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Blog Entries posted by caldrail

  1. caldrail
    Okay, I'm single, yes? So what? A great many older men are for one reason or another. I can already hear the population of Swindon England saying "Yes but....". Yes but nothing. It's circumstance, not a statement of sexuality, fashion, manhood, or any other concept these overgrown children struggle with. In particular the youngsters of my home town have been testing my patience with the most ignorant questions and attitudes imaginable. That's the reality of modern sub-culture, kids growing up divorced from adult perspective and trying to impose their petty little world upon the rest of us. Or me, which is worse.
    I recall a song by Charles Aznavour. Not my kind of music you understand, but with my parents, certain radio stations were inescapable. The song was 'She'. I still suffer the trauma of repeated exposure to it in my younger days. So can I relate my younger experiences with the cultural mores I have to contend with? Am I really better than them?
    She may be the face I can't forget
    A trace of pleasure or regret
    May be my treasure or the price
    I have to pay
    One night not that long ago I had some guy outside my home trying to give me a lecture about life and love. Unbelievable. These people never talk to my face, just stand outside and entertain me with their peculiar visions of the world when really they ought to mind their own business. I wonder if the problem is that these people don't have a life to get on with so insist on trying to influence mine. Anyway, the winner of this verse was when that guy told me I should forget her and move on. Did he really think he was going to make things better for me? Turn me around? Oh good god. Actually I know exactly which lady he was referring to but the laughable thing is neither that lady or myself have any intention of resuming communication after we stopped talking to each other decades ago. I did bump into her recently, the first time in fifteen years, and we didn't even say hello. I am sorry things worked out the way they did - life is like that. 
    She may be the song that summer sings
    May be the chill that autumn brings
    May be a hundred different things
    Within the measure of a day
    Ahh yes. Fear of the unknown. Am I man enough to approach, flirt, ask, or complete those adult motives? The absurd thing is how many people seem to think I suffer this problem, or that I'm a virgin because they haven't seen me dating. Of course being young I was more opportunistic and experimental. I'm not going to make assertions or admissions about this part of my private life (although for the sake of saying it, no you're wrong, I'm not gay nor have I ever indulged in any such behaviour).
    Perhaps my perspective was different from the beginning. My upbringing wasn't entirely conventional, my mother being a pious and misguided Christian, my father unable to be the role model; he demanded to be. Let's just say I have had my fair share of liaisons with ladies that I ought to have considered more carefully. Wisdom comes with age, more or less as vigour weakens. 
    She may be the beauty or the beast
    May be the famine or the feast
    May turn each day into a heaven
    Or a hell
    There's a lady of my acquaintance. Never good friends you understand, nor did I really pay her much attention. I'm not blind to her charms, nor am I blind to the fact she knows she can charm the blokes. It's just that I always thought a relationship with her would be a problem, out of past experience if nothing else, plus I didn't feel the need to explore such possibilities. Then for some reason, just before the lockdown, her behaviour changed. She started making loud comments or suggestions to her friends, and it wasn't long before I realised she was referencing me. For some inexplicable reason she got it into her head that I fancied her. No, I didn't. She's too full of herself, too fixated on lifestyle, and smokes too much. Since the lockdown, she's actually gotten a tad abusive on the quiet. Uh huh... Didn't get the reaction you wanted?
    There's the truth of it. She's used to getting attention from blokes. A bit too used to it. I don't think she she has any idea how to cope with rejection at any mature level, and still insists on her concept of romance which to me appears to have been taught by the pages of teen magazines. So, if by some bizarre circumstance she's actually reading a blog on a history website, my message is this. I'm not interested. Get over it.
    She may be the mirror of my dreams
    The smile reflected in a stream
    She may not be what she may seem
    Inside her shell
    The lady of this verse to this day doesn't know I saw through her to a part of her inner self she wanted hidden. We take so much for granted when we involve ourselves with another person, and where the relationship is based on romance, the risks are so much worse. I have seen written works that say one should not be inhibited by speculations and instead enjoy the moment. In a perfect world perhaps. However the human psyche hides a potent dark side. We all have it, to a greater or lesser degree, just that most of us have psychological brakes that prevent the excesses that cause those tragedies of life and death. But that one night, alone with her, I knew what was on her mind, betrayed by expression and body language. That relationship was never the same. We parted as friends - not as lovers.

    She who always seems so happy in a crowd
    Whose eyes can be so private and so proud
    No one's allowed to see them when they cry
    She may be the love that cannot hope to last
    May come to me from shadows of the past
    That I'll remember 'til the day I die
    I smile as I remember that special relationship in my past. There's no doubt a good many of my critics will name some woman or other, but no, you're wrong. It was someone else. I know who she was, and she will know it's her I'm referring to. She wasn't the problem. My life was in a difficult place and at the time, I did not want to be an albatross around her neck. Do I regret the decision to let her go? Of course. I'm just as human as anyone else. But as much as I might think of what could have been, I also know it could have been so much worse. I hope she has a happy life.
    There you have it. A somewhat whimsical dip into my private life - the real one, not the fantasies bandied around by inhabitants of Swindon. You want proof? I don't answer to you. You want facts? You can't handle them. If you don't get what's written here, or feel a need to shout me down, don't waste your time. You can't change the past. Or me.
    Okay, I'm single, yes? So what? A great many older men are for one reason or another. I can already hear the population of Swindon England saying "Yes but....". Yes but nothing. It's circumstance, not a statement. In particular the youngsters of my home town have been testing my patience with the most ignorant questions and attitudes imaginable. That's the reality of modern sub-culture, kids growing up divorced from adult perspective and trying to impose their petty little world onto the rest of us.
    She May Be The One 
    There's a lady of my acquaintance. Never good friends you understand, nor did I really pay her much attention. I'm not blind to her charms, nor am I blind to the fact she knows she can charm the blokes. It's just that I always thought a relationship with her would be a problem, out of past experience if nothing else, plus I didn't feel the need to explore such possibilities. Then for some reason, just before the lockdown, her behaviour changed. She started making loud comments or suggestions to her friends, and it wasn't long before I realised she was referencing me. For some inexplicable reason she got it into her head that I fancied her. No, I didn't. She's too full of herself, too fixated on lifestyle, and smokes too much. Since the lockdown, she's actually gotten a tad abusive on the quiet. Uh huh... Didn't get the reaction you wanted?
    There's the truth of it. She's used to getting attention from blokes. A bit too used to it. I don't think she she has any idea how to cope with rejection at any mature level, and still insists on her concept of romance which to me appears to have been taught by the pages of teen magazines. So, if by some bizarre circumstance she's actually reading a blog on a history website, my message is this. I'm not interested. Get over it.
    She May Be The One I Can't Forget
    Things are a bit quieter outside my home than the last couple of decades. I think my neighbours tired of the constant barrage of idiot youngsters voicing their opinions and judgements and complained to the Police until something happened. But I remember one lecture delivered by some character outside one evening (I know who he was too, and in this case, not quite so young) concerning my single status. Apparently my best of action was to forget her and move on (I know who he was taking about too, but the truth isn't what he imagines. That particular lady and I stopped communicating many, many years ago, and neither of us are especially interested in communicating at all). Strange how the gentleman outside my home created that fantasy about what the situation was. Almost certainly he still believes it.
  2. caldrail
    Almost the end of the year. Most of 2020 has been about Coronavirus and the government locking up the population for fear of catching it.
    Man With A Skateboard
    The other day I was on the doorstep waiting for a parcel delivery (having been advised by phone and email he was going to turn up imminently) when this old guy wandered by taking his skateboard for a walk. Not since the 1970's and the kids tv show Magic Roundabout have I seen anything quite so weird. No, really, it was rolling gently down the hill, the man ambling after it and occaisonally nudging it with his foot to keep it travelling down the pavement.
    Man With Something I want To Buy
    I'd been out shopping and happened to pass one of my local music stores. I wonder if they've got a gizmo that could help me with my home studio? Hmmm... So I bravely crossed the road - Yeah same to you mate - and found that due to Covid restrictions I can't just walk in, masked or not (Bizarre that shops will only serve masked men these days). I rang the doorbell. Actually it wasn't all that bad, you get let in and ask for what you want. The guy behind the counter listened to my detailed requirements for gizmo heaven and offered me a gizmo. Not a simple gizmo you understand, but a quality gizmo, fully featured, compact, and able to cope with the mind blowing requirements of modern musicians. It's got this, he started, and it's got that, oh, and thingy here is used for... Okay. I said, I'll take it.
    No, stop selling, you've already sold it.
    He looked up a bit disorientated from having to stop his sales patter halfway through, but the gizmo did everything I needed, so yes, I'll buy it.
