Thursday, November 25, 2004

Just join the human race and queue fairly you silly cow!

On Saturday both Anne and I went to London on the train for a friend's 30th birthday. We needed to get a railcard so we queued at the "advanced tickets and railcard" booths. We were near the front when Anne realised she'd need to fill a form in, so we left the queue, filled the form in and joined the queue at the back.

When we were two people from the front of the queue a girl sidled up to the front of the queue and just stood there. She didn't say anything to the person at the front, and it was odd. When the next booth came available, the girl who was rightfully next was having none of it and made sure she got to the booth first. The rude blonde who'd pushed in then went to the next available booth, and another booth came available at the same time, so the girl in front of us just went there.

Well, I'm not putting up with this.

"Excuse me", I said to the rude girl, "There's a queue here."
"I have been queuing", she said abruptly and turned back to the ticket man.
"Not here you haven't", I pointed out, helpfully.
"Yes I have. I was queuing and then went outside to make a phone call" she snapped.
"Erm, I'm sorry but you leave the queue you lose your place" I said, explaining the universally-understood rules. I had no idea if she was telling the truth or not.
"Shut up!" she shouted.

I was getting nowhere with her, so I told the ticket seller she'd pushed in and, get this, HE REFUSED TO SERVE HER. Get in! A member of staff who enforces queue order - wonderful! Eventually the nasty young lady went to the back of the queue whilst shouting at me. I was dead impressed with the member of staff - so often they just wouldn't care.

We got on the train with Anne embarrassed by the confrontation and me with a renewed faith in humanity, chuffed that the guy was willing to "maintain the integrity of the queue" as I put it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

In her prime

Happy Birthday Anne!

I've been warned to ask Anne to keep tonight free, so now I have to find something to do. One thing I do know is she won't be cooking (she told me this), so it's lucky we got the Breville out of storage at the weekend. It's Birthday Cheese Toasties time!

Anne's not sure about turning 29 today. She liked being 28 because 28 is even, and divisible by four and seven. She told me this morning that 29 didn't seem as good, though it IS prime so I said that should be some compensation.

I'm not kidding here. Anne get's a little stressed if we're watching TV and the volume on the amp is set to 41. If I change it to 42 she's happier, though would much rather it be on 40 or 45.

You may think it harsh that I take the mickey out of my wife on this blog, but I say this: Anne has a Blogger account too, and has every right of reply.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Being stranger on a train

We both miss living in London, but made the decision to move to Cambridge and, so far, don't regret it. Sometimes Anne thinks she'd like to live there again, but I don't. We're near enough to get in and see friends, but don't have to put up with the disadvantages. Working there once or twice a month reminds me how bad the commuting aspect can be.

I went to London last Tuesday for a day in my firm's head office. I had to be up early and trudge down on the train from Cambridge. I got on the train and sat next to a bloke who was about my age. Embarrassingly, we each got our iPods out at the same time. On-lookers would have thought we were twins, I expect. However, I then trumped him with my Train Picnic Breakfast!

First I got my bagel out. Before now I've paid top-whack for breakfast at the station, but no more. Oh no mister - I'm paying two mortgages at the moment and therefore not wasting cash on over-priced pastries. I'd buttered the bagel the night before, and was feeling the other passengers' jealous eyes on me as I tucked in. Then I got my Thermos Flask out, full of piping hot coffee. The previous night I'd set up a timer plug to turn our new coffee machine (wedding present!) on at 6am and that morning I filled the Thermos Flask (another wedding present!) up before I left the house. I was on fire - things were coming together like never before and there I was with a bagel AND a piping hot coffee and I hadn't had to part with the usual £3. Get me!

Of course, the bubble bursts - it always does. Soon the bagel was no more than a memory and a few crumbs on my lap. So...I got out the second pre-buttered bagel! I could hear the other passengers audibly taking sharp intakes of breath (or at least I imagined I could - I was listening to my iPod and therefore couldn't quite hear them).

What a picnic! All I needed was a blanket and some ants and I'd be sorted. Given that I was sitting on a train with a Thermos Flask, I could probably have also added to the image if I had a cardigan and pipe.

