29 August, 2007

Wonderful break...


Wonderful break...
Originally uploaded by finkangel.

...perfect weather the whole time, amazing surf on one occasion, good food whenever we haven't cooked in the camper, and good camping food even then...just wish we could have had the weekend thrown in, oh well...feel sufficiently relaxed regardless... ;)

28 August, 2007

Doing absolutely...


Doing absolutely...
Originally uploaded by finkangel.

...nothing... ;)

25 August, 2007

Super foggy


Super foggy
Originally uploaded by finkangel.

...start to the day today, hopefully it burns off soon!

24 August, 2007

23 August, 2007

Last sleep till Cornwall....

Colin at Tesco filling up with Gas
...packed up and filled up...
Flyingpops filling up with Fish
...Flyingpops has eaten fish and chips at "Albert's"...
Mono Chickwich - Ignored
- and (heaven knows how) I managed to resist the (NOT) tempting, aged and mono "chickwich" mobile advert...*shudder*...

Bank Holiday Traffic

One more sleep to go!

Well, more like half a sleep actually, as Flyingpops will (no doubt) have us up before even the milkman's alarm will have gone off (we normally pull onto the site early enough to join in breakfast, if not wake everyone else up)... ;)

Was reading in the Metro on the bus on my way in (slightly worryingly) that because of the predicted fine bank holiday weather, motorists can expect heavy delays on the roads thanks to the mad dash that will result as people flood towards coastal areas (can't be worse than last year when the 5 hour trip home took us nearly 8.5)...and actually the London streets today did seem to indicate a definite shift of traffic *away* from town, they were absolutely deserted! You could almost have filmed a few scenes for 28 days later... ;)

Still got some problems though, HSBC are really dragging their heels with sorting this fraud out, I've got my new card now, but no PIN (unless it arrives today), not that they have refunded the money they allowed to slip out of my account anyway, I'm half tempted to extend my holiday by half a day and go and give them a piece of my mind...but you know what? I'm loath to...just because we don't get much holiday in the course of a year, and that really would be a deeply unpleasant way to spend what *should* be time spent enjoying myself in some way...

Cue comments about biting off my nose (etc... ;)

22 August, 2007

Amazon.co.uk DVD rental review

So a couple of weeks ago I thought I would try out online DVD rental, unfortunately when I signed up (Amazon seemed easiest, as we already have an account set up) I *slightly* misread the terms and conditions and was expecting to get more DVDs through the letterbox than two per month for my £3.99. This does mean I won't be rushing to return them in future (or eagerly checking the door mat when I return from town quite so often), but then, they don't actually even offer an unlimited plan, it's a maximum of 6 per calendar month, and for that they charge you £9.99 (for which you could almost buy and keep, forever, a recent DVD, assuming you don't mind it coming from Switzerland)...so I'm not *exactly* sure I'm sold on the idea...

The other thing that slightly dissapointed me was that one of the (two) disks I've had so far was badly scratched, meaning I had to do the furtiture polish trick to get it to read (frown)...

Tesco, on the other hand (as I discovered at the RANS household when we were last there) *do* offer unlimited disks per month, albeit one disk at a time (which, after all, is actually all Amazon have managed - despite being promised two at a time) and it includes *game* rental (all for £9.97 per calendar month)...I think they will be next on the list to try out...sticking with them will depend on how quick their turnover is...but that's what free trial periods are for, after all... ;)

20 August, 2007

Productive Weekend and 4 sleeps to go...

Had haircuts on Saturday morning (by our friendly travelling hairdresser), then played a bit of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on the PC (I'm still amazed that my video card was up to it), which is actually extremely good, plenty to do and see, excellent models and textures, intuitive spell casting system (with mouse gestures off, anyway), I'm just trying to find and assemble all the members of the DA in the Room of Requirement at the moment...Saturday afternoon we stripped Colin the camper van right down to his essentials (ready for Cornwall in a few days time) then that evening watched X-Factor (it being the funny early episode with all the terrible singers) then I tried to find a copy of the movie Apollo 13 somewhere (actually *everywhere*) in my house and failed completely (and made a right mess in the process)...I could only locate the VHS copy and didn't fancy watching it like that (Help! I've become a video format snob, the days of being happy with VCDs are obviously behind me)...

