Another week…

So, it turns out that I did not manage to write anything here last week at all!

What did I get up to, I hear you ask? Oh hold on a minute, I can barely hear you there at the back my one reader ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, the week was a busy one; is there any other kind I have begun to wonder to myself..?

The week got off to a running start with many, many meetings at work, a trend that continued for most of the week, one way or another… We (in my team at the BBC) spent last week in the last round of planning for the next release phase, i.e. to get ready to do the work I was hired for, and as such, what with the Beeb having adopted SCRUM methodology there were certain processes to go through in order to make sure that all of the features we are going to approach in this release were storied, prioritised and scored. It may sound like a painful process, but by the time the end of the week came I felt as though we had a REAL sense of what we were going to do, how much work it was all going to be and that there was a real sense of scope and expectation. I have to say, without coming off all “SCRUM-evangelist” I hope, that it feels like a good way of working so far.

Friday was a little bit of a blip, a blip that ate into Thursday as well… Friday was the first public / out-of-team demo for the product that I am working on, and my colleague Mike and I had to scramble to get the thing ready. As with anything prepared in snatched moments and without a clear plan, something went not-quite-according-to-plan, but the overall reception was good and the people who matter – our project owner, his boss, and our project architect were all perfectly happy. More to the point, people from other teams were really supportive, and in the end all the wait-and-hurry-up was worth it.

I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with Lee-Anne, and we had a lovely time.. I’m consciously not going into minute detail for two reasons; I am not deluded into thinking that you all want to know what we cooked together, or what we talked about, but also because I am enjoying it being “just for us” a little bit too…

On Thursday evening I went, with Lee-Anne to see an old friend of hers in a pub off Tottenham Court Road and I think it went well; I really enjoyed meeting him and the others that he brought along. We spent the better part of the evening putting the world to rights(tm) and then headed back to Sevenoaks to crash out before the last schoolday of the week.

Friday was a “girls’ night out” for Lee-Anne, seeing some good friends that she’s not had a chance to catch up with for a while now, so I made my own plans, and we caught up again on Saturday afternoon evening, as I made my way over to Sevenoaks with Suzie (the Secteur – my bike). Saturday evening we went out to the movies to see Inception. No comment for now (as I am formulating my ideas for a longer post on the subject), beyond: AWESOME!

Sunday Lee-Anne had some more studying / writing to do for her OU course, so I made myself useful doing the shopping (on Suzie) and then going out for a nice long ride through the Kent Countryside. The hills around where she lives are still pretty f’ing tough, but I am getting better at dealing with them, which is a good sign I think.

And so it was Monday again before we knew it, and I was up early to get Suzie on the train to London before the cut-off for full-size bikes and in work for eight ๐Ÿ™‚

More to follow – this week should be better for blogging…


So it has been a while…

I have been more than a little remiss… What can I say, life has been a little bit busy, exciting and thoroughly enthralling over the last few weeks; where to begin?

The first thing that came into my life that was new and is now __still__ exciting was the beginning of my new relationship with Lee-Anne. This Friday it will be eight weeks since she and I met up to have a couple of drinks in Jubilee Gardens, by the London Eye on the South Bank. I was unsure as to whether or not this was a “date”, half expecting to be introduced to a handful of her other friends as her new ‘friend’, but she arrived alone, and I was suddenly very glad that I had not invited various others from my work. By the end of the evening we knew that something was “going on”, and it was actually only a week later (well eight days later) when we changed our Facebook Statuses to “In a relationship”, after a magical night in London that I will describe simply as a fantastic and auspicious beginning.

Of course as one thing starts to go right one should expect something else to go a little awry… I was made redundant from Rivermuse (the company I was working for) in early July and suddenly I was thrown into a mixture of confusion and relief, as the fact of my “five year plan” being pulled away from me began to sank in. Still, after taking some time to think and explore my options I made the decision to return to contracting, and so I embarked upon setting up a limited company and finding an accountant. Clearly I was also pursuing contract jobs and juggling calls with recruiters, but all of that whirlwind has now ended today with the start of my new contract position at the BBC.

