Thursday 31 January 2008

Driver announcement

On the way home on the tube tonight we suddenly came to a juddering halt just outside Bermondsey. This in itself is not unusual. Bermondsey for some reason seems a place of frequent delay (I've no idea why, I never see anyone getting on or off there!).

Eventually we moved into the station, where we had another long delay (so annoying when you are so nearly home). Eventually the driver came over the PA system.

"Sorry for the delay. This was caused by somebody deciding to pull the passenger alarm..." (pause) "...presumably to see what it does. It stops the train... and causes a delay."

I think maybe the driver had finished a long day and was on his way home (just like me). He certainly sounded tired!

Wednesday 30 January 2008

Meetings make minutes...

...and waste hours. I don't know who said that, but days like today I feel it could not be more true!

The day pretty much started with a meeting (although having gotten into work extra early I found a few hours for knocking things off my to do list first). The first meeting went on until nearly lunch time, and then the next meeting started straight after lunch. The only saving grace was that both meetings were in my own office so at least I didn't have to travel. Even so, it's no wonder I never get anything done!

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Danger overhead!

As I was walking back to my office at lunchtime after a brief stroll to the bank I walked past a construction site. Not unusual in London. The outside of the building was clad in scaffolding, some of which was being struck (taken down). What concerned me was the manner in which this was happening. There was a flat bed truck parked in the street. In the back of the truck was an operative (without a hard hat) and on the scaffold was another operative (also without a hard hat). They were taking down scaffold poles and putting them in the truck. The method by which they were doing this. The guy on the scaffold was dropping these poles (steel or similar about 6ft long) and the guy in the truck was catching them. Again, no hard hats, no gloves. I just had to stop and stare... and wonder why?!

Monday 28 January 2008

It's all rubbish...

Despite many and varied complaints regarding the new waste collection arrangements in the Borough of Greenwich my journey to work this morning was hampered (as is usual for a Monday) by the refuse cart performing a rolling roadblock down Charlton Church Lane.

The new arrangements are beginning to fall into place, it would seem. The long awaited compost/caddy bags were finally delivered last week (although apparently abandoned in the porch rather than actually 'delivered'). Our food rubbish was collected (eventually) last Thursday (sometime after 5pm) and other bloggers in the area have also seen their rubbish collected.

Regarding the new 'green waste' arrangements, apart from the need to rinse out containers which previously we would have thrown away (which being washing up falls into Rich's domain rather than mine!) I've not noticed a great deal of difference... apart from the fact that when we've previously tried compost caddies they've only ever lasted a few weeks and this time it needs to stick!

Sunday 27 January 2008

Sunday, freezing Sunday

Everyday is freezing in our house. The boiler is still broken. There is still no central heating and still not hot water. The wireless internet and I are sitting on the landing waiting for kettles to boil in order to fill the bath tub with hot water. Question: how many times do you need to boil a 1.7 litre kettle to take a bath. Answer: too many!

Here's another interesting fact. Boiling two kettles and heating a steam iron off the same extension lead, bad idea. Blows the fuse in the extension lead. This proves the veracity of the concerns of the Portable Appliance testing man who came to our office last year, and expressed concern that the toaster, kettle and microwave all came from the same extension point. I had to put up a 'public service' notice warning people to have only one of the listed appliances plugged in at any one time.

The two kettles prove an interesting point. One belonged to my nearly-mother-in-law, reasonably expensive, flat element, 'fast boil'. The other belonged to us, exposed element and cost £9.99. Proof that you get what you pay for as the flat element kettle is about 50% faster. We've been able to donate our second kettle to the bathroom cause. We have had the hot water heater in the kitchen replaced. In a very old fashioned manner our kitchen has no hot tap, but an electric heater on the wall which heats water. This was probably as old as the defunct boiler (and our gas cooker) and broke down a few years back. Initially we weren't sure if you could even replace such an appliance; and then we found out that you could... well it just never happened. Our plumber (who is possibly the best plumber in the world) came on Friday (several days early) and fitted it. And gave Rich a crash course in basic maintenance (even though it would have paid him not to, so we'd have to call him out). The man is a gem. He's even in my address book. I've recommended him to all my friends and family who live nearby!

I also popped into the garden for a little post-winter maintenance. Pulled the netting on the fish pond out of the water (I even saw Jaws and some of his little friends lurking about). Picked up all the bits on the patio that had fallen over and untangled the beaded curtain on the door (which after about three years definitely needs replacing).

Oh, and I ironed all the clothes that were clean - ready for another week. The only problem is that the clothes that aren't clean can't be washed until the boiler is fixed as there is nowhere in this ice-box that is our house to dry them. C'est la vie. If I run out of shirts I'll just do what I do when I can't be bothered to iron... pop out and buy some more!

