Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fast approaching the weekend

The first week back at work after a holiday is always exhausting. Especially when there are meetings to go to and reports to be issued. I'm glad tomorrow is Friday!

This morning I went to a meeting at one of our Client's offices over in the City. The first time I've been to their new offices since they moved a few months back. Extremely corporate! Pre-printed visitor passes (with your name) I was a bit worried they were going to take my picture as there was an outwards facing webcam on the front desk - not today though. It actually does happen at very large offices that you have a personalised visitor tag with not just your name but your photo too!

I was quite jealous of their beautiful atrium and their extremely modern reception furniture - although once sat on it was quite difficult to get up from again! There was LED lighting around the meeting room doors and big computer screens on all the walls. I was quietly impressed. Also slightly confused as the office phone system appears to have the same ringtones as the phones on TV show 24... which also happens to be my mobile phone ringtone. I kept thinking my phone was ringing!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Take away trauma

So - for the third night in a row there was no cooking done in our house. We decided that we REALLY wanted the chinese take-away we didn't have on Monday night. Still no answer from the take-away. So I decided to go and fetch the food instead, and drove up to Charlton Village. The take-away is closed! The shutters are pulled down and there is a notice on the front of the shop (which I can't read from the car, even with my glasses on). I hope that they are just on holiday or something. We tried the only other chinese take-away menu we had; and sadly nowhere near as good.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

More Pizza

Last night we were going to get a take away for dinner. It was going to be chinese. However, they weren't answering their phone - so we ended up with Pizza.

Tonight we took my nearly-mother-in-law out for dinner (it's her birthday today). She chose to go to Pizza Express in Blackheath. Pizza again! It's a good thing that Rich and I like Pizza. Happily the station car park is free in the evenings, so we drove to Blackheath rather than messing around on the number 54 bus.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Normal service is resumed

Back at work after my gloriously sunny (well mostly) two weeks holiday. Unsurprisingly nothing much has changed.

I spent the first part of the day wading through the 80 or so emails that had piled up in my inbox (that is after discounting all the newsletters, marketing and other junk). I spent a lot of the rest of the day catching up on projects and even worse arguing with the (still) recalcitrant office equipment. There may now be more of it than ever - but it still takes turns to really annoy me! Plus ├ža change.

Finally got the scanner that wouldn't scan to actually scan (hurrah). This led to five minutes blissful quiet. Then the main MFD (multi-function device... although I have some unprintable alternatives!) decided not to print. I rang our IT guy and asked if he thought it was coincidental that as one was fixed the other ceased to function. He suggested that I turn it off and on again. Printer back in business. I dropped him an email to let him know that it was fixed, and told him I should have thought of switching it off and on again (we always joke about how this is the only solution offered by helplines). His response, wryly "Trade Secret..."! The office equipment still wasn't done with me though. Some sort of power spike sent the server onto its UPS (unitineruptable power supply) - unfortunately it is extremely interuptable... it overloaded, started emitting a high-pitched wail and switched off the server. At this point (apart form wondering about the alarm) all work in the office stops as nothing works without the server *sigh*. There was another ten minutes holding the server's (metaphorical) hand through the start-up process.

By this point I'm pretty much done with Monday. This is fine as it is now time to go home anyway. Ah, but TfL and the Underground have other ideas. My phone receives a text message from the TfL travel update service. The Jubilee Line is suspended due to faulty communications equipment. Time to take an alternate route home. I walk out of the office into the oven that is Central London (thirty degrees apparently, it felt it). Now I'm thinking that the lack of Jubilee Line is no great loss. I consider (momentarily) walking to Whitehall to get the number 53. I can't be bothered it is just too hot... so I swelter on the number 9 instead, all the way to Trafalgar Square. Eventually I get the 53 and as I'm at the front of the queue (I saw it coming down Great Scotland Yard) I get a seat. Two hours after leaving the office I finally get home.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

SatNav takes us on a trip

Today we were off to seem some friends for a BBQ lunch. As I only knew roughly where their house is located I decided it was the perfect opportunity for SatNav to guide us. For reasons unknown SatNav decided that the best route was via Sidcup to the M25 - which worked for me as the last time that I was at the junction near Dartford there were roadworks and horrendous queues. I got a bit confused when we nearly arrived, but SatNav did a bit of recaculating and found us our destination in the end!

We had a wonderful afternoon with our friends, good food... a game of boules (!) and some quality time with their baby (who is really more of a little boy now!). It was quite shocking to notice the time and reluctantly make our way home.

This evening it was time to take the new grill for a test drive. Fantastically improved cooking times for the lamb chops (compared to trying to bake them in the oven). I love my new cooker! Also managed to find time to finish reading 'The Pirate's Daughter' by Margaret Cezair-Thompson. Another book picked from the library on the recommendation of Richard and Judy's book club. Fantastic read... set in Jamaica (where I did once spend two weeks on holiday many years ago) it is vividly written with wonderful characters (including Errol Flynn!). It's an absolute delight to read and really doesn't dissapoint all the way to the end... ten out of ten and highly recommended. I'm not sure what will happen to the rest of the library books as I've already had them for two weeks now so there is only one week left and now I'm back at work I don't have nearly as much time for reading, and what time I do have will be devoted to finishing 'Flood' by Stephen Baxter!


Saturday, 26 July 2008

Cooker arrives!