    We both parted in a good mood, a successful days transacting at the shop. Actually just in time too. By midnight Tier 4 comes into play and the music shop is shut.
    Man With An Agenda
    Part of my job is quality control. That means I have to check other people's work in some degree (by order of senior management no less). That makes me as popular as a traffic warden of course. Having spent the last two years having endless confrontations and giving endless lectures about proper procedures one of the key members of the team decided to brush me aside and ignore the standing procedure completely. I got miffed, confronted him about it, he got miffed because he's too important to be confronted, and before you know it, on the last day before our Xmas hols a minor war breaks out. There's a fair few of the team on my naughty list right now. Trouble is, I might be on a managerial naughty list myself. January might be interesting...
    Man At Last We Have A Proper Brexit
    Good grief, who would have thought it? Not only have we spent the last year under siege from Covid but we've also been tearing ourselves away from Imperial Europe, and we now have an actual deal with them, signed and done. From tomorrow night the United Kingdom is a seperate nation properly. I feel all British all of a sudden. We even won the custody battle with Scotland too. They can moan and sob all they want but frankly in the long term we've done them a favour. Sooner or later their precious independence was going to vanish in some European re-organisation aimed at dissolving national borders. We've also done preparatory deals with Canada, Japan, South Korea, and somewhere else too.
    I notice that the EU has now pulled business from London to an internal financial market. Bearing in mind how utterly obsessed they are with external borders, both real and virtual, one can't help comparing the situation with the waning years of the Western Roman Empire when Britain threw out the corrupt Roman administration after they withdrew their legions.. So, the EU is going to be overrun by hordes of barbarians wanting a piece of their action, and we're going to be overrun by hordes of Barbarians wanting a piece of our action. Funnily enough, the increasing numbers of migrants attempting to cross the Channel to get here is a startling parallel. But look on the bright side. In a few hundred years we'll be owning half of France again. 
    Celebration Of The Year
    Oh come on, stop griping. Goodbye 2020 and hello 2021. Yeah! Rock and roll man!
  3. caldrail
    A few nights ago I was walking home late at night along one of the main roads leading into the town centre. In the wee small hours you rarely see pedestrians, and the only movement is the odd hot hatch or police car.  The amber street lights might be effective in lighting the dual carriageway but the grass verges are obscured in shadows and gloom. Okay, I do see urban foxes around there quite often, but on this night all was quiet. Hello, what's that in the grass? A plastic bag? The shredded remnants of a plastic crate? No... That's something else... Woah!
    A deer was lying among the uncut grass tufts. British deer are usually small, apart from those grand Scottish beasts, and usually very shy of us humans. This just lay there unconcerned. I stood watching it, little more than seven feet away, and it looked back at me. How odd! I shifted my weight and said hello, the deer moved a foreleg to enable a quick getaway, but it still didn't seem overly disturbed. A passing car gave a sudden stamp on the throttle - the deer reacted with something like the usual alertness, but it stayed put. I slowly walked around until I was squatting three feet away from this deer. Amazing. One of those strange unexpected meetings with nature. Look after yourself mate.
    Not far from there the week after I was again walking home on the same route, albeit not so near the town centre. Across the main road I saw an animal rush from one side to the other whilst traffic was non-existent. A cat? No, legs are too short. Oh heck - it's a black rat, and not exactly small either. What a beast! I've only seen two other black rats in Swindon, one dead, the other lurking around the back yard at home. Most rats we get in Swindon - a town somewhat notorious for its rat population - are the ordinary but unwanted brown variety.  Can't say I was thrilled to see the rat however. So pleased I didn't encounter it up close.
    You heard It Here
    it's been great recently to see the planets in the night sky. Venus was especially bright.... heck that was close. An electric car swished by with barely a sound. It's getting really dangerous to be a pedestrian these days. Human eyesight isn't totally reliable to keep you from harm, and the days of noisy exhausts are numbered. Gazing up at the heavens isn't quite so safe anymore.  
    All Corona'd Out
    The endless discussion in the evening news about the Coronavirus epidemic is getting wearisome. Funnily enough, a colleague at work had asked me how I felt about it. Restrictions on life are nothing new to me so I suppose I just take lockdowns, tiers, and self isolation as they come. But it saddens me that our lives are now so dominated that the daily news broadcasts have become the Coronavirus Show. Oh yes. I forgot that unnecessary war in the Caucasus. Or that Europe hasn't persuaded Britain to maintain the economic status quo. Or that Trump wants another term of office to prove how fantastic he is now that he has survived the disease he once scoffed at.  
  4. caldrail
    Hello World, my old friend, I've come to talk to you again. 
    I write this not from the Library (who stubbornly refuse to open despite everybody else trying to restore some normailty to their lives) but a pokey little internet cafe which I might have to frequent more often. But it means I can say hello to the survivors of our post apocalyptic world, assuming I'm not being over optimistic.
    A Floating Map
    A visit some while ago to my local park was a peaceful scene. Nobody about at all, given Swindon was in lockdown back then. Out on the lake, I spotted a mass of algae on the water, shaped remarkably like England, Wales, and Scotland. The resemblance was uncanny. Right. That's it. Anecdote over. That didn't hurt did it?
    Bye For Now
    Haven't got time to do a proper blog entry but memoirs of my covid experience will follow eventually. Why not? The BBC have been broadcasting everybodies elses. And on the subject of the BBC, yes, the exam result fiasco is a mess. We got that. It isn't news any more. Move on. Please.
  5. caldrail
    Hi there. It’s been a while since I last posted on this blog so I thought I’d let the world know I’m not a statistic. Just an hour or two ago I noticed my everyday supplies of daily essentials was running a little low. Nothing for it but to risk a journey to the local supermarket. What could possibly go wrong?
    As soon as I approached I saw a car park full of vehicles manoevering for entrance, space, and exit.  Shoppers playing dodgems with trolleys packed with everything they never needed before but might during our current Coronavirus emergency. Inside it was as bad, with crowds of agitated shoppers queuing for space in the queues or perhaps that last morsel still on the shelf. Stand aside old lady, that packet of barbeque pork make-your-own –casserole is mine! Or at least it will be in the event I actually get close to a till.
    An old gentleman waddled at a ridiculous pace, reaching between queues to grab whatever caught his eye.  One gets the impression he hasn’t moved that fast since Hitler’s goons were shooting at him. Another mature gent turned to someone he knew and said “How did we ever cope in the war?”
    We had rationing books back then.
    Time On My Hands
    I’ve been sent home. My employer can’t give me anything to do because the company we supply has sent everyone home because everyone is quarantined at home in China and not producing stuff we need to supply our manufacturing customer.  At least I’m still on full pay. I can afford the stuff that isn’t on the shelves because some old lady grabbed it first. And now I have the time to wrestle her for it too.
    Numpties of the Week
    This coveted award goes not to the shoppers of rainy old Swindon, but the media companies telling us about Coronavirus, especially the BBC, whose obsessional focus on single issues has turned a matter of concern into the fall of civilisation as we know it. Hang on… No. I’ve changed my mind. The award goes to American citizens who, faced with panic buying and shortages of goods in stores, have taken to queuing up outside gun stores instead. Trump, you have made America great.
  6. caldrail
    Almost Christmas. I say that with a distinct sense of freedom and joy, not because it’s the festive season – Bah! Humbug! I say this because this year fate has spared me the usual barrage of Christmas songs. You know the ones I mean. All those songs that radio stations, supermarkets, and those not blessed with a sense of music play at this time every year ad nauseum. Hardly heard any of them this time around. Makes you feel good to be alive.
    A Noble Deed
    It’s going to be ten years since I became Lord Rail. All in all, it hasn’t impacted much on events, other than making a few people rather critical of me, including a couple of claims advisors, one of whom actually swore at me in public when I politely made him aware of my new found status. Another claims advisor attempted to crush my title out of significance with rather less rude language. They both failed. What next for the Caldrail autobiography? What can I do to offend conformity, advance the cause of individualistic idiocy, and generally make life a bit more interesting than visiting supermarkets at Christmas? Hmmm… Let me think….
    Adopting Nature
    May I introduce you to Ronald? He’s a robin, the red breasted variety (although they do seem a bit orange rather than actually red), and has taken up residence at my workplace. Haven’t a clue what he finds to eat, probably subsisting on leftover sweeties when things are quiet. No food on the shop floor please… Okay, the boss is gone. But this is a bumper time for Ronald, because rules go out the door at Christmas as the boss brings in boxes of chocolates to reward us for a year of dedicated hard work and constant gripes. Seeing as this was the festive season, I suggested the company adopt Ronald as a mascot. I have no idea what Ronald thinks of this honour. He flew away.
