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Have a look at this for your amusement.
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I DO have a cat and I was trying to be accurate in my answers!

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

and here was me just thinking he was a Venusian spy studying some standard samples of the Earth's population, because he turned up as a stray and really didn't act like a cat for the first four years. However, with that said, recently he's either been studying the other cats in the neighborhood (and fighting with them) or he's really a cat.

My guess is he's really a cat.
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ksimes has fragile contents which may break!


From Go-Quiz.com

Journal last updated 35 weeks ago!!! Oooops!

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On Sunday morning I woke to the most strange sensation in the middle of my chest. It felt as if something (or someone?) actually had a hand round my heart and was squeezing it ever so gently. I wouldn’t have called it painful but it was definitely unsettling and uncomfortable. I got up and worked out in the garden clearing up leaves and in the house washing dishes and generally tiding things up throughout the morning and early afternoon while Wedny went to see her mother (released for the day from hospital to prepare her flat for her full return from a weeks hospital stay). I felt pretty good by mid afternoon and when Wedny came down the road late in the afternoon I was looking forward to a little light TV watching followed by some 8 hours of strenuous sleeping. However… (Why is there always an however?) while Wedny told me of her mother’s issues and problems the stress levels built up and I could actually feel the hand squeezing my heart and this time it was a little sore, not really painful, but definitely sore.

Hmmm, I have to admit that after the major campaign on TV about heart disease and sudden heart attacks I was more than a tad concerned. I did convince myself that it wasn’t too much to worry about so I decided to phone the Doctor’s on Monday and ask for a check up. I should say that Wedny’s recommendation was for me to go up to the A&E and get a check up there. I felt that was too much trouble for me and for the Hospital and anyway, when has any stupid husband even listened to their wife?

On Monday at work I tried for about 25 minutes on and off to try and get through to the Surgery. When I finally did, I mentioned slight chest pain and the receptionist’s reply was "GO TO accident and emergency NOW, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT 200 POUNDS. GO NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW!!!".

OK, so I may be exaggerating slightly but the… recommendation was still ringing in my ears when I came off the phone and as I was now thoroughly scared (and even slightly terrified) I decided to consult the font of all wisdom and called Wedny. Her gentle refrain was "I TOLD YOU! GO TO HOSPITAL! NOW! NOW!

I finally got the message. I went to the nearest hospital to my home, slightly further than the nearest one to my work, but strangely with my train season ticket easier to get to. I expected to spend the rest of the morning and possibly part of the afternoon there sitting in A&E reception as I waited, but that was not to be.

At 10 am I said the almost magic words to the A&E receptionist "slight chest pains" and was told to sit, as a nurse would speak to me in the next few minutes. Ha, that will be right, I thought, nipping outside so I could call Wedny and say that I had arrived (still in my nice work clothes, and with backpack) taking all of 20 seconds to do so. I was returning to the reception area when a slightly scary looking nurse barked my name at me. I nodded, surprised and then had to relate all my symptoms and time scales again. I was getting quite good at this by this time. She told me to sit down and I would be going straight into the A&E unit. A man hovering just a few feet away managed to get a question in, "how long will we have to wait?"

"ONE HOUR", came the stern and succinct reply from the Sister as she walked away.

I sat down. 2 minutes, and I mean 2 minutes later, I was called forward to the triage room and they did an ECG on me and told me to lie on a comfy trolley and to stay there. 10 minutes later, they wheeled my sorry ass still on the trolley through to A&E and started me on oxygen. 20 minutes after than I had an Intern (I think) check me over, poke me in all sorts of places and listen to my chest more intently than I had listened to anyone else. Half and hour after that I saw the medical Doctor (?) who I think was a SHO or Senior House Officer and he took some blood and sprayed GTN under my tongue. This made me extremely light headed and later gave me a spectacular headache which just about killed me anyway. An hour later I was moved to another A&E holding area still on my trolley and an hour after that, into the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) for observation, again still on my trolley. Wedny managed to find me and we spoke for short while in the A&E holding area before I was moved on. 

The porter moved the trolley as close to the bed in the MAU as it would go before asking me to transfer from one to the other. I thought it a little excessive but the nurses explained that this was because one of the blood tests was to see if I had damaged the heart muscle and if damaged, any further exercise might aggravate it. I was also told that I wasn’t getting out of the hospital until after the Consultant had seen me, and that that would be 5 pm that evening.

So I spent the afternoon sitting in a ward filled with ill and seriously ill people which, because it was an observation and admitting ward, had a very high turnover of people being moved about. I eventually had to insist that I could get to the toilet myself without being wheeled on a chair or peeing into a paper mashie bottle. Oh, did I feel a fraud and a waste of the taxpayer’s money. 

