Back to the Coalface

•December 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Well I don’t think I expected to find myself back in an office job ever again, but economic necessity dictates otherwise, and after a whirlwind romance, I’m the “Service Desk Analyst” for a large hotel chain, although the office is located in the less salubrious surroundings of Heathrow. There is an IT Helpdesk, but they mainly just forward issues to me, and I either escalate them to the appropriate in-house team, third-party vendor, or In extremis, sort it myself. Actually I am a third-party myself, as I don’t work for the hotel but for a company who supply some of their IT Services. The Hotel have a sizable IT Department of their own – I’m just “embedded” within it. This week some of the cover engineers have been spending time with me “training” me.

So it’s been a busy first few days trying to learn the systems & procedures of two companies, and keep that bloody service desk call queue down to a manageable size. However, we have an excellent coffee machine that grinds it’s own beans. Coffee. The Oil that lubricates IT. Lunchtimes I get to watch 777’s lumber into the sky, so it’s not all bad. Except for the commute which is hemmed in by the M4/M25 junction of hell. What should be a 20 minute drive can take (as tonight) one hour ten. No direct public transport, it would take 90 minutes & a change of bus, plus whatever delays congestion throws up. That’s why I feel the “infrastructure” money thrown towards HS2 would be better spent on improving local commutability. Commutability? I that even a word? It is now. In fact, it’s now A Thing.

Sleep. Then do it all again.

A Better Way of Sitting Down

•November 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s not often that I have great ideas, and less often that I have them whilst sitting at Twickenham watching England beat the Shackle-Draggers Australians. But on Saturday, from my vantage point up on Level 4C of the South East Stand I had a revelation.

I was sitting alongside my friend Tim on the Wheelchair Viewing Terrace at the back of the stand, a decent view (but we can’t see the big screens). During one of the tedious interludes as the referee tried to remember how to manage the scrum I noticed that in the rows of seating in front of us there was a lot of standing up, shuffling and sitting down as various patrons decided they needed a pint, a wee, or both. It was at this point I had The Revelation.

Don’t sell tickets to a specific seat, sell them to a row. As you turn up to your appointed row you fill it from the middle outwards. If you leave your seat, everyone shuffles across and leaves an empty seat at the end of the row, which you have to occupy on return. This will immediately halve all the standing up, sitting down and spilt drinks.

We are British, we can make this work.

View From

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The End

•September 3, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The End.

Delayed, avoided, prevaricated upon. Then delayed some more due to circumstances out of our control.

August, wedding anniversary. Accidentally perfect timing.

Two in a Churchyard with a Priest, a hole a a funeral director and a stone mason.

A few moments and it’s done. Over. The End.

The Stone


The Best Photograph I Never Took

•June 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Not sure why this memory should pop into my head at this particular moment in time. My ave something to do with reading tweet about the Glastonbury Music festival, whilst supping from my latest batch of home brew listening to Genesis on my Sonos.

Anyway. The best photograph I never took. It was back in August 1999, on the occasion of the last total eclipse of the sun seen from the United Kingdom. I had gone down and was camped in a field, along with a motley crew of hippies, yippies, new-agers, astronomers and the vaguely curious. One day during the week I was down there, I happened to be driving past Goonhilly Earth station when coming the other way was a youngish deadlocked white hippy trustarafarian, pulling a handcart loaded with various things, and topped by a goat. Real. Live. Goat. And the dishes of the Earth Station behind this apparition.

I saw the shot. I knew it was a great shot. There was no traffic behind me. I could have pulled over and taken it. But my inherent English reserve prevented me. Damn. Blast.

This is the ‘droid I am looking for

•April 22, 2013 • 1 Comment

Despite my geekist tendencies I have managed to put off owning a “smartphone”. OK for the past few years I have had a Nokia C3-OO, a.k.a “The poor mans Blackberry”, but is still basically a phone using the Nokia S40 OS and a full QWERTY keyboard with wifi access and some (mainly web based) apps bolted on. I’d seen the white-clad storm troopers of the iPhones arrive, and despite my Macist tendencies as an iPod and MacBook owner expensive and well, bulky, for the job in hand.

Many friends had gone to the rebel alliance lead by Samsung and raved about their Galaxy S-class battle cruisers, which still to my eyes look too large to be a phone. After some deliberation and a lot of web-browsing I took the plunge and joined the rebel alliance. Not with an S-class monster but with the Ace (or S5830). It’s length is the distance from my ear to my mouth (the idea length for a phone) and it is neither too wide, nor too heavy to be a burden in the hand.

I have been able to load it up with essentials like the Good Beer Guide to find the pubs, and Memory-Map to find the way home afterwards. Due to an enlightened licensing system I was able to load up my existing 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 scale maps of the UK. The GPS seems sensitive enough to track my route from my pocket, and if the battery life is somewhat short at least there are plenty of options for external battery-pack addons. Using Tweetdeck for twitter is quite painless, the small screen can make the touch-screen keyboard fiddly, but with a stylus & predictive text it’s fine. I had been considering buying a tablet for “second screening” and light email work around the house, but I may hold off that for now.

Still not sure about the data it seems to want to transmit back to the Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld, a.k.a. Google. I have turned off or declined as much as I can, but turning off some tracking options seems to completely disable the GPS.

The phone side of things is a bit clunky compared to the Nokia. I’d like options for different phone profiles, the ability to set different notification tones for emails, texts or system messages would be handy, and seem to be lacking. or maybe I just need the appropriate app.

