Monday, January 28, 2008

New post, new posters...

Okay, so...

I came home yesterday completely knackered, and managed to convince my marents to take me to the local nature reserve so I can test out my new camera.
So no drinking for me, off to bed early, ready to wake up early in the morning.

So 7am comes and off we go. We go via another destination, Roche Abbey (photo), a 13th century Abbey, ruins that have laid mostly abandoned for 800 years. I take a couple of photos, trying to catch the sunrise while thumbing hastily through the manual, trying to figure out how to take advanced photos on the fly... I've never worked with 35mm before, so it's all new to me. It worked okay I spose, and bearing in mind I was working against the clock, I managed to get a few decent shots in...

Eventually we get to the local nature reserve. I've passed it a lot but not actually been there before. But, as I'm there with my camera, I painstakingly take a few shots before getting into the reserve itself.

so after paying we go to the first hide, and it's a hide dedicated to local garden birds. I set up the camera and the tripod, carefully picking a good spot, extra lenses etc, I was all serious about it thinking "yeahhh i have extra lenses" etc etc...

The hide overlooked a few birdfeeders hanging from trees, an environment designed to attract garden birds. And wow, did it attract them.
We had everything from Blackbirds and Blue Tits, to Robins and Goldfinches. Eventually though, a little superstar presents himself.

We get a cheeky Squirrel, climbing down the tree, clambering up the branch and onto the birdfeeder below. From there, through my zoom lens, I'm able to see this little guy, hanging from the top of the birdfeeder by his back claws, stuffing his nose into the birdfood holes, and stealing the nuts and seeds from inside, and boy is he hungry - he's there for about 10 minutes, just eating and hanging around. Occasionally, he'll climb onto a branch and grin at me, before diving down, sure he's only a Grey (Red Squirrels in England are really rare now!) but I'm grinning while my camera takes shot after shot after shot. This guy likes his stardom.

I concentrate on the birds again, and grin while I take a photo of one of the blackbirds again. Unfortunatley, due to the slow shutter speed, I groan as another bird flies into view while the shot is exposing. "Great" I explain. "I just got a photo of a Blackbird with a Robin up its arse".

We go to another hide along the way, where I take a few snaps, to my amazement, I manage to take some fantastic, clear, GOOD photos, of a flock of cormorants flying across the lake. The photo is taken "on the wing" as they say, which is to say, I photographed the birds while they were in flight - difficult to do, and very difficult to do well. It would have been an achievement to capture a flock of birds on the wing in my first ever film...

So we go off anyway, off to the next hide, and no sooner do I get in than my jaw drops open.

See, boys and their toys, be they cars (who has the fastest), computers (who has the most powerful), weapons (who has the biggest sword) etc etc, are nothing but an exercise in modern day penis envy (basically, he who has the best, is more of a man than he who doesn't - ridiculous, but there are many modern equivalents including those cited above)

Across the hide, looking intently out of the hide, behind a DSLR, is the bloke I saw earlier. The DSLR he has in front of him has a complex technical tangle of lenses attached to it, the effect of which is to look like a 2 and a half foot (75cm) long cone of lenses has been attached to his camera. Seriously, the entire setup screamed "I am expensive!!!" at everyone that came within visual range of the camera. To paraphrase my mum, "if the earth wasn't curved, he'd be able to see china" (I only caught the first half of it).

I heard him in conversation talking to a dude next to him, where he casually mentioned that his camera and lenses had cost him four THOUSAND pounds! That's like $8,000US on camera gear! This is serious kit, his largest lens had a lens shroud on it that was easily 20cm across (it's big, basically), and my sense of self superiority ("Yes, I have a zoom lens!!!") vanished while I scurried over to the other side of the hide.
Though he was a nice enough bloke, and offered me some advice on which filters and lenses to use etc...

So I'm there snapping away, and I get photos of, of all things, a trio of Aberdeen Angus, on an island in the middle of the lake!!! Evidently, they've waded there to eat the grass. Fair, but still not what you'd expect to see on a bird sanctuary!

Before long though, the camera's flashing at me, I'm coming up on my 36 exposure point (a normal 35mm film will take 36 exposures. Like filling a magazine with ammunition, once you've put 36 into it, that's it, the film's full. Unlike a magazine (where it starts full, and empties as you fire the ammunition stored inside), the film starts empty and fills with images as you take the pictures.

So we go home, where I just have time to get myself cleaned up before I get dropped off at Meadowhall. I get there and get dropped off just outside a film developers. Fantastic, and I manage to get to the counter.

Aha. In fact.
Here's a picture. I'll leave it to you to guess what was said next.











Guessed?

Read it again. Make it bigger if you want, it's not a trick question...

Still not got it?

Don't worry, I didn't either.

The film is for SLIDES! It's not for PRINTS it's for SLIDES!
the difference being, for those of you who don't know, prints are what you get from the photo store when you take a film along. They're those bits of card with your photos on.
SLIDES on the other hand, are little tiny things, transparent films encased in card, they're designed to go into a SLIDE PROJECTOR for viewing on the nearest convenient WALL!

I was a bit miffed, I took 36 photos over 4 hours, taking ages to set up my lenses etc, and because I've now loaded the wrong film (I didn't bloody know!) I now need a convenient bit of MASONRY to view them on!!!
As well as a slide projector.

They said "we can process them but it will take 2 weeks, we have to send them away. £5.95 for the slides, plus £7.99 for the photo prints".

I went somewhere else. "We can process them, but it will take 1 week, we have to send them away. £5.95 for the slides, plus £7.99 for the photo prints".".