Now, I used to have a thing against that particular hospital (which I will not name due to circumstances) as my Father-in-law died there and Mother-in-law, Father, Brother, Wife and sundry other members of my family have all been treated in there and I have never been too impressed with the Victorian building (with respect to medical suitability rather than architecturally) or its fabulous reputation for loosing medical records. Once when I was there, admittedly over two years ago, they didn’t so much have dust bunnies in the corridors as dust rhinos, followed by herds of dust zebra and a few dust giraffes mixed in for good measure.

But, I cannot fault the attention or care that I received on Monday.

I was back there on Tuesday for a cardiac stress test and again the care and explanation at all stages was excellent. Again it just about killed me, but it was delivered with care and I was reassured at all steps that I hadn’t been the fraud that I suspected I had been. The Cardiac Nurse said that I should always get myself checked out in the case of any kind of chest pain regardless of what I thought. 

You may be glad to know (I know I certainly was) that I have now been reassured that my heart’s health is OK and all I need to do now is find out why I had the very strange sensation on Sunday morning. The nurse suggested indigestion. Hmmmm.

So, children, the moral of this tale is, if you have any kind of chest pain, any at all, GO TO THE A&E UNIT OF YOUR NEAREST HOSPITAL NOW! GO NOW! NOW! NOW!



Oh, and the corridors in that Hospital with no name are now kept nice and clean.

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Hey correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the release of radioactive material in a public place, killing one person and potentially injuring others not an act of terrorism? Surely this is a (albeit minor) dirty bomb in central London? How come the government has not chewed the carpet in fury, making sure that all resources are put into the search for the perpetrators? Or do they already know who did it?

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My Brother has been giving me a row due to the lack of entries in my journal. So just to annoy him I thought that I would talk about him for a moment or two. This is a man who turned 45 and rediscovered his childhood interest in model trains. He has now converted his garage into a major model rail layout which has a harbour and a small town (still in construction). He hopes to extend the tracks into his garden at some point, no doubt annoying the neighbours, his kids, his wife and the guinea pigs (in that order!). I keep saying that he should blog or put up a web site which talks about model railways (its not as if there is enough of them, 155,000 hits on Google's pages from the UK alone), but he does have a frighteningly, encyclopedic knowledge about different types of model wagons available from suppliers. So, get thee to the Internet, Brother!

Some have noticed that I have been quiet throughout October. No particular reason, just a bit depressed due to the Winter suddenly arriving and things at work being busy. So, what did I do in October... I went to my first Glasgow Tolkien Smial (No name decided yet, and I am concerned that I may be press-ganged into providing the website), I was down in Norwich on business for a couple of days (if I can think of anything funny to say about that, I will hopefully say it), had some real problems at work with a Java multi-threaded system which usefully hangs some of the threads and leaves others to go their merry way (no solution yet) and failed miserably to get to the last Resurgence of Trout (down in Norwich at that time). All in all a quiet sort of month. 

If I can work out how the backdating feature works  in LiveJournal, I may put some entries in between the 1st October and now, in their proper context, so to speak..

I went back “home” yesterday, or to be precise back to where I was born. I was born in Cathcart and my brother (who was going to a model Railway Exhibition, surprise, surprise), our friend Gary and myself all went off to Cathcart after having a few pints in the city center. It was a bit of a strange feeling for me as I was pointing out to Gary all about the interesting bits of Cathcart (unfortunately, not as many as there used to be I have to add) and as he was from Edinburgh he was looking at it as a new experience but I felt decidedly uncomfortable with the changes that had occurred in the intervening time since I was last there, which I think was only about three years or so. For a start they have closed my Primary School in order (hopefully) to convert to flats. Although going on the district councils astonishing approach to attractive, noteworthy or even listed buildings they will leave it empty for 5 years and the condemn it for dry/wet rot/dangerous roof/poor wiring (delete were applicable) or just hope that some of the local neds will burn it down so they can charge the developers more for the land rather than just the building. This is the same city council who proudly put up large stainless steel signs proclaiming the historical merchant city part of the city center and then promptly bulldozed the Virginia galleries which were the original tobacco exchange which made the merchant city what it was! Leaving just a small brass oval on a modern wall to show where all the wealth of the city at that time came from! Talk about lack of foresite!

