March For March

Not my own tag line. This was the fundraising call from Prostate Cancer UK. To do 11,000 steps every day in March to raise money for them. It is a cause dear to my heart, as those who know me well will know, and the company I work for is in the third year of a charity partnership with them.

One of the guys in the larger team I work for arranged for a March for March challenge in the team. Twelve of the team were going to try and do 11,000 steps every day, and as a combined team we would try to get enough steps to walk a virtual tour of all of our power stations around the UK, just shy of 2,000 miles.

And I signed up. My last fundraising effort was doing the Thames Path Challenge for Marie Curie back in 2012 – which also involved walking. A lot.

I usually average about 7-8,000 steps per day, but that is usually made of up five not very active days dragged up by a couple of quite active days. So, there was a bit of work to drag the not very active days up to a level where I was doing 11,000 every day, and still more on the more active days.

As I started out, I found there were a lot of little incremental gains that would help. Very much in the Dave Brailsford mantra. A trick I missed on the first day of the month, but picked up after that, was where to park the car when arriving at work. I tended to park in the parking space as close to the entrance of my building as possible. Twenty steps tops to the door. But, if I parked in the spaces out the front of the main building, and towards the end of them, then it was 4-500 each way, nearly a thousand steps a day extra straight away.

And there were lots of those little wins in the building at work as well. I had a tendency to dump my coat on the floor in the corner near my desk. Change that to putting it in the coat cupboard at the other end of the floor. Don’t do everything on one trip from my desk. Putting rubbish in bins, getting drinks from the canteen, going to the toilet. Do them all separately. And when doing any of them, make it a lap of the floor. Get up from the desk more than three times a day. When the fatbit on the wrist buzzes to say I haven’t moved this hour, get up and do so.

Lunch breaks. I’ve never been one for leaving my desk at lunchtime. I had been doing a single shopping trip on a Monday lunchtime to get supplies for the week and then not leaving the building on any other day. Yet, in March I’ve been out for half an hour every day. I’ve been up and down every side street and footpath around the locality of the building. After all, I like looking around when I go anywhere else, so why not where I’m working. There are plenty of little hidden gems near the office.

Evenings. Go for a walk, even if it is only around the block. I was aggrieved on day one when my little fatbit didn’t have a wrist party for me reaching 10,000 steps for the day. Only to remember that I’d reset it to have the wrist party at 11,000 steps instead.

And the 11,000 steps a day was my aim for the month. When I started. Until I saw the figures for the first six days of the challenge. I’d done over 100k in those first six days, which made me think, that’s just under a fifth of the month, so if I kept that pace up, I’d hit 500k for the month. And with that my daily target changed from 11,000 to 16,130.

Plus, I’m competitive. I saw that that many steps was putting me near the top of the leader board. Why not try to eke some more out and top the leader board?

And so, I found myself doing other little wins. Not going the most direct route anywhere. Not using public transport or driving when it was possible to walk. Use public transport instead of taxis, so it isn’t door to door. Whilst waiting for anything, walk little laps. Just keep moving whenever possible.

I was helped a lot by the fact we went to Budapest for five nights. Exploring anywhere new means we walk lots. There were other days out as well, which helped. Helen was enormously supportive, both in going for walks with me, and with finding detours to extend those walks.

By the time I’d returned to work after twelve days off, I’d already broken the 500k for the month figure, and found I had quite a lead in the competition. It would have been easy at that point to coast the rest of the way. So, I did the opposite. I gave myself some new goals. First, break 600k steps for the month. On the second last day of the month I’d done this, thanks to a mammoth trek around Crawley taking pictures of churches. Then to break 300 miles for the month. I went through this on a little lunchtime stroll yesterday. Finally, make it to 620k steps for the month. To take that daily average for the month to 20,000 a day. I needed over 16k for the final day. And so, I walked across town to the WordFest comedy night, and I walked back after it and in doing so I hit that final target.

The team hit their target on the 30th as well, a great effort by all involved. And I managed to top the leader board and do the most steps in the month. Yes me. The fat, old bloke with two dodgy knees. I’ve been lucky in a couple of ways. The weather has been good walking weather for most of the month, there has been hardly any rain through the month. And I’ve avoided catching any lurgy, whereas other members of the team have seen their activity affected by Covid.

Though they seem to be less dodgy than they used to be. I’m not as fat as I used to be which probably helps, and I only resorted to biofreeze and ibuprofen three times during the month, whereas there was a time in the not too distant past where there were daily ice packs, and ibuprofen as of course.

At the end of a busy 31 days my final fatbit stats for the month were.

622,083 Steps

304.91 Miles

4,423 Zone Minutes

811 Floors Climbed

30 Badges Earned (some multiple times).

And despite the ridiculous amounts of food consumed when in Budapest I managed to lose 4 pounds in weight as well.

Now that March for March is done, what does it mean for my walking (besides wanting to lay in a darkened room for a couple of weeks)? Amble for April? Meander for May? Jump for June? Jog for July? (OK, those last two may be stretching the capabilities of my knees regardless of how much better they are compared to a couple of years ago.) I’m not going to go for anything as excessive as I did for March, there is no competition there to keep me going anyway. I will reset the target back to 10,000 steps a day on my fatbit. But there are a number of the habits taken up in March that I should be keeping. Move more often, and move further.

A few people have given me money for sponsorship, but I don’t have a specific donation link for myself. The organiser for our team – Mike Birmingham – has a Just Giving page we have been using for the team, it is linked to him as he is also doing the London Landmarks half marathon this weekend for Prostate Cancer UK. If anyone does want to sponsor me for walking around aimlessly a lot this month, on a retrospective basis then please use the link below and donate (perhaps put a note on to say it’s for Kev for March for March).

Mike Birmingham is fundraising for PROSTATE CANCER UK (justgiving.com)

The Slowest Cooker In The World

As a wedding present, Ciaran and Marta had sent a link to Helen to a slow cooker on Amazon.com. so, Helen had ordered it and it had arrived. However, the link was for the seven in one version, whereas they had wanted the ten in one version, and so, a reorder was done and the extra special, walking, talking, singing, dancing affair turned up.

