Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Communications Policy

So far today has been quite eventful.

Super (my number one, but no longer only, employee) told me that her dad comes into her bedroom every morning to wake the dog up. No this is not a euphemism, the dog sleeps in her room. In the bed. That's a whole other blog post right there.

Our new employee, who started with us on Monday, realised that the keyboard on the computer she uses didn't allow her to type a GBP symbol (£). Five minutes of googling provided the solution and the problem was fixed. It was at this point that Business Partner stated "Oh yeah, mines been like that since I got my PC too, I just copy and paste it from other documents." Business Partner has been doing this since 2008 (not Monday).

Later, I was chatting to Super about what I did last night. I told her that I had a fairly quiet night, the highlight of which was watching Paul (the new Simon Pegg film), in bed, with a cup of coffee and a biscuit. She gave me the most withering of looks and I wondered what the problem was. She did seem rather keen to terminate the conversation and get on with her work. I wondered if she was just not a film fan, or disapproved of eating in bed, or just very busy. Whatever, I left it at that and back to work we went.

I have since learnt that she misheard me and thought I was watching porn in bed with a coffee and a biscuit. I should really speak more clearly.


Thursday, 23 June 2011

Blame Culture Vultures

I have received two text messages from two different numbers today, both reminding me that I still haven't claimed compensation for my (unspecified) accident.

The text messages said that I may be entitled to up to £3650.

All I needed to do to find out more was reply 'CLAIM'

Apparently it was free to apply.

I should point out that I have neither had an accident, nor have I made any approaches to anyone regarding compensation, but they knew their prey so well. It was too much to resist.

I responded immediately;



Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Three Ring(road) Circus

You know how it is, weirdos are like wait an age for one and then, well, you know the rest.

On Saturday morning the lovely FMA, 50% of the kids and myself were in The Barge (AKA the Volvo), heading out for a bite to eat. The sun was shining, birds were singing and we were dawdling along the ringroad (again) at a licence-freindly rate.

You may think that excitement would be a scant commodity given:

A) The location
B) The mode of transport, and
C) The number of points currently tarnishing my licence

Not a bit of it. Gasps of astonishment from the back caught our attention. Then we saw him.

He stood right beside the busy ringroad face turned up towards the sun, arms outstretched with upturned  palms and a beatific smile, looking for all the world like Leicester's answer to Christ the Redeemer. The traffic slowed towards the lights and we sat watching, open mouthed, as his gaze slowly shifted from sky to ground and back again.

Did I mention that he was entirely naked?

Not a stitch on. not so much as a sock or a figleaf or even any kind of pixellation. It was quite a sight.

FMA called the police and told them we had just seen a naked, confused gentleman standing by a busy ringroad. Our friends in blue serge took details of the man's location. They took details of FMA's home address. They even asked if she was calling on her own phone which tickled me, but the final question was the killer;

"Why do you think the man is confused, Madam?"

They don't all get filtered out in Hendon, do they?


Wednesday, 15 June 2011


The world has a funny way of ensuring proportionality.

I was driving through Leicester today on my way to see a customer. The journey takes me through one of the less salubrious areas of the town and there are quite often some sights to behold, but today's sat very nicely against yesterday's darkness concerning end-of-life arrangements.

Along a very busy main road there was a long backlog of traffic moving slowly towards me. At the head of this glacial procession was a mobility scooter, driven by a rather well-to-do looking elderly lady, complete with small dog on lead running beside it*. She was right in the middle of the actual road.

As we know, although mobility scooters have a top speed which is startlingly fast within the confines of the ready-meals aisle of Asda, they are not really up to the cut-and-thrust of the average ring road.

As I got closer I could see that the lady on the scooter was locked in a heated debate with the lady driving the car (at a very speed camera friendly rate) behind her. As I got closer still I learnt that it was not only heated but also quite shouty and hilariously foul-mouthed. All at 9mph. With obscene gestures to boot.

I drove on, cackling to myself, certain in the knowledge that Dignitas won't be getting my £10k. Oh no. I shall blow it all on a fancy scooter, a ridiculously small dog and a megaphone. Take my advice and avoid major routes in Leicester from 2040 onwards, there may be delays.


* - The small dog seems to be a common accesory. Are they provided with the scooter as an optional extra?

Tuesday, 14 June 2011


The human being is a complex beast.

I watched the documentary last night on people who were considering (and eventually going through with) assisted suicide at Dignitas. Despite the incredibly beautiful art direction it was a difficult thing to watch.

