Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hope you all enjoyed Christmas

I had a wonderful Christmas, I was very fortunate to have such a great Christmas.

I had most of my family with me and Z this Christmas, celebrating Christmas. I went to church for the first time in many many years, to celebrate in the European style. That was a very different experience and wasn't as bad as I imagined and with my parents there as well, being reminded that my father used to be in the choir when he was younger, I had totally forgotten until I heard him singing, puts me to shame quite easily.

The food for the Slovak Christmas was a sauerkraut soup, and then fish in batter with potatoes, onions, which Z did so very well and made us all very full. The most fun part of the proceedings on Christmas Eve was to watch everyone open their presents. My parents liked their mini gift, thankfully my mother has a good sense of humour. Watching Z open her presents I got her was really great, especially she had a few surprises, things she never expected to get, which just made it all the better. I got very lucky, some very nice clothes and by named brands too - Paul Smith, which is some really nice stuff. It is an advantage to have Z working in Selfridges......

On Christmas Day, I managed with Z to make a lovely English Christmas dinner for everyone, and for once I didn't manage to make a mess of the cooking, so thankfully everyone had nice tasting food, an organic chicken which was very nice. I was surprised how well I managed to get it done, so very happy to make it a couple of days which all those who were there enjoyed.

This Christmas has been a very lovely time and it was so nice to celebrate it with my family and with Z. Maybe in the future I will be lucky enough to have all of my family around at the same time, but who knows. And if you are reading it, the rest of my family, maybe another time, when there is less physical distance between us.

For the rest of the festive season, everyone enjoy. I have shopping to do tomorrow, and see if there is any bargains to grab, not just any old rubbish, stuff we need for the house. So not too much to spend, thankfully. I think my credit card is very sore from this Christmas period, but all worthwhile.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas to all

Well I have finished work for the year and don't have to go back until the 2nd Jan 2007 so that is a relief, time to relax and enjoy a little break.

For the first time ever I am hosting a Christmas get together, and not just one but two. Z encouraged me to host a Christmas get together for my family, well as much of my family as I can as sadly part of my family is thousands of miles away, so part of it won't be with us which is a shame, as I know it would have been lovely to have all of them together tonight and tomorrow.

We are going to have two Christmas celebrations, greedy I know. Going to celebrate it the Slovak way today on Christmas Eve, having Slovak food and doing things the traditional Slovak way, opening presents on Christmas Eve, going to the church during the day on Christmas Eve. Going to be a different way to do things, sadly I can't bring the snow Z is used to at this time of year, but otherwise we are trying to recreate Christmas as much as possible for her the way she has celebrated in the past.

Then on Christmas Day we are going to have the English style food, with a chicken not a turkey, crackers, etc.

So my family will get both celebrations, and I will get to experience what it is like hosting such celebrations. Given my cooking isn't the greatest I am hoping my mother will be on hand a little bit to ensure we at least have something edible for the Christmas Day. I know Z will have no problem ensuring her food is perfect.

To everyone out there, have a wonderful Christmas however you celebrate it, enjoy the company of those close to you, and may 2007 be a wonderful year for all of you.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Petition for English Parliament

For those who have read my blog of recent, you will know I am supporting the campaign for an English Parliament, to give us English a say in our own country, not to let it be run by those who are elected north of the border, who can't have a say in their own countries affairs, but are happy to ruin our England. Examples like Gordon Brown, John Reid, and many other Scottish MPs who remit for their own people is less than it is for us English

Petition for English Parliament

And as the government launched e-Petition and Tony Blair has admitted that the English want their own parliament and government, but is unwilling to give it to us. Nice touch in democracy Tony. Why don't you force through an English Parliament before Gordon comes along and ensure you have a legacy for the English, because we want our own parliament, we want to have control of what is ours. How about it?

For those who believe that England should have its own parliament, sign up, you never know it might actually happen. Worth dreaming

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Britain's borders not sufficiently manned

This was on the news yesterday, and though I shouldn’t be surprised it does surprise me, because not that Britain is so easy to enter, with little work to get in, but also that elsewhere in Europe that it is that simple to get most nations passports, which then are used to allow people who shouldn’t be allowed freedom to travel, the ease to get around without question.

As you can see from the link Britain fails fake passport test it is also suggesting that what we thought were high numbers of Poles coming to the UK, might actually not be the case, it is suggesting that it is more illegal immigrants who posed as Poles.

So as most people already know, we have a serious migration problem in Europe, the borders are all too easy for people to get through and travel around with little to deter them.

Many also make their way to the UK, simply because of the so-called riches in this country. There are still many who think that London’s streets are paved with gold, and that lures them to our city.

I think we as a country should be advertising how things are really in this country, a third rate health system, a third rate transport system in London, housing which you need to earn at least 100K a year to get on the property ladder, employers wanting you to work 50 hours a week, despite what your contract might say, many employers not even paying minimum wage and even if they do, if you can survive in London on that, you will need a miracle.

Europe really needs to sort out its borders and fast, with Bulgaria and Romania joining in 2007, and more expected before 2010, we are going to be overwhelmed by all these illegal immigrants, who do whatever they can do to get passports which are either stolen or fake, and clearly passports that are stolen, should show up on the system immediately across Europe, to ensure that stolen passports can’t be used no matter what. It is a disgrace and really all the countries of Europe are responsible, not just the UK.

An Update: After watching the programme and seeing how easy it was for the reporter to get passports and the quality of some of the passports, it is worrying, very worrying. Europes borders are basically open and easily abused, and despite the claims of the member states that they work with each other, it clearly doesn't happen and as the UK is seen as a soft touch, we end up getting a lot of these people passing through our borders

1st July 2007, an important date for England

For many people in England, this will be a day for cheer, for many it will be a day of sadness and frustration. No it isn’t Tony Blair leaving government, though wouldn’t that be lovely!!

It is the day the smoking ban comes into force in England, and about bloody time as well. It will mean that many can go out at night to places of entertainment – pubs, bars, comedy clubs, etc and not come home stinking of smoke, having a mouth that feels horrid, and their eyes hurting from all the smoke that they had to put up with in the place they were in.

Smoking to be banned in July

England smoke ban to start 1 July

And it isn’t a half way house of places that serve food, it is enclosed spaces, and there is rumblings that Mayor Ken wants to take an even tougher stance for London. On this I will applaud the man. I hope it is pushed so far away, so people can enjoy an air that is a little cleaner. I would have said clean air, but we live in London, and that is going to be a pipe dream.

If he could clean up the Underground, then he really would be on a winner, but as I said pipe dream.

I now can look forward to going out without my clothes stinking to high heaven of smoke, like when I visited the comedy store recently. A suit smelling of smoke isn’t a nice smell, and as I live in a smoke free home, it does really make you feel sick, second hand smoke smell.

Here is to the 1st July 2007 and no more of England being the poor man of the UK

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tonsillectomy update

Well, nearly a week after the operation and I have to say things didn’t quite go as I expected.

In the past couple of days I have had to change the meds, as the co-codamol wasn’t doing the trick in helping to relieve the pain enough so that I could eat and they say the way to recover is to eat, wonderful!!!

So with a change in meds after having to suffer extreme pain especially in my ears for the past few days, one has had a little more success in eating, not much more, just a little more, and I can only hope it gets easier as the week goes on. And I am supposed to be back at work for the 1st December.

My poor Z has taken to the spare room, as my snoring is worse now than it was before, but fingers crossed that is to do with all the rubbish in the back of my throat, plus she is finding the smell quite off putting from my mouth. They really don’t tell you about that, they don’t warn you that you might be able to stop a rhino at 500 yards with your mouth after the operation.

They also don’t warn you that you are going to be sleepy a lot of time, regardless of how much you might think you are sleeping, in my case I am clearly not sleeping. I look like a panda with my eyes, big black rings under them.

One other thing I have found, it is a drastic way to lose weight. I have lost 6kg in just under a week, not a recommended way to lose weight mind, but it is amazing how much weight you can lose by not being able to eat. I just hope I am able to maintain it, though Z did say, she reckoned once I got my taste buds back and my desire for food, it will go on as quickly as it went off. Hopefully I can prove that wrong, be nice not to weight 85kg again, and being less than 80kg is a good feeling even with all the pain in my ears and mouth.

Well hopefully I have turned the corner and the slight increase in food intake will be enough to recover, as they say ‘I have to eat to recover’

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Tonsillectomy is done

Well yesterday I had my tonsils removed, all my anxiety all my concerns over and done within 10 minutes. They apparently use a laser these days to remove one’s tonsils.

Yesterday morning at 7.30am I was allowed to go to the ward where I would be staying overnight to recover. During admission as they call it, I had to put on anti-embolism stockings which was a surprise for me, never had to do that before, and Z took great pleasure in taking a picture or two just to show how ridiculous I looked with them on. I know they are to save my health, but it is a new one on me.

By 10.30 am I was allowed to go to have my operation, and the last thing I remember is seeing them put in anaesthetic and at 12pm seeing the clock and thinking my where am I, it took me about another 30 minutes or so to really work out what was happening.

