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Author Archives: Alfie

About Alfie

A 20-something mind in a 60-something body hiding behind the photo of a 15 year old!

An East Anglian abroad (again)!

So, heven had such a lovely time on our last trip up that London in September 2016 (despite them not letting me catch any eels on our river cruise and Camden Market not hevin no piglets for sale) the Missus and I decided to try it again!

Once again we hev done it all on that Interweb thingy off of the compooter (except for the tickets for the “iron rood” what I went and got from Peterborough station on the day before while the Missus was getting herself all tarted up at the hairdressers) and hev a different hotel this time – in Bayswater rather than Victoria.

Also, we’s not doing a river cruise this time – I think we’d be dodgin’ icebergs if we was. What we’s actually here for is a play by that woman wot wrote them Harry Potter stories. I gather she never quite got the hang of trimming it down to proper play size cos it’s in two bits, both over 2 hours long and you gets a couple of hours between them to go and eat something!

So you can see as how we needed a place to sleep – getting back to that Kings Ex station for a late train would’ve bin wuss than doing it arter the cruise woulda bin!

So we takes our small suitcase and a rucksack and gets the bus into Peterborough on the morning of Friday 15th December. It int far from the bus station to the railway station and we got on the 10:50 train direct to Kings Ex in that London.

This didn’t hev no spare seats on account of people hevin reserved them all so we both had to stand all the way! It was less than an hour but I hopes that that Mr Branston runs his pickle business better’n he run his railway!

Anyhoo, when we gets into Kings Ex we heads for the “toob” (as the natives calls it) and checks up on the credit on our Lobster Cards wot I told you about last time. I had to put an extra 15 quid on them both but that turned out to be enough to last us the whole trip!

We then played silly buggers, goin off in all sorts of wrong directions to try and find Bayswater and got to the hotel about 2.30pm.

As we’s a day early for the play we had to find sump’n to do for the rest of Friday so we went out for a walk in Kensington Gardens which is a great big park next door to that Hide Park which the missus say is where “Hide and Seek” was invented.

She had seen something about some sort of little ol’ Christmas Market on Hide Park so once again I had thoughts about getting some cut-price livestock! I’m a bit slow at thinking these things through and hadn’t given no thought to where I’d keep animals in the hotel for 2 days, ‘specially as the wardrobe in our room weren’t too big! Not to worry – it turned out it weren’t that sort of market anyway!

It was more like a big fun fair crossed with the Peterborough beer festival and one of them craft fairs what they hev in church halls everywhere! It was huge and even arter wandering around it for 2 hours we kept on finding bits we hadn’t been to before! They also searched our bags in case we was bringing in our own food and stopping them making money out of overcharging us for it!

Arter that we crossed over Park Lane (and didn’t get no 200 quid for passing GO, haha) and wandered down past that Mr Trump’s embassy to Oxford Street which we knew we had found when the Missus spotted all the Christmas lights on Selfridges! She had bin there once years and years ago and really made it sound special but when we went in it was just a shop like Marks and Sparks!

We’d had some grub in the market so arter going up all 4 floors of Selfridges (and not buying nothing) we walked to Marble Arch toob station and got a train to Queensway which is on Bayswater Road. I don’t understand the roads up that London because it turns out that Bayswater Road don’t go TO Bayswater  – it go PAST it so we still had a bit of a walk to find the hotel again!

Next morning arter breakfast in the hotel we gathered up everything we needed for the whole day and set off at about 10 o’clock. We headed for Leicester Square toob station (which int in Leicester Square – it’s in Charing Cross Road so you see why I gets confused!) because it was nearest to the Palace Theatre where the play was.

We found out where we’d got to go and then mooched about in Leicester Square (which had a market in it a bit like the one we went to on Friday – just smaller and without all the fairground rides) and Covent Garden (which was a bit of a disappointment ‘cos it don’t sell fruit and veg like it used to).

At about noon we had a nice bowl of soup and a sandwich in a restaurant called “sup’n or other Valerie” and just before 1 o’clock joined the queue at the theatre. This was so as we could have our bags searched for weapons, explosives and food what hadn’t been bought on the premises – good job they didn’t find all the corf sweets hidden in my woolly hat!

