Thursday, December 17, 2009

Here is the News

I often read articles that ridicule the round-robin newsletters that people like to put in their Christmas cards to let their friends and far-flung family know what glorious activities they've been up to during the past year. Personally I enjoy receiving these, as more often than not we don't get to see these people anything like as regularly as we used to, and so I've never considered not compiling one to send out ourselves.

On the other hand, I can see that some people find them irritating when when they just seem to be an ostentatious vehicle for telling everyone how wonderful their lives are - you know the sort of thing; endless paragraphs on exotic travels or how little Johnny has achieved 10 A'Levels before his seventh birthday. Mmmm, I guess we might have been guilty of the former in the past.

So, this year I've gone for an opt-in newsletter. Those of you reading this will be here because you've stumbled upon this page by accident or you've chosen to come here having received our Christmas card. Or you're one of the very few people who check this blog for updates - a fruitless task for much of the year - so step forward and take a bow; PT and CyberKim.

Right, so where do we begin? Well, after returning from the family holiday in Aspen, where Emma completed her first black run and Oliver safely negotiated the Olympic slalom course on his potty...., right, now what have we really been up to?

Well for those of you who were reading last year, you may remember Lin had been made redundant towards the end of 2008. After a few months of effectively completing her maternity leave, Lin became a job-seeker in the spring. It was a pretty forlorn task to begin with, but after several fruitless weeks, opportunities began to arise, and by June Lin had three different job offers. She had no hesitation in taking up a post as part-time practice manager at a doctors' surgery in the centre of Tonbridge. The leap into the public sector, and particularly the NHS, has been quite a shock, but slowly but surely she is getting on top of things and starting to feel like she's achieving something.

Emma started her reception year at Woodlands Infant School in September. She was definitely ready for it, and has settled in very well. She's a typical four-year old; a real handful at home but an absolute angel at school apparently - although we think the teachers may have her confused with somebody else. She did surprise us all (and herself) back in May by winning first prize in the under 5 age group of the Plaxtol village duck race decorating competition - the judges said her effort actually looked like it was done by a four-year old without adult assistance, which was indeed the case - hers is the rubbish looking one with the yoghurt pot on its head in the picture below

Meanwhile Oliver is now 21-months old and an absolute delight. He has a very happy personality and is no little trouble at all - he sleeps 11 hours or more each night without any interruption, something he's been doing for many months now, and he eats just about anything we put in front of him. Until recently Lin's parents were looking after him while she was at work, but Lin's Mum is currently recovering from a hip replacement, so he now stays with a child-minder instead. That seems to be working out quite well - it gives him the chance to mix with other children of his own age.

As for me, well I still have a job. There have been some redundancies at work recently where colleagues of the last eight years have unfortunately been let go, but personally I'm in quite a secure position. As long as the popularity of X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing continues there will be plenty for me to do. If you read elsewhere in this blog you'll also see that a few of us at work decided to relive our youth and have a bash at forming a band. It's been great fun and we've all been surprised at how good we sound. No doubt psycho-analysts would attribute it to a mid-life crisis, but we certainly intend to continue next year. Lin, of course, is right in the middle of a whole series of gigs leading up to Christmas with the East Peckham Silver Band, having had a busy summer with them at various venues around the South-East.

As I write this the snow is falling heavily outside the window. No doubt Emma's school will be closed in the morning (Health and Safety: a child might slip over!) - a shame, the last day before the Christmas holiday. I think I'll pop out and take a nice photo for you all...... it is. Merry Christmas

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Still Rock 'n' Roll To Me

Well, we did it!

From our humble, uncertain beginnings in late July, the nine-piece TMC (Teligent Music Club) played our first gig on Friday - a benefit concert for Children in Need, that raised in excess of £200.

We settled on five songs that we've just about mastered; Make Me Smile, Wonderful Tonight, New Shoes (Paolo Nutini), Baker Street and Santa Clause is Coming to Town - all of which went down very well. In fact watching the DVD over the weekend, the musical performance was really good - although what we lack is a PA system, so trying to get nine instruments plus vocals mixed using a bundle of practice amps was a bit of a challenge.

So that's the first hurdle out of the way. We play another low-key private show for the WaGs in three weeks time, then we'll reconvene in the new year to start working on a whole load of new songs. Now that we have confidence in our musicianship I think we'll be getting a little more ambitious and even diverse - I'm floating the idea of trying Boz Scaggs - Lido Shuffle (wonderful synth solo for me to get my teeth into), and given the common musical taste I share with the vocalist (and first rhythm guitarist) I think some 70s Genesis or Floyd will get an airing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It's funny how watching the children grow up triggers long-lost memories of similar times in my own childhood. This week was Emma's first at infant school; reception year as they call it - effectively compulsory nursery school, as she's a full year younger than I was when I started school.

