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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.

Cleaning up the gene pool

As internet “challenge” crazes go, this has to be one of the more stupid.

Andy Warhol promised that we would all get our 15 minutes of fame.

Personally, I’m not interested.

But, many are and they crave that recognition. 

And they will do almost anything – it seems –  to get it.

Including posting up videos of themselves eating laundry detergent as part of the “Tide Pod Challenge“!

When we have young children, we educate them to the dangers of such things. We put child-safe locks on the cupboard doors to prevent them having access to detergents and bleaches and other dangerous cleaning chemicals. And we continue to warn them of such things until we know they are old enough to realise the dangers themselves.

And then some fucking moron comes along on YouTube and shows them how cool he is, by eating such stuff.

To their credit, YouTube have been quick to remove the videos and Proctor & Gamble – the manufacturers of Tide Pods – have released warnings about trying this, on several social media platforms.

But it wasn’t quick enough to stop dozens of other Darwin Award contenders from giving it a go and then subsequently ending up in hospital with poisoning.

News of these idiots, has been reported in newspapers and on the radio and television news outlets around the world.

Fame at last.

Moon River

I received a letter from the hospital, a little while back.

You’re getting on a bit, now“, it said, “and, as such, we’d like to stick a camera up your bum… if that’s alright.”

OK, I may have paraphrased it a bit there, but in essence, that is what it said. “We want to stick a fuckin’ great big camera, with “Property of the BBC” written all over it, up your arsehole… so we can check for bowel cancer.”

Well, I wasn’t having any of it, I can tell you. 

That’s until several mates of a similar age, made me see sense: it was for my own good.

Apparently.

So yesterday, I wandered up to the hospital and, somewhat apprehensively, pressed the buzzer on the door marked “Endoscopy”.

This was after I had “prepared” my lower bowel for inspection. Have you ever tried to give yourself an enema? Not the most enjoyable or dignified experience, that’s for sure! 

Back at the hospital, after a bit of form-filling and having an ID tag fitted to my wrist – they didn’t want to stick the camera up the wrong backside! – I stripped off and put on a hospital gown and a pair of baggy shorts with a hole at the back… a hole at the back for obvious reasons.

The doctor introduced himself and his team – there were five of them – and they set about getting on with the procedure.

“I’m just going to put some lubricant in that area”, he said, reaching over with his gloved hand. He didn’t fuck about! No wooing or advising me that I might want to bite on something: he was straight up there! Yoinks!

I’d barely got my breath back when… up went the camera!

A TV monitor was placed in front of me and the doctor helpfully explained what was what, as he pushed the snakelike camera further into me. To be honest, it didn’t really interest me much, seeing my own insides like that.  “Can’t you put Loose Women on… or something?”, I asked. 

Apparently, not.

I closed my eyes and hoped it would be over soon. 

After what felt like an hour, but was probably only ten minutes of prodding and pushing and me continually feeling like I was shitting myself (but wasn’t), the doctor pulled it all out and gave me a clean bill of health in the botty department. Yay!

And, following today’s news, I now need to go and get something else checked out.

Who knew that getting older could be so much fun!

Pinch Punch

I really made a rod for my own back, with this, didn’t I?

Twelve years ago -when I set myself the challenge of writing a daily post for a whole month – I really did think that would be it: do it once, just to prove you can do it.

Only an idiot would try to do it again the following year.

And the one after that.

And the one after… well, you get the idea.

As with previous years, I approach this blog-a-thon challenge with trepidation. Because, every year, I think I’m not going to be able to complete it. And yet, somehow, I always do.

Of course, it helps when you have a two-week cruising holiday in the middle of the month, because that gives you something to write about.

But, I haven’t got one of those to fall back on this year. So it’ll probably just be endless posts about what I had for lunch and how the M25 is the worst motorway in the universe.