In desperation, I went to a third place, explained myself, and yes, "I'm not sure we can help you, let me get the manager". So she came.
"Well, it's a slides film. We CAN DO IT, but the photos might end up a bit [high contrast]".
"How soon can you do it?"
"In an hour".
"You do these for me. If the photos are low quality, that's because I'm new to 35mm. Low quality will be my fault, not yours".

So I bimbled around Meadowhall for a bit. There's surprisingly little to do to keep you occupied. Eventually though, I bought a couple of posters to adorn my room.
Here's the first.
Here's the second.

Nice aren't they. Unfortunatley, in this tiny little prison cell of a room, there's not room for that many. One or two are going to have to be trimmed to fit other patches of blank wall, or omitted altogether.

******* [02:11] Anyway - up to these asterisks, I've written 1,351 words. I'm going to have a break, I'll be back shortly*******

[02:26] Right - back...

I go back to the place that agreed to do my prints.
I hand them my slip of paper, and straight away, she looks apologetically at me.
"Erm, they all erm, came back blank"
"Eh?"
"Erm, the entire roll is blank, there's nothing on there, the whole film has no photos on it".

She gets it out of the envelope - a roll of film, completely blank, none of my fantastic photos on it, no bluetits, no squirrels, nothing.

Arrgh, I show her the box.
"Could this have been something to do with it?"









She grins akwardly, "It could be. It could just have degraded".

See, if you look on the box, it says "process before:" It seems camera film degrades over time. It's light sensitive, and even in the darkness of its container, eventually, camera film will become exposed to the miniscule amount of light in there, and will absorb the little light it is exposed to.

The "process before" date on my film was SEPTEMBER 1998! Talk about pushing your luck. I thought it'd be okay, evidently it wasn't. I noted not to be such a klutz in future.

Still, magnanimous in defeat, I asked "how much do I owe you?", expecting them to charge me for the processing despite the bad results.
Anyway, she refused to charge me. Blank film, no photos, no charge.

I picked up some kodak films before leaving though, brand new SEALED ones, that were good to go.

I nipped into the local electronics store though, and spoke to a dude there about buying a brand new Digital SLR. I have had enough of film, pain in the butt, digital is so much more convenient.

He handed me one to look at. A Nikon D80. As soon as I picked it up, it felt heavier in the hand, more solidly built. More capable, powerful and versatile.
And so it ought to be.
The best price I've seen one going for is the equivalent of $1056 USD.

Still, it bears thinking about. I've compared the prices of the lenses I own to the price of similar lenses in the local stores. Even assuming they're worth only 75% as much as they were new (lenses barely depreciate apparently, cameras become obsolete, but a lens is a lens is a lens) I still own over $2000 USD of lenses.

I'm going to get a D80. I need to see if the lenses I own are compatible with it - if they are, I'll keep them (it's a lot cheaper than buying new lenses!). If not, I'll sell everything and get the D80 and a couple (or even just one!) of decent lenses.

Now I need to look further into that, I'll decide in time. I like digital. No film, no processing, no messing around, no trips to the shopping mall each time I want to see the fruits of my efforts.

I came home and slept. I read a few digital camera magazines my dad got me, but mostly I slept.

For some reason I woke up dehydrated, incredibly depressed and ready to roll back over, and go to bed.

But It passed quickly, out came the beer and here I am.
I've since been watching Dilbert on youtube.
Still, that's my day.

But just before you go, the ONE photo that did come out okay, when I was at the nature reserve, was a photo OF of my camera shot with a second camera.
I spose it's the closest thing I have to a photo of the nature reserve itself. You can see the hide, and my camera poking out of it :)...

Later!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Girls on Film...

Okay, so it's been a slightly less mediocre week than usual.

Well, I suppose I'll kick off with the events of wednesday, when I spent most of the morning at my desk, with my hand in a cup of cold water. I went down to wash out my coffee cup, which had last week's coffee in it (I'd lost my cup before I could clean it out - I'm not THAT much of a scruffy sod), so on goes the kettle, cup's there ready to be washed out with nice boiled water.

Kettle clicks, I pick it up, go over to pour water in cup, which is when it kinda went into slow motion.

1. Cup falls over.
2. I start pouring boiling water onto cup.
3. Left hand goes to pick cup up.
4. Boiling water runs down my hand.

YAY, what fun. So like a loony I'm stood there with my hand under the cold tap. I eventually managed to get off to work, nursing (what turned out to be a superficially) scalded hand.
Weird pain though scalding, there's no way to kind of replicate that particular type of pain.
Not that you'd want to anyway...
Of course, by the end of the day it had stopped hurting, and 24 hours later it was as if it had never happened.

I got security searched on wednesday too. I've been there a couple of years (I forget - it's been too long), and I've never been searched before - basically, our company has a random search policy where they can just pull you off the floor and search you.
And the one day I got searched was the day I had brought in a .50 FMJ round to show a mate of mine. So I'm there explaining to the security dude why I'm carrying a bullet (and a pretty sizable one at that) round with me.
He was satisfied that it's only a lump of metal, but, from a security point of view, he said it's still dangerous, "because it's heavy and it's pointed, and if you threw it at someone's head it would cause quite a bit of damage". I'm not making this up.

So what else have I been up to?

Today I have been mostly receiving free stuff. I've been looking at getting a DSLR, so a mate of mine who's just taken possession of one says "I've got an old style Film SLR, borrow that, learn how to use an SLR, THEN get an expensive digital one". I can kinda see where he's coming from because with digital cameras, you can just point and click, click, click, click, there's no incentive to set up good shots, no reason to improve your tecnique and photograpy skill. Whereas with normal SLRs, it's caught on 35mm film, so you have to go and get those developed - obviously, no one wants to pay to develop photos of crap, so you have the incentive right there, to set up, compose your photos and PAY ATTENTION to what you're doing.

