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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.
Good grief. It's nearly half way through February and my poor deprived readers have had no news and whinges from me since the festive season. Fear not, brave public, you are not forgotten. At no cost to the country's economy and tattered finances, without the need for UN convoys and airlifts, without the need for drone and bombing attacks to clear obstructions, I bring the latest, and I mean late, news from the Rushey Platt Villa. [bSnowfall [/b] There I was, knee deep in cardboard boxes, stuffing them into a crushing machine while fending off colleagues who saw my job as an easier option than theirs, when I spotted it. Snow? Was that snow falling outside? Of course I couldn't miss the opportunity to head over to the door of the warehouse and have a looksee. It was. Nothing special or disastrous, just a few flurries of wintery weather to please the British heart after our lacklustre Christmas. "What is that stuff coming out of the sky?" Asked a forklifter. He really didn't know. That was the first time he had ever witnessed snow in his life, and in his far off homeland in sub-tropical Goa, snow just does not happen. Another Goan was nervous, not really understanding what snow was, and worried about possible side effects. One the other hand, one Polish girl prayed the snow would get heavier so she could build a snowman like she did back home. Well, despite the repeated warnings on weather reports, the snow flurries across England were fairly feeble and here in rainy old Swindon we got almost nothing. Fighting Hunger There are times we think our employer gives us almost nothing. Oh sure we get paid, but there's an insidious lack of morale as the targets we have to meet only get higher with fewer resources to achieve them. Maybe I'm whinging a little. After all, the company did pay for a Christmas dinner and a week or two ago we got a free fish and chips. Yummy. I notice the bottles of tomato ketchup and mayonnaise left on the tables afterward quickly started evaporating. President Of The Week Who else but Donald Trump? Clearly expecting to rule by decree and change the face of the Earth with clicks of his fingers and swipes of his expensive pens, he has run straight into a lesson on co-operation mounted by the judiciary branch of American government, one we never normally hear anything about in Britain. The funny things was that I debated with a colleague at work about whether Trump would get a lesson, but I confess I thought it was going to be from the security services, not the judges. So his executive order to ban travel from suspicious states achieves almost nothing. Thus he threatens to make another. How the Russians must be laughing. All that effort to rig the electoral system, all those spies wandering around taking photographs and exchanging envelopes of secret information, all those bugs and whistleblowers and Wikileaks.... All the Russians have to do is follow Trump on Twitter.
The colour of light through my bedroom curtains this morning was unmistakeable. Definitely snow. Not a great deal of it, but the yard and car park beyond had been given a white sheen. As I wearily glanced outside, the snow was still falling - it's tailed off right now and the sun is breaking through. Winter has a bit of a problem right now. It doesn't seem to know what sort of weather to throw at us. Wind, rain, snow, bitter cold sunshine, it changes on the hour every hour. Yesterday it started to hail. British hail is somewaht weedy compared to the icy cannon projectiles you get in some parts of the world, but that makes it a mere inconvenience to us Brits. Especially when a hailstone drops straight down the back of your neck, which is what happened to me. There I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I'm squirning uncontrollably in the street and making strange moans of discomfort. People notice this sort of thing, usually when they don't know what caused it. Crawling Into Work Another cold morning. TIme then to answer the call of the alarm clock at some ungodly hour of the morning, ignore the protests shouted through the walls of my home, and head down to the bus stop, hopefully fully dressed, for that all important bus to work. I feel so ordinary these days. The town has an empty clammy feel. A long high street is almost deserted and tinged in an amber glow, aside from some guy who I know will be taking the the same bus as me. He stops at a cash machine to pay for his ticket. He's already paid for his cigarettes which he'll chainsmoke as he waits behind me at the bus station. That's his business of course, it's just that he has the annoying habit exhaling as noisily as possible. Swindon's bus station is doomed. They're going to build a new one sooner or later but for now the dull brick edifice hiding under the shadow of a disused multi-story car park will do. A few hardy souls hang around here and there, aside from my chainsmoking fellow passenger who queues up behind me every day so I can derive such pleasure fro listening to his cigarette habit. A van turns up to drop off piles of newspapers. The Devizes bus turns in off the main road. That'll be full of several passengers shortly and probably on its way. Second comes our bus showing 'No Service' as it turns into the bay. The driver gets out and heads into the admin offices for a few minutes. Eventually he'll be back, fussing with the controls of the ungainly double decker, and then allowing us to present travel passes, coins, or desperate pleas for assistance. Some bus drivers are quick, others aren't. Some struggle with issuing ticketrs, some are incredibly efficient. I see the same people boarding or disembarking at the same stops. No-one says hello. We're all too miserable at having to get out of bed to go to work. My Day At Work One of the team leaders goes through the register. After four weeks of persuasion I finally managed to get them to put my name on it. "Caldrail?" Yup. "Pallets today please" That means I'll be wandering around the racks finding empty pallets so the guys unoading containers can put