Friday 29 February 2008

For the love of vinyl...

Once upon a time I bought an iPod. I bought it not for a huge memory, or video capability... but because it was Pink. It served me well for some years until finally the battery was fried. Then I bought a new iPod. This time I didn't buy a pink one - I bought it for a huge memory and video capability. My first iPod had and 8GB memory. Given my extensive (not so much) music collection this seemed quite enough. My new iPod has an 80GB memory. More, I think we can all agree, than I will ever fill. This enormous amount of storage means that my previous policy of only choosing certain favourite tracks from albums has been abandoned in favour of transferring entire albums, and not just mine - but those of the entire household! And still plenty of space. Something has been bothering me though. Some albums I only owned on tape cassette... not so bad as many had been replaced by 'best of' CDs and so forth. Worse was one album I only owned on vinyl (never a big record purchaser, me). It can't be bought on tape cassette or CD. What to do?

All was not lost, my nearly-mother-in-law had purchased a gadget. You plug it into your stereo and your computer... and hey presto! Fully compatible with Vista (according the shopping channel from which it was purchased). Not so much. Vista Compatibility Wizard suggested purchasing updated software (!). We gave up. Until I had a brainwave. We still have in our possession our old laptop, whose operating system is Windows XP. Hurrah! Software installed gadget working. Lovely LP transferred. Somehow I managed to write the same six tracks twice instead of twelve different tracks so I'll have to do the whole hook up again... but at least it works. I might even look out my 45s!!!

Far more disturbing was the cupboard in the corner of the room in which the vinyl resides. It is a cupboard of shame. Stacked to bursting with goodness knows what. I suggested to Rich that we might like to spring clean it at Easter, that will be a task and a half!

Thursday 28 February 2008

Stories I've been reading...

I've been having a wander around the news sites of the internet (as one does)... mostly occasioned, it has to be admitted by listening to a radio phone in this morning whilst stuck in traffic on my way to the Physio.

Two stories particularly caught my eye. Number one - Marks and Spencers who are to start charging 5p for carrier bags. Good for M&S... may others follow in their footsteps. Regular readers will know that the wasteful use of carrier bags by shoppers is a particular peccadillo of mine... and the fact that this country is so backward in it's attitude to wasteful packaging is a source of constant irritation to me.

The other story was one of the subjects of the phone-in on Vanessa's show on BBC Radio London this morning. Apparently there was a survey done (by YouGov and NetMums) which found that mothers are being made to feel inadequate by the 'cult' of the 'Yummy Mummy' and the likes of Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham. Apparently these celebrities are making young mothers feel that they should 'have it all'. Seriously? Because these women actually do it all themselves? With their armies of stylists and assistants and nannies and chauffeurs etc. Like they live in the real world?

I don't have children, but lots of my friends do. I can easily imagine that there are many things which might make one feel under pressure... I don't think that conforming to some imagined lifestlye should be one of them!

The old woman who swallowed the fly...

I feel like that old woman from the Nursery Rhyme...

"There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, I don't know why she swallowed a fly, Perhaps she'll die."

It then goes on... "There was an old woman who swallowed a spider, That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her, She swallowed the spider to catch the fly, I don't know why she swallowed the fly, Perhaps she'll die."

The old woman of the tale goes on to swallow increasingly unlikely animals, each being set to catch the preceding... by the end of the song she is up to large farm animals " There was an old woman who swallowed a horse, She's dead—of course!"

I started taking steroids to help counteract the relapse my MS was having. Taking the steroids caused me to get a chest infection... so the Doctor prescribed me antibiotics to cure the chest infection. I duly and correctly completed this course of tablets. Taking the antibiotics (likely) caused me to get a yeast infection (nice). This caused me to purchase a one-off dose of curative medicine at the exorbitant cost of £11.50 (seriously, I should have seen a Doctor, a prescription would have been not quite half that).

It is the old woman and the fly, that is for certain... although in my house, clearly it would be a ladybug.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Ladybug Exodus

Spring must be well and truly here! The ladybugs have woken up and are ready to leave. The last few days have seen them fluttering all over the bedroom in attempts to find their way out. The noise itself is becoming quite irritating!

So, as Good Samaritan and ladybug protector I decided to give another few dozen a helping hand on their way to freedom this morning. I spent some time painstakingly chasing them around with pieces of paper before I remembered... ladybugs can fly... and took to nudging them gently out the window!

The newly freed bugs mostly took to sitting on the bedroom window sill and enjoying the sunshine... hopefully their next port of call will be to go and colonize my shrubs and return the favour by eating all the bugs and grubs that might otherwise devour the garden!

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Total Gridlock

This morning I had to go to a Doctor's appointment. Running a bit late I left the house with 10 minutes to spare and thought that given the speed at which the stick and I progress I had better break my environmental principles and jump in the car to get there on time.

I pulled out the end of our street to be met with completely stationary traffic in both directions. Traffic coming up the hill was blocking Woolwich bound traffic from movement as the jam was blocking the single file traffic through the roadworks. Inexplicably traffic heading towards Blackheath was also at a standstill. Trapped! I pulled into a side road, parked the car, and decided that I'd better make it on foot to the Doctor after all. Fortunate for me that they are always running about half an hour late by this time of morning! I was amused as I made my way along the main road to see the many attempts at traffic avoidance of the frustrated motorists. The reasons that the general Charlton/Woolwich/Blackheath area gridlocks so easily is that most of the roads don't go anywhere! They loop around and join back up with each other, or lead you to a bit further along, or another road which leads to the same ultimate destination - the traffic will never get any better!

