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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Challenge accepted.....

First of all, quick note on the subject of dining out in the city. This week saw the tall fella, the church seating, the thinking woman's DLT (the smooth talking smooth person) and I take on two new venues that were previously untested. (They know who they are).

The first was "The Dovetail", a cracking little Belgian pub just off of Jerusalem passage, near Farringdon station. Authentic Belgian beers, authentic Belgian furniture and even an authentic Belgian Menu - well the Moules Frites - all of which were truly excellent and very good value. To be fair I had the Bison burger - so perhaps not quite as authentic as the Bison may not be a native of Belgium, but regardless - great food all round and worth hunting down. 8/10


The second was a little more off the wall. There's a restaurant called "Meat Liquor" famed for its burgers that we tried to visit a week or two ago. However, it is extremely popular and as such, constantly has a queue stretching around the block unless you get there early. Anyway, having given up on it thanks to its popularity and our inability to finish before 7pm we hunted down another venue within the same very small chain. This one is called "Meat Market" - see what they did there? and is situated just next to Covent Garden.

If you're familiar with the area, you'll know that Jubilee Market is situated between the Strand and Covent Garden Market. Upstairs (above Jubilee Market) is where you'll find the place. To be honest, it took a bit of finding for us - mostly because we didn't know where it was, but to be fair - it's up a windy staircase and from the outside doesn't look like much of anything.

Now I think of it, it doesn't look like much of anything from he inside either, but don't let that put you off. It put me in mind of a transport cafe - a bit grubby maybe - a bit noisy - almost pop-up, but actually more pop-culture. Dirty Burgers is what you get and damn good they are too. There's also a selection of other meaty based meals and I'd say its worth trying out the Chilli Cheesey Chips which are actually a lot more than just the bag of chips you get as standard. Drinks are served "in the can" (that's neither the restroom, toilet or bathroom for our American readers) with a plastic cup should you deem yourself posh enough to decant.


For a fun completely unstuffy and probably unhealthy if hearty dining experience - you can't want for anything more. This has just spurred me on to have another go at getting into "Meat Liquor" in the future. I'm sure it's worth the wait.

Now - the reason I was up here this week....On one level this job is going very well, however, on another, I do have days when I wonder if its really worth the effort.

As a team we've faced some pretty horrendous hurdles and clearly the biggest one of those is helping our colleagues understand that what we're doing isn't what we normally do. There are some elements of normality, but for the most part we're doing something new, unusual, and uncomfortable for those that are used to "the way of things" being somewhat different. This fundamental change means that we spend time having to describe what we're doing when usually there is a kind of short hand that everyone "gets" and so they just get on with it. Worse still is when some of the more senior members of the team don't get it - and being senior may not be interested in doing so - or may use their own internal shorthand to completely misunderstand what it is that we're doing.

Of course these hurdles aren't enough for the likes of us - we need to make it really difficult for ourselves by not having enough people to do it, or that understand it, or even allowing ourselves enough time to work on it. Better yet, a document management system that would put the unindexed section of the forgotten wing of the Bodlean library to shame, makes cross referencing and clear responses very nearly impossible.

The only other thing we could do is set some unachievable targets.... So lets do that too.

Ah well - it could be worse and so I shall complain no more. It's good to have a challenge and this is certainly one of those.

Tomorrow will see me doing something completely different. The bear of little brain and I will be going off on an adventure to help the little people of Birmingham. I'm sure ill find time to tell you all about it when it's done.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Groundhog Day

Overheard eastbound....

"I did it on the iron. He was stood round the other side of the 
  ironing board and as I turned round I caught it. It's not a very deep 
  burn though."

"I nearly lost it in New Zealand. Left it in the hire car..
    but they retrieved it for me."

Enough!.. Headphones in, TV or Movie or book of choice... Onwards.

I suppose it's appropriate that Groundhog Day is coming up, because I very much appear to be caught up in the plot of the film of the same name. Once again, Monday was spent on the A46 and occupying various administration buildings, and Tuesday finds me on the train to our Capitol city again. So what have we missed?

