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Per Pecunia Ad Astra

Warning: This blog contains a word that I’m not sure about, but may be a swear word. I don’t even know how to spell it, so you’re probably on safe ground.   Welcome to GhostOfClayton’s Twice Fortnightly blog. Allow me to introduce myself to new bloggees (yeah, right!). I am a tour guide specialising in hiking tours of Hadrian’s Wall, and am widely regarded as the thinking woman’s man-totty. 50% of the previous statement is true, which should be a guide to how much of the following you should believe.   Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.   How to reach the moon in 200 very easy steps Is getting your hair to the moon the same as ‘you’ reaching the moon? If not, how much of ‘you’ would have to reach the moon to say ‘you’ had reached the moon? Is a strawberry dead? These are the sort of philosophical questions that I won’t be touching with a barge pole this week. What they do do, is give me the opportunity to tell those of you who haven’t already heard about it, all about a really exciting endeavour that’s doing the news rounds at the moment. You see, a blog is a very powerful tool for good. I can use it to reach out to all of you (alright, both of you), and spread the word about how you can make the world a better place (arguably).   I am referring to a little enterprise called Lunar Mission One. You can read all about it on their website (www.lunarmissionone.com), or you can hear it from my inexpert and opinionated self. The decision is yours. Ah . . . you’re still here . . . . good choice.   You see, some boffins have taken it upon themselves to put a probe on the moon, and are funding this gargantuan project using kickstarter money. This is the on-line equivalent of sitting outside Marks & Spencers with a begging bowl and a bored dog, although the ends are considerably more worthy than four cans of super strength lager. So, what is my incentive to dedicate part of the OfClayton Fortunes to this very worthy venture? Well, at the cheaper end (three British pounds) you get “Our eternal thanks”. Nice, but as OfClayton Senior used to say, put eternal thanks in a bucket, and you’ve got an empty bucket. Part with more wonga, and the benefits steadily increase, through a subscription to the newsletter, membership of the ‘Missions Club’, and so on, until (at £60, you can ‘Reserve your place in space’). Yes, honestly. No doubt, you are now dreaming of the moment you place your boot print in the dusty Lunar regolith and say something hugely profound about the size of your step, before a bunny hopping tour of a cratered landscape, under the patient gaze of the blue marble that is Mother Earth.   No. Put that right out of your head.   ‘Reserving your place in space’ bags a few kilobytes on a USB stick (or similar) for you to write your digitised photo/message/symphony, etc., and that USB stick will live out eternity on the moon. At least until some far-future astronaut tries to plug it into his iPhone 42 and a ‘501 error’ is returned due to compatibility issues (even after he switches it off and back on again.)   No, you will need to have to start shelling out much more before ‘Your place in space’ is realised. £200 will put you on the moon. Not all of you, granted. You will have to leave a small part of you behind. That small part will consist of everything that isn’t a single strand of your hair. But you will be on the moon for eternity.   Do I sound cynical? I am not. This is fricking awesome stuff. I wish it well, and really hope it comes off. That’s why I’m blogging about it, to try and spread the word. Look, I’ve even put sensible tags at the top of this blog. My track record isn’t good for taking tags seriously, so that should tell you something. So, will I be investing? I’m still torn. My ‘easy come, easy go’ attitude to money is apparent to anyone who has followed my adventures so far. So, yes, it would be quite plausible if a few quid did ‘easy go’ towards this laudable enterprise. Trouble is, when you have an ‘easy come, easy go’ attitude to money, and you need some money to fulfil your duty to the second half of that attitude, you find that the money you gained from the former half already ‘easy went’ somewhere else.   Sod it . . I can always sell a kidney. It’s not as if I’ll be taking it with me on my trip to the moon.   The Moon on a Stick Looking at the above, it’s apparent that Mohamed won’t be going to the Mountain, figuratively speaking, anytime soon. So you know what you want? You want the Moon on a Stick. Ha Ha. A large group of people will recognise that catchphrase, albeit a Venn Diagrammatically discrete group from the group of people who read this (i.e. you). Hold onto that thought, though. Clarity will come later.   As most (both) of you know, I spend an awful lot of time in planes, trains and automobiles. I used to listen to a huge amount of music to while away the hours, but fan that I am of good music, I did start to yearn for something a little more intellectually stimulating after Regina Spektor’s ‘The Calculation’ came round for the 6th time. It was then I started listening to Podcasts. Now, there are prolific podcasters, and high quality podcasters, but very few who manage to pull off both tricks at the same time. One podcaster who seems to achieve this with a reasonable degree of ease is a comedian called Richard Herring. He, along with his comedy partner of the time (a guy called Stewart Lee) were very big in the UK in the late 80s and early nineties, but then disappeared from the schedules to a degree. Stewart Lee is now back on the small screen now and again, but Richard Herring has eschewed the strict requirements of language/behaviour/taste imposed by big broadcasters, in favour of the more experimental (and un-censored) comedy vehicle that is the internet.   Now for that moment of clarity I promised you earlier. A sort of catchphrase of Richard Herring’s when he and Stewart Lee were on the telly was, “You want the Moon on a stick.”   You might think that the above two articles aren’t too closely related over and above the inclusion of the word ‘Moon’. Not so. You see Richard Herring is also using crowd funding to raise cash for comedy projects delivered over the internet, and I’d also like to use the power of the blog to spread the good word. www.richardherring.com is where to go to donate, or to find routes to all his free comedy material. It has my personal recommendation. It will make you laugh, and therefore make you happy.   So which should you invest in? Furthering the knowledge of the human race, or furthering the happiness of the human race? That’s another one of those philosophical questions I won’t be touching with a barge pole.

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

When Will We Be Famous?

It's no good. After several evenings of cheap ready meals and the leftovers of my fridge, I felt there was no choice but to succumb to temptation. So I took the oportunity to blow some of my savings on a takeaway meal to stave off dietary diseases and boredom. At the local fired chicken store, one I frequent now and then when I have money to spend, I selected my favourite peri-peri meal. It'll blow my head off but for the english, this culinary torture is a masochistic pleasure, and for me, a welome relief.   As a patient and indullgent father proceeded to order the deaths of several more hapless chickens, his daughter and a friend were turning the fast food establishment into an impromptu dance floor. I wonder if they're students at the performing arts school up the road? Not quite the colleges we get in England for that purpose (there's one in Swindon too), and far away from the psuedo-professional arts education parents throw thousands of dollars at every year to try and get their kids into a child-actor role in their summer break, but the result is the same.   These two kids clearly believed utterly they were going places. "When we're famous..." One started, listing her favourite and desirable lifestyle accesories to achieve before her career implodes in a haze of drugs and divorces, the other simply giggling at the prospect.   At this point I have to be honest. I have after all some experience of the performing arts, even professionally for a few years, and at a glance I noticed something. Despite these two girls confidence, their movements were less than elegant, their voices unpleasant to listen to at giggling volume, and whilst I'm sure their fathers think the world of their little angels, they aren't going to grow up to be lookers. It's a tough world. Especially when you want to be famous.   Was I like that at their age? Dreaming of fame and fortune? Yep. I was. The difference is that I had parents who refused point blank to tolerate my adventures in music and so I did them anyway, pushing at the inertia of world ignorance with every ounce of my feeble efforts. These two young ladies are going to learn sooner or later that fame costs. And this is where you start... Well, you know what I mean.... I shook my head at the foolish ambition before me then hurriedly explained to the fast food assistant that I did want my meal with fries.   Lacking Balance The sun has come out this morning. That's pretty much the good news today as I wade through the formalities of keeping the authorities notified of changes in my circumstances and benefits claims.   My first gripe is my sense of balance. I'm reaching the age when falling over is no longer funny, and tends to get a bit painful. Caught in one of those 'banana skin' moments with wet leaves this morning... Woah!.. No, I've recovered, no I haven't... Uo-oh, this is embrarrasing....AAARGH! Thud. Ouch... I discover I've thumped my hand on the ground leaving very uncomfortable bruises and skin abrasions.What is happening to my life?   Forty Things To Do Last week I saw one of those news items on my email service, the sort where someone lists all the things you should before you're forty. Most of them are faintly ridiculous, impossible, or self contradictory, written by some moron who thinks that visiting Paris is romantic, or jumping from an aeroplane an achievement, or that eating at a michelin rated resteraunt says something about you. One of the things to do was having children , which the commentator corectly pointed made the others more or less unachievable.   But there's something more important here. It's the idea that we can claim a measure of esteem from our peers if we conform to their ideas of achievement. It's nothing more than keeping up with the Joneses. Do you really want to measure your life to a list of social requirements made by someone else? Or would you prefer to strive for something you decide is worthwhile?   I suppose you could argue that wanting to be a rock star as I did in my younger days was nothing more than attempting to conform to some ideal. Perhaps. It didn't feel that way for me - that was far more of a personal struggle to free myself of family restraint and become my own man, forge my own future, and not have the fixed plan laid out before me that my mother and father clearly were striving to foist upon my shoulders. My mother always manipulating me, my father always making arrangements behind my back. I was so angry in those days - no wonder I became a rock drummer. Die, audience. Feel the power of my percussive wrath.   Well I had my few moments of fame. Not so fortunate, as it turned out, but life throws those banana skins at us.   Performer of the Week I came home a couple of days ago and ionce I'd thrown off footwear, jackets, shopping, and had the chance to sit and catch some breath, there was some weird music coming from somewhere. Sort of like Gary Numan's Tubeway Army when they're feeling sad and lonely. It was my downstairs neighbour, whose attempts to be deep and meaningful in the medium of song was seriously mournful. I turned the television on, raised the volume, but she didn't get the hint, the music was still audible. So there was nothing for it but to raise my morale and lift the mood with a blast of death metal. Ahhhh....... So peaceful.....

caldrail

caldrail

 

It's a date . . .

