Trance-Elbow's photos More of Trance-Elbow's photos

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

We Have A Much Needed New Kitchen ...

… But My New Bike Is Now On Hold

In November we decided that a new kitchen was in order. We bought the current one second hand for £50 over a decade ago and it was starting to look more than a little grim.

Our first stop was MFI, who planned and priced it up for us. After we’d picked ourselves up off the showroom floor with the shock, we re-grouped and attacked it from a different angle. B&Q was our next stop and their price turned out to be far more palatable. Money was exchanged and the delivery date for all the bits & bobs was set for 30th November.

In the meantime we decided that we really should get the whole of the kitchen re-plastered. Our house is a little over 50 years old and each time we do a room, it isn’t so much a redecoration, but a refurbishment process. The kitchen was probably the worst room in the house. The walls and ceiling were in a terrible state. The re-plastering required us to remove all the existing wall cupboards, which meant finding somewhere to put all the stuff that they held. We ended up with plastic boxes of kitchen bit & bobs in the dining room, lounge and along the landing. It was also a nightmare to find anything we needed for cooking.

My first job was to modify all the power and lighting circuits. Several of the sockets were in the wrong place for the new layout and we had to lift the carpet and floorboards on the landing to modify the lighting circuit.

The plastering process is not a job the faint heart and is best left to the pros. Fortunately, Chunky has a friend who is a very good carpenter who can also turn his hand to most other tasks. Two days later the kitchen had a lovely smooth ceiling and walls.

On delivery day I had to relocate my bike to my Mums back garden as the flat packed units, etc. would have to go in the space that she normally calls home. This meant that I had to use the car to get to work, which was quite welcome as the weather was horrible. When I got home from work there were cardboard boxes stuffed here, there and everywhere, which added to our space problems. However, it was noticeable that there were no worktops in the delivery. These had been left off the lorry, but arrived a week later.

Because I had so much annual leave left, I started my Christmas holiday on December the 7th. The idea being that I would use the time to paint the kitchen and fit all the new units. By the 15th it was abundantly clear that I had completely failed at the task. In a week all I had managed to achieve was two coats of paint on the ceiling. The answer was to call in the “Cavalry”, in the form of our friendly, workaholic carpenter, Karl. In one and a half days he had all the units and worktops fitted. The speed & quality of his work is truly impressive and saved my bacon “BIG TIME”!

In the week leading up to Christmas all I had to do was plumb in the new sink, fit the new (very fancy) double oven and complete the electrics. Which I duly completed in a timely manner.

By Christmas Eve we had a fully functional kitchen and were able to clear away all the piles of tool, off cuts and cardboard packing, ready for the traditional family get-together.

The only fly in the otherwise crystal clear ointment is that our ancient dishwasher has developed what appears to be a terminal fault. Great timing as Christmas is of course it’s busiest time and we are now completely broke after buying the kitchen and paying Karl for his hard work. And I suspect it will be sometime before I’ll be able to afford that shiny new bike I’d been saving for 8-(

Such is life!


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

I’m Still Alive …. Just

Sorry about the unexpected silence on my blogg, but over the last few months I have had some major problems in my personal life. I don’t wish to go into details in such a public way, but I’ll just say that things at home came extremely close to complete and total melt down.

However, we have dealt with these issues in a very painful and head-on manner and we are starting to come out the other side in a far stronger, more focused way.

Here’s to a new outlook on life and a new much stronger Chris 8-)


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Common Sense Doesn’t Exist at Morrisons

A 72 year old man was attempting to purchase two bottles of wine in the West Kirby branch of Morrisons, when he was asked if he was over 21 years of age by the checkout staff. He refused to answer the question on the grounds that it was a really stupid question.

The manager was called in an attempt to resolve the situation. He was of no help either, stating it is company policy to ask everyone who wishes to buy alcohol if they are over 21. The customer expected the manager to realise that he was just a little older, without actually having to answer the question. This was not the case and the manager told him to if he did not answer, he would not be served. The 72 year old customer still refused and left the store taking a complaint form with him.

A Morrisons spokesman said: "We take our responsibility with regard to selling alcohol very seriously and all our stores operate the Task 21 scheme, which addresses the difficulties our staff face in being able to determine if a customer is legally old enough to buy alcohol.

"To further limit any element of doubt staff at the West Kirby store are required to ask anyone buying alcohol to confirm that they are over 21."

Lack of common sense is clearly endemic throughout the company.

Full Article Here - Man, 72, refused alcohol over age


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Bike Trouble Yet Again 8-(

I’ve Been Neglecting My Blogging Duties recently due to other obsessions in my life.

In June both our car and my bike were due for MOTs. However, we were unable to afford to do both. I took the view that the car’s MOT would be more useful than the bike, so I mothballed the bike until July’s payday.

It was only a couple of weeks between my bike MOT ending and payday, so I used the car to get to and from work. It was a pain but not the end of the world.

Payday arrived and my first task was to replace the worn out rear tyre, refit the wheel, adjust the chain and check all those important bits. This done I booked her in for an MOT the following week. On the day before the MOT I had arranged to take her to the bike shop and be picked up from there by Chunky. I left work early to allow for any unforeseen circumstances. The first problem was that after sitting unused for three weeks she refused to start. This has happened before and usually went away after a bit of gentle persuasion. However, this particular day was to be different and the persuading came to a halt once the battery was flat. I quickly recharged the battery and tried again, but to no avail.

The second problem was that Chunky had decided to come home late from work. When he finally arrived there was only 10 minutes left to deliver the bike to the shop, which wasn’t possible anyway.

Having had a previous fuelling problem back in January I decided that I should cleanout all the fuel and replace the fuel filter. So on the following Saturday, this is exactly what I did. It involved removing my fuel tank, draining all the fuel, cleaning all the pipes and carb float chambers, etc. Having done this I refilled the whole system and tried again, with disappointing results. She very nearly started, but not quite.

