Monday, 30 July 2012

Acid Reflux

Took part in my second half marathon of the year on Sunday. I say 'second,' but if you want to get technical it was my first, as the previous race was a '20k' race, which (if you want to get technical) is only about 12.5 miles. I actually came 3rd in that race (and 1st in my age category) and I still have no idea how that happened considering how horribly drunk I got at a party the night before.

Sunday's race started in similar fashion, as I went to a BBQ/pub session on Saturday afternoon/night and probably got slightly more inebriated than is advisable the day before a half marathon. Indeed, upon opening my eyes on Sunday morning, the last thing I wanted to do was even draw breath, let alone drag my arse over 13 miles of  hill and dale. But I somehow found the strength and with a little help from my significant other, a few hours later I was milling about amongst the crowd of neon-clad competitors at the race starting area. I also drew some motivation from the fact that one of my girlfriend's friends was also competing in her first ever half marathon, and she'd brought a small fan club with her who were also quite enthusiastic about my involvement too, so hats off to them. Anyway, the starting klaxon went and as it did, the massive acid reflux raging up my throat did nothing to help my case (damned real ale coming back for revenge). To be honest, the first couple of miles of a half marathon are pretty bad when you're hungover, but after you start to sweat out the toxins and you find your pace, it isn't so bad. In fact, I'm a firm believer that the sugar from the alcohol stored in your body actually helps with fatigue as the race goes on. Evidence? Of course: I finished the race in 27th place out of 410 runners, with a personal best time of 1:26:32. Not massivley impressive in the grand scheme of things (I didn't win, clearly) but I took part in the same race last year and finished 50th with a time of around 1:31:00, so to come in 20-odd places higher with a personal best time is pretty damn good - especially with a hangover! Next race is Bristol half marathon at the end of September.

Might get hammered the night before and see if I can continue this streak of improving times!

Friday, 27 July 2012

2012? You Sure...?

I went to watch some Olympic football yesterday evening. Not at the actual venue (Old Trafford), just in a pub in the centre of the town where I’m now (temporarily) residing. Yep, Team GB took to the field to take on the might of, erm, Senegal in their first game of the 2012 Olympics. As expected, it was a pretty boring game, especially seeing as Team GB is basically England Lite: A team made up of predominantly English footballers who weren’t good enough to be included in the shambolic line-up that Roy Hodgson took to the Euros...but with Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy thrown in just to qualify is as Team GB, and not England Lite. Just to be clear. Team GB, not England Lite. It ended 1-1 after Craig Bellamy’s well taken volley was cancelled out by a late Senegal equaliser. I didn’t see the equaliser though, as I’d left the pub and gone home by that point. Why? I’ll tell you:  It was down to the almost constant torrent of foul racist language, broadcast without any embarrassment, by quite a few members of the other inhabitants of the pub. I was disgusted, yes, but most of all I was disappointed. Disappointed that this kind of thing is still happening in today’s supposedly multi-cultural society.

A number of comments, ranging from laughing at Senegalese players’ names, to the berating of the black Team GB players, to the discussing of why these same black players shouldn’t be playing for Team GB were all flung about the bar. I suspect the vast majority of the people coming out with this drivel were pissed, as most of them looked like they’d been drinking in the sun all day, and not y’know, working. The generally tanned appearance of their tattooed arms and necks combined with the kind of slurred speech only attainable through sinking 12 pints of Strongbow in the afternoon sun gave the game away. What I guess I’m trying to say is that last night’s events told me all I needed to know about the town I’m (temporarily) residing in. Here we are, on the eve of the fucking Olympic Games, in the year 2012 and there are still people who think it’s either funny or clever to be openly racist. It makes me ashamed to be British that all the peoples of the world descend on these Isles, and are welcomed with open arms, when just under the crust, intense hatred bubbles away.

