Thursday, 10 February 2011

I Hate Lloyds TSB

I Hate Lloyds TSB. Bunch of incompetent idiots who don't know their Arse from their Elbow! They constantly disappoint me at every opportunity. Lost my signature twice, allowed someone to change my account address IN A BRANCH that led to fraud, lost a photocopy of a passport (via their own internal post no less) and don't even know how their own security procedures work. I could write a book listing their failings. They even told me I could complain but the team leader said it wouldn't change anything. ARGH! How can they still be in business?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Massive Thunder Storm

Just had a massive Thunder Storm where I live which gave rise to a massive torrent of rainfall down the hill. The video shows how much water was flowing. We had quite a bit of Thunder & Lightning, but nothing too close.

Saturday, 11 April 2009


So, this weekend we announced our engagement, Inês and I. After 5 and a half years, we've finally got round to it. But the story started about a month ago, in Rome...

I had everything prepared and asked Inês to marry me whilst in Rome. The ring, the champagne and a bit of romance. But having famlies in two different countries makes telling everyone a little difficult. We decided that as we were in Portugal for Easter that would be the best time to tell everyone. So a few days before our flight we arranged a meal with my parents to tell them. It went really well and they were happy for us, pestering us already for the date of the wedding and when we were having children! Inês' parents was a little more difficult as I would have to ask in Portuguese, when my knowledge is extremely lacking. We arrived in Portugal and there was a meal planned at a Brazilian restaurant, where we were going to tell them. When we arrived though it was very quiet, much too quiet for an announcement like this! We bottled it and ended up telling them back at the house while having some Easter cake. It worked out well as they were very happy.

It now falls to telling everyone else, people on my blog, Facebook, MySpace and Hi5 should know when they next have a look. I'm sure my mum will be phoning, texting and e-mailing everyone she knows furiously. One of our neighbours has already RSVP'ed and we haven't arranged anything yet.

Now is the long and difficult task of arranging everything. It will probably be August 2010, and somewhere in Portugal, so if you think you'll be going, that's when you have to keep free.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

So, a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I visited Rome for a long weekend, staying at the Hotel Bolivar in the historic centre. We’ve both always wanted to visit as we both like history and museums, although I’m not too keen on the art side of things.

Let me first talk about the Hotel, following some recommendations we asked for a room on the top floor… big mistake. On the top floor is the entire hotels air conditioning equipment, imagine a machine probably 3m x 2m x 2m, constantly coming on and off, making a loud droning sound just outside the patio doors! In the summer I bet the room is lovely, there is a roof patio overlooking the city and we came to learn that although the room is small it was actually quite spacious in comparison to the others in the hotel. The room was also very cold, even for me, so I’ve no idea how my GF managed all night. In the morning we asked to change rooms and this happened without much hassle, we moved into the room directly below the air con unit but at least the noise wasn’t so loud and this room was actually quite warm. The new room was a little more modern, electronic locks and a more recently renovated bathroom although no bath this time. The new room even had a proper double bed instead of the normal 2 twins pushed together. Breakfast was very basic but at least the area was clean and the food fresh. The hotel was relatively cheap considering its location, so although it wasn’t the best, value for money it was still pretty great. We quicky learned that we could pretty much walk to any of the major attractions except the Vatican.

We saw the Pope on Sunday and the thing that struck me the most was the quantity and diversity of all the people there to see him. There were a lot of general tourists like ourselves, loads of religious tourists from various schools and churches. There were even a few priests like this matrix-esque man.

We visited the Trevi fountain more than once as it was a good place for restaurants and ice-cream. The oddest thing were loads of guys trying to get you to pay for a polaroid photo. They also had a scam of giving roses to the females in a couple in the hope to guilt you into paying for a photo. There were people selling mini-tripods and guys tossing a pair of strong magnets in the air that made a quick clicking sound. They were quite annoying really as it’s a romantic place and the last thing you want is some guy trying to force something in your face!

St Peter’s basilica was impressive, if only in the walk to the top. They lie. 360 doesn’t sound like a lot of steps does it? Easy you’d think… Hell no. It’s 360 steps of totally random sizes, shapes, inclinations. At some points you’re almost walking leaning over by 20 degrees. There are spiral staircases, ones with a rope to help pull you up. There are switch-backs and all kinds of fun getting to the top, I dread to think how bad it was before all these staircases were installed, as the majority looked modernish. I did see one set of steps in a disused area that looked about 1” wide and about 10” tall!. The view was quite impressive though.

The Vatican museum is reasonably impressive for me, although the Sistine Chapel was a bit of a disappointment. The whole Vatican museum was relatively sparse of people, but by the time you get to the Sistine, it’s packed with people sitting around the outside. Looking from the ground is also not too great, but the history of it is still special. I was probably more impressed with the castle near the Vatican as I’m always interested in the size and innovation there seems to be in castles and fortifications.

The Colloseum was impressive, but compared to the one we saw in Tunisia, it seemed a bit too restored for my liking, and a bit too restricted. The ruins close by of the Forum and various others around Palatine Hill were good but again, seemed a bit run-down, probably as the stone was stolen to build other buildings. We also went to the Campidoglio museum which had loads of stuff in it, from various ages, a lot of stairs and not enough information about each piece, but it was better than most.