    How Not To Get Home
    My last shift before xmas is done! Yahoo! Can’t be bothered to walk home in the rain so I opt for a bus. As much as I detest buses, even I have to confess they do come in handy occaisionally, like going home after the last shift before xmas.  You could tell it was the festive season. Whilst I normaly have to wait ages for a bus to arrive, I had no sooner gotten to the bus stop when my ride arrived. I’ve long since learned to take my backpack off before getting on, but this not being a patient driver, I stepped aboard, pad the fare, got the ticket, and found myself entangled in the straps as I struggled manfully to fit into the seats. Slipping on the wet floor, cursing at the lack of movement, the bus accelerating and braking like an entry at Le Mans, boy oh boy, that was a test of manhood.  I;m pleased to say no-one made any sarky comment at all. They must have seen me struggle before. What? Last Christmas? Oh heck, please let this not become an annual ritual….
    Mammalian Connection of the Week
    A little while ago I finished a late shift and as I often do, I stopped at a lonely bus stop to rest for ten minutes before walking four miles home. The bus schedule finished hours ago you see. So I was there, guzzling my energy drink which I keep handy for such occaisions, when movement down on the pavement caught my eye.  A fox!
    Not really that unusual, certainly not in that area with plenty of supermarket refuse bins to forage for food. This one hadn’t seen me, trotting happily along the pavement, looking in good health and really picture postcard perfect condition. Then it noticed my surprise.
    When you surprise a fox like that, some scarper immediately. Others freeze until they decide to scarper. This one froze. But it was odd. I was looking straight into that foxes eyes and expected the usual look of startled horror at encountering a shabby tired out human being. I saw something else. Although alert and poised to move as instinct demanded, for just a brief moment it looked as the fox was wondering if it could approach in a friendly manner.  Scrounger behaviour rather than genuine friendliness, I’ve seen squirrels adopt the same begging action, but the sensation of empathy however misinterpreted is genuinely a deeply rewarding experience.
    Instinct got the better of it and the fox scarpered. Happy Christmas, Mr Fox.
  7. caldrail
    I wonder what qualifications are required to become a bus driver? Not that I'm especially interested myself, it's just that I witnessed two drivers changing shift discussing Schrodinger's Cat, a piece of scientific philosophy used to illustrate quantum uncertainty. Good grief. What next? A law demanding drivers must have a Master's Degree in Quantum Mechanics just to drive a new-fangled electric vehicle? One wonders how the future government of Britain is going to make that happen. Half the kids I witness in my area learn to read and write Grafftti rather than English.
     I speak with some experience on this. There's a bunch of young lads utterly and wrongly convinced I'm gay. That's bad enough, but they insist on letting me know they think so. Worse still, a hard core of them are hell bent on coercing me into admitting it. The other night, on my way home through a side street in the early hours of the morning, the driver of a car wound his window down and asked "Queer yet?".
     Well, these attempts at bullying have been going on for some time. A few have already fallen foul of anti-social legislation courtesy of the Police. One wonders what life is like at school these days. Bullying went on in my day, just like it always does, but this intense psychological intimidation is well beyond anything I experienced as a child and points clearly to a complete failure of modern education practice as much as what passes as parental upbringing these days.
     At the bus station, I waited for passengers to disembark as usual. A toddler, no more than four years old, came off the bus commenting on a small item with an habitual expletive which was shocking to hear from someone so young. I looked at his mother who gave a resigned expression. Well, there's a young man destined for a loud but undistinguished future. Rather like a bunch of lads believing their opinions matter. Will they ever learn?
    And Now For Something Completely Different
    There's been a change of strategy from these lads lately. Having failed to convert me to the condemning world of homosexuality, they now want to portray me as a shoplifter. They even claim they've seen me in the act. "You just wait" I hear. "You'll be sorry" from others. Well, I do have to point out that coercion, abuse, and false accusation could land you with a hefty punishment in court, and as far as I can see, all you're going to do is prove my innocence. Please carry on.
    Bird Of The Week
    Lately I've heard the sound of an owl from the countryside around my place of work as I leave at the end of a night shift. It's rare to hear one, never mind see one. But the other night I saw it, startled by the approach of a car and flying ahead of the equally startled driver. What a size! I didn't know owls got that big in Britain! Be afraid, mice. Be very afraid.
    Brexit Footnote
    October 31st has come and gone and still Parliament has obstructed the determined efforts of the government to realise the decision made in a referendum more than three years ago. I'm saddened that so many now blame our bus loving Prime Minister for failing to reach the conclusion, but isn't that a little dishonest? I mean, the reason he failed is parliamentary subterfuge. Politics some might call it, but I wonder how many people listening to accusations of our Prime Minister's supposed dishonesty are aware of how much dishonesty is being blatantly pushed in front of the public by his opposition leaders?
    Parliament claims to speak for democracy. No it doesn't. Parliament be damned.
  8. caldrail
    I'm gonna live forever
    I'm gonna learn how to fly
     Those of us scarred and traumatised by the 1980's will no doubt recognise lyrics from that song belonging to a television series which I'm pleased to say I managed to avoid entirely. But what is fame? A reputation? A state of being? A mysterious blessing from fate? Curiously enough, people generally either see it with some degree of religious awe or an excuse for utter contempt.
     I made the mistake once of describing myself on my CV as 'known worldwide' for one thing or another. At the time I considered that appropriate given the attention I was getting on the internet, though to be truthful I never counted thousands of followers on social websites. I naively thought it would add some colour to my dreary collection of dead end jobs and idle interludes. To my suprise the manager of a certain catering company, interviewing me for some worthless office job, asked "So you think you're famous?"
     Erm... What? No, I don't think I'm famous.
     "It says here," He said, looking at my CV before him, "that you're known around the world.".
     Oh good grief. Well I explained that fame was a measure of attention people paid to you, that it was not an on/off switch, more like shades of grey. I did not use the word 'famous'. If I thought I was, I would've described myself as such.
     "To me this says you're famous" He snarled, holding up his copy of my CV and pointing at it like it was evidence of criminal behaviour. No point being reasonable with this sort of attitude, so I quite correctly told him my name was mentioned in print and that was good enough for me. I didn't get the job.
     I did learn to fly eventually. Still working on living forever though experience suggests I might struggle with that one.
     Audience With King George
    I seem to be getting into the habit of an annual visit to STEAM, Swindon's modest railway museum. It's not a bad experience, and the dummies in period costume are disturbingly real at first glance. A young mother just ahead of me was fooled, she suddenly realised that the old lady sat at a typewriter behind a desk wasn't quite as alive as she thought. I always enjoy that open door to a small office where the manager is telling his employee that if he's late for work once more there'll be a parting of the ways.
     I like the way the museum starts with this administration background, moves on to stores, then trades, then a diorama of wartime steam engine manufacture with two female mechanics chatting, until finally you wander into a large space with just Caerphilly Castle on her own, a full on express steam locomotive from those glorious days of God's Wonderful Railway. Looking a little shabby these days, but still a powerful exhibit.
     Secretly though I have another engine to visit. The first GWR King class, No.6000 George V. Not because I especially like that class of engine, or I admire the technical excellence, or respect the history of that particular locomotive, but because as a little boy I briefly stood on the footplate when it had stopped at Swindon station.
     George had been retired from mainline service long before. On one particular day though, a special train was due to pull into town and my mother took me and a friend along to see it. By sheer chance, I happened to be standing by the cab when a kindly engine driver kidnapped me to experience that forbidden metal cavern where the crew drove this engine for real. I remember the darkness with the firebox closed, the patina of grime, and a few burnished copper pipes. Truth was, I felt a little intimidated, and didn't have the questions the proud crew were hoping to answer. So they kindly returned me to freedom.
     Of course George is now somewhat cleaner in the cab, bereft of any coal or water in her tender, her firebox cold and empty. Machines are always female, whatever the name. It's hard to describe how I feel when I pause at the top of the steps to look around the empty cab. Part of me is pleased to be there. Nostalgia for that brief insight into a lost era, sensing that attachment to a piece of history, a complex and powerful machine, built by craftsmen in days gone by.
     All the same I cannot help feel sad the engine no longer steams, no longer moves. All that noise and motion of George in her heyday gone, possibly forever. Like visiting a disabled relative stifled by the regime of an old people's home, it's time to move on, so I pat the side of the cab wall. Great to see you again George.
     Audience Waiting
    Back in those heady days of the eighties, my main concern was striving for fame, to live forever, to learn how to... Well, you know the score. It was a time when music stores were commonplace, where you purchase all manner of instruments, gizmos, and accessories to help you on your way to rock stardom.
     When did I last play a drumkit in public? Must be more than twenty years now. You would think it would be all forgotten, but a reputation is a hard thing to suppress, whether justified or not, and let's be honest, I've never shied away from reminding peple that I used to be a working musician.
