Sunday, September 27, 2009

Peter and Pooshun.

I was walking towards Morrison's last night, after getting off the 99 bus to Erith; I noticed a much higher than normal level of Police activity outside of Potion (spelled with an umlaut over the "o" making the correct pronunciation "Pooshun", but I digress).  I wondered if a fight had broken out in the bar, or the Police were in the middle of a drugs raid. I also saw a couple of utterly huge and scary looking private security men, not the usual flabby balding bouncers the place normally uses. There was a Mercedes Benz - McLaren SLR parked outside too - not the kind of vehicle one expects to see in Erith. My curiosity piqued, I slowed my walking pace and studied the view. The answer soon came - a couple of drunken chavettes in the bar garden were screaming into their mobile phones to their brood mates "you gotta come down 'ere - Peter Andre's appearing!" It then all made sense - some premier league bouncers, the local Police and no doubt a Paparazzi or two to greet the current poster boy of Britain's under class; the number one neverwas and shamelessly narcissistic self publicist. In Erith. I ground my teeth, hastened my pace and did not look back.

A mini mystery has come to my attention; as the aforementioned 99 bus wends its' way from Plumstead towards Upper Belvedere, I regularly have to suffer sitting in close proximity with a large, uncouth and sweaty individual who last washed his lank and greasy hair some time around decimalisation. He wears multiple layers of heavy clothing, even when it is blazing hot, and a pair of towelling jogging bottoms that have innumerable stains whose origin I shudder to contemplate; to round it all off he emits an aroma that is an equal mix of stale cigarette smoke, body odour and wee. He gets off the bus at a stop at the top of Bostall Hill - there are no houses or businesses in  the vicinity - merely Bostall Woods, a popular area for dog walkers. I have come to the conclusion that the bloke is employed by the local council as the official Yeti for the woods. He no doubt shambles  and lurches around the bushes to give the dog walkers a scare and to create some local colour to attract the tourists. Having a Sasquatch type character will give the woods some much needed P.R. You heard it here first!

I attended the recording of episodes three and four of the cult BBC Radio 4 comedy series Hut 33 on Friday. You may recall that a couple of months ago I wrote about seeing episodes one and two being performed at the BBC Radio Theatre inside Broadcasting House; well, this was more of the same. Episode three had the team from Hut 33 involved in an operation with the French resistance, flying in a captured German bomber over occupied France to send and receive some coded radio messages. The plane is piloted by Joshua's brother, who if anything is even more clueless and inept than him. inevitably they end up getting lost, dropping a bomb on Cambridge, and Minka brings new meaning to the term "Booby Trap". The fourth episode featured Charles gambling £100 from the Bletchley Park Spitfire fund in a game of poker with his old public school prefect in an attempt to join a private club. He loses the cash after being swindled, and it comes down to Joshua to win it back, despite thinking he is playing Monopoly rather than poker. Series 3 will start transmission on 14th October on Radio 4.

You can hear a ten minute audio clip of the very first episode of Hut 33  by clicking here.

Although my job is a technical one, and I spend my working hours involved with computers and electronics, one could not really call me an early adopter of technology in my personal life. I don't have a high definition television at present, my current Toshiba 36" CRT television is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but it has given excellent service, and I don't see the need to replace it until it fails. I don't have a blu - ray player (indeed, I rarely play DVD's at all) and my hi fi gear is mostly years old; I want to get my superb Linn LP 12 turntable serviced and updated at some point, but not now - and yes, I still listen to vinyl. As previously mentioned, I don't own a mobile phone, and have never sent a text message. I think the reason for not adopting new technology as soon as it appears is because most people who work professionally in technical support tend to be naturally conservative - new tech means new problems; our default attitude when encountering a shiny new piece of kit is not "ooh - that looks good", but "So what do I do when it goes wrong?" So many devices come with their manuals on CD as PDF files, rather than as they should be - in a ring bound A5 book. Why ring bound? Well, when you are scrabbling around on your hands and knees, trying to reach an inaccessible socket or the like, you want a manual that stays open on the correct page, without having to use a mug of tea as a paperweight. I am sure we have all been there at some stage. Those thin instruction pamphlets that come with so many modern appliances are generally also as much use as a CD of The Lord of the Rings in Morse code.

Another bus related mini  encounter this week - a woman was sitting directly behind me on the lower deck of the 99; without warning she reached around and stuck a mobile phone under my nose and in broken English screeched "Unlock, unlock?". I brushed it away and ignored her, - it was patently obvious the phone was stolen - only to have her shove the phone in my face for a second time. I turned around and gave her a lesson in the advanced use of Anglo Saxon expletives. She did not bother me again.

Bristol exterior
Bristol interior

I don't play the National Lottery, as in my opinion it is a tax on the stupid. The chances of winning a large amount of money are so statistically small that it seems not worth the effort. There are times when one does entertain the possibility, only as it is very likely the only way I would ever be in the position to afford a Blenheim coupe (see the photos above) from bespoke British luxury car makers Bristol Cars. Bristol make the most exclusive, discreet and understated luxury vehicles for a very select customer base. - they make Rolls Royce look like vulgar populists in comparison. Bristol produce less than 150 cars a year, and aim to keep it that way. They have no dealers or agents, and operate from their showroom in the Cromwell Road. They are possibly the last bastion of the British Empire, and long may they continue. You can read a review of the Blenheim 3S here.

It is now officially 25 years since the release of truly ground breaking game Elite on the BBC Model B computer. Apparently as many copies of Elite were sold as BBC model B computers; it certainly was the reason many people persuaded their parents to buy that particular computer - excellent thought it was anyway. Here is a video of the gameplay - feel free to leave a comment below.

Onto modern computing. I don't know what Email client you use (many still using the execrable Outlook Express no doubt) but if you want a free and open source Email program that looks and feels very similar to Outlook Express, but has new features and is more robust and secure, then I strongly encourage you to try Mozilla Thunderbird, which is now in its' second stable incarnation. It is easy to use and sufficiently similar to other Email programs that it has a very short learning curve. I am currently testing the 4th Beta version of Thunderbird 3, which has a substantial increase in features, and also takes on much of the look and feel of Firefox 3.5. Not something I would recommend most people to do. Beta software can be flaky and unstable - but testing is the order of the day.

You may have heard in the press this week that popular Rockney group Chas and Dave have decided to call it a day, they first started performing together in 1975, but have decided to split after the death of Bass player Dave Peacock's wife from cancer. The band will be remembered by persons of a certain age for their sound tracks to a number of Courage Best Bitter TV commercials in the early 1980's. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I have found three of these comic TV adverts, which run back to back - see below. This is a blast from the past...

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