Archive for the 'Life' Category

Bugger Bognor

Friday, May 24th, 2019

we went away, and having not been to that section of coast before (the closest being Worthing one way and Totton the other), and wanting to do some pier-bothering, Bognor, or more precisely Elmer it was.

So,southwards it was: M6T, M42, M40, A34, M3, M27, A27. Not too bad a drive, either, with no significant hold-ups, but Chievely Services was a bit grim- busy, and with a nightmare of a car park that was a tight fit for my not-overly-wide car.

As well as the King George V connection, Bognor Regis is supposedly the sunniest place in Britain, and it certainly seemed like it; we got sunburned and it was bright most of the time.

Elmer was small, but really just a suburb of Middleton-on-Sea, itself now really just a suburb of Bognor, but with a village feel: while the town has expanded and the gaps have closed up, the villages still feel quite villagey. Nearby Felpham was so close to Bognor itself that even I could comfortably walk it with a few rest stops, but it feels like a self-contained place.

Bognor itself is pretty typical British seaside. A few bits a bit run-down, but plenty not. The pier is a bit tired: the boarding notably bouncy in places and generally in need of some TLC (and vastly shorter than it was), but at least it is still there and open. One notable thing was a huge amount of Polish people (and some great shops catering for them): if the Brexit clusterfuck ever happens, I wonder if this will change? I strongly suspect a lot of the local lower-paid jobs might suddenly be harder to fill: this is, after all, the south, so housing isn’t cheap: a house just down form our holiday property (admittedly a large house with direct beach access) was just shy of a million quid.

Notably a bit downmarket compared to Brighton, there was still a good choice of pubs and restaurants, and happily, great public transport from just a few yards from our property. There was a decent museum, and nearby Chichester gave us some sightseeing on the canal and the magnificent cathedral.

Overall, a great place, and not too far either; we drove the entire journey back in one run and 3hr 15 min without taking the piss speed-wise.

….oh yes- the pubs.

Back in the Saddle

Saturday, May 11th, 2019

I was up early, for a Saturday, and I needed both some exercise and to visit a pharmacy to collect a prescription. A quick Google told me that Tesco Brownhills’ pharmacy was open from 8am, so off up the towpath it was. In days gone by, I might have walked, but that’s hard going for any sort of distance now, so it’s back on the bike. A pleasant morning for a ride, so when the pharmacy said there would be a delay, I continued up the canal a short way (ordinarily, I might have gone for bacon, but my increasing girth means I forewent that today).

Further up the canal, the imperial measurement fuckwits had been about:

Beryl! The EU have been stealing our miles again!

I continued on to Slough Railway Bridge, a brief encounter with NCN5, and then through the industrial estate, down Engine Lane,

and back round to Tesco, with the cycling gods on my side- no stops at the junction or island.

A decent way to get a bit of exercise, avoid a bit of polluting the planet, and sort out an otherwise tedious task.

Easter

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

For some years now, I’ve spent the Easter holiday working, but this year, as I’m still recovering from my recent surgery, work that involves more walking and standing than normal (and would involve travel) didn’t seem like a great idea, so unusually I’ve had a long weekend, and it’s been a cracker, weather-wise.

With this time, I’ve got my bike back into working order, and ridden it on a couple of very short trial local journeys, I’ve visited a couple of new pubs, got a very small amount of gardening done, and sat in he garden with my pussy cats. Beats pushing packets 🙂

The pub trip introduced a new experience: heading north out of Walsall Station on the Chase Line to Hednesford. At one time, there was a direct bus service, but that went a number of years ago: given the train is fairly regular and quick, and the station is close to town unlike others on this line, there seems little need: a 25 minute trip saw us in Hednesford, which seems a bit more thriving than I remember, though the sun probably helped.

Zero Commute

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

I’m spending a few days virtually back at my desk rather than physically, and it makes a nice change; a good hour and a half more in bed, and a walk to the dining table (or indeed the garden) with a laptop, a mobile and my USB headset compares favourably to pumping the air full of hydrocarbons and NOx on the M5. My usual commute is a particularly wasteful exercise in many ways, taking over 2 hours out of my day at least, and costing both cash and the planet, but my employer is mostly OK, my colleagues are great, and the money isn’t bad. I could do a lot worse, basically. My recovery sees me moving better, but not quite ready to drive to work, so I’m at home with VPN, IP Softphone, and a mobile. That means I get to choose Planet Rock (over Internet radio rather than DAB), get pussy cat company, and get a shorter walk to the kettle and toilet. Oh, and my productivity has gone up, at least on the specific tasks I’ve got to do at the moment, due to fewer interruptions. What’s not to like?

