TAXI!

Okay, one more. Although this site is worryingly bagging 300+ individual hits per day, no one dines to leave a comment. It’s not that I’m vain or anything (well ok I am but that’s not the point here so stop pointing at the screen shouting “you are, you bloody are“) but it’d be nice occasionally for someone to comment “thanks, your transparent attempt to boost a shallow ego through the medium of vanity publishing has made me realise why the Internet is such a pointless place to spend my time, and I’m off to save the world instead“. Or something.

I suffered two cab journeys last night, the combined mileage of which would have easily ushered me home without the tedious intermediary of a train trip. The first ride was from a restaurant in East London to Marylebone. Well that’s what I thought anyway but due to a little cultural confusion, the driver instead motored round in ever decreasing circles before attempting to deposit me at Mile End.

Continue reading TAXI!

Going, Going…

… Gone.

Half term rapidly approaches and with it some belated parenting responsibilities. So the virtual press of this blog shall lay idle for a week while I re-introduce myself to my kids, and they ask Mummy why Daddy is putting Vodka on his cornflakes. Talk amongst yourselves and, you never know, a week away may increase the quality to drivel ratio of my random ramblings.

Probably appropriate to mention that I don’t have any great hopes of that happening.

In the meantime, two outstanding sites worth checking out

Mil’s http://www.thingsmygirlfriendandihavearguedabout.com/ which I’d read a couple of years ago but lost the link. A friend kindly sent it to me. That’s proper laugh out loud stuff. Ace.

And for those of us who’ve been invited to participate in some superb Nigerian financial opportunity, I give you http://www.419eater.com/ which is scambaiting taken to it’s natural conclusion. Again, ace.

I promise I’ll respect you in the morning.

Some people drink to remember. Others drink to forget. This morning I found myself fervently wishing that I could forget the events of last night and nobody else would remember them. A dangerous triumvirate of free drinks, a hotel room and the chance for the project team to “let their hair down” – worth saying here most of us don’t have much hair to let down so instead let ourselves down, let our families down, etc – all combined to turn a few beers into alcohol based carnage.

I steamed into my first lager like a man with exactly one minute to live. Warming to this theme, I maintained the same pace throughout the evening with the carefree attitude of a condemned man facing the scaffold. As my intake increased, so did my volume and I upped the ante once more by taking on the mantle of “witty raconteur”, or so I thought. Since we had our suppliers in the room, they felt honour bound to gently massage my ego with polite smiles and the odd forced laugh. But – of course – I know they were actually thinking “How much do we REALLY want this order” How much more of this am I expected to take?“. People came and people went, I just went on visiting the bar with no more willpower than a fluttering moth around a candle.

Continue reading I promise I’ll respect you in the morning.

Tonight Matthew, I am Ray Charles

Wandering sleepily into the Barn at 6am this morning, I was shocked into wakefulness by the eye popping evidence of a burglary. Just a terrifyingly empty space where my bikes used to be and no sign of the myriad and expensive tool collection (or weapons of destruction as I like to think of them). It was obvious these were classy thieves as they’d left my commuting bike either because it clearly has absolutely no cash value whatsoever or, more likely, it was camouflaged under a year of unwashed dirt.

Continue reading Tonight Matthew, I am Ray Charles

(NO) Ticket to Ride :(

The builder is a jolly chap. He called us up a couple of nights ago and announced “Ready to start on your barn Wednesday. Can you make sure it’s fully cleared“. Oh how we laughed. This “structurally dangerous outbuilding” as the surveyor was want to sneer was resuscitated three years ago through a combination of new timbers and an industrial nail gun. Since then we gleefully stuffed it to the rafters with bikes and life crap. Until this evening anyway when a concerted effort stripped it back and unearthed forgotten items including ancient photo albums: “Daddy, that’s not you, you’ve got hair. And you’re thin“. Kids eh? Not overburdened with much social veneer.

For reasons too painfully convoluted to document here, we decided to do a second conversion adding plumbing, heating, insulation and a whole bunch of cost. The predicted but in no way definite result would be a new home office for me and a new workshop for, er, me as well. We’d lose a garage we never used and my current office becomes somewhere we can lock the kids away. But only for a couple of days at the most otherwise that’s just cruel.

We finished it tonight in the rain. Well nearly anyway.

Top Row: Stuffed in the shed: so many bikes, so little room.

Shed#6Shed#5Shed#7

Middle row: New office and workshop. Current office 🙁

Barn#2Barn#3Office

Wife’s bike gets what it deserves.

Carol's bike

How the hell am I going to go riding? A logistical planning exercise that’d tax even veterans of an Olympic bid . Short of going in thru the window, it looks as if I’ll have to reverse the entire process to even unearth a bike. And as for the tools, they’re buried behind gardening accouterments and rusty pots of suspicious liquids – could be paint, could be abandoned wine making. No way I’m opening one to find out.

Still considering my record of tool based disasters, (motto: If it isn’t broken don’t fix it, if it is broken send it to Sideways Tim before you fuck it up beyond all possible redemption) this is probably No Bad Thing. I can get to all my other gear tho – that’s in my office although unless I develop a late developing long jump talent, the book case is off limits for a while.

Assuming the builder is working on the same Julian calendar as the rest of us, this project should be finished before Wembley. I chose that analogy carefully as the price is similar and I’m hoping to get the Queen to open it. Failing that the queen down the road’ll do just fine.

Then I’ll have a rather splendid office and even more splendiferous workshop. Just think of the damage I can do with that much elbow room. And the piece de resistance? ‘The TOOL WALL’ with proper ‘dead tool’ outlines and millions of sockets for scary powertools; purpose unknown.

With hot and cold running water, coffee machine, sofa, DVD player and Internet access, I shall never need to go in the house again.

H’mm no wonder my wife was so keen on the project.

The Light Fantastic

British Summer Time is here even if the great British Summer is not. From a riding perspective it’s a milestone eagerly anticipated by both those who have grown fat on a winter’s cycling hibernation and the rest of us who are just sick of the dark.

It had less than auspicious beginnings though. Setting off at 6am this morning it was both dark and wet. These conditions generally demand the big lurid rain jacket that has served me so well through the last three months. What I’d failed to factor in was the Spring temperatures testing and failing the previously unbothered breathable layer. Still sweaty limbs generally act as an informal seat reservation system so got to look at the upside.

Getting off the train this evening was akin to troglodytes emerging from their caves and blinking in the weak evening sunshine. That’s the great thing about the change of season; Spring brings light, double digit temps and gale force winds. The third is normally a fair price to pay for the first two but today showed all it’s fickleness by changing direction between my outward and return legs. Having struggled in against a thirty knotter, it was disappointing to find it’d swung 90 degrees and was playfully surging me into the path of oncoming traffic. Wind is like taxation – it gets you coming and going.

Not that I was going very fast losing the battle of the big breeze, but at least provided ample time to have a good look around. Like a man coming out of a coma, I was astonished at the level of detail brought into the light. Early spring buds juxtaposed against a backdrop of dormant vegetation, a long abandoned car “police aware” but still rotting it the ditch and half finished DIY projects. House building in Winter has to be up there with slamming ones wedding tackle in a desk drawer – pointless, painful and – on reflection – quite silly.

It was like welcoming an old friend back, slightly annoying but a huge improvement on the squatting Lords Of Darkness who’d overstayed their welcome by 3 months. Once summer arrives though, we’ll crack open a few beers together and toast the light fantastic.

Wet ‘n’ Windy

And that only begins to describe the weapons grade munitions being deployed by four mountain bikers enthusiastically endorising a diet of full English Breakfasts and hourly carbo-snots. Thank God for the great outdoors and the skill of misdirection. These photo’s are mildly interesting because:

a) They are taken on my crappy PDA/Camera/Phone/Sonic Screwdriver thingy.
b) They are in no way representative of the riding/canoe-ing we did this weekend.

CwmCarn #1Cwmcarn#2

They are in fact, a wistful snapshot of trail conditons two days before. After days confined in a hermetically sealed hotel, fresh air became a priority. CwmCarn was 20 miles away and enough pre-BST light remained for a quick lap. Shortly after these pictures were taken, I was ploughing a rapid furrow into uncharted off trail foliage thinking that one day I’m probably laugh at this misfortune. That day was not today.

