Tuesday, November 23, 2004

On A Lighter Note..... 

Sometime in early 1973 my father won a Fidelity Stereo at his working men's club Sunday draw and, on returning home he gave it to me as neither he nor mum were particularly bothered about listening to music. Wow! I was all excited by this new fangled machine, the types of which I heard spoken about in school. No one I knew owned one. The majority of us still had Dansette or Fidelity mono record players or even mono gramophones in some cases. I don't think I properly understood what stereo was at the time.

Armed with my 'exciting' news I went straight round to my mates, Dave, who understood these things and told him of our good fortune. I think he was even more excited than me, so we arranged a meet at my house for early that evening, to test out the stereo properly. He even offered to bring around an LP he'd just bought to try it out in stereo, which seemed fine to me.

The evening arrived and so did Dave, under his arm he had a double album called 'Hot August Night' by Neil Diamond. "What the hell is that?" I enquired, thinking he'd gone mad. "Don't worry, you'll like honest" was his quick reply. Just get that stereo set up and we'll see what it sounds like.

Sort of reluctantly I led Dave into our living room, where I'd set up the new stereo, perched on a stool with the two speakers either side. Dave immediately repositioned the speakers a bit further apart and put on the first disc of the double album. As the orchestra struck up the Prologue, I again question why he'd brought along the album, "Just shut up and listen" he again replied. I'm eternally glad that I shut up and listened.

As Neil launched into 'Crunchy Granola Suite' I started thinking, "this isn't too bad", by the time I'd heard '"Cracklin' Rosie' at the end of side one, I was hooked and even more hooked by the end of the album. It might have been the new stereo experience that helped, but it wasn't long before I bought my own copy of that album. Hot August Night became one of my favorite albums of all time, which is strange, considering my normal music tastes. It wasn't too long before wanted to experience what the tree people had experienced; Neil Diamond live.

Sadly, that never happened. But a long term 'dream' is about to be realised. We bought tickets to see Neil Diamond live on stage at the MEN Arena in May next year. No doubt it will be nothing like that 'Hot August Night', but I'm still excited and looking forward to it. I think my mate Dave might be a tiny bit jealous.


Restaurants To Avoid! Part I. 

The views in the following diatribe are purely those of the author, Mrs C and the two friends who we shared a dinner table with at Quattro's Italian Restaurant, located on Rainford Road, Bickerstaffe near Ormskirk, they come from what I consider to be one particularly bad experience:

On Saturday night we'd arranged to meet two friends at the above restaurant for a night out, you know the sort of thing, a nice relaxing evening consisting of good food, good wine and good company, so a table was booked a week in advance for 20:15. We arrived in good time (19:50) and proceeded to order pre-meal drinks and found a few chairs in the extremely full bar area to sit and await our time slot. Ten minutes on our drinks hadn't arrived, but another group came in and asked if they could sit at our table whilst they also waited for their table to become free. It was a sign of things to come as every member of the group immediately lit up cigarettes without a by-your-leave and proceeded to produce a dense fug around those in the immediate area.

Thankfully we were rescued from further choking and discomfort when a waiter arrived at 20:05 to take us to our table, still without drinks. That may have ended one form of discomfort but it was only the start of another form. Our table was at the far end of the packed restaurant, not bad in itself, but to put it mildly we quickly became aware that the seating arrangements were crowded to say the least. So crowded in fact that every time a waiter wanted to get to a table even further into the restaurant, then one of our party had to stand up and move their seat to allow access. Two requests to chase up our missing pre meal drinks later we finally got our initial order, 30 minutes after placing the order.

The meal orders were eventually place, after numerous musical chairs episodes, which by this point were becoming rather tedious and boring. Now apart from the good company the only good part of the night out was that the food was excellent if somewhat over-priced/under-portioned, but the continual interruptions throughout the evening made such a bad impression on us that my friends wife commented to a waiter (the head waiter, probably the owner) that it was a pity that the restaurant had tried to cram so many in that it spoilt the experience. She added that we wouldn't be coming back, his reply rather stunned us, rather than apologise, he just said "Good!", I don't even think it was in jest. Well obviously this gave us the cue to complain at every opportunity which as far as the staff were concerned went down like a lead bucket.

