Archive for June, 2009

Yin and yang

I once heard a simple description of the yin and yang that said that even in the heart of darkness there is a little light (as a metaphor. I would suggest a sealed box in a coal mine would be pretty dark, but without observation who can tell? Discuss.)

Well that’s how today has been.

I was knackered before I started work yesterday due to poor sleeping, then I had a sweaty 2-10 shift, home, shower, wind-down, then bed for midnight. Back up at ungodly O’ clock, (six am) quick brew, then to Manchester to start my pre-test drive at seven.

Did all right on my drive to the test centre, and all apart from one hideous and frankly impossible, turn had a good drive. I wasn’t stressed, just focused. However that one turn was enough. It was impossible. There was no way you could make it round and stay in your own lane. You had to hog two lanes into the corner (which I didn’t do, it looked deceptively easy) and then sit half around the bend and wait for the oncoming traffic to stop and let you have their lane as well. I ran over the pavement with my trailer trying to make it.

Balls.

That was it, my one serious mistake.

Fail!

I came home and had to go straight out to do the big shop, have a quick dinner, then charge in to work. I was knackered as I said, it was boiling hot, and my heart just wasn’t in it.

Then I overheard the manager asking if one of the lads wanted to have half a day’s holiday, so I said "I will!"

That cheered me up, coming home early, only to find the letter off Cheshire Constabulary had arrived. Cheshire coppers have kindly asked me to fund their next Freemasons piss-up (under the pretence of a speeding ticket). I felt it my civic duty to oblige.

So I was down again. That’s almost certainly going to be three points.

Seven attempts at my license, probably won’t be able to get a job if I ever do pass if I do pick up six points. Pretty damn miffed.

At the last minute I decided to go to my TKD club (as Wendy was watching Wimbledon) and that has cheered me up again. I had a good lesson, but more importantly, got my grading results: ‘A’ grade pass, certificate, yellow belt, (and Bully’s star prize) a T.K. Loh (the name of the grandmaster) Tae Kwon Do badge!

I don’t know of anyone else who has one. I shall wear it with pride. I may have to buy some pyjama’s so I can wear it to bed!

That is the spot of light in the pitch blackness of today.

Soldier on, all things must pass.

Later,

Buck.

Irony. Bitter ain’t it?

Goddamn it!

I have a grading at Taekwondo tomorrow so I went to my club last night to get in some much needed practise. I found, by chance, something of a short cut on the way there. On the return journey I was knackered (it’s a 6-2 week and it was about ten at night), stressing about my grading tomorrow, looking for the new found short cut, and though I saw the speed camera I just didn’t register it until I suddenly had FLASH! FLASH! in my mirror.

Bloody, bloody hell!

I was reading that new drivers now have a probationary period of two years on their license, within which time amassing six points or above automatically leads to disqualification. From what I can gather it is new drivers per se. I became a driver (well, rider) back in ’85, and passed my car test in ’05, so I’m hoping one of those will be the one that it is reckoned from. I only passed my class II in January though (gulp) and am still striving for my artic license.

If I can’t get a job for the three years that (I think) the points stay on my license I am going to be gutted. If they take away my HGV license (and I’ve wasted the worst part of five grand) I am going to be suicidal.

This time tomorrow the grading will be over and I’ll be a lot less stressed. Then I can work up to a new fever of stresed-ness for my next test, then sit around waiting to see if I have picked up the points and the fines and how that will bugger my job prospects.

I have no idea how long the fines take to come through, so I’ll be on tender hooks whenever the post arrives, for as long as it takes.

Balls!

Buck. 🙁

PS, Day after, done my grading. I made one embarrassing mistake. Grand Master Loh

(the head of the whole of the U.K., eighth dan, so, no pressure) told me to go into sitting stance with a punch. Those were not his exact words (his accent makes understanding him difficult, and I flap under pressure so I’m not sure exactly what he did say) but instead of widening my stance and dropping down a little, I stepped back into a fighting stance. I knew I’d done something wrong but couldn’t think what I should be doing. Sah bum nim Caroline (who was standing next to Grand master Loh at the front of the hall) had to say it again and do it herself before I got over my flap and carried on. Also I went down onto my knuckles for press-ups, but had my hands in a vertical plane not the horizontal. Like my knuckles cared.

Hey ho, done now for another few months. Seventeenth of October to be precise.

Hopefully I will have passed. My poomse (kata in Karate; a sequence of set moves) was right, and showed good spirit, my kicks were higher than some of the most senior grades there (which is more to their detriment than my credit to be honest) and apart from the two simple mistakes above I thought I did alright.

