripheral vision. Quite honestly, it felt like the most important computer game I'd ever played. Then back to the waiting room. To wait, obviously.

Next up, the vision text. No surprises there, reading letters from a chart covering one eye at a time. The nurse telling me that she was going to put drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils was no surprise either. The surprise was her advice that it was likely to make my eyes sting quite nastily for a couple of minutes. Wonder why they don't mention that in the pamphlet? Truth be known, it was no worse than the way your eyes run when chopping onions.

Then back to the waiting room for, you guessed it, more waiting. This time with the added bonus that my sight was slowly going blurred as the drops took effect so I couldn't read anything to pass the time. I refused to stoop so low as to look at the pictures in the Hello magazine perched my the chair.

When the doctor eventually called me through, he asked a few questions, shone some more lights into my seriously dilated pupils then announced I had a choroidal nevus behind my right eye. Thank goodness no-one mentioned those words to me earlier - I Googled it this evening and found it on the website www.eyecancer.com. Now there's a trouser filling URL if ever you read one (and not in a pleasant way).

Fortunately as the site goes on to explain, it is (as my optician originally anticipated) little more than a raised freckle on the reverse of the eye that rarely requires treatment. He wanted to get a better photo of it for future reference (i.e. make sure it doesn't grow) but their camera was out of action today so their "photographer" is going to call me back in.

So another eye-wateringly fun-filled afternoon awaits. But all of that said, I'm more than a little relieved to know that it's nothing serious...