Archive for the 'Life' Category

Broughty Ferry

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Again, I’m posting after the event, but I’ve fudged the post date to suit. We went to Broughty Ferry, effectively a suburb of Dundee. N,ot a bad journey, considering: the furthest I’ve driven in one stretch for a good while, and not too tricky either; M6, M74, M73, M80, A9, A90.

The A9 had gained average speed cameras since our last trip on the “road of death”. I don’t know if it’s lowered the casualty rate, but reportedly speeding has reduced; thankfully they’ve had the good sense to raise the 40 mph limit for HGVs on the single carriageway bits to 50. Fortunately, we only had DC bits to deal with.

A little bit of getting lost in Dundee itself saw us at our cottage by around 4:30pm, so after a short rest we went out to the first pub, then find out what Broughty Ferry is like on a Saturday night (the answer is: busy). It’s a suburb that likes to pretend it isn’t, and it’s a little bit affluent: not as many Range Rovers as Sutton, perhaps, but plenty. It feels smaller though, and public transport to central Dundee was good.

We went to have a look at the new V&A, which had opened the day we arrived: a magnificent building, for one so modern. It’s a shame that one view of it will be blocked by what seemed to be another office or hotel being built near it. Near the V&A was the rebuilt station- Dundee has excellent rail connections, at least until Storm Ali came along when we’d gone to Perth (but then we found the bus service is good too).

Dundee is a fine city: the city centre is quite compact and easy to navigate, there’s good pubs and restaurants. It’s also home to D C Thomson, home of the Beano, and the school that inspired The Bash St kids is still there, right in the middle, near the McManus Gallery, which had a Beano-themed exhibition on, which was a nice surprise.

We wandered about, visited some fine pubs, and had some good food. Even our return journey was decent, at less than 6 hours of driving time.

All’s Well That Sandwell

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

We were feeling a bit lethargic, so it was a surprise we managed to start on what we’d planned for a while: a look round the Desi pubs detailed by Creative Black Country in their book.

Desi pubs- pubs run by (and to some degree for) Asians are a familiar thing in and around the Black Country- we’ve even visited a few, like The Pool Hayes or The New Talbot, and let’s face it, what’s not to like? Indian food and beer. Sounds awful.

So then, into Walsall, a quick change to a bus bound for West Brom, up through Caldmore, passing very near to one Desi pub, and right past another. Through Stone Cross, lamenting the loss of the old cinema, and into West Brom.

We passed one of our targets on the way in, without realising in time, and continued into town. A slow walk down the High St pedestrianised area, and everything goes a bit Indian; sari shops, Asian grocers, and the pubs, bars and grills. We passed by the magnificent (but very faded) Lewisham Hotel, as was- now Desi Junction, passed The Prince of Wales (to return later), and ended up at The Sportsman for lunch. The return journey took in the Prince of Wales, then a break in the bus journey back took in The Red lion.

I’d not been to West Brom town itself for some time, and not the true centre for the best part of 30 years. It seems (I’m sorry to say) to be better than Walsall- the market thrives, it’s extremely multi-cultural, there’s not too many empty shops in the bits we saw, and there’s clealy been some investment in the High St.

Immobile Again

Monday, August 6th, 2018

I’ve had yet another trip into hospital, a repeat of last year’s procedure to try and deal with the uncomfortable swelling in my trousers. This time on my mission to visit all of the West Midlands’ hospitals, it was the Royal Orthopedic. Day surgery only, and an exemplary case of great care, efficiency, and ease, from start to finish.

I’ve had a couple of examples of the reverse recently, which I haven’t blogged because I do not wish to add fuel to the funeral pyre the current shits in power seem to be arranging for the NHS. About the only complaint I can make about this hospital is location and parking, but that’s really a secondary issue; a favour from a family member soon sorted that.

So, I’m back off the bike, unable to drive for a while, and off work for a bit, so I’ll quite possibly get ranty here and on Twatter. Still, at least I get chauffeured about and I don’t have to suffer the Oldbury Viaduct for a while. Plus, this time, I’m not getting snowed in, so at least soon I’ll be able to make it to the pub.

Expense

Monday, August 6th, 2018

It’s been a pricey month. First of all the Lupo, is a disgusting example of how VW quality just isn’t what it was, had a failed alternator at a mere 18 years old. The it needed a service and MOT, all of which passed without difficulty.

The Scirocco, meanwhile, adds to the cost. A major service, a minor suspension link, and a radiator leak, a tweak of wheel alignment. The new tyres will have to wait a short while.

To be fair, both cars haven’t cost very much in repairs as of yet, and bearing in mind we’ve had the Lupo for some 13 years now, it still looks presentable, and drives well, there’s little to complain about. The Scirocco costs more, but racks up the miles (and again to be fair, there’s been very little outside serviceing and consumables in the 30,000 miles since I’ve had it). I also wonder if the radiator may have been weakened by me being a clumsy twat, though it showed no signs of a leak until very recently, and given the recent hot spell, it needed fixing.

