Tuesday 30 June 2009

It's Not Hotel Babylon...

... but there are still a fair number of crazies staying at this Holiday Inn!

I'm at the Holiday Inn beside the Park-And-Ride on the outskirts of Oxford. It's a blisteringly hot day and I'm relaxing in the bar with a beer doing what I do best - people watching. And they are so good.

The nutter with the lime who put on his performance last night was just a pleasure to watch! Tonight, I heard a most excellent conversation. When I say conversation, I was only party to one half of the conversation but I'm quite sure that had I heard the other side of the conversation, it would've been a lot less funny.

"Hello Room Service, how can I help you" said the woman behind the bar of the aforementioned drinking, eating and sleeping establishment shortly after she'd picked up the phone.

"So you don't want to order anything now?"

"OK, sir. I look forward to taking your order."

At that, she hung up with a most quizzical look on her face.

"What's wrong?" asked one of her co-workers.

"Some nutter has just phone me to tell me that he will phone back in two minutes to place an order for room service. He wanted to give me prior warning apparently."

Now, I like nutters. They are fabulous as long as they are not dangerous. This particular nutter was obviously concerned that the woman manning the room service phone would be taken unawares should someone phone her requesting room service. He's the kind of nutter I appreciate.

Monday 29 June 2009

When it rains, it pours...

Picture the scene... you've just inserted your "hole-in-the-wall" card into the aforementioned "gappage" in the hope that some cash will be forthcoming. A strange whirring noise comes from the machine and after what seems like an eternity, the machine gives up the ghost. My card isn't returned and I get a lame apology claiming that I need to discuss the issue with my card issuer.

This is most irksome but I travel with a spare debit card just for such an eventuality. I insert my "spare" and after some strange noises I receive another apology claiming that the card has been retained and that I need to speak to my card issuer. Note: the second card was issued by a different bank!

It seems that others fell victim to the HSBC ATM's over-zealous retention of cards.

But the big bother came when I phoned my issuer in the vain hope that I could get a replacement card sent out to me in sharpish time. Alas, it is not possible... but I only discovered that the card would take 7 days to arrive (rather than the 4 that I need because of holidays) after I'd had a most bizarre conversation with their call-centre staff. It went like this:

"We need to take some details from you for security purposes, sir" they said.

"No problem" I replied.

"What is .....?" they asked. I replied.

"And could you tell me .....?" they asked. I replied.

"And finally, what is ....?" they asked. I replied.

"I'm sorry sir. Two of your answers don't match our records"

"But those are the right answers - I use them every day because I check my account, every day. What are we supposed to do now?"

"We will need to reset your account, sir"

"How long will that take?" I asked.

"5-7 days"

"Can you not just check my answers again?"

"I can't do that sir. You are welcome to hang up and ring us again to try the procedure once more."

"Why an I do that yet you won't check my answers again?"

"Because you could keep trying answers until you get them right, sir"

"But I could just keep ringing you until I get them right, isn't that so?"

"I guess so sir, but those are the rules."

I hung up and phoned again. I provided the same answers and was security cleared. But then, it was a futile exercise anyway. I won't have a card before I go on holiday.

The upshot of it all is this:
  • I am missing 2 debit cards
  • I can't get them replaced before I go on holiday so I will be forced to use credit cards
  • I will be changing my bank when I get back from holiday - bye, bye Cahoot
On a lighter note... I may have to get a new mobile phone number because I seem to have acquired a stalker! Not your run-of-the-mill stalker though. This is the kind that wants to be abusive on the phone and is managing to spoof the callerid. Not only that, they are phoning other people using my number as their callerid which is very annoying. This is really irksome as my phone is really quite important but I guess I will just have to take the hit.

Why does society carry such scum?

Sunday 28 June 2009

5 Things You Don't Know About Me

1. Job Interviews
I've had four job interviews in my life and been offered a job as a result of each of them. I'm tempting fate here, I know. I'm quite sure that this run of good fortune will come to an end at some point (though I'm hoping that a lottery win will negate the need for any future interview).

2. Voting & Elections
I was granted the right to vote at the age of 18 (as is customary in the UK). Since then, I have managed to cast my vote at every local, regional, national and European elections with just one exception - which makes me feel bitterly disappointed. I have precious little time for politicians but I still manage to cast my vote. If I am permitted to borrow some sentiment from Groucho Marx, anyone who wants to be a politician, shouldn't be allowed to be one!

3. Heros & Heroines
I don't think I have any. I can't be doing with hero worship. Some people are talented in a musical way; others are talented in business. I like to think that most people have a talent for something - even if they are merely talented at annoying others! I think I'm talented, though I haven't figured out what that talent is yet. The point is, I can't elevate someone who has a talent for something to the point of being my hero. They would have to be multi-talented to a point which is sickening and at that point, I wouldn't want them to be my hero because they would be everyone's hero. The person who comes closest to it (at a guess) is Stephen Fry. Multi-talented and an absolutely joy to watch, read or listen to.

4. Learning To Drive
I learnt to drive at a young age on a disused runway! Family holidays in the 1980s were spent at a caravan park in Ballyhalbert on the Ards Peninsula. The caravan park was sited on a disused World War II airfield and those great wide-open runways were great for practising my skills in a Cortina, Escort and a Renault whose number I've quite forgotten. Thankfully, none of those cars were capable of any kind of acceleration that could be described as dangerous.

