Tuesday, 18 December 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: The Wedding Present

A couple of weeks ago The Wedding Present played in Cardiff as part of their George Best 20th Anniversary Tour. I was so, so excited about this having wanting to see them live for years and I must say they did not disappoint as you can tell by our huge grins in the last photo below.

We fortunately bumped into Surj, a work colleague friend of Emma's, as it was he who took these photos and advised us to hang around as Gedge would probably be around afterwards.

The gig itself was brilliant; they opened with a mix of more recent tracks, old favourites and some Cinerama stuff before rather bizarrely a man in a rabbit costume came on stage to countdown to the George Best part of the set. I really didn't understand the rabbit but in hindsight it might be an obscure reference to the opening track "Everyone thinks he looks daft"?

Thursday, 22 November 2007

PostHeaderIcon Alarming Times

Our alarm goes off at 6AM in the morning and the usual procedure is I’ll get up make Emma and I a cup of coffee and bring it back up to bed. Well this morning the alarm sounded and I woke up feeling quite pleased that I’d slept straight through as I’ve been waking really early since coming back from India and not been able to get back to sleep. So I got up, went down stairs to make the coffees and brought them back up to bed.

I sat there sipping my coffee when Emma asks “what time is it?” Six O’clock I reply. “Are you sure?” she says. This gets me thinking oh no have we overslept but I look around and it doesn’t appear any lighter outside than it should do so confused I look at the clock and it’s just turned midnight, I’d only been in bed 45 minutes!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: Goa, India, November 2007

We spent two weeks in Goa, India staying at the Nanu Beach Resort (photos 6, 8) in South Goa. The hotel was On Betalbatim Beach (photos 10-18) situated in the middle of nowhere. This was both good and bad – it was great not being in the middle of a developed resort, we had piece and tranquillity and for most of the time the whole beach to ourselves. On the downside you couldn’t just wander outside of the hotel to go to another restaurant etc.

The hotel itself was nothing special, it was showing its age and in need of a bit of an update. The air-con for instance was definitely no longer very affective and very noisy. The air temperature was very warm even at night it was just too hot to sleep without having the air-con on. There was one night when we had to switch off the air-con as it was so noisy only to discover that it was actually the air-con in the room below us that was keeping us awake! It was so loud that our room was vibrating! I eventually got up in the middle of the night and went to the hotel reception and asked them to sort it out. After a while when they’d done nothing about it I went back to reception and told them I wasn’t going to leave until something was done and if they couldn’t do anything then they’d have to give us a new room! Needless to say they did something about it then.

There was one good restaurant, Martins Corner, a short taxi drive from the hotel which we went to a couple of times. The food there was great and very cheap, you could get a meal for two that in an Indian restaurant in the UK would set you back about £30-40 for about £7!

The food in our hotel wasn’t anything special. The majority of it was vegetarian (90% of Indians appear to eat veg only, probably because of the cost) with one or two token meat dishes. The meat dishes would often be an attempt at a western dish and were best avoided but when they did do Indian meat dishes they were no better. Here in the UK we are used to very good Indian food (chicken tikka marsala is after all the biggest selling dish in the UK) but in India the quality of the meat available cannot compete. One night I had their lamb rogan josh (well mutton not lamb so goat really) which looked really appetising but on eating it you soon discovered the meat was still on the bone making it fiddly to consume and the sauce itself contained many small bone fragments. You soon learned to eat the veg only dishes, which were actually very good and very tasty. However living on vegetable curries for two weeks has had a rather unpleasant affect on my bowels!

One day on the beach one of the local hawkers approached me and as his English wasn't great he handed me a card to read. It turns out he was supposedly medical trained in cleaning the middle ear! I had to read the card twice just to make sure I'd read it correctly and before I knew what was going on he had his tools in my ear scraping away. Of course I couldn't move in case I got injured and so let him get on with it. He was showing me all the wax that was being removed which quite surprised me. When he went on to clean my other ear I let him get on with it thinking he's doing a great job. He starts babbling on about something and then hands me another card to read which says he has found stones in my ear and it costs 250 rupees to remove each! I can feel his tools scraping against a stone and so ask him to yes please remove them. He removed two stones and then demanded the 500 rupees (about £6.50), I manage to haggle him down a bit to 400 rupees but after handing it to him he shows that I'd only given him 300. I am sure he used some slight of hand to make one of the 100 notes disappear but I couldn't prove anything. Anyway, I was feeling quite pleased that my ears were now nice and clean. Later that day whilst walking down the beach someone else wanted to clean my ears and although I told him I'd just had it done he too got his tools into my ear before I could do anything about it. This guy scrapped around and pulled out a huge blob of wax which most definitely did not come out of my ear! I knew then that it was all just a con and the wax and stones they inserted themselves through some slight of hand, not difficult seen as you cannot see what they are doing. I met many more of these 'ear doctors' and told each one of them to get lost in an ever more aggressive manner.

If you ever go to Goa and want to do a bit of site seeing then don’t book any organised trips by your tour operator. Every hotel has a number of ‘resident’ taxis outside which are very cheap and very enterprising. We booked our first taxi driver to take us to Anjuna Flea Market (photos 21, 22) it was a good hours drive from our hotel and on the way back the driver up-sold us a detour to Old Goa (photos 23-35). Old Goa is the old 16th century capitol city and has a number of church’s and cathedrals as a tourist attraction.

All the taxi drivers are on commission from local stores and they’ll always want to do a bit of a detour to various shops on the return journey to your hotel. You don’t have to buy anything but humour them, one of our taxi drivers showed us what he got for delivering tourists to a shop – 12 visits got him a spare tyre for his taxi! One taxi driver took us to a tailors, we didn’t want to go but Emma agreed without realising it and before we knew what was happening we were ushered inside. The tailors will make anything you want made-to-measure for very cheap prices. They bring out the Next Directory, you select what you want and then the fabric you want and a couple of days later it’s ready. We did a trip to Ponda (photos 46-69) to see some of the spectacular Hindu temples and booked it through the taxi driver that took us to Anjuna and Old Goa just because he was a nice chap.