Well my mate has been off work for a couple of days, today he comes in and plonks a camera bag on my desk. When asked when he wants the stuff back, he grins and says simply that he has other things on his mind, and he doesn't use it anyway. Officially, the camera is now mine...

Wow, okay, so I've just been given, well, what have I been given (See photos at bottom)...

I've got the camera, including three lenses (which I'm told are worth substantially more than the camera), I've got a load of filters, 10 36 exposure films, manuals and straps and covers and all sorts of stuff really.

And now I've got to learn to use it. I've got to learn about lighting matrices and apetures and exposures and lightings and ISOs and samplings and focusings and polarisings and scratchings and daubings and rubbings and all sorts of weird stuff. Going from a digital point and click to a 35mm SLR is definitley a big change, the two are completely different.

I was like a kid at christmas, on my lunch break. Taking it and poking things and pressing buttons and adding lenses and all sorts. Not having a blind clue what any of it did, of course.
Even on the way home, when the bus started pouring white smoke and bits of turbo bearing/blades out of the exhaust (meaning I had to wait an hour for the next bus to come and rescue us), I carried on keeping myself occupied with pressings and focusings and generally pointing it at things :). Kid at christmas, definitley.

So as I say, the plan is to use the camera, to get good at taking photos, to get experience at setting shops up and THEN when I'm good enough to justify the expense, I can sell the stuff and get a DSLR. If I don't decide I like 35mm too much!

Anyway, it's kinda late so I'm off to chill out. Laters all! :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Relax, Take it easy...

Okay, I'm pissed off. Why? Because this is the second time I've had to write this goddamn thing. Some stupid bastard of an error spontaneously deleted my entire blog entry a few minutes before it was ready for publication.
Stupid fecking thing.

So, as you've no doubt gathered, bla bla extra gems bla bla I have actually had some more gens through the post. The dark blue one at the top right is a Carribean Blue Topaz, and cost me about $18.00US. There's other stuff in there too.

So, in other news, we had a bunch of senior managers around "the workplace" as it now seems fashionable to call it. This place that could ultimately be called a "double plus ungood" work place, as all efforts to stamp your mark, to express yourself or to ultimately be anything other than another drone in the hive, seem to be surpressed.

So we have this bunch of overpaid suits around, the dudes who's job it is to manage buildings, without any regard to the people currently working in them. Admittedly though, as I've said before, my company isn't THAT bad a place to work. The buildings are modern, well kept, the staff are reasonably competent so it's not all bad...

But the suits are in the managing director's office, which I'm surprised to see is on the corner of a nondescript corridor on the ground floor, admittedly it's right next to the reception, which only "Grade 6 (my boss's boss's boss's boss - we're talking, building manager practically)" employees can get through, yes I am that low in the food chain...

Anyway, eventually we get an edict through in the early afternoon...

"2007 has been an exciting year"

Yes, maybe for those of us with five bedroomed houses and a lotus elise in the driveway, for the rest of us, it's been another grey boring mediocre year in the customer service battery cage...

"You have all overcome considerable challenges"
No we haven't. Like I said above, we're crammed 8 to a desk like chickens in a battery cage, and we have to take whatever's thrown at us, which from our left ear (most of us wear our headsets covering our left ears) is a load of inane garbage, absolute crap and sometimes plain abuse, coming from the so called "callers", and from our right ear is a load of shite from arguing middle management, which is what you get when the entire department is run by two senior managers, neither of whom can agree on how the department should be run...

"We have listened to the feedback we have been receiving"

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha...

"We want to improve morale throughout the company"

How? By firing us all and encouraging us to get out of our ruts and into better jobs?

"We are therefore pleased to announce that with immediate effect, COMPANY-WIDE DRESS CODES ARE HEREBY RESCINDED. ALL EMPLOYEES ARE FREE AND ARE ENCOURAGED TO WEAR ANY CLOTHING THEY FIND SUITABLE AND COMFORTABLE".

Bloody hell! That's a hell of a change! So basically we can now wear whatever we want to wear to work? That's fantastic - I now no longer need to wear these damn stupid looking "posh trousers" that are so shiny they look like they're made out of polyeser, no. No more comfortable but incredibly unfashionable, dour and boring hush puppies, no.
Trackies, trainers and a hoodie for me, now. Yes indeedy.

I spent most of today on administrative duties, I was asked to go through the personnel files (the contents of which I kept to myself naturally!), do general paper number crunching (like number crunching but without Excel and twice as tedious) and then got asked to decorate the damn unit with posters and stuff. Towards the end, I volunteered to clean up all the desks and generally tidy the place up.
Yes, read that again.
I VOLUNTEERED to clean up an office occupied by nearly 80 people. I volunteered to be a janitor rather than a call taker.
Why? Because calls were queueing and I had no urge to speak to some idiot who is hysterical because their cat is "trapped" on top of their garden shed.

I'm reminded of a dilbert cartoon, sadly I don't have it to hand...

Dilbert [having just cleaned his cubicle] "Ahh, this is one clean cubicle now.
The cleanliness of one's workspace is an indication of how much someone enjoys their job"
Alice "Give me the spray bottle, it's my turn to fantasise that I'm a maid"
Dilbert [begging] "Five more minutes please?!"

That's my job through and through, I swear. I'd rather be a desk cleaner than a call taker. Seriously talking to these morons just becomes too much.

I got home today to find that my parents have very nicely and very kindly taken my old ring (see 25th december) back to the jewellers to get it replaced. I spose a very small part of me misses my old ring as it was a gift and has some sentimental value. I spose that small part is going against the flow as both my parents and I agree that my new one is better :).

It's more comfortable and looks 10 times better anyway :).