Saturday 26 January 2008

Sims Castaway

I have spent most of the day today tucked up in bed (keeping warm) and playing Sims 2 Castaway on the PS2. For anyone who is a fan of the Sims this is a great game. I first met Sim City many years ago on the PC and progressed through various versions of the Sims on various platforms.

This is much better than previous versions, not so much opportunity for interior design, but the Sims themselves, being stranded on a desert island, don't go out to work (and vanish for half the day) and they seemn to need much less sleep too. This means there is more time to actually interact with game. All good.

The whole 'castaway' theme is great fun too. Finding treasure, salvaging stuff, building huts and making clothes... and making friends with the monkeys!

Completely addictive, but highly recommended!

Friday 25 January 2008

Finally Friday

After a very busy week I am particularly glad that it is finally Friday, and therefore nearly the weekend.

I had a short day in the office today as I had to be home in time for the nurse to visit. Today she taught me to use the auto-inject so that I can increase my choice of injection sites to include my arms. This is very necessary as my skin as been really irritated since I started the new treatments. Hopefully the auto-inject will help me get it 'just right' and my skin will calm down a bit!

Thursday 24 January 2008

You can't go further east...

...without falling into the North sea. Yesterday I took a 260 mile round trip (four hours each way) to Lowestoft. A trip partly round the M25 and up the A12. It would be better if the A12 didn't turn into a B-road equivalent after Ipswich which necessitates driving at 30 miles and hour through various villages!

I do wish that I had digital radio in my car. I like to listen to 'talk' radio whilst driving and that is usually BBC Radio London... until one gets out of range. I then had to do with Radio 4 for the rest of the day. Radio 4 isn't quite my cup of tea... I'd much rather listen to phone-ins than discussions about plate tectonics, political commentary, serialised books, plays, and of course - the Archers!

I go home to find that internet grocery shopping had reached new lows. The 2-4pm time slot had already been exceeded by 40 minutes. Eventually they turned up at 7:45pm. Failing to meet even their own low standards!

Wednesday 23 January 2008

Miracles of modern technology

Today I was working from home. A hospital appointment late morning, combined with a queue of over an hour for blood tests made it impractical to go into the office. However, I discovered (to my frustration) I was without one thing in my little home office I really needed. A printer. There is a printer downstairs which my laptop is supposed to connect - but last time I tried it took an age and forever to not print a single page... I didn't want to experiment with multiple pages!!! So. I whipped out to PC World to buy the cheapest available printer which needed the cheapest available ink. I really fancied a wireless printer, but they were all a bit more than I wanted to spend. I brought home a compact little HP (to match the scanner). All installed without a hitch, and printing was finally mine! This meant I could print of the document I needed to edit. Mark it up, and send it back via a colour scan. Just as good as being in the office!

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Strange advertising

I saw this advert on the back of a bus stop near my house this morning. It is advertising cut price bus fares for people on income support. On the left hand side at the bottom is the logo of the Mayor of London. Fair enough. On the right hand side is the logo for Transport for London. Fair enough again. In the middle is the logo for the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela. Why?!

Monday 21 January 2008


Last night it was time for the Conference Championships. First up (and disappointing for me as it was already a late game) were the Chargers taking on the Patriots. As one of the pundits said in a game break, the good thing about dynasties is that people love them or hate them. Too true. I hate New England, for no good reason other than their resounding successes. I really hoped San Diego might have another shock and win through, it wasn't to be though. I didn't even make it to the end of that game, so I had no hope of being awake come the late night match-up of the Giants at Green Bay. On the road again. They call Dallas "America's Team" I reckon they should call the Giant's "America's Road Team".

Rich thoughtfully taped the last two and a half minutes for me again. It was quite exciting (and scary) to see the score tied at 20 apiece. The Giants have the ball and the clock is running down. There is only one thing for it, a 36 yard field goal attempt. Rich tells me that Tynes has already missed one tonight. The snap is high, and you can tell immediately that it will be no good. Here we go to overtime.

The Giants get to make the call. Tails is called, heads it is. Tynes kicks the ball down the field and Green Bay have the ball. In my head I'm writing a script, Green Bay throw an interception and the Giants run the ball in for a touch down. First and ten on the 26, a gain of two yards, second and eight... then the unbelievable happens. They've been reading my script! The Packers throw an interception! Sadly the Giants haven't been reading the same script as they don't run it in for a touchdown. First and ten, second and six, third and five... time for a field goal attempt. I can hardly bear to look at the screen. The 47 yard field goal attempt looks to be a very, very long way. Can Tynes make it when he missed the last at only 36 yards? The ball sails through the air, and appears to go through the posts. I hold of my celebration, waiting to see the two umpires make their signal. They raise their arms, the kick is good!!! Giants win, Giants win!