Ciaran had messaged to say thanks and that they were going to make chilli in it on Tuesday. But when Helen messaged later in the week to ask how it had gone with making the chilli, the message came back that they hadn’t made a chilli yet. They needed to wait until they had more time so they could work out the instruction on how to use the multi-functional slow cooker.

Let that sink in.

They need to work out how to use a slow cooker. One of the simplest things in the world to use. Chuck all of the ingredients in, turn it on, and leave it for five hours.

But apparently the ten in one is complicated. There’s a lot of things it can do (including making yoghurt apparently) and it takes some working out.

It needs pointing out that both of them have PhD’s. Ciaran in maths, so I’m sure he could explain the logarithmic scale increase in complexity that having ten function poses, even if he can’t cut through that difficulty. And Marta’s one in Psychology means she could explain why building up to working out the instructions is so necessary for a happy and successful use of the slow cooker.

It does however look like the slow cooker will be living up to its name, and it will be many months before something is cooked in it.

Finally, how many doctors does it take to make a slow cooker work? More than two apparently.

Non Compos Mentis

As it turned out in the early hours of Monday morning, miracles did happen, and the 49ers completed a comeback victory, that with little over a minute left in normal time the probability computer of the NFL saying we had 0.4% chance of doing. And so, the watching through the fingers will continue for at least another week, and after knocking off our longest time rivals, we’re onto debatably our fiercest with an away trip to the Cowboys. Same time next Sunday.

Needless to say, Monday mornings do get a bit hazy, and it’s probably a good thing I work from home on a Monday. As on Tuesday evening, I once again showed that where driving is concerned, I’m still a danger to myself and a whole host of others.

I wasn’t doing the usual commute home. Due to a cock up on the shopping front, Helen and her mum had taken the wrong bags with them after shopping on Saturday, and they each had the other’s shoes and boots. So, I had agreed to take a detour via Storrington to do the swap.

It wasn’t the most pleasant of evenings, dark, rainy and patches of rolling mist, plus it involved a route that I have only driven once in daylight. The first issue I had was coming off the A27 at the long winding circular ramp for the A283. It has its own filter lane, so lining up was OK, but its totally unlit, and so the last sharp turn off the A27 appeared out of the gloom without warning and I narrowly avoided driving straight into the barriers.

Slowly down the loop and on to the roundabout, where I missed the turning, as once again the sign is after the turning, not before it, so onto lap two of the roundabout, and I missed it again, being cut up from people coming onto the roundabout when they should have waited and then another moron driving in my boot forcing me past. I did make the turning on the third time of asking.

Only to take the wrong exit at Steyning, where instead of carrying on along the A283 I went through the village instead. And then when coming out the other end I totally didn’t see the motorbike, not their light or the dayglo yellow top they were wearing until I was too far out to stop, and I saw the headline reflecting on the wing of the car. Fortunately, the motorcyclist’s eyesight was better than mine, and it’s a wide stretch of road and they drove around me.

I don’t speed normally, but shaken up I was slower than usual and trundled along the single lane at about forty, and all the way there was an idiot driving in my boot. I did the exchange and headed towards home. I usually cross over to the A23 at the A272 to avoid the multitude of roundabouts around Horsham. But I couldn’t face another stretch of single road with imbeciles driving in my boot, and so took the dual carriageway all the way back to Crawley. (Not that that stopped the twats. If I’m going too slowly for you, stop driving in my last coat of paint and overtake in the empty outside lane.)

When the alarm went off Wednesday morning and the news and weather came on, I groaned as it said the whole of the south east was in deep fog. Only to leave the house and find that Crawley (or anywhere on the route to Hove) obviously can’t be in the south east, and that I needed to scrape the frost off under the cloudless slowly colouring sky.

These early mornings mean I get my clothes out the night before and sling them on in low light before going to work. Well, Wednesday morning, I’m sat at my desk and have adjusted my lanyard a couple of times to get it under my collar, but the polo shirt still isn’t sitting right, and the collar is digging in. Just before half ten I’m trying to fix my collar again when I realise that I can see all the seams on my polo shirt and that the logo patch is on the wrong side.

Yes, I’d been wearing the thing for nearly four hours before I noticed it was inside out. Being too lazy to leave my desk and with no one around I whip it off, turn it the right way around and put it back on. Finishing doing so 30 seconds before one of the HR directors comes into the office because their home broadband has stopped working. Now, I often ask the question of how the fuck some people manage to get dressed in the morning. It would seem that no matter how dense those people may be, the answer would be “a shed load better than I can manage”. I’m not sure how I managed to fold it up and put it in the drawer inside out either.

It was probably a good job I didn’t put it on back to front, as then I really wouldn’t have known if I was coming or going. I’d have looked like a real idiot as well. Either that or a very old and very out of place looking member of Kriss Kross, and with my knees there’s no way I’d be able to Jump Jump anyway.

This morning I did manage to turn everything the right way around before putting the clothes on for the first time.

All Change

I left off the last rambling tale with furniture arriving. This was followed up by going out to buy more stuff. A rug for under the new dining table, which matched one of the wallpapers in the kitchen (and subsequently an online order for a second as the first wasn’t quite big enough for the chairs when the table is extending – that’s been here over a week and is still in its wrapper). Also, some new jars for sugar and tea, which meant converting the existing sugar jar into a coffee one. For the first week after that, I was close every day to putting coffee on my cereals instead of sugar.

We were asked on the Saturday if we could be witnesses at a civil partnership ceremony on the Tuesday for Simon and Linda. Tom and Terri were going to do it originally, but Simon had gotten the days mixed up and had told them it was going to be on the Thursday, so when it turned out it would be the Tuesday, they were already booked onto a call to renew their child security checks. So, we were asked to step in. Being asked on the Saturday, with it being a Bank Holiday weekend meant that we said yes and would have to hope we had no meetings at 11 on the Tuesday morning so we could take an early lunch.

It wasn’t only the witnesses that Simon had given the wrong date to. He had told Linda that it was on the 5th (Wednesday), and not the 4th. Therefore, she had booked the wrong day off work, and because they were so short staffed, she felt she couldn’t change the day, and instead made up an emergency dental appointment to get the time off to go to her own civil partnership ceremony.

