All Posts Filed in ‘Uncategorized


Job Done


A photo of my gardenWell, about 2 years after I initially said I would (I even wrote about it in August last year), I finally got around to tidying up the garden of my rented house. From the moment I moved in (almost 4 years ago now) I knew that the garden and I weren’t going to get along. The grass was waist high and there were a lot of weeds in there. But more importantly, it was only about 15m2 and so wasn’t even worth the effort of looking after properly. When my girlfriend put gravel down on her garden, and then the rest of the neighbourhood followed suit, it was mine that stuck out and made the place look like a dog’s dinner.

I told my landlord I intended digging up the grass, putting gravel down, and everyone would be happy. He loved the idea. But I kept finding things to do that were more fun and interesting than gardening (like just about anything). Winters came and went and weekends were spent biking or watching football. Anyway, with my girlfriend about to sell her house I decided I needed to tidy the garden up so it’ll look to a prospective buyer as though she has decent neighbours (which they will when I go). So I hired a skip and set to work last weekend.

Unfortunately, the first problem is the access to the garden. You can see a narrow path in the photo above which is 23″ wide. I had a wheelbarrow that would fit, but I didn’t have any planks of wood to wheel it into the skip (and the sides were too high anyway). So I improvised and used my wheely bin instead. I’d kick it over in the garden, shovel dirt into it, stand it up and wheel it to the skip, kick it over again and shovel the dirt into the skip. I did this about a thousand times and finally filled up the skip and, in the process, emptied the garden of earth (although you’d be amazed at how much rubble and glass was buried there). I put some plastic sheeting down (held with a few bricks and other heavy things) for the stones and finished for the day. Phase one complete (and I was a bit tired too).

A photo of some gravelNext was to get a ton of gravel delivered (which I did, see right) and then shovel it over the whole garden. This time I did use the wheelbarrow and it was a piece of cake compared to the dirt shovelling. By the time darkness fell I was finished. One more weight off my mind. And I’m happy because I know I’ll never have to do it again. (Okay, I probably will in my new house, but I’m trying not to think about it for now). All I need to do is nail the fence back together and we’re done.

Maybe I’ll do it tonight or tomorrow…


A Lot Can Change In 5 Days


Well, here’s a follow up from my previous posting. This is the timeline:

  • Thursday: My girlfriend and I are happy living next door to each other.
  • Friday: My girlfriend and I happen to see a house we’d have in an estate agent we just happen to go in to.
  • Saturday: We go to see the house and love it.
  • Sunday: We decide that we want it and speak to my father (a financial adviser) about mortgages and the like. We also decide my girlfriend will sell her house.
  • Monday: We go to see the house again and are absolutely sure it’s the one we want.
  • Tuesday: We make an offer, it’s accepted. In principle at least, it’s ours!

So there you go. I’m going to have a kick-ass house of my own. With my own garage. With 4 bedrooms and more space than I know what to do with. Oh, and there’s the small matter of actually living with my girlfriend (that’s the easy part, I hope). Who says buying a house is tough in this market? Okay, I realise that the deal could fall through at any time throughout the no doubt lengthy process of actually getting the house for real – but it’s all fun and games.

It was amusing seeing the difference in responses from myself and my girlfriend over the past few days. I was really wanting the house and hoping we’d get it, but just getting on with life as normal and staying cool. My girlfriend felt the same, but she was excited, apprehensive, felt sick, tense and nervous all at the same time. Maybe it’s got something to do with her being from Venus and me from Mars. Maybe it has something to do with the prospect of living with me. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes over the next couple of months and if we actually do get the house.

And before you ask, no. I won’t turn this into a “John buying his house and going to DIY superstores weblog”. I hate that sort of thing.


Update Your Bookmarks


Well, after over a year with, I’ve finally decided to change the whole site to the cleverly title Everything else stays the same, it’s just a change of name, and I think it makes a bit more sense. For the time being I’ll be forwarding links from the old site to the new one, but I’ll eventually kill it off so just update your bookmarks now and avoid confusion! And maybe having the new name will inspire me to have even more exciting adventures. We’ll see.


A Good Night’s Sleep


I’ve never been a good saver. In fact, up until now I don’t ever recall actually saving money for anything other than immediate spending. But that has changed, albeit in a small way. I remember before the 2 pound coin (that’s UK currency, not weight) was introduced thinking how odd it would be to have. I realise that there’s the 1p and 2p coins but on the whole UK currency is split into multiples of 5. The 5p coin, the 10p coin, the 20p coin, the 50p coin, the 1 pound coin, 5 pound note and so on. But I always liked the idea of a 2 pound coin, probably because the only ones that had been around prior to general circulation were limited edition ones commemorating special occasions – they seemed exclusive.