Back in Cathcart, they (the local council) have also removed the original Carnegies pharmacy building which was a major landmark at the beginning of Clarkston road (No link available). Removed the sorting office back building of the original post office building at the beginning of Rhannan Road (No link available). Converted the New Cathcart Church to flats (actually not a bad sympathetic conversion) and are in the process of waiting for Weir pumps to close (bottom of the page for this link and watch out as there seems to be a popup advert) so they can convert that into a new housing district. Now why do I think that it will become a neds jungle pretty quickly and if they do manage to keep the listed office block at the Newlands Road side along with the listed Social center, how long before they are removed as “not significant”. Thus Cathcart and Glasgow looses another 120 year slice of its engineering history. I have to say that all this current work pales into insignificance compared to the local/district councils greatest achievement in the nullification of Cathcart with the bulldozing (rather than making safe) of the 15th Century keep of Cathcart Castle in 1986 (unfortunately, I was a witness to this). Really Magnificent, Councilors. That will bring the tourists in who are interested in learning about where they came from. Perhaps they will be interested in going to the SECC and learning about where some of the greatest ships in the world were built. No, I forgot there is no indication at all in the SECC about what it is built on top on (including the remains of a 11th century castle which was dumped there as well). I haven't yet been in the science center on the other side of the river so I don't know if there is anything that mentions the docks and shipbuilding yards that were once there. I hasten to point out that if anyone knows different then please let me know.

Anyway I spent several hours wandering around Cathcart before going back to the city center and having some more drink and then seeing my brother and Gary back on the train to Edinburgh (who's Councilors seem to have some sense of history and place).

All in all a quiet Saturday.

Sorry for the tirade, but that's how I feel today.

P.S. There are some marvelous websites about this history of Glasgow which have some mention of Cathcart, a few of which I have listed below.


Glasgow Digital Library

Glasgow Pictures

The Glasgow Story



Oct. 1st, 2006 06:22 pm
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I have not been feeling myself lately (Oo err missus!) and came home early on Friday feeling nauseous, slightly dizzy and pouring with sweat. However, now that I have more or less recovered I thought I would say a few words about Oxford to finish off my tale of woe that was the trip to the Oxonmoot.
I liked Oxford, especially as I understand that it was outside of term time. Although the one major point of irritation was that it was full, with no accommodation at all for outside visitors. I have since been told that September was a very bad time to travel to Oxford and we should have booked two places just in case one fell though (which it did), as cancellation charges are only about £10, with thanks to [profile] hubblegubble for that useful tip for the future.
Wedny and I first saw Oxford via a 2:00am taxi whirl through the core area before being dumped on the streets to trudge back towards St. Giles (near to where the Oxonmoot was being held) and then being given an even more whirlwind tour of Oxford and its environs by super taxi, which is documented elsewhere in this Journal.
Once we had got over all that and experienced what we did of Oxonmoot we went on to enjoy the experience of Oxford a little before having to board the train and return home. Really the first time we got to look around was on Sunday afternoon when we went straight to the Ashmolean. I had always wanted to visit it and had unfortunately found out just before travelling that it was mostly closed for refurbishment and only had the original main building open. It is run by very helpful volunteers who take the time to tell you where things are and what was worthwhile seeing but as the museum seemed to have the heating on full blast neither Wedny nor I could think straight, so it wasn’t that brilliant an experience. Then again that may have been due to still recovering from the trip down. There was a particularly good exhibition of treasures of the Ashmolean in one of the rooms which was excellent and in which we saw Guy Fox’s Lamp he used while trying to explain his policies to the government of the day and the Alfred jewel (which is much smaller than you would think). The museum shop on the ground floor is good and there are lockers in the basement near to the toilets where you can store your bag or whatnot while you tour round the building. Refurbishments finish in 2009 and I might revisit after that.
We did a fair amount of sitting around in Broad street at the outdoor café called the Campus Buttery through a tiny bit of Saturday, big chunk of Sunday afternoon and a bit of Monday Morning. That was fun; watching the world go by and looking at the postcards we had just bought at the tourist information office. We walked along to Blackwell’s Bookshop or rather I did, as Wedny went straight to the separate Blackwell’s Music shop and disappeared for an hour or two. I found out that Blackwell’s has a second hand section on the top floor and a rare books section on the second floor. This was too good to miss and I increased my collection of James Hilton novels by two.
I was going to add to my LiveJournal while down in Oxford but two things put paid to that. One, was the fact that we were completely knackered and I didn’t really feel like saying anything worthwhile to the world. Secondly, they have an interesting turn on Internet cafes in Oxford. We were in several cafés around and about the centre of Oxford and none appeared to do any kind of Internet access, (we did finally see an Internet café at Gloucester Green but it was closed… permanently). It turns out that most cafes and coffee shops in Oxford provide wireless Internet access and all you have to provide is a laptop to connect up. I suppose for a University town this makes a lot of sense as then you don’t need to go to the capital expense of buying computers and using up valuable space to site them. But it does mean that you do have to have a laptop or portable computer to use and that was something I neglected to take with me. Ah well.
We also ate out on the Sunday night in Gino’s which was particularly good and I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes Italian food. There is a particularly good set of reviews of their restaurant here. They also are the source of the Greek quote I put into the Journal some days ago (Aren’t online translation services a wonderful thing!). Due to a lack of concentration or maybe tiredness I managed to order pasta in a Chilli sauce and as I am allergic to peppers this was not the smartest thing to eat. I apologised to the waiter and asked for a Calzone which is what Wedny had ordered, but to charge me for the pasta as it was my mistake. The owner (Gino himself, I think) was straight over apologising profusely and insisting that the change of dish was on the house. He would not accept that it was my mistake and refused point blank to change me for that meal. After some of our experiences this was a wonderful change to see such an attitude. Strangely, if you look at the second review that I pointed at for Gino’s almost exactly the same thing happened to the reviewer on 08/05/06! Again I would heartily recommend them as a place to eat to anyone passing through Oxford or even just getting off at the bus station in Gloucester Green.
All in all, I loved the buildings (which strangely, to me as a Glaswegian, don’t look like 16th-17th century buildings due to the light colour of the stone, not really dirty enough. I had thought that they were Victorian gothic revival buildings!). I loved the well kept gardens which you could see peeking though the gates and over walls as we went round Oxford on the open topped bus tour on Monday morning and I loved the ambience of the central Broad street's, hustle and bustle. Oh, and I loved Blackwell bookshop and I loved the Bodleian Library (What little you can actually see, as you can only go into the shop, you can’t get into the library for a peek) and the Bridge of sighs and St. Helen’s Passage and the Turf Tavern and Somerville college. Really the town itself was the best bit of the trip. Like I said I would like to go back to see the Ashmolean when it is refurbished, and one final word of caution. All the museums and galleries appear to be closed on Mondays so if your looking for a long weekend in Oxford and want to visit these kind of places start on a Thursday and go till Sunday.
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This has to one of the best tag lines I have read in quite some time. It is from Charlie Stross's online blog. It has a number of replies, one of which has the line "I sense a tremor in the Winternet, as if a thousand innocent proxy servers suddenly cried out and then went silent."