I thought it would be a fairly formal occasion, and so dressed appropriately, I put shoes on, a shirt and even dusted the suit off (I still didn’t bust a tie out though). Helen was equally (if not more) glam, and we headed off.

When we got to Crawley registry office, the original witnesses to be – Tom and Terri, were stood outside. Their renewal call hadn’t lasted as long as expected, but because names had been given before, we were still going to be witnesses. Then Simon and Linda turned up. In jeans and jumpers. Leaving us feeling slightly overdressed. Apparently, Terri had asked Linda what she was going to wear some time ago, and been told jeans and jumper, only to reply, no seriously, what are you wearing? Jeans and jumper came the reply. Possible information that would have been useful to us before getting ready.

I’d taken my camera to get photos of the event, but my shutter speed couldn’t keep up. We were in and out of the building in 9 minutes. The registrar was “interesting”, I couldn’t pinpoint her age, but it was definitely older than us, and she had a deep gravelly voice that suggested she may smoke somewhere in the region of 300 fags a day. And when it came time for Simon and Linda to sign the register, it was clear I was seated in a position where I couldn’t take photos of them signing it, because the registrar was bent over in front of me in a too tight and too short skirt (which she kept trying to pull down), and so the only picture I might have got would have been one of her breakfast.

Back to work, and it was to be my last full week working from home, as I’d arranged to be back in the new (to me) Hove office Tuesday to Thursday each week. It would be just Monday’s working at home. Something to look forward to. In that last week at home, electricians were supposed to be turning up on the Tuesday to install a load of new sockets all around the house, only for them to not have anyone due to illness, and so that got put back to Thursday to start the two-day job. Wednesday saw the charity shop come and pick up a load of the old furniture sat in the garden.

On our Friday off, not content with the electrician gouging big grooves in the walls, and the other new furniture and decoration in place, we headed into Crawley and bought and old gramophone cabinet for the dining room. We also ordered an old-style stereo to go in it which would be picked up Saturday. We rolled this into the house and went straight back out to Hayward’s Heath to look in the second-hand furniture shop there. Where we found a new sofa and armchair to out liking. With the works at home, we declined the same day delivery option, and they would ring us to arrange delivery during the week.

It took a while to clean up all the plaster dust after the electrician had gone, and it was well into Saturday night before all the furniture was back in the places it came from. It was goof to not do anything on the Sunday.

I was just gearing up to log off Monday night and load the rucksack to take stuff to the office Tuesday morning when the second-hand furniture store rang and said they would be delivering Tuesday, but they would need some help as it was only a driver on the delivery route. Seriously? What kind of cowboy unit charges you £25 for stuff to be delivered, but then you have to help offload it all yourself? I had to scrap plans for office working on Tuesday and stay to help offload the new sofa.

It also meant we had to get the old one out. I’m not sure how they got it in initially, but to get it out we had to move the rest of the living room furniture and the stuff from the hall, and clear half of the bin area outside, and even then, it was a struggle.

The new sofa hadn’t even arrived before someone was knocking on the door asking to take away the old one. Great I thought, until he said it would be £30. I’d have said no outright, cheeky bastard. But Helen said we’d pay £20, he countered with £25, and I said no. He knocked five minutes later to say he’d made some money from a neighbour and so would take it for £20 after all. And so, he did, and not even five hours after it had been dumped on the front it was gone. It seems to be the way of things in Crawley, put random rubbish out and someone will turn up and take it away.

Wednesday morning saw the first commute to Hove, and the first long drive in the new car for me. It’s going to take some getting used to, after mainly having only really driven diesel cars, driving a petrol one leads inevitably to me stalling. A lot. Plus, on the first day, I wasn’t actually sure of where I was going. I’d been to this office a few times but had only ever gone on the train. So, it was sat-nav on. And even then, I nearly missed the indicated turn off of the A27, and then lined up in the wrong lane for the roundabout. But as I crested a hill on the sweep down towards Portslade, you get the view over the continuous buildings along the coast and across the very blue looking sea and sky. It would have made a great picture, but it’s a bit difficult to stop there with constant traffic around and no pull in places available.

Once in the office it’s a bit of a trek from parking out front to my allocated desk. It’s s similar distance than if I’d have been walking from the station to the office. The screens are a lot smaller than the ones we have been using at home, and that were in the old office, and none of the desks had keyboards or mice. Fortunately, I’d got my wireless mouse with me, and after a bit of digging I’d found a keyboard.

I need to find a slightly different route home. There was a five-minute hold at the level crossing next to Portslade station, and then the hill starts at the traffic lights just beyond saw me stall numerous times and miss the lights more than once.

I did take a different route last night, but it wasn’t really intentional. I was supposed to be going round to Liam’s. He’d given me the address, and I recognised the road name from when I’d looked at the map earlier in the day, but I was being hassled to leave the building at six, and so never got a chance to look at the map again. I hadn’t brought my phone with me, and the sat nav in the car didn’t want to recognise his street name, instead only wanted to send me to a similar street name in Worthing.

So, I headed off to where I thought it was and spent the next half an hour driving slowly around, up, and down trying to find his street. I had no joy, and he’d suggested parking north of Aldrington station, only for me not to be able to find that either, or after fifteen minutes even remember what it was called. I stopped to ask a couple of people for directions but must have grown a couple of extra ugly heads as they just looked at me bug eyed and scurried off. I ended up thoroughly lost. Looking at the map this morning, I drove right around his street, going parallel with it on both sides, and crossing over it at least once. Quite frustrating.

Have I mentioned recently that I don’t like driving?

And so, it’s Friday again and the weekly day off. Which means that it’s another Ikea trip. Wish me luck.

Long Time No Write

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything more than a sad sack Facebook status update. Over fifty days in fact. It isn’t as if we haven’t been doing anything, there has been lots going on, off over and under during that time. But, when it comes to putting pen to paper, or typing into Word, I just haven’t been able to do it, and the notepad has been closed unblemished, and Word has the X in the top right-hand corner clicked on firmly.