Anyway, I digress. A couple of years ago my girlfriend suggested we start saving 2 pound coins for a king sized bed. We’ve both got double beds but there’s never enough space for two people to stretch out at the same time in one so it seemed like a good idea. Of course, once we started collecting neither of us would get them as change any more and I didn’t see one for weeks. But after a while they started appearing thick and fast. I’d walk into a supermarket and buy some sandwiches and cookies (no, not biscuits, cookies – the big things with chocolate chips or raisins in them). I’d go to a cash machine first and get a tenner. I’d pay with that note and get a couple of the aforementioned coins back. I then couldn’t spend that change so I’d have to return to the cash machine if I wanted to buy anything else.

If any of my friends had any I’d swap them for pound coins and all the time our box of change was getting heavier and heavier. At the same time, my mattress was getting lumpier and lumpier. This didn’t bother me as I can sleep on anything from concrete floors to tables to gravel car parks. Remember, when I moved into my house I bought a shoe rack before I bought a bed. However, it was playing havoc on my girlfriend’s back. To be fair, the springs were like lumps of rock boring into your body and there was no support in the mattress at all (in fact, you could literally fold the thing in half). So we decided that enough was enough and we’d spend some of our saved money on a new mattress.

So we went out yesterday to a few places before finding one that had quite a selection. The guy was delighted to explain to us all the science of beds and it turns out that the types I prefer (rock hard) are actually the cheap ones. Sadly, compromise in a relationship means doing what the female wants, so I had to be fair and choose one that my good lady could sleep on. So after chatting with this guy we opted for one of the more popular brands, brought it home and made the bed. I always like to get my money’s worth out of things so I was counting the minutes until I went to bed.

Okay, if you’re still reading this then you’re probably waiting for some kind of punch line. Or at least a verdict on how good the mattress was. Well, never being one to want to disappoint, here goes. The mattress was excellent. Tough guy though I may be, I notice now how bad the old one was by how comfortable this one is. I haven’t slept that well for ages and was in no hurry to get up. I eventually did and feel much better for it thanks.

I know this may have sounded tedious and not exactly and adventure, but I can’t stress enough how important a good night’s sleep can be!


A Christmas Tale


The trouble with holidays is that they’re too damn short and before you know it they’re gone. We may be into a New Year but it just feels like another week to me. Perhaps I need another holiday to consolidate the relaxation that I started to feel over the last week or so. It could be the onset of winter and my hibernation response – I haven’t decided yet.


Anyway, my Christmas break was great (thanks for asking). I’ll give you a quick rundown but I warn you – it’s not terribly exciting (that comes in future posts, I’ve got lots to say so I’ll spread it over the next week or so). I started by venturing back home to Scotland. I’ve not mentioned it but my brother decided to move back north again after living with me for a couple of months. Let’s say that we both learned valuable lessons in life and are still speaking, and leave it at that! (Whoever said that brothers can’t live together was spot on). So I went back home and spent a couple of days with my brother and father. On Christmas day after we ate our meal my father and brother decided to have a mid-afternoon nap (not together I might add) and left me rattling around the old house. It was so quiet. Without my mother’s booming laugh you could hear a pin drop – not nice. But on the whole we had a nice time and it wasn’t as bad as I expected, we remained fairly positive and didn’t get too down.

DSCF0525On Boxing Day we went over to meet my girlfriend’s family at the hotel they were staying in (did I mention that the whole family travel up north and stay in a hotel for the holiday? Thought so). We had a great night and I stayed while my bro and father went back. Next day my good lady and I went to see a couple of friends who’ve just had a baby (on the 21st of December in fact). I’ll be honest, babies haven’t really been of any interest to me before but this one is just lovely. And two nicer parents there’ll never be. It’s quite something to remember when my friends started going out and now they’re married with a son. Time flies.

Anyway, my girlfriend set off back down south and I went back to the parental home for another day. I got a few DVDs for Christmas including “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” (which is a personal favourite of mine) so I watched most of that (Marvin the paranoid android always makes me laugh: “Life, don’t talk to me about life”).

