Saturday, August 29, 2009

Stones, Suzuki and Sambuca...

The moon is looking very spectacular tonight. 3 quarter moon, and it's that lovely pinkish orange colour. I would have taken a photo - okay, I took several. I would have displayed a photo - but my camera's autofocus isn't infallible and the moon behind clouds just kinda tripped it up.

So what's been happening...

In my usual disordered A to C to B to E and then D way, let's see.

I've enjoyed my week of freedom away from the parents, especially considering that they phoned much much less than I expected they would. Despite this, I've looked after the place pretty well, and nothing's collapsed, caught fire, or being blown away in a tornado (yes we do get them - not large ones (depends whether you'd call an F2 tornado large), but we do get them).

I whiled away the lazy days, going to work, coming back, listening to loud music, getting pissed (drunk) and generally doing what I wanted when I wanted. Of course, all good things come to an end, and even though during the week I'd missed the company of my parents, as soon as they phoned me to say they'd be back in a couple of hours, my freedom suddenly became incredibly precious.

Still, they came back, and once they'd gone to bed out came the beer.

Not much has really changed since then. I'd been struck by the idea of finally actually really selling my bike and getting a new one. But it seems that the old lession of "never try to sell anything to a friend" proved itself spectacularly wise, as said friend and I quickly developed animosities that turned into arguments and insults, with accusations of dishonesty Exaggerations, truths, half truths, and lies disguised as truths flew back and forth...

...officially, said "friend" is now seeing whether he can afford my bike.
Unofficially, I think he's wasting my time.

Shame. I really fancied a new ride.

As for tonight, well. Sodding hell.
I'd been complaining to my boss for months that they shouldn't be sending us into dodgy areas, sending us to areas full of feral kids, graffiti, dogshit, and shuttered up houses.

But hey, an order is an order so off we go.

Last night, a guy was shot dead about 4 miles from here, which I spose would be worrying, but we have a couple of areas round here that aren't such great pleaces to live in.

One thing threw me for a loop last night though.
I arived in the "hood" where the dude was shot, looking around, noting the lack of shutters on the windows, the lack of graffitti etc, and I thought "well it doesn't look like it, but I spose technically, this is a "hood".

Anyway, I ended up on my way back from the area, cheerfully looking forward to my beer.
On the way back, I saw a couple of random spotty teenagers flick something into the road, and thought nothing of it.

Seconds later, with a shark *CRACK*, one that I more felt than heard, I might add, something hit me on the side of the head (helmet).

That fcuking stone.
A stone, must have been. bounced off my lid.

First thing I did was to slam the anchors (brakes) on, and half turn in the road, as I stared at these two kids.

I honestly was not sure what to say I felt. Anger? No, kids will be kids. Disbelief? No, kids will be kids. I'm not sure.

I stared at these two lads walking up the road, trying to figure out what I was possibly going to say to them.

In the absence of anything better to do, after ten seconds of watching them calmly walk up the road, I rode off.

Initially I was absolutely furious, shaking, if not from the cold then from the anger. How dare these two wankers throw stones at me, just because they've nothing better to do.

Then the voice of reason kicked in. "Chill out mate, you're a pizza boi, and pizza bois are fair game".

By the time I got back to the store, I was laughing. Yes, I was angry, but it wasn't an attack on me, I'd never met these two lads, how could it have been. It was an attack on pizza boys. And your stereotypical pizza boy is a thick as fcuk 17 year old lad who wants a bit of extra cash for his weed.

Upon reflection, I sincerely wish I'd gone back to congratulate these lads on their awesome shot. I was moving at 30mph, and they still managed to bounce a rock off my head. What's that, if not a good shot.

I got back to the shop and clocked out. Time to go home.
But I wasn't the only one on the receiving end, it seems. I walked out to see my mates having a smoke break, and across the road, surrounded by maybe 50 people, was a guy on the ground.

No one was sure whether he'd been bottled, or glassed, or whether he'd just been knocked out, but whatever, he was down for the count.

Someone had phoned the services, as before we even saw it, an ambulance and a paramedic were on the scene dealing with it.
5 minutes later, the police showed up, and so for me, it was hometime.

Let's give credit to our emergency services though eh?
some stuff had gone off outside the store, and before we knew it had happened, first the ambulance and paramedic, and then the police, were there to pick up the pieces.

In another country, the guy's fate would have depended on his medical insurance. Here, in the UK, thanks to the much maligned NHS, this guy will be treated, free of charge, and released when he's good to go.

Here, the police have turned up to calm things down, and make sure he's ok.

The UK has its shittyness, sometimes, the crap the government comes out with beggars belief.

But tonight, seeing the wheels turning smoothly, first the crime/injury, then the ambulance and the police response, I guess it gave me a little more faith in our emergency services.

Nice one, lads.

