Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

What a crap month so far and amazing how things change, 2 weeks ago today I was barely able to stand up due to the amount of swelling in my legs and to be honest with the pain I was in and the way I felt would have been happy for it all to come to an end.

Yet today I feel almost human again, that's probably the best Christmas present I could ever have.

So, to any out there who are having a crappy time, all I can say is that as long as you feel healthy, then anything else that happens will get sorted eventually.

Have an awesome Christmas and thanks for stopping by.

Keep the faith and in the wise words of Andy Latimer, "Always Live For Today".

Monday, 20 December 2010


In the dim distant past when TV's and Videos were worth fixing and when Betamax still stood a chance, there was a TV rental organisation called Telefusion.

The head office of the company was in Blackpool if I remember correctly and had repair centres all over the UK. It also had a retail outet called Trident and contracts to service equipment for a lot of the larger suppliers such as Boots, SWEB (South Wales Electricity Board) and others. In those days there were many other rental companies that have now dissapeared, these included Visionhire, Radio Rentals, Multibroadcast, DER and Granada.

I had resumed my training as a TV engineer and attended an interview with a company in Swansea called Radiocraft. I was the sole engineer in Swansea although there was a service department in Cardiff who could handle stuff if I got busy. Conditions weren't good in the workshop and the manager of the branch looked as if his head was about to blow on many occasions. I eventually found an advert for a delivery driver for Telefusion. Although this was a step down, the salary was a better and I got the use of a company van (a Ford Transit).

I attended an interview quite late in the evening and met Bernie Murphy who was good enough to offer me the job. I started work and met the engineers there, they were probably one of the best bunch of people I have ever worked with and included Tony Green, Paul Beer, Roger Solomon, Bernie of course, Frank, Bill and Alan whose last names elude me , Jeff the other delivery driver and Paul Beer.

After about a year or so and a temporary move to Visionhire, an engineers position became available and I re-applied and was succesful. My company vehicle then became a small white 980cc Ford Fiesta, in this I travelled about carrying all sorts of things in the back and wearing down brakes quite rapidly as I normally covered quite hilly areas with tools, spares and a spare TV in the back.

We all got into work in the morning, got handed our calls and made our way down to the Civic Cafe run by Steve the Greek. I had known Steve some years earlier as we used to frequent his establishment for refreshment when out on calls.

We sat down over coffee and a steamed pie covered in Tomato sauce and sorted our calls into a more reasonable order then went on our way. As we were a rental company and also supplied slot TVs, some of the houses we had to go to defied description. I remember one where my feet stuck to whatever was on the carpet and I had to kneel down and my trousers were wet when I got back up.

We had to repair video recorders that had been fed bars of chocolate, toast and on one occasion chicken curry. And then there were times when the customer said could they get the tape back before you took the machine back to the workshop as the tape belonged to a mate. This normally meant that the tape was of the adult variety and of course could not be removed in the home due to possibe damage. The machine was taken back to the workshop, the tape removed and added to the vast library that we had acquired there.

On one occasion I had to attend a house and having fixed the VCR asked the customer for a tape to test. The customer informed me that the machine was her sons and got one of his tapes for me, the tape was marked “Treasure Island”. I inserted the tape, pressed play and noticed that the scene was of a woman putting lipstick on, I thought this must be a commercial and turned my attention back to the tape path to make sure all was well. At this point the customer shouted “Jesus Christ, I'll bloody kill him”, I ooked back at the screen and noticed that the woman was now doing something else with her mouth and the gentleman that accompanied her in this scene was looking very happy.

Paul Beer and myself became quite good friends and we visited each other quite often to help each other out on repairs, we unofficialy formed the Telefusion Ford Fiesta display team as one of us moved towards the middle of the road and the other would pass on the inside etc.

Then came the news that the company was being bought by Visionhire, Telefusion had been losing money for some time and despite a restructuring was still doing so. Apparently when Visionhire took over, the company had about enough reserves left to trade for another 2 weeks.