And that, is just about it. I'll keep you updated :).

Friday, January 18, 2008

Nothing to see here.


I'm using this as a placemarker so people can find yet another "latest" picture of my gem collection.
Quite a few new ones turned up today.



Thanks. Be sure to come back when I have something to write about! :)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Starz in their eyes...

NOTE: Before you read on, I have examined the blog thoroughly and have made sure that I have not accidentally revealed any information that is not already easily available on the internet. This is what is known as OPSEC and I have made efforts to ensure it has not been compromised. Seriously - I am not revealing military secrets. Am I taking things too seriously?
I'll let the masters speak for themselves. Today an unbuttoned pocket, tomorrow a safety catch.

Right. How am I now? I'm in an absolutely fantastic mood.
Seriously, I'm in the best mood I've been for weeks, everything is going my way, I've got beer, good food, and a good future ahead of me. You are reading the slightly tipsy (a guy's gotta celebrate) post of a lad who knows, with some luck, and some effort, he has the next twenty-two years of his life sorted out, squared away, bring them on! That's a hard feeling to express... Security like that can't be bought. You have to work for it, and when you work for it, god you're rewarded...

Let me explain.

Two days ago, I wrote that I was nervous over the course that I had scheduled for saturday. Which is fair enough. The Army was hard enough the first time around, maybe I really wasn't as fit as I thought I was. I chilled out until midnight and then decided it was bed time. of course, in true me fashion, the entire next hour was me running round like a headless chicken looking for things that I forgot.

It was therefore with some nervousness that I woke up in the morning. The alarm went off at 7am, just as I asked it to. Ungratefully, I slammed an angry fist down on it for its efforts, grunting half to myself half to the alarm clock that "it's not f*****g seven AM!"
. Oh, but it was, and it was time to get up. Time to grab my clothes and my hurriedly packed bag, time to get in the car and make like the sheperd - get the flock out of here.

I rush downstairs to a beautifully warm toasty living room (the heating failed, see previous post) to see my mum laid on the sofa watching, erm, Dallas! I think it was. Yep, I sat through fifteen minutes of JR seducing that woman that wasn't his wife and didn't wake up and eat breakfast with him each morning.
Time came to go, and I figured I'd grab a cup of tea to warm me up and a banana for some energy. Well the cup of tea came off okay, that was good. The bananas on the other hand were a different story. In the manner of Eddie Izzard's "bowl of fruit" (buy a bowl of fruit and watch it rot!, the bananas were so "ripe" that they bent - the OPPOSITE direction - in the middle.

F**k it, I thought, and grabbed an apple from the fridge. I hate eating apples, the skin is like the slicey tissue of death that slices between my teeth and lacerates my gums. Nevertheless, out to the car we go, into the dark (7am in january is dark, I know it's not FINLAND!!!! but it is northern) and after only five minutes of swearing, shivering and scraping ice off with the "scrapey-ice-scraper-that-has-the-guard-to-keep-your-hand-warm-but-doesn't-work-
because-it's-been-in-the-car-all-night-and-is-therefore-frozen-solid-scraper-of-doom", the windscreen and windows are clear and we can go.

so we do, we slippety-slide our way up to the nearest main road and have an unevenful journey into town. I nervously watch the clock tick down the minutes until 8am (ok ok, it ticked UP the minutes, but this is technically "historical narrative" so I'm allowed to say things like that).

Finally, we got round the corner, me staring out of the windscreen expecting to see an impatient sergeant checking his watch and waiting for me.
My mum, as she always does, drives right PAST where I'm supposed to be, and further and further and further down the road, looking for "somewhere to park". F**k somewhere to park, drop me here, you're not exactly fleeing a lava flow or whatever.

So I grabbed my stuff, my mum wished me well and off I walked to the courtyard of the meeting place, the same place my brother picked us up from when we came back from London.
I walked up the road, into the courtyard seeing more recruits than I'd expected. Mostly lads, most younger, some older. I kept my gaze ahead, endeavouring not to make eye contact with these lads, each of whom had deemed themselves to be tough enough for the British Army. And it seems, in retrospect that the same thoughts were going through every single trainee's head.

We stood there in deathly silence, taking in the cold morning air. I'm looking around, at myself, and the passers by giving us odd looks. Obviously we're members of some sporting club or something. I look round seeing the faces of the lads and the las that are there with me. I must be maybe one of the oldest there, if not the oldest (I was the second oldest, the guy older than me was 3 years older, he was nearly 26). Were we, these young fresh faced wide eyed youths, the future of our nation? Were we, this group of kids and young men, the latest fodder for the army's recruiting machine? Were we willing to submit ourselves to that?

Evidently we were.

We kept ourselves to ourselves until the sergeant came along about 5 minutes later and called us forward. We answered our names, like in school, and we loaded ourselves onto the minibus. I did so, noting most of the recruits to be had to have parental consent forms, meaning that at least half of us were under 18. Damn I felt old.

We chilled on the minibus which finally set off, and down out of the town center we went. Onto the parkway, then onto the motorway, going up towards my home, at my home, past my home. We carried on, north, past the scenery, the flooded fields, the rivers with burst banks, past the pylons and radio towers, north...

The sergeant was cool enough to turn on the radio - us "Civ*l*ans" have got to have some home comforts.
Now let me pause here and mention an odd fact. It seems to me that music seems to bypass all thought processes, all reasoning and intelligence, and pass straight into memory. I remember this tune vividly, being played over the speakers of the coach I travelled on during my combat infantryman's course, at six AM, a few years ago, and so I remember these, and will remember these, I suspect, for a long time. 1. 2. 3.