Sunday I got up early and did some paperwork that I've been meaning to do for a while now, then we went over to Oxted to take a look at the (almost) finished new community hall (where we plan to hold the wedding reception) and it is *awesome* - the perfect size (a little larger than a badminton court), everything brand new (right down to the fold-away stage, tables and chairs), big kitchen with industrial-sized cooker, dishwasher and giant American-style fridge (caterers should be happy with that little lot!), then stopped at my folks for a spot of lunch (crunchy greek salad (with home grown cucumber), hot chorizo and crispy bacon chilli salad and pan fried new potatos with rosemary and garlic, served with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar), then off to do our shopping at Oxted Morrisons (bought *far* too many sweets and crisps for Cornwall), got home mid-afternoon and went up in the loft to get out the surf boards, wet suits and camp kitchen, out into the shed to try and find a ground sheet (found a huge tarpaulin that will do just fine) and then finished off packing the last few bits into the camper. Just need clothes and wash kits now and we are ready to go...anyway, I then cooked us a lovely roast dinner (lamb with all the trimmings), checked out the long term weather forecast on the Met Office website (high pressure all next week over the south and west, good outlook!), and then it was time for baths and bed...

Oh and I also finished the third Harry Potter book, so today it was on to number 4...zero inconsistencies in books 2 and 3 (well, that I spotted anyway)...

Only four more sleeps to go, then it's sun, sea and sand for a few days R&R...thank *GOODNESS*! ;)

16 August, 2007

HSBC - Cloned Card

Even before this latest incident, I was thinking to myself "You know what Fink? It's entirely possible that you have actually died without noticing, and are now in purgatory"...(probably it was my id and ego involved in that particular conversation - just before you start thinking me suddenly infirm)...I mean, it's not exactly *hell* (I don't think I've been -*that*- naughty) where knives and acid and demons would set about your bits-and-bobs with joyful abandon...more just a subtle *ceasing* to be (in the blink of an eye) and suddenly living in a fake world where everything completely and smugly conspires against you...a death of a thousand (metaphorical) cuts (or so it seems)...

Now, to put this in context, we must return to last Saturday (if you please, it's not an order or anything...) oh and if you want to feel a hint of some of the other little "cuts", just scroll down the page a bit...I have discussed a *few* of them here already, but this particular bit I left out until now (for reasons that will soon become clear) along with other (both minor and major) causal and reactive events that will have to remain a mystery (but this example will certainly give you an idea of the general gravity of my present environment)...

Anyway, back to Saturday AM - it was time to zip over to get Colin the Camper his MOT re-test, but we needed to get some cash out to pay the unknown amount required for the parts/work required to limp Colin back to life in order to get some (-and I make a clear distinction here when I say QUALITY-) R&R, in order to approach a state nearing "normal human" again...(oh the sweet dream that this could ever seem a realistic possibility)...Flyingpops suggested we put in £100 each (just in case) but when I inserted my card (at first, in the cash point at the hospital, and then at various service stations/garages on the way), each of them confronted me with a stony, and ambiguous "Temporary Error"...Flyingpops was understandably miffed - assuming (fairly) that I had accidentally gone over my limit on my account (wouldn't be the first time), and *honestly*, I wasn't sure - lots of extra expense this month (expensive passport rush job for work etc.) meant that *really*(?), it *might* have been true...but I just couldn't see exactly *how*...

Anyway, I ate humble pie, Flyingpops valiantly paid the costs (which actually weren't as bad as we feared, in the end), and I rang up the bank (once we were somewhere completely stationary for any length of time) and checked it out, and I had *loads* of money left...I was *completely* baffled...Anyway, I assumed it was a technical glitch of some sort, and just forgot about it...I had a bit of cash-cash, no worries...

Next really odd thing, and actually a (false) epiphany - yesterday (I *assumed* delayed because of the postal strike) I get a new bank card through the post, thought it was a bit odd that it still said "Issue number 1" on it again, but checked the old card out and there was what I needed to see - the expiry date was this month! Mystery over (or so I thought)...