After many months in the offing the new cooker arrived today. Well, not really new, second-hand but new to us. My uncle and cousin kindly drove it up from the South coast and delivered it (with some help from Rich) to our kitchen. Even better, shortly after this a call was received from the plumber to see if a) the cooker had been delivered and b) he could come to fit it this afternoon instead of Monday morning! Hurrah. The new cooker is now installed and we are very excited to have a functioning grill and an oven whose door stays closed; the old cooker's grill was busted and the only way the door would stay shut was to prop the front of the cooker on cardboard and let gravity take care of it!

I spent a large part of today watching the Twenty-20 final where Kent were playing Essex. Being a Kent girl (I lived there for most of my childhood) I was obviously supporting Kent. It was all very exciting - despite the 'sloppy' fielding (that's the commentators words not mine) of the Essex team they came close to matching Kent's score. I started watching the game between Middlesex and Durham but lost interest on account of a) Middlesex isn't an actual county and b) how can you take a cricket team seriously wearing that shade of pink?!

I missed most of the final as I was taking a well earned nap. I woke up in time to see Kent's innings... what a roller-coaster. They seemed to be out of contention, them a very strange incident of over-throwing appeared to give them a chance... before they finally blew it.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday - Holiday Day 10

Last real day of holidays today before the weekend and then back to work. It was therefore a day for chores and all the things I've neglected during the last two weeks. It involved a lot of tidying things away but also some good things like working may way down three months worth of magazines!

I've now had two weeks worth of my new 'comfort' auto-injector that I picked up from my MS Nurse. I have to give it a huge thumbs up. It is so much easier to use than the old one. It's easier to put together, and instead of having to hold two buttons whilst you use it you pull a lever before hand and then only need one button. The best thing of all though is that it retracts the needle when you are done... hopefully this should improve the adverse skin reactions!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of Pharaohs

Today we were back at the O2 again (after our brief passage through from pier to bus station yesterday). This time we were off to the 'O2 Bubble' to see the Tutankamun exhibition. The tickets cost £15 each (they are more expensive on Friday through Sunday) and it was actually particularly good value for money.

We arrived and made our way through the queueing area and up the escalators to the entrance. From here we were shepherded into a viewing area (no seats!) to see a short introductory film. From here you could make your way through the various exhibit halls which make up the exhibition.

The exhibition was beautifully imagined and realised. The displays were perfectly lit, each room with just the right amount of exhibits. The information was located at several locations on each display (above and below the case as well as within the case). There were some amazing bits, such as the room with life sized replica columns and the room with replicas of the murals from burial chambers. The whole experience was extremely 'cinematic' in that it was 'moodily' lit and quite dark for most of the time - to the extent that I got lost on several occasions. It was informative and beautifully presented. These were the good things.

Of course there were some not so good points. The whole system for traversing the exhibition was extremely flawed. Far too many people were allowed in one 'sitting' and every room was over-crowded. It is unfortunate that we decided to go in the first week of the school holidays. Whilst there are undoubtedly many youngsters who are interested in the history of Ancient Egypt there are also a lot who are not, many of whom seemed to be visiting the same time as us today!

The biggest disappointment was the fact that the famous death mask of Tutankhamun was not included in the exhibit. Despite the fact that this features prominently on posters, the website and a lot of the souvenirs you will not see it at the O2 (apparently it is no longer allowed to leave Egypt). I did know this in advance of my visit today (I remembered reading about it before the exibit opened) and if you read the FAQs on the website it does confirm this. However, I'm sure that most people didn't read the FAQs or remember the news from the time and were extremely dissapointed at the end of the tour instead of seeing the death mask to find themselves in the gift shop!

After this we had lunch in McDonalds. It amused me deeply whilst having my lunch to find the 'nutrional advice' on the side of my fries and burger. Not only was I informed of the percentages of my RDA of various things (calories, fat, salt, etc.) but there was a dotted line to indicate 1/3 of the RDA to enable me to plan my balanced diet (that is what my burger said, anyway!). I know that McDonalds have tried to shed their fast food image over the last few years and do now sell some healthier options - but I can't think that anyone could possibly claim that a burger and fries in anyway could be seen as part of a balanced diet... after all, the only vegetable in evidence was the pickle!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part Five, Royal Observatory (Greenwich)

Today we took a trip across Blackheath and through the Park to the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. Our original destination was the Planetarium, which we never got around to in the event, but the Observatory itself is a worthwhile day out... and even better, free entry!

We started by getting a bus from Charlton to the edge of Blackheath from where we walked to the top entrance of Greenwich Park. We walked along the beautiful tree lined avenue and finally reached our destination of the Royal Observatory.

Standing in front of the Observatory there are amazing views over the Thames towards Greenwich, Woolwich and Canary Wharf.
Panorama from in front of the Observatory.

There are some amazing exhibitions to see at the Observatory; the original home of the Astronomer Royal has been recreated, including the stunning Octagon Room. There are numerous examples of clocks and watches as well as other equipment used to watch the universe. Amongst other things to see was the amazingly impressive 28 inch telescope. Not for the fainthearted this one as it involved a climb up a very precarious feeling spiral staircase, a walk across a rather narrow terrace and a descent down another long spiral staircase with chequer-plate treads which mean you can see all the way down! A quick stop in the courtyard to admire the Greenwich Meridian (and the plaques to the three previous meridians!) and we moved on to the 'space' side of the exhibits. These were great fun (if probably more aimed at the younger visitors!) and ended with an excellent short film.

The Greenwich Meridian

The famous 'ball' which drops at 1pm every day - we missed it by 15 minutes!