The only trip we didn’t do with a taxi driver, but we could have, was the trip we took to Hampi. As it needed a couple of nights in a hotel at Hampi there was some comfort in knowing everything was pre-booked. Hampi was an 8-hour train journey away (photos 70-80) so there was a whole days travelling to get there and another whole days travelling to get back with just one days site seeing in between. One day probably isn’t enough to do Hampi justice (photos 83-159) but it was well worth it anyway. The train journey alone is an adventure in itself – there was one point when I was listening to my iPod dozing off a bit when I opened my eyes only to see a mouse sat on my backpack cleaning his whiskers!

Thursday, 1 November 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: West Belfast

I am sat writing this in Belfast City airport on my mobile phone with a pint of Smithwicks Ale and a sausage roll in front of me. I have another hour before my flight and have to waste it somehow! As someone recently commented to me "that's true ├╝ber connectivity!"

I'm in Belfast installing network equipment at our NI office and as things went like clockwork yesterday afternoon I had a couple of hours to kill before getting to the airport today. So I thought I'd do the touristy thing again, last time I had enough spare time to go to Giants Causeway, this time with only 2 or 3 hours I had to do something in the city and so decided to have a look around West Belfast in the infamous Falls Road and Shankhill Road area.

This district and others across Belfast are probably like no other place in the UK. The history of the area needs no explanation to anyone, along the Falls Road you have a heartland of the Irish Republican movement and running parallel to it is the Shankhill a heartland for the Unionists. And dividing the two is the so called 'peace line' a monstrosity of concrete and steel that keeps the two communities apart. At the couple of places where roads pass through the wall there are large gates which still today sometimes get shut during periods of heightened tension. Today the wall is nothing more than a tourist attraction with a steady stream of taxis and tour buses bringing people to write there cheesy messages of peace on it.

Personally I think it should be ripped down as it's such an eyesore and symbol of segregation but apparently it gets half a million visitors a year and so someone somewhere is probably counting the money from all those people and thinking it'll cost so much to remove when it's generating so much income. I think that is really sad, whilst it is poignant reminder of recent history and something that will move even the hardest of men it is still a monstrosity, imagine having to live in one of the houses opposite it. And anyway there's loads more to keep the tourists occupied.

There's also all the murals which are on the sides of buildings around almost every corner. There's never any question as to which part of the city you're in, nationalist or loyalist as the murals make it quite clear.

Something I found quite amusing but really only goes to highlight the obsessiveness of the residents was the way in which on the Shankhill side where you had street name plaques on the sides of buildings they had placed additional plaques underneath saying 'Ulster', what's the point really?

I took a few photos with the crap camera in my mobile phone, so the quality isn't that good:

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

PostHeaderIcon Some people shouldn't be allowed computers

Someone rang me in work today, the conversation went like this:

Idiot: I'm trying to find the Health and Safety pages on the company Intranet but can't see them, can you help me?

Me: Of course, just click the 'Health & Safety' link on the left-hand navigation bar on the Intranet home page.

Idiot: I can't see the Health & Safety link all I can see is the Business Post home page.

Me: That's not the Intranet, that's the Business Post web site. Go to the Intranet and you'll see the link.

Idiot: How do I find the Intranet?

Me: Do you have an icon for it on your desktop?

Idiot: I have a big blue e is that the one?

Me: Yes it should be.

Idiot: That opens the Business Post website.

Me: Right, then your default home page has been changed. Type http colon slash slash server zero one slash intranet in your browsers address bar.

Idiot: What's a colon?

Me: It's the two dots on top of each other.

Idiot: Oh yes, are those forward slashes are back slashes?

Me: Forward slashes of course.

Idiot: What's next?

Me: server zero one slash intranet.

Idiot: is that a forward slash or back slash.

Me: forward slash.

Idiot: What's after the slash?

Me: intranet

Idiot: It says the page cannot be displayed.

Me: Are you sure you typed it correctly?

Idiot: Yes.

Me: Can you read out to me what you typed?

Idiot: http colon forward slash forward slash server o one forward slash intranet.

Me: Is that an o one or zero one?

Idiot: zero one.

Me: Are you sure it's all spelt correctly?

Idiot: Yes.

Me: Are you sure you used forward slashes instead of back slashes?

Idiot: Yes.

Me: Did you use the slash key on the left hand side or right hand side of the keyboard?

Idiot: The left hand one.

Me: That's a back slash not a forward slash, retype it using the other slash key.

Idiot: Oh, I thought those were forward slashes... What comes after the http?

Me: colon forward-slash forward-slash, that's the right-hand one, server zero one forward-slash intranet.

Idiot: What comes after the last slash?

Me: intranet

Idiot: It still says page cannot be displayed.

Me: Well something isn't typed correctly then.

Idiot: Oh, I'll just keep typing it in until it displays the page.

Me: Well that won't work if you're obviously not typing it correctly. Read out to me character by character exactly what you've typed.

Idiot: h t t p colon slash slash s e r v e r o one slash i n t e r n e t

Me: It's not 'internet' it's intranet i n t r a n e t.

Idiot: Oh it's working now.

Me: I am glad. [as I slam down the phone]

Jan commentated on another post that I'm more patient than I used to be, I think he might be right. I was losing it a bit towards the end and it was coming over in the tone of my voice but I didn't swear at her once! There was a time when I would have cut that converstion off about half way through and just emailed her a link.

Friday, 19 October 2007

PostHeaderIcon The Triumph of Death

We have hanging on the wall in our lounge a copy of The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted in 1562. The painting is a panoramic landscape of death: the sky in the distance is blackened by smoke from burning cities and the sea is littered with shipwrecks. Armies of skeletons advance on the hapless living, who either flee in terror or try vainly to fight back. Skeletons kill people in a variety of ways - slitting throats, hanging, drowning, and even hunting with skeletal dogs. In the foreground, skeletons haul a wagon full of skulls, and ring the bell that signifies the death knell of the world. A fool plays the lute while a skeleton behind him plays along; a starving dog nibbles at the face of a child; a cross sits lonely and impotent in the center of the painting. People flee into a tunnel decorated with crosses whilst a skeleton on horseback slaughters people with a scythe. The painting clearly depicts people of different social backgrounds - from peasants and soldiers to nobles and even a king - being taken by death indiscriminately. (description copied from Wikipedia [click here].)