Welcome to GhostOfClayton’s Twice Fortnightly blog. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.   An investigative report into dating websites Before I give you my in-depth expose on dating websites, let me tell you how my interest was initially sparked. In order to do that, I will have to transport you way, way back in time to meet the young OfClayton just as he took his first fresh-faced steps into that biggest of all Mug’s Games, working for a living. The boy you are to meet had found that a regular pay packet had delivered a previously unaccustomed degree of wealth. That boy also lived in a village where there were few places to spend it, other than the pub.   At about this time another young chap moved in next door but one, who soon joined a little circle of Young OfClayton’s drinking buddies. This man’s name was not ‘Jimmy’, but we all called him Jimmy, because he called everyone else Jimmy. That logic seemed to make perfect sense at the time, so we’ll move on. Jimmy was a whizz with anything mechanical, and scratched a living by fixing tractors and other agricultural machinery. He rented a couple of bays of a workshop from another, though quite elderly, tractor-fixer call Th’od Norm. For those unfamiliar with the dialect, this translates as ‘The Old Norm’.   One day, The-Yet-To-Be-Mrs-Jimmy phoned Th’od Norm in her capacity as someone who worked for his insurance broker. Once the business had been transacted, Th’od Norm asked The-Yet-To-Be-Mrs-Jimmy if she had a boyfriend. She answered in the negative, and Th’od Norm said something like “Hang on a minute, I’ll get you one”, handed the phone to Jimmy, and to cut a long story short, within a few short years The-Yet-To-Be-Mrs-Jimmy became The-Is-Now-Actually-Mrs-Jimmy. That’s pretty much how dating worked in those days. No need for websites like yourmatesgotagirlfriendsoyoushouldhaveone.com, when there were people like Th’od Norm in the world.   Anyway, it so happened that The-Is-Now-Actually-Mrs-Jimmy had a friend who was single at the time, a relationship status shared by the boy that was OfClayton, so they invited us both along to that most romantic of venues, the Birmingham Motor Show, and to cut a long story short, the young lady in question became Mrs OfClayton a few short years later.   Let’s now wind the clock forward to a mere couple of years ago. Jimmy and The-Is-Now-Actually-Mrs-Jimmy had enjoyed many years of happy marriage, when out of the blue something very unexpected happened. Jimmy walked out. Left for good. Why? I really don’t want to air his dirty washing in public, but suffice it to say there was no third party involved, I had a small degree of sympathy for his reasons (but only a small one), and Mrs OfClayton thought he was being a selfish bastard (her language can get fruity when roused).   Obviously, The-Can-No-Longer-Realistically-Be-Called-Mrs-Jimmy was distraught at first, but (as most people do) she did eventually get used to her new single life. To a reasonable degree, she got over what must have been a very traumatic episode, and started to move on. The problem was, times had changed in the intervening 30 years. You see, when people from Th’od Norm’s generation played Cupid, it was all very direct. When people from The-Is-Now-Actually-Mrs-Jimmy’s generation played Cupid, it was a little more subtle. Nowadays, Cupid has moved so far away from the direct approach, that people need to take matters in to their own hands much more than in the past. It wasn’t too long ago that people needing to find a partner might place a little ad in a dedicated column in the local newspaper, but society tended to judge those people as being just a little desperate. Technology moved on, and the same system moved to the internet, but still there was just a hint of desperation about it. Now, however, internet dating is not only widely accepted, it has become a fairly standard way to hook-up with a mate. The-Can-No-Longer-Realistically-Be-Called-Mrs-Jimmy took to it like a duck to water. She lost a few pounds, smartened herself up, bought some clothes that showed off her new figure to alluring effect, and now pretty much uses Match.com like a lending library. Good luck to her.   So there’s been an interesting social change going on over the last 30 years, which deserves some thorough investigation. Here’s what I know (in actual fact, this is my current perception, not based on any actual facts or research):   Match.com was one of the first dating websites. It seems to be the most popular, with a pretty much all-encompassing demographic.   There’s also eHarmony, which seems to be for a slightly ‘better-class’ of love-seeker. I put that in quotes so as not to seem a bit like a snob – I’m aware it didn’t work.   Recently advertised on late-ish night TV has been a website known as UniformDating.com, which is for “people who work in uniform, or fancy those that do”. The first bit of that sentence, I’m fine with. Firefighters, Police, etc. work unsociable hours, and so maybe need a bit of help to find the right ‘one’. The second part of that sentence seems to lend it a slightly seedy undertone that I can’t quite put my finger on. And yes, this is a little hypocritical when my views on the nurses who work for the Blood Transfusion Service are already a matter of record.   If you’re ‘same-sex’, then there’s a well-known app called Grindr (pronounced 'Grinder') you can bung on your smartphone.   The equivalent for none-same-sex people (I think) is called Tinder (or is it Tindr?). I once saw a newspaper article about it where the headline contained the words “. . . gets you more ass than . . ”, so my assumption is that this is for those seeking a more casual hookup.   There was another one whose name I can’t remember, but it was advertised on late night TV for a while. It unashamedly positioned itself as the website for people who pretty much wanted to cut straight to the nooky, without all that tedious mucking about with single red roses and meeting the parents/kids.   That concludes my in-depth analysis of dating websites. OK, it wasn’t all that ‘in-depth’. You see, I really daren’t do any further research in case Mrs OfClayton looks at my browser history and jumps to the wrong conclusion. Especially given her reaction to Jimmy’s departure from the marital home.

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

The Little Magic Tea Bag Pixie

Hello all. Welcome to the GhostOfClayton Twice Fortnightly blog. You OK? Let’s do this thing.   WARNING: There is no bad language in this blog entry whatsoever. So if you were looking for some, then tough sh*t.   Poltergeist? Prepare yourselves, dear readers, for a strange and terrible tale of spine-tingling supernatural events, that will chill your blood to the very bone.   There have been some mysterious goings-on at OfClayton Towers these past few years. An unquiet spirit walks its dusty hallways. I’ve never actually witnessed this ghostly spectre, but I know it must be there because of the unnerving evidence it leaves behind it. What is this evidence? It leaves a used tea bag in the spoon rest on the kitchen top, by the kettle. Now I know that a sceptic will be saying that these could easily have been left by Mrs OfClayton or myself, but I have proof to the contrary: You see, the kitchen bin is only three paces away (I’ve counted them), and which mortal is so lazy as to be unwilling to walk three paces to the bin with a used tea bag? Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever’s left (no matter how improbable) must be the truth. . . So it can only be a ghost.   Unsettling as this spectral presence is to me, I still smile when I think of it. You see, every time the phantom goes back to leave its next tea bag, it must be taken aback to find that the previous tea bag has mysteriously vanished from the spoon rest. It must think that the tea-bag has been spirited away to the bin by the Little Magic Tea Bag Pixie.   . . . from which I can segue neatly to . . . Another bucket list item well and truly ticked off. For my 50th Birthday, Mrs OfClayton bought me a voucher for a ‘Forest Segway Experience’. I cashed the voucher in on Saturday and spent a very exciting hour whizzing around in Dalby Forest on a Segway. Statistically, you’re not likely to have been on a Segway before, and so I have one piece of advice for you. DO IT. I really enjoyed it. A great feeling, and very easy to pick up how the controls work. Are you still here?

