Monday 27 October 2008

Random moments from a day out at Wembley

There were quite a few strange/random little moments during our day out at Wembley yesterday.

I was wearing my Giants hoodie, such is the tradition at the Wembley game that everyone wears the merchandise of the team they support, not necessarily the teams playing the game. We arrived on the platform at North Greenwich, and I spotted another couple wearing Giants gear. I had barely pointed them out to Rich when the bloke came rushing over and hugged me, saying "Well done, well done". Obviously the Superbowl hangover doesn't end until someone else wins the Superbowl (or the Giants win it again!).

Having complained to Rich when we bought our program that there was no free gift this year we were pleased to find when we took our seats that every seat had been given a free Saints flag to wave during the game (be a Saint). During our discussions of 'worst job in the ground' the person (or more likely people) who had to put a flag on each and every one of 80,000 seats eventually won.

Best of all were the two team mascots that had travelled with the Saints. One was called 'Sir Saint' and rather reminded me of Dick Dastardly from the Wacky Races Cartoon. He had a Saints helmet, a shiny cloak and an ENORMOUS chin. The other was called 'Gumbo' and was a dog. He kept me in stiches for quite a lot of the time as he took to tormenting the stewards. One hapless chap standing on the corner of the field got a good ten minutes of attention, but kudos to him he took it all in good humour.

Rich told me about another of the stewards who was captivated by the Cheerleaders (the 'Saints-sations') and apparently was castigated by his supervisor for not attending to his duties.

There were also some chaps sitting near us who were determined to start a Mexican wave. Determined. They kept leaping to their feet and throwing their arms in the air. It just wasn't catching on, only a few rows and about three-quarters of a block were taking part. Most of the rest of us were falling about laughing at their antics.  A real Mexican Wave did start eventually which actually encompassed all three tiers of the ground. Quite awesome to behold.

There was of course the inevitable queuing to get back to the Underground station. We didn't do as well this year as last as we were a bit further around the ground. Once you get onto Wembley Way (sorry, Olympic Way) you are held at several points by Police barriers (either cops on foot or even better cops on horses). There was (of course) a good deal of barracking of the police officers including the immortal "Que Sera Sera, Whatever will be will be, we'll never leave Wembely, Que sera sera".

NFL Wembley 2008

Yesterday afternoon saw us taking a trip off to Wembley again to watch the NFL. This time the Saints taking on the Chargers.
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We arrived at Wembley Park station and took the walk up Wembley Way (although apparently it is actually called Olympic Way!) . Despite the promises of rain, rain and more rain although cloudy it stayed dry. We stopped only to buy a program, whereupon I comment to Rich "No free stuff this year"... although we were fairly unimpressed with the Dolphins turquoise towels last year.
We arrived in plenty of time, and quickly made our way into the stadium. Technology has progressed since last year as the turnstile operators seem to be there only to make sure nobody gets stuck as you present your ticket into an electronic scanner.
I then had to join the 'ladies search line'. Unfortunately although two turnstiles had been labelled such there was only one female security guard. Bottleneck.
By now we thoroughly deserved a beer. Be prepared to take out a small bank loan to eat and drink at Wembley. £3.80 for a pint of (indifferent) beer and over £5 for a burger. Steep.
We took our seats just in time for the pre-match ceremonies. First of all were a couple of songs by the Stereophonics whilst two mini-blimps with banners were paraded round the pitch.
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Now (at last) it was time for the teams to take to the pitch. The Chargers as the designated 'away' team came out first through the guard of honour of cheerleaders and a bit of dry ice.
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Unfortunately somebody didn't tell the Saints to come out of the same tunnel, and they snuck out the side tunnel - causing general confusion around the ground.
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This was followed by the unfurling of two giant flags (one each for the UK and US) by assembled soldiers. Very patriotic. Very American. This was accompanied by renditions of the National Anthems. Clearly all the spectators watch enough American sport to know just the right moments to cheer at the end of the 'Stars and Stripes'. Joss Stone was on stage to do 'God Save the Queen' which she did well enough, but it really doesn't lend itself to the theatrics she attempted at the end.
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Time at last for the coin toss, and then at last the game begins. I haven't many photos of the game as it is hard to capture the plays, and much more fun to actually watch the game anyway!
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Half time saw a New Orleans type Carnival. This year they went around the track at the side of the pitch, presumably to allow the ground staff full and unfettered access to replacing divots in the turf.
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The second half began - and was over all too fast. Happily the Saints won the game (I was supporting the Saints) and I now tip them to follow in the footsteps of my mighty Giants and win the Superbowl. Reasons 1) the team that won the game at Wembley won the Superbowl and 2) the team that Jeremy Shockey played for in London won the Superbowl. Tenuous, very tenuous.
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Thursday 23 October 2008

