Tuesday, 30 October 2007

My possessions are causing me suspicion


That's quite a disturbing noise, isn't it, dear reader?

For those of you unable to pinpoint it, it's the sound of a domestic central heating system experiencing quite a lot of distress. More to the point, it was the sound of my central heating system shuffling off this mortal coil at about 5.00 this morning.

I'm really a little particular about this "being warm" thing, especially as we rush headlong towards a British winter. Call me a pansy if you will, but I prefer my radiators to, well, radiate. So a quick call to British Gas was in order. The lovely Geoff gave me the options. I could pay a huge amount of money for someone to come out, breathe sharply through their teeth, replace the bits that were on the fritz and leave, never to darken my door again. Or they'd fix it and any future problems for free if I signed up for a service plan there and then, for an (ahem) modest monthly outlay.

He then went through even more options. I'm not sure what you get for the most expensive one, but for that monthly payment I'd expect not just central heating cover, but a life coach, dancing classes, French lessons and some "special extras". So I went for the cheapest option and the gas man cometh tomorrow. I'm such a sucker for a Yorkshire accent.

Apparently, the coldest place on Earth is the Antarctic Plateau. However, chez fatboyfat was running it close when I got home this evening. The electric fire was therefore pressed into service. In normal times we don't use this - it chucks out a whole load of therms but the extra demand apparently causes blackouts across the Home Counties. It's been ages since we last used it - so the burning dust now makes the place smell like we've been barbecuing the cat. And what's that noise? Oh. That'll be the smoke alarm, then.

In unrelated news, Sky have written to me today - twice - to tell me about the planned delivery date for the Sky+ box that I've ordered. And already had installed. Last week, in fact. If they're that confused, perhaps I can just pretend to pay them.

Severn Trent Water have written to tell me the planned mains water cut-off for maintenance in the area will not, as previously informed, run from midnight on 5th November to 6.00am on 6th October. That's a shame, as I was curious to see how a public utility would manage that whole "going back in time" thing.

Why can't some of this crap happen next month, when I'll need to have things to write about?

Did I mention I was ill? Ill, I tell you! I think I was laid low by a rogue tortilla at a lunchtime buffet. Katie is neither help nor comfort:

Me: I'm sorry, I must sound like an old bastard.
Katie: You are an old bastard.

I swear, it's like the Seventh Circle of Hades here sometimes, only without the witty banter.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

It's all going to be my fault

Today, brother no 1 and his fiancee go down to Gatwick. Tomorrow they're flying to Las Vegas. And on Bonfire Night, 5th November, they're getting themselves well and truly hitched out there.

This is a good thing.

They've decided on doing it this way because neither of them want the "big wedding thing" which seems to be the fashion these days. This way, they get to do the deed, have their honeymoon at the same time, and not have the stage-management that goes with a full wedding ceremony.

This, also, is a good thing.

My parents are not up to the flight physically. Much as we'd like to, Katie and me, we can't make it either. But it means they don't have a huge entourage to deal with whilst they're out there. There will be a party on their return to these shores, but it's just a party with almost none of the wedding-y overtones.

This, and I can't even begin to quantify the extent, is bloody marvellous.

But. And however. This is the 21st century, and the chapel gives couples the option of having their wedding broadcast live over the Internet. An option that my brother has taken. What this means is that my parents now want to watch the ceremony.

This is not a good thing.

My parents are used to TV. Full colour, high(ish) definition TV. That doesn't stutter, skip or cut out unexpectedly. That doesn't pixellate. And, most importantly, comes to you 28 inches wide. And that's what they're going to expect, when I log in using this very same laptop, come the 5th. Windows Media Player is just a random jumble of words, as far as they're concerned.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

Friday, 26 October 2007

Can I keep it up? You decide.


Bless you. I know, I felt the same when I first saw that rather random selection of letters. But there is some sense there. It stands for National Blog Posting Month. The basic idea is that for the month of November you commit to write and publish one blog posting. Every single day. Without fail.