Conference Champions... all the way on the road. And we're the official road team in the Superbowl... I take that as a good omen. To quote Warren Beattie in 'Heaven Can Wait' - "I think we're going to the Superbowl, and I think we're going to win".

Sunday 20 January 2008

Victorian bathtime

So. What do you do when the boiler breaks down and you have no heating or hot water? Apart from wearing as many layers as you can find and sleeping under two duvets (to be fair, I do that anyway), more importantly- how to bathe?

Option 1 - make like a man and take a cold shower (yep, my other half actually did that!)
Option 2 - make like a girl (and the Victorians) and fill the tub with boiled water. I think maybe it was easier using a tin bath in front of a fire, but using two kettles in a freezing bathroom was an exercise in futility and frustration!

Of course, anything that can't be tumble dried also can't be washed as trying to heat a Victorian house (oh, those high ceilings) with only a few convection heaters and a gas fire doesn't really work, and wet laundry would never dry. How on earth did anyone ever get anything done before boilers and radiators?!

Saturday 19 January 2008

Boiler blues

The man from British Gas came this morning to see our boiler. After he got over his shock at the sheer age of the boiler he got down to seeing what was wrong with it. He turned it on and off a bit and it made alarming noises. Faulty pump. Probably going to need replacing he told us. He went to have a look at the hot water tank. Ancient valve he told us. Probably going to need replacing. Might get away with a few months still. Then he went outside to have a look at the flue. He held up his little meter to it and it started beeping madly. Oh dear. He went back inside to the boiler. Ah. The boiler had gone out, maybe that is why the reading was so high? It does that sometimes, we told him. He lit the boiler (again) and went back outside to check the reading again. Nope. Still beeping. Have to turn off the boiler, he told us. Have to disconnect the boiler, he told us. The boiler is condemned. Turns out the reason that the pilot light kept going out wasn't the wind but an enormous great hole in the heat exchange. The boiler can't be repaired on account of being thirty years old and not being able to get parts. So. Only solution, new boiler.

So, no boiler, no heat, no hot water. Bathing is either a cold shower or by filling the bath with a kettle. Living the old fashioned way!

Friday 18 January 2008

Must be Friday

I was having breakfast this morning and watching BBC Breakfast on the TV when I was startled by an alarming banging. An alarming banging and rattling noise. I thought maybe somebody somewhere was demolishing something, it was that loud. Turns out it was the boiler and the boiler is sick. British Gas are coming tomorrow to tend to it.

Partners were away today, so it is quiet(er) in our office. Although now we have two new staff members and we are back to our full complement of eight (when we are all there). It was definitely 'one of those days'. Too many phone calls, and I had to answer the phone the whole day as the new chaps are too new, young guy and girl were at meetings and youngest guy had fallen of his motorbike the night before and wasn't in. Even more annoyingly, most of the calls were for me. How can you have people take a message when you are too busy to take a phone call if you are answering the phone yourself?!

Oh yes, and the Jubilee Line is still misbehaving. They've got engineering works on the line this weekend, so hopefully it will feel better next week!

Thursday 17 January 2008

Thoroughly modern travel

Today I had to go to Birmingham. I had to get up at 5:30am in order to get a train at 7:40am from Euston (ouch). Because I wanted to leave before 9:30 or 10:00 or whatever the cut-off time is the fare outwards was £61. Coming back was only £38. It worked out cheaper (as they often warn you) to buy two single tickets. Still totally horrified that it costs three figures to go to Birmingham and back which isn't even that far away! Anyway.

I hadn't travelled on a Virgin train before. Can't think why as they supply so much of the rest of my life (landline, cable TV, broadband... if I only had my mobile phone contract with them I'd be 4 for 4!). The trains were nice and modern looking... although I was a bit miffed that I had to race down the platform (quite a feat with a walking stick) to get to standard class as half the train was designated first class, and of course it was the half nearest the concourse. Found a carriage, found a seat that wasn't reserved (bit of a squeeze but that's life) and tried to work on the tip up table with piles of paper (and wished I had taken my laptop). I was impressed by the lighting with switches for each seat, as though you were on an airplane, and also some sort of digital control in the seat (air conditioning? I only noticed it as I stood up to get off!). As I was getting of I noticed a sticker next to the armrest of a a seat by the window "laptops and mobile phones only". I had no time to investigate further, so I just wondered what about laptops and mobile phones?!

