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A Fishy Fact

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“Tell us your amazing facts,” challenged Downsy, the stand in (and remarkably good) radio presenter on my local radio station‘s breakfast show. I bristled with excitement. A few years ago, during my tender student “placement year” where I worked with Sun Microsystems, the spare time was devoted to emails, particularly jokes and a supreme Fact Focus. Every weekly release of Fact Focus, bristling full of random, useless and downright obscure facts, was a work of art. During the height of its success, 104 people signed up to receive the thing, a fact that puffed my chest in geek pride.
And now was the time to unleash on Surrey and Horth-East Hampshire my very favourite fact – a fact told to me by Chris H, a colleague at Sun. It is a fact that rises above all other, and I was sure that this little gem would get the airtime it deserved. I pulled over at the nearest layby just past Guildford, and texted my prized fact to the number they gave.
Just two minutes later, the DJ cut into a song with a few more facts that had been texted in. “And finally, the prize fact”, he announced. “Did you know,” – a smile prematurely spread across my face – “that St John’s Wood is the only tube station not to contain any of the letters of the word ‘mackerel'”. And with this, he dissolved in fits of giggles.
I was officially a font of useless knowledge. I was *proud*. I was even more proud when I found that the moment had been selected as a highlight of the show, and was repeated several times today.
And I can tell, underneath the sheer embarrassment, that Michelle was equally proud when her office radio announced my fact regularly throughout the day to her colleagues. She’s a lucky girl, I tell you.

Morning Wreckage

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“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, shivering in the cold, misty morning, patiently waiting for an ambulance.
“No, I’m from Wales”, he replied. “We ski in the summer.”
Before us was a considerable vehicular mangle, the result of a car collision mere moments before at the crossroads on the A325 in Surrey. A car in the opposing lane had wanted to turn right, slowed, got rammed from behind by the following car, and was pushed into the Peugeot 206 travelling in front of me. I managed with deft control to swerve into a friendly bush, nudging the 206 as I went past. That touch meant that I was now officially involved – and here we were, waiting for what resulted in 3 ambulances and 4 police cars. The driver most seriously injured was wafting in and out of consciousness, crying “why today, why today?” to anyone within earshot. His car’s front end was virtually nonexistant, concertinaed by one of the cars. He had the appearance of a professional wrestler – bald headed, well built, and a worrying taste in clothes. It turned out he was on his way to a motorcycling test (which finally explained his astonishing leather-clad get-up) and that this was the worst possible moment to have a crash.
Is there any good time to have a crash, I pondered as my eyes tracked over to the second driver. He had merely being trying to turn right, the poor blighter, a fact he was repeating ad nauseam. He was an older, slighter figure, lazily dressed and seemingly unaffected by the crash despite being sandwiched between two cars like a burger in a bap. The third figure, skulking by his shell of a car, was the perpetrator – the student driver who had failed to notice the slowing car in front and had inadvertently delayed a budding motorcyclists’ dreams. Steam was rising, and oil trickling, from his Rover and it was obvious that it would join the other two cars in the Farnham car dump, never to be rammed into a car again.
And then, of course, there was my car – my wonderful new car. Now slightly damaged at the front end. The light cluster was pushed in, the scrapes from the earlier nudge and prickly bush were evident down the right flank, and the bonnet had acquired a curve not unlike that of a squatting dog. It was still drivable, thankfully, and I was eager to be off, held back only by the interviewing policeman who was ambling over to me. He took my details in an inordinately cheery manner, remarking at the satellite navigation and mentioning at length that he wanted a Peugeot 407 too. Finally he asked me to take a breath test. “Have you taken one of these before?”, he enquired, and I smiled as I relayed the seven times I had previously been asked the same question. “Red!” he said, “you’re over the limit!” Shock and bewilderment contorted my face in equal measure, as my mind relayed the events of the last twenty-four hours. Toothpaste, fish and chips, blackcurrant cordial – that’s all I’d had since lunchtime yesterday afternoon. “Whhrrr…?” I responded desperately. “Only joking!” he remarked. I savaged him under my breath.
The crash scene got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as I drove away down the road. Now there’s the hire car and the repair garage to sort out. There are distinct advantages to a company car.