Overall the fact that wherever you turn, there are ancient buildings, all with history is really impressive and gives Rome a special quality. It is a shame that a lot isn’t looked after with such fervour as those in the UK, but there are so many buildings. Everywhere you turn there is a massive old building or church. The Pantheon is an example, in a built up area, suddenly there is a church, one where people still go to mass.

Now the food, oh the food. I’m not skinny and I like my food and Rome definitely delivers. Pizza, proper pizza, mmmmm, just make sure you realise that a 4-cheese pizza just has cheese, no tomato sauce! I had 3 pizzas I think and they were all very tasty, especially the tomato sauce. Their tomato sauce is literally just tomatoes, but they taste so nice! I also had a couple of pasta dishes, and again they were beautiful. The final food-stuff we both enjoyed was the Ice-Cream, it was soft, delicious and they had loads of flavours. We even had dinner one day in Piazza Navona, a posh square with 3 fountains. The food was probably over-priced, but the atmosphere was great.

The final point I want to talk about is Rome’s is lack of signs and information. I know the UK can often have an overload of signs, but Rome seems to have zero. We turned up to the Pantheon and were met with a large mass of people up against some small fences, with a few security guards behind it. It probably took each and every person 10 minutes before they found out there was Mass occurring inside, and probably another 5 or 10 to find out what time it would re-open. And this wasn’t once, we stayed in the area for a while and there was a constant flow of people, all wondering what was going on. A single sign saying “Pantheon closed for Mass, open at 18:30” would have made all the difference. Another example was a museum we were about to enter, literally 2 meters from the door when suddenly a policeman walked to the door and closed it and told us to go away! We thought something like a demonstration was happening as there were loads of police in various uniforms (formal to normal) milling around. Loads of people walked up to the gate and were told to go away, with pretty much no explanation. After a while I asked what the reason and was told the museum was closed. Again, I originally thought this was for some special reason but after some more questioning we found that was the time it closed EVERY DAY! They could install a single way barrier and put up a simple sign saying “closed at 4pm, open again tomorrow”. But no, instead they use a policeman! ARGHH

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Jury Service and Top 10 Tips

For the last 2 weeks I have been on Jury Service, my first time. I had spoken to many people before to get an idea of what to expect and even looked on the internet for any advice or information but none of it really prepares you.

The boredom seemed never-ending. I waited for 2 whole days without a case. Two whole days of sitting in a room with up to a hundred people. It seems there were 170 people jurors on some days, spread over 13 courts and 2 waiting areas. I brought a book like most people, but reading a book for hours on end when sitting in an uncomfortable chair wasn’t my idea of fun. Others brought papers, laptops, mp3 players and even a few PSPs and DS consoles. Over all the time I was there I ended up reading 3 books, one a mammoth as well.

I eventually got put on a case… it lasted for a couple of hours in the end until the judge said the case couldn’t continue… This was after we had been sworn in, returned to the waiting area, returned to wait outside the court, returned to the waiting area and then finally returned to court to be told it was finished. ARGH and back to the waiting room yet again.

The overall theme appears to be waiting. It must be hard to organise 12 jurors, a judge, 2 barristers, an usher, stenographer, court clerk, defendant and witnesses. We had multiple occasions where a train was late, or someone was ill, or it was hard to just get everyone together. At the time it seemed like a huge waste of money but when I actually got on a case I thought differently.

The case I was on was delayed multiple times, so much so that it took another 2 days to finish beyond the original 4 days. That’s another 2 days of waiting, sometimes in one place, sometimes in another. Throughout the case it was hard to reserve judgement and at one time I thought guilty, others not-guilty. The evidence given to us seemed incomplete and many questions asked (or not-asked) seemed odd or out of place. But after everything was said, things fitted neatly into place. The system I believe is a bit convoluted and very bureaucratic but overall it does the job well. The whole court system is set up to uphold the innocence until proven guilty, something I feel really strongly about considering all of the current anti-terrorism laws and liberties being slowly taken away. Even though this seems to be the case, the courts appear to be untouched.

I’m not allowed to talk about the case or what happened in the deliberation room. But I can say that although most jurors find it interesting, boring, exiting or overwhelming, inside the deliberation room all 12 of us argued and discussed the case with determination until we were unanimous. It took longer than most of us thought but everyone really cared about the outcome. We were dealing with someone’s freedom and we all felt, in the same circumstance, all of us would want a fair trial.