By the time I left the Surgery traffic towards Woolwich appeared to be more or less moving (although there was obviously still bus trouble as they were few and far between and very overcrowded). Traffic was still crawling towards Blackheath though. Very strange. I went back and fetched the car from whence I had abandoned it and went home.

The cause of the chaos. An oil spill at the Blackwall Tunnel. The odds are that traffic chaos this severe has that Tunnel at the bottom of it somewhere. Compounded, apparently, by a one ferry service. Not aided by replacement of London's Victorian water mains.

I'd recommend generally giving the Greenwich Peninsula a miss for the foreseeable future if you are travelling by wheels.

Monday 25 February 2008

YouTube and IP addresses

I have never been a great participant in the YouTube revolution. Let's face it... I've been pretty slow to pick up on a lot of new internet trends (Facebook, MySpace, etc.). I was always right in there with blogging though!

So, YouTube. Occasionally I like to watch really funny TV adverts again. Or see a bunch of cats miaowing Christmas songs. The rest of it I'm afraid I rate up there with reality TV. If I need to see stupid people doing stupid things I can pretty much look out of my window!

This morning I read a story on the web about a furore which arose yesterday when Pakistan blocked YouTube and it would seem manage to cause a global outage of the website. This operation, it would seem, took place by the remarkably simple notion of replace the IP address to YouTube requested by anyone in Pakistan with a different IP address, thereby taking them to a different site. So simple, yet so effective.

I think that a lot of people forget these days that behind all the 'easy' to remember website address/domain names there is actually the physical address of a website its IP (Internet Protocol) address. Anyone who remembers early web browsers such as Gopher or Mosaic probably remembers that quite often you had to type in the IP address to obtain your page (with obviously amusing results for the number illiterate!). IP addresses are what run the internet. We've all go one. Every website, every user. It is how computers talk to each other. It would be great to have your IP address (like your phone number) and keep it and know it. Unfortunately not possible. There simply aren't enough IP numbers out there. This means that there are two types of IP address - static and dynamic. Always on connections (websites, DSL, ADSL, Broadband) get a static address. Dial-up connections get a dynamic address which they use for a a session and then put back in the 'pool' when they are done for someone else to use. Neat, huh? I know, I'm a geek.

Pakistan aren't the first country to take against YouTube - Thailand, Morocco and Turkey to name just three others.

Censorship is an ugly word. It does happen on the internet though, in some Countries more than others. The internet is difficult to patrol... by nature. It is pretty much without pysical borders, and the borders that do exist are in different places to the physical borders which constrain the users of the internet. It is pretty hard to legislate what a website in (for example) America does if you are in (for example) France - although it has been tried!

Sunday 24 February 2008

Another Technobimbo moment!!!

I don't know what is going on with me at the moment. I never used to be so useless with technology.

This morning I got my coffee maker out. It has been a while. It is my special Sunday treat, you see. Rich doesn't like coffee (huge understatement!) - he can't stand even the smell. I'm not a coffee addict. Ergo, if I want coffee in the week I drink instant. I like 'proper' coffee though. So, Sunday morning I brew up the coffee machine. Rich rises late... it is finished by the time he gets up. All happy.

This morning I filled up the reservoir. I added the coffee grounds. I turned on the machine. Strange loud whining sound fills the kitchen. I turn off the machine. Noise stops. I turn the machine back on. Strange loud whining sound. I hit the machine. No difference. Oh dear I think. The machine is broken. Maybe it will stop when the coffee is brewed. No. Coffee brews. Strange loud whining noise continues. Can't switch off the machine though as if you are not making espresso the machine needs to stay on to keep the coffee hot. Oh dear. I'll just put up with the noise. It is really loud though.

I drink a cup of coffee. I eat breakfast. I potter some. I decide to get more coffee. The noise continues unabated. Strange that it seems to be coming from the espresso side of the machine. I twiddle some bits. Then I press the milk frother button. The noise stops. The strange loud whining noise? That was the rotation of the milk frother attachment. Oh dear.

Parking in the Street

It is still pretty busy out in our street. The replacement of "London's Victorian Water Mains" continues along Littleheath (as well as numerous other places in the Borough) and the traffic control continues to be located just past the end of our street. This continues the interdiction for parking along large parts of Littleheath as well as the continued use of the end of our street for site compound and welfare facilities (and associated disabling of parking bays).

Last year Greenwich Council balloted residents about the extension of the Greenwich Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ). The CPZ used to operate in this area when I first moved here (it was a 'function' of the operation of the Millennium Dome). It didn't particularly bother me as our house is blessed with off-street parking. Once the Dome packed up so did the CPZ in this area... although it continues to operate across large swathes of the Borough. When the forms came round last year I voted for it back. The parking in this street and others is chaotic, and I felt could do with some control. In minority it seems as this area remains free from the CPZ. More is the pity.

The suspension of several bays in the street along with the extra traffic generated from the suspension of parking on the main road means that space in our street is beyond premium. This all meant that when I wanted to pop out to the shops yesterday afternoon I was blocked into my driveway (not for the first time in recent weeks). Usually I go out to the offending vehicle and leave a note under the windscreen asking them not to park across my drive. Usually I don't want to immediately drive out of my driveway.