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

Science And Shenanigans

I'm turning into a couch potato, and it's all the fault of Star Trek. Now that the original series and Next Generation are back on the screen, I spend my afternoons and evenings staring dull eyed at the antics of sex crazed Starfleet officers hell bent on being nice people.   I need help.   Worse still I've started watching that awful Ultimate Force series, the one starring Ross Kemp as a Seriously Argumentative Soldier. The strange thing is, although I've never gone out of my way to watch the program before, every episode seems to be the one I saw the first time around.   I need more help.   {i]Red Dwarf[/i], Farscape, Stargate, Stargate Atlantis, and finally at last the original Doctor Who series has started showing on sundays. Great to see all the old doctors back on television again, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker....   Okay. I surrender. You can stop helping me now. I've begun to realise that all this science fiction is distracting me from the reality of my difficult financial situation, rather like the cold war players of the space race fifty years ago. All I need to do now to achieve victory and assume my place in society as a successful jobseeker is walk on the moon. I mean, all I need is a television studio, right?   Cometary Landing In case you haven't heard, scientists have landed a small space vehicle on a comet way out there in the dim depths of our solar system. At last the Dinosaurs get revenge. You are going to blow it up, aren't you?   Childhood Lost With Professor Brian Cox holding a season ticket on science related programs on television, it's pretty well inescapable that I will at some point encounter his master class physics and intellectual whimsy. Hasn't anybody else noticed he smiles whistfully every time he tells us that the Earth is doomed and the Universe will enter a an eternal deep freeze?   But there he was, holding a copy of Spacecraft 2000-2100AD, a book with pages of science fiction paintings of exotic futuristic craft and bogus histories surrounding them. He told us how he especially liked the pages about the Martian Queen, a fast luxury liner that plied the spacelanes. Yes. I remember that too. I was also a convert to the Book Of Speculative Starships, the very same volume. So like him I was thrilled by the shape of things to come, only he gets to be a television celebrity and I get to argue with claims advisors. I had the same start as him. Where did it all go wrong?   Maybe I was too positive. So, having learned Proferssors Cox's lesson - Hey - We're all doomed, especially me.   Blaming Something Else This is one of those 'a friend of a friend' stories you sometimes hear, but worth repeating. There's this guy who goes out clubbing one saturday night and as chance would have it, gets off with a young lady, so it's back to her place for coffeee and whatever else he hoped to persuade her into cooperating with.   Once there she went off to slip into something more comfortable, which was a problem because he wasn't comnfortable at all. Desperate for a pooh, and not wanting to spoil his chances of a fun night in (and maybe more), he opted to exploit a cat litter tray.She won't notice, right?   Wrong. She spotted it immediately, and from that point forward she was never able to understand how her six week old kitten had left a pooh bigger than it was.   Conclusion of the Week It dawned on me last night. Was the reason I had been savaged at the Job Centre for no apparent reason and forced to close my benefit claim because David Cameron wants good statistics about uneplyment to present to the public when he goes to polls in the near future?   If Cameron wants to pound his fist at media briefings and ponse around the world stage as if he's someone important, I'd rather he did that at his own expense, not mine. That's one lost vote Cameron. How many more do you want?

caldrail

caldrail

 

Battlefield post office

I have to send quite regualry maps to various customers around the world and luckily till about a few months ago the delivery rate was really good. I think one in 100 maps arrived damaged in some form or shape, so nothing to worry about. However...   About a month ago my post office informed me that round tubes are no longer served, i cannot use them anymore, reason beeing they cannot be stacked, they roll, so they are a logistical nightmare. Ok, whats the alternative? I was told that there is a very good alternative that cost the same and is basically a tube with corners , so they can stack..   well i show you how sturdy those bastards are below... (image thanks to a not so happy customer)     As you can see that thing is quite flat, so i learned two things; dont trust anyone, and those parcels are not handled with care... Conclusion, i invested in better tubes, in fact if they manage to break them than i give up, see below the monther of all tubes... cost three times as much as a normal one but apparently a Boing 747 can roll over it (not really)...  

Viggen

Viggen

 

Frustrated And Furious

I am officially at war. Never wanted it to come to this but my Claims Advisor has gone too far. After inspiring me to apoplexy the week before, she made sure there were no independent witnesses in the office and attempted to provoke an incident, one which presumably would have me escorted off the premises and quite probably to a waiting police car outside. Sorry, I'm not falling for that one.   As I look for work, I record each step I make, and I mean fairly exhaustively. That list has satisfied claims advisors since I started it in 2010. For some time now I've been copying that information onto a government website to record my jobsearching activity for all to see. Last week I mentioned this to my Claims Advisor, telling her that the records were available. She dismissed it. No use to her at all. Okay. I won't bother posting it then. Less work for me, although I still keep the list up to date.   The next week she asked why the government website hadn't been updated. I reminded her we'd discussed that point previously., but she insisted she needed the information to know what I had been up to. Okay. Would she like a printed copy of the latest information? No, she tells me, it might just be typed up, an argument I found odd because I was only going to copy and paste the same information anyway. So she was demanded information she had already dismissed and then dismissed it again.   And so on.   Finally I gave up after a barrage of demands to account for some discrepancy in her investigation of my activity. I told her I'd had enough of this circus, threw my signing book on the desk, and told her to close my Jobseekers Benefit claim. Which she obviously hasn't, in order to portray me as reneging on my Jobseekers Agreement, which I haven't.   So a little advice to all those unfortunate souls who have by chance found themselves in the dustbin of the employment marketplace. It makes no difference how diligent you are. It makes no difference how honest you are. It makes no difference how much jobsearching you do. When a Claims Advisor wants her bonus for christmas, she is going to find a reason to justify it, at your expense of course. Kiss your reputation goodbye, because as of now you're a dole cheat. Gulty until proven innocent.   Of course if you're sitting on your backside because you don't want to work, that's your problem. I really don't care what happens to you.   Pouring Cold Water On It The weather lately has been fairly wet. Hey, this is Britain you know. Yesterday I had to walk across town to attend a course at the local college (intended to improve my marketability in employment). With all the rain, there was a lot of standing water by the roadside. So I got splashed by a passing car. Then a line of three or four cars splashed me one after the other.   Needless to say I vented my frustration loudly. Wasn't much else I could do. But you know, it has changed my mind. All those police video programs you see on television are blatant propaganda, however well intentioned. When do you actually come across a police officer so gentlemanly and fair minded? I'm no longer botjhered by this. Car dribers - or drivers of any other vehicle on the road - if you get caught, it's your own fault. I couldn't care less what hapens to you.   Pilot Of The Week There I was this morning, diligently searching for work and making job applications at the Support Centre, when I heard one of their administrators mention to his boss "Hey, you've got a pilot on your case load".   You've got one in the room too, I added. I mean me, if anyone hasn't come across my flying escapades on this blog. Not that it actually mattered as such, but I got to chat up a pretty young lady as a result. Oh yes. Those magnificent men...

caldrail

caldrail

 

Disco's here, dat goes der

Warning: This blog contains the word 'shit', and possibly other words like 'shit'. If you're not comfortable with reading the word 'shit (or other words similar to 'shit'), then I advise you not to read on, just in case you encounter the word 'shit'. You have been warned! (About the word 'shit').   Hello everybody. Welcome to the GhostOfClayton Twice Fortnightly blog. Comfy? Off we go.   Disco's here, dat goes der I genuinely doubt that anyone has followed this blog from its early incarnations, and who could blame them? After my long hiatus, I read a few back to help me get into the swing, and was quite disappointed by how amateurish ‘Past OfClayton’ sounded as he penned them (we shouldn’t expect too much from him. As I established in an earlier blog, that boy’s an idiot!) However, if by some strange quirk of fate, you have followed it from its early beginnings, you’ll know that I often spend New Year’s Eve in the club in the sleepy little village of Aquis of the Romans (at least ever since Mrs OfClayton put a stop to me working in sunnier climes over the festive period). This year will be no exception, but I will have a job to do.   The Aquis of the Romans Residents’ Association have members who are always regaling the others with tales of the glory days of New Year’s Eves in the Club. How a disco would be held, and huge numbers of village residents would come along to party the dregs of the old year away, and celebrate the coming of the New Year. How so many people turned up, you could barely squeeze in the door. Halcyon days!   So a few of the guys (mainly aging rockers such as yours truly) hatched a plan. We could beg, steal or borrow some disco equipment, each make up a playlist of suitably rockin’ tracks on our phones, plug the latter into the former, and “Hey, Presto!” a cheap disco. All washed down with cheap beer, and the Landlady’s Pie ‘n’ Peas (you can’t beat foods that are combined by use of an ‘n’ . . . . bangers ‘n’ mash, fish ‘n’ chips, etc.) The perfect evening.   Task list: Beg/Steal/Borrow disco equipment. Done. Arrange food. Done. Print tickets and posters. Done. Get a list of popular disco tracks. Hmm. Problem.   Any member of the zero-sized group of people who have followed this blog right from its humble beginnings will know that my taste in music isn’t all that suitable for use in a disco. Any of you care to help me out with requests?   Forking Hell The trouble with being a tour guide is that no-one’s going to get rich off it. That means that alternative employment must be sought to bridge the gap when not doing it, and this year I have been lucky enough to secure a new position (albeit only up until January). It’s covering a health and safety position in a Warehouse during a busy period, and I have to say, I’m enjoying it very much. There are all sorts of very blokey things like huge articulated (unlike some of the drivers) lorries coming and going, forklifts buzzing about, and some really, really high racking (with associated really, really high trucks to reach those dizzy heights.) I have to wear hard hat, safety glasses, steel toe capped shoes, and a high viz jacket, because of all that danger. I love it. That’s why I hope no-one I work with ever reads this blog.   You see, I am a fairly typical second child. OfClayton Major (my elder sister) has a very sensible, responsible, safety-minded personality, whereas OfClayton Minor (me) is much more of a risk-taker; not quite ‘Death or Glory’, but very much ‘Shit or Bust’. In short, not the sort of individual you’d want to keep you safe from, say, being impaled on the forks of a passing stacker truck. “It’ll be right”, is always my response whenever Mrs OfClayton relates her latest worry to me (telling me I shouldn’t be using chainsaws whilst up trees, and the like) . . . And yet here I am, still alive. So I must’ve been right all these years. Anyway, just to show what a day in my life is like, please have a look at this (surprisingly good) forklift training video – it’s in German with English subtitles.  

