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I Really Really Need One Of These

For my Monday morning commute.

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Lofty ideals

I have spent the last two nights up in the loft, trying to clear some space, because we are decorating the kids’ bedrooms and some extra electrical wiring needs to be run in.

Now, I know that most of the stuff up there  (which Mrs Masher refers to as ‘a load of old junk’, but is actually all really useful stuff) is mine.

And I know that I really do need to sort it out, sometime.

But.

It’s not ALL mine.

You know those Really Useful plastic boxes that they sell in such places as Homebase and Staples?  We’ve got loads of ‘em up in the loft. All different shapes and sizes. And all full of tat. Apart from a couple of them that belong to me, that are obviously full of really useful stuff.

Really Useful boxes filled with really useful stuff.

But, there are several boxes full of stuff that the kids did when they were young: paintings, small clay models; shit like that. Why are we keeping it all? It’s memorabilia.

Apparently.

There are boxes of clothes that Mrs Masher is hanging onto, just in case she’s ever likely to squeeze into them again.

Slim chance.

Wallpaper!  You know when you finish decorating and you have half a roll of wallpaper left over, and you think “I’ll hang onto that, just in case some bizarre accident ruins a single piece and I have to re-hang it” , then up in the loft it goes?  Well, yesterday, I brought down dozens of rolls and semi-rolls of wallpaper that had ended up up there. Some of it dated back twenty years to when we first moved in and Mrs M and I spent quite a while going through it all; recognising various wallpapers but not being able to remember which room they’d been hung in.

And suitcases!  We are a family of four. So why did I count thirteen different suitcases? Jeez!

Now, I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, that loft IS going to be sorted out.

This year.

You heard it here first.

But I think I may need to order a skip.

Massage

At the request of young Jules:

I’ve always felt that massages were a waste of time. Over the years, I’ve had a couple of amateur ones – performed by Mrs Masher – and never felt any real benefit from them.  The story below is an extract taken from my Holiday Diaries, from when we were in Egypt some time back.  Mrs M had booked herself in for the full pamper package at the on site spa and she had persuaded me to try a ‘proper’ massage… 

At this time of year, the sun starts setting here shortly after 4pm and it was already low in the sky with the light starting to fade, so I decided it would probably be a good time to go and have my massage.

Arriving at the Spa & Fitness Centre, I was given a menu detailing the range of different massages available. I opted for the straightforward Classic Massage: none of those special toning oils or aromatherapy crap for me!

I was led to a small room lit by candles, which had a massage bed in the middle of it: one of those with the hole in it to stick your face into. I removed all my clothes apart from my swimming shorts and lay face down on the bed as instructed and waited for the ample breasted, fit young dusky maiden to come and rub her soft and sensuous hands all over my body.

A young bloke turned up, of course.

He covered me with warm towels then his hot, oily hands started working my feet and toes. I was biting my lip in an effort to not  laugh, as it tickled so much.

Then, he moved up to my calves. “Do you want it soft, medium or hard?” he asked softly.

“Pardon? Oh, er, medium will be fine, thanks.”

His hands rubbed and slapped at my calves and then he moved up to my thighs. He pulled the legs of my swimming shorts up as high as possible until they resembled an ill-fitting thong. His hands kneaded and squeezed and pummelled my thighs and buttocks. “Relax boss,” he said, feeling me tense up at his touch. Relax? There is a man squeezing my buttocks and he’s not a doctor! How am I supposed to bloody relax?  

But I tried. I let myself go, telling myself all the time that there was nothing to worry about: that this man was a professional masseuse. In doing so, I found I actually started to enjoy it. I was cautious not to enjoy it too much though: didn’t want to find myself nursing an unexpected and unwanted semi!

Gentle Egyptian music played in the background and the young fellow sang softly as he worked on me. I was starting to doze off when he pulled the towel from my back and rolled the top of my trunks down. Suddenly, I was wide awake again, as I felt him climb up onto the bed, his feet either side of me, straddling my backside.

Then something warm and wet spurted across my back!

“It’s oil! It’s just fucking oil!” I told myself, as I lay there, face through the hole in the bed, my eyes darting frantically around the floor to find something to focus on and take my mind away from what was going on behind my head.

Again, he kneaded and squeezed and pummelled and pushed, but much harder this time, his position above the bed giving him the extra leverage he needed to push every ounce of muscle or fat through the back of my ribcage. It actually hurt!

Then he asked me to turn over and he massaged my shoulders and neck. Fresh, warm towels were placed over me again and then he used just his fingertips to massage my head and my face… which just felt fucking weird.

When he had finished he motioned me to get off the bed and get dressed. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Really good,” I lied.

Anyway, I’ve tried it now and I stand by my original claim that it’s a complete waste of time. Yes, I suppose it was enjoyable – in a way – but at the end of it, I didn’t feel any better; no more limber or looser or whatever.

At least I need never bother with another one.

Crippled

Well, what a great start to the New Year.

Last Wednesday, I awoke with a pain in my lower back. Not debilitating, or anything like that, but a bit sore on the left hand side.

