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

Trypophobia...

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...

Earlswood Station Closed...

Earlswood - Ticket Office closed
It's kind of a triple whammy at the moment at Earlswood railway station (if you want to be good and pay for your travel)...the ticket office (and other facilities like the toilet) are closed pretty much every day...
Earlswood Station - Out of Service
...and the ticket machine is largely out of service (although it was working briefly last Monday morning)...
Earlswood Station - Sign
...but even at those fleeting moments it hasn't been updated to accept the new pound coins (which are rapidly becoming much more common than the old variety)...come on Southern Rail!

08 September, 2017

Our New Kitchen

New Kitchen
Ah...here we go, it's still not quite finished, but we can use it...loving our incredible new giant 'fridge freezer (with automatic ice maker) and Rangemaster cooker (2 ovens - one with 7 shelves, the other one with a roaster holder on the door, so the meat effortlessly comes out to you for inspection during cooking - simply amazing - 5 burners (including a super powered wok burner) and a salamander) - when we were buying them the guy calmly assumed we were kitting out a professional kitchen... ;)

Interesting sights of Dorking #5

Nandos Hood Ornament - Dorking
...is the old car that can usually be spotted parked along Station Road sporting a custom Nando's hood ornament (and some beer bottle tops in the grille for good measure)...very cool... ;)

07 September, 2017

To Bitcoin or not to Bitcoin...

bitcoins
...I dunno...

The problem is, I've been "I dunno" about cryptocurrency for so long that I've missed pretty much every available boat that could have possibly come along (and probably waved to the happy people aboard along the way)...

In 2009/2010 I missed the early mining phase, mostly turned off by the blockchain vulnerability that was discovered.  I laughed when (as a publicity stunt?) someone bought a couple of hot pizzas from Papa John's for 10,000 bit coins - those same coins are now worth 50 million dollars (it's not funny in the least in retrospect - especially for the purchaser).  I felt sorry for the stream of people who dabbled in Bitcoins in the early days and then (realising that crypto was taking off) discovered to their horror that they had lost/broken hard drives with locally stored bitcoin wallets (now worth millions)...I cannot forget the guy that deliberately trashed his PC (before realising his mistake) and maybe to this very day is still searching his local landfill for the hard drive...so that turned me off, what if I spent ages mining bitcoins only for my hard drive to trash itself?  Missed that boat.

Now you need a super computer to mine, that's not in the budget, missed that boat too.  Might be able to join a mining pool, but 81% of the chain is coming from China and the government there is trying to kill crypto like it's a giant, baby-eating mega-spider in a mean mood...not getting on that boat on purpose.

Last Saturday bitcoin hit a record $5000 dollars each.  There was a fire sale of assets (not entirely sure why - but financiers) meaning the value has (hopefully temporarily) dropped by about $700 during the fallout.

At this stage I'm firmly thinking that this is the boat for me.  I'm tired of saying to myself "Damn...why didn't I just buy a bitcoin when they were about £100" or "Why didn't I build a little mining box out of an old laptop?", of course I won't be able to afford a whole bitcoin now -  I'm looking at being able to afford about 0.01% of one, but at least next time I'll have something to consider selling when I read "bitcoin value multiplies by 250% in a year" and not just grind my teeth in frustration at how good I am at procrastination.

In another possible world, I'm (right now) sat in Cancun wearing diamond studded Speedos and a fresh looking pair of Oakley shades, drinking piña colada and slapping my Bitcoin wallet, which is chained to Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (while I laugh heartily, but amiably and sensitively (so as not to offend anyone) at my good fortune)...



Foggy Morning in Earlswood

Foggy Earlswood
Foggy Earlswood
Winter is coming...

06 September, 2017

Interesting sights of Dorking #4

Kings Arms Dorking
...is the Kings' Arms pub, local historians have managed to track the building it is housed in all the way back to when it was built in 1405 AD, and know it was converted into a coaching inn sometime during the 16th century, the oldest map I could find online was a (very neat) reproduction from 1649 which shows the pub clearly marked - right in the middle there (so it's definitely been around for a while!) -
Map of Dorking circa 1649
- interestingly the area where I work is called "Parsonage Square", which if you look on the map above is because just across the road was the boundary of the Westcott pasonage lands (Westcott is two miles away from Dorking - so they had a *lot* of land) and the little bridge over Pipp Brook -
Pipp Brook Dorking
-on Station road was known as "Parsonage bridge" (back then at least) the above picture is me standing upon it looking down at the water...apparently my office was the tithe barn (presumably for the church and the parsonage both).

