Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Making an example.

Sometimes I wonder how I can be so busy, when in reality I'm not actually, really, doing anything at all.

What have I been doing since Sunday?

Well, I resolved to NOT go out for a drink this week... It's only Tuesday and I am wondering whether I might have made a bad choice. May is a month of celebration of the humble pint of mild, and there's a couple of *mild and cider festivals cracking off this coming weekend, so I thought I might enjoy them more if I err on the side of sobriety this week.

* Three Pigeons mild festival Saturday and Sunday (10 milds) - Rat and Ratchet mild and cider festival Saturday and Sunday (15 milds and some cider).

So that's what I HAVEN'T been doing.

I've been glued to the snooker (an annual occurrence) at the Sheffield Crucible - Yes, we all know it's really boring, but like Big Brother, the more you watch it, the more you get sucked in and enjoy it.

Spent half a day today looking for:
a) Mario Kart Wii - with steering wheel - (found in the first shop I went to)
b) Wii Fit - (Gave up looking after the twelfth shop)
c) A **Rubik's Cube - (Gave up looking after the ninth shop)

** Apparently the Rubik's Cube is once again a "must have" toy for kids.... Some shops have not had any stock of them since December!! I am so out of touch with the youth of today!! Obviously I still have my original "cube" but I'm sure a birthday gift didn't ought to be so tatty!!

Obviously, after purchasing Mario Kart for my Wii.... I've invested a little bit of time and effort into doing some of that, and playing against Riv.

Spent a few hours yesterday evening servicing (well, helping Riv to service) a bike for the Turtle, which is now, once again, greasy and almost road worthy!!

Satnav... I've been trying to work out why the Nokia LD-3W is such a poor bluetooth GPS receiver. After quite a bit of digging, it turns out that it's because the unit operates in "static navigation" whereby your position data is averaged, and therefore it's more accurate when travelling at speed than it is for walking around some fields (or indeed being (mis)guided up and down the same street outside the Manchester Arms in Hull several times to the point of embarrassment). So.... after much digging and sniffing around the interweb, I've found a utility that lets me hack into the bluetooth GPS receiver and turn off the static navigation... I tried it out today and it does genuinely seem a bit better..... it needs a more exhaustive test, but that would involve me getting off the sofa!! Anyone interested in the Nokia LD-3W should look here, it's most useful.

I baked some bread... then ate it.

Caught up on my Sky+ recorded programmes (Heroes (season 2), Love Soup, Pushing Daisies (season 1), Dexter (season 1).

Hoovered around the house - a task LONG overdue. Bleached my dishcloths (I never know why I don't just throw them away!!). Unclogged the bathroom sink.

Hung a window mounted bird feeding station on my lounge window.

Listened to Terry Pratchett's - The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents - part of Mr. Pratchett's 60th birthday (28th April) celebrations on Radio 7.

Played endless hours of "brain training" type activities on my Nintendo DS, and an equal amount of time playing "brain numbing" type games too. Also played a fair amount of Pogo.

Drunk a lot of coffee!!

And so..... it would appear that there have not actually been enough hours in the couple of days since my last post to fit all of this nothingness into.... where did I get the extra day from?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Advantage fox.

The lovely weather that presented itself yesterday did not fall on the house of a lazy fox!!

Following on from last weekend's trip to Hull, we took another journey (this time avoiding public transport) to the Humber Estuary and visited the delightful Cleethorpes.


The lovely Dawn, with her hair characteristically annoying her by blowing into her face, and no doubt saying to me "you better not be taking my picture" or words (that I dare not repeat in mixed company) to that effect!!

Much like many "classic" British seaside "resorts", Cleethorpes has seen its share of hard times. I'm happy to say that Cleethorpes has survived the season of unfashionability that has dogged our coasts. Perhaps it's global warming or a dose of environmental awareness that is now prompting people to return. Cleethorpes has now begun its restoration and is looking decidedly chirpy. The promenade is really pleasant* and some of the shopping areas are really looking nice, quaint and respectable.... the seaside "tat" shops are being slowly whittled down.


The pier and the groyne. Lovely sky with the "sea" somewhere in the distance.

* Seasides are like magnets for teenagers with badly modified, cheap cars - typically Citroen Saxo and if you can mask out the occasional open ended exhaust pipe and tinny, rattling, euro dance or god forbid r&b (the modern version, not the good version), then it's a help.