I returned home to Yorkshire to finally fix the damn leaky shower once and for all! I’ve got an upstairs shower and a damp patch has been gradually appearing on the roof of the downstairs hall and I’ve had a nightmare trying to sort it out. Some advice suggested I remove all the silicon seal in the shower and replace that, and the lower grouting on the tiles while I’m at it. This I did and finally stopped the leak! Sadly the leak has in fact been there for years and has managed to rot part of the floorboard and the skirting board – so I’ll be calling in a carpenter to sort that out in due course. Oh, domesticated bliss…

I celebrated New Year by going to my local curry house and finally getting around to ordering one of their specials that you need to warn them of 36 hours in advance. It consisted of an entire chicken cooked for a day with all kinds of herbs, spices and other unidentified things. To be blunt, it was absolutely superb. My digestive system was on the verge of explosion by the time I finished but it was well worth it. Quite unlike any curry I’ve had before but I’d recommend it to anyone (except vegetarians of course).

So after all that I’m back to work again. I didn’t think about work, or my website, or technology while I was on holiday. A rest from it all was just what I needed. But it’s all over too soon and it’s back to reality. It’s not fair…


Saturday Night At The Casino


A friend decided to celebrate his, and his girlfriend’s birthday (one day after the other) by going out in the city of Leeds and finishing up at the casino. He invited me and my girlfriend along with half a dozen others and hired a minibus to take us in and out (a stretch limo would have been too cheesy for my tastes anyway).

So we met up at 7pm and about half an hour later were on our way to Leeds in possibly the oldest minibus in service in Britain (it looked completely out of place in this century and we were putting bets on whether we’d actually get there or not – and if we’d ever see the driver again for the return leg). After a lifetime of being battered all over the place (including overshooting the exit of a roundabout) we arrived in the city centre and made our way to a pub.

We visited a few pubs and I re-acquainted myself with having to shout at the top of my voice to simply have a conversation with someone over the deafeningly loud music being played in each place and feeling old looking at all the students out on the town who looked sooooo young. In fact, so out of practise am I that my back was aching from all the standing around (although I like to think it was as a result of all the weight training I’ve been doing – sounds much more macho). Last orders came and went then we got a couple of taxis to the casino and arrived by about midnight.

After signing in and standing in front of a video camera with live feed on a tv and saying “do I really look like that?” over and over, we entered the arena. I went to Las Vegas a couple of years ago and I was delighted to discover that this casino didn’t have a million slot machines going “ka-ching ka-ching ka-ching” constantly (I can still hear them in my nightmares sometimes). Instead there was a floor (to use the parlance, a pit) with a collection of card tables and loads of roulette tables. However, first things first, there was a restaurant and bar upstairs that my girlfriend and I decided to visit before anything else. Naturally, with it being about 12.30am we had full fry-ups (bacon, eggs, sausage and tomatoes) and it was fantastic.

Then we sat for a while watching the mayhem below us. And it was very interesting. We were watching a roulette table in particular and trying to figure out what the hell was going on and how the croupier managed to keep track of things. In the end, it’s pretty straightforward and everybody plays with a different colour of chips. But the guy’s hands never stopped moving. Everybody places their chips on the numbers they’re interested on, then the ball lands on a number, then the chips are cleared, save the ones on the number and the winnings dished out to the winner(s). The winner(s) then bet all their chips on a variety of numbers again, the losers either leave or hand over some more money for more chips and proceed to put them all over the table. And the whole thing would repeat. Again and again and again.

And the more we watched the table, the less it looked like a bunch of people gambling and the more it looked like a machine where the people were the cogs that kept the machine running. It’s like when you go shopping in a supermarket and go to the checkout. While you’re loading your shopping into bags after the cashier swipes them across a barcode reader you’re working fast to pack and are concentrating on what you’re doing – it all seeming rather frantic. But when you pay and walk away from the tills and look back, you’ll notice that again the whole picture is a machine and the cashiers and shoppers are doing the same thing over and over again so that it seems automatic.

I didn’t do any gambling and preferred to watch others lose all their money (as many did). But what was clear to me is that gambling isn’t about making money, it’s about losing it. The only thing that I know for sure about casinos is that the house always wins, and everybody else knows this. So why bother? Because it’s playing the game that’s fun. Sure, you lose in the end, but every time you win a bit back it feels like a victory and you want to up the ante. Just like living life!

Next time though I’m going to hit the blackjack tables. I can play the game and as long as I stick within a sensible budget I should be all right. I’ll need my girlfriend there though as she has all the monetary sense in our relationship – being a Yorkshire lass.


