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Get a job, you long-haired layabout!

….said nobody to me EVER!

Simply because, if you must know, I didn’t grow my hair to any great length until I already had a job and my mother finally stopped paying for my haircuts – meaning that I could get it cut when I wanted!

So, the “get a job” and the “long-haired” parts of the title never applied to me.

And the “layabout” part? Well, I was a teenaged boy in the early 1970s and I was in what used to be called the Civil Service – I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Regular readers of the autobiographical elements in this blog will know that I managed (with a few short gaps in later years) to remain working in some capacity or other right up until I was able to jack it all in 2 years ago and, finally, get to be a long-haired layabout!

Only now, of course, the hair has largely gone! What’s left is grey and I think it would look rather silly worn at shoulder length or more now.

Which left me with just being a layabout and, rather surprisingly, I am finding that state not to be as satisfying as I thought it would be!

Apart from household chores – decorating and such – my time is spent doing two mornings per week volunteering at the library and one, or possibly two, afternoons in the nearby Ferry Meadows Country Park shooting arrows at big straw targets 50 or 60 yards away. And, of course, seeing as much as possible of my grandchildren.

The Archery takes care of my physical exercise and, currently, my mental stimulation comes from writing stuff like this, making extremely witty responses to my old school friends on Facebook, and, very rarely, having to think through some knotty computer question presented by one of my “pupils” at the library on a Tuesday morning. I have to say that by that I don’t mean the old chestnut of “which one’s the ‘ANY’ key?” when confronted with “press any key to continue” but things a little more complicated!

So, no danger of serious brain burnout or stress – which is nice – but…

“Use it or lose it” spring to mind and I wouldn’t want my mighty intellect to be lost to mankind before it has to be!

Before I could start seriously looking for “something else”, however, two things have come up in connection with my existing interests and activities and these should provide me with a bit more of a mental workout.

The first, and probably the least challenging, of the two happened when both the Secretary and the Chairman of my Archery Club simultaneously resigned because of family and work-related problems respectively. Thus leaving the Committee two key people short.

While I have only been a member for just over a year, I offered my services to the club for the simple reason that I believe that you cannot always just take. I have noticed that many club members are happy to turn up, shoot and depart again without helping set up or put away the equipment – they want everything done for them by “someone” and I don’t want to be like that!

Mind you, I still have absolutely NO experience or real knowledge of what it takes to run an archery club and the Secretary’s job seems to be the one that is the most complicated, necessitating as it does knowing a whole raft of legal and Archery GB rules and regulations! I had a discussion with the Club Treasurer and we agreed that jumping in at that level is probably not going to be a good idea.

The Chairman position, while sounding prestigious, is actually easier and it is possible that I will wind up with that. I think that controlling Committee meetings and presenting prizes at our (very few) tournaments should not be beyond me.

A meeting of our currently unconstitutional committee has been arranged for the end of May and we will see what happens.

The second opportunity arose in some degree from the events of last year when my home town of Ipswich hosted the Annual Gathering and Annual General Meeting of British Mensa. In the article that I wrote about that last September, I reported my attendance as an “observer” at a Mensa Regional Officers’ meeting, which happened to take place on the same day that I was in Ipswich for a school reunion.

What I did not mention (that article exceeded 2000 words even without side issues!) was that a week or so before the meeting I had emailed, as a matter of courtesy, the lady listed on the Mensa website as the Local Secretary for Peterborough. I advised of my proposed attendance, asked if she would be going and, if not, offered to “deputise” for her and raise any Peterborough related issues on her behalf.

With a few days still to go, I got a reply to the effect that she had not, in fact, been the Local Secretary for Peterborough for some time now but had forwarded my email to her replacement (from whom I heard nothing) who Mensa Central Office was unaware of.

I dutifully passed this information and the new contact details to the Regional Officer who was to make the necessary contact and revision to the records.

I then forgot all about it until about 4 weeks ago when it occurred to me that I was still (it has actually been like this for most of the 24 years I’ve lived here) receiving no notifications of any meetings or events in the Peterborough area and this might be the time to arrange something myself.