 It gets worse, by the way – before I’d even heard any of the shit coming from the amoebas dotted around the bar, I’d picked up a local newspaper that had been left on a nearby table. I opened it up to find that somebody had scrawled  in biro “dirty cheating paki’s” (sic) above a photograph of two muslim men who had been charged with benefit fraud or something. Now, I’m not Dr Watson (he was always the brains behind the Baker St operation), but I’ll wager that the person who wrote that delightful message doesn’t work either. And probably lives on benefits (possibly fraudulently). And is probably on the same intellectual level as the arseholes who think it’s funny to shout racist comments across a bar in 2012. How do I know this? Well, the crossword in the paper had been attempted and given up on (and most of the answers given were wrong anyway), and the jobs section at the back had a few pen marks around several labouring positions on offer, as well as a few scribbles and doodles in the page margin.

So to surmise, your honour: racist, uneducated and either out of work or looking to change professional direction. And I’m guessing that due to the location of the evidence (a fucking pub) it’s the former of the last point rather than the latter.

So there we are. Racism is alive and kicking in the town where I am currently (temporarily) residing. I totally understand that this incident (I’ll combine the newspaper and the comments as one occurrence to save space) is not indicative of the whole of our island nation’s society/values/beliefs etc, but it’s a little bit worrying given the fact that the motherfucking Olympics is being held a few hundred miles away. Thankfully, I’m only in this town temporarily and will be making an effort to relocate to a more cosmopolitan city as soon as is convenient. But not London. Too busy and full of fucking foreigners (see below).

Monday, 23 July 2012

Shock: Northerner endorses London!

I spent this weekend down south in our fair capital city. I spent a week down there earlier this year for work purposes, and the hotel I was put up in had no hot water for most of the stay (something about a dodgy boiler I believe), so as a consolation for having to endure cold showers and boiling a kettle to have a shave, the hotel kindly issued me with a voucher for a free night’s stay whenever I wanted. I didn’t think I’d ever use it to be honest, but being stuck for something to do this past weekend, I rang them up and called in my free night. So off my better half and I went to London.

We took a National Express coach, which was fine...apart from the fact that the chemical toilet at the rear of the vehicle stank like someone had emptied a demijohn of 3 week old piss into a super soaker and then emptied that all over the walls and ceiling. Seriously, the stench of piss from that cubicle was fucking vile...and on one of those coaches that has sealed windows and, conveniently, broken air-con...well, you get the idea. We moved to the front of the coach to escape the acrid fumes of urea but my heart went out to the poor bastards who had to sit at the back in the midst of them. Also – what is the deal with those new coaches? You know, the ones with the caterpillar antennae for wing mirrors? What fucking moron decided that having sealed, double-glazed windows was a good idea?

We got to London Victoria at about 1pm, so we spent the rest of Saturday visiting the various free museums in the locale. The Victoria & Albert was pretty cool – they’ve got some quite impressive displays in there, and you’d have to spend about a day to actually see all of it. It’s not on a par with the Louvre scale-wase, but the Louvre is just fucking ridiculous and offers an unrivalled opportunity for museum/gallery burn-out. You know – when you’ve seen enough old pots and paintings and you’re just wandering aimlessly and thinking about having a beer or a sandwich. After the V&A, we popped across the road to the Science Museum. I’ve been there quite recently so wasn’t massively surprised to find that most of it was still the same, but my companion had never been so we went in. I was mainly interested in seeing the new Alan Turing exhibition as he’s a bit of a legend in the field of computing, but the exhibition was a lot smaller that I expected and also a lot busier, so scope for enjoying it was minimal. Far too many people trying to take pictures of enigma machines and the Pilot ACE through glass with a camera with THE FLASH ON. Seriously, why? Turing would be spinning in his grave if he knew these morons were looking at his magnum opus and committing such offensive miscalculations of logic. Sadly he can’t, as he was cremated – but ‘spinning in the wind’ just doesn’t sound as good.

After the Science Museum we were going to try the Natural History Museum, but the queue looked similar to the one that’ll be spewing from the gates of Hades come Judgement Day, so we passed and headed to a nearby pub for light refreshment instead. After a quick tube trip and check-in at our (free) hotel, we found another decent pub and had several more drinks whilst watching some Australians play a version of cricket that involved lots of lager, kicking bottles and basically falling about. Much more entertaining than the boring shite you see on TV. So that was Saturday.