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

Chilly Times Ahead

If I'm not mistaken, the weather is turning seasonal and things generally get a bit chilly. Yep, the trees are turning brown, and that's not because they've spotted the tree surgeons butchering the local vegetation on the annual crusade to defoliate Swindon. I was amused the other week when I encountered a couple of guys sweeping leaves out of the main corridor of the College. How very autumnal. Unfortunately, there's little for me to be amused about now and yes, things are definitely getting chilly.   Showdown At The Job Centre Boy oh boy was I naive. I walked right into this confrontation without any idea what was coming. I'd been told I was seeing a different advisor this week. As you might expect, I just assumed that my usual advisor was taking a holiday or some other reason to to save her sanity by avoiding my weekly progress report.   Oh no. Nothing so innocent. This lady was from Compliance. They're the equivalent of the Gestapo. I have to say she was a fine actress. her rendition of "I'm in a really really bad mood and what on Earth is this rubbish you're presenting me with?" was fabulous. I know she was faking it - I spotted her amused expression from the corner of my eye when she sent me on a pointless errand to get evidence of my jobsearch. I provide that every week as part of my normal activity, but after she had more or less accused me of being a liar, I no longer provide it. She is after all merely looking for an excuse to stop my payments. Anything will do.   So I could not answer her questions without fingers pointed at me, accusations of bad behaviour, accusations of unrealistic expectations or activity, accusations of this, that or the other....   it's inexcusable. I lost my temper. Somehow I don't think that was part of her game plan. But what a ridiculous situation. I've just spent a week at Swindon College going through an Employability course, taking a Health & Safety examination, and all of a sudden I'm unemployable. The woman is an idiot.   Health Diet Of The Week You can't go far these days without an expert telling you that whatever you've been eating is going to kill you unless you change to this new diet, available from all good bookstores at low low prices. It was refreshing then to have been present at the Support Centre when one of the young ladies was accused of not eating properly or healthily. Healthy or not, there is nothing more scornful than a woman denied chocolate.   Now there's an idea....

caldrail

caldrail

 

British Teeth

Warning: This blog contains a few mild swear words. They are all used gratuitously, and are by no means required by the context. I just felt like using them.   Hello everybody. Welcome to the GhostOfClayton Twice Fortnightly Blog (twice-fortnightly until I can no longer be arsed). Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.   I had a toothache this week. Not too painful, but sufficient to make chewing on the right side of my mouth an uncomfortable experience. It went away the next day, so I’m obviously going to do the male thing, and forget it ever happened. But it got me thinking about teeth.   The defining characteristic of a Brit, in the eyes of our friends in the US, is that our teeth aren’t up to much. Now, looking at the OfClayton ivory collection during ablutions, I can’t put up too much of a spirited defence, if I’m honest. They’re all there, but they don’t have the kind of uniformity a US Citizen would expect, and they’re certainly well short of that American whiteness you could see by in the dark . . . and anything astern of my canine teeth have a distinctly metallic theme going on, in between the grinding surfaces.   Why? I visit the dentist regularly. I have an electric toothbrush, and use it until it tells me to stop. I use a branded toothpaste.   But will these things help me to get a gleaming set of perfect gnashers? The simple answer is ‘no’. As you get older, dentine builds up in the teeth, and they go yellow. Having them whitened is purely a cosmetic thing. Teeth grow at imperfect angles, and only if the angle becomes quite severe, or if you want them to be perfectly aligned for cosmetic reasons, will you have scaffolding erected around them to push them gradually straight. Mine were always just sufficiently straight that braces were never considered. Also to be factored in is the matter of fillings. When I was a kid, the fillings you had were metallic and contained mercury. By the time white fillings came along, my teeth were already liberally dotted with dark patches, and so one or two white fillings would be an exercise in futility.   Then there’s the cost to consider. Like every right-thinking UK resident, I balk at the need to spend any of my hard-earned cash on healthcare, even the small matter of the tenner it costs for a filling. So if the dentist has the affront to suggest I stump an additional fiver for something merely cosmetic like a white filling (and free of mercury, but let’s not examine that too closely), then obviously I’m going to look back at him with my most withering of sceptical gazes. I mean, if I’d had a bad road accident on my way to the dentist, was helicoptered to the nearest trauma centre, had a series of major operations, spent 6 months recovering in hospital with round the clock nursing care, and the latest medications, I wouldn’t need to trouble my cheque book at all. And yet, if I made it to the dentist with all limbs still intact, “Hey, Presto!”, another ten pounds disappears from the OfClayton family fortune. And aren’t dentists all failed doctors anyway? They should be cheaper! Before I upset too many dentists, I don’t believe that for a second, and very much credit dentists with the respect they deserve. I’m merely opening up a window into the British mentality with regard to actually paying for healthcare (shudder).   That was my first theory about why British teeth are seen as unfit to grace US TV screens. My second is more sinister.   Imagine I was a pharmaceutical magnate, with a vast fortune to invest in a new brand of toothpaste. I have two business models to choose from:   Business Model A I invest the majority of the money into dental research to make sure that the active ingredients going into my product are the most efficacious in terms of tooth decay prevention, limitation of plaque and tartar build-up, and enamel strengthening. All these ingredients are expensive, and require both technically advanced plant and a skilled workforce, to ensure consistent manufacture of the product, and high quality standards. Because of the cost of raw materials, its unit cost is also going to be high. This puts it at the top end of the market, but any lifelong user of this toothpaste is going to be rewarded with sound dental health for the duration. The modest amount of investment remaining can be used for marketing during the launch campaign to tell people an only slightly exaggerated version of the truth about my toothpaste.   Business Model B – Part 1 I create a toothpaste from very cheap ingredients (which would only be dentally beneficial by coincidence) and add a minty fresh flavouring ingredient, and a bright white paste. Manufacturing predominantly consists of mixing these things together and putting them in a tube, so plant is cheap, as are the unskilled workforce. Just enough is done to satisfy the regulator that I’m not giving everyone mouth cancer. This leaves me with a large chunk of my investment still unspent. Good, because I’ll be using it to blitzkrieg the media with ad campaigns featuring young, attractive people with perfect teeth splashing in sun-soaked waves or skiing in bright-white mountains, with smiles that The Joker would be proud of. Throw in 2.2 perfect kids and a bit of bullshit science, and I’ve positioned my toothpaste as an effective product you can rely on, used by perfect people that real people aspire to be like. Now here’s the clever bit. The pricing. I’m selling what I’ve hoodwinked Jo Public into believing is a high-end, expensive product. I just need to make Jo Public think that it is expensive in the shops they’re not in at the moment. Just this week only, Tesco are doing it on two for one. Next week only, it’ll be 50% off. And so on, until you change the package to an even shinier one, add an extra claim, change the adverts to ones with more convincing science, and add ‘Ultra’ to the name. Same shit – different box.   OK. Of course people will eventually get wise to Business Model B, and switch brands. That’s the power of the free market, if people don’t like it, they’ll vote with their feet. Or will they? This is toothpaste we’re talking about here, remember, not glue. You’re not going to realise the brand of toothpaste you use wasn’t as good as you thought it would be until you’re in your seventies. And then you have no frame of reference for comparison. That last filling you had? Did you blame your toothpaste? Did you go and switch brands? You didn’t. And even if you had . . . . . .   Business Model B – Part 2 Part two is easy. Just set up two or three apparently competing brands working to the same model. There’s only so much room on supermarket shelves for toothpaste.   Question 1: Which business model would give me a bigger return on my investment? Question 2: Which business model is favoured by the manufacturer of the toothpaste you use?

