Sunday, October 16, 2005

Sorry, I'm not interested 

I think I'm being tested, and if I am I'm not scoring highly.

I sat down on a park bench on Saturday (with the intention of reading the paper) and a woman sitting on the bench next to me said "I don't charge for you to sit down you know". Confused, I managed to smile at her and mumble "oh, thanks", and sit down. A few seconds later I manage to think up, "oh, so you'll charge me to leave then?" as the most suitable lame reply I could have used. I think about this for a few more seconds, then spend a few more seconds think about whether I've left it too long to use this reply. If I use it now it won't sound spontaneous. Won't it sound like I've spent some time actually thinking about what to say and have only managed to come up with this rubbish? So I spend a few more seconds trying to think up something better to respond with that may be worth spending time to think up. I don't manage to think of anything although I do consider the likelihood that I will come up with the perfect retort later in the day when I'm busy thinking about something else. By this time it's too late so I start to think of something to say that's unrelated to her original statement, with the intention of making me seem friendly. I don't come up with anything profound or interesting and disregard using anything normal like commenting on the weather (although it was a lovely day in the middle of October). Then I wonder what I am doing, why bother? The woman is probably either slightly mad, or at the least will annoy me when I'm trying to read my paper and drink my coffee, so why encourage her? So I just ignore her and eventually she gets up and leaves.

Ten minutes later I hear a girls voice saying "I've lost my ice-cream money". I assume she's talking to someone else. A girl of seven? (I don't know kids ages before 16) sits next to me and I carry on reading. She is staring at me. "Do you have the time?"
"No sorry I don't" (I really don't)
"What are you reading?"
Now I'm wondering what she is doing here? I instantly get paranoid, it's not possible for men of thirty to talk to seven year old girls in the park. And why would I want to anyway?
"The paper"
Then nothing for a few minutes. "I've lost my ice cream money, can you give me some money for an ice cream?"
I assume this is the scam, although looking at her she looks well dressed and presented. "I don't have any money, sorry"
Then I look up and notice there is an ice-cream van at the other end of the park, so maybe she is being genuine. Oh well, too late now, and I'm not going to be seen giving money to a young girl to buy ice-cream.
A few minutes later "Ok, I'm going then".
I say nothing.
I look up and see her on the other side of the park. She has found a bronze statue of a young girl with bobbed hair sitting with her knees drawn up under her chin. She is staring, transfixed by the statue, and begins to stroke the girl's head.

Today while walking home a man crosses the road and asks me for 30p for a phone call. I think back to the last time I refused someone money for a phone call, and how I found out later he was genuine. Then I think back to the last time I did give someone money for a specific purpose, and how they were not genuine. A guy with a rucksack (and no bike) asked for pound to help him get a bus to Newport, I deliberated, then gave him the money. Twenty minutes later I saw him cycle past me in the park. I tried to chase after him to ask for my pound back, but he ignored me.
So I didn't give the guy the 30p, and probably I should have.

And I struggle to get involved in conversations with random people because I can't answer them spontaneously.

And I struggle to deal with hecklers or jokers on the street (and there are many), because I can't think spontaneously, so I just say nothing. And later I come up with the perfect retort and think "If only I'd said..."

And I struggle to approach people I really should talk to because I will only let myself open with the most perfect, witty and profound comment. And this comment never exists of course, and by the time I've realised this it's too late. One of the biggest big-wig geeky computer hackers who I've been in awe of lives in Swansea, and he and his wife travelled up to watch the rugby in Gloucester the other day. I was sitting in the same train carriage as them, and when I got to the ground I noticed they were standing directly behind me. And all this time I was desperately thinking of the perfect opener for me to get to meet him. And when the game was over and I was on the way home and it was too late I realised that I should just have turned round and asked him if he was enjoying the game.

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Out of the aeroplane into the sea 

I cheered when I heard this story, a R.A.F. jet crashing into the sea off Scotland.

The times I wished for a shoulder mounted surface to air missile to shoot one of those annoying bastards down as they thundered low over my head, circled and did the same again, and again, and again.

They practice this low flying over mid Wales too. The reverberations had just died down from a jet passing directly overhead at a few hundred feet interrupting a conversation between me and my grandfather. I was about to pick up where we left off when he said to me with a straight face, "you probably didn't realise there's still a war going on up here."