After the case we were released from Jury service a couple of days early, leaving the gap open for others to follow. I do have a top 10 tips for anyone reading if they get called up however.
  1. You might as well go along unless you have a concrete reason not to. It’s better to get it out of the way rather than defer a year and have it come at a really bad time. You can be called again immediately but can refuse if you’ve served in the last 2 years. One of the jurors there had been on jury service 5 times!
  2. Read all the stuff that comes with your summons, there is some useful info there, especially about expenses. You can normally claim up to a certain limit for loss of earnings and can claim almost all travel expenses (parking not normally included).
  3. You can take mobile phones with you, everyone does. When in court you just have to turn them off, the only time you can’t have them is during the final deliberation, but the usher normally looks after them for you.
  4. Take lots of stuff to keep you busy, books, magazines and papers are best. Laptops might be a bit difficult as you might not trust the usher to look after it when deliberating. You could potentially be there for 2 weeks and not get on any trial. As you saw above there were 170 jurors but only 13 courts, that leaves 14 people spare who may never sit.
  5. If you don’t want to be on a long trial then take documentary evidence. Take holiday booking confirmations, hospital appointments. If you would be extremely missed at work then get a headed letter explaining specific details, commitments etc. The judge has the final say on whether you sit on that 6-month trial or not, so make sure you’ve got a solid reason.
  6. Each juror gets £5.39 lunch allowance every-day. If you don’t use it at the end of the trial the money gets transferred into your bank account. I personally took sandwiches; they tasted better than the stuff in the jury canteen and were a hell of a lot cheaper.
  7. If you smoke, be prepared to get frustrated. You are not normally allowed out of the building except at lunch-time or with special permission. Also, you could potentially be inside for a lot longer. On the final day we went in to court at 10am and the judge finished summing up at 11am. We retired to consider our verdict but had to be locked away in a room with no phones until we could give the verdict. In the end we didn’t leave the court until about 3pm. That’s 5 hours locked inside!
  8. Don’t worry about what you wear, just go in whatever you want.
  9. Have a good night’s sleep, although you do a lot of waiting around when you do get into court, it can be just as boring. Trying to concentrate on a barrister talking at you for 80 minutes is very hard without being sleepy too.
  10. My final tip is one of caution. Try as hard as you can to wait before making a decision or at least keep an open mind throughout. The prosecution and defence back and forth can really change your view of a person or their evidence.
I think that overall I enjoyed the experience of jury service and now look in a bit more detail at documents. I’m not sure if I’d want to do it again though. I was there was 8 days, 4 of which were spent waiting around.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

UK Snow Storm

It doesn't snow that often in the UK and so when we have some on the way the news channels go a bit mad with predictions of "road chaos" and other doom and gloom ideas. But this time it seems to have actually been a bit true. Sunday night I was travelling along the motorway when the weather changed pretty quick and it started to snow quite a lot.

Later that night it seemed to get even worse and at about 11pm there seemed to be about 5cm or more settled everywhere, even the road looked covered and un-touched.

My car is the one covered in the middle. As you can see, it was coming down pretty fast.

They say on the news that it will continue through the night and could be as much as 15cm by the morning. If its that bad and they don't clear the road, I'm not sure if I'll be able to go to work!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Gastroenteritis – Back to the UK

The return to the UK was relatively incident free, I took some Imodium and painkillers, so apart from the general dull pain and occasional strong throb, I was OK. There was only one point on the plane when we were coming in to land that I thought I was going to throw up. I ran to the toilet (which was quite close of course) and as soon as I entered a fruity/flowery smell immediately stopped the nausea, just in time for the seat belt sign to come on. For the rest of the flight I just had to smell my girlfriends lip balm to stop the sick sensation. Even the airport trek and drive home was OK, no accidents and I wasn’t feeling that bad. Of course that changed once I was home.

We got home at about 11:30pm, already knowing that I wouldn’t be back at work until at the earliest Wednesday. We began unpacking, checking e-mails, and generally getting sorted. Then while I was using the toilet I suddenly felt very cold and started to shiver. At first my girlfriend thought I was messing around and was getting annoyed at me! Only after I suggested we take my temperature did she change her mind. It read 39.5°C, my highest yet and probably ever. I blame the Imodium from stopping my body from purging the infection (gf blames the cheeseburger I had at the Portuguese airport). So back to bed, lots of bed covers, cold flannel and a sick bucket just in-case. We were both quite worried and decided to phone NHS Direct… We call them, they take details, they call back within 30 minutes. They don’t call back, we call back again when temperature rises to 39.8°C, they take details, they say they’ll call back in another 30 minutes. We eventually spoke to someone who said to take paracetamol and go to hospital if it stays over 40°C. They also said a doctor would call back in a while as well. They suggested that I don’t have a lot of covers over me to reduce the temperature a bit. Not a great help. A doctor did call back and said to go to the doctor if the diarrhea wasn’t better by Tuesday.

You guessed it, Tuesday comes along and its no better, if anything I’m worse, almost going every hour, if not more. By now I’m eating just potatoes, rice, pasta and bread and drinking litres of water with Diaralyte electrolyte drinks to replace lost sugars and salts. That stuff tastes so awful, although it’s drinkable with a bit of blackcurrant concentrate. I go to the doctor, who listens to everything I say and tells me it will be gone in 2 days and to continue what I’m doing. Not very helpful but he sounded quite confident so I was too. That was a mistake. Thursday comes along and I’m no better, the same as before and again off I go to the doctor. This time he is slightly more concerned, only slightly. He said it will be gone by Monday but just in case to have a stool sample taken to see if I have any infection. He said I would be well enough to go to work on Monday. My dad thankfully takes the sample to the hospital that night.