EPILOGUE: It turned out that it wasn't a drunken attack that put this guy on the floor, it was a hit and run, by two jackasses on an illegal pit-bike. Rumours circulated that the guy was killed outright, but according to an official press release, he's "critical" but still alive.
As for these off road wankers, we've had an upsurge recently in illegal motorcyclists, and despite police efforts, they're still riding about the local estates...
The police helicopter has been about quite a lot recently though, so let's see what comes of it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cameras, Scameras, and Pizza

Eek. I woke up to a cloudy day. Nothing serious, and even as I ambled downstairs, the weather brightened. The sun came out, and it began to look like we were in for another nice day again.

After sitting about for a while, I decided to expand my portfolio a bit, picking out and printing my best/favourite photographs, and sticking them in a binder. After a bit of thought I managed to arrange four A4 photos in an A3 display book, by sticking two of them, one above the other, to a piece of card, and then sticking another two, one above the other, to the reverse. These four I then slotted into one of the plastic wallets in the display book.

Which was great until some dirt got in between the wallet and the photos, which muckied them up.
After a short time of swearing, reprinting, remounting and redirtying the photos, I gave it up as a bad job and decided to save my (expensive - thanks grandad) photo paper by keeping the slightly dirty (as in, have dirt on them, not dirty as in woman-not-wearing-any-clothes) photos I had already printed.

After a short time, my sister phoned, in true "sister" fashion, asking for my immediate help in the next five minutes, and any plans I had for today, be damned.
Of course me being the nice person that I am, and being completely used to this, agreed to help. A process which involved taking photos of the outside and inside of two houses which my sister and her friend are trying to get someone interested in.

So I spent a while wandering round taking pretty pictures and generally having a rather good time. Despite my nephew's (cute, then annoying, then boring) inability to understand that photos without him in it did actually and could actually exist :-).

Eventually though, we came home and shortly after, it was time for me to go to work.
Work started out extremely slowly. Very little to do, and no deliveries to speak of.

Eventually though, I was sent on my way with a delivery, and on my way over the bridge noticed something rather unpleasant. Well, in purpose if not appearance.

A very shiny and colourful but very spiteful and condescending "safety camera" van. Without going into detail, "Safety cameras" in this country have been widely discredited, and the only aspect of road safety despised nearly as much as them is the fact that there are some people who insist that they are there for the right reasons, in a perfectly detestable self righteous "well I don't break the law, so anyone who does should be punished" type way.

I ponder as to the success of the day's fishing (for the crew of the van, that is), and eventually arrive at my destination. During my conversation with the customer, I accidentally *ahem* let it slip that there is a camera at xyz location, right after the bridge sign, pointing south etc etc. "Just in case you're going out tonight".

The customer responded that he was in fact going out tonight, and would also actually be passing that way. I tell him his order comes to £16.46, as he gives me a £20.
I start fumbling for change, at which point he tells me to keep the change, as I've probably just saved him a £30 ticket :-D. Woo! £3.54 as a tip - that's a new record, and a fairly respectable amount for a night's total.

With a cheerful tune in my mind, I ride slowly back to the store, and approach the van's location. Normally I ride to the left of the road allowing people to overtake my slow vehicle, but this time I'm very pointedly in the right-third of my lane (we drive on the left in the UK) preventing all the traffic behind me from overtaking. Sure it must have been annoying for them, but I reckon the penny dropped when they saw the scamera van :-).

I cheerfully arrive back at work and continue with my shift.
Within an hour of the camera being spotted, a local "car meet" and half the city's taxi drivers were aware of the scamera's precise location. Loose talk costs money (ill-gotten money that should, by all wrongs, belong to the "safety camera partnership"), and all that lot. Oops, I'll have to do a better job of keeping it to myself in future.

I'd been refusing to finish my shift early, as I wanted the money, despite the absolute lack of activity. However, as the addresses of the next few deliveries appeared on screen, including the addresses of a few places in the less salubrious parts of town, I changed my mind. I said to my manager that I'd clock off early in return for "nom nom". After explaining that I wanted free food, he agreed, and I clocked off.

While my food was in the oven, I checked my account and went to the off licence/liqor store. I chatted with the staff for a while and finally bought my beer.
I checked the receipt later on, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that my beer £2.99 for 4 cans, x 2, plus £2.00 per can, again x2, plus some other items, (about £3 of chocolates and stuff), about £13.00 approx (I suck at maths) came to - according to the off licence's card machine, just over £5, which was duly debited from my account.
Seems their card machine sucks at maths too.

Did I report it?
I've already done my good deeds for today (the camera/speed camera thing). I felt entitled to be a bit of a bastard.

So now I'm drinking my extremely cheap beer, and eating my extremely cheap chocolate, and chilling out. £8 won't put the shop out of business. I work in retail, I should know :-).