     I passed a bunch of lads lurking in an alleyway between shops on the high street. I heard them point me out, debate the merits of asking me to fill the vacant spot in their band, until one bright spark observed that I was almost old enough for a bus pass, that irrevocable indicator of old age and disqualilication for entry into rock stardom. My music career died long ago, but it seems fate just won't let me me forget it.
     Audience of the Week
    The pubs have closed for the night. So gangs of revellers tramp up and down the road outside on their way to a nightclub or maybe just struggling to get home without falling over. Most laugh, shout, or throw punches at each other. Some however continue to make appraisals of me as they pass. Scorn, anger, and amusement. So it seems everyone has an opinion about me, good or bad. Just the price of fame I guess.
  9. caldrail
    The weather forecast had already warned us of storms crossing Britain late into the night. As luck would have it, I was on a late shift, and that meant walking home during the period when I was most likely to be drenched in minutes or used by nature to light the vicinity when hit by lightning. There was every risk of both, and to be honest, I’ve always had a policy of avoiding such weather conditions by the clever use of indoors. Not last night then.
    One colleague at work told me that storms were already crossing France and would be here in two hours. Really? That would require winds in excess of gale force. There was barely a breeze and whilst thirty odd degrees centigrade isn’t hot by some standards around the globe, for Britain it was sweltering. In any case the winds weren’t from France, but the Atlantic southwest, as usual. Damp air then. Perfect for the odd electrical storm. I have to say working to very high targets in that sort of humid temperature was not for the faint hearted. By the close of shift, I was, as they say, ker-nackered.
    So. Time to go home. Almost as soon as I left the premises the display started. Around the sky flickers of light went off almost continuously, an extraordinary sight and one I found quite weird given not a rumble of thunder could be heard. I could see the mass of storm cells encroaching on Swindon. Sooner or later the rain would start. I wonder? Could I make it to the McDonalds outlet about halfway home without incurring a sudden outbreak of dampness? It worked. I made it to the rest stop barely seconds before the first cloudburst opened up. Perfect. Fast food, dry shelter, and bewildered staff to impress with my knowledge of storms.
    “Ahh” Said one McDonald droid, “it’s stopped. I can go home now.”
    You think? I’m staying here for another hour yet. He chuckled and headed for the door only to be greeted with a huge fork of lightning over the area. Your move mate.
    Cunning Move
    Whilst I was walking to McDonalds I spotted a fox on the other side of the road. Normally at that distance they either don’t care, or find a more discreet place to be. This one simply hunkered down. I know mate, it is warm isn’t it?
    Howls Of Badgers
    Badgers are the quietest of animals. They snuffle around, usually looking happy as Larry, but a week or two ago I encountered one on a footpath going home. Badgers aren’t the most alert of creatures. I’ve often walked very close to them before they realised I was there, but always they scarper, and scarper quickly they can. This one saw me coming and hooted very loudly. Wow. That’s the first time I’ve ever heard a badger. A born sergeant major that one.
    Big Beetles
    On the outskirts of an industrial estate I saw movement on the road, again lat at night. This was a black beetle, alarmingly huge. Two or three inches long, much larger than anything I’ve seen plodding around British countryside. This one was not only large, but fast too, scurrying around like demon possessed. A foreign import off a lorry? We don’t usually get beetles like that outside of zoos.
    Boris Of The Week
    This week’s star prize goes to our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who takes over from Theresa May today. There’s a sort of inevitable aspect to his new found glory. Can he sort out the mess and get a deal on Brexit past the hordes of British MP’s determined to frustrate the British public’s decision to leave Europe? The battlefield is the same as it’s been for three years and cost May her job. Who knows, perhaps the outsize beetle was an omen. Perhaps the gods welcomed Boris with a spectacular lightning display. Somehow I doubt he got rained on last night.
  10. caldrail
    The other day I strolled into a music store in my home town, thinking of upgrading some recording equipment. It’s been a while since I took music seriously and having been unemployed for the better part of a decade, I could hardly afford to. But, with money in my pocket, time to splash out and get ready to impose my music upon the unsuspecting world. 
    “They don’t make those any more” Said GK, someone who has sold me all sorts of instruments and gizmo’s for the last thirty years. After a short converstation, it was clear that music was not the hobby it had once been. I looked blankly at him for a moment and in that moment of awakening I said “Heck, I’m getting old….”
    GK couldn’t stop laughing. But I’m beginning to realise what a fantastic period of history I lived through as a young man.  The days when you could walk into a computer or music dealership and buy just about anything are gone. The world has changed, and not for the better.
    Changing the Country
    The hullabaloo over Brexit continues with continued calls for a second referendum. Really? Didn’t anyone realise it was going to be difficult? Fact is, we had a vote, we voted to leave, that’s it – it’s going to happen. As much as EU strategy is to have our legs wobble at the sheer scale of our endeavour and ask to come back with our tail between our legs, Britain is made of stronger stuff. Or at least, some of us are, given how much whinging the remainers are making.
    But what do I hear from Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour party leader? Renationalise everything.  His radical new plan to save Britain is more or less to recreate the seventies when left wing politics still had some clout in this country. I well remember the seventies, and it wasn’t a high point in British history. Terrorism, strikes, the Three Day Working Week with the family sat around of an evening by candlelight, rubbish bags piling up on the streets. If there was any solid reason for keeping Corbyn out of power, it’s the 1970’s.
    Change of the Week
    There I was, walking home after a late shift in the wee small hours, when I spotted a fox. No, two foxes. No, three foxes. That’s a little unusual. But what startled me was that one of those foxes actually growled at me. Foxes don’t do that. They just silently retreat or flee. Not this scruffy young fox, as it turned to face me once it through the gates of the local park. Bared teeth is alarming in a dog. But a fox? Disturbing.
  11. caldrail
    A fine day with a deep blue sky and some fleecy high level cloud. Great when you have time on your hands but having to trudge four miles to work is a rather wearing prospect. Needless to say, I was sweating. As I strode along the old canal footpath I could see a bunch of workmen ahead. Like all British workmen you spot in the wild, they were not working. They sat idly in the shade, observing my approach and long experience told me I was going to receive a comment or two. It's the British way.
    "He should be just like us" Said one of them, clearly not impressed with my individualism or perceived character. One of his colleagues agreed. Really? Just like you lot? The thought occurred to me as to what the world would be like if everyone conformed to their working class normality. No music, no radio, no television, no pubs or clubs, no films to dazzle us with special effects, no computer games to waste our spare time, and no-one to make the booze they might well be waiting to consume on the weekend. Nothing to look forward to but the opportunity to pass comment on passers-by. What kind of world is that to be proud of?
    Nature always finds strength in diversity. With good reason. I like my individuality and why on earth would I want to be merely one of a crowd of layabouts, anonymous, ordinary, just another non-entity the world is full of. Ah, some might say, and some do, but I failed. Yes. Correct. My plans for super-duper-stardom in my youngers days quickly got dashed on the rocks of reality. But hey, I tried. That makes me an also-ran, not a spectator. Which would you rather be?
    I saw a review in my local paper for a Judas Priest album. I've never really been a fan of their music but I respect their ability and longevity. Thus when I read the gushing praise I thought it might be worth catching up with where they are now. So I purchased their latest offering and lo and behold, it was as you might expect. Well performed, excellent production, a work by a band who know what they're doing. Then having finished listening, it occurred to me that I hadn't remembered any of the songs. It was nothing but an album of heavy metal wallpaper, making all the right sounds, doing all the right moves, but a production line of riffs and beats that pretty much failed to engage with my love of tracks that stand out for indefinable reasons. Sadly I doubt I'll feel the need to play it again.
    Compare that to another performer, Florence and the Machine. I was unaware of their existence until they featured in a televised event on the Beeb. I was impressed by the female vocalist's energy, her willingness to reach out to her fans (quite literally, it caused a near panic among the security crew), and the songs were interesting, varied, and I imagine for some, about relevant subjects. Buy her latest album? Oh yes, and I wasn't disappointed. Three tracks stood out, Ship To Wreck, What Kind of Man, and Queen of Peace. I still hum those tracks to myself regularly. That's success in music as I see it. Sorry Mr Halford, I know you're delivering what your fans want, but it's just a day job for you, isn't it?
    I stopped at a Subway earlier for a quick snack and sat as I often do facing the outside world so I can watch people going about their irrelevant business outside. It struck me that everyone, literally everyone, in my field of view of the busy Saturday morning high street was staring down at a device in the palm of their hand. I suppose it's a sort of security blanket, making them feel that they're part of a group, that they're in on what is going on around the world, even if it amounts to videos of people falling over or endless sequences of pets caught mimicking humanity against their will. A whole crowd of spectators, going around spectating, because it seems they have nothing else in their lives. "Your phone is rubbish" one work colleague once mentioned when I checked my device for the unrealistic prospect of having received contact from the outside world. Yeah? Really? So what?