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my kith and kin in cyberspace 

My homepage links to :

Steve's homepage (which is closed)

Bethan's flickr page (where a mis-orientated picture of "An unfinished Indian temple" has been the latest update for over a month)

Rhys' homepage (which has been suspended)

and also:
Matt's homepage That is alive and being updated.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Working from home 

I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about this in the future, but here are my first thoughts.

This is the first week I've been working from home as a full time employee. I need some more space as I'm just living and working out of one room at the moment. I'm making progress on this, but I've decided that moving out will mean buying a place and I'm not getting many free weekends to do any looking around.

There's much scope for improvement in this daily routine, but for the last two days:

I get up and start work almost immediately. This is not ideal, but being one hour behind Holland I don't want to leave it too long and don't fancy getting up too early. Getting up from bed before 9am is not a problem as the woman next door has rearranged her house and now seems to be washing up her dishes next to my head!

I get through some toast and coffee while I'm working.

I indulge in the same maddening game my parents love to play by hanging out wet clothes on the washing line, only to rush out ten minutes later because it starts raining, then peg them out again when the shower passes. I keep this up all day and by the end of the day I have a pile of damp clothes ready to hang out again the following morning.

There is a plastic roofed conservatory attached to my room, so I am alerted by the smallest drop of rain. This warning system is a little too sensitive. I rushed out the other day thinking a monsoon had come. I had half the clothes in my arms before I realised that it was just a daddy long-legs with corns on his feet landing on my roof.

I wash up. I do really love washing up, but mainly when the dishes are dirtied by other people. If it were just myself then I probably wouldn't bother. There are plenty of dirty dishes to be found in the house if you look hard enough. So I do some work and tell myself I'll do some washing up later as a treat.

I find it very satisfying and smugly think (know) that I'm pretty good at it. It's partially about the water (plenty of very hot water - should really be hot enough to require gloves), and the pre-rinsing, and the order and categorisation, and the post rinsing (rinsing off the soap suds) and the stacking; the attention to detail that other people ignore because they think of the task as a chore and not an art form.

When I was dumped (or should I say 'let go gently'), I left her with the aside: "You do realise you'll never find a man who can wash up better than me!". I now wonder if she didn't have a thing for trainee chefs... but that's industrial level, quantity without quality, so it doesn't count.
Shortly before this I'd asked her to name her, soon to be delivered, compost bin 'Geraint' so she'd have something to remember my by.

Lunch time comes about 1pm. I bike to the swimming pool and do a few lengths. Just a few at the moment as I'm hopelessly out of practice. Then work for a few hours. Have a few hour's break (tea and read/surf). Then back in the evening to finish off. I need to cut this evening working out. That should fix itself when I move. I've run out of interesting things to say now, I think I only started as I wanted to talk about washing up.

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Next bike trip 

I fancy something a bit challenging like this.

I like the fact that the guy is not used to cycling long distances and after just the first day cycling he is shattered. Kind of what I felt like after my first day, only this guy something like 2 years of cycling ahead of him and passes of 4000m to climb.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Phone Box Man 

I have found my calling [pun] in life. Today I was on the steets and needed to make some calls, so had to use a B.T. phone box.

The first one I tried rejected all my coins. This made me mad. (I was making the phone call as part of a faff riddled process I was tangled up in - so I was not in the best of moods to start with). I stopped and addressed myself,? I was deviating from my core beliefs and standard operational behaviour, time to get back on track.

I stopped being mad and considered how one may get even with a phone box. I could urinate in it, but it smelt like someone had already done that. I thought about extracting some revenge upon BT themselves, but then I decided I didn't really care that much and it was actually someone else's fault I was in this situation in the first place.

I was about to go find another phone box, when I thought that maybe I should care about the faulty phone. Maybe this phone had been broken for months, people, having failed to use it, had just gone to find another one. Stupid, selfish people I thought. So I phoned the operator and he told me to dial 151 and I was through to an automated service for registering a fault with the phone. There seemed to be plenty of options, dirty phones, dead phones and thankfully an option for phones that did not accept coins. Eventualy the system told me my fault report had been registered in their database and I hung up feeling a bit smug like I do after carrying an old ladies bags off the train. I half expected to see a BT repair van pull up and an engineer leap out.