I was one of the people made redundant as the company became part of Visionhire's repair organisation called Serviscope, this was eventually taken over by Granada and then dissapeared.

Airport by the Motors is one tune that reminds me of the good times and always brings a smile to my face. The last time I heard of Bernie and Tony they were working at Swansea University, Paul left before the redundancies to work for Comet and the last time I spoke to him he had moved to Mastercare, I don't know what happened to everyone else.

The Civic Cafe is no more although the building is still down by Joe's Ice Cream parlour, I kept in touch with Steve from there for a few years until I moved to Cornwall. 

Good times with good people that will never happen again

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Some useful stuff

I don't normally post junk like this, my junk is normally of a better quality. But some of this is worth knowing.

How many of these did YOU know about?

Wrap celery in aluminium foil when putting in the refrigerator and it will keep for weeks.

When boiling corn on the cob, add a pinch of sugar to help bring out the corn's natural sweetness

Cure for headaches: Take a lime, cut it in half, and rub it on your forehead. The throbbing will go away.

Don't throw out all that leftover wine: Freeze into ice cubes for future  use in casseroles and sauces.

To get rid of itch from mosquito bites, try applying soap on the area and you will experience instant relief.

Ants, ants, ants everywhere ... Well, they are said to never cross a chalk line. So, get your chalk out and draw a line on the floor or wherever ants tend to march. See for yourself.

Use air-freshener to clean mirrors. It does a good job and better still, leaves a lovely smell to the shine.

When you get a splinter, reach for the scotch tape before resorting to tweezers or a needle. Simply put the scotch tape over the splinter, and then pull it off. Scotch tape removes most splinters painlessly and easily.

Now look what you can do with Alka Seltzer........
Clean a toilet. Drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets, wait twenty minutes, brush and flush. The citric acid and effervescent action clean vitreous China ..

Clean a vase. To remove a stain from the bottom of a glass vase or cruet, fill with water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.

Polish jewelry. Drop two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water and immerse the jewelry for two minutes.

Clean a thermos bottle. Fill the bottle with water, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets, and let soak for an hour (or longer, if necessary).

Unclog a drain.
Clear the sink drain by dropping three Alka Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a cup of White Vinegar. Wait a few minutes, and then run the hot water.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Machines can have soul too

I've been reading a Jeremy Clarkson book called "I know You Got Soul" which goes on in Clarkson's normal entertaining and informative way about how machines can appear to have human flaws and traits and is is this that makes us think they are more than just an inanimate object.

So I decided it was time to start making my own list of these things, I probably won't finish it all in one article but let's see how it goes.

Going back to when I was a lad and just making my way into double figures, I remember being given a small Philco Transistor radio for my birthday of Christmas, this was a little red thing with Medium Wave and Long Wave as  in those halcyon days FM was something that only posh people had. Radio 1 was on 247m on medium wave and radio Luxembourg was available in the evenings on 208m.

This little radio introduced me to the likes of Queen, Cozy Powel and many others, the UK Top 40 was broadcast on a Tuesday and the countdown was carried out by Johnie Walker before he decided to go off to the US.

The radio accompanied me everywhere and got dropped, bashed and in once case thrown and still managed to carry on working. Basically, it was the Captain Scarlet of transistor radios.

Eventually it expired and was replaced by an ITT Weekend Automatic with FM and shorwave, this was a good radio but it never reached the levels of the old Philco.

Moving on a bit we come to the land of the cassette recorder, I had used open reel devices before but the time came to go portable and my first and best device was an ITT KB SL52 portable cassette recorder with automatic recording level and a green button that you pressed to show how flat the 5 batteries that ran it were going. It was a mono device but gave really very good quality sound for a portable device and at the time I was convinced that stereo was really a waste of time and could see no real benefits to it.