On Sunday, after taking advice, I decided to check the fuel flow in the system. My Haynes manual gave facts and figures for this and the system failed miserably. Basically the fuel pump wasn’t pumping at all. At best it was spiting small amounts of petrol in the direction of the carbs.

A quick check on eBay revealed a used pump for £35. I decided to visit the bike shop to get a quote for a new one, as if it was only £50 new I rather spend the extra to guarantee the problem was fixed. However, they wanted £149 for the pump!!! I couldn’t believe it, so eBay it was.

A few days later the pump arrived and after much fiddling and messing about I had it fitted and tested. The bike started first time with out so much as a cough. It was a happy day 8-)

The following day I phoned the bike shop to arrange for an MOT, only to be told that they were very busy and couldn’t fit me in for another two weeks. AAARRRRGGHH!!

In the end I was off the road for about six weeks, not the two weeks I had planned. During that time we had some wonderful weather and it was driving me mad having to use the car everyday instead.

I have however made up for it since then, but that’s a story for another article.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Friday, 27 July 2007

I’m Back In The thick Of The Action....

....Sooner Than Expected

I had a pleasant surprise when I returned from work on Tuesday. There waiting patiently for me was a white box, which contained an Microsoft Xbox 360. I was informed by a polite letter that it wasn’t my original machine, but a replacement one. Apparently Microsoft was concerned that I would be suicidal because I couldn’t play my favourite games while my broken Xbox was being repaired. Therefore they decided to send me a replacement immediately to reduce my suffering. How thoughtful of them. Judging by the date of manufacture on the unit it is not a new one, but someone else’s repaired unit. I don’t really mind as long as this one works and remains operational.

Thank you Microsoft for the quick turnaround. I had expected to have to wait for at least a month, but the replacement only took 9 working days. On the phone I was told it would be at least 15, possibly even 25. It’s nice to be proved wrong occasionally.

I take back all those insults and I'm impressed with the service. Top marks Microsoft 8-)


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Thursday, 12 July 2007

EX-Box 360

Last Friday my replacement MP3 player arrived from Germany and while I was ripping a large pile of CDs back onto it, I thought I’d have a quick game on my Xbox 360. However, instead of booting up as usual I was greeted by the now famous ‘Ring of Death’ (or RoD for short).


Basically the RoD is when three of the four red lights that surround the power switch on the front of the unit come on. This indicates that the unit has a general hardware failure. This is serious and means that it has to be returned to Microsoft for repair.

After much Googling on the subject, it became clear that this is a very common failure of Xbox 360’s. With the exception of Chunky, most people that I know On-Line have had this fault. Some of them more than once. Coincidently, last Thursday Microsoft finally announced publicly that they are having to repair more units than they would like. They stopped short of giving away any figures, but it’s believed that it could be as high as 15% of all Xbox 360’s sold. Microsoft are currently investing $1.15 Billion to solve the problem and have decided to extend the current 1 year warrantee to 3 years. They even plan to refund people who have had to payout for the repairs because their machines were outside the 1 year warrantee period. In my book this action is commendable and they could have just ignored the issue.

Microsoft wont tell us what the fault is, but the favourite on the net is that the graphics processor (GPU) runs so hot that it is softening the solder around it and the PCB is then warping due to the heat this in turn makes the solder joints crack causing the circuits to be disconnected. Some brave souls have decided to open up their repaired consoles, thus invalidating their warranties, to see what’s going on. It would appear that Microsoft have fitted an extra heat sink to the GPU in an attempt to improve cooling. However, none of the heat sinks inside are fitted with cooling fans, which I would suggest is a mistake. Have you ever tried to run a modern PC without a fan on the processor? Don’t try it as you’ll fry it with in a couple of minutes.

After my experience with On-Line based returns with Creative, (see previous article) I decided to use Microsoft’s telephone service instead. I rang them on Saturday and after the usual ‘Please try it this & that’, they agreed to have it back at their service centre. They E-mailed me a prepaid address label, I packaged it up and called UPS to arrange collection.

It was collected today (Thursday 12th) and my Wife had quite a chat with the driver. He had already guessed what it was by the address on the label and told her that he had already picked up two more today. He said that he gets a lot of them to collect and his weekly average is about four. That’s just one driver from one depot. I hate to think how many that equates to nationwide!

All I can do now is wait and see how long it takes to be repaired or replaced. A recorded message on Microsoft’s customer services line informed me that they were experiencing a high level of work at their service centres and couldn’t guarantee their usual turn-around time of 15 days. It could be 25 days! Only time will tell.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Monday, 9 July 2007

I Love Electronic Gadgets, But They Hate Me

At the beginning of June I dropped my Creative Zen Vision:M MP3 player about six inches onto a carpeted floor and killed it. There wasn't a mark on it, but it was not responding to anything I tried. I’m still amazed at how easy it was to destroy and it makes me wonder about its long term robustness. After visiting the Creative website, I made a warranty claim, not mentioning that I dropped it. About 24 hours later I received an E-mail with instructions to send it by insured post to their service centre in Dublin, Ireland. I therefore packaged it up safely and sent it off.

The e-mail pointed me to their website where I could follow its progress. This I check daily, but for the first week it didn’t understand the reference code I’d been given. After this I was informed that it had been received on 01/01/1900, which was roughly 107 years before it had been posted. I know that Ireland has a slower pace of life than England, but I wouldn’t have thought that it was quite that slow!

After a week of daily checking the website, nothing had changed and I received another e-mail asking me to send my MP3 player to a service centre in Poland. I replied explaining why this was possible and immediately had a reply telling me to send it in Ireland once more. By now I was a little concerned that they didn’t really know what was going on, I certainly didn’t. Despite my best efforts at interrogating their website, I was unable to find a telephone number to call them on, so I just watched the Website in the hope that ‘”Repair Pending” would change to “Returning to Owner”.