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

Open For Business

It's the bad old days all over again. Back when I was a youngster the world was biting its nails as Russia and America stared nose to nose with a nuclear arsenal to smack each other with the moment one or the other said something about their mother. Back then it was common practice for the Russians to send reconnaisance aircraft into our airspce here in Britain to see if we were still paying attention, which of course we did, sending jets to intercept the intruders and wave them off while they gave us cheery waves back.   It looks as if the same sort of thing is starting again. Putin wants his military back from the brink, reversing the decay caused by the decline of communism and the new economic market. So far they've been flying in international airspace which is allowed, and I see one report that a nuclear warefare exercise has 'probably' taken place in the Atlantic. Oh good.   More From The Old College Site Recently I popped into my local chinese takeaway. The lady there is a nonsense 'can't stop talking' type, which would be irritating if it wasn't for her hilarious accent. Worth the visit just to have a conversation, but trust me on this, you'd better be quick with replies.   Oh hi   "You wan food?"   Umm... Let's see...   "You wan food? Look at menu."   Oh right. Well...   "You wan meal for two?"   Erm, yeah...   "Rice or noodles?"   Noodles.   "Wait I answer phone... You wan food?... You wan food? Look at menu.... You wan meal for two?.... What you wan with noodles?.... Thirty minutes.... Bye. Okay, now what you wan with noodles?"   And so on, until you've finished ordering, she's finished bossing customers about over the telephone, and the cook has retreated back into the kitchen again bruised and beaten. Then she gets quite chatty.   "You wan conversation?"   Erm...   As it happens we did have an interesting chat because that was the same day the supermarket opened at the Old College site. Neither of us had ever shopped in a Morrisons before so we were both curious. It was one of those conversdations where you agree completely with the other non-stop for fifteen minutes.   "Here is meal. You go home now."   Erm...   So what is our new supermarket like? Funnily enough, it felt and looked exactly like every other supermarket in town. There was a strange sense of deja vu as I wandered past the fresh fruit shelves near the entrance, watching all the future cancer patients busy choosing which government warning pack to buy at the cigarette stall, and spied the rows of neatly ordered shelves stuffed full of low low prices and guarantees of money back if you can get it cheaper anywhere else.   Actually the prices aren't bad. I've found stuff I can buy cheaper than the usual haunts I'm used to, so I'm happy, only now I have to visit four supermarkets an week instead of three. A bit like complying with my Jobseekers Agreement, only you spend money instead of begging for it.   Jobsearch of the Week For some reason the Job Centre have put me on the Families Support Programme. Why, I cannot say, seeing as I don't have a family, but at least the Support Centre is full of attractive young lady assistants so my jobsearching efforts have mysteriously gotten more enthusiastic. Must dash. I have a review session with my advisor and don't want to be late.   I am so shallow.

caldrail

caldrail

 

Don't Sleep in the Subway, Darling!

I haven’t blogged for a while, and I’m now back in the UK until February, so I thought I’d give it a go.   In a New York State of Mind   On the 5th October I bade a fond farewell to New York City and returned to these shores. It was an interesting goodbye, because this year I’d seen much more of New York State; it’s always good to see a place in context, rather than just living in the little bubble of the city. The reason is that I’ve been doing a new tour, and I’ll tell you a little about it (this isn’t to try and sell it, but merely because it’s really interesting.) The backbone of this 2-week tour is a rail journey from Toronto to New York City, stopping off for a few days here and there. Toronto itself isn’t too exciting, if I’m honest, though walking on the glass floor at the top of the CN Tower is quite an experience. I don’t have a particular fear of heights, but even I hesitated for just a second before stepping out over the abyss.   The first stop off along the way is Niagara Falls. Have you been? I urge you to do so; the falls are every bit as impressive as everyone says. The other tip I have is not to be scared of the border: walk both the Canadian and the US sides. I took a group down into the Cave of the Winds (US side), and they were very impressed; you get very up-close-and-personal with the falls (that is to say you get wet). Niagara Falls itself, as a place, is less impressive. Extremely tacky. The reality is that once you’ve done everything the falls have to offer, the only thing you can do in that area is man-made entertainment. My advice? Only stay one night – and take a waterproof.   Next stop is Ithaca – a town in the Finger Lakes region. The geography is all gorges and waterfalls, and it’s also home to Cornell University. A lovely, lovely place, especially if you like gorges, waterfalls, and Ivy League universities.   Then we stop off to do some more serious hiking in the Catskills, before continuing to New York City for a long weekend in the Big Apple.         Don't Sleep in the Subway, Darling   Due to my blog-o-pause, one thing I didn’t tell you about was a little incident I had on the New York Subway. This was on a New York City tour, one bright and sunny Tuesday morning. The plan for the day was to take the group all the way downtown to the very southern tip of Manhattan, and then walk up the Esplanade along the Hudson River to a pre-booked appointment at the 9/11 Memorial. People could then visit for as long as they wanted, and go off to enjoy their only free afternoon of the week.   Over breakfast, I hadn’t felt hungry. This will seem odd to those of you who know me; my ample frame is testament to the fact that I’m not a picky eater. I ate some of a bowl of cornflakes, and that was about it. By the time 0900 rolled around and I headed out to the subway, I really was feeling sub-par. The subway was absolutely rammed that morning, with miserable looking commuters on their way to Wall Street. I squeezed myself in against a door and stood, some of the group standing around me. During the journey, I started to feel worse and worse until I realised that I had to sit down (preferably not still in the very crowded carriage). As the train pulled into 14th Street, I decided I would have to get out and sit on the platform. I turned to my nearest group member and said something like, “I feel really ill. I’m getting out for a sit down at the next station. Get out at South Ferry, and I’ll catch up with you in 15 minutes.”   Then, the train pulled to a halt, the doors opened, and suddenly I went to a really happy place. Not sure where, or what went on while I was there, but I just remember it was a really happy place. I smile as I remember back to what a really happy place it was. I was wrenched reluctantly away from my happy place to find a number of concerned people leaning over me and saying “Sir, are you alright?” “Oh God!”, I thought, as reality flooded back, “I’m still on this #*!£*ing train!”   I was helped to my feet, and dropped into a seat that some kind soul had vacated especially for me, and at that point ‘Mike’ turned up. Mike was just the sort of guy you need in a crisis. He was a New York Cop, who was making his way down to his precinct for the final time. It was his last day before retirement, and he was on his way to perform his last official duty, which was to hand in his badge. Whilst I was away in my happy place, he’d achieved the following:   Taken control of the situation Notified the subway authorities Held the train Ensured an ambulance was called Cleared a space around me Ensured a nearby seat was free for me Berated some Wall Street commuters (who were moaning about the inconvenience) by shouting “I’ll hold this train for as long as I need to – it’ll be here an hour if necessary”   I heard the latter as this superman was helping me into the seat. Anyway, moving events a little further forward, I soon regained enough strength to walk out onto the platform, and the train could finally pull out of the station (the Wall Street gang would get to work, the US economy was safe once more). Whilst sitting on the cold concrete of the subway floor, I handed over a map of New York to a responsible group member, told him how to get to the 9/11 Memorial, and what to tell them (they’re a great bunch and I knew they would sort it out). That effectively discharged my official duties for the rest of the day, though I did ask for a volunteer to escort me back to the hotel.   Next, the ambulance arrived. Now I don’t wish to upset any readers in the US, and this is based solely on this one encounter, but your ambulance service leaves a lot to be desired. Allow me to explain. I do have a certain amount of medical training (Occupational First Aid, and Wilderness First Aid), and by that time I had self-diagnosed. A pressure in my bowel had started to build. Not that usual pressure, but that certain type of pressure that says, “whilst there’s no hurry at the moment, things could turn catastrophic very quickly if you don’t plan to be within a few feet of a toilet in the next hour.” This pressure, I knew, was a result of liquid being absorbed into the intestine in a desperate effort to flush through the burgeoning colonies of virulent bacteria that had set up home there. The loss of liquid from the blood stream had resulted in a sudden drop in blood pressure, causing lack of oxygen to the brain, causing “Good Night, OfClayton!”. Given that I had a gastric infection, the ambulance crew didn’t even wear latex gloves before examining me. I’ve dealt with Paramedics in the UK, France and Madeira, and in all cases they put gloves on before touching the patient.   I sent the ambulance crew away (think of the cost!), and SuperMike helped me up the steps to street level, and helped me into a taxi. What a guy! He was taking advantage of the NYPD’s generous (and very well-deserved) retirement package to move to a tropical island and open a scuba diving school. I wish him well. I only hope that I’m that good when I have crises to deal with. What a guy! (Him, not me.)   The grimly gastric details of the rest of that day (spent alone in my hotel room) must be kept from you for reasons of good taste. Suffice it to say that it’s a good job that the toilet and washbasin were close to one another.   Anyway, to summarise the rest of the week: I know a guide who lives in New York who was happy to take my group (and $100) from me on the Wednesday, and by Wednesday evening I was well enough to take them out for dinner (but not really well enough to eat anything significant). On Thursdays I normally take groups upstate on the train for a non-too taxing stroll along a little stretch of the Croton Aqueduct Trail, and Friday breakfast saw me polish off a stack of pancakes in the Diner, so I knew things were back on an even keel.     The other big thing I didn’t tell you was that this year, I turned fifty. I will no doubt start hearing the word ‘prostate’ more often.

GhostOfClayton

GhostOfClayton

 

Schools Out!

