Ravings From The Bog

Failed, sort of!
October 1, 2009, 12:23 am
Filed under: Family, Life, Stress, Thoughts, Work Life Balance | Tags: , , , ,

Mr Blobby

Yeah, it didn’t work! Still 276lbs… At one point during September was 272, but also at one point was 280!

On a positive note though, found more time to read, definitely felt a lot less frazzled and more relaxed and had more time to spend with Sophie (8), who is my personal de-stresser. (previous post)

What else happened in September?

Got an exercise bike, a rowing machine and dusted off my mountain bike. I was off for a week and had a great time traveling down to Mayo and Galway, took oodles of photographs and had my quarterly review which went very well, thank you! So not all bad news. Also, decided on a new blog format which you can find at This Sedentary Life. Not a terribly optimistic title, but we’ll see what happens on the exercise front over the coming months. 😉


July 16, 2009, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Blogging, Podcasts, Stress, Technology, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , ,

Recent frustrations with my wireless connection at home resulted in me getting not a little miffed and, after trying everything else, resetting my router. This had the effect of wiping out the settings for my connection and I have been unable to reset the wifi for the last two days.

This has had a number of impacts on my life:

  1. I find myself with “time” on my hands. No constant browsing, Twittering, or gazing at a screen has resulted in a startling realisation that I need to find something else to do, like read, or watch TV, or God forbid, exercise.
  2. I spent yesterday evening in the front (TV) room of the house from 1915 until 2230. This is unheard of. I was receiving strange looks from my wife and son who were unsettled, to say the least.
  3. Yesterday, I bought a Belkin router. Sadly, the CD within was only for Windows XP and older (!) Windows systems – thwarted! This evening, I’m typing this into Word to copy and paste onto WordPress when I finally get my wifi restored.  So this is like a computer fix….
  4. I also bought a T-Mobile laptop dongle thingy which cost £29 plus change – and it’s really crap and intermittent. I also unfortunately spent £30 on airtime, which I’ll use up before I bring the dongle back for a refund. Fucking useless piece of shit.
  5. I’m starting to run out of podcasts! I’m finally catching up with Fresh Air podcasts that I downloaded as far back as last year. This is good news but they’re a little out of sync when I’m listening to pundits etc talking about how they think Obama will fare when he’s finally inaugurated!
  6. Yesterday, I drove a 38 mile round trip to pick up my Macbook so I could use it in an internet café at lunch time to send an email and follow up on some tweets on Tweetdeck and get an internet fix – how sad am I?

So, tomorrow, on my day off, I’ll be visiting Carphone Warehouse to see what they can do to restore my sanity. If their broadband was all it is cracked up to be, I wouldn’t have had to reset the router etc, bastards! I think I’ll go a little postal on their asses!!!

Really Sore Feet!
December 24, 2008, 12:35 am
Filed under: Life, Society, Stress, Thoughts, Work at Stressco | Tags: , , ,

Bloody aching!One of the “blessings” of working in retail is the aching feet you suffer, especially at Christmas when a standard day means almost 12 hours on your feet constantly changing direction and pace while trying to avoid being run over by manic idiots who leave everything to the last few days before Christmas – we’ve had most of this stock on shelf since September/October, so don’t make faces when we cannot supply Christmas napkins or tins of Quality St the day before Christmas – it’s YOUR fault for not planning properly!

PTSD Contributing To 8,500 Ex-Servicemen In British Jails

One major legacy of the Vietnam War was the trail of broken marriages, veteran related crime and general Post Traumatic Stress Disorder issues experienced by society in the US at that time. Forty-odd years later, we shouldn’t be surprised that 1 in 11 prisoners in the UK is an ex-serviceman. Between Northern Ireland, the Falklands War, Iraq and Afghanistan, there are potentially plenty of PTSD sufferers out there who need help. As usual in this country, it comes down to money:

“The MoD said counselling was always available to personnel, troops had briefings before and after postings, there were six mental health therapy pilot schemes, and veterans could have free assessments.”

Counselling and assessments must be made mandatory rather than “available” to troops returning home after any conflict, when many of them are in no position to judge whether they need counselling or not.

Up to 8,500 former members of the armed forces are serving sentences in UK prisons, it has been claimed.

Probation staff union Napo said its figures suggested about one in every 11 prisoners used to be in the forces.

It has led the union and Plaid Cymru MP Elfyn Llwyd to claim there is a lack of support for ex-service personnel.

The Ministry of Defence said it worked closely with charities to support veterans when they left the service and those who went to prison.

Both the MoD and the Ministry of Justice said they planned to carry out further surveys soon to “ensure we have up-to-date figures that will help us better target the help we provide for veterans in prison”.

Mr Llwyd said thousands of former members of the armed services who served either in the Gulf or Afghanistan had been subsequently convicted of offences and jailed.

He claimed that “effectively when armed personnel return, there is no help for them,” and said the position in the UK “contrasts greatly with the way the United States provide counselling and assistance to their armed personnel”.

