Monday, 31 October 2011

Monday. Brilliant.

If Monday isn't my favourite day of the week, it makes my top seven. Just.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

And it's all gone quiet over there

Hmmm. I fear I spoke too soon. Or rather I fear I wrote too soon. While I am keen to write and be critiqued (criticised?), it's still too early to be sharing anything I've written with the wider, unsuspecting world.

I have therefore started up a separate blog and have told nobody of its location. Essentially it is a notebook for me; I never remember to carry one of the various notebooks I have purchased or been given over the years yet I always have my Blackberry with me. Therefore, if I suddenly think of something while on the move, I can send an email to my blog (as I am doing now) and the notes will be added automatically, ready for the next time I manage to log in on a PC*. It's proved quite useful so far and yesterday I self-diagnosed (well, I provided the symptoms, the diagnosis was performed by someone far better qualified) possible mild autism in myself. Mild autism. Not full autism if there is such a thing. Drizzle Man, if you like.

*not such an easy task since the IT Hamsters at my work have decided to block access to the Blogger website I use for the blog you are reading now.

So, all this to say that I won't be writing much of any significance here on a frequent basis until I am in a position to share something more weighty with the world. Ideally this will happen before the Internet is superseded but don't hold your breath. I will undoubtedly persevere with the random thoughts but very much doubt they will find much of a purpose.

Bear with me.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wintry showers in the North. Cold and dry in the South.

And in other news, Colonnel Gaddafi has been killed in Libya.

Can't help but think that the headline news was mistakenly copied and pasted in the wrong order for the newsreader on Absolute Radio this afternoon. Still, maybe they've got it right if the arctic temperatures we are expecting lead to numerous Scots and dirty northerners suffering mild colds, flu, death or manflu.

Reminds me of a French national news program I once saw which was so national-centric that in the running order, George Dubyah's re-election came fifth, directly after a story about a mysterious disease affecting vines in a small region of south-west France. Again, I have to agree with the editor (or whoever it is on news programs who works out what gets into the schedule and in which order) as a bottle of Bordeaux is far more important than any lasting impact junior Bush will leave on the world.

Now this seems to be turning into some sort of news review, I may as well carry on as I watch John Snow teach me about the day's happenings.

It's all been kicking off as the inhabitants of Dale Farm are tasered away from their illegal homes. I've done an extensive amount of research and Wikipedia reports that it was established in the 80s whereas the Dale Farm blog claims it was the early 90s. Either way, we're looking at 20 years minimum so it beggars the question, 'How long do you have to remain in one place before you can no longer class yourself as a traveller?'

Saturday, 15 October 2011

He said 'let there be water'. And two weeks later, there was water

Ohhh yeah!!! Qui est ton père?!

Today, I've actually accomplished something by way of manual labour and I feel like I could walk on water. Water from the newly gushing font in the bathroom which for the last two weeks has been dry and sorrowful, that is.

You may recall two weekends back when I had the most worrying of dilemmas; riverside pub or Homebase, as I had a basin flex to replace? Two, actually.

Well, only 14 days or three hundred and thirty odd hours later, visits to 14 individual DIY or plumbing stores, encounters with 14 acned teenagers posing as experts, with only three of them failing to hide their superious snarls, I have only gone and finished the job!

Hot on the heels of painting walls and mixing cement for a month in the summer of 1996, I now have my next DIY cap feather: Tap Flex Changer Extraordinaire.

Would you like to see my spanners?

So while I have a little time before the inevitable call comes in from Nick Knowles or close personal friend, Kirsty Alsop (I know someone who once met her) about my daytime-primetime-home-improvement TV show, I thought I'd impart some newly gained wisdom to save you the pain:

If you're dismantling a tap and then plan to remantle it, buy some of these.

You will not regret it.

Now I must leave as my work here as done. Also because Raj is coming round in an hour to talk about plastering so I've got to quickly dash to Homebase to buy a tiny pot of paint and a pencil. The pencil is to go behind my ear and the tiny pot of paint is so that I can accidentally drip a little in my hair and on my jeans; all to give the impression that I am some sort of DIY-expert who knows what plastering probably costs so that I won't be ripped off by Raj and chums. Cannot wait to spend an hour talking about and making out that I know about 'skimming', 'PVA' and a variety of other daunting words which I like the sound of but have no idea of their meaning.

This post would not have been possible without the invaluable input of the following stores (in order) and their teenage staff: Wickes, Homebase, Wickes (again), Homebase (again), B&Q, Screwfix, Screwfix (again), Plumb Centre, City Plumbing, Plumb Centre (again), City Plumbing Supplies, Bath and Plumbing Superstore, Screwfix (yes, again. I like it there, alright?), Homebase (again again).

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Cheap Shandy

I was right. I so often am. Most would disagree.