I get into town today (rather earlier than normal), pop my card into the cash point on the Caledonian Road, ask for a little of my hard-earned bread and get a very rude "Your Card Issuer has declined this request" in response...wtf? I have spent *nothing* since Saturday (and I know this simply because I haven't been blooming *able* to)...further bafflement...

I ring up telephone banking, and after speaking to two jolly nice, but largely unhelpful Scottish-sounding gentlemen (and being on hold for rather a long time) I am suddenly greeted by an Indian-sounding gentleman who proclaims he is from the "Fraud Department" (Uh oh!)...

"So, hello Mr Angel, I understand you have been on holiday to Malaysia and Thailand most recently"...

(EH?????????) - "Urm, no...?"

"Oh dear, so when were you last found to be travelling abroad?"

"Urm, back at the beginning of the year I had to take a trip to New York for work? But this was *months* ago"...

"Oh dear, so you haven't been on holiday to Malaysia and Thailand most recently?"

"Urm, no, you might find I have spent a bit of time in Redhill and North London though"...

...and on, and on, and on this went...turns out, some w*nker has had a lovely time on holiday at my expense...and I am extremely angry...they told me that nothing more can be done over the phone...

You can imagine what happened when I had rung Flyingpops to tell her what was going on and then called back to ask that they try and make sure I'm not left out of pocket by anything stupid (like extra fees incurred, thanks to my robbers exceeding my agreed spending limits)?...just for example...

...(and you will think I am joking but) when I rang, the call centre lady at HSBC actually tried to sell me f*cking "identity fraud" protection insurance...no offer of help at all...very, very poor...

I am really reaching the end of my tether...customer service? I'm absolutely disgusted...automated system that caught the fraud - +100 bonus points for being clever and pro-active...shame the two sides of the business are so horribly distant... :(

14 August, 2007

Redhill Steam Fair 2007

Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #1
So on Sunday we took a drive in Colin to go and see what was happening at the Redhill Steam Fair this year (having missed it last year) -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #8
- and the answer was - quite a lot actually - first thing we saw (after parking the camper van right up on the top of the hill overlooking the site) was a group of firemen getting *extremely* tired as they tried to get the lid off an old car (they probably should have picked a Ford Fiesta or something rather than a Volkswagen, because it took them about 20 minutes and the bloke holding the heavy tools was absolutely dripping with sweat by the end of it) -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #6
- you can see they take the doors off, then the roof and then they sort of snip the engine off from the main chassis and let it drop down, thus revealing (whatever tangled mess is lurking in) the foot well to the paramedics.
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #7
There was a mobile forge -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #2
- making bits of twisted metal to demand -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #9
- a huge amount of militaria (totally dominated the show actually) -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #15
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #40
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #38
- when they all set off in convoy the entire site ground to a halt, and all the rest of the time the sound of fairground organs was puntuated by loud detonations from either blank firing rifles or large bangers -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #20
- considering this is a "Steam Fair" there were actually only about 7 steam engines in evidence, but that was still a pretty good showing considering the size of the site -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #43
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #37
- loads of buses, from the very, very old to the virtually brand new -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #34
- a dog in a Scammell -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #42
- some flawless living wagons -
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #24
- and then the market, where we bought a rubber mat, the actual stallholder wasn't present, so a very nice chap from the stall opposite came and took our money (£15) for a large matt (8 foot long, supposedly), but when we got it back up to Colin and unrolled it, it was only 6 foot long, so we trudged back down the hill to get a fiver back (as the 6 foot ones were only ten quid), when we got there the owner had returned, but absolutely couldn't understand what we were going on about, in the end I unrolled it, held it up to my face and said, "Look mate, there's absolutely no way I am 8 feet tall", he then muttered something about his Mrs measuring them up wrong and begrudgingly returned our five pound note, what a muppet...
Redhill Steam Fair 2007 - #44
Anyway, we finished the day with a quick snack back in the camper (during which it rained and everyone below us made a mad dash for their cars or the beer tent), and then home for roast dinner and a little Sunday night TV...a very pleasant day...