05 September, 2017

Leaving London behind...

News Building in the rain
I can't help but wonder, sat at my desk in sleepy Dorking, if the feeling of stress from spending all those years commuting into London will ever fully leave me. It's been just about 18 months now since I had to get up and face the crushing, suffocating shuffle. When I close my eyes I can still clearly see ranks of departure boards filled with sickly yellow "Cancelled" status notifications, an unwilling participant in the moaning army of the living dead, barely held back from ticket barriers by a thin line of community support officers - fully prepared to rugby tackle and detain the runners (who have simply broken inside and no longer care about the consequences) - tube station platforms, so full of stinking bodies, gasping for breaths of what amount to blackened, scorching CO2 - swaying dizzyingly, mere millimetres from either a tumble to electrified rail or death by rushing steel canisters that flash before you as the hot bodies behind inch you always forwards - the unstoppable conveyor of people neverendingly spewing from the escalators - tube train doors groaning open to already crushingly full cattle trucks, stuffed with a spaghetti of twisted bodies, some red faces bulging out, just for an instant, to gasp for the slightly less cloying air, a gasp free from the stale cigarettes, second-hand coffee and clinging, sodden, stinking underclothes - it requires physical effort to deliberately enter and start to force yourself to voluntarily inhale the fume - a tiny handful managing to extricate themselves - then rushing towards the light above, finding too often steel grilles drawn across entrance and exit from the foetid maze or broken escalators foiling them - "you can't come this way mate, overcrowding" - and always that half a thought of those who would deliberately pick this perfect time and place to detonate a bomb...when you escape, you are dirty - black from the soot and newsprint, defiled by the experience.

I did everything I could to make it survivable, leave earlier (and earlier), take the bus instead of the tube (but then the 100-person long queues, buses not turning up, traffic jams or breaking down), take the DLR (but more breakdowns, acts of violence right in front of me - there are no staff on trains or platforms for ne'er-do-wells to worry about)...there is no escaping it, there is no way to fight it - you just have to join it and accept it for the horrible reality it is - and that changes something in you - people here are just rude and impatient, people here just care about themselves (it doesn't matter if you are pregnant or on crutches - don't expect a seat)...expectations of basic levels of sanitation and personal space are a ridiculous conceit - put up and shut up if you want to ride, oh and a fair number of these people are actively out to rob you or kill you, so pay mind to that if you want to get out with your wallet/life.

Doing this thing - commuting to London - for one day is utterly exhausting, doing it day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year for decades requires you to slowly, but completely, surrender all of your standards and expectations - and I'm not entirely sure you ever truly get these things back.

You are subjected to moments in time no-one would wish upon an enemy - the tiny girl in her school uniform I saw crushed to death with her push bike under the wheels of a huge truck - the wails of her classmates - the cyclist I saw thrown into the path of the traffic on the Gray's Inn Road by a car driver opening his door at just the wrong moment, the bombs on 7/7...hell, I'm old enough that I was even caught up in the IRA bin bombings...



Keep calm and carry on.





I'm sat at my desk in Dorking. Outside I can see Ranmore Common atop the South Downs, there is a slight drizzle falling from the slate grey sky, someone in the distance has started burning damp wood, causing a thick snake of smoke to climb until it becomes indistinguishable from the cloud and once again I try to remind myself that it's quiet and calm.

Platform 0 at Redhill - Update

Redhill Platform 0
Redhill Platform 0
Here we go, some updated pictures of platform zero at Redhill station as promised. It honestly looks just about ready for use. All that remains is to add the platform furniture, electronic departure boards (maybe a nice roof to provide some protection from the elements - although, as they proved at East Croydon, these things can be added on at a later date with minimal disruption.