  12. caldrail
    It was bound to end in tears. A movement of cold air from Siberia plus an Atlantic storm coming up from the Bay of Biscay. Swindon rarely gets any snow despite being inland. Usually the worse areas are the eastern half of England, Scotland, and Ireland  This time Swindon would not escape. To be fair, we were on the edge of amber weather warnings and didn't get hit as hard as some parts of the country, but up to foot of snow in Swindon is almost a natural disaster of memorable proportions.
    It was fun watching the foreigners at work. They were transfixed by the heavy snow flurries, constantly wandering to the nearest door to gaze at the unaccustomed weather. You would think the Poles were used to cold weather and the odd snowdrift, but they too shivered in the bitter English wind and moaned about the snow, though one or two snowballs were smuggled into the warehouse for special targets. A lady from Columbia simply had to take photographs. Lads from Goa stared at the unfamiliar sight of whiteness and suffered from the cold, which at around minus five centigrade was something a great deal less than the tropical sun of their homeland. In fact, on Friday morning I phoned the hotline to see whether the shift was going ahead. Nope. Cancelled due to inclement weather.
    So was my water supply at home. Oh great. I know. I'll phone the landlord. Sorry, he said, there's nothing he can do. Oh great. I know, I'll phone a plumber. Sorry, the receptionist said, there's nothing they can do. Frozen pipes you see. Yeah, I think I get the message. So I trudged back and forth buying bottled water and anyone who has been in that situation quickly learns how much water the average person gets through.
    The water came back on by itself. That was a little odd given the temperatures hadn't risen, but hey, let's not complain. Later last night the valve in my toilet cistern decided the new water supply was too much and popped open, releasing water all over the floor. I was lucky to hear the noise, and realised there was a problem. Water was spreading around the bathroom and probably downstairs too. An emergency! This is a job for.. erm... me. I don't know anything about plumbing.
    Quick, shut the water off. The inside tap was jammed solid. Quick, shut the water off on the outside tap. jammed solid. When you're in danger, when you need help, you need the Plumber - if you can find him. I phoned a series of numbers with 'Please hold' or simply no answer. Saturday night you see. Emergency call outs and 24hr service don't count for a lot when they want time off to socialise. Eventually I got through to one. My toilet is flooding the house. "Sorry Love," The lady answered, "But I've got nothing before Tuesday". What?!!! Your advert is in front of me. It says you deal with emergencies. "Yes, but we can't deal with it before Tuesday,.Sorry". Eventually I found a plumber willing to come out and assist. Only problem was he insisted on cash and probably wasn't keen to get his hands dirty with his domestic routine upset. Eventually I put the phone down on him. As luck would have it, the lady downstairs had called the landlord and of course chivalry won out over being capable. Toilet restored to working order. Panic over. The world is returning to sanity.
    From The Land Of Snow
    I watched as Putin gave his 'state of the nation' speech. He really is an old fashioned dictator, isn't he? The west was to blame, and Russia would not be pushed around, so here's the list of new weapon systems we're putting together to push the west around. With a belligerent President Trump - who will no doubt be keen to earn his wings by ordering a war somewhere or other as democratic leaders often do, and not just the American ones, it does not bode well. NATO troops already stationed in the Baltic states to ward off potential Russian expansion and the evening news talking about a new Cold War. Oh great. Well at least our Prime Minister, Theresa May, is upbeat about Brexit. Good. At least then we won't have to deploy long range smart cruise missiles to get a few concessions in negotiations with the EU team.
  13. caldrail
    Many years ago I wrote a piece on the internet about my departure from a company's employment in scathing terms. Back then I wrote how the place would close and the site redeveloped. It has been announced that such will come to pass, my prophecy having been proven correct.
    Working there in the good ol days was a different experience than you normally get in warehouses today. There were no agencies involved in finding jobs there, a family atmosphere, and good rates of pay. The rot set in when the influx of young lads and the retirement of older women made the atmosphere much more like a school playground. The change from old fashioned hierarchy to modern style office class system reduced peoples motivations to work toward a career and a future in the company, making careers a lottery rather than the result of hard work and merit. Finally, the older hands were gotten rid of by hook or by crook, seen as obstructive and stuck in their ways. Truth is, they knew their jobs whereas the new generation of workers, managers or labourers, did not.
    New ideas haven't helped. Placing the management of warehouse production in the hands of a sub-contractor has done no good. The idea was to let a specialist handle it instead of the hamfisted efforts of what amounted to amateur managemnt, but profit proved hard to achieve. So the company has finally decided that it's time to give up, uproot, amd start again elsewhere. Good luck.
    Welcome Back
    It was great to see W back at work. I wasn't on the premises when it happened but he'd been crushed by a forklift truck whose driver (the very same driver who nearly knocked me flying once before) hadn't been too observant. Luckily his injuries weren't too serious and now he's fit to resume duties again. Is it just me or has W grown up a little? His experience seems to have done him a favour.
    Not So Welcome
    A politician claims that older people voting for Brexit have 'shafted the young generation wholesale'. What a load of nonsense. Far too many young people are lazy, indifferent, and assume that the world owes them a living. That's the sort of world that being a member of the EU has encouraged. If forcing the younger population to work toward an independent Britain they can be proud of is shafting them, then shaft away.
    Some might see this as hypocrisy given I spent the better part of the last decade as unemployed. I would point out that I was not given the choice, and ultimately, I was thrown to the wolves by the Job Centre who see stopping peoples money as a positive move. That was despite making nearly ten times the quantifiable effort to find emloyment than I was officially expected to achieve. So I got shafted. And as the spokeman for the Job Centre proclaimed in a television interview, I too found paid work within six months. Not the success story that the Job Centre wanted to advertise me as, but one of those who got off their bottoms and went to work when the opportunity presented itself. Why should ex-EU Britain be any different?
    Not Welcome At All
    The EU were clear that Britain would not be punished for choosing to leave the Union. They are keen to avoid giving Britain favourable terms to prevent encouraging other members to opt out, and indeed, there are sentiments of that sort evident in France, Greece, Holland, Italy, Spain, and probably other countries. Nonetheless the EU are demanding a high price for leaving, a 'divorce bill' they're insisting on. Since Britain used to be one of the major contributing nations within the EU, the proposed bill can hardly be seen as simply a necessary legal payment but rather an attempt to squeeze whatever they can at the last moment, a feature of EU administration that has been clear for a very long time and one of the reasons people have become dissatisfied with EU membership.
    The other reasons are the covert suppression of national identity and the influx of migrants assisted by the open border policies of the EU. Why are we so suprised that this is happening? The Roman Empire went through a similar process, becoming larger, bureaucratic, corrupt, facing ever increasing immigration and political uncertainty, not to mention rebellions and at least one break-away empire (that included the British Isles curiously enough). If ever there was a reason to see the value of history, current events are proving it like nothing else, especially since the EU exists to recreate the Roman Empire in a parallel sense. Gildas, a sixth century monk, described Britain as an island 'Rich in usurpers'. He wasn't wrong.
    Unwelcome Weather Of The Week
    Saturday overtime. Mandatory. Grumble as I might I had no choice but to turn up to work. The weather was supposed to be about sunshine and showers but toward the end of the shift all hell broke loose. I have never seen hail like that in England before. Neither had the Goans, who raced to the door to experience the sort of weather that probably doesn't happen in India. It doesn't normally happen in England but we didn't let on. Although the hail was not as fierce as some countries in the world expect, for England, it was pretty impressive.
  14. caldrail
    As I type this blog entry it's nearly half past four in the morning. The blackness of the night is giving way to that pale blue twilight before dawn, the amber street lights still shining . It's too warm to sleep anyway. With the window open, I can hear birdsong outside in the street.
    Birdsong? There used to be a time when you never heard birds until the sun was up. These days I hear them chirping all night and I find it very hard to get used to it. A couple of weeks ago there was one night when the birds stayed silent - why I have no idea - and that was the comfortable familiar silence I remember from my younger days. Not even a speeding hatchback bobbing up and down to the beat of overlarge sub-woofers in the boot. Not even a distant singing contest from a drunken rabble. Not even the relentless giggles and shrieks of girls in a wobbling contest on their high heels. Nope, it's peaceful out there. I like that. A new day is coming my way.
    Coming for someone else too, as the first of the morning commute drives past my home. When the day progresses the noise will increase, not just because of the traffic jams of an urban main road, but the volume level of car stereos rising in direct proportion to summer sunshine. So many people adopting stereotypes and lifestyles mapped out by... ahhh... Come to think of it, who exactly dictates how we live?