The joy was only diminished by the "lady" sitting nearby who insisted on shouting her plans for the day into her mobile for most of the journey. Stupid cow. (I could hear HER over the sound from my iPod no problem.) She was probably just jealous she didn't have a buttered bagel and a hot coffee.

I'm sorry, but I don't have any photos of this for the blog. I hope I've managed to paint you a picture so you can close your eyes and imagine the scene.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Bye bye The Mouse,and Stephen is ill (poor soul)

After our car trouble last weekend, we knew The Mouse (our little red Fiesta) needed replacing. We'd been looking forward to a relaxing weekend, so decided to take Friday off work to go car hunting. Neither of us have much interest in cars, so were pleased to have found and ordered a new(ish) car by 1pm that day. Again, job done! I drove two cars before deciding on the one we wanted - another Fiesta, but this time a "Ghia". I think power steering is going to take some getting used to! We should pick the new one up on Thursday. We were a bit sad when the salesmen (two - one from each of the dealers we went to) looked at The Mouse to asses trade-in value and each told us that the car was not long for this Earth. I think it will be sad to say goodbye to it. Old cars that don't work very well seem to have more personality than new ones. It's ridiculous given that we don't like cars that we're getting sentimental over a dodgy one.

We were chuffed to have got the car-buying out of the way as it left our weekend free for us to start a bit of Christmas shopping, relax in town and do a bit around the house. We even managed to get a man in on Friday to upgrade our TV aerial and fix some botched connections so we can now receive digital TV - hurrah: true anamorphic picture!!

So, on Friday night we decided to celebrate a job well done by going for a meal at an Algerian restaurant nearby. I phone up to book:

Me: "Hello, I'd like to book a table for two tonight."
Me: "Sorry?"
Him: "Sorry sir, carry on."
Me: "I'd like to book a table for two tonight."
Me: "Hello?"
Him: "Sorry sir, I wasn't talking to you, I was talking to my mother."

What a charming son!

The restaurant was cosy and the meal was very nice. The downside was I was up at 4am the next morning throwing up. Oh dear. I continued doing this until 6am, and then had a bit more kip. One more sick at 8.30am (is this too much detail?) and then I started to get better and was feeling OK by midday. Well so much for my relaxing Saturday in town - grrr! We did manage to have a big bonfire in our garden on Saturday night and burn the huge pile of cuttings we'd built up. It was good fun (and I hope it didn't upset the neighbours too much).

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing with good food and School of Rock on DVD. Quite a fun movie.

Then, on Sunday, we cut down loads more of the overgrown garden and had another fire that night (our neighbours will hate us!) The garden now looks a confillion times better and we have much more light coming into the house (during the day). Brilliant!

Our three day weekend is now over, and we're more exhausted than ever. Back to work to rest tomorrow.


It's been great having my surround sound system set up in the house, but it was missing a subwoofer. I never really felt it was right to have one while we were living in a flat, out of respect for the neighbours, so I'd promised myself one when we got a house. I didn't want to spend much (i.e. couldn't afford to), so was quite frustrated when I read lots of advice saying that a cheap one would be no good at all and may actually detract from the system. I was determined though, and couldn't afford to to increase my budget so went searching on Ebay. I found one and waitied until the last moment to bid - saved £30 or £40. Job done! A large box was delivered to my office a few days later (a bit too large - I think Anne's a bit annoyed as our lounge isn't very big) and we spent Thrursday evening watching Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (as it's now called). Loverly!

Insert sofa pun here

When we moved our stuff from Ealing to Cambridge the other week we found our large sofa was broken. When we sat on it we sunk down low. How did the tennants in our Ealing flat put up with that?? I don't think it was them that broke it - I think it's been breaking over time. The frame had bust, and I ripped the bottom of the sofa open to find the frame was made of chipboard. Well who'd have ever have thought to ask what a sofa frame was made of when you bought it? (Having asked around, everyone seems to be saying "Oh yes, make sure you get a good hardwood frame on a sofa". Wish they'd told us that five eyars ago. Lesson: don't buy an expensive sofa from Next.