Nothing huge of note to mention, but the basic run of the last week was as follows (for diaristic purposes). After Monday in Warwick, and the train in the wee small hours of the morning, Tuesday evening saw the tall fella, the church seating and I cross the bridge to "The Black Friar" and a meet with the tall fella's daughter and her BF. She too, is tall and very pleasant. He's a proud dad and future son-in-law ("He's got to get through me first" said the tall fella) was suitably both nervous and trying to impress, although I gather they've been "friends" for a good few months. We dined at the nearby Hare and Tortoise, Chinese and a couple of notches up from Waggamama's IMHO.

7am and back on the tube from the Hilton Metropole to the office for another frustrating day of trying to fold a perfectly formed origami flapping swan, and instead having to fit tab A into slot B. Honestly, this job feels just like that sometimes.

The Wednesday night journey home meant I walked in the back door at 9.30pm, dead on my feet but very glad to see Mrs G. Thursday was another early start, more paper construction failures and a dash back across country literally just in time for the WTC meet up (mentioned elsewhere I'm sure)


So, in summary, I only spent two days up that Laandan, with a return journey on Wednesday and a further trip across country to Warwick on the Thursday and a blessed day of WaH on Friday. (WaH, being Working at Home - or for some Telecommuting - eg: Feet up at home in front of the Telly). Sadly for me, it was the former and not the latter.

When the weekend finally arrived, I tried to persuade Mrs G to do as little as possible - always a struggle - she likes to keep busy, but we managed a good 5 mile walk to sort out the kitchen flooring - never buy anything from SCS in my experience - and acquire some new crockery. Sunday allowed me to clear out the garage (again). Odd isn't it? I did it a little while ago, but it seems that an empty space is there to be filled. On the plus side, having cleared it, I feel like I've accomplished something, which is more than can be said for the way work is of late.

Fish pie for Sunday dinner and the kids came and joined us. Having seen them both fly the nest, it's particularly enjoyable to have them back occasionally and catch up on all their comings and goings. Interestingly, son has announced he's throwing in his job and going travelling. Not just yet, but around September time most likely. I think he's been inspired by daughters travels of Asia, and the fact that working in insurance is really pretty bloody dull. To accomplish his goal however, he wants o save up some extra cash, and was "just laying it out there"... But wondered if he'd be able to move back in for a while.

Of course he can - you can't say no to your kids - and Mrs G is particularly thrilled, although, she'd never say so, but he is her first born, and she's missed him. It'll be good to have him around for a while. He's good entertainment. Negotiating the rent was great fun. :-)

For those of you on the edge of your seat waiting for my "How to Rip Blu-Rays for an Apple TV / iDevice" post, fear not, it's coming soon and you'll be glad to know I've worked the kinks out of the process - it's a doddle, but in the meantime, I'm sure you can tell what I'm watching on the train:

CENTER: E.W.A. five seventeen, do you want to report a U.F.O.? Over.
CENTER: E.W.A. five seventeen, do you want to report a U.F.O.? Over.
EWA517: Negative. We..Don't wanna report.
CENTER: AirEast Thirty One, do you wish to report a U.F.O.? Over.
AE31: Errr, we don't wanna report one of those either.
CENTER: AirEast Thirty One, Do you wish to file a report of any kind? Over
AE31: I wouldn't know what kind of report to file center.
CENTER: Err AirEast Thirty One, err me neither. I'll try and track traffic to destination over.



Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On a Choo-Choo-sday...

See what I did there? ;-) sorry....

Monday came and went with a journey across the the countryshire along the A46 and through the frosty snow.


The roads were pretty much clear apart from the very last stretch just around the M42 junction at Warwick. There's a relatively new piece of bypass and it was a slushy mess.

I had my annual review and all was well with the world - not as good as it could be, but good enough for now. To be fair, I know the system is just arbitrary division of numbers and if you do something exemplary you weigh the division in your favor slightly, but mostly it's the luck of the draw, because no-one is here not to be good at what they do. It's a bit dumb really.

