Sunday, July 27, 2008

Down the sink...

I have committed a grave, grave sin...

Picture a pint of beer, cooling in a glass. Condensation forms on the outside as the bubbles fly gently towards the surface...
The working man's refuge, the epitome of relaxation, a nice cold pint of beer.

I poured it down the sink.
The whole thing.

The golden colour dilutes with the running water while the bubbles disappear down the hole.

Why? How could I do such a cruel and callous thing?
Why, when I'm already regretting such a thoughtless act, did I do it? What could possess me to commit such a crime?

Well, I went outside to look er at the sky, at 5:10am. The birds are singing, the sky is clearing and the weather is getting warmer already. And yet, I'm not in a position to enjoy it. Why? Becuase I used to equate "quality time off" with beer, oblivious to the fact that too much beer (seven cans in this case) doesn't make a night, it spoils it. Little point listening to the dawn chorus when it's an effort not to headbutt the wall on my way inside.

Perhaps in a few weeks I will look back on this in horror and think "how the hell did i dare to pour good beer away?". I'd rather thing that I'll look back and think "fair enough".

Fun is only fun until you stop enjoying it, and when the world starts spinning, that is when the beer has outstayed its welcome, and so, it is time for us to part company, the beer going one way, my mind going the other.

I suppose I'll go and get something to eat, a rustlers burger seems a good choice.
I spose I'll drink a load of water too..
Beer isn't all it's cracked up to be, and hopefully I'll remember this :).

Well, I'm off to grab some food, merrily singing "Still alive, backwards (yah, ya likes) as I get ready for bed :)

New camera gear coming soon, and hopefully a sparkly new iPhone too :D.

Night, and for all those straight edge people - stay straight edge :).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Incredibly Tired...

...is how I'm feeling at the moment. My shins, knees, heels, elbows, shoulders and even my head - anything that normally takes a knocking - have all taken a knocking. I'm sore all over, I don't want to move, I'm ready for bed (at 21:38, abnormal for me!) and I get the feeling I'll be aching and sore tomorrow too.

I got woken up at 9am this morning having slept most of last night. My sister and my nephew had come to collect me for a day out with them, which was nice. We borrowed the sat nav, made our final preperations and off we went. Our destination? Twin Lakes adventure park in Leicestershire.
The journey was pretty uneventful, apart from when the sat nav dumped us in Melton Mowbray town center (a bloody jumbled mess of traffic lights and aggressive driving), proudly announcing as we sat at some traffic lights behind a potato transporter, that we had reached our destination.

A quick call home for a different postcode, and a little reprogramming later, and we were redirected out of the town through the countryside to where we were supposed to be.

So we got in, had a wander round, and generally got our bearings. There were a couple of small rollercoasters outside, which I steadfastly refused to go on (I don't like heights, and I don't like not-being in control of what happens to me). So my sis and nephew went on each of the coasters and then we set off up to the first building - a huge warehouse type building. We got in and had a look around, and what we saw was fantastic.

Picture a kid's indoor playcentre thing, you know, rope swings, ball pools, slides, rope bridges etc etc, you know the type.

Now make it ten times bigger, so it has four levels, one above the other. Give it five slides, the largest of which dominates the center of the thing. Above these slides, suspend five or six rope bridges at varying heights above the floor, give it everything - four or five ball pools, spinning panels in the floor, bungee rope traps (we'll return to these later), obstacles like narrow gaps to crawl through, or spinning rollers to force your way through, turn it, in short, into any playful kid's idea of heaven.

We spent two hours, crawling, climbing, sliding, dropping, vaulting, shouldering, rolling, running and hiding'n'seeking through that thing. We ran through it, around it, in it, outside it, dropping down huge slides, climbing the bridges etc etc, it was fantastic.

And the beauty of it is, that because kids have to be supervised while they're on it, it was open to all ages - a kid of seven or eight would plunge down a slide into a ball pool with a big grin and a yell, to be followed shortly by his dad in his thirties or forties, who has a big grin and a yell of his own. There were people from about 4 years to at a guess, 50 years on this thing, and every one of them was grinning like a cheshire cat, running round, having what amounted to a couple of hours of a second childhood! No sooner had we first encountered the "bungee rope trap" than a couple of lads, 17/18 maybe, fell foul of it, falling right through it and ending up suspended in varying orientations above the ground, held according to one of the pair, by some very uncomfortable parts. Further information (on the trap, not his parts) here:

The Bungee Rope Trap

The various levels of the "center" are connected by several features, be they rope bridges, slides, cargo nets or simple stairs. One such feature is what has been dubbed "The Bungee Rope Trap".