Off I went to my meeting, where it was wet and windy... and very long (with no lunch!!!). Finally got back to Birmingham New Street in time to catch the 4:30 train back to London. I got on the train and sat down (with relief, I was tired after three lengthy trips around site). I had checked when I got on for those evil little white cards tucked in the back of the seat indicating a reservation and found none. Relief. Not so much. Virgin trains have a little digital display over every pair of seats. This is where it tells you if the seat is reserved or not (how could you know this if you have never travelled on these trains before - they are TINY!). I wouldn't have known but for the small boy who kept asking his mother "Can we sit here" and his mother kept responding that "No, these are reserved". I suddenly realised that my seat might not be my seat. Indeed. The whole carriage not taken was reserved. I ended up sitting on a flip up seat in the corridor. Better than nothing, I suppose. I think the seats were designed for children as they were tiny, and I spent the whole journey worrying that I might be about to fall off. It was also very drafty in the corridor. The only thing to recommend the whole experience was the state of the art toilet and the atmospheric blue lighting.

Not the ideal travel experience, you certainly can't work in your lap! Next time I'll take a flier on what time a meeting is going to finish and reserve myself a seat!

Wednesday 16 January 2008

Service not included

There was a time when tipping (leaving gratuities) was considered discretionary. If you took a cab ride and the driver took a good route and got you there fast you gave him at tip. If you got a really good haircut that felt like a million dollars you left your hairdresser a tip. If you ate out and got friendly, discreet, courteous and prompt service you left you waiter/waitress a small consideration as you left. You never felt obliged to leave money for a sub-standard service and you certainly did not have it added to your bill as a matter of course. This leads us to the pernicious 'service charge'.

Presumably the rise of payment by electronic means made it more difficult for the satisfied customer to leave a tip. But it is very unusual these days to dine out and not find at the bottom of your bill "12.5% service charge". Apart from the fact that I was brought up to believe that 10% was an acceptable amount to tip (where did that extra 2.5% come from?) there is the additional consideration that I very rarely believe that I receive service which is worthy of a tip.

Tonight a friend and I went to a bar just off Piccadilly Circus. Very 'theme' bar in a smart sort of way. On each table was a sign advertising the fact there was 'table service only'. So we sat and waited (and waited) and waited for a waiter or waitress to come and take our order. About 15 minutes. In the end my friend walked off towards the bar at which point a girl finally appeared to take our drinks order. A while later we wanted some snacks. Eventually we snagged a guy passing dressed in the bar's uniform... but he was apparently only employed in cleaning tables, not serving drinks. More drinks orders and food followed, and each time the same difficulty; including even trying to pay the bill. When the bill came my friend decided (quite rightly) that the 12.5% service charge was not warranted. She called over the waitress and told her we weren't happy to pay the service charge, when asked why she told the waitress that we hadn't received any service!

I cannot make an argument for compulsory service charge. If the staff need to supplement their wages then the establishment need to pay more. If the establishment need it to pay the staff (which not only happens, but is legal) then they should charge higher prices. This price increase by stealth should stop!

Tuesday 15 January 2008

Mayor of London

The London Mayoral race is beginning to hot up. Not quite in the league of the US Presidential race yet, although apparently there was a televised debate the other week, I missed that. I'm still waiting for any of the candidates to impress me by offering to fix any of the things that matter to me. I'm in the forgotten demographic, I'm not a pensioner yet and I don't have any children. All policies seem aimed at the over 60s or those with a 2.4 average family - which is great if you are in those categories, but it isn't going to swing my vote.

I've visited all the websites of the three main candidates (Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour). On the basis of my first brief foray into the three websites I actually couldn't find Ken Livingstone (the incumbent)'s website. All I found was a page urging me to donate my time and/or money. I did find a blog which was giving support... surely he has an official site though?!

This left me with Brian Paddick (Lib Dem) or Boris Johnson (Conservative).

Brian Paddick's page tells me he is 'serious about London'. He is also serious about connecting with the 'yoof' as the links to Facebook and Twitter attest, as do the multitude of buttons across the bottom of the page! Some policy direction, although more about Brian himself and again prominent buttons urging me to donate time and money.

Lastly I visited Boris Johnson's page. I've always liked Boris whenever I've seen him on television, which is a start I suppose. This site impressed me the most. I had a good look around and there was only a small link urging me to get involved, and even then it didn't ask for money. Another favourable point. The site appears well designed and laid out, and I particularly like the countdown ticker to the election. Although generally philosophies are laid out the finer details of who these aims will be accomplished aren't really developed.

Early days I suppose, but for me Boris is the front runner at the moment. I take the politics of London far more seriously than any other sort. The decisions made here actually do affect my day to day life. I shall continue to watch the campaigns between now and May with interest!

Monday 14 January 2008

A good Monday

Delightfully, and unbelievably, the Giants beat the Cowboys last night in the Divisional Play-offs. Absolutely superb. Unfortunately (yet again) I didn't manage to stay awake until the end of the game... but Rich thoughtfully taped the last two minutes for me, so I got to see the heart-stopping moment when Dallas threw for a touchdown but it was intercepted by the Giants. What drama! So I finish the Divisional weekend with a team still in the post-season, just not the team I expected!