Monday rolls on and I’m the same, still eating bland food, drinking the horrible drink, and visiting the toilet every few hours with abdominal pains. I phone the surgery and ask about my results, the receptionist is rude and tells me to call again in 2 days. Not to be deterred I call again on Tuesday, to which I’m met by the same rude attitude and she tells me to call in another day. After I insist that I was still ill she eventually agreed to call them up, but told me the line was often engaged. Like that matters to me! Most of the time I’m in the surgery the receptionists are gossiping amongst themselves, they’ve got plenty of time to make a phone call. I then found the number for the pathology department at the hospital and made some enquiries myself. I got through first time, no engaged tone, and it turns out that patients can’t find out their own test results, you either have to wait for them to be sent to your surgery or ask your surgery to call the hospital for the results. I was quite annoyed by this but I asked how long a normal stool sample should take to which they told me 3-4 days. This meant Wednesday so again I call up the surgery. This time the receptionist said that she would not call up until at the earliest Thursday. I was gobsmacked. Either she lied to me yesterday or was just trying to fob me off. I tried to argue with her but she’s had years of practice at being rude to people over the phone, plus I was still feeling bad. On Thursday I called up early, asked about my results (nothing new) and booked an appointment to see the doctor, once and for all I wanted some help and assistance. According to the receptionist it was the only appointment with the doctor that day. I thought I was lucky.

I turned up and sat down in the waiting room, not feeling great. This is when the receptionists began talking about me! Well, they began talking about annoying people that keep calling up to get test results, even call the hospital! How rude and impatient these people were. ARGH. I was eventually called to see the doctor, only to be met by a nurse! Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against nurses, but I had booked to see a doctor, so was just more annoyed at the receptionist. The nurse didn’t seem very helpful, and even told me I should have booked an appointment in the afternoon to see the doctor as the results were more likely to be available then! Was she joking! I was so annoyed I even complained to her about the receptionist. She then wrote a note on my record telling the receptionist to call the hospital for the results and then to call me at home immediately so I could get some medication if needed. So I left that day knowing at least something might happen.

I got a phone call on Friday morning from the receptionist. She had my results (Campylobacter jejuni), and had booked me in to see the doctor that afternoon. For once she didn’t sound rude and seemed to be quite helpful. I go to the doctor that afternoon, go through my life history again and again and he notes that he can’t find my results… More humour from the NHS. It turns out that the results had still not been sent by the hospital to the surgery and the only way we had the results was that the receptionist had phoned up and written down what I had got, I hope she spelled it correctly… The doctor then tells me that diarrhea lasts up to 10 days and that it should be gone by then. The doctor I saw was a bit of a joker but he was being serious! It had already been 14 days and it showed no signs of letting up. In the end I had to ask him if he could give me something for the bacteria to which he was reluctant. I understand if I had a sniffle, or was feeling a bit poorly but I had a proper infection that had caused me diarrhea for 14 days, what more does he want?! I got the anti-biotics shortly after and by the end of the weekend I was almost back to normal and ready for work. Apart from a bit of nausea from the drugs and dizziness from the lack of food, I was mostly better.

One other thing throughout this process, as soon as a UK doctor knew I had been to Portugal, they immediately tried to use this as the cause. It just annoys me that they jump to conclusions about what was wrong with me and just seem to say “leave it 2 days and you’ll be OK”. Even if they tell me that every 2 days they don’t seem to care, by then I’m someone else's problem. I probably could have used a lot less NHS time if I had be dealt with properly in the beginning and not as though I was just pretending to be ill.

Morale of the story? All public health service is crap, that’s why it’s public.

Gastroenteritis – Portugal

I spent this New Year in Portugal with my girlfriend and her family. Its normally great fun and I get to eat a lot of varied food (the Portuguese definitely know how to eat). This year it was a bit different as on the 2nd I started to feel quite ill. Not quite ill, very ill. It was quite late and I had a horrible headache and started to feel generally bad with the occasional urge to go to the toilet. I thought it might be a recurrence of Flu that I had had before Christmas at the time so I asked for the thermometer. We measured it to be 38.8°C and then both my girlfriend and her Mum began to go slightly mental. Before I knew it I was in bed with about 5 or 6 sheets over me, a flannel on my head and 2 very worried women hovering around me with some paracetamol. By the morning I was having more than just the urge to use the toilet, a pain in my abdomen was occurring quite a lot and especially before I needed to use the toilet. This carried on getting worse during most of the 3rd and by the evening we decided that I should see a doctor as my flight was in the morning. We went to a local private hospital as by now is was after 11pm and was seen very quickly by a doctor. He actually touched my abdomen! You’ll realise why this was a surprise as the story unfolds.

