Month: February 2018 (page 1 of 3)

Mother Hubbard

I quite like shopping.

There, I’ve said it.

Out loud.

 

Of course, that’s only if certain conditions are met:

  1. I’m on my own
  2. I know what I want to get.

Which I usually do.

I always do the weekly food shopping, for instance, and I don’t even mind doing that.

It normally takes me about an hour on a Saturday morning. Unless, for some reason, Mrs M decides she wants to come along. In which case, it’s going to take twice as long.

And cost twice as much.

But, on my own, I can whizz round.  I don’t make a list, I just go up each and every aisle, remembering what I need as I go and grabbing anything that’s on special offer.

I have my regular bit of banter with Hazel and Carole on the Deli counter, and Suzanne knows exactly what to make for me when I approach the pizza section. “The usual? It’ll be ten minutes.”

And if I have time, I’ll start the whole process  with a cup of tea and a toasted teacake in the cafeteria, first.

Shopping. What’s not to like?

Tell me.

Doggy Style

Having a dog again has made a significant difference to my life.

Some good differences and some not so good.

Of course, overall, the good outweighs the bad, or we wouldn’t bother having a dog.

Just like with kids, I s’pose.

There are the negatives:

  • like having to take her out for a walk twice a day, whatever the weather
  • or not being able to go out visiting people so much, because we always “have to get back for the dog”
  • or being woken in the early hours because she’s growling at someone who had the temerity to just walk past the house
  • or every coat that I own having all the pockets permanently stuffed with poo bags

But there are also positives:

  • like taking her out for a walk twice a day –  if it wasn’t for that, I’d probably just be lounging on the sofa watching telly 
  • or not being able to visit people – sometimes that can be a blessing
  • or being woken up because she’s growling – let’s face it, twice she has been proven right
  • or every coat that I own… actually, I haven’t found a positive for that one yet.

Caveat Emptor

We all get spam emails.
And occasional nuisance calls.

Mrs M has been subjected to these recently and has been treating them with the disdain that we all do.

Except, it turns out that these have all been coming from one company. A firm of debt collectors, who yesterday, finally managed to get hold of her.

Why should this be?

Well, 14 months ago, she bought something online – can’t remember what, or from where.

As a thank-you for buying from them, this company offered Mrs M a free pot of face cream… all she had to pay for was the P&P – £3.99, so she accepted and sent off her money, via credit card.

A short while later she received the face cream.  It was from a company called RegenesLift.

It was alright; nothing special, but fine for 4 four quid.

Mrs M put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

And then she changed banks.

It was shortly after this that she started getting the calls and mails, but she didn’t connect them with anything, so she just ignored them.

The calls, she ignored: not recognising the number and assuming them to be PPI or some rubbish like that.

The mails and texts mentioned that she should contact them at her soonest as her “account was overdue”.
Very spam-like, so she ignored those too.

But – to cut a long story short – it turns out that  the face cream offer had some small-print attached in the Terms & Conditions  at the bottom of the website, that stated that by accepting the free offer, she was agreeing to having money debited from her account each month for further supplies of face cream.  I hasten to add that no extra pots of face cream were ever received. If they had, we might have been alerted to what was going on.

Fortunately, she had changed her a bank account straight after, so the company (American, btw), had failed to debit her further.

But what they did do, was hand it over to a debt collector to sort out. The debt collector told Mrs M that she now owed £390.00.

Three hundred and ninety quid!

For face cream that she never received and never asked for.

Mrs M spoke to various people, including the Financial Ombudsman, who was incredibly helpful, as he was already aware of this particular rip-off as many others had similarly complained.

A quick web-search has thrown up several sites exposing this as a scam, such as this one.

Anyway, after some hasty email exchanges between all parties, Mrs M has had her “account” closed with the American company and the debt collector (whose website mysteriously disappeared a few hours later) agreed to stop chasing her for money.

 A result in the end for Mrs M, but I wonder how many others didn’t fair so well.

Nobody reads the small-print, do they?

Maybe we need to start giving it at least a cursory glance.

Tell me why…

… I don’t like Thursdays.

“I can never get the hang of Thursdays”, said Arthur Dent.  Well, I can sympathise with him on that.

