28 November, 2017

Dorking Sunrise


23 November, 2017

The Pixel 2 XL camera...

...is astonishing in low light (it was black, and I took the shot while walking)...pin point and very little noise.  Amazing.

21 November, 2017

The Perfect Digital Marketing pie...

If you are running a website (or 5), as I do - you will know you need access to a lot of analytics.

There are a number of free products - One in particular everyone will know - the universally adopted Google Analytics.  GA can take you an extremely long way to a delicious conclusion.  Sadly, today it can't take you quite as far as when I first started with Blogger (back in the days when everything was transparent), but even back then, Google never got you all the way to the end of the story.  Some clever kitchen magic was required.

Using my Nigella voice - it is essential to source the finest ingredients, only then can you can start to bake the perfect digital marketing pie...So, once your website framework is in place -

Start your recipe with a few hearty spoonfuls of Sessioncam - Two of the most excellent features are the automatic error reporting (which handily includes the exact message - be it a 404 from a referring site or a "You must enter a valid email address" from one of your site forms, things you may never otherwise be aware of), a drizzle of struggle score - this is a fuzzy logic one, but so useful - where are visitors getting lost on the site, scrolling up and down looking for what they need?  Next - pour in a generous amount of heat maps, going page by page, not forgetting a sprinkle of scroll reach visibility and visitor focus over time, which objects do visitors just miss?  Which objects do they spend time looking at, which objects get the most clicks?  What are the most successful user journeys?   All of this is essential for raising page performance and improving usability for future visitors.

Stir into the mixture a generous serving of Leadforensics - probably the best IP database I have ever encountered, light on the page load, 99% accurate (across the globe) - always deliciously reliable.  Set up a series of trigger reports (very simple to do) for each of the Sales team members to fire an alert each time one of their clients visits the site, set up a competitor alert to spot them as they are coming in for a cheeky slice, and set up a trigger for keen new companies consuming a lot of pages.  Perfect both for nurture and hot new leads.  Make sure the mixture is light, fluffy and well blended, picking out those management macbook users looking at pricing and implementation pages just to put the cherry on the warming lead.

Finish the perfect digital marketing pie with a crunchy Salesfusion topping - Here we tie things together with cookies, either from opted in emails or form fills that, for those keen enough on the recipe to sign up for emails or white paper downloads we can start to get into the area of marketing automation...

I could go into more detail, but it's best if you just take a slice and discover the delicious taste for yourself...

Redhill Platform 0 latest news

Redhill Platform 0
So, latest update, over the weekend they have pulled back all the track ballast (perhaps it was just there to compress the ground a bit - but it doesn't seem to be required in most cases) and dug quite a way down into the soil - perhaps 2 feet - and now a whole load more ballast has arrived in little bags (so it is *just* possible they were wasting their time).  Also the mystery of the step access has been solved, the large pole on the platform now supports a railway traffic light system (all wrapped up in black plastic), and a shiny new set of stairs has come into being around the lift shaft...

15 November, 2017

Quite a long week...

Driving in the rain
So, I've just completed quite a long week - Last Tuesday Flyingpops finally went into Gatwick Spire to have a bit of corrective work done on her breathing tubes. The surgery itself took roughly the length of time it took me to watch one episode of Star Trek Discovery (about 50 minutes), everything went extremely smoothly, but it left her feeling dizzy and understandably a bit battered and bruised - none the less, we were discharged a couple of hours later and I carefully drove her home and popped her into bed - where she (pretty much) stayed for the rest of the week.

Having had prior warning that this would probably be the case, I had taken those few days off as holiday and thus suddenly plunged into the world of never-ending school runs, playgroups, shopping and swimming lessons. Yes...a nice, relaxing "holiday", the only respite was the couple of hours in the morning between dropping Annabelle at pre-school (and Thomas and Poppy at big school) and picking Annabelle up again at lunchtime - and even that promptly evaporated when Annabelle wasn't actually at pre-school, but had other activities planned.

This was not the worst of it though, when my holiday ran out we still had a few days to cope with where Flyingpops was still not allowed to drive and I had to put in my hours at work. Even though favours had been called in and arranged weeks in advance, as soon as Flyingpops knew the actual date of the surgery - everyone that had promised to help with the school runs ended up letting us down, just what we didn't need in the circumstances.   More (last minute) favours were hurriedly arranged and I ended up taking the car to work - seemed the only sensible solution at the time. 

However, the simple fact of the matter is - driving between Earlswood and Dorking in the morning and evening during the week has become a living hell.  It is a car park the *whole* way. I must have done something in the region of 60 hill starts on my way into the office yesterday, on the way back I decided to try skipping the main roads and the back roads are just as bad, the only section of road that actually moves at any speed at all is the tiny section through Buckland - all of Reigate, all of Redhill and certainly all of Dorking are just gridlocked. Ironically my train going through Betchworth (closing the level crossing) causes massive tailbacks there too.  Since I last did the commute this way it has become a super stressful way to start and end the day - so it was actually with quite a sense of relief that I picked up my ticket at Earlswood railway station this morning and sat down to watch a movie on my telephone, waiting for the train to take the strain...