Now it's Tuesday and yet again I'm on the train toe the city. It was snowing quite heavily when I left this morning, but whether it will continue to do so, judging by the forecast, is unlikely. Certainly down Reading way, there's plenty of the white stuff of the ground - and none of it in the air as yet. I suspect the same will true of the city itself.

Thankfully, this trip is just the two days - a quick overnighter and back out west on Wednesday night. I have no doubt it will be full of spreadsheets, of long conversations about the possibility of doing x or y verses the cost of doing z or w and conference calls marshalling people to think of ways to deal with a through to v when were least expecting them to even be on the table, let alone in the alphabet. Might sound cryptic, but that's basically what it's like....

Of course we will relieve this agony by at least finding some half decent food somewhere this evening I'm sure. It's all very much of a muchness and exactly like it was the last time, and not at all any different, but exceptionally repetitive - I think you get my point. Bah...

Its not that im not enjoying it, its just I'm longing for something to get my teeth into rather than flogging a dead horse - which is just how it feels and probably not at all how it is.

Here's hoping your week has some variety about it.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A funny old week...

...that was...  and not funny har-har... more funny peculiar.

Monday found me back on the train up that Laandan yet again. This time for a Monday morning kickoff meeting that involves lots of people sitting around and talking about the "plan" and how to get there.  It's all very interesting if you like that kind of thing - and for the most part, I do - although there's plenty of bits that I don't too.

We have some tight deadlines and lots to deliver so I'm likely to go a bit quiet on here while that's all happening.  This also means we tend to pull together as a team, which is always good for moral and makes it feel like we're all in it together, even if we aren't.

Monday night was a particularly late one and we settled on the "Mad Hatter" for a rushed dinner consisting of a pint and pie and chips. It appears that this was a bad idea on my part. Something really didn't agree with me and the pie kept me awake for most of the night - leaving me feeling particularly grumpy and off target on Tuesday.

Bland view from the Hilton Metropole in the early AM

Tuesday morning was full of busy-ness, writing up stuff from the previous day and getting our ducks in a row to move things forward in line with the plan.  All good business speak and mostly boring stuff.  I spent a little bit of time with our cost model jockey, and once again didn't manage to leave the office until almost 8pm.  This was in direct contradiction of the plan, which was to try and grab a decent bite to eat and a beer to celebrate the tall bloke's birthday.  

His restaurant of choice was to be "MeatLiquor", but you've got to get there early - and of course we didn't.  Second place choice went to a little French bistro ("Cote")just off of St.Christopher's place - which as it turns out was very good and much enjoyed by all involved.  Not being keen to eat much - in fear of a further sleepless night - I had the cod-goujons (posh fish fingers) and they were just gentle enough.

Wednesday was another early start and a day full of disasters.  There was a helicopter crash just round the corner from the office which caused a certain amount of consternation and no end of travel disruption. Mrs G had a puncture, the weather forecast contain dire warnings of snow and my return journey back to the country-shire was agonising.

It all worked out in the end though - and I made it home ready to set out again for the middle of the country on Thursday.  Of course - with a puncture and no chance of a repair before I had to be up North, I needed another form of transport, and Daughter was most helpful by lending me her car for the journey. Bit of an organisational nightmare - having to inflate and drive, borrow and drive and then inflate and drive again upon my return, but once again it all worked out and Friday was to be a day of working from home thus giving me the opportunity to nip out to a local garage and get everything fixed.  In the meantime there was an outing of the WTC - and a good time was had.

The weather hampered Friday somewhat with a huge dump of snow overnight - so the shovel had to come out and help clear the car before I could get it sorted - but the garage were excellent and charged me the princely sum of nothing at all to remove the nail (for that is what it was) and patch the resulting hole.

Finally the weekend arrived - and the snow was there to be enjoyed. Mrs G, Daughter and I took some of the fresh air and ice and had a mooch about town. I finally got my BluRay drive plugged in - more on that when I get enough time to play with it properly - and a slap up supper of Baked Camembert (thanks to my wife's excellent Xmas present of a Camembert baker) and a deeply warming chilli.