With the distance from the floor matting of one floor to that of the floor above it being approx 8 or 9 feet (close to 3 metres) and parts of each floor being approx the same span in width, a cube is defined in which there is a gap in the ceiling above the second floor, with the floor matting of the second floor being the base of the cube and the [gap in the] floor of the fourth floor being its top.

This gap is not completely empty however, at two foot intervals are strung a net of bungee ropes
, crossing horizontally from one side of the cube to the other, parallell to the floor. There are four such "nets", one above the other. These nets are strong enough to arrest any fall through them, and strong enough to entangle the falling individual. They are however, too elastic to be used as climbing aids or to bear any weight individually. As such, once an individual falls through the "trap" from top to bottom, they will usually become entangled, partially falling through some of the nets before being stopped by those below them. The individual will usually find themselves upside down, the body being heavier than the legs, tangled by the legs, ankles etc, and will usually find that as they cannot use the ropes to pull themselves upright again, escape is difficult.

Climbers will also attempt to climb from the base of the cube to its top - This is extremely difficult to the point that almost everyone who attempts it ends up in the situation described above, or gives up the attempt.

I fell foul of it, ending up dangling by my ankle, held above the ground, and only with some help was I able to get myself out of the situation. I couldn't untangle my ankle as my head and arms were seperated from it by one of the nets.
Still, at least I didn't get a quantity of bungee cord holding me off the floor by my nuts, though I did get giggled at by a couple of people on the third floor, directly in front of whom i was helplessly suspended upside down.

We ran ourselves ragged, I sweated buckets, you could literally feel the heat emnating from me, and my t-shirt was soaked, if only because I'd kept wiping my face with it.

So we went outside for a bit to chill out, and wound up looking through the little animal section. Friendly goats came up to demand food, a turkey wandered up to us, made a few strange noises, and wandered off again. A peacock preened itself in the rafters of one of the buildings and a donkey wandered up to the front of its enclosure for some attention.

The mice regarded us with goggly eyes and twitchy whiskers, the llamas stared at us in that stately disinterested but judgemental way that llamas seem to, and the chicks ran about hectically. It was great to see so many different types of animals.

Still, my sister and nephew managed to talk me into going on the coasters. One of them I ended up going on twice, which was cool. We also had a wander round and spent a little time on a nice outdoor thing with a few slides and suchlike.

We went to one of the other "areas" in a seperate building - this one was on three levels, and was like a compressed air version of laserquest. Tennis ball sized foam balls were the ammo, and on every level were banks of compressed air guns that fired these balls a reasonable distance. To keep the ammo on each level topped up, people on the ground floor would load a huge mortar with loads of balls and fire them into all the floors at once. A fountain type thing on the other side of the ground level did a similar thing, throwing out waves of balls to all the "players". Course my nephew didn't like the noise of the compressed air and left earlier, with me in tow. But not before I used "my" gun to bounce a ball off the head of a woman at the mortar, two floors below! Haha!

We had some food before going to the next attraction, a nice pirate themed boat ride thing. You sit down a few people to a raft and get propelled around a little circuit by the water current. On your way you see all sorts of things like a guy walking the plank, lots of treasure, a smuggler's cave, and two other creatures that I swear looked like (fake) dead cats. Bizarre, but nice.

We then went on a pedalo for a while, with me ending up going the wrong way round the course (no one was bothered), bringing along my sister and nephew in the back of the boat, for the ride. It was a nice relaxing (for them - it was exhausting for me!) ride though.

Back on dry land, after some time playing on the zip lines there, we went back to the adventure complex centre thingie, and spent another two hours climbing and sliding etc. We left thoroughly exhausted, and completely satisfied. A fantastic day out really, and at only £10 for admission (all rides and events are free), I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to be a kid again for a day.