The play started at about 2 p.m. and I ent allowed to tell you anything about it ‘cos they want the story kept secret even though half the country has probably seen it and you can buy a book with the script in it!

Anyways, at about half four the half time break happens and we gets chucked out into the cold and dark to find some dinner. As we’s not far from Chinatown I thought we’d try something foreign – so we ended up in a Pizza Express place in Charing Cross Road!

Then, at about half past six it were back in the queue to have our bags searched again (they ent half nosey up that London!) and back to the same seats for the second half. I can’t tell you nothing about that neither but I wasn’t expecting what actually happens so it was a nice surprise.

It were arter half past nine when it all ended and despite sitting in a chair most of the day we was both utterly knackered and went back to the hotel and straight to sleep!

Sunday morning in London was cold, dark and drizzly so arter breakfast we went directly to Kings Ex station and got on the Peterborough train. Obviously going to Peterborough ent as popular as what going to London is ‘cos this time there was plenty of seats so that was a nice end to the trip!

I think we’s got another trip up that London coming up in March to see some musical about them American terrorists George Washington and his mates but the missus tells me it int a panto and I ent allowed to boo them!

It’s called “Hamilton” and when I heard about it I thought it was going to be about the great Ipswich Town mid-fielder Bryan Hamilton and his wrongly disallowed goal in the 1975 FA Cup semi-final against West Ham! Oh well, I’ll try and enjoy it anyhow.

Alfie

 

Word of explanation from the author.

If anyone has come across this piece in isolation and wonders what the hell they just read, this is my second attempt at a “Yokel in the big city” piece, the first being the one you can read here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2016/09/10

I cribbed the idea for it from a large book of short essays by the late Alan Coren who loved to write in a variety of styles. I particularly liked his use of the term “Up that London” and wanted to see whether I could emulate his style. On re-reading both pieces the answer to that question would appear to be “No”. Twice!

Finally, may I assure readers who do not know me that I do not really talk like that – except when I do!

Alfie

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Posted by on January 10, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

And finally……!

Just a quick note to finish the year 2017 on.

We all (especially those of us in our sixties) forget words now and then – right?

I currently have a cold and the words “Lemsip powder sachet” are not ones that are normally at the forefront of the part of my brain covering vocabulary – are you with me so far?

Why then did my words this morning provoke such gales of laughter from the lovely Mrs Alfie?

“I’ve just put my thingy in a mug and I’m pouring boiling water on it”!

Would anyone care to explain this?

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Mildly amusing

 

It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive!

This is quite a short piece by recent standards – because I think you need a bit of a break from long-winded rants at government agencies and the like!

On the assumption that I manage successfully to schedule this piece correctly on WordPress it should appear on both this site and my Facebook page on EXACTLY the 50th Anniversary of the event recounted. I’m not going to hold my breath over that though!

Let me take you back to Christmas 1967 when I was 14 years old! Apart from the fact that we spent it at home instead of at my Aunt and Uncle’s house (next door but one to my maternal grandmother’s house – thus doubling the available accommodation) as was normally the case, I remember exactly three things about it.

  1. One of my Christmas presents was a plastic model kit, somewhat superior to the usual Airfix ones that I tended to get, of an American Hot-rod car known as The Green Hornet. It had chromed plastic trim and transfers (U.S. = decals) of flames to be applied to the bodywork. It was a much larger scale than most of my aeroplane models and therefore involved much finer detail. I think this may have been it:

The other thing it had was…….. absolutely nothing to do with this story!

  1. I had a really bad dose of the ‘flu all over that holiday and concern that I might infect my three cousins may well have been why we weren’t across town as usual. My research tells me that most Influenza outbreaks in the U.K. up to that winter were weakening mutations of the great 1957 “Asian Flu” pandemic which, over its lifespan saw off somewhere between 1 and 2 million people worldwide. I caught its last feeble effort before it was replaced by a reinvigorated brand new strain the following year – the “Hong Kong Flu” pandemic of 1968. Nevertheless it was still powerful enough to cause me to spend all of Christmas Day and Boxing Day (and maybe other days either side) in bed and feeling thoroughly miserable. Remember too that I would have been effectively quarantined in my little bedroom with only my books and my little Benkson radio (as long as the PP3 9 volt battery lasted) – there were no such things as portable Televisions or computers to maintain any visual contact with the outside world!
  1. One of the reasons that I mentioned Television in the previous paragraph and another reason other than sickness to account for me being miserable was that I was going to miss THE major TV event of that Christmas, to be shown on BBC1 at 8.35 p.m. on Boxing Day. It was listed as “The Beatles present their own film, Magical Mystery Tour” and I really, really wanted to see it. I’m not actually sure if my parents would have consented but there was very little to compete with it given that my Dad had a very definite antipathy to just about anything (other than “The Saint”) produced by ITV! Whether the rest of the family saw it or not I don’t know, I only know that I didn’t!