I had a very swollen neck, it is down a bit now, which is a relief. My throat looks an absolute mess, which of course will clear up in the coming weeks, and poor Z will have to suffer my dog breath for a little while. Thankfully they have given me meds, one being a mouthwash which is great news for me.

As Z was seeing her parents off yesterday I didn’t get to wake up and see her there, but she came along later once her parents had gone through security at Stansted, so it was a joy to see her, and have some time with her before visiting hours were over.

It wasn’t an eventful night, other than I felt cold but was sweating a lot, having trouble swallowing and felt like something was stuck at the roof of my mouth, all apparently perfectly normal. I was the only one who didn’t sleep a wink last night, I have now gone about 36 hours without sleep, apparently one side effect of the anaesthetic. Though I am tired now, and will be hitting the bed, maybe just a few hours will help a lot.

Signed off work for two weeks now, so I am sure that won’t go down well with work, but there isn’t much I can do, it was given to me in very clear language – no work for two weeks, got to stay home and not go outside for a week, which is going to be difficult for me, as I certainly don’t like feeling a caged animal. But it is rest and recuperation as they say, so following doctor’s orders and doing what they say.

Will have to go back in 8 weeks for an appointment just to make sure things are better, fingers crossed they will be. So very hoping that is the case.

I am glad I got the operation done, maybe now I will sleep better, and feel more refreshed, I certainly did this morning despite no sleep, though that I know has to be the effects of the anaesthetic.

Hopefully it will also mean that Z gets fewer disturbances at night and isn’t suffering my snoring, one can hope for sure.

Roll on the relaxation and recuperation!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Sunday well spent

Yesterday I and Z made the best of weekend with us both off and without other commitments.

So we made the most of it, we went to the London dungeon and to the Tate modern and they are fairly close to each other as well. We wanted to do the slides at the Tate modern, which meant having to get up early and queue from around 10am; the queue when we got there was already 30 minutes long. Thankfully we did get tickets for the slides in the afternoon, as we felt we would be finished with the London dungeon by then.

So off we trekked to London dungeon, waiting for an hour outside, as it was already packed at that point. Sadly it started raining and me being me said we wouldn’t need umbrellas, and Z’s words came back to haunt, so we got suitably wet of course.

Once we were inside, we dried off fairly fast, and proceeded to enjoy the London dungeon. It costs £17 per person, was that good value, honestly, no. A little cheaper would have made it better value. You have about 1hr 30 minutes at most in there.

I got picked as a volunteer for the torture section, for some reason the lady running that part, thought I was hiding behind my girlfriend so got me up, had me in the chair, whilst demonstrating the torture items….

First the tongue remover, which I didn’t think would be that, thought something far worse. Apparently usually it was used red hot to pull the tongue out.

Next up was a hook, the lady asked me to stand up, and touch my toes, at which point she showed the manoeuvre used to hold the person up, the hook up the back passage and explained that was one way to make the prisoner talk, lovely!!! Got laughter when she got me to bend over, can’t imagine why.

The last item was the worst and aimed at us men solely. Lets just say you would lose you little friend down there. A john Bobbitt job with a blunt cutter, so they would need to do 3 or 4 times to remove it. I think at that point, no man alive would want to be alive, though they probably wouldn’t have been for much longer.

Thankfully none of the items was used in anger, but it makes you shudder at what was done then, in the 17th century

It wasn’t a bad place to visit, but a word of warning, those with children, don’t take them unless you are sure you little child can handle it. At least one member of the group we were going around with, as you go in groups, had a little girl and she basically spent the whole time crying. It is going to be a scary place for a small child, so why bring them, you will make them upset and frighten the poor child.

Afterwards we made our way back to the Tate Modern to do the slides (Carsten Höller), this time it was chucking it down with rain. Got completely wet, my smart idea of not needing an umbrella looked less and less smart as the day went on.

Carsten Holler at the Tate Modern

The slides didn’t look like they would be fast, but they were. You had to wear a special cap, with protective padding in it, though many were losing their caps on the way down.

It is a bumpy ride, and when they say it is physical, you better believe it. You do feel it, really feel, for a little while after.

Video of the slides

Here is a very good video showing what it can be like, and it really is a lot of fun.

If you can handle having to queue for a while just to get tickets and come back later to use the tickets, then do it. It is worth it and if you like slides, and ones that have a bit of speed and bump, go for it, you will thank yourself for it.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Madame Tussauds

Went today. Day off after the exam to relax and enjoy myself with Z and we went there.

It has changed a lot since I last went there, mind that was back in the early 1990s.....

Prices have as well. £50 for the two of us, that is a lot of money. Essentially 2 hours or so of time there for that, not what I would call good value for money.

The Planetarium has also gone, which is a shame, I personally liked it. They still have the dome with shows, but an 8 minute movie made by the makers of chicken run, etc, showing about celebrities. A tad corny, but hey ho.

Me and Z had a laugh though, some of the waxworks not looking as you would expect. Z picture with many waxworks, me with just one or two that I wanted.

We still had a good time out, so that is what mattered most, but £50 for two people is a bit steep.

Blog Britain

So how many of you did the blog Britain project?

For a project I think it has worthy aims.

Will the results match the aims, not so sure. I know they wanted mundane, run of the mill entries, but if anyone in the future reads them, they might think we Brits were a bit daft.

See the entries here - One Day in History

It is finally over

Done it, the exam for D317 has been done, and the relief is enormous.

Did I do well? Who knows. I am hoping I have done enough for a pass, but one can't be sure

I guess I have the option of a resit in April.

I do have to say being asked if my hearing aids were receivers and someone could feed me information was a surprise and it did knock my stride a bit, especially when asked in the middle of the exam. Never happened before and that certainly didn't help me to keep going in the frame of thought I was in.

Roll on December when I find out the score.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The countdown is on

Just 4 days left until the OU D317 exam and I am really worried. All the effort I am putting into the revision, just doesn't seem to be paying off.

I can't for the life of me, remember much of any substance, and it is frustrating me so much. It is like someone has blanked my entire memory and nothing is sticking to it. I guess part of the that is the complete lack of sleep I have had since my tonsil problem. Which on a side note, I am hoping the operation on the 15th November will go ahead, and maybe, a big maybe I can get a proper nights sleep for the first in what seems like an eternity. I will probably sleep for the two weeks after recovering knowing my luck!!!!

If anyone knows of a way to download the entire course books into my head so that I can recall it all for the 19th, then please leave a note, I will be more than willing to take a chance!!

I am so going to need months to recover before starting all over again in Feb 2007

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Local Council - Harrow

Who do you turn to when you have local residents whom don’t seem to understand the idea of a recycle bin and dump any old crap into it?

Who do you turn to when you see rodents coming from that same crap which has been left by the council refuse men, because they are told not to take it, as it would contaminate the recycle lot?

You would think the council, wouldn’t you?

Well, sadly not.

I tried that little thought and got both the refuse department saying that they would investigate within 2 weeks and send someone round to the residents who seem to not understand the concept of recycling. I also told environmental health as well about the rodents that had turned up because of the problem with the rubbish and they also informed me that within 2 weeks they would send someone round.

Funnily enough, nothing has happened, the rubbish is still pilling up, nothing has been actioned at all, and this is from a council that supposedly takes these issues seriously – Harrow

So if you live in the borough of Harrow, don’t expect your council to do anything for all the council tax money it takes off you. It seems that with the change in colour of the council from Red to Blue – Labour to Conservatives, we have on our hands a bunch of people more incompetent than the last bunch. Something I thought highly impossible, but happening way too much.

Do I hope anything will get done, fat chance!! Do I think complaining to the local councillors will fix it – again fat chance.

As long as it doesn’t happen on their doorstep, they are not bothered. Harrow has a big issue of litter and local policy regarding refuse is making it all the worse. If you want to see Harrow at it worse, visit the main centre in the evening and see the amount of litter on the street. Tell me that isn’t encouraging the rodents out……

OU D317

Well the last TMA came back, and I got a score of 72. Whilst that might sound fantastic, it is a little lower than I had hoped for, though it won’t affect my overall score too much, as my TMAs have been in the 70s and 80s all year long.

Now is the exam on the 19th, and I am dreading it. I have always hated exams, they are not something to enjoy, and I find them the most difficult part of any course, especially when you have four books to remember, and need to remember a massive amount of names and dates as well, otherwise they won’t credit you with knowing the course. This is of course frustrating for me, especially with the memory like a fish.

Try as I might, I am getting no further in managing to keep the information in my head. If there was a way to allow me to access it easily and recall it easily as well, I would be fine, more than fine, because I can take the information, work with it easy enough, just recall when I don’t have the books to hand…

Oh well, roll on the 19th and I will be so glad to have a break, before doing it all again in 2007 for what is hopefully the last year of my BSc Psychology degree with the OU, and will earn a well earned break for a little bit, before deciding what to do next.

Anyone who is about to sit the exam for D317, all the best for the 19th.

Local councillors’ weblog.

I found in the past week a weblog done by the local councillors where I live.


At first I thought good, they are trying to be up to date, have easy access and allow people to have their say.