I am hoping to pay a little more attention to this blog from now on, but forgive me if my intentions don’t match up to the reality…

While I think of it, I shared a Tube carriage with Jeremy Paxman on my way back from work this evening; he was very nice, but then I didn’t “fanboi” all over him, I just smiled and said “hello”… I was desperate to engage him in conversation, but I was rather aware of how pleased he seemed to be that I wasn’t doing that, and so I restrained myself.

Anyway – ttfn!


Looking for excitement..?

If you are, then why not try cycling in Central London..?

I’m still alive despite the best efforts of one hare-brained driver who decided to not check their blindspot when pulling out into traffic. Said driver not only exclaimed with shock that they had not seen me, but also that they had not noticed that I’d hit them! Still no injuries and the bike is once again unscathed; thank heavens for taking it all very seriously (i.e. being vigilant and defensive at all times) AND for having good brakes!


Why Tuesdays are often memorable…

Yesterday was a Tuesday, and although my assertion that Tuesday is the “crazy day” can only be supported by anecdotal evidence at best, yesterday is an excellent example of the sheer oddness that Tuesdays do often seem to subject me to…

I had a “normal” day at work, even a normal (and utterly lovely) dinner with a good friend (Hello Mel!), but it was the commute home that brought out all the crazy I could ever hope for…

We had finished eating by 2145h (ish) and as I waved Mel off at Southwark Tube I thought to myself that I really ought to nip back to the office and grab my bike if the building was open, and in fact that I really ought to cycle back to Paddington, despite the late hour. So far so good. I should have suspected something when my ride was favoured with green lights at every junction and even a couple of considerate bus drivers, one in particular showed me such courtesy that I could scarce believe it. As I turned into Norfolk Place and slowed expecting the “Bendy Bus” behind me to overtake me and then cut me up moments later, I realised that he was waiting for me to pick up speed and “go first”; giving me the same consideration he might a car or motorcycle – surely this man was new to driving a bus in central London ๐Ÿ˜‰

I arrived at Paddington in quite a good mood and that mood soared as I realised that I had a leisurely ten minutes to saunter onto the Swansea train and that I would be home before 2330h. Oh the hubris of such optimism… As I folded up my bike and climbed onto the first standard class carriage I should have been wary of the impending horror that awaited me, but I was still pleasantly buoyed up by the lovely evening and the lovely ride.

The wheels started to come off right away. There was a young woman blocking the entrance to the carriage, attempting rather half-heartedly to lift a suitcase that could have easily accommodated my not inconsiderable form, if not her own as well, from a perfectly safe and innocuous position at the base of the luggage rack to the very top shelf. It was __clear__ that she was not going to be able to lift it, and it was fine where it was, so I politely and kindly suggested to her that she leave it there and I’d put my bike “up top” to save her the trouble. Oh my, if looks could kill… I swear I was nice, friendly and not even remotely patronising, but she was not impressed;

“But I want to get it out of the way; it needs to be out of the way!”

I smiled, counted to five and replied;

“Erm, it __is__ out of the way, and if you manage to lift it up above your head and put it on the top there, I’m just going to put my bike where it was, which is a totally acceptable place to put it as it is quite out of the way, so you see you needn’t bother at all. Why struggle?”

More scowling, and now a look that seemed to read ‘My God you’re a pervert, you just want to lull me into a false sense of security and then…’ (I’m not kidding, she really did look at me like that – for the record I was wearing basketball shorts, high-vis gear and a bike helmet; not the most intimidating or powerful I have ever looked either)

“But I need to get it up on the top of here. Look it’s in the way”,

she said, indicating how the suitcase in no way impeded the passage of any normal sized horse, let alone human being.

By this time my arms were starting to hurt and shake and tremble from holding my folded bike out at almost arms’ length, ready to heave it up onto the top shelf of the luggage rack and I was starting to get annoyed.

“Look I don’t care which way round, but my bike either needs to go up there, or where your bag is; you decide.”