And for nigh on 50 years that fact has rankled with me! It never seemed to get repeated and I was never able to find it on Video or CD. I was, of course, very familiar with the sound track – a mixture of extremely unusual and rather mundane songs and in my mind I made it out to be something absolutely brilliant that I was very much the poorer for never having seen!

And then…..

A few months ago I was sorting through some files on an old laptop hard disk and found a whole folder of videos and music albums that I had copied from a PC I had been upgrading to Windows 7 about 5 years previously. When I found a sub-folder entitled “Magical Mystery Tour” I thought it would be just the album but it turned out to be a video file of this major omission in my life!

Incidentally, can I just say that I have, of course, now deleted all the files I copied in this way – to keep them would be illegal!

Before I did so, however, I felt compelled to watch MMT and fill in this great missing piece in the jigsaw of my life.

What a load of old tosh it was!

The soundtrack music remains brilliant (as does everything MUSICAL that The Beatles ever did) but the film was the most self-indulgent, drug-addled, badly assembled pile of crap that I have ever watched! I could see exactly why it has never been repeated on mainstream Television!

I am left now with a wish that I had never found that computer file and that I was still in blissful ignorance and waiting hopefully for the something wonderful that I had missed to emerge from the shadows!

Or perhaps if 14 year old me had seen it back in 1967 I would have thought it wonderful and the memory would have been such that I would never have needed to see it again through adult eyes!

Ah well, we can never know!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2017 in Informative, Music Related

 

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The Little Alfie review of the year 2017

I know the year isn’t over yet but I’m going to take a chance on my not becoming a celebrity death statistic and spoiling it with only a week to go!

There are two good reasons for taking this chance:

Firstly, the number of “celebs” dropping off this mortal coil has seemed to be considerably lower than the “great purge” of 2016 – so the chances are much reduced.

Secondly, and more significantly, I am in no way a celebrity anyway!

Of course if you, my loyal readership, would do a bit more in the way of spreading the word of my witty musings to the wider world it might just happen! Not this year though.

Here then are the “highlights” of my year – some of which have already been considered worthy of their own articles – I will put links to them where appropriate and won’t go into quite as much detail where you may have already read all about it:

2017 began, as do so many years, with January, which went by in a bit of a blur. Much of it was spend trying to persuade my dear wife, Faith, to relinquish our new grandson (who was born two weeks before Christmas 2016) so that Grandad could have a cuddle and attempt rudimentary telepathic bonding with him!

Also in January I took my long-awaited (I signed up for it in the previous October!) Archery Beginners Course. This entailed spending a couple of hours on three consecutive Mondays in a Sports Hall in the as-attractive-as-it-sounds Peterborough suburb of Dogsthorpe. At the end of it I was considered sufficiently competent to be invited to join the club conducting the course and be covered by ArcheryGB’s insurance while shooting. I am now a fully paid up member of Nene Bowmen Archery Club.

In February, bearing in mind that we are retired and not constrained to stay in the UK for the whole of winter, Faith and I departed from the still comparatively small and friendly East Midlands Airport to spend the week including my 64th birthday basking in the sun in Gran Canaria. It was lovely and the nice hotel management left a bottle of iced Cava in our room while we were in the pool on my actual birthday!

As much as I enjoyed it I have to say that having now tried the four largest Canary Islands I still prefer Lanzarote (see articles in March 2013) so we’ll probably go back there again next time winter starts to depress us.

Earlier that month I had attended the first (of many, hopefully) School reunion for my year group which had started out only a month previously as a new, closed Facebook group. With the 50th anniversary of our leaving the hallowed halls of Copleston Secondary Modern School for Boys coming up in July 2019 we have much to talk about and many more “Old Boys” to locate and contact.