* Seasides tend to attract the elderly. while I have nothing against the elderly, it is slightly off putting that you can't buy food that needs to be chewed or beer which doesn't come from an electric pump!! The more the resorts can cater for the discerning punter, then surely, the more discerning punters will be likely to visit and even more importantly REvisit.

* Yes, I know, Cleethorpes isn't actually "seaside" it's tidal estuary, but it's much the same thing apart from the large tidal range and expansive mud flats!!

* Grimsby were playing at home, but if you avoid the football chanting pubs just above the train station, then you wouldn't really know much about it. For those that don't know, Grimsby and Cleethorpes are pretty much the same town, although I am sure someone will pick me up on this broad generalisation.

Having spent an hour or so "promenading" with my lovely lady friend, we decided that we should head out of town and find a more natural environment in which to take a constitutional stroll along the myriad of wildlife havens along the edge of the estuary.


A view along the "prom" at Cleethorpes from Ross Castle, a Victorian folly (recently renovated).

We (eventually) parked up at the "Lakeside" area... not far out of town. It's like an old 1920s boating lake, and you can tell it's also had its fair share of troubled times, but its being invested in and its looking very nice. A boating lake, a light railway running through the area with mini steam engines, some ancient sand dunes, and access to lovely salt marshes and stunning low tide walks along the beach.


Haile Fort, constructed in the mouth of the Humber Estuary during the first world war, and hailed as "an outstanding triumph of modern engineering".

It was a great day out... For me, the walking on the beach, picking up interesting shells, and feeling the sun on your back, and the sand whipping around your ankles in the breezier moments, and soft terrain under your feet, was the highlight of the day.

Go to your nearest coastal resort and support it. I maintain that there are so many places in this country that I have never experienced, that I ought never to need to go abroad again. That's obviously not to say that I won't go abroad, but damn it, most people don't know what's on their own doorstep!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Crap.

What to have for my tea? (that's dinner to you posh types!!)

I'm mulling it over in my mind, and contemplating the fifty or so yards walk to the chip shop for a Friday special - fish, chips and the obligatory mushy peas.... I live across the road from (in my humble opinion) the finest chip shop in England. For those that haven't yet, and are able to sample the delights of Outlane chip shop, then you really ought to.

On the other hand, I've got a bag of rather large, roastable potatoes, with delicious looking red skin.

Unhealthy fish and chips or healthy baked potatoes?

Eventually (as I've been a bit slack on my bike work this week) I take the healthy option, with the thought of smothering crispy skinned roast potatoes in baked beans and lashings of grated cheese....

Pricking the potatoes...

Rubbing the potatoes in olive oil, to discover that I hadn't any hot water in which to wash my hands thereafter.... dammit.

Seasoning the potatoes lovingly with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper...

Bunging them in the oven for an hour and a half....

Beep... beep.... beep... the oven timer is screaming at me to come and get it.

I rush down to the kitchen, check the potatoes, and they're done to perfection. I turn off the oven and put the taters back in to keep warm. I turn to the cupboard... where's the beans??

Well, imagine the words that come from my mouth as I unearth tins of borlotti beans, of chickpeas, pinto beans, black eyed beans, cannellini beans.... but not a single tin of those bloody baked beans!!

Knackers, or words to that effect.

I grab a bowl..... chuck in a tin of tuna, a tin of vacuum packed sweetcorn, some mayonnaise, and mix it all up and throw it at the potatoes!!

To add insult to my culinary injury.... I only had "light" mayonnaise too!!

That'll teach me to take a healthy option!!

How come a vacuum packed can of sweetcorn still weighs the same when it's been opened?

What a miserable meal!!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I couldn't...

... give a monkey's that it's Saint George's day!!

Not my words, but those of our intrepid local weatherman Paul Hudson on the lunchtime news.

For me, personally, I've never celebrated Saint George's day with any fraction of the enthusiasm that I can muster for, let's say, Saint Patrick's day!! Who wouldn't want to be falling down in town with a huge Guinness foam hat to cushion the blow?

So what do we do to show our Britishness?

Even the flag of St George has been hijacked and tainted with extreme right wing prejudicial values.

A national flower? A national drink? A national food?? Street parties?? None of the above!!

Apparently we're supposed to wear a red rose button hole.... first I knew of it!!

So, will you be celebrating the life of our Turkish, Roman soldier, who despite his staunch christian beliefs fought for a pagan Roman emperor?

What was so wrong with Edward the Confessor in the first place?