Within 12 hours of buying it I’d downloaded the Android SDK and was fiddling with it via a terminal session 🙂 Because it takes a micro-SD card it has plenty of potential for storage expansion (I’ve a 16 GB card in it a.t.m)

Camera is a 5 mega pixie device, fine in good light, and if I need a proper camera, I have plenty of those. Interestingly, Android was originally intended as a Camera OS, before it was re-purposed for phones. At least I can now put my rubbish photos onto Instagram (“Making Rubbish Photos acceptable since 2010®©”)

I bought it as a “nearly-new” factory reconditioned item directly from Vodafone for a PAYG tariff. Reconditioned is a great way to buy a bit of kit for a snip, that’s how I got my MacBook, provided you buy from the original manufacturer, you should be assured it’s properly checked out and tested.

OK, time to go and find a cute pussy to instagram to death.


•April 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Harold has not exactly gone, but he suddenly got a whole lot smaller. It was just after he suddenly got quite itchy. This may not be the great news it seems at face value. His friends remain, especially Brian, who it a lot darker, and quite a hard case. May also explain why my weight is dropping as quickly as it has recently, and why I am so tired for much of the time, no matter how many hours I sleep, the ache in the back, and the difficulty breathing in certain orientations. And the odd lumps, especially in my legs. It’s all quite interesting really.


•January 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been watching The Tour de France since Channel 4 started broadcasting coverage in the middle of the 1980’s. And as (almost) as certain as night follows day, did victor fail drug test. So it was no surprise at all that eventually Lance Armstrong was forced to admit to his own use of banned substances. His main justification seems to be that “they were all at it” and a look at the evidence suggests that a lot were.

However, two wrongs don’t make a right, and there are plenty of cyclists and sportsmen out there who do not rely upon banned substances to improve their performance. However, many sports people do take various dietary supplements which are not on a banned list, to improve their performance. So the question of intent: Are these “legal” supplements still “cheating”? The intent is to improve performance by taking them, it is just that one is on a banned list and the other isn’t. So how do we draw a line, ensure a “level playing field”? Ban training?


•January 15, 2013 • 1 Comment

The call unanswered, not unusual. The call not returned, unusual. Cold.

The house looming at the end of the road, dark, curtains drawn back. Cold. The key not going in the lock because there’s a key on the inside. Cold. The bell rung, unanswered. Cold.

Peering though the windows. Cold. Unable to check round the back, due to the paranoid security spikes on the gate. Cold. The call to 999. Cold.

Standing while the policeman batters the door down. Cold. Waiting while the police and paramedics search. Cold. Making the identification. Cold. Going through the paperwork. Cold. Waiting for the undertaker. Cold.

Finally alone. Cold.

Ever will be the house looming at the end of the road, dark. Cold.

The Rules of Bimbling

•January 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Some people will bang on endlessly about the right way to go walking, the right boots, the right maps and so on. These are not for them.

Herewith are the rules, refined over many miles of bimbling, quite a few of the with Keith, who also wrote most of them. Even if he doesn’t remember it. The Rules mainly refer to multi-day bimbles where you can loose track of time, forget the day-job and the “real world”, forget politicians and sundry nincompoops.

The Rules:-

1) You will set off at 10. It doesn’t matter how hard you try for an early start, it’ll be 10 before you set off. Don’t sweat it.

2) All members of the party are responsible for navigation, and are encouraged, nay obliged to raise without prejudice, any doubts about said navigation. It’s a lot easier to spend five minutes checking the map, than many hours trying to reclocate, having misplaced ones selves.

3) Lunch shall never be taken at less than 50% of the day’s distance, and preferably a lot more, say 70%. Lunch is pretty miserable if you are sitting there with you sarnie thinking “I’ve got all that to do again this afternoon”. Taking your boots off at lunch is allowed. It is good. It works. (Tested thoroughly on the Pennine Way)

4) After an ascent, don’t slow down on on the flat bits. It’s tempting to take a breather, but it is time you’ll never make up. You can’t make time up on ascents, it can be downright dangerous to try and make up time on descents, so time lost on the flat is triple time lost. You’ll get your breath back even while bimbling quickly along the flat. Trust me.

5) Beer is an essential aid to recovery in the evening.

6) Don’t forget to enjoy the bimble.

Now go and do it.


•January 5, 2012 • 3 Comments

Sitting under the shelter of an ancient Yew tree, watching raindrops flicking circles over the boiling brown winter-high river, blocks of dirty foam wrought asunder from the weir upstream. Cold winds carelessly scatter their patterns across the water. Drake Mallard shepherds his betrothed towards shelter by the bank, lone exotic Mandarin prospects out by the Eyot. An unexplained splash, a fish, a Grebe diving perhaps, or a halcyon glimpse of a Kingfisher? Wind whistles in the trees, but the source of the splash remains hidden.

Born beside the river, here is where I feel I really belong, even if my heart has been stolen by craggy mistresses of Cumbria. Born beside the river, wondering what it would feel to swim out in to the cold brown churning water and slip below it’s troubled surface, to reappear as some flotsam tangled up in the dipping branches of a willow downstream.

Autumn Reflections

The Thames in calmer mood

Look not for me where people meet, but seek me in the lonely places, where the rain chills, the wind shivers and the mud grabs at your shoe. Walk quietly and listen well, for that rustle in the reeds may be me sliding by.