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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.

Hit it!

For ages – and just for the fun of it – I’ve wanted to build a Batak.

I think that’s short for Button ATtAcK.

I think.

Basically, it’s a reaction game: a button lights up and you press it, and then another lights and you press that, and then anoth… well, you get the idea.

All against the clock.

They are used widely in Formula 1, I believe, to help the drivers improve their reaction times. It takes speed, hand-to-eye co-ordination and good peripheral vision.

I’ve always thought that building one wouldn’t be too difficult, but my programming skills are THAT rubbish, that I could never quite figure out how to do it.

And then I spotted a project to build one, on the Instructables site, by a clever chap called R0RSCHACH and I have pretty much copied his design exactly, but then added a few little bits so that it can either run off of a 12V battery or can be plugged into the mains.

OK, it’s not as impressive as a proper Batak, I suppose, but it does the job and it only cost me about fifty quid to build. Proper ones go for hundreds or can be hired for several hundred a day!

It’s been a lot of fun building it and I’ve learnt quite a lot too  -though my programming skills are still rubbish.   My woodworking skills aren’t much better and the wooden framework probably took me longer to build than the electronics (big thanks to my mate Graham, who helped with the woodworking side of things).

And does it work?  Well, it’s against the clock, as I said, and the most I have managed to score is 42 (yes, I know: the meaning of life, the universe and everything). Amelia, however, has managed 62… which is really annoying!

Bloody kids!

So, now that’s built, I need another project to keep me busy.

“NEXT!”

Scum

Even as I gushed almost lyrically about the beauty of our local woodland in my previous post, evil forces conspired to ruin it for me… and for all of us.

Gypos!

There is a public footpath that travels alongside the woods, along with a swath of grass. Last weekend, gypsies cut the padlock and chain on the large gate that the council use to get their mowers in.

Before we knew it, about a dozen caravans had set up camp alongside the woods.

Tatty old Transit vans and pick-up trucks parked on the grass and kids on motorbikes and quad bikes tore through the woods, making it very unpleasant for those of us that used the woods for recreational walking.

Many dogging friends gave up and took their animals elsewhere, whilst a rumour (possibly apocryphal) that the gypsies had held a dog to ransom until it’s owner paid up, forced many others to give the place a wide berth. Not me:  Saber and I continued our walks in the woods… but we did steer clear of where they were camped.

Mercifully, they have now moved on, after just a week, but they left their mess behind them – a small part of which is shown in the pic at the top of this post.

I felt sorry for those houses whose gardens backed on to the grass area where they camped. I heard reports of rubbish and even human faeces being thrown over the fences into their back gardens.

Even though the council have been quick to clear up after them, they’ve left their mark: broken branches and damaged bushes; scorched patches where they’ve had fires; flattened grass and flowers.

And – of a course – a frightened community.

And they wonder why no-one likes them.

Woody

We are lucky, in that just five or six minutes walk from home, we have a small area of woodland to visit.

And – having a dog – we visit it often.

Almost daily.

According to the Forestry Commission board at the entrance, the woods are classified as “Ancient Woodland” and are estimated to be about 800 years old.

Saber loves it in there: as far as she is concerned, these are HER woods and she runs around like she owns the place, chasing squirrels and the occasional Muntjac Deer which, I hasten to add, she never gets close to catching, as they quickly disappear into the undergrowth.

And we’ll often meet other walkers and dog owners in there and after a while, we all get to know each other.

But, by far, I prefer it when we don’t meet anyone else: early mornings or late evenings just before the the sun sets, is best.  It’s perfectly quiet as we walk along the multiple tracks that traverse the woods and sometimes I find myself wondering about those who have walked here before… not like yesterday or last week, but hundreds of years ago: Elizabethan; Georgian; Jacobean.

Are our footsteps treading the same paths, I wonder?

At certain times of the year, a low mist or fog will hover over the ground early in the mornings, mixing with the long shadows cast by the trees and just making the place feel even more wondrous.

And at this time of the year, the bluebells come out, adding some extra pizzazz to the greens and browns that colour this particular piece of countryside. I took the above picture yesterday, and tonight I converted it to black & white and then colour popped the bluebells. All a bit rushed, but you get the idea of what I was trying to do.

Buzby’s book

This came through the door the other day.

Look at it: pathetic!

Those of you of a certain age – that’s my entire readership, then… yes, both of you – will remember when the phone book was such an epic tome, that it wouldn’t actually fit through the letterbox. And the ‘… good ol’ Yellow Pages’ wasn’t much smaller.

I can remember seeing Geoff Capes on Nationwide (I think), showing just how strong he was by making a Herculean effort to tear a phone book in half.

This latest edition is a combination of both the residential phone book  AND local businesses. Those two books stacked on top of one another would have been about two and a half inches thick! This new one is exactly one quarter inch. I doubt that Geoff would have much of a problem with that. In fact, I reckon even I could probably tear that in half with just my bare hands.

In fact…

*Five minutes later*

 

 

 

 

I RULE!

(actually, that was bloody hard!)

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.
Apparently.
Bollocks!

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

Ouch!