He then directed me to the normal hospital with a note as he thought it might be appendicitis. I showed them my passport, they checked it, and sent me on my way without a bill. I then turned up at the hospital and waited, and waited, and waited some more before seeing a nurse. She read the note, gave me and my girlfriend an armband (to be my translator) and sent me back to the waiting area. We waited and waited and was then called through to another waiting room, where we waited some more. My girlfriend was quite rudely told she couldn't go with me until she showed the guard her armband. It wouldn't have taken too much decency to ask her first before being rude, GRR. Hours must have passed by now and my stomach wasn’t getting any better. I then saw another doctor who read the note without examining me, and then sent me off for a urine and blood test and to see a surgeon. The lady who took my blood test looked like she had the bubonic plague and proceeded to be snotty while drawing blood. She seemed even more chaotic than she was ill as she didn’t seem to know who was next and kept popping her head out of the door to see if anyone else was waiting. This is where it gets even more humorous, in hindsight of course. I was called in to see the surgeon who just stood there looking at me. After a pause and a bit of a stupid look, he then read the same note we’d been given by the first doctor. He quite rudely or weirdly got me to lay-down while he prodded me, almost looking annoyed that I was bothering him. I’m not surprised as before he called me in, he was sitting in his room chatting to another doctor for at least 30 minutes. He came to the conclusion that I was OK and sent me on my way to wait around again before I was seen by yet another doctor. She looked over my blood test, not examining me, and then said I must have gastroenteritis and that I would be OK in a couple of days. By this time it was about 5am and in this time I had spoken to my travel insurance company more than the doctors.

The next part of the story is partially my fault as I was stupid not to get an E111 card before I travelled. No problem I thought though as I had travel insurance, and after the experience at the private hospital I thought it would be no problem. How wrong could I be. They wanted to charge me €120 as I didn’t have the E111 card. I called the insurance company and they said no problem, the hospital can fax the bill over and then they will fax back a guarantee to pay it. When I asked the guy behind the counter you would have thought I had asked him to loan me the money, pay for a taxi back and also give him a slap on the face. The answer was no, they couldn’t fax anything and I would have to pay. OK I thought, oh well, I’ll pay by credit card. Wrong! Of course they don’t accept MasterCard, Visa or Amex. So the guy comes with me to a cash machine in the hospital to get the cash, which I do. The machine doesn’t give me a receipt of course, one more thing to go wrong…

We eventually get back to the house at about 6am, not feeling any better but now thoroughly knackered. For anyone that thought the UK health service was crap, I think this was just as bad.


I’m back to updating my blog now although it’s been over 2 months! A lot of stuff is worth mentioning here but I think so I’ll start with Woolworths. It’s quite old news now but at the time it was a bit of a shock. The downturn, or recession as its now known, only really hit home when well known companies started to go bankrupt, namely Woolworths and MFI. We decided to visit our local Woolworths on the first day of the sale, but we only got there at about 7pm as I went after work. I was quite shocked at the state of the shop, the shelves were empty, there were piles of stuff over the floor and there was an atmosphere or desperation in the air as people searched for bargains. The sale wasn’t even that good! Sure, it was 50% off, but only up to 50%, most items were only 20% or 30%, with the best only at 10%, like DVDs and CDs. I think in the end we bought something but it was so uninteresting that I can’t even remember what it was.

The problem with Woolworths was that they sold everything and anything, almost without any limits. Want a hammer, they have it. Want a sewing machine, they have it. Want a DVD, sweets, toaster, children’s toys, clothes, they have them all. Most of the items on sale would only be bought by people who either happened to be walking through the shop, or by people who couldn’t be bothered to go elsewhere. Impulse buys perhaps as well. If I want a DVD or game I go to Amazon, HMV or Game. If I want children’s clothes I go to Primark. Toasters, sewing machines, bedding would all lead me to Argos. Woolworths once mainstays of CDs, sweets and Toys probably kept them alive this long, but they were being out-competed by so many others. Woolworths stores often had huge retail spaces full of slow moving product, they could have probably got away with half the space and saved on rent.

I still think it’s a shame that they have closed as I remember them as I was growing up. In hindsight their business must have been in trouble for quite some time and they probably should have had some help like Marks & Spencer did. Oh well, there will be a lot of new Tesco and Iceland stores sprouting up in their place, good or bad I don’t know

Monday, 24 November 2008

War On Mould!

The war is won!

Well, the war is probably won, but I won't know it for a few months. First here's some background. I have a fitted wardrobe in my bedroom, quite a simple thing really, it has no back to it though, it's just a plastered wall. This happens to be an external wall on the 1st floor of my house, which is on quite a steep hill, about 2m away from another house. The wind blows quite strongly along this tunnel, and as such the wall gets very cold. Cold wall and warm room leads to condensation, and condensation leads to mould. The house in general has mould in a few places, poorly insulated walls and not enough air circulation are probably the cause (no damp according to a surveyor). The wardrobe was the worst though as the mould would get on to my clothes which then needed to be washed.

The previous con-artist, I mean owner, obviously knew of this problem and stuck cork-boards to the rear of the wardrobe. These in hindsight alleviated the problem, but at the time they were unsightly, smelly, and crumbly. Not only would I get mouldy clothes, they would have cork-dust on them too.

Battle #1: Back in July I decided to remove all of the cork-boards completely as I thought they might be exacerbating the problem. One weekend I spent all day Saturday and Sunday working on the problem. I dismantled the wardrobe as much as I could and removed all of the cork. It was stuck on extremely well and I was knackered by the end of it. I also painted the walls with an anti-condensation paint and cut 4 large ventilation holes around the edge of the wardrobe to let some air, and hopefully heat circulate. I put everything back together and thought that was it.