Well, lo and behold that I think is the opposite of what is happening, it is more just for them to make announcements and if people want to comment, well they can take a run and jump.

I made comments particularly to do with the state of the bins in our streets, which to cut a long story short, there are some residents in our street who simply aren’t recycling as they should and the council is then refusing to collect their bins. The council in their wisdom, expect these people to call up and ask why the rubbish hasn’t been collected. Yep, like that is going to happen, not with this lot, which is why we now have an environmental health issue, with rodents running around, all because of refuse which isn’t collected and never will be, because these residents simply aren’t bothered and happy to litter.

Surprisingly the comment never made it to the site, and I can’t imagine why. Something tells me that if anyone makes a comment it never makes it to their blog, which does kind of go against the idea of a blog which allows people to make comments.

Whilst I am on the subject of local councillors in my borough. I had reason to send an email to them to complain with regards to an advert in the local magazine.

Subject: re Harrow Greener Scheme in Harrow Magazine

Hi there,

I live in your local ward and like so many in the whole of Harrow get the Harrow magazine. I am wondering if you would be able to assist me. In the latest Harrow magazine, there is an advert for the greener scheme and on page 11 it says that we can have installed in our residential property solar hot water systems and mini wind turbine for a total cost of £500.

With that being such a good idea, I rang the number on the ad – 0800 838 650 and got my pack. In the pack, the information is very different. It says that it is £500 for each type of technology. So that means it is £1000, not the £500 stated. This means that the advert is wrong and is misleading many many residents. I am in no position to consider £1000 and I think many will be in the same position, especially after reading it was £500 for all the technology. It is also not clear whether it is £400 per tech from the low carbon buildings programme, or just £400 overall. This is simply very poorly written and without clarity.

Clearly this is misleading and basically the advert is a lie, which is quite bad for Harrow council to be putting out.

I hope you will be able to resolve this situation and inform me that the advert was correct and that what was received by the energy saving trust is wrong.

I look forward to hearing from you soon

I thought I made good points and was fair and honest about the situation. The response I got back was a little bit of a let down.

We’ve followed up and it was indeed a slightly misleading advertisement. We have updated the wording before publishing it elsewhere and also made sure that people calling up apologise for the lack of clarity in the advertisement.

You may be pleased to know that we have had a very high take-up rate from people calling the number despite the misleading advertisement.

Thanks again for pointing it out.

How they consider a little misleading being double the price quoted and being £500 for each type as opposed to all techs as in the advert I am not sure. Something tells me that our lovely local council which was Labour, who screwed up royally, have been followed by a bunch of people, who are going to screw even more. I wonder why people get turned off by politicians whatever their party background

Sunday, September 17, 2006

OU D317

To my utter surprise the other day I got my TMA 05 back and with a score which has left me very pleased, almost perfect please except I was 3 marks away from a 1st class essay to go with the one I got for my TMA 04.

I am tickled pink, seriously. I know I find essays hard to do, even though Z says I should do more writing as she feels it seems to come naturally to me. Heck no, but amazing what perceptions come across. Z felt this essay was my best, shame she wasn't marking it.

After all my worries I secured a very high score, just missing a 1st class essay score.

Can I do the same for the last one, which I am in the process of writing as I type this - Word is open with it part written, waiting for more to be typed in. I know I have to finish it today despite it not needing to be in until the 27th September, it is just I need as much time as possible for the exam, which is on the 19th October and I hate exams, I really hate exams.

No matter how hard I prepare, I always stuff them up, call it stupidity, call it nerves, call it what you will, it is partly why I struggled as an academic when I was younger and still do to this day. Exams are a bug bear for me. I know if I can get 55% above for the exam I will get a 2.2 for this module, which is okay, though I would prefer a 2.1, but that would require 70% for the exam, and I don't think in my living memory I have ever been that fortunate no matter the subject matter.

Oh well back to the TMA 06 and here is to hoping I get another good score, at least it will give me some confidence I can do this study lark, after 10+ years of not having done it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Depeche Mode best of album

This is the new release to come in November

For some this album won't be worth it, but I imagine anyone who likes a complete collection will get this. I for one will possibly get this, though by suggesting it is a Volume 1, suggests there is more to come.


Monday, August 28, 2006

D317 TMA04

Not long got this assignment back, and this assignment I struggled with more than any of the others I have done so far on this course. Though with TMA05 to be done by the end of the day today and sent, I fear this one is going to be even harder, it feels it.

The reason why I mention this assignment as opposed to any others so far is that, I scored such a high score, I got the equivalent of a 1st class essay. Now I am not the greatest academic and have always struggled, even though I got a degree at 2nd class honours previously and this being my second degree I am doing.

I was just stunned, even Z knew I had major concerns about the TMA04 and what I handed in, but to my utter surprise and disbelief I was awarded such a high mark. I am not complaining and won’t I am just so happy to be awarded such a mark, it is something I seem to have bordered on this year, but never made the breakthrough and now I have, it is such a good feeling, and I only wish I had more time to savour it.
I know with the upcoming exams in the space of 6 weeks I am going to struggle in the exams, I always have, it isn’t a forte of mine at all, and always brought my overall marks down. I am just hoping this year I can make it different and maybe get the equivalent of a 2:1 for this module, as it would be such a reward for the efforts, but who knows.

Anyway I have to finish my TMA05 and hope that I still get high scores again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Alton Towers Day Out

Yesterday me and Z went off to Alton Towers. I took a day off work whilst she was lucky enough to have it as a scheduled day off.

It was an early start as we had an 8.25am train to catch from Kings Cross. We were a little concerned about the weather, the reports had suggest heavy rain for the day and as we were travelling up towards Derby to get our connecting coach, we went through the heavy rain and we felt we were going to have a soaking wet day.

Thankfully when we arrived at Derby the rain appeared to stop and the skies weren’t quite so dark. As usual with any trip we were delayed, not this time by an unreliable service, but by a few stragglers who managed to get stuck in the loo, and thus we had to go back for them losing the best part of 30 minutes plus. To anyone who goes on these trips, please for your own sake, ensure that when you are doing these trips not to inconvenience others. These people should be left where they were, it does state clearly what to do, and if you spend time farting around doing who knows what, whilst everyone else boards the coach, then you deserve to be left behind.

When we arrived at Alton Towers, the rain was spitting, and so we were conscious of getting around as fast as possible to enjoy in case of the heavens opening. What I wasn’t aware of and thankfully we spotted it, there is the option to drop all bags at the guest services centre for £3 a day and you can access it as many times as you wish to avoid the risk of losing the bag whilst on the ride, as you can’t carry bags on the rides for the obvious reasons. A very useful service and one I don’t recall being there before. Another useful service which we didn’t know about until too late though is a priority service available where you don’t have to queue for 45 minutes plus, etc, you go to almost the head of the queue and the option only costs £7. They call it short cut, but still. I was surprised more people didn’t use the option, maybe like us they didn’t know about it.

Z wanted to do all the thrill rides, white knuckle in other words. Me, I was more than happy to do so, I tend to like those rides. We walked our way to X-sector and Z spots the first ride she wants to do, Oblivion. Well we queued up and it only took about 25 minutes or so which is pretty quick and I am guessing the lousy weather put people off. Z wasn’t ready for the ride, not at all. By the end of the ride and it is only about 30 seconds or so, she was as white as a sheet. She was so pale and the pictures that are taken, she looked like she had seen a ghost.

I will give Z her dues, later on she was determined to go back again and again and again, in total 4 times we rode that ride and each time she got more and more used to it and more and more into it. I can safely say it was the ride she enjoyed the most.

We did do other rides there including submission, which felt quite tame after Oblivion and then Enterprise which was even tamer. You can guess that we felt in comparison those rides would be. We then went to try Rita ‘Queen of Speed’. This is a monster ride, it basically shoots you forward at a rate of knots from a standing start and you are propelled around the ride so quickly with turns and twists. We waited 45 minutes for that ride and would do so again, sadly there wasn’t to be time in the end. The main reason being that, for the 45 minutes we were able to get 3 rides on the Oblivion because the queues for that were so short, I have no idea why though.

We also went and did Air, Nemesis as well. Air is a ride everyone should try and it does especially because of the way you go around the ride like you are in the air with no bum on a seat, it is a very different and enjoyable experience. Z decided that the picture she wanted was the one from Air where we are both screaming for joy with the ride, so we now have that adorning our living room. Nemesis is an older ride, but still very good.

I did notice a number of rides from when I last went have now gone, including the Thunderlooper and the Black Hole is boarded up, obviously with the intention of replacing it with something else. I have to also admit I haven’t been in probably over 10 years now, so I couldn’t expect anything less.

If you are interested in going yourself and want a deal then have a look, this page is the place to go.

Alton Towers All-Inclusive Day Out

I would recommend to anyone who can afford the £38 each to do it, and if possible pay the extra £7 to go through the quick channel at the queue for each ride. It would probably mean you get to do maybe 15-20 goes on the rides instead of the 9 we managed and we went when it wasn’t that busy, so I leave it to your imagination as to how packed it can be.