The last time I wrote anything was after going out (but not out out) for Helen’s birthday. We dropped the cat off for teeth cleaning and spent a day wandering around looking at old buildings in East Grinstead, Forest Row and Hartfield. I started a write up but didn’t get as far as lunchtime and hadn’t added any of the photos before it was closed to sit in My Documents. Possibly never to be finished.

During this time, I have managed to put two issues of Flanagan’s Running Club out, but with those it’s just collation of things I’ve borrowed or items I’ve written before. I had a good backlog of stuff this time last year, with writing group every fortnight it was getting added to on a regular basis, but the flow has dried up. If there isn’t some sort of normality resumed by the end of the year next year’s issues may be few and far between.

I’ve had a rubbish idea for a short story about a bloke called Justin Thyme, but that may never see the light of day either. I’ve had thoughts on a poem paraphrasing The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, along the lines of meet the new car, same as the old car, but that deserves not to see the light of day.

Blog posts is pretty much all I’ve written in the last year, the various works in progress for the novels haven’t been touched, and then over the last couple of months even the blog posts have dried up.

Besides the Sussex wanderings on Helen’s birthday (a far cry from previous years where we’ve been to Brussels, Toulouse, Barcelona, Berlin, and New Hampshire), there has been a few Crawley walks, finding old buildings and more street signs in Bewbush. An afternoon in Shoreham, which happily involved ice cream and a couple of mooches about looking for cars.

With the office closing I got a lump sum for excess travel for six years, with which we used to buy a new car, as the old Venga was becoming a bit of a repair pit, so it’s been given to Nathan. We looked at quite a lot of cars, all that had external measurements that suggested they were larger than the Venga. But whereas the Venga is a bit of a Tardis inside, most of the others we saw were the opposite. The Peugeot 2008 was laughable, I couldn’t even get in the thing properly without losing hair and skin. The Citroen C3 was uncomfortable and had a teeny tiny little toy steering wheel. There were others, but none of these bigger cars had the space we had already, or the adjustability we need when one of us is five foot nothing and the other six feet two. So, we got another Venga, a couple of years old, but with a whole host of mod con updates to the one we had. Sat-nav, panoramic sunroof, heated seats and steering wheel, reverse camera. It may be boring to get the same car again, but it is right for us.

Anyway, back to road sign,

With three roads in Broadfield named after cricketers, I was eight short of a team, so set out to find them in other parts of Crawley from other themes to come up with a team for the ages. I did so and was then left with trying to find the best batting order for them, as there were seven in the team that were opening batsmen at some point. I eventually came up with this order.

Jack Hobbs (all-time leader for runs and centuries)

Alastair Cook (Most runs and caps for England)

John Edrich (Just edged his cousin Bill out)

Ken Barrington (Best England batting average for a player scoring over 5,000 test runs)

W.G. Grace (Top five all time for runs, wickets, and catches)

Wally Hammond (Over 50k runs and 2nd most triple centuries)

Wilfred Rhodes (Most ever 1st class appearances and most wickets ever)

Fred Titmus (One of three in this team to score more than 20k runs and take 2,500 wickets)

Jack Russell (5th leading wicket keeping dismissals)

Derek Shackleton (Most post war wickets taken)

Jimmy Anderson (England’s leading wicket taker)

Looking in the A-Z I did find address for (Peter) May House and (Jim) Laker Court, but there were no road signs, just plaques on the wall of the building, so they missed out, as did (Ben) Stokes Close. I also found an appropriate team manager – (Keith) Fletcher Close.

I’ll mention work briefly. It’s fucking chaos. No other words for it. It’s difficult to explain just how busy it is. I need to be back in the office, anything to break up doing twelve-hour days and still not getting everything done. If it’s not all getting done there’s no point in doing so much over normal hours. Even with three days weekends there doesn’t feel like there’s a break.

Plus working at home recently has been somewhat entertaining. We’ve had a new boiler. The company that were doing the fitting sent Laurel and Hardy the first day. After much scratching of heads and arses they said it would have to go in the loft and a couple of hundred miles of copper piping would need installing. And then on the way out they took some sun cream. They didn’t come back. When their boss did a few days later, the boiler was put in the kitchen, and there was very little new piping on display. And the electricians came and wired it in to the mains and it was job’s a good un.

Well until it was time to do the kitchen. We’d been and planned a new kitchen back in October. Yet it was after easter by the time it got fitted. The deliveries came in three parts, but the final bulk part came at half seven in the morning, and I wasn’t even dressed, and then they rushed all the stuff in, entombing the kitchen table in some kind of Ikea cardboard fort. This was over a week before it was due to be fitted. The table had to be moved out and squeezed into the living room. Not ideal for a nosy bastard when I’m looking out the front window at everything passing by.

The new boiler had caused another leak because all the water now comes from the mains, and the pressure was too much for the kitchen tap, which had to be capped off, so upstairs water for three weeks. Then the hot tap on the bath started leaking. A plumber came, said the taps needed replacing and left it in a worse state than it was before. We were resorting to turning the water off at the main tap in the hall. Only that hadn’t been used in decades, and so after steady use for a few days it sprung a leak of its own.

Normality was finally resumed on the water front as the kitchen was being fitted.

Of course, before you can fit a kitchen, you need to get rid of the old one. The actual ripping it out didn’t take that long. We had some help, and all the units were stripped out and dismantled in a couple of hours. However, the removal of tiles and wallpaper brought problems. Along with about half the plaster down. Part of which I missed to get my first AZ jab – something that would catch up with me later. We also found the electrician from the boiler install had done a quick and dirty (if not downright dangerous) fitting, putting wires between piping and drilling through the tile in part and sticking the junction box to another tile.

Now, it’s well known my DIY skills only fall under the category of destroy it yourself, so fortunately Simon was on hand to help with (well, do) the plastering. And it must be said, he could turn pro, he did an amazing job. Though it wasn’t dry enough to think about starting the wallpapering.

