Category: People (page 2 of 2)

Nothing on the telly

Working – as I do – alongside people of a younger generation, I’m constantly reminded of just how fucking old I am.

I was chatting with one such millennial the other day, and he was saying about how he was thinking of getting Sky TV, because he was a bit of a night owl and there’s not much on the thirty-or-so terrestrial (Freeview) channels after midnight.

He was genuinely taken aback when I told him that I could remember when we only had three TV channels: BBC1; BBC2 and ITV and that they would all switch off sometime just after 11pm, after playing the national anthem.

I told him of how – in 1982 – I made a special effort to get home from work early, just so I could watch the launch of Channel 4.  I was so excited at the time: an extra TV channel! This was history in the making.

Of course, nowadays, new TV channels come and go regularly. Some have fleeting lives, lasting only a few months whilst others seem to go on forever, despite the niche audience they are targeted at.

For today’s generations, this is the norm: super-thin flat-screen TVs with a gazillion channels.

But for us old farts, four channels was always enough.

Some would say it still is.

Knowledge Is Power

I don’t mind admitting that, when I was young, I was a bit of a swot.

I loved reading and I loved learning from reading.

Even if I were reading a storybook (a novel, in adult parlance), I would generally learn something. 

About the world.

About nature.

About humanity.

Something.

Many times, I would just learn a new word. I loved learning new words and would often take two books to bed with me: a novel and a dictionary – so I could look up any words I didn’t understand.

It’s no idle boast that as a young teenager, I easily had the largest vocabulary in my family.

My parents bought me a small set of encyclopaedias – I remember they had purple covers – and they took pride of place on my bookshelf.  I’m pretty sure that I read them from cover to cover more than once, over the years.

On a Saturday, I would go into town on the bus and would spend a happy couple of hours in the Town Library… just reading anything that took my fancy or – more often than not – looking up something that I’d heard or read about and just felt I needed to know more.

Once I started work, I never had the time so much, to go into the library. More than that, my thirst for knowledge became more immediate: if I wanted to know about something, I wanted to know about it now! And so, I spent over a thousand pounds on a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

A beautiful set of books and, undoubtedly, the best repository of knowledge that money could buy… at the time.

I kept them for years.

And then Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

A game changer.

In an amazingly short period of time, all the major knowledge houses had their encyclopaedias or dictionaries and the like, online. Even Microsoft got in on the act with it’s own encyclopaedia: Encarta, which, to be fair, was really very good.

And then, of course, we got Wikipedia – another game changer… because it was free.

Nowadays, just about anything you want to know (and at any time you want to know it), is available somewhere online. For free. It’s bloody fantastic!

And, at Amelia’s Parent’s Evening, last night, the teachers were extolling the virtues of several websites, aimed specifically at helping kids with their education, by providing online, extra-curricular lessons and teaching.

Wow! If I’d had all this when I was their age, maybe I would have done better at school than I did.

Maybe I’d have gone on to university and made a huge success of my life.

Or maybe I’d have been a winner on The Chase.

I need to become a glass half-full, kinda person

I spent yesterday at Epsom Downs Racecourse.

And very nice it was too.

I wasn’t there for the dobbin racing though, but rather, for a conference.

I’ve mentioned before how the firm loves a conference.

The management team spoke at length, about how the company will be transformed and improved over the coming years.

They told us what they were going to put in place, to make us into a successful company. 

Into a company where the customer always gets a fantastic service.

Into a company where the workforce just love coming to work.

And they told us how we are all a part of it.

I’ve been around, so I’ve heard it all before, of course.

But, it does sound promising. 

And results are already being seen… if facts and figures are to be believed.

So, maybe, just maybe, it will be different this time round.

I really do hope so. 

My personal highlight of the day? Lunch.

Crapachino

I’ve mentioned it before but, I still cannot get my head around how important coffee is. 

To some.

I just don’t understand what it means to some people to have a ‘proper’ cup of coffee.

Maybe that’s because, whilst I don’t mind the occasional cup of Joe – as our American cousins inexplicably call it – I am, in the main, a tea drinker.

I don’t want to pay extortionate prices for a skinny-flat-white-mocha-latte-cappucino (essentially, two spoons of Nescafe topped up with hot milk), when I can get a whole jar of Maxwell House for the same price.

But I seem to be in an ever-shrinking minority.

More and more coffee shops proliferate our high streets and they always seem busy: full of people holding huge, white, ceramic cups full of the dark brown liquid.

Trains and public areas are littered with cardboard cups, all bearing various logos from the well-known establishments.

At work, we have recently been getting visits from a mobile ‘proper’ coffee wagon. It pulls up outside a few times a day and beeps its horn. Within a few minutes, there is a line of people queueing up, to get their morning fix.

Honestly, I have seen some of them stand there for up to fifteen minutes, in freezing temperatures, just to get a cup of coffee.

Fifteen minutes!

I’m on my second cup of PG by then!

From a Great Height Part 2

A few years later – somewhere around 1989/90 – the same thing happened again: a chap at work brought in a leaflet and said that we should all do a parachute jump as a team, for charity.

Now, at the time, I had a bit of rivalry going on with Pat. He was always trying to outdo me at work – completing more surveys; finishing the job a bit quicker, that sort of thing. And I was doing the same to him. It started as friendly rivalry, but developed a bit of a harsh edge as the months passed.

It also didn’t help that we were both vying for the affections of the same girl in the office: Liz.

Liz was intelligent, easy to talk to and – being a former beauty contestant winner – was as pretty as they come.

She was also up for a challenge, so she put her name down for the parachute jump. Having already done one, I put put my name down too, without hesitation.  Not wanting to lose face in front of me or Liz, Pat also signed up, despite obviously being as nervous as hell about it.