Rich pointed out that the car probably belonged to someone visiting our next-door neighbour. I responded that I didn't care and moreover didn't have time to shuffle up and down the street ringing doorbells (clearly I wasn't having a good afternoon). So I rather inexcusably got into my car and sounded the horn until the driver of the car appeared to move the offending (offensive) vehicle. The story doesn't end here though. I happily drove off to go and buy my 'Glowhite' and get the car washed. Apparently the miscreant then returned the car to its previous location across my driveway! Why would you do that? Rich at this point went and knocked on the door and asked them if they would mind awfully moving the car from across our driveway as obviously the car and I would be coming home again!

Back to my favourite theme. The problem with the world... nobody has any manners any more, because that was just plain rude!

Friday 22 February 2008


Sometimes things are just too darned simple for me to work out! So absolutely obvious that I manage to confuse the whole process with issues that just aren't.

Case in point. My iPod.

The library is finally back to where it should be. All the songs have album art (yep, my strange little obsession). But that wasn't it. I wanted Podcasts!

Travelling with bags and sticks is chaotic and disorganised. Reading books and papers with one hand on a a bag and the other on a stick is virtually impossible. So when one travels one would like to be amused by the spoken word. Podcasts seemed just the ticket. So... I dully visited the iStore and subscribed to a a few Podcasts. Hurrah.

I plugged in my iPod. The library synched. No podcasts. Strange.

I tried the iStore helpdesk. Update your software. Check. Is your computer authorised check.

Still no Podcasts!

This went on for days (since Saturday actually). The mystery remained... and pages of 'stereo instructions' awaited.

Then I noticed something. When I plugged my iPod in and looked at iTunes the page that came up with my iPod details wasn't alone. There were a whole list of tabs along the top. Tabs that corresponded to the missing items... movies, TV shows and yes, you guessed it, Podcasts. The iPod doesn't know to download them to itself unless you tell it to! Oh, so simple!

Now I can lie back and relax with Podcasts!

Thursday 21 February 2008

Bagless Society?

I am interested in saving the planet. Aren't we all? It's not weird to be green anymore. It is barely worth commenting on. I like Marks and Spencer's view on it. They have their "Plan A"... because there is no Plan B.

So having said. We all went to have a world to live in tomorrow (so to speak). There are little things that we can all do. Little ways that we can do our bit. Most of them aren't hard. Some cost a few more pence, but that isn't much to pay (literally) to secure our future. You'd think so, wouldn't you.

I have noticed increasingly that people just don't seem to be bothered though. Two observations today.

1) I was on my way to my Physio appointment, which necessitated me changing buses at the Royal Standard. As I was waiting I noticed that the bins were out waiting for collection (as a large number are on a Thursday, it being bin day for a good large part of the Borough). Greenwich Borough's new refuse scheme is well documented by me and by others. It's been a few weeks now, enough time for people to work out what they do and how they do it. You'd have though, wouldn't you? Apparently not.

Are people lazy or just selfish. It really is very simple. There are even stickers on the bins to help you. Blue is for recycled dry goods... the other bin (with the red sticker which helpfully says "food waste only") is for compsibles. Simple? What happens if you don't follow the rules. Well, I think the bin doesn't get collected. At the Standard (and this is not an isolated incident) I saw a food waste bin overflowing with black bags, I could see a broken baby bottle and child's toy in amongst the other 'food waste' waiting for compost. Is sorting rubbish to much of a chore? Is it that hard to put things in the right bin? I sincerely hope that persistent offenders get some sort of note from the Council to alert them to the error of their ways!

2) Carrier bags. Pet peeve of mine this one. I own a lot of alternatives to carrier bags. I have little folding shopping bags from Sainsbury's (75p each, these are a must) - these fold up to a few inches and spring open when you need them. Very roomy. I have an 'organic' bag (also Sainsbury's) which is a bit smaller, and smells a bit - but easy to stack shopping in. I have some giant shoppers (M&S, Sainsbury's and oddly the Dogs Trust)... and I have a huge collection of 'bags for life' (various stores). Bags for Life are great - if you haven't tried them... you pay a nominal fee (I think it is 10p) and when the bag falls to bits you take it back to the store where you bought it and they replace is like for like. Much bigger than regular carrier bags. Now with all this choice... why would you want a carrier bag. Why? They are smaller than they used to be, so you need more. They are now mostly some sort of 'degradable' plastic which means they aren't as strong as they were, and another draw back to this is that they are pretty much see through so everyone can see your shopping (well I don't like that!).

With all this choice, why do we need any stores giving away carrier bags. If they must be used. Sell them! I've got it all worked out. Those little racks they hang off. Simply put a counter onto them, whenever anyone pulls one off it adds 5p to the shopping bill. They would soon go out of fashion. I was horrified to see the trolleys in the supermarkets today pulling away from the checkouts simply overflowing with these bags. Come on people... let's make a difference. Always say no to bags, always carry a shopping bag with you. Bye-bye to bags!

Art of Letter Writing

Often my thoughts turn to technology and how the rapid rise of computers, internet and mobile phones has changed the world around us in a very short period of time.

I have been thinking about this again a lot recently. Being in bed the only people I see are the rest of my household (my nearly-mother-in-law, Rich and the cat). The rest of my interaction must rely on email and telephones.

This week however it was time to go old fashioned. I know a lot of people with birthdays in February (happy birthday to all those reading!). This is not an exaggeration. In the next five days I know a person whose birthday falls on every single day. So... the old fashioned way; a visit to the card shop (well in advance, back in January) and purchase of stamps. Addressing cards and posting them all in good time. Who needs e-cards?!