Another week passed and another e-mail arrived. This one stated that they had not yet received it and if it didn’t turn up within 30 day, they would cancel the repair number. Now I was really worried that it was sitting forgotten about on a shelf in some workshop gathering dust. Never to be seen again. Having checked with the Royal Mail that it had been delivered, I once again sought out a telephone number. This time however, I found it on a scrap of paper in the original box. The chap on the other end of the line was very helpful and explained that they had changed over to a new system right in the middle of repair and I had fallen down a crack.

On Friday a new replacement arrived from Germany. It works perfectly and I’m once again able to enjoy mobile music.

Post Script

While I was busy restoring my music files onto my
replacement Creative Zen Vision:M, I thought I’d have a quick game on my Xbox360. I switched it on and was greeted with the now infamous “Ring of Death”!


Monday, 25 June 2007

Fire Fighters Pelted with Missiles

On the BBC News Website today, I read about a fire crew in Coventry who were attached by around 20 yoofs while attending a car fire. I wonder what the odds are on these yoofs having torched the car in the first place!

It’s a sad reflection on our society when the people who put their lives on the line to protect us are treated in this way. What sort of mentality does it require to take this sort of mindless action? It makes no sense to me. Perhaps it’s just my middle class upbringing.

Full Story - Fire Fighters Pelted with Missiles


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Sunday, 17 June 2007

The Sky is the Limit

Two Sundays ago (3rd May) my Son was watching a program on our Sky Digital satellite system when it suddenly lost its signal. After much fiddling about we managed to get the signal back, but it didn’t last for more than about 20 minutes. Sometime ago I was given a spare Digital Box, but when I connected it up I had exactly the same fault. I therefore assumed that the problem was most likely to be either the cable to the dish or the LNB (receiving head on the dish).

I searched out a new LNB on the internet and found a company in Dorset that would sell me one for £12 including P&P. However, a colleague of mine said that he had a spare one that I could borrow.

The following day (Monday 4th) the fault seemed to have gone away, so I thought it must have been some kind of atmosphere problem and decided to leave the existing LNB where it was. It continued to work without any interruption until the following Friday, when it started playing up once more. On the Saturday morning I rushed round my colleagues house to take him up on his offer of borrow his spare LNB. I felt a bit guilty when I realised that I had got him out of bed, but I got what I wanted.

I rushed home to replace the LNB on the dish and all seemed good once more. However, within and hour the problem had returned. I spent the rest of the morning moving our terrestrial Digi-Box from the bedroom to the lounge. It was quite a fun operation as we managed to damage the aerial lead when we laid the new carpet earlier this year. Yet another job that I hadn’t got round too. It was quite urgent as we wanted to watch the F1 Grand Prix qualifying, which for some reason has been moved to ITV4.

By last Sunday I was missing all those hundreds of TV channels that I have become used to over the years. To be honest terrestrial digital TV is quite limited in its choice and all the channels I wanted to watch. It’s fine if you want to watch Big Brother or similar low intellect programmes, but not if you want to watch motorcycle racing. I was not a happy bunny. I phoned Sky to inquire about having the system checked and repaired. It was going to cost me £65 just to get an engineer out and on top of that I would have to pay for any repairs required. So I decided to take the plunge and get upgraded to Sky+ instead.

I’ve been interested in the Sky+ technology for quite a few years now, but I was always put off by the £10 monthly fee to use the service. However, as of the 1st of July this year Sky are dropping this charge. The timing couldn’t be better.

Last Thursday the engineer turned up and replaced the dish, all the cabling and installed my shiny new Sky+ Digi-box. While he was here, he told me that the fault with the old system was infact the digi-box and not the cable or LNB as I had thought. LNB faults usually present themselves as missing channels and not total loss of signal. It’s most likely that the decoder in the digi-box has failed. The whole installation process took less than an hour and very impressive it is to.

I now have the ability to record two different channels at the same time, while watching a previously recorded programme. I can also pause live TV when my Mum phones up at the most inopportune moment, which she regularly does. No more will I miss the last 10 minutes of an hour long drama series. I can now go to bed instead of stay up to the wee small hours watching a film I’ve got into. No longer will I have to wrestle my son for the remote control when I want to watch the local news while he’s watching the Simpsons.

The only problem I have now is finding the time to watch all those recorded programmes.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Proof That Smoking is Bad For Your Health

I’m a smoker, a fact that I’m not particularly proud of. I have tried on mainly occasions to give up, but have always failed. The main reason I have failed is due to lack of willpower. With the up coming smoking ban almost upon us here in England it really is about time I tried again. Perhaps if I referred to it more positively it might help. Maybe trying isn’t good enough. Giving up would be a better phase to use.

This morning a couple of colleagues of mine joined me for a smoke, which takes place in a small bus shelter in the office car park. The three of us entered the shelter while chatting, when suddenly a Chav stuck his head round the corner and said to me “Got a spare fag mate?”

I replied, very politely “No. Sorry I haven’t” and proceeded to continue my conversion. I had expected our guest to accept my reply and shuffle on his way, but he had other ideas and retorted with “But you’ve just put a pack of 20 in your pocket”. I responded by repeating my previous statement, but he was still insisting that he deserved it more than I.

Annoyed by his constant pestering, I told him that there was a shop around the corner that which would be more than happy to sell him some. Unfortunately I may have sounded a bit sarcastic in my reply and he came back at me with some very offensive abuse. It was at this point that I realised that the situation have suddenly become dangerous and I was aware that all other conversation in the shelter had ceased. I could see out of the corner of my eye that my colleagues were slowly, but surely moving toward the other end of the shelter.