Now, it has always been the case that any Mensa member can organise any event they please in their area but it is advisable to clear this with the local officer and the Meetings Co-ordinator for the Region to prevent “fixture clashes” (very unlikely in Peterborough) so I thought I would check whether the website details had been amended yet.

They had been amended – but not how I had expected!

The Local Secretary entry for Peterborough (postcodes PE1 to PE11) now read “Position Vacant”. So, in a moment of madness I dashed off a message to Mensa Central Office in Wolverhampton asking how to go about applying for the vacancy!

I was expecting at least an application form, possibly an interview; anything, in fact except an IQ Test!

What actually happened was that my tentative exploratory query got forwarded to the aforementioned Regional Officer with a note attached saying “One for you, Tony”.  That gentleman then emailed me asking for details of what I planned to organise and inviting me to the upcoming Regional Officers’ Meeting (travel expenses paid) in Clacton-on Sea.

So, it appears that the answer to my question about the application process is, simply, “express an interest and you’re in!”

I am writing the draft of these last few paragraphs on the long train journey back from sunny Clacton where I have been confirmed in the role of “Events Organiser” (the term “Local Secretary” having fallen out of favour at Head Office) and have come away from the meeting with a few more ideas!

I have also just learned that an emergency committee meeting of the Archery Club will take place next Tuesday and I’m invited to that – with some likelihood of having a job of sorts there too!

You don’t think I’m overstretching myself do you?

 

Alfie

 

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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Informative, Mensa

 

The times they are a-changin’!

There have been a couple of occasions recently when I have had reasons to ponder the technological progress that has happened over my lifetime and this caused me to wonder what previous generations would have made of it all.

The answer to this is partially known to me – my grandparents all had to grow up in the reality of the motor car, powered flight and atomic bombs.

One of my grandfathers only made it two years past the end of World War II (thus missing ME by 6 years) and one of my grandmothers just caught the barest beginnings of the Space Age having gone to join the Cosmos in 1958 when I was 5 years old.

My other “proper” grandparents made no memorable comment on modern life but I did have a step-grandfather/great uncle (it’s complicated!) in whose presence I spent Christmas 1968 when the momentous Apollo 8 circumnavigation of the Moon was taking pride of place on TV. He did not believe one single word of it although he was unable to offer any coherent evidence to his contention that the Americans were making it all up to annoy the Russians!

Mind you he had what I consider the reasonable excuse of being a rather befuddled and confused 77 year old in the final year of his life – an excuse that most of the much younger, idiotic conspiracy theorists claiming the same thing now cannot use!

My paternal grandfather died shortly before the introduction of the Personal Computer to the mass market but his son fully embraced (with my help) that technology and as a man in his middle 70’s taught himself all the necessary fundamentals of Windows 95, Windows XP and Microsoft Word.

In short, and unlike his step-father-in-law of the Apollo 8 story above there was nothing about the modern world that he could not adjust to the idea of! And I like to think that I am the same.

My father did have a mobile phone, although I don’t think “smart phones” with constant internet access (“constant” when you can get a bloody signal anyway – Virgin Mobile please take note!) were as universal when he died in 2006 as they are now.

In case you are wondering, the “occasions” that I referred to in the first paragraph were firstly, a car journey a couple of months ago when BBC Radio 2 played a newly released re-working of Rod Stewart’s old hit “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

When it got to the line where the girl he’s picked up says “Give me a dime so I can phone my mother” I reacted.

“Not really much of an update is it?” I said. “If it was she would simply have texted her mum on her smart phone”!

From there my thoughts turned to the idea of this article and continued past that to this question:

How many other classic songs are out there that no longer really work at all because technology has made them obsolete?

You suggestions are eagerly awaited but can I say straight away that lyrics such as “I heard it on the Twitter feed” or “My Baby she sent me an email” just aren’t doing it for me!