There were others as well, I forget. Good old Radio 1.

so north we went, past leeds, which had a lot more skyscrapers than I remember it having (shows how long it has been since last I went - seriously, last time I went there was when Apache Longbow Gold came out, must have been 1998?), towards york. Up we went, up the motorway, while army vehicles went past the other way, dozens at a time. Light guns, heavy goods vehicles, the Army never sleeps, it seems.

We finally got to york, and the scenery got more and more familiar. We took our way through roads that I recognised, to an obscure turning to a base that I'd been to before. Strensall barracks.

Yes, I recognised the old buildings, the fencing, the red brick framework, the prefab classrooms, the old water tank. I noticed they'd built a totally new building though, I'd never seen it before. I'd been here many times as a reservist and to me, it was like coming back home.

We signed in, and the minibus seemed to take us off onto a brief tour (the camp is just laid out that way) and we came to a parking place. The sergeant gets out and runs about a bit, having instructed us to stay on the bus.
And so it begins - that's what I thought anyway. Half of us are there sitting on the minibus, some of us having drunk Red Bulls, sitting around holding it in for an hour, not to put too fine a point on it, we needed to go to the gents!!! Paticularly me - I hadn't been drinking Red Bull, but that route from Sheffield to Strensall seemed to be cursed, for I never one made the trip without sitting cross-legged in agony.

So we're there anyway. "Off the bus" we get. Over to the training group we get, where we shiver ourselves to death in what has turned out, at least up in york, to be a freezing morning.
After a brief chat, during which even the stupidest of us can't have failed to hear the words "lunch's been cancelled? so we can leave early?" at which point the sergeant orders us back on to the bus.
"This is it lads" says one recruit, "the f*ckaround factor". I grinned hugely, despite not even being initiated into the Army yet, we were already being subjected to the MOD's famous fcukaround factor - any trip from A to B has to go via C1 and C2, even if no one knows C existed at the start of the trip, and C2 is in the opposite direction to C1. Welcome to the Army, folks. On the bus, off the bus, on the bus.

We got off and into the gym we went. Those who needed to go, went, and we got changed, saying a couple of words to each other. We went into the gym - a gym I remembered from when I was younger, where we met a rather fearsome looking PTI .
And off we went.
"Form two lines, hands out of pockets" and so it began.

"You all know how to warm up" he says, before asking us all to warm up in the six minutes he'd given us. Of course, the die hards began to warm up expertly (expertly remembering the warmups on the posters the AFCO had given us - myself included)

The other half ran about like muppets, gave halfhearted stretching efforts, some of them - yes, I said "them" not "us", even began looking nervous.

"For Christ's sake" I thought, "this is the Army, THE ARMY!!! And no one has done an ounce of preperation for it!!!"

So we had our first exercise - heaves - climb onto a bar about 3m above the floor and pull yourself up until your stomach was touching the bar, and then down again.

The scary PTI showed us. "Do this, do this, then this, then this.
Any questions"?

Like good little recruits we all murmured "no, staff".

We formed two ranks, and the first pair went. maybe 6 on one and 4 on the other. Fine, nothing special.
The second pair went including the girl. One strong lad managed 15, amazing all of us there. the lass on the other hand, I watched with a mixture of incredulous amusement and horrified pity as she dangled from the bar as a fish would from a hook, thrashing around but never lifting herself not even her chin, hell, not even her wrists, above the bar from which she hung. She landed on a grand total of 0. I managed with five, the kid next to me with 3, the lad before me with 6. Seems we were on a semi equal footing.

After we'd done, "Back to the changing rooms, five minutes, then outside ready for the run".
"That ice better have f*cking cleared" I said to the room at large, "that Ice will add an extra minute to our run time". surprisingly I got a few nods of agreement. "They can't ask us to run in that" said one kid.

Nevertheless, out we were, and out was PTI Bastard - I'll call him PTI bastard from now on, completely against his credit because admittedly, all Physical training instructors are bastards, but this one seemed a fairly reasonable lad. If your idea of a reasonable lad was temeura morrison after a few tequilas and a 4 hour long argument.

He walked us round the run route, jogged us around a bit, even went so far as to express humour (the guard dogs started barking, to which his response was "we feed all the recruits that stop running and start walking to the dogs").

We walked round, he says "this IS a shortcut, but if you take it, you are a cheat, you will be failed and probably asked not to come back". Fair. No fcuking cheats here, not after we all worked hard to be here. Hang on, did I say worked hard? see my last few paragraphs. He showed us the sheets of ice we had seen on our way in. "Er, avoid this ice, if you can". I paraphrase a little bit.

So we walked round, until we got to the end of the second lap. Having taken a final few seconds to ensure out trainers were securely tied, he stood back and checked his stopwatch. Never a good sign.

"go"

he said.

"Go"

"GO"

"GO"

Such an innocent little word, but out of the mouth of PTI Bastard, it took on a whole new meaning. Far worse than if he'd asked the demons of hell to torture us, he had asked us to torture ourselves". This was a British Army PTI. When he says "go" he fcuking means it!

And Go we did. Wisely, having played many many many racing games, I had taken a starting position as close to the inside of the racing line - not that difficult to do, it was a 90 degree angle! - as possible, and off I sprinted.

Run, Run, Run, footstep, footstep, left, right, left right, left right.

...left...breath...right...left...breath...right...