Which as it turned out was a blessing in disguise. The electrician for the kitchen fit came and drilled out troughs for wiring that would have been right through where the wallpaper would have been. The kitchen fitters were less than impressed by the new piping the boiler fitter had put in as it was all mid wall and meant they would have to cut holes around it all to install the units. Then when the units were fitted it also meant there was a lot less to wallpaper. The kitchen still isn’t fully fitted, there was a wrong door delivered, and we’ve had to resort to going to Ikea to get it ourselves as promises of delivery have been and gone for two weeks. Additionally, the shelf for the unit was missing. Only it wasn’t, I’d put it down the side of the fridge as a safe place to store it, only to find it after the fitters had finished for the week.

Then came wallpapering, which I wasn’t anywhere near as bad at as I had been in the past or expected to be this time. We nearly got it all done on one day, but invites to the bar next door brought an end to proceedings at about eight pm. It got finished on the Sunday, and over a week later it’s still all in place.

Anyway, next door’s bar. They’ve been working on it since the back end of last year, and it officially opened the weekend lockdown eased. We’d been elsewhere for a barbeque the day it did ease – anything to get out, but the bar opening will be remembered for how monumentally pissed I got. Stick any drink in front of me and I’ll drink it, which won’t help. What finishes it off is the kilo or so of vodka jelly that I was popping into my mouth in bite sized (well, not sure any biting was involved) chunks at five second intervals. The drinks after wallpapering were a lot less frantic.

When the pub gardens opened, we took the kitchen helpers to the Downsman for curry and drinks and then back to burn random pieces of wood in our garden. The winter covers had been taken off all the garden furniture and cushions retrieved from the loft, but the paddling pool masquerading as Baker Lake is still there and full of water, and no matter how much it is used to water plants and the garden in general, the level doesn’t seem to go down. It might just about be emptied in time for it to be used in anger.

It’s not getting used to its full potential though as we have another leak. This time the kitchen waste pipe has snapped outside the kitchen window and so fills a bucket on a regular basis as well as keeping half the patio damp.

Then there was the Tottenham debacle. I’ve been moaning since Mourinho was hired that they should sack him, but then they trump that and join the ESL. This prompted me to have a sweary rant denouncing the team as I’m sick of them, and football in general.

That’s it, I’m done.

I’ve been a Tottenham fan for over 40 years, but no more.

Being realistic, I know a lot of our fan base have delusions of adequacy. We have not been a big club for a long while. A top four place is the best to hope for. So being one of 6 English clubs said to be setting up a European super league (of only 12 clubs) is more than just a piss take. It’s a fucking disgrace.

But it’s typical of the cynical money first nature of Levy, who rides roughshod over decent fans (which, granted, there aren’t too many of). The man who hired two managers that publicly stated they hated the club, George Graham and the current incumbent fuckwit. I’ve been saying #MourinhoOut since day one, but with this latest development, keep the twat, you deserve each other.

In the 90s we regularly put out the worst back 4 in top flight history (Austin, Nethercott, Doherty, Edinburgh – find worse, I’ll wait), and now, with a new stadium, we’ve got things like arm sponsorship by Cinch, and Dulux as an official paint partner, and despite all this lunacy they still want more.

They want to destroy football, its history, its fans, and its soul for a few (granted millions) dollars more. I will not be a part of it. So, fuck you Levy, fuck you Tottenham, and fuck the other 5 mercenary English clubs.

Even if a super league doesn’t come to fruition, the fact Tottenham were willing to jump in means they deserve to be hoisted by their own petard, and deserve every criticism and punishment that comes their way.

Within an hour of me posting that, they sacked Mourinho. Then they withdrew from the ESL a couple of days later, but I’m not going back, and all my Tottenham gear went in the charity clothes bag that was collected Wednesday morning. At least I know it’s not been me jinxing them all this time. Even after disowning them, they still managed to lose a final.

The main source of entertainment is however the cat. He’s only just about gotten used to eating on the floor in the kitchen after years of being up on the counter to avoid the dog snaffling all his food. Yet over the last few months the landscape of the house and garden has been changing on an almost daily basis, and so each time he comes in there is a sense of bewilderment as he tries to orientate himself to furniture moves, deliveries, cardboard boxes everywhere, drips of water, workmen, noise dust, missing furniture, and his bowl in a different place every five minutes. He’s adapted by turning his volume up and being on for longer.

He’s been up on the table at the front window, watching people go by and doing a low purr / rumble / growl at them, he really is beginning to think he is the dog of the house. You look up and suddenly there he is licking your plate. Most of the time it is empty, but he also seems to like trying to lick the garlic and herb dip that turns up with pizza Friday.

And finally, he now thinks he’s part of mealtime.

You know the meme, the one with the screaming/crying woman being held back by her friend and the cat sat at the table in front of food making a sarcastic response. Well Sniffles can now be making his own. I’m fairly sure I’m the one shouting “get out of my seat you cheeky fucker”, and Sniffles responding, “It’s not yours anymore bitch.”

And we refurnished much of the dining room today, the table and chairs we’d got from the charity shop turned up, and against the odds and looks of disbelief we got a six-foot-long sideboard in the car (I had mentioned earlier it has a lot of space). The old sideboard and Welsh Dresser are out in the garden covered by tarpaulin, and the random shelves are emptied and in the garden for future firewood. The new (well for us, another charity shop buy) sturdy TV stand turned up as well, so there is a lot of furniture to sell / offload. So, if anyone needs a sturdy kitchen table with six chairs, a wobbly coffee table, a Welsh dresser, or an art deco-esque sideboard, let me know.

Runaway

There seems to be a lot of those kind of posts on Facebook nowadays. Recently my feed doesn’t seem to go more than twenty-four hours without there being an appeal to be on the lookout for a missing person, and in the majority of cases it is for an adult. It is obviously distressing when someone goes missing (especially if it is a child, but I’m not talking about those cases here).

The power of social media now, along with the ever-watching eyes of CCTV mean that people are found. And that is a relief for those family and friends that were searching.

But what if the person who went missing didn’t want to be found? What if there current live has got to the point where it is no longer liveable to them? Shouldn’t they be allowed to disappear? Shouldn’t they be allowed to start again? Away from that suffocating pressure they are feeling. Surely it is better that they do that and carry on living in a new place without that pressure rather than allowing that pressure to drive them to suicide?