5. Favourite Books
I read a lot more often these days. I used to love reading the "Three Investigators" series of Hitchcock books as a young boy but I did manage to spend most of my 20s avoiding literary books. I've rediscovered the joy of reading novels again. Unfortunately, I've read some rubbish recently (and the worst three were all by Dan Brown). My favourite, as of today, is "The Great Gatsby", despite the rather abrupt ending :-)

Monday 22 June 2009

It's All About Timing

The 7am flight from Belfast to Birmingham takes approximately 40 minutes according to the pilot yet I didn't get off the plane until 8:05. That means we spent 25 minutes taxiing on the ground or he was telling lies. Either way, an 8:05 arrival doesn't give me enough time to catch the 8:14 train to Oxford.

You see, it takes 5 minutes for the bags arrive. (My bag was first off the carousel) and it takes precisely 5 minutes to hoof my aging body to the air-rail link. It takes another 5 minutes to sort out my ticket and get to the platform.

To catch the 8:14 train to Oxford, I need my plane to be connected to the covered walkway well before 8:00. In fact, I need my flight time to be as per the pilot's announcement.

So I've missed my train today! I have to wait an hour for the 9:14 again. I've had 4 attempts at this journey and only have a 50% hit rate on making the 8:14.

On the plus side... it gives me a great excuse to start my week in grumpy form. Guess I'll just spend the next 40 minutes people watching and engaging in that most inquisitive of activities: bluetooth device name discovery!

Wednesday 17 June 2009

The Travellers

I'm stood in the bar of The Red Lion in Fareham and I'm posting to my blog via my Blackberry for the first time ever. I'm not a prolific blogger and I really only do it to remind myself of things that have happened to me or feelings I have had! But here I am blogging with a pint of Stella to hand!

Why am I blogging? Well... I'm alone. Travelling around the country with work may seem exciting but I do end up in hotel bars by myself.

Of course, there are other travellers. There are lots of lonely people sitting at tables in the bar by themselves and none of them are speaking to each other.

Of course... I'm as bad as they are. And I'm ashamed of that fact. Maybe these people would be delighted if I said hello? Maybe they would tell me where to go? I don't know but something has changed in our society which means that all these people are happier with their laptop on their knee rather than an interesting and engaging fellow traveller to keep them amused. And I'm blogging.

I have become one of these people!

I think I'll speak to someone after all. 'Another pint please, good man'

Small Mindedness

My home town, Glengormley, was closed down last night for a few hours while the Loyal Orange Order's "arch" was erected across the road in readiness for the 12th of July celebrations.

A rich pageantry of fun and frivolity should be had by all except it just isn't the case.

The erecting of the arch is a signal for the thuggery to congregate on street corners, vandalise property, intimidate householders and stage pathetic mini-confrontations with their various rivals.

What this meant for me was a crowd of about 20 youths gathered outside my house to plot and scheme and taunt police officers. Of course, the plotting and scheming was done without the use of any words with more than two syllables but with an over-liberal use of four-letter words of the docker kind.

A young girl demonstrated particular linguistic skill at one point by declaring "for ****'s sake, be ****ing careful, I'm nearly ****ing pregnant". Class! She would've been aged around 14 or 15 (and could maybe have been 14 or 15 stone also) which begs a number of questions:
  • Did her parents know she was wandering the streets at 11pm on a school night?
  • Does she even go to school and if so, is she concentrating during her English lessons?
  • What does "nearly pregnant" mean?

My hedge was damaged during the evening. I can only guess that someone was pushed by someone else through my hedge. And I have some graffiti on my wall - though not very much as I'm guessing that spelling wasn't the "artist's" strong point. Damage was minor but the stress was positively major. If ever there was a reason for moving on, the colourful tribe from Queen's Park provided it.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

I Hate Mice

A number of years ago, I came home from a 2 week holiday to find mouse droppings all over my living room floor. A trap was set and a mouse was caught. The trap was reset and another mouse was caught. Thirteen mice were murdered in the space of a week but the house was clean.

Three years ago, we had another mouse come into the house - it didn't last long.

This week, that all too familiar "scratching" sound could be heard as I was busying myself on my computer. A turned around to find a mouse come out of my fireplace, stand on the hearth looking at me (with a look of a disdain, I thought) and then scurry back into the fireplace.


Trap set, mouse murdered. Chilli flavoured dark chocolate seemed to entice the wee fella to meet his maker. I say 'fella' and 'his' but I could be wrong!

Trap is reset (just in case) and bang - another mouse murdered. This is serious now. Multiple mice suggests a family! And one of the rooms in the house that is virtually disused is showing the distinctive signs - some droppings, some gnawings.

I know it is probably my fault. The hot days encourage us to leave the back-door open all day and I reckon they "wander" in to the house to see what they can see. Should I just accept that it is an "occupational hazard" or should I buy a cat?

Monday 1 June 2009

European Election Time

So, it's that time of year again.

The one time when it seems acceptable to deface our streets with election campaigning posters. A time when tribal politics takes to the fore once more.

The literature was dumped through my letter-box and (as I always do), I diligently read everything that the candidates had to say. Only two candidates seems to make reference to what it means to be a member of the European Parliament and what they would do for "our wee country" at Brussels.

And the other candidates? No Dublin rule; Brits out; Red, White & Blue; Green White & Gold.


Absolutely pathetic and sickening.

Once again, the politics of fear and division!

And some of it was incomprehensible! I stared at the one candidate's poster which stated:
  • Experience
  • Principle
  • Integrity

Now... I'm no literary expert, but it disturbs me everytime I see that poster. Principle is a noun so what is he trying to say? Is he saying that he is a principled person, ie. someone with high moral values? I suspect he is trying to say that, but then he ought to have said Principled?

How can I possibly vote for someone who constructs a campaign poster so severely lacking in any sense? What am I saying? He's target demographic are the ones will vote for whichever person has managed to squeeze the most red, white and blue on to their poster?

Alas, I shall be voting for those people who advocate collaboration, are concerned about our country's standing within Europe and are caring towards the environment. In other words, the people that aren't likely to get elected.