Monday, 24 December 2012

Ho Ho Ho

So here I sit, still at my desk on Christmas Eve.

My laptop has been given to Santa's Little IT Helpers so that they can upgrade it over the Christmas break to Windows 7. I think this is so that I can be bemused and bewildered in the new year via a more efficient and cutting-edge platform. Lovely.

The upshot of this is that I am now in this peculiar limbo where I can officially not do any work, but can't go home until the 'surprise' announcement by the gaffers.

But I care not one jot. I am full of Christmas joy and in a few hours I will be heading home to begin the blissful chaos that is Christmas.

Hoping you all have an ace time, my etherborne friends.

NDC

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Falalalalalalalalaaaaaaaaaa.

Yes, 'tis.

This weekend we have been shopping like feck. We had a gazillion Christmas presents to buy and very little time, so we headed into the sprawling metropolis that is Leicester city centre on Saturday with the intent of knocking off as much as humanely possible in one go.

Now, I think as far as blokes go I'm pretty reasonable at this shopping malarkey. I can quite cheerfully wander round shops selling all sorts of shite that I don't understand for quite a long time in man terms* but I was bracing myself for the hell of mental Christmas people celebrating the season of goodwill to all men by getting irate with each other in huge numbers.

The day got off to a great start, the walk into the town takes us in via one of the less salubrious part of the city, lots of pound shops, pawnbrokers and a pornbroker. I suspect a marketing student from the DMU is working there part time - clicky on the pic if you can't read the sign at right:




We chuckled quite a lot and headed into town.

We shopped,

We shopped some more.

Whilst we were in John Lewis I stopped to have a look at the new Kindle Paperwhite. I'd got it in mind for a christmas present as I liked the idea of the lit screen, but after 5 minutes of prodding it about I've decided it's not for me. the backlight is not enough to justify the pricetag or even make up for the lack of proper buttons to cope with my suncream-coated fingers on holiday. Anyway, here's my ghetto fix for the lack of lighting on the original that has served me so well to date:


Yup that's a Petzl headtorch. I'll run you through the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Crystal clear reading at all times with the added advantage of being able to use both hands to hold the kindle.
  • No extra weight to hold,
  • Nocturnal requirements for taking a leak don't require any lights being switched on. This is fun in a childish kind of way
Cons

  • The IMA will, on sight, dissolve into hysterical laughter. Admittedly, this is probably just me but I suspect the reaction from your significant other will be similar.

Swings and roundabouts, really.

And the hordes of mental people in the town? well I think they were busy shopping on line via our tax-avoiding chums at Amazon et al.

NDC

* - Men are often compared to dogs by the fairer sex, which I generally feel quite disgruntled about. However, when it comes to shopping, the comparison bears weight. One hour of shopping for a woman feels like seven for a bloke.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Symmetry

My drive to work this morning was a little earlier than usual, but this unfortunate circumstance was more than made up for by a spectacular sunrise.

To add to my happiness, the illumination of the dash matched the colours of the skyscape beautifully. Somewhere in Munich an automotive design engineer was probably feeling very pleased with herself, but not quite knowing why.

NDC

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Happy Days


Sometimes life gets a little tricky. Sometimes there are bumps in the road, the occasional anti-personell mine upon life’s great highway.

Last weekend was not one of those weekends.

Last weekend has been one of those weekends that come along every now and then. The ones that you think are going to be good, but turn out to be ace. I know I’m a lucky man at the worst of times but last weekend was, frankly, fecking brilliant.

The IMA and I were north of the border again and we had a busy itinerary planned for Saturday, starting at 9am in a Glasgow florist, with a million and one people to see and things to do after that. I had to work until 1pm in Corby on the preceding Friday, which meant that we wouldn’t be setting off in the car from Leicester until 1.45pm at the absolute earliest. It’s generally around a 6 hour drive if you’re lucky and given the prospect of the M6 on a Friday afternoon getting more choked up than an X-factor contestant talking about their gran, we made the only sensible choice available to us. We arranged to go for a night out with a couple of the IMA’s oldest friends.

On Friday Night.

In Edinburgh.

It was ace. The hotel room was stunning – this was the view from our bed:



We had pre-drinks like a pair of students in our room, and then we went to meet up in the restaurant. I had a chicken and haggis burger, we drank, we laughed, we went over the road to a pub, we heard tales of accidentally-stolen guinea pigs, we laughed and drank some more. Finally, after a nightcap and a carefully devised plan for peace in The Middle East mainly revolving around pygmy goats (did I mention we’d been drinking?), we collapsed into bed. At around 1.45am. They were lovely people and I had a hoot.

The morning continued at 7am, when I was surprised to find that the Scottish beer had done a pretty good job of making me sound like a cross between Chewbacca and Tom Waites. We had breakfast looking out across the Firth at the bridge. A bleary-eyed drive west got us to Glasgow in time to meet the florist, which was followed by staccato meetings with various other wedding-related johnnies. I did my best to appear awake and I think, by and large, I pulled it off.

Finally at 2pm we rolled up at the hotel where our wedding is to be held. We were there to go through the menu and decide what we were going to eat on the big day. The doorman, resplendent in tartan trousers and geeky glasses (yet still somehow managing to look cool) picked up our bags and showed us to our ‘room’.



Yes, that’s all our room, you can see the IMA gazing out of the East window if you have good eyesight - she was a long way away. If your eyesight isn't 20/20 these days, click on the pic for a larger version. I think the timezones changed somewhere between the dining table(!) and the sofa area(!). There’s also a bathroom containing a bath that probably had a wave machine, such was its size. I have lived in houses with less surface area.

We mooched around for a while, being suitably bewildered. The IMA had a makeup trial whilst I sat and drank espresso from the machine by the Bang & Olufsen TV and read my book.

The menu tasting was yet another eye-opener. Course after course of top-notch food, accompanied by a run-down of the wine choices by a sommelier who was clearly very knowledgeable despite looking like she wasn’t old enough to buy alcohol in the first place. There were samples of reds, whites, roses, champagnes and proseccos plonked in front of us, we tried to keep pace. The service was impeccable. The restaurant manager turned out to be from Nottingham and suggested I borrowed the Leicester Tigers mascot costume to get married in. I laughed, The beautiful IMA refrained from punching him.

Eventually, being suitably fed and having wangled a tour of the wine cellar, where I stood within knocking-over distance of a £2,200 bottle of wine, the IMA got a call from the hairdresser who was scheduled to do the hair trial. We met her outside the room and it soon became clear that she was very much from Derry and very much bonkers. She did a brilliant job on the hairdressing front and also made me laugh quite a lot with her summary of haute cuisine – “Champagne foam? That’s just a load of shoite right enough.”

We collapsed into bed around 10 and slept the sleep of the just. Or at least the sleep of the well fed and beautifully coiffured.

More of these weekends please.

NDC

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Shake Your Tailfeather.

Welcome to the whirling maelstrom of various barely-understood tasks and activities that is the approach to my wedding.

I think if Derren Brown truly wanted to convince someone that the end of the world had arrived, he should have just plonked them in a room for a few days with a bunch of women who had been hypnotised to believe they were getting hitched. There is so much stuff to do that even my astonishingly level-headed wife-to-be is starting to crack.

I should have been more vigilant. There were early warning signs that, with hindsight, should have started the alarm bells ringing that the strain was starting to tell. When wedding teatowels were considered and eventually discarded I thought the crazy talk was done.

Nope.

Unfortunately the beautiful IMA has now decided that it is not only possible, but necessary for me to learn how to dance before the wedding in just 5 week’s time.

To say that I am a useless dancer is an understatement of mammoth proportions. I have all the grace and coordination of a drunk tramp, high on crack, riding a skateboard down a flight of steps. I would be more in time with the music if someone Tazered me. I am quite a self confident person on the whole and I am often to be found confusing my intentions with my abilities, but as far as strutting my funky stuff is concerned I am completely aware of my shortcomings.