more boxes on them. Well that's the next eight hours sorted then. End Of The Shift Finally it's time to go home. Suddenly the warehouse comes alive and it's a life or death sruggle to find your bag, wrap up for the cold weather outside, and clock out out as the next shift rushes in desperately trying to arrive on time. Hard Hat, my chilled out colleague at work, never rushes at any time. He's never frantic, breathless, urgent, or even remotely rushed for any reason whatsoever. At lunchbreaks he sometimes takes a quick nap. When we wait at the bus stop after work, he's guaranteed to amble up the road long after we've settled who's going to be first to board the bus. A couple of times I've mentioned that my life would be complete if I ever saw Hard Hat running for the bus. My life is complete. And The Winner Is... As a fourteen year old I went with the school on a skiing trip to Austria. All a big adventure at that age, made embarrasing by parents giving us last minute advice and emotional send off's. No matter. We negotiated the unfamiliar hazards of a Dan Air flight to Munich and a long coach journey across the border, finally arriving at the resort. One kid got caught smoking and would have been sent home had that not meant a teacher would have cut short their holiday. On the other hand, the much hated geography teacher got hit by a snowball. By the end of the week, it was time to settle the most important question of all. Who was the best skier? Naturally the dominant lads, the ones good at football, pretty much figured it was one of them, with one character a clear favourite in the stakes. So we gathered on the slopes that last morning for a timed slalom run, not just the school, but every tourist at the site. I was number five in the running order. With mounting trepidation I watched the others head off. Gate 1.. Gate 2... Gate 3... Then Gate 4, a nasty tight left turn on the brow of a steep drop. Every skier in front of me fell over at that point. Okay. I'll make a note of that. Ready!... Three... Two... One... GO! I was off. My mind was absolutely focused on the task. I didn't harbour any fantasies of doing well, but I sure as heck was going to try. Then I arrived at Gate 4. Snowplough braking... turn as I reach the edge and lean in.. Oh yes. That's how it's done. I carried on and headed for the finish line quite satisified with my efforts. The austrians at the finish line were yelling at me, urging me on enthusiatically, and somewhat bemused I gave myself a few pushes with the sticks. They were all thumbs up and germanic appraisals, which I failed utterly to understand. Here's the thing. I was the only skier that day who did not fall over at Gate 4. The only one. I watched amused as each and every contestant did a sort of helpless swan dive off the dip. Not only that, I sat there in disbelief that night when the instructors handed out the certificates. My name wasn't appearing. Until the end. Not only had I beaten my classmates, I'd beaten everyone at the resort, adults as well. Defintely one of my finest moments.
Three weeks of winter mayhem they promised us. We do tend to get wintery weather second hand from the States, albeit weakened by its long journey across the Atlantic, and the news reports of deep snowdrifts over there certainly seemed to confirm our impending doom. So what happened? We've barely had a cold day and it's end of December. No white Christmas then. And now the weather warnings are telling us to expect more winter mayhem. In fairness it does seem that some of us are being stopped by snow. Is there any other country in the world so completely unable to cope with a few flakes and icy conditions? License To Kringe Someone at work said you can always tell it's Christmas when a James Bond movie gets aired on television. That might have been the case ten years ago, but high definition digital tv has pretty much destroyed the significance of MI5 and their loveable assassins in our xmas celebrtations. I'm suprised there isn't a James Bond channel by now. Or perhaps there is. I've got so many channels on freeview now that finding something I want to see is turning into anything between a desperate search for the lost entertainment and a nail biting agonising decision over which program is the one to watch. I never knew being a couch potato was so stressfull. Now I come to think about it, Christmas seemed to be a bit muted this year. Even my local supermarket didn't start their annual assault on the nerves with Christmas Hits Of The Last Century until they had two weeks to go. Just enough time to fit them in on a never ending loop interminably then. Not that I'm complaining mind you - one of their shop assistants said hello to me for the first time since I started shopping there twelve years ago. Just another step on my ladder to fame and fortune I guess. I don't know about James Bond movies any more, but certainly at Christmas there's a sudden outbreak of singing and busking. Sure enough this hapened just recently. A smiling rastafarian making the worst racket you've ever heard on some badly tuned tin drums, a small choir in the town centre who hadn't realised that singing in tune sounds better, and a down and out guitar player who repeats the same song over and over just to pass the time of day. It wasn't all bad. There was an amusing puppet mandolin player (the actual player was in an oversized backpack). Funnily enough there were none of these people around when a police car idled by along the pedestrian way. No Deal Of The Week According to the letter from the Department of Work and Pensions, they can't pay me the benefits I claimed from November. Cute. So I exceeded the terms of my Jobseekers Agreement by an order of magnitude, conducted a consistent jobsearch record even when I wasn't being paid for it, and accepted an offer of paid employment way below my level of skill, education, and experience. Worse, I suffered accusations of fraud, defamation of character, and found myself financially coerced into a deal that pretty much amounted to enslavement. Sorryy Eva, but you should have been honest. You reneged on the deal, not me. Lord Rail is back.