13 August, 2007

Colin has a re-test (fingers crossed)!

Colin's MOT (part 2) - #2
Okay, so back to Capel on Saturday, a fairly early start, to go and collect Colin from the RANS household (with everything now working - Eternal *THANKS* to Uncle Al!!) and run him down to have his last little bit of work done (engine tuning to help him stop polluting the environment, which took Keith (the chap on the right in the picture above) about 90 seconds to do (amazing!), we had a 30 second panic when one of the indicators didn't appear to be working (but then it sprang into life, dunno what that was all about, but we really didn't need anything else to suddenly go wrong!) and then it was straight into the MOT re-test (which they said shouldn't take long as they only check the things it failed on last time) -
Colin's MOT (part 2) - #3
- so he was hoisted up in the air (after the mechanic performed a passable impression of a monster truck by being a little heavy footed) -
Colin's MOT (part 2) - #1
- and rolled on the rolling road -
Colin's MOT (part 2) - #4
- and we were then left in limbo, staring at what certainly looked like a green certificate being printed out and deposited into the office, before we were finally given the good news! Passed with flying colours, phew!!
Colin has a shower - #2
Colin has a shower - #3
As a reward for being so good, Colin was taken for a quick make-over courtesy of the Soviet car-wash gang in Hookwood Tesco car park, which caused some paint to flake off on the front bumper (doh!) so during the shopping I picked up some white "straight to rust" weatherseal metal paint, and a small brush...so another "bargain makeover" coming soon, no doubt...just need a wire brush... ;)

10 August, 2007

Very quick update...

...flyingpops managed to get herself into the office today (despite deathly dental pain - urm, how?), the surveyor gave us the thumbs up, I enjoyed the sunshine (actually spent twenty minutes just jumping around the garden) instead of glumly working from home with the curtains closed (super sweet! What a glorious and completely unusual change from the ordinary!), Uncle Al (from the sounds of things) has whipped Colin into shape, and right now I have salmon in white sauce and cauliflower cheese (none of which with anything tooth unfriendly) simmering away in the main oven awaiting dinner time...

And, to top it off, it's Friday night!

08 August, 2007

Another wonderful day...

...so Flyingpops has terrible tooth-ache *again*, work is stupidly busy *again* and we had a lovely trip planned to go and see "Ready Steady Cook" being filmed on Friday in London which we now have to cancel as we are finalising the re-mortgage of the house and this is the moment the surveyors need to attend, at a stupidly awkward moment, right in the middle of the day so we can arrange everything with the current favourable interest rate...oh and the CAMRA beer festival is going on in London, and, no doubt, I will miss it for the 5th year in a row too...life is just all being wonderful like that right now... :(

Oh, two things went right, my first rental DVD from Amazon arrived today (£3.99 for infinite disks per month (two at a time) with the first 14 days free), and two super cheap (£8) Xbox 360 games turned up...spent most of the evening playing a very calming gardening Sim, then shot about 100 terrorists in the head...

07 August, 2007

Priory Farm Cafe

'
Well, a couple of weeks ago now actually, I popped out for lunch with my folks at the very modestly named "Coffee shop" at Priory Farm in Sandy lane (which isn't far from Nutfield)...it's actually much more of cafe/restaurant than a coffee shop, and everything they brought out (table service after ordering at the counter) was fantastically presented and quite delicious...I had the Welsh Rarebit, which I have to say was probably the best I have ever eaten...It's an independantly (family) owned place, which really prides itself on the quality of the produce, and everything they seem to turn their hand to just turns to gold...I am positively drooling at the prospect of sampling their special breakfast (only available at weekends) of eggs benedict, baked field mushrooms and "award winning Black Pudding from the Farm Shop’s butcher"...I normally just get carried away nosing through the delights in the farm shop, but I had been criminally overlooking a real treasure...don't miss it!