The top of the Planetarium which is constructed using significant angles relative to the Greenwich Meridian and astronomical features! It is made out of copper, and has signs warning against touching as the metal becomes hot in the sun.

The airship (again) which seemed to be following us as we saw it on Blackheath, at the Observatory and again when we were nearly home!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Garden Gang (again)

Whilst I was sitting in the garden yesterday afternoon I was delighted to see a lot of my friendly wildlife out and about:


Blackbird having dinner


Squirrel sunbathing


Molly sunbathing


Assorted fish enjoying the sunshine

I also managed to get some new pictures of this summer's crop of amphibians - and some snails which had colonised what used to be a pot of coriander!


Small frog


King Frog with a smaller relative


Small frog hiding


Snails having destroyed coriander!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Monday - Holiday Day 6

So, (nearly) all the birthdays in my family being in July - today was Rich's birthday; happy birthday Rich!

Today was also the day that the new flooring was finally laid. True to their word the fitters turned up early afternoon to lay the screed (even managing to get the remains of the old flooring from out under the freezer). They then went off to do another job and came back to lay the vinyl in the late afternoon. I spent most of the intervening time sitting in the garden reading my book and keeping an eye on proceedings. And, easy as that, the new floor is laid! The new cooker is arriving this weekend and then the transformation of the kitchen will be complete!


The new kitchen floor (at last)

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Movie night as usual

Last night's movie was the fantastic "Stargate Contiuum" (thanks to Play USA for getting it here so fast!).

If you like Stargate then you're going to love 'Contiuum'. it is an absolutely amazing film. It manages to get nearly all the main cast members (ever) together, even the late, great Don S. Davis. Several of the famous G'ould (especially my personal favourite Ba'al) and even a brief appearance by Jack O'Neil. I heard an interview with writer Brad Wright were he was saying it was the piece of which he was most proud, and I could well agree with him. If my other favourite cast member Harry Maybourne had only shown up it would have been perfect! I might go as far as ten out of ten!

This afternoon it was the Grand Prix at Hockenheim. After the excitement of Silverstone I was expecting a big let-down, but luckily I was wrong. Fantastic race! Having opened up a superlative lead over second place pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton looked like he had it in the bag. Then a rear suspension failure on Timo Gloch's car brought out the safety-car. Lead vanishes. As soon as the pit lane opens nearly the whole pack pits, except Lewis. The safety car then stays out a few more laps than seems strictly necessary (presumably the lapped cars are unlapping themselves). Now Lewis has to build up another lead in order to make his pit-stop and come out in front. It doesn't happen. Suddenly Piquet (who is one stopping) leads from Massa with Lewis back in third. Amazingly he manages to pass both other drivers to finish top of the podium. Fantastic stuff! There were some other good drives around, but none to quite beat that!

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Library Books

I make good use of my local library. It's small, but has a pretty good rotation of books (I suspect that the libraries in the Borough must pool their resources and share the books). It never takes me long to choose books. I have a few 'want to read' items that I keep a look-out for, and otherwise pick pretty much at random from displays and shelves. If I end up not fancying a book it gets sent back unread; although I always try to stick to my late grandfather's maxim of finishing a book you start (he was a voracious reader); it may sometimes take me several efforts!

The current crop were chosen in my normal manner. Two were renewals from the last lot (you only get three weeks for eight books from Greenwich libraries) that I had started and not finished. Five of the remaining six were chosen from a 'summer reading' display featuring choices from the 'Richard and Judy Summer Read'. Well, why not? The last was a book I spotted off the shelf, Jeffrey Archer "Sons of Fortune". I realise that Archer isn't generally considered high literature, but I've always enjoyed his books (I must have read "Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less" a dozen times!). I decided to start reading this first, and from the beginning I wondered if I hadn't already read it. I reasoned that I would definitely remember some of the more audacious plot twists, therefore I probably hadn't. There is some familiarity in many of his books as he writes often about what he knows, and so politics often features strongly.

It wasn't until I read the last words of the book that I realised that I definitely had read the book before; the end of the book irritated me, and had irritated me on the previous reading. I don't want to give to much away... but at the end of the book is an election, the election is a tie, and must therefore be decided on the toss of a coin. The last paragraph reads "The mayor picked up the coin and turned round to fact the two candidates. He smiled at the man now standing on his right, and said, 'May I be the first to congratulate you, governor.'" The end. On the previous page you are told that the two candidates are standing "as befitted their political persuasion". During the coin toss you are also told "One of them called, 'Heads,' but then he always called heads." Yep. This was mentioned somewhere in the course of the book. But, for those who have criminally short attention spans and read books in several sittings (often in conjunction with reading several other books) such throw away details are often forgotten. Yes, annoyingly about twenty chapters previously one of the characters lost a coin toss when the opponent called heads and it was mentioned at that point "because he would have called heads - he always did".

I'm not going to tell you who won; you probably haven't read the book and don't really care. You can work it out anyway from the last two pages of the book; and if you want confirmation I'd recommend the beginning of Chapter 31! It just annoys me that I managed to read an entire book without realising that I'd read it before! I'd recommend it if you enjoy a good tale; just as I recommend all of Archer's books (well, the ones I've read, anyway).

A change of pace, next - a delve into 'Richard and Judy's Summer Read' I think.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday - Holiday Day 5

We noticed this morning that apart from the black bag the bins we put out yesterday were still sitting there, waiting. My nearly-mother-in-law said that she had heard something about a strike. As I don't read the local paper I didn't know anything.

