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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!


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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-)


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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.


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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.


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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.


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