In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to be joined in my quest by our Midlands correspondent with a Welsh lilt: Brennig and also by our French correspondent with a decidedly (not quite Cockney) London accent: Dave. I don’t know if they will be joining me this month, but if so, I fear they may well be setting the standard.

I Really Need One Of These…

…for my Monday morning commute.

<Clicky>  (Video updated to a longer but better version)

 

Lofty ideals

I have spent the last two nights up in the loft, trying to clear some space, because we are decorating the kids’ bedrooms and some extra electrical wiring needs to be run in.

Now, I know that most of the stuff up there  (which Mrs Masher refers to as ‘a load of old junk’, but is actually all really useful stuff) is mine.

And I know that I really do need to sort it out, sometime.

But.

It’s not ALL mine.

You know those Really Useful plastic boxes that they sell in such places as Homebase and Staples?  We’ve got loads of ‘em up in the loft. All different shapes and sizes. And all full of tat. Apart from a couple of them that belong to me, that are obviously full of really useful stuff.

Really Useful boxes filled with really useful stuff.

But, there are several boxes full of stuff that the kids did when they were young: paintings, small clay models; shit like that. Why are we keeping it all? It’s memorabilia.

Apparently.

There are boxes of clothes that Mrs Masher is hanging onto, just in case she’s ever likely to squeeze into them again.

Slim chance.

Wallpaper!  You know when you finish decorating and you have half a roll of wallpaper left over, and you think “I’ll hang onto that, just in case some bizarre accident ruins a single piece and I have to re-hang it” , then up in the loft it goes?  Well, yesterday, I brought down dozens of rolls and semi-rolls of wallpaper that had ended up up there. Some of it dated back twenty years to when we first moved in and Mrs M and I spent quite a while going through it all; recognising various wallpapers but not being able to remember which room they’d been hung in.

And suitcases!  We are a family of four. So why did I count thirteen different suitcases? Jeez!

Now, I’m not one for New Year resolutions but, that loft IS going to be sorted out.

This year.

You heard it here first.

But I think I may need to order a skip.

Massage

At the request of young Jules:

I’ve always felt that massages were a waste of time. Over the years, I’ve had a couple of amateur ones – performed by Mrs Masher – and never felt any real benefit from them.  The story below is an extract taken from my Holiday Diaries, from when we were in Egypt some time back.  Mrs M had booked herself in for the full pamper package at the on site spa and she had persuaded me to try a ‘proper’ massage… 

At this time of year, the sun starts setting here shortly after 4pm and it was already low in the sky with the light starting to fade, so I decided it would probably be a good time to go and have my massage.

Arriving at the Spa & Fitness Centre, I was given a menu detailing the range of different massages available. I opted for the straightforward Classic Massage: none of those special toning oils or aromatherapy crap for me!

I was led to a small room lit by candles, which had a massage bed in the middle of it: one of those with the hole in it to stick your face into. I removed all my clothes apart from my swimming shorts and lay face down on the bed as instructed and waited for the ample breasted, fit young dusky maiden to come and rub her soft and sensuous hands all over my body.

A young bloke turned up, of course.

He covered me with warm towels then his hot, oily hands started working my feet and toes. I was biting my lip in an effort to not  laugh, as it tickled so much.

Then, he moved up to my calves. “Do you want it soft, medium or hard?” he asked softly.

“Pardon? Oh, er, medium will be fine, thanks.”

His hands rubbed and slapped at my calves and then he moved up to my thighs. He pulled the legs of my swimming shorts up as high as possible until they resembled an ill-fitting thong. His hands kneaded and squeezed and pummelled my thighs and buttocks. “Relax boss,” he said, feeling me tense up at his touch. Relax? There is a man squeezing my buttocks and he’s not a doctor! How am I supposed to bloody relax?  

But I tried. I let myself go, telling myself all the time that there was nothing to worry about: that this man was a professional masseuse. In doing so, I found I actually started to enjoy it. I was cautious not to enjoy it too much though: didn’t want to find myself nursing an unexpected and unwanted semi!

