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First 999 call – Christ they’re slow…

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“Umm… Hang on… Ummm…” the operator said, a sound of scuffling papers in the background.
*20 seconds passes*
“What about now?” I ask.
“No, hold on…”
And so began my first ever call to 999, the emergency services. It was a little scary – I had no idea what to expect. “Ambulance”, I barked, and was duly put through to the appropriate department. During the first half a minute of my report of a car crash at Hindhead crossroads, she was apparently “tidying up a bit”. By the end of the conversation, she must have had the tidiest desk in the office – the envy of all her colleagues. Meanwhile, a car was steaming in some bushes, rammed up against a tree, with a young woman looking dazed and confused. She was lucky to be still conscious. Still, as long as the operator’s desk was tidy…
And I’ve STILL managed to get to work on time. An absolute miracle…

Alex’s Housewarming Party

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Alex M has moved house. Naturally, it was an excuse for an almighty piss-up, so Jonola, Michelle, Mark R and I descended on his new house. The gleaming, wrought-iron electronic gates that confronted us set the scene for things to come. Alex had described the house very positively – a huge farmhouse, extensive grounds, its own car park and a picturesque lake at the front. Time would tell whether this was the case, or whether it was just an enormous, delapidated wreck in the middle of nowhere, in need of a good lick of paint.
But anyway, back to the gate. Remembering Jac’s instruction to “just think of the Magna Carta”, I entered the correct code, and they slowly opened.
A quick drive down the road revealed that Alex’s description was spot on. It was an impressive find in the middle of Watford, even more so for ?750 a month. The lake, the outhouses, the barns, the large farmhouse, everything he’d mentioned was there. There were even some things he hadn’t mentioned. Like the coffins, cremated remains and several large headstones for example.
The party started off with a barbeque, which was only bought an hour before. The burgers and sausages sizzled, and soon enough Jac was to be found dropping most of his food on the grass, much to our delight.
Then, a new football keepy-uppy game. It was a good game – the ball is passed around, and the person who loses it the most gets to bend over and get a football aimed at him by the other players – but I seemed to be on a losing streak from the outset. However, Mark R got a sweetly-placed football on his posterior, which he seemed to enjoy immensely.
Jac, Mark and I then embarked on a mission to soak each other with a Super Soaker gun, so the rest of the group moved to the front of the house and decided a “homeless-style” fire was in order. We searched for a barrel to fill full of wood. It was then that we discovered, in a large barn, the coffin. And behind it, the headstones. Now, at 12 o’clock at night, in the pitch black, this is not something you really want to find. After bravely venturing in and running out screaming several times, we decided enough was enough, and found a barrel outside instead. Which, as it happens, was full of the most foul-smelling ash you could imagine. God knows what was burnt in there, but throwing caution to the wind I emptied it out. If it was a person’s remains, they are now happily sitting in the middle of a driveway, possibly being driven over every time a car passes. Apologies, Mr Burnt Man, I can only hope you didn’t ironically die in a car crash or something.
It later turned out that the building was used by the local synagogue for storing headstones and coffins, which they come along to collect every week. We rapidly reappraised the “bargain” that Alex had managed to find, and decided that a house without smelly ash, dark mysterious barns, headstones and coffins would be worth the extra loot.

Traffic Jams and Cows

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Life can be SO unfair. Especially when it involves cows.

The BBC have published the 10 worst places to drive, in terms of congestion. Every morning and almost every evening, it appears I drive through the 6th most congested stretch of road. And, damn and blast it, every time I go up to Head Office (twice a week), I pass through the 7th most congested part.

I tell you this because yesterday, I was stuck in a 2 separate traffic jams for a total of seven hours. My weekly visit to Head Office started at 7am, and I whizzed through the 30 miles to Winchester, happy with the fact I was on course to be on time, a rarity recently. Powering up the A34, I scythed through the early morning traffic, my 2 litre engine performing at full capacity.

Then, disaster. 6 miles before the A34/M4 junction, and 17 miles to Head Office, I found a long queue of traffic. “Probably just weight of traffic,” I muttered hopefully, as I peered round the corner to guage the extent of the problem. I could see a long snake of traffic, heading over the horizon. I swore. I needed to be in the office by 9 for a meeting. I swore again. I phoned ahead to tell the IT department my dilemma. “Ah, that’ll be the overturned meat lorry at the junction,” Peter breezily informed me, much to his amusement. “Queues for 6 miles!” I mulled this over. “6 miles. Oh GOOD. See you at 11 then.”
So there I was. After about an hour of stationary traffic, salvation came as I remembered the new FHM magazine in the boot. 1 hour later, it was read cover-to-cover, and I began people-watching. An old couple to my left, the man’s hands still firmly on the steering wheel, as if at any moment we would start moving. Fat chance. In front of me, a foreign family were plainly regretting the moment they had collectively thought, “Ooooh, the A34, now THAT looks like a quick route.” Behind me, a young girl and a middle-aged, well-built man fought. My mind flickered to the news that morning, about the abducted girl and the american marine, but my thoughts were quickly dispelled when the girl got out, turned rapidly into a middle-aged woman, and started debating with the rest of us why on earth she got married to a “pig like” him in the first place.
I neared the junction at 10.30am, 3 1/2 hours after I started. The sight that greeted me made it all worthwhile. In what seemed like a Monty Python sketch, police officers we guiding each car around enormous, and very dead, cow carcasses, spread across the road. We weaved through, and I explained to the poor policeman what a “cow of a day” I’d had. He wasn’t amused.
AND THEN, as I was driving home that night, the traffic announcer kindly informed my of a car crash at the SAME JUNCTION. Another hour of my life, and another magazine, later and I was finally on my way home.
7 hours of travelling in one day. Working from home, anyone?