At the same time when I was on my birthday card buying spree I had one of those Royal Mail moments. Remember those adverts, when something strange would get sent to just the right person with the tag line "I saw this and though of you". Well, I had one of those moments. On the front was a perplexed looking cartoon of a computer... the caption said "Hello, this is your computer. You have no idea what you are doing, do you?". I decided that I just had to send it to my Mum (whose computer frequently perplexes her).

The point of this is that I haven't really lived with my parents for about a dozen years now (well, not full time anyway). And we often used to communicate by greetings cards. Cute little cards that would catch the eye... sometimes with a little message saying "Smile" or similar... sometimes there were themes (the gorgeous foil fish collection will never be forgotten)... it was something to look forward to in the post, and the the little notes inside were always there to brighten the day.

But now we have email. You can just as quickly type an email as write a card or note. It just isn't the same though. Not so lasting and somehow not so personal either.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Winter and traffic in SE7

Despite the odd spring-like moments it would appear to be definitely still winter in SE7. The fog (mist?) never really lifted yesterday and you could hardly see the houses across the way from my bedroom window. Even the ladybugs seem to have pretty much gone back to sleep!

Bit of a quiet day again. My poorly chest is making me feel quite lethargic, no bad thing as it makes it easier to stay in bed which is where I am supposed to be!

One of the amusing points of the day was probably traffic related. Molly the Cat had to go back to the vet again today to have a check up on her stitches etc. The vet is very pleased with her (Molly not so much to be dragged all the way down there in the basket, but such is life). This had to be done around 5pm. Charlton/Woolwich rush hour. Excellent. They are still 'replacing London's Victorian Water Mains' along the top road, causing chaos and confusing (and missing bus stops) to all users. None of the side roads off the main road are signalled controlled. As you can imagine this leads to the most terrible traffic manners! Add to this the chaos in our street, which has parking bays on the end at both sides still being used as site compounds/welfare facilities etc. It is hard to turn in, it is hard to turn out. It is hard to cut across the traffic whether it is coming through the lights or queueing for the lights. Coming home we successfully navigated the signal control, only to blocked from entering our street by queuing traffic. When I sounded my horn for somebody to move, instead of making space for me to pass the car pulled forward and blocked the street. I wouldn't have minded so much if the signals had been green and they could have moved... but still red people!!! Ah well. The speed the rolling roadblock of roadworks is going they will soon be off down the hill!

The other amusing traffic related incident was the man in the transit. He decided to park in one of the few remaining bays towards the end of the street. I could see he wasn't going to make it into the gap (he would have had to have parallel parked), Rich could see he wasn't going to make it into the gap, the assorted pedestrians in the road could see he wasn't going to make it into the gap. He dived in forwards and stopped at a pretty much 30 degree angle to the kerb. And then got out the van to have a look, presumably to see if he could leave the van like that (!). He then proceeded to stand and scratch his head, as if wondering what had gone wrong! Van too big... gap too small.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Leave well enough alone!

So. You know when you are lying in bed feeling under the weather, and you can't really be bothered to do anything at all... you doze (a bit) and mostly do nothing. Or in the 21st Century you have your trusty laptop glued permanently to your side. But what to do when there's nothing to do? Oh dear. You potter. You tidy. You re-organise. You forget how you have carefully put everything together... and you destroy!

Yesterday I decided to move stuff I don't regularly need form my laptop hard drive to my external hard drive. Not too much like hard work... can lie and do that. Ha! If only I had remembered that all the icons were being used in various places and that would break all the links. D'oh! If only I had realised that moving the iTunes stuff off of the C: drive would completely wipe the iTunes library.

No bother I thought. I'll just add the folder from the G: drive back on, that will be sorted. No!!! For some reason, despite iTunes claims of self organisation (self aggrandisement more like) there didn't appear to be any degree of logic being employed whatsoever. Many songs appeared in several places in the iTunes folder and therefore added themselves back on four or even five times! Stuff that I had previously deleted I had only taken out of the library not to the Recycle Bin, so that all added itself back to. About 2,ooo additional tracks were where they ought not be. That'll teach me to mess with things that don't need messing with!

Monday 18 February 2008

Bug time again

Regular readers may remember my observations of dozens of ladybugs sunbathing on the rear elevation of my house in the autumn sunshine last year, and my subsequent concern at the amount of ladybugs moving into my bedroom for their annual hibernation spree.

The recent mild weather, or possibly my being confined to bed and having the heating on quite a lot seems to have woken them all up. There now appear to be around a dozen ladybugs in the room, all trying to get out of the closed window. This is an approximate guess, as they do like to fly around a lot (wow, is that an annoying sound). I did for a while try opening the window and tipping them out, but they seem to be exceptionally reluctant to actually leave (maybe because it is cold outside). It sill concerns me what they are going to eat whilst they are stuck in my bedroom though!

Ladybug uses the computer!

Collection of ladybugs trying to find the way out!

One lone explorer!

More bugs trying to get out!

Sunday 17 February 2008

Ugh, Steroids.

Time had somehow wiped from my mind the most unpleasant parts of taking a course of steroids. Of course I remembered the vile taste of Methylprednisolone (those are the blue ones)... who couldn't. I even remembered the peach juice trick which helps to mask the taste. What I forgot was how heinously they mess with your sleep patterns... insomnia are us. I seem to manage no more than about three hours at a stretch... when I do eventually fall asleep. It drives me crazy! I love to sleep (as I think I have previously mentioned). Off to see the Doctor tomorrow to get a note for work, so may ask for some sleeping tablets to help balance things out at the same time!