01 November, 2017

A gentle introduction to RPGs...

Warlock of Firetop Mountain
So Thomas and I have started out on role playing games (in a very small way).  I decided that the best place to start was probably at exactly the same spot where I began,  which was with "The Warlock of Firetop Mountain" which I picked up in 1982 at one of the excellent school book sales at Bishop Gilpen Primary School in Wimbledon, probably while wearing a pair of grey shorts...somehow or other (and this astonishes me) that original book is still in one piece, and is still in my possession 35 years later (despite the hundreds of times I read through it) - so some thanks is due to Penguin for their excellent publishing.

We've only done a few pages so far, but Thomas has taken great delight in writing up his character sheet and drawing out the map (as far as we have got) and I have to say, his style is bold (practically fearless in fact), I will have to take this into account when we progress, the next steps will be Lone Wolf, then into AD&D...although a brief session of Call of Cthulhu would put an end to that behaviour almost immediately... ;)

Amazing skies this morning...

Foggy Morning in Earlswood
Foggy Morning in Earlswood
Towards the Asylum
...reminds me that this is why I love walking to the station early in the morning...it's like being on another world at times... ;)

31 October, 2017

Happy Halloween!

New Porch and Halloween decorations
...and just a glimpse at our new porch, which is confusing the cat no end when it tries to escape through the old front door... ;)

Interesting sights of Dorking #7 - Horse Drawn Charabanc

Horse and carriage in Dorking
Horse and carriage in Dorking
...just trotting down the high street!

30 October, 2017

Redhill Station Platform Zero - Roof almost complete

Redhill Platform One
Thank you to the change of clocks for having some light to take the picture with...still no actual track for the trains to go along though...

Oh and in the underpass they have definitely been knocking things down, so there is very probably going to be a flight up steps up from there after all...

26 October, 2017

Mittens the explorer

Mittens in the garden
So Mittens has had her first few adventures exploring around the garden - outside she is a different cat - exhibiting a 50:50 ratio of behaviour between ALPHA PREDATOR and episodes of terrified skittish flight. So we have to make sure the back door is clear in case she decides she suddenly needs to flee some terrifying invisible foe.

A good, if painful, example was last Sunday, Annabelle had been put on the naughty step for stealing Poppy's pens and screwing up her drawings (poor Poppy) Mittens got panicked about something and flew towards the stairs - got within two feet of a stropping Annabelle, thought *A LOT* better of it and started back-pedalling (but was going so fast she simply couldn't change direction in time) and collided with the Kallax Bookcase by the door.

We found her later, hiding in the litter box looking cross.

25 October, 2017

Thomas - spreading his wings

8 years ago
So it already seems to be starting to happen (and is, of course, inevitable). On holiday in Cornwall I counted at least ten occasions when Thomas basically vanished - sometimes for over an hour - he'd made a new friend (or two) and was off happily surfing with them, or he had just taken himself for a wander on his own to poke around the rock pools (mostly fine) we had a few "Hrm, Thomas has been a while...oh there he is" moments, but largely okay...Once or twice he integrated himself with a little group of 5 kids and they just hung out in the games room in the Club house trying (one at a time) to borrow pound coins from the various parents to be able to play (just one more) game of air hockey or whack-a-mole.

At home, over the last month or so, on four(?) separate occasions - a little friend of his that he used to go to school with has appeared at our front door (so clearly already being given a much longer leash by his family) and asked if Thomas can go out and play. Finally, last Sunday we said yes. So off he went, completely on his own, having to cross one road without any adult supervision.  Flyingpops issued him with her old iphone so he wasn't completely out of touch (he rang once to check a certain movie was okay to watch - which it was) and an hour later (when pinged to come home) he reappeared promptly at the front door.  Because he had been good - we allowed him to return for another half an hour, but drew the line at letting him come back on his own once the sun had set, so I walked over to pick him up (it's only a couple of minutes away).  According to the parents he had behaved himself and they would be pleased to have him again.
Playing in Priory Park
This seems to have happened incredibly fast although, judging by the photo I took of him in Priory Park trying out his first pair of proper shoes, he never did seem to suffer much in the way of separation anxiety.

Saturday night, Thomas and I chilled out in the master bedroom, just the boys. We played Mario Kart and we laughed at people eating increasingly hot chilli peppers on YouTube then we watched the underrated Disney movie "Atlantis" (which is great). We shall have to try and do a bit more of that.

Sunday morning, he crept into our bed for a cuddle, something he hasn't done in a great deal of time.

24 October, 2017

Mittens' operation

Annabelle with pet carrier
So Mittens is growing up fast. Already at least double the size she was when she first came home. Last week she had her operation to prevent lots of baby Mittens from arriving and has since been feeling a bit sorry for herself - Unusual amounts of time curled up asleep on Thomas' bed/hardly performing any vanishing acts, not always appearing precisely where you are about to tread, causing dizzying pirouettes to avoid kitten death.