3 Year Anniversary – Bath again

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“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”
Hilaire Belloc
Two years ago, to celebrate out first anniversary, Michelle and I pootled off to take in the delights of Bath, braving all the jokes about “needing to wash” and “I should have a shower with a nice showerhead instead” from ‘amusing’ friends. Bath is a very picturesque place, with cracking restaurants, interesting museums and a shedload of shops. The trip was so blooming enjoyable we did it again last weekend, jokes and all.
The trip down was pleasant enough, but served to confirm one of my long-held geographical theories – the closer to Wales you get, the worse the weather becomes. After we sped through the rain (and a surprisingly-named town of Pennsylvania, causing Nick to ask “just how far have you gone?!” on a call from his romantic hotel in the New Forest), we arrived at the hotel at around 5 in the afternoon, after just the one wrong turning. We entered our room – and what a room it was. The majestic four-poster bed was accompanied by a side order of 12 deep red roses and champagne on ice. Marvellous.
Sadly we only had an hour to admire them before our stomachs marched us off to the Eastern Eye, a huge Indian restaurant in the town centre. It was essentially one big room, about 40 foot high and seemingly many miles long. It had been some sort of famous market area in the 1800’s apparently, famed throughout Bath, with ornate details on the walls and three glass domes set into the roof. I can only wonder at the protests that must have taken place when it emerged that it was turning into an Indian restaurant, of all things. Still, the setting was fantastic, with the food equally so, despite the dish I chose rendering my entire mouth numb for at least an hour.
By the time we’d finished there was nothing to do but get back to the hotel and sleep.
For following day we visited the Moon and Sixpence, and classy restaurant near the Roman Baths. Still suffering from the Indian the previous night, we barely managed a main course, and decided a window-shopping trip was in order to work the food off. We ventured into a nearby shopping arcade, and found a camera shop. A quick look at the digital cameras and Michelle was on a mission to buy one. After asking the assistants advice for a full 30 minutes, we nipped along to a cheaper shop and bought one, immediately debunking my schoolday retail theory that if you put in the hours, you’ll get the sale. Poor man.
And then, not to be outdone, I decided I was going to get a new mobile phone. And, in true geek fashion, I plumped for an O2 XDAII. As soon as my good friend from Phones4U gets me a hefty discount, it’ll be mine…
We left the next morning – back to Surrey, back to work. Ah well, we thought as Pennsylvania disappeared into the hazy distance – we’ll be back again…

Bloody Weather

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It was my weekly visit to Head Office, a 128 mile round trip from Guildford, and as I got ready for work, I was very pleased at my timekeeping. Regular readers will be aware of my struggle at getting to work on time – even the best planning can go wrong with the slightest error in my daily routine, or simply forgetting to charge my shaver the previous night. But happily all was going well this morning.
And then Mother Nature decided to throw in a googly.
The crunch under my feet signalled the start of my troubles. Snow simply refused to budge from its new home on my windscreen, and it completely confused my automatic windscreen sensors so much that the wipers seemed to have a vehicular fit every couple of minutes. Oh well, I thought as I slid my way through the blizzard along the main road towards the first major town on my journey, I’m half an hour early – it’ll be fine.
Thirty minutes later, I was 100 feet further along the road. Every car was straining to keep themselves on track. The queue for the M4, the motorway I needed, started 12 miles away from the junction, and I had handily started queueing just as a double decker bus careered into an innocent VW Golf. Then the local radio station summed up the situation: 21 schools had closed, the whole of Surrey was gridlocked, and every road I would be using waas declared an ice rink.
After 3 hours, I’d got 25 miles from Guildford. I passed the time by working out my average speed. 8.3 miles an hour. If things didn’t improve, I would arrive at Head Office at around 11pm. Terrific. Trying to raise anyone at Head Office was rather difficult – not only could many of them not get in, but many were still nursing the effects of the previous night’s Christmas party. It was when I saw people ahead pushing their cars up the hill that I took the immensely easy executive decision to head the hell home again. I phoned Nick; he was most amused by it all. As I write, he’s still battling home, having abandoned all hope of getting to his office.
I thought, as I imagine you do, that that would be the worst of it. It was while I was beginning to overcome severe drivers cramp and the frankly useless tyre grip that the thunder and lightning set in. Flashes arched across the sky, while snow fell, cars skidded across the road, and thunder rumbled through the clouds.
No sign of the locusts yet though.