Journal – December 2005

Time to finish off another year from my journal, and there’s a lot packed into this latest collection of entries, including updates about my Access To Work support, meeting up with friends, our first look at digital TV, more DVD and music purchases, and news stories that have caught my eye. Plus of course there’s plenty of talk about Christmas. So I hope you enjoy!

Friday December 2, 2005

Phew, what a week. It’s been busy at work again, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes in frustrating ways. The best news is that one of my support workers has sent me the report from the RNIB recommending various bits and pieces to help me (magnifiers, software, etc). So I’ll show it to my manager, and they can then arrange what to get and sort out what their contribution will be to the costs.

Talking of money, I’ve been buying some more Amazon stuff. Mainly CDs this time:

In the news this week:

I’ve got 4 days off now. On Monday, I’m going shopping with Mum and Dad in Torquay. Then on Tuesday I’m meeting my best mate in Exeter, as he’s coming down for an eye check-up at the hospital there. So it’ll be nice a short week at work after that.

Sunday December 4, 2005

Yesterday we booked a guy from the Yellow Pages to come and install a new aerial for us, so we could get digital TV. He came round today and set it all up, so I think we’ve got a proper wideband aerial now. We still had our old Pace digital box, so he used that to check the digital reception. It picked up most of the channels, and in very good quality, but it is a few years old, and extremely out of date (it’s never been used, so has never downloaded any software updates). Not a bad price either, just over £200 for the aerial and a few other bits and pieces like cables and an aerial amplifier.

Monday December 5, 2005

Mum, Dad and I went to The Willows in Torquay today, going there and back by taxi. We got a few Christmas cards in Sainsbury’s and some Christmas food in Marks & Spencer. Neither store had a great selection of each e.g. Mum and Dad couldn’t find a fully royal iced Christmas cake in M&S, which they like. But we did get mince pies, which are always good.

But our main stop was Comet, where first we got 2 new Philips Freeview boxes, so we have one for each TV. They were very easy to set up, giving us quite a few channels. I’ve removed the stations we’d have to pay for, but there’s still over 30 left. And we can now press the red button when they say we can. There still isn’t always much on to watch, but it is good to have more choice. And we can get some radio stations using it too. Not all the ones you can get on DAB radio, and some are different. The BBC ones are there though. It’s the independent, commercial ones that are different. There is a bit of interactive text on the screen too, so you can see programme info, playlists and other information.

It means we can now get Channel 5, as well as the extra BBC, ITV and Channel 4 stations (ITV2, BBC3, E4, etc). And there’s news channels from BBC, ITV and Sky. Sky have a Sports News channel too. There’s 3 shopping channels, though quite why anybody buys the cheap, tacky stuff they sell I don’t know. And the presenters have to talk a lot about it, even though there’s not much to say. There’s also a quiz channel called Quiz Call. I feel a bit sorry for those presenters trying to fill in the time while waiting for someone to call in. Not sorry enough to waste my money on calling myself though!

The BBCi service is good – like Ceefax, but on digital. There’s news multi-screen (where you can watch the headlines or special news items), interactive services for special programmes, and so on. ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News have their own text services on digital too. The text services can be a bit slower than normal teletext, but the text and graphics are clearer. No photographs, though, just graphics.

Like I say, it’s good to have the extra choice, and some good stuff does pop up. There’s a Doctor Who extra via the red button after the Christmas Day episode (yes, we’ve got the Christmas Radio Times already), so that should be good, and the main episode itself sounds cool.

Anyway, back to Comet, and next we bought 2 new digital radios, as the ones that Dad and I had were broken, due to a circuit or lead not working properly. And mine’s pretty good. It’s got a nice blue screen with white text, so it’s easier to read, and the sound quality’s great too.

Finally, we got Dad a mobile phone. Only £30, on Orange. It’s so he can use it in emergencies. When he’s waiting for his taxi after work, he’s outside and the office is locked up, so he can’t phone to tell us if he’ll be late. Which is a bit frustrating, as you can imagine. We haven’t set it up fully yet, and we still need to register it with them to get a phone number. But it’s small and basic, which is all he needs. No camera, WAP or other fancy stuff.

Tuesday December 6, 2005

I went into Exeter and met my mates S & A today. They’re both doing fine. We went into a Wetherspoons pub, and they had some breakfast as they hadn’t yet eaten (but I already had). We then had a little wander around the shops, and I got a few Christmas cards that we couldn’t find in Sainsbury’s on Monday, plus a large print calendar for Dad.

