Category: Work (page 1 of 3)

In the crap

Yesterday, I went on a visit to Abbey Mills pumping station, in the heart of that London.

Well, maybe not the heart, but certainly a major organ, like the liver or maybe a kidney.

Anyway, it was dead good.

We started off with a finger buffet for lunch, before sitting down for a ninety minute talk on Sewage Through The Ages. It was quite fascinating… some of it.

And then we put on some protective clothing and climbed down into a sewer. It was a bit smelly, but not too bad, considering. And if nothing else, it was a cool respite from the sun. Our guides took us on a thirty minute walk inside a nearby sewer, which they had washed down for us. There was still a couple of inches of sludge and silt to walk through, but it wasn’t too bad at all.  Being down there, one got a sense of how much work the Victorians put into it. The fact that they still work perfectly 150 years after being built is testament to that.  The picture above is of me and my team, just before we went down (as I’ve not sought permission from any of them to put their picture on here, I’ve blurred them out, to be on the safe side).

After the sewers, we were taken on a tour of the station itself. With its magnificent Victorian architecture, it’s no surprise that English Heritage have listed the building.  And inside was even more impressive. I would imagine more modern pumping stations, to be stark, utilitarian places, but Victorian engineers and architects liked to have a touch of the grandiose about their work.


It’s a fascinating visit and I would recommend it to anyone… especially as it is free.  I think the water board only run the tour for one week at the end of May and I know it gets heavily subscribed – because it took 18 months for me and the team to get tickets… and we work for them! But it might also be available (I’m told) during London Open House, in September. If you get the chance, it’s definitely worth a look.

Good and bad

I’ve had a torrid time of it this week, on the motorways.  I know I often joke about it, but I’m starting to wonder whether being able to bring traffic to a standstill, merely by being on the same road, really is my super power… as rubbish as that would be.

My journey home from work on Monday had an extra hour added to it, when an accident on the M40 reduced the motorway from three lanes down to one. During rush hour.

Likewise on Tuesday, an accident on the M1 at Hemel closed three of the four lanes during rush hour, adding ninety minutes onto my journey home. Ninety minutes! And when we finally got moving and got past the accident, there was hardly anything to see. If I’ve been made to wait that long in the traffic, I want to see a reason for it, carnage even, not just a BMW with it’s front bumper hanging off!

Wednesday. Don’t get me started on Wednesday! I had to go to Swindon for a couple of meetings and so left half an hour earlier than normal. We suddenly ground to a halt about 2 miles from J18 on the M25. And we just sat there. And sat there. Eventually we inched along and I could see that all the lanes had been closed, due to an accident and the police were turning vehicles round and sending them back up the motorway. We all got diverted through Rickmansworth. Can you imagine four lanes of motorway traffic driving through Rickmansworth? It wasn’t particularly quick, I can tell you! I eventually arrived in Swindon – having completely missed my morning meeting – after five and a quarter hours. A journey that normally takes about two and a half.   I left as soon as I could, following my afternoon meeting, but was thwarted once again when an accident on the M4 slowed us all down. “Long Delays Between J12 and J10” threatened the overhead signage. My heart sank and I looked to my satnav for advice. “Avoid this bit of the motorway and go through Reading”, it said. Sort of. No way! I’ve been caught like that before. Reading at rush hour? It’d be a nightmare.  And yet…   If I could just get to the A329… Inexplicably – and possibly because I still had the morning’s motorway horror still in my head, I found myself taking the slip road at J12 and heading to Reading on the A4.  I was right: it WAS a nightmare.  Four hours after leaving Swindon, I arrived home.

Thursday wasn’t so bad, save for a bit of a hold up on the 413 Denham Road in the morning.

And then yesterday, Friday – when I can normally work from home – I had to go into work for a meeting. I had a lovely journey in. Friday mornings are definitely the best time for driving on the motorways.  Friday afternoons, not so.  My journey home was again lengthened by some numpty who doesn’t know how to drive properly on the motorway, ramming into the back of another vehicle and causing a huge tailback on the M1.

If only everyone was as good a driver as what I am, there would be no accidents. They all drive too fast and too close. Unlike Miss Daisy here.

But today has been good: a leisurely drive to our local annual ham radio rally with a couple of mates.

Good weather.

Plenty to see.

A couple of bargains.

Meeting up with more friends.

And an ice-cream.

A perfect Sunday.

Not going up in the world

I had a meeting today, up at Emley Moor mast, which – as you can see in the photo – is a bloody great big tower (tallest structure in the UK) that transmits TV and radio signals to large swathes of Yorkshire. Annoyingly, the tower is currently closed for maintenance, so I couldn’t go up it. But I will… one day. I’m determined that I will.