The week got off to a good start this morning when the Jubilee Line decided to take me to work without any delays (sadly this evening it isn't doing so well). Even the weather wasn't too bad, although damp and drizzling it wasn't the threatened downpour.

The office email is finally working again... which is delightful - although a lot of mail seems to have been lost forever during the down-time. The good thing is that a lot of people haven't realised that its working again, so it is still very quiet... lots off work done today as a consequence.

Managed to get two projects crossed off my list today. They have both been hanging around since before Christmas and it is good to boot them off my desk. Only left with actual live (or nearly live) projects now. Unprecedented!

Two new chaps are starting in our office this week. This is good from the 'many hands make light work' theory. The computers are set up for them, it is all ready to go. Again, unprecedented.

All in all it is a fantastically positive start to the week. Sadly, I suppose it can only go down hill. Meeting every day from now until Friday... the Jubilee Line... the weather - ah well, forewarned is forearmed!

Sunday 13 January 2008

Divisional Play-offs

So. Totally unprecedented. Two out of the three teams (yes, I'm greedy - three teams) that I follow made it to the post season this year. Only the Jets let the side down (boy, and they really were rubbish this year). Not only to the post season, but they both made it through the wild card play-0ff weekend. I was so sure that the Jaguars were going to the Superbowl this year. Until they lost to the Patriots last night. I actually didn't make it through to the end of the game, and well asleep before the fourth quarter. There were some superb moments though. My favourite one was David Garrard throwing for a touchdown whilst he was being sacked, it looked like he was throwing the ball away - but nope, he found his man in the endzone and TOUCHDOWN! Some moment.

The whole game was really close, with equal scoring in each quarter, except for unfortunately the third where the Patriots got 11 points more. So, that was the AFC - on to the NFC tonight. Go Giants!

Saturday 12 January 2008

Good football (at last)

My phone was going mad this afternoon! I have a text alert service which lets me know when anything 'exciting' happens during a football match involving Charlton Athletic. Exiciting defined as goals, yellow cards and red cards.

It's been a bit quiet recently. Charlton hadn't won in five matches; the first being a 4-2 defeat to West Brom follwed by three 1-1 draws and and a 2-1 defeat to Colchester. It was beginning to look like Charlton's annual December/January nightmare. Until today, when Charlton managed to put four past Blackpool and only concede one. Not bad at all!

Until this season I had a season ticket at the Valley and used to go the games every week. The pressures of work and the rubbish football last season meant that I didn't renew my ticket. Given the comments on the games from the rest of my family who do go I don't generally seem to have missed much. I did feel I missed out yesterday, and have been inspired to go to a game before the end of the season. I'd have liked to go to the Palace game (rivalry always makes for a good game) but unfortunately that game has been moved to a Friday night, and I've never been a fan of evening games - especially not on a Friday which is always the worst day of the week at work. I'll be really interested to experience half time, as I've not been to the Valley since last July when the smoking ban came in. There used to be a fog over the concourse at half-time (which got worse after they banned smoking in the stands). It had got to the point that it was practically unbearable, and quite hard to breathe - so I'm looking forward to the new smoke-free half-time.

Friday 11 January 2008

What a week!!!

So, the first full week back after the Christmas break is finally done with. It has been very tiring. Work has been monster busy, and that combined with the email system for the entire company being down for 72 hours (yep, three whole days) - well things haven't been going too well.

London Underground hasn't been helping. The Jubilee Line has been having a total nightmare... not working more often than working. I was quite delighted to get home in good time tonight.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. Time to kick back and do as little as possible. I've a few errands to run but apart from that I fully intend to totally relax - before another crazy week.

Probably the most interesting news story of this week is the Government's new initiative with regards to nuclear power. Supposedly the idea is to reduce reliance on oil and gas from other countries, and obviously to help reach emission reduction targets. Whilst this all does make sense it has to be said that nuclear power isn't truly "sustainable". Sustainability should be defined as meeting the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Nuclear power technically doesn't do this, not until a strategy for effectively disposing of/treating waste is formulated. Admitting that alternate energy is needed is a good start though.

Thursday 10 January 2008

Meltdown underground

People who live and work in London complain about transport. A lot. You can't get anywhere without it, but yet it never seems to work. I don't have much to compare with as I've not utilised the public transit in enough other cities; but overseas visitors are always telling me how great our network is. I suppose it is fairly well integrated... it would just be so much better if it wasn't always breaking down!