Z has in her head the Oblivion ride, I can remember each and every time we went on and how I was screaming with joy and enjoying it so much and the look on her face at the end of each one, each time having more of her natural colour than before. Z made a point to me that on each ride I was always shouting/screaming with joy and that in each picture I really look like I was enjoying myself. To me you can’t go on these white knuckle rides and not pumped the adrenaline, so stoke it up and add to the joy. It makes it a much better day.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

How did we get here? - Creationism

A story in today’s Guardian has me concerned, really concerned.

How did we get here?

This is supposedly how today’s up and coming graduates feel.

12% of students preferred creationism – which is where god created us within the past 10,000 years. 19% favouring the theory of intelligent design – being that features of living things are due to a supernatural being such as god, and only 56% believed that Darwin is correct.

This isn’t good, how can anyone suggest this is good.

Increasingly creationism is being taught alongside evolution in schools, and the thing that is wrong this is particularly at academies run by Christian Vardy Foundation.

20% of students are being taught creationism at school

This is worse in other countries, notably America, which I have to guess is where the influence for this country has come from, an influence which I personally think shouldn’t be happening

Here is another blog which I agree with, this whole situation with creationism is scary shit.


Next we are going to have them saying that the world is flat.

I am sure there can be many other links provided, and I know the Bill Hicks point of view, which I am beginning to subscribe to simply because how can you dispute the evidence in our hands, all the bones, all the data, for someone to say it is God f**king with our heads. Please come on.

Continuing problems of the CMS system for the Jobcentre Plus

As I have reported a number of times over the past year, the CMS (Customer Management System) for Jobcentre Plus is still suffering problems.

Government fears run benefits

I have always felt this system doesn’t take account of the needs of those who it is supposed to serve, i.e. those wanting and needing to sign on.

It now claims that 94% of calls are dealt with in the day, but that still leaves in excess of 1,000 calls a day missed. That is too much, way too much. One of my main gripes with this system is that by being phone based, it is penalising the deaf.

Citizens Advice Help

As noted by the Citizens Advice, it is a real problem for those unable to use the phone

This is the government view

But none of them answer the question, what happens to those who for whatever reason are simply not able to use the phone. No mention is made of Typetalk, no mention is made for those who struggle to hear on the phone. So basically the idea is to exclude many from the rights that they are entitled to.

I think someone’s head should roll for this, this system hasn’t been thought out and was done with one purpose in mind to remove over 11,000 jobs.

The minister who some of the blame can be laid at Jim Murphy, who is the minister for employment and welfare reform. Although he says they have change the approach since March when the CMS was branded a catastrophic failure, one would guess nothing is any better now than it was then.

Most Expensive city in the world

A recent report has highlighted what probably many of us living in London already know. We are living in the most expensive city in the world. The report in the Evening Standard, listed London as number one in the world for living costs including rent.

The order was

New York
Los Angeles

Back in 2003, London was 3rd, so as you can see things are getting no better at all.

The point made is that everyday living costs are higher in London than anywhere else in the world, even without adding rent, we are only behind Oslo. Of course it is obvious we don’t have the wages to match our living costs.

The figures are based on wages, cost of public services, travel and various other goods and services. Any wonder London tops the lists, given our so so expensive travel – tube, buses, and trains. An example given was that a single second class ticket for a typical 120 mile journey will cost £47.80 in London, the nearest is New York at £27.50, the best part of nearly half the cost. Back in 2003, we were still top by only by £7 instead of the whopping £20+ now.

If you consider the level of personal debt in the UK, you can see the correlation. It hit the trillion pound mark earlier this year when including mortgages, so if you work that out, it was a case that for every man, woman and child in the UK owes over £11K+.

That is an astonishing figure, and with London being the most expensive city, you can certainly expect that figure to rise.

All of this must also put the tourist off coming to London, as it was noted in the survey, other than Tokyo, which beat London by £5, we are the most expensive city to visit. Not exactly a selling point is it.

If anyone else has any figures to show about this, please show them, be happy to add them to the entry and maybe there is a way to combat this, not just for the tourists, but especially for the locals whom just don’t have the wages people assume they do.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Uptight drivers and their bad parking

What ever happened to white van man?
He became white van council man

This is a bugbear for me and I am sure for many many others. So this has come to the point of show and shame now, because this has gotten too much for me, and I am sick of tired of drivers who don’t understand the highway code.

For the last few weeks, I have had for the want of a better word an idiot driver who blocks my drive outside my house, so that I can’t get a vehicle on or off.

Unfortunately I never catch the offending idiot. This idiot doesn’t know the Highway code. Point 217 of the Highway code is “DO NOT PARK in front of an entrance to a property”. As you will see in the pictures, this person clearly doesn’t know what the entrance to a property is, and doesn’t know what a property is either.

Now in my attempts to find out what can be done to ensure this offender doesn’t block my drive in the future, I found out a few things.

Firstly, most councils now have so called out of hours contact lines for those who wish to have people blocking their drives ticketed. My local council does, and so do many councils now it seems. For me that is a bonus.

I wrote to my friendly local council

I am trying to find out the situation with regards to your enforcement of single yellow lines and the blocking people drives. This particular street suffers from a lot of people blocking drives, very poor parking and frankly due to the increase in the number of dwellings due to the changes made by the council, insufficient spaces to park.

In the last few weeks, I have had repeatedly my own drive blocked by others, in particular one person, whom I have never managed to catch at it, but blocks my own drive. I can give you the registration number if that helps. I am assuming that the single yellow line only operates at certain hours, as this person is blocking the drive between around 7pm to around 8am.

Now the highway code clear states

“DO NOT PARK in front of an entrance to a property” - Highway Code point 217

But how can I get yourselves to enforce it, so that my drive is free and not blocked.

My friendly council responded

The council can issue Penalty Charge Notices to vehicles that block drives. In order to do this, you need to call us on 020 8424 1275 between treatment - 5pm or 020 8863 5611 out of these hours.

The Parking Attendant will knock at the property and check that the vehicle is not someone in the property and request for someone to sign a document stating the PA has checked the vehicle does not belong to a friend or family member.

This made me think this is useful and why isn’t this advertised a lot more.

It also got me thinking that as the person blocking my drive is driving a Camden white van, they must be able to ensure that something can be done. Well, this took a little more than I thought. I contact their general enquires and I got an expected response of my area isn’t in their area, so can’t do nothing. Not satisfied with that, I then decided to ring up their parking enforcement department, to be told by the lady on the end of the phone that they can’t help and thus end of the matter, despite it being one of their workers.

Not satisfied with that, I go searching on Camden Council and find a complaints department, now I think I might get somewhere. After speaking to the very apologetic lady on the end of the phone, who promised me to get someone to call me and resolve the matter, I was feeling I was making some headway. Lo and behold, I get a phone call some hours later asking me to explain the situation, and give my side of the story. I also pointed out to the gentleman who called me that I do have photographical evidence, which you can also see below. He was more than interested to see this evidence and this has now been sent to the council staff, whom will deal with this in the way they see fit.

Will this mean that, I will no longer have the idiot driver blocking my drive, possibly, and very hopefully. I may also end up with one irate neighbour, but given he didn’t have any respect for me in the first place, I doubt it is going to make any difference anyway.

And because this annoying neighbour, I have to presume some neighbour because it is parked in this street all night, is flouting the law and causing me an inconvenience, I am more than happy to post the pictures below, so that if any of you suffer this person blocking your drive, call Camden council on their complaints number which can be easily found on their website or if you really want email me and I will send it to you. And then hopefully this person will realise that despite his less than stellar reading of the highway code, someone will ensure he doesn’t get away scott free.

First Example of bad parking

Second Example of bad parking

Third Example of bad parking

Number plate so you can ensure this driver doesn't block your drive

Another shot of the number plate so you can ensure this driver doesn't block your drive

I also know for future reference that if someone is repeatedly blocking my drive, for which I had to pay a premium for when I bought my house, I can ensure they end up with a parking ticket, which doesn’t make me feel in anyway bad at all, and why should I, I am entitled to use my drive and I follow the highway code, so why can’t others.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Housing in London – gone mad

With the news today of a 0.25% increase in the interest rates from the Bank of England, there was a timely, though horrible report released about the state of the housing market in London.

It is now claimed that with the average London salary being supposedly £25,000 the average London house price is now about 10 times the average salary. So of course that means that most people can’t afford to buy in London and there is a dearth of first time buyers. Well it doesn’t take a Sherlock to realise that.

What is interesting from the report though is that apparently parents of first time buyers are now shelling out on average £28,000 to help their offspring buy a place in London. Otherwise the person buying the place needs to earn £80,000 a year to afford it.

Okay, this isn’t good news, but we have known about this for a while, though the figure that parents are giving/lending their offspring surprised me, given that I am sure there are many parents for whom that amount of money is a great deal. I personally was very lucky to buy my house over 5 years ago, with a massive 25% deposit, and sufficient salary to do so. Though now even on the same salary, there is not a chance I could afford to do so, even back then I was stretched as far as one could go.

There are worrying thoughts here.