The second “occasion” was at a very recent reunion for my school year group. I was talking (for the first time in 49 years) with one of my old classmates who had been located on-line by assiduous detective work and persuaded to join us. We were discussing why so many of our number were not apparently traceable using our current technology. Looking at our class specifically (because there were 20 of us that makes for nice round percentages!) the figures are as follows:

  1. In contact by social media or email:                                                7 (35%)
  2. Not directly contactable but could possibly be reached indirectly:  4 (20%)
  3. Utterly unknown:                                                                             8 (40%)
  4. Has been contacted but does not want to know:                            1 (5%)

A number of those in group 3 are known to have gone to various Universities and from there, presumably, to jobs in other parts of the country or even the world but the surprising thing to me is that, despite all being intelligent people from relatively middle class backgrounds who might reasonably be expected to take on the challenges of this technology, they leave no footprint on the Internet.

The solitary member of group 4 was in touch with a couple of us a few years ago but declared emphatically that he wants nothing to do with either the Internet or any person or thing relating to school! Thanks Dicky – we all rather liked YOU!

That scattering around the planet after completing your education is probably quite common now but it was quite a new thing for Secondary School students in the 1960s and we didn’t have email addresses to keep us in touch with each other. Now that we’re gradually coming back together as the 50th anniversary of our dispersal approaches it is much harder to find the “missing men” – unlike my younger daughter, for example, who is in electronic contact with friends from Junior School, Secondary School and TWO Universities whenever she needs to be.

It is, of course, possible that some of our missing number fall into the category of people that I regularly help with the computer side of modern life. If they had the kind of career which either did not involve working with computers at all or where the interaction was with specific programs for specific purposes it may be that this sort of equipment has never had any impact on their lives outside of work.

Then again, they may have the equipment but use it ONLY for contact with close family and friends! I am well aware that there are people who, rightly or wrongly, are terrified of having their identity stolen by the act of setting themselves up on Facebook or the like.

A final possibility occurs to me – they are hiding because they know the rest of the group is looking for them! I don’t know if that says bad things about “them” or “us” but we are going to keep looking!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Informative, Schooldays

 

The CD of My Life – “Add Some Music to Your Day” – The Beach Boys.

While I haven’t done one of these since November last year, I’m sure you remember the idea! However, just in case……

Sometimes when I hear a particular song it will bring back startlingly clear memories of a place, time or event. Conversely something else might make me think of that event and I’ll find myself humming or singing the associated piece of music. It doesn’t have to be a song I like and the memory doesn’t have to be a particularly happy one – it’s the association of the two that I’m recording for posterity.

Towards the end of 1987, having not long returned from the Barclays Bank Trust Company Senior Taxation Course that I told you about last October, I received some unpleasant news!

Let me just set the scene – in January 1983 I was transferred from Norwich to Chelmsford and we moved house in the April (one day before our elder daughter was born – but that’s another story)!

It was a great time with a young family (younger daughter was born in 1985) at home and a great team of friendly, sociable people at work. And, yes, I include the management in that description; you won’t hear me say THAT very often!

Anyway, I had been promoted once while there and after successfully completing that Senior Course my envisaged career path would have been an Assistant Manager position in a couple more years. This could well have involved another office move but this would include a fairly substantial pay rise and I would also have the option of saying “No thanks” if it was either an unpleasant location or the Manager was known as a Right Bastard!

What actually happened, roughly a week after I returned from the course with my enthusiasm for the job recharged was that the bloody company announced a batch of office closures and Chelmsford was listed as one of those to go!

So, instead of the ideal scenario listed above what I actually GOT was: No promotion; no pay rise; no option to say “no” to the move AND an office where the manager was a Right Bastard!

Which is why, from the beginning of March 1988 until we actually moved house at the end of May, I was commuting daily from Chelmsford to Cambridge in the family Vauxhall Astra – a journey of roughly 55 miles each way.

This daily journey was not as onerous as it was to become a few years later simply because, while the M11 (on which road roughly half of the journey had to be driven) had been in existence outside of London for a few years it still didn’t go anywhere but Cambridge and so few people used it that it was like having one’s own personal motorway at that time.

Nevertheless, that still left over 25 miles of over slightly more stressful driving with more normal levels of commuter traffic on each trip and I really came to appreciate the car’s sound system.