“I have come to the conclusion that if proper treatment was available for these disturbed servicemen, hundreds if not thousands would not have offended,” said Mr Llwyd, the leader of Plaid Cymru’s parliamentary group.

“The government is letting them and their families down very badly indeed.”

Mr Llwyd said he had been unsatisfied with the initial response he was given when he raised the issue in Parliament after concerns were raised by his constituents in Meirionnydd Nant Conwy.

A criminal lawyer by trade, he saw ex-servicemen being sentenced in north Wales courts for assaults “with worrying regularity”.

He was told in a parliamentary answer that figures from “nationally representative surveys” of some 2,000 prisoners in 2001, 2003 and 2004 showed the proportion of former armed forces prisoners was 6%, 4% and 5% respectively.

The MP contacted Napo, which represents probation and family court staff, which then gathered evidence from 22 probation areas.

Napo said its initial findings and data from the group Veterans in Prison suggested that “as many as 8,500 former soldiers are currently in custody in the UK”. On 15 August, the prison population was 93,574.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said the number in prison could be greater than 8,500, and its studies suggest there could be more than 7,000 in England and Wales, and another 1,000 in Scotland.

Mr Fletcher said the “vast majority” of offences were violent and related to drugs or alcohol.

“There is no systematic availability of stress-related counselling. This should be made available without delay and would drastically reduce the number of receptions into custody”.

An MoD spokesperson said: “The MoD works closely with the service charities to support veterans when they leave the armed forces and for those who find themselves in prison.

“The Prison In-Reach initiative already provides advice on the support available to veterans before and after their release. Robust systems are in place to treat and prevent PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and other stress disorders.”

The MoD said counselling was always available to personnel, troops had briefings before and after postings, there were six mental health therapy pilot schemes, and veterans could have free assessments.

The Ministry of Justice said prisoners were given support in addressing the issues which led to their behaviour.


My Odyssey Of Desire…An Epic Journey

I’ve always had a yearning to own a Series III Land Rover in which I could perhaps demonstrate my need to “get back to nature” and have a little bit of fun too. Series III Land Rovers were produced from 1971 until 1985 and I believe are the prettiest in the series.

I’ve achieved my dream twice – I bought a 1981 LWB Series III for £500 ($1000) about twelve years ago and it sat in my driveway for about four months and I sold it again for what I paid for it. It had needed a little too much work for my inexperienced hands to make it road-legal, so it had to go.

I must explain firstly that my yearnings (for anything material) can be fairly obsessive. I must have bought Land Rover International, Land Rover World and a couple of other magazines for nine or ten months and scoured the Belfast Telegraph and the Autotrader looking for examples to view. And as any obsessive prospective buyer will tell you, once you focus on the object of your financial lust, you seem to see them everywhere, whereas before you wouldn’t have noticed them. Now, I know that I can get pretty obsessive when I want something, so every so often I would be telling myself that when I get this Land Rover or Mercedes Benz or iMac or whatever, the buzz usually wears off pretty quickly – but I just couldn’t help myself. My other source for visual fixes was Ebay. And that’s where it happened…

Last December, I was searching Ebay and came across the 1981 SWB Land Rover that is currently sitting in my driveway. It was love at first sight. I contacted the buyer who lives in Tonbridge, Kent. As it hadn’t sold on Ebay (it had been bid up as far as £750), I agreed a price of £1400 and started to make plans to collect it.

Unfortunately, as I live in Northern Ireland, this would be quite a trip. My cousin Chris, who lives in London, offered to help. He’s a car nut and empathised with my plight. He’s quite a car buff himself, with a Benz C270 CDI Estate, a 1973 Porsche 911 and a recently purchased Lotus Eglise. I was to fly to Heathrow, get the Tube to his home in Acton and the next morning, he would drive me to Tonbridge to collect the Land Rover. As we discussed the trip in the week beforehand, he advised me to join the AA (Automobile Association, not Alcoholics Anonymous) in case of a breakdown along the way. My plan was to arrive in Tonbridge around 1000hrs on the Sunday morning and drive the Land Rover the 371 miles to catch the 2200hrs Liverpool overnight car ferry to Belfast. I had booked the Monday as my day off, thankfully.

To cut a long and tedious story short, Chris, his son Michael (4) and I set off from Acton around 0915 and arrived uneventfully in Tonbridge around 1000. There she was, looking as lovely as I had hoped! Once I had a test-drive and the deal was done, I clambered back into the Landie and followed Chris who was going to stay with me until I got to the northern end of the M25.

We stopped for lunch at Clacket Lane motorway services and not long after this, Chris and Michael headed off back towards London.

