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Thursday, 31 March 2016

1603.30 BIG BOYS LICENCE

Years ago, in what seems like another lifetime, I used to drive a bus (in fact it was many buses). I passed my PCV licence back in 1995 but since 2006, and a change of career, I haven't had call to use it.

The licence for large vehicles has to be renewed when the holder gets to 45. Since that age is creeping up on me fast I have a decision to make.

Fast forward to today. I knew it was coming, it wasn't unexpected but seeing it is still a bit of a sting. The form from the DVLA was waiting for me when I got back from my Easter trip. As well as the form to fill in I'll need a medical report completing for the renewal.

So here's my dilemma. A medical report will cost me upwards of £50 to obtain. So do I shell out to renew for a licence I haven't used for 10 years as a 'back up'? Or do I let it lapse? After all I don't use it, and am I likely to get use from it in the future (plus the renewal only lasts for 5 years)?

Supplemental 1604.01;
Just before I set off for work I received this email response from the DVLA regarding the question as to whether I could reinstate my driving entitlement once it has lapsed. Here's what they said... 

Dear [CaptainKirt] 
Thank you for your email received on 1/4/16. Your email reference number is ********.
I can confirm you would not be required to re-take your PCV test.
When you are ready to apply for your renewal you will need to complete a D2 and D4 application form in order to do this.
I trust I have answered your enquiry.

So it's good news. I still can keep my entitlement 'on ice' until I potentially need it, then take a medical to reinstate it. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

1603.28 EASTER BUNNY AND THE GHOST

Our break in St Neots continued into Easter Sunday with a jet lagged wake up following the clocks going forward at 2am.

We met up with friends who are getting married later in the year to visit the church they will be using. Later we sat down to a family dinner and then relaxed for the rest of the day. I do love the fact that all the shops close on this day.

I have an After Eight egg that I will be enjoying over the coming days.

Now I'm going to digress a little to give a little background to something that happened this afternoon. Morticia sometimes comes and stays at her mother's without the rest of us, she does this once or twice a year. She has often spoken of a disturbing presence in the spare room (not anywhere else in the house). She says she feels uneasy and has on occasion woken up feeling as if she is been held down in the bed. This has never happened when I am there, and she says she feels at ease then. This story has been around for many years and on Sunday morning is the first time it has changed.

This morning whilst we were all sleeping Morticia woke screaming. She said later that she had felt that same presence holding her down briefly. I wasn't affected by any of this at all and apart from the noise of her scream. In the afternoon Rags was feeling tired and went up to bed for a nap. She yelled for me about an hour later, I dashed up and she was looking shocked and confused. She told me that she had woken up after feeling that she was being held down, then feeling her arm being lifted. She told me she saw a figure briefly before she called out.

Both are unaffected from the events and are not put off sleeping in the room.

Sunday night Storm Katie raged outside, we had a relaxing evening in front of the TV. The bank holiday is our last day and hopefully the weather will allow us to leave the house.
Storm Katie ravages the country
Monday started late for everyone (except me, I was reading from 9am). When we did go out we drove down to a local chilli farm. The cafe there was closed but Morticia bought a few chilli based condiments. We then visited a nearby garden centre. I'm not a fan of garden centres, they're full of stuff I can't afford and we usually end up buying expensive tat we don't need. We enjoyed a much needed cuppa before venturing on.

We had tea in town at the local Wetherspoons (The Weeping Ash), I'm a big fan of Wetherspoons.

Then after packing up our stuff and a number of cups of tea later it was time to head back home. A1 northbound.

Monday, 28 March 2016

1603.28 WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE BLOGGERS

I've been blogging for many years. In the early days there was quite a community out there happily sharing comments and reading each other's ramblings. Then came social media and blogging fell by the wayside for many. I have still blogged on and off for the last few years but not as frequently as perhaps I should have. 