It was used regularly over the years and was eventually replaced by an Amerex Stereo system that was good but never managed to live up to the portability of the old ITT. Now, of course cassettes are no longer in use and the same applies to the old open reel machines although you can not beat them for the sheer joy of watching the big reels going round and round while the sound quality was generally excellent.

Nothing has really managed to succesfully replace any of this equipment. and given me the same levels of joy that I used to get from using them, sure I can now carry all my music collection round on a portable device but it's not the same as having a huge selection of cassettes on a shelf arranged in alphabetical order

There was a special one marked Singles Collection 12 with a selection of music that was designed to cause the ladies to cuddle up to you. It didn't start out that wau and was just a selection of music that I really liked.

All the above devices were not prefect, just like humans that had their flaws but they were loveable and I miss them.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Runcorn Bridge and the oncoming of the final straw

Runcorn, if the Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy were to describe it, the phrase "Mostly Harmless" would be quite accurate. The main problem with it is that to get to one of the nearest places of work, Liverpool.  You need to travel across the Runcorn  - Widnes bridge. This was opened in 1961 and designed to carry about 9,000 vehicles a day, at the moment it carries about 90,000,  so at peak times you move at about 4 MPH across it, snails sometimes overtake you.

But salvation is at hand as a new bigger better bridge is to be built, the problem here is that this will be a toll bridge and the toll for crossing it is currently put at £1.40 each way. Of course to ensure that people use this new crossing the government and local authorities will be making the currently free bridge a toll bridge too. So this is effectively another tax on people like you and me for travelling to work.

You see, I work in Aintree and to get to and from work I have to cross the Mersey, the distance to my job is about 23 miles each way which is about a gallon of diesel and the cost is about £5.00. Once the bridge is open, my daily travelling expense will increase by 50% probably meaning that I will have to look for another job. I could of course use a different route and go through Warrington but this is probably worse than going across the existing bridge at the moment.

So now it's time to do some maths, as I said above there are about 90,000 crossings each day, let's just say that each one of these is a car to make things easier to work out as lorries will pay a higher toll than a car. 90,000 x £1.40 means that the new toll will generate £126,000 a day, over a year this will bring in £6,552,000. I don't know who will get this cash but if it brought our council tax down a bit I would say money well spent.

Lets now have a look at things from a taxation point of view, the government currently take about £27 a day from me in tax, on top of that is duty on the fuel that I use to travel to work which on a gallon of fuel is about £4.50, then we add £.2.80 toll to that which brings the total to  £34.30. If my rate of pay is about £9.00 an hour, this means that I only start earning money for myself in the afternoon and all the cash that I earn in the morning is used to pay tax. Once you take national insurance and VAT into consideration you see that I pay over half of my wages in tax in one form or another.

I have to say that this annoys the crap out of me

Friday, 19 November 2010


I managed to get a week off work in October and during my time off my hands came into contact with something that made them itch and come up with little lumps. My first instinct was to carry out a search on Google to see if I could work out what was wrong.
In hindsight, this was possibly not the best thing to do. I entered my symptoms and was informed that I had either ingested too much gluten, possibly had contracted Foot and Mouth, it may have been some form of Dermatitis but the most likely thing was apparently Syphilis.
At this point I went to see the doctor who assured me it was some form of contact Dermatitis but there was no way of finding out what I had touched. Some steroid cream with antibiotic properties was issued together with some Oilatum emollient to help out with some dry skin I had would do the job.

To be honest I was assured that I would grow out of the skin problems by the time I was 15, 35 years later and I'm still waiting.

Off to the chemist to get the prescription and then home with the medicines and time to apply them, the cream helped out my hands and the emollient seemed to work on some of the dry patches on my face.

But, after about a week, most of the top layer of skin had started to peel off my hands and I was getting rashes all over the place, so it was back to the doctors who said "that looks nasty, have some steroid tablets".

So I started on them with some antihistamines to stop the itching and in the last day of the tablets had not really got any better. Back to the doctors, more steroids and then off home.