It’s not that I don’t like them. In fact, I rather do.

Thursdays at work, always tend to be a bit manic. For some reason Thursdays seem to have become Meetings Day. We tend to have a lot of meetings throughout the week, but on a Thursday, I can often be in back-to-back meetings for much of the day.

In one respect, I quite enjoy it – it’s good to be busy and it stops me spending money on ebay, buying stuff I don’t really need.

But, whilst you are in a meeting, you are not getting on with other stuff and, consequently, I find myself falling behind and then having to play catch-up on the Friday.

And no-one wants to be doubling their workload on a Friday, do they?

POETS day, we used to call Fridays: Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday.

I remember when I worked at BT, we had a contractor, Norman, working with us for a while. A very mild mannered gentleman. Very well spoken. Very genteel.  And despite the foul language that often rent the air, we never heard even the slightest of cuss words leave his lips. Even when we tried to make him swear… which we often did.

And then, one Friday lunchtime, he packed his toolbox and said, “Right, I’m off… it’s POETS day.”

“POETS day?”, said Jim, feigning ignorance, “What’s POETS day?” and we all leaned in, waiting to hear Norm utter a rude word for the very first time.

“Have you not heard that one before?” asked Norman, slightly amazed. 

“No, tell us”, we all cried.

“Pop Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday”

Arses!

Just Checkin’

Yesterday, I did a Health & Safety audit on one of our gangs out at High Wycombe.

The Water Board take Health & Safety very seriously. I have worked at many places where they say that H&S is their number one priority, but I’ve never worked anywhere where they take it quite so seriously as the Water Board do.

Which is a good thing.

Of course, accidents can and do still happen, that is inevitable, but, considering the type of work and the amount done each day, the number is quite small. And very, very few are life-threatening.

As an engineer,I always used to see H&S as a pain in the arse. That’s quite possibly the view of many engineers. I mean, it’s just common sense, isn’t it? All this paperwork we have to do for each job: method statements and risk assessments; it all just slows the job down.

But, my views have changed somewhat, since I started working somewhere with such a focus on H&S.

Doing the paperwork reminds you of how to approach each job safely – we can all get lackadaisical with repetitive tasks.

And yes, a lot of it is just common sense, but I’ve come to realise that sense isn’t as common as I first thought. Not everyone has it. Or some just need to be reminded of it, from time to time.

An interesting statistic is that when the Olympic stadium was built in London, there were up to 13,000 workers working on it at one point and yet there was not a single fatality. Not one. Rare for the construction industry with a project on that scale.

And yet in Rio – where, as you might imagine, Health & Safety doesn’t have quite the same level of focus – eleven people died from accidents whilst working on the Olympic stadium there.

So yes, Health & Safety in the workplace can be a pain in the arse but, rather like having a camera shoved up your bum,  it can save your life.

 

Painting the Forth Bridge

I think I mentioned earlier that we are in the throes of decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

It’s just about finished and it looks wonderful. She is well chuffed.

And so she should be: new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; new furniture; new bed; new lights; new everything.

It’s cost a small fortune, hence no holiday this year.

And now that it’s finished, we get to start on Harry’s room next month. Hurray!

Of course, I’m damn sure that once those two bedrooms are looking all spick and span, Mrs M will want ours doing, to match.

That just leaves my playroom (AKA Masher’s Man Cave) and the bathroom to be done, so that the whole of upstairs is all fresh and lovely.

Of course, if you are going to do all the upstairs, then…

And repeat.

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

I didn’t buy her a laptop in the end, because she changed her mind.

So instead, I spent ages trudging up and down the shopping mall, before eventually deciding that I probably wouldn’t go far wrong with a substantial gift card from Debenhams.

Well, it’s the thought that counts.

And I thought “That’ll do.”

Anyway, she seemed happy enough with it.

We went to the pictures in the afternoon, to see the latest Marvel epic and then followed that up with a meal. Well,  a Nando’s.

At least, that was the plan.

It all started going wrong when Mrs M booked the tickets.  We turned up for the 3:45 showing – a little late, due to Amelia hobbling slowly all the way from where I had parked the car… more on that later – only to find that Mrs M had actually booked the 2:45 showing.  Oops. There’s 32 quid down the drain. So, we spent another 32 sovs and booked for the 4:45 showing and had a coffee whilst we waited.

