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Showing posts from 2010

But it means nothing..

The other day, I was on a train home. Opposite sat a woman who seemed to be simlutaneously trying to break every rule of sitting on a train. She was eating smelly food, listening to loud music and had her feet on the seats. If only she'd had an open container of alcohol, she'd have had a full house. Something about her annoyed me - it wasn't the smell of the food, nor the music - it was the container in which she had her pile of fried chicken. Written on the edge of the lid along one of the flaps were the words "Thank you - please call again". Such ridiculous phrases do annoy me. Let's presume for a minute that I had bought a huge box of greasy fried chicken and was shovelling it into my mouth. I look down at the box and see the words "Thank you - please call again". Maybe I wasn't planning on going back to that particular chicken vendor, but seeing those words may just make me think "actually, that's very kind of them to say

What I did this week...

You know how office Christmas parties are usually dull affairs. Everyone makes polite conversation over a glass of wine and then heads off home early. The only thing which can liven up a Christmas party is if someone - maybe someone who's had a bit more to drink than they are use to, perhaps - says or does something memorable. Welcome to my Christmas party 2010... I've been in my "new" job since July. I haven't really discussed my private life with many of my colleagues. It's not that I hide anything from them - I just haven't gone out of my way to make them aware of my domestic arrangements. There's been a lot of use of phrases such as "my other half" and "my partner" bandied around when it comes to discussing weekend plans and holidays... Anyway, I wasn't going to drink at yesterday's Christmas party. I was due to head out to my partner's parents place in the evening (I'm doing it again...) and so the pla

Roof Gardening

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Roof Gardening How we turned out back garden from this.. . ... to this... The basics Roof gardening has challenges over and above gardening on the ground. Not only does everything have to be grown in containers, but everything needs to stand on the roof of a building – and don’t forget that the roof of the building may be the floor of your garden but it’s also the ceiling of the people below. We are lucky enough to have some outdoor space with our flat in London, and we’ve spent the past few years turning a couple of empty, flat terraces into lush green gardens. Our front garden is a more traditional roof garden – Mediterranean trees in pots against the wall and a screen of bamboo to shelter delicate plants from the worst of the wind. This garden was already planted to some degree when we moved in, and our work has been to add to what was already there. The back garden was, as you can see from the photo above, literally an empty concret

It's not how it used to be...

Over the years, we've been to loads of TV and radio recordings. There was a time when I was always on the BBC tickets website and going along to TV Centre after work to see a recording. The deal is always that the tickets are free, but that more tickets are given out than there are seats - on the one hand that means there's definitely a full house but on the other hand it means that often there's people in the queue with tickets who don't get in. Our experience in the past was always that the audience team got it about right, and as long as you arrived half an hour or so before then you'd get in. Not so anymore, so it seems. In the past couple of weeks we've arrived in plenty of time (over half an hour before the "admission on site" time on the tickets) for two recordings and not got in to either. Of course, it's just part of the process, but it is quite annoying when it happens twice in quick succession. I wonder why things have changed?

A war of words

Almost every morning I walk through Paddington station on my way to work. There's a little booth where they sell smoothies made with fresh fruit which are rather nice, and a good way to start the working day. I order my smoothie, and as it's being made, I pay. Whenever I pay, the staff ask "would you like a pastry with that?" I don't want a pastry with my smoothie and say "no thank you". But that got me to thinking - is there a way in which I could ask for my smoothie in such a way that I won't get asked if I want a pastry at all. Saying "I would like a mango smoothie but I don't want a pastry" is a little direct and maybe a little rude. I've tried "I would just like a smoothie". I've tried "I would like just a smoothie". I've tried "I'd just like a smoothie today please". And I always get asked if I would like a pastry. So - I give up - I cannot think of a way to ask for my smoot

How to become a lesbian in 60 minutes..?