For our wedding anniversary in March Faith and I attempted to return to the Essex hotel where we held our Wedding reception back in 1980. It did not seem familiar to us until we eventually realised that a new hotel has been built on part of the grounds of the old Furze Hill building at Margaretting and the old hotel that we had used was across the lawns and is now used exclusively as a venue (with accommodation) for large-scale weddings. Still, as there was no-one about we were able to saunter across the invisible division between the two parts and peer through windows into the very dining room that we and our guests had used 37 years earlier!

Towards the end of April my younger daughter Carla went into labour and on the final day of that month produced our new Granddaughter. This was quite an event in my family as my elder daughter, Hannah and my sister’s three daughters had all produced boys! So, my mother (now in her 90th year) has had to wait for seven great-grandsons before getting a great-granddaughter!

A lot of time over the next six weeks was spent driving down to Witham to see the new arrival while also maintaining close contact with her slightly older cousin back in Peterborough.  He, however, got to familiarise himself with us and his other grandparents over almost a week at CenterParcs at the end of June. I told you about that trip here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2017/06/

The summer proceeded with occasional days out combined with babysitting but my next personal “highlight” was my hugely entertaining Colonoscopy and the preparations for it in August. This was documented here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2017/08/ but at the time it was published I had not received any results. I can formally advise you all right here that my large intestine is officially perfect – so that’s all right then!

As my blog posts seem to have dwindled a bit in number lately you may have noticed that the paragraphs with links to other postings are suddenly appearing rather closer together. And here’s another one: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2017/09/ which covers me doing my bit for my old home town when it got to host the British Mensa AGM in mid-September.

In October we were off to CenterParcs again! This time at Woburn (only a 40 minute drive from Peterborough) with Carla and Dave, his parents and our little grand-daughter who, thanks to this trip, now recognises us immediately and breaks into an angelic smile when she sees us!

November was, as normal, highlighted by my annual sea fishing trip with my former Barclays colleagues (my 34th consecutive year). This took place in Somerset at a beach near the village of Bossington with our accommodation (and all the associated drinking) in Minehead. I had a terrible time losing tackle in the rocks (as did most of the participants) but fortunately my three teammates all managed to catch something – which was enough to give us our first victory since 2010.

For well over a year Faith and I have been proud possessors of tickets to the two-part theatre production “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” and finally got to see this just over a week before Christmas. I am in the process of writing about this trip in a typically amusing fashion so won’t say more about it here. You will probably have to wait until the New Year for that.

As I am managing to finish this off on Christmas Eve I don’t know how Christmas Day or the remaining week of the year will go but on the basis of the rest of the year I’m sure it will be great!

So, once again, I will take my leave of you while getting my customary kick from saying:

“Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers!”

Alfie

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2017 in Informative

 

Whose job is it anyway? – Alfie gets serious!

I don’t often do pieces like this – perhaps I should do more of them!

***

An open letter to the advisory staff at Peterborough Job Centre:

Good Morning,

May I please suggest that you read this carefully to acquaint yourselves with certain aspects of “real life” that my recent experiences suggest are passing you by in your working lives.

To set the scene and introduce myself, I am an I.T. Support and Helpdesk technician of 20 years’ experience who has now retired from full-time employment.

Two years ago when I started to experience difficulty obtaining new contracts (due, I am 99% sure, to my age – I know that 64 is considered “old” for any I.T. work) I “signed on” at your office and was immediately sent on a 3 day course to teach me how to use a computer to write a C.V.!

The only thing that I learned on that course was that there were a huge percentage of my fellow participants who did not have even the faintest idea of how to turn a computer on! In fact, I spent most of those 3 days helping these people as far as I could – the tutor pressed on with his syllabus regardless, presumably on the assumption that everyone sent on the course must know the basics! He was wrong!

Since then I have come to regard assisting the vast numbers of what I term, respectfully, “The Incomputerate” – those people who through age, work history and personal or economic circumstances have simply never been exposed to computer usage – as a personal mission.

And now, in an effort to do some small amount of good in this area, I volunteer every Tuesday morning at the Computer Suite of Peterborough Central Library to teach “absolute beginners” – one of two such sessions each week (the other being on Thursday afternoons). I am only involved with the Tuesday session so my following remarks and descriptions can relate only to that.