...left...right...left...right...breath...left...right...left...right

I started strong and sprinted maybe 40% of a mile before I started slowing down. My legs were screaming, my chest was burning, I dared a look behind me and realised in amazement that not one, not a single one of the seventeen recruits that I had come to Strensall with, was within fifty metres of me. I am a bad runner, a very poor runner, but when I saw that not a single recruit was within 50 meters of me, I got a surge of pride. I ran and I ran, I felt bad, I felt worse. A couple of the stronger runners overtook me. They were faster and I was in no state to compete.
When I reached the halfway point, making sure to avoid the ice as PTI bastard said to, I ran round the corner, taking the racing line, my lungs on fire I'd just ran what, 750 fcuking meters without a break, AFTER doing TWO warmups. The faster runners ran past, I ran past in about 5th. "Well done, good lad" muttered the PTI and his colleagues.
"Fcuk you, bastard" I muttered under my breath as I ran past them and back along the same way.

Left
Right
Left
Right

Breath

Left
Right
Left
Right

Breath

Laborious?

It was for me, and I did it for well over a mile.
Sweat running down my face, my legs screaming for me to stop, my stomach cramping as my gasps turned to groans, each foot I put down ended in a different swearword out of my fizog.
I ran round the corner concious that someone was trailing me. Simon, the spikey haired wide eyed gobby yet lovable yoof was trailing me.

I ran and ran, I ran over to the right hand side, thinking to myself "If you're going to pass me now Simon, then pass me and get the fcuk out of my way because I'm not tripping over you!!!"

Past he goes, I swear I saw his eyes bulging while I was behind him, heard his grunting, saw the sweat pouring down the back of his man united football shirt. Past the PTI's he goes. "11:22, well done" son they say, I get past a fraction later, "11:27, well done, go and line up". So I do.
Behind Simon I go, we queue up, winners first, losers last, I'm about 5th or 6th out of the group of 18ish so I can't complain.
The sergeant comes back to call our times. It's confirmed. Pass time is 11:30. Simon got 11:22, I got 11:27. Both of us were cutting it incredibly close.

We're all done, our times are all called out.

So we queue up by the side of the nearest prefab building. Me, sweating and panting in agony takes my sweater (yes I was dumb enough to run with a sweater) off, PTI bastard says I should put it back on again. Fair.

Our times are called out, Simon's come close, I've come closer.
11:22 and 11:27 respectively.

We're all stood there, groaning, covered in sweat, panting, barely able to talk as we try to get our breath back.

We calm down for a few minutes while we chatt with the lassess there. Neither of them finished the run, both gave up before the run was done, rather than finishing with a bad time, they gave up altogether.
I spose I'm stronger than I thought I was.

We go into the gym, five minutes to change, which we do.
"Anyone enjoy that?" I ask. A few people say "Yes", to which I reply "liars!" to general laughter.

But next comes the icebreaker, a two minute presentation which you give to the other recruits, to assess your self confidence, your strength of mind and confidence in speaking to groups.
I wasn't the first selected, no. I watched all the lads in my group get up there, some were great, most were good, one or two were awful.

I gave my presentation, I got up with a grin and made my way to the front of the class. "Okay so" and my confidence began to waver. Nevertheless, I spoke, for over three minutes, about my life my family, how crap my job was, one I particularly remember, "I've always been a private person, which is a fancy way of saying I don't get out much" - that raised a few laughs. Which was about it. One thing about army criticism is that if you don't get any, that's a good thing.
I didn't get any. Others were told to speak about more or to speak longer, I got nothing.
Good, I spose.

And off to the jerrycan carry. Yes, that's right, off we were marched down to the side of one of the huts where four jerry cans waited for us.

"Form into two lines" said PTI Bastard, and we did. And off we marched.
And as we marched, two lines formed into three, into three and a half.
"Well those two lines lasted a long time" says I, after about 18 seconds, to general laughter.
Eventually though we got to where we were going, right next to a place I'd been before, which I'm not going to tell you because I'm mystical like that, and there, were two jerry cans per side.

"Two jerry cans aren't that much, this will be a piece of piss" I thought to myself as I watched the first and second pairs o recruits pick them up, walk the 150 meters, and then a second PTI came alone "when they come back walk along with them, you start at the opposite end and walk your way back here". Only fair.

So we walked along, at the opposite end, I made sure to wipe the handles of the cans clean, made sure there was no water, no sweat, nothing that would make my grip slip.

So I pick them up, "Christ these are heavy" my brain notes without letting a miniscule wince of discomfort pass itself to my face.
I walk the first way along, then the way back, they get heavier and heavier as I feel the water sloshing around inside.
We turn tound again, pause, and then head back as I start grimacing, my teeth start showing and I start swearing.
"You look a bit shaky, you look a bit unsteady" says the sergeant, walking along.
"I'm not f**king doing this again" says I.
"EH?" says he, as if I've refused to carry out an order or been insubordonate, which I spose I could have been. I hastily explain;
"I'm not f*cking failing, I am not failing this" as I'm walking along, legs shaking, hands white from the weight.
"Good lad", says he as I carry on.
We get to the end, the lad next to me puts down the cans, I let mine go with a thump.
We both passed.
Thank god.

We get the cans back into the local "can storage hut" i spose, when I meet a blast from the past, a certain NCO who I trained with when I was a kid in the reserves, is still at the base, and I've bumped into him again. not only am I at the base, but I'm back with this NCO - MAN this place is where I was BORN to be!!!

Anyway, the icebreakers and the jerrycan's done, it's back onto the minibus. After a short period of fcuking around, we're on there and on our way home.
I notice that far from being the group of nervous individuals we were this morning, we're not a group of people who know and who like each other.
The army does that to people. It turns individuals into a group.

So I spent my entire journey back chatting to most of the lads who I'd trained with, reflecting on how hard they found the run (apparently, Simon, who finished ahead of me by five seconds had only done so because he "had a choice between sprinting the last bit, or by giving up and walking").

To my relief, I wasn't the lowest performer, not even close. I'd come in overall, 5th out of about 18, not a bad score at all. Now all I need to do is work harder.