At least we have Jump Around by House Of Pain on the playlist. Even I can manage that.....can't I?

NDC

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Interesting Lunch

Yesterday I went to lunch with a couple of the boys from Corby. I haven’t seen them for quite a while as

a) The offices where I work are frankly enormous.

and

b) one of them has been in Hong Kong for the last few months.

One of them is the most authentically Scottish man ever to be born outside of Scotland, the other is very English and is what’s described locally as ‘well connected’. To put it another way, he’s the person I would most likely call if I ever got on the wrong side of Tony. We’ll call him George.

Angus (can you guess which one he is?) was telling us that he had managed to get tickets for Question Time, which was being broadcast from Corby last night. He’d submitted a question in the hope of getting on the telly. It’s worth pointing out that Corby has a hugely Scottish streak, both genuine and aspirational, due to a migration of Glaswegians in the 60s when the steelworks was moved.

So, Angus’ question:

“Given the upcoming vote concerning Scottish independence, are there any plans to allocate voting rights to the residents of Corby?”

My well-connected friend hooted with laughter and asked, in the interests of clarity, where Angus was born.

“Ach, I was born in sight o’ The Great Loch.”

“You mean Corby boating lake?”

“If you want to call it that, aye.”

Also on the conversational agenda was the news that one of the local boozers had won a competition to display the FA cup for a couple of days, which drew a fair bit of disbelief all round. Corby is a bit of a ‘lively’ place for an evening out (think Blackpool, but without the donkeys) and this particular pub is more lively than most.

“It’ll need a couple of members of the SAS to come with it if they want it back again” chuckled George. He told me that the last time he walked in there was water gushing up the wall from the open pipes where somebody had just kicked the radiator off of the wall, there was a chap in the corner, fast asleep, with his shopping from Iceland* gently thawing out all around him, a middle aged woman passed out in the middle of the floor and a chap skinning up on the bar. This, apparently, counted as a quiet night.

I didn’t see Question Time last night, but I hope that the panel went out for a post-show drink.

NDC

* - The taste-free frozen food chain, not the country.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Offer Of The Century

Indian meal with coffee/dinosaurs?

I'll take a Stegosaurus please. No sugar.

NDC

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Smart Failure


I love TED.

This isn’t a sudden coming-out-of-the-closet thing, or a slightly juvenile attachment to my childhood bear a la Sebastian Flyte. The TED to which I refer is an example of what makes the Internet Age so fantastic.

For those who don’t know it’s basically a loosely gathered organisation that invite some of the great and the good, rising stars and inspirational souls from various walks of life to give a short speech (usually 10-20 min) on their subject of choice to a small audience. This speech is filmed and then plonked onto the interwebz where you can watch it for free.

So far I have heard from a woman who worked on a project to create an aircraft capable of Mach 20 (“It sustained controlled flight for 3 minutes before melting. We can’t put a pilot in it yet.”), a guy who created an augmented reality system and made it open source, the direct correlation between body language, posture and chemical reactions in the brain and I have even learnt about the mechanisms octopi use to avoid becoming dinner for predators.

I love this stuff. I love hearing people speak who genuinely know their subject and talk passionately about it. I love listening to people who are clearly far more intelligent than I, making complex ideas simple. I love the process of following someone else’s knowledge down the rabbit hole and seeing where we end up.

But my favourite so far has been a chap called Eddie Obeng. He clearly has a brain the size of a planet, talks at a million-miles-an-hour and looks at the changing pace of our world in a very very interesting way. He hurtles through the way we learnt at school, the challenges of the work environment and how we like to operate as human beings. Eventually he ties the whole thing together with an inspired piece using fluid mechanics as a metaphor for how we live our lives. He even does the worst impression of the Queen I have ever heard just for good measure. If you’re interested, you can watch his speech just below.....



And I, for my part, am happy to be part of the turbulence. Laminar flow is just so very yesterday.

NDC

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Grand Designs.

This afternoon I am looking at houses. One house in particular.

It has the potential to be a lovely first-and-last house for the beautiful IMA and I in a couple of years, but at this present moment, well. Let's just say it requires some attention.

There would be brick-dust and grout and plaster and muck all over the shop, I would be up to my eyes in stuff that I'd not done for a long long time, but if it comes off I think it would suit us very nicely thankyouverymuch.

We're still a way away from anything certain, but things feel like they're moving. It feels good.

NDC

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Brevity.

Could you write a one-word review?

The person who does The Times' TV listings for the also-ran channels can.

And he/she shoots from the hip. Of particular hilarity are The Real Housewives Of New York City (9.25) and Jeremy Kyle (1.30).

I wonder if they're written by Jack Dee?

NDC


Marketing. FFS.

I sometimes wonder just how far the marketing department's insidious influence will reach.

Today I learnt that even that last bastion of mundanity*, the very essence of unimaginativeness, the nadir of culinary flair that is the humble cheese sandwich will not escape their attention.

This is the packaging that contained my lunch.


I gave it a chance, I truly did. I left the thing sitting on my desk for a good ten minutes whilst I pondered how 2 slices of bread, some margarine and a sprinkling of cheese could possibly achieve the grandiose claims on the back of the pack.I can confirm:

  • It was fresh. - Fresh þ
  • I'm pretty sure many, many people have made a cheese sandwich before. - Innovative ý
  • It didn't pretend to be a feta and olive ciabbatta. - Honest þ
  • It didn't run around my desk shouting "Woohoo! I'm an excellent example of a cheese sandwich!!". It just kind of sat there. - Enthusiastic ý
  • It didn't give me a tenner. - Rewarding ý
  • It didn't tell me a single joke, anecdote or witty one-liner. - Fun ý
By my calculations, that's a 2:1 ratio of bullshit.I'll bet Marketeers across the world still thank their lucky stars for Carlill v Carbolic Smokeball Co.

As a cheese sandwich, however, it was very nice.

NDC

* - It is a real word, it's in NDC's Big Word Dictionary. available mailorder only, £39.99.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Chinstraps.

I'm on 'em.

I feel tired and worn out.

The weekend had far too much getting parking tickets, careering along motorways in order to complete a 40 minute journey in the 30 minutes available, standing in a field freezing my nads off whilst listening to One Direction providing the backing ‘music’ to an equally crap fireworks display and being fleeced to the tune of £7 for a hotdog and chips, being scowled at and being woken up at stupid o'clock.

The weekend, conversely, did not have anywhere near enough of being in the company of the beautiful IMA, sleeping and general cheerfulness. I missed these things.

And now I am at work.

I have spent the last 3 weeks putting together a presentation (currently standing at 43 slides), detailing my plans for world domination in the glitzy world of Fluid Management. I hate PowerPoint with a depth and purity bordering on the religious.

The process is being further enlivened by occasional sniper fire from my own side, who are clearly unaware of the terrible implications should my plans fail to reach fruition. Entire industrial empires will crumble. The resulting fallout will make the recent financial turbulence look like the results of a rained-off bring-and-buy at the church fete*. The evil genii bent on world domination in films never seem to have to deal with Barry from Goods In turning up and moaning about the state of the latest delivery whilst they’re trying to be malevolent.

But, I have my 6th cup of coffee of the day and I shall keep plugging away. Shortly I shall go home, The beautiful IMA will smile and all will be right with the world. I shall go and do the shopping and do some dinner and probably go to bed. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

NDC

* - This is not true. The world will be largely unaware, but it matters to me.

Friday, 2 November 2012

That's Entertainment.


This past week, in an effort to redress the balance, to atone for far too many nights* spent slumped in front of the TV watching second-rate shows aimed at a target audience with a collective IQ of a shoal of goldfish and an attention span to match, The lovely IMA and I dragged ourselves out into the blustery darkness and went to the theatre.

Twice. In one week.

The first was to see One Man Two Guvnors, in which the lead role so successfully filled by James Corden in London & New York, was taken by Rufus Hound.