Off I trotted to find another phone. This time the coin slot was totally blocked, there was no opportunity to have your coins rejected as you couldn't feed them into the phone in the first place. I knew exactly what to do, dialed 151 and reported the fault. I even remembered the key presses required to register a coin problem (1-2-1-1 ?). Now I had a real buzz and had almost forgot about the annoyance of not being able to make the phone call. I really was doing something positive, making a difference, doing my bit to make the world a better place.

This phone was part of a doubler, but there was a guy in the other box so I gave up with the phone call (it was time dependent and I was getting late for the current slot, I'd try again in a couple of hours).

While eating lunch I imagined how far I could take this. There must be thousands of phone boxes in central London. Going by my current observations (2 out of 2) probably a great number of them were faulty. The tool for reporting the faults was simple and powerful, it even gave you a reference number that I could note down on a clipboard for transferring to computer spreadsheet later to track the progress of the fault resolution. I'd get a name for myself, a mysterious do-gooder roaming the streets of London, doing their bit to clean up the streets and put the world to rights. I'd get mentioned in the local papers and get to shake hands with Ken Livingstone. Maybe I could disguise my identity, wear a costume and style myself as a super-hero.

After lunch it was back to the phones. I first tried the phone I hadn't already tried, the one that was previously occupied. I put in one coin and it was instantly rejected (here we go again, I thought). I tried to retrieve my coin and noticed to my surprise that the rejected coin bucket held a number of coins: one 50p, two 10p and my 20p. I put the bonus 50p into the coin slot and the phone swallowed it, but did not register it, it seemed to be stuck. I put in one of the 10p coins in the hope that this would un jam it, but this was swallowed to. Stupidly I put all remaining coins into the phone with the hope of knocking out the others. It didn't work, and I'd lost all the coins I'd found along with my original 20p. I banged and tried to shake them free.

So out of a set of three phones:

- one blocked coins
- one rejected coins
- one swallowed coins

(there's a metaphor for life or love in there somewhere)

I still needed to make the phone call. I tried the second phone box again (blocked slot), but used my credit card instead. This seemed to work, after a while I was prompted to enter the telephone number which I did, but some of the buttons stuck. Every time I pressed "0" it would register that press at least twice, or just hold the button in so I heard a continuous tone. I tried this again, being very gentle with the broken buttons, and nearly managed it once, only to mess it up with the last press and enter an invalid number.

Now I was annoyed. I didn't report this fault as I was more concerned about making the call, and I figured the engineer would maybe spot and fix the problem when attending to the blocked coin slot.

I went back to the 3rd phone (swallowing coins) and tried my credit card. The card reader on this one was broken as it kept giving me a "card not inserted correctly" message.

I returned to the 1st phone (rejected coins) and tried my credit card and it worked and the buttons didn't stick and finally I was able to dial the number and the phone was ringing on the other end and..... it was still ringing on the other end. Nobody answered.

Problems with communication devices seemed to be the order of a very unproductive and pointless day. A Telex message from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow to the Russian Consulate in London didn't arrive in time, so I didn't get my visa and I don't get to go to Moscow - least not this week.

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Monday, October 03, 2005

this week I will mostly be ... 

Monday - train to London, work in Teddington, travel to Kensington and spend night in hotel
Tuesday - queue for visa in Russian consulate, train home to Cardiff
Wednesday - Taxi to airport, flight to Amsterdam -> Frankfurt -> Turin
Thursday - Work in Turin
Friday - Work in Turin, flight to Frankfurt -> Amsterdam, spend night in hotel in Holland
Saturday - Fly to London, work, spend night in hotel in Heathrow
Sunday - Fly to Holland -> Moscow
Monday - Work in Moscow
Tuesday - Work in Moscow
Wednesday - Fly to Holland, spend night in Holland
Thursday - Work in Holland
Friday - Work in Holland, fly home to Cardiff

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Sunday, October 02, 2005

back in the saddle 

Started the last part of my trip to Land's End, but only got as far as Bristol.

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