When she first came home, we had one hell of a time trying to get the little collar on her to stop her licking her stitches. She fought us tooth and claw and yowled like we were murdering her, it was a bit like trying to muzzle a face-hugger.  It didn't help when Thomas pulled it far too tight in an effort to keep it on. Flyingpops ended up stuffing a glowering (and positively bristling) kitten back into the pet carrier, and speeding back to the vets (while I mopped up everyone's blood) - who, of course, popped it neatly on and gave Mittens a pat.

Unfortunately, it appears that a side effect of a cat that cannot groom itself is that it evolves (fairly rapidly) into a smelly, scruffy ball of uneven fur that is quite unpleasant to be around. So, having learned (eventually) to carefully secure the collar ourselves we have only been forcing her to wear it at night - thankfully we are almost at the end of her recuperation and can soon throw the item to the back of the cat cupboard and forget the wretched thing ever existed.

23 October, 2017

Annabelle and the My Little Pony knife incident

Rockpooling - Cornwall - 2017
So this happened while we were staying in Widemouth Bay Holiday Village over the summer largely speaking a very positive holiday - once we had all got used to being confined to the rather small (for 5 people) accommodation.  Everyone calmed down a lot when we could spread out a bit so we spent quite a bit of time on the beach, as you can imagine)...

Anyway, on one of the occasions upon which we were tripping over each other in the apartment we hit an Annabelle flash-point.  Basically, Flyingpops had bought some craft to keep the girls busy, these lovely "colour your own" backpacks - not these exact ones, but this sort of thing -
Colour your own bag kit
-so anyway, the girls are sitting on the carpet, colouring away happily, and I have to warn Annabelle a few times to be careful with the pens - as we were in rented accommodation and I didn't want her colouring in the apartment.  After a few such admonishments (as she got too close to the wall or furniture) I thought I would just check what the back of the box said.

They were permanent marker pens (of bright primary colours) - by this time, Annabelle was proudly swinging her bag about running unpredictably around the white-walled apartment building and touching the walls with her (now) brightly coloured fingers.  I did one last check for danger - and yes, if I touched the coloured-in rucksack the bright colours came straight off onto my fingers - particularly the bright green one.

At home, what would have been merely annoying, in our holiday home, was grounds for paying for the place to be redecorated.

When I put the bag up high (just to give the ink a chance to dry a bit) - MELT DOWN.  Full on tantrum, kicking the floor and furniture, hitting her sister, screaming at the top of her voice - but the cherry on the top - Flyingpops had long since locked herself in the bedroom claiming she had a headache - was coming back from the bathroom to find Annabelle has (in a state of barely controlled fury) pulled a little bench over,  opened up the cutlery drawer, taken out the biggest knife she could find  (a very large bread knife) and was wobbling around and jumping up, still screaming at the top of her voice, trying to use the knife to hook the bag from the worktop!

What on Earth are you supposed to do in that situation!?  Not sure how I wrestled the knife out of her hand and got her off the stool without serious injury to either she or I, but somehow I did.

I think next time we need to read the box first.

17 October, 2017

Machine Learning, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

Listened to a really good episode of the TED Radio hour podcast on my way into the office the other day. Clued me in to a TED talk by Sam Harris (he's written a number of books that were New York Times best-sellers and is also a credited as a neuroscientist and "armchair philosopher") - basically the talk is about the (as he sees things) inevitability of a super AI evolving (computers are already routinely teaching themselves to learn to do new tasks without human assistance and doing better than their original human programmers), however it tends to be just one thing at a time. When they do learn things they tend to learn to do them very well - play "Go" or chess for example - computers are unquestionably better than humans now at playing these games.

Cars are rapidly learning to drive themselves - people have been involved, but largely the computers are using trial and error in simulations like Grand Theft Auto (where they can't kill anyone real) to learn to drive around complex 3D environments without having a crash. Eventually (and soon) most computer scientists agree computer AI's are going to be doing a lot of the work humans do, are going to be able to perform research unimaginable a few years ago (once the internet of things really happens - already my 'fridge at home is connected to internet) - computers are going to start solving problems humans didn't even know to look for. Looking through millions of variables and tie together say (I pick a few random things here) - the number of times I'm opening the 'fridge making the temperature fluctuate, the fact I have eggs in there from a certain farm, data from an automatic stool/urine sample taken when I visited the bathroom, data on how aggressively I apply the break in the car when driving (if I'm still allowed) and find a pattern of behaviour/things that reliably predicts (for example) I'm in the early stages of developing a brain tumour. Imagine what an AI is going to be able to do once it has all the data on the planet and just starts rapidly looking for patterns -

Things unpredictable and previously non-testable can all come together once we have this huge matrix. Anyway, I digress into the (equally fascinating) subject of big data, the talk is really about making sure we don't do a couple of things (and why) -

  • Get into an uncontrollable arms race between competing AIs (President Putin and Elon Musk agree - I'm sure scientists over Russia are working away on the problem as I type and Google are open about their developments) 
  • Allow ourselves to unwittingly settle into the position of the ant, if the AI is put in the positional equivalent of a team of construction workers - normally not a lot happens, construction workers don't tend to hunt down ants they just live alongside them, but if we have even a slightly differing priority at any point the AI just runs all over humanity without a second thought like a busy guy with a job to do sat in a big JCB 
  • Ignore what we are getting ourselves into - effectively - compared to the sum of current human ability - we are busy setting about building ourselves a god - and to use Sam Harris' words "the train has already left the station" - it's coming and it will be real within the next 50 years.