To clarify what these sessions entail, the library sets aside a row of 8 Personal Computers for the exclusive use of jobseekers and a block of 4 PCs in an alcove for those looking to acquire basic “beginners” computer skills. All of these machines can only be logged on to with a staff account between the hours of 10:30 and 12:00 but the other 30 or so PCs in the Computer Suite remain available for public use as normal.

On the Tuesday morning session that I am involved with the staffing arrangements are as follows:

1 member of Vivacity full-time staff behind the Suite reception desk and dealing solely with queries (printing, scanning issues and the like) for the “public area”.

1 member of Vivacity full-time staff (when not required at another branch library) supervising the whole “reserved” section and helping when needed.

1 Volunteer (with some medical problems – so attendance is irregular) specifically concentrating on assisting the job seekers. Because of the occasional absence of this person their “Job Club” function is often carried out by the full-time (albeit untrained) staff member mentioned in the previous paragraph.

1 Volunteer (myself) overseeing and assisting the beginners to get logged into their “Learn My Way” web-based training program and, when asked, providing tuition on specific aspects of computer usage.

And it all works very well under normal circumstances!

As long, that is, as all of the job seekers are sufficiently computer literate to log themselves into their Universal Jobmatch, email and employment agency accounts – they can (with only occasional pauses for questions) be left to get on with it.

Sometimes (and I am sure you will be pleased to know that we are now moving towards the specific case that caused me to write this) it transpires that a person will present him/herself to me for beginners training and, when asked if they have a particular reason for learning these new skills, will tell me that they need to learn how to apply for jobs online. This, you will appreciate, puts them somewhere between both of the facilities available to them in the library so I try to resolve this by spending a few weeks sorting out the basics (mouse and keyboard usage) and then pass the person over to the Job Club to put their new knowledge to practical use.

Not everyone, however, is a “natural” when it comes to computer use and some take much longer than others at grasping the very basics – particularly if they have been essentially a manual worker all of their life and do not have a computer at home to practice on.

So we now get to specifics – one of my “regulars” over the last five months. Let us call him Harry (which is not his name), a man in his 50s who has been out of work for many years while looking after an aged and infirm relative.

Harry, it has to be said, still does not “get” computer keyboards and despite all those weeks of practice it still takes him some minutes to correctly type his email address and password. Because he does seem to be trying hard I do not wish to give up on him and shunt him off to the “Job Club” desks and have instead split his time between the Learn My Way application and setting up rudimentary Searches on his Universal Jobmatch account.

Because I frequently have 2 or more other pupils to help I am not able to give Harry the “one-on-one” attention that he really needs and I have on several occasions left him with a whole hour to fill in a simple job application only for the PC to log out automatically at the end of the session with the application unfinished, losing the information already entered!

And then, a few weeks ago, Harry turned up on the Tuesday morning in a state of considerable agitation! After calming him down I discovered that he had been given a new “adviser” at Peterborough JC who was threatening him with “sanctions” if he didn’t start applying for some jobs forthwith. “Sanctions” as I understand it, could mean not only cuts to his meagre benefits but the possible loss of his home too!

I gather that he mentioned me and the help I was patiently giving him each week and was then told something along the lines of “Well you had better get down to the library and tell your ’friend’ to apply for some jobs for you!”

Now you people in Peterborough Job Centre to whom this is addressed do not know me but a lot of other people who read this blog do and they, I am sure, will understand why this reported conversation made me absolutely FURIOUS!!

So angry in fact that I have had to leave the writing of this piece for several weeks to enable me to calm down!

Let me just give you a few bullet points drawn from the rest of this article and my subsequent thoughts:

  • I am not experienced at Job hunting. In my own career my contracts largely came from “networking”, and word of mouth referrals. I am a computer specialist and have no wish to be anything else.
  • I am a VOLUNTEER which means that I do this PC training work because I want to and NOT because I have to. No-one should, therefore, regard me as an ever-present resource.
  • Staff (including volunteers) at Peterborough Library are told specifically NOT to complete forms on peoples’ behalf – this is guidance given across the UK library system as a whole.
  • Just what is the Job Centre for? It seems, on the basis of my experience to exist for the sole purpose of threatening people who through no fault of their own cannot cope with the system that they insist upon everyone using. And then shoving the responsibility for these people finding work off onto us well-meaning amateurs!
  • I believe that, as there is now no aspect of our lives where we can get by without computer know-how at some level or other, this is only going to get worse! As good as I am, I cannot teach everyone in Peterborough who needs it to use a computer – not in one and a half hours a week anyway!
  • The next time you want to make any kind of suggestion that MY work on behalf of one of YOUR clients is in some way inadequate, please have the balls to come down and tell ME personally – we’re only about 5 minutes’ walk away and my colleagues and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the many inadequacies that we perceive in YOUR methods and procedures!