We drove back to Sheffield, chatting laughing, getting on, like the group, like the team mates we now were.

Eventually we got back to town, eventually we all dispersed, a few of us stayed chatting, about how the day had gone, how we had passed, wishing luck to those who had to return, but generally basking in the glory of being good enough to pass a test set by the British Army.

After a while, we broke up and went home.

I bumped into a mate who I went to get something to eat with, then I met my family at the local hardware store. I stayed hidden behind my ickle nephew, he never noticed I was there until my mum told him not to bump into me.

From that point he was attached to me, literally. He would hold my hand all the time. We walked all the way round the store. He loved it. He'd go into the play houses, round all the garden center, it was great.

Then we went round Morrison's - christ what a queue - we shopped for an hour and it took another 25 minutes to get to the end of a queue.

We got out eventually though, and went to my brother's house, where HARRY POTTER was on. Christ, no one else can understand why I don't want to be on the receiving end of this badly filmed badly directed shite. No one seems to understand why I don't want to be on the receiving end of commercialism's latest answer to osama bin laden's (all small letters) propoganda tapes.
Public histeria is the sole succour of those with little to do and less to imagine, to marvel at. Is our own world not special? Is Earth, is nature, not miraculous enough that we have to invent fairy tales to justify our place in existance?

Still, my sister and my brother played a few games on the wii, which was pretty cool, it was cool just chilling out and watching them. It's nice to spend time at my brother's, it really is. I'd be the first to admit I don't do it enough, historically my brother and I were always close, now it seems that even though he's only local, given our mutual work committments, he may as well be a thousand miles away. Either way, spending time with him, let alone with him and the rest of my family, is not something I do enough.

In any case. I have now decided that I want to work with tanks. I want to be a tankie, I want to be tank crew and that is it, that's all there is to the matter.

If I've made the wrong decision then let me bitch and moan about it in 4 years time.

Until then, take care! :D

Friday, January 11, 2008

Well then...

Yes. I am running out of witty names for these blog entries. I know that sometimes I will have a good one but more often than not they're just random names...

So how am I now? Tired? Yes. I'm not really bored, because after four weeks, three emails (all of which essentially said "we know you don't like waiting for your order, therefore we are pleased to tell you that your order has been delayed") and a phone call to the same effect, my sparkly new keyboard has turned up! Yay.

On first impression, the keyboard seems extremely well made. It's got a few improvements over the old one, but a few downfalls as well. I like the sexy new orange backlighting. I love the fact that the mute and games mode keys are now made of steel instead of thin brittle plastic. I like the crisper sharper LCD display.
I don't like the fact that 12 of the G keys are missing (they reduced the number from 18 to 6 in the redesign), I'm not happy that the LCD display is now miniscule, and I'm not super thrilled that instead of a fast, convenient and accurate clicker wheel for volume control, there are now a pair of volume buttons.

Still, when said and done, it's a keyboard, not a work of art, so while it might stumble on one or two points, they're hardly significant enough to matter.

So what else have I been up to? Today I have been mostly putting my £69.99 running shoes in the washing machine and realising after removing them an hour later, with a huge chunk missing from one of them, that even springy flexible running shoes don't like being spun round 1600 times a minute. When I removed the rest of my clothes (calm down, I mean from the washing machine) and found them coated in a fine layer of pulverised foam rubber (from my shoes), I resolved not to make a similar mistake again.

I've been ordering more gems on ebay, and I spose that really is where I learned the lesson "do not drink and bid". Seriously, I've spent about £30 just by doggedly clicking "buy it now", "buy it now", "buy it now". And now I have about 432,683,135 items on the way to me, along with enough receipts, packing notes, and advertisements to keep the world in solid fuel for two weeks. Still, you get what you pay for, and when I get paid again in oh, 15 days, I won't miss the money any more.

Anyway. I've got to go to york tomorrow, most likely to Strensall barracks (brings back memories) or perhaps even to Catterick itself, to do some unnamed assessment. So my running shoes are going with me, as are shorts, etc just general PT stuff. I've then got to do an Icebreaker - a two minute chat where I talk about myself (somehow I don't think I'll have any problem doing that, hell I do it here enough), along with some "command tasks" presumably to test my ability to work as part of a team, and other general stuff I suppose too.

So yes, I am looking forward to it, but I'm also nervous. I can pass any one of the three physical tests they've asked me to do, but I don't know if I can pass them one after the other. I suppose I'll find out tomorrow, but it's important that I get a good night's sleep.

As an aside though, I've finally created a few cool slideshows for my LCD photoframe, and it's turning out to be quite a handy gadget. As is the USB memory stick flash drive type thing I bought with it. Admittedly it's not an ATV Turbo USB drive (an indestructable model of flash drive, designed to be waterproof and shockproof), but mine cost £12, so if they think I'm paying £73.99 for a USB flash drive, they can naa-naas (they can think again).

Anyway, I should probably have a sleep or some food or something similar like that, for now I think I'm just going to chill out and do one, both, or possibly more of those things.

Have fun.
And by the way, having typed all this, it's safe to say that typing on the new model G15 is an absolute pleasure.

Take care!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Desktop Clutter, rubbish and all that crap...

Okay, so by my clock it's 3:48, and I have to admit that despite spending a fair decent amount of cash, tonight could have gone better,

So what have I accomplished? I bought an LCD Photoframe. Very sparkly, it displays all the photos that I have on an LCD screen.
Unfortunatley, though no fault of the deviceitself, there's nothing worth displaying, while I was taken with the idea of having a cool display frame, it never seemed to occur to me that I actually have nothing to display.

I went to the pub. When I got there it was totally dead, and despite the apparent best efforts of two random girls, it ended up being totally dead.