Flossed In Paradise

1 comment

Last night my girlfriend and I did something we’ve wanted to do for ages. Drive a stolen Ferrari around the Yorkshire Dales at high speed? Go to the finest restaurant in town and buy the most expensive food and wolf the lot down? Walk around the local village counting the number of people who watch TV with the lights off? Get drunk and then go clubbing? No, it was far more mundane than that.

Occam’s razor states that the simplest course of action is always the right one, and I’ve borrowed it to mean that the simplest pleasures are always the best (still waters run deep, etc.). In fact my girlfriend and I spent the evening apart, in our own houses, doing our own things. And it was fan-tastic. It turns out that we all need our own space from time to time and neither of us has really had space lately. The problem is that we both live in small, one-bedroom houses and with my brother living in mine then I’m a visitor there and a visitor at my girlfriends (which isn’t really large enough for two). So I get no time to myself – everybody else gets stuck with me. She gets a bit of time when I’m at mine but that is only temporary until I come around. It’s been a tough two months.

But my brother’s decided to have a “holiday” from my excessive nagging leaving me and my good lady to be able to live on our own again. And it’s wonderful. Just being able to sit in my house, do nothing, nobody’s there but me, and just relax is great. I guess I never realised how much I needed my space until I didn’t have it and then got it back again.

So I came home, put some washing on, spent about an hour doing some cleaning (I will never understand how showers get so dirty – I mean you clean yourself in one and wash all the dirt away…), then sat down and started to unwind. I cracked open one of the bottles of expensive red wine that I brought back from Burgundy and started on that. My girlfriend dropped by for a glass and then went home to some pottering around of her own. I had some food and sat down to watch my namesake (different spelling) in Terminator 2 and loved every minute of it of the solace. I can’t stress that enough.

I’m not saying my girlfriend and I want to live as hermits, but I will say that it’s nice to have some space and time to yourself now and then. The thing you never understand until you actually live on your own (it’s not the same if you flat-share and they’re out for the night) is how wonderful it is to have your own place. It’s a home and a refuge. As for tonight, maybe we’ll go down the Ferrari route this time…


The Dawn Of A New Era


I’ve not been posting much over the past couple of weeks. I could say that my trip to Amsterdam required a considerable period of time to recover from. But the truth is that I’ve been doing a few things that I wasn’t interested in writing about. Some of them personal (too personal for you lot to read about), others of them so dull that I suspect my mailing list would be empty faster than I can say “watching paint dry”. But – as the title suggests – this is the dawn of a new era.

I am of course talking about my younger brother moving into my house. For those of you who haven’t read it already, he’s a couple of years younger than me and I managed to persuade him to come and live in Yorkshire and find a job down here. He wasn’t too happy in his job in Scotland and since our mother died he’s had a lot less reasons to stay up there. Anyway, he’s down here now and reality has set in.

I spent the weekend in Scotland helping to clear out my parent’s house of junk and making sure my brother remembered to bring his toothbrush and the other essentials. The two of us even went out for a meal with my father followed by a trip to the cinema (saw The Bourne Identity, which was pretty good as far as action-packed movies go) and didn’t have a single argument. I guess we’re making progress after all these years – we tended to bicker quite a lot in the past and it’s great that we can finally get along like normal human beings.

So back to the main point. My brother and I drove down on Sunday night (well, I was a few hours ahead of him) to begin our new life. His aim is to get a job and then a place of his own. My aim is for him to get a job and then a place of his own. But seriously, it’ll be fun – like two grizzlies being forced to live in the same cage. Fortunately we do actually get on pretty well and – aside from the fact that he once punched one of my teeth out (he always denies that and he might even be right) – we always have.

Anyway, I’m moving some of my stuff to my long-suffering girlfriend’s house and borrowing a chest of drawers to give my bro a bit more space for his clobber so that he can feel a bit more at home. He’s very keen to get a job (he’s not much of a fan of lying around a house all day) so I’ll not need to nag him to “get his lazy arse out of bed” – he’s not that kinda guy.

But already (after a single day) I can see that I’m prone to “He’s-Just-Like-His-Father Syndrome”, which is the state you enter when you make the same complaints that your father used to make to you. Living on my own means I can run a tight ship. Or I can be a messy git. Or I can do either on a whim and not bother at all. But with having a tennant my idiosyncrasies come to the fore. I’m saying things like “put the paper in the basket” or “don’t leave the bin lid up, it’ll stink the place out” and the all-time classic “don’t leave your shoes there – I’ll fall over them!”. It’s terrible, so I’m going to have to learn to be even more mellow and less annoying (it’s going to be hard work).