The Occasional Tourist - Part Seven, Charlton

This afternoon I took a healthy walk around my local area. First of all a brisk stroll through Charlton Park where I saw a girls football (soccer) team taking practice and about a half dozen squirrels.


View looking towards Queen Elizabeth Hospital


View looking towards Charlton House


Here are some of the dozen or so squirrels - just after they chased each other up the tree!


Charlton House - 400 years and counting


St Luke's Church, Charlton

Although there has been a church in Charlton since the 11th Century this church dates from only the 17th Century. Apparently there is only one bell left now since the bells were removed in the WW2 and only one made it back... the same is true (sadly) for the stained glass windows.


Here's another famous part of Charlton, the football Club.


And, nearly the last famous part - the level crossing.

Just down from where I live I Marion Wilson Park - famous in history as a lair for highwaymen. Now famous for the collection of animals that inhabit the various enclosures.


The herd of deer


Flock of ducks


One of the horses


Goats (complete with magpie friends)

Tuesday 21 October 2008

More little London moments

This morning I took my (now) customary walk from Whitehall to my office of Piccadilly. I was struck as I walked through Horseguards Parade that the Cavaliers (who at that time of day are generally without horse) had changed colour. Usually they have white trousers, long black boots, shiny helmets and red jackets. This morning the jackets were blue. Strange. Happily there was a handy notice on the wall to explain to me. The Queen's Life Guard (it would appear) is made up of the Household Cavalry (red jackets) and the Blues and Royals (blue jackets). So there it is.
I crossed The Mall and was about to come up the steps to Waterloo Place. My way was impeded by what appeared to be a film crew (and associated facilities). There were lights - and what I presume were actors - there were some people in smart suits just standing... in the trade I think they were 'on their marks'. Waterloo Place itself was full of buses and trailers and all sorts. I'll have to keep an eye on movies and TV and so forth to see if I spot it!
There was strange behaviour tonight on the way back from North Greenwich. Given that Charlton were at home tonight which occasioned more travellers than normal - but there were still an unusual amount of people waiting for buses, and total chaos when they finally arrived and several buses worth of people tried to pile on each. We then queued along to get to West Parkway and the cars continued to queue (luckily the Pilot Busway meant that we carried on!). Then came the turning for Millennium Primary School, and the traffic vanished. Strange.
I got home to find that Rich had already left for football... leaving the back door open (nicely ventilating the kitchen) and a small amphibian friend sitting in the middle of the kitchen. I picked him up and took him back to the Frog Pond. He very happily settled into my hand for the journey, I suspect that he might have been waiting for me!

Sunday 19 October 2008

Some Saturday

Today my broken laptop and I took a trip to Harrow. Our purpose, to decide whether the motherboad was fried or whether a new power jack would suffice. Off we travelled, using SatNav (first time it took us somewhere that we didn't already know). Via Old Street, Angel, Kings Cross and Euston to eventually land ourselves in Wealdstone. Good news, none. Bad news, the motherboard is actually fried. Several hours of bad traffic then ensued to get back to South East London. Home to Charlton and PC World, and a new laptop. It had to be done. Several weeks of no real computer (I love the office laptop, but honestly, it's three years old and it sucks). So... I spent several hundred pounds I didn't (really) have and bought a new laptop. New laptop rocks. Back online from the sofa wihthout several tens of minutes delay. Still really annoyed that one year and two weeks (therefore two weeks out of warranty) the old one broke down, but c'est la vie?!