When he shouted “Do you think that I’d be scrounging if I had money?”, I really wanted to reply that if he got a job he would have the money he needed for his purchase. However, it occurred to me that comments like that wouldn’t help in diffusing the situation and a tight lipped approach would be better. At this point I decided to say no more. After he had ranted for a while I think he realised that I was not going to respond further, got bored and walked off with a Chav type swagger in his step.

I was very glad that I still retained all my teeth and limbs after our little chat. But I was visibly shaken by the whole experience. It took me quite a while to calm down and I kept thinking of people who lose their lives in similar circumstances. I was also reminded of the joke,

Q – Why did the Chav cross the road?

A – To pick a fight with a complete stranger.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Monday, 4 June 2007

One Swallow A Summer Does Not Make

In recent years I’ve enjoyed sitting in the garden on a summer evening just taking in the air. A couple of years ago I noticed that there are quite a few Swallows flying high catching insects. They have quiet a distinctive call, which has always reminded of the low hot summers of my childhood.

Yesterday evening I spotted the first visiting pair swooping high in the sky and it really lifted my spirits, bring back all those happy memories once more.

It gave me the opportunity to use the phase “One Swallow a summer does not make”. Despite extensive research I have been unable to trace the origins of the phrase. My interpretation would be that although Swallows are associated with good weather, their appearance in England doesn’t guarantee it won’t rain. Perhaps we’ll have to wait a few weeks for several more pairs to arrive.

Whatever the reasoning behind it, as always, I’m glad to see their return.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Is Dusseldorf Safe?

A colleague of mine has just drawn my attention to this article on the BBC News website.

German drives down subway stairs

A German woman in Dusseldorf blocked the entrance to an underground station when she mistook it for a subterranean car park, police said on Wednesday.

And I thought the Germans were a careful race. It just goes to show how wrong you can be!


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Is Arundel Safe?

A quite bizarre turn of events has taken place in the Sussex town of Arundel over the past year.

The first was a fire at the Fire Station in October last year, which caused extensive damage to the building and destroyed the Fire Engine. Apparently the station is served by retained fire fighters and was not manned at the time. The main problem was that the station did not have a smoke or fire alarm system, so it was left to the neighbouring Ambulance Station staff, who noticed smoke, to report it.

This week a Police Man at the towns Police station had his car stolen from the Police Station while he was at work. It was not clear whether the car was broken into with or with the keys. The news report is not clear on this, but did suggest that the thief first broke into the Police station. May he stole the car keys from there.

I bet the Ambulance service, next to the Fire Station, are wondering if they will be next on the “Strange, But True” list?

Related Links
Blaze hits no-alarm fire station
Red faces at police station theft

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Chav TV Is On The Loose....Again 8-(


Big Brother has started again. Which means I won't get a look at the television for the next eight weeks or so. I will have to put up with inane conversations about sad people that have no self respect or intelligence.

The sort of people who sign up to Big Brother must be lonely souls with very low self esteem. Why else would they do that to themselves? I can't think of anything I'd rather do less than to spend my time sitting round talking to those sad people.

My comment would be, "Get out there and get yourselves proper jobs"

On a positive note, all the TV deprivation will allow me to keep my blog more up to date. You lucky, lucky people 8-)


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Monday, 28 May 2007

The Building Work Is Nearly Done

We are now a two toilet family and after many years of waiting we finally have our shower installed.

About 10 years ago I started a bathroom refurbishment project, which has taken far too long to complete. I said that I would not start any other projects until it was finished, but my Wife had other ideas. There always seemed to be something better or more important to do. As a consequence it has never been completely finished.

Since the bathroom was started we have done the lounge, dining room, double glazing and last year a down stairs toilet/laundry room extension. Over the last month we have really pulled our fingers out and things have moved along at a huge pace. The shower has been fitted and both the upstairs and downstairs toilets have been fitted. I have to admit that I only did the plumbing for the down stairs loo. We got a plumber in to do the rest.

It does mean that I can now get on with the finishing touches and yesterday I moved the washing machine from the kitchen to the laundry room. Amazingly it was actually a "five minute job", which took five minutes and not my usual two days. My wife was surprised how smoothly it all went. To be honest, so was I.

When I plumbed the extension a few weeks ago I ended up flooding the kitchen twice in one day. The washing machine in comparison was a breeze.

Today I'm supposed to be wiring up the extensions lighting system, but as yet I haven't found the motivation. Catching up on my Blog seems a more inviting prospect. The torch will have to remain a little longer. However, I've promised the wife that I'll fit a new worktop in the kitchen to cover the space left by the washing machine. Me and my big mouth.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

May Is Just A Blur

For most of May I've been rushed off my feet working 24/7. Well at least that's how it felt.

Over the first May Bank holiday I was supposed to work three night shifts, which ended up becoming five nights due to various technical hitches allong the way. I had a few hours rest on Wednesday 8th, by Thursday I was back on days. Friday 4th I was back to nights and managed to set a new record by doing two separate commissionings in one night shift.

I spent the next week unable to sleep at night and feeling wiped out during to day. I just couldn't stay aware at work. Last weekend (20th & 21th) I did nothing but rest.

Having just reviewed what I wrote in the last few paragraphs it doesn't add up. Looking back at all the long and confused days & nights I've worked this month it doesn't fit.
It's as if someone stuck another week in May when my back was turned. I can clearly remember spending last weekend (20th & 21th) hacking the garden and I've got the new plants to prove it too. Maybe I just imaganed resting!

I think I need a holiday, but I doubt my boss will let me have the time off 8-(


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Flickr Account

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Moore blames women for 'banal' TV

This is an interesting article that I found on the BBC News Website today. Although I agree in principle with his views, some of his statements, I feel, are a little sexist. However, I particularly liked his thoughts on Big Brother.

