Category: People (page 2 of 3)

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

B&B

The erudite Mr Jones mentioned in a post earlier, of how much he enjoys taking his morning tea back to bed with him.

I think he has also mentioned previously, the joy of having breakfast in bed.

You are sadly mistaken, my friend.

Many claim this as an enjoyable little luxury, but does anyone really enjoy having breakfast in bed?

Really?

You know already that I don’t!

I’ve never seen the attraction.

Firstly, I don’t see how sitting upright in bed, propped up with pillows and balancing a bowl of Rice Krispies – other breakfast cereals are available –  can be more comfortable than sitting in a chair at the dining room table. Let’s face it, it’s not.

And then there’s the tray – if you have one. Again, balancing a tray containing a bowl of cereal and/or toast; a cup of tea/coffee; a glass of juice etc, isn’t easy. One wrong move – a sudden burst of hiccups – and it’s all over your 10 tog, duck-feather duvet – of course, other tog values are available.

Then there are the crumbs – especially if you have toast.  Doesn’t matter how careful you are, there will be crumbage. Which you won’t find until you get back into bed later that evening, when it will feel like half of Yarmouth beach is in bed with you – other, stonier, British beaches are available.

So please, tell me, where’s the luxury in that?

Or am I missing something.

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.

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