December 2008 Archives -

Stamped out by a Scrooge

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stampsThe last few weeks have been a mostly full of trips to the Royal Mail sorting office. Not for fun, you understand – I do almost all my Christmas shopping online, as all sane people should – but because I always miss the deliveries. Last night, I took my latest red “We Missed You” slip along to the post office, performed my usual pleasantries with the office guy behind the counter and waited for my parcel.

While I was waiting, an elderly mother and her daughter came in, handling over their red slip in anticipation. A christmas present, I expect they thought. The daughter was plainly excited: “It better be good, we’ve come 15 miles for this”, she said, rubbing her hands with glee. Evidently, it was an easier delivery to find than mine, as the man came back with both mine and their letters within 15 seconds. “Ah yes,” he said to the excited daughter, “it’s a christmas card. They haven’t put a stamp on it. That’ll be 69 pence please.”

Now, I’m not one for public announcements to strangers. But as the “bah humbug” nature of the situation dawned on the couple and all the onlookers, I couldn’t stop a smirk spreading across my lips. I looked around. Several others in the now-silent room were having the same problem. The couple, meanwhile, just stood and stared at the envelope (sans stamps). I couldn’t stand the silence any more. “Ha. Merry Christmas!”

To dissolved fits of giggles from the onlookers, and fixed stares from the couple, I waltzed out. Nothing so far this Christmas has cheered me up quite as much as their disappointed faces, and for that I will surely go straight to hell.

A Real Water Crisis

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Maryland water main breaksI slumped on to the sofa after a successful venture into pre-Christmas Guildford, switching on Sky News to catch up with the day’s events while I chowed down on a couple of shortbread biscuits. Mid-munch, I was shocked by the urgency of the reporter’s voice as she described “a torrent, a watery avalanche that has ensnared tens of people fearing for their lives” over in America. This sounded terrible. Then, they said they were cutting to live shots of the terrible scene while transferring audio coverage to the local TV crew on the scene.
I was on the edge of my seat. This sounded as though it was a devastating scene, and I braced myself.
Maybe it was the shock. Maybe it was the relief. But what appeared on the screen, I’m afraid so say, make me instantly laugh. A water main had burst, making an admittedly large amount of water cascade down a local road, catching motorists unawares. And that was the scene that confronted me as I sat, mid-munch. The reporters evidently sensed this was the greatest amount of coverage they were ever going to have, and began ramping up their descriptive abilities. “The magnificent crews are attempting to LIFT people outta there,” they said, as if this was the riskiest manueuvre out of all the (non-existant) choices they had available. “HERE WE GO, HERE WE GO!” his colleague interrupted, as a human-sized basket swung into screenshot. Slowly, the helicopter crew lowered the basket through the windswept trees. After about 5 minutes of inane chatter, the basket was nearly in position. They sadly misjudged, and the basket collapsed onto the roof of one of the stranded cars. “THE… THE BASKET’S COLLAPSED!” said a now slightly out-of-breath reporter. “The basket is ON THE ROOF!”
And so it carried on, with ever more dramatic headlines at the bottom of the screen as the unmitigated crisis developed. The American team, at the end sounding completely exhausted, were increasingly talked over by the Sky presenters in the UK, calmly discussing the matter, even noting as one of the stranded drivers struggled out of his car that they weren’t “wearing the right shoes for this – although I imagine he wasn’t planning on being stranded in torrents of water.” No flies on that reporter.
The episode ended after about an hour with everyone rescued and nothing much further to report on. We finally switched back to the normal UK presenters, who – like me – looked a little exhausted just listening to it all.
For almost the first time, it made me appreciate the typical reserved outlook of the British.

An Actual Update

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“I looked at your website just now. That was a waste of two minutes.”
Simon H was right. Nothing much but automated updates telling you where else I’d been while I wasn’t tending to the one website that started it all off! So here is an update that isn’t written by a web robot.
These last few months have been an ever-increasing whirlwind. The combination of an increasing remit at my *real* workplace, the increasing collection of websites under my burgeoning wing, and an impending wedding (more on that in later posts) all combine to make slightly dull.
I turned 30 a couple of months ago – a fact I was desperately unwilling to announce to many people. Jac and Michelle had other ideas though, and organised a stonking 30thsurprise party (photos here) that was set up at my own house while I was innocently watching Burn After Reading at the Guildford Odeon with Michelle. Thank you to everyone who managed to keep it quiet – or downright lie to me – and come along to celebrate just how old I’m getting. It was the first time that something had been organised around me that I hadn’t twigged about – I must be getting on a bit.
And isn’t time flying?! I’ve been 30 for 2 months already, and it seems like only yesterday that I was nursing the hangover from hell. Friends are starting to slide up the greasy pole of success, and the next 10 years are going to be a hell of a journey for all of us, I’m sure. Not least for Michelle and I, who are getting married in April.300_117275 Awesome stuff. Michelle, true to form, has been incredibly organised and nearly everything is already done. All that’s left, more’s the pity, is to pay for the blooming thing. One phone call a month ago involving flowers and photography increased our expected costs by £1000 – my face afterwards was a little like a bulldog chewing a wasp.
And now it is nearly Christmas, and it’s nippy. Winter chills are running through the economy too, with my old employer, The Pier, biting the shopfloor dust. I still have a few friends from those days, a couple of whom are still there. The Pier was a tale of two halves. On the one hand, it seemed inefficient – how can a company who had a more than 50% markup on a majority of items go under? And on the other hand, the customer service was legendary, mainly championed by its founder Alison Richards who left the company 2 years ago and died last year. Customers love the place, and so do the employees. pier_logoEven now, it seems like a retail family that are very sad that it’s all ending. If you’re on Facebook, the group “The (sinking) Pier” shows the loyalty the employees still have to the company. That’s something you can’t get in more places – but perhaps the lack of ruthlessness perhaps could have contributed to its downfall.
So, there are the main events in a nutshell. I’m planning on a few wedding-themed posts, and I’m planning to write more generally on inane topics. If you’re holding your breath, I have sympathy with your lungs – I only managed this post because I’ve had a few days holiday… 😉

Linkblog – November 10th to December 6th

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Linkblog between November 10th and December 6th:

Just so you know, this is an automated recent overview of the Linkblog, a collection of interesting links I find on my travels. The archives are here: