Month: February 2019 (page 1 of 3)

Curry Night

I was out on the slosh, last night, so my head is a little woozy this morning.

It was the regular monthly get-together of the BT (Class of the Eighties) Curry Night, at our local Weatherspoons.

Always a good night, but I never make it every month. By the time I get home from work, I usually just can’t be bothered to go out again. But, as I have a couple of days off this week – just using up my annual leave allocation – I had no excuses.

And last night, in addition to the regulars, we had a couple of new faces… well, new old faces.

Firstly, there was Wobber. I don’t know why we call him that, as his name is Roger, but he’s been called Wobber for as long as I can remember (most of the engineers at BT answered to a nickname – including myself, which is where the moniker for this website comes from). This was the first time I’d seen Wobber since 1994 and – unusually for me – I recognised him straight away… despite him having lost all of his hair and now bearing a remarkable resemblance to Wilson Fisk.

And then there was Ralph. Again, first time I’d seen him since I left in ’94. I never used to mix it with Ralph as he was a bit older than me and was always one of the cool kids. But I’ve always held him in high regard, not least because I fell off my motorbike on the way to Bletchley Park for a training course, early one cold and slippery November morning, and I met Ralph (a fellow – and far more experienced – motorcyclist) in the motorcycle parking bay. My bike was pretty bent up, but during his lunch-break, he straightened it out for me, enough that I could ride it home. I’ve always been grateful for that.

There were about a dozen of us there last night, but only four still worked for BT.

The fact that we still get together so regularly, amazes me, but also pleases me greatly.

Not So Close Friends

It used to be that I had plenty of friends that lived locally.

But, people move on, don’t they?

There was my mate, Dave, who I’ve known for years and years. But, he decided to ‘up sticks’ one day and, after a few years of travelling around the country, he has now settled on the Norfolk coast. Bloody miles away. We used to go down the pub together on a weekly basis, back in the day, but now it’s just Christmas cards and the occasional phone call.

My old buddy, Mike, who lived in the next road to me – and who I met through us both being members of the Goon Show fan club – decided to move house quite a while back. He and his missus ended up in Cornwall. Bloody Cornwall! He used to be a five minute walk away, but now it’s a five hour drive!  I used to spend hours around his place, but now it’s just Christmas cards and the odd email between us.

Dave and Graham were good mates who I met through work. But they also decided to move house. One went from Watford, all the way to Tewkesbury and the other from Hemel up to Northamptonshire. OK, Northants isn’t such a bad trek, but it’s still twice as long to get to his gaffe than what it used to take and, as such, we don’t see each other nearly as much as I’d like to.

My mate, Alan, who I met via the radio (and who likes to leave silly comments on this here blog), used to live only a mile or so away, but a few years ago, he moved as far south as he could go without falling into the sea. We talk once a week on the phone, but it’s not the same as the long natters over several cups of tea, that we used to have.

And then, there is my eldest and dearest mate, Paul. The best man at my wedding and a friend whom I love like a brother.  He deserted me and fucked off to Gloucestershire some years ago, when he met a bird! We see each other maybe once a year, now.

I’m starting to wonder: was it something I said?


There’s a bloke that lives somewhere near here. Not sure where, exactly, but I often bump into him when I’m walking the dog.

He’s a little – and it’s probably incredibly politically incorrect to say this, nowadays – simple.

He’s a perfectly nice chap, but he does like to talk… which is fine. If you have the time.

Unfortunately, his topics of conversation are pretty banal, so I find it difficult to talk with him for anything longer than a couple of minutes.

But he likes to chat and so I try to be friendly and chat back, when I have the time. Which I don’t always have.

Of course, if he sees me now, he’ll make a beeline for me, knowing that I’ll converse with him.

A couple of weeks back he did this, when I really didn’t have the time, and in order to get out what he felt he needed to say, he walked alongside me for about five minutes, as I walked the dog… even though it was in the opposite direction to the way he was originally going!

Last night, I bumped into him again. His opening gambit to me wasn’t “Hello” or “Good evening”, but rather: “Have you tried that fish & chip shop up by the Old Moat House?”

“Er, no”, I said.

“It’s very good. Mind you, that one over by the sports pub is alright, as well”, he said, pointing in completely the wrong direction.

“Yes, I know”, I said. We talked about chips for a minute or so and then I tried to get away, as it was getting dark and I needed to get the mutt exercised. “Well, I’d better…”

“Potatoes can be expensive.”


“Yes. I grow them on my allotment. But when you add up the cost of the seeds and the chicken fertiliser, it can get expensive.”