Very interesting stuff, you can watch the video here - What happens with humans develop super intelligent AI - or listen below -

Redhill platform 0 update

Redhill platform 0
So a bit more in the way of progress, you can now see the extent of what will presumably be the covered area of the platform (spoiler alert - it's pretty much the same as platform 1 and 2), still no evidence of stairs up from the tunnel though, I wonder if it will be a new foot bridge above instead?  That may explain the large metal column you can see on the left of the picture above (click to zoom in if you want a better look)...

16 October, 2017

Red Sky in Dorking, commuters warning...

Red Sun in Dorking
...plus it was getting a bit windy earlier on...looks like I have commuted to red Mars....

Not that I'm short of things to write...

...nice ideas bubble up all the time, but about 2 weeks ago I came up with a notably brilliant idea - I can clearly remember thinking "Oh that's hilarious, what a great blog post that is going to make! Note to self to work that into something when inspiration is low" and then something distracted me and I promptly completely forgot quite what it was - leaving me only with the massively frustrating perfect nagging knowledge that I have let a wonderful idea slip away into blackness...

ARSE.  *Every* time now that my mind wanders off for inspiration I go back to this blank space first, I wonder if this is what writers block feels like?

Dene Street Gardens

Dene Street Gardens
My next door neighbours when I lived in Dene Street Gardens were more of an occasional irritant than a nightmare. In fact I'm probably more of the nightmare neighbour in this particular instance, but on this one occasion (it was the Sunday night of a bank holiday weekend) by about 3am, I had completely had enough of not being able to sleep due to the loud music.

I lost it.

Got myself dressed, pulled on my Doctor Martins, stormed out the front door walking down one side of the alley, stomped back up the other side and executed (what my tired mind had fully intended to be) a loud rap on the window.

Removing my hand from the broken glass (the large hole through which I was now peering) revealing two white-faced occupants frozen - holding an LP near a stacking stereo system in the living room. After a moment's refection I found my prepared speech to be probably inappropriate, switching instead to a hastily prepared profound apology for damage of property and a sincere assurance that I would get a glazier to attend the very next day and then hastily bid my neighbours a pleasant evening before vanishing back to my house and bedroom.

The one blessing was that, even though I didn't actually ask, they did seem to think it appropriate to turn the music down after my surprisingly noisy introduction to their living room. The price of silence was somewhere in the region of £115 (thanks to it being a bank holiday) to get their kitchen door fixed on the Monday, and the next weekend I was still muttering admonishments to myself as I headed down to the kitchen to cook breakfast (I had totally avoided all contact with the neighbours after that).

Outside my kitchen door, as I retrieved my newspaper, milk and orange juice from the window sill, two chaps in casual dress (hoodies etc.) were wandering up my garden path - I greeted them with cautious suspicion. They flashed ID badges and announced themselves to be police detectives, asking if I had noticed anything unusual the night before (I hadn't) then they told me my neighbour had been found dead (suddenly I'm seeing myself in a police line up, the putty being still wet around the newly fixed window about 8 feet away on the opposite house) from the altercation of the week before.

It turned out he died of a heroin overdose sometime during the week and they weren't looking for anyone in connection to the death.

Felt thoroughly rotten and deflated after that, our little incident meant I was probably one of the last people to ever see him alive.

12 October, 2017


It's funny when you find yourself as (pretty much) the sole guardian of a part of history.  It doesn't happen very often now as Google is so great at getting (most) information and keeping it safe, but as my life predates home computers (by a good number of years), let alone the internet as we now know it, I find there to be things that I remember that no-one else has documented online (at all) and increasingly any other minds with similar engrams will stop firing and be placed reverently underground or reduced to ashes (before we learn to CRISPR them into immortality or digitise them).

This isn't any attempt at profundity.  It's just that there are things that are unexpectedly in danger of being completely forgotten to humanity (and I don't like that sort of thing very much).  Now - and this isn't even in the same universe, let alone ball park, but wondering how the pyramids were built is irritatingly futile, and this was a society that did write things down - a lot - (albeit on bits of stone) - we've moved firmly on now, but oh boy is there a consciousness gap.