Grand master Loh was not in a good mood though.

Lots of people were told to sit down before they had even completed their moves. It was quite brutal. If all of them failed there will not be many people getting new belts from this grading.

On the bright side, when a pair of the senior grades were grading, they were told to execute Kwon moves (fist, or punch) and some of the blocks and counter attacks were actually good, effective moves. Very reminiscent of the Karate from which Taekwondo is alleged by some to have originated (though not by anyone from Korea, and not within hearing range of anyone who is, I would suggest). Stick at it then. I have always maintained that a black belt in any martial art is more than a match for your average untrained lager lout, but I was concerned that being virtually solely kick based TKD was purely a sport form of a martial art. Looks like it just appears that way to us junior grades. Cool.

Done now. The driving stuff is a distant threat, so I can relax for today.

By the by, I forgot to mention; since I’ve been back from my jolly hols I’ve been trying to set up Freenet, a P2P network that is secure and censorship (and government spying)  resistant. In doing so I have successfully forwarded a port all by my little ol’ self. I don’t know what that means, and I was following instructions from a specialist site, but I did it! Go I.T. techie me!

Still not got the Freemail (secure email section of the site) up and running, and to be honest unless you want to overthrow the government in bloody jihad, or join the Animal Liberation Front’s sabotage campaign, it doesn’t seem that good a network.

I approve of the principle though, so I’ll try it out for a while. Damn the government and their control of information. Rise up, you have nothing to lose but your chains!

Later,

Buck.

Socialising my arse!

Hi,

We have just returned from Wendy’s sister’s (Gail). That was eventful.

Wendy’s brother and his wife (Peter and Emma) came with us in the mighty Micra to the outskirts of Brum. Some people claim that Daventry, being a further fifty miles down the country, is not actually in Birmingham. To these geographical pedants we merely say: well you’re not going to admit you live in Brum, are you?

So, first the journey there. Four of us in the Micra. It’s only a 1000cc engine, with 90,000 miles on the clock, no air conditioning, the mechanism on one of the windows is knackered and it was a mad hot day. A recipe for joy in that simple description.

Also, unbeknownst to us when we arranged it, we had chosen to go on the same weekend  they were hosting the flower show at Birmingham NEC, which was plugged ceaselessly on (may I say in passing, the best for a long time) Gardeners World the night before.

When we finally got clear of the weirdness of the jams (come to a complete stop, then speed up to.., seventy miles an hour, m’lud. Yet at no point did we come across a cause for the stopping.) obviously I put the Micra into the sports setting (I shut the drivers door window) and went for it. You’ll believe a Micra can fly.

That was a relief.

Then they closed the road, sending us on a huge diversion that left us in the middle of nowhere. The Bullring is lovely at this time of year so we whiled away the time waiting for Gail to send her beau to come and find us.

When we got there there were all the usual antics of family get-togethers; the beer, the small talk to partners you don’t know, the herds of kids, etc.

It went quite well (there were no fights, nobody died, we are all still talking to each other) and Gail, bless her, pulled out all the stops to accommodate us, and trying to make bbq food for a veggie is, to be honest, about as far as sanity and civility can be pushed.

But you know how it is, you want your own bed and a complete absence of noise, social interaction and children. (Or is that just me?) To be fair, Gail’s young ‘un, Brett, was fine, a sterling youth. I expect the others were, individually, upstanding pillars of juvenile rectitude, but en masse they blend into a mob, one video game short of barbarity, anarchy and possibly cannibalism. (Again, it is possible that that is just my non-paternal impression.) We made it, none the less.

Also it strikes me; perchance I should adopt a personal pronoun (to avoid erroneous inference being drawn from my ramblings.) Me. myself, and I.

In other news, I am back on the pick now. I have my rota (every other weekend off, woo-hoo!) and am achieving my pick figure without any problems. If I can just stay out of the freezer it will do until that far off day when I finally get around to passing my bleeding test and getting a driving job.

In summary; job not so bad, Gail’s: nobles oblige –d!

Later,

Buck.

Driving test

Guess what?

I failed.

Again.

🙁

Damn and blast! It was even the same route I took last test, I came up to that same painted island, though ‘HA!! I’ll have you this time.’ Then as I went into it, started to steer around it!

How stupid am I?

I knew what was coming, was prepared for it, and still did the reflex thing. I mounted the pavement with my trailer wheel, hit myself in the head quite hard, and called myself a fucking stupid prick.

Which, is not quite the right approach. You are told to be casual about mistakes and hope the examiner has not noticed. I feel he may have noticed that one.