As BBC radio was going through one of those periodic changes where Radio 1 was playing stuff that was too new for my taste while Radio 2 was still transmitting the sort of stuff my parents would have listened to – so those stations were ruled out straight away!

What I took to doing instead was to leave Chelmsford each morning listening to Chris Tarrant on Capital Radio (which was well within my radio’s range when I set out) until such time as the signal faded away near the entry point to the M11 near Stansted Airport. And at THAT point I would reach into a little box on the passenger seat and select a C90 cassette to plug into the player on the dashboard.

Regular readers may, incidentally, recall my previous mention of that radio programme as the source of the little May Day rhyme that I quoted on this site back on 1st May 2009 – “Hooray, Hooray, the First of May; Outdoor sex begins today!” I think I mentioned the circumstances under which I heard it there too – so I’m just being consistent!

I did, at that time, own a few actual “cassette albums” but mostly these would be the sort of hand-crafted mix tape that everyone of that era owned. That is to say they were carefully recorded on a radio/cassette player from that weeks’ “Pick of the Pops” chart show and/or the earlier years’ chart show hosted by that creepy Saville pervert!

There was a knack (which I sometimes was able to find) of turning off the “record” button just before the DJ talked over the end of the track with his inevitable banalities and as a result some of the songs had rather abrupt endings but it was a good way of collecting tracks that I otherwise would never have gone out and bought.

My favourite one of these home-made tapes eventually got to stay almost permanently in the cassette player in the car and some of the tracks got to become calming mantras either to help me prepare for my day with my new snide, self-serving boss or to help me unwind afterwards.

It will not surprise you to learn that chief among these “relaxers” is the track given in the title of this piece which comes from The Beach Boys beautifully hippy/eco-warrior album “Sunflower” released in 1970. If I am ever under stress and happen to have heart rate and blood pressure monitors attached I would like to see just how far those readings would fall when this song gets played to me. Trust me – it would fall quite a lot!

Here, as is my custom with this series, is a YouTube link to it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBkA4-U4MPk

I don’t know whether it was by accident or design but the next track on that tape was also a Beach Boys favourite that has a similar effect on me. It is “Country Air” from the 1967 “Wild Honey” album so here’s a link to that one too:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlBCGRAn7oA

I only recall one other track on that tape and that was “Synchronicity II” by The Police. I found that to be far from relaxing but if you listen to the story in the song you get an idea how I felt working at that particular office. I am not putting a link on here because I don’t want to spoil the mood but suggest you look for the official video on YouTube – it does, I think, demonstrate exactly how Sting came to get the role of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen in the film “Dune”!

Anyway, that’s the story – I now have an 8 gigabyte USB stick from which to play my “car music” and the other day random chance played BOTH of the two Beach Boys tracks mentioned within about three songs of each other.  I was instantly transported mentally back to 1988 and the nearly empty M11 as if no time had passed.

I presume that my box of cassettes is still stashed away in the garage somewhere – I must dig it out sometime (if the tapes haven’t rotted away by now) and see what other little gems were on it.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2018 in CD of my Life

 

A Sign of the Times!

A little Springtime Humour Imp visited my head today.

It appeared while I was doing the weekly shop with Faith at the massive Tesco Extra store in Hampton on the outskirts of Peterborough. Incidentally, don’t EVER look up the “outskirts of Peterborough” – they’re probably not wearing any knickers!

We are doing the shopping a day early this week because (and this may just account for my good mood) on Friday I am commandeering the car and pushing off to Ipswich for a night of beer, remembering and dirty jokes with my disreputable old schoolfriends!

Anyway…..

At the end of each and every one of the thirty or more checkout counters in that store is a rack of reusable plastic bags. These are for sale but the notice that I saw, and which is reproduced below, also applies to them. Thus:

A BAG FOR LIFE means exactly that.

When it wears out we will replace it.

ABSOLUTELY FREE!

And that’s where my little Imp comes in.

I get this desperate and almost overwhelming urge to find a way of taking out the words “replace it” on all of those signs and putting in “KILL YOU!” instead.