Sunday involved more of the same, plus a visit to Westminster Abbey (and the spot where I stood outside the Abbey for about 3 hours during last year’s Royal Wedding, not as part of the crowd but as a part of the naval contingent for the route lining – but that’s another post), the Houses of Parliament, The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Cleopatra’s Needle, Buckingham Palace and several parks and gardens. Finally, we got back on the coach (not the same one from Saturday’s journey, thankfully) and returned from whence we came. All in all, it was a really good weekend and really changed my opinion of London. Yes, it’s busy and congested and there are whole battalions of rude and arrogant people walking about (and swarms of foreign school kids wearing brightly coloured rucksacks and whom refuse to acknowledge you even exist as they march towards you)...but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer number of things to see and do and places to visit - most of which are completely free.

After visiting Paris a few years ago and being a bit shocked to find that virtually everything wasn’t free, I must eat a tiny morsel of humble pie and concede that London is actually a pretty decent place to visit. I wouldn’t really want to live there just because of how busy it is (the tube alone would drive me insane), but as a place to visit – it’s OK. Which is quite convenient really, considering the Olympics kicks off this week and the world and his wife are coming to visit. Wouldn’t want to be getting the tube at any point in the next two weeks though, and thankfully, I don’t have to.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Living Things

I seem to be doing quite a bit of moaning on here at the moment. So today, I’ll change tack. I’m going to talk about something quite positive. Not, just positive – amazing. Here it is:

Coincidentally, this is how I look after a 13 mile run.

Linkin Park’s latest album Living Things. I’m by no means a diehard Linkin Park fanboy, but I must confess to having bought each of their albums since Minutes to Midnight. That puts Linkin Park into a very select category of bands that I like: the ones where I’ll actually go into a physical shop and hand over physical money for a bona-fide, totally legal, official copy of an album. Other bands that occupy this strand are Motion City Soundtrack, Jimmy Eat World, Good Charlotte (what?!) and, at a push, Green Day.

I listened to a few of Living Things’ preview tracks on iTunes last week and quite liked what I heard, so yesterday I went into a local shop called ‘That’s Entertainment’ and handed over a ten spot for a copy. And all I can say is: Wow.

Have you ever heard a decent song from a band you kind of know about, and then been fooled into buying the album? Only to discover it’s a load of shite and the only tune worth listening to is the one you’ve already heard to death on the radio? The Fray’s ‘How To Save A Life’ is a perfect example. Not so here. I’m pretty sure that most of the tracks on Living Things either won’t be released as singles or, if they are, won’t receive much airplay – but that’s irrelevant. That’s because it rocks with unprecedented levels of ‘Holy Shit – this is a good tune.’ There’s one song that I’m not massively keen on (Victimized), but only because it’s a wee bit too shouty, but even that’s still toe-tappingly addictive. For the most part the tracks switch from angsty yet tuneful (In My Remains, I'll Be Gone, Burn It Down, Lie Greed Misery, Powerless), to melancholic and...well, tuneful (Castle of Glass, Skin to Bone, Roads Untravelled).

And that’s what makes this album so fucking great: every song has a distinct flavour and a melody that you can actually remember. And hum. Quietly to yourself, in my case. Linkin Park’s last album A Thousand Suns was a bit hit and miss (only the tracks Waiting for the End, Burning in the Skies, and The Catalyst stick in my mind), but this new offering is truly masterful. Some people don’t agree, but everyone’s tastes are different. And to be fair, that particular blogger appears to have a much wider knowledge of the rock genre than I do, but what can I say? I like what I hear when I play Living Things.