Anyway, power up your Wayback machines (apologies if they are feeling a bit worn out) - set them for when I started working at Friends Provident - things were (just about) in technicolor, but there was no email yet (even internal "email" was yet to arrive in the form of MEMO), people still had ashtrays on their desks, a few people were still filling out and carefully stacking punch-cards, all the documents for each insurance policy/case were on paper and stored in a big warehouse in Milford (near Salisbury)...there was a computer, just the one.  A big old IBM mainframe (3090?) that mostly just ran a system called GLADIS (General Life Assurance Database Information System - (I think) it was something very close to that anyway) via an insane spaghetti of coax cables out to thousands of dumb terminals - and a few other specialised systems like CA ROSCOE (Urm...Remote OS Conversational Operating Environment?) which was a sort of scripting environment in a clunky text editor, you could write little executables if you could put up with it, some people even wrote little games, there was a Rogue-a-like and a version of the old Star Trek game, ROSCOE was the playground which you also used to do big database queries or fire off millions of mail-merged letters through the car sized line/page printers.  If you had a good enough terminal (i.e. better than 3270) you could run TPX and have everything in teeny weeny fonts (that was 7337)...before we knew it was.

Anyway, just as the first laptops became available (sewing machine sized) Friends Provident did something so revolutionary that they ended up getting a slot on the BBC TV Show "Tomorrows World".
For the time it was staggeringly forward thinking.  Basically, the IFA (Independent Financial Advisor) or a branch sales guy would lug the "laptop" or a similar terminal system (ahem) and a huge great accoustic coupler-
Accoutic coupler
-round to people's houses, presumably unplug everything in the potential clients living room - connect their old-school BT Buzby telephone handset up to the accoustic coupler and use a 300 baud (read very slow) modem to dial up to this system called "FRENTEL" (so I guess in most cases the sales process took place on the floor by the front door where point zero tended to be).  It looked a bit like teletext when it was working, but it interfaced direct with good old GLADIS and allowed the sales guys to produce quotes (and print them off on old daisy wheel printers if they could be bothered to lug them into the hall as well) right there and then in the policy holder's home.


Now...as far as I can see, there is only one document regarding the whole incredible thing on the entire internet about it...this single PDF.

So I guess my point isn't really that FRENTEL existed, it's that now (after having spoken about it a little bit) there are two bits of evidence that it ever did so in the first place.

I hope there aren't too many things I am now responsible for remembering for humanity - FRENTEL is over to you now Google.

Ears are strange...

...not only does the skin inside the ear canal grow constantly out from the inside in a spiral (a bit like a crazy conveyor belt) to keep the canal free of ear wax and other debris, but as you move your eyes to focus on things, the ear drum flexes in the same direction (a bit like a cat/dog ear but not quite as good) to point more specifically at things that could be making interesting sounds.

Try it, you can (kind-of) feel it happening.

11 October, 2017

Atari ST PD - Graven Image

This feels like several lifetimes ago...set your wayback machine to when I can be found living at my parent's house in South Park, not quite sure what I wanted to do for a living, so I filled my time writing the odd game.  This was back in the days when computers lent themselves to creativity rather than just being glorified consoles.  I started writing quite a lot of games, but I finished only three.  They were graphical text adventure games, think Zork,  crafted using a tool called "STAC" (the funky big brother of GAC that I also used to write a bunch of games on the Speccy - but there was no PD scene for the Sinclair crowd so they just existed for my pleasure)...

My releases got reviewed in ST Format (the serious ST users go-to monthly mag) with generally favourable marks (7-8/10), as it had a PD review section (and Mr X. used to regularly forward my releases for review from his Prophecy PD label).  Thank you Mr X. :)

My contributions to the PD scene were as follows, although I also did some sample sequencer demos (basic ones) of various thrash metal songs, but those are definitely infringing someone's copyrights, so I won't mention them, anyway, these are the games, I didn't make these Youtube videos, some kind soul has documented my games for me (albeit briefly)  -

The Elven Crystals
Elven Crystals 1
Youtube video, Download

The Elven Crystals 2
Elven Crystals 2
Youtube video, Download

Youtube video, Download

I hand (mouse) drew all the graphics in Degas Elite (the best drawing tool of the day).  Gradually getting better as I went along.  There were even hidden adventures within the adventures, can't remember the passwords to get in now though...as I said, this was several lifetimes ago.

Very pleasingly you can still get hold of my work (and if you have a floppy drive, a dusty ST in a cupboard and a CRT TV you can re-write the flops as the ST drive was fully IBM compatible), or you can just play them on an emulator.  I'm sure they have aged terribly, like the author, but it was greatly satisfying to contribute to the scene...  ;)

Shout out to the Replicants, the Pompey Pirates, the Medway Boys, Prophecy PD, the Overlanders and TEX.  Make sure you fill up that boot sector and always buy branded disks ...

Wow...I'm old.

Interesting sights of Dorking #6 - Meadowbank sign

Meadowbank sign
Just a slight problem with the signage lining the new football club in Meadowbank park, I think they probably should have thought through the positioning of the lithographic overlays to some of the letters just a little more carefully.

10 October, 2017

The Spider Diaries

Earlswood - Giant Spider on the loose
Four incidents spring to mind.