God, I love this sort of guff.

If you follow Charlie's link to the Register there is an aside which says "(who has the to-die-for job title of Metaverse Evangelist)", which I believe I may now describe as my religion at parties (as if it's very likely that I would get invited to the sort of parties at which people would be so stupid to ask such a question).

Ah hoo (he says wistfully)
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I FINALLY read through all of the documentation for the Sony Reader in the last post. You can put your own documents (as a PDF file) and JPEG Images (presumable converted to Black and white, as there isn't a grey scale) on to the thing as well. So all I need to do is convert all my Gutenberg Text documents to PDF using some kind of free PDF converter!
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Sony have brought out (in America only unfortunately, but coming soon to the UK) a book reader tablet. Which should have been around 5 years ago. I saw this originally on a news story about Japan some 2 years ago and registered for interest with Sony. So finally a useful email mechanism as well! The only thing which worries me is the fact that they may tie it to their own paid downloads only. I have loads of Gutenberg electronic books which would be perfect for this.

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Hmm, what can I say about the Oxonmoot?  We did attend the welcome drinks in the college bar, the welcome meal in the dinning hall and more drinks in the bar afterwards on the Friday but were substantially frazzled so cannot remember any of the names of people we met or spoke to (except Julie, Julie was nice, from Dorset and came all the way there by herself). We also had to leave fairly early as we had to go back to our hotel in the middle of nowhere.
After the moot committee had spent a lot time before the moot arranging who should eat what for the Friday meal there was a screw up by the college and a number of people did not get their chosen main course for the meal. It didn’t go down terribly well and may have set the tone for the rest of the moot, although I have to say that in our case Wedny and I were perfectly happy with the meal. The main dinning hall was superb in that it was Oak panelled and had the paintings of all the Principles around the walls. It was an interesting experience eating dinner there.
We did unfortunately miss all of Saturday morning’s lectures and events as we were still recovering from our trip down to Oxford and were delayed in getting to Somerville College that morning due to trying to arrange accommodation for the Saturday and Sunday nights as well as the 10 mile taxi journey from our Hotel. I have to say that I sat outside the marquee in the sunshine (and there is a lot of Sunshine in Oxford in September) throughout the afternoon events just to unwind and try and relax as I was not feeling particularly bright, although Wedny did go to one of the lectures so I may ask her to write something.
We did go to the dealers room which I thought was quite good, but others felt didn’t provide much choice. Everything in the room was Tolkien related, inspired or specific, which was the point of the moot so I’m not too sure why they said that. I bought a set of commemorative postcards for the Tolkien stamps released in 2004 as well as “The roots of Tolkien’s Middle Earth” by Robert Blackham and Wedny got a mouse mat for our Sister-in-law, who does like Elephants which has an Oliphunt and a short poem from Tolkien on it. Not much I know, but our budget had taken a real beating by this time.
We did go to the Art show which had a number of works by Ted Nasmith which I thought were particularly good. These were full landscapes with a feeling not quite like the movies which I liked. Ted Nasmith attended the moot and was about in the background for most of the Saturday and also started providing some of the musical entertainment on the Saturday party which we watched some of, before leaving.
We did wander round and round Somerville College throughout the weekend which I thought was particularly wonderful, from the out quad to the inner quad and the fact that you could only enter by either the front gate or one of the entrances controlled by key. I really, really liked the closed community; away from the public feel to it (I suspect that I was a silent order monk in another life). They have a slightly smaller BMfH whom I have just found out is called Pogo (silly name if you ask me but what the hey).
All in all we found it an interesting but not welcoming experience, it is most likely that that had a lot to do with how tired we were and how long we had to travel to get to the moot on Saturday. I feel that we were just not in the right frame of mind. But that mindset did get better as the weekend progressed and by Monday morning we were in the right mood to be tourists and indeed, delegates. Unfortunately, it was all over by then.
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Virgin train breaks speed record