Things didn’t get off to a good start. The unsuspecting lady behind the counter in the foyer charged us £2.50 for a pack of Revels. IMA was fairly bristling about such an affront, so I tried to diffuse her ire by pointing out that a bottle of Bourbon in the bar was called Knob Creek, but even that didn’t cheer her up. I took a picture of it just in case it might make her chuckle later, because I’m good like that.

To be honest I wasn’t sure if I’d like the play (I’m not a huge fan of theatre and haven’t been to see a play of any type for as long as I can remember) but there had been so many positive reviews that I thought it’d be good to give it a whirl. To be fair there was enough childish humour to keep me amused and there were some great ad-lib interactions with the audience from Mr Hound and a couple of others in the cast so I felt like we’d had our money’s worth, Revels aside.

The second outing was much more my thing. Bravo Figaro is a one man show by a comedian/activist called Mark Thomas, who gained a degree of fame in the late nineties for a show called The Mark Thomas Comedy Product. The main premise of this show was his ability to find obscure ways of sticking it to The Man. This, allied to his fantastic talent for storytelling, had me in fits of laughter. You should Google it – it’s OK, I’ll wait here while you do.....

The first part of his show** was a few retellings of some tales from this show, along with some more recent stuff from a show he did on Radio 4, called The People’s Manifesto. He had the audience in stitches.

The second part was the show itself. It was a tale about Mark’s dad, a self-employed Tory-voting builder with an overwhelming desire for self improvement and a love of opera. It dealt with his dad’s descent into decrepitude and mental decline because of an aggressive disease and how Mark came to persuade a number of singers from The Royal Opera to put on a performance in the front room of his dad’s bungalow in Bournemouth.

It was fantastic.

There were so many parallels between his dad and mine, in the world view, the approach to work and, unfortunately, in the end game. There were just as many differences. The tale was incredibly well crafted to work on a stage, funny and heart warming, shocking and tear inducing (although that was probably more about the nerves it touched for me). I’d wholly recommend it to anyone on the following proviso:

Be prepared for lots of swearing (both in volume and variety) and, if you have a posh voice or even moderately right-of-centre leanings, keep quiet.

And when we came out the beautiful IMA bought a copy of The People’s Manifesto and some ‘book heckling’ stickers for me, for I am a lucky man.

NDC

* - In my humble opinion. In the winter the beautiful IMA would happily watch Take Me Out until her brain dribbled from her ears.
** - Or “the facking warm-up” as mark referred to it. He’s from East London. 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Imperfections.

I'm airborne again.

But not for me any tales of jaunts to Europe for high-powered business meetings where I have to pretend to be a grown up this time, nor gin-blurred days in the sun. No. This time my trajectory is distinctly north.

I'm on my way to Glasgow to meet the beautiful IMA. She drove up yesterday and I am flying. On a plane. With propellers. And it's ace.

The last time I flew on a turboprop was several years ago on an internal flight over Sweden and to be honest the ghosts of my memory have faded enough that I'd forgotten just how good these flights are.

Everything feels so much more exciting than the usual jet flight; the 'lively' takeoff, the noise of the props, the low cruising altitude and the narrowness of the fuselage all conspire to make it feel much more immediate, much more connected to being airborne. It feels fun for all of its shortcomings rather than its slickness.

It's early morning and the low winter sun is casting long raking shadows across the contours of my green and pleasant land, throwing every hill and valley into stark relief. It is all truly beautiful, but the Lake District is particularly stunning. Every ripple, crease, fault and imperfection in the land drawn exquisitely in light and shade. Ansel Adams would be beside himself.

Sometimes our technology is so advanced, so perfect, so anodyne that the essence of experience is lost. The occasional low-tech flight over imperfect landscapes is A Good Thing.

Here's to quirks.

NDC

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Irony

My office is a wonderful place, a bit like Willy Wonka's factory. We have bonkers colleagues, comfortable seating areas, crazy systems and ideas, and a smattering of chocolate cake. Unfortunately, no oompa loompas.



Although, in recent developments, we now have a raft of new recycling bins.



Now, I'm all for saving the planet one Snickers wrapper at a time and I welcomed them happily. But this afternoon a well meaning chappy with an earnest expression sidled up to my desk and dropped this* off:



photo


He had a large box of the things and was merrily making his way round the rest of the offices (by my estimate probably around 500 of us).

I did what I would estimate the rest of my fellow oompa loompas did. I scanned it, chuckled at the flow chart, and then consigned it to the 3rd bin on the left. It's all about supply and demand.

NDC

* - Company logo removed to avoid unfortunate reduction in income scenarios



Monday, 22 October 2012

Just Another Day At The Office.

I work, from time to time, with a very nice chap from Nigeria. He is quite a singular character and almost impossible to take offence at.

 

When he saw me driving my car in a somewhat 'enthusastic' manner on the way home a while ago, he said to me (in his brilliant Nigerian accent):

 

" I saw you driving home the other night Andy, you were driving like a crazy man. Your car suits you very much'.

 

As I said, you just can't take offence.

 

Today I was busy making myself a cup of coffee when my friend appeared. He was concerned about the cleanliness of the plum he was going to eat. So he washed it. With Fairy Liquid and a scouring pad.

 

As I walked back to my desk via the back stairs (where everyone goes to make their non-work-related phone calls) I walked past a chap who hires himself out to nightclubs dressed as a devil and chases people around with a plastic chainsaw in his spare time (he's a dwarf). He was on the phone and was telling the person on the end of the line that he needed a towel on the bar to save damaging it, and as long as there was more than 4 feet of headroom over the bar he'd be fine. The mind boggles.

 

Oh, and I did some work too.

 

NDC

 

Friday, 19 October 2012

Up Yours, Jessie J

I love seeing how the other half live.

Through a series of unrelated events in the past*, there is a jewellers in Leicester that has me confused with a man of means. Much as I protest my innocence, they persist in this idea with the fervour of a marketing department that has a database of customers and a budget for schmoozing.

The upshot of this is that a couple of times a year an invitation plops through the letterbox to some fancy soiree or another. The envelope alone probably costs more money than I earn in an hour and the invitation itself is printed on paper so thick that Ikea would probably deem it over engineered to be making shelves from. There is gold leaf and swirly calligraphy all over the shop. Willy Wonka would approve.

Last night’s extravaganza was mainly to show off the current Patek Phillipe watch lineup. To be honest they are not really my cup of tea (and way out of my budget), but they are watches, mechanical, beautifully made and the invitation clearly stated “champagne and canapés”. We were there.

After shaking hands with the MD at the door (at which point the immaculately dressed and enormous security guard changed his expression from ‘murderous’ to ‘baleful’), we were buzzed into the shop. My coat was taken by a very cheerful chap and the IMA and I made beelines for a glass of Charlie and then sparkly diamond stuff and watches respectively.

I got talking to a very knowledgeable chap (who was also rather Wonka-like) about a particular watch. After explaining the manufacturing process in a level of detail that would surely put any normal human being** into a coma, he asked if I’d like to try it on.

“Sure”, I said.

He opened up the cabinet, fished out the watch and after fondling it for a few seconds in his white-glove-clad hands, handed it over to me. It was a thing of beauty, built with a level of attention to detail that is the preserve of skilled engineers with no concern for cost and a company accountant who knows his place.

I put it on my wrist.
I had to ask.
I swallowed. I steeled myself.
As casually as I could manage I muttered ”So, how much does one of these go for....?”

“Oh I have no idea, I don’t work here. I’m the MD of Patek Phillipe actually. But if you wait here I’ll find out for you.”

He disappeared of into the well-heeled crowd. I still had the watch on my wrist. After a good few minutes of me struggling with my conscience and eventually not running away very quickly up the road he reappeared.
“Thirty three thousand eight hundred pounds” he grinned, delivering the statement in a manner that suggested it was a bargain. I smiled and handed it back, thanking him politely. But he was on a roll. When engineers meet other engineers, they realise they can have a needlessly detailed conversation about mechanical stuff without risk of inducing death by boredom in the other party. We had a bond.