1) Me - Being around 10 years old, sneaking around the house on a Christmas present hunt while parents are absent somewhere, gleefully finding the copy of Driller I had asked for (the Freescape game), running to my bedroom, loading it up onto my Speccy and then quickly taking a snapshot of everything in RAM and saving it to a blank tape (so I could play it while I was waiting for Christmas to arrive - hehe - no-one any the wiser) - going to return the (perfectly reformed) parcel to it's hiding place - suddenly karma strikes - a *GIANT* dusty house spider runs right up my leg, right up my torso towards my FACE, me stumbling backwards desperately flapping my hands downwards to swat if off my body (even though I didn't want to touch it), I hit my head when I crash onto the floor, seeing stars, spider nowhere to be seen...ran out of the room - *never* looked for presents again.

2) Secondary school, lots of mates around in my bedroom, full on Call of Cthulhu role playing session. I'm the GM. Everyone else is looking at me, I'm facing the room, get to a really tense scene (it's a Gothic horror RPG) - I suddenly see a colossal spider come strolling in through the window at the back of the room - I freeze - a look of absolute terror on my face - everyone in the room goes completely white - then suddenly realise the problem is actually real and not in the game! Everyone lunges for nunchuku or tonfa and go for the spider, it vanishes behind the bed. We go and play in the living room.

3) Years later, just started working in Dorking, still living in South Park, had bought a Titan Mohawk with one of my first paychecks, very cool. Watching a VHS of Predator (for probably the 50th time) on old 29" CRT TV (height of tech), suddenly become aware of GIANT SPIDER underneath the desk TV is sat on, just sitting there...quietly indicate to Junior Angel, who is sat next to me - he mouths "OH SH!T!", I point to the gun, he slowly hands it over, I lock and load as quietly as I can, like I'm playing Sniper Elite III. Take careful aim. BANG (the report from that rifle was like a proper gun shot) - we jump accordingly. Splinters explode from the skirting board - RIGHT ON TARGET - BUT IT DOESN'T EVEN MOVE! When we finally pluck up enough courage to get close, as I *MUST* have hit, it turns out it's a big bit of carpet fluff.

4) Older now, valuable Saturday morning laying in bed in shared house, snug in my duvet in my attic room in Dene Street Gardens (Dorking), brand new slab-like IBM Thinkpad 380D on my lap - starting a play through of Grim Fandango, too lazy to cook breakfast quite yet, trying to ignore knocks on the front door from milkman wanting payment for worlds most expensive orange juice. BIGGEST SPIDER I HAVE EVER SEEN comes slowly into view 1 inch to the right of my face from behind pillow, focus takes a second - immediately throw £1500 laptop four feet into the air - in living room before I know what I have done - swearing loudly. Spider now on duvet, looking as shocked as I am. Grab motorised UZI 9MM BB gun from sofa, unleash 400 rounds. Never see spider again. Forever treading on BB bullets and cursing.

Got cat now.

06 October, 2017

Reigate Ninja

Oh boy...this was absolutely years ago, I'm thinking I was in 3rd year of secondary school?  Something like that anyway.  The night itself is etched forever in my mind though...

This story involves me and a very old friend called "Rattyjunk".  Together we got interested in Martial Arts, especially the weapon kata (great fun).

Together we practised endlessly (nunchuku, tonfa, sai, shuriken and bokken most often), together we slowly improved and together we smashed (along the way) -

a) my bedroom cupboard door
b) a couple of Mean machine Angel's parent's irreplaceable antique living room light fittings
c) my elbow (far too many times)
d) Ratty's large double glazed window in his bedroom (utterly destroyed)
e) Ratty's neck when trying to be a bit flashy with the nunchuku

Oh and we melted his parent's kitchen worktop with some incense while we were at it too.

Pleased with our mutually agreed progress, together we decided we were ready to go out and test our ninja powers around Priory Park in Reigate one dark autumn evening.  We couldn't afford Tabi boots or anything, so we just got our blackest clothes and balaclavas and things and made the best of it.  We actually looked pretty good.

Anyway, after supper, we strapped our (fully functional) weapons to ourselves in various places that didn't make too much of a knocking or chinking sound when we ran, enjoyed a crisp high five, and headed out into the night...

Hah...the fun we had - both of us are well over 6 foot tall and not terribly light of foot (hardly hobbit material) so I guess we probably crashed rather than snuck through the woodland, but we didn't let that stop us stalking a few dog walkers and merry groups heading down into town for a pint or two.  Most people either chose to ignore us or hurried away a little quicker than they would have done otherwise (encouraging their suspicious pets to keep up).

We thought we had done terribly well, until, in full ninja crouch (complete with sword stock visible over shoulder) half way across the football pitch near Priory school the blue lights of a police car became apparent creeping right into the park itself and they weren't terribly far away - the twin beams of the headlights scanning slowly towards us (they were clearly looking for someone - no cars ever normally drive into the park)...


We RAN, staying as low as we could, just making the edge of the woods before the halogen beams cut through the darkness where we had just been crouched...

That evening on our breathless adventure back through the park there were lots of people with torches and radios, which we avoided, and a number more police cars patrolling the perimeter of the park -  we somehow managed to avoid all of them on our way home...so we couldn't have been that bad sneaking when it actually mattered...