Oh and dig a little tunnel so commuters can actually get onto it (that would be useful), oh and we mustn't forget the rails to actually bring the trains in...(although every train calling at platform zero will have to cross over the Reading and Tonbridge lines that normally terminate/start on platform 1, which might cause some logistical issues.

I'm sure they have it all figured out... ;)

04 September, 2017

Back from Cornwall Holiday

Cornwall Sunset 2017
Ah...just spent two weeks in Cornwall, in (largely) beautiful sunshine.

It was a nice mixture of slightly stressful beach days and a few trips out to see the sights (some new, some old favourites).  The stress was largely as Thomas is really starting to stretch his independence now, clearly feeling that he doesn't need to be under our wings at all times - resulting in extended periods where he turns out to be perfectly safe, but is absent without leave - the transition is more of a challenge for Flyingpops and I than it is for him (he must have made around fifteen new friends, averaging between 2 and 6 per location visited), so he's not just vanishing, he's vanishing, meeting people and participating in activities with them (like the two lads he went off surfing with for over an hour one day, or the two girls he organised into a swimming competition in the pool one day).
Overall developmentally excellent, but a bit of a wrench for Mum and Dad to suddenly be in the - Thomas appears -  "I need a drink of water" - glug - "bye!" position...

I suppose it took about 3 days for everyone to calm down enough to actually start to relax and really enjoy the holiday, just shows how much pent up energy we are all carrying around (even the kids) - it was an eye-opener the first moment we got them to be quiet for more than a handful of seconds when they realised that the only noise anywhere near was coming from them - all of the rest of Cornwall was in a state of silent meditation.  Didn't last long, but you could see it sink in.

Anyway, it's back to work today, rainy and cold (in shorts and T-shirt last week, today I was fumbling around for gloves - only found one), ticket office was, of course, closed and a huge queue at the machine plus the usual strikes and signal failures...business as usual - a bumpy landing back to Earth...

Platform zero at Redhill

New Platform at Redhill
Apologies for the terrible picture, I'll take another one as soon as I am able, but happened to notice that the big barriers have vanished from opposite platform 1 at Redhill revealing a largely complete new "platform zero" (as it has been dubbed by the local press).  There has also been some work (largely electrical) taking place on the old platform/rails that used to be used by the Royal Mail trains on what would presumably have been platform 4 - although there is no access to that platform for the general public, just an old door that probably leads through an abandoned stairwell down to the sorting office at ground level, several stories below.  There is no mention of it being resurrected anywhere that I can see, but it's interesting to see that they are bringing the electrics up to date.

This new platform is supposed to support new trains capable of  moving 110k+ new passengers per year out of Redhill, concerns are that the creation of this new platform will send lots more people through the very small subway between platforms at peak times (the stairway at platform 3 is a particular choke point)...we shall see...perhaps if they add in a passenger bridge at the other end of the platform it won't be so bad...

18 August, 2017

Interesting sights of Dorking #3

APC being scrapped
How about this? An APC/Tank being gradually stripped to pieces by the guys at L J C Autospares on Ranmore Allotments road...It was running when they brought it in...seems a bit of a shame to break it up...

Say Hello to Mittens...

Mittens
...the tiny kitten, who arrived just before Thomas' birthday as an early surprise...just in the last couple of days she has started to come and curl up for a cuddle with me (instead of basically just trying to eat my hands) although there is still a certain amount of that involved... ;)

Now, if we can only get Annabelle to stop picking her up by her tail (and/or throat) we might have a peaceful house! ;)

17 August, 2017

Anyone lost a bike? #Dorking

Dorking West Underpass
Spotted in the underpass at Dorking West Station...

Interesting sights of Dorking #2...

Gilliangladrag Fluffatorium in Dorking
...is without doubt - the Gilliangladrag FLUFF-A-TORIUM Total Mother Fluffer
- presumably some of the resident rogue knitters are responsible for flagrant acts of vandalism and defacement around Dorking such as this(!) no prosecutions have (as yet) taken place -
Dorking Cock - knitted traffic cone
- but what a charming, totally unique place this makes Dorking to exist in...thank you Gillian...and your army of New Model Knitters... ;)

16 August, 2017

Why is anyone doing programmatic advertising?