The last album I bought that I could just put on and let play all the way through (without feeling inclined to skip a track that I thought was a bit shit) was My Dinosaur Life by Motion City Soundtrack. That was a truly blockbusting album (not so sure their recently released follow up is even half as good though), and Living Things is definitely in the same category. More please, Linkin Park. After a world tour and a break, naturally.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Root

They charged me. Just like I knew they would. Even though I was told by at least three different telephone operators that I wouldn’t be. Barclays charged me £8 for taking a standing order from the wrong account. This tells me a number of things – most notably that the people we speak to when we ring up ‘customer services’ don’t actually communicate with each other, and that they are liars who will say anything just to close your call. To their credit, they did refund the charge after I spent another half hour on the phone explaining the whole mess to TWO different operators...but this isn’t nearly good enough for a multi-national corporation that we are meant to be able to trust. Ultimately, this whole debacle has resulted in me closing one of my current accounts just so they can’t repeat the whole process for a third month, and will inevitably lead to me switching banks. It’s a shame, because Barclays have such impressive online and mobile banking apps that I really like using...but when they start charging their customers for mistakes that they themselves created...well, that’s just not cricket.

Went for a ride on the motorbike on Sunday. My Honda hasn’t been getting much use of late due to the horrendous British summer, and my proximity to work now that I’ve moved again (I can cycle in I do), so thought I’d fire it up and take it for a spin just to give it a blow out. I’ve had a few problems with the thing in the few months I’ve owned it, and have spent a small fortune getting it all sorted (I think the previous owner had just let it stand in their garage for a while as they didn’t need it after getting a car). These ‘things’ have included new oil seals in the forks, a basic service, an oil filter and oil change, a new front fork, a new back tyre, a new chain and sprockets, a bit of welding to the thing that holds the luggage box on...and now I also think I need a new battery as starting it has become a bit of a game of chance.

Two months ago I rode it down to Dorset and as soon as I reached my destination, I noticed a massive nail stuck in my week-old back tyre. Grrr. I took it to ProTyre in Poole and they sorted it for £30, which is cheaper than a whole new tyre...but imagine my horror and disgust when after this Sunday’s ride I noticed that the front tyre had a nail in it too! For fuck sake! I’ve been driving cars/vans/trucks for a good few years now and never had a puncture or a nail in a tyre...and within weeks I get two stuck in my motorbike’s tyres! How is this even possible? Surely the law of averages dictates that with less wheels, that are thinner than a car’s, I should have less chance of hitting a fucking nail that’s just been casually thrown into the middle of a random road? Who exactly is throwing these nails around?! The mind boggles. Alas, I now have to fork out another £30 to get this new nail removed and the front tyre repaired. Sigh. The costs continue to mount.

You know, when I think about it, every shitty thing that happens isn’t shitty in itself. It’s not like some malicious cunt has gone out of their way to do something horrible to me – it all comes down to money. When it all boils down, something that I feel is ‘shit’ usually is so because it involves me handing over money to have the status quo restored to my daily life. Mental isn’t it. None of the crap that’s happened recently has been harmful or injured me in any way, it’s just been the way of the world or fate or whatever removing money from my grasp. Barclays’ bullshit, the motorbike issues...both equal no physical harm, just a smaller bank balance. Makes you think doesn’t it. Money truly is the root of being in a pissed-off mood.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Easy Rider

OK, so I’ve kind of got over the issue with Barclays. I just couldn’t believe the fucking gall of them – charging me £8 for an error that they were solely to blame for. Jeez. But that’s done now...well, until they try to take the charge at the end of the month, even though I’ve been assured they won’t. We’ll see...and I’ll report back. Roll on next month so I can change banks. I saw something on BBC 1’s The One Show the other day that was fairly interesting – it was an item about switching bank accounts and how easy it’s actually meant to be. Again – we’ll see.

But onwards – today I want to talk about my transportation issues. When I knew I was taking a pay cut, I decided that owning a car in this financial climate was a bit of a waste of money. You only have to look at the price of petrol these days to see that: £1.32 is about the average price of a litre of unleaded where I now live, and if you ask me, it’s still ridiculous even though most people have pretty much conceded that it’s not going to change (or go down, at the very least) any time soon. So, as I said two posts ago, I sold the trusty Proton to my dad and embarked on a mission to get myself on the road via an altogether more cost effective means: a motorbike.