Perhaps the answer to this problem is for the Department for Work and Pensions (who are, after all, part of this Government which is decreeing that everyone has to apply for just about everything on-line) to set up “Absolute Beginners” computer courses for this forgotten sector of the populace in major towns and cities around the UK. I have no intention of returning to full-time work but would happily help with either the construction or implementation of such courses in my local area.

I would want paying for it though!

Thanks for listening and PLEASE moderate your attitude to voluntary helpers!

Yours faithfully

David Searle

P.S. Twice now in the last four posts on this site I have found it necessary to append my real name in the “sign off”. In this instance I have done it because I hope to find ways in which the above document can be distributed amongst the staff not only of Peterborough Job Centre but others around the country and I feel that I should not be hiding behind a pseudonym for this serious purpose.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2017 in Informative

 

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Four wheels good – two wheels better!

When I was about 3 years old my parents bought me a car!

Not a real one with an engine as I’m sure you realise but it was made of sheet metal, fitted me perfectly and was operated by a pair of foot-bars which turned the back wheels via metal rods. The steering wheel worked, it was a dark red in colour and had the word “Thunderbolt” written along each side in white.

I was extremely fond of it for a couple of years – until I started school probably – and my mother has a photograph somewhere of me sitting in it, smiling broadly.

While it was fine for pootling up and down our back garden and even cruising along the pavement of the cul-de-sac we lived in, it didn’t have the speed capability to keep up with Mum (plus my little sister in her pushchair) on the mile long walk to and from school.

So I traded it in for something faster!

Actually, I didn’t really do that!

I think that Thunderbolt was stored in Dad’s capacious shed and eventually got transferred across town for use by my younger male cousins but whatever the course of events it was replaced by a two wheeled Triang scooter. Not one of those currently in vogue with tiny 4 inch wheels – this one had wheels at least twice that in diameter as well as a foot operated brake and a spring-loaded kick stand so I didn’t have to lean it on things when I got off it.

Over the next few years – probably up until we moved house when I was 10 – I developed quite a turn of speed on it. I was even able, when going flat out, to lean forwards pressing my lower body evenly against the handlebars and go NO HANDS!

I don’t remember ever crashing!

I did not use the scooter for the school run after Mum stopped escorting my sister and I – there was no such thing as a school cycle shed to park it in – but would regularly be sent to the shops near the school on a Saturday morning pick up items such as “three pounds of potatoes and half a pound of mince” for dinner that day.

I don’t remember whether that scooter actually made the move from Bourne Bridge to Broke Hall in January 1964 as by then I was getting too tall for it and the solid rubber tyres were wearing out anyway.

However long it lasted, my next transportation system moved up to eight wheels – roller skates. This wasn’t too successful as while the pavements around the new estate were well laid and smooth, they also seemed to pick up an inordinate amount of gravel from somewhere and with the very small wheels of the skates it only took one piece wedged under them to bring me to a very sudden and sometimes painful halt! If I was lucky I could throw myself onto a grass verge but I don’t think I have ever suffered so many skinned knees as I did during that period.

I really wanted a bike but a new one wasn’t possible so I had to learn to ride my mother’s around the estate. There was no way I was going to Secondary school on a girl’s bike so for my first year and a large part of the second year I went to school on foot – it was, after all, no further than I used to walk to either of my two junior schools!

I have already told you about the break and lunchtime races from the annex to the main school and that I was usually knackered by the end of the day – a bike would have made a great difference – but it wasn’t until the completion of the new school buildings that my paternal Grandfather decided he was never going to cycle anywhere again and gave me his heavy, ancient Raleigh. It wasn’t new or even remotely modern but at least it had a crossbar so I didn’t get ribbed about it.