Programmatic

Yes...Programmatic...

From a publishers point of view - it is a necessary evil - you get terrible ads - usually you are flooded with either the same ones you have a properly paid for campaign running (prompting shouts from the sales floor) or just odd ones diminishing the brand (think Poundland on The Times) - or terrible plus - fraudulent ads ("this person discovered a clever trick, dentists/dermatologists/zoologists hate them!) or absolute worst case - competitors appearing all over the place - and then you reap only a tiny amount of revenue for the pleasure (in the pence) in exchange for somebody's entire life being devoted to blocking all that horror (while being shouted at by Editorial and Sales).

This situation occurs either because the publisher's sales team is unable to properly monetise the ad impressions or the content is not worth advertising around (or the prices are too high).  From a brand point of view it would be better to just switch the ads off, or go for a sponsorship model, to do anything else is just to announce to the world "This programmatic model is what our content is now worth - basically nothing". House ads, properly used, can bring a great deal more value (upselling subscriptions, Wine club memberships etc.) but is so often undervalued or simply not factored in to the bottom line - it's someone else's target - let's just ignore the big picture.

From the (legitimate) advertisers point of view, although it is very cheap - you always find yourself plopped into this vague "woolly world" of ill-defined segments to target, with no idea where or when your ads are going to appear and asked to make a guess about how much this is worth to you, bidding against other fumbling fools, lost in the murk, calling out for help - and there will never be any, because that is just where the publishers want you.  Why has my boss just had an email saying our ads are running on (insert ludicrously inappropriate site here)...?  No idea, no control, no validation - you may as well throw your expensively crafted ads up the chimney (after you have torn them up).

I've worked on both sides of this puzzle (publisher and advertiser) for well over a decade and here are four undeniable truths -

1 - Apart from on those few sites where there is a subscription model that requires age/job/location/salary (etc.) before one can register (and require subsequent logon) - ALL publishers just make their segments up by guesswork - when you try your very best to do it correctly (and I have) the resultant numbers are usually just too low to work in practice.  All the "segments" you see that have a meaningful amount of impressions are fudged (or basically run of site)...Hey - Can we up the number of impressions on the football segment, the client wants an upsell?  Sure - Urm - only option - add in all of "Sport" and "News" oh and "Celebs", almost there..this is exactly what is taking place every day. Fact.

2 - The advertisers (whether or not they are being fraudulent) don't give a monkeys what the segments say as long as they get the clicks/conversions. Fact.  They don't care about the fraudulently defined audience as long as it works.

3 - Despite all this chatter around cross device attribution - A lot of the time (not all the time, but a lot of the time) more than one person picks up and uses those devices (maybe Mum grabs the ipad/laptop in the morning to massage their facebook friends, then the kids hog it for cbeebies/slime making tutorials on Youtube between 3-6pm, maybe Dad sneaks a little bit of a cheeky Reddit time later on in the evening) - that cross device profile?  It's nonsense.  Mummy, can I play on your iphone? Daddy, can I use your Pixel?  This happens - and it happens frequently.  Fact.

4 - Those numbers you are going to be expected to justify, including the ones that start with pound and dollar signs?  In every single case they will never, *EVER* match up...

The whole idea of this area of online advertising/marketing was to carefully match up audiences with relevant content and relevant ads and make a better world for everyone (yes, both Editorial and the consumer were both in there somewhere originally - and not just with the ever present Google re-targeting).

Unfortunately, the reality of the current programmatic situation is "I want clicks" plus "I want to sell impressions" = Not the right audience - everyone is being selfish to the point of distraction - "what is this shit on my beautiful site?" + "We need to hit target" + "I don't care where my ads run as long as they work"  - these attitudes leave pretty much everyone unhappy.

In the face of the decline of print media, heads of digital sales are consoled by targets being partially met - but, as you can clearly see  - this is to the detriment of all.

No debate - It's broken - programmatic is slowly and quietly grinding more holes into the already leaking hull of the traditional online advertising model.  The only winners are the programmatic companies, who are laughing (all the way to the bank)...

Yay! New 'Fridge...!