“Oh, I really should show you the star of the show” he said. This is it.



I could tell you in great detail about this particular watch, but the salient points are these:
  • The company makes 1-2 of these per year.
  • You may apply to buy one (the current waiting list is 5 years), at which point you will be invited to the factory in Switzerland and, if they like the cut of your jib, they will agree to sell you one.
  • It costs four hundred and eighty five thousand pounds. Yes, you did read that right.
  • It has been on my wrist.
It was at this point, given my usual level of clumsiness and the effects of free champagne, we decided it was time to leave. The beautiful, if slightly squiffy, IMA and I took a slightly meandering wander back to the car.

It was definitely a worthwhile night, as I’m a patient man and now I have a top-level contact in Patek, so it’s just the small matter of the cash.

NDC

* - And, if I’m being completely truthful, a smidgeon of stage management on my part.

** - I used to be an engineer and am therefore at best immune and at worst really interested.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Oeufully Amusing



Originally uploaded by geezer742uk
Saw this whilst conducting my weekly trudge around the supermarket tonight, which had me chuckling all the way to the irony supplements.

And, after having got all the stuff into the boot of the car I wandered off to put the trolley into the trolley park.

It was downhill and there were no cars about. There was a neat row of trolleys awaiting collection by a surly teenager at a later point. Twenty feet out I gave the trolley a good shove and stood watching as it described a graceful, wobbly wheeled arc and plopped neatly on to the rear of the stack.

I grinned to myself. A chap wandering back to his car nodded his approval of a job well done. His wife just looked disappointed.

NDC

Friday, 5 October 2012

Fuggedaboutit*

Last night I said goodbye to an old friend.

Sure, he was a bit of a rough diamond; involved in some very shady dealings and the occasional execution, but having got to know him pretty well I’ll miss him all the same.

Last night I watched the final episode of The Sopranos. The final series was shown on TV around 5 years ago and there is still a huge amount of debate raging on the internet about whether Tony got clipped* or not. Personally I think he’s now mixed into the concrete of a New Jersey freeway, but the ending, like the rest of the series, left a deal to the viewer.

To be honest, it’s probably a good thing it’s finished. I wouldn’t want overexposure to this kind of thing skewing my idea of morality.

Next up I shall be watching Breaking Bad. What could possibly go wrong?

NDC

* - I really must stop talking like this. People with think I’m some kinda cavone.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Not much to say

2 glasses of red to the good, peace & quiet, things are getting better.

I know, I know. It's more a status update than a blog post, but that's Just The Way I'm Feeling*.

That is all.

NDC

* - with thanks to Feeder. Definitely worth a YouTube search. You're welcome.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

I'm not a forward planning kind of a guy.

Most events see me arriving monumentally unprepared for whatever it is I have had several hours/days/weeks/months to prepare for. Luckily for me I have a very positive outlook. Consequently my view of the resulting experience is usually along the lines of "well, given that I did fuck-all to prepare for that, it seemed to go OK".

But even I know that if you're standing in a queue, in a canteen, with a sandwich in your hand there is a pretty high likelihood that the lady sitting at the head of the queue behind the till-shaped object is going to be asking me for some money in the immediate future.

Apparently, the lady from marketing with the dubious taste in blouses and the cheese and pickle baguette is not equipped with this blindingly obvious snippet of information and is genuinely surprised when asked for £2.50.

She is also unaware of the location of her purse in the bag slung over her shoulder that clearly warps space-time to a degree that makes the tardis look like a £149 shed from B&Q, judging from the amount of time it takes to locate it.

If only it'd extend the temporal distortions out a few feet so that I could get my 10 minutes of lunchtime back.

NDC


Wednesday, 29 August 2012

A Thin Veneer

The weekend just past the IMA and I were up in Glasgow and had reason to visit a particular hotel. Along for the entertainment value were 50% of the kids - The Angry Pixie (as she has been dubbed by her elder sister) and TBW.

To give you an idea of the kind of establishment we're speaking about, they had gentlemen on the door. I am quite used to this type of arrangement, but in this case the gentlemen concerned were charged with welcoming people into the hotel and generally being pleasant and helpful, as opposed to the ones I am more used to. They are generally charged with making disparaging comments about your choice of footwear and/or belting you in the mouth for no apparent reason.

In short it was posh.

Very posh.

We were there to meet a very nice chap called John to discuss using their hotel for our wedding. We were shown around various rooms, discussed furniture-moving-about-on-the-day potential and even heard an interesting story about David Beckham. Eventually we retired to the lounge area and set about drinking fancy coffee, eating fancy shortbread biscuits and ironing out some of the detail of our requirements.

The subject of overnight rooms came up and we decided that a separate room for each of the kids was maybe a little extravagant, so sharing was on the cards.

At this point a gentleman who I would best describe as a ringer for The Major from Fawlty Towers came wandering in to the lounge with his wife and they settled themselves down on the large sofa in the bay window. Coffee and toast was served to them. They chatted between themselves in muted, well-to-do tones.

By now TBW has reached the end of his capacity to keep his thoughts to himself. He stated to John, in loud and happy tones, that he doesn't mind sharing with anybody. He points out that he doesn't snore.

I get worried.

He points out that Daddy doesn't snore either.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

"Although," he continues, "Daddy does sometimes trump in bed. It's really loud".

Mrs Thrumpton-Smythe on the sofa in the window dissolved into a fit of giggles, despite her breeding.

I bet the staff have to sign a non-disclosure agreement before Brooklyn Beckham is allowed to chat.

NDC

Friday, 24 August 2012

Ommm

There is a lady who works in my office. I’d guess she is early twenties, has very fashionable ‘geeky’ glasses and is always very cheerful.

We were having a conversation today and she told me that she was “half vegetarian”. Before I I got the chance to find out how such an arrangement would work, my assistant (who is enormously good value) asked how she was getting on with Buddhism.

“Oh I’ve learnt it all and it’s a bit dull.”

I bet the Dalai Lama feels like an amateur now.

NDC

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hume With a View

Under normal circumstances I think I am fairly capable of dealing with the human condition. My personal philosophy (such as it is) contains a good deal of Epicurean influence, with a streak of Stoicism running through it. I generally lead a considered life.*

This pretty well translates as an outlook on life that allows me to enjoy things for what they are and have a good time with what I have. I genuinely feel massively fortunate to be where I am, to be with whom I’m with and to have such fantastic friends and family. My life is, frankly, fecking ace.

I think a major part of this is the approach of bending the world at large to my liking in areas where I can, but knowing which battles are unwinnable, knowing when pushing my view is just not appropriate or fair.

Ocassionally, however, something happens that is completely outside of my sphere of influence that I desperately want/need to change for the better,** something that fundamentally makes life worse for TBW. And I feel powerless.

The phrase “give me the strength to change those things I can and the serenity to accept those I can’t” is a mantra that I embrace under normal circumstances. At the moment, however, I think it’s probably best just to give me the serenity part, because if I’m given strength right now I’ll probably need bail money too.

NDC

* - Admittedly it is sometimes considered retrospectively.

** - yes, better in my opinion.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ammunition

To be played in approximately 11.5 years, on a large screen, preferably as the film's subject is making his way down his 4th pint of Scruttock's Old Nasty at the bar with his mates at his 18th birthday bash.....



NDC
Ah, The Boy Wonder.

He's been on holiday with his mother over the last week or so. Details, as always, were sketchy on what exactly he got up to whilst away but when I asked him to tell me the best thing that happened, he was absolutely in no doubt.

"I threw pizza at a pig."

Well, who wouldn't love that?*

Anyway, he came over to us on Sunday when he got back and was just brilliant fun. He's become a little obsessed with a lego robot building game, but my attention span is a little shorter than his so I was bored after a couple of rounds. Here's the resulting Lego Robot Olympic Tribute Diorama:


The green one on the left is Usain Bolt, the red one on the right is Mo Farah. The cheery gap-toothed one at the back is the Olympic crowd.