It's become increasingly obvious that the 'great unwashed' are everywhere on social media filling it with their ill informed drivel and spite filled opinions. So I turn back to my blog and the lovely people that surround and read it. I also enjoy reading other people's blogs but recently my reading list has started to wear a little thin with some of my regular reads abandoned for months and even years.

It's time it get some new blood so to speak to replenish my reading stock and to perhaps get some reciprocal reads back. I've added a couple of new blogs to my list, the only problem is that the blogosphere seems full of writers using the blog as a money making machine. I don't want sponsored posts, they're so false. So where are the real bloggers? I'm sure they're out there under the pro writers and monetisers.

If you know of any good reads please let me know.

Supplemental 1604.11;
I found about three new reads in the blog world and I'm still looking for more. It's not easy to seek out interesting blogs that aren't about fashion or making money out of blogging (which sounds a bit like a pyramid scheme to me). 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

1603.27 THEY TALK FUNNY DARN SOUFF

Like most Easters of late we travelled down to Morticia's mother's for the weekend. We drove down around dinner(lunch)* time and although there were a couple of hold ups along the way, the journey was without note or incident. The day was bright and sunny and we enjoyed the drive, our car has a glass roof so we can really make the best of these nice car trips.

St Neots is a town just off the A1 just below Peterborough and not far from Cambridge. It's a place I've become familiar with over the years and have developed a fondness for the place, even if the people talk funny!

They (the town) have recently acquired a small cinema and with it a couple of chain eateries. Friday night we went to Frankie & Bennys. The service was dreadfully slow and the servers didn't even know their own menu (we had to point). The food when it arrived was poor quality and in the case of Morticia's salad, wasn't as described. The cost I found was on the high side for this type of restaurant, in hindsight we'd have gotten better food at better value at a Wetherspoon's (I'm a big fan of Wetherspoon pubs). A twitter complaint went in as soon as I got back.

Saturday we went into town. It's a small but pleasant shopping centre that's easy to traverse (it's one street and a market square). We had a late dinner/early tea in the cafe in the square (as we usually do) which in all our opinions was better than the meal last night. The town recently (this week) acquired a B & M Bargains store in the small retail area on the edge of town so we were obliged to visit. I watched the locals traversing the store in wonder as I smugly smiled to myself (we have 2 withing 5 minute drives of our house). We got back to Morticia's mother's house just moments before storm 'Katie' unleashed. I spent the evening relaxing whilst doodling cartoons and sipping a bottle of beer.

I went to bed with a slight headache which stayed with me throughout the night. I dreamed that my bike had been stolen (the bike in my dream however wasn't my bike in reality). Maybe this was withdrawal and I was aware of the ride I'd be missing Sunday morning?

*I think it's a northern thing but I call lunch=dinner and what everyone else calls dinner is either tea or supper depending on the time.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

1603.26 GUEST HOST

Years ago Angus Deayton was fired from the comedy panel show 'Have I Got News For You' following some scandal I can't remember. Since that time the show has been presented by various guest presenters.

Although this has worked out for this show I'm getting a bit bored with the trend of using guests to front a show when the main presenter leaves (for whatever reason). HIGNFY gets away with it because it has regular team captains who carry the continuity, something other shows don't have. Recently 'Bargain Hunt' went down this road and this weekend James Martin finished a 10 year run on Saturday Kitchen and the show is set to also.

I wish programme makers would take a chance and chose a new presenter to front these shows. Without a regular personality the shows are just empty vessels with no substance trading on past success.

Friday, 25 March 2016

1603.24 WORKS NIGHT OUT

The government cuts to the public sector have been deep and brutal. Us the survivors have to try and build on what's left. Part of the process of losing colleagues is the obligatory leaving do. Tonight we wished "good luck" to 3 of the girls who are starting new jobs or transferring to new teams.