New Fridge
Delivered on Monday (just gone) by two fellows in a van (one of our neighbours parked out the back, blocking the back gate, so they had to try and squeeze it through the front door - it only just fitted - after they had removed the 'fridge doors)...! But here it is at last - the 'fridge of my dreams...! New Fridge
It has an ice dispenser built in (hurrah!) - a mysterious "Wifi" button - not read the manual yet, but it looks like it has a load of sensors (like 11) built in and syncs up with an Android app so you can tell it to "boost ice production" in emergencies and other such things (probably largely pointless, another little cog in the internet of things) -
New Fridge
- oh and a really clever "door-in-door" design whereby you can pop condiments, cheddar blocks, olives, gallons of milk, the little yoghurt drinks that Annabelle drinks by the dozen (anything you are always going in and out of the 'fridge for basically) in this part of the door leaving the rest of the interior (with all your chops, chickens, salad and veggies) largely undisturbed...used properly it's supposed to save ~40% on energy consumption! Clever stuff...

The most clever bit about it though (and well done to Flyingpops for managing to arrange it like this), is that the entire new kitchen is being installed while we are away on holiday, so we should come back to everything (pretty much) done after our two week break!

15 August, 2017

Balloon, Rave and Canister, Canister-Rave-B'loon...Dorking

Canister and Balloon Dorking
Here we go, didn't take me long to pass one, first thing Monday morning (although I found numerous other examples during my 6 minute walk).

It was dropped on the pavement in Station Road outside the old folks home.  In case you aren't aware - this is evidence of the use of so-called "Hippy crack" or plain old Nitrous Oxide (to you or I)...there are a *lot* of these kicking around the place in Dorking, so next time you see someone walking along the road (it is clearly done in plain sight based on the location I spotted this one in) and happen to see a group of people clutching (or appearing to be blowing up) balloons (and then falling over), it is just possible that they may very well *not* be on their way to a kids birthday party...

Interestingly, Derek Jones, the CEO of Kuoni Travel reported that their new (currently unoccupied) office located at the entrance to Dorking Office Park - One Dorking Office Park - Kuoni HQ
- (the one that grew up over the top of Old Char Wharf) was blessed with the pleasure of hosting an illegal rave on the site last weekend (probably thanking his lucky stars that they haven't actually taken up occupancy as a company yet)...There are a few pictures here from before the police arrived, broke up the "Conga" that was going on and seized the sound system, at which point the majority of the participants ran across Meadowbank park, presumably to their rich parents' houses to hide in the loo.

I'm not sure Dorking really knows how to have a proper rave... ;)

14 August, 2017

Rather a lot of rain...

Spot of rain last night
...just lately, I am dismayed to say that the vast majority of it has been coming (in an almost constant procession for about the last 2 months) from the South West, where we are about to head for our family summer holiday.  We haven't had a lot of luck with the weather for the last couple of holidays (it even managed to rain so badly when we were in Spain that the hotel started to flood and the whole of the Costa Del Sol suffered power cuts), so it would be good if the rain could just take 2 weeks off so we can spend most of our time on the beach on this occasion... Pretty please?

11 August, 2017

Something is wrong with the trees...

Something wrong with the trees
There is something terribly wrong with (pretty much) all the horse chestnut trees in Royal Earlswood, I'm thinking a severe case of leaf blotch, but apart from the awful discolouration of the leaves they are also producing (and shedding) copious amounts of tiny conkers -
Conkers
-this is something they don't normally do until September-time.  It's probably a bit too late to pull off the affected leaves (not that I could reach them all anyway)...

10 August, 2017

Interesting Sights of Dorking #1

Welcome to Dorking (East End)
If you wander right to the end of Dorking towards the eastern limits of town, visible if you were heading into Dorking from Westcott/Guildford way, you will find this (now slightly faded) but still impressive vintage mural (I can't decide if it was intended to be 20s or 40s as it contains common elements of both decades), painted onto the side of the Old House (formerly "The Old House at Home" pub on South Street, just a stones throw from my (now not so) new office... ;)

09 August, 2017

My amusing college job...