    A colleague at work is one of those men who finds it impossible to live without a partner. It's as if blokes like him struggle to feel comfortable without a woman to define their manhood. Personally I don't suffer from that malaise. To be with someone merely for appearances, or because of some lack of identity, or an addiction to social behaviour? No, my life is not defined by who I'm with, even though a great many people in my home town seem to feel it should be and voice their disapproval regularly. Pfah. None of their business, and as for their opinons... Erm... Who are they, exactly?
    But my colleague needs his fix. Quite why I don't know, he has a catalogue of spectacular failures, a divorcee with restraining orders against him, children he cannot contact, the loss of property and even a roof over his head, plus the bitter memories of a prison sentence he doesn't feel he deserved.
    For a while he was feeling enthusiastic about Stacey, an American woman who claimed she was a US Army sergeant in Iraq (despite using a British phone number). Eventually her demands for cash and expensive presents overcame his desire to pair off.  Now Stacey wants the latest Samsung smartphone worth a whopping five hundred pounds for her birthday. Money to pay for her mothers hospital bills. Money to pay for this, pay for that. Tell her where to go, I advise him, she's just a con merchant. He knows, he agrees, but he cannot let go of a contact, even if it is only a facebook friend.
    Luckily now he's dscovered another facebook friend to occupy his need to fill a void in his life, this time a lady in far away Indonesia. I rib him about her, enquiring whether he's jetting off to see her on the weekend. Actually it came as quite a shock to me to discover he really was planning to travel there. The red tape involved prevented his departure at short notice, and to be fair, the crash of British Airway's computer systems this week would have stopped him anyway. I hope he's made a good choice this time, and I wish him well in is search for completeness.
    It does beg the question though – how can people regard facebook contacts as actual friends? They’re just not. Claiming you have thousands of friends online is an exercise of ego and folly, for at best, the vast majority are only ever going to be fair weather friends, and for practical purposes, hardly any of them will ever meet you face to face. Human social dynamics mean that almost everyone will only have less than ten genuine friends at any time, and more than a hundred is unmanageable for us.
    Add to that the anonymity that the internet allows. Partly out of a need for security, it must be said, but I’ve seen all sorts of inflated claims by individuals seeking more respect than they deserve. Or for that matter, more money.
    Screenie Of The Week

    Doesn't that look a bit like a Lancaster bomber without gun turrets? It should do. This is the Avro Lancastrian, the civilian cargo plane version of Britain's most famous WW2 bomber. Cold, draughty, noisy, no creature comforts except a flask of tea passed around, all rattling rivets and vibrating aluminium panels. But on the plus side, long range and good lifting ability, albeit not exactly convenient to load. Carrying around nine to thirteen passengers, that's a lot of aeroplane for so few people on board, with four gas guzzling Merlin engines pumping out a total of 6500hp at full chat.
    We're used to thinking of military flying when talking about WW2, but the Lancastrian began its career in 1943, flying between Britain and Canada, and the similarly derived (but much more suitable) Avro York starting its transport life the year after.
    Pictured here turning onto the approach for Sonderborg, Denmark, my approach was spoilt by a light aeroplane on finals at the same time. In real life, I would have gotten a serious telling off for puting her down against explicit orders to 'go around', but hey, I'm tired and I want to go to bed. Time then to snooze and dream of aeroplanes past. Or whatever subconcoius chaos that goes through my head.. Right now I notice the blueness has gone, the street lights have switched off, and the passing of cars and motorbikes is stepping up in frequency. Dayligjht has arrived.
    Happy birthday Stacey. Sorry your present hasn't arrived, but I guess someone else will send you something expensive.
  15. caldrail
    Some of my work colleagues are not too impressed with me right now. Pfah. As if I care. The reason is that one of the youngsters is having his birthday celebration today and I have no intention of turning up. Truth is he's always kept me at arms length as it were, and never really conversed with me. No problem, but his big party is therefore of no importance to me whatsoever. Another colleague attempted to persuade me to turn up during the queue for the end of day attendance scan - I told him I was indifferent and why, right in front of the whole shift. I certainly don't mind carousing but as an afterthought? No, I don't need popularity like youngsters do, and I don't need to get drunk just to have a good time.
    Get A New One
    Once in a while the top boss in a huge multi-national corporation will pop in and look around. As you might expect, when there's a threat of someone important wandering around the workplace, managers suddenly get very insistent on tidiness and activity. If you work for a Japanese company as I do, the issue is worse, because they have all sorts of expectations. Even if you work in a warehouse full of dust producing cardboard packaging and oil soaked parts, workers must be clean and spotless. I discovered this on my way back from break as a pair of managers assessed everyone passing by for adherence to uniform code. I failed because my hi-vis was a little dust and oil marked by lots of activity (I'm not the cleanest worker in the world as I prefer to get things done). Okay, I admit it, it was no longer a bright yellow but instead had become a sort of faded cammo pattern of dull green and grey. The subordinate team leader demanded my attention and quietly told me to get a new hi-vis. That's an order. Yes sir.
    The New One Doesn't Work
    That new tyrannosaurus of a cardboard baler is proving a problem child. We're all shaking our heads and muttering "I told them so" as the machine fails to work reliably straight from the installation. It is a big issue of course. The amount of cardboard we go through is vast - one of the mechanics working on the new machine could not believe how much cardboard our company has to deal with, a feature of having to deal with bulk supplies of auto parts that must be delivered in pristine condition, and whilst he spoke, the yard outside was filling up with temporary bins full of the stuff. They even called overtime specifically to help clear it. Now parts of the machine have failed and must go back to Germany to be redesigned and manufactured.
    You know, for months I was essentially the only associate working on cardboard waste within the warehouse, dealing with smaller boxes whilst the bigger external machines took care of larger packages. Now they have a regular crowd of workers trying to cope with the load and regularly get swamped. One of my colleagues said that things were easier when I was baling. Feels nice to be wanted doesn't it? Sigh. Oh well, the next order has been passed to me and packages full of auto parts must be decanted into stillages for the production line. So that's another load of oil soaked impact bars then. I can see why my colleagues want to get drunk.
    Screenie of the Week
    It's a long bank holiday this easter so a spot of virtual flying is called for. I just love those big propliners and cargo planes, this one - a Douglas C124 from the Cold War era is no exception, seen here flying important cargo and probably a few sailors on a free ticket from a naval base in the Puget Sound to Alameda in sunny California. Enjoy the pic...

    Drunk in charge of that wonderful machine? That's just criminal. I had a lovely evening - instead of loud crowd noise, thudding metronome beats in the background, and all the hot sweaty jostling for another drink, all I heard was the mighty rumble of four large capacity radial aero-engines. Heaven. Oh all right, I admit it, I also indulged myself with a spot of heavy metal guitar. Hell too
    Well, the holiday isn't over, and I have more time to wander around the supermarket to find something different and interesting.... Aha... That bottle of White Rum looks good....
  16. caldrail
    Money is a funny thing. Some people are almost supernaturally capable of accruing it, others simply take what others earn without permission, and most of us get by with what we can get. How we spend our cash is another matter. Younger people tend to be hedonistic - there's a young lad at work who has spent his entire monthly pay cheque in two days each and every time. To be fair, he doesn't moan about the hassles of having no money like some do, but all the same time, he desperately needs some financial advice and discipline. On the other end of the scale is one guy I often talk to who wanted to propose to his girlfriend. So he went out and bought an engagement ring. Nine pounds? Don't be silly. Ninety points? Not good enough. Nine hundred pounds? Doesn't make that big statement. No, he squandered his savings, nine thousand pounds, on the ring. Happily she said yes. Given how depressed he gets by the end of a working shift maybe that's just as well.
    I must confess I do sometimes spend on impulse. The other day I wandered past the local pawnbroker and thought that since I had some time on my hands, why not have a browse? It's sometimes interesting what people will sell. I went over to the line of guitars hanging on the wall. One stood out immediately, a gothic metal style electric guitar with a huge price tag. I looked closer. Floyd Rose tremolo, Seymour Duncan pickups, 24 frets with gothic inlays, full locking, and a feel of quality. Oh yes. It will be mine. Right now, hey, Mr Manager, I want this.....
    So I have ownership of an upmarket electric guitar retailing at nearly a thousand pounds, though I got it considerably cheaper as secondhand.. At first it was horrendous to play because the action (the height of strings above the fretboard) was ridiculous. Too high and the fingers have to make clumsy, slow, and overlong movements. Too low and you get fret buzz and a nasty truncated sound. But adjust it correctly and.... Please excuse me while an adult male goes glassy eyed and rather excited by a smooth and heavyweight distorted guitar sound. Money can be so useful sometimes.