Given my usual seething angry thoughts about the Tesco shopping experience (which are for another, darker article already giving off noxious fumes from its place of containment on my USB drive) I think that would be quite fun and rather apt!

Don’t you agree?

Alfie

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in Mildly amusing

 

Praise where it’s due!

Just over  a year ago I told you here https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/  and here https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/ about my run-in with the security system for Peterborough Library computers which is run by SERCO and which objected to my attempting to order screws from a website that dares, openly, to sell sharp pointy objects and the means of delivering them. The first of those links details my first “Archery mishap” – this post is the story of my second one!

There is also, incidentally, another post on here (back in September 2016 but I’ll let you go and find that for yourself) concerning my initial introduction to the ancient sport of Archery and at the point where it ended I was still waiting to do the initial course, completion of which would entitle me to join Archery GB and the club of my choice. That club turned out not to be the one where I did the “Taster Session” but another Peterborough based club (Nene Bowmen) which uses the same indoor venue during the winter months and has exclusive use of a field on Ferry Meadows Country Park from April to September.

So, Monday 26th March 2018 was our last indoor practice night (there was a final club competition session on Wednesday 28th but as you will see I didn’t get to go to that!) and I was shooting something called a Portsmouth round for my own amusement. For the uninitiated that’s 60 arrows (in batches of three) shot at a 60cm diameter target from a distance of 20 yards.

I was about two-thirds of the way through (and, I have to say, doing rather better than my previous competitive efforts at this particular round) when my little problem occurred.

I had drawn back the string and instead of the usual quiet <thung> as I released it there was a loud bang, the string went limp and the arrow clattered to the floor!

I stepped back and my club-mates expressed some concern that I might have been injured by either string “whiplash” or fibreglass/ bamboo fragments from a broken bow – I gather that, given the pressures and stresses involved, such things are not unheard of when equipment fails – but I was not aware of any stings, cuts or bruises, I was just slightly jarred by the unexpectedness of it.

Thinking that the string had broken (it happens) I expressed a bit of annoyance because that’s the one part of my set-up that I don’t yet have a spare for, and then examined the bow with one of my colleagues.

The string had indeed broken but not in the middle as I had expected – the frayed ends were in the loop that fits over the lower limb of the bow but there appeared to be a section missing!

In fact, on closer inspection, the actual limb had split (twice) in vertical lines up from the narrow point where the string loops over the end of the limb and that loop had, under the pressures involved, slid down the cracks which sawed through it leaving the end of the loop locked in place.

As there was nothing I could have done either to cause this problem or to tell that it was going to happen, my colleagues all thought that I should contact the shop I bought the bow from and tell them about it.

Which I duly did, writing a rough draft email on my Tuesday bus trip into Peterborough (a draft that was, essentially, the last few factual paragraphs of this piece boiled down to the basics) asking for help. I was unable to type this up during my time at the library – I always seem to get new “pupils” when I have something else I need to do – but tackled it as soon as I arrived home.

The email was fired off to the customer service people at Merlin Archery in Loughborough at around 5.30 pm so I had no real hope of hearing anything back from them that day. However, within a few minutes I received an acknowledgement and a helpdesk reference followed at just before 7.30 pm by a fuller response attaching a 1st class pre-paid label for me to print out and use to return the broken parts!

This meant that I was able, on my Wednesday visit to the Library, to stop off at the Post Office and get a package containing the split limb and the broken string on its’ way to Leicestershire.

Unfortunately I failed to understand the requirements of a warranty claim of this type where the broken unit is one of a pair! After allowing for my parcel’s day of travel on the Thursday and the fact that the Friday was the first day of the Easter holidays (when Merlin Archery were closed) it was Saturday afternoon before I received an apologetic call from the young man in Customer Services requesting that the other, undamaged, limb be returned before matters could proceed.

What with Easter Monday being another Bank Holiday (don’t you non-retired people EVER do any work?) it was Tuesday before I was able to post off a second parcel.  Another day for it to get from Peterborough to Loughborough and I received an email saying that a new string and a pair of equivalently priced (albeit a different make – once bitten; twice shy) limbs are on their way!