Dropping her off on Monday morning was always going to be unpredictable - would there be floods of tears, tantrums and wet knickers? And that's just from the mothers - I've never seen so many wearing dark glasses on an overcast day. Emma was absolutely fine, even though there was a look of trepidation in her eye. She had nothing to fear really; we were already aware that two of her best friends from nursery and play school were going to be in her class, so she was quick to settle in.

Inevitably there were some poor kids crying inconsolably; you don't know who to feel more sorry for - the child or the mother who can do or say nothing to make things any better. And then I remembered that I was like that child forty-something years ago, abandoned in a completely alien place and not knowing anybody. I can clearly recall screaming my eyes out as my Mother disappeared into the distance on her bike, rattling through the Sturmey-Archer 4-speed whilst pedalling like a Tour-de-France sprinter, and never looking back to see the emotional state I was in.

So I suppose we should be grateful that Emma is up bright and early every day (including the weekend) asking if it's time to go to school yet. Bless.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Something for Nothing

I was glancing through an email newsletter from late last night and for a change, something caught my eye: A BT I-Plate for £7.07. It turns out this simple little device connects to your BT master socket and boosts your broadband connection download speed in the region of 1.5Mbps. Since we live around two miles from the local exchange we're lucky to get anything much in excess of 1Mbps, so an improvement of this order would be very welcome.

The reviews seemed to confirm these claims were not excessive, with people falling over themselves to award maximum stars for the product, so I was naturally curious as to how it could achieve such results. A little bit of Googling later revealed how simple the process is: all the plate does is isolate the bell wire (pin 3) from your internal cabling. In the olden days, when we used phones with big metal bells in them, this wire was essential if you wanted the thing to actually ring, but much our appendix, it really serves no purpose these days. In fact its presence is detrimental, as it picks up loads of electical interference and reduces the quality of the signal on the other wires in the phone cable. This is why it is recommended to plug your broadband router directly into the master socket.

Unfortunately this isn't always possible - in our case the master socket is in the loft (lazy BT engineer years ago) so the router is at the end of about 10 metres of internal cable that weaves its way past ring main, lighting and heating systems - a recipe for poor signal to noise ratio. On the other hand, we're fortunate in that I installed a junction box immediately next to the master socket, connected by no more than six inches of cable, before fanning out to the extensions around the building.

So tonight I ran several speed tests at various sites (Moneysupermarket, for instance) and found that on average we were getting around .56Mbps download and .48Mbps upload. Very poor; much worse than I thought. I popped up into the loft, isolated the junction box from the master socket and removed the cover, then removed the bell wire at pin 3. With everything reconnected and a quick check to see that voice calls were still getting through, I rebooted the router. According to various comments, it takes two or three days for the router and exchange to settle on a new line speed, so I wasn't expecting anything too dramatic straightaway, but I couln't resist running the tests again. The result: 3.2Mbps down and .85Mbs up.

Astonishing. A simple, no-cost operation delivers nearly six-times the download speed, and in all likelihood it could get even better in the next 48 hours or so.

Emma will love it when she goes to cbeebies in the morning.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rock 'n' Roll!

I'm in a band. The last time I could say that was sometime in the last century, so this is a definite novelty. A few of us at work have been discussing this for a while, and finally we managed to get together for the inaugural Tuesday Night Music Club this week.

So far we have two guitarists, a drummer, a bassist (at least he will be once he's managed to win a bass on ebay), a keyboardist (that's me), a sax player and a violinist (both absent). We didn't actually play anything this week; we just had a very democratic meeting to suggest what we'd each like to practice. As a result it looks like we're going to be a jazz/soul fusion, heavy metal skiffle band. So prog rock it is. Oh, and nobody wants to do vocals.

We reconvene in two weeks time, having all perfected "Wonderful Tonight" hopefully, to see if any of us can actually remember how to play. If that's OK, we'll have a bash at "The Boys of Summer" - a song I've always fancied covering.

We already have our first booking: The office Christmas party - so we'll need to get a passable version of "I Believe in Father Christmas" in the setlist if I have my way (which I won't).

All we need now is a name and a MySpace page.....

Friday, May 08, 2009

Picture Perfect Morning

I've downloaded a blogging app for the iPhone called Blogpress. I figured with more mobility I might be able to post more regularly, especially as I was going away on business for a few days last week and would have copious hours to fill.

This turned out to be a false hope, only surpassed in its naivety by the fact that myself and two colleagues packed our golf clubs - these remained locked in the cars for five days.

So we had a pretty scary rollout - but it was the biggest hardware and software release we'd ever attempted. In amongst the 60+ hours spent getting the platform stable I did manage to visit my hotel room for an occasional sleep and snapped this picture from my window of the Shropshire Union Canal and the mountains of North Wales beyond.

