Category Archives: Friends

Things can only get better…

Do you remember the heady delights of my recent past ? I certainly do. Such memories!

Things slowly levelled out once I got my new job. After ending up with all cards, accounts and overdrafts maxed whilst trying to keep our heads above the water line I thought things were finally working out….

Sure, we’re living one month to the next whilst getting back on our feet, but we are in a position where we (thought) we could see light at the end of the tunnel – Oh how I laugh!

You see, the Almighty (must be one, because blind bad luck just isn’t this constructive) took me saying “At least it can’t get any worse…” as a challenge. As per usual, the Omnipotent one has been playing with a marked deck….

I got a trip to America recently with the new company – It was business, but so cool too! A new experience for me. On the weekend of my return some numpty idiot driver decided to try and drive through a solid object… that object being my wife and Alex in Bernie  (The Berlingo….. not my idea…).

That wrote the car off, so we had to get another car…. bear in mind we live from month to month with no spare cash…..

During the time the claim was being investigated we were supplied a courtesy car – a rather lovely Golf TDi… We were told that once the claim was settled we would have the car for 8 days after receiving the money so we had time to buy a new car… 8 days… that’s a bit of a push!

The Golf TDi... I want one!

The Golf TDi... I want one!

After the fuss of claiming for the car crash (the other party admitted it all) we finally had the cheque sent to us… BUT we were then told that the courtesy car had to go back 8 days after the claim was settled…. which means settled – post cheque – 3 days -, clear cheque – 5 days, have money to buy car… 8 days after settling… HANG ON… that’s the day we give the courtesy car back! We have just one day to buy a car!

I dropped Chris at work last weekend and my Mother in Law came up to help look after Alex as we toured car lots looking for cars. I didn’t want to go private as I only had enough money for a deposit until the cheque cleared, and I also wanted some warranty – so trade sales were the way forward.

As I only had the day to buy a car, I decided to look for 2 types of car. A long distance car for me, or a town car for Chris. We need two cars, so at least if I could get one of those I’d be in a better position – and it gave me double the options on my 1 day shopping trip…

The first car I looked at was okay… the place it was being sold from was okay…. and then we checked out a list of other cars throughout the whole day…..

Each new place had a dodgier car and dodgier sales people…. it was futile! We ended up at some guys house. He had three cars in various states of dirt, grime and rust… and a big old scar on his face…. he seemed honest enough, I’ll give him that, but I just didn’t feel this was right… not from his driveway instead of a sales lot!

A Cowboy yesterday

A Cowboy about to sell a car yesterday

So the day ended with me planning to go back to that very first car… much like a lady going shoe shopping….. Spend all day and then choose shoe number 1….

All the places had shut, so I would have to go back to car number one the following day. All that was left to do was to pick Chris up from work.

On the way back from her work I decided to take a 2 minute detour to pass a place I knew from years ago – a place I had bought a car from before….

YES!!! You are right!!! There wasn’t one available.

We drove off……

… only to find Farnham Carriage Company on the same road… a place I didn’t know existed…a supermarket car park sized lot full of cars!!!

It was closed, but unlocked so we took a walk around. Nothing…. until we realised the cars carried on around the corner of the lot and into the distance… and still nothing…. until we saw a small purple Ford Fiesta…..

57,000 miles on the clock. Spotless interior. All original. Engine bay was spotless – even the fabric wadding under the bonnet was in mint condition! All that for £995…..

I called the guy and said I’d be back….

We pick “Filbert” up tomorrow….

“Hurrah!” I hear you cry! Things are working out for you! A random chance at a random place and you spot a car! Bravo….

Yes… you’d be right to think that…. but the wise would think that this must just be a part of a greater plan to set me up for a fall… Offer me a chair and then whip it away as I sit down…

Thursday night We settle down to go to bed. I have the Doctors the next day as I have a really bad ear ache (5 days, getting worse… lots of pain – silly to go to work as I was dizzy and really not thinking straight – but I work through stuff that isn’t contagious.. if I can).

At 1.30am Chris notices the bed is wet… and it isn’t either of us (yet) or the mental pussy cat that sleeps at that spot…… a glance at the ceiling shows it bulging down a good 4 inches… dripping away….

Trouble - The Mental Pussy Tat - (Blergh)

"Trouble" - The Mental Puddy Tat

OH CARP!!!