Personally, I’m glad CCTV and social media (and Facebook in particular) weren’t around when I walked out of my old life nearly twenty years ago. It is a terrifying feeling to go to a new place with nothing; knowing nobody, and with no prospects or place to live.

Back then, six weeks in to a new life, when the police came to speak to me in answer to a missing persons report it was a shock. But fortunately, they were the only ones I had to deal with. When I daw the police car pull up outside the shared house I was living in, a cold stab of fear passed through me. I told them I was fine, but that I had no intention of returning, and I asked them not to pass my address on. Even though they said yes to that, I didn’t trust the process and I moved out of that shared house that day and into a bed and breakfast for a few days until I found somewhere new to move on to.

It was five years before I had any contact with my old life. I was a different person by then, a much better one I think. If there had been social media then I don’t think I would have got to five years. I would have been found and dragged back – kicking and screaming – and I’d probably be dead now.

So although I have sympathy with those looking for missing adults, I also think, please – just let them be, let them have whatever time and space they need. They are the most important person to consider in such a situation. Not you.

Do You Deliver

No, but we do chicken, lamb, and beef. Yes, it’s a terrible old joke, but the state of deliveries has turned in to a terrible new joke recently. If they were trying to shoot themselves in the foot, they would probably miss.

I sent some stuff by TNT, tightly packed and well taped up in a large cardboard box. However, as has been the case almost every day recently it was raining when they got around to delivering it. The person they were delivering it to wasn’t in, and so the TNT driver, in their infinite wisdom, thought the best place to leave the parcel was in a drain culvert. Just so they could make sure it would get thoroughly soaked through. The bottom fell out of the box when eventually picked up and the books and magazines now have that water damaged look to them.

We have been ordering delivery from Pizza Hut for Friday pizza night for months. It isn’t a tricky delivery route, and it is one their own delivery drivers do without any issues. But give it to a Deliveroo (who should be known from now on as Deliverpoo) driver and the route map looks like a kid has gone mad with a map and a red marker pen. We normally give the pizza a bit longer in the oven when it arrives to crisp it up a bit, but it needed the heat when the driver eventually got here. Parking up to bring it to the door wasn’t the end of the lunacy either. He parked randomly a few doors away and then ran around like a headless chicken to various houses on the street before eventually coming back to the open door where Helen was stood waiting for the pizza.

Saturday wasn’t much better. Fair enough, the driver from Cinnamon made it straight to the house, but they didn’t manage to get the order right. Specifically, Helen’s main. They delivered chicken and not the lamb the order they confirmed by e-mail clearly said on it. They fobbed me off with the promise of a free main next time, but Helen wasn’t having that as it isn’t the first time, they’d screwed up a delivery to us, and she got them to refund her dish instead.

I got a large heavy cardboard box delivered last week, the contents of which some of you will find impossible to believe. It was a delivery that wasn’t mired in ineptitude. It was an exercise bike. Yes exercise. Yes, a bike. A big black and red sturdy thing. Fits perfectly under the stairs. But it has been out several times, and now that I’ve finally remembered to get batteries to fit in the computer thing on it, it tells me all sorts of things about time, speed, distance, calories, and pulse rate. What it doesn’t explicitly say but has been easy to find out is I’m effing unfit, and even after a fairly easy initial session I felt a bit lightheaded, short of breath and horrible and sweaty. But on the plus side, and the reason I got it, it does seem to be helping with my aching knees. Plus, the more I use it, the easier the fifteen minutes are getting.

And this helps with the walking. Twice a week, usually once with Helen, and once by myself I’ve been going out for reasonably long walks. Long enough to get the fatbit excited and try to shake my arm off. We had a lovely walk around parts of Pound Hill and Worth the previous weekend,

https://onetruekev.medium.com/another-crawley-stroll-c4ebd995cfa0

then I had one around parts of Broadfield, then the pair of us walked to and around most of West Green this weekend. Taking in the same historic buildings and lots of geeky pictures of road signs. Today was another trip into Broadfield covering different parts and up to a very muddy Target Hill. The more I do it, the more I find it fascinating how they themed groups of roads as they built the new town around the old villages. I have at least another half a dozen longer walks to do to capture all I want to on film. Plus, I keep finding more things I want to capture on film. There are three walks that need writing up at some point.

I’m also doing weekly sessions on a writing course, which is concentrating in life writing, so there are some interesting pieces coming out of that. And it’s given me some impetus and I’ve done three short stories this month, which is three more that I’d managed in the previous six.

When I logged on to my work laptop yesterday morning a thought came to me as the Bitlocker screen came up asking for my password to use the laptop. It made me wonder whether a password to log onto a porn website should be called Titlocker or perhaps Bitslocker. No? Just me then.

Getting an exercise bike seems to have led to me getting one of those random mail outs where they advertise all kinds of health-related items. There were some pretty random items in there. Chairs and beds advertised as “helping the carer at home”; an instrument to lift and tone sagging necks or quadruple chins; talking weighing scales so you don’t need your spectacles to see the display, I can just imagine it when I step on “one at a time please you fat b@st@rd”; and the one that made us laugh the most – Diabetic Socks. Seriously? WTAF? How much sugar must anyone need to eat so they sweat out enough to turn their socks diabetic? Anyway, the catalogue had one more item that wasn’t health related that they thought they might be able to tempt me into getting, a manual typewriter. Yes, there is a cool retro thing going on there, especially for a budding writer; however, as it costs more than it would cost to buy a laptop, I don’t think that it’s going to be a goer. Plus, these posts would just be pictures of what I’d typed up onto sheets of paper.

And the less said about the shower of shit #MourinhoOut keeps mismanaging the better. Although the downturn in form and results seems to have coincided with getting additional kit sponsorship from Cinch – yes those muppets with the uber annoying adverts with the x-factor reject. It would serve the club right if there is a direct link.

End Of An Era 1 – Atlantic House

Last Tuesday was my last ever day in Atlantic House after just over ten years of working there. It is being closed as part of changes to office locations brought about by the fact most people work from home and have been doing since the original lockdown brought about by Covid-19. I’ve pretty much had the office to myself since we were allowed to go back in July, with a handful of people in some days. There has been somewhat of a feeling like it being the Marie Celeste, and it was no surprise that the office would be closed, the first of three announced so far, and there are sure to be others as we move into 2021.