Monday 13 October 2008

Online shopping woes

Generally I'm a big fan of online shopping. It means that I don't actually have the irritation of going into a shop and dealing with crowds, unruly children, surly shop assistants, lack of stock and all the other things that blight a shopping experience. It also means that I can sit at my desk (or in bed, or on the sofa, or anywhere else) and not schlep around a several miles of mall. I also find what I want (nearly) every time with minimum  inconvenience and comparing and contrasting is easy. These are the advantages of online shopping.

Online shopping does have disadvantages though. If you buy in a shop you see what you are getting there and then, and (generally speaking) you take it away with you there and then. Transaction completed. If you then (at a later date) have any difficulties you can march back into the store and give a hapless sales clerk an earful... there and then. If you buy online you don't see what you are getting, quite often you have to wait to get it and when you want redress - well, it isn't as easy as you'd like it to be.

Last month I did some shopping on eBay. My reasoning for the purchase (keyboard and mouse) was that a) it was cheaper than I'd find it in the shops and b) given the specialist type shop that I'd need to visit and the timeframes I had available it would probably arrive faster. Faulty reasoning. First of all the PayPal transaction (because eBay own PayPal and pretty much force you to use it) was one of those annoying eCheques (yes, unless you add 'back up funding' they won't do instant transfers anymore). So this took time to clear (just like a real cheque). Fair enough. I then get a 'payment reminder' from the seller. I write to them and politely point out that the eCheque will take time to clear but if they would like to check their records they will see the transaction is pending. Another payment reminder arrives which I ignore (two items were combined under one payment).

PayPal then send me an email to tell me that my payment is cleared. The seller then sends me what I now assume is an automatically generated email confirming that the payment is cleared and informing me that they will contact me when the goods ship. The next thing that happens is that I get an 'unpaid item strike' from eBay. How?! Why?!

Bear in mind two points. The seller has acknowledge the payment is cleared.  I write (several times) to the seller... who eventually apologise and agree that the payment is made and that the 'unpaid strike' will be removed. Nothing happens. I go through the whole process with eBay who remove the strike for me. They won't however let me leave feedback for this transaction because I "didn't participate in the dispute". Whatever. I emailed the idiot seller after the first reminder! Now over a week has passed since the payment cleared and still no goods or indication of when the goods will arrive.

The thing that annoys me the most (it's a tough call on this one) is that PayPal is owned by eBay. It should therefore not be possible if you used their 'preferred' payment system to have an unpaid dispute. The systems should talk to each other. The PayPal transaction uses the eBay item codes. One should look to the other and refuse to let the seller mess the buyer around in this way.

The next thing that is going to happen is that I'm going to file a dispute of my own against the seller for 'goods not received' as this is getting beyond a joke!

Almost Autumn

It is now practically a daily necessity to clear the fallen leaves from the front driveway. Although the weather has been quite mild occasional showers turn the leaves into slippery coatings for the front path. The weather this weekend was amazingly mild (for the time of year) meaning that we must be heading for some bad weather in the next few weeks (especially seeing as my holiday is coming up!).

On Saturday I had my annual flu jab. Not only did I get the jab (ouch, but not as ouch as last year's pneumonia jab) but I also got quantified. Height and weight, because (according to the nurse) the government wants to know. The government got duff info then, as I wasn't required to take off my shoes or anything, so I'm an inch taller and several pounds heavier than in fact. I felt quite ropey for a lot of Saturday after the flu jab, combated by the intake of paracetamol - but according to the nurse this is quite normal and to be expected.