I booked myself onto a CBT (compulsory basic training) course in January, and it was basically just riding around some cones in a closed car park, followed by a bit of on-road tuition. It’s fairly straightforward for someone who’s got previous riding experience as I have, but I can imagine it’s a bit daunting riding a motorbike through traffic if you’ve never done it before – especially when you’ve got to wrestle with the actual operation of the machine and also have your wits about you with regard to road safety and other (usually extremely ignorant) road users (read: twats in cars). After I passed my CBT, I got myself a little 125cc 4 stroke – a Sinnis Max 2 – and found it to be an extremely capable and reliable machine. If you’re thinking about getting a motorbike and only have a CBT to ride with (meaning you have to use L-plates and can only have a 125, for those not familiar with biking stuff), then the Sinnis bikes are a really good place to start. True, they’re manufactured in China, and most ‘bike snobs’ will baulk at this, but to be fair Sinnis are a British company based in Brighton and their bikes seem to be of a quality a few steps higher than most other Chinese-manufactured bikes.

Sinnis Max 2: Not your average Chinese-built bike.

So I had my Sinnis Max, and I was quite happy with its low maintenance, 90mpg fuel economy and £100 per year insurance premium. Added to £15 road tax and no MOT costs due to its age, and I was onto a money-saving winner. Then I got offered my new job. It was 30 miles away. I tried out the journey using an A road, and it took me just over an hour to get there from where I was living. Hmmm. Not the best commute time. I factored in rush-hour traffic and computed that using my Sinnis, with its 60-65mph top speed, it’d probably take me an hour and a half to get to work every day (and the same going home): that’s 3 hours in the saddle every day. 15 HOURS A WEEK. Quite simply: No.

I had an alternative – the motorway. The motorway runs alongside this particular stretch of A Road, but due to my bike being a 125 I wouldn’t even bother and besides, being only a CBT holder I wasn’t allowed to ride on the motorway anyway. So I took the decision to attempt to get my full license. Step 1 involved me completing the third theory/hazard perception test I’ve done in my time (after the car and HGV ones I’ve done previously) and I passed it with 100% on both parts (yes – I’m boasting). Once that minor inconvenience was out of the way, I progressed to training for my MOD 1 test, which is basically doing some slow/controlled manoeuvres on a bike while an examiner watches you.I did a couple of day’s training with a local riding school and went for my test on the Monday.

I’ll be honest – I was absolutely shitting myself. My fucking legs were shaking when I started the test, but I found this actually helped when I was doing the ‘figure of 8’ as my whole body was really tense so I was able to maintain complete control of my bike (weird, eh?!). The same couldn’t be said for the ‘swerve test,’ in which you have to gun it down a straight, swerve to avoid a cone, and then come to a controlled stop in a box marked out by other cones. I skidded and fucking failed. I was understandably gutted as it was the last manoeuvre and the ride home afterwards was horrific – especially when the other people who I’d gone to do the test with all passed! Determined not to give up, I booked myself onto another test on the Friday via the driving tests website, rode the 100-odd miles to the test centre on my own...and fucking nailed it. Bosh. On to MOD 2...this was the biggie: a proper test where you ride around on open roads with an examiner. I won’t bore you with the details, but I had to travel to Taunton in Somerset to do it and after a very nervous, sweaty morning waiting at the test centre, I went out with the examiner and passed first time with no minors. Fuck. Yeah.

This whole process (from CBT to full license) took about 3 months (CBT in January, test passed in early March), and even though there were several sleepless nights and outbursts of extreme annoyance at myself (mainly upon failure of my first MOD 1 test!), it was totally worth it. Granted, my license is a restricted one due to the fact that I took my tests on my Sinnis Max (I’m limited to bikes of 33 bhp for 2 years, after which I can ride anything I want), but now I have a Honda CBF 250 which whilst not the fastest machine on the planet, still cranks out 90mph at a push and is totally comfortable either on the motorway or in city-centre riding. So that’s the state of play. In little over 3 months I went from staunch car-driver to motorcyclist and my pockets have reaped the rewards. It costs me about £14 to fill my tank up to the brim, road tax is £36 a year and the insurance is about £120 a year.