Today is an example of how it all goes wrong. I arrived at the Jubilee Line at 8am (only half an hour after a left home). I got down to the platform and was delighted to find a train on platform two. These are trains from central London that terminate early and go back again! Nice and empty, which meant a seat for me. We sat there for a while and then came an announcement "All trains to central London are being held at this station due to signalling difficulties in the Green Park area". So we sat and sat and sat (a good 15 or 20 minutes). Then the announcement changed "The Jubilee Line is suspended between Finchley Road and Waterloo in both directions due to a signal failure at Green Park". Oh dear. Not a disaster though as evasive action can be taken pretty easily from Waterloo. The train at platform left and our driver assured us we would be next. Another train came and went. Our train was taken out of service (bah). All the time suggesting that we might like to get the train to Stratford and try the Central Line (as if). Eventually I got on a train heading into London. We crawled to Canary Wharf. We waited (some more). We did the same to Canada Water and to Bermondsey. Enough I thought. I can pick up the Northern Line at London Bridge. Without a map though I didn't realise that at London Bridge I'm on the wrong branch of the Northern Line. London Bridge was chaos. The platforms were being closed and they weren't allowing people into the Underground. I gave up and went overground, and after a train and two more buses I eventually arrived at the office - 2 hours after I left home.

Wednesday 9 January 2008

You've got no mail

I didn't notice for ages as I was in meetings all morning. But come lunchtime I noticed that my inbox was empty. Strange (and unusual). Where is all the mail? Stuck somewhere on the Exchange server it turns out.

The Exchange server lives at head office. They have evidently some problem with their internet as we have no mail but still have internet (as do all the other offices). This is reinforced by the fact that you can't even get webmail.

Normally I'm quite happy for the email to not work. It means that nobody can ask me to do anything or chase me for things or any of the other one hundred and one things that email annoys me with every day. Today, of course, I'm waiting for things. Things that I know have been sent. Things that are sitting locked away waiting for the Exchange server to work. How very frustrating!

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Torrential Tuesday

I met a friend for drinks tonight at Tiger Tiger in Haymarket. There was a moment on confusion as I walked down the street and thought to myself "I'm sure that Tiger Tiger isn't this far from Piccadilly Circus". I then realised that instead of being in Haymarket I was in Lower Regents Street. Oh dear.

It was a nice evening. I hadn't been to Tiger Tiger in aeons. It hasn't changed much. Still the scary tiger statue in the ladies toilets which makes you jump the first time you see it as you assume you are about to bump into someone. Still the moody lighting and the expensive drinks. Good bar snacks though! At the end of the evening I ended up walking all the way to Westminster to catch the Jubilee Line as there didn't seem to be in any buses about. Rather damp and windy on the way down Whitehall. Much worse was to come though.

By the time I back to South East London I was starving, so I decided to see if the fake-KFC just down the road was still open. It was. By now, though it was really raining. Sheets and sheets of water coming from the sky. I was soaked in the five minute walk home. Oh dear.

Monday 7 January 2008

Watery Monday

As soon as I realise I have to go out and post a letter it starts to rain. Luckily I'm only going to the post office. The queue in the Post Office is huge, and I spend 15 minutes standing in line. I decide to reward myself with a hot-wrap from Pret a Manger. Very nice!

Not much in the news when I picked up my Metro this morning. It was alarmingly pink (for a newspaper that isn't the Financial Times). Seems that Evian were sponsoring it this morning. Gordon Brown has an excellent idea for having 'health screening' for all. To be administered it would seem from GPs Surgeries. That will work really well in London where they are already so busy and oversubscribed that sometimes it is hard to find a practice to register with! And not to think that the NHS might find better ways of spending its funds... keeping hospitals clean and banishing MRSA, ending the postcode lottery - to think of only two!

I was so enraged by my travel troubles the other morning that it totally slipped my mind to mention the number 9 bus. The number 9 is an odd route, as during the day it still runs Routemasters (as a heritage route). However the normal looking bus that I got on Friday morning was nothing like an old Routemaster. It was a talking bus! There was an information ticker, similar to the ones you find on the tube - but it also kept talking too! Telling you where you were, and as you left the stop telling you that you were on the number 9! About time too. I remember being in New York about 10 years ago where the buses spoke, and I thought it was a fantastic idea, especially for a city that prides itself on attracting tourists!

Sunday 6 January 2008

Wild Card Weekend Part 2

So. Two games yesterday. Redskins (unfortunately for Rich) lost to Seattle. I didn't see all the game as I was having a nap in order to stay awake for the whole of the late night Jaguars game.

The Jaguars game was quite something. Although the Steelers scored first the Jaguars came right back and got a touchdown to level the score. And after that shaky start the Jaguars were pretty much in control, until the fourth quarter. Suddenly the Steelers got three touch downs and the whole thing was looking scary. Even worse one of the touchdown's came with an two-point conversion. So instead of it all being tied up the Jaguars were losing! I had to go and not watch for a while. Fortunately a field goal right at the end meant that final score was 31-29. Hurrah for the Jags!