But yeah. A very good day.

Enjoy :-).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gelato, Cappucino, Minestrone, Gondolas...


...and other things.

Yep, looks like my parents are shortly going to be off on their wonderful holiday to Italy, and I'm sure will have a lovely time :-). For my part, I'm sitting here trying to keep my room cool (actually getting it cool in the first place might be a good start), and wishing I'd put my coca cola in the fridge earlier so I could have a nice cold drink of it now.

Come to think of it, Ice cubes are an age old invention... Hmm...


Having returned, in true "me" fashion with both a hot drink, and a nice cold drink of terminally one dimensional coca cola (with half an ice cube tray inserted), I seem to be doing not-much other than wandering round trying not to get in the way, and alternately wishing my parents would sod off so I could have a bit of peace, and chatting to them because I'm already beginning to miss them, when they haven't even gone yet.

It's odd that even as the world sleeps, the moon is high above, and the stars are out twinkling in their twinkly nuclear fusion type way, it feels many hours later than it is, with an otherwise quiet early morning punctuated by the sound of hair dryers, the smell of perfume, and endless questions about the location of things.

I've fixed the "lake garda" tags to the suitcases, helpfully removing last year's "paris" ones.
It was a close thing :-).

With 15 minutes to go, amid complaints of "this should have been done bloody ages ago", courtesy of my dad, who has ordered the taxi for actually about the same time as last year, which is still earlier than it needs to be, for some reason.

Tension is beginning to increase a little as all the final preperations are being made, with 10 minutes to go everything is just about sorted, and the taxi should be on his way :-).

I've asked my parents to bring me another little "baby alcohol" (small bottles of alcohol! Not alcohol for babies!!) tub/collection/thingiewhatsit, so I can do my alcoholic advent calendar type thing again this christmas :-).

04:04: and now I'm off to escort my parents away :-). Not all the way to Italy, sadly :-(.

And off they go. They're gone now, and I'm already feeling quite lonely :-(.

Still, time for a cold drink and stuff I guess. Then a nice shower, and time to make my bed and go to spleep :-).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hedge Trimmers, Doggies, and Import Duty.

Wow what a day.
It kinda started at 00:01 yesterday morning, when I crawled into bed. Or climbed in. Whatever. I didn't climb in because my bed is only 2 feet off the floor. I didn't jump in because the frame is already broken in one corner, and I didn't levitate in because despite what my parents might say, I haven't been possessed.
Maybe I insinuated myself into my bed, though generally I only really insinuate myself into other peoples'. Given the complexity of my bed, with more layers than a sponge cake in an earthquake, and four pillows, perhaps we could say that I installed myself in my bed, and configured myself appropriately.

Now I am one of these people, I can't drift off to sleep without listening to some form of background noise, lest I get caught in my own thoughts and never return to sanity. Historically, I used to listen to the radio, though the "we'll bring you more news as the story develops" or the odd interesting program on the radio frequently served to keep me awake, rather than do the opposite, so I switched to listening to videos on the TV. Turn the brightness/contrast way way down and it may as well be a radio, with your own choice of programming :-).

So it was that I drifted off while halfheartedly listening to Eddie Izzard bemoaning the lack of taxis in San Francisco ("And when you do get in, they don't know where they're going. I just said 'get in the back, I'll drive'"). I managed to forego the dreams I've been having recently, which while not nightmares or even really disturbing, are moderately depressing.

And at 3am I woke up.
And rolled over and went back to sleep.
Except I didn't. For two hours I tossed, turned, revolved completely, and adopted every position I'd ever heard of, from the recovery position, to the brace position recommended by airlines, through the wide and varied positions described in some indian book I'd never heard of, and then some.

Somehow, after two interminable hot, uncomfortable, boring and quite frankly angering hours, I got to sleep.

Eventually I woke up again. First at seven, then at 9, then at 12:30.
And before I knew it we were off to my sister's house to help with her garden.

This portion of the day proceeded vaguely to plan, apart from the tome in the garden that I watched with horrified fascination, the power cable for the Hedge Trimmer drifting closer and closer to the whirring blades. In less time than it takes for a nerve impulse to travel from my brain to my hand, to either release the trigger, or jerk the cable away, a dozen seperate thoughts, including "oh no, here we go", "oh look what I'm about to do" and "I hope I don't get electrocuted" flashed through my mind, right before the whirring of the blades, punctuated with a brief pop and a flash, came to a halt, the almost completely severed cable jammed between two of the teeth.

A sheepish apology to the owner later, we were off to my dad's (this house) to get it fixed.

At the top of our road, coming the opposite way, but also turning down our road, was a UPS van.
Now I received an email from the company in china telling me I should be "receivings my deliverings in approximately five daysings"and that it was being shipped UPS, but I shrugged off the possibility that it would be my lens. It was only monday, and they only shipped it on saturday.