I've not been one for social events especially since my life flipped a few years ago. I decided in the end (after quite a bit of soul searching) to attend although I was also doing a taxi run for Morticia and Rags so I wouldn't be drinking alcohol (see previous post).
My work colleagues with me (I'm the horizontal one)
It's always a bit weird seeing your work mates in their own duds. The thing that took me by surprise was that I really enjoyed myself, I can't emphasise that fact enough. I didn't stay past 10pm, I had my taxi duties to attend to but I think I'd had enough and I'm sure as the drunkenness progressed a gulf would have opened up.

It was good. Maybe I'm ready to enjoy this sort of thing again.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

1603.24 ALCOHOL CULTURE

I've never been a big drinker although I probably drink a lot less as I've gotten older. I've noticed over the years, especially with my work colleagues, that there seems to be a lot of people who take pride in being able to sink 6 to 8 pints or perhaps a bottle of wine. It seems to be a society thing that I don't (or don't want to) understand.

This is probably going to be evident if I decide attend a work social tonight, especially since I don't plan on drinking. I'll be surprised if I'd manage more than a few hours before the group becomes intolerable due to drunkenness. 

Don't get me wrong, I love a pint. But it is usually a pint, not usually more than 2 (except on holiday). I don't like being drunk, I also don't like the after effects.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

1603.23 CHARITABLE ACTIVITIES

Before I begin I have to say I'm not wanting to say anything bad about Sport Relief. It's a brilliant cause that does good work. My niggle is with celebrities that give "their time" to get involved in a sporting challenge. They then appear on TV in all the gear which will have been provided free of charge by the manufacturer (free advertising). I'm not criticising the likes of Eddie Izzard who's magnificent efforts are truly legendary. I'm talking about your newsreaders and comedians who get to have fully supported access to major challenges.

If any 'ordinary' person wants to do something similar, even for charity, there is usually a major outlay on top of any fundraising. Even a basic charity cycle sportive can cost upwards of £20. Then you have to provide the equipment etc.

I would love to cycle coast to coast or something like lejog but the cost is just so much it may never happen.

So that's my rant about the privileged getting free stuff in the name of charity. Jealousy does creep in to this, I want to do a lot of those cycling challenges but I fear I will never get the chance. It's still a cause worth giving to, I just would love to get in on some of the action. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

1603.22 BRUSSELS ATTACK

How do I write this? How do I express how this latest atrocity makes me feel? I don't think any written word can put down will do justice to the sorrow and anger I feel about what happened in Belgium this morning.

My thoughts are with the victims, their families, survivors and the nation. We are Europeans and this is another attack on our way of life. Having said that now isn't the time to start laying blame against innocent people because of their religion or background. The perpetrators are a minority, we will only win if we don't give in to hate and turn on each other. We will win if we stay focused and get on with our lives. We owe it to the ones we lost today.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

1603.19 BRIGHT LIGHTS


As everyone knows I commute to a from work regularly. Over the years I've come across others who have either been in collision with me or a 'near miss'. The usual excuse is "sorry I did't see you". To counter this I have spent a bit of money upgrading my lights over the last year. Last night I had a little 'run in' with a motorist who objected to the brightness of my front light. I captured the encounter on my helmet cam...


I've never had an issue like this before so it took me by surprise. Did his grievance give him the right to reverse at me like he did? I'm not about to tone down my lighting, I think it keeps me safe.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

1603.17 CYCLE-IST


Every workday (almost) I ride my bike to work. When I get there I put my bike under the stairs at the side of the entrance (there are numerous entrances). I've done this since we moved to this building last August. I'm not the only one, there are a few of us.

The organisation I work for have in the past run the Cycle to Work Scheme (you know the one where you get to lease a bike through your employer, tax free, and buy it at the end) which I have used. They then decided not to continue citing admin costs. In comparison the NHS has a continuing programme running.

I don't need to tell anyone about the benefits of cycling to work, the health benefits, easing congestion (imagine all of those bikes you complain about each day getting behind the wheel of their cars and driving) and think about the parking spaces.