When the time came, we went to the airfield and -as I had done before – spent the whole of Saturday learning the correct way to fall out of an aeroplane.

It was a bright Sunday morning, as we lined up on the airfield, wearing all our kit and caboodle. We had been told in training that the last person on the plane would be first to jump, and so I made an effort to get in the line before Pat. I wanted him to jump before me, because I knew he was bricking it and I wanted to see the horror on  his face when it was his turn to jump.

The jump-master made his way along the line, checking that each of us had strapped on our parachutes correctly. When he got to me, he stopped and gave my chute a good checking over. “How much do you weigh?” he asked, looking me up and down. I told him. “You need a bigger chute”, he said matter-of-factly, “Double over to the chute-hut and get another.”

I legged it over to the large barn that stored all the parachutes and plonked my one on the counter. “I need a bigger one”, I said.

“That’s the biggest we do”, said the chap behind the counter. “You’ll have to have a cargo chute”.

“A cargo chute? Will that be OK?”

He nodded and so I grabbed it and ran back to the plane, where everybody was now on board, waiting for me. The jump-master helped me on with my chute and bundled me on board the waiting aircraft, where I had to squeeze in at the back.

On my first jump, a few years earlier, we went up in a small 6-seater (with the seats removed) and when it was time to jump, you sat in the doorway with your legs outside and pushed yourself out when you were ready.  This plane was much larger and held about 15 people (older readers may remember seeing it, as it featured as part of an advert for the Abbey National back then) and the back was open, so you just stepped out and dropped. A very different kettle of fish: a worserer kettle of fish!

“You ready?” asked the jump-master.

I stood up in position and found Liz’ face amongst all the crash helmets staring back at me. She gave me a little smile of encouragement.

And then I saw Pat, grinning at me like a loon. He was loving that I had to go first.

The jump-master tapped me on the shoulder: my cue.

I gave Pat a wry smile, turned, and without hesitation, stepped out of the door.

“ONE THOUSAND… TWO THOUSAND… THREE THOUSAND… CHECK CANOPY”

Like a seasoned pro.

On the ground, I gathered up my chute, and looked up to my colleagues who were still falling from the sky.  I kind of hoped that Pat would have bottled it, but he didn’t. No-one did: everybody made the jump and there were no injuries.

Apart from Liz, who twisted her ankle upon landing. 

Stuart- the storeman – helped her hobble back to the training area and took her chute in for her.

They started dating the following weekend.

From A Great Height Part1

A few years ago (well, 1985 to be precise), me and three mates decided to do a parachute jump.

It was Rob’s idea. We were seated in the cafè, one Saturday morning, when he showed us a leaflet. “I found this”, he said, excitedly. “You get to do a free parachute jump if you raise sixty quid for charity. I reckon we should do it”.

We discussed it for a while and agreed that, although it was a somewhat scary thing to do, it would give us plenty of kudos amongst our peers and would make us look cool in front of girls (none of us had a serious girlfriend at the time).

We booked a date a few months in advance and once the sponsorship forms came in, I set about collecting as much money as possible. £120 needed to be raised: 60 for the jump and the remainder to the charity… which I think was the British Heart Foundation. It didn’t take me long to collect the full amount, I mean, hell: I was going to jump out of a fucking aeroplane!

The date got nearer and then Chris suddenly announced that he wouldn’t be able to do it as – all of a sudden – he had a wedding to go to that weekend.

A few days later, Steve announced that he wouldn’t be able to make it either, because of “… a family matter”.

And finally, a week before the jump, Rob phoned me and told me that he had badly sprained an ankle.

Bastards!

I went on my own and spent a whole Saturday learning how to fall out of a plane:

“ONE THOUSAND… TWO THOUSAND… THREE THOUSAND… CHECK CANOPY!”

On Sunday, I jumped.

“ONE THOUSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH… JESUSCHRIST… CANOPY…  YAY!!”

It was the single most exhilarating thing I’d ever done.

But sadly, my daring exploits didn’t seem to impress the female population very much.

Last Night

I was awoken by the dog at 4am this morning. She was laying out on the landing – where she sometimes sleeps – and was growling.

“Shhhh”, I whispered, but she continued.  I listened, but couldn’t hear anything.

She continued with her growling and I listened more intently.  And then I heard a faint rattling noise. It sounded like the gate to the back garden shaking in it’s latch, as if it was windy.

But it wasn’t at all windy.

I got up and craned my neck out of the bathroom window – the only window with a view of the gate. I could just about make out a figure in the shadows, but couldn’t see what he was doing.

Quickly, I pulled on a pair of jogging bottoms and my slippers and dashed downstairs.

Putting the kitchen light on and flinging the door open would be enough to scare off any ne’er-do-well , I thought.

But no. He was still there… one hand atop the 6ft gate.

I rapped his hand with my knuckles and opened the gate. Before me stood a young man in jeans and a t-shirt, leaning against the wall. He was very much the worse for drink.

He was slightly taller than me, and I realised I was pulling myself up to my full height and sucking my belly in as I confronted him.

“What do you think you’re doing!?”, I said in a loud, authoritative voice.

“I live here”, he said, his speech slightly slurred.

“Like fuck, do you”, I said, keeping up the aggressive stance. “I live here… me and my big dog”.  I turned and pointed to Saber, who despite all her growling earlier, was now just standing there in the kitchen with her head poking out the  door, looking decidedly non-threatening.

“This isn’t 132 High Street?”

“You know it’s not. You’re nowhere near the High Street. Now bugger off.”

He apologised and I watched as he staggered up the road, going in completely the wrong direction for the High Street.

I suddenly realised how cold it was, standing outside topless, at that time of the morning.

I’m glad it was still dark.

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