By October I started to discover a few of my clothes with mould again. I thought "Oh well, it must only be a few little bits, lets look at the back". Oh My God! It was 10 times worse than before, some of my clothes looked like they were alive. I pulled out all those that were mouldy to be washed straight away (2 full bin-liners) and thought what can I do next.

Mould 1 : Me 0.

Battle #2: The next step was to insulate the loft cavity above the wardrobe as I thought the heat must be escaping through the top as I remember the insulation stopping about 12" away from the edge of the house. An easy job, I already had some spare wool, so I could just lay it down. While up there I discovered the area over the wardrobe had had a plywood floor put on top of it, luckily screwed down so it was easily removable. It wasn't. Hours later, after I had bought a new tool to cut through it, the cavity was insulated, plus the edge of the roof. I also discovered a small broken tile that was letting water in, so I also fixed that too (I think). With the area insulated, a leak fixed, I thought I was on to a winner.

It was the middle of November when I looked again and found more of my clothes mouldy and the rear wall damp with condensation still.

Mould 2 : Me 0.

Battle #3: Last weekend I continued the saga. I took out all of my clothes to be washed, probably another 3-4 bin-liners worth including about 8 pairs of mouldy shoes/trainers. I dismantled the wardrobe, this time more thoroughly than before in an effort to sort it once and for all. In the process I discovered an old pull-cord light switch that had been disconnected but left in place. There was also a water-mark around the fitting which indicated either water or just cold-air was coming in. I removed the fitting, sealed it all up and then cleaned everything with anti-mould cleaner. I mounted polystyrene tiles around the ceiling and walls, sealing each joint front and back with mould-resistant and waterproof sealer until (almost) the entire inside was covered. There is one section not finished as I ran out of adhesive and sealer, but it is the section that gets the most heat as it’s close to an internal wall. I assembled the wardrobe and put all the misc stuff back in, awaiting all my clothes to be washed and ironed. I finished this about 9:30pm on Sunday night, ready to have my Sunday Roast, some TV, a shower and then bed. Luckily for me I have a wonderful and understanding girlfriend who helped me throughout and even prepared a delicious dinner for me!

Mould 2 : Me 1?

How can I win the war if I'm losing you may ask (if you're that interested). Well, the allies won the war eventually, even though at one point it looked pretty hopeless. The analogy might be a bit far fetched, but if the mould stays away, and the wardrobe stays dry then that's enough for me.

My joints ache and my hands hurt from the constant action on the sealant/adhesive guns, but I'm quite satisfied that it might finally be over, after probably 5/6 full days of work. If its not, then we might have to move house as I’ve got no idea what to do next!

Christmas Party Preperation

Every year, there is a company Christmas party at a local hotel and every year I'm sure all the woman spend time ensuring they have the right dress, shoes, bag etc etc. My girlfriend is no different; perhaps even more of a perfectionist than most, a quality we share. So on Saturday we went to Lakeside at about 2 or 3pm to look for a dress. We got home at 9:30pm!

We went to over 20 different shops, more if you count the different departments in Debenhams and House of Fraser. I think we tried on at least 20 dresses, perhaps even 30, and visited some shops twice. We tried Red, Black, Blue, Silver, Champagne, Purple and more. The shops unfortunately assume each and every woman has exactly the same body shape, and this proportion stays the same no matter the size. As most people know, this is ridiculous, women have hips, bums and boobs in all sizes, and trying to fit them into the same proportioned dress doesn't work well. I think in all we found only 1 dress that was good, all the others would have resulted in the possibility of a Judy Finnegan episode... Most people can't afford a tailored dress except for a wedding and so no wonder women want to be thinner and thinner, if the dresses had varying proportions, most people would be happy the way they are.

We ended up with a lovely red dress with some flower patter/detail down the front. Now all that's left is the shoes...

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Guitar Hero World Tour

So I had pre-ordered Guitar Hero World Tour from for the ps3 and it arrived while I was at work on Friday. I couldn't wait to get home and play it as by coincidence my girlfriend's cousin was staying with us, 3 players, various instruments, it was gonna rock!

So, I got home, unpacked it and began playing on the drums. Shortly after starting I began to notice that occasionally the drums would seem to not work for a few seconds and the 4 LEDs on the top would flash and then go back to normal. This would happen maybe once every minute and I would lose a few drum hits in the process. Quite clouded by the new toy, I didn't really notice it as a fault at first, but then we plugged the guitar wireless receiver in to the drum wireless receiver (or the other way around...) and then it went mental. During play the guitar would also disconnect and reconnect as I discovered that was what it was actually doing. It was also doing it much more regularly and more annoyingly.

I tried various combinations but to no avail, the drums were the main cause as when plugged in the guitar on its own, it worked great. This is when the real problems started. I looked through the box it came in and couldn't find any packing note or invoice/receipt. At worst I thought they had made a mistake, but I thought I would give them the benefit and so printed out the various e-mails and web-pages I could find to show that I had bought it from them. On Saturday morning I called around a few Game retail stores to check stock availability and the ones closest to me were out. I eventually got through to one in Lakeside who said they had stock, but once I said I needed to swap my kit they magically changed their mind and the stock was now only "pre-order". I found another store in Lakeside and drove down there to simply swap my kit.