Honda CBF 250. Not fast, but reliable.

It sucks slightly at the moment because of the incessant rain (cheers, British summer), and the number of locks and chains I have to wrap around my bike to keep it safe is bordering on the neurotic...but better be safe than sorry in Cameron’s broken, rainy, recession-dogged Britain, right?!

One thing I have become acutely aware of since I’ve been motorcycling though, is car drivers’ complete lack of awareness in the main. As I alluded to earlier, I have a car and a HGV license, and have a good deal of experience on the roads so I’m not saying this as a biased motorcycling noob – but goddamn there are some inconsiderate and downright stupid people populating the roads of Britain. Being on a motorbike means that you have to have a slightly heightened awareness of what’s going on around you due to the exposure you have, but I’ve never experienced rudeness from other motorists on quite such a high level as I do now while on the bike. It’s true that some motorcyclists ride like nutters, cut though traffic and are generally a menace, but sensible riders like me seem to be tarred with the same as a side effect I’m constantly being cut up, tailgated by Audis (that’ll never change – Audi drivers are born as cunts), and generally just aggravated by other people’s complete lack of regard for safety on the road. But that’s another story.

If my tale of ditching four wheels for two has inspired you, then go for it. The feeling of freedom whilst on a motorbike is unlike anything you’ll ever experience in a car, trust me. Plus if you're like me and enjoy messing about with engines and stuff, being a motorcyclist means you'll be forever getting your hands dirty fixing stuff when it goes wrong. This is a GOOD thing!

Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll try to answer them from my own experiences.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Premier Disservice

My next post was going to be about getting rid of my car and getting on two wheels (that’s a motorbike, by the way), but first I feel I need to vent my frustration. Frustration with Barclays Bank. Now, fuck all the shit in the news with them fixing prices or whatever it is, and fuck all that stuff about the Chief Exec resigning and lining his pockets on the way out the door. I want to go all the way down the ladder to the bottom of the pile, where people like me reside. The greasy little people who live in bins and just happen to have an account with them. Hello.

Right – here we go. A few weeks ago I was in Sainsbury’s getting some shopping. A few tins of beans, some bread, apples etc – the usual. I also nipped in to the petrol station on the way out to fill my motorbike up. When I got to the cashier, and handed over my debit card (which worked fine 5 minutes earlier in the main store), I was told it had been declined. The cashier tried it again and was confronted with a message on the till to call merchant services. She did, and after what seemed like an age being on hold, she finally got through to an operator who requested to speak to me. I was told that my card had been declined for ‘fraud prevention’ reasons, and that I needed to answer some security questions, the first of which I couldn’t answer (the incredible exchange went like this: Operator - “what is your home phone number?” Me - “I don’t have one” Operator - “I’m afraid that’s incorrect”). Eventually, I answered the questions thrust upon me like I was in some kind of real-world version of Shenmue, and my card was accepted and I went on my way (after apologising profusely to the queue of people building up behind me in the petrol station, that is).

The next morning, I checked my bank balance online to see if my rent standing order had gone to my landlord, only to be confronted with a message that my account had been suspended due to a fraud investigation! I rang the bank and spoke to somebody in the fraud department and got my account unlocked (apparently, buying motorbike forks and Dreamcast games on eBay flags up fraud activity with Barclays), but I noticed that because of this overnight block (that I thought had been sorted over the phone in the petrol station the previous evening) my rent hadn’t been paid. Cue another call to Barclays, where I was told that the standing order to my landlord 'couldn’t be found,' so I’d have to set up another – which I did. Now, fast forward to the beginning of this month. I check my balance to see if my rent has been paid – it hasn’t. I ring the bank. Again. They tell me it’s been sorted, but low and behold – another issue arises. The next day, I get a letter from Barclays telling me that I had insufficient funds for my rent standing order and that they’re charging me £8 for the pleasure! I check my online banking thingy and discover that they’ve assigned one rent standing order to a side account I never use, and another to my main account. HOW FREAKING INCOMPETENT CAN YOU GET?! So after another bout of phonecalls and explaining the situation to about 10 different customer services idiots (and, fingers crossed, resolving the issue), I think I’ve decided that I’m going to change banks.