Even more annoying is a side effect that I haven't had before (although apparently Rich did have this when he took steroids last year) is the nasty tight feeling in my chest, as though I'm getting a chest infection. Very wearing.

All these side effects, I hope that they are going to do some good this time. History is not on their side, however!

Saturday 16 February 2008

Valley Afternoon

So today was my big afternoon out watching Charlton v. Watford. Despite my poorly legs and rubbish balance I made it down to the Valley in time to enjoy a beer on the North Stand Concourse before the game. Enjoy indeed. The beer hasn't improved any but the new smoke-free atmosphere (first time I've been to the Valley since July 1st when the ban came into force) was an absolutely delight.

I was very pleased on arrival at the ground to be spared the trauma of the turnstiles as the kindly stewards called me and my stick through the main gate. I dread to think the chaos that might have ensued tangling us up in the turnstiles!!!

The first half of the game was pretty good. Especially the highly amusing own goal towards the end of the half. Oh how we laughed. Too soon it turns out.

More poor beer followed at half time (the beer has gone up 5p since last I was there too!)... the general organisation of the beer queue hasn't improved any either. Back in the day (before the North Stand covered concourse was built) when beer was served from Portakabins the good ladies who tended bar used to have stacks and stacks of beer waiting. The early birds could just queue up and collect pretty much. Now you have to wait and wait... as though the advent of half time catches the concessions stands by surprise! Funny, it happens every game.

The second half of the game was poor. I was inclined to mutter "Plus ca change". To early goals in the second half left us with a 2-2 draw... which was pretty disappointing. The team were booed off at the end (which I approved of) as was the referee (which I didn't approve of). Poor he may or may not have been... but Charlton weren't up to much either.

All in all I'm not regretting the demise of my season ticket based on that performance!

Friday 15 February 2008

Back in Bed (Day 2)

Already bored of being in bed. The problem is that you don't really feel up to doing anything. So end up lying around watching daytime TV (oh no!). Or wandering aimlessly on the internet (seriously, when I was a student, how did I spend so much time doing that - the internet was smaller then as well!). Or reading... or most importantly, sleeping. I had forgotten the worst side effect of steroids (for me, anyway). They totally mess with your sleep patterns. Bah.

We were allowed to bring our cat home from the vet today. Poor Molly. She had to have a tumour taken off her liver. She'd been throwing up for no reason (and we'd accused her of being bulimic) but had seemed OK apart from that. We took her to the vet, who did some tests and then operated. She is VERY happy to be home... and seems pretty spry for a mature cat who has just had major surgery! So we'll be helping each other recuperate then!

In amongst the napping I played some of my other new Xbox 360 game to today. The incomparable Lego Starwars Complete saga. Many people would ask why. I have played both parts of the trilogy (to completion) on the PS2 and I have played the Complete Saga on the DS. Answer. New levels (etc.) in the Trilogy... which by the nature of the DS are different on the platform to a big screen platform... and also AMAZING graphics. Wow. I really would love to play the Xbox360 on an HD TV. It must be something else!

Thursday 14 February 2008

St Valentine's Day and Phsyio

The first thing I had to do today was get up and take the vile blue steroids. For anyone who has never had to take them the horrible taste cannot be understated. Drinking peach juice before during and after does help some (although the peach juice I got this time doesn't seem as strong as the stuff I had before) as I can still taste the horrid metallic/chemical taste six hours later!

Rich and I exchanged cards and gifts, today being February 14th. With great self sacrifice Rich had bought be the appropriately soppy 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' on DVD. Also a rather cute 'Tatty Teddy' holding a rose (ah, bless) and much to my delight the update of one of my favourite games ever (Fable) for PC. Hope my laptop will play!

Next it was off to Physio. Gruelling. My Physio was late arriving as there had been an accident on the A2 (which will cripple the entire Greenwich area when it happens). I was amused by the antics of the medical centre staff who appeared to be trying to get the fire alarm serviced, but had lost the key for the room in which the control panel was located (or so I assumed). There was suggestion of crawling through the ceiling void, and an attempt to dismantle the door before it was decided to call a locksmith.

Phsyio itself was gruelling. After re-aligning my rotated something or other in my pelvis (which seemed like more than enough effort for one day) I was introduced to a delightful exercise to tilt my pelvic something-or-other-else and thus improve my core stability. Apparently my middle section is generally missing from the equation which is why when I lose my balance I find it so hard not to topple over. This exercise requires me to lie on my back and tilt my pelvis to the floor - thus discovering a whole heap of muscles which I never knew I had, and only know I have now because they are very sore. This must be done ten times a day for a count of ten. Ouch!

Back home, back to bed. Interspersed with a hot bath to try and soothe the aching muscles! Got Fable installed on the computer. Was given a message saying that my graphics card isn't up to it - happily followed by the option to ignore, which I did. Hurrah. Fable is back. And although better graphics etc. the map is the same as the Xbox, which means that reassuringly I know exactly where I am going all the time! Joy!

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Day of Waiting

So. My health hasn't been so good the last week and a half or so. My legs have become weak and wobbly again and my balance has become totally shot (also again). All evidence points to another MS relapse. I spoke to my Nurse on Friday. Friday when I woke up with excruciating pain in my back and due to the lack of balance couldn't really walk (or therefore go to work). My Nurse said take some serious rest over the weekend (which I did) and see how you feel on Monday. Answer, well the pain in my back was gone, but nothing much else was better. So I rang my Nurse again - who suggested that I come in and see her and my Neuro today.

