August 2005 Archives -

Updates? What updates?

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Noticed anything different about No? That’s because I haven’t been posting. Things have reached an all-time low on the updates, and I’m afraid it’s the sign of things to come for a little bit. I’ve been churning out three new websites this month, and usually the last thing I want to do after all that is type another essay into the computer screen. Meanwhile, download this useful search tool, play HeliAttack and buy this – its very amusing. Also, keep checking the “linklog” on the left.
I’ve got another couple of sites to go, and then I’ll be right with you…

Into the Jaws of the North…

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I bade farewell to the office contingent, offering my last pieces of advice and advising on the best course of action if I failed to return. I was off, I said, to a dangerous place. A place where drinks are a penny a pint and where even Boris Johnson would be lynched. I was off, my friends, to Northern Liverpool.
The five hour trip started with a shock. Bombing along the M40 at a rate of several hundred knots, events came to a head. To kick off, a BMW – what else – had cut me up, deciding without warning that my lane was far more superior for his car. Within a second the car phone rang and, thanks to my ability to constantly fiddle with technology, the auto-answer feature helpfully and surprisingly answered the incoming call. And as a finale, before I’d even managed to answer the mystery caller, an improbably large and very green grasshopper emerged from the sealing of my driver door, twiddling its antenna as if to announce, “And for my next trick…”
Needless to say, I was stunned. I was happily driving along mere seconds ago and now here I was swerving out of trouble while finding an intruder in the car. And, of course, there was a mystery caller listening intently to all of it. Eventually I found my tongue. “Hello?” I uttered – and was relieved to find Paul D’s stepdad on the other end. The call having been answered, my next worry was my new green friend. God alone knows how he got in, but out he would most definitely have to go. I pulled over and opened the car door, shaking its metal frame in and out to dislodge the grasshopper while trying to pretend nothing was amiss to the caller. This was no mean feat. I temporarily lost concentration on the insect and when I regained focus, it had gone. I never did find out whether it flew in or out of the car.
Luckily, the rest of the journey was more humdrum. I found out half way through that I was actually heading for Lancaster which was a huge relief. After finding the hotel and munching through a small supper, I bedded down.
The morning broke with an argument outside. Attributing it to early morning blues, I dressed and trundled downstairs to find myself in the thick of World War Three, with several veterans arguing over their bar bill. Leaving them behind, I made my way to Heysham Power Station.
That’s right – a power station. A perk of my job is that I get to go to wierd and wonderful places and power stations are certainly wierd and wonderful. Housed in the wastelands near the sea, the stations have their own microcosm, their own way of life. And, in an unreported side effect of the recent terrorism, not reported on any maps which made it a bugger to find. I arrived a good half an hour late, before enduring a thirty minute search of my belonging, a test of my laptop for viruses and my power supply for legality – and an airport-style search of my clothes. Contrary to popular opinion, the safest place to be at the moment is in a nuclear power station.
All the while, I was being educated by my “mentor”, someone who is responsible for my whereabouts at all times. For example, did you know that every forty years a nuclear power station has ended its useful life and a new one has to be built? Also, were you aware that every nuclear power station is beside the sea so that the sea water can cool the nuclear reactors? Or that every employee is on an ultra-rare final salary pension? Or that after every station is shut down, people man it for ten years, twiddling their thumbs, in case anything goes wrong?
Then, finally, I was in. And as I was travelling home an hour later, I begun to question whether to whole travel/work ratio (a whopping 10:1 on this trip) was cutting a little off-balance…

Reducing my assets

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I’ve always been a tall lad. When I was nine years old, I was the first person of that age in school history to reach five foot, thereby earning the immense honour of being allowed to wear trousers instead of shorts. When I reached six foot, I was regularly conducting “beer runs” for boarders in my year, as I was the only one who looked old enough to get served at an off-license. And finally, at six-foot three inches and thirteen years old, I stopped growing – to the immense relief of my parents, who had been buying bigger and bigger clothes every few weeks for the best part of a decade just to keep up with the growth spurt.
So where did my body go next? Out, that’s where. At 16 I moved away from the boarding life into another college nearby, where I discovered girls, parties and non-compulsory sport. Gradually the exercise wained and food intake went up. At university, student grants and an amazing chinese restaurant just round the corner ramped the pressure up, and by the end of my scholarly years the damage was plain to see.
Four years later, I’ve decided take a small step and get some regular exercise. There have been some false dawns before, as regular readers will be quick to point out. There was the rowing machine, which was used for around a month before I grew weary of getting up at six in the morning and row away in the cold garage before work. There was the gym membership, which became prohibitively expensive when my increasingly busy job conspired to allow me only a visit a week at most. And now, dear friends, Michelle and I have invested in two gleaming new bicycles. After a week of Halfords losing, finding and then querying the order we’d placed and paid for, we emerged on Friday night to ride home on our new purchases. It was only about a mile and a half (“But it was uphill!” I remind everyone I recant the story to), but I had to stop three times and arrived home virtually dead. Still, everyone has to start somewhere and today we’ve managed a good 3 miles stint around Stoke Park. Combine that with our new healthy eating regime and I should cheer the bathroom scales up no end in a few weeks.
Although, of course, I’ve said that before…