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who thinks that being British in these modern times of credit crunch, food shortage, war, petrol prices, and Euro2008, is any reason to be waving a flag from your rooftop on this auspicious day?

flag
Just because you should never be afraid to wave the flag!! I'm British, I'm not a racist, and I'm not overly proud of being British.... but it IS my flag and I've a bloody right to wave it without being embarrassed!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In deep!

This is a belated account of a day trip to Hull.

Having worked for a few Saturdays on the trot, Dawn finally got a free weekend, and rather than sit at home or spend our time traipsing round some lifeless shopping centre, we caught the train to Hull.

Neither of us had ever been to Hull before, and it couldn't possibly still be true (as was voted in 2005) that Hull is the worst place to live in the United Kingdom... could it?

I decided we would go to The Deep (a classy looking building that houses an aquarium) and I also looked up a string of pubs and bars of note. I took a bunch of relevant postcodes and a satnav device so that we might find things a little bit easier (more on this later!!).

Well we arrived in Hull after a painless train journey, and the station at Hull itself is a lovely place. People talk about Huddersfield being a lovely station (I agree with John Betjeman that Huddersfield station possesses the most splendid frontage, but the interior is a dump) that's all old and characterful, but Hull is bigger, brighter, more airy, and indeed older!! The other obvious benefit of Hull station, is that it's in the same place as the bus station.... shame on you Huddersfield!!

The Deep was well signposted and we had no trouble finding it and spending a good hour or two fighting off the ranks of ankle biters that were hogging the interactive elements of the display. I was especially annoyed at the shoals of amateur photographers that had not worked out how to turn off the flash on their cameras.... fish don't have eyelids and your camera flash could blind, or indeed shock them to death, besides which your pictures will look crap when your flash reflects off the glass!!





The Deep done, we set off in search of lunch. I had the postcodes of several suitable hostelries, but the pubs in the old town looked far too "beardy" for Dawn. She's very good at putting up with my pub selections as a rule, but she doesn't like "old men" pubs where there aren't any women, which is what I mean by "beardy"... Anyhoo, after wandering around for a while with grumbling tummies we decided to seek refuge from the biting cold wind and to turn on the satnav to find a place I had earmarked as somewhere to eat.

I struggled to get the satnav to accept the postcodes without a supporting address. I couldn't get the internet working on any of the three mobile devices we had with us. I texted Riv for some full addresses and off we set into the street to find the Hop and Vine at 24 Albion Street.

Walking with satnav is funny because it takes a while to orient itself, so we walked up and down the street, passing the pub where we'd stopped, no less than four times before I decided we should just keep walking and adjust to the satnav when we got into the right vicinity.

After a few bad instructions and a couple of back tracking manoeuvres, we made it to the Camra award winning, tiny hostelry, known as the Hop and Vine. It's a small, cosy, real ale, cellar bar that serves home made food, very cheaply in my humble opinion. The bar is about six feet long, and the whole place seats about twenty people. Three real ales and a couple of real ciders to choose from..... good selection and well kept for such a small place... exactly the sort of place I dream about running. Home made vegetarian chili with homemade bread and hummus. Great stuff.

And that was about it.....

We saw a fair bit of Hull..... I know a lot of it's quite depressed and industrial, but you can clearly see where the regeneration is happening, and it certainly seems like it's being done both sympathetically and effectively.

It puts Huddersfield to shame....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fogday.

I vote that we rename this day of the week to reflect the weather we seem to have inherited!!

And so it came to pass that on Fogday, the fox rested.

Here are a bunch of searches, which are just an excuse for me not to write about my trip to Hull yesterday.... which I will now write about in another blog entry..... I also need to update my random shopping blog, so if I get time then that's where you'll find me.

shagging gif animation (Google)
Ok, before I begin.... I don't know why the hell you ended up here looking for shagging animated gifs!! I live to give (be warned NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK!) - Are you looking for this kind? Or this kind? Don't blame me!!

arctic fox eyes location (Google)
Come on... you're having a laugh surely. Do you really need to sit at a computer and type this into Google to look it up for you?? They are on the fox's head of course... located.... in the Arctic!!