Almost a week later and my hands are starting to look almost human now but the rashes are getting no better and I'm now starting to reduce the steroid intake. We had been wracking our brains trying to work out what had changed in our lifestyle that would have had the effect of bringing me out in huge red blotches, the washing powder and stuff was the same, the water was pretty good, so we decided it had to be Runcorn.

Then, there came the moment of clarity, most men do their best bit of thinking while sitting on the toilet. I had not slept much the night before due to the amount of itchiness and having had some coffee nature summoned me. I t was while I was sitting down increasing my Brownian motion that I realised that my legs were fairly clear, but my torso, arms and neck were really bad. The only thing in common was the increased use of the emollient in these areas.

A further search on Goggle seems to show that other people have suffered with the same problem and so quick shower using un perfumed soap was carried out and at the moment the itchiness has subsided and the red bits aren't quite as red as they have been.

It seems that I am allergic to the stuff that was given to me to help me alleviate my dry skin and have ended up taking steroid tablets to counteract the effect.

What I would like to know is:
If I take my car to a garage for a repair and it doesn't fix the fault, I can get it re-re-repaired under warranty. If I fix a computer and it goes wrong again, I repair it under warranty. Why can't this apply to a doctors diagnosis too?

Yours, rather itchingly.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

An interesting time so far

So what's happened? Well it started in February when Denis Strachan of the Bugg Centre in Blackpool offered me a position in the company, this was originally to have been working with another engineer but more on that later.

I tendered my resignation at ICT North West and was offered an increase in pay to stay there. I advised Denis of this and he increased the offer to entice me into joining the Bugg Centre.

And so at the start of March, I handed my notice into ICT and started with Denis on the 1st of April 2010 as the only engineer, I was told that the exisiting one had decided to go back to college to study but would still be working part time for us. The work came in, at one point I had 8 latops and 2 desktops on the bench at the same time and Denis complained that there was still equipment that needed to be looked at , but I carried on nonetheless.

Then came payday and at 16.50, I was informed that the company was unable to pay my full salary and was asked what I could make do with, I gave a figure and was given a cheque which cleared about 4 days later, I now realise that this cleared at the expense of the rent cheque.

Then 2 weeks later, Denis gave me another £50 and said he would see if there was any way he could pay me the balance by the end of the following week. At this point I realise there was no way he could make the money up and pay the next months wage and so I handed in my notice with immediate effect.

After a number of weeks and promises from Denis, I recieved 3 post dated cheques and the time came for me to present the first, this was stopped by Denis. In the meantime I secured a new position with a large retail organisation and to be nearer work and realtives, we decided to move to Runcorn. While organising all this one of Denis's cheques managed to clear but the third and final one was stopped leaving me £850 put of pocket, not as much as the next engineer who ended up being owed £2,600 but it still caused a problem. Especially as my new job required me to work a month in hand and I would not get paid for the weeks holiday I had booked in September.

Now, we are almost settled in Runcorn, Angie is looking for a new job, I will get my first full months wages at the end of October and we are slowly on track once more. Denis at The Bugg Centre still refuses to communicate and so the only way forward is for me to issue a County Court summons in the hope that I get somewhere.
I have started doing some studying to get some qualifications under me and to help in advancing me and getting me a better position should one become available.
That's enough rambling for now.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Bugg Centre

The Bugg Centre of 70 St Annes Road in Blackpool is the name of the company that offered me a position and in fact increased the offer to  get me to start work there. I took the offer and found that all was not quite as promised. During my first week there I noticed what appeared to be a debt collector visit the premises and then after that a visit from the landlord indicated that the company was behind in it's rent and had also issued some replacement cheques that had bounced.

The company also interviewed several people with one poor girl travelling all the way from Carnforth to Blackpool twice when no actual position existed and as I found out later there was no actual way that the company could afford to pay it's one member of staff let alone any new ones.