To be fair the usage of the office had been heading downhill before Covid struck. The teams that were in the office had been downsizing over the previous few years and it was probably only ever at a maximum of half capacity most of the times (apart from Wednesdays, when the world and their wives would descend on the building for team meetings). It was at the kind of level it first was when we moved over there at the back end of 2010 to prepare for the sale of the Networks business after the company had bought British Energy.

Employee Services was of a similar size to what it will be in January, and of those original refugees from Energy House, not a lot survive, I’ve had a good think and only eight of us are still in Employee Services now, there are a couple who were and have moved on elsewhere within HR, and there are others in Employee Services who were employed by the company back then, but there are only the eight of us, half of which work in the team I’m in, and four of them had worked for me when we were in Energy House.

Over the years we have seen the team expand, to the point where we were on two floors, and then after meeting rooms and offices were stripped out of the first floor, we were crammed in taking up the whole of that floor. And then as various projects and reorganisations have taken place, we have shrunk again into a space that was less than half of the floor.

I’ve moved around the first floor quite a bit, but have spent the post lockdown months in a spot where my original desk was when we moved over. I’ve spent time on floor two as well when I was seconded to a very long and tiresome project, after which the reduction of the team could be seen more clearly. And along with the reduction in the team, the dilution of team spirit it took with it became more obvious.

It had used to be a fun place to work, and we did some great team events in the office. 2012 was probably the high point, we had just taken on a whole new team as part of an expansion, and the events came thick and fast during the year. Easter, Queen’s 60th Jubilee, Olympics, Halloween, Christmas, and Charity days. These would always involve dressing up, cake baking, eating, top trumps tournaments and engagement from the whole office. (Well, apart from a select handful of professional miseries, which at that point didn’t include me.) It was a good place to be.

Over the last few years all the fun has seemed to have been sucked out of working. People have been literally told not to talk, not to laugh, and if someone just happens to be smiling it is frowned upon (yes, that was intentional). Fun has come to be forced and therefore actually tiresome.

The teams would go out for social events – Friday night at the Snooty, Bowling, meals, helping hands etc – and it was all good. And as for the Christmas parties, they were legendary. Everything is so buttoned up now, and we don’t really mix outside of work at all now, which is somewhat of a shame.

And now that the office is closing the team will be split even more than they were before lockdown if and when we get back to the office.

There have been a lot of characters that have worked in Atlantic House, some I’m glad to have met, that I’m glad to know, and call acquaintances. Others who have been an utter nightmare and in no way am I sorry that they don’t work there anymore. And even more have been barely tolerated with accompanying eye-rolling (and I’m sure they thought equally highly of me). Some of them were only there for a matter of hours, some will still be working for the company into their nineties. A lot of people have left whilst we have been there, some have had grand leaving dos and great speeches, others went out for lunch and never came back (this seems especially prevalent in payroll).

I’ve been working at this office for about twenty percent of my life and there are a lot of good memories from it, and some big life events have taken place whilst I’ve been working there, and there is a part of me who is going to miss the office. The rest of me just wants a lottery win so I don’t have to commute to a new office.

Stop Prevaricating

The reception on the alarm clock radio in the bedroom isn’t great, and there are a lot of stations packed closely together on FM. Recently the best signal has been for Susy Radio, which is very local, but has a playlist that covers all kinds of music and has the bonus of not playing the same songs at the same time every day. Plus there aren’t as many adverts as on other channels, and the DJ’s aren’t verbose clowns. However, this morning it did sound like Norman Collier had taken over as it dropped in and out repeatedly. (For those not old enough to remember, Norman Collier was a late seventies / early eighties comedian, whose act was basically him speaking as his mic dropped in and out.)

It was interesting to see than Putin denied having anything to do with the Novichok poisoning of his main political rival. There is the old adage around f@rts that goes “he who denied it, supplied it”. Something that applies here, as Putin has denied it, but almost certainly supplied (or ordered) the Novichok. He also claims an investigation will clear him. Hardly surprising when he is arranging the investigation.

Charlie goes walkabouts with his bowl again, and trots into the living room with it in his mouth. Sniffles is already on the sofa, settling in for the night. The look on Sniffles’ face as Charlie brings the bowl in was a picture. Watching Charlie with as much disdain as possible, and then looking at me as if to ask WTF is the loon doing now? As Charlie leaves the bowl behind and heads back to the kitchen, Sniffles sits staring at it and shaking his head as if he can’t believe what he’s been watching. Then Charlie returns with a Foreman Grill sponge cleaner in his mouth. No idea where the damn dog got it from, as I’ve not seen one of them in the house since before lockdown.

Can you believe it? It would appear that Atlantic House is a picnic spot. I happened to look out of the window as I was packing up to go home on Friday, and there are four randoms sat on the benches by the stream having a full blown picnic. Day trips to Three Bridges, whatever next?

Saturday saw new levels of morning ineptitude, even by my morning standards, getting a spoon out of the cutlery drawer to spread butter on my toast was special.

I was just about with it by the time we went out to meet friends in Handcross to walk to Staplefield, details in this separate blog.

Sunday saw Helen going to Hove with her mum, which left me alone to get on with things. Now, I have a long list of things that I should be getting on with. Writing (something apart from blog posts – such as the three books I’ve started, or various short stories etc.), reading (so many books on the TBR pile, and none of them touched in over a week), going out walking and taking photos (I have numerous lists of places and road signs in Crawley that I want photos of), sorting out the records (I can’t sell the ones earmarked for sale until I can list what is in there), and that’s before practical things like housework. So, what did I do? None of the above, I spent most of the time playing quizzes on Sporcle and doing jigsaws on jigsaw world. The thing is, doing any of the things on my list would help my mind set enormously, but instead I just keep putting them off, and then feel guilty about doing so.

And it doesn’t get any better as the week progresses, even to the extent that this week’s blog had to be forced out like a turd when constipated.