1) That the house price is so far in excess of the ‘normal’ person, that no one can move because the gaps between different types of housing make it impossible. If I wanted to upgrade to a 4 bed house, I couldn’t if I tried.
2) The continuing call for building more places in London. We don’t have the space, we don’t have the infrastructure, and we don’t have the resources. How many more people are we going to squeeze into a space that doesn’t exist, how much of London’s green space do we need to lose before enough is enough! Look at the current situation with the water crisis, how does putting even more people in London fix that, the problem with the electricity blackouts because of too much demand. It is simple to know that London simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope with the amount of people here now, why add more. Too few schools, too few hospitals, the list is endless, London is suffering badly, and these calls for more and more properties just adds to it getting worse. An example in case is where they squeeze more and more into a street and wonder why there is a parking problem. Funny how the council didn’t think about that, but was happy to have the opportunity for more council tax.
3) Fix the issue at hand, which are the extortionate house prices which are far in excess of anything realistic. This is an issue that underpins it all, it isn’t helped by the fact that the inflation target is based against an inflation that doesn’t include the mortgage payments, if it did, and then it would make it clearer as to the problems involved. These prices are fuelled by banks, etc lending money when they shouldn’t be. Lending someone 5+ times their salary and also relying on their parents, or having friends club together just so they can get a place, says that the market is in trouble and extremely unhealthy. Inflation in this country is much higher than people realise, and the ‘official’ figure is tainted and fixed, as it removes so many things it should include when calculating inflation.

Housing in London has gone beyond the sensible; it has gone beyond anything anyone possibly imagined. I know in the late 80s it wasn’t this bad, it was difficult before the crash, but it never reached this level. And even then they were calling for more houses, it doesn’t help matters. We need a more regulated market, one which thanks to Thatcher we don’t have, and now any Tom, Dick and Harry can get a mortgage because the banks aren’t sufficiently ensuring that people can actually afford it. Why do you think that they went from 3 times salary to affordability? Yep, that same affordability means that each and every increase in interest rates means that people get themselves into more and more problems. The buy now, never pay attitude. I know of enough people who have interest only mortgages, with no vehicle to pay the capital off, I guess hoping it will never happen.

As a side point, there is increasing unemployment, increasing debt, which after today is going to get worse not better, and I for one hope I won’t be hit with the downturn, but we are overdue for it, and sadly a lot of people have been spending money to get out of it, and so many are living on credit. The last figure I saw was something like £10K per person, and with 60 million of us in the country, there are so people seriously in debt, and the banks give them more to hang themselves with, wonderful. The banks win either way, they never lose. But if someone is enough of a mug to put themselves so indebt, then to be honest, they don’t deserve my sympathy.

The house market in London is so overdue for a crash, and when it does come, and it is hard to imagine it not, because of the economics surrounding it, it will make the late 80s crash look like a piss in the wind, it really will.

I don’t wish a crash, but we have forced ourselves into it. London is sitting on a time bomb which will go off, and no manner of building more houses will fix it. Building further into the sky won’t help either; it will just bring back the eyesores of the 60s and the associated problems that came with them. London is already at bursting point, it is like trying to push the extra bit of rubbish in the bin because you can’t be bothered to empty it, it won’t go.

Anyone has a better idea please say, I would really like to hear it, because in my opinion, London is up s**t creek without a paddle

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Phonak Savias, frustrating to use.

I have had these aids now for a good few weeks, even had them adjusted yet again, and I have to say, if there is anyone out there who is using them, please leave me a message as to how you find them.

I am personally finding them difficult to use, though they are supposed to be perfect for my hearing loss.

These things, cut out when I don’t want them to, they drop the volume way too much for my liking, have ruined my appreciation of music, heck listening to my music now, whomever I listen to, be it Green Day, Depeche Mode, or anyone, it totally destroys the sound that I get, and it is made so much worse if any other noises come in when the music is on.

I do wonder if it is me, as I grew up with analog aids, and then aids with adjustable settings but still analog. These digitals are so very different from the NHS ones, supposedly better equipped to deal with the normal day to day of life, but I do well wonder that, because it don’t feel that way. Talking on a phone now is a chore, rather than a joy.

Maybe the specialist setting them up, isn’t doing it right, though he says he is doing what he can within the program, and I know Phonaks should be fine because I had them for so long until I was forced to switch over some years back.

So if there is anyone out there using them, please let me know how you got on with them, did they improve your life, do you find hearing to be easier, less work, etc than before, or did you have to admit defeat and change to something else. Me as an ex-power junkie (termed not set by me, but the audiologists I have had over the years) is finding these aids hard work, more than it should be.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Save our Seats campaign - Metropolitan Line new S Stock

For those who in live in London and especially those who use the Metropolitan line regularly, this will be of great interest to you.

Metronet are going to introduce new rolling stock as of 2009 called S stock on the Met line. These trains will remove up to 30% of the seats that exist on the current stock.

That is quite a high figure, and they claim it is all down to meeting new disability legislation. This doesn’t make sense at all, that is to be honest an over reaction, a serious over reaction. You might expect to lose maybe 15% at most, but what they are proposing is just mind numbingly stupid.

To top it off, they are also proposing to have a single carriage instead of 8 separate ones. This stock will also be narrower, which for anyone who travels a large part of the Met line will tell you, that can’t be a good thing.

This hasn’t been thought out at all well, and I am pleased that papers like Harrow Observer, Pinner Observer, Harrow Leader, etc are trying to get something done. At least someone is thinking with their heads.

More information on the campaign

Even more information as to what is happening

Pictures of the new S Stock
Can anyone honestly tell me these don’t look narrower and have fewer seats?

There is also to be a petition at Harrow on the Hill station later this week to drum up more support. For those who travel through this station and don’t want up to be in a situation where you are even more packed in like cattle in a truck, then sign up.

I already have done so, and spread the word, you will be glad to have the option for a seat in the future. These plans ensure it being nigh on impossible to ever get a seat.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Time for an English Parliament?

I think the time for an English Parliament is overdue, would fix the inconsistencies that exist in the current system, plus restore true democracy to the UK, and also give all areas the autonomy they seek and deserve.

At the weekend in the Observer there was an article - Voters back English-only parliament

Which showed how things have changed dramatically since devolution and how the people of England are calling for their own parliament. A lot of this has come to a head recently with the so called West Lothian Question being raised again.

This is how would it be possible that a devolved parliament in Scotland affect the state of the union and what are the consequences of it. Due to Gordon Brown trying to sell his Britishness and trying to overcome the issue which is affecting a lot of the voters he wants to appeal to, which is how is it that a Scottish MP would be allowed to be Prime Minister, but would be able to vote on issues that don’t affect his constituents like health, education, etc and thus as is being suggested by many, and I can’t really disagree, ensure that the English get a raw deal.

A website for those who wish to read more and see more of the injustice that the English are suffering at the hands of the Scottish MPs, and not just the English, but the Welsh too. Right now a Scottish MP can dictate Education, Health and on Wednesday Tony Blair paved the way for a new generation of Nuclear power stations but only in England. Gee thanks Mr.Blair, appreciate that one a great deal. That wasn't a sham now was it?!?!?!

The website is called Campaign for an English Parliament

Latest News on the campaign

When will this government realise that the English are actually growing ever restless and until we have the same level of rights as the Scottish, Northern Irish and the Welsh, it will get worse and worse. The level of spending in this country is highest in Scotland despite the fact that for the whole of the UK, London has 3 of the poorest boroughs, yep, London, something which people seem to happily ignore.

This will not change, and I along with many others feel that the sooner we have our own English Parliament, the more content we will become, plus the option to dictate our own policy and not have interfering Scottish MPs whom can’t dictate Health, Education, etc in their own country ensure that we in England are worse off.

Mr. Blair, get real, finish the job with devolution, do it correctly and fairly and you might actually leave a legacy worth leaving, right now, that isn’t going to happen.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

One year on from the London bombing, has anything changed?

The simple answer to that is yes, but is it for the better, I have to say sadly not.
There is more fear than before, more accusations, more finger pointing, and more removal of civil liberties that were hard won in the first place.

Is the tube safer, no I wouldn’t say so, is it being used less, not a chance, it is being used even more than before, the trains are more packed than I can ever remember, and I have been travelling on them daily for around 15 years, whether that is a case of higher usage or more delays, who knows, but people don’t seem to be walking around fretting that we might suffer another 7/7.

As cynical as I can be, I think most people will agree, we have had this government take advantage of the situation to further a police state, which we are sadly walking further and further into.

I also feel a lot for the Muslims who have been branded by many as a problem, when it was a bunch of fundamentalist who undertook the bombing, not anything else, and the worst part was they were right under our noses and this government still believes that ID cards would fix the situation, I still would like to know how that is possible.

Tomorrow many people will be observing silence for those who lost their lives, and I know of many work places that will be doing so. I am not actually sure if ours will do so, I can hope so, it would be appropriate to at least maintain silence for that period as requested, heck it would be for me the only time there was peace and quiet…….

London is a resilient city, it has for a long time dealt with issues like this and come through them all, and simply because it has to, it is whether people like it or not, the engine that drives this country, and without it, this country would be very different.