Bewildered and now apparently even more frightened of me, even though I was really making an effort to be non-threatening and pleasant the girl backs away and starts loudly telling her two friends what a dick I am.

I decide to simply get on with things, place my bike on the rack, ignore her off the cuff character assassination and get on with my life. So far this is a minor thing, my pleasant evening has not yet been meaningfully marred and I find a seat.

Things settle down, the train leaves and then the Train Manager appears… Now I __am__ a big fellah; I’ll be the first to admit that I could stand to lose a couple more stone, let alone “a few pounds” and I am rarely comfortable with commenting on other people’s size, but this guy was FAT. I could hear him struggling to breathe and the sounds of his clothes dragging on the seats behind me over the sounds of my iPod as he approached and wheezed out “All tickets and passes, please!”. Why should this bother me you ask? Well it would not have done if the following had not happened… The Manager stopped next to my seat, inspected the ticket of a gent opposite me and then proceeded to treat said “customer” as though he were something that he had found, unwelcome, on the bottom of his shoe. The Customer may well always be right, but not on First Great Western apparently. Despite the fact that the gent in question had a ticket, and despite the fact that he maintained that he had been told he could travel on it, but because it was a Gatwick to Swansea ticket that was supposed to be used via Reading, not London, this repellent Train Manager proceeded to talk over and insult this genuinely polite and contrite passenger who just wanted to do whatever was necessary to be “on the level”. Even though I know that (at least until recently) it would have been well within his discretion to allow this poor chap to use his railcard despite being forced to make an on-train purchase he insisted on beating this guy down verbally and going on and on about how his railcard was irrelevant once already aboard a train, for some time after the guy had said that he would pay the full fare! All of this would have done little more than cause minor annoyance if the Train Manager had not managed to elbow me in the face twice as he tried to take this guy’s money (once after me protesting about the first elbowing) simply because he was too damn FAT to stand and operate in the aisle! I pointed out to him, politely and calmly that I didn’t appreciate being elbowed in the face and he looked at me with nothing less than contempt and rather spat out a desultory “sorry” that could not have been less sincere if he’d tried.

I was now fuming.

He checked my ticket and buggered off.

I decided to calm down, it wasn’t worth getting upset about, he was just an arrogant, fat old git and not worth my annoyance.

When I sit in the aisle seat, and I have my bicycle with me on the train, I often hang my helmet on the corner of the seat in front – there is a “hand-hold” that makes it a pretty secure place to put it, and I have never received any complaint from fellow passengers or FGW staff about it, so I continue to do it.

About ten minutes after the elbowing, fattie comes barreling back down the carriage towards us – still unable to properly fit between the seats – and catapults my helmet into my face.

I’ll admit I was a little shocked and I did indeed exclaim, quite angrily;

“Jesus Wept!”

What I hear from behind me as I do this is a pointed retort from the Train Manager;

“I beg your pardon?”

I looked around to face him, and simply replied;

“I said ‘Jesus Wept!’ because you just knocked my helmet off there into my face.”

Bold as brass – and remember that this guy is essentially at the sharp end of customer service;

“Stupid place to put it, and I don’t appreciate that kind of language.”

Before he turned on his heel and waddled down into First Class leaving me speechless…

My evening was now suffering quite badly from the Tuesday Crazy.

Another ten minutes went by and I decided to get up out of my seat in advance of arriving in Reading, in order to not inconvenience any of my fellow travelers as I donned my high-vis gear and retrieved my bike form the luggage rack. I was just doing up final zips and buckles when a voice, right by my ear said;

“You look bloody ridiculous! You’re a brave one if you’re gonna go into Swansea dressed like that, you pillock!”

Now I am not often stuck for something to say, but as I looked into the floating eyeballs (floating in booze) of the crazy, curly haired piss artist that was 4 inches away from my face I found myself utterly speechless. He wobbled for a moment, in the way that practiced drunkards do, not really in any danger of falling, but making me feel a tiny bit seasick to watch him. He mumbled a refrain of “fucking idiot” and then wobbled back to the buffet ‘bar’.