I decided to check the Council Website to see what they had to say. Nothing of any relevance. So I decided to call the Contact Centre to see what they had to say. Yes, indeed; the bin men were on strike on Wednesday and Thursday. I asked when I could expect my rubbish to be collected. Next week as usual I was told. I pointed out that my bins were full. Oh, you can use black bags I was told.

What is the point of them going on strike. Number 1, I didn't know about it (so excellent publicity!); Number 2, the only people they have inconvenienced is me and my neighbours who can't do anything about whatever it is that they are striking about anyway. Do they think that they are making a point to Greenwich Council? Do they think that Greenwich Council care that half the Borough didn't get their rubbish collected this week? No to both, I'd hazard a guess.

So, the flies will buzz around my 'green' bin for another week; my 'blue' bins will overflow... and ironically my black sacks which are best placed for non-collection were collected. Go figure.

On the topic of rubbish gripes, as expected now that the Summer is here (after a fashion) the food/composting bin is suffering badly from the flies and smell. It is the furthest bin from the front door, but you can still smell it as soon as you leave the house. I appreciate why the Council are organising the rubbish collections the way they are, I even applaud their efforts... but I still think that if they are going to insist that food waste is deposited un-wrapped (or barely wrapped) into the bin they should arrange for and finance regular sanitisation of said bins. Not going to happen, I know, so I guess I'll be arranging it myself.

This afternoon was devoted to playing my new Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360. Very much in the vein of all recent Sonic games it served to remind me why I usually only play games with a 'three years and up' rating (this has a 'twelve years and up'). I'm not very good at console games, I fare better with easier games. I get frustrated when the learning curve is too steep... I'd also forgotten the irritation of all Sonic games that when you 'die' and use up all your lives you go all the way back to the very start of the level. ARGH! Frustration beyond frustration... back to Indy for the rest of the day now to clear my mind for another Sonic attempt!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Thursday - Holiday Day 4 (aka my birthday!)

Cake and presents! Also, a great deal of quality time with my Xbox!

Amongst other things Rich got me the new Indian Jones Lego game (and also the Sonic game, which I've not even got around to playing yet!). Indy is GREAT! Having played the Star Wars Lego games in their various incarnations forwards, backwards and probably sideways the new challenge is great. The same amazing graphics... the same excellent game play... probably the same attention to details from the movies (if only I remembered the movies better!) - you really couldn't ask for much more from a game.

Tomorrow Sonic? I've really missed playing Sonic since I sold my Gamecube!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Wednesday - Holiday Day 3

Things in life are rarely simple. Any attempt at home improvement we make is also rarely simple. From the time that the new sofa was delivered (and got wedged in the door) to the time that the new fridge-freezer was delivered and abandoned in the garden, to the time that they re-did the ceiling and the disintegrated plaster and lathe ceiling came down all over the living room floor... well you get the idea. If it can go wrong it usually does.

The purchase of our new flooring with delivery and installation the next day seemed too good to be true. Probably because it was. The workmen arrived this afternoon and looked at the kitchen floor and told me that they couldn't install the hardwood levelling base as there was 'nothing to fix it to'. I would have thought that they could have drilled into the concrete... but apparently not. So, it has to be a screed. Screeds of course require time to 'go off'; I know these things, working in the industry and all, and let workmen know it, so that they don't try and pull the wool over my eyes! This means that we have to clear the kitchen for basically two days. I'm a bit annoyed. I did tell the woman in the shop that the floor was concrete... so she should have said that the workmen wouldn't fix hardwood to concrete. Oh, and they won't work around the fridge freezer, so we (that means Rich) have to move that too. And presumably it will have to sit in the garden for twenty four hours... great - my nearly £300 fridge-freezer open to the elements.

So now I've to wait for the shop to call me back to let me know when they can fit in the new appointments. In the interim the carpet is gone from the kitchen leaving bare (cold) concrete, and without the softening of the concrete the cupboard in the corner no longer has any help with levelling the floor and wobbles alarmingly.

All depressingly predictable.

All Star Game

So... tonight is the All Star Game. The annual collection of the greats (mostly) of baseball playing together. For the last few years the All Star Game 'counts' as whichever team wins the game gets home-field advantage for their League in the World Series. The American League usually wins the All Star Game (at least for the last few years)... not going so well tonight so far (AL are currently losing). It's about the only time that Rich and I can agree in baseball as we both want the AL to win.

This is the last season at Yankee Stadium... therefore the last All Star Game at Yankee Stadium. Before the game they had all the living Hall of Famers on the field along with the All Star Players. This was rather cool, they all lined up on the field behind the positions that they played at, and were then joined by the All Star Players.

We've been watching the coverage on Five (yep, there is a choice between them and NASN). Five win our viewing on account of they actually have proper coverage with presenters (no ad-breaks at all tonight so far). How could miss out the fun with Jonny and Josh (and David)... and the best bit of all, they wished me "Happy Birthday". Rich emailed them in and they read it out live on air... which means that my name was said in Yankee Stadium! How cool is that?! It's the little things...

We're currently enjoying the Seventh Inning Stretch... and Jonny, Josh and David talked through most of 'God Bless America' - not cool guys! I always enjoy the rendition of 'God Bless America'.