So why on earth do we have it hanging on our living room wall? I bought the picture almost 20 years ago whilst visiting the Museo del Prado, Madrid where the original hangs. I was completely captivated by the picture which really is something to behold and so bought a copy in the museum shop. I was a youngster in them days still living at home with my mother and I hung the picture on my bedroom wall in a very nice frame made by Mike. The picture stayed there for years before I left home and Em & I moved into our current house. The house was quite bare when we moved in and so we just stuck the picture on a convenient hook that was already in the wall with the full intention of changing it for something more appropriate as soon as. Over 12 years later it still hangs there!

It's funny and a bit embarrassing seeing peoples reaction when they see it there for the first time, they must think we are weirdos or something! Well anyway, I think it's a great picture and it matches our colour scheme perfectly!
Thursday, 11 October 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: Paragliding, October 2007

Jan took me paragliding today, he was doing his tandem training and needed some cargo so I volunteered. I had this idea that it would be a great adventure filled day but Jan failed to warn me of the reality. We spent all day sat on the side of a cold, windy, wet hill first waiting for the dense fog to clear and then waiting for the high winds to drop. We did eventually get a flight in at about 4PM but Jan aggravated a knee injury and so we couldn't do any more after that. Anyway, it was well worth the long wait - it was ace!

Here's some pictures I took, not of Jan and I but of the others on the hillside. I've also added some photo's I took of Jan paragliding off Pen-Y-Fan some time ago.
Thursday, 27 September 2007

PostHeaderIcon Toilet Humour

The other day I used the recently refurbished toilets in work, I don't use them that often as they're not a pleasant experience. They're too small, hot, humid and they usually smell - I don't think the ventilation in there must work properly or it's not adequate. Either way it's daft considering we're a ventilation company.

Well anyway, whilst I was in there I noticed something that I hadn't noticed up until now. One of the ceiling tiles has been replaced with a piece of clear perspex so you can see the ducted extract fan working above the suspended ceiling. There is also a spot light that can be switched on to illuminate the fan!

Clearly this has been designed as an exhibit to show visitors. It makes you wonder why? Who gets a tour of these facilities and when? Is there a procedure in place for checking nobody is using the toilets before inviting visitors in? And on checking what if they decide it's just a bit too pongy to show someone around - do they move on to the next toilets? As I mentioned above they are afterall working toilets and as such not that pleasant, they're very small with only enough space for one person outside of the two cramped cubicles. And God help them if they show someone around when it's curry day in the canteen!

I think the question you have to ask the most though is - who on earth had the idea to do this and why was everyone else involved to gutless to tell them how ridiculous an idea it was?
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

PostHeaderIcon Bangkok Market


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Monday, 17 September 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: Giants Causeway, September 2007

Last week I spent a couple of days in Northern Ireland with work and ended up having a day to waste so I took my hire car up to Giants Causeway. It's a designated World Heritage Site and I've always had a fascination with geology since studying it at school so I thought I should check it out. Whilst it was indeed interesting to see I must admit a bit of disappointment, it was lots smaller than I'd always expected. I managed to get a few photos before my unprepared camera ran out of power.
Thursday, 6 September 2007

PostHeaderIcon Un-bloody-believable

Someone in work had the audacity to make a complaint against me as he was offended by an email that I'd sent. This is the email:
Can I make a suggestion that we stop using that bloody awful font on the I&M's that make the documents difficult to read. Of all documents our I&M's are the ones we should make as clear as possible.
I'm not sure if he was offended by my use of the word 'bloody' or my suggestion that we should change the font, I think he might have been instrumental in choosing the font.

Anyway, my Director had words with me and my defence was to quote from Wikipedia "Nowadays it is considered to be a very mild expletive, and unlikely to cause offence."

Indeed even if it is an expletive, it certainly isn't a profanity, it's more of an intensifier that has no meaning in itself but adds a weight of feeling to the statement. Had I said "that not very nice font" instead I don't think the message would have got across. As it is the font is now being changed.

I bet if my comments had been congratulatory and included a real profanity such as "That's a fucking great font, let's use it in all our literature" then no offence would have been taken, in fact quite the opposite.

Unfortunately this isn't the first time a complaint has been made against me for using the word 'bloody' in an email. Again at that time my defensive was that under the circumstances it was fully justified and more than appropriate. I was being really messed around by other people who couldn't get themselves organised and this was the email I shot off born out of frustration:
bloody hell, this'll be the fourth time I've had to burn this CD. Could you guys not be a little more coordinated with this?
Well, it caused uproar! One of the recipients suggested I should face disciplinary action and his Director said I was being rude and unhelpful and passed the complaint over to my Director. I was absolutely gob-smacked, it was all blown out of proportion. This was my reply:
Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to deal with this matter, however I don't believe you are in full possession of all the facts.

Yesterday zzz asked that I burn to CD some PowerPoint presentations for today's meeting, this I did immediately, interrupting what I was doing and losing my train of thought. Moments later I was asked to burn a second CD as the wrong files had been sent to me, again this I did immediately and zzz took the CD. This morning I was asked by yyy and xxx to add more files to the CD which meant having to write a third CD. www then wanted to add another file which meant creating a fourth CD! The completed CD was handed to www as soon as he came to see me and I suggested to him ways in which we could do things differently in future.

On each occasion I stopped what I was doing to burn these CD's immediately, rather than being unhelpful I think I was in fact being most helpful.

My emailed response and the 'sarcastic' way in which I may have spoken to www was born out of the exasperation and despair I felt after being messed around due to the complete lack of planning and communication by your people. I actually set high standards for myself and it often frustrates me when people (including myself) fail to live up to those expectations. This frustration can often be interpreted by others as rudeness. Whilst I agreed that certain turns of phrase aren't always appropriate in all circumstances, these words do exist in our vocabulary for a reason and I think in this situation it was most appropriate and fully justified.