And finally, on the morning of Saturday 7th April, the postman knocked and handed me the parcel containing the above mentioned items so I can shoot again!

Now those of my readership who know me as an occasionally Grumpy Old Man will be expecting some sort of rant at this point on the subject of my having to miss the first two efforts at “summer season” outdoor shooting on Wednesday and Thursday of last week!

Perhaps they would be right to expect that BUT…..

Last Wednesday in Peterborough we had heavy rain and high winds all day – so I didn’t even THINK about trekking over to the shooting field! On Thursday the weather was much more suitable so Faith and I took a stroll down to the park to see if anyone else had turned up. I should mention that it is a 10 minute walk from my house to the designated shooting area so if anyone had been present it would have been a little annoying to have no gear to nip back for!

Not only was there not the slightest sign of a target boss or an Archer but as we walked down it was apparent that every route of access to our storage container was under water!

No shooting possible there then!

So, having no personal gripes to take into account I can look objectively at my experience from the moment that limb split and sliced my bowstring.

I have, over the years, and with some justification based on personal experience, become somewhat cynical over matters relating to Customer Service and always expect that there will be constant obstacles placed in my path whenever I come up against any process that costs someone else money.

This time, however, there has been no obstruction, no delays while unnecessary questions get asked and have to be answered, and excellent communication from beginning to end. And none of it has cost me a penny!

Consequently, as one who doesn’t hesitate to have a go (witness my earlier posts taking a pop at the terrible service provided by Stagecoach buses in Peterborough and the poor attitude of staff at Peterborough Job Centre) when things are “bad”, I hope that the management and staff at Merlin Archery in Loughborough will understand how uncommonly exceptional I found their Customer Service to be and how greatly appreciated it was!

Expectations were well exceeded at every point!

Thanks everyone!

Alfie (a.k.a. David Searle)

 

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2018 in Informative

 

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Every 10 minutes? I don’t think so!

My trip to the library for my volunteer work teaching “The Incomputerate” on a Tuesday morning has to be accomplished by public transport – for the simple reason that my lovely wife needs the car to convey her to a nearby village hall for her weekly keep fit session.

Not, I should just mention, that she actually needs it having not an ounce of fat on her and looking WAY younger than her years!

My free travel “over 60s” bus pass comes into effect at 9.25 on the bus ticket machines leaving me 1 hour 5 minutes to get into Peterborough city centre which is about 4 miles away as the crow flies. The route the bus takes is a much longer and rather tortuous one but is still only supposed to take 40 minutes.

This route is also scheduled (and there are signs proclaiming this on EVERY bus shelter) to run “every 10 minutes.

So, assuming that I just miss one at 9.25 I should still have the next 2 arrivals (9.35 and 9.45) to get me to the library for my 10.30 start time.

This morning (written on Tuesday 6th March 2018) I went out a little early to post a letter and just as I got to the letterbox adjacent to the bus stop one pulled up and unloaded the usual hoard of call centre workers for the nearby business park. According to my watch it was then 9.20 so the driver would not have allowed me on with my pass even if he hadn’t just changed the destination board to “Not in service”! He left and I waited.

And waited……….and waited!

The 10 minute mark for the next arrival came at 9.30 without the slightest hint of a bus – as did the 20 minute mark!

We (and by now “we” is quite a substantial group) didn’t quite make it to the half hour mark as at 9.49 a bus suddenly appeared. The driver explained that no less than SEVENTEEN of his colleagues did not report for duty that morning with unsurprising dire effects on the timetable! He also warned us that he was expecting to hear some extremely bad language as we approached the “less genteel” area of Orton Goldhay!

And sure enough, within a few stops, some large, tattooed, “chavvy” mummies were soon mouthing off at the driver as if it was his personal fault that they’d had to wait over an hour. Then, when they got to the front of the queue they kicked off again when they discovered that they were not allowed on because the driver had already filled his permitted quota of three baby buggies on board!

This time the people to blame were the driver AND all the other passengers! We were all told in no uncertain terms that we were all “blanking, blank blankers” for having had the audacity to get on this bus before them.