The final insult came when we were presented with a bill that contained an extra 3 drinks that we had neither ordered nor received. Though we received a new bill, I do believe that we were not the most popular customers for either spotting the mistake or finding a little money making perk. To cap the evening we took one more opportunity to register our displeasure, stating:

"The food was very good but It's a shame that you have tried to cram so many people into restaurant, that it is uncomfortable and not a pleasant relaxing place to eat. The experience has been so bad that we will not be returning, nor will we recommend your restaurant to friends."

The reaction was immediate, there was no apology just a nasty retort: "We don't care, we don't want your custom, we don't need it, we have plenty of other customers to fill our tables!".

In hindsight I wish I'd refused to pay the bill, due to the unpleasant conditions and increasingly rude staff. The staff don't like criticism, they obviously don't really like customers, they only want their money. The restaurant used to be good, but in my mind they have become a greedy money grabbing machine. Anyone who enjoys eating in such conditions is a fool. Be warned.

Hopefully Quattro's will soon run out of customers willing to put up with such conditions, but I doubt it as their are plenty of mugs in the world, willing to throw their money away on uncaring service companies, because it's the 'In Place' to be.

In fact I think I feel a letter of complaint coming on, I wonder if I'll get a reply? I'm also beginning to wonder if they are contravening any fire regulations? Ideas anyone?

Friday, November 19, 2004

Bring Back Hanging! 

That was my first reaction on Wednesday night, when I returned to my car from my painting class and found this:

Which in turn led to this:

On second thoughts after hearing that it's going to cost around £800 to repair the damage, I'd rather have the opportunity of personally introducing the thieves to a very large baseball bat. Twunts!

On a lighter note they left behind all my CD's in the glove box which were scattered on the floor. I'm not sure what that says about my taste in music.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

At Least It's Environmentally Friendly... 

I think that's about the best thing that you can say about Band Aid 20's re-release of "Do They Know It's Christmas." I heard it in full for the first time yesterday morning and though I wanted to switch it off within 30 seconds, I persevered, it didn't get any better. The two words that came to my mind summed up what is wrong with the so called 'pop scene' today; Recycled and Rubbish.

That apart the whole production was flat, low key and out of tune. Where was the energy and originality that made the original stick in the mind? I didn't detect any, and whoever thought of including Rap in the production wants shooting, that was probably the worst part of the entire song. The only thing that can be said for the song is that any money they actually make from sales will be for a good cause, some would say that is debatable too.

I applaud the artist's desires to do some good in todays gimme, gimme, gimme world, but why couldn't someone have come up with something new? New lyrics? A new tune? Anything would have been better than the attempted murder of the original song, but I suppose that would have required some real thought and effort. Something that is sadly lacking in much of today's 'instant pop culture', where everything is a ripe target for recycling.

I may seem churlish but I won't be buying it, I'd rather put my money into a collection box but I don't suppose that will be an available option.

Monday, November 15, 2004

That's What I Call A Result! 

No, I don't mean Middlesbrough beating West Brom 2-1, nor do I refer to West Brom's Kanu lobbing the ball over a gaping goal from only 1 yard out, though both made the weekend even better.

I do mean the goodwill shown to us by Marks and Spencer in dealing with a faulty product nearly or possibly more than 2 years after the original purchase. We'd even lost the original receipt, so they could have said sorry we can't do anything without the receipt. Whilst they had dragged their heels over the original letter of complaint, ie. they lost it, once they got their act together with the copy letter that we sent, they stumped up £100 worth of M&S vouchers as the product was discontinued and couldn't be repaired to our satisfaction. If we had managed to keep hold of the receipt then they would have refunded the money in cash.

The item was a standard lamp, the problem was a faulty lamp holder, the reason it couldn't be repaired was that nobody that we approached could fit a black lamp holder, only white or brass were available and they would have looked stupid on the particular design. Though many people complain about M&S, including the media (continually), you cannot fault their customer service.