I'm quite surprised by www's comments that I should face disciplinary action or a warning, I think this is probably more to do with injured pride than anything else. I'm especially surprised as I received witness reports that afterwards he said "If he ever speaks to me like that again then I'll push him through the wall." I think under our conditions of employment this threat of violence towards me counts as harassment and bullying which is a gross misconduct resulting in summary dismissal. I was going to forget about this and not bring it to your attention but should he persist with this then I will pursue the matter.
There's a lesson to be learnt here from both these situations. Never underestimate a persons ability to confuse injured pride with offence and to then defend themselves by attacking back.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007

PostHeaderIcon Photos: Paul's Place, August 2007

Some photos from a weekend at Paul's new house on the French Riviera.
Thursday, 12 July 2007

PostHeaderIcon ADSL Woes

I was without broadband at home for 45 days through the incompetence of BT and my ISP (Demon). I kept a record of the debacle in another blog: adslwoes.blogspot.com but have now imported all those posts into this blog, they're preceding this post.
Wednesday, 11 July 2007

PostHeaderIcon Happy Days

It's been six days now since the broadband came back on and in all that time it hasn't dropped the connection once and I consistently get a full 8MB throughput. I think it's safe to say they finally fixed it.
Thursday, 5 July 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 44

The BT engineer turned up this time and it happened to be a neighbour which means I've got a door to bang on now if it's still not fixed.

He found a problem with a card in the exchange but wasn't able to swap the card out himself and had to put an order in for another specialist engineer to replace it. This he said may take a day or two.

This evening though the broadband came back on and it's been up for a few hours so far! There's no way of knowing yet though whether that's because the faulty card has been swapped in the exchange or whether it's one of those random moments when it comes back on for a bit.
Wednesday, 4 July 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 43 - Week 7

We are into week 7 now! BT originally quoted 5 working days to fix the problem, we are now at 28 working days and still counting.

Still no broadband and still no indication of when BT are going to grace me with their presence.

I just spoke to Demon and they told that apparently the engineer that was suppose to be out last Friday got confused and thought the call was for him to visit the exchange and not my house! Apparently he spent all day there and couldn't find anything wrong.

They tell me they are now going to have to arrange a new appointment with BT to visit my house which means the new appointment they were suppose to have booked when I spoke to them last Friday and again on Monday and Tuesday never actually got booked!

It makes me want to scream!!

Just had this email from Demon:

--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 04/07/2007 14:05:36

We have spoken with BT regarding the previous engineer visit that had been arranged. We were advised that a specialist Exchange engineer was sent out, to test specifically in the Exchange. These types of engineers do not visit customer properties. Apologies for any inconvenience caused by this.
No fault was found in the Exchange, and as the fault is ongoing, we have arranged for a customer facing engineer to visit your property (These engineers can visit both customer's site and Exchange).
The new appointment is booked for tomorrow, Thursday 5th, between 13.00-18.00.
Monday, 2 July 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 41

The BT engineer didn't show up at 8AM, so after 9AM I rang Demon to see if they were able to chase BT as I was now having to take more time off work waiting. Demon told me that the 8AM booking was only a request to BT and not a confirmed booking and I should wait to hear from BT before I get a guaranteed time. (not that there guarantee means anything!)
Saturday, 30 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 39

Still no broadband.

Took the afternoon off work again yesterday to wait for the BT engineer who was suppose to visit between 1PM-6PM but he didn't show up! That's twice that's happened now.

I rang Demon at 6PM and they said according to the notes on the system he was on the way and I should wait another couple of hours, let's be honest he wasn't going to turn up at 8PM on a Friday night was he? Anyway, they have rescheduled his visit for 8AM Monday morning.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 36 - Week 6

Still no broadband, it hasn't come on at all since it went off on Monday.

Had an email from Demon today to say a BT engineer will be out on Friday afternoon.
Monday, 25 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 34

Whilst the broadband did come back online yesterday, it was on and off all day and is still off now.
Sunday, 24 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 33

Things aren't good. The broadband connection continued to die for an hour or two each evening and last night it went off and is still off today!

I reported it to Demon last night who fobbed me off with it was probably BT doing work at the exchange and to call back today if there were still problems. I rang them back this morning and they did a line test and said there's a fault and they've reported it to BT. So we're no further forward than we were 33 days ago.

There's a slight change in the nature of the problem. Previously the DSL LED on the router would flash continuously whilst it tried to connect, now it doesn't flash at all which I think means it can't even see the DSL on the line.

NEWS FLASH! As I'm typing this the ADSL has come back on, I don't expect it'll be up for long though.
Thursday, 21 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 30

We might be getting somewhere now.

The workmen turned up at 7:30AM to remove all the crap they'd left behind.

The BT engineer turned up at 8AM and was here a little over an hour running the new cable. Everything's looking good, the broadband still works and the voice line sounds clearer than it ever did.

However the broadband did go dead for an hour or so early in the evening. I think there are other problems going on in the exchange which are unrelated to my line. The engineer told me that the problems I had with the crossed line was to do with problems with kit that TalkTalk had installed in the exchange, apparently they are trying to run just to many customers on it and it's causing problems for thousands of people in the area.
Wednesday, 20 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Dr Gary and Mr Lynch

I've come to the realisation that I have this little drink problem that brings out a Jekyll & Hyde sort of character in me. After about 4 pints reality seems to become suspended and I become this awful leche that says the most inappropriate things to the most inappropriate of girls - quite often good friends, work colleagues, brides on their wedding day etc. What's worse, Emma is often with me at the time - that's so disrespectful. There really is no hope for me.

PostHeaderIcon Day 29 - Week 5

The broadband died again at 6:30AM but did come back on again an hour and 15 minutes later.

The workmen turned up at around 8AM to continue laying the pipe. They were a bit concerned the neighbours car was in the drive but I told them they'd gone out to work for the day and wouldn't be back until the evening. The workmen said they'd be all finished in a few hours and they'd left a note with the neighbour previously warning them about the work and informing them they should park the car elsewhere if they needed to use it.

When I got back from work in the evening, whilst they had completed everything they'd left a lot of stuff on the driveway protecting the newly laid cement and hence my neighbours car was completely blocked in their drive and there was no way any car could get into mine. I asked the neighbour if they had been informed and they said no.