Others are wrong. They so often are. Most would disagree.

I was right this time though. A week ago I was riding the crest of the
page view wave. After the last post where I wondered whether I'd crack
the magical One Day Ton, I was astounded to do it again the following
day without posting a single thing.

Now, I'm not one for exclamation marks as I feel as though the reader
should be able to determine their interpretation of the words and
apply their own tone and understanding to what they are reading.
Exclamation marks are dictatorial, bordering on fascist, in their
demands for your brain to read the words in a certain way. I am one of
the brave few who rails against the unnecessary evil which is the
exclamation mark. Anyway, that sentence at the end of the last
paragraph could, I admit benefit from one. But do I now re-write it
with an excitable exclamation mark, delete this paragraph and continue
on worrying about people reading and thinking that I must be some sort
of run-of-the-mill idiot who brandishes willy-nilly an inverted 'i'
without the merest obvious hint of irony or apology? I'm not sure of
the way out of this paragraph now. I think I am going to abruptly end
it without any way, shape or form of grammar or punctuation and leave
people baffled as to where to go next and hope that they do not notice
what is at the end of

I was astounded to do it again the following day without posting a
single thing! This is incredible, thought I. For a little bit of
effort and a tiny 'please please please pay my blog some attention'
post on Facebook, the fruits of my labour were more than I could have
hoped. And that was just on Day 1. Day 2 was an almost-as-eager puppy
but then the market crashed. My page views dropped dramatically and
the high was gone as quickly as it came. But it's not the departed
highs which hurt; it's the devastating lows. One page view today. One.


But then the questions start messing with your mind:
- what am I supposed to write next?
- how do I know it will be interesting?
- will people tell their friends so that more people can feed my habit?

And that all leads to a paralysis which prevents any words finding
their way on to a screen.

So I've decided to buy a smock, quit my job and wear a beret. If I am
going to suffer from an inability to write, I've got to look the part.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Lessons in dealing with Customer Services: 1.0

Having spent most of my working life dealing with customers in one way
or another, I have always prided myself in my ability to construct a
balanced and objective stand point when discussing a contentious

Two weeks ago I was on the receiving end of someone placing a nice
sticker on my windscreen telling me my parking was fine. I was always
one to be pleased when earning certificates though have never been
asked to pay for one so was a little shocked to be told that this one
would cost me £110. Still, time moves on and I guess the economic
downturn means that I have to contribute towards the salary of the
fine gentleman who adjudged my parking to be fine. And, get this, in a
special early autumn offer, if I choose to pay for my fine parking
within 14 days, they have a 50% off sale so I can be the proud owner
of my parking fine for a mere £55. Bargain.

This morning I thought I would give the lovely people at Kingston
Council a call to thank them for this wonderful opportunity but also
to regretfully decline their kind offer as I felt that there are
others more worthy of having their parking recognised in such a way.

The Customer Services Gimp was most pleasant all the way through our
delightful conversation, explaining that I was fully deserving of my
Fine Parking Certificate. However, if I wanted to pursue my request
not to be the proud recipient then there was a process to follow so
that eventually I could speak with Big Chief Parking-Adjudicator for a
specific 15 minute slot in which I could lay claim to not having to
pay for my award.

Drawing on my years of dealing with customers, I succinctly and
objectively summarised the situation, the options and the way forward
before calling him a tosser and hanging up.

So now I am going to pay for my fine parking purely so I do not have
to speak to the same Customer Services Gimp again. One day I will
learn not to resort to ending frustrating conversations with
completely childish remarks purely because I am not winning the

And his mum smelled of poo.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Free beer!

Brilliant. Just what I needed; something else to get obsessed by.

It's only about 6 hours since I mentioned this blog to 111 of my
closest friends which makes 113 people who are aware of its existence.
Not that the other two aren't my closest friends; just that they don't
use or won't befriend me on Facebook.

Since then, I've got slightly obsessed with Page Views. I wish I
hadn't discovered that I can access the blog 'dashboard' on my phone.
That would have saved me a lot of time; not logging in every hour to
see how many people have read something I've written; being excited
when I see that 30 pages have been viewed in the last hour or
disappointed when there've been only a few views.

I can see this becoming addictive. So far, it's all 'wow, I wonder if
I'll get to 100 page views within 24 hours, that'd be amazing' but I
fear the downside. What happens when I get none in a day? Do I start
wearing blog patches to ween me off? Do I take up crack to lessen the
lows? Is this going to turn me into a druggie and a junkie? (You can
be both; my dad told me).

But then you can go even further into the stats. You can see how many
times each post has been viewed. Currently, more people have looked at
the mundane photo of an airport window than have read the lovely story
about my friend Paul.