Friday, November 12, 2004

War! War Is Good For, Absolutely Nothing! 

Yesterday marked the 90th anniversary of the end of WW1 a catastrophic event in which millions of innocent/gullible people lost their lives, through the stupidity of their leaders and Governments.

It was supposed to be the war to end all wars, but we know that it was not true. Whilst there is greed, stupidity, poverty and power hungry people left in the world, there will always be wars. The vast majority of ordinary people don't want wars but are willing to be led into them because their Governments say it is just. Some wars are necessary to stop evil tyrants in their tracks, WWII was one of them.

Personally I'll be using Remembrance Sunday to reflect, on how people that lead countries into wars are never seen fighting on the front line, nor for that matter are their families.

I'll end this post with the words of Eric Bogles song, "The Green Fields Of France" as sung by Billy Arthur and The Furies:

The Green Fields of France

Well how do you do, young Willie McBride?
Do you mind if I sit here down by your graveside,
And rest for a while 'neath the warm summer sun?
I've been walking all day, and I'm nearly done.
I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen
When you joined the great fall-in in Nineteen-Sixteen.
I hoped you died well, and I hoped you died clean,
Or young Willie McBride, was it slow and obscene?

Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did they play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
And did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

Did you leave any wife or a sweetheart behind?
In some faithful heart, is your memory enshrined?
Although you died back in Nineteen-Sixteen,
In that faithful heart are you forever nineteen?
Or are you a stranger without even a name,
Enclosed in forever behind the glass frame
In an old photograph torn, battered and bent,
And faded to yellow in a brown, leather frame

Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did they play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
And did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

The sun now it shines on the green fields of France.
There's a warm, summer breeze that makes the red poppies dance.
And look how the sun shines from under the clouds:
There's no gas, no barbed wire; there's no guns firing down
But here in this graveyard, it's still no mans land,
The countless white crosses stand mute in the sand,
To a man's blind indifference to his fellow man,
To a whole generation that were butchered and damned

Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did they play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
And did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

Ah, young Willie McBride, I can't help wonder why,
To those that lie here, now why did they die?
And did they believe when they answered the call,
Did they really believe that this war would end war?
Well, the sorrows, the suffering, the glory, the pain,
The killing and dying was all done in vain.
For young Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again and again and again and again!

(Chorus repeated twice)
Did they beat the drums slowly,
Did they play the fife lowly,
Did they sound the death march as they lowered you down?
Did the band play the last post and chorus,
And did the pipes play the flowers of the forest?

I hope Eric Bogle won't mind me using the words here, because I think it says everything that needs to be said about war.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Somewhat Brief Update 

Once again deadlines are biting so surfing time and worse still blogging time is severely limited. The weekend had it's ups and downs. I managed to get the bedroom wiring sorted out on Saturday but it was a bit of a palaver.

I started the fix at around 4pm and Mrs C warned that there was no chance of finishing the job before it got dark, but as I pointed out, it was dark in the loft where the majority of the work was to be carried out, so I'd have extension leads and temporary lights up there to combat the problem. I'll tell you it's not much fun perching cross legged across a couple of wooden beams wiring electric cables into junction boxes whilst trying to avoid falling through the loft floor which is effectively the ceiling of the room below.

Anyway I finished the job after around 2 hours, but then found I'd managed to partially wedge myself between two roof support beams. This only became a bit of a problem when I found my knees had ceased up, so I had a bit of difficulty maneuvering myself out of the confined space that I'd been working in. I'm glad no one was watching.

Mrs C, full of confidence in my handymanship, then refused to flip the fuse box switch for the upstairs lighting, because for some reason she expected the house to blow up or something. So I did it and voila, the light worked, it's still working and there are no signs of any flames or smoke coming out of the loft.