I stayed in a hotel in Barnsley with a small group from work and we were wined and dined, by the company we’d gone up to visit, courtesy of their expense account. It was a great evening.

And then, after our meeting this morning, we were given a tour of the place and I found myself feeling very ‘at home’ in their operations centre, where all the TV and radio signals are monitored.  Ahh, happy days.

Talking of TV signals, this advert managed to worm it’s way past my ad-blocker:



Intrigued, I clicked on it and was taken to this web page, where it claims that a small antenna that it supplies, will pick up your cable TV signals for free.

Utter bollocks!

Just about every technical fact it quotes, is rubbish and the comments at the bottom are all manufactured.  And all wrong.
Julie from London has one and now no longer needs to pay $65 a month to Comcast.

Please, if you see this, steer well clear, it is quite obviously a scam.

What the fax?

One of the young millennials at work approached me yesterday and asked “What’s a fax?”

I was somewhat surprised that she didn’t know, but then realised that this was such an old, outdated technology, that it was very likely she would never have seen one before, never mind actually used one.  I explained what it was/is and she went away… probably not much the wiser.

But it got me to thinking about methods of communication.

In the early eighties, I spent a month travelling in California and I wanted to let my parents know that all was well. It was expensive to make international calls back then and sending a letter could take several weeks. So, I sent a Telegram.

Yes: a telegram. Remember them? I think I still have it, somewhere.

But, of course, telegrams were phased out a few years back and can no longer be sent.


And what about the humble letter? No-one sits down and writes actual letters anymore, do they?   The speed and convenience of email saw to that.

But even email is being pushed out of favour, as the immediate accessibility of today’s Twitters and  Instafaces persuades people to communicate so much more with each other.

But also actually saying so much less.

Curry Night

I was out on the slosh, last night, so my head is a little woozy this morning.

It was the regular monthly get-together of the BT (Class of the Eighties) Curry Night, at our local Weatherspoons.

Always a good night, but I never make it every month. By the time I get home from work, I usually just can’t be bothered to go out again. But, as I have a couple of days off this week – just using up my annual leave allocation – I had no excuses.

And last night, in addition to the regulars, we had a couple of new faces… well, new old faces.

Firstly, there was Wobber. I don’t know why we call him that, as his name is Roger, but he’s been called Wobber for as long as I can remember (most of the engineers at BT answered to a nickname – including myself, which is where the moniker for this website comes from). This was the first time I’d seen Wobber since 1994 and – unusually for me – I recognised him straight away… despite him having lost all of his hair and now bearing a remarkable resemblance to Wilson Fisk.

And then there was Ralph. Again, first time I’d seen him since I left in ’94. I never used to mix it with Ralph as he was a bit older than me and was always one of the cool kids. But I’ve always held him in high regard, not least because I fell off my motorbike on the way to Bletchley Park for a training course, early one cold and slippery November morning, and I met Ralph (a fellow – and far more experienced – motorcyclist) in the motorcycle parking bay. My bike was pretty bent up, but during his lunch-break, he straightened it out for me, enough that I could ride it home. I’ve always been grateful for that.

There were about a dozen of us there last night, but only four still worked for BT.

The fact that we still get together so regularly, amazes me, but also pleases me greatly.

Happy Friday

Well, my journey to Dartford yesterday was OK: I made the meeting with ten minutes to spare.

The drive home wasn’t so good, though. As soon as I approached the the M25, I realised that going through the hole wasn’t an option and so instead, I navigated my way to the clockwise carriageway and went the long way round, thereby completing a complete circumnavigation of the London Orbital Motorway.

But today, I have none of those commuting worries, as it is Friday. Yay!

And on a Friday, I usually work from home.

This isn’t something that is built-in to my contract, but rather an unspoken agreement. Should I be required to go in, then I will. No problem.

But Friday’s tend to be quieter days anyway, with fewer meetings, so it’s an ideal day to work from home and catch up with stuff, without too many interruptions.

An additional benefit, is that over the course of a year, that will be about 3000 fewer miles that I will have put on my car. That’s a fair bit of wear and tear saved, over the lifetime of the car. And the resulting fuel savings are an added bonus, of course!

On top of that, I will spend less time behind the wheel, getting frustrated. Roughly 120 hours less.

That’s nearly five days!

That’s gotta be good.