I quickly go into the loft (for the first time in ages) and see sodden wood frames and a dripping ball cock valve… I quickly wrap tape tightly around the valve to stem he drip… but really… this little drip is nothing…. it’s the time it has been dripping that was the problem…

Chris calls out that she needs to change buckets (as she was on bucket duty in the bedroom… drip catching). She says severla leaks have started… it only takes a slight touch and another leak appears…. the ceiling is on the very edge of letting go…

I run to Alex’s room, tip all of his toys from a huge toy bucket (half a bath size.. lots of noise, yet he carried on snoring!) and put it under the massed holes. Chris held it as I went rapidly stabbing the lowest part of the bulge…

A good 15 Gallons of dirty, fibre glass, wood, nails and plaster brown stinking water rushed out of the golf ball sized hole….

Further inspection in the loft showed that it was a matter of seconds before the ceiling would have collapsed… the whole panel was sodden and pulp.

Swollen Wood

I shut the water off outside (we didn’t have a tool at first…. then realised that last year the shut off was changed to a modern unti that can be done by hand….). Flushed the toilet, let taps run… released as much weight and water from the loft as possible.

Chris called up the Lloyds TSB Premier customer hotline as we have emergency cover with them….. they couldn’t get a guy out until 8am!!! NICE! That’s emergency for you….

I felt rubbish. It was 3.30am, I was coughing due to the damp and fibreglass. My ear was pounding…Sleep was near impossible so I chatted a while on Twitter whilst Chris got some shut eye. The wonderful ShoeGal007 chatted with me for a while and kept me sane. Twitter is such a lifesaver at times. As I’ve said before, it’s like a big social gathering of friends, colleagues and the Yellow pages! If you want to know something, then you just ask – or you can just chat away!

I got to sleep and shortly woke to go to work… but it didn’t take long to realise that that wasn’t going to happen. Admitting defeat I called in… I wasn’t happy.

A further call to Lloyds TSB and we found the next emergency plumber would be available after lunch, and not at 8am…. so I cancelled him. I had seen where the leak was, and knew it was a two minute job.

See…. It can’t get any worse….

We went out and brought a 12p washer…. and the job was done. All that was left was the wrecked ceiling, sodden storage boxes in the loft and the mouse poop….

WHAT? Mouse poop?

Yup… after the flood I noticed nibbled boxes in the loft space…. and clucters of mouse poop everywhere. Of we went to get mouse traps and sonic repellents to try and fix that problem…

No idea yet as to what the next move will be. We have insurance assessors due to look at the damaged ites, and surveyoys to check out the building itself, but then I don’t know…. I’ve never been here before!

I’ve never claimed any insurance before in my life until the last 3 weeks….. then house and car come along at once!

I’ll tell you what though – I’m not even going to hint at “Things can only get better…” because I’m sure some all seeing being will just take me up on that challenge….


Eye Opening America

My new job has lead me to be in America for a few days…(The photo’s are all HERE)

It’s my own fault really – I admitted to knowing about a product we are looking into, and also that I have Quality Engineering qualifications & experience. Next thing you know I’m sat on a British Airways Boeing 747-400 at Heathrow and chugging off down the runway to start the long haul flight to Seattle.

I had an idea that the trip was coming up, but I didn’t realise that it would be at such short notice. We had 3 working days to sort it all out – Transportation, Flights, Hotels – and all the various forms needed to do the trip.

I’ve not “done” America before – nor have I flown for more than 90 minutes – so no matter what the trip was about, it was going to be an adventure and learning curve. The only advice I was given was “Order small – don’t go for the medium or large meals” – So I took that info in.

I woke at 6am on Tuesday 12th May and went into work as per usual. Just before midday I went back home to meet up with the taxi that would take me and my work colleague (KM) to Heathrow.

The taxi ride was uneventful and we arrived at Terminal 5 with time to kill. We had booked in on line and also filled in all the immigration paperwork on-line. We only had hand luggage so went straight through check in and grabbed a coffee as we waited to be called. All very painless and smoothly done – T5 seems to have learnt a lot from the previous terminals.

At around 3pm (UK) we got comfy on the aircraft… well, as comfy as economy will allow a 6’4″ guy to be! Luckily we had booked ahead so we had seats in the rear of the aircraft where the body narrows, so instead of three abreast we had a double. It didn’t offer more legroom, but it did mean I could stretch out to one a bit due to a slight gap between the seat in front and the side of the aircraft. If you look at the picture You’ll see row 52. We were in the seats on the right (last but one row – I was window side).