It stayed with me for a couple of days and didn’t seem to be easing, but it wasn’t causing me too much bother. 

And then, Friday lunchtime, I was sitting on the sofa, eating a sandwich whilst watching a bit of telly, when I did something that would put me in agony for the next few days.

I crossed my legs.

That’s all: I just crossed my legs.

As I swung one leg over the other, the pain in my back shot from one side to the other. 

It has literally crippled me. I’m walking around like I’ve shat myself and it takes me about ten minutes to get dressed… that’s without the socks. I can’t put them on at all!

As a long-term sufferer of back pain, I know that it will clear up. Eventually.

Meantime, I’m on industrial strength Ibuprofen.

First day back at work, today. That should be interesting.

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

The Dancing Queen And The Thieving Gits

Last night, we had our work’s Christmas do, in a hotel in Slough. That would account for why my head has been hurting all day.  The downside to a free bar, I s’pose.

Inexplicably, my legs are also aching. I think might have over done it on the cucarachas.

But, it was a good time and everyone seemed to enjoy it… even if much of the music was unrecognisable to an old fart like me. 

I admit to losing all faith in the DJ, when I told him toward the end of the evening, that it was about time he played Come On Eileen. “I don’t have it”, he said. 

Don’t have it?!  What sort of party DJ doesn’t have the  Midnight Runners’ greatest party hit?  A staple of every decent party playlist, surely? And my signature dance tune, to boot. They missed out on me busting some serious shapes, to that one.

Their loss.

But, there was also a walk-around magician. Everyone knows just how much I love magic and illusions, so he really made my night… although he probably thought I was a pain in the arse, following him around all night.

And there was a fight at the end of the night, which always rounds up a party nicely, I think.

I stayed over in the hotel, to save faffing about with taxis, etc, and it was great to be able to just stagger upstairs at the end of the night.

But, it nearly didn’t happen.

You see, I went up to the ATM to get some cash beforehand, but it refused to give me any. It was dishing out tenners willy-nilly to everyone else, but not to me. So, I phoned the bank. “Ahh, glad you called, we’ve been trying to contact you. We have put a temporary stop on your card due to some suspicious activity.”

“Riiight”, I said. “What kind of suspicious activity”

“Did you make a payment of five pounds to a company called TI Ltd, this morning…”

“No”, I said, stopping him in mid-flow.

He carried on though: “… followed by a payment of fifty pounds, one hundred and then two hundred pounds?”

I most definitely did not”, I stated. “I’ve never heard of TI Ltd. Who are they?”

“They are an online gambling company” he said, matter-of-factly. 

“Definitely not me. I don’t gamble. Never have.”

“This is why we have stopped your card.”

“But I need money. I’m going out tonight and need to pay for my hotel.”

“We will put a new card in the post to you.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t help me tonight.”

“Sorry. Is there anything else I can help you with?”, he asked, brightly.

Back at work, I went on the scrounge; begging people for money. Twenty quid here; a fiver there and, before long, I had eighty quid. That should be enough: it’s a free bar, so no money required there and the room is fifty quid. Sorted.

I checked in and handed five of the new fancy ten pound notes to the male receptionist. He looked disdainfully at the money resting in his hand. “It’s a hundred pounds”, he said, “Fifty pounds for a deposit”.

I explained that I didn’t have another fifty quid in cash. “You can use your card”, he said, and so I explained that it didn’t work. He shrugged his shoulders at me and handed my fifty quid back. He then watched as I spent the next twenty minutes, vainly trying to get hold of anyone on the phone who might be able to help. Eventually, he took pity on me and handed over the key to my room. “You can bring me the deposit later”, he said.
Thankfully, I promised him I would do so and then scarpered off at speed, with no intention of going back later.

I don’t know how the thieving bastards got hold of my card details, as I am always very careful with it, both online and otherwise, but it has certainly caused me quite an inconvenience.

If my new card doesn’t come through soon, Mrs M might have to pay for her own Christmas present!

Mutt News

We had a few concerns about Saber’s back leg: she would often cry out in pain if she put a lot of pressure on it and she didn’t like it being touched. So, knowing how German Shepherd dogs can be prone to problems with their hips, we booked her in for a check-up at the vets.

The vet checked her all over and said she was in fine form, but that there was some obvious tenderness around that particular leg. She suggested an X-ray, to see if there was an issue. At 300 quid, I wondered whether we could just take her up to the hospital, but apparently not. Saber was duly booked in and earlier this week, Mrs Masher took her back to the vets.

This time, she saw the owner of the practice, the venerable Julie. She checked Saber over fully, from head to toe, even sticking a finger up her fanny to check whether she was in season or not (well, that was her excuse for doing it, anyway). Then she got Mrs M to take Saber through the doggy obstacle course that they have in the back garden. She watched how she walked, trotted, turned and jumped and then declared that she doubted there was anything wrong and that an X-ray was not needed. Result! That’s a handy saving, just before Christmas!

However, she did say that we are giving her way too much exercise at this stage in her development. At nine months-old, this dog has so much energy and we now have to cut her exercise regime down by more than half!