Due to the last minute nature of the appointment (and the fact that Neurology generally book appointments at least three months in advance) I had to turn up and wait (quite a while). I got to see the Nurse, who asked a few questions, and then called the Neuro. He did a few basic tests, and came to the conclusion that I was pretty much back where I was last October. So. Another course of steroids is prescribed (for a month). Another course of Phsyio is prescribed. And the suggestion that I change my Meds (yet again) is made. This time the Neuro recommends Tysabri. MS medication is prescribed under various schemes monitored by NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) as it costs so much money there are certain criteria which you must meet. Apparently I now meet those for Tysabri. After the Neuro left the Nurse recommended not making any quick decisions re: drugs but gave me some literature to take away and examine and told me to get back to her with my decision. Then I went to see the Pysio (who is handily in the next room). He did a few basic exams and then made me an appointment for tomorrow.

The final part of waiting (there was much waiting interspersed with all the above) was at the Pharmacy, who are rivalling blood tests for their waiting times (thank goodness I didn't have to do that too today!). It was an hour and a half queueing at the pharmacy. The worst thing was I couldn't even go and have lunch as the cash machine in the foyer was out of order... the pharmacy are having to bill me for goodness sake! So set up with a months worth of steroids. Hurrah. Five a day for five days, then onto a different 'breed' and 12 a day for seven days, 6 a day for seven days and finally three a day for seven days. I'm going to rattle!

Finally left the hospital in the early afternoon, several hours after I had arrived. Decided that I needed to go into the office to talk to my boss, the recommendation having once again been made for bed rest and no work. This of course made me nervous. We are really busy at work (as evidenced by the recent spate of ten and twelve hour days) and I don't like to let them down. Equally the wobbly legs and lack of balance are being joined by the dizziness, which makes me want to lie down in bed and stay there!

My boss was, as could probably been predicted, fine. My company are fantastic employers. I apologised for the poor timing, but he was understanding. He asked if the long hours had caused the relapse. I told him, by themselves, no - but they certainly don't help! So. Here I am, back off to bed again. What a disappointment!

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Making Lists!

Do you ever have those sorts of days. You have so much to do that you write a list (I do that most days due to my increasing propensity to forgetfulness) and you spend the entire day crossing things off the list in a most satisfactory manner, as you have written everything you can think of to do on the list (even making phone calls and writing emails). The fact that it wasted nearly an hour writing the list in the first place is neither here nor there. The satisfaction of ticking items off can't be beaten! And, it really makes you feel like you have achieved something during the day (whether or not, on a significant basis) you really have!

It has to be done, it is the modern way - after all.

Monday 11 February 2008

Jubilee Line Deserted

I got the Jubilee Line this morning at the same time I normally do. Strangely deserted. I am wondering if all the problems last week have led to despondency from regular users and their feeling that there must be a better way to travel to work. I certainly can't remember the last time that I saw so many empty seats at this time of day except the week straight after Christmas!

Sunday 10 February 2008

More Assassins

The excellently enjoyable thing about the new game Assassins Creed which came with my Xbox 360 is that even though it is an RPG it is not too limited in the manner in which it can be played. Most of my other experience of this kind of genre is from the Tomb Raider series (excellent games, don't get me wrong), but extremely linear in the gameplay. A series of quest/problems/challenges which must be solved in a certain order.

Not so Assassins Creed. The game play provides choices, and seemingly you are free to roam pretty much anywhere accessible whenever you want. The challenges are set out to be solved, but there are a limited number of tasks which MUST be completed with further optional taks. There are also absolutely dozens of 'sub-quests' to keep you going.

The amazing graphics continue to impress me - as does the Xbox 360s superb processing power which keeps the game ticking over at a good speed!

Saturday 9 February 2008

Consoles, consoles and more consoles

Surfing the internet this morning I stumbled across an advert for a new video game. The game 'Lost' based on the TV show, finally arriving in a store near you on the 29th February. Much anticipated, much awaited. One fly in the ointment. Only available on three platforms. PC - not sure that my laptop is up to that, PS3 or Xbox360. Oh dear. And me with a collection of consoles but not either of those.

First of all I bought a PlayStation. I'd been playing Final Fantasy VII on somebody else's PlayStation and just had to finish the game (I never did by the way!). Next came PlayStation 2 when it became impossible to buy games for the PlayStation. So then there were two...

Then came the release of several Sonic the Hedgehog games. Only on the GameCube. Happy memories from past acquaintance with the Sega Megadrive. And the necessity to buy a GameCube to continue this happy association.

The original PlayStation is now retired... so there are still two.

The next game that I just had to play was the much advertised 'Fable'. Curse their excellent advertising campaign. Fable, only available on the Xbox. So then there were three. It was worth it though, as Fable remains one of only two games that I've ever finished (the other being Tomb Raider Legend).

The Xbox has been my favourite of the three. Best graphics, best processing power.

Of course the march of consoles never stops. There was the NES, the SNES, the MegaDrive... practically before Sony and Microsoft had even a twinkle in their eye. It was inevitable that the PS2 would be followed by the PS3. And definitely inevitable that Nintendo who had been concentrating on the hand-held market would have to re-join the console race. Enter the Wii (looks too much like hard work to me all that action). So also inevitable was the Xbox 360.

So, continuing the trend I decided that I must be ready for the advent of the Lost game, and that I should spend my savings on another new console. Welcome Xbox360.