After that I went to pieces a bit. I made two other (serious) mistakes. I tried to drive through a filter light when the (right turn) green arrow had gone off. I failed my rigid test on the same thing, and swore I’d never get caught out by that again. I stopped the truck, but was sure one of my instructors had said you could carry on if the arrow went off, so started off again. STOP! Red light.

(Turns out I was getting confused. The instance when you can proceed, is when the filter light goes out, but the lights are still on green. In this instance the green was for straight ahead, the right turn arrow had it’s own red light which was telling all who are not muppets not to try to turn right. Now it makes sense. Better too late than never.)

The other mistake was my perennial problem: oncoming vehicle, parked car on my side, fag papers clearance, carried on confidently.

Bad Buck!

No biker heroics allowed. If there is less than a doors width slow to a crawl, or as the examiner said; ‘I would have held back there.’

So, three stupid fail marks, all of which I have failed on before. Unbelievable.

The positives are; the other bit where I failed on that route last time I passed with flying colours. Took both lanes, made it easy for myself, and easily got through the turn. After that I got a tast for hogging both lanes and the tight turns suddenly became very do-able.

So, I have to slow it right down approaching every situation and not be a dickhead.

I just need someone of a nagging and nervous disposition to shout at me every time it looks like I’m about to kill myself and all of those around me. I don’t think Wendy is allowed on my test though.

In other news, I have been kicked out of de-kit now. I am back to being a picker (in grocery/ ambient so far) which is OK by me. I’ve only done two half days and one full day (yesterday) and already I’ve noticed they are giving out the good picks to a select few so the rest of the lads have to struggle to get there target. There is a bonus scheme, so the ones who are getting the good picks are getting up to £80 a week. Those who have the rest of the picks are struggling just to get their basic score.

Hopefully I won’t be on that shift, and hopefully they are fairer on the other one. I keep telling myself it’s not to be concerned about as it’s just temporary until I get my license. To be honest it the principle of the inequity that rankles.

I’m not after killing myself for a few quid a week (which is all I would make), but why should some people have it really easy whilst others have to graft all day just to avoid getting taken in the office for under-achievement.

Come the revolution…

The other thing to happen this week was the return of Mr Smith at Taekwondo. Apparently he used to take the classes. He has been at it twenty five years and is a fifth dan. He also teaches a class how I think it should be taught.

Nobody tried to talk over him!

Rapt, fearful silence and utter concentration.

Perhaps it is an army thing, but respect and obedience, with a healthy dollop of fear, gets shit done in my books.

Sadly I think his return was a one off. We were warming up in a wide stance, gripping the floor with our feet and tensed legs (in a style similar to Wing Chun Kung Fu) and the whole class was going through all the basic arm blocks (low, mid section and head blocks). This was warm up. I think I’ve done blocks in two or maybe three of the lessons of the last year. If he was teaching it could be a proper martial art.

By which I mean a martial art, ie a fighting technique. As it stands it is at best being taught as a sport.

When I have my new shift pattern (forgot to mention, in changing jobs I will now get every other weekend off, and usually at least one day of the weekend off each week! Woo and indeed hoo! In de-kit we got one weekend off every three weeks, and the other two weeks your days off were in the week.) I am going to check out a local Karate club. It alleges it is not a ‘sport’ form, with it’s style being recognised as about the hardest hitting in Karate. In the history blurb for the website it says that the ethos of the style is that every move has to be combat effective, based on the Samuria thinking of ‘one strike, one kill’.

All of which sounds exactly what I want from a martial art. I want to continue with the Taekwondo, just do it maybe once a week, because apart from Wushu (which is non-contact, more like gymnastics than fighting, as I understand it) no other martial art places such an emphasis on extreme flexibility and kicks. However. I really wouldn’t like to get in a street fight with it.

When you get to black belt in any martial art you are going to be able to paste Johny lager lout, but it is far too easy to slip whilst performing an otherwise sublime head kick, in which case Johny and his chums are going to have a right laugh as they kick the shit out of you. Save that shit for competitions.

So, look into this Karate club. It is right on my doorstep (Google says it 1.8 miles away!) and is hopefully a fighting art. The only factor that I am suspicious about, is after the first month (at £4 a lesson) you have to pay a monthly subscription. As I work 6-2, 2-10, it might mean I am paying double for my lessons (as I won’t be able to attend that often on 2-10). Still, we’ll have to see.

My final bit of news is my headaches are back. Had one come on yesterday afternoon, knocking me sick by tea time, and staying with me until I went to bed. Today another one has set in from about noon. Bugger.

I’ll have to look up whether migraines affect your right to hold a HGV license (in the wildly optimistic view that maybe one day I’ll pass the test) if not, go back to the doctor.