[edit]

The expense continues into August. Our boiler, installed in 2006, has failed. Repair is possible, but not insignificant, so a new one it is, and surviving like it’s 1930 with no hot water. Still, as someone pointed out to me, fascism and the right is on the rise, so it’s all just nostalgia, huh?

A Slightly Longer Spin

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

I’d finished work early to get a broken coil spring fixed on my car (the bodyshop visit having prevented me being organised and getting the MOT done with more time to spare) and the MOT retest done. The current horrors of the M5 make the journey unpredictable, so leaving plenty of time I ended up 45 minutes early, but Midland VW sorted the car early too, so I had time to visit my Mom, and still be home at around 4:30. What better way to use an unexpected bit of time than a short ride, down on the towpath, while rush hour goes on above and around?

I’m still not doing my normal, regular route (Chasewater and back) as I need to look at my bike setup and see how the knee bears up, but I was curious about Ogley Junction Footbridge, which as BrownhillsBob has observed, is undergoing serious work (and not before time; it’s a lovely structure and one of only 3 listed structures in Brownhills, all of them bridges).

I got warned by a chap coming the other way that it was covered in plastic, though he’d clearly passed over it as there was nowhere else he could have come from, but it looked tricky:

Sheeted up.

I wasn’t going any further anyway. Back home, with a few aches but nothing serious. A much better way to spend that time than sat in traffic.

A Short Spin

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

I’d had to knock cycling on the head for a short while, due to a uncomfortable swelling in my trousers. My knee, to be precise.

So, it’s been a while. I got the bike out, wiped the worst of the crud off the chain, re-inflated the tyres, and got out. I managed to mount Black Cock without too much discomfort, and it was back on the towpath for the first time in a few months.

I was taking it easy; a physio recommended a turbo trainer, but I didn’t fancy it; I might not cycle that much, relatively, but I don’t think there’s an alternative for being outside. Plus, I already have more than enough clutter.

So, a very short ride. No further than Catshill Junction for a first spin. I was hoping to see Eyebrow Cat, because, frankly, he’s lovely and reminds me of my own QT, but he was presumably sleeping inside on what was, to be fair, a very cold day.

A short stop at Catshill:

Catshill Junction, and a muddy bike. No Eyebrow Cat, though.

And briefly thinking how sunshine can even make the tower blocks look attractive:

Hope that cladding isn’t flammable…

and a ride home.It’s good the be back on two wheels, however briefly.

Breaking the System

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

I’ve been in hospital again. Less involved than last time, but another reduction in mobility that sees me off work for a short while, and reduced mobility for a while. I’m grumpy too, because I can’t get out to the pub, and that dancing program is on.

What I’m going to whinge about this time is the running of the NHS at the moment, no, in fact, the systematic disassembly of the NHS by the current government.

Something happened that I’m fundamentally opposed to. Not opposed enough to refuse treatment, obviously, but something that sticks with me.

I was treated in a very nice Spire private hospital, just up the road in La-di-dah Little Aston. I hadn’t suddenly discovered untold riches, and got private insurance that would actually cover my fucked-up body, or tested the limit on my credit card by paying for it myself- the NHS paid. Very nice it was too, pleasant, seemingly unstressed staff, a comfortable private room, decent food after the op. Free parking for my other half to collect me (though there’s a question over if that’s a good thing or not at a large site).

This annoys me in two ways:

Firstly, I would imagine that Spire made some cash out of NHS budgets.

Secondly, NHS hospitals could be more like this. Where it really counts. When I was last in, and the time before, my care was great. Staff were really good, but stressed, and overworked. I didn’t get that feeling in Little Aston- when I was in a bed that I’d bled over, it was changed with little fuss in about 10 minutes flat, simply because the staff had time to do it.

Despite what many would have you believe there’s no reason why the NHS couldn’t be like this. Much of the stuff we’re told about our “failing NHS” is manufactured, precisely to allow the privatisation-by-stealth I’ve played a reluctant part in, and it’s just plain fucking wrong.

If we didn’t have an NHS, I would not be here today. The circumstances of my birth not far off (not far enough!) 50 years ago meant that without the NHS I’d have died, simple as that: my family were not wealthy (not that poor, but not wealthy). I have family and friends who have been saved more recently than that. These same people would, like me, be told to go and fuck off by private health insurance.

Let’s not split hairs here: the objective here is to make money for the rich, and price anyone who isn’t rich out. Stop funding it properly, farm bits out to the private sector (because they’re always more efficient, huh?), preparing the ground to privatise the whole fucking lot. After all, it worked a fucking treat with the railways, buses, and energy, didn’t it- they’re all perfect examples of a well-run private-enterprise system working cohesively and efficiently for everyone’s benefit. The increased competition keeps prices down and efficiency up so well, and there’s no cases whatsoever of near-monopoly funded by the taxpayer to line the pockets of wealthy fucking twats.