I don't watch high-brow TV. I watch TV when I feel like turning off my brain and having something just to keep my eyes busy. So last night, I stumbled across "Dawn Goes Lesbian" on Watch. The premise of the show was the Dawn Porter - a straight woman - would see if she could understand lesbians, and see whether she was capable of becoming one herself. So - rather than just ask herself the question "I'm a woman, do I fancy other women?" - she decided to go on a personal quest - complete with TV crew - to find out about lesbians and see if she was capable of falling for another woman. Whilst Dawn herself seemed likeable enough, the show was beyond trash and at times went beyond patronising into the borders of offensive. To investigate whether she was a lesbian, she moved into a house with some lesbians (did she think it was contagious and so she may catch it from one of them..?) and then went out to a lesbian bar to see what lesbians do on a night out. App

Dealing with the after life

My father died recently. That was the reason for all of the train trips up and down to Chester which you may have noticed. This posting isn't about that, though, it's about what happens after life. Not the grieving process, or deciding which ornaments to keep for sentimental reasons - but the logistical process of administering an estate. It's both a simple process, and a complex one. I've never sent to many letters or written so many cheques in such a short space of time. Out of the process of sorting out my Dad's estate, one thing has stood out for me. That is the difference in level of service - and general approach to the situation - taken by different companies. The requirements have been the same in every case. In every single case, I just want the company to stop providing whatever service they have been providing, and tell me whether the estate owes them money, or they owe money to the estate. Simple. Or so you'd think. I think it's worth

Things to do at the station

For various reasons - which I shalln't go into here - I've been spending a lot of time on trains recently. Anyone who's read previous posts, even though there aren't so many of them, will have gathered that I find some aspects of travel quite annoying. And there are two things which I've noticed today which have made me curious, if not irritated. Firstly, why is everyone so keen to rush to board the train as soon as possible. These days, most seats are reserved, and the train's departure time is timetabled, so I don't see that rushing onto the train as soon as possible achieves anything at all other than annoy the people patiently queuing to show their ticket and get on the train. Secondly - why no bins on stations? The excuse given is always security, although I fail to see why removing the bins helps. I know bombs have been planted in bins in the past, but surely if a terrorist was planning to plant a bomb at a station, they wouldn't get to t

How to survive being useless

I’m currently in the process of having some things I bought online delivered.  I say “in the process of” because the things in question have been given to the courier who are currently in the process of trying to deliver them to my house. It always intrigued me how couriers could survive in what must be a very competitive market when they give very bad service to the people they are delivering to.  But the answer is really quite obvious. Couriers aren’t paid by the people who receive the items, they are paid by the people sending them.  In the particular case I’m thinking about the couriers (the courier in case you care) only deliver on behalf of business with accounts.  So how does that protect them from the normal effects of being crap at what they do? Well, let’s look at my particular case.  I bought something online.  I bought it online because it was a good price, and the delivery charge looked reasonable.  It didn’t occur to me to look at which delivery service they were us

My favourite mistakes

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I collect coins and banknotes.  Yes, I am aware that makes me “a bit sad” but I like it.  One thing I find fascinating are the mistakes.  The errors.  The coins and banknotes we were never meant to get our grubby little public hands on. Mistakes in bank note printing are quite common.  The paper flies through the machines at an incredible rate, and folds and other problems with the paper are quite common.  Notes are often miscut, meaning large blank paper flaps remain on the side, for instance.  Below is a photo of a UK fiver showing a slightly rarer error.  Both the design from the front of the note and the design from the back of the note have been printed on the same side.  The most likely cause of this is that one sheet of banknotes fell on top of another before the ink was fully dry. Errors in coins are rarer.  Coins are generally pressed one at a time from blank pieces of metal of the right size.  The lack of flexible paper and post-print cutting makes mistakes rarer tha