So, we'll settle down to enjoy the end of the game, and hope that the AL Team pull their finger out!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Tuesday - Holiday Day 2

Another busy day today (how are holidays as busy as going to work?!). Given the arrival of the new fridge-freezer and the imminent arrival of the new oven it was decided that it was finally time to get the new floor laid. I'd already been out scouting for floor finishes, and even snapped a few pictures so that Rich and I could decide what we were going to choose. Of course, the one we chose was a 2m roll which wouldn't suit our kitchen whose minimum dimensions exceeded 2m. C'est la vie. We've ended up with a rather bright blue, which will hopefully lift the colour in our kitchen which is rather dark because the windows are small.

The best bit was that they can come tomorrow to fit the flooring... the worst bit is that as we'll be up late tonight watching the All Star Game we're going to be rather tired clearing the kitchen tomorrow morning.

This afternoon I decided to try getting my Xbox 360 controller to work on the laptop. The logic goes like this... the Xbox is made by Microsoft. My laptop runs Vista made by Microsoft. The game that I want to play is 'made for Windows' and made by Microsoft (in part). The logic is therefore the controller will work with the laptop and the game. Hah! I plugged it into the USB and indeed the computer recoginised 'something'. It went off searching for drivers... and eventually 'found' something on Windows Update. Nothing worked. I searched the net and found another download. Installed... appeared to work... controller doesn't work. Restarts... troubleshooting... still nothing. I give up. I'll buy a games controller I guess. Silly me to think that anything would be easy!

Off for a nap soon, ready for the All Star Game later.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Monday - Holiday Day 1

A great start to my holiday this morning... an appointment at the hospital to see my MS Nurse. This in itself is not a bad thing, I like my nurse (actually she's great) and as the appointments were running to time today everything was accomplished delightfully quickly. Shame the same couldn't be said for the blood test department. The sign at reception warned of a wait of 45 minutes. In the event it was an hour and ten!

The nurse gave me a new version of the auto-injector (hopefully I can work out how to use it with a needle in it, as she didn't have a demo needle for the demonstration). This is going to (allegedly) reduce skin reactions at injection sites - although it has been much improved ever since I started using the aloe vera gel.

This afternoon I decided to run some errands. First up was trip to the library, where upon arrival I realised I'd forgotten my library card and so had to go all the way home again. Whilst at the library I noticed an airship overhead! A real live airship (some call them dirigibles) not one of those tethered ones. After choosing some books (thank you Richard and Judy's Book Club for providing me with four easy choices!) it was off to Asda for a bit more shopping... and another airship sighting! What can there be to see over Charlton and Woolwich apart from the Thames Barrier? It's all a new sightseeing opportunity, for the very rich it would seem!


Airship over Charlton House


Airship heading towards the river


Airship over Asda

Next I took the car through the car-wash (yes, lazy and not very eco-friendly), before my final stop looking for new kitchen flooring. A long (long) time ago when we had the living room re-decorated we used the carpet off-cuts to put down in the kitchen. Never (ever) have carpet on a kitchen floor. So, now we've had a new fridge freezer (and the new cooker imminently arriving) it seems a good time to rethink the floor!

So, several of the dull but necessary tasks out of the way; now I can relax and enjoy the rest of my holiday!

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Movie night

Two movies last night, first up was 'Unknown' followed by 'Cars'. 'Unknown' was very good... five guys wake up in a warehouse with no memory of who they are, and the film progesses from there. Well written, well acted and a truly surprising twist at the end. Totally recommended, eight out of ten.

'Cars' is another animation from the excellent Pixar (who have brought us the likes of Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and so forth). Great fun movie, amazing (amazing) animation and a lot of very famous names doing the voices. The best bit was at the end where they had a little bit at the end self-referencing the fact that John Ratzenberger (Cliff in Cheers) has been a voice in all the Pixar movies, and they had little clips of the movies (but done by cars)... very cute. Again, eight out of ten.

A good movie night, then. Must be due some rubbish ones next week on that basis! A lot of movie watching is likely over the next few weeks, I've got two weeks holiday, and apart from visiting as many friends as I can impose myself upon I've got no real plans. Some R&R - couldn't come at a better time.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Visiting the folks

Today I took a trip to Kent to see my folks. It is their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary on Monday so I took them the gift that I had got for them which was a photo album with pictures from when my brother and I were kids until now. They were thrilled with this, and my mother started wondering where all the other family photo albums had got to.

After lunch we went shopping and I was delighted to find on the sale rail an identical pair of trousers to a pair which I had loved so much that I wore them until they fell to bits. Hurrah!

My mum has decided that she want to cancel her mobile phone contract (on account of hardly ever using it). She was paying about £16 a month for half an hour of calls. Oh yeah, and an additional £2.55 for 'International Travellers Service' which she had asked for once and forgot to cancel. We tried the internet first, but of course there was no information of any sort on cancelling a contract - and the fact my parents have pay-as-you-go dial-up internet. So a phone call was made. After some to-ing and fro-ing and transferring between departments we got to the right person. My mum explained what she wanted and of course they tried to persuade her to change tariffs or anything rather than cancel the contract. The next thing they told her that she had to top up her pay-as-you-go every month or the number would expire! What nonsense. We did finally get it sorted, so the next step is that money they save on the contract is going to go to getting broadband. I shall be helping them out with that one too!

Friday, 11 July 2008

Out for lunch

Today we had one of periodical office outings. We all went out for lunch at our favourite local pizza restaurant. Although it isn't obligatory to eat pizza at a pizza place everyone did, and it was pretty good too. I couldn't decide what toppings to have (as usual) and in the end went for 'Four Seasons' as that has loads of toppings that I don't usually choose (mushrooms, olives, ham and artichoke). I made up for the lack of 'spiciness' by smothering it in chilli oil. Perfect!