For those who are in London, remember how one year ago the landscape in London changed in a way we could never expect

Now the owner of a pair of Phonak Savias

Last Monday I took ownership of a pair of Phonak Savias, long overdue but finally happy to have them. They are an improvement on what I had previously, but still need some serious tweaking mind, and thankfully I have an appointment for that.

Here is what I have and what they look like

I didn’t specify a colour, because I expected beige, though I ended up with this, not that I am complaining, as this was the colour I had wanted at first and then thought better of, given that despite them looking good as Z has said, it just adds to the fact they stand out even more now, especially as I have gold ear moulds, so you can imagine the combination. If someone doesn’t realise I have hearing aids by now, then they will never see it, as it couldn’t be more in their face if I tried. No hiding for me anymore, as much as I would like.

The aids are more powerful than I had previously and at the moment it is set to change programs automatically as is needed, and that is actually making it a lot harder for me to concentrate and focus on my work and normal life, as it changes when it wants, and thus I don’t get consistency when it comes to sound, as it is changing so much, and not in a good way.

I also got a Smartlink System too

The idea of this is fantastic, and is supposed to allow up to 30m away for me to hear someone, an idea Z loved as she could tell me to get some shopping at one end of the shop whilst she is elsewhere. It doesn’t at the moment seem to work, whether that is the aid or the smartlink I am not sure. I did all I should as the manual said, but no joy, so right now it is a glorified remote control, which isn’t good.

So I am looking forward to when they come for the fine tuning, as it will be requiring a lot of work, but I think these have potential to be something decent, lets hope they last longer than my usual ones, and by that I mean less than a couple of years, whereas the life of the aids are supposed to 7-10 years, never had that happen ever.

Access to Work cuts

Those who have read this blog recently will know that I have been lucky enough to have gotten funding for the equipment I needed to help me with my work.

Though it took about a year to get from start to end, for many reasons like expecting my workplace which I had just when I made the application, to make a contribution! And my response was one of shock and then to laugh at them for wanting to make my position more precarious than it could have been, especially as that is what Access to Work is meant to be for, to provide a level a playing field for those who are disabled.

Well, I saw the following through a link I got in email, and it doesn’t exactly make good reading

Work and Pensions, Access to Work

I don’t see this as anything other than bad, I have to say, an opportunity for this government to make cuts in funding. What it is saying is that the government is going to make it harder for disabled people to be employed by governmental departments, and I don’t believe any of the rubbish that they say they are equal opportunities employer – fat chance. They will do their level best to ensure that they don’t have to pay out more than needed for a person, and this just ensures it will be even more difficult for disabled to work in governmental departments. Not that I think many people would want to work for an employer who doesn’t pay much above minimum wage which is what so many people in the JobCentres get.

I am surprised the DRC doesn’t see this as a problem.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Garden, well a Jungle

This weekend just gone, me and Z decided that we would attempt to make our garden, well jungle as it looked like a little nicer, a little more sparse, and generally something we can be proud of, instead of something to think, oh my what an eyesore.

Well on Saturday I started on part of it, spent a couple of hours, using the newly bought hedge trimmer, and like a boy with a power toy, enjoyed taking it out on the hedges at the front, they wouldn’t have seen that coming….

So far so good, I filled our brown organic waste bin completely, thankfully it is emptied every week at the moment, and our front garden looked a little better, not quite so much of a jungle, but something that more resembles a garden, though the bloody weeds wouldn’t come out, they are stuck so fast. Pulling and pulling on these things made no difference, despite my best strength, so they got a major dose of weed killer, which I had used previously on them, but obviously not enough. Thinking I might get something called DeeWeed which apparently is the best one around, though the one I have is pretty good for most weeds, just not these resistant little things.

On Sunday me and Z together started work on the back garden, in the hope we might actually find the garden amongst the jungle that existed out there. After 2 hours of going at it, we managed to tidy up one side of the garden. Just one side, that is how bad the garden had got. Z really enjoyed going at parts of the garden with the hedge trimmer, and there was me hoping it would be just a boys toy, she loves the power tool as well.

It looks quite bare now on one side, but more like a garden should be, the other side will have to wait. In removing the jungle on the one side, we managed to fill about 10 black sacks worth of jungle waste. Shows I haven’t done for an eternity, really bad. I will be glad when the council empty the brown bin, and then we will just fill it up all over again, this might go on all summer I think.

As it was so hot yesterday I worked without a top, and yep, I got sunburnt, very red on my back, but despite that I think it was worth it. The garden looks better and there is a real sense of achievement from all that hard work.

Hopefully we can get it to a state where we just need to go at it once a month and then it will be no more 10 sacks of garden waste every time we try and sort it out.

I have never been much a DIY or garden person, but I am having to learn bloody fast, and what better way to learn that to attack a jungle made of my own doing….

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Holiday fast approaching

My summer break, well early summer break this year, is about to happen, as of Saturday morning at 5.30am I will be away for two weeks off to.... Eastern Europe, not the usual sunny climate of a beach and sand, but the cities of the former communist countries and new joiners to the EU.

Checked the weather forecast for the places we are going to - Poprad, Krakow, Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague, and it looks like they are going to be cooler than we are experiencing here in London, which isn't good news, I am so hoping that is going to change, otherwise I might be caught short with mainly summer clothing in my luggage, which I have still yet to pack.

Though there is a good reason for that, simply struggling to get through my OU D317 TMA03 project. This is causing me a nightmare, and the hand in date is the 7th June, but given I will be in Budapest by then, I have to finish it Friday night to send on Saturday morning, boy this is difficult, I am going to be so glad of a break, I really need it. Between my work and my OU, I seem to be losing any time to oneself lately and even getting time with Z is getting more difficult, not exactly good for our relationship I have to say, though I think going to Paris helped.....

Probably be my last entry for a couple of weeks until I get back. Hopefully you will all enjoy good weather here in the UK, and so will I whilst away.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I am now a Reiki master

Yesterday I completed the course to become a Reiki master. I wasn't sure how it would work out, but yesterday's session was better than the first. I had the attunement yesterday as well. When I had attunements at previous levels I never experienced anything before, except maybe a little warmth when the teacher did my attunement. Well yesterday was a much more moving experience. When the teacher did my attunement, I had at the beginning the most odd experience, I was seeing a wealth of colours coming from my third eye, and I am not usually one who believes in that stuff, but for whatever reason it was flowing so much, and I was actually feeling so warm and it was so unexpected. It only ended when he pulls my hands up to the level of my third eye, and then it just stopped very suddenly.

I can't explain what happened and why, but supposedly the third eye is something to do with clairvoyants being able to see things. I know full well that isn’t something I am, but I wouldn’t mind my third eye being opened again, quite an intense but enjoyable experience.

I also learnt on the course yesterday, ways to cure depression, clinical depression, but not maniac, as that is something else. I am not sure if it would work, but if there was someone who was depressed I would consider trying it, as it is quite NLP in its approach, and we hear these days that NLP is very useful and very applicable. Something else I wish I had tried, but never sat down to try, though I was given a brief outline when I was on an ILM course a few years ago.

Other things I learnt include how to remove negative energy through vortex healing, which is using the CR symbol and pulling out the negative energy via the vortex. It works for some people, as was seen by the results in the group.

Is this Reiki going to mean a career change, most likely not, but will it be something I consider using in my life, for sure I will do, how much depends on me, and my general mood and the time I have to myself, though I should be able to carve out 5/10 minutes a day at least for self-healing which would be better than nothing.
Maybe when I finish my OU degree, I will consider doing Reiki as a sideline to my normal job, something to help others.

I am surprised at myself though how I have changed during the past year, how I seem to be more willing to believe in the more spiritual things, which aren’t able to proven by science, other than being able to see the response of the person partaking. I still don’t believe in God, and may never ever do, but I do know much more that there are things we just don’t understand and thus can’t dismiss them.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Passion for all things computers

This week, I was given a stark dose of reality, though I think I knew for some time, I just no longer have the passion for computers like I did. This came about because at work, there is a voluntary group set up and this group will be there to swap ideas on new technologies, new languages, new ideas, etc just to do with computers.

As the meeting went on more and more, I realised that I just don’t have the passion for computers as I did when I was younger, I heard each and everyone of the others in the group chatting, and the way they were talking, it is like they leave work and continue to spend even more time looking at computers, reading the languages, finding new gadgets, see what new technologies are coming, and it really dawned on me, my god, I don’t do that anymore. When I get home I don’t really see my computer I have anymore, except for email, this blog and maybe some sites. I for one don’t have time with my studies, and two I have no real interest and desire like I had.
I don’t want to come home and spend 4/5 hours in front of a computer when I get home, I want to relax, or do other things, and I think despite the fact I am a software developer and do enjoy the challenges and the work to some extent, it has become more of a job than a passion.

At some point in this group, I will have to make my contribution, but I really don’t have anything to contribute, which isn’t good of course, but do I even want to, that I can’t say I am sure.

