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Diary

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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Tumbleweed

Tumbleweed

“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 wibbler.com 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… 😉

Toby McCombe arrives

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Toby McCombe

Toby McCombe

“At 6.22 today,” a text message informed me yesterday morning, “Toby Oliver McCombe was born. Baby and mum are fine.”

You know, it was only a few years ago when Nick and I were constantly out dancing the night away, drinking fine beer and regretting it the next morning. Now, he’s married, settled down – and has now become a dad!

Congratulations to Nick and Sarah – you are awesome. We’ll be visiting very soon…

Taken down

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It’s funny – tragedies only become real when they involve someone you know. And so it went yesterday afternoon, when I was forming an email to colleagues about a particularly burning upcoming issue. “Dear Michael and Gerd,” I’d managed to write before Lorraine sauntered into the room and announced, “So, heard about Gerd Mrodzek?”. I hadn’t. “He was in the Madrid plane crash. With his wife and two children. All missing.”
It was one of those moments when shivers go down your neck and words fail to appear. I’d been with Gerd a month earlier when he’d flown over for a project, and had spoken to him just 2 weeks ago. He was a happy man – always smiling, and amusing despite the language gap. He was always talking about his family, and was very proud of the things he did. And now he is missing, and everyone at the office knows what that means.
It’s strange when people you expect to be there just… aren’t. I gazed into the distance, remembering our meetings and his someones misplaced colloquialisms and amusing phrases on email.
My gaze lowered to the computer screen. I deleted “and Gerd.”

Comedy Commuting

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Yesterday, I have to admit, was out of the ordinary. I’d been needed at a client site in London, so I toddled off to a taxi at around 8.30 to catch the train. The next door neighbour managed to poke his head around the door at the same moment, and so we drowsily shared a taxi into town. The driver looked familiar, I thought as my bleary eyes started to focus. It bothered me all down the hill, and it continued bothering up the next hill. And then, sadly, the reason struck me – it was the same taxi driver who my good friend Jac, months earlier, had annoyed intensely by drunkenly eating a pizza in the car at 2am when being expressly asked not to. I sheepishly paid the fare immediately on arrival – rounding up to the nearest pound as a conciliatory gesture – and scarpered into the train station.
It was here that thinks went a little more unexpected. There, in front of me on the floor, were two ducks. Live ones, thank goodness – quacking and waddling away as if they were rushing to get a vital train. Even more unusual was the fact that no one else was remotely bothered by the spectacle. I attempted to be similarly blase about it, stepping over the waddling creatures just in time to get to the ticket machine before a rather portly gentleman, who looked as if just crossing the foyer would take a good hour. As usual, the train fare defied belief, and feeling financially raped I got a bottle of water and boarded the train to London.
Denmark Hill is not an easy place to get to, and after 2 more train changes I arrived, dripping slightly. A nice black suit combined with sweltering temperatures and a degree of lateness is not ideal, and as I rushed round the corner to their offices, I sipped the final swig of water before bumping into Jo Brand. Unusual, I thought. As I was staring at her, dishevelled, panting and unkempt (me, not her), a man started singing Opera extremely loudly from a balcony to my left, before being bundled inside by two men hiding behind a small balcony-based bush.
I wouldn’t have been surprised at this point if Jeremy Beadle, freshly reincarnated, popped out from behind a car with a microphone in his small hand, grinning inanely. As it was, I had to get on with things and, barely skipping a beat, carried on round the corner.
The rest of the day, thankfully, was less eventful. Apart from the man on stilts, but that’s another story.

Bye bye Mark and Julia…

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My friends Mark and Julia left for South Africa yesterday, and they’re clearly bonkers. South Africa, as I’m sure you know, is just beside Zimbabwe, the Worst Country In The World ™. It is also home to Johannesburg, proclaimed as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We all met on Saturday at The Woolpack in Bermondsey Street to wish him and Julia well. Apparently they could be anything between 3 months and 2 years. I’m guessing that it may be sooner rather than later…

Break a Leg – picture update

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Shunta's broken legSo Michelle and I visited Shunta on Sunday night with a surprise takeaway idea, and promptly found that he wasn’t hungry.
Still, Shaun and I pottered down to the local chinese, spotted a dog looking for all the world like it was driving a car (yes, DRIVING A CAR), got the chinese meal , laughed for about 5 minutes – breathless – at the dog again, and drove back. We discussed Lucy’s impending baby, Simon’s complete inability to help her at all, and how Buzz Junior is really quite a good game.
Simon also kindly dug out an x-ray of his leg break, and a fine break it is too…

Say what you need to say

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DSC_0043.JPG A song I’ve grown to love from the very first time I heard it 15 minutes ago (!) – “Say” by John Mayer.

Disclaimer: I actually first heard it on Alex’s site.
Disclaimer: In fairness, Jac has been raving about John Mayer for ages, but I callously ignored him…

Break a leg

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Shunta's broken leg“Simon was playing football today,” Shaun told me in hushed tones. “He’s broken his leg in three places and is in the Royal Surrey.” The was a moment’s pause. If I’m honest, I was waiting for a punchline – The Hunter brothers are notoriously hilarious, and this could well have been another in a long line of pranks.
But, unfortunately, it wasn’t. Simon was holed up in the Ewhurst Ward of the Royal Surrey County Hospital, his legs in bits after a swingeing tackle against his Police colleagues. Broken in three places, for crying out loud – he never does anything by halves.
And, as it turned out, the timing leaves something to be desired. In a month’s time, his wife Lucy is due to produce a second child – leaving her with an enormous tummy, one awesomely active child and a one-legged husband. And Simon is due to graduate to full policeman duties – which will now have to be delayed for months.
I’m told Simon produced several top-class jokes while he lay on the football field, dosed up on laughing gas. “I’ve broken my leg in three places”, he told Shaun over the phone. “I’m not going back to those three places again.” He asked his colleagues if he would get sacked from the Police as he “hadn’t got a leg to stand on.” Now he’s at home, feeling a bit down and in need of phone calls and visits. As he mentioned on the phone tonight, “whenever you come, I’m likely to be here.” So, send him emails using this form and phone messages of support if you can. Brighten the little fella’s day.

Alison Richard memorial cancelled

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Sadly, word has reached me that Alison’s planned memorial service in London has been cancelled. It is immensely sad that this is the case.
Alison’s brother Alan has put some further thoughts here:
“I thought the funeral was a wonderful send off to Alison, who incidentally was not a strongly religious person, and the Obituaries (thanks Jeremy) was another recognition of her achievements. I think that it is better now to leave her to rest in peace.
It is possible I shall turn up outside the church in case anyone has not been notified and take them off for a drink and/or a bite to eat in Alison’s memory.”


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