Having passed a bunch of riders dithering on the final downhill to the car park, my velocity soon turned to shrubbery as a carelessly extended seat post punted me over the bars. The precursor to this has been a brief sojourn of “phin air” rapidly followed by a somewhat longer and more painful appointment with the flora and fauna of South Wales.

While I tried to pass off this misfortune as the daily lot of the wanabee freerider, it’s uncertain if I pulled it off. My gut reaction is not; a hypothesis backed up by whimpering (me) and aggressive pointing (those riders previously behind me). Still after some heroic bleeding I retired injured at the hotel bar and received almost no sympathy and many beers.

The following day, the lovely owner of the B&B was extolling the infamous South Wales superb winter weather emphasising blue skies and a noticeable absence of rain. It hardly seemed fair to point out the sheets of what looked like rain to me were hammering the windows at 40MPH. Undaunted by this biblical hail of trout, we planned epic routes emboldened by beer and a holistic view to weather forecasting – “clearing up shower this one, you can see that by the way the hillside has just suffered a major landslide”

When we made it out onto the trails, the riding was surprisingly enjoyable considering the constant rain and wind. At least it was warm rain. However getting lost on an exposed section is something I’ll probably have to consider therapy to get over. The second ride was apparently far slippier, colder and on the “why why why did I leave a warm cafe for this” side of unpleasant. I wouldn’t know as Jason and I had a note from our mums (him: assault and battery from a pine tree after an airborne trail excursion. Me: Seized cables, sore knee, Alcohol dependency) so abandoned rivers of trails for hot showers.

The guys came back from the ride looking like the survivors from the movie “Deliverance”. We embarked on mass for comfort food and – in my case – comfort lager. What followed was a slight concern for Jason as he’d never met my riding buddies before and soon became embroiled in stories of their slightly checkered history. It could be summed up by “Trained Killer” meets “Amateur Psycho”. I think his eyes would have less resembled dinner plates were it not for the small fact they represented his lift home.

I’ve not heard from him but I’m sure he’ll be fine 🙂

BST is welcome. Trails on top of the water table does not seem an unreasonable request.

IT: A breed apart

I am attending an IT conference in Wales. It is a parallel universe where the Geeks Will Inherit The Earth. Think of a techno-bubble where pen protectors and Christmas Jumpers are a serious and respected badge of office. It’s like that only much, much worse.

There’s a high ratio of “Beard to Personality” quotient amply demonstrated by crushingly embarrassing in-jokes and long lost food carbonised in unruly facial hair. There are no women. Well possibly one but I’d not wage any of my own money on the lady in question actually being female.

Apparently at 6PM this evening, I shall be enjoying an optional interview with the snappy title of “Rarefied Unified Modelling – a short history” with the founder and much respected guru of RUM (surely a slight misspelling). I have a strong feeling that in fact I’ll be enjoying a somewhat shorter interview with the bar staff at that time:

Evening, do you serve a good Merlot?”
“We do, Sir

Interview over.

The fact I’ve managed to post anything is in no way a tribute to the “Seamless Remote Access” solution offered by the hotel. That has been a trial of strength and frustration from which my laptop barely escaped from with its’ major components intact. Those privileged to work in IT will probably recognise the following phrase:

“I DON’T WANT TO DO A F*CKING WINDOWS UPDATE. NEITHER AM I INTERESTED IN YOU TRYING TO BE CLEVER. I JUST WANT TO SEND ONE EMAIL. HOW F*CKING HARD IS IT”
Sorry, Outlook has disconnected your session
SORRY, YOU’LL BE MORE THAN F*CKING SORRY
Low battery warning

They nearly had to call security. I am readying the pidgins.

The content of the conference is actually very interesting. No, really it is. But my fellow IT professionals are way too scary. Dribbling passionately when evangelising on the benefits of “Service Orientated Architectures” is – in my humble view – right on the cusp of a mental sectioning.

Later this evening, the pleasure of a ‘group hug’ dinner awaits us. This provides “the opportunity to network and synergise with our fellow professionals” and (the blurb goes on) “It’s time to drive the debate”. Oh Lordy. I shall probably rock up drunk, hide my badge and go and make fun of fat people.