We trundled off down the runway and started our trip up towards Scotland, then over Iceland, Greenland and on past Canada into America. Around 9 hours flight time…. and with an 8 hour difference in time we landed 1 hour after we took off….

The views were extraordinary – I’ve not seen anything like it before. Icebergs and frozen land masses bigger than you can imagine. I had to take a few photo’s to try and show those who haven’t done it before how great it is.

Eventually we get to Seattle at 5pm (1am UK) and 5pm. Now it was a case of finding the hire car company and driving a further 120 miles to Woodland PA where the motel I had booked was situated (I was a bit nervous about a few things with the motel…. Firstly, it was a motel… secondly, I had no real idea of what it was like, apart from a Googlemap Streetview that showed it right next to a motorway….).


The hire car was a Toyota Prius – A car that does what it has to do (don’t call it an eco-car… it’s far from being an eco-car). It was a bit weird to get into the wrong side of a near silent car and drive out on the wrong side of the road at what should’ve been 1am and dark out – but was actually now 5pm and bright sun… The Prius is an odd beast… No key as such, just a block you shove into a hole. You start it by pressing a button at the same time as the gas… then you burn a goat and select drive… and select drive…. and look for the handbrake… and try to select drive…. Look – we were tired and had never been in one before!

KM drove the 2hr trip down the I-5 to Woodland. The sun was out and we felt refreshed as we went past what would have been 2am and 3am in the UK…

Eventually after driving through some immense scenery we arrived at Woodlands WA at the Lewis River Inn. First glance was that it wasn’t on a motorway – just a normal wide American road… very wide. Probably called a lane out in America…. or a Motorway in the UK…..

After booking in we took our first look at the rooms…. or tried to. The electronic swipe cards didn’t work, so I went and changed them. They still didn’t work so KM went and changed them – This time a Motel person came up to the 2nd floor rooms to see if we were just being daft….

Using the new key cards my door opened up, but KM still had a problem…. a problem that was rectified by him walking a few strides to the left and trying the card in the correct door…. We were tired, okay?!

The room was huge…. Proper huge. So much bigger than a Holiday Inn or similar – looking at about twice the size. big TV, full size fridge (full size for the UK….) and a view… oh Lord what a view!

I had booked two balcony rooms overlooking the river. I thought if the weather was good I could sit out and read in the evening, or catch up with my work notes. I didn’t expect too much of a view – and was proven wrong! Great rooms, great views! Best place I have ever stayed in – and that is no word of a lie.

We dropped our bags in our rooms – splash of water on our faces and then went in search of food. The search lasted 30 seconds… Mexican restaurant across the street…..

I remembered to not order big helpings, and I am so glad I was told this advice. This picture shows KM tucking into his meal… It was just a regular meal…. I chose the Tres Amigos chile with three samplers of different dishes on it… HA!! these Americans obviously don’t know the difference between “SAMPLER” and “FULL BLOWN MEAL”, as I was given a plate like a dustbin lid with enough food for a small army…. or at least a family of 4 from Europe.

That night I saw the pillow but was asleep before I hit it… Over 25hrs since I had last slept had finally taken its toll on me.

On the second day on American soil we set about planning the audit. It was a wet day, so we started with a breakfast at Rosie’s Restaurant (www.rosiesrestaurantusa.com). This would become the daily haunt for our morning food – and on the final day it would provide me with my last big taste of America.

As with all the eateries we hit, Rosie’s had great service. It was fast and polite – You didn’t even get fully sat down before the iced water and coffee hit the table – and that never dropped below half a cup as it was always being topped up.

We did a little shopping in the local stores before heading back to the Motel to get to work on the audit notes. After we had completed that it was getting late, so we went for a short drive and then went for food. Nothing special on this night – just a burger at a chain burger restaurant – and although they were tasty they lacked a certain Americaness. The regular burger was the same size as a UK Big Mac…. and the Colossus Burger was… well, the same size again. Nothing eye opening about that at all.

The following morning we headed out across to the company we had to audit. I can’t really go much into that as it is business related, but I can say the company were very helpful and accomadating and went out of there way to make sure we had everything we needed. One guy (hey Dave!) also pointed us in the direction of a WalMart (so we could try a bit more Americana). After the days auditing we washed up and went off to WalMart to find out what the fuss was all about…

It had to be the first time I expected to see the curvature of the earth within one shop! The building was huge – and cheap. I guess with lower land prices it is easy to put out better prices and have larger shops. WalMart is pretty much a UK Tesco hypermarket, Homebase hypermarket, HM Supplies hypermarket, Halfords hypermarket etc all wrapped into one brand store…

Our evening meal at an American Restaurant (Oak Tree). A good sized meal with another American dish to finish off… Apple Pie. Let’s face it, we had a packed business trip, so I had to try and get as much as I could out of the limited downtime.