Sunday saw a few household chores and another venture out into the snow. The forecast has more to follow - starting on Monday - when I have to travel back up North for my annual review, before heading back down town again for a couple of days. Such fun there never was.

Am I enjoying it?  Not really.  Luckily, Mrs G & The WTC keep me sane - and assuming the review goes well - things could be a lot worse.

Stay warm and away from the ice - until next time...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A quick one...

Ups and Downs, Pluses and Minuses, Highs and Lows, Strikes and Gutters.... Gutters (3) - 5am, Leaving the Office at 8pm, Not sleeping much due to eating late Strikes (4) - Goodly chunk of work done, Banter, Beer & Food, Blogging

Strikes Win!

Inception Blog Post

This is a post about a blog tool within a post within a post .....  

Wow!! Thats Like.... Deep Man....

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Sunday!!... oh, hangon... it's Saturday?

TBL: "You don't go out looking for a job dressed like that? On a weekday?"
El Duderino (as I'm not into the whole brevity thing): "Is this a..? What day is this?"

Yes, it's a bloody Monday again. And yes, I'm on the bloody train again. And yes, I'm off up that Laandan again. All a bit boring and repetitive really. However, I will do my best to make it somewhat more interesting given that it is our capital city and there's plenty to see and do when you're not chained to a desk.

The weekend was a cacophony of birthday celebrations with a slap up dinner (sadly not at Mrs Miggins pie shop) with the inlaws, outlaws, kids and even my sister (who travelled down from that Manc with her other half) in the Tivoli - a sort of gastro pub in Cheltenham. I'd highly recommend the place for everything it offers apart from the service.  Rather lacking in members of staff and therefore a bit bloody slow at getting the job done, with one member of staff in particular being bang out of order and treating some of the others with a certain amount of disdain.  She come across as a larger, more female version of Basil Fawlty crossed with Miranda.  Aside from her antics though - it was generally excellent and as it was my birthday lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed it too.

I don't know any of these people

On Saturday night I met up with Stan and Juglar, two core members of the WTC at our local haunt and received my birthday presents. They've all very generously clubbed together and bought me a Harrington from Warrior Clothing (recommended if you're looking for mod gear) which was extremely generous of them, and of course, the now traditional disgusting aftershave which you have to wear a splash of before passing onto the next member of the group on their birthday. Luckily for me, that's Stan's in February - and I'll be only too glad to see the back of it.

On Sunday, Mrs G and I had a bit of a walk, through various parks and around the city picking up a couple of bits and pieces and pressing our noses up against the glass of the cake filled windows at "Patisserie Valerie" (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea). It's definitely taken a turn for the colder and there is allegedly some snow on the way, although personally I've yet to see any of it.

Sunday afternoon saw Mrs G creating some good winter warming food in the shape of a Stew and the kids came round to help polish it off.

I also spent some birthday amazon vouchers (always useful) on an external Blu-Ray drive for the iMac with a view of converting the now infamous video library to HiDef over a period of time. I know how, I just haven't actually done this with BluRay yet, having not had the drive. I will however, share the method when I get round to doing it...

Blu-Ray has most definitely come of age having well and truly won the format war (HD-DVD or BluRay...  Just like good old Betamax and VHS) and we are starting to see the prices of the format come into line with that of DVD such that buying them is more bearable. Of course, in the long term this model has no hope of surviving as we'll all be streaming everything everywhere (maybe someone should use that as a brand name for high speed mobile connectivity) - if only they actually could. That future is going to be a little while yet I think.

A bit of packing - some reasonably rubbish Sunday night TV and here we are at 5.30am ready to get off to the station all over again.

Oh look!  Snow!!...  
Until next time....

Friday, January 11, 2013

Another year?... Really?

It's been a funny old week what with one thing and another. Naturally I wasn't particularly enamoured with spending my Birthday away from Mrs G and the family, but I really didn't have much choice, and while all birthdays are significant, it wasn't a particularly round number ending with a 5 or a zero, so I suppose it was less significant than normal (if that makes any sense?)