Sounds simple, doesn't it? But bear in mind that since I started this, I have written:
  • June - 2 posts
  • July - 15 posts
  • August - 12 posts
  • September - 16 posts
  • October - 13 posts (so far).
So the thing is, I don't know if I want to commit to this. I think it might be a good discipline, having to think of something every day to write about. I did worry that the quality levels might fall. But then I looked back at the stuff I'd posted beforehand, and realised I was in quite a low place to begin with. And I don't mean the Dead Sea.

I tend to write and post in the evenings. And I know already that there are some evenings coming up in November when sitting on my sofa with an overheating laptop is the last thing I'm going to be able to do. So how I would be able to do this, I don't know. Especially as my boss reads this, so any posts with a time stamp that corresponds to "you should be doing some work right now you cheeky get", might cause some dodgy moments.


It might be fun to try. Imagine having to think something up every day and write something meaningful about it.

It'll be a challenge. I'm not doing the sponsored weight loss thing any more. Perhaps I need something else to concentrate the mind?

It'll give you, dear reader, a reason to come back here every day. Don't worry if today's post is crap - tomorrow's might be pure gold. Well, we live in hope.

But most importantly. I might win some jam.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

What bit of "no" don't you understand?

///RING///RING///RING///RI ...click


"Hello, is that Mr S*****?"

"Yes, it is, who's calling?"

"My name is Baobab McAntelope and I'm calling from VirginMedia."

"Oh yes?"

"You have your landline and broadband internet with us, and..."

"Yes I do. Do you mind me asking what you're calling about?"

"It's OK, Mr S*****, there's nothing wrong with your account. It's just that I noticed you'd registered this phone number with the Telephone Preference Service."

"That's right. I have. Because I've opted out of receiving telemarketing calls."

"Yes, I understand that, Mr S*****. I was just ringing you to check whether that applied to us. As your internet service and telecoms provider I thought you might like us to be able to call you with offers of interest."

"You don't understand the concept of "opting out", do you?"

"I'm sorry, Mr S*****?"

"I've decided I don't want to receive telemarketing calls. No calls. Not one. It doesn't matter that I've got stuff with you. It doesn't matter how good your stuff may or may not be. I don't care how well-designed your logo might be. It's not relevant if I sometimes harbour the desire to have carnal relations with the girl in your advert. I. Do. Not. Want. To. Receive. Your. Calls."

"Shall we put you down as "Do not contact," then, Mr S*****?"

"That'd be peachy."


Thursday, 18 October 2007

Well, apparently, you can get better

To: the Head Guy, Kwik-Fit, Tyre Fitter House (or whatever), Scotland.

Hello. I remember your adverts in the eighties. "You can't get better than a Kwik-Fit fitter." What a tag line. I have indeed spent many happy hours in your workshops around the Birmingham area since I started along the path of car ownership at the age of 19.

I particularly remember a beige 1978 Mk 2 Ford Escort that passed through my eager hands. To say it was in the Autumn of its years would be enthusiastic. It would be more accurate to put it in the late Winter - possibly about two minutes to midnight on 31st December. Due to the attention of the Kwik-Fit fitters (allied to my simultaneous discovery of the credit card) it managed to bump and scrape itself around the Midlands for much longer than even Henry Ford himself would have thought possible.

Anyway, I'm rambling. Clearly, you're a busy man, with all these workshops around the country to look after. And those staff of yours with....whisper it....supernatural powers.

Yes. Odd isn't it? I would have thought that prerequisites for being a tyre fitter would include some knowledge of mechanics, automotive engineering, the MOT rules and suchlike. I never guessed that second sight was one of the criteria also. But how wrong can I be? Indeed, it seems that your Sheldon branch has a particularly gifted team member.

I'm no longer driving around in bits of rust connected by dralon. My current car is company-provided, which means that it actually gets serviced regularly - the Escort used to get a wipe down with a damp cloth whenever I remembered. When the good people at Avonvale Honda gave my current car the 37,500 mile lookover last week, they returned it back to me with a clean bill of health apart from the following on the jobsheet:
  • All tyres low on tread
  • Back two tyres illegal
Now, forgive me but I'm no expert. But my limited understanding of these matters leads me to believe that tyres are a pretty integral part of the whole "staying on the road and out of the scenery" thing. The chaps at Honda don't do tyres, so I popped into your Sheldon branch on my way home that very day. And met your chap. The Tyre Sage, we'll call him.