And so on the last day of April, the sole director a Mr Denis Strachan of 5 Aderne Place, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7EN informed me that the company had insufficient funds to pay me my full wages and then after some discussion at 16.50 on a Friday evening paid me about 2 weeks wages by cheque which I then had to wait for a further 4 days to clear.

Some 2 weeks later, Mr Strachan gave me a further £50 in cash and told me that he would try and pay the rest of the previous months wages the following week, I decided on my arrival at home that there would be very little chance of that happening and it would also be unlikely that the company would be able to pay the following months wages too and I issued my immediate resignation.

I contacted the company and offered them a payment plan of one cheque to be issued at the start of June with the balance being paid by 2 post dated cheques. This was agreed by Mr Strachan but it was a further 2 weeks before the three cheques arrived and he had dated the 1st one for July with the second one being dated August and the last one dated September, this was a month later than agreed by me but I though that it was better than nothing.

This morning the 7th of July, I woke unable to sleep and decided to cheque the bank balance and have found that the initial cheque has bounced, no communication has been received from Mr Strachan to advise me of this and indeed I did not expect him to do so. Further investigation of the company by me seems to indicate that it has had some county court judgements issued against it and one of these appears to be from a restaurant.

The Bugg Centre has given me pay slips showing how much I should have been paid, and as a limited company has issued cheques fraudulently as there were no funds available to clear them. This is in fact theft and I suspect that the company is also trading while insolvent which is also illegal and if so the company directors are not covered by the limited liability offered them.

So take this as a warning, do not do business with The Bugg Centre of 70 St Anne's Road, Blackpool, FY4 2AS, the registered office of the company is 7 St Petersgate, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1EB and it's sole director, Mr Denis Strachan lives at 5 Aderne Place, Alderley Edge, Cheshire, SK9 7EN.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Dr Who Goes Orbital

I can't say a lot except that as I write this the piece of music that's about to be played is about 47 years old.
Exsplendid stuff:

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Fire up the Rover

The old Rover 420D was bought about 16 months ago to replace the crappy Laguna, it's amazing that the cost of the Rover with 12 months MOT is within £50 of the cost of getting the Laguna through it's MOT.

The Rover made it's way to Exeter, to the Midlands several times, up and down the motorway to Runcorn, to Devon, touring round Scotland and other trips without a problem and apart from needing some tyres.

I then decided it was time to get an oil change and to be honest, I couldn't be bothered doing it myself. I knew I couldn't get better than a Kwik Fit fitter so I went down there. The Rover was put up on the ramps, there was a sharp intake of breath and I was told that they couldn't do an oil change as the car had a major oil leak.

Now, the oil level had not dropped in 7,000 miles so I thought something wrong here and got it sorted somewhere else. They also informed me of an oil leak as did the MOT station and the next garage that serviced it also said there was a leak from the power steering and an oil leak from the turbo.

Again, i have never had to top up any of the fluids in the car despite it having done over 12,000 miles and so I suspected a gearbox leak as it was a bit rattly at low revs and has done 140,000 miles. The gearbox oil was changed and then I had a loss of coolant which was cured by pouring some radweld into the system but that was about it.

Then in June 2010, we decided to go up to the Lake District for a run, no problems occurred and we stopped at The White Bull in Bilsborrow on the way back for some food and the Pub Quiz. On the way home, Angie said she thought she could smell paint stripper but my nose detected no odour.  In the morning however, there was a puddle under the car and some fluid could be seen to be dripping, the coolant had dropped a little so I though that may be the case and we got in the car and made our way to Runcorn.
As we neared  the end of the trip I noticed that the fuel guage had gone down faster than I would have expected. The big platsic cover that made the old Perkins diesel engine look newish was removed and the culprit was spotted immediately. There are three little rubber pipes linking the injectors together, two of these had perished completely and diesel was pouring out of them, down the front of the engine and all over the underneath of the car.