I looked around at my fellow passengers. Those that were not pretending to be oblivious met my bewildered gaze with bewilderment of their own; none of us had __any__ words. I pulled my riding gloves on and went to retrieve my bike and then to stand in the vestibule by the carriage door, to await our impending arrival at Reading.

“Seriously, man, you look like a complete twat. What were you thinking? I mean I applaud your bravery dressing like that in Swansea, but you’re off your head” (You are going to have to imagine the slurring and ‘drunk talk’ I’m not completely sure how to write it).

This time I managed to make words come out; I fixed his gaze – as best I could with the low-level wobbling – and replied;

“Can you not see the bike and the helmet? I’m not dressed like this for fashion reasons, it’s because I’m about to ride a bike in the dark and I want to be seen by motorists. Also I’m getting off in a minute, at Reading, not Swansea, ok?”

He thought about this for a moment; I swear I could hear the gears grinding, not simply turning.

“Oh, you alright mate? Biking it are you? Reading? Are we not at Swansea yet?”

I looked plaintively at the FGW staff member running the buffet, who quickly looked away like a Wild West Saloon bartender who doesn’t want any trouble, and I realised I was getting no help there…

I decided to simply ignore this mad, alcoholic Weebl and “rise above it”, after all he wasn’t being violent (yet), and he was so drunk that he clearly had no idea what he was doing, saying or even where he was. The high moral ground is hard to get back after you’ve stooped to such a man’s level, so I decided to rest on the high ground.

He went away, and started berating the Buffet guy – Karma in action if I ever saw it.

Unseen by me, during these little exchanges was a lady in her late forties or perhaps early fifties, who after drunken weirdo had left me be came over and asked me, with a twinkle in her eye;

“Would you like me to kill ‘im?”

I retained my dignified position and smiled and then replied;

“That’s a very sweet offer, but the paperwork and so forth… He’s really not worth the effort.”

She smiled back, offered me a quiet high-five and I decided to reciprocate; again the foolishness of optimism about human beings… Instead of high-fiving me, she locked her fingers into mine, looked deep into my eyes and said;

“You don’t see that kind of dignity any more, and yet it is the best way.”

I’m not good at “reading signs” from the opposite sex, but I was being hit on – with a BIG bat…

Now, I’m single, I find a wide array of types, ages and so forth to be attractive amongst women, but this was not (even in my deeply frustrated state – 37 months and counting!!) what I was looking for. She was a little bit too much older than me for my taste, a little bit too drunk, I was starting to realise, and as she came closer I noted with some horror that she did not smell all that great either and while I had been cycling to get in the state that I was in, she had apparently been at a bar with an old school friend… *boggle*

Oh the horror.

She followed me off the train a few moments later, insisted on “escorting me out” of the station as she put it, and all the while I am smiling and trying not to run – after all I didn’t want to be mean to her, she was just as lonely as me – clearly – and just drunk enough to hit on a stranger a good fifteen years younger than her, but she was a lot less unpleasant to be around than Weebl had been…

At the entrance to the Station it was only by dint of me mounting my bike that I dodged a very drunk attempt on her part to throw her arms around me, and while I felt a tiny pang of guilt as I sped away into the night I was mostly relieved to be on my own, and likely to be free of the Tuesday Crazy once more – particularly as there were only thirty-five minutes of Tuesday left.


I saw a hero of mine on the Tube last night…

…but I was “trapped” at the other end of the carriage and rather as expected he got off the train at the next stop (Westminster). Still it was nice to see him and to see someone of his stature using the Tube rather than insisting on a car and driver. So without further ado, Lord Ashdown, on the Jubillee Line:

Lord Ashdown on the Tube

Now, “Back to the accounts!”, so to speak…

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EOF


London by night, then into the belly of the Whale.,.