Anyway, like the baby Jesus, I became a carpenter last week and fixed it (well, I did what I could). I bought some mending plates and managed to force the broken frame together.

It's not perfect, but it's much better to sit on now. I am like a proper manual worker. Very proud of myself!

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Mouse that roared

Anne and I went up to Bridlington for the weekend to celebrate her "Pompa"'s 80th (!) birthday. We had a fab meal and stayed in a nice little hotel.

On the way home on Sunday our little Fiesta ("The Mouse") was making a lot of noise. I quickly knew the exhaust was going. I'd just been saying we should look this month to get a new car, since I doubt The Mouse will get through its MOT in November. I think it heard me and got all offended.

The noise got louder and loudar as we drove from Bridlington to Cambridge. We countered by turning the volume up on the radio. Louder and louder. "Come on The Mouse!" we chanted, "Come on - just get us home - please!"

As we got into Cambridge I heard a big thud and the noise got even more unbearable. Oh dear. Driving the last mile home was hard as the noise was quite embarrassing. I took the poor thing to Kwik Fit this morning, and they're fixing it as I write this. I didn't want to spend any more money on it, but I couldn't have driven around to look for a new car with the exhaust like this. Here's a photo of poor The Mouse right now:

Poor, poor The Mouse.

Movie Quiz blog entry

On Wednesday evening Anne and I, still exhausted form the weekend, drove to London to take part in a movie quiz. It's called You're Going to Need a Bigger Boat (see here) and takes place in a pub in Highgate. (Interestingly, the pub in which it takes place is the one on which The Winchester pub in the movie Shaun of the Dead was based!)

Our team, In Space No One Can Hear You Cream (formerly Pub Quiz, Hotshot!), has been going to this for a fair while now. Anne and I only joined the team in February this year when we returned from our travels. Regualrs on the team are Tony, Matt, Pete, Gavin, Nigel, Annie, Anne and me. here's a photo:

It's great fun, as we kinda like movies a little (too much). We generally do fairly well, often coming in the top three, but recently we've been doing rather less well and rather more not as good. We put this down to the quiz getting more and more popular, and more media-types with more time on their hands to watch films going along. Can a team consisting mainly of computer programmers plus an accountant, a geneticist and a couple of others really beat people who work in TV or films? Generally, no.

So we were particularly happy to come third this month (just one point behind the joint first placers!) I have to admit we had help from Gavin's brother and some of his mates who do work in films. Still, we came third and you can't take that away from us. You can't!

We missed out on an X Box and Champagne, and made do with third prize of a DVD box set of the Manga series Fist of the Northstar. Pete had that, as he cares about Manga more than the rest of us (i.e. at all).

It's a real slog for Anne and me to get there, and we didn't get back home until between half twelve and one in the morning. It's worth it, because it's a lot of fun, but we were just shattered the next day!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The girls work too

While I was driving to Ealing, loading up the van and driving back to Cambridge, Anne was sitting on her arse doing sod all.

That's not quite true.

She and her mother-in-law were hard at work at the house back in Cambridge. By the time I got back to the house they'd cleaned it, moved stuff around, and moved a lot of our stuff from the Cambridge flat. I staggered in, exhausted, to find them exhausted too. I was greeted by a cup of coffee and a Club biscuit (not as chocolaty as I remember). It was bliss, only spoiled (for us all) by then having to unload the van.

That took a good hour or two. We were worried about getting the sofas into the lounge, but that proved not to be too much of a problem. The problems were getting the chests of drawers and the beds up the stairs. We got quite jammed with one of the bed frames. We ended up unscrewing it whilst it was jammed between the wall and the bannister. It collapsed on us in a rain of planks! How we laughed.

It was time to go to Sainsburys to get a box of easy-to-cook Chinese food and a bottle of Champagne. This must be what removal men's days are like every day.

After dinner we made our beds (literally) and collapsed into them. Knackered.