Wednesday's journey was nice and easy with very few people about on the Laandan commute, no doubt because of it being the middle of the week. It was good to catch up with the team again and properly get my feet back under the table and get stuck into the meat of the job in hand. There's four of us working on it at the moment, (aside from the other departments we're guiding through the maze) but this is all set to change. The lead guy is going off to do something else for a couple of weeks and one of the others is going off on vacation, so there will just be the two of us (me and the tall bloke) trying to get things sorted and we have a fairly serious deliverable to get in place in about 4 weeks time. It's going to be a tough month or two.


Still - it keeps me off the streets, and sadly away from regular social groups. Wednesday night we took a trip to "The Baltic". We've been before. It's a fairly up market Eastern European eatery which serves all manner of boiled meats and of course cabbage. I'm making it sound very dour, but actually it's very good stuff. There's also a very wide range of vodka's to choose from, and it all seems to fit together very nicely. A little on the pricey side, but then it's also of top quality and just a stone's throw from the office. A good 7 or 8 out of 10.

Thursday morning arrived and with it my birthday. I spoke with Mrs G before anyone else, which was nice, and then caught the 7.30 across town to the office and was beavering away at my desk well before 8 o'clock.


Not the chosen way to spend a special day but hey. Around 9am I was back out the door with a colleague to go back across the river and spend some time in the clients office looking at "Data". No recording devices permitted beyond a pen and paper - all a bit archaic in this day and age - but it's that way for a reason and I may have said too much already ;-) I was done with well over 650 documents examined by lunchtime so I headed back to the office to share my findings and left my colleague to it.


When we finally got done (around 7pm) we headed north of the river and up to Exmouth Market, just a short walk north of Farringdon station (particularly well timed being the 150th birthday of the tube - the first of which ran from Paddington to Faringdon. Exmouth Market is a happening little string of shops and eateries that I've also mentioned before. The sole purpose of our visit was what has quickly become my favourite "almost restaurant" in Laandan - that of "Morito's". This was my third trip and once again it didn't fail to impress. Somehow, we managed to go over budget - entirely the fault of Neil I'm sure - who seems to push us over budget every single time. I have no idea how, but he does.


After Morito's the Exmouth Arms had a couple of nice tasting and refreshing beverages for us which helped round off the evening. There was also a certain amount of banter with the WTC, who were also out celebrating my birthday. Unfortunately they were in the West Country, while I wasn't and were (by all accounts) having a whale of a time without me. They even managed to open the present that they'd bought for me, and send pictures. They're generosity knows no bounds and there will be much thanking and ribbing to do when we all catch up in the not too distant future.


Friday morning was more of the same - but this time without a birthday involved. Once again I was in the office well before 8 and back over at the clients office by 10. A much shorter visit this time.


The afternoon was back at base with a planning session for next week, and the arranging of travel and accommodation for my return trip from Monday through to Wednesday. It's all go - but I'm not complaining (honest). This is a far better situation than before Christmas, when I had (almost) nothing to do at all - and as we all know "The devil makes work for idle hands"


A reasonably early escape and I'm back on the train out west.... And being on the train means you get to hear all sorts of non-sense which I haven't shared for a while. Here's a few snippets....


"But if there's a misunderstanding, then the best thing to do would be to resolve the misunderstanding. I would urge you to resolve it without it getting more unpleasant. You should correct him before you start putting in formal complaints and things. It's best to be sure of your facts before you start throwing allegations around. I'm not twisting anything. Yes, but who made that dis-information? I'm sure he'll want to return any property he has."


"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen - welcome to this First Great Western service. :-("


"You don't need to be belligerent about it. It just seems as though you may be magnifying a misunderstanding."


"Daddy, are you sure this is the right train?"


"I've set my Alarm. See you then."


"Excuse me, could I get in there please?"


...and so on and so forth.


Tomorrow being Saturday sees hopefully a lie-in, although of late I've become all too aware of the fact that what ever future plans I write here never seem to quite happen, so perhaps it won't be. But it will be lunch with the inlaws and outlaws and all that that entails.