He continued to tell me about how his carrots seem to grow better in moister soil… or something, I wasn’t really listening anymore.

“Anyway”, I said, taking a step past him, “I really must be gett…”

“It squeaks really loudly”

“What does?”

“My bicycle chain. I’ve put WD40 on it, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference”, he said, with a glum look.

I quickly explained the vagaries of WD40 and how it’s better to use proper oil, especially on a chain, and then I went on to explain how it was more likely to be the pedal crank than the actual chain, because chains don’t really creak, and then – before he could get a word in – I said my goodbyes and quickly walked on.

And then, I wondered why I felt bad.

If this had been any normal boring person, I’d have been pleased with myself for getting away from him, but because he wasn’t quite the full ticket (non-PC, again), I felt like I was being rotten to someone with a disability.

Society has really fucked up my sensibilities.


At last, we can rejoice!

A few years ago, some ne’er-do-wells moved into the close.

Awful people.

Right from the start, they got on everybody’s nerves, by taking up all the available parking with the inordinate number of vehicles they owned.

And the really loud garden parties that went into the small hours.


On weekdays.

Who has a late-night party on a Wednesday, for fuck sake!

And then there was the drug dealing (that we all knew was happening, but which the Police were never able to prove)

And the violence (one of them ended up in gaol recently, for violent assault).

When the For Sale sign went up last year, there was a silent, but palpable excitement that buzzed round the close.

“Have you seen the sign?”

“Yes! Isn’t it great!”

But then the sign came down again and we all went into a sulk.

But then it went up again and it was followed not long after by another sign that said “SOLD”.

My God, we nearly had a street party!

But then the sign came down and we all silently cried into our beer, once more.

But, then it went up again.

This time, we didn’t get our hopes up… there’s only so much heartbreak that thirty-six people and  four dogs can take.

But, they’ve gone: the house is now empty and we are all overjoyed.

Of course, new people will move in at some point and it’s always daunting getting new neighbours but, whoever moves in CANNOT be any worse.


Dog Toy

Saber is very good at chewing her toys to destruction.

It’s what she does.

Whatever she gets, she will chew and chew and bite and bite, until it eventually falls apart. This usually happens within several hours to a few days, but has been known – depending on the hardness of the toy – to be as little as just a few minutes.

A lot of the toys contain a squeaker, and I think perhaps the noise is what drives her to destroy it… maybe she believes she is killing some small animal, I don’t know, but either way it’s a blessed relief once the squeaker dies or falls out.

But, the toy in the picture is a rubber Christmas cracker.

With a squeaker.

And the damn thing is bloody indestructible! She’s had it for weeks now (it was a Christmas present) and it still shows no sign of giving up.

She looks both upset and bemused, when I take it away from her – as I often do – because we can’t hear the telly over the noise of this damn thing squeaking out its defiance.

Next year, she can have a real mouse or a guinea pig… one or two squeaks and then it’ll be silent!

Food, glorious food

We went out last night, for a meal.

It was my niece’s 18th birthday, so about thirty of us gathered together in this restaurant for a big birthday dinner.

It was meant to be a surprise, but of course, she recognised all the cars in the car park.

We’d not been to this particular restaurant before – in fact, it’s only about five miles away, but I never even knew it existed.

It has quite an impressive menu, featuring gastronomical delights from Italy, Mexico, America, India and – of course – Britain.

Now, when it comes to choosing from a menu, I’m not one for hanging about. I’m not one of the “I really fancy this… but that looks nice too. Oh what shall I have?” brigade.  If I take longer than one minute to pick something, then I just get annoyed with myself.

Because it’s all nice, so just pick something for chris’sakes!

But this time, it must have taken me a good five minutes. I was REALLY annoyed with myself. But I think it’s because there was TOO much choice.

I’m quite partial to a Chicken Jalfrezi and I love a well cooked, proper Lasagne.

Chimichangas are delicious and there are times when only a burger will do, of course.

So what epicurian feast did I plump for, from this exotic and eclectic menu?

Gammon, egg and chips.

And it was bloody lovely!



Last night we went to the pictures, to see Alita.

It was alright.

If you like that kind of thing.

On our way home, it was late, and we spotted some activity in the woods where we walk Saber. It was brightly lit up and we could see flashing red and blue lights at the far end.

At our end, a fire engine was parked, partially blocking the roundabout. Mrs M was very excited as we drove past. “Something’s ‘appening”, she said, stating the obvious.

When we got home, she said “I’m just taking the dog out for a quick walk.” I knew where she was going, of course.

So did Amelia. “Wait for me” she said, and they both disappeared out the door.