That’s all of my news, but to end on a high, they’ve finally got around to advertising that job Wendy wants (and I think she will get). April my arse! So, if all goes well, (chickens counted) she should be getting paid (for doing the job she has been doing for the last two months) from next month.

About bleeding time.

Then it’s just down to me to fulfil my part of the masterplan, and we can be as rich as Creosote (or something).

Keep on truckin’

Buck.

PS, Wendy’s just got in, turns out despite Steve (the manager at Warrington CAB) promising faithfully he was going to advertise the job today (as he has been doing since April) he has not. If he’s not having an affair with you,he’s not botherered if you are getting paid or not, apparently. It took one of the volunteers to threaten leaving (she’s got a job and a family, would prefer to work for the CAB, but has got to the point where it’s either/or) before he would say it’s definitely this week. Then he still screwed everyone over.  Again. What a twat.

Again it’s not the money, it’s the principle. He had better look twice for speeding Micras before he crosses the road.

Jolly hols/ honeymoon

Hi, we made it! All the way to Inverness, within spitting distance of the famous Loch Ness.

Yeah verily, it rocked!

The journey wasn’t too much fun, the poor little Micra being thrashed mercilessly for seven or so hours each way. Two hundred and forty miles of toe-down motorway, then another one hundred and thirty three miles of (actually very good, fast, and challenging) ‘A’  roads. Poor little Micra. Some of those hills go on forever.

We had been warned previously, so I was able to…, make sure I was maintaining my usual law abiding progress, but there were two cops on the motorway bridges, and a third in one of those ambush vans when we hit Scotland. The roads get empty, there is nothing and no-one for you to hit, and coppers everywhere. Go figure, as the colonials would have it.

That aside, the drive into Scotland was grand in every sense of the word. It’s so BIG!

Massive countryside and it just keeps on coming. The roads are a bikers dream. Even in the mighty Micra they were superb. Get around there on a Japanese pocket rocket…wow!

You wouldn’t even have to kill yourself, the roads are so good.

Enough rhapsodising about the application of Mr Mc Adams finest.

We arrived more or less on time, having barely got lost, but couldn’t at first find the caravan. We rang Bonnie (the owner, nice person) up and found we had gone past it. We were relieved and gutted in equal measure. We had just (after driving for three hundred and seventy seven miles) realised I hadn’t checked to see if was just an internet scam. That would have been irksome. It looked to be genuine so we were relieved, but we had just passed a shabby, ill used caravan so we were at best apprehensive.

When we retraced our route Bonnie was stood outside and directed us in. The caravan was hidden around the back, completely screened by trees on all sides, and in a large field on its own. Joy!

The caravan was lovely, the setting idyllic, the vista picturesque.

Splendid.

We just chilled that evening, knackered as we were from the travelling. Later on I was waiting for it to get properly dark so we could see the stars. There were no street lights and no urban pollution so I thought I would get an unparalled view. Half ten and it was dusk, eleven, still dusk, twenty to twelve and you could still read a book in the light that was left! I gave up and went to bed. Land of the midnight sun!

We decided to go out to see Loch Ness and Urqhart castle the next day. I went searching high and low and couldn’t find my camera. I found the spare batteries, the battery charger, but no bloody camera, and I’d just bought a memory card specifically for this holiday. Bastard.

Not to let it mar the holiday we went and did the tourist things; saw the castle, made Nessie jokes, got fleeced for a cup of tea, etc. On the way back we went to Mc Tescos and I considered buying a new camera. I had put it in the basket, but then thought about another memory card, rechargeable batteries (it took AAA, I had AA’s) et al, and realised it would be over £50 for something I had at home. I put it back.

I think it was two days later I went to put on my shoes for some outdoors type walking, and found I’d packed the camera in my shoe for safe keeping. D’oh!

How we laughed.

We got to play spot-the-wildlife at the caravan. We had an owl kept hunting in the field we occupied, a kestrel once, rabbits, and even a deer. Bonnie said the locals shoot them as vermin. (Rabbits and deer.) We enjoyed seeing them though.

I’ve posted a bunch of photo’s we took. David Bailey is probably crapping himself right now. It’s hard to capture the blueness of the light, and the subjective stunned-ness of being in such a huge and beautiful landscape. So we just took snaps instead.

It has been really grand, and I’d like to thank everyone for the money they gave us for our wedding, which paid for it. Wendy was never so relaxed (except, perchance when in the car) and I have really enjoyed it.

Got to be said that I was glad to get back to my own bed, garden, and internet at the end of it though! How sad am I?

Toodles,

Buck.