You'd have thought that would have been a full weekend's work, wouldn't you? You would, yes. But no - we spent Sunday driving about in the van collecting even more stuff and taking old carpets and stuff to the tip. We emptied the Cambridge flat and moved all our stuff from my mum's house. She's been storing loads of stuff since we went travelling in February 2003, and must be glad to be rid of it all.

Anne nearly broke down when she saw how much stuff we had (most of it junk). We threw out a lot of stuff before we went travelling, and had a car boot sale to rid ourselves of yet more. How do we still have so much?? After surviving for a year with only what we could carry we're determined not to build up a stash of rubbish now we're in our house. What do you think the chances are?

My sister and her boyfriend, Chris (fiance really I suppose!) came up to help us. They had the pleasant task of helping me move my 32" widescreen TV. Owning one of those things is enough to make you want to never move home. It's heavier than me I think! Worse, it's very difficult to grip.

I was a little sad to drop the van back at the rental place on Monday morning (though glad that the hard work was over - our stuff is finally in one place now after nearly two years of upheaval). I drove to work in my Fiesta feeling very low down. All the van drivers were looking down on me and I didn't like it. I didn't like it one bit. Anne and I will need a new car soon. I may start looking at getting a 3.5 tonne Luton van with tail-lift!

New comments sytem on blog

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

(That bit was automatically generarated. This bit is actually me!

The comments facility shoould work better now!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

L'homme de camion blanc? Oui, c'est moi.

That's right - I was White Van Man last weekend. Despite initial nerves I was soon feeling very relaxed behind the wheel and enjoying myself. I made sure I was very courteous to other drivers on the road, lest I be judged a selfish git. This courtesy wasn't all altruism: I was so high up and looking down on everyone I almost felt like all other people were my subjects and hence my kindness came more from pity than a genuine desire to do good.

I met up with two friends (subjects), Craig and Tony, in Ealing. They'd kindly agreed to help me empty our Ealing flat (which we're in the process of selling) and load the van. It was bloody tough work, frankly.

Those of us who sit behind a desk every day at work quickly forget what manual work is like and we showed ourselves up by being shattered. That said, we got the job done with minimal damages and did ourselves proud. (A wardrobe got a little broken, and only our nouse saved a sofa from falling to its doom over the stairs - other than that, no probs.)

It was a lovely sunny day. We lunched on sandwiches in the garden and I have to say I enjoyed it.

Especially playing with the tail lift on the van. That never got boring.

It was a little sad to say goodbye to Anne's and my old flat though.

Blog problems

I've been having problems.

I've gone over my quota on the free webspace I was using, and have had to pay to upgrade to an enhanced account. This has left my blog offline for a few days (well, I've not been able to access it, but friends tell me they can and there are no photos up). I'll sort it out in the next day or so I hope. I have some photos of our weekend spent moving furniture, so I'll get those uploaded when I can.

Aha! I can see it now, and it seems the photos are missing, as are all the other pages (Metro letters, family tree data...). Must mean I've been moved to another (presumably upgraded) server. I'll have to upload all my files to this new server. Given that Virgin have been unable to get broadband installed at our new house this could be a slow process. I should be able to keep the blog going though - you lucky lucky people.

Monday, November 01, 2004

London calling

After a hectic Friday to Tuesday doing up the house last week we found going back to work quite restful. We still popped over there in the evenings (Anne's to finish off the bedroom, me to varnish the living room floor) but nothing too strenuous. On Friday some friends from my years at The Economist, Andrew and Shae, with whom we stayed in Sydney last year had drinks in London so we sodded the house and I planned to go there. I wangled it so I was working in London that day and after work walked from Buckingham Palace Road to Oxford Street to meet up with lots of ex-colleagues. Walking through some very touristy areas made me feel like I wasn't a local (which I'm not any more) so I joined in by taking some touristy photos.

Here are some London bobbies near Buckingham Palace:

And here's me, looking psychotic outside the Queen's house. Surprising the policemen didn't have their eye on me looking like this:

I couldn't stay for drinks too late. I needed to be up at the crack of dawn the next day to pick up my step-climbing sack barrow and Luton Van with tail lift. We had a big weekend planned.