NDC

* - The pig, presumably.

A Cry For Help



This, ladies and gentlemen, may well qualify for the most middle class injury you will see this year.

It was incurred as I tried to push a bottle of champagne into an overstocked freezer in order to chill it quickly, so that the FMA and I could take it with us on our weekend getaway. I caught my wrist on some surpisingly sharp ice.

FFS.

Don't worry though, it wasn't a Smeg freezer. We're not that posh.

NDC

Remember me?

So where to begin........

First of all the apologies. I've a gazillion reasons that I've not been mithering the world at large with my inane dribblings recently. I'm sure that this is in and of itself no bad thing, but the small downtrodden part of me that feels the need to apologise for all sorts of stuff that you probably wouldn't believe is being a total PITA, so, sorry. There I've said it. Working for The Man (and more specifically the IT dept employed by The Man, consisting of several people who do not share my laissez-faire attitude to internet usage at work) and a particularly hectic couple of months outside of work means that the few blog posts I have managed to slap together have been rattled out on an iPhone. Often after numerous sherberts.

Secondly, and this does need a proper apology and explanation, for those few posts I have managed to inflict on you I have struggled to respond to those comments I have received. This is due to the frankly crap Blogger app. I could see them via email, but not respond. They usually made me laugh and/or feel better, so thank you for leaving them.

But at this moment in time I have an urge to write, a comfortable spot, a full-fat laptop and an internet connection with no Thought Police looking over my shoulder.

Here we go then.

NDC


Tuesday, 31 July 2012

All Good Things....

Last week I realised that a love affair was coming to an end, a childish fling being replaced by something much more grown up.

I should have known that it couldn't last. Sure it was cool, fun, bubbly and really sweet. It was fun while it lasted.

My new love is a different thing entirely. Much more grown up. Sophisticated, cooler still and very pure.

Goodbye Gin & Lemon Fanta, hello Gin & Tonic.

Hic.

NDC

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Pursuit Of.

Today I am relaxed.

I have 99 problems* to deal with at home but right now as I pick out the letters on my trusty, beloved, soon-to-be-replaced iPhone in the manner of middle aged folks everywhere** I have:

The woman I love next to me on a sun lounger reading a book in the sunshine on her kindle (this makes her, and consequently me, happy)

2 of the 4 kids playing a game on the Nintendo DS on the veranda (this makes them, and consequently me, happy)

A cold beer getting colder in the pool (this makes me very happy)

4 pizzas warming in the oven (this makes us all very happy)

In summary, I am happy.

NDC

* - Actually I only have one major problem, but Jay-Z had his own agenda with song titles. Bloody selfish rap icons.

** - You know, you do it too. The excruciatingly slow tippety-tap, complete with almost accusatory finger pointing as you try to find the letter you're looking for, that makes anyone under the age of 20's head explode with frustration.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Irony

This morning as I drove to work in the pouring rain (again) I had a little ray of sunshine to brighten the start of my day.

I stopped at a pedestrian crossing to let a particularly grumpy looking teenager with a newspaper delivery bag and a sopping wet hoody cross the road.

The large, easy-to-read logo on the front of the hoody, you ask?

Well, that would be SuperDry.

Judging by look on his face, he was neither.

NDC

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

5 Minutes Peace

Yes, there is gin involved.

Cheers

NDC

Flying South

Another day another flight.

But no laptops in my hand luggage today, oh no. Today's carry-on includes flipflops and lairy shorts and gin.

No in flight reviews of PowerPoint slides, no hurried conversation to "get our ducks in a row". This flight has been mainly taken up with putting stickers of increasingly bizarrely named* Star Wars characters into an album and repeatedly explaining why, in the unlikely event of a drop in cabin pressure, I have to put on my oxygen mask before that of The Boy Wonder.

Because this is a family holiday. Not the full assembled cast, but the FMA, TBW and The Tall Dude. By the time you read this I will probably be sitting in the sunshine, maybe with a cold beer. And it will be ace.

If not, we have the gin.

NDC

* Kit Fisto. I shit you not.

Monday, 28 May 2012

That Awkward Moment.

You know how it is.

You have to go to a big European pow-wow with a boatload of important grown ups from a very important supplier to your business.

You sit patiently through several hours of market data, opportunity analysis and corporate chest-beating.

You stand up to give your presentation to several earnest business managers.

You turn around to see the first slide of your presentation projected onto the 10 foot screen behind you.

You notice at this point that your slide says in bold, easy to read letters;

Siemens - Fluid Control Strategy. Followed by your name.

You continue with your presentation in a confident and professional manner, whilst inside you are hooting with childish glee.

NDC

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

In Flight Entertainment.

Ah, the efficiency of Air Berlin.

Not only do they provide Goofy cartoons on little overhead TVs to alleviate the boredom of flights, they also provide you with instructions on how to turn your paper napkin into a beautiful sculpture of a rose.

Unfortunately the instruction is printed on the napkin, so you need a good memory. Mine is crap.

To be honest I don't think the Japanese origami masters will be losing any sleep when this hits the interwebz. On the plus side the Ryvita-style biscuit with cream cheese, whilst a bit weird, was delicious.

And Goofy was passable.

NDC

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Monday, 7 May 2012

Biblical.

It is lunchtime.

I am sitting in an impossibly comfortable chair in the conservatory, having enjoyed a rather nice espresso, scribbling this blog post. The rain is lashing down outside to such an extent that I am fully expecting a chap with a beard, a robe and a number of animals following him two by two to wander past on his way to Leicester Ark Supplies Ltd at any moment.

But I am warm and dry and in the company of the woman I love. Shortly I will get up and make bacon sandwiches and whatever the beautifully vegetarian FMA would like for lunch.

We will eat said lunch and then I may even read a book for a while.

Days like to today make me realise that I truly am a lucky, lucky son-of-a-gun and that happiness takes no effort at all.

If you're a religious person please feel free to pass on my thanks to whichever deity you follow. If they have a hand in this then they're all right by me.

NDC

Saturday, 5 May 2012

International Diplomacy

My new job has thrown up some fantastic moments over the last week.

  • My new assistant, who is fast becoming a surrogate Super, has to fill out an 'environmental audit' of our work area of a Friday afternoon. When she has finished giving business-critical factors such as 'Are all drawers clearly labelled?' and 'Are desks free from clutter?' marks out of five, she tots up the scores and colours in a little bar chart with a green crayon. She then dutifully pins the chart to our team notice area. After completing the survey last week she leant over to me and whispered in conspiratorial tones that is was 'all just a lot of shite'. She's from Glasgow.
  • A German colleague (who I have known for a long time and like hugely) giving me his insight on how to interact with management the Teutonic way; "If I find the dogshit in the corridor, I will not paint it gold and tell people it is lovely. This is why I am not the manager." Quite, Klaus*. Quite.
  • Being asked in a meeting what I felt the company could do to make its employees feel more valued. I explained that I thought the breakout area with comfortable leather sofas, free fruit, tea and coffee making facilities and a 42" LCD TV were probably enough, but if they wanted to provide a free blowjob at lunchtime** that would be lovely too.
  • Listening to an exchange between meeting organiser and colleague in the same meeting regarding the use of certificates as a motivational tool:
         Meeting organiser - "Would a certificate make you feel valued as an employee?"
         Colleague - "If by 'certificate' you mean 'cash', then yes. Otherwise, no."
  • Having a colleague that I have to deal with in China called Brenda* Oo. When she sends me an email it appears in my inbox as Oo, Brenda. I can't help but read it in a Kenneth Williams voice.
  • Meeting a colleague called Dan* Ngwanka. The Ng part of his name is silent. He's from marketing.
Next week I will be talking to people in France, Italy, Spain and possibly Australia. I apologise in advance for any international crises that I may inadvertently trigger. You should all thank your lucky stars we don't have an office in North Korea.