Saturday night's movie was 'Fool's Gold' with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. This was a pretty rubbish movie, if we're honest. Pretty much made because they did so well together in 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' I should think. There wasn't really much story, a few funny lines here and there, and some very under utilised actors (Donald Sutherland springs to mind). I wouldn't bother watching this unless you can't find anything better to do. 2 out of 10.

Thursday 9 October 2008

Bad news for Greenwich Park?

My eye was caught by the headline of the Evening Standard lying on my colleague's desk this evening, "Greenwich 'must host' 2012 equestrian events". A government funded report is set to say that it would be 'too expensive' to put the equestrian events at any alternative location.

Little London moments

Yesterday morning I got the bus to work (as I try to do most mornings). Advantages of the bus over the tube is that a) it is cheaper... by quite a bit and b) you have a much better chance of getting a seat. I got on the 53 bus on the downhill bus stop (miraculously restored to its proper position now that the rolling-roadblock replacing London's Victorian water-mains has moved up the road). I sat on the 53 until Deptford Bridge, where a 453 pulled out of the bus stand just in front of us. No worries I thought, plenty of time to get off the 53 and onto the 453. Well, yes - if the 453 wasn't a bendy bus and the driver couldn't see me and the Stick fighting the roadworks trying to get on the back door. Off went the 453 as I shook my fist at it. The driver of the 53 I had just got off then stopped and opened the doors to ask me if I wanted to get back on. I explained that sadly I wanted to go further than his bus was going and I waited another five minutes (not so bad) for the next 453.

My journey onwards was uneventful until we arrived at Trafalgar Square. Here there were an extreme amount of TfL high-vis jacket wearing employees and a fairly large amount of Community Police Officers. The TfL staff were checking tickets, and i can only assume that the CPO's were implementing the full letter of the law against fare evaders. There must have been twenty or thirty people in various uniforms congregated there to carry out this exercise. It reminds me of the days when I used to walk from Blackfriars station to Clerkenwell and under the Holborn viaduct they used to set up road-blocks to check car tax.

Coming home yesterday I was walking along from the bus stop to my road past the rolling-road block that is replacing London's Victorian water-mains (also known as the Littleheath roadworks). As usual I noticed several cars skipping the lights. Not just the 'turning amber so I might just make it' sort, no, the full on 'lights are red but I'm going anyway'. During the moment when no traffic was coming in either direction a car came out of the side-streets (which are informed that traffic on the main road is under signal control). I watched him, he wasn't even trying to guage which way the traffic was going. So, driving along the signals turned green for the traffic coming in the other direction. The car at the front of the queue must have seen this other car turn out from the side street, but decided rather than waiting for the car to pass through the signal control to just 'go on green'. Two cars face to face in single file road amongst the roadworks. Fortunately there was just enough room for the car from the side street to pull over and let all the signal control traffic past. Would it have been too much for that first car to just wait a few minutes to let the other car through?

This morning as I was walking up from Lower Regent Street to my office (just off Piccadilly) I noticed that there was a queue of people outside Waterstones on Piccadilly - some of which had clearly spent the night as there were tents. I idly wondered what might cause such devotion - and a cursory Google search informed me that it was a 'Girls Aloud' book signing. So, now you know.

Monday 6 October 2008

Grand opening

Today was the 'grand opening' of the newly refurbished toilets in our offices. There are many things which are amazing about this. Firstly they are finished on time (to budget? who knows?) after one month they have finished on the projected day. Unprecedented. Secondly they have learnt from the mistakes of the two previously refurbished toilets.

Mistake one - the toilet roll holders were the spring loaded sort, but rather cheap, and inclined to unspring from their holders if you so much as looked at them leaving toilet paper on the floor. Solution - minimalist toilet roll holders which are just an arm on a hinge... no spring to fall out.

Mistake two - ridiculous wall mounted bin for paper towels with spring lid which either wouldn't open at all or got stuck open. Solution - elegant (?) wire bin on the floor with no lid at all to get stuck.