The final day we ate once more at Rosie’s – and as this was the last day I figured I’d see if Rosie’s would serve a burger up as a breakfast item… silly question really as they do. I saw they had no 1/4lb burgers on the menu – the smallest was a 1/3lb burger. Well… 1/3 is pretty big, but they also had 2/3lb burgers… the biggest was a double 2/3lb burger!  Yup… 1 1/3lb in one bun! I didn’t go for that as I wanted a single patty of meat instead of the stacked things that just fall apart. My answer was in a 1lb burger!!! It was the size of a UK dinner plate and full of a succulent burger with a great relish and salad. I had to cut it in half to eat it – so two 1/2lb parts! I managed the whole thing quite easily as it was so darn tasty!

Following on from breakfast we went to the company we were auditing to collect some more paperwork they were putting together for us. After a wrap up meeting it was time to head back to the airport. We had a few hours to spare, so we detoured off of the I5 and went via the recommended Mount Saint Helens as we made our way to Seatac airport (Once more – thanks to Dave for that pointer – much appreciated).

Mount Saint Helens… as it came into view it was awe inspiring. I’m afraid there really isn’t much to say… even the pictures do not do it any credit. All my senses just over loaded as we drove up the surrounding mountains to various parking areas with viewing points. Looking down 2,500ft to the roads and forests below just didn’t seem real – it looked like a diorama from a museum. The huge vastness of the whole area simply destroyed any perspective I had.

Our altitude was just insignificant as my mind had trouble getting around what it could see. In fact as we drove higher up it looked even more surreal. At one point we were stood on a brick wall 3,800ft over a valley and it didn’t seem to register! Pretty much overloaded with everything else to be worried!

At the furthest point of our detour we visited Coldwater Lake. This was another place that gave me a sensory over load. The place was not just quiet – it was silent. No telephone signals, no gift stores, no public… just us…No noise… nothing. No wind, no trees, no water burbling… just nothing. It’s so hard to even describe what total silence is like. You can’t put your fingers in your ears to experience it either, as you’ll hear the blood rushing and pulsing within your head…. nope…. Coldwater Lake was something else. A volcanic lake of the clearest green/blue melted ice water – It was beautiful.

As we carried on our trip to Seatac airport we stopped over for lunch at a Wendy’s. It was in the car park that I suddenly realised one of the things that had been playing on my mind for the whole trip…. the fact that there is a whole lot of sky. Everything is so spread out – even in the built up areas – that you are very aware of the unbroken views you had of the sky. It made the whole pace seem even bigger. Amercican cars, roads, homes etc may seem really big compared to the UK, but when it cames down to it they do not look out of place in America, where the roads, cars and homes look so very small compared to the environment they are in.

I cannot really explain my thoughts in one blog page – for once I am at a loss – but there was a final helping hand from the view out of the airliner window as we came in to land in England….

As we turned to land the altitude display in the seat in front of me showed we were at 3,800ft…. I took a photo out of the window and suddenly it clicked…. not 12 hours earlier I was stood on a brick wall at around the same altitude looking at Mount Saint Helens and down on the miniature forests and towns below…. The difference was that I was now in an aircraft with no ground under my feet… I had perspective… and we were damned high up. In the air above the UK the altitude made sense… the sheer size of the St Helens view focused a bit better…

As I had only taken a carry on bag with me I had very little room for gifts. All Chris wanted was a selected of candy that was very American and seen in movies – and for Alex it had to be a car!

A saviour of the trip was the fact I had my Mac with me. I set it up with Skype so I was able to talk to, and see, Chris and Alex back in the UK. It was using this that Chris told me about her viral infection… Her head had inflated over night and she was badly swollen, although by the time I got back it had gone down a fair amount.

The following day after my arrival back in the UK she took Alex out shopping whilst I slept in to try and catch up on sleep. I woke up as she came back in the house with a few of her friends from work… I woke to her calling upstairs that she had been in a car crash! The Berlingo had been smashed into at a junction – the fault was admitted by the other driver, but the car is not drivable now, and at this stage we have no idea if it will be repairable….. the insurance wheels are turning as I type…


The Tweeters Bullet Points

I have written a more IN DEPTH narrative twitter guide HERE – but for a quick reference I have also written this bullet point guide (below).