Well, I know it kinda petered out towards the end, but I want to concentrate on being tired so, there you go. Have fun - you will if you go :).


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Yes, this one

I get home, I strip out of the stuffy formal shirt, tie and suit that I have on and change into my familiar t-shirt and trackies. Ahh, that's better.
Where have I been? I've just got back from the best photo session I've had so far.

My work have this do once a year, a summer ball as they prefer to call it. All the gents and ladies turn up at this posh place dressed in their best formal wear. The girls wear dresses and ball gowns, the guys wear suits, shirts and ties.

I kinda got hoodwinked into the whole idea. I had no intention of attending before tuesday, when my mate said "I've been talking to Andy, he'll do the photography for you". Of course, he hadn't, and it was the first I heard.
I'd steered clear of the whole social formal function. Ties, jackets, champagne? I do most of my drinking on public property for feck's sake, and all of a sudden I need to wear a suit and drink champagne?

Still as the days went past, it got better. I wouldn't be charged (£30 plus drinks) for my ticket or meal, I'd get in free as long as I did the photography.

So I got my stuff ready, got my shoes polished etc etc.

Today I got home, got my camera gear prepped, got my smart clothes on, and got out there.
We got there and after a boring time of waiting, I finally got set up in the right place. I started taking casuals, we started from there

And the night went on.
(this is ridiculous. I'm sat here surrounded by camera equipment in my casual t shirt, boxers, and my formal cotton socks or whatever they are looking like a damn fking idiot. I'll be back when I'm done listening to this tune. *big girls you are beautiful*....)

So.
I had a really cool time taking photos, you know, the official photographer for the entire event out of over 200 people. I strutted around like a red breasted f'king cockerel or whatever the term is, you know, a guy who isn't a showoff but who doesn't need to show off to be damn good :D.

I took over 160 photos this night, the official photographer for an event that included an award ceremony, a formal meal, a disco and a champagne reception. Did I drink champagne? yes I did. Is it good? No. It's like fizzy dry wine. It's only good trait is that it gets you drunk. Which was a bad trait seeing as how I needed to take lots of hi quality photos.

I had minestrone soup which was cool. It was followed by chicken in some kinda mushroom sauce. I grabbed a forkful of what I figured was spaghetti and shoved it into my mouth, where they turned out to be shittake mushrooms, which was cool. Chewy and vaguely unpleasant, but cool.
Obviously then I took the strawberries with the single mint leaf, the icing sugar, the cream and the raspberry coulis.
Well, I did when I wasn't busy taking photos.

Seriously though, I'm pleased with tonight. At work I'd always been a kinda grey face. I get on with it, get lost in the crowd etc etc. Here, and a fair few people will back me up on this. I came into my own. As Terry Pratchett said, being behind a camera gives you the moral authority to order any bunch of idiots about "you want to look good in this photo don't you?" - it's for their own good, right?

Tonight has been a resounding success. I made a few friends, impressed a lot of people including my boss's boss's boss, who took time out in the award ceremony to thank me for being there, to credit me for giving up my time, to the applause of 200 people. A good feeling. I think I managed to appear modest.

I'm really pleased with tonight. Admittedly I drank more than I should have, but not enough to cause me problems. I impressed a lot of people, and, AND, I did some of my best work.
Yes. Senior employee X and senior employee Y are now officially engaged, and I was able to take a photo of them. Yeah whatever.

Picture it though. An old historical building, light streaming through the windows illuminates the bubbles in their champagne glasses, their arms around each other, beaming smiles on their face.

Doesn't sound like a lot, I spose you had to be there. But it is some of my best work.

So yeah, now I'm off to clear my room, to clear my head, and to try and get myself ready for tomorrow's work shift.
As for the photo of the happy couple, well that's gonna be a wedding present. I think it will be nice.

But yeah, a damn good night.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

MOT Trouble

Well, I'm stood on our drive, the clouds, once scattered and few have got together for a party and seem to be filling the sky, and I think I know why: Because today is my MOT (annual vehicle safety/roadworthiness inspection) day.