I spoke to the BT engineer who'll be connecting the new cables and he said he'd come around first thing tomorrow morning to connect them up.
Tuesday, 19 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 28

My broadband has been up constantly for a few days now without problems and so the IP Profile on the line reset today and I'm now getting proper broadband speeds. This could all change tomorrow as the new lines are going in.

Talking of which, they turned up a day early to start the digging work (late today) and so have only done half the job which means we have a trench across the driveway preventing us from getting a car in or out. I was told that it should be a quick job and they'll fill the trench in soon after digging it and there would be no inconvenience to us or our neighbours.
Friday, 15 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 24

BT sent me a text message to say the contractors would be out to dig the trench on the 20th (next Wednesday, Day 29).

Broadband still up and down all the time. IP Profile still set to 135K, which can hardly be called broadband. I think there used to be a 250K service that they called Midband, so what does that make 135K? Narrowband?
Thursday, 14 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 23

The contractors who were suppose to turn up today to dig the trench for my new cables never showed.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 22 - Week 4

We had broadband first thing in the morning as my wifi radio alarm worked, though the bandwidth was so low there wasn't even enough to stream Virgin Radio which streams as 128K MP3 but Radio 1 was OK with just 20K WMA.

By about 7AM the ADSL died yet again and it has been off all day.

The BT engineer who came out last rang me today and said the contractors would be out tomorrow to dig the trench and lay the ducting to my house. He will then hopefully be able to lay the new cables tomorrow or Friday.

He also told me that my problem with the crossed line was something to do with TalkTalk, who share the same equipment in the exchange as my ISP (Demon), and who had a major hardware fault affecting 1000 customers.
Tuesday, 12 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 21

My broadband is working today and thus far has stayed up all day. It is synching at 8MB but the IP Profile is set to 135K and I'm only getting 100K throughput! I was getting 3 times that on the 3G phone I've been using whilst the ADSL was down. Hopefully it should recover to proper speeds within a few days.

I knew things were to good to last, at 7PM the ADSL died again.
Monday, 11 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 20

The BT engineer that was suppose to call back round again last week rang me this morning to say he'd looked at the old cable coming into the house but couldn't put me back on it as it was faulty.

I explained the crossed line problem to him and he said it’s probably a wiring problem at the exchange and he will look into it.
Sunday, 10 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 19

I spoke to the lady I have a crossed wire with after we both answered the phone at the same time and told her about the problem and asked that she also contacts BT to report the fault. This lady lives near me but not near enough that it would be anything to do with the cables outside my house which BT are waiting to replace before continuing further.
Saturday, 9 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 18

This morning the phone rang and when I picked it up I could hear a lady talking to her Grandmother! Part way through the conversation she complained about thinking there was a crossed line and that it had been happening for a couple of days.

I tried reporting the incident to BT to confirm there is definitely a crossed line and when I picked up the phone the lady was on the line again, this time buying insurance or something and she was giving her bank details to pay by direct debit! I was eventually able to ring BT and they didn’t seem concerned about the security implications of this and said they couldn’t really do a lot until the new cables have been run to the house.

They said the incident has been escalated and I should hope to hear something by Monday and then it would be a further few days before the work would be done.
Friday, 8 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 17

BT rang me to confirm I still had problems.

Had this email from Demon:
--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 08/06/2007

BT have advised the external engineers have resolve an
underground cable fault and believe that you should now be able to connect ok. Please contact us on the usual number if you have any further issues.

All bollocks of course. I rang Demon to advise them that BT are full of crap and the problem is nowhere near being resolved.
Thursday, 7 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 16

I rang the engineer that came the previous day on his mobile to report the problem and he said he’d come around in the afternoon to look at it. I took the afternoon of work (for the 4th time) to wait for him but he never showed.

The ADSL was now synching with the exchange, at ever decreasing speeds but no data at all will transmit/receive on the line.

Later that evening the phone started doing weird things. A few times it rang and when I picked it up I could hear someone else pick up their phone and we were both saying “hello, hello” as if both our phones had rang. I tried reporting this to BT but when I picked up the phone I could hear other people dialling numbers and recorded messages saying ‘the number you have called has not been recognised’. I eventually got through to BT and they weren’t very helpful saying there isn’t a lot they can do whilst the order to run new cables to the house is outstanding.
Wednesday, 6 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Jan, Ste & Gary's Bogus Journey 1992/3

In July 1992 after being completely disillusioned with work I quit my job and headed out to Canada with two friends, Jan & Ste, to embark on what was suppose to be the first leg of a World tour. As things turned out that World tour didn’t get much further than the North American continent and a year later I was back home doing the very same job that I’d quit. Today, some 14 years later, I am still stuck in the same bloody job!

I recently found in my loft the diary I’d kept whilst on that journey and reading through it made me laugh, so I’ve decided to reproduce it here for posterity. I expect most people will find this very boring and even banal as it’s not so much what I wrote that amused me so much as the memories it brought flooding back. It's certainly not in the same league as Che Guevara's The Motorcycle Diaries and much less anticipated than The Blair Diaries but it's probably a lot more honest than The Hitler Diaries.

To be honest I did a pretty poor job of keeping a diary as I couldn’t really be that arsed with it and so weeks would go by between entries - most of which were written whilst drunk after coming in from a night out or during the morning after whilst lying in bed nursing a hangover. Consequently a good deal of what I wrote was just about nights out getting pissed, who with and where. Looking back there is so much more interesting stuff that I should have written about but I was a lot younger then and my priorities were mostly all about just having a good time.

I’ve reproduced the journal exactly as it was written with only the odd spelling correction etc. I thought if I was to do this then there would be no point doing it unless it was complete and faithful. Being a diary it is also home to a lot of personal thoughts and feelings that get written down just to get them off your chest and to help sort things out in your own mind, so there were times when I wrote some quite unpleasant things about people who otherwise were and still are very good friends. I’m sure they won’t mind but if they do then tough shit they probably deserved it at the time anyway. There’s also a lot of very personal thoughts about my love life or lack of, it was all a long time ago now so I don’t really care. I’ll admit to leaving out one sentence but it’s not about anything you could possibly imagine. There is so much more in here that will embarrass me but leaving in this one rather innocuous sentence could destroy what little street cred I may have left at the end of it.