As they weren’t going to be allowed on I was tempted to ask them how their course at Charm School was going but my instinct for self-preservation prevented me – probably wisely!

Of course, being the first bus along this route for over an hour meant that every stop had long queues and we soon reached our maximum legal passenger capacity. I could no longer hear the things being shouted as we sailed straight past some of the later stops but I’m fairly sure that our rear windows would have been in some danger had there been any rocks lying around.

I reached the library at 10.35, rather remarkably only 5 minutes late, and still before my current “pupils” who were similarly delayed by problems with other bus routes.

My first action before I had to start imparting my computer know-how was to send Faith a text warning her that if the service was still screwed up at midday she might have to come and get me!

On leaving the Library at 12.00 I do sometimes take a stroll through town to the main bus station but it seemed sensible on this day to get over the road to the nearest stop on the Citibus No. 1 route that would take me home. This time I only had to wait just under 20 minutes for my ride but by the time we reached the next stop, just under a quarter of a mile away, another on the same route had overtaken us and a third was right behind us! This, I find, is even more infuriating than no bus at all!

By the time we reached the bus station a couple of stops further on both were ahead of us and all three played “leap frog” along the route to Orton Wistow. More by luck than judgement the bus I was on was actually the first to my stop!

It was all very frustrating for the passengers (and, I’m sure, for the drivers who had bothered to turn up but still got to take a lot of undeserved crap from the chavs) but it’s all really down to bad management at the depot.

I am aware that all these buses have “trackers” as well as two-way radios so it shouldn’t be beyond the managers’ wits, even with staff shortages, to keep those buses that are available evenly spaced even if the advertised regularity cannot be met.

These “three bus bunchings” happen extremely regularly even with a full shift of drivers so it would seem that there is either total incompetence at the head of the company running the transport system (which I’m not going to name but it sounds like they would be better off using horses) or simply a “couldn’t care less” attitude.

It would be really nice to have an actual RELIABLE 10 minute service rather than “roughly every 10 minutes on average if you’re lucky” which is what we get and which seems to be the best we can hope for!

As I have explained before, both here and in other posts on this site, my Bus Pass means that my travel after 9.30 a.m. on weekdays and all day at weekends is FREE – I certainly do get the service I pay for!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in Rants and moans, Travel related

 

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The sequel to “The Sequel” and “The Sequel – Revisited”

Oh dear, this is getting confusing!

Let me explain.

Back in May 2010 in the very early days of this Blog (although at the time it seemed like I’d been doing it FOREVER) a brilliant pun occurred to me and I worked backwards from the punchline to the story as originally published. If you wish to read it in all it’s original glory, just go to the “Archives” heading in the right-hand column near the top of this page, select “May 2010” and scroll down to the post dated 4th May and headed “The Sequel”.

The event that inspired it then was the setting up of the Committee of Inquiry into the causes of the Iraq War of 2003 – commonly known as “the Chilcott Inquiry” after its Chairman, Sir John Chilcott.

After a masterly display of delay and prevarication by the politicians then in power the results of that inquiry were finally published in the summer of 2016 and I thought the time was ripe for resurrecting the piece. I added some additional information about how the original had been received (“mixed messages” is probably the nicest way to put it) and hoped that a few more people would finally “get” my twisting of the Iraq War justifications into dazzling wordplay. This time I would categorise the response as “underwhelming”! That version can be found in the July 2016 Archive if you’re interested.

So why, you are probably thinking (knowing, with a sinking feeling, that it is about to be reprinted yet again), is the article not being allowed to rest in peace for all time?

Well that’s not my fault!

Peterborough Central Library recently reorganised its shelving and the Science Fiction section, which used to be in an out of the way corner, has been re-positioned to right outside the door to the back office where I go to sign in before my volunteering sessions- which means it is far easier for me to scan through while I wait for someone to answer my knock and let me in.

And one of the things that caught my eye this morning was a paperback book showing on its cover a picture of the traditional image of a Martian Fighting Machine from “The War of the Worlds”. It was not, I was surprised to see, the original tale but a sequel (apparently authorised by the H.G.Wells Estate) entitled “The Massacre of Mankind” by well known British Sci-fi author Stephen Baxter.