    Oh No, Not Scotland Again...
    That detestable Sturgeon woman just won't shut up. She and other Scottish Nationalists are spouting their demands for another referendum on independence. This time we had Alex Salmond, the politician who failed last time to persuade the Scots to leave the United Kingdom, claiming that the British government cannot ignore democracy. Excuse me? I seem to remember the Scots have had a referendum on independence and chose to remain within the United Kingdom. Sorry Mr Salmond, but you cannot ignore democracy. Worse still the Nationalists seem to believe that if you don't like the result of a referendum then vote again until you do. What's democratic about that?
    But where is Scotland going to get the money from? North Sea oil and gas revenues having vanished, the only option is to stay in the EU. Which they cannot do as part of the UK since Brexit is now enabled by parliamentary law and signed off by the Queen. As an independent country? What they don't seem to realise is that as a new country, even if they get independence before Brexit is finalised, they still have to apply for EU membership, require full consent of current members, and won't have the financial perks hard won by British politicians over the years.
    A colleague at work suggested the English should have a referendum to decide whether we want the Scots with us or not. I'm starting to agree with him. Get rid of those moaning minnies up north and forget them. Close the border and deport all those terrible Scottish people in our midst. I'm not the only one who has noticed that the Scots up north are the nicest people in the world whilst those living in England are just the rear end of human society, a comedian said exactly that on television. I don't really want to wish the Scottish any hardship but I confess I would take great pleasure in watching Scotland stumble.
  17. caldrail
    In the last few weeks I've rediscovered a television series from the sixties. The Saint were the adventures of gentleman adventurer Simon Templar, played by Roger Moore, a sort of poor man's James Bond without the gadgets and evil villains taking over the world. Moore plays the part with his usual bond-esque humour but it is hard to imagine a real life counterpart so genteel and light hearted. In his world, just like Bond, he's infamous and known to everyone yet can wander around incognito until the he gets betrayed by a twist in the plot.
    The thing is, like most sixties television in Britain, production values were very low scale. You can see that corridor is a painted backdrop. That car chase across Germany looks more like Essex. The train carriage is a simple sound stage set. Paris no more than a backdrop of Notre Dame. But you don't mind that, because again, like most sixties television, these programs tell stories. The adventures might be contrived, predictable, sometimes even completely implausible, but unlike modern series the episodes don't rely on emotional wrangling or deep significance. It's actually fun to watch, a guaranteed gritty fistfight in every episode, and the sixties cut scenes and cars add period flavour.
    Of course, when Ian Ogilvy took over in the seventies, changing the charismatic Volvo P1800 sports car for a lumbering Jaguar XJS, the mood had changed. Gentleman adventurers were a thing of the past, aside from James Bond. American imports introduced us to the Ford Torino of Starsky & Hutch, Kojak and his lollipops, and in Britain, series like The Professionals had opted for a more down to earth and working class feel. The Seventies - when Britain joined Europe and the Old World finally withered away.
    Hmmm... We've just decided to leave Europe. I wonder....
    Pole To Port Stanley
    The Douglas DC6 is a pleasing shape in the air, a fifties four engine propliner descending from that old warhorse, the Dakota. In the night sky a few miles south of the Falklands, the Pratt & Whitney Double Wasp engines, each capable of 2400 horsepower, droned on. Below us, hazy patches of sea mist lit by the moon. A few whisps of cumulus drifted by. Above, the stars, strangely static despite our two hundred mile an hour cruise. Most of the passengers would be dozing off by now, too tired by the white knuckle ride on takeofff and the subsequent journey across the South Atlantic to stay awake, too distracted by the vibrating rumble and the stale interior to sleep well. Finally, the radio messages became more frequent, and the command comes through to descend and head for the approach to Port Stanley.
    In real life my hand would have spread across four chunky levers, but with a couple of keypresses, the angry noise reduces to a quiet grumble, and the plane starts to lose altitude. But of course this isn't real. Finally with some time to relax and forget the busy schedule of the past year, it was time to break out the flight simulator.
    I'd been watching Pole To Pole, a travel documentary by Michael Palin, and fancied a go at flying down there. My first attempt was hopelessly inept. I ought to have known better, given my real life pilot training, but I took off without planning and quickly found the cold air causing engine failure after take off, made worse by the prospect of ending up in the icy waters of the polar seas. Not good.
    Okay. Lets think about this. The gravel runway in the simulator at the end of a rocky archipelago was too short for the heavily laden DC6 so I prepared every trick I could think of, and took a lot longer to warm the engines, running them up to power much more gently. Without that two hundred foot cliff off the end of the runway all would have been another disaster, and the random weather I took off in was appalling. All that had been coped with. There was the runway lights at Port Stanley.
    Realism? Well, Microsoft might claim its as good as it gets, but I certainly wasn't. Might have to practice a bit more before I get that phone call from a desperate airline.
    Crisis Ot The Week
    This star prize has to go to Brexit. it must have been obvious there was a chance the British public would choose to go, and everyone quickly forgot that until we kick off Article 50, nothing changes, and even then, there's still a two year negotiation period. Come on Simon Templar. Shoot the bad guys, kiss the girl, and put Britain back on course. At the moment you're a lot more real than some of our overpaid politicians.
  18. caldrail
    "You've had a wonderful life" My claims advisor had told me, having gleaned that pearl of wisdom fom my CV. Of course like all CV's it merely accentuated the positive. All those disasters and mistakes over the years never made it to the final draft, never mind the interminable hassles that life forces us to endure. She was of course trying to win my approval for her state sponsored rebuild of my appearance, character, and history, in the vain hope I might actually become employable. Little did she know that my lucky rabbit's foot would strike again and I'd get a job by my own efforts, unemployable or not.
    Is my life wonderful? That's an interesting question. It is true I've done things many people never will, but then again, the price was high. I've lost out on many aspects of life that those same people take for granted. Okay, the decade of being an aspiring musician gave me some purpose in life. And the following decade of fast cars and flying aeroplanes was very enjoyable, thank you very much. The following decade of unemployable mediocrity and occaisional disaster hasn't been quite so fun, no matter what Eva believes.
    Is my life wionderful right now? Erm, no. I'm doing a job that is the most physically demanding I've ever undertaken, at a relatively unfit and unhealthy fifty plus. Not well paid or secure, either, not to mention being forced to use a bus to get to and from my home, which for me is tantamount to raising a white flag. Truth is I'm just not used to going home barely able to walk. On the bright side, I can of course thumb my nose at Eva, my domineering and ignorant claims advisor. Maybe life ain't that bad after all.
    Pallet Man
    Having to cope with my persistent cold means I've taken to imbibing some much needed Lemsip during my lunchbreak. I hate the stuff. True, it helps me get through the day, but the taste is foul. They say medecine only works if you can barely swallow it. Hard Hat, my afro-carribean colleague who believs NASA overlooked him in the race to land on the moon, noticed I was getting abit drowsy. He generously offered me a can of some energy drink or other. I don't usually have much time for the stories of how these drinks affect people, but ye gods, that on top of Lemsip did the trick. I feel myself changing... Growing stronger...
    Stand back mortals. I am now Pallet Man, superhero and defender of the oppressed warehouseman. Up up and stack 'em!
    Wonderful Life Of The Week
    Right now I'm sat at a computer cubicle at my local library. Next to me is the same guy I always seem to be sat next to, irrespective of when I actually sit down for a couple of hours. He looks sort of like Bilbo Baggins evil twin brother. I wouldn't ordinarily take any notice but he talks to himself all the time. I get a running commentary of his internet activity.
    Almost as annoying as BFL, and the last time she sat down beside me (obviously losing a struggle with Gibbering Baggins for that accolade), she very loudly proclaimed what she was doing and moaned when she couldn't. It's been several years and she still hasn't got the message that I'm not interested in being her best friend.
    That lady who moans about my presence at the library moaned at me again today. And last night, a lady on the bus demanded to know where I got my travel pass from. Why, the bus fairy, of course. All I have to do is lay down a large sum of cash on a particular desk and it magically appears in my hand. Easy.
  19. caldrail
    Although I've already mentioned I'm currently a dustman inside a warehouse, the company did briefly try me on unliading containers. That's where I got the bruises from, both physical and ego related. It turns out that my age and physical fitness have somewhat reduced my ability to handle boxes in excess of twenty five kilos in weight. There's quite a few of them packed into a typical container. Some are more a hundred kilos. Help.
    Of course I'm not working alone. I joined a bunch of cheery youths engaged in the task of unloading. One lad vanished deep into a gap between boxes to help push them out. Obviously a former housebreaker, he was quickly nicknamed 'Gerbil'. I on the other hand inevitably got called 'Grandad'. Cheers guys.