As the diary turned out to be mostly the hurried scribblings of a drunkard I have decided to annotate it to fill in the gaps, explain things in more detail or just to comment on how stupid I was in hindsight.

Jan has asked to add some comments about the trip – his additions are in this blue.

I really enjoyed reading this… there were a few minor points and additions that I wanted to add. Just a few little points that I think were worthy of a little more attention.

PostHeaderIcon Day 15 - Week 3

I had this email from Demon:

--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 06/06/2007

BT have contacted us regarding your broadband fault and
advised that they have identified an issue with the exterior cabling between yourself and the exchange.

Engineers are currently investigating and we will update you as soon as any further information is available.

The BT engineer arrived, did a lot of work with the cabling in the street and put me on a spare line that was coming into the house. I now had new copper all the way from the house to the exchange and my broadband burst into life and I was getting proper speeds that I was obtaining before all the problems started!

The engineer still wasn’t happy with the last bit of cable leading to the house and made arrangements for someone to dig up the road to run new cables. He also gave me his mobile number and said if there were anymore problems then to ring him direct.

The broadband was working fine all evening and then died completely late at night.
Tuesday, 5 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 14

Broadband still dead. The BT engineer turns up and finds a fault on the line at the exchange end. He gets someone to reset something in the exchange and the broadband comes back on although the throughput now appears to have dropped to 150K! The engineer said this is normal and it might take 72 hours for the speed to recover to its max.

About half an hour later the broadband died and didn’t come back on. The line also developed a loud buzzing on the voice side that wasn’t there previously. I reported the problem to Demon again. This time they said because there was a problem on the voice I could also report the line fault directly to BT, which I did. BT were much more helpful and promised to send an engineer asap.
Monday, 4 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 13

Broadband still dead.

I had this email from Demon:

--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 04/06/2007

BT have contacted us regarding your broadband fault on
number 02920866729 and advised they have agreed to send an engineer to your premesis to investigate. To avoid any further delays we have booked the earliest appointment BT have available which is for tuesday 5th between 1pm and
Sunday, 3 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 12

Broadband still dead.
Saturday, 2 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 11

Broadband was still dead so reported it Demon who could now report it BT again.
Friday, 1 June 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 10

I had this email from Demon:
--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 01/06/2007

BT have contacted us and advised that your broadband fault should now be resolved. This email is just to confirm if that is the case.

After receiving this email I tested the line and whilst it was up the IP Profile had dropped to 250K!

Later in the evening the broadband gave up all together. I rang Demon and they said they couldn’t do anything about it as once BT have closed a case they aren’t allowed to report another case on the same line for at least 8 hours. I tried telling them that it wasn’t a new case it was the same fault but they couldn’t understand that.
Thursday, 31 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 9

I took time off work to wait for the BT engineer to arrive. He ran a number of tests on the line but said he couldn’t find anything wrong but will check a few things at the exchange.

I went back to work and when I got home later that evening the broadband was off completely. After about half an hour of failing to get it to sync I reported the problem to Demon who said they couldn’t yet comment because BT hadn’t updated their notes. It came back on after about 50mins of being off.
Wednesday, 30 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 8 - Week 2

The line now was quite stable and synching at 8MB but the throughput I was getting was only 500K, it appeared to be throttled. I reported this to Demon and they ask that I ran a speed test from the speedtester.bt.com website and this confirmed that BT had the IP Profile set at 500K.
Demon then agreed to send an engineer to resolve the problem.

I had this email from Demon:
--------- LATEST NOTE --------
Date: 30/05/2007

BT have contacted us regarding your broadband fault on
number 02920866729 and advised they have agreed to send an engineer to your premesis to investigate. To avoid any further delays we have booked the earliest appointment BT have available which is for thusday 31st between 1pm and 6pm.

If this appointment is not suitable, if you can contact us at your earliest convenience, we can rearrange this for you.
Monday, 28 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 6

Over the weekend the broadband settled down a bit and was only dropping every few hours but the line was synching at around 1 – 2 MB and the actual throughput I was getting was much less. Before the problems began I was synching at 8MB and getting a full 8MB throughput.
Friday, 25 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 3

Demon rang in the morning saying they think my problem is probably to do with the timeout settings on my router! I explained to them that I don’t have a timeout set and it was going down constantly when the line was in use and so it couldn’t be timing out. They wanted to do all the same tests I’d done a few times on the previous day, exchange the filters try a different router etc.

They eventually said OK then they’ll report the problem to BT. I was told yesterday that the problem was being reported to BT but obviously that wasn’t true.
Thursday, 24 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 2

The ADSL was still continuing to drop so I did all the usual checks to make sure the fault wasn't with my internal cabling, router or micro filter etc. I then rang Demon (my ISP) to report the fault.

When you ring Demon technical support you get through to a call center in India and they're not at all helpful. They have to assume you have no technical expertise and they take you through a series of scripted procedures all of which I'd already done.

I had to ring them four times before they'd admit to there being a line fault. They then said they'd report it to BT but BT could take 40 working hours (5 working days) to resolve the fault.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Day 1

I first noticed a problem with my ADSL in the morning when my radio (it's a wifi radio that plays stations streamed from the Internet) kept cutting out and on investigation I noticed my broadband router kept losing it's sync to the exchange.

These problems continued throught the day and night. The line would drop it's connection every 10 minutes or so which makes using the Internet very frustrating.
Thursday, 3 May 2007

PostHeaderIcon Hotdoll - the sex toy for dogs!

It's amazing the things you stumble upon on the web, this really made me laugh and I thought it should be shared. I wasn't sure if it was a joke at first, but no it is a genuine product.

According to the product designers description at http://www.feeladdicted.com:
A dog is an animal with an enormous sexual appetite which can't be controlled. Many methods consist of artificial ways to stop dogs inborn character. These methods like castration or meds are going against the natural laws. Hotdoll is a natural (and beneficial for dog's health) way to control its sexual impulses.

This love doll for dogs is shaped to be grabbed easily by the dog's paws like female hips. Hotdoll is designed in 2 sizes to be used by little dogs and by big ones! Its contrasted colours are made to be easily distinguished by dogs eyes. The body is made by a plastic structure covered with a 1 cm technogel skin to create a soft and molle touch.