Sunday packing - Monday back on the train. Ho hum. Life goes by pretty fast - best try and stop and smell the flowers occasionally (or something like that).


Until next time.




Wednesday, January 09, 2013

It's nice to get out...

...I just wish I didn't have to sometimes. This occasion is one of those. This week it's my Birthday - which is nice, but instead of spending it with the beloved Mrs G, I'm having to commute back up to that Laandan (innit) for three days of banging my head against any nearby solid surface. At least that's the impression of the situation that I'm getting from the tall fella. On the plus side, there's an opportunity to dine out at the now world famous Morito's (or something similar) at someone else's expense - something not to be sniffed at.


Wednesday is going to be spent in the office, while on Thursday and Friday I'll be visiting the clients offices. While this is not a routine I want to get into, on this occasion, it will be particularly interesting for me, as its just over the road from where I used to have a flat in London - over Victoria way. I say "I had a flat", It was a company flat and served as my base for six months in between hotels. It was a time that I greatly enjoyed, even if it did seriously screw with my social life in the west country. Having said that my social life in the city was second to none - albeit a bit pricey. Good times were had - especially for a single bloke with money in his pocket, and nothing to do but get into trouble. Ah well, may the best of my past, be the worst of my future.


I digress. I really have to hand it to Mrs G. I'd be utterly lost without her. She is my everything. I'm not saying she was overjoyed, but she was willing to get up before any right and proper person would this morning, and give me a lift to the station. It's not fair on either of us, but I am exceptionally lucky that she is so understanding and selfless - I knew there was a reason I married her - and it's not just for lifts to the station. ;-)


All of this means that, once again I'm sat on the stupid-o'clock to Paddington with a bunch of people who are trying to get back to sleep as we trundle through the West Country in darkness toward the big smoke. It's early enough - and the middle of the week enough - that the train is practically empty, and for the first time in ages my seat reservation requesting a table has actually been fulfilled.


I'm in a carriage with those little TV sets in the back of the seats, which is about as up to the minute tech as it gets on a First Great Western - yes there's still no WiFi, which is, after all why we pay 150 quid!! Those of you that have been paying attention will know that even my local bus in the sticks, has free WiFi now (yes - Bus) and yet FGW are quite happy to keep putting up rail fares, saying they're going to do this and that, and apparently doing nothing at all. In the mean time, the minister for rail fares is quite happy to take a chauffeur driven taxpayer funded limo to work everyday rather than hop the train with the rest of us "plebs"... And I use that word in the "taxpayer" kind of way that MP's like to think of it. Don't get me started - although I fear it may be too late!


Back at home, the heating is fixed. 120 quid secured the services of a plumber for a couple of hours and the replacement of a pump which unbeknownst to me seemed to be failing. I'm not sure that this was in anyway related to the expansion tank falling off the wall (which was the original problem) so it's entirely possible that I'm getting fleeced - however, everything does appear to be working correctly now - and that old pump definitely looks like its been struggling. If there's one thing that I'm not, its a plumber. Benefit of the doubt.


The WTC 52 Pub challenge is back from the dead - but being in London, I'm going to miss week two. Still, we'll cope and it just means that next week will be that much more enjoyable. Might even try and suggest to the lads, a crafty beverage at the weekend to make up for it, but I have to bear in mind that we're having a bit of a birthday bash lunch on Saturday with inlaws and outlaws... So little to do and so much time... Oh, no... Strike that. ;-)


There goes Didcot Parkway in the dark, and next stop is Reading (for our American cousins, yes, it is pronounced Red-Ding) which at this time of year and day will be in the almost light, but not quite. The train is filling up with commuters of all shapes and sizes now. There's still a few trying to sleep, but as daylight appears through the mist they're starting to stir and get restless. Clearly anxious for the day ahead - exactly like transporting cattle isn't it? Reading station is a right old mess at the moment too. They're doing something to it, which will no doubt make it more appealing to the commuters of reading while just annoying the crap out of everyone else. I'm sure it'll look nice, and FGW will use it as their excuse for putting up ticket prices. Not that I'm cynical or anything ;-)


Right - time I was out of here...although I'd rather still be tucked up in bed. Adieu.


