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Watching paint dry

I mentioned last month that we had finished decorating Amelia’s bedroom.

Well, now we have almost finished doing Harry’s.

Similar to Amelia’s, he has new fitted wardrobes; new carpet; a new bed and new furniture.

And it all looks very nice.

But there is one thing we have recently discovered, during our decorating activities.

Mrs M always used to help out with the decorating, but the bulk of it was always done by myself. 

That has now swapped around.

Because, it turns out that Mrs M is actually a pretty good decorator and, though it pains me to admit it, her painting skills are much better than my own.

I’ve tried slapping it on quickly and I’ve tried putting it on slowly, but however I try it, I always seem to get runs and drips when glossing the woodwork. Doors, especially.

But Mrs M’s doors are always pristine: evenly covered and not a run in sight. It’s quite annoying, actually.

But, it’s an annoyance I am happy to put up with, because it means I don’t have to do it.

And, much as I hate decorating in general, my ego is quite pleased that I still have the edge when it comes to doing the wallpapering.

Crap Shots

I’m watching an action series on Sky at the moment, called Strike Back. It’s based on the books written by ex-SAS soldier, Chris Ryan. The books – in turn – are based upon his own exploits.

Obviously, with anything like this, there is always a bit of ‘poetic licence’ thrown in to spice it up a bit. Especially when it is “based” upon real events.

I don’t really have a problem with this: it’d be pretty dull watching, otherwise. Because a soldiers life is dull… on the whole. Much of it is spent cleaning boots.

But there is one thing in this sort of programme that often annoys me; something that they always give a little too much poetic licence to. And it’s not just in Strike Back… they all do it!

Mission Impossible; James Bond; 24; Die Hard, Jason Bourne, etc, etc.

They all make the bad guys out to be really bad shots.

Bad guys – and I suppose I’m talking about the henchmen here – nearly always have machine guns, And yet, they still miss!

When you are spraying bullets out of an automatic weapon, at one man running across an office floor, it is incredibly difficult to miss him and yet still shoot every single pane of glass and piece of office equipment around him to smithereens.

And, have you noticed how, if the good guy is running across a field or a beach, the bad guy will seemingly aim their machine gun just behind him, at his feet; missing him completely but throwing up puffs of dirt or sand six inches from his heels as he runs, until he eventually reaches some cover.

And Bad Guy Bullets™ won’t penetrate a car door or an upturned table that is protecting the good guy. Even though they mostly would in real life.

Good guys – of course – are much better shots and can generally kill or disable their much-more-heavily-armed-foe, with cunning and guile… and the very last bullet in the magazine of their Glock 19.

If I were a henchman and they gave me a machine gun, I’d know it was time to look for a new job.


I hate litter.

And I doubly hate litterers.

Last night, when I took the dog for her our evening walk, there were a couple of young lads sitting on the low metal fence that surrounds the green. They were talking loudly and stuffing biscuits and what-have-you down their gullets.

This morning, when I took the dog out for her our morning walk, I passed by the same area.  Biscuit wrappers and empty crisp packets littered the ground, where they had just dropped them and then wandered off. Pure laziness and a complete disregard for the area.

Annoyed at this, I stopped, picked it all up and put it in the bin… which was quite easy to do, as it was less than three metres away!

Something that annoys me just as much – or even more – is fly-tipping.

We have some beautiful country lanes around here and it really gets my blood pressure up when I’m driving/riding along one of them, and I see an old washing machine sitting by the side of the road – dumped there under the cover of darkness and left for the taxpayer to foot the bill for clearing it up and disposing of it properly.

At work, there is an alleyway that runs parallel with the train line at the back of our car park.  The alleyway has high fencing on either side of it.

And yet, someone has gone to a lot of effort to carry an old sofa down this alleyway – can’t have been easy, as it’s quite narrow – and then bodily lift it over a seven-foot high fence, in order to dump it on the grass verge next to the train tracks.  Again, all done in the middle of the night, probably.

It would have likely been easier to take it to the local Tidy Tip, which is about half a mile away.

I know there are fines for littering and also for fly-tipping, but it doesn’t seem to deter anyone as the chances of being caught are negligible.

A stronger penalty is needed, in order to make these people think again about what it is they are doing.

Death, maybe.

Being a menace

I took the mutt out for her evening drag, last night.

It had just got dark. In fact, with no cloud cover and a half-moon, it was very dark indeed.

And bloody cold.

We took a common walk through the park and alongside the woods.

I carry a small laser pen with me when I walk Saber at night, as she likes to chase the bright red dot up and down the path. Easy exercising for me!

As we walked along the unlit path, heading toward the woods, I noticed three others walking along another path, that intersected with ours. They were easy to spot, as they each carried a torch and were talking loudly and excitedly.

I quickly realised that we were on a collision course and would meet at the intersection at the same time… which I didn’t want, as I’d have to put the dog back on her leash.

I could walk a bit quicker and get in front of them… but then they would be close behind us. Again, I didn’t want that as they would be a distraction and Saber and I like to walk along in peace and quiet.

And so, I decided to let them get in front so that we drop back a reasonable distance.

Saber and I came off the path and walked up to the treeline of the woods, where I stopped and waited for them to pass by. As I said, it was very dark and I was wearing dark clothing, so they wouldn’t even know I was there.

I stood and waited as they made their way up the path, swinging their torches as they went. Two small beams lower down and a very bright one higher up, had me guessing that it was an adult with two children, It wasn’t long before they were in earshot and I was proved right: a mother and her two kids, all out playing with their shiny new torches.

I stood stock-still in the shadows; my hands pulled up into my coat sleeves and my shoulders hunched against the cold. “Just bloody hurry up, willya”, I muttered.

They stopped and started swinging their torches again. The very bright one, from the adult, made its way along the treeline and dazzled me slightly as it passed. And then it swung back and centred on me.  I’d been spotted.

I stood there motionless, muttering quietly under my breath: “Oh, just fuck off will you. Go away”.  The light stayed on me for about thirty seconds, but I couldn’t quite hear what was being said as they had lowered their voices. I doubted they could see the dog, as she was a few feet behind me, sniffing in the bushes.

Eventually the light swung away and they moved on.  I waited a minute before following, but when I got back on the path, there was no sign of them.

Saber and I continued our walk along the path and when we reached the end, where it joined the road, I put her back on the leash.

We turned left and walked along the pavement.  A police car rounded the corner at speed and headed toward me. He slowed right down and looked at me intensely. I looked straight back at him and smiled. He sped up again and continued down the road.

Hold on! Had I just been reported to the police?

Had Bright-torch phoned them and reported a dark-clad and ominous looking figure lurking in the trees?

Possibly so.

I realised that to them, I probably looked a bit menacing, just standing there… rather like Gort from the film The Day The Earth Stood Still.

Maybe I should have got my laser pen out and really acted the part.

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”


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.

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