NDC

* - Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
** - But not from Klaus. I'm sure he'd be very efficient, but the airfares would be prohibitively expensive.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Stain Survey

Today has been glorious. It has rained cats and dogs, I sat in a warm office and beavered away formulating my diabolical plans for world domination for the supply of products that would put your average non-engineer into a boredom-induced coma just by looking at them.

This made me happy in itself but the highpoint of my day came at around 11.30am. True to the immutable laws of IT, our network had a brainfart for no apparent reason and stopped everyone from accessing their files on the server. All around me there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but not me. Oh no.

I was carried through the crisis by the deep joy of knowing that it wasn't me who was going to have to fix the bloody thing. That there would be no disgruntled Super arriving at my desk with a cheery "my computer is fucked and you'll have to stop what you're doing and fix it even though you don't really know what you're doing" look on her face.

I went downstairs to the coffee shop(!) and by the time I returned with my latte(!!) the IT pixies had worked their magic and all was well in the world. All I had to do was carry on where I left off. Marvellous.

And the title? Well, I stood in a meeting this morning and listened to a presentation regarding a survey that has been carried out by a very earnest colleague who is quite concerned by the state of the carpets in our office. She wasn't laughing, so I thought I'd best not either. To be honest they look fine to me, but she assures us all that a deep-cleaning operation has been scheduled for the end of May anyway.

I don't know whether I should be pleased or concerned.

NDC

Monday, 16 April 2012

FNG

Well, my first day working for The Man.

And all my concerns and misgivings can be put into context by one brief sentence from my new boss (who seems very nice), delivered at 17.12:

"Don't you have a home to go to?"

Bliss.

NDC

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hello, real world

Well well well.

After a few days away in Budapest* (which were frankly ace. Partly due to architecture, partly due to grisly recent history, partly due to esoterically-clothed locals, but mainly due to excellent company), I am firmly back in the real world now. Firmly.

As part of my re-integration into CorporateLand I am giving up my company car and as a result I have to get personal car insurance again.

Kill me now, it would be easier.

I could tell you about the part where third party only insurance is the same price as fully comprehensive**, I could tell you about the bit where reducing the voluntary excess from £200 to £0 actually resulted in a lower premium, I could tell you about the phone calls with various insurance agencies through which I was spoken to in a manner that I would expect had I opened the conversation with "Hello, my name is Andrew and I would like to shag your mother.".

But no.

Here's the tale.

I wanted to give my current insurer the chance to quote a price, I did it online (as we do everything these days), the quoted a price in the region of double that I had already been quoted elsewhere, so I wanted to talk to somebody, mano-e-mano.

I scoured the website for a contact number. the only number I could find was a premium-rate con, which felt like a complete insult. I emailed the helpdesk;

"Hello,
I have a current policy with you and I want to change my car. I have been quoted on your site, but the price is a lot higher than I can get elsewhere.
Is there a number I can call to talk to someone without being charged 10p per minute, or should I just move the business elsewhere and cancel my current policy?
Thanks and regards,
Andrew"

Here's their response;


Laugh my tits off? Oh yes.

Please note - this blog post was brought to you under the influence of a whole bottle of Rioja and I am a lightweight, so please excuse any grammatical, spelling, syntax or typo errors. The keys on this keyboard are considerably closer together than usual.

NDC

* - I will blog about this, I promise,
** - If you're overseas and don't know what this means, hit me up in the comments and I will elucidate.



Monday, 26 March 2012

High As a Kite

For some time my hiking buddy and I have been threatening to get back to the hills. We've had numerous planned jaunts that have crashed and burned over the past 12 months due to various unforseen circumstances, but last Saturday the planets aligned and we found ourselves in North Wales standing at the blunt end of a mountain.

In the past our excursions have been to the more esoteric* peaks and ridges of this sceptered isle, but my hiking buddy's heel had been giving him some trouble and he wasn't sure quite how it was going to hold up. The last thing I wanted was to be wasting the last few hours of daylight waiting for the Mountain Rescue team to arrive, so we decided that liberal use of Ibuprofen and a nice easy route was the order of the day.

We chose Snowdon. On the sunniest day of the year so far. Via the easiest route.

Normally when we are in the hills I can count the number of people we will meet throughout the day on the fingers of one hand. A combination of shite weather and scarily rugged terrain means that only the committed, or those that should be committed, are out and about. That's just how I like it.

But not this Saturday. Oh no. On this day the sun shone and you couldn't have thrown a rock in any direction without hitting several nutters.

 Follow me, if you will, on a pictorial journey through the inhabitants of Wales' highest peak.




First up is this lady. She is sporting a very outdoors-y combination of high heeled sandals and a Lidl bag. I believe this is the 'classic' mountaineering outfit as popularised by Chris Bonnington during the 70s. Personally, I would have left the weekly shop in the car.









This couple are far better prepared for any eventuality. Note the appropriate clothing and baggage. As you will also note, the guy has even gone to the effort of putting a backup dog in his pack. Should there be a problem with his primary dog (currently walking alongside), they still have a dog in reserve. Very sensible.













Honestly, WTF?

Especially entertaining is the shadow cast by someone a little further down the trail. The purple dude does look very pleased to be chatting to the chap in the blue coat.






Honourable mentions (but sadly no photo) also go to:

  • The well-to-do elderly couple, he in deck shoes, she in high-heeled wedges, both with cashmere sweaters draped artfully over their shoulders.
  • The young girl walking in stockinged feet, Converse Allstars in hand.
  • A chap who looked like Gandalf's more wizened elder brother, complete with staff two feet taller than him, slogging up the hill and swearing like a trooper.

If you ask me, even though we were all at the same altitude, some of us were higher than others.

NDC


* - E-so-ter-ic. adj. The types of peaks and ridges where people rope themselves together, in order to stop the sane ones from running away.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Alea Iacta Est

Note:

This post is really a marker for me, to record how I feel at this point in time, something for me to read back later with the benefit of hindsight. It goes on a bit, so if you're in a rush here's an executive summary for you:

Executive Summary


I have a new job. I'm quite pleased.

-----------------------------------------------------------

Last week I got an offer of a job. In actual fact I have had two job offers and a further two request to attend interviews (one of which resulted in a very definite ending of bonhomie between two employment agencies, but that's another story).

So I have accepted the job. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Don't get me wrong, I'm really happy to be going to work for the company who want to employ me and god knows I'll be happy (read: delirious with joy) to be able to knock off at 5pm and take holidays without feeling hugely guilty that I should be in the office 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

I'll be happy that if customer Joe Soap decides to do a bunk to Portugal without paying his account (as happened last week) then there will be a team of people that will chase the bastard down and make him pay.

I'll be happy that if my PC (or anybody else's) goes belly up in the middle of the day I (or they) will just use another one until the IT fairies fix it rather than me having to stop what I already don't have time to do and do it myself.

I'll be happy that I won't have to worry about whether George Osborne has decided to change the rates/thresholds on PAYE or NI contributions and I haven't noticed.

I'll be happy that I won't have to try to explain in calm tones to a customer that although he is sure that he's only had the boots for 'a couple of months' but can't find the receipt, the boots have clearly been worn for at least a year whilst digging footings on a building site (or possibly used in combat in Syria) and that no, he can't have a replacement pair for free because they're now 'a bit uncomfortable'.

Most of all I will be happy to not have to witness any more semi-naked builders trying on shirts, or worse *shudder*, trousers.

But it still feels like giving up.

I know that trading conditions have been tough since we started in 2008, and I genuinely believe that had the BP and I not been here the business would have disappeared a couple of years ago. We have had to make difficult decisions that ultimately kept the company afloat. I know that in a more buoyant economy we would be set fair and that we would be able to be pushing for growth from a sound foundation. All this doesn't change the fact that when I decided to go into business for myself there were two primary aims:

  • Make more money than I could working for other people.
  • Have more fun.
The ideal was both of those things, but one or the other would be acceptable. When I realised that neither of those objectives had been met for some time, and weren't likely to be met in the foreseeable future I decided it was time to rethink the plan. So, in a couple of weeks, the BP will take over the running of the business and I will be off to work for The Man again.