I can’t say why I don’t have the passion I used to have, I can’t point to why. Does this disadvantage me in my chosen field, probably, should it though, no, but it will. Maybe this is the norm, maybe people go through this, but I am not so sure anymore, I think the fact might be, I either have less interest in it, or I simply am trying to find a new path, and that might be why I am doing my OU degree in psychology, why I am going to become a Reiki master by the end of today. Or maybe it is just a more rounding of a person.

If anyone has experienced this, or knows why this might be happening and can give their thoughts, be more than happy to hear them.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Who steals recycling boxes and why?

Seriously who does, and why on earth do it.

This weekend this happened to me. Where I live in london, our council has fairly recently allowed people to recycle plastic bottles, and thus gave people the option to have another green recycling box, if they felt they would have too much to recycle in just one box, so that is what I did. Me and Z get through a lot of paper, cans, plastic bottles, etc, so we got one, well after 3 months of having 2 boxes, we now only have one because someone on Friday night decided to trepass onto my property and steal a green recycling box, that was full of material to be recycled.

I still don't get it, is there some black market in boxes or something, why steal something like that, it has no value surely and what a number of cans, plastic bottles going to get them money or something!!!

One thing I know for sure, if I ever had the misfortune to meet the person and they decided to come onto the property again to steal something else, I am sure I wouldn't have a problem in ensuring their light fingers became no fingers.

Hopefully the council will give us another box, otherwise our stuff is going to be overflowing again, and it just means the rubbish ends up going everywhere.

If anyone knows of why someone might want to steal green boxes of recycling rubbish, please tell me, I am interested to know.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Trip to Paris, Part 2

By the time we awoke on the Saturday, we were ready to take more of Paris in, but first we needed to eat, and deciding to do what the locals do, we went to the local bakers, etc and got ourselves a lovely French breakfast, and some lovely lunch for our trip to the Louvre. It was like going on a picnic, rucksacks packed full with our food so we could sit and eat when we wanted and nice food as well. Would recommend that anyone who stays uses the same shops as the locals, gives you a better idea of what they experience themselves.

We did have a funny situation with the hotel, we were in the room getting ready to go out to the Louvre, and the maid knocks on the door, and enters, and we tell her to give us two minutes, and she agrees, so we heard, well when we got back, they hadn’t even bothered to clean the room, which was really nice when getting back late to find nothing done.

Back to the Louvre, once we figured how you are supposed to enter it, take a lesson in reading signs would help me…. This museum has so much in it, I was amazed by the sheer amount it contains, and it really does have so much, covering so many different periods of history. Of course, a lot of people’s focus is the Mona Lisa for the obvious reasons, and where it says clearly no camera taking any pictures in some areas, the amount of people who ignore that, and take pictures when they shouldn’t was surprising. I am guessing a lot of the reason they say no pictures to be taken apart from the obvious fact they want to sell copies of the paintings is that I think flash can affect the painting. So they have to have a cover all, because so many people seem incapable of taking pictures without using a flash, some people are serious stupid, most cameras today come with the ability to turn the flash off, but that isn’t enough. Watching people get told off and stopped from taking pictures especially at the Mona Lisa area was funny.

I certainly didn’t know the history of the Louvre and seeing the original foundations of the building certainly gives it a different perspective. We spent ages at the Louvre, we really did, we avoided the rain that came, and thankfully were able to go on with the rest of our sightseeing. We made our way to the down the champ de elysees, where all the cyclist end up on the last stage of the Tour De France. Seeing how far away the Arc de Triomphe makes you realise just how far they have to go when cycling down that road, and they have all the big names on that road, the Cartier, Louis vuitton, etc. We spent at least an hour or more just walking all the way from one end to the other, quite a walk, but you see so much of the so called higher end of Paris with the boutiques. When you walk from one end of the road to the other, you pass quite a few buildings along the way, the grand palace, and other buildings. Z decided to stand in the middle of the road for some of the shots, a little crazy maybe, but she got some seriously good shots, so I guess it was worth it.

But the time walking all the way up the champ de elysees to the arc, I was very hungry and wanting to eat, but not repeat what happened the night before, so we tried to find a better restaurant and knowing where we were, expected to pay a lot of money. The place we found Chez Clement, was cheaper than Balzar, and the food was much better, and the service was as well. A very vibrate restaurant, which we liked a lot. The food was really nice, we both picked the same for the main meal, a mix of seafood and potato, very nicely done. I would recommend this place, and for two people £45, I think isn’t too bad especially given where it was located.
We both stuffed our faces especially with desert, so much so when we left we felt bloated and decided in our wisdom to walk from the Arc to the Trocedero so we could have a look at the place which we saw the night prior from the Eiffel, allowing us to look up at the Eiffel from distance and get nice shots as well if we could do so.

As you walk into the centre area of the Trocedero it has the Eiffel right in the middle of it, and it is just an amazing view, one which you can see why so many people take pictures. Of course we had our picture taken with the Eiffel in the background, a very nice shot was taken, along with others. There isn’t a lot to do at the Trocedero, so we just admired the view, and seeing the Eiffel illuminated again.

We just decided to stroll back to the hotel after that, taking it easy, only a 20 minute walk or so and take in Paris, seeing boats down the Seine. All in all, it was a wonderful day and we really did enjoy ourselves.

By the time we got to Sunday, we knew what we intended to do, as we were leaving that day, and also we wanted to get a nice breakfast, but because according to the guidebooks Paris shuts down on a Sunday, so we weren’t even sure we could get anything to eat, but lucky where we were some of the shops were open which was really nice, another reason to stay where the locals are nearby, as they want their food as well.

So again armed with plenty of food, we went about having a good breakfast, packing up despite we didn’t have to leave until early evening, though that didn’t quite work out as we expected. We just took it easy on the Sunday, wrote the postcards we wanted to send before we left, got the stamps the day before and wanted to make sure people got the postcards, once we had sorted everything we made our way to Gard du Nord, and so good we did, because when we got there we found out there were problems getting back to London, because of fire near the tracks in Bromley, well I found out it was Bromley the following days when reading the news sites.

No one in Paris seemed to know what was going on, they were confused as anything and were suggesting we would have to stay overnight at the station, my response wasn’t polite to say the least. Thankfully through other passengers being there, and calling the UK, we had a better idea of what was going on, but still no clear information from Eurostar. Eventually we got told to get any train we can get on, because they didn’t know if there would be any more coming to Paris and from Ashford we could make it back to London. That is true, but the journey took 4 hours in the end instead of 2hr 30 minutes, which is what I hoped for.

Despite all the problems at the end, which are too long to get into, we really did enjoy Paris, yes it has its downsides namely the fact the Parisians really do love to smoke so much, not just cigarettes, but cigars as well, and you best hope you are okay with breathing that in, because everywhere is the same, amazingly. And the crap on the street as well.

On the upside, the locals are friendlier than stereotype suggests, their metro is cheaper and more efficient than ours, okay it can smell in some places really badly, in a way that assaults your senses, but hey ho, the tube isn’t exactly perfect either, far from it. I imagine my senses would get use to it in the end.
Paris seems to be a slower pace than London, though I think 99% of places have a slower pace than London, so that might not really say a lot……

I have very happy memories of Paris and desire to go back, and that is what counts, the place gave me a lovely and relaxing weekend away and that is very important to have that time out, so one can relax, get away and just enjoy what else exists outside of our usual bubble of life.

Trip to Paris, Part 1

Firstly I have to say how much I really enjoyed being in Paris, it was only 2 and a bit days, it is a wonderful city to visit and one me and Z will be going back to again.

But winding back to the trip and how it all started.

We had a very early start, we were needing to catch the first tube of the day from the local tube station, and when the tube was playing up, we feared the worst, and thankfully we got to Waterloo in time, only to find a massive queue because there was a problem with the passport reader!

But once we were able to get on the Eurostar, things seemed so much smoother and running so much better, we were both relieved that it looked like things would be good, the weather was getting sunnier and though we were both tired, very tired, we were glad to be getting away on our first trip abroad together, where we weren’t visiting one or other’s family.

It is a very smooth ride, was very surprised just how smooth, you expect I suppose it to be a more bumpy especially with all we are used to in this country, but it was a joy not to be thrown around the carriage and we could relax, take it easy.

After a few hours, we disembarked in Paris, not sure where to go, in my wisdom I hadn’t double checked the location of the hotel and the nearest metro station. Given that we had to get city passports and a metro pass for 3 days, it meant finding an information desk, and with me worrying if I was going to struggle to explain what we were needing, it was a joy when the man in the booth spoke English, though very softly spoken, but there was none of the stereotypical arrogance we are led to believe that Parisians refuse to speak English, and we found this throughout the whole time there, they were very friendly, and helpful, especially the older generation, whereas those of our own age seemed less so, what does that say?

Anyway, armed with our metro passes for 3 days which only cost £11 each, which is bloody cheap, anyone would know in comparison to the Tube. We also had the directions for the hotel, which was very useful, and though we found a quicker way to get to the nearest Metro when there, it was good to have the starting point. We were staying at hotel Auteuil near to the station Ranelagh, which is about 20 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower so we were very happy with that, and it is also in an area that would be called a suburb in this country, plenty of residential in the area, so not in the very centre of bustling city, but not far out either.