This is obviously mean to inflame and irritate me after last weekend. It took us just 11.5 hours to get from Glasgow to Oxford by numerous means of transport supplied by Virgin. It really was a reject script for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles".
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Scene 1 – Things take a turn for the worse.
So now we were hurtling towards Oxford in the back of a Birmingham Hackney cab being driven by a young man with an unfeasibly large beard. We eventually struck up conversations, discovering that one of our fellow passengers was a Philosophy Lecturer at one of the Oxford Colleges (I kid you not, and I never found out which College) originally from South Africa and the other was a Librarian for the NHS who had just come back from a job interview in Glasgow and was originally from California. With two Scots and a broad accented Brummy in the front seat who looked like a refugee from the Mujahadeen, we were a real international mix.
I should jump backwards in time here and point out that at 10:00pm Wedny had had a very strange telephone call with our guest house in Oxford.
“We’re going to be late as there has been disruption of the trains due to the weather”
“Oh”, came the reply “So you don’t want your rooms then?”
“Yes”, said Wedny, “We’re booked in for the whole weekend, we’ll just be later than we planned that’s all”
“When will you be here then?”
“Well we don’t know as we are still on the first train and don’t know if there will be a connection on to Oxford”
“So I can’t give your room away then?”, said slightly strange man at the end of the phone.
“No”, said Wedny, carefully enouncing each word, “We are booked in for the whole weekend, we will just be late that’s all”
And that appeared to be that.
In the taxi we swapped travellers disaster tales for most of the journey with the driver cheerfully joining in until he started fishing for money saying that he had heard that people from Scotland were good tippers. Aye, Right! This taxi trip was on Virgin Trains anyway and I think we were all too tired and pissed off to oblige.
All of us in the back of the taxi watched silently as the taxi fare went straight through £110 before we even hit the edge of the outer ring road round Oxford.
Scene 2 – the other shoe drops
We dropped off our first passenger in the heart of Oxford and he helpfully pointed out Somerville College in passing so we could get back there the next day. The Californian Librarian knew where we were going and kindly stayed on board to drop us at out guest house.
So at 2:00am in the morning we got out of the taxi, said our goodbyes and walked into the Guest House. “Hello”, says I, “We called earlier, we were delayed by the train problems?”
“Oh”, says bloke coming from the back of the Guest House, “I had to let your room go at midnight, we don’t have any other rooms, sorry”.
I just stood and stared at him. This was just perfect. You didn’t “have” to let our room go you c**t, you obviously just wanted to, I thought.
However, at this point my hair was physically blown forward by the storm brewing behind me.
I looked over my shoulder to see the white faced and slightly tearful Wedny building up for a ten year blowout to have words with this… man. I should point out at this juncture that Wedny is a Singing Teacher who has taught a number of Opera classes and was about to burst the… helpful man’s eardrums and probably wake everyone in a 1 mile radius.
I had recognised the complete arsehole, “more than my jobs worth”, “It’s you own fault anyway, y'know” type standing in front of me and just knew if we caused any trouble he would either call the police or just refuse to talk to us and retreat into his rat hole at the back of the building.
So stopping only to say to him that we had booked for the entire weekend so thanks for that, I turned and physically manhandled (first time in 10 years) Wedny out the door and had to stand and explain myself before trudging back toward the centre of Oxford. In a flash of almost unreasonable optimism I did comment “At least it’s not raining”.
Scene 3 – Hotel ho!
Within 10 minutes we waved down a taxi and asked the driver to be taken to the first Hotel he knew which might have rooms. He looked wistfully at us and said “You aren’t going to get any rooms in Oxford this weekend, the're all full up”
This just got better and better. Here we were in a major English tourist destination and there were no hotel rooms in the whole of Oxford? I have to say that I didn’t believe him and just said to take us to the big expensive hotel in the middle of town. That wasn’t likely to be full now, was it? And do you know, it was!
To cut a long story short, we hit approximately 10-12 Hotels and larger Guest Houses that night (all the smaller ones where well and truly closed) and none of them had any free rooms. We did a high speed circuit, and I mean high speed as I didn’t know that Hackney cabs could reach those sorts of speeds, round the Oxford outer ring road, checking in at the Holiday Inn, Best Western, Four Pillars and Travel Lodge (2 of them) and not one room. Finally we stopped at a Hotel where our extremely helpful taxi driver, Sunny, knew the front desk man and he then kindly phoned a few other hotels finally getting us into the Oxford Belfry which is a mere 10 miles from Oxford in Milton Common near the M40. The Hotel link does say “just minutes away from the heart of Oxford” but I feel that 25 minutes on the motorway is stretching it a bit.
We finally got there at 4:05am and I still had the presence of mind to ask when the checkout was. It turned out to be 11:00am. This was likely to be a problem as almost certainly we would sleep through. So we booked in for two nights and I remembered to set my phone alarm for 8:30 so we could get something to eat. In total, with Sunny being extremely reasonable and stopping the meter each time we arrived at a new hotel while I ran in to ask about rooms, the taxi bill came to just short of a completely unbudgeted £50.