And the thing that makes me feel the most guilty of all is that I'm genuinely looking forward to it.

NDC



Thursday, 15 March 2012

A Busy Day

Today's to do list

Sit in a traffic jam for an hour þ

Wee in a pot þ

Watch a man shake pot vigorously and peer into it þ

Have man tell me in cheerful tones that I am not a drug abuser þ

Sit in another traffic jam þ

Get insulted by an old man (Note: Not wee-pot man) þ

Go to parents evening

Eat pizza and drink wine


As you can see, my day is definitely heading in the right direction now.

NDC



Wednesday, 14 March 2012

LOL.

I have just dipped a toe into the murky world of Twitter trends.

It is now my strongly held belief that teachers should spend more time explaining the difference between their/there/they're.

NDC

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Like Water Flowing Downhill....

The Boy Wonder has had Chickenpox this week.

We had long discussions about the importance of not scratching the spots to ensure that he doesn't end up with a load of scars. He told me that his Mum had already told him all about it and that he wasn't scratching at all. He did mention that sometimes his clothes rub against his skin though. I told him that it was OK, there wasn't much he could do about that. Don't worry.

He's a pretty compliant sort and will respect the rules if they're clear, but he's inherited my tendency to understand the rules of the game and find ways to work within them to get the desired result.

During our time together I can honestly report that he did not scratch. Not once.

What he did do every 5 minutes however, was what I can only describe as an amalgamation of The Funky Chicken, The Macarena and several Bruce Lee movies in order to make his clothes rub against his skin 'sometimes'.

I think at some point we'll schedule a discussion on the differences between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

NDC

Monday, 12 March 2012

London to Brighton

Here we go again.

Some time ago The Tall Guy* and I were in conversation in the kitchen. Somehow the subject got around to cycling and The London to Brighton bike ride.

I told him that I'd done it a few years ago and told him what a great day it was. He said that he quite fancied a go at it (he cycles a good few miles every morning except Sunday, rain or shine), so we registered on the British Heart Foundation website. I went back to drinking coffee and eating biscuits, he carried on going out to parties and eating the stuff that McDonald's markets as food.

Time passed. 

Last weekend we sat in the same kitchen, booked our places online and chatted about cars for a while. I drank some more coffee and ate some more biscuits, he went to some more parties. I assume there may have been more McDonalds, but I couldn't swear to it.

No problem I thought, I remember last time. I hadn't cycled in years at that point and my training schedule consisted of dragging my bike out of the garage, putting some new tyres on it and riding to the end of the road and back to make sure nothing fell off. Dead easy.

This morning I worked out that the last time I did it was in fact ten years ago. So I think maybe I should put in a few training miles. Either that or persuade someone really really old to do it with us.

Although the positive side of being ten years older is a more mature attitude to life. This time around I will do my level best to resist the temptation of hurtling between two cyclists just as they close in to each other in order to cross the finish line holding hands, sending them wobbling off in opposite directions at the critical moment. One of them may have crashed, my recollection is a little hazy.

NDC

* - The Tall Guy is a top bloke. Funny, intelligent and a heart of gold. He's also my stepson.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Happy Days



There it is.

This morning I had a few deliveries to make, and my weapon of choice for the task was my trusty Volvo. Yes, I know it's horrifically uncool to like Volvos, but I am unconcerned by such things. I care not one jot. My barney is not bothered*. I give not a fig. You can barely move for the amount of fucks I do not give. It's an ace car and I will brook no argument on the matter.

One of the many many wonderful things about it is tucked away in the little cubby hole/armrest between the front seats, which was probably designed to accomodate a fondue set, a member of ABBA or some other essential Swedish accoutrement.

A USB port.

This means that I can connect my iphone to the car's sound system and have my crap choice in music rattling the windows. It's quite a good sound system and on full volume it has the ability to frighten small dogs and pensioners at 50 paces.

So this morning's playlist was as per the photo at top. I put it together yesterday and it contains nothing but tracks I can sing** along to in a wildly overenthusiastic manner. Some tracks even get full-on mimes of the singer responsible (Mick Jagger, I'm looking at you) and "chicca wah" style guitar breaks by yours truly at 70mph.

Anyway, if you're interested, here's my soundtrack for the morning. I was quite surprised at just how many of the words I remembered. By the time I was back in the office I was as happy as a dog with two....um, well.....tails. Yes, a dog with two tails.

Shake Me Down - Cage The Elephant
Jump Into The Fog - The Wombats
Beautiful Day - U2
Nem Vem Que Nao Tem - Wilson Simonal
Underdog - Turin Brakes
Pass Out - Tinie Tempah
Honky Tonk Women - Rolling Stones
Rewired - Kasabian
Gold On The Ceiling - The Black Keys
Italian Leather Sofa - Cake
Burn Baby Burn - Ash
Mardy Bum - Arctic Monkeys
Kate - Ben Folds Five
Ain't No Rest For The Wicked - Cage The Elephant
Ooh La - The Kooks

Sadly missing is Voodoo Child by Hendrix. I have several versions of it, most of which he's playing whilst ripped to the tits on various recreational pharmaceuticals and I couldn't find the (slight return) version before I left the office. It will be fixed.

Today is a good day.

NDC

* - This is one of the FMA's colloquialisms from north of the border. I hope I said it right...
** - Shout.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Swings & Roundabouts

Today started in the most miserable of fashions.

Outside the sky was sullen and heavy, rain hunching the shoulders of those unfortunate enough to be in Mother Nature's company. Inside things were equally leaden, the unhappiness of loved ones like dark clouds.

I left the house feeling unsettled and adrift, a rain-slicked world doing little to assuage my mood.

Later, I saw a Chinese guy on a fold-up bike cycling in the rain at 2mph holding a pink umbrella. With a frilly edge.

This afternoon we are on a holiday booking spree and I am going out to have pizza this evening. I am under strict instruction that the real world is off limits for tonight, so discussion will be limited to dinosaur swans and unicorns riding ponies. Unfortunately the juggling dwarves are already booked elsewhere.

Maybe the world ain't so bad after all.

NDC

Friday, 2 March 2012

Capo

Rupert
Uncle Junior



Ever noticed that you never see them both in the same place at the same time?

Maybe it would've worked out better for Tony if he'd just bought a newspaper (I have no idea how it works out for Tony yet, I'm only on season 3, so no plot spoilers please).

NDC

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

WTF III

Really?

TBW gets a new game for his wii?

A game combining his two favourite things - Star Wars and Lego (three if you include the fact it's a video game)?

And he doesn't want to stay over with his Dad tonight you say?

Really?

What a fucking surprise.

NDC

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Smile

A little while ago I moved from the village that had the pleasure of my residence for a few months. I moved over to the other side of the city and the suburb that I now call home is about as middle class as you get in these parts. People buy houses here because the schools are good, because there is a Marks & Spencers and a Waitrose and because there are a respectable number of small independent shops staffed by well-turned out middle-aged ladies with names like Margot and Penelope selling knick-knacks for your home that I don't understand*. 

It being slightly more hip than my previous location (by which I mean a higher proportion of the population still have their own) there is also a Costa coffee shop. I know this because we were there recently enjoying a cappuccino and a cake. As I relaxed on the artfully shabby leather sofa I noticed a quite startling array of security cameras (circled in red) in the ceiling:



There was actually another camera that I couldn't get in shot, pointing at the toilets. I don't even want to think about that.

I'm really not sure quite what they're expecting. Did they think that there was a real danger that one of the customers might react violently to a story in The Guardian relating to slipping educational standards, which could lead to a coffee shop brawl? Maybe they thought the local church Open Mike night** on a Sunday evening might end in rowdiness and violence?