I like to think that most of my friends are intelligent souls but it
seems that the majority would sooner look at a picture with pretty
colours than spend some time running their finger along the screen,
silently mouthing the words as they learn about my encounter with an
Irish legend.

Fair enough. It's a modern world with little time to spend reading
long-winded nothingness. Therefore, this post is a test. I shall
entitle it something provocative to see if I can entice you in. If
you've read this far then you'll understand the title is meaningless.
If you've not read this far then you are currently wondering what that
was all about. Or you're back at the airport photo.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

This is a man. This man is immense. And a close personal friend.

February, 2009. I'm in one of the finest pubs in the world, having a quiet pint watching Villa play someone I don't remember. That's not important.

The football finishes and next up is a Munster game so we decide to keep our seats in front of the big screen and watch the game.

Just before the game starts, some huge bloke walks in with his proportionately tiny missus and takes up position between us and the screen. Having paper-scissor-stoned it as to who was going to have to tell Huge Bloke to get out of the way, I found myself reaching up on tiptoes and knocking on the bricks he used in place of a shoulder. "Mate, would you mind? We can't see the screen." 

Preparing myself for some intimidating reply to which I would surely respond by offering him our seats and perhaps a pint for him and a fruit-based drink for his lady friend, he quietly responded with a "Sure, sorry about that" before squashing himself against the wall for the duration of the match.

At some point, my mate leans across to me: "I think that's Paul O'Connell [Munster and Ireland second row] and you've just asked him to get out of the way of watching his own team play." Shit. 

At the end of the game, I go up to O'Connell to apologize and he's very gracious in his reply. I ask if we can get a photo and he's ok with this and puts his arm round me. With the Blue Oyster Club music ringing in my ears, I return the compliment in what can only be described as a man-cuddle and my mate takes my phone to take a photo. Job done, I swap places with my mate and - slightly jealously, as I thought Paul liked me best - I take a photo of them embracing. 

Heading out into the cold air, we review the photos and discover that neither of us had actually pressed the camera button hard enough and neither of us had actually taken a photo. Nor had any proof of our meeting.

This is a mock-up of what the photo would probably have looked like. Paul is such a man-mountain that he makes the 6'2 man he is holding look like a mere child*. 

Anyway, from that moment on, he has become a close personal friend and we hold a mutual respect for each other. I watch him on TV and he goes on TV so that I can watch. We don't call, text or make any form of contact but I think that's best; we are holding on to that one moment we spent together and know that it cannot be repeated.

Paul O'Connell: close personal friend and hero.

*just so as I am not offending anyone, this is actually a photo of Paul and his son, Paddy. I'll take it down if you don't like it, Paul, but that would mean that you have to get in touch which would break our mutual unspoken promise. Your call.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

29 degrees. October 1st. Riverside pub or Homebase?

There are some people that do. There are some people that try. There are some people that don't.

No matter how hard I try to convince myself that I am a Try it's patently obvious that I am a Don't. Having partially dismantled the basin without flooding the bathroom I was beginning to convince myself that I am definitely a Try and nearly a Do. 

Seeing that I needed to remove another part of the basin before accomplishing the high end, professional DIY task of replacing the hot-water-in pipe (forgive me if I am losing you in the technicalities) I quickly identified that the millions of tools I have are not fit for the job. Suddenly I was afraid that I was slipping from my lofty Do/Try perch and set off for Homebase for a tool (Do) or, at worst, some advice (Try).

Cleverly forgetting that it's a Saturday and that means Homebase is staffed by acned teenagers killing time and trying to earn enough to fund their bus-stop-WKD habits, I could see Don't status fast approaching. 

Couldn't find a suitable tool. Couldn't find somebody old enough to shave to ask for advice. I Don't.

However, this shouldn't cause a problem. So long as summer 2011 doesn't end before summer 2012 then I have calculated that I will have no need for hot water. Ever again. And with that, I am off to a riverside pub which proves I Do, after all.

Testing testing one two three

---insert title here---

I'm still trying to get to grips with this blogging game. The reason I started was because I want to write. I think ultimately I want to write a comic novel (an amusing book, not a feature length Beano) or perhaps an oscar-winning feature film with John Merrick playing me in the lead role. But is that reason enough to start a blog?

Will it prove cathartic or will the repetitive attempts at writing allow me to improve my prose? I was inspired to start the blog by someone who has a very specific reason for writing a blog and therefore does not need to search for a subject each time.

I can't write every blog about writing a blog and searching for a topic so I am going to narrow it down to a field I can concentrate on. Not sure what though. I thought, 'I know, I'll ask people to suggest topics for my blog, that will save me some effort' until it dawned on me that nobody is reading this. Then I thought I'd blog asking for information on how to get people to read this but was quick to realize that that is a chicken and egg situation.

So for now I will leave it here and go off in search of people to read these ramblings. I will report back with my efforts.