The Quick Tweet Guide

When using the main Twitter web page (HOME), these are some basic points:

I shall use my twitter name for the examples (LucasBlack)

NOTE: When a message is displayed in Twitter, it automatically has the senders name at the start.

E.g: LucasBlack This is my simple guide to using twitter. I hope it helps.

Tweets are made from 140 characters (including spaces… so think before you type!)

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To write something in general (not to anyone in particular):

Type in the box and hit UPDATE.

E.g: LucasBlack Well I’ve arrived at work for another day. I really fancy a cup of tea.

Notes:

Everyone can read this.

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To write a message to a specific person:

Type the persons tweet name with an @ attached to the front as the very first part of the message. Hit UPDATE.

e.g: LucasBlack @ionacosmetics Hi there, I hope you like this guide enough to share with other people.

Notes:

Only the people following you and following the person who it is addressed to will see this on the main page

Because of the @ at the start, this message will flag up in the persons @REPLIES tab.

These are not private messages, as others can see them by using the search function – see my narrative twitter guide HERE for more help with SEARCH

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To write a message to only one person (a private message):

Type a D then space then the persons tweet name at the very start of the message. Hit UPDATE.

e.g: LucasBlack D ionacosmetics Hi there, I have a secret that I can only tell you. This is how I would do it.

Notes:

No matter what is written, only the person sending and receiving the message can see what is in the message.

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To REPLY to a  message:

Click the little arrow icon that appears at the end of the message you are replying to (it will appear when you move your mouse over the end of the message)

e.g: LucasBlack I am replying using the reply function so you know what I am replying to.

Notes:

Reply should be used as it lets people know WHAT you are replying to. There is more in the other guide.

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How to write a message to an individual that can also be seen by everyone else too:

Type something BEFORE the @ sign (e.g – Hey!), then type the persons name and message. Hit UPDATE.

e.g: LucasBlack Hey everyone, and especially @ionacosmetics. I hope you like my guide!

Notes:

The moment you start a message with ANYTHING other than D or @ it becomes a public message. Although you have mentioned the person in the tweet, it WILL NOT show in their @Replies tab.

Don’t believe me? Look in your Twitter Web @Replies tab – All of the tweets will start with @YourName

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How to tell your followers about other people they might like to follow:

Type something BEFORE the @ sign, then type the persons name and message. Hit UPDATE.

e.g: LucasBlack Hey everyone, Why not follow @hedgemag and @howlingwolf50 as they have some good stuff to say.

Notes:

This is just like the previous message to an individual.

It works because mentioning anyone’s name with an @ attached to the front will allow people to click the name and go to that persons twitter page.

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How to repeat (retweet or RT) a tweet message you thought was great:

Type RT then @ and the name of the person whose tweet you are repeating, then the message. Hit UPDATE.

e.g: RT @hedgemag ME! ME! I want to be in your great blog!”


Notes:

By typing RT you are crediting the person in the message. It is the polite thing to do, as it wasn’t your material.

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If you want to have a message retweeted:

Leave enough characters so the next person who wants to retweet your message can add RT @YOURNAME (and a space) to the start of the message.

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Well, that covers a fair few of the bases. If you want to know more, or want to add more to this list, then please let me know.

For better twittering – and easier in my opinion, why not use iTweet. It was recommended to me by the great @belindaang

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There is also a more narrative and in depth guide that I have written HERE.

This includes how to use hash tags and how to post pictures.

Other advice can be found by following DaivRawks or myself (LucasBlack)

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The Cycling Mayor

When I was going through my childhood years I was lucky enough to have some of my best friends on the same street. One such friend was a girl who lived across the road from me. We did all the things kids would do – although some things stick in my memory… Like playing “Colony” on the ZX-Spectrum whilst listening to Paul Simon’s Gracelands!

She was always very talented (arts and music skills that astounded me – I only wished to be so good!). Even as a kid I knew that she was in a different class and would end up doing major things with her life!

Jennifer Trotman is currently the Deputy Mayor of Axbridge. In May 2009 she will become the Mayor (I knew it – I bloody told you she’d do major things with her life!). One of her activities is cycling – and she is now raising money doing this.