Rat and ratchet, Huddersfield (Google)
Hurrah for the Rat and Ratchet!! I haven't been there for a good few weeks now, but it's still one of the best pubs in town. Good beer, moderately priced, not too beardy!! Part of the Ossett chain of pubs.... you can see their website here!!

blu-tack creation bored (Google)
Bored? Looking for Blu-Tac action?? Head on over to the grossly underutilised Flickr group for blu-tac animals in their natural habitats!! Come and contribute!!

spike milligan plain tales from the raj download (Google)
Yes, it was a good set of radio programmes. No, I don't know where to download it from!! If anyone does, then I'd be keen to know about it too. I keep checking the torrent sites, but it hasn't appeared yet. Hail to the Spike!

whats on tonight in golcar (Google)
Very little I would imagine. Why not head to the Rose and Crown and avail yourself of some of that lovely Golcar brewed Mild or their lovely Pennine Gold!! You know you want to!!

im a ant that rides on golf balls song (Google)
I lose count of the number of people who come searching for the ant on a golfball song. To put this issue to bed, for once and for all time.... it's a song by Bob Brown. I don't know who the heck he is.... I don't know the song..... go and buy it from here!!

egears.co.uk review (Google)
Review?? Review?? I'll give you a review.... they're bleeping bleep di bleep.... bleepitty bleep.... bleep bleep.... don't give them the bleeping bleep off your bleep!! Find another supplier!!

what helps Arctic Foxes stand the cold (Google)
Fur!

Royal Doulton Arctic Fox (Google)
You gotta be truly kidding me. If you really have money to burn by buying pot arctic foxes, then you might as well give it all to me and I will make one for you.... shall we say fifty quid to get the ball rolling??

Friday, April 18, 2008

Blue sky thinking?

Well, here's the latest update on my Sky engineer.

A two man team was booked, along with high ladders, to come and look at the satellite dish that is attached to my chimney, which sits atop my three storey house.

Waiting on Thursday for the men with the ladders to arrive, imagine how my heart sank as a single, lonely, solitary engineer pulled up outside my house, in a smaller van than the previous engineer had driven, and with much less in the ladder department. I was not expecting miracles.

Ok, so let's at least give them a chance.

First things first.... the engineer asked to have a look at the actual Sky box in my lounge... the receiver... the decoder, if you will.

Cables were detached and meters attached to test the signal. Well, imagine my delight when the engineer realised that his meter wasn't working, so he couldn't actually measure the signals any further than I could demonstrate by changing channels on my televisual equipment!!!

Ok, I'm still not going to put this guy down.... let him get on with it.

He brought a new Sky+ box from the (tiny) van and plugged it in. It worked.... so the box was faulty.

Paperwork done.... signed, sealed, delivered....

So... why the frik didn't the first engineer look at the box you might ask? You wouldn't be alone in asking that either!!

Ok, so now I don't have Sky movie channels or Sky sports working..... the engineer did some stuff on the box and said that these channels can actually take four or five hours to come through onto the new box.... I've come across this before in pairing my viewing card to another box.

I sit and wait.... (actually I was doing other stuff, but still, you get the picture).....

After five hours, still with no movies or sports channels, I go for a bike ride for an hour and a half. I get home and of course the channels still aren't working. I decide to ring sky support.... I give them the details and after I've replaced the handset and made my way upstairs.... all channels are working!!

They really are a bunch of clowns... but I'm working again now.

Truth be known... I think I am actually going to cancel my Sky soon.... I might just get freeview instead.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Belated.

I meant to get around to writing a little bit of an item yesterday.... circumstances conspired against me and culminated in the imbibing of a selection of the Drop Inn's finest.

I was woken this morning by my phone ringing at the ungodly hour of a quarter to eight. Who uses a phone at that time? It was, of course, the Sky engineer, who was calling to inform me that he would be arriving between ten AM and one PM today. Personally I think he was calling everyone on his schedule to say "If I have to be out of bed at this time of day, then you bloody well gonna get to know about it".

I grunt my acknowledgement of his declaration of alertness, and promptly fall asleep until I am once again awoken by my ringing phone. Nine thirty, and I decide to get up.

So, while I am waiting for the inevitable series of lemony unfortunate snicketty events to unfold, as two grunting, van driving gibbons crawl up the walls and across my roof..... I've got a bit of time to spare. I can complete the item that I had assigned myself yesterday.

Happy belated birthday to the late, great Spike Milligan. He would have been ninety years old yesterday. I've enjoyed a whole rash of shows on the spoken-word radio channel that nobody listens to, BBC Radio 7. which for my money, is the best thing the beeb have channelled their energy into, for quite some time. Some lovely items from the Goon Show, right through to the magnificent More Plain Tales From The Raj.