I have not read it yet (although I suppose that it is incumbent upon me to do so in the circumstances) but just thumbed through it while waiting at the office door. In that short time one short sentence imprinted itself on my memory! It was this: “The cannon was never fired”.

Now if you have taken note of my earlier hints and read my original post for yourself you will understand why I am now wondering whether the worthy Mr Baxter has actually been exposed to my 2010 musings. It would be interesting to know whether he experienced the “bright blue vortex” and a printed copy of “The Sequel” falling through into HIS study.

So here it is again in case you couldn’t be bothered to go to the Archives but mainly because I am so proud of it that I want to keep showing it to you!

The sequel!

Something REALLY exciting happened today!

I was working on another article in my study this morning when, without any warning at all, a swirling bright blue vortex of energy a bit like a tiny horizontal tornado appeared over near the bookshelves! It was no more than six inches in diameter and as I could see another older-looking room through it I immediately deduced that it was a hyperspacial gateway to an alternate reality probably with some displacement on the time axis!

Before I could observe any other pertinent facts it began to emit a strange electrical crackling sound.

Suddenly an envelope shot through and fluttered to the floor causing me to take my eyes off the vortex which promptly disappeared!

The envelope (which was unsealed) was addressed to “W. Heinemann” in a VERY old fashioned hand and as it plainly wasn’t going to reach its intended recipient now I naturally opened it. Well, wouldn’t you?

There were two sheets of paper inside; the first was a letter, the second I’ll come to later.

As soon as I saw that it was signed “Herbert George Wells” I knew at once that here was something to arouse my Science Fiction enthusiasm because it was plainly a letter to his publisher William Heinemann. Here is what the letter said:

“My dear Heinemann,

I am extraordinarily gratified at the way “The War of the Worlds” has been received by the readers of Great Britain and, indeed, the world. So much so that I now wish to offer to you a synopsis of my ideas for a further book to continue the story. I hope that you will indulge me in this and will look with favour upon it.

My tale begins some two years after the fortuitous defeat of the Martians by our earthly diseases. Mankind has pulled itself together into a collective of nations held together largely by fear and the knowledge that the greater part of the Martian race still exists and continues to look covetously towards our world.

Our magnificent scientists, working in the knowledge that only one of our races can survive, have created a new explosive sufficiently powerful to propel a massive artillery shell towards Mars at the almost unbelievable speed of SIXTY MILLION miles per hour. The momentum of such a shell when aimed correctly would blast our neighbouring world to dust and, obviously, would need an enormous cannon to send it on its way.

Such a cannon has been built into a mountain on the eastern borders of Canada and its southern neighbour; a mountain that has first to be leased at great expense from one of the great native tribes to whom it is sacred.

I will, my friend, say no more of the story at this stage, save that if the artillery is to be fired it must be while Mars is at its closest distance of under fifty million miles and that this will occur during the present year of our lord 1900.

I hope that I have engaged your interest sufficiently that you will wish to publish and that you will also give consideration to the sheet that I enclose herewith. This contains a suggested mock newspaper headline that I believe we might use to publicise the eventual printing of the book.

I look forward to hearing your impressions on this and remain,

Yours most sincerely

Herbert George Wells”

 

I have since looked into some of the points that this remarkable letter raises and while Victorian science takes a large amount of “science” to extremes that our Physics does not allow, the astronomical facts are correct – in 1900 Mars WAS at a very close forty five million miles from us.

The high speed cannon would certainly NOT have worked! It would probably have vaporised the holy mountain and the friendly tribe that owned it!

In our world no such sequel to “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells was ever published by William Heinemann or any other publisher but of course we cannot know whether it found popularity in the alternate reality from which the letter came.

What we DO know is that we were mercifully spared Mr Wells’ early effort at advertising “hype”.

I mean to say, WHO, whether in their right mind or not, would give any credence WHATSOEVER to a newspaper headline that stated:

“Iroquois supergun! Delivers Weapons of Mars Destruction in 45 minutes!”

Alfie

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2018 in Brilliant Puns!

 

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