If you think you’ll be fine because you’re healthy, you’re young, or you have a good job, take a good hard think: Life can have a good go at fucking all that up and showing you up to be a fool. If you have a hint of a prior health problem, the insurance companies will be off into the sunset before you know it. If you become ill, and lose that job, you’ll be unable to pay the premiums anyway.

Our NHS is one of the genius strokes of government policy (a decidedly rare thing), and we’re allowing it to be wrecked.

I do have a fairly decent job. I pay a reasonably large amount of income tax each month. You know what? I’ll willingly pay more if that is what it takes to fund the NHS properly, and if you don’t agree, you’re a fucking short-sighted idiot.

Over the Borderline

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

We’ve been away again, to Selkirk in the Scottish borders. We’d hoped to avoid some of the English Bank Holiday traffic by traveling on the Friday, but that didn’t work out well: 4.5 hours to our overnight stop (which we’d booked just to extend our holiday, rather than for distance) at Penrith, with an average speed of 38mph, despite doing a lot more than that at times. Sheer need of a slash and some food drove us out of the stop-start traffic at Knutsford, which was surprisingly OK. We rejoined the crawl, eventually getting free after a few miles, only to not get our kicks, but hit a load of traffic again, on the A66, but thankfully it was only a short drive for a rest, food, and beer.

The next day saw us with loads of time: having left at 10am, we couldn’t get into our holiday rental until 3pm, so a gentle drive up the M6 and then the rather lovely A7. Under-improved it might be, but it passes through lovely scenery, is intersting to drive, and didn’t seem traffic-choked. Even stopping for fuel and doing ~50mph, we made Selkirk far too early, so went on to Melrose. Melrose is quite nice- affluent, civilised, attractive-looking, if a bit “jolly rugger and ladies who lunch”. Sadly, some of the ladies lunching were in the pub we dropped into, and were….screechy, so we escaped, went for a look around the abbey and Priorwood Gardens, got some shopping in, and drove back to Selkirk.

Selkirk is clearly less affluent, but on the way up by the looks of it: the market square is being tarted up, there’s coffee shops and decent restaurants, even if the number of pubs has dropped markedly, and there’s a lot of community stuff going on- like the Yarnstormers. Even nearby Galashiels felt nicer than reputation when we passed through.

So, what else did we do? Well, obviously, pubs were involved. Restaurants were involved. We caught the bus to Hawick, a train to Edinburgh (the return of which was cancelled, which was no fun at all). We drove to Eyemouth, and passed the Blackadder Inn, resisting tempatation to pop in for six large beers and another large beer, as I was driving.

In the Hall of the Greene King

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

So, there was a bit of work needed at an office in Bury St Edmunds- a bit of network diagnosis and install a ID card printer. I’m chief network monkey, so it’s my sort of job. Time was flexible. I’d always fancied seeing the town, so last Friday my other half and I left out at early-O-clock, and hit the M6T, M6, and A14 again.

Pleasingly, Cathorpe has been finished, and the difference is amazing, such that even with a breakfast stop near Cambridge, we arrived at the office well before 9am, untroubled by the speed cameras, which have mostly evolved into average-speed ones, thereby avoiding the horrors I discussed here.

So then, a fight with the printer and it’s terrible drivers, a quick tweak of a Cisco config, fix a few other minor issues, and finished by 13:40. Off to the lovely hotel, and hit the pubs. Bury is a lovely town; historic, beautiful, but not up-itself- a very rare mix. People were friendly, drinks and food reasonably priced. Even my better half’s bus fare into town from the office was a mere 75p.

The next day, we took a trip to Ickworth, a stunning property, and such a short drive not going would have been madness, and then had a look around the town, visited Green King’s cafe, wandered around Abbey Gardens.

I’m not usually a massive fan of GK’s beers, which maybe made a trip to Bury rather an odd one, as it’s Greene King Central, but the good thing was that some of GK’s less usual beers were about- and the double bonus of getting some work that needed doing done and another part of the UK visited was worthwhile.

It’s a Different Kind of Party Altogether

Friday, July 21st, 2017

Last weekend went far too quickly, aided by the rather excellent choice of birthday party by Mr Sublimeproduct (who blogs even less than me these days, but is now old, like the rest of us, even if he doesn’t look it, the bastard). The day involved meeting at the Light House in Wolverhampton, a private screening of a superb film:

Followed by what was supposed to be a pub crawl, but just turned into getting hammerred at a truly great pub.

I don’t usually like parties, but this is the way to do it. I’d intended getting home mid-evening, crawled in by 11pm…