After lunch we found a very traditional sort of pub. It was early enough that it wasn't too busy so we found a nice table. The absolute bonus of all was that by the time we were coming home it wasn't too late! I treated myself to a cab home from North Greenwich, that's two cabs in one day as Boss-two and I got one back from our meeting this morning too!

Boss-one has been on his travels again. And with his usual 'bad travel' karma has managed to lose his luggage. He wasn't even flying through Heathrow! He was only passing through on his way to holidays, so he's lost all his holiday clothes and all. Nightmare. If it was going to happen to anyone it would be him though. I always warn all new staff not to travel anywhere with him on account of his propensity for travel disasters!!!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Bad Traffic Day

The whole of public transport was working against me today. This morning I made my way to the temporary bus stop to get the 486 (having just missed the 422, and at twenty past seven I considered it a bit late for the 422). Mistake. I waited... more people came... I waited... more people came (a few ignorant types ignoring the orderly queue). Finally a bus came. Almost full. I managed to get on, as did the queue-jumpers, at the expense of some who had queued. No justice. The bus then made a bad tempered journey to North Greenwich, ignoring most stops due to the overcrowding.

At North Greenwich I was delighted to find a train on the middle platform, seats available, departing in 10 minutes. I decided for a seat I could wait 10 minutes. I didn't have to. The train left early, after an announcement that this would be the next train to depart saw a chaotic rush of passengers across the middle of the platforms!

Fast forward to the evening. Having weathered a brief crisis this afternoon at work (four options to be costed, each themselves with multiple options, all to be done by six after they didn't arrive 'till gone three!) I finally arrived at Green Park (with Boss-two) at ten to seven. We got to the Jubilee Line to find the platform overcrowded and no trains showing on the indicator board (again). Minor delays (apparently) due to a signal failure at Canary Wharf.

We waited. A train arrived, full to beyond bursting - about three people got off and about thirty got on. "Another train is directly behind this one" promised the announcer. We waited. Another train arrived (several long minutes later). The platform, in the interim, had filled up to previous levels. Again a few people got off and an impossible number squeezed on. Rinse and repeat. As the third train left (we'd now been in the station for about half an hour) we decided that we would definitely squeeze onto the next one, the platform looked a little less full... maybe there was hope. No. "The next train to arrive at the Southbound Jubilee Line platform terminates here. Do not board this train."! Seriously. The platform was as full as it had ever been. Fortunately a train really was a few minutes behind and we finally managed to squeeze onto the train. I spent an extremely uncomfortable journey under a fat man's armpit as far as Canary Wharf (cause of the chaos). I finally exited North Greenwich one hour after I had entered Green Park (I checked) and shall now be asking TfL for a refund!

Incidentally I noticed several people consuming beer on the tube tonight (probably not without good cause). This makes around fifteen incidents of contravention of the alcohol ban that I have personally witnessed since it came into force. What have I seen done about it? Nothing.

Talking of traffic, I saw an interesting news story tonight concerning proposals for Oxford Circus. There are plans afoot to re-imagine the pedestrian corssings. They won't just be across the four streets but also diagonally across the circus. "All traffic will stop for about 30 seconds". The problem is, Japanese (generally) are a polite and considerate nation, English (generally) are not. I can only imagine the free-for-all. And thirty seconds is certainly not enough time for me to cross a thoroughfare of that size!

The other news story that caught my eye is the latest Government plan regarding recycling. Instead of the 'stick' (fining people for non-compliance) they want to use the 'carrot' and reward people (£25 I think) for compliance. What nonsense! Who is paying for this lunacy? The tax payer? Because there is money to spare right now with 'bear markets' on the Stock Exchange and recession likely just round the corner. And why should it be so hard? We've been recycling since February without any 'stick' or 'carrot'. Isn't educating people as to why it is necessary and hoping that they have a modicum of compassion and conscience and concern for fellow man and the planet enough? No, probably not.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Washed-out Wednesday

Vile weather again today. Apparently more rain today than usually falls in the whole month of July. This I can believe. It was certainly raining every time I went outside. As Saffy Bloke One pointed out, well it is England.

Another meeting in King's Cross today. It is a bad sign when you arrive at the offices and the receptionist no longer needs to ask who you have come to see. It is even worse when after she offers you a drink and you request coffee she observes that you usually drink too. Too many meetings, obviously.

Upon leaving the meeting at lunchtime the Engineer who I was walking back to the station turned and said to me "You told me it had stopped raining".

"No," I corrected him, "I told you it was still raining!".

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Wet weather

Today I finally finished the estimate that has been ruling my life for the past few days (funny how estimates do that). The sense of relief was huge, and the client was not too appalled by the cost; so all good then!

This afternoon we had a 'team' meeting (team being our entire office). At one particularly serious point after Boss-two had just made some important statement the weather (which has been vile all day) obliged with a mighty thunderclap, to emphasise the point.

The bad weather of the last few days has had an extremely adverse effect on public transport. The Jubilee Line suffered from multiple signal failures yesterday (you know it is bad when they put up posters apologising the following day). The buses were delayed by terrible traffic which meant that I ended up taking huge walks on my way to North Greenwich (in the rain, of course). Today was better (it really couldn't have been much worse), although the dismal weather continues.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Remembering

Three years ago on Monday 7th July four bombs exploded in London. 7/7 as it has since come to be called.