It was only when I read the Surrey Mirror the next week that I realised that someone had fired a shotgun through the window of one of the pubs in Reigate town that evening, and it wasn't (in fact) us that the police were hunting for that night...

Suffice it to say we kept the ninja garb and weapons at home from then on...

Harvest Moon

Harvest Moon
Amazing Harvest Moon last night, the first full moon since the autumn equinox.  The picture makes it look a bit more orange than it actually was, it was more yellowy in reality...incredibly bright though.

04 October, 2017

Redhill Platform Zero - progress

Redhill Platform Zero
Well, there has been a little, the toilet block (that arrived in one piece via a large crane) has now been completely encased in bricks, and that large steel pillar has appeared next to it, presumably to hold the roof?   That really is just about everything that has happened (well, everything that is visible from platform 1 anyway)...

03 October, 2017

Little Pink Mini...

old pink mini
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Fink Angel drove a pink Mini (very similar to the one above).

It wasn't mine, I hasten to add.

To be honest, I didn't even really want to learn to drive, that right of passage I was roundly bullied into by Carol from the IT help desk where I worked at the time, whose husband was learning to become a driving instructor - "It's free?" - STERN LOOK - "He. Will. Teach. You. To. Drive. For. FREE??" - TILT OF THE HEAD + FROWN?  As if I were some sort of simpleton...

I yielded with a slightly wobbling lower lip.

I showed up, mid-winter, for pitch-black lessons in pouring rain/sleet, most of my hours spent sitting in traffic jams around Leatherhead during rush hour.

 Somehow I passed when I finally got to drive any significant distance as I took my test in rural Guildford (I didn't check my mirrors enough, but the inspector let me off when I reeled off all the reasons why I should have been doing so) and then clutching my driving license (again slightly reluctantly) I found myself sat behind the wheel of a candy pink classic "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off" Mini.  Lucky I was fairly secure in my sexual inclination and could cope with the inevitable innuendo.

To be honest, most people were just staggered that I could fit through the door - regardless, I was to become very fond of it.

Oddly, the drivers seat went back a *lot* further than the silly Nova Spin I had learned in (knees up around my ears, no room for my hands to pass around the wheel and my two feet covered all three pedals - a death trap), so the Mini was a lot more comfortable to drive. It also handled almost exactly the same as the cars I had been learning to drive (properly) in Mario Kart on the SNES - very much like Toad's Kart, light and nimble, fast to take off, but poor top speed - I felt quite at home (although if anyone else got in it, it felt like driving a shopping trolley full of cannon balls)...
Dorking West Scrap Yard
One day, as it was a very old car, the petrol hose perished, however, thanks to it being a very old car, it was pretty obvious what had gone wrong, so I got out a screwdriver, undid the jubilee clips around the flaky pipe and walked down the road to the breakers yard at Dorking West (I used to live just up the road). They just let me climb over the various cars and steal a bit of similar tube (Scrapheap Challenge style).  Well, I say steal, a small gypsy child demanded 50p as I left, no idea if it was related. Anyway, back at home I fitted the new bit of rubber tubing, terribly proud of myself and then set off for a test drive. Well, I hadn't done it quite right, put it that way. It was fine for the first 5 minutes, I roared down the Reigate Road, thought I would loop round via Brockham. Screamed to a halt on the central reservation, ready to nip over when there was a gap in the traffic, waited...then absolutely floored it...

The car lurched forward, so I am right (perfectly) in the middle of the opposite carriageway, a popping sound - then absolutely zero power - leaving me stranded in probably the worst possible position I could have been in.

OH SH1T!  What could I do? I jumped out, traffic in the distance shooting ever nearer and just started to push, the smell and sound of petrol hitting the engine block and road and starting to smoke - SERIOUS DANGER!

I pushed like crazy, hit the start of the dip and jumped back in and slammed the breaks just in time to stop myself hitting any of the nearby houses of Brockham and popped the bonnet. Fighting through the fume I managed to jam the fuel pipe back where it belonged, waited for the rest of the fuel to evaporate and then drove - extremely slowly - back home (and then screwed the jubilee clip on a bit more tightly)...I'm sure I reported this event to the owner...yes, of course I did...

My pulse rate returned to normal a few days later.

02 October, 2017

My Berghaus Stormcloud

Berghaus Stormcloud
So, my current situation - my old light jacket isn't very waterproof at all (and it's raining quite a bit at the moment) but the weather is too warm for my full on winter coat...yes, that sort of time of the year.

Flyingpops went and bought me a nice new coat (which she assured me was more waterproof) but each time I put it on I just ended up sweating, it felt like the kind of thing I should be wearing in the sauna if I was trying to cut weight before a big fight - *VERY* uncomfortably rubbery and extremely warm - even just looking at it made my fingers start to prune.

So all last week I was moaning about it, people were joking in the office about ways I might be able to lose/damage it without upsetting Flyingpops, and then on Friday morning, amid copious train cancellations and delays (both Southern and Great Western affected) - the heavens suddenly opened - and I understood.