"I would rather be dead in a ditch than appear on Celebrity Big Brother."

I doff my hat to you Sir Patrick.

My problem with Saturday night television is that there nothing that interests me. The only exception being Dr Who, of which I’m a big fan. The whole evening is filled with banal quiz shows, reality shows and the National Lottery. I’m not in the slightest bit interested in watching some “Z” list celebrity dancing or ice skating. And what the hell is all this “X” Factor rubbish all about?

What I’d like to see on a Saturday night is a good film.

Here endith the ‘Grumpy Old Man” whinge. Now who’s moved my slippers?

Original BBC Article - Moore blames women for 'banal' TV


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

You’re So Vein, I Bet You Think This Blog Is About You

Mrs.P. has always had prominent veins in her legs and recently they have been giving her pain. The main problem is that she is a sales assistant for a major UK stationary chain and she spends much of her time at work standing still for extended periods.

She had to have some time off work and our Doctor referred her to a specialist. After quite a short wait, she was summoned to our local hospital for surgery to have them removed.

The appointment was set for early March this year and would be performed in the day surgery, which meant she would be home the same day. As she would be unable to walk for a few days, I’d arranged with my boss to work at home for the week so I could take care of her every need. Unfortunately, on the morning of the appointment she had a sore throat, which meant that they were not happy to operate. It was back to work for me the following day. Shame as I was looking forward to working from home.

Fast forward to yesterday and it was time to try again. We arrived at the hospital and Mrs.P. went through all sorts of interviews, questionnaire and tests to allow the medical staff to be ready for all eventualities. During the first one of these interviews we discovered that the surgeons name was Mr. Nounou. I immediately had a vision of a blue hoover doing the operation with assistance being provided by the Teletubbies.

The second interview was with the anaesthetist. When she made reference to Mr. Nounou, I had to bite my lip to stop myself laughing out loud. I decided not to accompany my Mrs.P. to the third interview, as it was with Mr. Nounou himself. I would only have made a prat of myself by making a Teletubbie joke.

I stayed with Mrs.P. until it was “Time for Tubbie Bye-byes” with the anaesthetist. At which point I went home to collect Jnr. from school and await a phone call from the Hospital.

They rang at 4:30pm to say that all was well and I could collect her an hour later. When I arrived at the hospital, as usual the car park was completely full so I had to park ½ a mile away. She wasn’t ready for collection as they still had to measure her up. They didn’t say what she was to be measured for, but we were hoping it wasn’t for her wooden box. To our relief the measurements were for a support stocking.

She was told that she MUST rest in bed for the remainder of the day, only getting up for toilet breaks. Of course she totally ignored this instruction, sat on the sofa with her leg on the coffee table and contently kept getting up to wander around. Women!


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Take Care Where You Get Your Camera Out

For many years I’ve wanted to take a long exposure photograph of a railway platform at rush hour. The idea of using a long exposure is to blur all the train passengers, but keep the train, platform and other object in focus. This gives a great sense of movement.

The problem has been to find the right location to allow me to look down on the platform to maximise the effect. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a Railway Signalling engineer and at present I’m working at London Bridge signal box. Last week I found the perfect location to give me the required angle and on Monday I set off for work armed with a large rucksack full of tools, my packed lunch and camera gear.

At precisely 9:15am I had positioned myself on the over bridge above platforms 9 and 10, just as hundreds of commuters were de-training. I took four photos and was almost instantly mugged by a member of Network Rail staff. It transpired that I needed permission from the station manager to take photos of the station as I might be a terrorist. A far point I suppose and at least it shows that Network Rail is taking the travelling publics safety seriously. However, if I had been a terrorist surely I would be taking photos covertly with a small discreet compact camera. Not, as I was, using a bloody great Digital SLR in a very public and non-discreet manner.

Not wanting to be arrested on the spot, I clearly explained who I was and what I was doing on the station in the first place. I even showed him my Network Rail approved photo ID to prove that I was allowed to be there, but he was having none of it. I just packed up my gear and went on my way with a flea in my ear.

Next time I’ll get permission first and make a meal of photographing the station.

The photos I did get were OK at best, but I will try again soon. Here is the best one.

It's not brillient, but I think it shows the effect I'm after.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

A Few Hours Freedom

Last Saturday, Pablos and I finally managed to get out for a ride. Traditionally we go for a morning ride sometime over Bank Holiday weekends and Christmas. However, we haven’t achieved this since our trip to the Lake District last September.

The weather was perfect, if a little nippy when we set off. Therefore I decided that I would wear my thermals under my leathers. One of the problems with my leathers is that they are made from perforated leather and thin stretchy material and the wind goes straight thorough. This is brilliant on warm summer days, but not so cleaver on the motorway in the early morning fog.

Our first stop was at Devils Dyke, near Brighton for a few photos of the Sussex countryside. It was a bit misty still, but we managed a few passable vistas. Stop number two was the seafront at Brighton, this time for some died pork wrapped in bread and yet more photos.

The West Pier has always fascinated me and its current state of disrepair saddens me greatly, but it does offer lots of interesting photo opportunities. It seems that quite a few other people had the same idea. We photographers were falling over each other trying to find that perfect angle. In the end we ended up taking photos of each other.

By the time we we’re back on our bikes the temperature had risen considerably and I was starting to melt inside my leathers. The thermals didn’t seem so sensible as we rode home.

I told Mrs. P. that I’d be home by 12:00pm, but I didn’t make it until 1:05pm. I made up a story about the clock on my bike still being set to GMT. I’m not totally sure I got away with it though, but I'm still alive which is a good sign.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Thursday, 19 April 2007

TGV Sets New Rail Speed Record

On April 3rd a specially modified TGV, called a V150, set a new speed record on the newly completed Paris to Strasburg high speed line. It reached a top speed of 574km/h (356mph), beating the previous record of 515km/h (320mph) set in 1990.