Well, some employers are doubtless concerned that if their employees are out of sight, they’ll be fucking about all day watching Homes Under The Hammer, sloping off to the shops, sleeping, wanking, whatever, but then in this post I discussed that happening right under their noses anyway; this is a fairly simple management question: if your employees aren’t producing, you should be able to tell. People who work for themselves have to be organised about this, and it’s perfectly possible for a wage-slave to do the same: I’ve done a full day’s work, just removed the pollution at time-wasting of the commute.

I know I’ve whined about this before, and I also recognised that telecommuting doesn’t work for some people- in fact, at times it won’t work for me.

But as journey times increase and our roads gridlock more and more, just why do we all travel like this all the time?

Monkey Business

Sunday, January 20th, 2019

A few jobs have unusually taken me away from my desk to sites around the UK for a bit of network monkeying; the realisation that the old Cisco switches in use at most of them were starting to fail (pretty crap, huh? I mean some of them are only 15 years old!) meant a site visit. This also meant tidying up rats nests of cables, removing old PBXs, changing the IP range so it was actually not duplicating real addresses in Japan (I kid you not), and in the case of the two most remote sites (in Belfast and Edinburgh) migrating phones to a new PBX and SIP, retiring the 15 year old Nortel switches that may cause Mr Sublimeproduct to have a breakdown if he even hears the command LD 49. This work had already happened elsewhere, but the hassle of a required overnight stay to complete the work meant all the work was combined into one visit there.

My last trip to both of these sites involved short notice, expensive flights, with an uncomfortably early start, and a LAN switch as hold luggage in one case, due to the aforementioned failure of one, so it was nice to be boarding one of those toy planes at a relatively sane time with all the business types.

Edinburgh first, and fairly straightforward. New switches in, config errors fixed, everything on a nice new RFC1918 net range. A quick re-use of the old switch to set up multiple IP phones quickly:

Steal someone’s desk. A little bit of “switchport mode trunk”, and Bob’s your auntie’s live-in lover.

then a night in a hotel.

The next day was smooth too, with the only surprise (but it shouldn’t be, really) was BT’s refreshing, innovative approach to mounting a PBX in a rack:

Innovative brackets, lads.

Still, as it was only going in a skip, no worries 🙂

Belfast was a similar story, except the PBX was shoddily bolted to the wall with the screws rounded off, rather than propped up on timber offcuts, and in the evening, having a hardier colleague with me, we managed a pint in The Crown Liquor Saloon (and got a seat!).

BlndstHits

Monday, January 7th, 2019

The post title is a play on the RDS station name (GrtHits) for Greatest Hits Radio, the latest brand of Bauer Radio to foist itself upon the West Midlands 105.2 FM frequency, and so force it’s way into the many thousands of cars that don’t have DAB radios.

Back in the early days of this blog, I was pretty happy when Kerrang! launched on that frequency, then whinged about one presenter, then disappointed when Absolute Radio got the frequency, after a brief spell as Planet Rock, before that too got pushed off to a ropey, low-bitrate, not-receiveable-in-the car DAB slot.

I’d just got used to Absolute, and could put up with turning it off if they played Oasis, and now they’ve moved my cheese** again.

It’s not *awful*. The music is 60s/70s/80s/90s pop. From the Bauer website :

[engage marketing bullshit filters]

We deliver the most popular music for 45-64 year olds, reflecting the life stage of our listeners and keeping them informed and up to date with the latest news and information where they live. We play the greatest hits from the 70’s and 80’s with a sprinkle of megahits from the 60s and 90s thrown in for good measure. Classic songs that stand the test of time and sound as good today as they did when you first heard them.

Well, I’m right in that age group, and the music is age-appropriate, but it’s just so bland. Lots of very middle-of-the-road pop, and an overall feel of a old-school local radio station of the 90s, with a breakfast DJ, Simon Ross, who calls himself “Rossie”. There’s something wrong about nicknames for the over-40s. In fact, the MOR pop was more bearable during testing, when we didn’t have to suffer the presenters.

Given that Radio 2 has replaced one tedious DJ with an actually more tedious DJ, looks like it’s back to the SD card full of MP3s.