I say he must be a Sage, as he was able to determine the state of my tyres without doing anything more than looking at the car from a standing position. "Nah, mate, you don't need these changin' yet. You've got a good 1,000 miles on the front ones." Amazing stuff. And so accurate, too. "And the back ones - they're fine - they'll last you ages."

"So I shouldn't worry, then?"
"No, you'll be fine," quoth the Sage.
"It's just that, well, illegal is rather an ugly word, don't you think?"
"Nah, you're OK. Tell you what, pop back in a month or so and I'll have another look at those fronts," he said over his rapidly departing shoulder as he sashayed back to the meditation session from which I'd distracted him.

How selfless of him. I mean, I was offering best part of £500 worth of new tyre business to him on a plate, and there he was turning it down. Most charitable. Like the Mother Theresa of auto factoring, if you like. All with the ability to sense the complete state of my tyres from long distance. That's truly uncanny.

There is a sad end to this story, Mr Kwik-Fit. I weakened and got nervous. I called in ATS mobile fitters today. And it's odd, because something really weird must have happened in the six days since I met your Sage. Because today I needed a full set - four of Monsieur Michelin's finest. My fronts were indeed low. And my rear tyres were, apparently, bald as a baby's backside on the inner shoulders. Illegally so, by all accounts.

I am sure that with your Sage looking after my best interests, I was in fact perfectly safe from the £300-per-corner fine I would otherwise have risked for driving on what were essentially racing slicks. I'm convinced that there was no chance of a car/tree meeting on a damp corner. I must just be a wuss.

And now your competitors have gotten some business out of my cowardice. I am no Sage. Clearly I am not worthy.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Can I have one called Bernard, please?

Today was the day when one of the TV channels on my satellite tuner changed name. In all honesty, this isn't normally anything worth writing about - typically when this happens they change from one garbled set of initials to another garbled set of initials.

"Welcome to UKGM-Food Plus1, the new home of TVUK-Cooking".

However, on this occasion things are somewhat different, as one of the UKTV channels has rebranded itself as:


If you don't believe me, look here. They've done this on the basis that "everyone knows someone called Dave."

Well, yes they do, I suppose. But I suspect that my cousin Dave doesn't transmit a range of comedy and panel shows.

I'm not sure whether this is the work of a genius or a maniac. But wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall when he pitched the idea to the channel bosses?

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Swing Low, Swee...oh, you can guess the rest

This is officially getting silly now.

As an Englishman, I have been predisposed to believe a number of things as I have grown up:
  • A nice cup of tea, with a digestive biscuit, has a lot going for it;
  • Irony and sarcasm are as necessary for one's day-to-day existence as oxygen and water;
  • People are going to personally dislike you for something involving battlecruisers, manacles and/or redcoats that happened between fifty and four hundred years ago; and
  • Your national sporting teams are going to be a source of constant frustration.
Normally, in my book, those who use the term, "a whole new paradigm" deserve to spend the rest of their days living in a sort of Management-Speak Hades, where there is a constant stream of Blue Sky Workshops, Mission Envisioning Matrices and other such things.

But it's true. England being successful in sporting events is a whole new paradigm. And yesterday, we saw the English team winning through to the finals of the Rugby World Cup.

Google Analytics tells me that I have visitors from all over the world, including a whole bunch of folks who are, let's face it, probably not Rugby Union followers. To you all I say: I'm sorry. Bet you wish I was still doing the weightloss posts now, don't you?

Don't worry, I'm not turning into a sports fan. These are just strange days. Normal service will be resumed after the final, next weekend, when England meet up with the mighty Springboks.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

By the Rivers of Ossetia

It was one of those headlines that you think must be a spoof. Or a hoax. (To be honest, I've always had difficulty remembering the difference, a bit like "imply" and "infer". But I'm digressing here).

Anyway. It was this that made me sit up and take notice:

"Georgia has drafted in 1970s disco icons Boney M in its battle to regain control over the tiny separatist region of South Ossetia.

I had visions of the oddly-coiffured Euro-disco combo taking up the RPGs and going toe-to-toe with separatist rebels. I could see "Ma Baker" being touted as the next Georgian anthem.

Who next, I wondered?