Shame. It looked like a lovely day for a round of golf.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

St. Mary's Prayer

"It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand."
(Brian Stimpson (John Cleese) from the film "Clockwise")

It's forty-three years since my Dad took me to my first game at The Dell (a one-nil win against Crystal Palace). At the time we were living no further than a decent goal-kick from the Milton Road turnstiles and I had spent much of the 1965/66 season watching legions of red & white-clad men strolling past the front of the house every other Saturday - usually looking very happy, as this was the season that Saints would win promotion to the top tier for the first time in their history.

Why it was several years before my father took me to another game is not something I recall now; certainly the fact that we moved six miles up the road to Chandler's Ford would have had something to do with it, but perhaps my apparent lack of enthusiasm at that first game might have been the real reason - I sat on the wall by the players' entrance for the whole game asking when the ice creams were coming round. I was only four years old. Nevertheless, some sort of spell had been cast on me: I was now a Southampton supporter. In hindsight, maybe it was a curse.

It's probably worth taking this opportunity to admit to a period of unfaithfulness. There's a loosely quoted rule that goes something like "You can change your girlfriend or your job, but you can never change your football club". The fact that female liaisons and any semblance of a professional career were not to trouble me for many years might just give me an excuse for not grasping the sentiment of such blind loyalty, for when Martin Chivers, my first football hero, left Saints for Spurs, I went with him.

How long my love of Saints lay suppressed and dormant I don't recall. Certainly for much of my time at junior school, peer pressure meant you had to support a "big" club to earn respect in the playground, or more importantly at the ritual team-picking at the start of games lessons. Support Saints and turn up in Woolworth's own-brand football boots guaranteed you'd be last to be picked and despatched to left-back for the whole game. On the other hand, a Liverpool strip and a pair of George Best endorsed Stylo Matchmakers ensured a coveted place in attack. I elevated myself up the pecking order by getting a pair of "Soccer Tabs" - an essential accessory of the Leeds United kit at the time - these were sock garters with a sizeable, frilly-edged numbered panel suspended from them. Mine were number sevens, and clearly in the minds of the usual team captains would transform me into a talent akin to their real owner, Peter Lorimer, renowned for his pin-point accurate, pile-driver free-kicks. After a few weeks, the realisation that I still couldn't hit a cow's back-side with a banjo, let alone trouble a four-foot goalkeeper from twenty yards, saw me slip back to right-half, but at least the kudos of those soccer tabs ensured I never played at left-back again.

Anyway, I digress. Just as my father had introduced me to Saints in the first place, he was also responsible for bringing me back into the fold. During an Easter trip in 1974 to my grandparents in Eltham, South-East London, he drove myself and my sister up to White Hart Lane to see Spurs play Saints. Standing on the terraces along one side of the ground we had a good view of the Saints fans to our right; they were in good spirits and voice, and I realised in amongst them were faces I recognised: a couple of blokes who worked at Eastleigh railway station; an older brother of a school friend, and others who I had seen out and about. The Spurs fans, on the other hand, were complete strangers and actually were quite intimidating. As the game progressed, and Spurs cruised to a comfortable 3-1 win, I felt no joy at all - I shared the emotions of the Saints fans, as hope and anticipation was washed away to reveal despair and frustration.

It was not so much a life-changing moment, rather a life-affirming one. The roller-coaster ride was just beginning, and within a few weeks "we" were relegated to the old Division Two, but for me the journey was just beginning. Over the next thirty years I went to most home games (as my vast programme collection will testify), with the exception of the early eighties when I was away at university. Ironically this was our most successful period in the top-flight.

Emma was born shortly before we were relegated again in 2005. By then Lin had given up her season ticket, and it gave me a good excuse not to renew mine, and I'm ashamed to admit that I have seen one game in the Championship since then (Barnsley 5-2 - not a bad choice). I always assumed that I'd start going again one day, maybe once Oliver is old enough to appreciate it (and not just pester me for an ice cream), but it seems there is now a very real chance the club will disappear before the end of the season. Despite successfully reducing the debt this season, Barclays pulled the plug on the club's life support machine, the PLC holding company, and it seems that there's every chance a 10-point deduction will be enforced. With that will come certain relegation and surely the end of the 130 year old institution - nobody in the current climate will be able to fund a recovery from there.

But for now, I live in hope. On the eve of a massive, must-win game at Sheffield Wednesday, I still have the belief that a miracle will happen; we will win, there will be no points penalty, and a white knight will appear to carry the club forward. By this time tomorrow, such dreams will be shattered, no doubt.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Starting All Over Again

.....will be:
  1. This blog
  2. Southampton Football Club
Back soon