Sunday was a waste of time as we headed out to a local "garden come lots of fancy goods and coffee shop centre", mainly for a run out, but Mrs C wanted to try on a coat that she had seen on sale there in an earlier visit. The only trouble was, when we got there, everyone in the North West seemed to have decided to turn up, I presume for the huge range of Christmas goods that they normally have on sale at this time of year. The car park, needless to say, was overflowing, so we gave up, couldn't think of anywhere else nearby that we could go to for a coffee or afternoon tea and ended up going home again. By the way, if you do ever visit the above garden centre, they do excellent scones and cafe lattes. The scones are huge and are freshly baked on the premises, often they are still warm fresh from the oven.

To cap a fairly non event Sunday, Middlesbrough went and suffered another Euro hangover and failed to dispose of a Bolton side, whose time wasting and gamesmanship tactics started with an hour of the game still left to play. Don't get me wrong, Bolton did a job and got a point in a 1-1 draw, but it's not what I call football.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Two Jag's Turned Over! 

John 'Two Jags' Prescott was given a bloody nose yesterday when his cherished dream, of Regional Assemblies, got a giant thumbs down from the people in the North East. It was an area where Prescott and his labour compatriot thought they had the biggest support, but they misjudged the electorate, as a 48% turnout said a massive NO the idea. Near enough 3 out of every 4 voters voted against the plan, which leaves the government in no doubt whatsoever that their dream is dead.

The people in the North East said No to more taxes to fund Regional Talking Shops. Well done to them, we fund enough Talking Shops as it is, the biggest one being known as Parliament. Perhaps now we'll see politicians get off their fat backsides and produce some useful policies or work, but somehow I'll doubt it.

The Land Of Make Believe 

It's not so long ago, if someone had told me that Middlesbrough FC would be playing in Europe and taking apart a big name team like Lazio, I'd have said "Yerjokingarnya". But that was then and this is now, Middlesbrough have progressed well over the last few years under McClaren's stewardship. He has quietly brought in former big name players at knock down prices and molded a side that won last seasons Coca-Cola Cup, our first ever 'big' trophy, which provided an entry route into the UEFA Cup.

Now here we are 4 games into the competition and were haven't lost a game, we sit proudly at the top of our group at the halfway stage and one more win should see us through to the knockout stages. Whilst everyone knows that the domestic league is more important, the UEFA Cup is providing a new spectacle for our long suffering supporters to enjoy, and enjoy it they are. You only at to listen to the atmosphere inside that ground to understand what the club's recent achievements mean to the fans. A sell out crowd watched and cheered last night as we turned over one of the big names in Italian football. The score was only 2-0, it should have been a lot more as we played the Italian team off the park. The fact that Lazio were so bad shouldn't detract from the fact that we dominated throughout, quite often in games like that a dominant team can quickly be dragged down to the level of the opposition. That didn't happen, despite missing chance after chance, we didn't let up and, the 2 goals we did get underlined how comfortable a victory it was.

For me though the most pleasing thing on the night was that a 20 year old local boy, Stewart Downing, put in a performance on the left wing, that was good enough to merit a man of the match rating, not only that but the TV pundits were dishing out complements too. He's one for the future and I believe he will end up in an England shirt on the left wing before long.

Excuse me while I just get this off my chest;

Who's that team they call the Boro,
Who's that team we all adore,
They Play in Red & White and they're f%$%*^g dynamite
We'll support the Boro evermore....... (ad nauseum),

Right that's it, the madness has dissipated. Carry On. Oh and roll on Bolton at home on Sunday, I hope.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Who Was I Kidding? 

Back in a post on October 26th I said we were up and running again, forget it, I was obviously deluded. Whilst I can see files on our new temporary server I can't do anything with them. Despite claims that I should have full access rights, the system tells me I have no rights whatsoever.

Back to the drawing board. Luckily I have some work that I can be getting on with, but it isn't getting backed up anywhere properly. Do I really have more than 15 years to go before I can jack all this in?

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

A Mixed Bag O' Nuts For The Weekend 

Once again the weekend was upon us, it was all planned out, jobs around the house and garden on Saturday followed by a day out, somewhere, anywhere, on Sunday.