While it regularly got a red “condemned” tag from the policemen who periodically checked the cycles in the school cycle sheds, that bike lasted me through school and for many a cross-town trip to various Boys Brigade football matches on Saturday afternoons. Until the day in early 1970 when it finally got past the point of reasonable repair and was consigned to the dustbin.

Fortunately the demise of that bike coincided with my getting a substantial (from £6.85 to £8.50 per week) pay rise so I decided I could now reasonably buy a small motorcycle on credit and my dear little Honda C90, ODX83H, came into my life for 18 monthly payments of £6.00.

The freedom! I was now able to whizz about town without having to worry about the hills and could explore the pubs in the surrounding villages as desired. No-one seemed to worry much about drinking and driving in those days and as long as you didn’t fall off or hit someone it didn’t seem to matter – just as well as far as I was concerned!

That motorcycle lasted for about 5 years and around 30,000 miles and in the last couple of years I enjoyed taking my fishing tackle and “English Law” by Smith & Keenan to Felixstowe on it and spent my Institute of Bankers’ study leave reading the book AND fishing on the pier! I passed the exam!

As I was commuting by rail to and from work from 1976 to 1979 I had, luckily, no real need of independent transport but on my transfer to Norwich I bought a Suzuki TS250 Trail bike (street legal but with limited off-road capability) for my trip to work and to see Faith in Chelmsford at weekends. I kept this, as I have mentioned elsewhere, until just before our first child arrived when it was considered appropriate that I pass my car test and sold it on via the local paper.

And that was it for two wheels until we moved to Cambridge in 1988 – when I bought my all-time favourite bike. This was my silver-grey Vespa T5 which I enjoyed for a mere 18 months before an idiot Cambridge Taxi driver u-turned in front of me without warning and I stuck the poor scooter in his driver side door, writing it off and skinning my shins in the process!

After that it has been cars and pedal cycles ever since and although I would really love another scooter, it may be that the nearest I will get to it is one of these bicycles with a built in electric motor – and THAT along with a new mobile phone and a new laptop computer, is what I am saving Christmas and birthday money for at present!

You may be wondering what has prompted this strange little discourse, apparently out of nothing, and it was thinking fondly about that Vespa T5 from nearly 30 years ago that touched it off.

I was then reminded of a true story of one of my work colleagues from a job I had a couple of years before I retired. I’ll call him “Bob” (which wasn’t his name) and he was what he considered a “real biker”! That is to say he rode an unnecessarily powerful motorbike of the sort where you almost lay along the fuel tank and had a contempt for almost any other form of road transport especially those that had the fuel tank under the seat (which of course describes both my Honda 90 and the Vespa)!

He also had a computer desktop display bearing the words “Scooters are ridden by men who like to feel the wind on their vaginas!” which you will not be surprised to know I found more than a little offensive.

Until, that is, I found out that his main hobby was collecting large scale “Superhero action figures”. I found this out because on one occasion he had a couple of them delivered to the office and I had to sign for them.

I could not resist taking a measure of payback for the remark about scooters by calling out very loudly “Bob! Your dollies have arrived!”

Revenge was sweet!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Informative

 

Energise!

I don’t often return to subjects that I have written about before but today (1st November 2017) I was reminded of something that happened way back in 2012 when I had just started my all-time favourite I.T. contract – with Associated British Foods.

I was on my (and indeed the whole embryonic team’s) first assignment at the unwholesome sounding Speedibake Bakery in Wakefield and Bradford which I wrote about here: https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/ in my “On the road again” series.

I cannot recall with total certainly which of the two factories the incident I was reminded of took place at but I think it was Bradford. Before I tell you about it, though, I see on re-reading the article the above link leads to, that I have also never mentioned an amusing occurrence that definitely occurred at the Wakefield site.

Our workroom at the Wakefield site was a large conference room normally used by, and sharing a kitchen with, the New Products Department and it was while putting Windows 7 onto one of that department’s computers that I had a bright idea – Savoury Doughnuts!

I developed the thought a bit and mentioned it to the Departmental Manager while we were both making coffee in the shared kitchen. I postulated, instead of the usual jam or custard fillings, gravy, Bovril, Marmite or Peanut Butter and he seemed to be good-naturedly humouring me.