Ron Tozer Fish and Chips
Well, here is it - the back of "Ron Tozer's Fish and Chips" in Redhill (it's been under new ownership for many years now, the current people that run it smile and give you extra chips if you say "Xièxiè")...

This is where I spent some of my time working my way through college, earning pennies and coming away with countless hot fish suppers that hadn't sold by closing time.

The crew (if I remember correctly) was Ron (boss and head chef), Graham (urm, the hired muscle?) and Warren, the bosses son - during the day he was a photographer for the Surrey Mirror, helping out in the shop at night. There was a young lady who waited tables in the restaurant area out the back, and a wiry guy who did prep (peeling spuds and skinning/trimming fish fillets) but I don't recall their names as I had little call to interact with them.

The introduction to working there was simple - Arrive - Collect keys from top flat (up all those stairs), open up back door, put on whites, turn on friers and glass fronted warmers. Heat up a few pies in the microwave (both chicken and mince varieties) - taking the foil off carefully first - put saveloy sausages into pre-existing milky tepid water "never EVER eat those, I know what went into them", turn on gravy and mushy peas ("we don't do curry sauce, that's for Northern poofs") stir the cracked skin into oblivion. Use chip paper and non-brewed condiment (chip shop vinegar) to clean down all surfaces (glass and metal) - "never bother with window cleaner lad, it's a waste of money - that stuff is the business" (and it was) - pop a great big block of what looked like lard "it's nut oil lad" (hrm) into the frier if it was looking a bit low - count the contents of the till and write the total on a bit of chip paper and pop it under the tray the £20 notes go into so we can do the maths later. Sometimes there was a knock on the back door, if so go and collect all the frozen fish (in stupidly slippery cardboard boxes) from a big refrigerated van and pop it into the freezers. At some point during all of this (usually towards the end) Ron would appear, already in his whites, and ask me to do all the things I had already done.

Prep chef out the back would then appear, in checks and a natty hat, throw a bag of spuds into what basically amounted to a washing machine lined with sandpaper and then smoke a cigarette while the potatoes peeled themselves, throw them through an industrial chipper and then wheel the resultant huge great plastic trough of raw chips up to the front and park it just out of sight of the customers view, with a pale blue mop bucket on the top for us to shovel them into the hot oil.  Next the fish and batter would appear in stainless steel containers and without any further ado the cooking would begin with a great big hiss and cloud of steam which always fogged up the front window regardless of the weather.  Constant time checks were done, and at the appointed moment (although not until I was signalled) it would be my job to flip the open/closed sign and unlock the front door.  Just occasionally I needed to welcome the members of a little queue already waiting for their food outside...

Fried food is cooked when it is floating, if Ron was busy, I would lift the cooked bits carefully up to the warmer, trying not to drip boiling oil onto any part of my body, tradition was that you knocked any long bits of crisp batter into the chip tray - some people ordering chips asked for some "extra crispy bits" - not something I was familiar with - but this was what they were after.

From there it was typically a blur of "Two cod and chips" (etc.), the occasional chicken quarter (they come frozen and pre-cooked btw) until closing time when I would be sent away with my salary in cash in my pocket, my pay slip in biro on a greasy bit of chip paper (if at all), pie and (miscellaneous) fish and heaps of heavily salted and vinegar-ed chips under my arm, steaming up the bus windows on the way home - occasionally some of  the food made it back home to be shared.

Of course there were notable moments - yes, we did get *one* Northerner come in asking for curry sauce, he was told to go away by an angry Ron (who then bravely went and hid out the back leaving me to face the insulted customer) - awkward smile :S. An old lady would come in occasionally and pay for cod and chips with numerous bags of one pence pieces, I was sent into the restaurant to count them all while she waited - it was correct each time, but I still had to count. One time a frozen cod arrived with it's guts still attached and the chef out the back thought it would be clever to eat them raw - no idea how he kept them down - he definitely regretted it when the contents spewed out down his chin.