It’s for the best, but the poor thing cannot understand why I don’t take her in the woods anymore and let her chase the squirrels. 

The bushy-tailed vermin, on the other hand, are probably quite glad of the respite.

You’re The One That I Want

I was listening to one of my comedy podcasts as I drove to work this morning – I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, if you must know.

In this particular episode, Tim Brooke-Taylor was tasked with singing part of Greased Lightning – from the 1978 film Grease – without any musical accompaniment.

In typical TB-T fashion, he adopted a shrill voice and launched himself into it.

And then, he sang these lines:

With a four-speed on the floor, they’ll be waiting at the door
You know that ain’t no shit, we’ll be getting lots of tit
in Greased Lightning…

I’m sorry Tim, did you just say ‘shit’ and ‘tit’? 

I assumed at first that he’d said it for comedic value, but that didn’t seem right and so when I got to work, I Googled the lyrics.

OMG! Those are the actual lyrics! This song is nearly forty years old; I’ve heard it a zillion times; I’ve danced to it at many a party and yet I’d never heard those filthy lyrics.

But, it goes on:

With new boosters, plates and shocks 
I can get off my rocks
You know that I ain’t braggin’, she’s a real pussy wagon
Greased Lightning

‘Pussy Wagon’?  Really?

But there’s more:

You are supreme
The chicks’ll cream
For Greased Lightning

Whoa! John Travolta is now singing about ladies getting so excited, that they are making a mess in their underwear! Jeez!!

Quite how they managed to sneak those lyrics past the American censors – whom I thought were pretty strict back in the seventies – on a film rated at PG-13, I just don’t know.

But, based on that,  I’m off to check the lyrics on some of the other songs that featured in the film.

There’s bound to be a line somewhere in Hopelessly Devoted, where Olivia Newton John sings about taking it up the council gritter.

Showing a girl a good time

I took a day off work on Friday, so that the current Mrs Masher and I could spend some quality time together.  Sans kids.

To be honest, I fully expected that would mean a day being dragged round the shops. But no: Mrs M had already done the bulk of her Christmas shopping and didn’t fancy another trip to Lakeside.

“You don’t want to go shopping?!” I was close to calling the doctor, but she assured me that she wasn’t ill.

It was  a still morning; bright but frosty, and so we took the dog on a lovely long walk through the woods. There wasn’t a soul around and we thoroughly enjoyed our stroll.  With just the two of us, and the light dappling through the trees as we walked, it was almost… romantic.

“Fancy going somewhere for lunch?”, I asked. She was right up for that so, come lunchtime, we took a walk up to our local. It was a bit busy in there, but we found a table and perused the menu.  Having picked out a couple of rather splendid looking burgers, I went up to the bar to order our grub.

“There’s an hour’s wait for food”, said the surly bartender. An hour?!  Sod that!

“Let’s try the Beefeater up the road”, I suggested. It was only a further ten minutes walk.
But when we got there, we were aghast at the prices.  i don’t mind paying forty quid for a proper meal for the two of us, but not for a lunchtime snack!

“There’s always The Bramingham”, I said. This truly is our local, but we don’t visit it very often. And so, we set off at a brisk pace, as lunchtime was now rapidly turning into mid-afternoon.

We arrived at The Bramingham to find it closed for refurbishment. Yet again. It’s one of those pubs that seems to change hands every few years.

There was only one thing for it. Across the road was Sainsbury’s. We both looked at it.

“Cafe?”

“Cafe!”

And so, we had omelette and chips and a lukewarm cup of tea, instead of the burger and pint that we’d both been so looking forward to.

Later that afternoon, I had to take some rubbish up to the Tidy Tip. I invited Mrs Masher along for the ride, but she declined.

I suppose a girl can only handle so much extravagance in one day.

Ring Of Red

Today I joined several hundred other bikers and took to the M25 as part of the annual Ride Of Respect that takes place each Remembrance Sunday.

Starting at Toddington Services on the M1 and, bedecked with red t-shirts over our leathers, my group left at 1pm to join the M25 for around 1:30.  There were probably about sixty of us and we rode in staggered formation in the first lane.

It’s been a long time since I rode in formation with such a large group, but I really enjoyed it. The idea was for other groups to join at respective points around the M25 in the hope of making a single line of red around the London Orbital, so as to form the world’s largest poppy (or poppy representation!). Whether that was achieved or not, I don’t know, but much money was raised in the process, so we achieved something, at least.

We rode for about an hour, round to Thurrock Services and I was quite knackered by the time I got there. The cold weather worked it’s way through the fifteen layers of clothing that I had on and made it physically tiring. And the concentration required to stay in formation and keep a close, but safe, distance to the bike in front – not to mention being aware of the constant hazard of cars and lorries cutting through us at every motorway junction – made it mentally tiring.

But, it was challenging and there was great camaraderie – as there usually is between fellow motorcyclists – and it was also quite a sight to see, I’m sure.

If I do it next year, I might just have to squeeze another layer on though.

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