That morning I was at a meeting in Brick Lane with a colleague, not far from where one of the bombs exploded, these are my recollections of that day.

As my colleague and I left the meeting the receptionist at the building wished us luck making our way back to the office. When asked why she told us that she believed that there had been some explosions nearby. We left the building and headed back towards Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street Station to pick up the tube. We encountered police blockades; emergency services, sirens flashing, racing in all directions; helicopters overhead; and eerie quiet; no mobile phone network coverage.

Eventually we managed to get our phones to connect on calls and discovered what had taken place the previous few hours. I think it is fair to say that I have never been so terrified in my entire life. I stood in the street, and shook like a leaf. We didn't know where to go or what to do, we certainly had no chance of getting back to our office.

The worst part was not knowing what had happened. Everyone we spoke to gave us different versions of events... how many bombs there had been, how many dead - and where we should go and what we should do next.

My colleague and I were unsure what to do. In the end we decided to walk to his flat in Docklands, from where he'd be able to give me a lift home. From the East End to Docklands is something in the order of four miles, rather further than I'd normally walk!

We saw a lot of people on the streets that morning - making their way on foot to their destinations. Londoners, true to form, showed their famous stoicism in the face of adversity. Ah yes, the 'Blitz Spirit'.

This evening there was the 'tangocommute' at seven stations and seven bridges across London. Dancers wearing headphones danced silently during the evening rush-hour. This was part of London's 'Big Dance Week' and designed to promote 'compassion and connection' amongst London's commuters - something of which there was a great deal three years ago.

Unfortunately I was stuck in the office late tonight, so I didn't get a chance to see any of the dancers.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

All things Sunday

Saturday night was, as always in our house, movie night. Last night we managed two movies. First up was "The Nines". I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy this movie as it sounded like it might be a bit complicated for my simple tastes. Actually it was fantastic. Three separate stories seemingly unrelated using the same cast in each tale. The acting was superlative, the stories cunningingly interwoven although seemingly unrelated. I enjoyed it so much that I went and bought it on Play straight after we finished watching in it. Nine out of ten (pun intended!).

Next up was "Numb". Starring Matthew Perry I think we assumed that it would be funnier that it actually was because he was so funny in "Friends". It wasn't a bad movie, it just wasn't a good movie either. So having said it was better than most of the movies that I have seen starring former "Friends" cast members. Only five out of ten for this one.

Of course the other piece of watching that had to be done for Saturday night was the season finale of "Doctor Who". Having spent a whole week waiting to find out what would be the outcome of the 'cliffhanger' where he started to regenerate (and reading a good deal of speculation on the internet) it was both a relief and a disappointment to have it resolved within the first few minutes of the episode.

Bits of the episode I liked: the thoughtful German speaking Daleks "Exterminieren! Exterminieren!" (it always bothers me that aliens always speak English); Catherine Tate's almost uncanny mimicing of David Tennant's enthusiastic speech patterns (I don't usually like her much, but that was excellent); the fact that all the annoying side-kicks have been sealed from future storylines (no more Rose and no more Donna). Bits of the episode I didn't like: predictable outcomes (the whole hand/regeneration thing), the implication that Mickey and Martha are off to Torchwood (no!) and the huge amount of attempts to tie-in former storylines so that there is an apparent story arc. Whatever. I have seen worse episodes (oh so many) - I guess we'll see where we are heading next... what will we do for Saturday night TV for the next year or so, I'm sure we'll manage.

This afternoon was the eagerly awaited British Grand Prix. The weather has been delightfully changeable, and we hoped for rain. This was perhaps the best Grand Prix I have seen in ever such a long time. Aided by the fact that although there was rain, there were tyre issues, there was aqua-planing... but there was no safety car. Lewis Hamilton eventually won the race with a huge (huge) lead (over a minute, only the two other drivers on the podium weren't lapped) it wasn't a boring race. Lewis started strongly off the start (coming from fifth place to take second spot behind team-mate Heiki). Kimi looked like he was going to be a strong contender in his Ferrari until an unfortunate tyre decision effectively took him out of the race. There were a lot of cars spinning off the track, but most managed to get back on again. The most exciting bit was towards the end when Heiki was chasing Alonso (and a few other cars in the mix)... all in all an absolute cracking race. Oh yes, and lots of Fantasy F1 points for me as Silverstone is my chosen track and Lewis my number one driver!

After that I felt compelled to tidy the kitchen. I think it is something to do with the advent of the new fridge-freezer. I scrubbed and cleaned, I polished and tidied. The glass cupboard shines again and even the drawers are clean. Again, almost akin to exercise, that is twice in one weekend!

Now I'm sitting half-watching the Wimbledon men's final. Very thoughtful of the rain to disrupt the afternoon so that I can see the end of the match. I'm not a tennis fan (not at all) but I always enjoy a highly charged game, which is what is going on here. I also have a passing affection for Roger Federer after the Ty Beanie Baby Feder-Bear.

So, that is Sunday... what a Sunday!

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Almost like exercise

This morning I went to the supermarket. This is something that I haven't done in a while, electing usually to get Asda to deliver my shopping to me direct.

The demise of the freezer and the advent of the new fridge-freezer meant that our usual stockpile of fridge and freezer supplies had been wiped out.

A serious super shop in the freezer department was called for. Nearly-mother-in-law and I took ourselves off to Asda appropriately early (if you aren't there by ten on a Saturday you are doomed) and I actually quite enjoyed the novelty of a weekly shop (I don't enjoy it if I have to do it every week though!).