Mistake three - wall mounted soap dispenser too far from taps and basins leading to unsightly trails of soap over the counter. Solution - free standing soap dispenser (asking to get nicked, but there you go).

Tiny little project, but apparently an exemplar of how things should happen. We all watch and learn!

Sunday 5 October 2008

Not quite marathon

Today was not the weather for being out of the house. As far as I can tell it started to rain sometime around dawn and continued pretty much all day long. You had to feel sorry, then, for those taking part in the half marathon that was trundling around the Borough of Greenwich today. Sony Ericsson's (that's with two S's sign-writers!) 'Run to the Beat' was closing roads in SE7 (amongst other places). Terribly badly advertised it would appear. I saw a great deal of irate motorists trying to get onto Littleheath only to find their way blocked by barriers.

I went out (in the rain) several times to see what was happening. Some irritating drum-and-ethnic type music coming from Charlton Park... a great deal of St John's Ambulance staff... a lot of event organisers on motorbikes... and rain (of course). Just to set themselves apart from the London Marathon the runners were coming from the other direction, eventually. Around eleven some very wet runners finally appeared up the hill from the Barracks. I watched a few of the frontrunners... decided I was wet enough, and went home again. Given the weather there was an impressive amount of people on the street watching... but not many compared to the London Marathon. To be fair, who knew? I don't partake of any local media - maybe it was advertised there, but not much else. The mis-spelt road closure signs (lost amongst all the Thames Water signs) and the plastering of the ticket barriers at North Greenwich - that's it. The annoying music might have alerted you, I suppose.

I've managed a good haul of movies this weekend. Last night was 'My Sassy Girl' - which I almost enjoyed. It was quite cute, but one of those movies where you sit there at the end and say to yourself 'so what?'. There were some funny bits, some touching bits... and it was well written and acted, but it was just a bit tame. Five out of ten.

Today I had a much more satisfying experience with 'Sex and the City' (at last!). This I deeply enjoyed, having missed the TV series since it finished five years ago. If you liked the TV show you'll love the movie... if you didn't like it or never watched it you probably wouldn't get much out of it. Lots of loose ends were tied up - and the end was utterly satisfying for all fans. The only thing you would ask yourself is what is left to put in another movie?! Nine out of ten.

I spent the rest of the afternoon watching 'Paycheck' with the ever lovely Ben Affleck. Superb movie - seen it before, but thanks to my rubbish memory didn't remember much (any) of it, so enjoyed it just as much as the first time that I saw it. Ten out of ten.

I've just enjoyed the 'early' game of NFL on Sky Sports - watching my Giants annihilate Seattle. Mighty Giants 4-and-oh. Unlikely but possible that we could be the annoying will-they-won't-they-go-sixteen-and-oh team. 

Friday 3 October 2008

The end of the day... the end of the week

It's been another long week at work. The economic slow-down is beginning to bite. The phone doesn't ring so much and the work is getting slower and slower. We're not giving up hope yet, but times are looking lean.

Today was a 'working from home' day. I didn't manage it last week due to the pressures of deadlines; what with that and the set of ten hour days I've been feeling pretty bushed this week. Happily the days have been normal length this week, that and a lot of sleep and not having to do the big commute today, I'm almost feeling 'me' again.

Tonight I'm catching up with the neglected TV and enjoying a glass of wine. Rich is taking a nap prior to the baseball tonight, off on the West Coast so a late start. I'm not participating with the baseball until we get to the World Series, at which point I may have to find a team to support!

This weekend the road up the top of my street is closed as 'Run to the Beat' is passing by - a half marathon sponsored by Sony Ericsson. The thing that made me laugh was all the road closure signs that have been put up have spelt the sponsors name wrong, with only one 's'. Oh dear.

My laptop is still busted. A friend who works with computers took a look at it, and recommended getting the internal power fixed. I'd been hoping he was going to circumnavigate me having to spend any money. C'est la vie. Off to Harrow then.