This was achieved by fitting an additional motor and boasting the traction power from 25,000 volts to 31,000 volts. We are told that the set is capable of producing 25,000 horsepower!

Somehow I doubt we will ever see such innovation on our railways. However, it would be possible to extend the current high speed line, which runs from the Channel Tunnel to London, further north. Perhaps as far as Edinburgh or Glasgow. The major problem with that is one of finance. When it comes to our railways the “Westminster Muppet Show” tends to keep its hands firmly in its pockets. Wars in the Middle East and identity cards schemes are so much more useful you know!

Here is a video of the event for your pleasure.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Perfect Bacon Sandwich

Scientists from the Department of Food Science at Leed University have spent many hours trying to decide what constitutes the perfect Bacon sandwich. Their conclusion was:-

  1. Grill 2 or 3 rashers of back bacon at 240C (475F) for 7 minutes.

  2. Place bacon between 2 slices of 1 to 2cm thick Farmhouse bread.

  3. And eat, presumably.
They have even developed a formula for the whole process, which is:-

N = C + {fb (cm) . fb (tc)} + fb (Ts) + fc . ta

Where N=force in Newtons required to break the cooked bacon,
fb=function of the bacon type,
fc=function of the condiment/filling effect,
Ts=serving temperature,
tc=cooking time,
ta=time or duration of application of condiment/filling,
cm=cooking method,
C=Newtons required to break uncooked bacon.

It’s good to know that our Universities are educating our youth wisely!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

DIY Issues – Part 2

After many months, even years in the case of the bathroom, we decided to have whip ourselves into a DIY frenzy over the Easter break.

Good Friday –

We emptied our extension of Chunky’s large collection of builders tools to allow us to paint both of the new rooms. While I re-organised my shed to make way for the aforementioned tools, Mrs. P. proceeded to paint the toilet a strange shade of peach. I say strange, because she bought pink when we had already settled upon peach.

This took us up to lunch, after which we progressed onto the utility room. This was a two person task as the walls are un-plastered brickwork and requires lots of brush work to fill all the imperfections. For this room we had chosen a light shade of lilac. The whole process took us about 3 extremely dull hours and the finish was patchy at best. Another coat would be required. Great joy.

At 6pm we called it a day and stopped for dinner.

Easter Saturday –

Today Mrs. P. applied a second coat of Lilac to the utility room, while I nipped out to the DIY store for various bits and pieces to allow me to fit a piece of kitchen work top on which to sit the tumble drier. I completed this installation on my return, but needed the help of Chunkys large drill to fit the vent kit. When he returned from work he made a huge hole in the onside wall for the vent. We had to fill in around it with a surprising amount of mortar.

Easter Sunday –

We got up at a stupidly early hour in order to watch the Malaysian Grand Prix live on TV. By the time the program had finished and we got mobilised it was about 10:30am. We made a start on de-fluffing the tumble drier and planned the next stages when we realised that we were all suffering from DIY Over-Load. We stopped for lunch and decided to give up for the remainder of the day.

Bank Holiday Monday –

We applied one coat of a Turquoise paint to the bathroom about 2 years ago, but never finished the second coat. During that time we also decided to change the radiator for a towel rail, which had left a small un-painted area in the middle of the wall.

Fully refreshed after the previous days rest, I made an early start with painting this small area of wall with it’s first coat. While this was drying, Mrs. P. started on the woodwork along the edge of the bath and cupboards that I had built under the basin with a yellow paint.

After a quick lunch, Mrs. P. started the second coat on the walls, while I started on the electrics in the extension. About halfway through this task, She announced that she was sick of painting. Despite all of this, she still wouldn’t let me finish it for her.

To be honest neither of us is sure about the yellow and turquoise colour scheme that we chose for the bathroom. We’ll have to suck it and see.

Tuesday 10th April –

Back to work for a rest 8-)


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Water Water Everywhere, But Not A Drop To Drink

Last Monday (2nd April) my Wife phoned me while I was at work to inform me that she had discovered a water leak under the kitchen sink. My plan was to investigate after my visit to the dentist (material for another article).

What I discovered was that the cold water pipe was leaking at one of its joints. Of course it wasn’t an easily accessible joint, but one hidden away right up behind the sink. It would be a “sink out” job for the weekend. In the meantime I’d patch it up with some waterproof tape.

That was the plan. However, the reality was very different. The tape was totally useless and the jug I’d places under the leak was filling up at an alarming rate.

On Tuesday I took the day off work to do a full “sink out” repair. While I was at it I might as well fit some nice new taps. We chose one called a deck mixer in chrome and off the plumbers merchant I trotted.

The next task was to turn the hot and cold water off. Turning the mains water off always causes on problem for two reasons.

1 – Our inside stop cock refuses to turn off completely.
2 – The stop cock in the road can’t be turned off as it’s full of soil.

I’m well aware that I need to replace the inside stop cock, but as I can’t turn the outside one off I have a problem. The answer is to phone the water board and get them to deal with it, but I’m worried that they will want to fit a water meter while they are at it.

I’m used to catching the slow-ish trickle of water from the cold pipe, but I wasn’t expecting to have a similar problem with the hot water system. I replace all the other stop cocks about 10 years ago when I did the bathroom, but the hot water was still running 30 minutes after I turned it off. The only solution was to completely drain both the hot and cold tanks. I was then able to get the sink off and fix the leak.

Why do I always try to cut corners and reuse some of the old plumbing? It never works and you’d think I’d have learnt that by now. After a second trip to the plumbers merchant all was sorted and the leak had been banished. All the remained was to refill all the empty tanks and deal with all the air locks caused.