The film – The Black Panther – didn’t really work for me… not the best from the Marvel canon, in my opinion. And Mrs M didn’t enjoy it at all.

Afterward, I said that I would leg it back to the car and drive it down to save Amelia hobbling all the way.  I expected them to wait at the bottom of Alma Street, which which was the route we had taken when we walked from the car. When I got there, there was no sign of them.

I rang Mrs M. No answer.

I rang Amelia. No answer.

I rang Harry. No answer.

I drove round again, ringing them as I went.

No answer.

I parked the car and walked back to the cinema entrance. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

I walked back to the car and drove back up to where I had originally parked it, just in case. No sign of them. I rang again. No answer.

Not knowing what to do, I just kept driving around and ringing… and getting annoyed. What’s the point of them all having phones if I can’t get hold of any of them?!

Eventually, Mrs M answered.  “Where are you?” she asked, “we’ve been waiting ages”  Arrgghh!

“Never mind me, where are you?” I shouted.

Well, you can’t park at the front, so we walked round to the left, to make it easier for you”

“You went left?  Oh, OK, well I wasn’t expecting that. Just stay there, I’ll drive round” and I hung up. I was not happy. Why had she gone left when the obvious direction to take was right: back toward where the car was parked?

With the one-way system, it took me a little while to get there. There was no sign of them. I rang again.

Where are you?” asked Mrs M.

“Me? Where the bloody hell are you? I’m at Guildford Street now.”

“What are you doing there? I’m at Alma Street”

“But you said you turned left”

“Yeah, I did. I turned left and now I’m at the junction with Alma Street”

“To get to Alma Street, you’d have to turn right when you come out of the cinema!”

“Well, I turned lef… no, you’re right, I did turn right.” Aarrgh!  “You wait there, I’ll come to you”

“No you won’t! You bloody wait there!!”

I drove back round to Alma Street and saw them waiting… right where I was expecting them the first time round, twenty minutes earlier.

We drove home in silence.

When we got home, Amelia was in tears. She had stubbed her toe quite badly on her bedside cabinet on Saturday and it went a bit purple. But now it was really hurting her and it had gone black, purple and red and was quite badly swollen. Mrs M decided it would have to be a trip up the hospital. Just what you want at 8 o’clock on a Sunday night.

Four hours later, she returned home, with Amelia hobbling behind her. X-rays had confirmed a cleanly broken little toe.

Ouch.

Best Birthday ever?

Probably not.

Gentleman Jim

I am in the process of building one of my electronic gizmos.

For this particular project, I need a transistor. But not just any old transistor… I’ve got plenty of those.  No, for this I needed a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

Yes, a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

As I’m sure you have realised, this transistor is a little bit out of the ordinary and, as such, none of my normal suppliers stocked it.

I eventually found it on Mouser. They’re a major supplier of electronic components, but I’ve never used them before.

I added the transistor to My Basket and clicked Checkout.

Mouser presented me with a price for my purchase: 59p.

Fifty-nine pence. That’s alright. But then they added another £12.00 for postage!

How the hell can something of that size warrant 12 quid postage?

For those of you not sure how big a transistor is, that it should justify 12 quid postage, I have included a picture… with a 5p coin for scale.

Turns out, Mouser have a standard 12 quid P&P added to any order under 33 pounds.

No matter what it is.

Ridiculous!

Obviously, I didn’t buy it.

But then, I mentioned this to a chap I talk to regularly on the radio.  Jim said that he often ordered stuff from Mouser and would be happy to add my transistor to his next order. What a top fellow!

I received an email from him yesterday, telling me it had arrived.

As he only lives ten miles from me, I took a drive over and we had a good ol’ chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It was good to finally put a face to the voice I’ve spoken to, so many times over the past couple of years.

And he never even charged me for the transistor.

Get Smart

… was a rather excellent American spy spoof series in the  late 1960s.

But that’s not what the title of this post refers to.

Oh no: Agent 86 and his frolics with KAOS will have to wait for another day.