Things you overhear…

I was waiting at Euston station for a train yesterday. The train was delayed. I would say “as is typical” but in fairness to Virgin Trains, the service from London to Chester is usually pretty reliable. Anyway – waiting for the delayed train, I was standing with the rest of the world staring at the departure board trying to guess which of the incoming trains shown on the arrivals board would become our outgoing train so I work out which platform I should be edging towards. Having a pre-booked seat reservation didn’t stop me from thinking that getting on the train sooner rather than later would somehow speed up my journey. Two guys were standing next to me. From the way they were interacting, I’d say they were probably workmates who both happened to be getting trains from Euston around the same time, so had travelled there together. They were talking very loudly, and so even had I wanted to, avoiding hearing their conversation would’ve been somewhat impossible. The taller and

Funny by numbers

Last night, we went along to the Channel 4 Comedy Gala.  It’s been recorded and will be on TV next Monday evening. There were a LOT of stand-up comedians on the bill.  And I mean a LOT.  Each of them was given around five minutes and as you’d expect, some tickled my funny bone and some didn’t. But as this isn’t a review – I shall limit myself to saying Bill Bailey and Michael McIntyre good – but that was expected.  Lee Evans not as annoying as I’d feared and actually quite funny. More interesting was to note the same formula used by so many of the comedians on the bill.  Before we look at the formula itself, there’s a few things you need to know about the gig.  It was in the O2.  That’s a very big venue.  To get onto the stage, the acts had to walk up a few stairs The gig was in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Armed with just those three facts you could reconstruct the set of many of the comedians on the bill.  So let’s do that. First, walk up the stairs. 

Popular science need not be patronising

I’ve read a lot of “popular science” books.  Put me in a book shop and I’ll be headed straight for the section filled with books called “Shrödinger’s Something” and have a picture of a cat on the front.  (*) Time – and a lot of reading – has lead me to believe that many authors mistake the readers of popular science books for idiots and seem to think that making the science simple involves aiming for a simple readership.  To think that way is folly – most people pick up a book on quantum theory or relativity because they want to understand it – not because they want to read tabloid-style rantings about time travel and clocks slowing down in fast planes.  I’ve got a particular book in mind here which was so dire I was screaming at the pages during the last chapter… The problem with most popular science books – and many science documentaries on TV – is that they aren’t created by people who understand the science.  If you want an accessible depiction of a scientific concept then find

Seeing the world through my eyes

Everyone sees the world differently.  A shining example of modern architecture to one person may appear as a monstrous carbuncle to others.  This is how I see the world. I was sitting in a café having lunch on Sunday, and there were four stools lined up against the wall opposite.  They were not spaced equally.  You may ask why I was looking at the spacing of the stools and the answer is that I wasn’t looking at the spacing specifically – I was merely glancing at the stools and the asymmetrical arrangement leapt out at me. The imperfect arrangement of the stools looked wrong.  No – it didn’t look wrong – it felt wrong.  It was wrong. It’s not an obsession with neatness – anyone who knows me will tell you that’s something I don’t suffer from – but simply something in my brain which tells me that an asymmetrical arrangement of stools is wrong. There are other examples.  Hanging clothes out on the line on holiday once, I noticed that I was ensuring that identical clothes pegs were

Don’t get me wrong, but…

There’s been a lot in the press recently about one of the James Bulger killers who’s been taken back to prison for breaking the terms of his release. Also, stirred up by the tabloids, there have been increasing calls for him to lose his anonymity and face trial for these new charges under his real name.  There have also been people who really should know better claiming that the charges against him should be made public. I can understand the anger in this case.  I can understand how emotional it is.  But I disagree entirely with the notion that anyone not involved in the case has any right to know the nature of the new charges.   We may want to know – and indeed I’m sure everyone is curious – but that does not in itself give us the right to be told. Everyone in this country has the right to a fair trial for every offence of which they are accused.  The fact that Jon Venables has already been found guilty of a very serious – and truly horrendous – crime previously does not remove