06 August, 2007

Colin Goes to Carters

So...Colin's MOT...we drove over to Capel on Saturday morning, convoy style (deciding to take the back roads)...first off, when we stopped for petrol Colin just *wouldn't* start again (for love nor money) I ended up having to push his heavy ass away from the petrol pump to try and cheer up the miserable looking queue forming at the station entrance...ten minutes of waiting and re-trying later and he *finally* splutters into life, but we are now worryingly behind schedule so head off at high speed across country, next - a totally suicidal old gentleman with small white dog throws himself in front of Colin by Earlswood lakes, causing Flyingpops to slam on the breaks (so as not to cause his death), we both honk our horns angrily and give the old chap *very* hard stares (trying to to resume normal cardiac rates) then back on the gas, meeting in quick succession 2 horse riders, a large number of tour de France wannabes, a small girl being led along on a very fat pony, 2 more horse riders and finally a man and woman on the back of a large trailer as they whip the tiniest miniature horse I have ever seen (the size of an average dog) who is struggling to drag them up the lane in the extreme heat as the woman flicks him with a long whip...(on reflection the main roads might have been a little less stressful, even though we were running a bit late)...anyway, we dropped Colin off with the owner, Flyingpops telling him that the engine might not start again, and that we are expecting a fail for the welding the other garage had spotted, and then we popped off for a tea and cake in the garage up the road.
Carters of Capel - Colin MOT #1
Forty-five minutes later (after a little wander around the village), we sit watching the last few tests, and the mechanic feeding the expected red form through his printer and then wait anxiously for the verdict...and...it wasn't too bad, it failed on one break disc (very thin), emissions (but that is likely to be just a tuning issue thanks to the new fuel pump and carb that recently went in), the hazard lights didn't work (but I fixed that there and then with a new fuse), indicators too fast (thought the fuse would fix that too but it didn't) and a dodgy wheel bearing...No welding required at all! The bloke said that he went around the bodywork and chassis 3 times looking for it, thinking he must have missed it! Excellent news!
Carters of Capel - Colin MOT #2
So we drove Colin over to the RANS household, where Uncle Al had kindly agreed to take a look (and was also expecting to be busy with welding torch, so I think he was pleasantly suprised too)... ;)

Wedding was very enjoyable, excellent sermon and very funny speech from the best man, lovely venue too, and then yesterday such an incredible Grand Prix...I think that is probably the end of Alonso (as far as the team is concerned)...very silly boy...

03 August, 2007

A Smile walked up Ludgate Hill

Poise unfettered by commute, she moved in slow motion, cutting through the crowd in the bright morning sunshine...and next to her, all others on the busy street fell sharply out of focus...paled in colour...She walked, unburdened by her spotless new briefcase, slung weightlessly over her shoulder, swinging her elegant handbag. She was clothed in a brand new fitted suit, beige in colour with a neat, business-like skirt and shoes too tall to be comfortable. An average face, but lit by such a ray of light, complexion bright, her special effort for this morning evident...her eyes weren't downcast or clouded by the jaded glaze that comes from treading a path too often (no matter it's aspect), nor troubled by the haze from the swarming traffic passing inches from her - but expectant and proud, raised in wonderment, drinking in every aspect of this undiscovered country...

They told me that this was not, yet, "the walk to work"...

My bus swept on, leaving her to the bright new horizon...and me...to some long-distant memories of being there in her shoes, walking the streets of innocence and limitless possibility...and I glanced back, and sent her a heartfelt wish that she could keep that smile forever...and then, thanks to her, I felt just a glimmer of mine...

Mysterious Chalk Drawing - Balfe Street

Mysterious Chalk Drawing - Balfe Street
Spotted this the other day, on the pavement outside one of the houses in Balfe Street...any ideas? The writing says "Artificial"...

Definitely a technical drawing of some kind, but what of, I wonder? It reminds me of the "idiot's guide" animations they do on Scrap Heap Challenge (to explain the mechanical principles to the layman)...

02 August, 2007

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone - Inconsistencies

Upon finishing Deathly Hallows, I decided I would read the first book again...I think it might be because there were a number of characters I wasn't entirely sure I remembered (as JK was busy tying up all the loose ends, in ever more complex knots, while I was just busy concentrating on the main story)...and because my only real memory of the first book now is courtesy of the movie...and also because it is fairly short (comparitively) and thus easy going...

