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...

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...

...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...