All orange parts are made of rubber, that way the dog grips on the floor. The pink hole behind (most important part!) needs to be washed regularly for hygienic reasons. Once clean you can apply some female odour spray on it (the spray is an accessory) several times per month, when your dog seems sexually hungry or nervous.

Monday, 30 April 2007

PostHeaderIcon My Glorious Career as a Magician

It's not widely known but as a child I had a keen interest in performing magic. All kids love magic, there's something, err, magical about it that can't fail to fascinate and excite. My interest really started when I changed schools at nine and the new school had a magic club run by the headmaster. This wasn't just any old club, it was renowned with affiliations to the Magic Circle and had the legendary Ali Bongo as it's president no less.

All the cool kids (well, I now realise they weren't so much cool as just nerds) were members of this club and I just had to get in but it wasn't that simple. To be accepted as a member you had to perform some magic in front of the other assembled members and then they'd vote for you behind closed doors. Only being ten years old I didn't have that much up my sleeve and so performed a very simple card trick. Unfortunately nerves got the better of me and I completely fumbled it, this as it turns out would be the way it went for the rest of my magical career. I did manage to get in on my second attempt, it was quite fortuitous that most of the members were missing that day and I had a number of friends present that managed to just about swing the vote in my favour.

Well I was like a dog with two dicks, I loved it. I would read and read about magic and practice and practice, it was my number one hobby for quite some time - it even took over from my Action Man. Eventually I had my first public performance that was at a show put on by the club in front of parents etc. Being the new kid I was given something very quick and simple to perform that couldn't possibly go wrong, it was the old pour-a-glass-of-milk-into-a-newspaper-and-make-it-disappear trick. I'd practiced it and had it down pat, it was one of the main acts in my repertoire but as soon as I got up in front of the audience it all fell apart. I could not for the life of me roll the newspaper in to a cone! The more it failed the harder it got and after a few minutes of trying the audience were starting to laugh, they were either being very cruel or they must have thought it was a kind of comedy routine ala Tommy Cooper. Eventually some nice chap got up out of the audience and rolled the cone for me much to every ones amusement.

My next live performance was some months later where I did a different but still quite simple trick in front of the school. This time it went flawlessly and a number of us were chosen to perform at a charity event in the local town hall the following weekend. Actually we weren't so much chosen as just available. My act was about halfway through the show, which was going well, the crowd appeared to be enjoying it. As I got to the point in my act were it was all about to happen I suddenly realised that I'd failed to do something really crucial at the start of the routine which meant that the trick was not going to work. I didn't really know what to do, I think I must have just froze staring at my props wondering what to do next when I heard someone in the crowd heckling me. I mumbled something like "sorry this isn't going to work" did an about turn and walked off the stage.

I didn't let things perturb me, my next public appearance was for television for the Look North programme. Some lucky club members got to go to the BBC studios to perform live, unsurprisingly I wasn't one of them. But all was not lost as a TV crew came to the school to film us doing various magic things. By now I think people had come to realise that I was crap, my involvement was reduced to just holding a hanky in front of a bunch of flowers whilst someone else had all the glory. I didn't mind as I was still excited about being on TV anyway.

At the end of filming we did one of those camera tricks that made us all disappear. It was very straight forward enough, they would film us, cut, the director would give us a signal to get up and go and then they would continue to film the empty space where we used to be. I couldn't possibly fuck this up - or could I? We were all sat down smiling at the camera in one of those class photo poses, the director gave the signal to the cameraman to cut which I confused with our signal to get up and go! In the edit that made it on TV you could clearly see me in the front standing and turning before we all vanished, it did kind of spoil it.

That was my last public appearance, I decided to bow out whilst I was at the top of my game.
Thursday, 12 April 2007

PostHeaderIcon Being Gary Lynch

I'm not the only Gary Lynch, the World is full of us. I get bizarre emails from people asking such things as "are you the famous brain surgeon Gary Lynch" or "are you the Gary Lynch who's the great-grandparent of Jim McKenzie from Wokakabootoo Falls, Ontario" - that's a made up place name by the way. These people must have found my email address by doing a web search and ending up at this website. So you have to wonder how fucking stupid these people must be, having seen this website, to then ask "are you the famous brain surgeon Gary Lynch"! Interestingly it's only Americans that email me.

So if you've arrived here looking for Gary Lynch then please take a look at the photo at the top right, does that look like the person you're looking for? If on the other hand you're another Gary Lynch then 'Hi', welcome to the club.

Having Googled 'Gary Lynch' myself I must admit the other Gary Lynch's seem to have a much more interesting life than I. There's the famous surfer Gary Lynch, there's Judge Gary Lynch, there's the Gay Games figure skating bronze medalist Gary Lynch and many more. Oddly the majority of them seem to work in either law enforcement or psychiatry/neuroscience but one thing we've all got in common is grey hair. Must be the pressure of being Gary Lynch.

Anyway, according to the oracle of all things (i.e. Google) there is only one number one and that's me http://www.google.com/search?q=gary+lynch
Friday, 6 April 2007

PostHeaderIcon The True Cost of HDTV

I recently decided the time was right to take the plunge into HDTV now that a lot of manufacturers are producing Full HD (1080p) screens at reasonable prices. The deciding factor though was the purchase of new sofas which meant the bulky CRT TV looked out of place in it's new position in the lounge.

Having made this decision I choose a 37 inch Sharp LC-37XD1E LCD screen which had had good reviews and was I thought a reasonable £1100. Of course I knew there would be additional costs involved but I never really paused to add up what the true cost of buying into HDTV would be.

First I needed a stand to put the TV on, but it couldn't be any old stand it had to be the one that matched my hifi rack, so that was another £300.

I needed a HDMI lead to replace the SCART lead connecting my DVD player to the TV, another £20.

Obviously a HDTV requires a HD source so I had to upgrade my Sky+ to Sky HD, that was another £290 for the box and another £120 per year in subscription fees.

I soon discovered that Sky HD boxes can be incompatible with some LCD TV's as they radiate infra-red light that interferes with the remote control! I eventually found a solution to this by buying a IR 'magic eye', another £5.