Would we see Shalimar being brought in to aid the peace talks on the Korean peninsular, moonwalking across the DMZ?

Is there a place for Billy Ray Cyrus in the Middle East Peace Process?

Closer to home, what can Chas and Dave do for disaffected Muslim youth in our inner cities?

Bono? Radiohead? Coldplay? Pah. Part-timers, the lot of you.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Careering out of control

"So," my boss asked me, "would you prefer to be a writer or a stand-up comedian?"

It's probably useful if I state at this point that this wasn't an official performance appraisal conversation. I was in the middle of my Thai fishcake, after all. But nevertheless I still gave the response some serious thought.

"I like the instant gratification that a comedian gets from an audience. That's very appealing. But on the other hand, writing is something you can do whilst sitting down with a nice cup of tea."

You can see why my school careers advisor despaired of me.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Happy Happy Joy

Ah, yes. Yesterday was one of those days when a lot happened. So I've split it up into two posts. Read the one before, if you haven't already, or else this will make no sense at all. Even less than normal, in fact.

After a few moments spent hyperventilating after the match, it was then on to Leamington. I like Leamington (or Royal Leamington Spa to give it the full name) very much. We stopped in a hotel called The Angel, and had a quick drink in a pub called The Sausage. There are probably not too many towns on the planet where you can say that.

Then to the reception in the evening. Fay is someone I worked with until she went off to work for another company several years ago. We did some great things in the team we were in - things I'm still proud of now. And although the team has now essentially split up, we still kept in touch.

Any evening when an attractive young woman calls out to you, "Wow, you're looking absolutely amazing!" has a lot of potential, in my book. However, Katie was at my side, and the person doing the shouting was the bride. So scratch that thought right away. (Plus, she told me she and her now-husband now read this. Erm. Hello.) She hadn't seen me for about 18 months, so I guess I must have been carrying a fair amount of extra avoirdupois back then. I mean, I'm domestic-animal size now, back then I must have been able to shift the planet out of orbit.

Fay has been waiting best part of ten years to get married. So she was excited. No, that's not the right word. Think "Monica-out-of-friends-getting-married-excited." Nope. That's not enough, either. Think "bouncing-around-like-Tigger-in-a-wedding-frock."

Oh, bugger it. Words won't do. Try this:

I should make a point here. In this photo, Fay is not standing in a hole. Neither are the two chaps particularly tall. She really is that size. We used to refer to her as the Bonsai.

In fact, there can't be very many weddings where stepladders are amongst the presents:

This came from one of us, her ex-colleagues. Nothing like a subtle sense of humour, is there?

It was a great evening. In fact, it was one of those you look back on and reflect, "Wasn't that a great evening?" There was a whole bunch of us there from the old team. We talked, we laughed, we danced, we drank. Fay and Dave were deliriously happy. And it was contagious.

Swing Low Sweet Chariot...again

Read the first sentence of my previous post. Then multiply by several hundred. I am, to use the current vernacular, seriously knackered. Although perhaps that should be "Cameroned".

It's not enough that Friday's Not a Stag Night involved low-grade chappy hedonism. Yesterday we were to travel to Leamington for a friend's wedding reception.

The original plan was that we would get up early enough to drive to Leamington - about an hour away - check into the hotel and find somewhere to watch England get heroically beaten by odds-on favourites Australia in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup. Some light shopping (that was Katie's contribution) then onto the reception. Drinks, dancing, food. Carriages at 1.00am.

The actual plan was that I looked at my clock at about 11 in the morning and said "Sod it." We watched the rugby at home instead. And lo, a miracle came to pass.

I am not one to crow about sporting achievements. But I'd love to say hi to the Chief Exec of the Australian Rugby Football Union, John O'Neill - the man who expressed these following poetic views only last week:

Everyone hates England. It’s a statement of the bleeding obvious...this is all a byproduct of their born-to-rule mentality. It’s been there for a long time and nothing has changed.

That invite to the Diplomatic Corps is waiting, John.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Park Life it wasn't

It's getting to the point where I'm looking forwards to the working week so I can have a bit of a rest. Maybe it's an age thing.