A letter from the leaseholder of our house saw us spend the Friday night discussing the merits of buying the Freehold on our leasehold property, the letter outlined an offer to us which would give us a £450 discount on purchasing the freehold on the land if we paid in full, by cheque or credit/debit card by the end of November. There's still 994 years left to run on the lease at £50 per year ground rent. We can buy the full freehold for £3497. I'm sure it will be worth it but we just have to work out how to pay, increasing the mortgage is out because we're locked in Base Rate tracker mortgage for another year and I'm sure there is a penalty for changing midstream, I'll have to check it out. We were planning a trip to Australia next year with savings so it looks like we might have to save a bit harder if both are going to happen. It's just happened as usual at the worst possible moment and upset a few plans. Does anyone know how the price of purchasing freehold on leased land is worked out?

Saturday came and after mowing the front and the higher back lawn, I replaced a few bulbs in the outside wall lamps. I then set about fitting a radiator cover on the upstairs landing that didn't take too long despite a bit of fiddling and farting, getting the mounting brackets into the correct position. It was then that I found I had misunderstood what Mrs C had meant about fixing the light. I thought she had meant the outside lamps, which I had done sorted out, no she had meant fitting the new ceiling light to the master bedroom, a task I thought I was scheduled to do after the bedroom had been decorated. So with lots of muttering I retrieved my tools and ladders from the garage and got down to playing with electricity, a job I hate I'll have you know.

Down came the old light fitting, a quick look at the wiring block on the old ceiling rose and I thought this won't be so bad I think the new light will just fit over that with a little bit of adjustment, so onwards I plodded. Obviously I was entirely wrong in my assumption, after much messing about fitting the mounting plate under the wiring block, electrocuting myself in the process because the fuse to the upstairs lighting hadn't been switched off properly, I found that the light fitting would not fit over the old wiring block. I tried to cut unimportant bits off the block, jutting out bits of plastic but nothing I did would get the mount inline with the fixing bracket. I was snookered, it was getting dark so I made the wires safe and decided to rethink the plan.

Sunday the choice was finish the lighting job or take advantage of the good weather and go for a drive. The second option won hands down. The light can wait until next weekend. I now have a cunning plan for that, which involves scrabbling around in a dark loft fitting a new junction box with one cable leading to a smaller wiring block which will fit under the light, but that is for next weekend. The drive out took us to Kirby Lonsdale a small market town in South East Cumbria. Neither of us had been there before apart from passing it en-route to Sedburgh, Dent and Hawes. Heading up the M6 we passed a 9 mile traffic jam heading south which started around the junction with the M55 to Blackpool. I made a mental note to use another route on the return journey. The actual time spent in Kirby Lonsdale was relaxed as we pottered about the shops and viewed the sites. Muppet that I am, I forgot to take my camera so you'll have to make do with the pictures on here if you want to get a feel for what the village looked like.

On the way back we passed a house on the A683 near Hornby that was bedecked in Christmas lights. As we approached I made a rather barbed comment regarding starting early, even though local garden centres have been selling Christmas decorations for the last 3 weeks. It was only as we drew level with the house that I noticed it was a business that specialised in festive lighting amongst other things. We hadn't even got Halloween and bonfire night over with and Christmas is rearing it's ugly head. Madness.

We hit the M6 and traffic reports still indicated huge tailbacks from junction 32 so I decided that the safest bet was to come off at Lancaster, Junction 33, and head down the A6. It seemed a safe bet, especially as we looked down on the M6 as we headed off the junction and saw the end of the tailback just around the bend after the junction. My joy was short lived as we hit the A6, everybody else had had the same idea. It was at that point that the radio bulletin decided to tell us that the A6 was snarled up as well. To late luv I already knew. Not been one for sitting in queues I decided to do a 'U' turn, head back into Lancaster, and loop around it all through Fleetwood and then head back towards Preston and the A59. It worked, we were moving. It might possibly have taken just as long to drive the loop as sit in traffic, but I much prefer to e driving than stop/starting.

We had planned to go the cinema on the night to avoid the harassment of 'trick or treat' but decided against in the end. The harassment wasn't so bad either and every single caller was polite, we had expected worse. What's more after the last visit I still had a good supply of fudge, treacle toffee and spearmint chews to work my way through.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Referencers