Saturday, January 05, 2013

Guns (an open letter to America)

Dear America,


What a strange a beautiful country you are. With your wide open plains in the west, your green and fertile lands in the east, your mountains to the north, and sunsoaked heat to the south. I've visited you many times, and everytime I feel that a little piece of me has stayed behind with the people I've met and the places I've been.


You are not (as the media often portrays) a bunch of idiots and slackers - of course, there's always a couple, and we have the unusual people too, but generally you're intelligent individuals trying to do the right thing. A nation of achievers, of go getters, of can do'ers. A people to be proud of - and I'm not just blowing smoke. It's true enough.


However, let me give you an example of one of our "unusual people"...


This fella, goes into a shop (a store if you will) and tries to buy a fish and chip supper (fast food takeaway) with an imitation handgun!!! I know. I can hear you gasping. What was he thinking? Not just a handgun, but worse still an imitation handgun - a toy. Clearly the man is a little insane - and no, I'm not being ironic. He's very lucky that armed police didn't show up and shoot him on the spot. Although - even for our police force, firearms are a last resort. They don't carry them. I'm not making it up either, you can read it here:


On one of my visits to you, I met a man and his wife who invited me to dinner at their house, and I must say a truly excellent dinner was had. Their hospitality was second to none and after dinner our host and I got onto the subject of guns. To my shock, he produced a handgun and laid it on the coffee table in the middle of his lounge.


My first reaction would have been to offer him a free fish and chip supper of course. :-) I jest.


My actually reaction is - why? Why does anyone in America ever feel the need to own a gun? (I'm not talking about shotguns or hunting rifles here - we have those in my country and I understand why. They're for hunting with. I'm from the countryshire, they are commonplace. I'm talking about battlefield ready automatic weapons and easily concealed, easily transported, handguns)


The answers I seem to get are:


  • Protection
  • Because I can

In my country, I can't, and in fact, just because I can do something, doesn't actually mean I should. In fact, I can do anything I want to - no really, absolutely anything I want to. I have free will. The question is why would I want to?


For example... I could drop everything, and just go to say... Australia for example. I could do that. The company I work for wouldn't be very pleased, but it's my choice. Eventually I'd loose my job I'm sure, and then I wouldn't be able to pay my mortgage - but this would all be my choice. No one would stop me. But why would I want to? With a little bit of planning, I could take a vacation and go to Australia anyway.


The point is - that for every action there's a reaction.


I could get a gun - it would probably be the death of me.


However, in my county, I don't want a gun. I went to a shooting range with my American friend and his gun. I fired it, I know how heavy they feel, I know how powerful they feel, I know they are dangerous. Don't be mistaken - Guns really do kill people. Introduce a gun into any given situation and the chances of it being used go up. If it doesn't exist, it can't be used.


A few years ago, my country introduced a law making possession of such weapons illegal.

That doesn't mean they don't exist - the dark underbelly of the criminal world has them - at great risk to themselves personally. The chances are, they'll get caught with them, and loose their liberty (of which you have a very fine statue I note), or they'll shoot themselves with it accidentally or otherwise. As a result - while shootings still happen - they are generally a rarity and this makes our country as a whole, a safer place to be. I don't need a gun for protection, because no one else has one either - and the minority that do wouldn't want the vast majority of us that don't, to know about it anyway, so they won't be carrying it in public - for certain.


Here's some numbers for you:

The Number of Murders by Firearms in the US in 2010: 8,775

The Number of Murders in Britain in 2011: 638

As Britain's population is 1/5 the size of the US, 638 is equivalent to 3,095 US murders

The Number of Murders by firearms in Britain in 2011: 58 equivalent to 290 US murders


So that's 8,775 verses 290... I'm pleading with you, you big beautiful country, you...


Perhaps - and this just a suggestion - but perhaps, it's time you thought about wrapping some control around the ownership of these weapons before things get any worse. Get serious with licences, age checks and enforcement. Get the balance right and you'll only loose your liberty if you cross the moral line.