I've noticed a number of interesting things, even where I am in the proceedings (about 6 chapters in)...(Got to be careful here not to spoil anything, but) -

1) I had forgotten that the story begins during the joyous celebrations after Voldemorts fall seventeen years before the events at the end of the last book...it felt very "full circle" to consume it again...

2) Mrs Filch gets a number of very early mentions (I had completely forgotten she even existed when she next cropped up in the main story)...

3) The Dursleys behave like they belong in a Rohld Dahl book...a bit OTT compared to the rest of the series...

4) During our very first introduction to the Weasley family (totally inplausably) Mrs Weasley confesses that she has no idea what platform the Hogwarts Express leaves from, despite (as we are told only paragraphs later) having spent the last 7-odd years putting Cedric, Percy, Fred and George on it (and, even worse, is then reminded where to go by none other than *Ginny* who has never even been to Hogworts as she is too young)...

5) In Harry's invitiation to Hogwarts, it clearly states "Students may also bring an owl OR a cat OR a toad", so how come Ron has a rat? It's even been present at the school before, because Ron explains to Harry that it is a hand-me-down familiar, like his second-hand robes and wand (and what happened to "The wand chooses the Wizard"?!)...Oh well, maybe plot devices are allowed to breach school rules... ;)

6) Who on *earth* is the Dumbledore in this book, and what has he done with the real one? ;) His "just a few words" before the feast are (to say the least) rather out of character...(although you could argue that the later, slightly less insane Dumbledore is his abnornal "war-time" persona, and thus this "peace-time" persona is the normal he)...still rather odd though...he doesn't normally waste words for no reason, in my experience...

7) (On a more positive note) - At the sorting hat, it's clear that JK had done her forward planning, I think by this stage in the story almost every (child) character we have to worry about for all of the rest of the books (one or two exceptions, Luna for example) have been introduced...

8) It's also completely obvious why such a lot of adults pick up this book, interested having heard all the hype (usually encouraged by people much further on in the rapidly maturing storyline) and are immediately turned off by how juvenile at all seems...If you want an example of cringeworthy nonsense (rather than the good kind of nonsense) I refer you to the Hogwarts School song (urk)...

Still, I'm enjoying it as much as the first time...maybe even a bit more now I'm free to poke at the holes and try and link up some of the threads...it's a bit like going back and watching the early episodes of LOST searching for "crosses" in the background... ;)

01 August, 2007

Passport Nightmare

Had an absolute shower of a time (world's biggest understatement warning) trying to get my passport sorted for the work trip to NY, Flyingpops (thank goodness) spotted that it no longer had 6 months left on it (*just*, like 1 poxy day off) which means US Immigration would have turned me back upon arrival...how embarrassing would that have been?