Gentle Egyptian music played in the background and the young fellow sang softly as he worked on me. I was starting to doze off when he pulled the towel from my back and rolled the top of my trunks down. Suddenly, I was wide awake again, as I felt him climb up onto the bed, his feet either side of me, straddling my backside.

Then something warm and wet spurted across my back!

“It’s oil! It’s just fucking oil!” I told myself, as I lay there, face through the hole in the bed, my eyes darting frantically around the floor to find something to focus on and take my mind away from what was going on behind my head.

Again, he kneaded and squeezed and pummelled and pushed, but much harder this time, his position above the bed giving him the extra leverage he needed to push every ounce of muscle or fat through the back of my ribcage. It actually hurt!

Then he asked me to turn over and he massaged my shoulders and neck. Fresh, warm towels were placed over me again and then he used just his fingertips to massage my head and my face… which just felt fucking weird.

When he had finished he motioned me to get off the bed and get dressed. “How do you feel?” he asked.

“Really good,” I lied.

Anyway, I’ve tried it now and I stand by my original claim that it’s a complete waste of time. Yes, I suppose it was enjoyable – in a way – but at the end of it, I didn’t feel any better; no more limber or looser or whatever.

At least I need never bother with another one.

Crippled

Well, what a great start to the New Year.

Last Wednesday, I awoke with a pain in my lower back. Not debilitating, or anything like that, but a bit sore on the left hand side.

It stayed with me for a couple of days and didn’t seem to be easing, but it wasn’t causing me too much bother. 

And then, Friday lunchtime, I was sitting on the sofa, eating a sandwich whilst watching a bit of telly, when I did something that would put me in agony for the next few days.

I crossed my legs.

That’s all: I just crossed my legs.

As I swung one leg over the other, the pain in my back shot from one side to the other. 

It has literally crippled me. I’m walking around like I’ve shat myself and it takes me about ten minutes to get dressed… that’s without the socks. I can’t put them on at all!

As a long-term sufferer of back pain, I know that it will clear up. Eventually.

Meantime, I’m on industrial strength Ibuprofen.

First day back at work, today. That should be interesting.

I Was First!

In readiness for the Christmas Quiz – which we have every year at the big family get-together – I wanted some Quiz Buzzers, to stop the arguments over who shouted first.

The ones I used last year – which I built many years ago, from a circuit in one of the electronics magazines – worked well, but there were too many wires spread across the tables and chairs,  between the push buttons and the control unit.  A Health & Safety nightmare!

And so this year, I looked around for a wireless version. They are bloody expensive to buy (300 quid and up, from what I could see), so a homebrew version would have to be the order of the day.

After a bit of searching on the internets, I found a wonderfully simple Arduino design from a German chap called Felix. I say ‘simple’ but of course, all the cleverness is in the software. 

His design only allowed for two buttons though and I wanted four.  I thought that I would be able to figure out how to add more, from his code, but my coding skills are rubbish and I couldn’t make head nor tail of it… it might as well have been in Greek!  So, I dropped him a line asking if he would be so kind as to amend his code to allow for more buzzers. 24 hours later, he’d done so. Splendid fellow!

I then added a little bit of simple code of my own, to allow the Master control unit to give an audio alert when any button had been pressed, as I found in testing that it was quite easy for a player to lock the other players out, by pressing his button and then just keeping it covered with his hand, so no-one could see (Harry, you little cheat!).

I won’t go into the circuit here, or the code, as that can all be downloaded from Felix’s GitHub Repository.  But, if you plan on building one, I’m happy to supply my extra bit of code for the audio alert – which I feel is a definite requirement.

The Arduino Nano boards were sourced from ebay, along with the NRF24L01 radio modules for a very reasonable price. The big buttons are 60mm ones from Arcade World and are very good quality. The Tupperware came from Sainsbury’s.  🙂

I’m pleased to say it all works wonderfully.

I just need to put a quiz together now!

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