Category: People (page 2 of 3)

Not parched

Hydration is a big thing nowadays. It’s most important – apparently –  that we stay hydrated.

You’re not allowed to get thirsty anymore, apparently, so now everyone carries little bottles of water around with them.

At work, whenever we go into meetings, half the desk space is taken up by bottles of water because, it seems, no-one can go for an hour without needing to have a drink.

You could say I’m being hypocritical here as, whenever I go into a meeting, I’ll always take a cup of tea in with me. But I do  that, not because I might get thirsty, but because it’s tea. And of course, one should always take tea into meetings. It’s social etiquette.

And besides, someone might bring biscuits.

In the Gents toilet at work (I daresay it’s similar in the Ladies) we have a poster as shown, at reading height above each urinal.

I sometimes get strange looks as I stand there having a pee and say rather too loudly (and on purpose, of course), “Oh yes! Pale straw! Result!”

The times they are… have changed

“Learn anything good at school today?” is a question I ask the kids almost every night when I get home from work.
Most of the time, they can’t remember what they learnt and reply just with a surly grunt.

“Learn anything good at school today?” I asked thirteen year-old Harry, when I got in, this evening.  “Yep”, he replied promptly. “I learnt how to put a condom on”.
Well, that stopped me in my tracks, I can tell you.

“That’s, er, good” I said, trying to look unfazed and be cool about it. “I take it you didn’t actually put one on, but used a banana or cucumber?”

“Oh no”, he replied, “we used a dildo” Again, that stopped me in my tracks and I decided to leave it there.  The current Mrs Masher, however, was keen to hear more and pushed for more details.

“Well, we also learnt about various sexual diseases, like…” and he rattled off the names of several STDs.

“Anything else?”, Mrs M asked.

He thought for a moment. “Oh yeah, they showed us a femidom and showed us how that should be used and also, they showed us a plastic sheet that you put over your bum if you want to have anal sex.”

I got up out of the chair and went to make a cup of tea, leaving Mrs M to continue the interrogation.

I can remember the sex education that we got at school, back in nineteen filthy-lie. 
We were made to watch a video (a short film on a projector, as it was back then) in a darkened school hall, where we all giggled as naked pictures of men and women were shown to us, each with arrows pointing out their respective sexy bits.
Then, back in the classroom, we were all allowed to ask just one related question – anonymously, to save any embarrassment – by writing it on a piece of paper for the teacher to read out. I can’t remember exactly what my question was… something to do with breasts.

But I do remember the teacher reading it out and then looking straight at me as he answered it! 

And I remember going bright red with embarrassment.

I think I would have just curled up and died, if I’d been told to put a condom on a dildo!

Phoney

Yesterday, I twice saw mobile phones being used where they shouldn’t be.

The first was yesterday morning, when I was filling the car up with diesel. The chap at the pump in front of me was filling his white BMW X5. At the same time, he was talking on his mobile phone.

There are signs all over the forecourt saying that mobile phones should not be used. And he knew this. This wasn’t ignorance in his part, because he was doing it surreptitiously. With his back toward the attendant at the till, he was filling his car up with one hand, whilst the other held his phone hidden under his open jacket as he talked into it.

I finished what I was doing and drove off. As I passed slowly by him, I gave him a withering look. He looked up at me. “Really?” I said, shaking my head. He did nothing and just went back to his conversation.

Now, I know that operating a mobile phone in a petrol station, is unlikely to cause an explosion. In fact, I believe the main reason that phones should not be operated in that environment, is in case it is dropped and the battery becomes dislodged as it hits the ground, possibly causing a small spark. Again, it’s unlikely that anything would happen if that did occur. Unless there happened to be some spilled petrol on the floor, maybe.  So, the odds are low, but, should the right circumstances come together, the results could be quite catastrophic. Hence why you should NOT use your phone in a petrol station forecourt.

Even if you do own a BMW.

The second instance where I didn’t expect to see a mobile phone being used, was last night, when Mrs Masher and I went to the cinema in Hemel.  A homeless man was laid out in his tatty sleeping bag on the floor outside. Bits of detritus surrounded him:  pizza boxes; paper coffee cups and an upturned flat-cap with some loose change in it, all donated by kindly passers-by.

But, from the angle that Mrs M and I approached him, I could see that he was surreptitiously (again) holding a mobile phone inside his sleeping bag and was was busy texting someone.

I read somewhere that you shouldn’t give money to people sleeping rough, as they are most likely just going to just spend it all on drugs. I don’t know whether that’s true, but I didn’t give him any money as I didn’t want to contribute to his data plan.

Litter

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.

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.

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