In tribute to this gentle, comic giant, that still manages to make me laugh, I thought I'd fly in the face of convention (and indeed the law) to bring you some samples from my childhood favourite Badjelly the Witch.


Bless the Spike!

Updates later.......... OK.... Here's the complete Badjelly the Witch book!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hell to pay.

Customer service. I bang on about it. I never stop being aware of it. I give credit where it's due, and I certainly don't hold back when I've been let down... and let down, I have been!!

Sky customer services.... waited in all day for the engineer to come to fix my unsightly satellite dish. I took great pains to explain that my house is three stories high, and beyond that the dish is attached to the chimney.... so imagine my chagrin when Conrad arrives and his opening gambit is:

"You've no chance mate!"

Mere fractions of an hour later and Sky customer services are on the phone to me telling me confidently that, not only will Conrad not fix my problem, but I am not a Sky customer, that they never installed the system, that I've never bought any equipment from them, and that I don't subscribe to their services.

"I do." I protest.

"You don't" comes the voice down the wire.....

Pantomime ensues for several minutes before I suggest she looks harder at the computer screen.... much harder!!

A twenty minute phone call establishes that I do indeed have Sky TV... that I am a paid up subscriber, that they fitted the equipment, that they supplied everything, and ..... Guess what??

We finally establish that I have a high roof, and that Conrad will not fix my problem.

Someone else is going to call on Thursday this week, and I fully expect round two of exactly the same thing.

I could go on and regale you with further tales of dissatisfaction, but then what will I moan about tomorrow?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Huzzah!!

Thanks to spice-the-cat, I am now a music bearing blog again. You may or may not be happy about that, but after a heck of a lot of jiggery-pokery I have managed to bastardise the "skydrive" file service into my flash mp3 player over there on the right hand side... see?? You learn something new every day!!

I didn't yet get chance to apologise properly to everyone for my absence as both a reader AND a writer!! In light of the sheer volume of backlogged blog posts that I need to read to catch up with everyone, I may have to set some serious time aside!!

Rol: Thanks for those kind words.... Yes, Dead Man's Shoes is a great film. It's a long time since I saw a movie that actually "changed" me in some way.... I certainly didn't feel like I was the same person that I was before I had seen the film, after I had seen the film, if you know what I mean?!?

I must update the "movies I have watched" section of my blog with as many of them as I can now remember.

Normal service is S L O W L Y being resumed!!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Slacker....

... and slacker.

I've written a few blog entries over the past couple of weeks but I never got round to finishing them, and they certainly weren't in any fit state to publish.

I've been totally busy doing absolutely nothing.

The job interview turned to mush, and I was fobbed off with the best management one-liner ever.... "it's not so much what you didn't have as what the other candidate did have" - How to turn a negative into a positive 101 - What a load of bullshit, as surely both eventualities amount to the same thing.

Erm... what else.....

The internet service provider transition went really well (contrary to popular belief) and I only lost a couple of hours of connection time. Previously I was paying twenty five pounds a month for a 512/128Kbps (down/up) connection.... Now I'm paying seven and a half pounds a month for a 2825/1060Kbps connection - That HAS to be a result in anyone's book. It's just as stable as it was before, and the only thing I lost......

Gripe: My old service provider gave me a small amount of webspace that had unlimited data restrictions applied. I used to host my mp3 files there so I could play you a bit of music while you looked at my blog. I tried to switch this file over to some webspace that I pay for, but the sheer volume of data that ends up being transferred to play the file is costing me too much. Silence descends upon my blog in more ways than one!!

What else have I been doing then that's kept me so busy?

Nowt really.... I've been out on my bike a few times.... I've played some Nintendo (probably a bit too much for my own good).... I've drunk a bit of beer (finally got round to drinking some Mancy Mild from the Pictish Brewery in Rochdale and it was delicious).... I've drunk a bit of cider..... I've eaten loads of fruit and veg and done loads of cooking..... Baked a load of bread.... watched loads of TV.... loads of DVDs..... loads of movies.......

Good things I've watched recently include:

Dead Man's Shoes.
Gavin and Stacey Series 1.
Dexter Series 1.
Keith Lemon's World Tour.

Good games I've played recently include:

Animal Crossing Wild World (DS)
Wii Play (Wii)
Picross (DS)
Pogo

Jobs applied for in the last week:

none!!