S then went for his eye appointment at the hospital, so I continued to go with with A around the shops while she got some Christmas stuff. The two of us then went and had a quick drink and a game of pool in a pub while waiting for S to come back.

Once S had returned, we then had a late lunch in McDonald’s (as it was about 3pm), and we even tried an After Eight McFlurry. Not as good as some of the others they’ve done (like the Creme Egg one), as this was a bit too minty. The sticky, minty stuff inside After Eights is fairly strong normally anyway, so to have quite a bit of it mixed with ice cream is going a bit far perhaps.

We then went bowling. The Megabowl in Exeter is now called Tenpin, which is a pretty boring name. Our bowling performances varied over the 3 games we did, but we all got good scores at one point or another, and we each got a few strikes and spares. And they turned on the ‘cosmic bowling’ effect, which I didn’t know of. It shines ultraviolet light on the alley, which looks really cool, but does make it harder to see what you’re doing. The sides of the lanes had a runway-style lighting effect as well, with the lights flying up and down the alley. The music was pretty upbeat too, nothing too bad.

After that we went back to A’s flat for an hour or so, then me and S went over to the college to say hello to C, the only student we know there now. We didn’t bump into any members of staff that we knew. S and C ordered pizza, but I couldn’t hang around for that,, sadly, as I had to go into town to get the train home.

There has been another change at the school though, as the Scout Hut’s been demolished. It was a drama studio and Design & Technology room, but they’ve now taken it down. D&T is near the medical block now. They are going to put something else there apparently, but we don’t know what. It was a tatty old building, without much of a purpose, so it would be better to have something new there. Anyway, I got the train home, getting indoors about 10:40pm. So it was a nice long day, considering I left in the morning about 9am.

Wednesday December 7, 2005

I haven’t missed too much at work. Things are still fairly busy, but it is calmer than it has been. My section manager showed me a bit about how to use the plotter, that prints big items such as posters.

Not much else to report though. I’ve got all the CDs and DVDs from my latest Amazon order, and have started listening to them. As for the news, the main story is that David Cameron is the new Tory leader, and lots of things have been going on to mark the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination.

Saturday December 17, 2005

I’ve started using taxis to get to work, under the Access To Work scheme. The only thing is I’ve had to change companies already. The service with the first company was very good, but the payment side of things wasn’t suitable. The Access To Work estimate was £8.60, but they’re charging me £9.00. And the drivers prefer me to pay every trip, in case I have different drivers (which I did for all the journeys I had on Thursday and Friday). That would mean I have to write out 40 cheques each month and send off 40 receipts each month.

In comparison, the firm that Dad uses have set a price for me of £8.00 per trip, and are happy for me to pay weekly, which means only 4 cheques and 4 receipts each month. So I’m starting with them from next week.

Another discovery I’ve made this week is that I can record digital TV after all, which I didn’t think I could, so that’s good. The music channels do some good stuff if you catch them at the right time – there was an air guitar set on one of them last night. There’s lots of modern stuff too, of course, but they do play some decent oldies if you’re lucky.

In the news, the biggest story occurred last Sunday, with massive explosions at an oil refinery in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. Thankfully, it wasn’t terrorists, just an awful accident. It happened at just after 6am, and there were reports of the explosion being heard as far away as France & Holland! A blanket of cooler air stopped the explosion radiating upwards and sent it sideways instead. The huge black smoke cloud could be seen from satellite pictures, and is probably still not gone yet. Motorways were closed and people living nearby evacuated. Much of the depot’s buildings were destroyed, and houses nearby had windows blown out and suffered structural damage.

Only 4 people were seriously injured, with others being treated for minor injuries. No oil tanker drivers were in the vicinity, as they leave for deliveries at 4am. There’s no need for motorists to panic-buy, though – there are contingency plans in place so that supplies are not disrupted. With something as volatile as oil, you need to have backup plans just in case. The fire service have done very well putting out the blazes this week. It hasn’t been easy, but the worst seems to be over. It might take a while for the huge cloud of smoke to clear, it all depends on the weather.

Also in the news this week:

Other than that, our Christmas lunch at work is on Thursday, at a pub near our offices. And my parents have got their presents, as I asked them what they wanted and ordered them. I got Dad a film on DVD – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – and Mum’s gift is the oldest surviving BBC Radio dramatisation of a Paul Temple story, which they’ll both listen to.