A new length of pipe was purchased at the cost of a quid and fitted and it seems that my major oil leak has now stopped, it will also be interesting to see what effect that this has on the fuel economy as the car has been doing about 47 to 48 to the gallon.
The thing is, if the fancy bit of plastic had not been fitted to the car in the first place, the leak would have been spotted ages ago, that's modern technology for you.

And one more thing, my gearbox has stopped rattling now.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The MRI Scan

For some months I had been having some pains in my left arm and tingling in my fingers, I could make my hand go numb by rubbing the back of my arm or by letting the water from the shower hit me on my shoulder.

The arm was that bad that I couldn't lie on it and couldn't lie on the other side as the pains would keep me awake.

And so after several visits to the doctors it was decided that I should undergo a thing called a nerve conduction test. As this is the 21st century I had all sorts of ideas about the equipment that would be used for this test. And so you can imagine my utter disappointment when I found that the only equipment that would be used were some small pins and a hammer.

I was jabbed in the finger and asked if I could feel it and hit on the joints in my arm with the hammer to see if my left arm twitched as much as my right one.
After the test I was told that basically there was nothing wrong with me other than wear and tear but to be on the safe side I would be booked in for an MRI scan.

I have to say that on the day of the scan I was a bit nervous, maybe there were bits of metal in my body that I knew nothing about, maybe I should have gone easy on the iron tablets and how many cans of Irn Bru was it safe to drink before entering one of these things.

So I entered the waiting room and my name as called, I was escorted out of the hospital to a mobile MRI unit asked if any bits of me were metallic and could I leave any change in a dish in the control room.

Then it was onto the machine, it's basically a long tube not much bigger than you and a bed on rails that slides in and out. You lie down on the bed, stick some headphones on as it's a bit noisy and then put your head in between two blocks while they clamp a bit of plastic over the front of your head to stop it moving about too much. You are given a panic button in case you become a bit worried and then you are slid completely into this tube.

That wasn't too bad and there were a few noises similar to a flat bed scanner which I didn't think was a problem. But this appeared to be akin to the orchestra tuning up before playing the 1812 at number 11 on the amp.

It started, it was like the opening of Spirit of The Age by Hawkwind played at full volume through several reverb units and a tape loop. Quite enjoyable really and then after a while it stopped and I seemed to move down a bit.

That was quick I thought, just as Hawkwind once again launched into Masters of The Universe  the really heavy mix all around me and this time it was the full unedited track.

Eventually, it stopped and the bed slid out and I was told that my results would be sent to the specialist who would tell me what they showed.

All my fillings were still intact, no unknown internal staples had been ripped from the internals of my body and accelerated to light speed by the magnetic field around me, I didn't turn green when I got angry and no laser beams shot out of me eyes when I took my glasses off, so that was it till the results come through.

And when they do I'll be back here rambling on again as normal.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Snow !!!

So global warming has hit the UK with temperatures as low as -22 in places and snow covering the whole of the country.

British Gas is about to run out of gas so we will all freeze and the councils have run out of grit and will be sending compulsory purchase orders to all the pet shops later today. This will mean that over then next few weeks will be seeing a load of constipated budgies all over the place.

I don't know how they have run out of grit as I haven't seen a gritter anywhere on the road into work and all round where I live there is a layer of permafrost on the ground.

It's so bad that people are unable to make any headway no matter how hard they rev the engines, I've even passed 4 wheel drive vehicles who are having trouble getting going. This does not seem to be a problem with the actual vehicle but an inability on the drivers behalf to select 4 wheel drive and to move off gently.

So far my old Rover diesel has managed to get anywhere I want to go without any sliding (unless of course I want to).

So this is the end, as very soon we will not be able to go anywhere as the roads will be blocked with abandoned vehicles, there will be no food in the shops and no gas so we will all freeze to death anyway.

Goodbye world
Just to make you feel warm, here's a picture of the UK taken by NASA on the 7th of Jab 2010.

Friday, 1 January 2010

The true meaning of the twelve days of Christmas

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.
The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,  Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,  Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

Just thought you should know