Harry went up to bed, as did I, but it took a while to get to sleep, as the Police helicopter then arrived and seemed to be hovering almost overhead for about fifteen minutes.

The girls eventually arrived back home and Mrs M woke me as she climbed into bed, freezing bloody cold, and started telling me all about it.

A young woman had gone missing and police suspected she might be in the woods. They had showed Mrs M a picture of the woman, but she didn’t recognise her.

Mrs M reckoned that with both the Police and the Fire Brigade, there must have been about forty people combing through the woods, and Saber apparently had a lovely time, meeting all the German Shepherd police dogs.

We don’t know the outcome: whether they found the woman or not. I’ve looked on the local news this morning, but there’s not a mention of it.

My fingers are crossed that it turns out well.

Happy Friday

Well, my journey to Dartford yesterday was OK: I made the meeting with ten minutes to spare.

The drive home wasn’t so good, though. As soon as I approached the the M25, I realised that going through the hole wasn’t an option and so instead, I navigated my way to the clockwise carriageway and went the long way round, thereby completing a complete circumnavigation of the London Orbital Motorway.

But today, I have none of those commuting worries, as it is Friday. Yay!

And on a Friday, I usually work from home.

This isn’t something that is built-in to my contract, but rather an unspoken agreement. Should I be required to go in, then I will. No problem.

But Friday’s tend to be quieter days anyway, with fewer meetings, so it’s an ideal day to work from home and catch up with stuff, without too many interruptions.

An additional benefit, is that over the course of a year, that will be about 3000 fewer miles that I will have put on my car. That’s a fair bit of wear and tear saved, over the lifetime of the car. And the resulting fuel savings are an added bonus, of course!

On top of that, I will spend less time behind the wheel, getting frustrated. Roughly 120 hours less.

That’s nearly five days!

That’s gotta be good.

But, there is a perception that working from home can be less productive, and I’ll admit that I often take the opportunity to get other non-work related stuff done during the day – I mean what’s the point of having this perk if you don’t take advantage of it?

But, it IS a perk, and perks can be taken away if they are abused.

So whilst I may take advantage of my ‘working from home’ day, by also doing some housework; sorting out some personal paperwork; updating this blog; having a twiddle round the radio dial and drinking more tea than should be humanly possible, I will also make sure that I get some actual, proper work done. And, sometimes, I’ll even find that I actually get a bit more done at home than I possibly would have done at work.

So, it benefits me financially by paying less for running the car, and it benefits me mentally, by spending less time on our horrendous motorway network.

And the company still gets the work done.

That’s a win-win situation, in my book.

A lorra lorra lorries

As our Cilla used to paraphrase.

Well, I made it to the conference yesterday.

I left even earlier, just to be on the safe side. However, when I reached the slip road for the M1, there was a big tailback, thanks to four vehicles having a shunt, right at the top of the slip road.

“I don’t belieeeeve it!”, I shouted, turning into Richard Wilson from One Foot In The Grave.

But, once I’d got past it, my journey was OK… I just didn’t arrive quite as early as I’d hoped.

And getting out of Newbury Racecourse was horrendous! Imagine trying to get out of Wembley Arena after a Take That concert, and you won’t be far wrong.

And then the M4 did what the M4 does best – it snarled up.

It was nearly eight pm when I got home.

And today, I have to be in Dartford, bright and early for an 8am meeting.

With the luck I’ve been having on the motorways this week, I really haven’t got a chance!


Yesterday, I was supposed to be at Newbury Racecourse for a conference.  (as I’ve said before, we do love a conference, at the Water Board).

As it was further to go than my usual journey, I left earlier to allow a little extra time… just in case.

Of course, I never made it.

My sat-nav estimated that I would arrive at about 8:30. “Yeah right”, I thought, “we’ll see.” And then my rubbish superpower kicked into action and just ten minutes into my journey up the M1, we ground to a halt.

Then the overhead gantry signs came on to say that there was a 90 minute delay on the M25.

The M25? Gimme a break, I haven’t even got there yet. Can’t blame that one on me!

I turned the radio on and the travel announcer cheerily told me that the jam I was sitting in, was caused by two vans coming together and closing the motorway at Hemel Hempstead.

The jam on the M25 was caused by four lorries and had closed three lanes between junctions 17 and 16.

My overly optimistic sat-nav  changed it’s earlier estimate from 8:30 to 12:30.

The M1 blockage was eventually cleared, but as the M25 one was still in place, I decided to abort and when I got the opportunity, I came off at Hemel, turned round and went home.

Luckily (!), I get another chance as the conference is also on today, so I’m going to have a second attempt.

I’m just hoping I can hold my superpower in.

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