Well once we were checked into the hotel, we got to the room and went about sorting things out, lo and behold I couldn’t figure out the lights, when I press light switches they usually turn on the lights, but in this hotel, it had a different system, it had a master switch by the door which allowed you to turn all lights off or on with a single flick of the switch, not something I have used before. After that embarrassment, we were just taking in the sights from the window when someone knocked on the door and then entered immediately without even waiting, which I personally think is rude, not what you expect, and we had it happen twice, once for the minibar and the other being the cleaner. I learnt very quickly to stick the do not disturb tag on the door, to stop them!

Given it was now gone lunchtime we decided to go for a walk and take in the local area, and see what existed. It was a very nice area, plenty of local shops, and places to get food for breakfast, lunch, etc. The hotel wanted 16 Euros each for a breakfast, we managed to spend that in two days for lunch and breakfast for that. Spending 64 Euros for two breakfasts seems excessive in my mind, especially when the locals go to the local shops and get their food, so we did the same, getting some lovely food, very nice indeed.

We made our way to the Eiffel Tower area and just took it in, as we wanted to just get an idea of the area, and that is when found out some of the less pleasant sides of Paris, one being the streets being covered in animal crap, be it dog, bird, etc, it was everywhere, not what we expected, maybe they deal with things differently, but they really had a lot on their streets.

The Eiffel Tower is an amazing structure, you do look at awe at it, and you just imagine what it will be like up there, as well as the views, and it is better than you can imagine.

Given Z was feeling very tired, we went back to the hotel so that she could have a little shut eye prior to going out to the Brasserie Balzar, which was recommended in a number of places.

When we went to the Brassiere Balzar, I have to say I wasn’t that impressed and the food itself wasn’t that great. We both didn’t find the food that good, service was pretty good, and they didn’t rely on us to speak French, they were happy to converse in English, of course making it all the better. Me, being me, order a sausage with chitterlings, and I didn’t know what chitterlings was, big mistake. The sausage made me want to retch, it was awful, seriously awful, and it was just me. Z tried it as well, and she felt sick too. Her own food was some salmon which was okay, but nothing special. It was a disappointment to be honest, I was expecting so much more, but the Balzar wasn’t all that had been promised, but I suppose that is what happens. We were only in there for such a short period of time, not much more than 30 minutes, I don’t think I have ever been so quick in a restaurant, probably never will again.

After that less than great exposure to French food, we decided to go to the Notre Dame, and see the amazing building, especially as it was still light and we were close by.

This building, if you have never seen it, is beautifully done, it is a wonderful building, for those who love architecture, and it is no surprise why it stands out, all great carvings on the building, all the statuettes on the buildings wall and roof, making it an imposing building. As it was getting darker, the building just grows with the dusk, fitting more and more in, the style of it, fighting a darker landscape, especially against a flash of a camera taking a picture.

The last thing we decided to do that night was to head to the Eiffel Tower and go up at night, we had been advised it was the best time to go, partly because it is supposed to be quieter, and the views more stunning.

It only cost us 11 Euros each, which I think is quite cheap to go all the way to the top floor of the tower, very good in my opinion. As for quieter, it would have been except for the rabble of German 15/16 year olds who seemed to be a little tipsy and didn’t seem to be with their teacher, and were determined to make as much noise as possible. Made me feel tempted to see if there was a way to throw them over the side without anyone noticing. This is the same bunch of Germans who were determined to deface the Tower with graffiti, maybe they were trying to take over again, 60+ years later, who knows.

There were lots of foreigners there of course, English, Slovak, Americans, Japanese, Germans, etc. I don’t think there were many French people, but that doesn’t surprise me.

The views were great, I have done the Empire State Building and though I believe that to be taller, the views that come from that building, aren’t not as impressive as the Eiffel, I feel in the main because of the surrounding architecture in Paris is more impressive than in New York, just an opinion. At night, the Eiffel is just so different, it has flashing lights on it at certain points and a beacon of light going out for the most part.

Whichever end we were, the views that accompanied the direction were great, one side you had the Trocadero, another was the mini statue of liberty they have there, etc, etc. For me the last section was the one I felt a little light legged, I tend to suffer from vertigo so probably not the best idea to go up to the top. But it was in the lift to the final top section I felt my legs give a little, otherwise it was ok, never happened before, I think it might just be the way the lift moves, or possibly you have more a view of outside when going up. Even so, I was transfixed on all I could see, just wanting to take it all in, like a child who has been shown the outside for the first time in life, it was just fantastic.

Of course we took plenty of pictures, all in all for 2 and bit days, Z has over 200 pictures, quite a lot. I am so glad we went up in the evening, and would recommend going at night, I can see why so many do, especially as it goes from early evening to night, when it goes from like a dusk to pitch black, changing all that you perceive when you are up there.

After staying up there for quite a while and feeling a little cold as the wind was beginning to be biting we decide to make our way back to the hotel to rest up and sleep and take it easy for the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Action man is 40

Seems an age doesn’t it, but this year Action Man is 40, I like probably many men who are above a certain age can remember playing with Action Man. My older brother had an action man before me, he had one not long after they were released, me, well when they came out with the upgrade called Eagle Eyes, that was the one I was given. Looking back now, it seems funny that something so simple could produce play time compared to what kids today supposedly need to keep their attention.

My Action man had the fuzzy hair, eagle eyes which could find anything and flexible hands as well. This was added to the whole range of extras it came with, tanks, parachutes, bikes, jeeps, mini tanks, these things, especially the tanks and armoured personnel vehicles were very tough, you could throw those at the wall and not see anything break, though I am sure I recall my mother being less than pleased when the paintwork was chipped for the 100th time as Action Man and his tank crashed hard into the wall.

BBC Story

Action Man's History

For those of you who are close enough to London and want to see Action Man again in many different guises, Hasbro recruited 40 artists to customize 40 original action man figures. It is at the Blink Gallery from the 16th to the 27th May.

More Information

For those who want to see more information re who the artists are and a more Action Man style site.

As for my Action Man, I have no idea where he is, I am figuring he ended up with my godson, along with all the extras he had, most of a carload actually. He was in pretty good shape when I finished with him, given him being close to indestructible, can’t imagine the worth today, probably nothing without the original box, which I think got so torn to pieces in the efforts to open it on a Christmas day back in the late 1970s.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lack of sleep and snoring

For the past 6+ months which is the time since my dear Z moved in, she has been saying I have been snoring and thus it affects her. My guess is that I have been snoring for a lot longer than that, and it is that until Z drops off at night my snoring affects her...

Well after seeing a specialist on Tuesday, he has recommended and put me on the waiting list to have my tonsils removed. Apparently it involves an overnight stay in hospital, which doesn't impress me at all, given how much I hate having to stay in, done in on previous operations for my cholesteatoma and I hated it. Then to top it off, I have to be off work for at least 2 weeks recovering from the operation, and basically become a prisoner in my own home, as I am not meant to go out, avoid smoking places (which is most of London), avoid dirty, dusty places (no tube travel then), avoid people who have colds, etc (most offices), and generally avoid the public.

Fantastic, really, honestly, I am so looking forward to it. I can't imagine what my boss is going to say, 33 years I am and my tonsils are to be removed, obviously needed, but even so, I have no idea how I can turn around to the boss, and go, I need to have an operation, I need to take two weeks off to recover as well, hope you don't mind.

I did ask for the operation to be pushed beyond October, as I have my OU exam in October and I am also under a pile of work at work, and thus timing would be bad, thankfully it deemed a routine operation, not urgent, probably because I don't have lots of crap coming out of my tonsils at this moment, but since I got glandular fever back was I 21, it has regularly been oozing rubbish at the back of my throat, so I guess it time to remove them.

Z has turned around and said I am not from this world, the amount of injuries, broken bones, problems with my health, she has suggested makes me not normal. In the past 7 years, I have quite a few operations for my wrist, my ears, now my tonsils, maybe this is just karma for something, who knows what mind.

All I know is that, when the operation is done, Z should sleep a little better, and so should I. I might actually wake in the morning feeling refreshed, which would be a major turn around, though I have a feeling it isn't so simple.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Half way to becoming a Reiki Master

On Saturday just gone, I completed the first part of the course Reiki level 3 to become a Reiki master.

I know it is only the starting point of Reiki in reality, but the idea that I could become a Reiki master is one that I quite like. Learning all that I need to learn to help others feel better.

I also learnt that I need not to be so hard on myself when doing Reiki, not to feel so frustrated after the event if I don't manage to heal as much as I want to, don't manage to get the level of success I was attaining to get.

I know that when I pass this course, it will simply be the first step in many steps to come.

It fills me with happiness and also fear, which is probably wrong, but I have a desire to ensure I do things right, and there is an underlying fear I might screw it up, which goes against the ideal of Reiki that we can only do good, but I feel I don't trust myself enough to ensure I get it right.

At least I know that there is only one level above mine which is taught, and that is for teaching purposes mainly, so I will be attaining the level of which is deemed to be a good level.

I do look forward to the attunement on the 27th, which is when the next course day is, and hopefully it will be a moment of relaxation and calm for me......