The Oxford Belfry is a beautiful conference hotel. Really, really nice with a huge hot buffet for breakfast, where I think they were beginning to get worried as we made our third pass at it for bacon, fried bread, eggs and black pudding. After breakfast we went back and slept in our large, comfortable, beautifully appointed room (with patio area, as we were on the ground floor, and bath and separate shower cubical) until mid afternoon.
Scene 4 – Oxford at last
When we woke and wandered, sleepily back to reception we asked if there was a bus service into Oxford. Twice a day came the reply, unless you were willing to walk for 25 minutes or more on country roads without pavements to the other bus stop in which case it was a 15 minute service. Bugger that for a game of soldiers! How much was the taxi to Oxford? £20 one way was the reply. With a hey ho, this can’t get any worse, attitude we finally set off to Oxford and the Friday night welcome dinner at the Tolkien Oxonmoot.
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Scene 1 - A feeling of resignation
So here we were, in the dark, near Preston, deep in the middle of… Lancashire (I had to go and look that up on Google) with the two Virgin West-coast trains being manfully connected together by two drivers (I had a mental picture of two men, with blue grubby coveralls, peaked caps and dirty neck kerchiefs hauling huge chains together and tying them in a knot… but that may be a bit silly). This as I said took a mere 40 odd minutes and then we started, steadily to make our way towards Preston station.
Once connected we had an interesting tannoy monolog (?) between the Train Driver (I am assuming) and the Train Manager, who no longer seemed willing to come on the tannoy himself to tell the poor passengers what was happening. It went like this: Driver, “Would the train manager, please answer the next staff call”, short pause, interesting warbling noise pervades train. Longer pause. Driver (again) “Would the train manager in the rear unit, please answer the next staff call”, slight irritation now in voice. I sat puzzled as to where the Train Manager may be, if not in the rear unit, and thought,  'probably walking back up the line to Oxenholm'. Interesting warbling noise now pervades train, again. Much longer pause, during which, I suspect, a heated conversation went on between Manager and Driver. Finally Driver’s voice comes back on tannoy to announce that the train we were now on, newly assembled to eight carriages, was now the slow train to Birmingham and would not be arriving until after midnight.
The rest of the journey to Birmingham passed without further incident, which made a change, and we rolled into the station at an almost reasonable 12:20am.
Scene 2
We disembarked from the train after a stern warning from the Driver/Manager (I honestly couldn’t have told you which one) that Birmingham New Street was an underground station and therefore NO ONE WAS TO SMOKE WHILE DISEMBARKING FROM THE TRAIN, please wait until you are in the main concourse. Coming from Scotland this was a novel experience.
We wondered upstairs to the main concourse which was deserted, except, strangely for a clean, shaven, short haired, be-suited man curled up and fast asleep in a corner. We arrived and duly entered the Customer Services office (surprisingly still manned/womaned) in ones and twos and handed over our chits dispensed by the Train Manager (I did mention that before, didn’t I?) like late notes for class, meekly and obediently and stood about waiting for the taxis we had been promised (didn’t I mention that, either?). There was in total about 50 of us looking for some means of going on to a further destination and looking pretty damn disgruntled, I can tell you.
After some twenty minutes someone went back in to Customer Services and started waving his arms about. When they came out with a face like thunder I cowardly sent Wedny over to ask what the delay was for the taxis and his answer was… “Even though they had 2 hours in which to prepare, they said that the taxi company they used would not release taxis for use until they had guaranteed passengers in the station.” This actually seemed reasonable which just goes to show what lack of sleep and tiredness can do to you.
After another 10 minutes a harassed Customer Services Manager came out and started organising our motley crew into small groups of passengers going to the same or similar destinations, two for Leicester, five to Cardiff, four for Oxford, etc. Again as a testament to what tiredness can do to you, being sheparded about like 5 years olds almost seemed reasonable. Our taxi thankfully arrived some ten minutes latter which whisked us away from the bright eyed, 50 year old American tourists who actually seemed to be enjoying this (as they were going to Cardiff, I didn’t feel annoyed at them at all).
As this is again getting a bit long, I’m going to break off and write more tomorrow night. I unfortunately missed last night due to unforeseen commitments but I will make lots of effort to post tomorrow, I promise.
I was also asked the question via an email, so what happened at the Oxenmoot? Unfortunately, I have to say that we missed most of the discussions and had to leave the Saturday night party early as we were completely knackered for reasons which will become clear in later posts. But what little I did see and experience I will tell you about… just later, OK, Please?
ksimes: (Default)
I call myself a Tolkien fan and I completely missed this little nugget of a new book being published by Christopher Tolkien made up from snippets of a story by his Father J.R.R. The above link and this one are the best I can find on the subject (Warning, second link has pop-up adverts). If you want to whip over to have a look at dalg's Journal it has the link to the BBC story on the same subject.