Not content with just the limited HDTV offerings on Sky you start looking around for other HD sources and so decided it would be a great excuse to get an XBOX 360, another £290.

When the XBOX arrived I didn't realise the wireless networking wasn't built in, so the wireless adapter was another £55.

I then discovered that my Internet router was not compatible with XBOX Live which meant reconfiguring my whole wireless network and buying a new router, another £42.

And another £40 for XBOX Live subscription.

So, all in all my £1100 TV purchase actually ended up costing me (1100 + 300 + 20 + 290 + 120 + 5 + 290 + 55 + 42 + 40) £2262! More than double - not quite the bargain I originally thought.

Of course that doesn't include the additional cost of XBOX games and other accessories plus the costs of an HD-DVD player which I'm bound to buy sooner rather than later.
Monday, 5 March 2007

PostHeaderIcon Numbskull on Board

Don't you just hate those 'Baby on Board' signs that people stick in their car windows. I mean, what are they for? As a device to alert other road users that you have a child in the car and so please take extra precautions not to ram into the back of me they aren't going to work, if they did then you'd get a discount on your car insurance and everyone would display them baby or not. Nobody knowingly drives dangerously and so they won't change their driving habits at the sight of such a sign and those that actually do drive dangerously close are going to be to arrogant to even care anyway. Often the sign isn't even in the rear window but in the side window next to the child seat, what's that for - to stop someone ramming you at a T-junction?

No, the real reason people put these signs in the car is to say 'look at me, I'm a responsible parent', it's all about self congratulation. Something odd happens to some people once they have children, it's almost as if they become members of some special club with all that that involves, special handshakes, knowing nods, strange ways of talking and special signs to let everyone know they're a member.

Most people are actually too stupid to even realise what's happening to them, they'll see the Baby on Board sign for sale in Halfords or somewhere and because they've been brainwashed by the rest of the club they just can't help themselves and they have to buy one otherwise how on earth can they considered worthy parents. I don't know who invented the sign but it was a piece of brilliance, such an easy way to extract money from the mindless masses.

Of course some people get afflicted a lot more than others and those who have it really bad go that little bit further and buy a cutesie sign that says 'Princess on Board' or 'Naughty Boy on Board', these people should have been sterilised.

OK, moan over.
Sunday, 18 February 2007

PostHeaderIcon How to make the perfect Chili

There is an update to this post, published here.

I keep getting asked how I make my infamous Chili, so here it is - to serve 3-4.

What you'll need:
  • 1 packet of Old El Paso Chili seasoning (this isn't cheating, it's a damn good mix)
  • 1 large red onion
  • 500g lean minced beef (fresh not frozen, this is very important)
  • 1/2 a glass of red wine (something gutsy like Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cab Sav)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of black eyed beans or pinto beans (don't use kidney beans)
  • 1/3 jar of Peppadew peppers

What you do:
  • Finely chop the onion and gently fry for few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of mild olive oil
  • Crumble the minced beef into the frying pan being careful to retain nice chunky meat morsels (which is why you cannot use frozen mince) and let it brown on one side before gently turning to brown on the other (do not stir, it breaks up the chunks!)
  • Once browned sprinkle the chili seasoning over the meat and gently fold in
  • After a few minutes poor in the red wine to deglaze the pan and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced
  • Poor over chopped tomatoes, beans and Peppadew peppers, gently fold in and allow to simmer

Server in a bowl with garlic bread and the bottle of Wolf Blass.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

PostHeaderIcon Shark Bait

I was asked the other day if I've ever dived with sharks, "Of course I have, loads of times" was my response and I then went on to tell the story of my unexpected encounter with Bull sharks (apparently the third most dangerous in the world after Great Whites and Tigers) whilst diving in Cancun, Mexico some years ago.

After a week or so of diving in which sharks were common on most dives, mainly Nurse sharks which are the pussycats of the shark family, we did a dive on a horseshoe shaped reef with sandy bottom at about 12 meters. I was one of the first in the water and the dive guide told a couple of us to go down and just wait in the sandy bit in the middle of the reef.

We seemed to be waiting an age for the others to get into the water and after a few minutes we could see large shadows just on the edge of our visibility of about 30 meters. These shadows were circling around the edge of the horseshoe reef getting ever closer. After a couple of laps we could clearly see that it was a pair of sharks, one about 10-12 feet and the other about 8-10 feet in size with large heavy bodies.

This was quite exciting as these were bigger than any other shark we'd seen and they looked more like what you expect a shark to look like. Having seen sharks all week we really didn't feel intimidated or worried at all and just thought cool, glad we got in the water quickly.

As the sharks got closer and closer they would swerve in for a closer look at us before moving back out to continue their lap around the edge of the reef. After they approached in that way for a second time and my eyes followed them around and past me my eyes settled on the dive guide and the other divers who had made it into the water and were cowering behind a rock with the guide gesturing wildly for us to get down and hide. Of course being in he middle of the sandy basin there wasn't many places to hide. Even though the guides face was obscured by his mask and reg there was a certain look of fear about him that made me think 'oh shit!'

Well anyway, after this second fly by the sharks took off and we didn't see them again, the rest of the dive was pretty uneventful. After we surfaced and got back into the boat the guide was so excited about seeing the sharks, apparently you never see Bull sharks that close to the shore and it was the first time he'd seen any in the region. He was at a loss as to why they should have been there.

I didn't say anything but I do have a theory as to why they where there. It was at that stage in the holiday where my bowels always give up and I suffer acute diarrhea. Being the second dive of the day we arrived at the dive site early and had to hang around for an hour to off-gas a bit. Shortly after arriving at the site I felt sudden pains in my belly and knew it only meant one thing. I got into the water and swam 40-50 metres from the boat, dropped my shorts and proceeded to empty my bowels. Well once it started it wouldn't stop and I spent a good half hour with almost constant diarrhea. Now we all know that sharks have an amazing sense of smell able to pick out a bleeding fish from a long way away. I'm sure the stench coming out of my arse for half an hour must have been swept quite some distance with the prevailing currents. I suppose I'm lucky that once they turned up they decided dinner didn't look quite as appealing as it smelt!


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