**I’m not posting it again.

A Place in the Sun

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

[note: this is retrospective, posted after the event. It’s also had a title change, and some of the more ranty bits removed, for a possible future post]

We’ve been away. Lanzarote, more specifically, Costa Teguise. A resort we’ve been to before, and it largely caters for British tourists (Germans too, but there’s a strong bias to UK tourism).

Very nice it was too, but I have to say the sheer amount of loud televised football and the near-total ubiquity of lager became a bit frustrating after a while; the upside being that you can get a full English and a pint for very little money, and enjoy it in the sunshine. The majority of the bars are run by English ex-pats using that handy freedom of movement thing.

What’s more, for perhaps the last time, we got to do this via a totally frictionless (and by frictionless, I totally mean that- step off plane, wave passport in general direction of border control, collect luggage, step into sunshine) border (crossed with our newly renewed not-fucking-blue passports), enjoying cheap, easy travel to the sun with no queuing. We paid for things with cards like we were at home. For the first, and maybe the last time, we used our mobile phones just like at home, roaming charge-free onto the local telco’s network and not giving a single fuck about charges per megabyte, so we didn’t even have to search out bars with wifi (though they were plentiful). Of course, we got a shit rate for our Euro currency, but low prices over there helped reduce the impact of that: Euro/Sterling rates were as close as makes no odds to 1:1 (actually 1.1 Euro to 1 GBP), so at least the exchange rate was easier than when we first visited when it was around 1.4-1, and a (400ml, typically) beer varied from 1 Euro to about 3, depending on location and time of day. Eurofizz lager, of course, but in the sun…

Compared to our last visit I’m a little less mobile (especially as I twisted my knee the night before we went), so there was less walking up and down the prom, though we did manage a few shorter strolls, only resorting to a taxi once (which was also amazingly cheap).

Not the most adventurous or exciting of holidays, I’ll grant you, but low stress, warmth, sunshine, and (relatively) low cost.

Chatiere

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

I discovered that the French for catflap is “chatiere”. This I discovered from the instruction manual.

Our return home from a gentle pub crawl (only 3) in Walsall was greeted by QT, on the front doorstep. Now, QT isn’t that bright, but he usually manages the cat flap. Shortly afterwards, Kitty announced her inability to get in by banging repeatedly against the flap and had to be let in.

I had a look at it. It’s about 7 years old, and opening it up disproves the adage that cats are clean animals, so I carefully clean it, lube it, and put it back. QT exits, and it doesn’t register his chip. Looks like it’s fucked. A temporary mod of tape to allow access for anything, and off to Amazon for a new one. There’s a large array of chip-reading flaps, now, but I just bought the updated version of what we had, not feeling like any potential door modification.

So then; programming the cats into it. I knew the old flap was a bit tired- yellowed from UV outside, cracked from getting knocked, but I’d been putting it off because I have a long memory, and aversion to injuries, and don’t like stressing my children.

As it was, leaving the old flap in place, assembling this one inside, using a long extension cable, a bit of patience, and (critically) realising the reader works upside down, and the fact the cats are more settled and older now, meant this passed without any fighting, and just a little initial suspicion of the new device has passed, and the cats can roam without having their food nicked again.

Hearing You Loud & Clear

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

I’m going to whinge, like the miserable, middle-aged man I am, with a first-world problem.

On Friday, I had an afternoon off, so we went into Walsall, and for a change to The Fountain.

I used to love The Fountain, but my last few visits have resulted in a change of heart, and it’s people that are the problem. Jeebus, I hate people 🙂

Further people to hate materialised when we went for something to eat. We went to Golden Moments, a Indian restaurant that’s been there forever, and that we’ve used for some 30 years now. It’s a step above the ordinary curry house- not expensive or overly posh, but relaxed, pleasant, and a nice place to be, which made their behaviour all the more…irksome.

It’s something I’m increasingly seeing, and it seems really odd to my late 40s mind: not just taking a phone call in a quiet restaurant, but using speakerphone to do so, and having it loud, and shouting, seemingly oblivious that the whole place can hear the conversation.

What is this? Is it learned behaviour from The Apprentice or countless other “reality” TV programmes (where there is at least a reason for it), or is it just total ignorance?

I’m not the only one to wonder this: from Mumsnet to Reddit, via Digital Spy, people are mystified.

My opinion? Some people are just entitled, inconsiderate fucks.

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.