I've just finished watching the Giants at Tampa. Another shaky start for my team. Everyone admits that there are two Eli Mannings... the good one and the not so good one. For a bit I thought that it was the wrong Eli turned up today. But he stepped up (along with rest of the team) and played the game, and then some. Excellent game, which pretty much by half time looked to be in the bag. Final score 24-14. Go Giants!

Today was also Twelfth Night. This meant that after two months the Christmas decorations had to come down. Sigh. The room looks extremely bare without them - and much larger! It seems that we have actually managed to take down every scrap of tinsel, bauble and sparkle. We usually forget something, but haven't noticed anything still there so far! Ah well. Only 10 months until they can go back up again!

Saturday 5 January 2008

Wild Card Weekend

So, it's the big weekend for NFL this weekend. The wild card games. Rich and I have three teams between us fighting it out. Redskins and Jaguars tonight and the Giants tomorrow. I fancy our chances for getting at least one team on to next weekend!

It was also the FA Cup this weekend on this side of the pond. Charlton managed a 1-1 draw with the Baggies, which considering that they lost to them in the League a few weeks back isn't too bad. Off to a replay which considering Charlton's recent away form might work in their favour.

I've been playing my new game I bought the other day the Sims 2 Castaway. Absolutely excellent fun. The Sims were good, but the trouble was between going to work and sleeping there was a lot of wasted time in the games. Recent versions have developed a bit, and this is the best yet. Stranded on a desert island you have to survive. You make your own clothes, furniture and accommodation and forage for food. Absolutely addictive. Good old EA Games!

Friday 4 January 2008

Plus ca change

Back to work after the holidays today. Got up nice and early and headed off to get the Jubilee Line at North Greenwich. Only to find that the Jubilee Line suspended between Stratford and Stanmore. For those who aren't familiar with the Jubilee Line, that is the entire line. Superb. Faulty communications equipment it would seem. The escalators to the ticket hall are all roped off and I have to ask the station staff if the ticket office is in fact open as I have no money or ticket on my Oyster. Fortunately it is. So, I join the rest of the commuters trying to find an alternate route out of North Greenwich. Always tricky as there is only one tube line and no mainline or DLR out of there. Everyone piled onto buses. I got on the 188 which goes all the way to Central London. I was sitting on the bus heading to Canada Water thinking to myself "I could get off here and pick up the Jubilee Line" before I remembered that the Jubilee Line wasn't working which was the whole reason that I was sitting on the bus in the first place! D'oh.

The office appeared to be in the usual state of post-Christmas disarray. Exacerbated by the fact that no cleaning appeared to have been carried out at all. Cups and glasses everywhere, bins not emptied. I recollected that the note left for the cleaners requested them to come back on 4th January. Now, it may be that the writer intended to intimate the week ending 4th January, but that wasn't what was written. It didn't strike me at the time as I wasn't coming back to work myself until that date, so I didn't connect that everyone else would be back to days earlier and making a mess!

Having had one member of staff leave before Christmas we somehow managed to lose another one over Christmas. Back to down to the 'hardcore'. So much work, so few people to do it. Not an excellent start to 2008!

Fortunately by evening and time for the return journey the Jubilee Line was working again, which made life a bit easier!

Thursday 3 January 2008

Short legs, long body

I'm the first to admit that I'm not a tall person. Neither do I consider myself particularly short either. Five foot four (five foot two by Rich's reckoning, but hard to tell from his lofty heights). I'd have said that was about average for this country (kind of like if I was size 12 that would be about average). I will admit that I'm a little larger than a size 12, but even so, there are plenty of people my size and larger. This being the case, why is it so hard for me to buy trousers?

Trouble number one. Oddly of me I like my trousers to fit. Can't think why. I like them to fit at the hips and the waist. That rules out half the stores that sell women's clothing. Far too many just increase the dimensions of a size 8 proportionally. Doesn't work for me.

Trouble number two. Most significant trouble. People who make trousers assume that everyone has long legs! Why?! But half the time when I try for the 'short' length they are too short. There is no happy medium.

This has led to my wardrobe currently containing no less than three pairs of trousers with the hems down and two pairs of trousers which are too long and need taking up or wearing with heels. I'd fix them all myself but the sewing machine I bought for the purpose had its needle buckle the first time I tried to use it. Bah.

All of this led to me shopping for new trousers in the January sales. Shopping full stop, in fact. Only two pairs of serviceable trousers left in my wardrobe I was beyond desperate.

So. I risked the shops between Christmas and New Year. Something I wouldn't normally do.

It took several attempts and a good few versions of Marks and Spencers and Evans. I was that desperate that I was even looking at trousers I didn't particularly like. And still I couldn't find anything that would fit me. Every pair of trousers in my size was standard length - about 2 inches below the bottom of my feet. ARGH!