That's it for this week as my college course closes because of half term. This is the first time in thrity years that I've been to College. I have to go back next week to finish off my course and again shortly after to finish it off even more.   What course am I studying? Well, it isn't Roman History. It isn't a degree in Dynamic Temporal Physics either., sadly, so I still can't argue with Professor Brian Cox without being put in my place. No, it's Employability Level One, so I'm finally being trained to do all the stuff I've been doing for the last decade. Again. I got that certificate three years ago and no-one noticed so please excuse me if I seem a little underwhelmed by my own scholastic achievement.   Great bunch of people to study with too, some I knew before, some I've gotten to know ion the course. All great fun. Especially now it's practically finished, although the fun bit about breathing life into life size plastic dummies has yet to be held. Ladies, I'm sorrow, but playing dead will no longer work.   Out On The Streets Swindon's main shopping street is as busy as might be expected this time before the turbo nutter "Oh my God I forgot Aunty Hilda" shopping session as Christmas arrives. However, I have to be honest. part of my Employability course was a team exercise, clearly ripped off from The Apprentice on BBC in an outrageous example of educational plagiarism, to go shopping for interview wear and investigate the best bargains available to us, though thankfully we weren't required to actually purchase anything or the ladies in the team would be still out there, tutting and fussing over small fashion details whilst us blokes lose the will to live. I've got a few more white hairsbut I survived the experience without being fired by Lord Alan Sugar.   Meanwhile the Phantom Pavement Scribbler was at work. Don't know who he is, other than he happens to be unemployed like me but not yet sent on an Employability course, who's been writing poetic dissertations on the reality of Life, The Universe, and the Dole Queue on the pavement in coloured chalk. Well it keeps him off the street, doesn't it?   Apprentices Of The Week Now that our favourite BBC soap opera is back in its tenth anniversary series with extra contestants for yet more tantrums, petty disasters, and dramatic dismissals, I have to say this is without doubt the worst and least impressive collection of ego's and talentless wannabee's yet collected. So far, on the third week of twelve, each exercise has been won by accident by the least capable team and so the news headlines are now focusing on something more interesting like which Apprentice is bonking another. More tantrums and petty disasters then.   Told you it was a soap opera.

caldrail

caldrail

 

Learning The Ways OF The Jobseeker

It's open! It's all open! The supermarket at the Old College site is open for business! Drop everything and rush down there at once before everything goes in the Swindon store's grand opening. Or not. Depending on whether you actually care. It's still a building site of course but at least the public and wander in awe along the aisles admiring the low low prices and bargains galore.   The supermarket isn't the only new store opening here recently. There's the toy shop at the old shopping cente too. As it happens that wasn't particularly of any interest to me but imagine my suprise turning a corner when I spotted an imperial storm trooper looking for androids in a Swinbon street. No really, fully dressed in up and carrying one of those short barrelled blasters they couldn't hit a barn door with. It's a wonder he wasn't arrested for carrying an offensive weapon.   [My Jedi Training Begins This morning I dragged myself out of bed for that most unusual of job searching activities, the early morning start. For today I'm off to 'Boot Camp', Basic Training for Jobseekers 101, at the local college (the new one, not the mass of bricks, scaffolds, hi-vis vests, and bewildered shoppers at the Old College site). After a decade of intermittent quests for employment the Job Centre have decided I'm a useless klutz who must be re-educated and indoctrinated into the ways of the Force, findings jobs with the blast shield down, stretching out with my feelings, sensing terrible disturbances, although at my age leaping several hundred feet in one go and getting into intense laser sword fights isn't quite so easy. No wonder Ben Kenobi lost his final confrontation with Darth Vader, but then he was long term unemployed too as I seem to remember from the films. Mind you, living in a cave out in the desert wastes of Tatooine, he didn't have a brand new supermarket to find food in.   The Job Centre couldn't wait to send me on this two week course, the joke being that it turns out only the first meeting was mandatory. But hey, let's be positive, at least at the end of this I'll be able to prove to employers that I, Old Ben Caldrail, am fully presentable and employable with my new certificate. What? Another one? Oh yes. In two weeks I shall be a Jobseeking Jedi, learned in the ways of employment. The Job Centre will expect nothing less.   Jedi Prowess Of The Week There are roadworks along the pavements of the street outside my home. I know this because the local population collide with the plastic barricades in a drunken attempt to stagger from one pub to another each evening. You see, a little bit of Jedi training, and they would sense the presence of obstructions and dark holes in the ground.

caldrail

caldrail

 

As If By Magic

The run of good weather seems to have come to an end. I know this because it's raining outside, and that's always a reliable clue. The almost complete car park of the Old Cllege site is awash with puddles and dampened blokes in high vis gear, who never seem to be doing anything when you look at them. Funny thing is, walk away for a few minutes and the site gets an mysterious upgrade when you're loking the other way as if by magic.   Sex Godesses Of Atlantis Don't worry, this is merely a ploy to achieve better ratings. I'd have to be a magician to find Atlantis. Come to think of it, I'd have to be a magician to find a sex-godess. Or avoid the attention of policemen in the process. Or for that matter, embarrasing questions as to why I'm staring dull eyed at the PC when I should be looking for work.   Back To the Search My quest for gainful employment continues. As it happens I'm getting a tad disgruntled with lifes little failures (or even the somewhat more important larger ones), so my replies to Mrs Claims Advisors questions are increasingly peppered with blunt or gruff observances, which in fairness reduce her to laughter.   Also I now have organisations competing to send me on courses for over-fifties claimants. The usual sort of thing, help with CV's, help with jobsearching on the internet, help with career planning, and so forth. All the stuff I've been regularly trained up on over the last decade in fact. It seems then that the Department of Work & Pensions thinks I have the memory span of a goldfish college dropout. Oh it's not worth getting angry about. Let's forget it.   Oh.   Back To The Interview Not impressed with the latest round of interviews in the endless quest for gainful employment. One place was nothing more than franchise for door to door van driving salespersons. I would have to drive to another town to stick up, drive back to find customers from scratch, and in a few months, would have around thirty drivers in the same area all competing for thier custom. Quite how I'd make a living at that I don't know. Nor did the other applicants who were similarly hoodwinked to attend. One phoned their head office to check the small print and ended up telling them to stuff it.   The other interview was for a small industry in a quiet corner of my home town. The front door had a secuirty system on it so all I could do was ring the bell and wait for a tinny disembodied voce to answer. The cleaner had to show me where the button was - that's how secure this place was.   "Hello?"   Oh, hi, I'm Caldrail, here for interview.   "Interview? What, here?"   Urmm... Yes.... I have an interview in ten minutes.   "Ohhh... Right... "   And it sort of never got any better than that. They've chosen someone else to do the job since then so obviously I failed the security buzzer test. Mental note - bring a sledgehammer next time.   Magic Of The Week Pick a card. Any card. Don't let me see it. Remeber that card.   Put the card back into the pack and shuffle the pack.   Pick the cards back off the floor. It's okay, the magic will still work.   Right then. So this was your card, right? Heh heh heh.... Magic is so easy when you know how.

caldrail

caldrail

 

Scotland & Skulduggery

Mrs Claims Advisor is getting a bit fed up of me. Now that unemployment has shrunk to its lowest level since 2008, I'm starting to become a cause celebre. She's already done her best to have my title removed and begin her attempt to turn me into an indentikit working class grunt. Do I not think that I should remove "Lord" from my CV? Not really. Boring old Mr Caldrail got maybe two or three views with each iteration. My last CV, as similar to the others as it is possible to get (apart from being labelled "Lord Rail") saw twenty five views last month alone. So I got paid for this fortnight. Money in my pocket? Woo hoo.   Once more unto the shops, dear friends, once more... Those who did not shop this day will hold their wallets cheap... You have to admit, Shakespeare had a misquote for every purpose. How about one from The Scottish Play, dangerously close to becoming foreign literature...Who be that Unemployed Man?   That question was asked by a policeman who was getting out of his patrol car parked on the other side of the street as I squeezed past an illegally parked car. From his perspective it probably looked like I was trying the doors to an expensive looking Mercedes. "Yeah, get out of here..." He called after me.   It's unbelievable. My car gets vandalised regularly, finally stolen, and the Police tell me to investigate it myself. Then this constable starts looking at me like I steal cars from other people! Justice has a very sour taste in my area. I don't know what that crowd of policemen were doing outside the old hotel across the road earlier yesterday morning (I diagnose a possible crime scene), but I hope the long arm of the law reaches in the right direction this time. If they get enough practice, they might realise I'm not guilty of anything else than wearing socially unacceptable military surplus trousers.   More From The Scottish Play With the referendum on Scottish Independence happening today, the news is all "Scotland Decides". Maybe the reason Mrs Claims Advisor is hustling me along is because she risks being arrested as an illegal immigrant in a weeks time? One can only hope.   But what's this? Gordon Brown coming out of retirement to make a speech arguing about the need for Scotland to stay within the United Kingdom? Not only that, he sounded very passionate and shock horror he actually impressed me. That's a first.   A part of me hopes Scotland will fall flat on its face if they vote for independence. Not because I want to see any hardship foisted on the Scottish, but because I don't think I could stand Alex Salmonds smugness if he wins.   Not Playing Fair Having avoided arrest I wandered into the park to enjoy some peace and quiet. A pointless exercise after lunch however. The park is almost deserted in the morning but with a balmy afternoon every person unemployed since 2008 find some reason to be there, shouting loudly for no other reason than peace and quiet would leave them no distractions and so they would be forced to endure their own thoughts. Nonetheless the park is large enough to find somewhere to sit down quietly.   So I found my quiet corner and sat down. There he is again! Not the policeman, I mean Sid the Squirrel. Every time I sit down on that particular park bench he appears, trotting along the path ungainly, sniffing and scratching at anything that interested him. Squirrels at top speed in the branches are wonderfully graceful. Walking slowly along the ground they somehow resemble an inebriated scotsman. Sid wandered by, minding his own business. Well, unlike some of our local residents, at least he's not stealing cars.   There he is again. As I left the park to go about my business the very same policeman pulled out of the side street and coasted past in his patrol car as I waited to cross the road. Well, unlike some of our local residents, at least he's not stealing cars.   Sale Of The Century At the Charity they do a roaring trade in bric-a-brac. Where does all this stuff come from? Who on Earth is buying it? I found myself a few times sat outside in the sunshine becoming quite adept at my marketplace banterm pulling in unsuspecting punters and persuading them that they need a little bric-a-brac in their lives. My sales record was beginning to rival the local expert.   Some stuff doesn't get sold however. Either it's not in saleable condition, or it was merely rubbish to begin with. One item on the point of being binned was a plastic skull, looking for all the world like an albino martian (Mars Attacks!). It was so cute I couldn't resist saving it from the great recycling centre in the sky. Unfortunately I was called upon to head out on the furniture van to boldly lift where no lifting has been done before, so I had to leave Sid the Skull behind. I asked the lady on the bric-a-brac desk to look after him. So she sold Sid for 60p while I was away. Gasp! Poor old Sid. Sold into slavery when he could have a home where he would have been looked after and exercised regularly in a socially acceptable manner. There's no justice.   or Maybe... Or maybe there is. This morning I received a letter from the Department of Work & Pensions admitting the error in my dole payments was theirs and I don't have to pay the money back. Neither am I being hit with a Civic Penalty Charge. Ahh yes... It's these little things that make my life worthwhile.