Yep, after some work on the bike, I've sorted out a couple of problems, and I'm on my way to fix a couple more. Even as I speak, parrafin is dripping off my drive chain, taking with it that nasty muck and crap that seems to get all over the thing every time I take it out. I've already fixed the squeaking brakes, the dodgy idle, and one of the bar ends, but I can't help but feel that he's gonna come up with something to fail me on.

Still, it'll be nice to ride the bike either way, so there's that to look forward to, let's just hope that I can continue riding it once I've taken it there. Well, I'm off for a cup of coffee etc, will keep you updated.

14:02: Well, that was bizarre. I popped in to get a tool a while ago, with the clouds hanging ominously in the sky. I was inside for about 2 minutes, and when I came out, I swear there was almost not a cloud to be seen -the sun was absolutely beaming down.

The clouds are back with a vengeance now though, but I'm nearly ready to go. I'm due up the MOT station in about 55 minutes, and I have to admit, not only have I not been on the bike for a while, but I haven't had an mot for 12 months either. I've not been this nervous since tuesday when I went into hospital.

Still, let's see how we go, eh? :).

14:10: And the rain has started - only light at the mo but those clouds are very dark grey :(.

14:15 - that didn't take long, the light spotting has turned into a downpour, complete with the first thunder of the year!! I swear the world revolves around me, as soon as I plan to go out, the heavens themselves move in response! :(.

Still, I've ridden through worse, but I haven't ridden for a long time!

14:39 - Well the thunder and rain have gone and the roads are drying out - it's time for me to go now, and I admit, I'm incredibly nervous. My leathers, designed to protect me and keep me safe, feel more like they're crushing me, keeping me from being able to escape - tis a weird feeling. Still best get going!

22:03 - Okay. So. The thunder carried on a while after it stopped raining, but before long the sun was out again and the roads had already begun to dry. By the time I was out on the road, the roads were damp, but patches of dry tarmac were appearing and growing as the sun returned.

Strictly speaking, I had an uneventful ride to the test center, though from my point of view it was like being a kid again, on some great adventure. The bike sounds better and feels more powerful than it used to, the roar from the airbox is awesome and makes the bike sound much meatier, with the screaming from the exhausts and the really seductive growl from under the tank, it was hard to resist breaking into a huge grin on the way there. Or it would have been hard to resist if I had tried.

While waiting for the bike to be tested, I went to the local store to grab a can of coke - getting distracted by the post office onsite, i went over to learn that I can't tax my bike there, but I can do it at the one down the road. Thanking them, I walked out of the shop to realise that one of my hands still had the can of coke in it! Red-faced, I scurried back in to pay for it and tried not to look to see if anyone had noticed my accidental shoplifting.

Finally time came for my bike to get MOT'd. It was pretty uneventful as he took it through the checks. The front brake came out okay on the rolling road, more powerful than ever since I swapped out the master cylinder with one from a Mille. The Mille's a much more powerful heavier bike, so the cylinder is designed to have greater stopping power than the little one I used to have (which some muppet previous owner swapped over from an RS125, something that weighed less and made less power!!!).
He rolled the rear wheel onto the rolling-road-brake-tester-thingy and as he applies the brake, the "brake power o-meter" or whatever it's called reads the power from the back brake.

All of a sudden, there's a metallic crack-ping, as something on my bike shatters, sending pieces of metal across the workshop floor. Behind the mechanic's foot (still on the now-very-depressed rear brake pedal), a severed brake line drips brake fluid onto my still-spinning rear wheel.

He gets off the bike and we have a closer look - the fixing that holds the steel brake line to the brake caliper, has shattered. The line has become completely detached from the caliper and it's dripping the last little bit of brake fluid onto the floor. In short, my rear brake fixing literally exploded under the pressure.
The problem was that the fixings on the line were not steel, they were aluminium. Aluminium corrodes in exactly the same way that steel does not, and when it corrodes apparently the fixings split. This one had evidently split with enough force to send bits of it everywhere.

Still, he made me up a new line, with steel fixings this time, and testing it again, my bike scored a successful pass. As opposed to a successful fail, or a non-successful pass. Whatever.

I ended up taxing my bike at the post office about 5 minutes before they were due to close, then went on a little zoom round town in the now bright and sunny weather.
All in all, a good day :).
Thanks for reading, see you soon.