I would also like to point out that someone had spelt the welcome notice to the Oxonmoot in Somerville College as "Tolkein", which had been hastily corrected with a marker pen.  Snikker, snikker!
ksimes: (Default)
Scene 1 - The Journey Begins
Wedny and I set off for the Oxonmoot on the 3:30 train into Glasgow Central, this ran smoothly with no inkling as to what was to come. We then went to catch our train for Birmingham New Street, which was to leave Glasgow Central at 16:10, we boarded successfully and found our reserved seats and made ourselves comfortable for the long journey. At approximately 16:15 and with us growing restless to be away the guard (sorry "Train Manager") came on the tannoy and told us that a combination of a lightening strike and extreme weather in the borders had brought down the overhead line at Lockerbie and that no trains from Glasgow or Edinburgh were currently going down the West Coast. We would have to now wait as there was not a backlog of trains waiting to progress. We only had an hour between our connections for Oxford at Birmingham so it looked like we would have to get the next train. Ho hum, I suppose no journey runs smoothly.
At 16:40 (or thereabouts) The Train Manager came back on line to let us know that the train had now been cancelled and would we all go to the Main exit where we were to catch coaches down to Carlisle. Ah, Somehow I started to feel that this was going to be longer than even I supposed.
We decided not to get on the first, mad rush bus nor the second slightly less mad rush. We thought that we were on the fourth but it may have been the third. The cunning bus driver decided to go straight up St Vincent Street and join the motorway at Charing Cross and avoid trying to cross the city centre to join at Townhead. If you live in Glasgow this would sound like a truly cunning scheme which would cut the city traffic and get you moving quickly onto the motorway. However, if I now point out that he did this at 17:10, people in Glasgow will realise how profoundly dumb this was as he was placing us further into the rush hour crowd rather than avoiding it. It took 45 minutes for the bus to actually get onto the Motorway and we crawled at a (respectable for Glasgow) 35 miles an hour down towards the South (you have to say it with a capital letter ‘cause that’s what printed on the signs).
Scene 2.
We arrived in Carlisle some 2 and a half hours later with only the amusing spectacle on the main West Coast line (which we should have been on) of a train racing beside the M76 for some 10 minutes before hurtling off towards Carlisle. We did actually beat it to the station as it was standing there when we finally extricated ourselves from the bus and entered the station with all our luggage dragging behind us. That train was going to Euston and had standing room only as it left the station; it was like one of those refugee movies (except nobody was actually on the outside).
Careful examination of the notice board showed us that the next two trains were both going to Birmingham New Street which was puzzling but we were then distracted by the entertainment of a very well dressed woman in an absolute fury literally bawling at several the Station Managers as she appeared to have been directed to the wrong train. Everyone in the Station was much relieved by this amusement and all tried to keep a smile off their faces as she stalked past with her cigarette held like a gun.
Anyway we stupidly didn’t ask which of the two Birminghams’ we should catch (the trains that is not the cities) and so we got on the first, seems reasonable doesn’t it? By this time it was just before when we should have caught our second train to Oxford and we were still some 250 miles short. 10 Miles later we hear the helpful announcement that the next station was Oxenholm, oh and by the way anyone who doesn’t want to get to Birmingham New Street after midnight get the express service which was the train behind.
So we got off at Oxenholm (which looks like a nice place) and got on the next train through, some 10 minutes later. All appeared well with only the slight disconcerting announcement that we only became the express service after we got past the train in front at Preston. By now you will have realised that this story can only get longer and longer, so only a little more tonight.
Scene 3.
Only 20 miles short of Preston we stopped in the middle of nowhere. There was a long pause before the, by this point, unsurprising news that the train in front had failed and the drivers were going to couple the two trains together and push the failed train into Preston. I had a distinct sinking feeling about this and this was not helped by the fact that it took 40 minutes for the two drivers to connect the trains.
More tomorrow, which will put it in the wrong order for people coming later to the journal, but what the Hell!