caldrail

caldrail

 

Bye Bye Wordpress

...after 11 years it is time to move on. Worpress served us at times ok but security and spam issues are got so out of hand its no longer sustainable, and that despite the good reputation it has in general. There are just too many hack attacks and spam floods coming with it that i decided the time has come...   To give you an idea, we run wordpress really only for the front page, basically a news window to new content we produce. The forum, gallery, blog and download section is all one softare and integrated. Now the front page will join the party. Its a huge upgrade for us. There is one database driving than all comunity related. Looking really forward to that. The only thing that is left are the internal pages. Those are all hand coded with no database at all, that will be than the final step to have everything from one database.   A beautiful example (hey dont shoot me if you hate chelsea) is this page that uses the full software suite (forum, home page and content) http://www.talkchelsea.net/   ...so dont be surprised to see the home page soon in a bit different look...

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E-mails oh E-mails

...one of the real pain in the ass consequences of having many fake accounts is that email get bounced, ALLOT! Which means the reputation with email providers (Gmail, hotmail, etc..) drops like a stone. Which in the end means almost no emails gets delivered, because everyone in the email-world thinks you really suck!   This happened in 2013 and with most of the internal notification system done via email, hardly anyone ever got a notification that someone replied, or that he got a new message or a post was quoted etc...   Which means we had a considerable drop in engagement as people just did not get notifications... In the end it got so bad i couldn't even send out a single email without having the dreadful "return to sender" mail coming back to me...   Luckily there are companies like Smtp2go. As of September we are using their service and it works like a charm. Not only does everything work again as it should be, now it is even better than before. Their reputation is so good that we can reach now people that had before our mails ending up in their spam folder...   All internal communication (and external for that matter) and notification are now via Smtp2go and you should get now all of them uninterrupted!   cheers viggen

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Teenie Weenie Issues

The cull against badgers and foxes has started. Poor things, but Bovine Tuberculosis causes too much expensive bother and our rural mammals have to find out the hard way, mostly because they have inherent communication difficulties in dealing with human beings. A bit like teenagers then.   The work undertaken at the Old College site has sprawled out onto the pavement for some time now, meaning that the pavement is temporarily closed. That results in big plastic barriers and metal warning signs, which because I happen to live next to a pedestrian crossing means the signs are left outside my home. Until, that is, Saturday night, when inebriated teenagers collide with signs designed to be visible. Crash bang wallop, and the following morning the signs are laid out across the pavement until the end of the week..   Some idiot teenager decided that my reason for walking through a local park was to find homosexual partners, telling his companion (a male his age, I would point out) that I was better off looking in a certain part of Swindon. Actually I'm better off not looking at all seeing I don't do blokes, but then, I wasn't aware that homosexuals prowled Swindon's green spaces searching for quickie sex or maybe more. Thanks for the warning. Somewhat curious how you came to know that.   "Need a bit o' help, mate?" shouted another idiot from a passing van as I approached a pedestrian crossing laden with a weeks shopping Not from a Drivers Mate. Heading for a certain part of Swindon? Have a nice day.   And then there's that little pest who mutters threats every night, proclaiming my home is his, and that all my property is his too. No, they aren't. So shut up and go away you silly little boy. Get yourself a hobby, like stamp collecting or acne clearance. Alternatively, for something more adult, I'm reliably informed that exciting activity can be found in a certain part of Swindon.   As much as farmers suffer the aggravation of badgers and foxes, we townies have to suffer the aggravations of teenage idiots. As far as I'm concerned the government are better off culling them.   Confromtation of the Week "Don't look at me like I am an idiot!" The young man snapped at me. I'd taken too long to reply to his indignation that I'd been insisting on his turning down the volume of his music in the quiet zone of the local library. Although he was using headphones, the sheer volume meant that anyone within a five hundred yard radius could hear those tinny hisses and clicks. When I'm working against the clock in the frantic browse for gainful employment, the high pitched club anthem is distracting to the same degree as a naked blonde librarian telling me to come upstairs and get it big boy. Only more irritating.   In fact he'd already called me an idiot in front of a librarian on duty fully clothed, and whilst he pretended to comply with the requests made by the librarian and also by a security guard at my behest, he'd pushed the volume back up again as soon as they'd gone.   Mate... Calm down...   "I am calm" He replied angrily, quickly switching to a menacing tone "I am always calm. You would not like me when I'm angry."   I didn't much like him at all. I have no sympathy for defiant teenagers. However I was struggling not to burst into hysterics with his comic book machismo. I've heard more convincing dialogue in a Steven Seagal film.

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Life And The Meaning Of Furniture Removals

At the Charity life went on in a sort of organised chaos. You turned up, sat through a prayer meeting, then got told what your duties were for the day. I suppose I was lucky as I often got scheduled to work as a drivers mate on the company van, collecting and delivering secondhand furniture. A relaxing sort of job. Mostly. Okay, the driver was a bit highly stressed, often losing his temper, and of course the drawback to collecting and delivering furniture is that bulky objects are often heavy and don't always coveniently fit through the gaps provided.   I had an advantage of course. Unlike many of the unemployed layabouts drafted to work at the Charity, I've long experience of getting musical equipment in and out of gigs, of long days and nights spent in a van, and even some casual multi-drop delivery work. I also had long experience of helping my father move furniture around the house. Not sure why it was ever necessary, but it gave him something to organise and so I got on with it.   So it turned out to be something of a busman's holiday. The weather was glorious, we all had a good laugh in the van (except when the driver got annoyed at somebody), and trundled around the local area visiting houses we never knew existed, meeting all sorts of strange new life and new civilisations, going where vans have never been before.   Sometimes you stopped by a huge expensive house to pick up donated odds and ends. All smiles and hearty farewells. Sometimes you delivered to the less salubrious hovels in town, places that haven't been cleaned since 1972, that stink of curry powder, urine, or other strange substances. Sometimes you had to take the door off to get the goods inside. Sometimes you had to disassemble the goods to get them through the door. Failure was never an option. It meant going back to base to face a manager who'd received an angry phone cal about wasted money.   It's a funny thing. Life. I trained as an engineer, learned to be a musician, studied various categores of academic knowledge, became a private pilot in two countries, and yet despite all of that I still end up moving furniture around.   Struggle Of The Week My fight for sanity in the jobsearching business goes on. Firstly there's Mrs Claims Advisor, who has been programmed by some secret organisation to repeat the same conversation over and over.   "I don't why you're not getting anywhere. You're jobsearching is a high enough standard..."   Think we might have covered this last week. And the week before that.   "Why do you think you're not getting anywhere?"   And this week too. So I patiently trot out the same reasons why finding gainful employment has so far eluded me. I'm not being dishonest or looking for excuses, but the reason she wants me to admit to is... Ummmh.... Errrr..... Actually I do know what she wants me to say but she's wrong. Completely. All she wants is for me to be exactly the same as every other claimant who comes before her. Variety, or indeed any form of individuality, is a difficult concept for a claims advisor.   The other aspect of my fight for truth, justice, and the employable way us the Job Agency. I might have mentioned them earlier. Never in any sphere of human endeavour has a bureaucracy accumulated siuch a mammoth collection of self serving small minded pedantic pen pushers.   Take this example. I look for work on an internet website. Usually you just select the vacancy that interests you, click on a few choices, add a little bit of supportive text, or perhaps answer a stuid question or two, then click on 'Apply'. You sit back and wait for the rejection in anything between two minutes and two months. Easy.   However some agencies think applicants should be given more opoortunity to waste time and effort in applying for work, so they disable this easy option and get you to make a phone call instead, in which they tell you that they have a vacncy exactly the same as they advertised and could you please come and see them in their office? So why not just suggest that on the website and save me the bother of paying for a phone call?   It gets worse. I asked for the name of the person the advert specified as the contact, which in this case turned out not be a person, but the agency itself. Eventually this confusion was ironed out. Who says I don't have communication skills? Then the lady said "All we have is this furniture warehouse vacancy. It will involve some heavy lifting...Is that what you want to do?"   You know what? It was my childhood dream to lift heavy objects. I studied heavy weights at school, and got myself an O Level in Applied Lifting followed by a Degree in Industrial Physics. Ten years appprenticeship as a Manual Load Handler, followed by a fifteen year career of shoving and pushing. I also lift weights for a hobby.   No. I'm joking. My CV doesn't say that, and neither did I. In fact I could barely resist laughing as I told her that lifting heavy objects wasn't exactly a career of choice but if it pays the bills....   You could hear her disappointment over the phone. Is she serious?