I spose, if I were to select a mood for the entire night, it would be "tail between my legs" failure.
Could have gone better and could have cost me less cash.

Still, bed now, hopefully the world will be a better place when I wake. Though I suspect it will only be dominated by headaches and hangovers.
What a poor night. Next time I feel like going out boozing, I'll stay at home, like I should have done tonight.
Bleah.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Confusion reigns!

Okay, so today I dragged my ass out of bed at the not-too-late hour of 12:30. I had wanted to be up for 10 but hey, when my bed is so warm and cuddly, there's nothing short of an alien invasion that's gonna get me out of it.

I woke up to find that my latest gems arrived today, meaning that I've now got a pretty sizable collection, including two new intensely purplish/red rubies (don't invade my house, they're only synthetic, but they're stunning all the same).

So what else happened. Oh yeah, we also got a visit from the gas engineer after our faithful central heating boiler, having warmed the family faithfully for maybe 30 years, has completely died. For the past few days we have had zero central heating, which means that when I wake up in the morning, the windows are all incredibly steamed up and everything is so cold it practically burns to the touch. You don't miss central heating until it's gone, though come to think of it, my old flat didn't have any form of heating either.

Anyway, after making a few arrangements, I managed to get my arse down to the armed forces carreers office, where the Sergeant, admittedly a very friendly and frank bloke, seemed to be emphatically trying to demonstrate that far from being a carreers advisor, he preferred his time to be a carreers advise-against-0r. By this I mean that I went to the office with a specific job in mind, and he tried his best to talk me out of it.

So now, with me due to go on my 1 day assessment in york this saturday (if all goes well), I'm not sure whether I'm better off being a tankie or an engineer.
I'm gonna do some more research, and make my decision based on what I'm told. But I still wanna be a tankie.

Anyway, I later went to meadowhall with my sis and nephew, which was okay apart from the fact that there was sod all for sale there.
Well, actually there was a heck of a load for sale, just nothing I fancied, apart from a cool LCD photoframe. Unfortunatley, because I left my gift vouchers at home, it was too expensive for me to go and buy :(.

Anyways, my nephew got a new teddy and a little teddy pet-carrier to carry it around in, which was kinda cute, and we had decided to go swimming, which again, was pretty cool.

Unfortunatley, we left meadowhall kinda late, and as time got on, we realised that the swimming place was gonna close soon. With (what we thought) only half an hour to go, we doggedly decided that we'd told my nephew we were gonna swim, so we were gonna swim. Course, we got there, and the place actually closed an hour later than we thought, so we had a good old swim, which would have been a fantastic old swim, if it wasn't for some ethnic kid and his 6 screaming yelling brothers (always 6 or 7 - why?) stomping round the poool throwing their football at people, getting in people's way, and generally being a pain in the arse. Still, we got a decent swim out of it and my nephew enjoyed it. After that, we went for tea. KFC. My favourite.
Yay.

Sorry I'm not really with it, I'm actually pretty damn exhausted, so I'm gonna chill out and sit about.
Have fun!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Heppy New Year...

So, I'm sorry to have to disappoint. I am, predictable, very drunk, with the first post of 2008 presenting itself.
What have I been doind since I last wrote? Nothing. Just chilling, watching the new year go by, and keeping myself occupied up here.
I've been spending a while watchng repeats of Last Nights Of The Proms, Rule Britannia and all that, I spose if forced I could claim to be a bit of a nationalist. Oh well, go me. Yay.

So what have I been doing?

New year came and went. I recorded the celebrations, I went outside, I saw the fireworks, I came back intoside, almost sequestered back inside my childhood home. Everyone else went to bed and I cracked open the beer.
At which point I was introduced to an old friend.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
A completely incredibly bizarre, bisexual transexual bicurious and sexually and morally openminded "motion picture" I had a hard time explaining to a random scouser 15 year old who had the bad fortune to get to chat to me before the film came on, that this was in fact, a better indicator of the world to come than his so far limited experience in life...

AAAAAaaaaaaaanyways.I've been sitting here, drinking beer, enjoying myself, watching the hours go past while my mum reminds me again and again "you should go to bed".
thanks mum, I'm 22 not fucking 12.

I swear this is one thing that I can't wait to leave behind. I want to be able to make my own decisions and take responsibility for my own actions. I spose that'll never happen here.
Still, hopefully I'll get around that soon.

Take care all, hope new year's day goes well for you all.

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway. I did have some kind of fabled new year's kinda important type thing. But frankly, I've forgotten what it was.
Anyway, I'm going to spend the rest of the morning gulping litres and litres of water from my specially etched "london eye" beer tankard, in a desperate effort to sober up in time for what is likely to be an anticlimactic effort to have a new year's meal.
Still, with a little investment, fresh cheese, nice garlic sausage and perhaps a goddamn heating system that doesn't stink of burning household dust, we might get somewhere.
But hey, I'm off work today and I'll be off work for another 22 hours. So hey, leave me the hell alone. I'm gonna sober up, then I'm gonna sit in bed and snuggle.
And in case you were wondering, sunrise 2008 ain't that awesome. A cloudy misty foggy day, so typical of post firework days, the drizzle's been coming down all night. But that's not all - no. We have freezing rain, ice, snow and temperatures down to -7C on thursday.
Now before all you dudes in finland get your knickers in a twist, THE UK IS NOT FINLAND. -7 IS BAD TO US. JUST AS 28C WOULD BE BAD TO YOU. SO STFU. Sorry it needed to be said.

Anyway, more water calls, and hey, before you know it, it'll be time for our meal.

I hope you enjoyed your new year, though frankly, if you can read this, you didn't f*cking enjoy it enough.