Ga Ga Ooh La La

I’ve waited a week or so before writing this, just to ensure that the sheer delight from seeing Lady GaGa at the O2 didn’t fade with time, it hasn’t. I should declare now that I’m a Lady GaGa fan.  She’s completely nutty, but I like that in a pop star. The show at the O2 was even better than I had expected – and my expectations were pretty high.  There was a Rolls Royce with a piano under the bonnet, a fountain which shot flames, a grand piano which set itself on fire and of course the huge monster which she killed by shooting sparks from her breasts.  As you do.  But, amongst all the silliness, every song was sung live, with a live band.  She spent the whole two hours in fully choreographed dance routines.   Not only can she sing, she can play the piano and she writes almost all of her songs. I’m sick and tired of modern pop stars who seem to think a concert involves prancing around with a few dancers whilst someone back stage presses play on your latest CD and you move your

Private thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve written in here.  No particular reason – nothing sinister, nor anything exciting, I’m afraid. Since I last wrote in here, I’ve bought a duvet cover, had the nicest meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant and been to Windsor Castle – what an exciting life I lead, eh? At least spring is on the way.  Pottering around in the garden, you don’t have to look too hard to see the daffodils and crocuses starting to peek up through the winter mulch.  The snowdrops are already out in full force in some parts of the garden. The other day, we spent a morning wandering around RHS Wisley in the cold.  “Why?” you may ask.  Well gardens at this time of year are rather dull.  So, we took a trip to Wisley to see how the RHS manage to keep the garden interesting at this time of year. Unfortunately, the answer seems to lie in dogwood and hellebores – neither of which we have the space to add into our garden just for a splash of winter colour. So, I guess we’re stuck with a

What should I do?

The end of a decade is usually a time for reflection. Working in the mobile industry, I’m surrounded by phones and read lots of blog postings about how mobile phones have changed, and how the iPhone brought to the public consciousness the idea of adding applications to a phone to add functionality to it. But the mobile phone itself has changed other things in our lives, which have changed the way we interact with people in more subtle ways. For instance, almost all of the time, you see the number of the person calling you when you get a call these days. And pretty often, they’ll be in your contacts, so you’ll actually get to see who it is. I’ve become so used to the idea that you know who’s calling you before you pick up the phone, I can hardly remember the sensation of picking up the phone and saying “hello?” without knowing who is on the other end. I have a variety of ways of saying “hello” depending on who’s calling me. There’s a “hello” for people I speak to regularly, a “

Isn’t it funny that famous people die at Christmas?

2009 was notable for the fact that nobody particularly famous died over the Christmas period.  Every year, there seems to be an expectation that at least one or two famous people will die during the Christmas holidays.  That got me thinking.  I’m pretty sure that people die every day of the year, but statistically, just how many famous people would you expect to die during the Christmas holidays? According to the figures I found online, around 1% of the world’s population die every year.  Let’s presume that figure is the same for celebrities as for the population in general. Secondly, we need to know how many famous people are there.  There are around 30,000 entries in Who's Who . If we presume that a quarter of them are “famous” but that we can think of the same number again of people who are “famous” but aren’t in “Who’s Who” – the kind of people who are on Celebrity Big Brother, for instance, then we end up with around 15,000 famous people. Feels about right to me. So, com

Looking forward to 2010

2009 wasn’t a great year.  I don’t seem to be the only one saying so, either.  But still it’s gone now, and although the whole concept of numbering the years is arbitrary, the reset of the annual clock to 1 does give an opportunity to draw a line and make a few changes. So far, 2010 has been “cold with a flutter of snow” but I expect there’ll be some sunshine along the way at some point. In the summer, our local station reopens again after nearly three years (East London Line Extension) giving us direct access to Dalston, Croydon and Crystal Palace from our local station.  Lovely.  That’ll be useful, then. But before that, we get the second part of Doctor Who: End of Time – starring a blonde John Simm as a rather deranged Master and Timothy Dalton as a spitting Time Lord.  I actually enjoyed the first episode on Christmas Day, my only concern is that in order to undo the “Master Race” thing, there’s going to be a reset and we’ve had a few too many resets in recent years and it’d