From her web page:

As Mayor of Axbridge, my nominated Charity will be Action Medical Research.

I hope to raise £2500 for them by cycling from London to Paris in July as well as raising further funds throughout the rest of my Mayoral year.

So without further ado I would like to do her a favour and spread the word of…

THE CYCLING MAYOR

and get some money moving towards that good cause.


Why Men don’t write advice columns

I was sent this by a good friend of mine and I had to share it! Many thanks Irosh Peiris!

Why Men Don’t Write Advice Columns


Walter’s Agony Column.

Dear Walter,

I  hope you can help me here. The other day, I set off for work leaving my husband in the house watching the TV as usual.  I hadn’t driven more than a mile down the road when the engine conked out and the car shuddered to a halt.  I walked back home to get my husband’s help. When I got home I couldn’t believe my eyes. He was in our bedroom with the neighbours daughter.  I’m 41, my husband is 44, and the neighbours daughter is 22.

We have been married for ten years. When I confronted him, he broke down and admitted that they had been having an affair for the past six months. I told him to stop or I would leave him.  He was let go from his job six months ago and he says he has been feeling increasingly depressed and worthless. I love him very much, but ever since I gave him the ultimatum he has become increasingly distant.  He won’t go to counselling and I’m afraid I can’t get through to him any more.

Can you please help?
Sincerely,

Sheila

……………………………………………………………………………………….

Dear Sheila,


A car stalling after being driven a short distance can be caused  by a variety of faults with the engine.  Start by checking that there is no debris in the fuel line. If it is clear, check the vacuum pipes and hoses on the intake manifold and also check all grounding wires.  If none of these approaches solves the problem, it could  be that the fuel pump itself is faulty, causing low delivery pressure to the injectors.

I hope this helps,
Walter

Colour me blogged

My blog has slowly turned into something other than what it was when it started. Does this mean I am finding my blog feet, or simply moving away from what it was intended to be in the first place?

A bit of both is the answer. Back when it was just close friends and family it was a small focused thing – although not that well polished. Time has moved on and although some may say it still isn’t that well polished, I think it has grown (No one has said that yet – but hey, I’m given you the benefit of the doubt!).

The number of hits has grown beyond anything I would have expected for what is really the scribbles of an unknown guy. Originally intended as a journal about things affecting me and the family for my son to look back on when he is older, it has expanded into my views on situations and events – things I like and dislike – rants and raves. This still hits the originally intention on the head though, because the blog is still very much me – and I want him to look back and see what I was like.

The thing that has changed is that I have either started writing in a way that total strangers find readable and entertaining – OR the things I write about are meeting with a relevance that people are looking for….. or once again, a mixture of both.

This has caused me to think about the way I write though. I enjoy it, and as others are enjoying it I want to try and give that little bit extra – to tailor it to a broader reader range but still keep it real and “Me”.

Yes – I’m really enjoying this blogging thing now – and all that goes with it. I’m meeting people I would never have met, trying things I would never have tried – and I want to share that….I want to pay it forward!

Web media is a continually growing thing. Twitter for instance is one of the newer tools of social micro bloggery – a simple 140 character blog entry that is followed directly by your Twitter friends. The number of people I am following – and those that follow me – is increasing. I’m not one of these people that add loads of names just so I look popular – not in a long shot – I add people who genuinely interest me, or who I think I would be happy to talk to in real physical life (remember that?).

Due to the 140 character limit Twitter does seem to miss the abuse and arguments that you get on a lot of forums. I think it is due to the intellect needed to get your comment across in so few words – and also the fact that tweets (the actual mini-blog-tect-message things you type on Twitter) are so fast moving conversationally that by the time you want to argue with someone the whole conversation has been left behind already! This is a good thing!

I feel lucky to have joined up with the people I follow, and who follow me. Lots of knowledge, views and friendship in sound bites and bullet points – just right for an active mind!

You can tweet me: @Lucas_Black (http://twitter.com/Lucas_Black)


Christmas Phoenix smiles

Saved by a little lads smiles!

Generally we leave Christmas shopping until November/December, but during our various shopping trips through the year we had spotted items in sales or discounted for whatever reasons that Alex would love (things weren’t bought just because they were discounted, they were bought because Alex would love them AND they were a great deal).

Seeing some of Alex’s favourite things at such good prices throughout the year made it worth snapping them up and putting to one side for Christmas – which was lucky considering the particular position we have found ourselves in.