But, there is a perception that working from home can be less productive, and I’ll admit that I often take the opportunity to get other non-work related stuff done during the day – I mean what’s the point of having this perk if you don’t take advantage of it?

But, it IS a perk, and perks can be taken away if they are abused.

So whilst I may take advantage of my ‘working from home’ day, by also doing some housework; sorting out some personal paperwork; updating this blog; having a twiddle round the radio dial and drinking more tea than should be humanly possible, I will also make sure that I get some actual, proper work done. And, sometimes, I’ll even find that I actually get a bit more done at home than I possibly would have done at work.

So, it benefits me financially by paying less for running the car, and it benefits me mentally, by spending less time on our horrendous motorway network.

And the company still gets the work done.

That’s a win-win situation, in my book.

A lorra lorra lorries

As our Cilla used to paraphrase.

Well, I made it to the conference yesterday.

I left even earlier, just to be on the safe side. However, when I reached the slip road for the M1, there was a big tailback, thanks to four vehicles having a shunt, right at the top of the slip road.

“I don’t belieeeeve it!”, I shouted, turning into Richard Wilson from One Foot In The Grave.

But, once I’d got past it, my journey was OK… I just didn’t arrive quite as early as I’d hoped.

And getting out of Newbury Racecourse was horrendous! Imagine trying to get out of Wembley Arena after a Take That concert, and you won’t be far wrong.

And then the M4 did what the M4 does best – it snarled up.

It was nearly eight pm when I got home.

And today, I have to be in Dartford, bright and early for an 8am meeting.

With the luck I’ve been having on the motorways this week, I really haven’t got a chance!


Yesterday, I was supposed to be at Newbury Racecourse for a conference.  (as I’ve said before, we do love a conference, at the Water Board).

As it was further to go than my usual journey, I left earlier to allow a little extra time… just in case.

Of course, I never made it.

My sat-nav estimated that I would arrive at about 8:30. “Yeah right”, I thought, “we’ll see.” And then my rubbish superpower kicked into action and just ten minutes into my journey up the M1, we ground to a halt.

Then the overhead gantry signs came on to say that there was a 90 minute delay on the M25.

The M25? Gimme a break, I haven’t even got there yet. Can’t blame that one on me!

I turned the radio on and the travel announcer cheerily told me that the jam I was sitting in, was caused by two vans coming together and closing the motorway at Hemel Hempstead.

The jam on the M25 was caused by four lorries and had closed three lanes between junctions 17 and 16.

My overly optimistic sat-nav  changed it’s earlier estimate from 8:30 to 12:30.

The M1 blockage was eventually cleared, but as the M25 one was still in place, I decided to abort and when I got the opportunity, I came off at Hemel, turned round and went home.

Luckily (!), I get another chance as the conference is also on today, so I’m going to have a second attempt.

I’m just hoping I can hold my superpower in.

You’ll like this…

I met up with some people from work yesterday, in Reading, and we went on a bit of a pub crawl.

For charity.

I’m not sure how many pubs we visited (I think it was six, maybe), but by the end of the night, it’s safe to say that I was pretty well pissed.

To be honest, I can’t really remember how I found my way back to my hotel room.

But I did.

And I stopped off on the way, to get a burger and chips… by the looks of the detritus in my room this morning.

But one thing I do remember from last night, is magic.

Those of you who read this drivel, will be well aware that I have been a follower of magic and illusions for many, many years. Since I was a teenager, really.

And when I say I follow magic, I don’t just mean that I watch it on the telly. I have learnt how to do several tricks; I have become adept at one or two sleights of hand and I have practiced and practiced until I have got it right.

For years, I have performed a few card tricks and the like, for family and close friends, but I’ve never had the bottle to perform in front of others… in case I make a mess of it or give the game away.

Last night, was a turning point.

At various points throughout the evening, I produced a deck of cards and a couple of other props and performed several tricks in front of about eight or nine people from work.

And I was a hit!

It all went very well.

Apart from the one I fucked up, right at the end.

Mental note to self: after your seventh pint, Masher, put the cards away!


If you didn’t already know, yesterday was national Time To Talk day.

At work, cakes and doughnuts were supplied in the canteen and people were encouraged to come along and chat.

Of course, most people just came along for the confectionary, but several did take the time to discuss their problems with a Mental First Aider.


I just went for a doughnut and a cup of tea.

And then a slice of fruitcake – not very apt for a forum discussing mental issues, I thought.

But all in all, the event seemed well attended and my little counter box with the blue buttons was put into play for the first time and showed that 75% of those who attended, felt it was a worthwhile exercise.

The remaining 25% just wanted more cake.

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