Sep. 19th, 2006 09:56 pm
ksimes: (Default)
I know I said that I would write more tonight but I am still tired and having serious problems stringing thoughts together. Managed to crash two separate web based test systems today. So I have to spend tommorrow putting them back together (Actually, I managed to get one of them going again, but the other one... Oops!)
ksimes: (Default)

I had hoped to post while I was in Oxford but unfortunately they have an interesting twist on Internet cafes in that town, more of which later. 

I am so tired, I have just had a nice hot bath and will post more tomorrow and I believe that I may have enough material for 3 to 4 hundred posts, but perhaps I'll not go into so much detail. 

However as a sample of what is coming... 

A Trip to Oxford 

A Disaster in 3 Acts

Τι η κόλαση; Δεν διέταξα αυτό! Είναι αποκτημένο τσίλι σε το! 

Simonious Book 1 - 2006 

(Always start with a good quote, I say)

More tomorrow.

Night, night.


Sep. 13th, 2006 06:25 pm
ksimes: (Default)

Bruiser of a BMfH looking for a fight

The Black Monster from Hell is still struggling with the cat door, he can cope with it when it is propped open but has issues when it is closed. Even though the little swing door is made of clear plastic. Doesn’t even matter if we prop it partially open, he just assumes that it’s a wall. Then we get the pathetic mewls and frantic leg bumping in order for us to open the front door and let him go and terrorise the neighbourhood again. 

We found a large and rather dead mouse lying near the front door at the weekend and I assume that it was him, as the foxes would have just eaten it, and as the BMfH is rather well fed, he seems content to toy with, torture and then callously kill any small rodent/bird/amphibian or (if he could get away with it) any other cats in the neighbourhood.
Only a few weeks ago Wedny was visiting a neighbour along the road. Said neighbour has a (relatively) new kitten called Sandy. Kitten comes over to smell Wedny’s hand and recoils, hissing and spitting into the corner, pausing only to try and slash open the back of Wedny’s hand. “Whatever is the matter with her?” says concerned owner. “Maybe she can smell our cat?” says Wedny. “Oh, Which ones yours?”, “Big, jet black furry thing, with large bells on a red collar”, “Ahhhhhh!” says enlightened owner, “That’s the cat that sits on the wall and torments little Sandy”.
I should point out that this is the best part of 300 yards along the road made up of 10 gardens or so with several other cats in the intervening gardens, but, oh no, BMfH decides to go well out of his way just to torture a kitten! 

I wonder if I can train him to savage the next doors dogs?
ksimes: (Default)
Hmmm, I may have made a miscalculation; I changed jobs just 6 months ago now. Leaving a small, (read tiny) software house after 14 years in order to try and spread my wings (Actually, I think my thoughts went like "GET ANOTHER JOB BEFORE NOBODY WANTS YOU!"). I took a drop in salary when moving as I didn't think that the work ethic or attitude was going to help keep the company around for more than a year and because we had (once) been part of a multinational, I thought my salary higher in comparison to what I wanted to do in Glasgow.

So I recently dropped the Business Development Manager a line to say hello and ask how things are going. I don't know if I should feel dismayed or pleased that he tells me that they have just taken on 2 new staff (first time in 3 years! They had got rid of 6 staff only a couple of years ago) expanded their business overseas (first time they have got a contract in over a year!) and extended their local contracts as well! He also says that the new 5 man development team has a real good working buzz...  Help! Was I to blame for the working issues in the past? Is he just putting the best possible spin on current events? Who knows, but watch this space.

In other business, Wedny and I are off to Oxford tomorrow. I was bullied (not very hard) into joining the Tolkien society last year at the WorldCon and then bullied some more to man the Tolkien desk at EasterCon this year, which resulted in Wedny joining the society as an associate member. So as we try and get away this time of the year (usually to the Wigtown book festival which results in a large number of books coming into the house and a large (read gigantic) hole appearing in our bank account) we decided to go to the Tolkien Oxonmoot. If everyone is strange, I will let you know. Unfortunately, it's very likely that this will include us.  


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