You may think this is an overreaction, but in the weeks between these two incidents, I tried to change my account from a £25 a month ‘Premier’ one to an £8 a month ‘Travel’ account, and was then subsequently placed on the wrong scheme so ended up paying an extra £15 for an account I never asked for. And this is how they treat ‘Premier’ customers with various savings accounts and a fully paid-off loan to their credit. I’d hate to be, y’know, someone who just has a ‘normal’ free account. Jesus. Talk about rubbing your customers up the wrong way – here I was thinking I was ‘always right.’ Pfft. Anyway, the point of this uber-rant is that I wanted to get my tale out to the wider world (yes, I know nobody reads this), for my own peace of mind. I’ve got an appointment at another bank today, so hopefully switching my accounts should be done by the end of the month.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Back From The Dead. Almost.

It’s been about a year since I last updated this thing, so I thought I’d have a go and attempting to fill the void with a bit of writing. That no one will read. Anyway, it’s now July 2012. It’s raining outside, and has been for the past two months almost incessantly. I really don’t think the sun is going to be shining any time soon either and this just about sums up the national mood here in England. Everywhere you go, all you see are miserable or angry faces. People snarling from behind steering wheels in gridlocked traffic or moaning in hairdressers about how hard done by they are. Usually before paying for their blow dry with their state-funded benefit money. Makes me pretty sick to be honest.

I suppose the faux joy of both the Jubilee weekend (i.e. a massive piss-up) and the brief run of England in the Euros has now faded, and the grey clouds of normality have once again gathered.


So what’s been happening since August 2011? Well, the biggest thing is that I’m no longer in the Royal Navy! I’m a free civilian who can do what he likes, grow a beard, dye his hair (not that I have), have his own political views and read the newspaper he wants without being subject to abuse (yes, still The ‘i’). I applied for voluntary redundancy last year, and I got it because very few of my contemporaries wanted it. The fear of leaving the secure bosom of the MOD’s payroll department obviously outweighed the basic human right of free will for most of them. Not that I didn’t leave without having my pocket lined by said government department, but that’s another story (and one that will be instrumental in the development of my future plans, which incidentally tie in to what I was saying in the introduction to this diatribe).

While I was in the process of regaining my freedom and dignity, I applied for several jobs and whenever news of my failure to secure one of these positions got back to my ‘workmates,’ the ensuing delight that they took in taking the piss bordered on the shocking. “There’s nothing out there mate,” was the usual advice, often followed by laughter and mocking. Unfortunately for those pathetic amoebas, I did secure employment in a field that is of great interest to me, and also allowed me to leave that godforsaken airbase and general locality behind. I now find myself in a working environment that is occupied by people who can string together a sentence and formulate a topic of conversation that doesn’t solely focus on tits or football or a combination of the two in paper form: aka The Sun newspaper. Furthermore, the workload is actually interesting (heritage sector), so I find myself discovering historical oddities and curious tales all the time. Right up my street, I tell thee. So that’s the state of play with regard to my working life.

To be fair, I still see a few of my actual friends from the navy on a regular basis and they constantly remind me what I’m missing by getting out when I did: fuck all.

 I did take a fairly heft pay cut when I decided to get out of the military, and one of the side effects of this was the decision to ditch my car. The Proton, whilst a great car, just had to go – especially with the cost of petrol seemingly increasing almost daily. As a side note, I recall that at sometime in February, I was running a certain route about four times a week. This route took me past a petrol station, and every time I went past the price of a litre of fuel had gone up by 1p. Every single time! Shocking. So I flogged the motor to my dad and took the plunge: I embarked on a mission to get my full motorbike license.

Next post: my adventures on two wheels. Hopefully it won’t take me a year to write it.