Chris and I were unable to buy each other anything, let alone any one else, so we were thankful for our early buys for Alex – we couldn’t have him miss out.

We chose correctly it appears, as Alex was so happy with all his little gifts. Over the months we had built up two stockings full of small toy cars.

Chris had wrapped each car individually so Alex would have to unwrap them all. He is into unwrapping at the moment, so he thoroughly enjoyed ripping into these toys.

Next up was his big present – and by that I mean largest. It was a work bench with tools and a car engine he can strip and build. He was straight onto the tools as soon as he saw them – he’s seen me use my tools, so he knew just what to do. In no time the car that came with this work bench was stripped and in pieces…and then back together again!

The box this came in was perfect for all the wrapping paper and paper waste to go into (although the wrapping paper still managed to litter the floor – but it is Christmas, so who cares!).

More car toys followed as Alex opened up a couple of small Hot-Wheels (and similar) kits. He also had a Hot-Wheels battery operated race track (cars are launched around a track by rubber wheels). Once more, discounted items due to box damage! A slight tear in the packaging and it was half price!!! As soon as the paper came off it the box was ripped to shreds anyway – so a great bargain… and greatly appreciated by Alex!

His Police Station set has trap doors and ramps all over it – which Alex soon discovered to his happy surprise!

Later in the afternoon Granny and Granddad came over. Alex loves seeing them, as you can see (as do Chris and me of course!)!

They had bought over some more gifts for Alex, from them and some more of the family. Play-doh, water whistles, more cars, toy fishing sets, DVD and…. oh dear Lord…..an electronic drum set…. Really! What have we done to deserve that?!!!

Anything that can make a noise or has wheels and you can gaurantee that Alex will love it – and be occupied by it for a long time… but a drum set…. ha ha!!!! I guess we’ve bought noisy toys for people before, so it is payback time!

After Granny and Granddad had left, Alex carried on playing and running around – right up until he started getting heavy eye lids…. but he didn’t want to quit.

It all ended in tears as the excitement and tiredness collided!!! What didn’t help was his habit of wanting to wash all his cars in the bath when he first gets them! This time there were far too many cars to be carried – so he ended up dropping and fumbling the cars – which just upset him even more (poor lad!). Once he was in the bath though he was a lot happier – after all, he had his water flutes and modelling foam soap!!! By the time he got to bed he was dead on his feet – bless him!

Chris had put on snacks during the day and then did a great Christmas dinner in the evening. Unfortunately by the time we thought about dinner, Alex had burnt out and had gone to bed… so we’ll have to have another Christmas lunch today (ah boo!).

Many thanks to everyone for the well wishing and presents for Alex – he had a great day, and his laughter and big grin gave Chris and myself the greatest present we could have hoped for – a very happy son.

...Alex discovers the mic! CAT CAT PFFFFF CHRISTMAS Ha Ha!!!

Not wanting to miss out, one of the cats gave us a present, at 01:34am…

I was awake (still suffering from the bad back and lack of sleep) and noticed a certain “burning rubbery” aroma in the room. My sense of smell isn’t great, so I asked Chris if she could smell anything…. The next 10 minutes had us looking around the house for the gift… which turned up under the couch in Alex’s bedroom…. Very quietly and carefully, and by the soft light of the iPhone, the “present poop” was cleaned up, whilst a foot away from us was a sleeping Alex!

iPhone Poop Assist….. is there anything it can’t do?


Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year

Well, considering what has happened, I am still looking forward to Christmas.  We already had presents ready for Alex before the recent problems, so it will be a joy in itself to see him tear into his gifts and hear him laugh and squeak in delight!

As for you, be you a regular reader of my blog, an irregular one (they can do wonders with cosmetic surgery you know) – a friend, family member or total stranger – I wish you a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous New Year…. yes… definitely a wish to all for a prosperous New Year!

As a Christmas experiment I am mentioning AlphaInventions. This is a blog focused idea set up to increase blog coverage and, well – if it works it could do all sorts of things… although I’m not sure how it works – so participating may yield some answers….


Kane unable, stubble and watery visions

Not a great deal to blog about at the moment…well, lots of “bitsy” stuff.

Firstly, I shall take this blogatunity to wish Jon Kane a very happy birthday. A great chap who among other things has opened up a few more computing and net options to me – all giddyingly exciting stuff! (honest!). His blog can be found in my links to the left (his blog is called “Writersbloc”).