Fantastic. Beautiful graphics (oh, I do need an HD TV), fantastic processing (not too long in the loading sections). The console came with an excellent game 'Assasins Creed' which I had seen advertised on TV. The footage was so amazing it was hard to believe it was a game, and that is true to the game. Absolutely awesome. And as Rich pointed out, during the several hours game play yesterday afternoon, no swearing at the game... so not too hard then!

So. Despite my fervent belief that my console buying days were over (well, that was never really going to happen was it) welcome to console number 5!

Friday 8 February 2008

Power Outage

Just after I wrote yesterday's post our office suddenly disconnected for the internet. We tried all th usual solutions of re-booting the router and the firewall in turn. Nothing. I rang the IT guy to see if they were doing anything from outside the office. No. Unusual. I rang our DSL provider. A power outage in the exchange I was told. No idea how long it will last.

It lasted all afternoon! What we didn't find out until later was the dramatic events that had taken place. An exploratory dig for the Crossrail project had hit an HV cable (that's high voltage). The workman was seriously injured and the power was out over several blocks in Mayfair for several hours. No internet was all that happened to our office... one of our clients who are further north and east lost power to their offices. Goodness knows what we would do without power, no computers... no work!

Thursday 7 February 2008

No more cold baths

The replacement boiler and associated works have finally been completed. I forgot to mention this lovely fact yesterday during my rant against the Jubilee Line. I walked into the house last night and for the first time in weeks it was warmer inside than outside! Delightful.

I had a much anticipated hot bath, with water that gushed from taps instead of trickling from a kettle. And my word, the water is hot!

Wednesday 6 February 2008

More trouble on the Jubilee Line

There will soon be very little point in attempting to travel on the Jubilee Line. I again missed chaos this morning by arriving at work before seven - half an hour later various parts of the line became suspended. Today's reason - power failure. This caused a train of people to be evacuated (eventually) through the tunnel during the rush hour. The knock-on effects lasted all day. Just before I left the office in the evening I checked the status of the line. Hurrah a 'good service' was being reported. In the five/ten minutes it takes to get from my office to Green Park the line broke again. By the time I reached Green Park there was no service eastbound and the line was suspended between Green Park and Stratford.

How else to get to North Greenwich? Orphaned as it is on the Jubilee Line. I opted in the end for a 188 via Docklands. Probably should have got the 53 down the Old Kent Road. The bus was heaving. The driver kept up a stream of public service announements "keep all you bags and wallets close, pick pockets may operate" and called all the stops (amazing how many people have no idea of the geography of London above ground!). His cheery demeanour eventually faded and by the time we got to Greenwich he was refusing to move the bus until passengers ceased standing on the upper deck. A reasonable request given the huge red sign on the staircase stating this interdiction (no excuse that "It must be ten years since I've been on a bus"). Two hours after I left work I arrived home. I might have well as worked late!

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Hole in the road and other traffic chaos

Somebody (who would be Thames Water) has dug a large hole almost in the middle of the road outside our office. Fairly fortunately it is a one way street, so only one line of traffic is affected. Not so fortunately it is only a few feet up from a t-junction. Queue chaos. A large flat bed truck came round the corner earlier... the hole in the road was right in the way of his turning circle. Not being articulated he got fairly wedged. Instant cacophany of car horns etc. Sadly for those of us watching from the window with anticipatory schadenfreude the driver deftly reversed and righted his arc and off he went.

The hole is fairly well advanced and looks like it may be there for a while, so more traffic chaos may yet ensue!

Talking of bad traffic, I picked my nearly-mother-in-law up from work last night. We were coming home along through the Village, possibly going a bit slow but certainly only just below the 30 mile an hour speed limit. A gas-guzzler (4x4) came screeching up behind me and proceeded to tail-gate me for a couple of minutes. I was not to be shaken from my adherence to the speed limit. The 4x4 decided to pass me (who cares that we were only a matter of yards from a traffic island). The 4x4 passed me, and the traffic island on the wrong carriageway. Just another few seconds away from the site of the fatal accident on New Year's Day. The worst thing is... in an accident it won't be that idiot and his gas guzzler who come of worst... it will be the unfortunate who he hits.

Monday 4 February 2008

Boilers and Kitchens and Rubbish... oh my!

Today our house is a hive of activity (unfortunate for my day off and planned R&R). The workman has arrived to fix our boiler (hurrah) and in a matter of days the house will be a haven of heat and hot water again! I've been reasonably impressed so far. The materials came in advance of the works starting (about half eight on Saturday morning with a crash as some (hopefully not vital) piece of equipment was dropped). They turned up this morning (not as early as promised/threatened) and the chap has been busy working away ever since. Again with the loud crashes at unreasonable hours, but in the name of hot water it can be overlooked!

Yesterday afternoon, for reasons best known to myself, I decided to tidy the kitchen. The urge takes me every so often, but I never get very far. Our kitchen is very small, and completely lacking in storage space. It will be even worse in a few months when the broken down dresser is scrapped and replaced by a new fridge-freezer, but I guess we'll worry about that when the time comes. The broken dresser is a state. All the drawers are falling to bits, so stuff spills out of the bottom. The shelves are a mixture of food (herbs, spices and onions), the bread bin, the coffee machine and more cook books than anyone could need (although a fraction of my father's impressive library!). The state of this dresser has infected the surrounding area where the compost type bags have been abandoned on the floor next to the kick-stool which itself is a home for several different pairs of gardening gloves. Getting the picture? Chaos. Guess why this is. The kitchen is my responsibility. The living room (Rich's domain) is a haven of order and tidiness (it also has more storage). My attempt at organisation spread through the cupboard where the tins and packets are kept (mince pies in February!) and carried on to the fridge.