When, however, I made the suggestion that instead of powdered sugar, they should be coated in salt the good-natured smile vanished instantly and was replaced by white-lipped anger!

“Don’t ever say THAT!” he almost hissed at me in a furious voice.

Then, realising the shock that this response to a perfectly innocent (if somewhat odd) suggestion had caused on my own face, he forced himself back under control.

“I’m sorry”, he relented, “it’s just that…” he shuddered, “we did that by accident once – it lost a whole day’s doughnut production and a number of quality control inspectors got sacked for not noticing!”

I never ever mentioned Savoury Doughnuts at that site again. I still think it’s a good idea though!

Anyway, as I explained in the previous article we were under some time pressure at Speedibake on account of our Windows 7 migration activities blowing up the main server at Wakefield and having to move to Bradford (who were not ready for us) while they got it fixed. Once we did start rebuilding Bradford PCs we were several days behind and having to work longer hours to catch up. As by far the oldest on the team I was feeling really drained by the end of each day and asked some of my new friends staying at the same Bed & Breakfast establishment if they had any ideas as to how I could get over this.

They advised me that they coped by consuming energy drinks and recommended the one called “Relentless” a cheaper version (but with similar ingredients) of the stronger and more well Known “Red Bull”. I duly bought a couple of cans from the late-opening supermarket opposite the B&B for consumption the next day.

I worked perfectly normally the next morning, rebuilding or replacing 3 of my allotted 6 computers for the day then restoring all the user data to them exactly on schedule but after lunch felt that I was losing my edge a little. I remembered the Relentless and duly drank down a full half litre can!

Unfortunately, my friends Stuart and Paul had failed to mention to me that they took the occasional sip of the stuff, making one of those cans last for several hours and failed to consider what the effects of a whole can might be on a metabolism that hadn’t experienced it before!

My head was buzzing and my heart was racing like never before! Far from just keeping me going, whatever it was that stuff was made from turned me into a one man Windows 7 migrating machine! I located a bank of 6 desks in a block; 3 of which were earmarked for me that afternoon and the other 3 also to me the next morning. It turned out that the owners of those 6 computers were either on holiday or at a conference for 2 days so I started all 6 at once!

Four needed  rebuilds of the existing machine and the other two had to have the data extracted and then replaced in brand new machines – a much quicker job as we already had a stock of newly built machines with all the correct software on. The rebuild process (if you’re interested) involved, essentially, cocooning the user data, sliding the new operating system in over the old one, then “exploding” the compressed old data back to its proper place in the new set up. That took about 2 to 3 hours per machine but in my hyperactive state I was doing four of them concurrently after the fashion of a circus plate-spinner!

As we finished our tasks we would return to the workroom to tick them off on our big white board and I, as normal, wasn’t first back. When I did return (no-one left until we had all finished) there was no surprise when I filled in my afternoon allocation but shock when I then moved to the next day’s list and ticked off half of my ones on there!

I don’t know if it was concern at what drinking more “Relentless” would do to my health, or if the other guys thought I was making them look bad but I was asked not to have any more – at least not a whole can! I was happy to comply – it gave me a terrible headache later and I had a hard time getting to sleep that night. From then on I just did what was assigned to me but that high speed afternoon helped us to catch up and finish the site on schedule.

At the start of this piece I said “I was reminded…..” of the events above and you may have been wondering what it was that brought it all back.

Well, I was on the bus into Peterborough for my Library volunteer work last week when a couple got on in Orton Goldhay (not the best part of town). There was an abundance of tattoos and muscles (and HE looked quite hard too!) and they sat down very pointedly in the seats marked for use by elderly or disabled passengers. The woman seemed to be anticipating some murmur of complaint about this because she anticipated it by announcing to all and sundry that she has a heart condition and was on her way to hospital for an operation on a faulty valve!

There was no response and having satisfied herself that she had settled the issue she reached into her bag, pulled out a large can of Red Bull and proceeded to drink the whole thing straight down.

This of course is what got me thinking about my own experience with such energy drinks and I watched with interest to see if a faulty heart would behave any more spectacularly than my healthy one had. She may have exploded later but not until after I had left the bus!

And that my children is what journalism is about – you take a short and uninteresting anecdote and turn it into a 1230 word story!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2017 in Uncategorized