The program was hung on the shoulders of Terry Pratchett, himself an Alzheimer's sufferer. His almost entirely amateur approach to meeting the people who had booked themselves a one way trip to Switzerland somehow added to the humanity of the whole affair. At one point, as a doctor discussed the final act of drinking the poison with a patient*, TP loitered in the background wearing a long black coat and a black Fedora. Add to this his gaunt, almost skeletal features and the similarity to the character Death in his novels can't have been lost on him.

The people involved who had chosen to die were both quite different in their ages (one late 60s, one 42) and their social status, but both were incisively eloquent in their reasoning and absolutely convinced that they were doing the right thing. That the right to self-determination was a something that they were entitled to.

As I watched it made me think. I was taken aback by the dignity and strength of character of those filmed. Not the people going to die, but those who would be coming back without their loved ones. The incredibly posh wife of 40 years who sat and was terribly stoic with her husband as he breathed his last. The mother of the 42 year old who fundamentally disagreed with her son's decision to die, but went with him to a small industrial park in Switzerland to ensure that he wasn't alone. It all spoke volumes about the human ability to show love and compassion despite a fundamental disagreement with the decision made.

I wondered if I would make that decision if I were to be in the position of suffering a hugely debilitating/painful and incurable illness. Would the wishes of those close to me sway that decision? Would I have the courage or the cowardice to end it all with a small glass of liquid in a foreign land? If the shoe was on the other foot, would I be able to accept the wishes of someone I loved and support them through that process if they asked me to? Hopefully I'll never have to find out.

If you didn't see the documentary, I thouroughly recommend it. Easy it is not, but thought provoking it most definitely is.


* - Patient? Customer? User? No word seems to fit here.

Monday, 6 June 2011

By The Numbers

My Dad has a memory that makes a sieve look like the perfect receptacle for storing water. Conversations with him are always an adventure, so when my phone started ringing and the word "Dad" filled the screen I knew that I was in for a treat.

He's going on holiday soon and wanted to know my number, should he need to call me whilst away. I resisted the temptation to point out that he (or if you're nitpicking, his phone) clearly already had my number by dint of the fact that he'd called me.

I asked if he had a pen to write the number down. Cue hurried scrabbling in a drawer to locate such an item and we were away.

Me: "OK, so it's 07793..."(pause to let him write that bit down...)
Dad: "Yes, 09973...."
Me: "No, 07793....."
Dad" Oops sorry....07793.."
Me: "82......."
Dad's partner: (off microphone, stage left, with notepad and pen) "09973...."
Me: (supressing urge to giggle) "No, 07793..."
Dad: "07793."

This three way game of Chinese Whispers for the Bewildered continued until I'd disseminated the whole number. My Dad, ever the stickler for clarity, read the number back to me, transposing the last two digits. "No." I said, and reeled off the entire number once again.

"Yes, that's right." said my Dad, entirely without hint of irony.

On the downside, my life seems to have turned into a Two Ronnies sketch. The upside is that I probably won't get too many phonecalls whilst they're away.


Thursday, 2 June 2011


Hello, my name is Andy, and I am a technoholic.

There, I've said it.

I love gadgets. If I won the lottery my house would look like Q's laboratory but with a comfortable sofa. Streetlights in a 2 mile radius would dim slightly as I walked through the automatically operated front door after a busy day hobnobbing with Steve Jobs and Isaac Asimov*, due to the alarming array of devices that registered my presence and switched themselves on.

Despite this, I have never found a substitute for the humble paperback. I have tried using my laptop (too big and takes too long to switch on), my iPhone (always with me, but just too small a screen) and most recently an iPad (pretty good, but not really much use for reading in the sunshine due to the highly reflective screen).

Then I borrowed a Kindle to take on holiday with me. I wasn't full of hope as it looked like it had been designed during the early part of the 1980s by a YTS trainee. A non colour screen and a 'throw-a-six-to-start' menu system added fuel to the fire of my disdain. 

I loved it. The non-colour screen that was the subject of my scorn uses a very clever 'e-ink' system and is as close to reading from a printed page as makes no difference. The menu system that had me tutting like Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was only necessary when picking which book to read in the first place. After that, it's just a case of pressing a button to turn the page. It was lighter than your average Mills & Boon paperback and the battery life seems to be measured in months. Lovely.

So I now own one. I have more books than I know what to do with on it and I'm happy that some bright spark designer within Amazon stuck to his guns throughout the process of getting this thing to market. In this world of sleek design and 'wow-factor' bells & whistles, I had almost forgotten the engineer's mantra. Form Follows Function. I'm really glad he or she hadn't.


* - Yes, I am aware that one (or depending when you're reading this, possibly both) of these people is dead. If the lottery win is big enough I intend to get him (or them) re-animated. That's the way I roll.