Or maybe I'm just missing the point. Maybe in this era of multi-faceted, multi-media business, Costa have their own TV channel showing the comings and goings of their customers in a Big Brother format.

"Day 37, and Andrew is wondering if a biscotti is just a biscuit, but smaller and more expensive."


NDC


* - Small bits of painted wood with platitudes written on them in unusual fonts appear to be very much in vogue.

** - I haven't made this up for comic effect.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Recycling

Oh dear.

A little history for you, dear reader.

A while ago I bought a watch. It wasn't the most expensive one I have ever bought, but it wasn't the cheapest either. To be honest, I think the shop assistant did some kind of Jedi mind-trick on me, because I never really actually liked this particular watch very much but still it ended up in my possession. I tried to like it, truly I did. I wore it a few times but it always ended up back in the box, tucked away. Eventually I decided to let it go and advertised it for sale on a watch website. All good so far.

This is where the tale parts company from the rails a little.

I got a message from a guy who said he liked my watch*, but didn't have the cash to buy it. He did, however, have a cycle that he was prepared to swap for my unloved watch plus a bit of cash from me. It would seem that The Force was strong in this one too, as I'd been struggling to get back into running with any enthusiasm since last year's marathon, the swimming was OK but not really grabbing me and I'd been thinking about starting to get out on my trusty** mountain bike as the weather begins to improve to keep myself fit.

I googled the bike. It looked like a great deal. I thought I'd chance my arm and say that I was really after the cash, but if he'd do a straight swap then I'd go for that. Much to my surprise he agreed. Once I'd checked the frame number to make sure it wasn't stolen the deal was done. I was happy to a disproportionate degree and it was at this point that it dawned on me.

If I wasn't such a snob my ideal job would undoubtedly be Market Trader. I love wheeler-dealing.

Anyway, here's the new hardware:


I think it was a blinding deal, the beautiful FMA thinks I'm nuts. Will it become an integral part of my fitness regime over the coming months or will it end up back on the interwebz to be exchanged for something equally as random? Only time will tell.

But I am thinking about London to Paris now........

NDC

* - No, this is not a euphamism.
** - This is a euphamism, for elderly. And heavy.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Size Matters

This morning I was up pretty early. My alarm went of and I was out of bed faster than Ben Johnson coming out of the chemist*, which is quite unusual for me. Suffice to say I am not usually a morning person. A crowbar/flamethrower/rabid dog is usually required to encourage me out of a warm bed on a winter's morning.

Maybe it was the fact that the sun was shining and mother nature was trying on her first spring outfit of the year, maybe it was because I'm starting to feel a little more human again after several days of a cold I just couldn't shift, maybe it was that I knew I had to get The Boy Wonder back to his mum before going to work. Whatevever it was I love these days. I love the feeling of being ahead of the curve at the start of the day, I just wish I could do it more often.

The other benefit of my non-horizontal aspect this morning was that the lovely FMA got coffee and toast made for her and delivered to her in bed. This is one of her most favourite things in the whole world so she was a happy bunny indeed. We have quite different requirements from our coffee - see below:


Mine's the one on the right. It's probably a good thing that I'm not an insecure kinda guy. The Boy Wonder thinks it's hilarious.

NDC

* - Yes, I know this speaks volume about my age, but it's a turn of phrase I have loved for years. Just like "I have more chance of humping Madonna".

Friday, 10 February 2012

The Longest Post I Have Ever Written.

See what happens if you take your eye off the ball?

There I was, merrily watching the oddballs of London for entertainment purposes, and I go and get myself tagged by Dlae over at Midlife Rambler. A funny chap with a funny blog and definitely worth a read....

Anyhoo, the rules are as follows....

  • Post 11 random things about yourself.
  • Answer the 10 questions set by the person who tagged you.
  • Pick 10 people to tag.
  • Set 10 new questions.

The 11 random things seems to jar a bit, given the decimal nature of all the other points, but in a departure from my usual modus operandi Them's The Rules And I'm Sticking To 'Em.

11 Random Things About Me.
  1. I have no middle name. My parents always joke that I looked as though I'd have enough trouble remembering one name when I was born. At least I think they were joking.
  2. I have never seen The Shawshank Redemption all the way through.
  3. I can happily drink an espresso and then go straight to bed (and even sleep too, if necessary).
  4. I can juggle, but not very well.
  5. I have genuinely believed I was going to die, but it all worked out OK in the end.
  6. I still secretly think I'd be ace at poker, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  7. I am currently suffering with a cold that I've had for over a week. This is unheard of for me. I get about a gazillion colds per year, but they only last 1-2 days at most. It's The Law.
  8. The place I would most like to be right at this minute is sitting on a balcony in the sun, reading a book and occasionally having a slurp of gin and lemon fanta.
  9. I'm quite accurate with a shotgun.
  10. Faced with a choice between Beluga Caviar and a bacon sandwich with tomato sauce, it'd be the butty all the way.
  11. I have been in sole charge of a vehicle doing more than 170mph. It was less scary than you might have thought.
And now, questions set by Dlae:
  1. Favourite alcoholic beverage? - I guess it'd have to be a nice glass of red. I like Malbec hugely.
  2. Technical gadget you can't live without? - Dead easy, this one - without a doubt my iPhone. It's with me pretty well all the time and has my whole life on it.
  3. Favourite movie you like and everyone else hates? - Probably Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead. I've not seen it for ages, but I kinda get the feeling I was in the minority for thinking it was worth 115 minutes of your life.
  4. Coffee with one person, who would it be? - Probably David Beckham. I think he's had one hell of a life but seems to have remained relatively normal. I suspect he's a fair bit brighter than the persona he shows to the world too.
  5. Quote that you find inspiring or funny? - Fall down seven times, get up eight. I think it's some old piece of oriental wisdom, but it could just as easily be from some 80's teen-flick. Although my Gran had a great quote that she used whenever pressed on whether or not she'd ever remarry. "I wouldn't have another one if his arse was stuffed with diamonds." Quite a mental image for the 15 year old me.
  6. Porn - scourge of society, OK in the right doses or just can't get enough? - Well, I'm a bloke, so the second one obviously.
  7. Worst job you ever had? - Washing up in a restaurant as a teenager. I knew it was time to leave after I ate the chef's dinner by mistake. He looked very cross and had access to large, sharp knives.
  8. E-reader or actual book? - Absolutely Kindle all the way. I am hooked.
  9. Why do you blog? - It kinda started out as a diary but has changed into a diary/soapbox/social tool/therapist/mate-in-pub/ranting-at-strangers sort of thing. The truth is, I'm really not too sure myself, but I enjoy it so why not?
  10. Biggest guilty pleasure? - I don't really do anything that I actually feel guilty about, so I'm not really sure what to put here. That's not to say I don't have a propensity to do things that other people may find odd, but I just don't feel guilty about them. I think I suffer from Social Filter Suppression Syndrome. Let's just say I quite like to put a tea-cosy on my head from time to time. Lovely.
So, now I need to pass this tag on - the lucky winners are:

Auntie Gwen
Libby
Nota Bene
Curry Queen
Scarlet Blue
About Last Weekend
Colonel Knowledge
O. Bliss
Sian
Laura

The more eagle eyed amongst you will note that pretty well sums up everyone on the list of bloggers that I know except Dlae (originator of the list) and TTT (already tagged by Dlae). I think the Japanese refer to that as a 'harmonious alignment'.

And (Finally!) my 10 questions for my tagees*:

  1. What personal possession would you save from the house if it were to inexplicably catch fire?
  2. If you won £45m on the lottery, what would be the very first thing you bought?
  3. What has been the best moment of the last 12 months?
  4. And the worst?
  5. Who was your childhood hero?
  6. If you found a twenty pound note in the street, would you keep it or hand it in?
  7. What's your favourite TV show ever?
  8. What's the most you've ever lost in a bet?
  9. How did you get to work today?
  10. If you could be the best in the world at one sport, what would it be?

Have fun!

NDC

* - Why yes, of course it's a real word.