The new NFL and Premier League seasons both start this week, and I can’t even raise the enthusiasm to look forward to that. I’m still feeling the disappointment of the 49ers defeat in the Superbowl in pre COVID days. As for Tottenham, it’s hard to look forward to the season when we’ve still got that utter cockwomble Mourinho in charge. The new third kit release this week hasn’t helped, it’s a dreadful lemon colour, so we are going to look like lemons as well as playing like them.

It suddenly got very dark in the office. As usual I hadn’t moved in at least an hour, so all the lights had turned themselves off; then dark clouds swept in, making it virtually black in the office. The only light was coming from the monitor. Meanwhile I had a playlist on that was bumping early nineties rave tracks, and so I got flashbacks to being in dark and dingy clubs dancing like a loon at one in the morning. That would be a vast improvement on work.

I can see why Wednesday is called hump day this week, mainly because I’ve got the raging hump with the non-stop deluge of morons to deal with. It would appear that no one in Crawley has passed their driving test, it took half an hour to drive home from work, and it was effing dangerous out there.

I had to force myself to post this as the prevaricating spreads. I wasn’t even bothered to do any Sporcling either. It is an awfully slow evening.

That’s Not A Puddle, That’s Me

It never ceases to amaze me just how many Spotted Crawley posts on Facebook are people asking for others to be on the lookout for items stolen from their vehicles. Now, it’s not nice getting robbed, but I think, seriously – stop leaving expensive sh1te in your car or van then, you know Crawley is a town full of scumbags. There was another one this morning, and I thought, what sort of idiot leaves that kind of expensive item in their car overnight. And then I found out; as they posted the same message on their personal timeline and it turned out I’m friends with them.

One of the things about being back in the office is they have erected a plastic screen all around the security / reception desk. Only I got into the office Friday morning to find it had gone. Were they relaxing the protocols? No, the bloody thing had fallen off overnight. Obviously as tired of all this Covid-19 cr@p as everyone else.

Or it was wilting in the heat, Thursday warmed up to an uncomfortable level, but it was only a taster for Friday. It was already scorching by the time I got into work, glad to be in an air conditioned dark space (the lights turn themselves off after five minutes of no motion and I can’t be ar5ed to keep moving to the sensor to make them come back on, so most of the time they are off). Yet, that was nothing compared to it as the day went on. It had nudged into the thirties, and as I’ve said many a time, that is only an acceptable temperature if we are using the Fahrenheit scale.

The office (and surrounding) area had a power cut as the local transformer had had enough of the d@mn heat as well. I gave it half an hour and then packed up to go home as needed a large screen for what I was doing. Got in the car, which was still in the sun at that point, and turned the engine on, only for someone to come out and tell me the power had come back on. The flipped coin said back to the office. Usually I’d say I was amazed how quickly the power was back, but seeing as it affected one of UKPN’s own buildings it shouldn’t be a surprise.

I feel as if I’m leaving an oily trail behind me as I walk the short distance to the car at the end of the day, despite it now being overcast, thankful the shade had come around in the afternoon and I’d left the windows slightly open after how it felt on the abortive run home earlier.

So, they actually did it, the latest Maccy D’s advert is using Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” to celebrate their wider re-opening. Yes, it was an obvious choice, and widely hyped as something to happen on Twitter months ago, but it is a shame, as it means more money going to the jumped up little pea-brained thieving tw@t.

I woke up Saturday morning to find a moth in my glass of water. In case anyone is interested in what it was doing in there; I can say that at a best guess it appeared to be doing the butterfly stroke.

It’s amazing how quickly a paddling pool full of water can change colour. Wednesday this was clear, Saturday morning it looked like this – pea soup, and just in time for this evening’s guests. It was also amazing how quickly the subject was changed by Helen, “So, the mirror looks nice.”

Speaking of guests, Faye had declined, which to be fair was understandable, seeing as last time they were round we accidentally tried setting fire to her husband.

We have been to a few places where they have these little gizmos they point at your forehead, press a trigger and it measures your temperature. Thinking about guests coming round, I thought it would be a great idea to have something similar. The closest thing I could think of was to get a mini water pistol, hold it to their forehead and pull the trigger. If they were over the recommended temperature, the cold water would help.

At home, we don’t have any of these smart speakers or virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri or whatever the hell the Google thing is called, and it is my intention never to have them. Mainly because I think that anyone who believes they aren’t recording and analysing everything you say at all times then they are deluded fools. Even without the virtual assistants, devices are still picking up everything you say and using it against you, even if you think your phone is dormant, and shoved away in your pocket, it’s still listening.

We were having a conversation Saturday night whilst sat in the garden about words people hate. One of the words we spoke about was moist, knowing that some people hate it, and that others say it deliberately because of that. It was a two minute conversation, part of the conversation was around it would be a good word to put on a t-shirt. Then Sunday morning I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone when this advert turned up.

A t-shirt with a pretty much word for word quote of what we had said the night before. I’ve not seen adverts from this particular company before, and there were no other products from them if I scrolled left as there usually is. I know there is such a thing as coincidence, but this isn’t it. This is by no means the first occurrence of this on Facebook; and Amazon often puts up items on my home page “you might be interested in”. Items that Helen and I were talking about, but not stuff that we’ve even looked for on any other website. Yeah, of course they aren’t listening.

Sunday didn’t see a lot being done, I was failing to trouble the scorer on my fatbit, the only time it did pick up any steps was when I walked to the ice cream van as it parked four doors down, and back. We watched some brain out TV we’d not got around to watching during our extended The Wire box set bingeing. A couple of silly Agatha Raisin episodes around the British Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton, you lucky lucky b@st@rd.

The screen is back up at the front desk at work. It would be no good for horses though. It still doesn’t look very stable. Unfortunately I’m here all week. Feeding time at the zoo is becoming more interesting every day, as it is often preceded by a new game – hunt the effing dog food bowl. Last night it required a torch out in the depths of the garden – which has to be carefully stepped through to avoid any little Charlie presents – before it was found half under a bush. I got it back in to find half an ant colony setting up base in it and a couple of earwigs for good measure. We may have to glue the bowl in place at this