Imagine my feeling when on my bike a found this note;

The note
Yes, there is a new cycle rack in the car park. Yes the lock is a tool so there is no argument. So what is my problem? For the last (almost) 10 years I've had the luxury of having a secure place under complete cover to store my bike. I don't like to think about tying my bike to a semi-covered, not fully secure location for 8 hours a day. I have made an investment in lighting which would be time consuming to remove every time plus the pannier bag and camera tech etc.

Most people (except the other cyclists) don't get why I've got an issue. Most commuting cyclists have to park in similar racks, some don't get racks and have to tie up to street furniture. Still I feel like the organisation doesn't like cyclists, the bikes were not in the way and causing no issues, so why spend the money to put our machines out in the rain?

Supplement 1603.20; I've located an outside storage area where I can keep my bike out of the way. It's not ideal but better than that awful rack. 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

1603.13 RIDE TO RETFORD

It's been a while since I went out with my cycling club but this Sunday I made the effort. The last club run I went on (not the Tom Simpson) I struggled, I was determined to make this one work. There were 9 of us in total, meeting between 2 meeting points. There was a new guy out with us this morning, I remember whit was like to be the new guy. I was out on my Boardman which I'm now using as a 'winter' bike. There was a low mist and a chill to the air but the ride was brisk, I felt good.

We ended up at the Broomwagon Velo Cafe in Retford, a favourite that I've been to a few times with the club.

I clocked up over 107km, door to door, more than that I remembered why I do this.

My club enjoying a break

Monday, 7 March 2016

1603.07 STRANGE MAN IN THE PUB

Most Mondays we (Morticia & myself) visit our local pub, the Green Dragon for the last hour (or so). It's usually pretty quiet which suits us. This Monday we were there as usual, the girl behind the bar was telling us about a bloke in the other bar who was going on about something or other over and over. After a short time this bloke asked (through the gap between the bar) if he could speak with me. I obliged and joined him in the other room. He then went through some concerns he'd had because of a meeting with the benefits people that morning. I advised him to speak with them in the morning.

Over the rest of the evening the chap went 'round every customer in the pub. At the end of the night I offered to encourage him to go home. Part of my job is being able to communicate and I used my skills to get him out of the door.

About 15 minutes later I went out to the car park (to check for the girl behind the bar if her lift had arrived). I found that same bloke with his head inside a car speaking to the driver. I spoke to him again and encouraged him to get off home, I witnessed him this time leave the car park.

Later, as we were leaving the pub, we saw him again stood on the street on the other side of the pub wall. When I got home I rang 101 and got my Rotherham colleagues to check on his welfare. He was well known to them and I'm confident that they looked after him.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

1603.06 DAY OF THE MOTHER

This time last year it was a very different day, this year unfortunately I'm working and without enough leave to get the day off any do anything special.

Earlier in the week I took Rags shopping, she wanted to buy her mum a 'Me to You' bear ornament (that Morticia collects). 

The day started with breakfast in bed made by Rags with a presentation of gifts. Morticia loved her bear together with the champagne and flowers. 

I sorted the dinner ready just to turn on as required before I left. My day consisted of working whilst Morticia and Rags enjoyed a cuddlefest on the settee watching movies. 

The missing piece was the notable absence of our eldest. There was no card, no text, not a word. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

1603.05 THE COMMUTER BIKE

I've finally finished repairing and refurbishing the vintage 80s bike that was involved in a collision with a car a couple of years ago. I've accented the yellow more with yellow 'camouflage' effect bar tape which I've double wrapped over the previous tape to give a more comfortable grip. I've put on the better lights I bought after the last accident and added a hi viz cover for the bag that goes on the rack. The brakes have been updated to complement the new wheels which are of the modern 700c standard (replacing the 27inch old standard).

I've rode it a few times and initially I was unsure that I was going to get along with it. The bike is VERY heavy (my other bikes are aluminium or carbon fibre) and handles very differently. I took the first couple of rides very steady. It's taken a few goes to get used to friction shifters again, it becomes fluid eventually.

Hopefully we will have a long and happy relationship.

The Commuter Machine