On arriving at the store the first brick-wall I encountered was the assistant telling me they couldn't do anything without a receipt/invoice and I should go away and come back when I had one. Not being a very nice customer, I stated that I wanted a new set today, regardless. By now another unhelpful assistant manager came over and stated that they and the retail stores were different companies and couldn't help me at all. I was very insistent and after much arguing they said I could try to call Customer Services and ask them to trace my order through my Game reward card, and only then could they organise a replacement. I asked if they could call, had a direct line or could even let me use their phone, but their response was basically "sod off". So I did the only thing I could do, I stood in the centre of the store, blocking traffic while I called Customer Services. Unfortunately for me, I was on the phone for a minimum of 30 minutes before I got through to someone.

I spoke with a very helpful lady who found my order and said she wanted to speak to the assistant manager. She said it was no problem to get a replacement. I handed the phone to him and he took a few details and the proceeded to argue with her that I didn't have an invoice and that he couldn't take the item back without one. He lost the argument quite quickly and then proceeded to try to get me a replacement and out of the store as soon as possible. Let me tell you a little about Game's policy on returns "Partial returns of bundles cannot be made in Store, but must be returned by post using the details above". I was then quite suprised when the assistant manager told an assistant of his to open a bundle box and just give me a replacement set of drums, not even the box the drums come in, but just the drum unit itself. I went along with it, managing to get them to agree to giving me the cymbals and the kick-pedal etc. The assistant manager also wanted the guy to take both boxes out of the back of the store and swap everything out of the way. I was a bit paranoid that they would pull one over on me and so insisted we change it in the middle of the shop, plus it would make a bit of a scene I hoped. I wasn't wrong!

Half-way through swapping everything over, as I was given the drum-set, I noticed there was a whole section of the "new" drums loose, as though it had been dismantled or broken. At this point I think the assistant manager was too embarrased to argue anymore. The floor was covered in 2 sets of drums, both faulty, with me, my girlfriend, her cousin, the assistant manager and an assistant all standing around them. He just said "get him a new set and pack all this away". So, out I walked with a complete new set of drums that I'm glad to say, after trying them for a while, havn't given me any trouble and in many ways seem much better quality than the originals. The sensitivity of the original drums was a little off, but the new ones are perfect.

The game itself is not as good as Rock Band but the instrument seem much better. I just can't wait for the drum incompatibility problem to be resolved so I can use them on Rock Band and Rock Band 2!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Weekend antics

Nov 5th was bonfire night, or Guy Fawkes night, in the UK and due to the global economic problems, there seemed to be far fewer fireworks compared to last year. The weekend just gone though made up for it somewhat as there were quite a few fireworks going off around the place, nowhere near as many as last year. If you're not used to fireworks night in the UK, it normally resembles the Iraq night sky. We decided to go to a local fireworks display at Danson Park that claims to have over £15,000 worth of fireworks and be in its 37th year. I've included a couple of videos, one showing the massive mortars they had near the end and also the closing finale, quite spectacular.

Also this weekend we continued to try to make the most of our house, clearing away old rubbish down the local dump, er, I mean recycling center. I can't believe how much stuff people, and myself, throw away. I had a perfectly good cabinet that no-one I knew wanted and so I threw it away. After my Gumtree/Craigslist experience I can hardly blame myself for not wanting to sell or give it away to someone. It just seems such a waste, there could have been someone just round the corner from me who could have really used it. My loft as a result seems to be a dumping ground for things that are too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep in the main house. This caused me such hassle as I was trying to add some more insulation in the loft that I almost decided there and then to just throw it literally out of the window! I wasn't trying to save money, but stop mould. Horrible, stinky annoying mould. My wardrobe seems to get cold, and then condensation forms on the wall (which is at the back) and then mould seems to grow. A lot of my clothes are ruined and it has been a major headache for over a year now. I thought I solved it once and it came back. This weekend I'm adding more insulation to the inside of the wardrobe, on the external wall.

Another funny thing (for me the geek anyway) is that I work for a company that makes rigid foam insulation, one of the best thermal performing insulation, and I end up using glass-fibre wool in the loft, and polystyrene in the wardrobe.

I do seem to ramble but I've got a lot to get down and not the time to organise! I am also in the process of selling Rock Band for the Wii and awaiting my pre-order delivery of Guitar Hero: World Tour for the PS3. ARGH! Why is it taking so long to arrive, it was posted last week I've just got a new 46" HDTV as well to play it on, everything is just waiting for it to arrive, the re-arranged front-room, the new TV. I'll write about it as soon as I've had a chance to play. In the meantime I'll continue to play LittleBigPlanet on my own or with my girlfriend if I can convince her to play along. So far it seems a great game, easy and difficult at the same time, cute but not childish. I even think it has a great longevity factor, I know it has only just come out, but the quality of the game is fantastic, really polished and original.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Safe Selling?