    Another chap happened to be in the wrong plae at the wrong time as a box corner buried itself into his groin. "Mind the penis!" He said, somewhat concerned for the continued safe operation of his anatomy. "Nah, you don't need it." I quipped, clearly stung by references to my advancing age.
    Later on he noted my wheezing helplessness. "I'm not young any more" was my excuse. With some artistic license he replied that he was twice my age and hence my excuse was invalid. "Twice my age?" I answered, "That's why you don't need your penis". Warehousing is such fun.
    Houston We Have A Challenge
    One of my colleagues is a very laid back afro-carribean chap. So laid back that the word horizontal loses all meaning. Imagine my suprise then when he told me he liked a challenge. Pardon me? Face it, you're not NASA material. He insisted he could be.
    Houston - "Ahh, Apollo Thirteen, we have some strange readings back here. Is everything okay up there?"
    Astronaut - "Housten, we have no problem at all.
    Houston - "Right. We're showing oxygen leakages. Please confirm."
    Astronaut - "Oh yeah. Sorry 'bout dat. Heh heh..."
    I have to work with this guy. Not that any work gets done.
    On A Mission
    One of the team leaders called me over. For a moment I thought I was about to get told off for some obscure misdemeanour, but no, the warehouse needed two boxes from the overflow warehouse across the road. So me and a company veteran popped over to the deserted building to risk life and limb in a vain search for two boxes among thousands stashed in tall rows in utter darkness. He found them because he had a torch. I just bumped into a lot of cardbiard and got lost in the darkness.
    So once I'd been rescued we girded our loins and heaved the boxes out into the damp dark night. Talk about ridiculous. We would have been fine but with strong blustery winds our simple task turned into a sort of kamikaze mission. Once the wind caught the box staying on the pavement was all but impossible, you either wandered helplessly into the road or fall over a herbaceous border.
    Fear not. Mission accomplished. Eventually.
    Criticism Of The Week
    Thee I was minding my own television when some udiot outside the house shouted "Your blog is rubbish!"
    What? Again? Oh well. At least he read it.
  20. caldrail
    Last night I wearily wound my way home from work. That's right, I'm working. Or at least I'm trying to. I've discovered that being over fifty years old isn't what I thought it would be. Blisters on my feet, a long bruise on my leg when a sixty eight kilo carton fell on it, stiff legs from constant walking, and worst of all, a well and truly bruised ego. Being a dustman in a warehouse isn't exactly what I 'd planned for.
    Across the street were two doormen outside a gentlemans club. I've always called them the 'Bruise Briothers', identikit bruisers with overcoats and bald heads, looking like refugees from a Bond movie audition. They don't think much of me. I'm not bothered about that, but making it known at the top of their jocular voices wasn't welcome. So I'm living in dreamworld, eh? Feels more like a nightmare right now. But maybe you're right. Maybe I should stop believing the world is about possibilities, that I should be arrested for conspiring to be success, or that a migistrate should punish me most severely for several counts of gross assistance to others? Perhaps I should take their example, and stand in a doorway all night haranguing passers by? Then it occurs to me. These two idiots have nothing in their lives other than the right to obstruct whoever they don't like from entering a premises. So they feel powerful. Big fish in a very tiny pond. You know what? They're welcome to it. Okay. Back to the dreamworld.
    Well And Truly Mistered
    There is also a rumour that I've had my title taken away. Not true. I can squish that rumour with one sentence. What did happen was that instead of an interrogation, my claims advisor then decided to try and become a sort of mother figure. Why is it that middle aged women from northern England have to be so odious? Or is that people in the north push these harridans elsewhere because they can't stand them either?
    In an impossibly condescending tone, she informed me that my title was 'just a bit of paper' and that it was a serious impediment to getting a job? Pardon me? I've had more interest from employers in the last six months than I did in the last six years. Well. She's devalued all my efforts to find a job, reduced me to plebian status in the eyes of the Job Centre, accused me of acting illegally, virtually blackmailed me by witholding dole payments, and then had the gall to think I would in some way begin to respect her. No wonder I'm feeling a bit woebegone.
    The irony of this is that barely minutes before I was obliged to change my CV on the internet to a politically correct and colourless mini-me version, my somewhat more colourful CV with title and heradlry finally got me a job. As a dustman in a warehouse.
    Unfair Life Of The Week
    It so happens that one of my colleagues at work is a caucasian immgrant from Bradford. He sympathised with my description of my claims advisor - maybe I was right about northern women after all - but what amzes me is how this twenty one year old is getting interesting things to do. Technicaly he's supposed to be doing the same sorts of things as me, but on one day he was asked to go upstairs into the IT department to help out, then the other day, got a message that he would spend the next day in the offices doing photography for their marketing department.
    Yeah. See you at work mate. At least I've still got the weekend to feel sorry for myself and find the will to do the dishes.
  21. caldrail
    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.....
  22. caldrail
    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?
  23. caldrail
    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...
  24. caldrail
    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.
  25. caldrail
    There's a strange mood in the town right now, and I suspect, across England, because once again our national football team has failed to reach the heady goal of winning the World Cup. This time they failed to get out of the starting blocks, so I understand, but then I don't have any time for football. Nothing wrong with the game as such, but I resent the expectations that I should be interested and discuss the subject at every opportunity. I don't like the blatant commercialism and outrageous incomes football stars can earn, or for that natter, I remain baffled as to why a bloke who kicks a football for a living can be seen as important as politicians on the world stage.
    All those national flags displayed in peoples front windows... But I suppose that's nothing other than a sense of disappointment. For David Cameron, it means a major reorganisation of his social diary now that he doesn't have a football team to be seen with at press events. A few less new years honours to promote.
    Unfortunatetly it also means that David Cameron has more time on his hands, and with busy politicians who like telling the British how to go about their daily lives, it means he'll have time to think up new ways of getting his face on television, and since trampling on the unemployed is his most popular game plan right now, I dare say it'll get worse for those of us who can't afford football tickets.
    As it happens I'm shortly to be put on a work placement. Unlike previous years where you get a small premium payment to make the idea worthwhile, now I have to work for my benefits. Those of you with well paid jobs will no doubt say that's a good thing. But ask yourself this - would you want to work a thirty hour week for sixty odd pounds? Especially if you want to earn a living instead of dossing at public expense? In a country that's so strident in its call for National Minimum Wages and assistance for those unable to pay their ever increasing bills?
    Now the Job Centre has warned me that twenty-six week placements are coming soon to a own near you. On the one hand it's a means of engaging those without jobs in some useful social capacity. On the other, the need of a politician to win popularity by forcing those on benefits into what amounts to slave labour.
    I'm almost willing to support the England soccer team from now on. As much as I hate football, as least a few goals will keep our politicians busy for a while.
    They Are Working On It.
    The Old College site is starting to look like a shopping centre now. Not complete you understand, but getting there. At the back, the car park has the metal underlay almost fitted, obscuring the dark interior and presenting a very bright spectacle when the sun gets low in the evening. Won't be long before the muffled thuds and rumbles from the cinema start intruding upon the normal traffic noise and singing contests.
    I saw a man from Morrisons, one of the supermarket chains that are going to inhabit the site. He stood looking dejected on the traffic island, watching the work in progress.
    "Give 'em a chance," I told him, "They are working on it."
    Sex And Violence of the Week
    The local park is proving to be a popular hoilday destination for alll manner of birds. Geese, ducks, coots, moorhens, pigeons, an assortment of white sea birds, but none of the swans you used to see every year. I watched a flock of geese arrive, circling down in formation and performing a coordinated landing on the water. That made quite a splash.
    With such a condensed population of birds you might expect the odd confrontation or two, animals being what they are. I watched a goose making a hasty and noisy retreat as another pecked at its tail feathers in furous pursuit. A coot chased a duck continuously, while the duck cleverly evaded its nemesis by swimming underwater in a random direction, the chase resuming once the coot spotted its quarry again.
    I watched amused as a fat pigeon sidled up to every other female asking for a date, or preferably, a chance to make eggs. He danced and strutted his stuff, but the ladies really didn't take to his display and wandered away. If that pigeon was a human, he'd be arrested as a sex pest. or perhaps given a starring role on a comedy show. But he's working on it nonetheless. Maybe one day he'll find love. Must be difficult for pigeons. I mean, it's not like they understand the internet or know how to use dating agencies.
    I noticed a certain cat too. It's the black and white one whose face bears an alarming resemblance to Adolf Hitler. I had no idea this feline adventurer ever prowled this part of town, but as cats do, sometimes they travel some distance to find a hiunting ground.
    It's all sex and violence, really. Oh well, it was a nice day at the park, but if you'll excuse me, I have work to do. Whether I like or not.