The saga begins. L8R.


A Holiday That Will Need A Holiday


I’m doing something quite out of character this weekend. I’m spending Friday until Monday in Amsterdam. My days of excess are behind me and I don’t really drink much at all (just the occasional pint here or there) and I don’t take any drugs either. So why the hell am I going to Amsterdam? The place of drugs, sex and alcohol?

Well, because it seemed like a fun idea. And I’m sure it will be. There are, I believe, 9 of us going. All male. All red-blooded. Varying from the light-weights like myself to hardened drinkers / drug takers. I won’t be bringing my laptop. I won’t be taking my fancy digital camera. I won’t be wearing my fancy watch. And I won’t be bringing anything that is breakable or stealable (is that a word?) or that I wouldn’t be too bothered to not come back with. Hey, you never know what’ll happen.

My first choice of a holiday right about now would be a couple of weeks in Antigua. I’d lie on a beach (there are 365 beaches on Antigua). I’d snorkel in the coral reefs (there are beautiful corals around Antigua). I’d maybe even do a bit of boating (despite the fact that I thoroughly loathe sailing there is good sailing in Antigua). I’d come back with a suntan and a bad case of jet lag (it’s sunny in Antigua and I get jet lag when going west to east). But alas no. I’m going to the home of sleaze, porn, debauchery, drug abuse and everything that is bad about humanity. Having said that, everyone I know who’s spent a weekend there has had a great time so I’m reserving judgment until I return.

Truth be told, I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be a nice chance to let my hair down (I’m speaking metaphorically of course). One of the guys is brining a digital video camera so I’ll post any interesting video or pictures that get taken when I return. Anyway, I’ll catch you in a few days…

Oh, before I go, on a completely unrelated note. If you have a particular sandwich configuration that you love and would like to share with the rest of the world, then check out The Sandwich Project. A great idea that I wish I’d thought of!


Brother From Another Country


DSCF0285After living on my own for over 3 years I’m soon to get a house guest. It’s not a lodger. I’m not moving in with my long-suffering girlfriend (I can hear her sighs of relief). I’m not opening up my house to squatters. No, it’s far more strange than that. I’ve managed to persuade my brother to quit his job in Scotland and move down to Yorkshire and stay with me until he can find himself a job down here (more specifically in Leeds).

He’s been a bit miserable doing the job he’s been doing and there isn’t a lot of work in his sector in Scotland. But there are a lot more opportunities down here so he’s finally decided to take the plunge. He’s got another couple of weeks to work before he’s served his notice so we’ve got that long to get used to the idea of living together again. And he’s worried.

When I left my parent’s home it was because it was really time to leave. I was causing quite a lot of friction and I needed my independence. I needed to strike out on my own and live on my own. When I did leave the atmosphere greatly improved (apparently) and it was more of a treat when I went to visit, so my relationship with my parents was far better. We all got on great and everything was rosy.

I’ve chilled out a lot over the years and I hope I’m not as boorish to live with as I used to be. The trouble is that my brother remembers what I used to be like and isn’t convinced that I’ve changed. He’s a smart lad and shouldn’t have any problem getting work and then moving into a place of his own so we shouldn’t have to live together for too long. But that still leaves a couple of months or so…

I think it’ll be fun actually. We’re best friends, have the same sense of humour, listen to the same music (in fact he recommends most of the albums I buy) and have significantly different interests to not be competitive any more (as brothers tend to be when they’re younger). I was always the boring, geeky one and he was always the popular rebel with a devil-may-care attitude. And we’ve always made a pretty good team.

I’m going to do my best to give him space and time to himself without nagging him about “keeping the house the way I like it” and putting his shoes and clothes in the right place. I’m also going to refrain from using the sort of lines my father used to use on us like “in my house you play by my rules”. It’s a temporary measure and as the elder brother, offering him sanctuary while he sorts himself out is the least I can do (I’m supposed to look out for him after all). Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to reorganise and tidy my house up to maximise the amount of space we’ll have. I’ll also make space for his superb stereo system as it blows mine out of the water. I’m also going to dust until I can dust no more!

At least we’ll have one consolation. We won’t be sharing the same room as we did for the first few years of our lives. All that served to do was allow us time to concoct schemes to drive our parents up the wall or bicker and fight, depending on our mood. I guess it will be a test to see how “grown up” and “adult” I’ve become. Or not as the case may be.