Friday December 23, 2005

It’s been a good week, and there hasn’t been lots of work to do. Yesterday, my colleagues and I had our Christmas meal at the Jolly Judge pub in Torquay. And it was nice. I had soup, then roast beef (generous serving too, with lots of meat), and finally a chocolate truffle with cream. And we were all there. The dinner took up all afternoon, so we didn’t go back to work afterwards.

Today wasn’t much of a work day either, and we all left early (I left at 3pm). A guy who’s doing some temp work for us at the moment also does disco and karaoke gigs in his spare time, so he bought in a karaoke machine and TV, and set them up. In the end, hardly anyone went up to the microphone, but everyone had a bit of a sing-song at some point. It was a good laugh, and there was a bit of grub there as well (sandwiches, sausage rolls, that sort of stuff), so it was a nice waste of an afternoon!

I’ve been using the new taxi company this week, and they’ve stuck to their £8.00 charge. There were one or two initial mix-ups between me and Dad, as they now have 2 customers with the same surname at the same address, so we just have to make sure we quote our own account numbers as well as our names. I’ve had different drivers for all 10 trips this week, and today’s had a Rolling Stones album on, the best music I’ve heard in the cabs all week!

At home, our builder’s been in yesterday and today to fix our boiler, which stopped doing its job – not good at Christmas time! The system had got clogged up with dirt and stuff, so he flushed all the radiators through to clean it all out, and replaced the valve, and that seemed to do the trick. He also gave us a big box of Swiss chocolates from him and his family, and they’re delicious. They give us something every year, which is nice of them.

In the news this week, Britain’s first gay marriages (civil partnerships to use the technical term) took place on Monday. It became legal in England on Wednesday – Elton John and David Furnish tied the knot on that day. And Rick Parfitt from Status Quo has been given the all clear after his cancer scare, which is great.

And that’s about it. 4 days off for Christmas now!

Monday December 26, 2005

Well, that’s another Christmas over with. It was a nice relaxing day, with a lovely Christmas dinner. Last year I said we made our own pigs in blankets (sausages in bacon), as they taste better than buying them ready made. I change my opinion this year – we bought them ready made from Tesco to try them, and they were delicious. And the turkey was great too. In terms of presents, I got hankies and shirts from my nan, aunt and uncle, while my parents are giving me money to invest in Premium Bonds. Nothing overly exciting, but all useful things.

The Christmas Invasion from Doctor Who was brilliant. David Tennant looks like he’ll be great as The Doctor. There was an interactive Doctor Who adventure called Attack Of The Graske via the red button after the show. I tried it, but it kept freezing up after I made choices. Clearly our box’s software can’t cope with something that fancy yet. However, I was able to watch the two separate video channels that BBC use for their Red Button service, as they can be watched on channels 301 & 302 on the digibox. So I could watch the channel where you always pick the wrong answers, and then the channel where you always get it right, meaning I still saw it all. The Two Ronnies Sketchbook was also great, and also poignant as it was Ronnie Barker’s last ever recording before he died.

My friend A rang on Christmas Eve, which was a nice surprise. She’s invited me to meet up with her and her dad tomorrow for a drink, and then stay over with her and another friend on New Years Eve. My best mate S had a good Christmas too – they had beef wellington instead of turkey for a change, and he got lots of presents as he’s got a fairly big family. And that’s all I’ve got to say really. That’s another Christmas over already!

Wednesday December 28, 2005

I met up with A on Tuesday, as she was nearby staying with her dad. We went to the pub for a drink first, and then to the cinema to see The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, the first of the Narnia stories. She’d already seen it twice before, but wanted to see it again. It was good, with some big stars, including Dawn French doing the voice of a beaver. The talking animals were probably the funniest parts, and Aslan the lion was done well.

A’s dad then picked us up and drove us back to his house, where she’s staying, after stopping off for a quick bit of grocery shopping on the way. I told him about my job, and he told me he’s working for a firm who will be looking for people to help in their accountancy department. But I’m happy where I am now, and he knows that. it’s handy to know for future reference though, just in case.

A and I had a game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, the 3rd of the DVD versions, which you play on your telly. It’s pretty good, but a bit slow. Then her dad cooked tea for us – chicken with jacket potatoes and vegetables, which was nice. After that we watched a bit of TV, seeing The Two Ronnies Sketchbook and The Vicar Of Dibley.

So it was a fun day. And I’m staying over at A’s place in Exeter with her and another of our friends for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I’ll come back home on the bank holiday Monday, ready for work on Tuesday. So I’ll see you again then!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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