So, this evening I walked from work (the corner of Webber Street and Blackfriars Road), to Henry’s, a bar of some repute (though not greatly deserved as it turns out) just off the apple market in Covent Garden. I was there in order to join with some chums in the pursuit of levity in the face of the impending departure of one of our number. That is to say that “Young Tom” as I have decided to dub him, is scant days away from quitting the capital and heading for the walled fastness and medieval splendour of York. Clearly we are all sad to see him go, and if it were not so laudable goal as the pursuit of not mere erudition, but the furthering of thought and the store of human knowledge then I think we would all be rather perplexed as to why.

And so we dined and wished him well, but then once dinner was done and the party scattered to their various hearths (or at least in the direction of them), I was left with the unavoidable truth that I had not yet filled my quota of daily walking.

For the benefit of the reader who may be unfamiliar with dear old London in the early twenty-first century, allow me to explain why I was initially unenthusiastic about walking for my health through her streets at a little before ten of the clock. Gone are the days of a London that dutifully sleeps. At any time of the year one can reliably expect the West End to be teeming with a strange mรฉlange of tourists, drunken youths and raucous office workers, and to make matters worse I am always unsure of how safe it may or may not be to avoid the West End by using the Royal Parks at night. The upshot is that in order to do my quota of walking, I would have to negotiate the wide-mouthed tourists and the revellers, not to mention the n’er do wells of the night-time city, by walking through Covent Garden, across Leicester Square, over the corner of Soho and then down Oxford Street to Marble Arch and Hyde Park and then along the Bayswater Road until I recognised my surroundings well enough to cut back north(ish) to Paddington and my train home.

As it was, the walk was not so bad. I did have to swerve around the aforementioned, disparate groups quite a lot – it seems that very few people walk through the late evening in London with anything approaching a purpose, and I suppose it is only my new-found desire to do so that leads me to notice. After all, I have no antipathy towards these jolly folk out enjoying our glorious and historic capital… I just wish they would not clog the place up so.

Having arrived on Praed Street an hour later, and secured an insanely over-priced bottle of mineral water from the Budgens opposite Paddington Station, I wandered down the slip and was lucky enough to be in time for the last high speed train that stops at Reading. As I walked through the open barriers I noticed that the lights were dimmer than usual, or at least I had not noticed this gloomier look to late-night Paddington before, and as I looked up at the reds and whites of the ironwork under the roof I realised that under this subdued lighting the ceiling did put me in mind of the gullet of the whale in Pinocchio. So out of the sea of people and into the belly of the whale I went and the rest is a tale for another time.

Night all, sleep well…

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EOT


And for those that are interested…

A map of this morning’s foot-based odyssey:


View Larger Map

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EOT


Walking to work…

Well I had my first go at walking from Paddington to the office today, and I have to say it was really rather lovely… I mean I am knackered, and I’ve realised that this is not going to be a valid use of my morning when I need to meet someone straight from work in the evening (a little bit more sticky that riding on the Tube to be honest), but it was a real delight to walk through the Capital in the morning, and over half the route is along or through Royal Parks, so it’s really lovely.

I marked the occasion by taking this photo:

Walking to Work #1

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded how cool it is and how lucky I am to be in London…

Hope y’all have a great day ๐Ÿ™‚

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EOT


Grey Monday…

Only people who commute to work via public transport can truly understand how completely depressing it is to wake up to grey skies and rain on a Monday morning. Why, you ask?Surely car drivers and pedestrians have as much to be depressed about; no one likes the rain. Well, here’s the thing; there is a particular smell and atmosphere when
fate groups damp people into enclosed spaces, and while commuting is pretty horrid when it’s really hot, nothing is quite up to the horror of a damp Monday morning.

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EOT


Things that you never thought you’d hear…

This morning my train into Paddington was quite badly delayed; this is not unusual…

Anyway, just outside the station as we were waiting for the platform clearance the train manager came onto the tannoy to apologise, which he did and then during his patter he said:

“…I’m afraid to say that the only good news I can give you is that on the 1706h and 1806h you can now use cheap day returns and off-peak travelcards, which is a measure that came in yesterday…”

and the thing I never thought I’d hear was the carriage breaking out into spontaneous laughter; irate commuters and day trippers just seeing the funny side together. It was remarkably nice.