So there may be more later unless I’m carted off to the local cop shop for assault with a phone battery if anyone dares drop “low hanging fruit” into a conversation or feels the need to engage me in a conversation relating to his pen protector collection.

St. Patricks day kind of passed me by…

While Guinness fuelled wannabee Irish wore silly hats and fell over in gutters, a far more important Saint was quietly watching the world without any celebration. I speak of St. Shrivel, the patron saint of frozen testicles. Canonised around the time of the first bicycling winter and raised to Sainthood once a thousand inappropriate garments of the trouser had been pierced by frozen winds.

This morning’s commute was a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Shriveldom. The loss of sensory perception to both fingers and toes was terrifyingly extended to my wedding tackle. A frantic inspection in the station toilets – which has hardly enhanced my reputation what with me rushing into the bogs clutching my bollocks and whimpering – confirmed my worst fear; they had taken on the unedifying appearance of unwanted plums exiled to the darkest corner of the fruit bowl. And let me tell you that this is possibly the most painful place to get chill blains. That’s the testicles not the fruit bowl.

Too much information? Apologies.

Professional northerner as I am, I’ve always delighted in the Weatherman’s analysis of the “Cold North Wind” – Traditionally a meteorological event accompanied by a respectful sharp intake of breath, the rubbing hands physical metaphor and a facial expression promising frozen testicles later.

Well there is a new kid in town; the Freezing Easterly. Capital letters absolutely appropriate. Unhindered in its’ passage across cold oceans, it collects sub zero air and dumps it as snow in high places and as a catalyst to the Shrivel everywhere else.

Nobody on the train seemed to mind my radical approach to extremity warming. I – for one – am glad we live in a world where slipping you hands down your shorts and whispering “Yes, OH YES” in the manner of ‘When Harry Met Sally’ is not cast with any social stigma. Although it did attract a number of shocked glances and it’s not clear if a vain attempt to explain my actions helped any when the ticket inspector arrived. It must be said he wasn’t mad keen to examine my credentials if you get my drift.

Short of a dynamo powered, bar mounted fan heater, it’s hard to see how to solve the problem. Still on the upside, I don’t really want any more kids anyway. However, I would quite like to find who is the patron saint of willy’s though as mine seems to have disappeared.

Next entry I intend to write something classy involving toilet humour. Always a gag in there somewhere 😉

The price of guilt..

Is £4.

That’s the exorbitant cost of abandoning one’s car at the station. It’s also the price of guilt for abandoning one’s bike based good intentions in the barn at home. A skewed parable would be “The road to poverty is lined with frosty mornings”.

Since I bottled it the first time, various sly amendments or controversial loopholes have been applied to the rigid philosophy “I’ll ride every day regardless of prevailing weather conditions”. Oh yeah, I’m still in the game but only by cheating.

The list is complex and every expanding but can be simply grouped into the following categories:

  • It’s cold
  • It’s dark
  • I’m tired
  • I’m hungover
  • The Cat’s not been well.

So what that list cleverly staves off any guilt, the resultant karma implosion is less easy to deal with. Mainly this concerns the ability or otherwise of Chiltern Railways to delivery a train on time. Except if I’m running late then they’re running early. Yet in the last month – while I have been stoically riding and getting progressively sicker – the actual trains and published schedules have co-existed in the same time zone.

Coincidently I met a friend of mine who works for the Railway. I explained how well things had been going lately and how I’d stopped nailing a horseshoe on the main traction unit or carrying the entire “lucky rabbit” into the carriage. He smiled carefully – I think he knew that the weekend engineering works would badly overrun. Possibly until June or when the overtime budget was exhausted.

Well it was either that or my serial non riding that ground us back to the bad old days. Based on historical evidence I’m placing the blame firmly in the camp of ‘The most successful train franchise in the UK’. Lucky I’m not forced to use a crap one eh?

After an extended rail trip that would have benefited from a red cross food drop, I was keen to see how this morning’s commute compared. It was a huge improvement; I was sat at my desk at 07:30, there was no queue for the showers; the entire journey was warm and dry and the coffee was much improved.

I really must work from home more often.