By the time we finished and got to the check-outs it was beginning to get busy. Half way through the shop I had swapped my half-size 'basket-on-wheels' trolley for a full size model. It was full too. Emptying the trolley onto the check-out was exhausting, and emptying the check-out back into the bags and trolley was even worse! I was actually sweating by the time I was done, and reminded of the almost forgotten feeling of a post-workout.

Now I remember the other reason that I don't go to the supermarket. Besides the aisles packed with people and never being able to find what you are looking for... it is exhausting!!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

My language obsession


Nearly every morning I pick up a copy of the Metro on my way to work. My attention to the news depends on whether I have a) read the Lite the night before, b) watched breakfast TV or c) read an internet news site. One thing that I always enjoy reading is the letters page.

Recently there has been a spate of letters discussing language. The 'conversation' started with a letter questioning the use (on a road sign) of "discontinuous hard shoulder" and what this might indicate. I think this is perfectly obvious and best explained by 'intermittent' (assuming that the correspondent knows that word!). Another correspondent replied to the letter, his comments containing the incorrect use of the word disseminate. Cue more letters.

The problem here is one which many might point to as endemic to this country (or maybe to all English speaking countries). As Henry Higgins put it in 'My Fair Lady', "Whilst others are instructed in their native language, English people aren't".

At school I studied handwriting, grammar and spelling. I realise that my education is unusual in this respect. We took handwriting classes with our redoubtable headmistress. Handwriting that must be done in pen and ink, the ink refilled from the bottle (no cartridges!). My two clearest memories of these lessons are one of my classmates raising their hand to observe "My pen has run out" to which our teacher replied "You had better go after it and catch it then" and her other oft repeated observation "Nice is a nice word".

Spelling was studied every week, and tested. Woe betide anyone who failed their spelling test. It is therefore even more shameful that my spelling is so lamentable!

Grammar was studied in the same manner as I would later study French, Latin and German. When years later my French teacher was to admonish us as to the use of 'split infinitives' I was one of the few people in the class who did not need the demonstration of the famous Star Trek introduction correctly phrased "To go boldly".

This lack of education has revealed itself to me lately in the written English of some of my younger colleagues. Capital letters and punctuation are used as seasoning in a sentence without any apparent understanding of meaning or significance. As for spelling, let us not even think about the deficiencies in that area!

Back to the correspondent in the Metro and his incorrect use of the word disseminate. The use of poly-syllabic words does usually indicated education, or at least scholarship. Be certain you are using the right word before you speak/write though, as incorrect use reveals the exact converse. That, or the ownership of a word of the day calendar!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Freezer Lands

Only a couple of weeks after the failure of our freezer necessitated the purchase of a new fridge-freezer our new appliance has been delivered.

The first thing I noticed about it is that it is huge! It is taller than Rich (and he is tall) which means lots of lovely space to fill! A small booklet of accessories available arrived with it. I told Rich to take it away before I bought the lot!

The next thing is that it isn't white it is graphite. This looks much more sophisticated in the kitchen.

Now I just need to go shopping to buy things to fill it!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part Four, Trafalgar Square

Occasional, and on this occasion also accidental. My enforced route march on the way home took me to Charring Cross via Trafalgar Square.
The remains of the Canada Day celebrations.
Nelson's Column and the latest occupant of the Fourth Plinth.
The National Gallery and St Martin's in the Fields
Piper in a kilt!
More remains from Canada Day celebrations

What, Wednesday again?

So, the good news is that the email server in our office continues to fail every hour (although now a quarter before the hour). The experts are 'monitoring the situation' so that's OK then. I've given up on the whole endeavour.

Lunchtime saw a trip up to John Lewis. Boss-two and I went on the search for new crockery and a new kettle. I'm not sure it really ought to have taken two of us but anyway. Our quest for new glasses failed. Unfortunately we knew exactly what we wanted and couldn't find it. Highly irritating... they were all too big, too small, too round or too expensive!

My journey home tonight was extremely disrupted by event or events unknown. Rich rang me to tell me that my nearly-mother-in-law was stuck on a bus in Greenwich and had moved twelve feet in fifty-five minutes. He was suggesting that I not get the Jubilee Line, which considering the less than perfect record lately was probably good advice. So, I went down to Piccadilly where the Number 9 bus failed to show, so I walked to Charring Cross (via Trafalgar Square). 

As I arrived I found a train just leaving for Blackheath so I jumped on that and less than twenty-five minutes later was in Blackheath Village. Where I missed the 54. So I got a 202 to Blackheath Standard, then I got a 380 (via a very circuitous route) to Charlton Village... where I stopped at the Chippy before eventually arriving home, only about an hour and a half after leaving the office. Not at all bad considering!

I've christened Saffy-bloke 'Captain Awesome' after he spent a lot of the afternoon telling me that things were 'awesome'. This is after Ellie Bartowski's boyfriend in Chuck who insists that everything is 'awesome' and is so called 'Captain Awesome'. Probably only works if you've ever watched Chuck!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Trials and tribulations, it's Tuesday

Our office email system continued in its guerilla campaign against the inhabitants of the office. Or at least that is what it feels like. After not working all afternoon Thursday or Friday it did actually behave yesterday. Today it started switching off our connection to the Exchange Server. Every hour, on the hour.

At one point Boss-two said that we should put a notice on our website telling people that they shouldn't bother trying to contact us by email between the hours of two and five as the server wouldn't be working... or every third Tuesday when nothing works at all!