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You're In The Charity Now

I got drafted. There's no other word for it. David Cameron's Big Society means that I have social responsibility and thus I must accept that occupational contribution, voluntary work, workfare, or whatever you want to call it, is now feature of being unemployed. So I reported to the charity organisation as ordered, only unlike National Serice of previous generations, I didn't bring a sitcase and toothbrush.   Not everyone who volunteers gets through basic training. A few listless youngsters faded away over the first few days. The professional malingerer Mr J was there, immedioately claiming that he suffered from this ailment or that, what cruel world world it was, that voluntary work was too lowly for him, or whatever excuse he could think of. And once again, he stomped out in moral outrage, going back to his laid back llifestyle while I and others roisk life and limb in the secondhand furniture trade.   The charity I was ordered to volunteer for was a sort of furniture warehouse combined with a cafe. The sort of place whee you can drp in, enjoy a coffee, exchange a bit of banter, and buy some secondhand furniture. The furniture gets donated by all sorts of people, rich or poor, so that people without money can purchase stuff other people don't want.   My first day was in the workshop, sanding down neglected garden table and chairs, and then to varnish them. Not with any old creosote mind you, thinned down yacht varnish. Only the best for the financially challenged. Of course it was pointless arguing. The workshop leader was an old craftsman who didn't talk to anyone else and got disgruntled by everyone elses lack of craftmanship. Like mine, as it transpires.   So I spent the day mindlessly daubing the table and chairs with none-too-cheap varnish and getting suburnt. Aside from the lack of olive green clothes and some african american sergeant in a slouch hat yelling ayt me to do yet more press ups, the oppressive heat of our flaming July, I might as well as gotten off a bus at Biloxi in the deep south of the USA. All for Queen and country. I'm in the Charity now.   Opinion Of The Week I happened to be watching the news channel Al Jazeerah the other day and along came a report about a film festival somewhere out there in the world. There's a strong theme of war films apparently, with no punches barred, covering some controversial subjects. It inspired an interview with someone who spouted this little nugget of ridiculous wisdom...   The purpose of art is to force us to face our most painful truths   What? That most of us are either talentless or gifted con merchants? Art exists as a form of expression. We can express anything. Romanticism, entertainment, drama, political beliefs, religious sentiment, or simply a statement of ego. If you want to comunicate pain, so be it. Personally I like my landscapes, or those pictures that invoke moods and dreams. I already know the truth of it - that I prefer the escapism, the suggestion that I'm glimpsing a time and place I canot otherwise experience..   But getting back to the point, what do we want to see in a war film? I note that the nastiness of war is becoming the prevalent theme. Camaraderie, heroism - these aren't forbidden subjects but it seems as if they're deeply unfashionable. Why is the world film industry suddenly getting so moral and determined to express political controversy? Is it because there are important messages to be said, or is it because people are bored with commercial stereotype movies, or is the constant barrage of media broadcasts politicising our view of human conflict and the injustices it generates? News reports don't change the world into a better place, so I seriously doubt art is going to. However seriously some artists want to be taken.

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Back To The Old Game

You find me in a very reflective mood. It's time to blog again. Not sure why, I guess it's one of those strange inponderables of life. So.... Where to begin?....   The Simpsons has an intro sketch featuring a gag with Bart daubing his lines on a school blackboard before escaping on skateboard, followed by the family gathering to watch tv in novel and amusing variety. Family Guy has the Broadway musical intro. South Park has South Parkesque imagery to tempt the senses and attract those with short attention spans. The Rushey Platt Villa (This blog) has... Well.... this paragraph of text to welcome you to the all new 2014 summer season. Feel cheated?   My cliff hanger ending in the previous post was that I had to go back to work. It's true, I did. My claims advsor believed that going on another 'crappy course' (her words, not mine) wasn't going to do any good, so maybe having to earn my benefits might. So she sent me to a local charity to work as a volunteer on a Mandatory Work Placement. Whether I liked it or not.   Weather Or Not What is going on? This is supposed to be August. Here in Britain this is the time for country walks along leafy lanes, sitting in deckchairs waiting to scramble some Spitfires, watching a group of men undergo a strange pagan ritual called Cricket, and arguing with the neighbours about loud parties.   July pretty much met those criteria for a British summer. The days were long and hot, I got sunburnt in the line of duty as an enlisted charity volunteer, and there were a couple of tiffs with neighbours concerning their desire to get into the mood for a night out clubbing. It seems they bought one of those new fangled soundbar devices that improve bass response that make music and television not just bearable, but an experience to be shared with the whole street.   We've had a flaming July, now meet the Arctic August. Temperatures fell to as little as one degree Centigrade last night. One degree? A smidgin above freezing? Somebody got their calculations wrong about Global Warning I think. Bring back the Industrial Revolution - it was the only thing keeping Britain warm in summer and me in gainful employment   Gone But Not Forgotten Of course it hasn't all been fun and sun. My mother departed her mortal coil a few weeks ago. To be fair, she was pretty certain to go sooner or later, what with age, infirmity, and that sense that her anchor to the mundane world was slipping. At least she went with some dignity.   I must of course spare some thought for the execution of an american journalist. I never saw the video on YouTube (not my kind of fun saturday night viewing if I were honest) but the circumstances don't suprise me. Islamic State have little or nothing to do with Islam - it's all about rule by violence and fear, which if I'm not mistaken isn't what the Quran suggests its readers should do. They are the natural evolution of the radical behaviour that extremists have been nurturing for a long time. As we suffered the outbreak of international terrorism sponsored by political nihilsim two or three decades ago, now we face the outbreak of international violence sponsored by religious nihilism.   It is sadly part of the human experience. Every so often a group emerges under a leader determined to build power by becomiing the Junkyard Dog, the King of the Hill. Not so much Islamic State, more like Islamic Nazis.   Reminisence Of The Week Okay, I admit it, just occaisionally during July we had the odd shower or two, sometimes a bit thunderous. By good fortune and the foresight to believe the weather girls on telelvision I avoided the downpours. In fact, the onnly serious rain that caught me was on the day of my mothers funeral. She had the last laugh after all   Yet despite the doom and gloom of enviromental disasters, wars, inadvertant shooting down of passenger jets, the loss of family, and the occaisional drenching, there is always something about life to bring back the smile. A few nights ago the BBC reached into the archives and pulled out Kate Bush, the waif like singer with flowing dances and high pitched vocals responsible for Wuthering Heights.   I'd forgotten what an impact that woman had made on popular music. Listening to the old favourites once again brought back many happy memories of my younger days. I am of course envious of her talent, her ability to express herself musically. For me musical expression is so much more difficult, so many ideas I'm just not able to breathe life into. It all came so naturally to her.   An interview with comedian Steve Coogan told how she came to see his show which lampooned her work, and was polite enough to remark that it was good to hear all those old songs again. She's right. It was.

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6.000 fake accounts later....

Around 2011 we saw a massive influx of new members, they had wonderful names like xxxcialisforyou, or pokersupergames or even less imaginative like xfgUlkzzio...   They did not post much and the few that did got quickly deleted by the moderators. On the surface they didnt bother anyone. Oh boy were we wrong. Those were little bastards that try to exploit known bugs in the software to get a foothole in the server and that all for one thing only. Use the site to send emails. If anyone remembers the many problems with the site startet around 2011. On top of that my host told me that my site has unusual high traffic (which we didnt) and shut down the site a couple of times without notice. It got so bad at one stage that the site was for months offline. No one could help. The hosting company insisted that it was my fault, but didnt tell us what exactly is the problem.   You must know our host was a very big company, with apparently very smart people but unfortunately not very caring ones, so they basically didnt give a f++++ what happend to our site. By accident i stumpled upon a little canadian company and they managed to quickly identify the problem and fix it.   Internal email and notification should finally work again as usual.   Lesson learned, new members that sign up and dont post within a month are deleted, sorry to lurkers, the spammers spoiled it for you...

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