Why is there not much going on? Well it’s my back. Getting better in leaps and bounds (not actual leaps and bounds, as that would really hurt still!). The main problem is sitting and twisting. I have reduced upper mobility and am not able to drive – even if I could sit long enough! As it is, I can passenger in a car (with only slight pain) for about the same distance I can easily walk… so I walk (much better for me and Mother Earth!).

The Leki “Speed Pacer Vario” Nordic poles are getting a fair bit of mileage, and it’s getting me in shape. If ever I get a serious injury or illness, I do my best during and post recovery to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In the case of my back, as it gets better I shall do all I can to make it better than before because I don’t want to be in this situation again.

The side effects of the bad back have been benefical – although the same results would have been obtained without a bad back! The physio and Nordic Walking are giving me cardio and fat burning exercise which has resulted in me reducing my waist line by an easy 5 inches! Yup, that much!

Over 10kg lighter and getting trimmer to go along with that weight loss – at least that’s a good thing! It’s also less weight for my back to carry – hurrah! That’s what I mean about being better than before: I am strengthening my back, but also reducing load on it. I’m not going to have this injury happen again.

I’m glad the lake is so near though, as a good view really helps with making a long walk that bit more enjoyable.

It may have been a blog entry of bits and pieces, but it does come around on itself…. You see Jon introduced me to WordPress as a blog host, and also pointed me at Twitter. He also gave Will King some internettery ideas (www.shaveforum.com), of which I play a part (I admin and/or moderate a few web spaces in my spare time). I met Will through sharing feedback about his Azor – which in turn lead to me being introduced to Jon. The King of Shaves site and my new blog home, along with my need for a new phone, lead me to the iPhone (good for web admin and blogging on the go). The iPhone in turn has kept me relativly sane during my recovery as I can use it without having to sit at a computer (I am horizontal as I write this!).. General surfing lead me to Green Tea which has been very benefical, and it also lead me to Nordic Walking and more sanity saving freedom with the ability to go for a walk…and in turn getting my blog followers 10% discount at “The Tortoise and the Hare” sports store (see top left for details).

So it’s all interlinked in a gumbo of bits and bobs. All things that if they hadn’t of happened would have me not blogging, not walking, and going insane with lack of mobility and some form of mental and physical respite from my bad back!

It’s a strange wave we surf when the butterfly flaps its wings…

“Happy Birthday” Jon!


Picky, but easy.

It’ll be a Christmas for kids this year. Credit crunch and reduced sick pay (Grrrrr) means things are a bit tight. It also means I’m pretty upset – but I leave that for now, as I’m angry too.

Luckily Alex has very simple, but specific tastes. He loves his toy cars, and I mean loves them! He doesn’t care if he has two or three the same, as long as they are realistic. Yup, he’s picky too! He isn’t keen on toy cars that look like toys. Matchbox type cars are top billing for him – and as the supermarkets have own brand cars for low prices, I can’t grumble!

Today after Physio we did a little shopping – Sainsbury’s are doing toys 1/2 price at the moment, so we picked up a half price “Little Tykes” car mechanics set, with bench, tools and engine/car to work on – but don’t tell Alex, as it’s his Christmas present!

Alex was treated to a couple of car sets – under £3 the lot! They kept him occupied whilst Chris did the heavy work and loaded up the trolley with the work bench! Usually on a shopping trip Alex will get one toy car as a treat, and that keeps him happy for the duration – and these two box sets did their job perfectly…. maybe too perfectly, as he held them all the time, even in the car on the way home…where he fell asleep still holding them tightly!

As for my back, I can feel things getting better – or at least changing for the better – so many thanks to Judith. A trained finger pressed in “just the right place” can be a very, very painful thing – so always keep your phsyiotherapist on side! Annoyingly though I hit a set back the other day as I sat up to eat. Whilst upright I sneezed, which has left my lower back aching constantly again, but also tightened up my shoulders and neck. Where I’ve been holding myself a  bit taut to avoid hurting my back, the sneeze jarred me a bit harder than the usual relaxed sneeze. A sneeze!!! Damn it!

If it wasn’t for a few things I’d be going mad! Chris and Alex keep me going (Alex is a real star as he keeps me smiling with his intensity as he plays!). The Nordic Walking gives me a bit of freedom, and physio from Judith keeps my recovery progressing (progressing is the thing here – if nothing was happening I’d be more than a bit worried). The iPhone just keeps me in touch with the World (cyber speaking, that is), with twitterings, textings, Facebook and blogging.


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