No, yesterday we had our aging gas and electricity meters replaced with brand new, sexy smart meters.

This is brilliant! I can now stand in my kitchen and literally watch my bill going up!

Of course, the idea is that you should “Keep Gaz and Leccy under control”. 

Apparently.

But, if you’re cold, you turn the heating up. If you’re hungry, you put the grill on for some cheesy toast. If you’re thirsty, you put the kettle on for a nice cuppa.

It’s already under control.

I suppose one could always cut back to save a few pence: maybe only half-boil the kettle? Lukewarm tea, anyone?

As well as with gas and electricity though, smart meters are now being installed in the water sector. And some people are up in arms about it.

Many people see it as an attempt to increase their bills.  Trust me, it’s really not.

Yes, some people will see an increase, whilst others will see a decrease. This is because you are only paying for the water that you actually use… which has to be a fairer system, surely?

Why should a little old lady living on her own, pay the same as the family of five next door, who are running a car wash service in their back garden?

Not preaching… just sayin’

Being smart: it’s the future.

Yesterday, I drove like a twat!

This week has been school half term and, as such, I was fully expecting the roads to be much emptier than usual.

I was fully expecting my commute to and from work, to be a doddle. Because it normally is when the schools are off.

But not this week. Oh no: this week, the roads have been as bad as usual.

Nay. Nay. And thrice nay, I tell you, the roads have actually been worse!

The mornings have been slow and torturous, thanks to broken down lorries and accidents. 

But the evenings have been worse. Much worse.

No word of a lie, every night this week, I have been caught up in stationary traffic on my way home, thanks to accidents on the motorway.

Every.

Single.

Fucking.

Evening.

Some have been worse than others. Tuesday night was pretty bad, thanks to a lorry shedding its load of portloos across the M25.  That was quite possibly a real case of the shit hitting the van.

But yesterday evening was truly awful.  Stuck in stationary traffic for ages at the Hemel junction, I found myself starting to get frustrated.  I spend so much time in traffic nowadays, that I’m kind of used to it now and it’s like water off a duck’s back. But, being stuck in stationary traffic for the fourth day in a row, meant it was starting to get to me. Please God, just one day! Just let me have one decent journey home!

Eventually, things started moving again and we all slowly crawled past the five-car shunt that was surrounded by the flashing blue and red lights of the emergency services and in unison we all shouted “Learn to drive, you bastards!”
Well, I shouted it.
In unison with myself.

I have rarely felt so frustrated and I decided to put some music on.  Normally, a bit of Mozart or Bruckner will smooth the waters for me, but, so pent-up was I, I needed something with a bit more oomph. I needed to let it out.

Once past the accident, the road was clear. I put on some AC/DC, turned the volume up and put my foot down; singing at the top of my voice. Well, I call it singing, but it was more like shouting really.

At junction 11, the end of the slip road divides into three lanes. Two are for turning left and the third is for going straight on or for turning right. They are marked accordingly. But, very often, impatient drivers will get into the middle lane and then cut across to turn right, forcing the vehicle in the right hand lane to give way or risk hitting them. It happens to me quite often and normally I will let them in, just to avoid having a prang in my car. “Tsk”, I’ll say.

But, it happened again last night and this time I didn’t give way.  My still pent-up frustration, boiled over into anger and -fuelled by Brian Johnson screaming at me that I was Back In Black – I refused to let this opportunist get eight feet in front of me.  But, having flown down the middle lane at speed, he had a speed advantage on the roundabout and I was ultimately forced to brake and let him in. 

Where normally I would have tutted and let it go, this time I let him know he was a twat. I flashed my lights at him and then I followed him round the roundabout at speed, just a couple of feet off his rear bumper. We headed up the short stretch of dual carriageway at a quick pace and then took the first left turning.  Still I hung onto his tail lights. We blatted down the road together, completely ignoring the 20mph speed limit… until I suddenly realised what I was doing. This bloke was driving like a complete twat, but I was too.

I slowed down and let him speed off down the road. He was probably chuffed with himself for having left me behind, but I didn’t care.

I turned the music down, slowed to within the speed limit and took a deep breath.

My first ever bit of road rage. 

I didn’t like it.

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