Now, for readers that may not be familiar with the Land Rover Series models, I must explain a few things. Their heaters are completely useless, even when they intermittingly work. Door seals must have cost too much to fit to these models and the door tops are a separate fitting to the door bottoms – my door tops bent away from the upright windowsills and caught every draught and many of the raindrops. I’m a big guy, and the seats aren’t adjustable so the steering wheel after a few hours was practically indented into my stomach. The steering itself has a lot of slack and I found myself veering a few feet from the straight and narrow every now and then. The Land Rover is basically a farm vehicle, inspired by the WWII Willys Jeep and has virtually no sound proofing, so when bombing along at 50mph, it’s very difficult to tell if the engine is in trouble. I had brought my iPod along to catch up on some Podcasts but couldn’t hear a thing because of the engine noise.

Anyway, enough background! I had the foresight to borrow a friend’s Sat Nav for the trip and thankfully it was fully charged as there was no cigarette lighter socket in this beast either.

Not long after my next pit stop, it started to get dark and rain quite a lot. So picture this: I’m rattling along with three layers of clothing on my top half but only a pair of jeans below. The heater is useless and it is -1C°. It is absolutely Baltic! I am regularly having near misses with 40ft container trucks (ironically many of these are Tesco trucks) and swept halfway across a lane by their draught. With no internal lighting and the constant drone, I could be in a WWII bomber and be more comfortable! The worst part is the piddling little windscreen wiper, which is comical to watch. It was indescribably slow and feeble – I must post a video of it in “operation”.

By the time I reached the outskirts of Birmingham, it was 1700hrs. I was now driving on fuel vapours as my petrol tank read lower than empty. I saw an exit at Walsall and made for it. Only three or four hundred yards away, I could see a petrol station – I was having some real luck. I filled the tank and went inside to pay. When I returned, the engine wouldn’t even turn over. Conscious of my tight schedule, I ran inside the shop again to ask for help. A Muslim chap in full gear helped me push the Landie about twenty feet up the incline on the busy forecourt so that I could attempt a jump-start. No success, and now I was parked perpendicular to the pumps and in everyone’s way. I had no other option but to call the AA. After a few calls and texts, and only seventeen minutes, the AA arrived. I was really delighted with the quick service. He figured out pretty quickly and rigged up a quick electrical fix with a wire running from the alternator to just beside the battery which would entail me touching the battery terminal with this wire every time I started the engine so that the battery would charge – it would get me home!  Off I went “under my own steam” – thanks again AA!

Predictably, around 25 miles from Liverpool, my Sat Nav ran out of battery power. I had been nervously watching it flash up “Low Power” warnings for about 20 miles and had been willing it to last just a little longer – but it was gone. The last thing I read on its screen was take the Merseyside turn off at Junction 22. I hoped that I could find my own way from there.

I managed to navigate successfully and found myself at 2000hrs parked in a queue in the ferry compound. There was an hour to wait before boarding and I was too worried about the engine not starting again to turn it off. This was my coldest moment. The windows on all four sides were icing up and I had to keep my hands in my pockets just to keep them warm. Almost an hour later and we were on the move down towards the ferry. The scariest part now was the 45° drive up onto the deck of the ship. It was a very narrow ramp – with my steering play and my lack of experience with the engine, I wasn’t sure I could make it at all, but I had come this far…

I was really happy to climb out of the car and into the heat of the ship. It took about thirty minutes to stop shivering. I had a fantastic and very welcome hot meal and nodded off. I was still dubious about whether she would start the following morning, but my fears were unfounded, and at 0745, I rolled down the very steep ramp and into Belfast Harbour Estate. I was home.

I’ve had a few runs in the Land Rover since I got home but the road tax ran out in February and the clutch has now gone. I will have her towed to Newtownards in the next few weeks to get her fixed up for the MOT in October.

I plan after that to take the van section off and fit her with a truck cab/pick up-style arrangement – but I’ll need to find one first.

All in all, a great but nerve-racking experience. 

Me, Ben & Jerry, Ernest & Julio, Tony & Carmella Partying!

Me, Ben, Jerry, Tony, Carmella, Ernest and Julio are having a party tonight!

It’s been a real shitty week and I thought I’d celebrate in style.

Phish Food and Zinfandel White Grenache are on the menu, although I’ll probably fall asleep on the sofa before too long.

Entertainment provided by Tony and the guys at the Bada Bing.

There’s got to be an easier way to earn a living than this…

Food retail management – it’s what happens when you don’t work hard enough at school.

Summerhouse, Shed, Refuge, Escape…Paradise!
August 14, 2008, 11:12 pm
Filed under: Family, Fun, I Want One!, Life, Stress, Work Life Balance | Tags: , ,

I want of of these. Mine will have a big soft recliner, be wired for electricity, have a wireless connection, a good coffee maker and a big bolt on the door!

I’m considering planting some shrubbery between where it will be sited and the house, to provide some seclusion. I know I will need to earn a serious amount of brownie points between now and next summer to spend this sort of cash, but I’m determined to be in position by next May.

I may have to resort to a City Break in Amsterdam or Paris to sweeten the deal but I’m sure she’ll see things my way.

Isn’t it beautiful?