This thing is totally hydrophobic, the water beads up and practically jumps off it - I couldn't even tell it was raining...

I love my new coat, it's amazing... ;)

29 September, 2017

My Ravpower RP-PB19

Ravpower Deluxe
So, my trusty HTC One M9 has basically given up the ghost...it's battery life (from 100% charge) is just over an hour and that is performing light tasks like listening to podcasts or watching a movie.  If I try and use it for Google maps navigation that will kill it completely within 30 minutes.  It's basically unfit for purpose now, but it has fulfilled it's brief, and that was to work until the end of the contract, which has now already happened.

For the record, this is the only Android 'phone I have ever had that has basically worn out, my old HTC One M7 is still going strong after almost 5 years...my old Nexus 7 would have still been working great after a similar amount of time had Thomas not dropped it in the bath...

So (for pretty much the first time ever) it really is time to upgrade.  I already know what telephone I want - a Google Pixel XL - but I'm currently foxed as we are about 5 days now from when it is (strongly) rumoured that the Pixel 2 XL is going to be announced...makes sense to go for the new one, right?  However, that means I have to limp on for another month (at least) until they hit the stores.

The only thing saving my bacon at the moment is my Ravpower RP-PB19, it's basically a massive portable power supply, I really bought it for holiday, so Thomas and I could both sit in the airports, aeroplanes, taxis and coaches and merrily game or movie watch without fear of battery failure...it was amazing, we used it for the entire time we were away (even on the sunbeds by the pool), constantly topping up both my telephone and either my 3DS XL or one of the Kindle Fire tablets (you can plug two devices in simultaneously) - never even had to top it's power up - it was still charging my telephone up in the taxi back home from Gatwick airport...can't recommend them enough...highly portable (fits easily in your pocket), not too heavy, it's got a charge indicator bar (the blue bit) and a built in LED torch...and it keeps old mobile telephones alive while you move from work to home...all for under £30 - get one!

28 September, 2017


Feeling terrible...got such a sore throat, just want my bed...too much work to do... >:P

19 September, 2017

TRON Lamborghini - Earlswood

Tron Lamborghini Earlswood
Spotted this on my walk to the station, I just thought it was a flashy paint job (fairly sure Flyingpops would approve of the colour) -
Tron Lamborghini Earlswood
-then I noticed this little TRON logo...which made me smile... ;)

18 September, 2017

Redhill Platform Zero - more progress

Redhill Platform Zero
Well, more progress over the weekend, we now have a very neat covered walkway from the new stop on the lift -
Redhill Platform Zero
-plus a new toilet block! Not much progress on the concrete blocks making up the back wall (the only thing stopping you accidentally tumbling down the hill onto Princess way)... ;)

15 September, 2017

Horse Chestnut Soap

Horse Chestnut Foam
Well, there you go, proof (if you needed it) that Horse Chestnuts contain usable soap...the recipe (in this example) is take a suitable container - this pothole at the corner of Asylum Arch Road is fine, add 2 days worth of rain water, allow the Horse chestnuts to drop from the trees into the puddle, crush and stir the mixture with a selection of car tires and walking boots, then simply collect your soap into a discarded Costa coffee cup and you are all set for whatever woodland cleaning purposes you had in mind!

A proper procedure is here... ;)

14 September, 2017

Radiation Controlled Area

East Surrey Hospital Radiation
I walk past this little sign twice every day at East Surrey Hospital on my way to and from Earlswood station, and I'm starting to wonder if I should give it a bit of a wider berth...faint as those roentgens may be, I'm sure they have the capacity to add up over time...perhaps I'll vary my route a little more - it's better to be safe than sorry!

13 September, 2017


Earlswood Station holes
Okay, so I suffer from some form of Trypophobia...how did I get to my considerable number of years without noticing?  No idea...to sum it up in a very basic way - it is a profound fear of clusters of holes...the above image is a safe(ish) example which I spotted in the underpass at Earlswood station the other evening (clearly someone with a power drill and too much time in their hands) click here to see some proper trigger images to discover if you suffer from it too...be warned though, there is no turning back.

For me, these images scream out "single minded, malignant, inescapable, exponentially spreading parasitic infection" (they make my skin physically crawl, I feel uncomfortable for the next couple of hours and carefully check everything I'm touching until the feeling abates)...it's not pleasant at all...so don't click it unless you are prepared to detach yourself for the purposes of scientific interest.

You have been warned.

11 September, 2017

Redhill platform 0 update

Redhill Platform 0
Lots of work at Redhill station over the weekend (in fact the whole station was completely closed to accommodate it - as I discovered when I tried to take the kids to Dorking on a train on Saturday morning) -  We ended up taking almost 2 and a half hours to get to swimming (only just made it) - it's normally a 7 minute train journey...anyway, all the ballast (upon which the new tracks will be laid) is now in place-
Redhill Platform 0
- and it looks like the first steps towards extending the lift up another story (to make the platform accessible) have taken place...still not quite sure where the steps up are going to appear from through, but they have to be somewhere near the ticket office there...