But the van followed us down to my house, and though I watched with sinking heart as he drove past our place to the bottom of the road, I cheered right up when I saw him do a U turn and park more or less directly opposite.

Getting out of the van he told me that not only did he have a parcel for me, but that he'd been already this morning and no one was in. Except me but I'm a heavy sleeper, despite the earth shatteringly loud doorbell.

He also told me I had some money to pay him before he could give it me.

See, the UK has this thing called Value Added Tax. I don't pretend to know the ins and outs but generally, the UK government have decided that it'd be a great money maker if a percentage of every retail purchase by anyone anywhere in the UK went to the government's coffers. As a result, every item in catalogues or whatever has two prices in the UK; What it actually costs, and what it costs once the government have stuffed an additional cut in their wallet.

Because I imported the lens, buying it from a business that neither paid VAT to the UK government, nor charged their customers VAT, I was instead subject to the government's plan B: Everyone who buys something out of the country, without VAT, and expects to be allowed to use their purchase in this country, has to give the government a cut anyway. Except this time it's called "Import Duty" which to all intents and purposes amounts to the same thing.

UPS had nicely paid the import duty on my behalf, and less nicely, charged me upon delivery. In addition to paying £390 for the lens, I then had to give UPS some cash to repay them.

"How much?" I asked him. "Fifty pounds, sixty pence" he replied.
I think my response was more or less "FUUUUUUUUUUUU".

After failing to find my chequebook (which is probably out of date now anyway, and if not, is still A. misplaced, and B. probably lining some mouse's comfortable nest, I convinced the guy to wait while I ran to the store to get some cash. "Even better" he says, "I'll meet you there".

I get there, running to the store and see him pull up. I duck inside and run out a couple of minutes later with the money. A quick farewell and I'm back home playing with my lovely lens :-). In true "man" style, the box and instruction manual get flung on the table, and I disappear off upstairs with the lens.

An hour later, we're back at my sister's, cutting more hedges. This time, it's my sis that breaks the hedge trimmer, when during cutting something, the trimmer suddenly emits a high sing-song whining noise, before my sister turns it off.

Pulling it off the branches, something's definitely broken. The motor still whirs but the teeth don't move anymore.

It's not had a good day, that hedge trimmer.

Still, mine's not been bad at all :-).

Some photos :-).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Twin Lakes, Tokina, and Tiredness...

Yikes, lots of stuff to get through.
Yep, I'm gearing up for a nice relaxing week next week. I've only got two shifts (not at my request), so the five hours overtime I've put in this week ought to stand me in good stead, financially. My parents are off on their holiday at the end of next week, off to italy again, so it looks like I'll be looking after theplace while they're gone. Good stuff.

Well, I am financially solvent again. The huge lurking financial burden of the new lens has disappeared. Yep, that's right, as of yesterday, I am now the proud owner of a Tokina 11-16 F2.8 etc etc lens (video review here). I am also the proud owner of a 14" Zildjian Oriental China Trash (a cymbal), which I have in fact been the proud owner of for a while.
I did put it up on ebay, but for some bizarre reason, while drum retailers are having no trouble selling theirs for £170-£220, no one wanted to pay more than £65 for mine. Which is odd because it's in excellent condition and generally very sparkly.
Still, I didn't really want to get rid of it, so I spose I can now go back to proud-owning it.

So, what else have I been up to. Well, we finally went along to Twin Lakes again, which was pretty cool. I ended up back about 90 minutes late for my shift (despite my repeated warnings to my sis that we were gonna be late - bleh) but they took it in good stead and didn't complain.

The place hasn't changed. It's still awesome, still a fantastic mixture of ball pools, slides, rope bridges, swinging ropes, spinny floor pads, spinning poles, climbing nets, rafts, pedalos, mock-up western villages (complete with heavy rain), pirate ships, little zoos etc etc... My nephew and co, me included, ran around the place, me with my sparkly new camera. The video quality is awesome. Unfortunately, it also takes up just under 4.6gb So I've got to burn the lot to a dvd.

Not to worry, I'm looking forward to backing everything up on my computer before reinstalling everything. Time for a clean sweep - it's not had one for a while. Time to clean out the cobwebs, I feel. To this end, I've won/sniped an 80gb SATA hard drive. £9.50 for an 80Gb drive. Can't complain, hey!

Not much else to report really. Work goes on as normal. Home goes on as normal, though the place is pretty tidy what with the rents getting ready to sod off to italy.
Bleh, that's it really.

I'm off to drink my celebration beer (just the one this time, yikes!) and then to go to beer :-).

Here are a few pics for you :-). (The people featured in the photos are not my family. If they are your family and you want their faces edited out of the photos, leave a comment and I'll do that for you :-) ).