Anyway, it being an emergency (as it can take 2 weeks to come back even if you pay for the "check and send" process) I queued at the post office to pick up the form I needed to fill in (took ages, but then that is to be expected), then, seeking pictures, had to stand and debate with 3 small children (who clearly thought the "Photo-me" booth was a playground) in order to get in there and sit down (the last one wouldn't even listen to his mum repeatedly yelling at him to "Michael!!! Geddaaahtovthere!!!!", closed the curtain, adjusted the sticky seat from where they had been spinning it round (until my eyes lined up neatly with the dotted line) and then discovered that the cost of the required shots would be a pound each (daylight robbery!) and the minimum was *four* (when for most purposes one is only required to present two)...Of *course* I didn't have enough change, so, looking back at the 40 minute queue (with a not inconsiderable amount of loathing), I decided to try the queue-free stamp counter, but the lady apparently didn't have any change (yeah, right...), thus I was forced to leave the store completely, pop into a nearby holistic food store and look for something cheap to buy that would result in still having £4 in change (which was much easier said than done, everything, pretty much, was over £1.19), I ended up with a small bag of reduced (near their sell-by date) Flying saucers (the confectionery kind), went back into the Post Office, politely asked the 3 small children if they could "just let me in one more time please" and that "they could come back and play with the seat again in a couple of minutes" (which seemed to do the trick), re-adjusted the seat back down to the correct level, put in my four shiny pound coins and stared straight ahead waiting for some instructions...which didn't come...I peered down at the display and it was reading "Amount due:£1 (No change)", I felt around in the rejected coin bin, just to see if it had been spat out, but nothing...I pushed the "coin return" button two or three times, but again, nothing happened...Wonderful...I groaned, opened the curtain again, and seeing a small queue of people had formed at the stamp counter, I trotted over and joined the back of it (glancing back and grinding my teeth being completely powerless to prevent the 3 small children running back into the booth and starting the process of moving the seat position all the way the wrong direction *again*)...I made sure I made a big show of noticing an old lady in front of me paying with pound coins, got to the front and said "Your Photo-me machine has eaten one of my pound coins, and it says "no change", pushing the reject button doesn't do anything, can you help?"...she (rather begrudgingly) handed me a quid, and I ran back across the Post Office (by this stage feeling rather like Basil Fawlty), asked the kids a little less politely to remove themselves from the booth, pulled the curtain across, *began* adjusting the seat (with my pound coin clutched in sweaty palm) and the machine then made the unmistakable noise of a camera shutter...

Stunned (momentarily) I gaped down at the display, which was now reading "Are you happy with this shot? If not then choose cancel below"...but there was nothing else visible...no buttons, I stabbed desperately at random on the blank touch screen, the only thing I achieved was obviously to confirm that I was happy (by striking an invisible button), and my (not terribly, but still quite) unsatisfactory pictures popped out about 20 seconds later...I couldn't be bothered to fight it any more, they were pictures of me, and they had only cost me £3 instead of £4...it seemed wise to stop right there...

I went and filled out the form, both in black ink and not going outside the boxes, and returned to the store, this time joining the "Travel services" queue (posters all around the place, headed up with the bright and cheery "Travel services" logo, proclaiming the aforementioned "Check and Send" was there available, waited while a succession of people collected bundles of holiday cash, presented the pack to the gentleman, and was told that the "Travel Services" desk was actually *only* a Beureux de change, and didn't do any of the other "Travel Services", he was afraid that I would have to re-join the *main* queue, despite the fact that there was no-one else in the queue behind me, I turned away as he proceeded to sit down and clean his fingernails...40 minutes (and one customer for foreign currency) later and I'm standing at the front, handing over my pack *again*...I put on my most winning smile, the guy behind the counter narrows his eyes and sneers "It's £7 for me to check this, did you know that? That's on top of the £66 fee...", I rolled my eyes and waved at him dismissively (realising that *nothing* about this was going to be simple), he pulled the documents towards him, took one look at my hard-earned photos and said "Oh dear me no, oh no, no, no...they aren't going to like this at all, mate, look - you've obscured part of your face"...and yes, I had indeed obscured some of my face, I had obscured a portion of my forehead with some of my hair, as I *always* do, this being how I *look*..."They'll send these back mate", "You had better get some more done...you could have a scar or other distinguishing feature there or anything", I snatched the pack and photos off the counter with a very stern "Thank you very much" (muttering about "not being bloody Harry Potter" under my breath) and stormed back out of the store...a short while later I came back with *10* pound coins, having tried 2 banks and a building society, all of whom wouldn't give me change unless I could prove I had an account there (ARGH!), slumped down in the Photo-Me machine, did my best to pull my hair away from my forehead and quickly whip my hands down by my side at exactly the right moment, threw the first lot in the bin (having gone through the exact same process as the first time with no options, no ability to cancel or retry), finally got some where there wasn't *too* much hair in the way, joined the back of the queue, waited another 40 minutes, presented the pack (with both sets of photos) to a different member of staff, told him what had happened, and after laughing politely, proceeded to pick up the *first* set of bloody photos I had got, assuming that those were my most recent ones! I honestly did slap my forehead at this point in total and utter disbelief...

You couldn't make it up...

Sorry for not posting...

...very, very busy with work at the moment...normal service will be resumed soon, promise...!