The fridge has recently had an upset. The thermostat got knocked (somehow) and froze everything at the extremities. Not good for vegetables. Many interesting jars were unearthed from the back... most of which were possibly considering experiments in the rise of new civilisations(!). Once upon a time these would have been tossed unceremoniously into the rubbish. Not under Greenwich Borough Council's new rubbish rules. These rules were clearly conceived by somebody who lives in Bexley or Lewisham and was therefore safe in the knowledge that they would never have to work with these systems.

Don't get me wrong. I'm as much for saving the planet as the next person. More than quite a lot of people actually. I have a huge collection of various re-usable shopping bags (most not even those lifetime plastic ones), I have been gradually switching to low energy bulbs, I always turn off the tap when I brush my teeth and try to only boil enough water for one cup... you get the picture. I also frequent a number of sites dedicated to changing attitudes and giving ideas for more sustainable living: We are What We Do, The Big Green Switch, I Count and Planetary Actions to name just four (and trust me, there are more!). These sites all work on the basis that many people making small changes will make a big difference, we can but try.

At some point though, common sense needs to prevail. And this "Blue, Green, Black" scheme the Council has foisted upon us appears ill-conceived. The amount of effort that needs to be put in to correctly separate rubbish is not insignificant. Take my fridge cleaning. Items which needed to be thrown away as they had passed their use by dates included: a lump of cheese encased in was, a box of microwavable sausages, three pairs wrapped in plastic in a cardboard box, a pot of jam, a pot of pesto, a tube of cheese, a tube of chilli... you get the picture. Formerly these items would have been buzzed into the bin in-situ. New rules mean that the contents must be emptied into a compostable bag (or straight to the bin) and the containers rinsed and put into the blue-top bin. I ended up with a vile compost bag full of food remnants and a hefty dose of washing up. A less enthusiastic person would have given up. The smell of the food waste nearly made me! It has to be done though. Improperly separated rubbish is not collected, as other local residents have noted.

I guess (hope) over time we will get used to it... maybe it will become second nature. I'm not sure that I'll ever get used to the smell though!

This given Sunday...

...well right here it is the early hours of Monday morning... but who is counting?!

The last few hours have been amazing. The Giants and the Patriots playing Superbowl 42 out in Arizona. Nobody was giving the Giants a chance. Everyone was expecting that the Patriots would be finishing off the perfect season and going 19-0. The Giants were coming in after an amazing run... winning their three post season games on the road. Eli Manning who has been much maligned and often compared (usually unfavourably) with his big brother Peyton.

I had faith the Giants could do it. I even bought a wee bottle of champagne, ready to celebrate.

It wasn't a high scoring game... the Giants took the lead first (which historically hasn't been that good for my teams)... they looked pretty much in control for most of the game. Right into the fourth quarter it was looking good... until the Patriots got a touch down and went three points up. The clock was running down... I was beginning to doubt the Giants would do it. But then the moment that everyone was waiting for... a mighty throw from Eli to the ever excellent Plaxico Burress for a touchdown! Touchdown Giants!!! It all got a bit confusing at this point. The Patriots somehow fitted in four downs and the Giants got the ball back. The play clock went to zero and the celebrations started, the pitch filled up - but then two seconds went back on the clock. The game wasn't quite over. All that needed to happen was the pitch to clear and Eli to take the knee... after several seconds of chaos this eventually was accomplished. And there it was, official... the Giants win! Superbowl Champions!

Saturday 2 February 2008

Shopping Saturday

I went out to do a bit of shopping this afternoon. First stop PC World and Halfords. PC World to see about a new printer for the desktop computer... having recently got a nice new one for the laptop. The reason that the desktop needs a new printer? Overflowing ink waste on the current one. Apparently it has to be sent away to Canon to get fixed. On a £20 printer? I don't think so! Add to this the fact that if an all in one printer/scanner could be found the problem of no scanner at the desktop would be solved. The last scanner doesn't yet have a Vista compatible driver. Problem was, couldn't find a printer that would fit in the gap available! Have to keep on looking I guess.

Next stop Halfords. Requirement - new rear view mirror. My current one is hanging by a thread. Literally. The helpful chap who directed me to the glue told me that these were only quick fixes and that really I needed to get it heat bonded to fix it for good. Ho hum.

Next stop Sainsbury's for a few extra supplies. I haven't been there enough since they re-opened after their re-fit to be able to find everything yet. So, the whole experience is still slightly annoying as I struggle to find what I'm looking for. Saturday afternoon isn't a good time to try, I've never seen it so busy.

Last stop B&Q for some energy saving lightbulbs. I also bought a set of socket remote controls. Amazing stuff. You plug in your appliances (lamps in my case) leave them on and then switch the sockets off by remote control. Twenty quid for three sockets, not bad at all.

Not bad afternoon shopping. Still haven't got around to actually fitting the mirror yet though!

Friday 1 February 2008

NFL in the UK

NFL is coming back to the UK. We already knew that. NFL is coming back to London. We didn't know that!

The choices (we saw on a TV interview a while back) were Wembley, Cardiff and Hampden. Rich and I were pretty convinced that it wouldn't be London again... just to spread it around. But it is.

Hopefully we'll be able to get tickets again, and hopefully we'll be able to go again. Not any of our teams playing - but NFL is one of the few sports that I can happily watch whoever is playing, so that doesn't matter.

On the subject of NFL - it's Super Bowl weekend! I've got Monday off, so I'll really be able to enjoy the whole thing.