Job done, but as ever with me it took a lot longer than it should.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Monday, 9 April 2007

DIY Issues – Part 1

Last year we had an extension built on the back of our house. It consists of two rooms – a toilet and a utility room. In an effort to save money I undertook to finish all the internal work myself. After all, my time is free.

It was a good plan, but the progress has been considerably slower than I would have liked. Over Christmas last I managed to get the toilet walls insulated and dry lined. The next stage was to paint the walls, fit all the plumbing and fittings. In an effort to avoid all the usual disagreements about colours, I decided to leave the final shade choice to my lovely Wife. We had already decided on some shade of peach.

When she returned from the DIY superstore she was armed with lots of sample pots so we could argue about shades. This had completely de-railed my plan of avoiding choice. Needless to say we couldn’t agree on a shade.

About six weeks ago I had arranged to take my Son out for the afternoon and my Wife was off to the DIY store once more to choose the paint. When I got home there was a roll of carpet precariously laying up the stairs. You can imagine my comments.

“I thought you were going to buy paint!”
“Do I staple or nail it to the wall?”
“Oh, it’s for the lounge. I suppose I’ll be laying that instead of finishing the toilet next weekend then”.

You get the idea.

The following week I enlisted the help of Chunky & Pablos to help move the furniture and lay the carpet. It went quite well, except the TV aerial lead that runs under the fireplace got damaged. As yet I haven’t had time to repair it properly.

Last weekend my dear Wife was once again dispatched to B&Q in search of this illusive peach paint. Half an hour later she called to say “They have gas barbeques on special and would you like one?”. “Where would we put it?” was my response. Our Patio is covered with old paving slabs from the front garden, our old bed and various other detritus left over from the extension project.

When she got home she had actually bought some paint, but it was pink and not peach as we had planned. I’ll just go with the flow in the hope of a quiet life.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Sorry For The Interruption – Normal Service Will Resume Soon

One of my regular viewers has expressed concern over my absence. I can assure you all that I’m alive and well, but over worked.

My employer has more work than our small team can cope with. I think my Boss is heading for a breakdown and we have warned him to slow down and share the pain with us.

At home we are frantically trying to catch up with all those long ignored DIY tasks and the rest of my time has been taken up with various photographic projects.

However, I’ll try to find the time to share my life with you. There is plenty to write about.

BTW – My Brother-in-Law, Chunky, is still with us and this situation shows no sign of changing anytime soon.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


I, like most people these days, receive a large amount on joke through my various E-mail accounts. Some is good, some is terrible, but all is welcome and help the day pass better.

Today I received the following from a colleague and I thought I’d share it with you.

Why is it that people say they "slept like a baby" when babies wake up every two

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know
the batteries are flat?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient
funds" when they know there is not enough?

Why does someone believe
you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint
is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does
Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea
was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?

What is the speed of

Are there specially reserved parking spaces for "normal"
people at the Special Olympics?

If the temperature is zero outside
today and it's going to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold will it

If it's true that we are here to help others, what are the
others doing here?

Do married people live longer than single ones
or does it only seem longer?

Do you cry under

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out
it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why do people pay
to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on
the ground?

Did you ever stop and

Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I
think I'll squeeze these pink dangly things here, and drink whatever comes

Who was the first person to say, "See that chicken there...
I'm gonna eat the next thing that comes outta it's bum."

Why do
toasters always have a setting so high that could burn the toast to a horrible
crisp, which no decent human being would eat?

Why is there a light
in the fridge and not in the freezer?

Why do people point to their
wrist when asking for the time, but don't point to their bum when they ask where
the bathroom is?

Why does your Obstetrician, Gynaecologist leave
the room when you get undressed if they are going to look up there anyway

Why does Goofy stand erect while Pluto remains on all fours?
They're both dogs !

Can blind people see their dreams? Do they
dream ??

If quizzes are quizzical,
what are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil
is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from ?

electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons

Why do the Alphabet song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star have
the same tune? Stop singing and read on . . . . . .. . . .

Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet

Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog's face, he
gets mad at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it
arrive faster?

Do you ever wonder why you gave me your e-mail
address in the first place?

Good or bad? I’ll let you decide that for yourself.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Cumbrian Train Crash

At 8:15 pm last night a London to Glasgow Vigin Pendolino train became de-railed at Grayrigg in the Lake District. It was travelling at 95 mph when the accident happened and all but one of the carriages left the track.

One 80 year old woman was killed and 5 other passengers were seriously injured. The driver, Ian Black from Scotland was among those seriously injured.

As a Signalling Systems engineer, I am always saddened by any railway related disaster and my prayers go out to those who’s lives had been directly effected by yesterdays events. I also thank all the emergency services and local residents who have been doing an excellent job to rescue and help all the passengers from the train.

I am astonished how well the Pendolino has stood up to this crash. Except for a few bits of aerodynamic and decorative plastic, the structural integrity of the train appears to be sound. None of the windows have broken and there seems to be little bodywork distortion. This obviously excellently designed train has undoubtedly saved countless fatalities and serious injuries. For that we can be truly thankful.

Only time will tell the exact cause of this accident, but it could have been so much worse.

Foot Note – These are only may personal comments and NOT those of my employer, Westinghouse Rail Systems Limited.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Friday, 23 February 2007


One of the many photo blogs I follow is www.neverhappen.com , which show cases the photographs of an Australian who's name I've completely forgotten.

The photo above, 'Reflected - 28 Jan 2007', really caught my eye. Quite stunning don't you think?

Saturday, 17 February 2007

And Then There Was One

Chunky and Chunkette have not been getting on too well since Christmas.Chesty-Lynn (Mrs. Trance-Elbow) and I have always thought that they had a strange kind of relationship. It seemed to be entirely based on arguments and who’s turn it was to buy the shopping. Chunkette once spoke to Chesty about how jealous she was of our close relationship.