I've recently been selling some old stuff I had around the house, mostly electronic things. I have been trying to sell my PS2 and XBox for AGES and decided to use Gumtree and Craigslist. I have been posting them every week for maybe a month or two and in all that time only received two genuine e-mails! All of the others wanted to buy it for their son/husband/father and have me send it to Nigeria/West Africa or Asia. There was even one woman who wanted to buy it for her priest (who was away working at a mission in Africa of course) and would pay me more than double the asking price and delivery! I'm not a stupid person and could spot them easily but I followed one through and issued them a Paypal invoice. Shortly after I received a very genuine e-mail from Paypal saying the money had been received and I should post the item. Most people wouldn't be fooled but some must be for these scammers to be sending so many e-mails out. After one deal fell through I eventually sold both the PS2 and Xbox but for the money I received I'm not sure it was worth it.

We met the buyer of the Ps2 at a local train station but due to all of the scams I had received, and the deal that fell through, I felt very suspicious. After we exchanged goods I happened to decide to drive home via a different route as I crazily thought he might follow me! On the way home we were driving along quite leisurely when a car came flying around a right hand corner on the left side of the road aiming straight for us. I was going so slowly that I couldn't even swerve, but just come to a quick stop. The car must have missed us by less than a couple of inches and proceeded to smack into a tree just past us. I jumped out and checked the people were ok while my girlfriend called 999. A guy got out of the car and went to the rear to get his wife and young baby girl out. This is where things get stranger. Before the ambulance and police arrived, three car loads of their relatives arrived! Luckily the neighbours had also come out and so I didn't feel so intimidated. One even made us a nice cup of tea. The ambulance arrived and checked everyone out and the only injury luckily was a small cut on the guy's head as he hit the steering wheel. The police arrived and conducted a small investigation and after the driver tried to claim he wasn't driving it became clear he was a drunk driver. The thing that gets me mad though was that the police told me they had to take him to hospital because of the cut and by the time they do a blood alcohol test he might be under the limit and they can't charge him for drunk driving! During the process I also locked my keys in the car with the engine running in my haste to get and. Its quite amazing that although we were driving along minding our own business, out of no-where we could have had a head on collision with a combined speed of probably 80mph.

For the xbox, as it was a bit harder to sell I was willing to travel into London to meet the buyer and after a week of waiting the day finally arrived. We arrived at 7pm and he wasn't there. At 7:05 called him and he said he was in a taxi and would be there in 10 minutes. Firstly it was strange he was in a taxi and secondly, I had spoken to him at 5pm when he said he was already leaving and would be there on time. Time passed and when I called at 7:15 he said he would be a further 10 minutes. At this point I thought I had been pranked, perhaps it was the same guy which the deal fell through from before. At 7:25 I called again and this time he was at a train station waiting to get the tube! I really thought that was it, he would pretend to be unreachable underground and leave us waiting for nothing. We waited and waited and waited some more and 5 minutes before I was going to leave I saw a guy looking a bit lost and starting to use his phone. We met, made the deal, shook hands and that was it. Of course on the trip back home I was even more paranoid, I couldn't lose the guy if he followed us on a train, we were stuck until we got to our station. Thankfully (I hope) he didn't follow us and I've got rid of one more thing cluttering up the house. All I need now is to go in the loft and try to sell some more crap.

Wish me Luck.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Day 1 or Day 5110 billion

So, I'm a little late on the scene of Blogging but everyone I know has a blog and so I decided today was the day for mine, the day Lewis Hamilton won the F1 World Championship. F1 is something we seem very good at, even Ferrari has an overly high weighting of British Techie people behind the scenes. We're not great at most sports, at least consistently, we can win championships and medals, but we're not up there as one of the great sporting nations. Think of football and Brazil, Italy and Germany are the top 3, in Rugby you think South Africa and New Zealand. But one thing we British are good at is being Geeks, Nerds, Inventors, whetever label we put on it. We've been doing this for hundreds of years.

So its no suprise that we're good at a sport where men (mostly anyway) can lock themselves away in a flashy room and come up with ways to improve a lap time by 0.010 seconds. And to be honest, even if there wasn't F1, those same people would be in a slightly smaller room, with slightly less gadgets, tinkering with slightly cheaper stuff, but getting the same enjoyment out of it.

I'm a Geek, or at least I hope I am if we look at this chart. I'm a lazy perfectionist. If there is a computer that doesn't work, I can spend hours sorting it out so its working perfectly, but then not bother to clean the dust off of it. If I start on something I need it to be flawless, and if it isn't I get frustrated and angry with it and myself. But if I don't get started on it, it can stay flawed, broken or not working and it doesn't bother me, well at least for today.

My house is too small, there are a list of things I need to do, the kitchen, the garage, the front garden/wall, the bathroom, but I'm too lazy to start on them. This probably stems from the failures or head-aches that have gone before. I've managed to sort-of sort the study, the bed-rooms and recently the front-room (almost) but for the amount of work needed compared to the stress caused I'm not sure that I'll ever pluck up enough courage to start on the big 4!

I guess this is enough info for my first post. I hope I don't get lazy and stop updating this page. See you soon.