Archive for the 'Life' Category

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…

Strait Up

Monday, July 10th, 2017

You know, I always hated this record:

and I still do.

Anyway, we actually did have a lovely time in Bangor. My dear Stymistress booked us a weekend away, the primary objective being a visit to Bangor Garth Pier, so a trip up the A41 and along the A55 on a Friday morning saw us in Bangor by lunchtime, with lunch in a nearby pub and checked into the hotel overlooking the pier.

The pier, from the car park, a mere few yards from our hotel.

The pier itself is lovely: in generally good order, unlike one just down the coast, and long, poking out long enough into the Menai Strait that Whatpub starts suggesting The Gazelle Inn as nearby:

As to the town, subsequent exploring on Saturday showed that our location by the pier was by far the best for pubs and food: I don’t think the town’s considerable student population does it any favours, so we stayed around Garth mostly, though the fact we both were suffering with a cold probably helped on that one, a pleasant sit in the sun on the pier or a nearby beer garden being better than a sticky-floored, sticky-tabled city pub.

Sunday saw us drive over the lovely Menai Bridge to Menai Bridge, and a pop up the coast for a bonus pier, Beaumaris: less impressive than Bangor, but at least not falling down :-/.

A trip back down the coast, a visit to Plas Newyd, and a drive home. 2 more piers visited!

Riviera

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

We went off to Torquay. It was lovely. We had a good journey (amazingly, both ways, despite coming back on a bank holiday Saturday) great weather, a nice flat to stay in. We went and saw three three piers: Torquay Princess, Paignton, and Teignmouth- though they were all a little dissapointing, if I’m totally honest. Torquay Princess has lovely cast-iron railings, but is othewise a jetty with planking, to be honest. Paignton’s signage might as well say “no fun, ever”, and the end of the pier was unreachable because the rides there were locked off.

Just one of many signs prohibiting *everything on Paignton Pier.

Teignmouth’s pier was shut off from just behing the amusement shed too, though at least this was seeemingly because the pier is in need of repair:

Teignmouth’s pier- in need of TLC.

We’d been to Teignmouth together before- our first holiday together, in fact, almost 30 years ago: we recognised bits, but couldn’t remember what the pier was like then.

In between the pier-bothering, we had a lovely ride on an old bus:

Leyland PD1/2, since you asked.

Rides out on the train to a lovely pub at Tospham and around Torbay, had lovely Thai food and a slightly underwheming Indian with a proprietor that gets terribly upset about any criticism, got sunburned and generally relaxed.

Manchester

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

The Easter holiday saw me working away in Manchester, pushing packets south. I’d been to Manchester before, but it was a long time ago, and only a day trip, though work scahedule this time didn’t leave much time for sightseeing (but by Jeebus, that town hall‘s a bit of magnificent Victorian “fuck you, look how much money we have”).

We did have some downtime though; and some of Manchester’s pubs are fantastic: every bit as good as some of the best Birmingham ones, and there were great restaurants too, as you’d expect in a large city. I just wish we could get some of that variety in Walsall.

Ahoy hoy

Friday, March 31st, 2017

It’s not been a good week phone-wise: I managed to lose my Wileyfox Swift last Saturday, so bought a replacement- a Swift 2, which arrived on Tuesday. With it still shiny and new, I went out for a bike ride, and a slightly ill-advised overtake of a jogger resulted in the front wheel getting hung up on the ridges of the path, a slide down the bank, and an unscheduled swim; the first time I’ve gone into the cut in about 35 years of riding.

The canal isn’t as cold as you’d expect, but the ride of about 3 miles home dripping is still quite grim, as was my smell pre-shower. I have no idea if every bearing on the bike is now washed free of lubricant…

The bag of rice failed to resurrect the phone, so back to the old Galaxy S2 it was, and a double claim to the phone insurance. The phones are quite cheap, but doing 2 in in a few days stings a bit.

I’d not been totally happy with the Swift 2: it was dual-SIM like the original, but using a Micro-SD blocked one SIM slot, so I decided to go for a Lenovo Moto G5 Plus, which takes 2 SIMs and a Micro SD, and has a removeable battery, and, like the Wileyfox phones, keeps the bloatware to a minimum, staying quite close to stock Android; The big-name phones, for me, have too much added on, and I’m not going to void the warranty on a brand-new phone to remove it.

Old Haunts

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

We’ve been away: south-west Scotland. In February. I didn’t fancy the warmer options (as it involves a metal cylinder full of bastards), so my better half booked some places, and we hit the M6 to head north and do some B&B hopping.

First stop: Annan. We’d not been here before, and it’s a very noticeably Scottish town for one so close to the border: red sandstone, scottish baronial clock tower on the town hall,

Annan’s town hall clock tower


and the odd other bit of Victorian excess, now faded. We stayed in one, and I walked past another one morning: a glorious money pit of a hotel:

The Central Hotel: currently disused. Copyright Richard Dorrell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The last time it was for sale, it had a guide price of £150K: I’d guess you’d need many times that to restore it, and I strongly doubt you’d make it back: Annan was a nice town, with some good pubs, but it’s not got masses of tourism or masses of cash.

It has, however, got a reborn distillery that Professor David Thomson was brave enough to restore– and the curiously named Devil’s Porridge Museum nearby.

Next call was Portpatrick: postcard-pretty harbour, and a nice hotel for a couple of nights. We popped to Stranraer, which is still a bit grotty, and on to Port William. That’s Port, not Fort. Beware the mistake, and automatic suggestions from websites: we nearly misbooked, and we’re not the first, according to a previous landlord of the Monreith Arms over 20 years ago. Our last stop was Ecclefechan, for no better reason than the hotel is lovely, and a bargain.

We’d last been to South West Scotland in 2009, but not come further west than Castle Douglas: it was well over 20 years since coming this far over, and it was surprising: not a lot had changed, to be honest, but Port William was prettier than we remembered, and Glenluce tattier…

Festival

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

This year’s drinking challenge is to be 10 beer festivals. We did consider making it CAMRA festivals only, but given our continual logistical problems, and that basically, it’s just an excuse for some good company and a piss-up, we’ve made it easy: anything advertised as a beer festival qualifies, and three members have to be present. No transport rules this time, but no-one will be in any hurry to drive…

Scoring is going to be a bit odd, I think. The best we could agree on is:

1 point per beer advertised, and one more for each available.
1 point per cider advertised, and one more for each available.
10 point bonus if we get JC to attend.
1 point extra for any bonus people outside of the core membership who attend.
100 possible points for the venue, divided between the core membership- so if 4 attend, each can allocate up to 25 points.

I personally think will produce some totally skewed results, but can’t suggest anything better :-).


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