Friday night found me at Hall Green Greyhound Stadium. It was brother no. 1's Not-A-Stag-Night. You will recall that I helped him move house earlier this year. And I'm sure you'll be delighted to learn that he's still not a member of the Witness Protection Programme.

Anyway. He gets married next month in Las Vegas at the Little Chapel of Something or Other. Unfortunately, much as we'd love to, this side of a lottery win we can't spring to join them there. This is by design, too. I suspect that neither he nor his fiancee want a big family wedding with all the trimmings. And as part of this, he was definitely Not Having a Stag Night on Friday. No sir.

So a whole bunch of blokes of a certain age went to the greyhound stadium, drank way too much Guinness and talked bollocks about betting on greyhounds. Apparently, there is something called an all-ways trio bet. To the initiated, it is the Holy Grail. It's like your own personal ATM. It worked for bro. no. 1 - £110 back for a £3 bet was a result. For me it was like the RSPCA - I was just giving money to sick animals all evening.

The evening ended with us all chez brother no.1, eating Chinese food, drinking whisky (actually, whiskey - it was Jamiesons, I think) talking about football and listening to suitably blokey music. I believe that the band Squeeze were put on this planet for this exact purpose.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Growing up square-eyed

Munching through my WheetyBangs this morning, I was getting my one shot of caffeine into my system whilst trying to focus on a story on the breakfast news.

The unforgettable Floella Benjamin was being interviewed, along with some other worthies, about the apparently parlous state of children's TV.

(And, by the way - a quick search on Wikipedia tells us the aforementioned Ms B was born in 1949. No. Fricken. Way.)

Anyway. Apparently, people are getting all steamed up about the fact that British kids these days see too much imported (mainly American) programmes and cartoons. There are fewer British programmes, by all accounts. And this could lead to all sorts of problems.

There was a golden age of programming in the seventies, goes the logic, where we all watched finely-crafted shows made in the UK that showcased homegrown talent and yet helped us to develop into younger adults, fully aware of our national identities.

I remember it well. In fact - I can recount from memory the opening lines of my favourite show. It made me the man I am today:

"Who is this Superhero?"



"Rosemary, the telephone operator?"


"Penry, the mild mannered janitor?"

"Could be..."

"Hong Kong Phooey, number one super guy."
"Hong Kong Phooey, quicker than the human eye."

"He's got style, a groovy style,
and a car that just won't stop."
"When the going gets rough, he's super tough,
with a Hong Kong Phooey chop."


Monday, 1 October 2007

Thirteen weeks in

Cast your mind back, if you will, to the last weight update.

I weighed in at 16 stone 5 pounds - probably the lightest I've been since Madonna actually was Like a Virgin. A great achievement, but, it has to be said, it was before we went on holiday for a week.

In fact, three hours since that picture of my feet was taken, they were waiting in line at the Burger King at Cardiff Services for a smoked bacon and cheddar Angus.

It's a tradition. And I'm a creature of tradition. This is how Henry VIII got started, by all accounts.

And the rest of the week wasn't exactly something the nutritionists would be getting all warm and moist about, either. OK, there were some great walks amongst some fantastic scenery. But the in-between. Oh, the in-between.

182 calories
in a pint of ale, apparently. I know, I thought calories in liquid wouldn't count.

Is this where my train comes off the rails?

Is this my Waterloo?

Is this where it all goes base-over-apex?

Thirteen weeks, three months, several hundred people wanting to know the results. No pressure, then.

So, with a certain degree of nerves, I stood on the Scales of Destiny this very morning.

And, lo:

I know. It's bloody marvellous. And, I have to say, completely unexpected. Never have I been so relieved to see some numbers. If it wasn't for the fact that my feet had just occupied that space, I'd have actually kissed the scales.

That's the equivalent weight to:
  • Five two-litre bottles of Pepsi, or
  • Eight full bottles of wine, or
  • 22 pound-sized bags of sugar, funnily enough
And I don't have to carry it around with me any longer. That's the point - the "any longer" bit. I will be continuing and seeing where I end up. I even bought some 38-inch waist jeans the other day - I never thought that would happen.

But now I don't have to do this to a stopwatch. I can write here about things other than weekly weigh-ins. I can do this just for me.


Related Posts with Thumbnails