You no longer have the Wild West to contend with. You don't have to hunt buffalo anymore. Get your laws sorted out and up to date and you don't have to be afraid anymore either.


If you're an American and reading this and owning a firearm - are you part of the problem?

Sadly - it rather looks like you are.


With the fondest regards, and fear for the future of a beautiful country




PS: Don't over complicate it. Drink more tea. :-)


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

2013 Starts here...

Here we go then, welcome to 2013.


I'm seriously going to put in an effort to write something a bit more regularly this year. How's that for a New Years Resolution? Of course calling it a New Years Resolution means that I'll keep it up forms few days and then it's right back in the trash and all forgotten about. But we'll see... At least I'm trying.

One thing about having no heating or hot water in the middle of winter is just how cold it is. Even with multiple layers its amazing just how soft central heating makes you. I've endured much harsher hardships in the past, so a couple of days of this shouldn't be impossible - and we're blessed with excellent insulation so it's not all bad - all the same, it's bloody cold.

Last nights celebrations were the quietest we've ever done and actually it made for a very refreshing change. Mrs G and I did nothing. Well, when I say nothing, I mean we didnt party. We stayed in, had a bottle of wine, some nice steak, the telly box and some chocolates. New Years Eve telly seems to be mostly rubbish though. We watched the fireworks up that Laandan at midnight - which as always seemed to be pretty spectacular - but other than that, all very peaceful.

Son has tootled off to Chesterfield with his girlfriend (who is quite lovely) - so its best not to ask in too much detail what theyre up to. His mother would surly not approve :-). Daughter, on the other hand, was working last night - the crazy fool - but she had decided as the races are definetly off, to go out after wards with a few friends and join in the festivities. Hopefully she had fun, but haven't heard from her yet today. Among other things she bumped into a plumber friend of hers yesterday who said he'd be happy to come and look at our heating today (New Years Day). This puts us in a very typically British quandary, where we have a plumber arranged for Thursday (the earliest he could make) and now we have another offering to come in today. Naturally our Britishness means we don't want to offend the original plumber, but we do want if fixed ASAP.... Personally, I said its just tough for the original guy. If he'd been available, he'd have got the job. Let him down gently and there's no problem. Having said all that, Daughters friend, may or may not show up - what with it being New Years Day and all.... Lets wait and see.

Today's plan is for a bit of a New Year walk. Of course this kind of depends on when/if the plumber arrives and we may end up not walking as far as we've got in mind. The suggestion is to walk to a pub the other side of the city for some lunch/early dinner. It's a good 3 or 4 miles around the edge and out across the flood plain. Given the rains we've been having it could make for some quite interesting scenery - unless there's been a very rapid recinding of the water levels. The maybe photos later (film at 11 - as the US News networks used to say).

Those of you that have been paying attention will also know that I've dumped Instagram completely now. It's all a bit sad, because it was a service I'd enjoyed being a place to share photo's quickly and easily. The trouble with it though, is Facebook. Since Zuckerberg bought them last year for an insane $1bn I've been a little nervous of it, and then in December they announced a change to their terms of service meaning that from January the 16th, unless you shut down your account, they can sell YOUR photos to whomever they please. Of course they're perfectly at liberty to change their service and I'm sure there are plenty of people who's attitude to this will be along the lines of "I only post pictures of food/my cat/dog weather, so who cares". Personally I think there's more of a principal at stake. I'm sure th are plenty of users of the service that haven't seen the change and are unaware that they're now providing content to a marketing machine that won't employee professional photographers for marketing shoots in the future. Furthermore, if you do happen to capture a magical moment, you'll never get anything for it, while someone else might.... And copyright of an image, should really sit with the creator of it.... But that's a whole other story...

So while Mr Zuckerberg is perfectly at liberty to change the T&Cs of the Instagram service, I'm perfectly at liberty not to use it anymore. Anyway - the long and the short of it is I've closed my account. There's a couple of tools about that'll help you download your photos should you need to, it's all very straightforward, and I've started using "EyeEm" instead.




Where is Golfyball?


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