It all came to a head just over two weeks ago, when Chunkette announced she was leaving. She was going to stay with her Mum and partner in Eastbourne. Apparently it was all arranged and Chunky knew all about it. This of course was not the case and he didn’t realise she was leaving until he had returned from work. She hadn’t even thought to ask her Mum if it would be OK for her to stay, which it wasn’t.

Suddenly her great escape plans were falling down around her ears. There she was on a very cold, frosty night, car absolutely stuffed with possessions and nowhere to stay. She said that she would just have to sleep in her car. I pointed out that this would be extremely fool hardy bearing in mind the sub-zero temperature outside and insisted she stayed at least until the morning. Fortunately she saw sense and stay another night. When I returned from work the following morning she had gone.

She was supposed to see Chunky last Sunday, but decided instead to come run to pickup the last of her belongings on Saturday while Chunky was out.

Chunky himself seems to be coping well with the separation, although we can’t tell how he really feels about it. For the time being he has decided to stay here with us, which is fine by me. I’ve enjoyed having him here as he adds chaos and entertainment to our otherwise mundane lives.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I have never read this famous book, but I can assure you that it has nothing to do with Blake’s Seven (A rather good 1980’s Sci-Fi Series).

Having spent two weekends trying to diagnose the fault with my bike, I had to concede defeat and call in the experts. She was picked up by my local bike shop, P&H Motorcycles, the following Thursday and they had the problem sorted in no time flat. All it was just a blocked fuel pipe to two of the carbs and was fixed with a quick blast of compressed air.

I was terrified that I’d have to re-mortgage the cat to pay for the collection and replace, but the whole thing only set me back £10.50. Geoff, the mechanic is now my best friend and I can highly recommend his skills.

Since I’ve had my bike back I’ve noticed a few things. She is now considerably quicker than before and I’m getting 30 miles less to a tank of fuel. That pipe has obviously been partially blocked for quite some time.

And a useful piece of advice regarding the cheap Non-Honda mirror I bought to replace the broken one. It’s terrible. The edges of the glass have serious distortion issues and it won’t stay in the correct position at speeds above Warp Factor 7. Now I understand way the Honda part is so expensive, more than double the price of the one I bought. I think the solution will be to get a second hand original from eBay.

Since our return to the road, the bike and I have now passed the 30,000 mile point. What a machine 8-)

Related Links

P&H Motorcycles

Blake’s Seven fan Club

Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Thursday, 8 February 2007

In Memory Of Stephen Parascandolo

On Wednesday 7th February Stephen Parascandolo’s life was tragically cut short. He was involved in a road traffic accident on his way the catch a flight from Luton to Glasgow.

Although I didn’t know him well, I had met him a few times through work and I’m quite familiar with his work on The Unofficial Croydon Tramlink Website. He was a talented young engineer who had just been promoted to greater things.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Related Web-Links

Croydon Tramlink

Stephen Parascandolo’s Home Page


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Chainsaws At 100 Paces

I have a new obsession. The Microsoft Xbox 360 games console.

It all happened quite by accident really. My son has long since commandeered my old Sony PS1 console, which I rarely used anyway. This was followed by a Nintendo GameCube about two years ago, which I bought from a friend of a friend for virtually nothing. For a long time I’ve wanted a PS2, but thought I’d wait for the PS3, which still hasn’t arrived here in the UK yet.

When my Brother-in-Law (Chunky) moved in with us last year, he bought his Xbox 360 with him and I was impressed with the console & games. It was about this time I started looking around for a new mobile phone contract and discovered that many companies would throw in an Xbox 360 to sweeten the deal. I thought it would be rude not to sign-up.

My console arrived about two weeks ago and I haven’t managed to put it down since. Chunky and I spend most evenings killing our ‘On-Line’ friends with all manner of fancy weaponry. It’s a real scream and provides the much needed stress relief from my bike problems. Even my wife has found a game she likes, so almost everyone is happy.

I say ‘almost everyone’ because I haven’t told my Son about my new toy. Why? Because he would Hi-Jack it as he has done with all previous consoles and I would lose interest quite quickly. The other problem is that most of my games are wholly unsuitable for a 10 year old.

I will have to come clean eventually as I’m getting feed up with sneaking around when he’s (supposedly) asleep. I’m almost certain he knows about it, but he’s not saying anything yet.

Having just read the last two paragraphs back, I was stunned how sad they make me sound. I’m I a Man or a Mouse? I think I already know the answer to that question!

If there's anyone out there wanting to murder me in an 'On-Line' game of "Gear of War", you can find me on Xbox LIVE! as "TRANCE ELBOW".

See you there, but don't forget your Chainsaw.


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog

The Damage Appears To Be Greater Than I First Thought

At first I thought the damage caused to my bike during her excursion into my neighbours Hydrangea was limited to a broken mirror and a couple of scratches. This now appears to be an incorrect assumption as she now refuses to run properly.

I have spent the last two weekends trying to diagnose the fault and to best I have managed to come up with is too narrow it down to either the fuel or ignition systems. I’m very disappointed that I have failed. It’s a matter of pride that I (usually) have the ability to fix anything, but I’m currently completely stumped.

My local bike shop tells me that I’ve done all the things they would have tried and gave me a few more ideas. The best I’ve managed is to get her to run for a few seconds, in which time she sounds like a cement mixer and emits un-burnt fuel fumes from the exhaust. This is closely followed by the engine stalling.

As a consequence I’ve had to use the car the get to work, which is very boring and time consuming. I would use the train, but it’s so damn expensive. The bike shop should be picking her up tomorrow and hopefully I maybe back on the road next week.

I can’t wait to see how much it will all cost 8-(


Click Here to E-Mail Me Direct

Click Here to Visit my Photoblog