Musings

I had to smile this morning, when I received an email from Sony: their regular newsletter detailing all their latest offerings, designed to tempt me to part with my hard-earned. Pictures of their latest TVs; Home Cinema systems; Speakers; Headphones; Cameras and Smartphones. It was this last item that made me smile… or rather, wince.

 

Introducing the 21:9 Experience – with a wide screen, borderless design, you can multi-task with ease and enjoy films on your smartphone the way they were meant to be seen.

“… enjoy films on your smartphone, the way they were meant to be seen.”

Meant to be seen?

On a tiny, likkle 6.5 inch smartphone screen, rather than on a bloody great ginormous screen at the cinema?

I don’t think so, somehow, Sony.

 

But, I also had to smile yesterday, when I found myself following a little silver Corsa up the M1, during my morning commute. As we were stationary for quite a while – as is always the case with the M1 on a weekday morning – I was able to read what was written on the back of the car.

It’s a wonder how pepole find time to hate, when life is too short to love

This wasn’t scribbled on a piece of card and placed on the parcel shelf; it was (or at least, looked like it had been) done professionally.

If you are going to pay a professional to sign-write your car with rubbish sayings, you’d like to think they could spell!

 

Weekend activities

My wrists ache.

I know why: my balls were much too heavy last night.

I should have used lighter ones.

But, that’s the trouble I have with bowling balls: only the really heavy ones have holes big enough for my fat fingers.

One ball – with particularly capacious finger holes – reminded me of an old girlfriend… but, that’s another story.

So yes, we went ten-pin bowling last night – a family outing for Amelia’s birthday.   I won.  Of course.  Me and my big heavy balls.

A good start to the weekend.

And this morning, I have been up to Bletchley Park again, where I had a very pleasant wander round.  I went with a colleague from work and I pretty much acted as an unofficial tour guide for him. He certainly seemed happy enough with my commentary. Hopefully, I got my facts right.

The most enjoyable bit for me, though, was visiting the National Radio Centre and explaining to him – a fairly non-technical person – how radio works. He was fascinated by it all and I think he thoroughly enjoyed the visit. We both did.

Tonight will be spent with pizza and a couple of beers in front of the telly, where we will re-watch Infinity Wars from the Marvel canon, in readiness for Endgame, which will be out soon. But not soon enough. I can’t wait.

And Sunday? Well, I’m not sure whether to start on my next project, or whether I should try sorting the garage out.

Now, I know what I should be doing, but… well, you know.

When Date Night Goes Wrong

In an effort to claw back some of the quality ‘together’ time that we have lost over the years (thanks to the kids) last night, the current Mrs Masher and I locked them in a cupboard and went out to see a show.

It’s been quite a while since we went to the theatre together, and so we decided to make a night of it and booked into a hotel as well.

Rather than pay a small fortune to see a show in the West End, we instead paid a small fortune to see one in Aylesbury.

Yes: Aylesbury.

Our accommodation was at a Wetherspoons pub, which doubled up as a hotel and whilst the pub was a little bit tired and old-looking, I’m pleased to say that our room was clean, modern and comfortable.

We thought it prudent to have something to eat and drink, before we ventured over to the theatre, which was just a few minutes walk away. I went for ham, egg and chips – you can’t go wrong with that – while Mrs M opted for scampi.

The show we went to see was called The Comedy About A Bank Robbery and it was a fast-paced, gag-packed show full of slapstick.  Made by the same people that did the critically-acclaimed The Play That Goes Wrong, I was suspicious when the stage-manager walked on halfway through and declared that something had indeed gone wrong and that there would be a short hiatus whilst they sorted it out.

From our seating position – right in the middle of row F – we had an excellent view of the stage and whilst I could see some activity going on behind the set, there didn’t seem to be too much going on. After about five mins, the play resumed. I think there had been a problem with one of the props and they had to hurriedly change the way the scene played out. Of course, not knowing what was supposed to happen, it didn’t make much difference to us in the audience.

It was a fun show though and at the end, the cast all donned red noses, as it was Comic Relief night, and then fleeced another fiver out of me.

I was looking forward to getting back to the hotel at the end of the night – not just because of the adult shenanigans that were on the cards, but because I was genuinely quite tired.  Mrs M kept complaining she was really hungry and, upon sighting one of those food vans in the street, she rushed over and ordered herself a hot-dog, which she scoffed down, ravenously.

We had a couple of drinks before heading up to the room.

Mrs M lay on the bed. “I don’t feel too good” she said.

“What’s wro…”

Before I could finish, she legged it to the bathroom and barfed her dinner into the toilet.

A few minutes later she wandered back in. “You OK?”, I asked. She certainly didn’t look OK.

“No, I feel fucking awful”, she said, before turning round and heading straight back to the barfroom for another chat with Phil and Hughie on the great white telephone.

And then, a bit later, the sluice gate at the other end opened up.

Lovely.

And that’s how it it was for much of the night: her getting up every half-hour to go to the loo and me trying to not listen to the eruptions emanating from the bathroom.

Neither of us got much sleep… but certainly not for the reasons we’d intended.

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