Then there was the time Ron was on the balcony and decided to throw the keys down to me to open up, one of the keys (it was a bunch larger than my clenched fist now) went straight through my hand, blood everywhere, but Ron just put a load of chip paper (the answer to everything) and quadruple wrapped blue kitchen sticking plaster round it and I worked the shift (feeling slightly faint) - I still have nerves catching things thrown at me to this day - apologies to anyone with anything extra dripped onto their dinner that night. Oh and how could I forget the night there was a fight outside the McDonalds opposite, a hoodie kid got quite badly beaten by a gang, when they ran off he got up and kicked straight through the window of the Estate Agents next door, picked up what I can only describe as a sword of glass and made chase after them (Ron didn't shut the shop of course) - I don't imagine that ended well...

A few years after I stopped working there I read in the local paper that Warren and Graham had been on a fishing trip in the Algarve and (allegedly) thrown a German tourist off a 12 foot high sea wall (luckily(?) he was only paralysed rather than killed) - last thing I heard Warren was on the run somewhere in Australia and an EU arrest warrant was out for Graham.

Fun times...

08 August, 2017

Dorking West Station

Shadows at Dorking West
Opened in 1849 as "Dorking" station (later "Dorking Town), and historically the home of a large goods yard (it's now an industrial estate), this sleepy station is one of the quietest in the country.

Interestingly the road that leads into the old goods yard is called "Old Char Wharf", hinting that both the goods yard had something to do with fire/charcoal and also that Pipp Brook (a tributary of the Thames that runs right through the area) used to be a little more substantial than it is today.

Believe it or not official figures show only ~16 regular passengers per year.  At normal commuter time in the morning there is only one really viable train for the 9-5 crowd that stops here - and from that me and three or sometimes four other people disembark. At home time it's the same sort of thing, just the one train and on that it's me and 5 other people who regularly get on - so if anything 16 seems like a bit of a stretch of the imagination...just compare that to the 53.8 million annually entering and exiting at London Bridge (which was my previous regular destination).  Makes you wonder why they continue to run services here actually...

Dorking West Station
Still, overheads are low, there isn't even a ticket machine, the only listed facility for the station is a bike rack, and as far as I can see I'm the only person that ever uses it - to sit on while I wait - looking at the back of "International Rescue" who are slowly taking over all the units backing onto platform 2 and filling them with dry suits, RIBs, fire engines and ex-special forces personnel.

There is obviously a vibrant night-life at the station, as the tunnel (partially pictured) is regularly strewn with miniature gas bottles & deflated balloons, empty kebab/fish and chip wrappers, NHS sourced shooting paraphernalia, signs of small fires -
Dorking West Underpass
- copious amounts of used wet wipes and hundreds of partially crushed cans of "Relentless" (and occasionally traces of unimaginative spray painting).

Once a week a very tired looking Peter Griffin look-a-like waddles between the platforms in an endless quest to keep the place looking respectable (and does a good job to be fair)...honestly, I think more people come to Dorking West to pick blackberries than do to actually catch a train - but I would rather be here than anywhere in London.

07 August, 2017

Nature reclaims the Pilgrim

Nature reclaims the Pilgrim
So the Pilgrim pub in Dorking is on my walk to and from the station (morning and evening), it closed it's doors for the last time back in August 2015 - long before I started actually working in Dorking again. Last year I was witness to it being boarded up (they actually use sheet metal now) after plans to redevelop and re-open it (presumably) fell through.
The Pilgrim - boarded up
 Now, day by day, I am watching the slow reclamation process taking place by plants and wildlife, along with the odd bit of vandalism - the brick BBQ was smashed to bits the other week and rough sleeping (mostly in the roof of the barn out the back), it appears they gained access by stacking a number of old beer barrels into a makeshift set of stairs...and just recently most of the old garden tables were pushed together and connected with a ramp - I assume for skateboarding purposes - it's nice to have my own personal bit of derelict urbanity within which to do exploration (right on the doorstep too), I find it amusing that the place is seeing so much activity after it has (as far as most people are concerned) permanently ceased to function.

04 August, 2017

Meadowbank Dorking in the Summer

Meadowbank Dorking 2017 Meadowbank Dorking 2017 Meadowbank Dorking 2017
One of the more pleasant morning commutes I have had - pictured is "Willow Walk"...(during the summer at least, in winter time the path becomes  "Willow death slide", threatening watery doom with every hesitant slippery step)...