So Rich and I ended up in Bluewater (much against Rich's better judgement!). For those who don't know Bluewater was (and for all I know possibly still is) the biggest shopping mall in Europe. Huge Marks and Spencers (my favourite choice for trousers). And I wasn't disappointed. A much larger range than any store visited previously, and even some trousers in my size in short length. Hurrah!

Went to town a bit and ended up buying two shirts and a jacket (well, I have a lot of jackets, but not one in black). And that came to over a £100. Oh well, thank goodness for my Christmas bonus!

Wednesday 2 January 2008

Two point oh

In my last post I was writing about Beanies 2.0. This has led me to thinking about all things 2.0.

What is 2.0. Well, it is a shorthand for things that are upgraded. More than that, really. Upgraded to include an element of interactivity. The start of this 'trend' was the advent of Web 2.0. The 2.0 implies a new version, although it is not so much the internet has changed but the way that the internet interacts with its users. Web 2.0 is the advent of all the sites like Netvibes, Pageflakes, iGoogle, MySpace, Facebook etc. etc. To read more about Web 2.0 check out the Wikipedia article.

When the web first started there wasn't much interactivity. You came, you read and you went away again. Some people authored sites. Academia used ftp servers to download documents and some anoraks (of which I was one) used telnet to interact with each other. Although technology allowed the internet to become more sophisticated and ISPs encouraged users to use their free webspace the internet was still pretty much one way traffic.

Then we met 'widgets'. You know, those useful little bits of script that do - well, just about anything! And communities began to flourish which relied on user input. There are dozens and dozens of them out there now. If you feel so inclined you can spend your entire day wandering around and interacting with friends, or indeed perfect strangers!

This is now becoming the norm. The boundaries of media are blurring. Everything is pretty much expected to cross all platforms these days. I believe, for example, that Beanies 2.0 will have a strong element of internet interactivity.

The most interesting cross-media usage I have come across this week has to be Maximum Ride. Although intended as a young people's books I am a huge fan of this series, and was given book three for Christmas. Having just finished reading it I decided to check out the web address. Not just a promotional page, but so much more - deeply entwining with the books and going beyond. I guess this is Literature 2.0?!

Bye Bye Beanie?!

I have always been the sort of person who likes to collect things. Ever since I can remember I've been collecting something. As a child I went through a number of collections. Stamps, coins, pin badges, erasers and all the other things that kids collect. In my teens I went more for paper. Collecting things more personal to myself... schoolwork, artwork, diaries, letters etc. I also started collecting teddy bears. I can't even remember how it started - I think maybe I collected them from places that I visited on holiday and so forth. I had amassed over 100 by the time I left home and all but a few moved to my parents' loft. This didn't stop me adding to the collection though. And sometime in the mid-nineties I added several small, colourful bean bag toys to the collection. Beanie Babies. I didn't realise that there was a whole world of Beanies (and indeed other products by Ty Inc.) for some years. It was pure fortune that I kept the tags attached (removing the tags from Beanies reduces their value) - I think I liked the poems written inside! Eventually collecting the bears from Beanie Babies progressed to collecting cats, dogs and pretty much anything that took my fancy. I've well over 600 of them today!

Last year my collecting began to slip. The website that I'd been running for five years had to take a back seat as my work life took up more time than I had to give. As the website slipped so did my ability to keep up with the news. I no longer had any idea what was happening in the Beanie world. I only bought about a dozen Beanies in the whole of 2007. Most of the Beanies on display at home went into storage and the whole thing pretty much ground to a halt. I was quite relieved to hear the news recently that the whole Beanie Babies range is being retired in anticipation of Beanie Babies 2.0. This gives me an ideal moment to call a halt to my collection and close that chapter of my life.

Tuesday 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

So last night we ushered in 2008. We didn't go out to any overpriced venue, preferring instead to stay at home and do our own thing. We watched the 'Big Fat Quiz of the Year' which we had previously recorded... I was surprised to find that most of what I know about the year seems to have come from other clip-shows watched over the Christmas period! I'm a huge fan of those clip shows. We watched the AFI's top 100 films the other night. I was shamed to have only seen 23% of them whilst Rich managed a huge 91%. Ah well.

As Big Ben (on the TV) chimed in 2008 I opened the front door to let out the old year. A few neighbours were also in the street, and they came over to wish us a Happy New Year. How very un-London of them! We were treated to some excellent fireworks displays from all sorts of directions, the most stunning of which seemed to be coming from the bottom of the street, actually in the middle of the road! Nothing of course compared to the huge display on the banks of the Thames, but pretty impressive anyhow.

Charlton was in the news for all the wrong reasons today. A fatal car crash occurred early this morning on the main road from Charlton to Woolwich and Blackheath. This has caused the closure of Littleheath. It seems that a bendy bus collided with a car, just on the extremely dangerous bend. Perhaps this will finally encourage the council to take some sort of traffic calming measures?