Here we go with another set of journal entries, featuring more socialising, DVDs, the new album by Queen + Paul Rodgers, and the Paralympics, among other things. So I hope you enjoy!
Sunday September 7, 2008
Just got back from spending a night at A’s place in Exeter. I was going to go on Friday as usual, but the weather was horrendous, so I went up yesterday lunchtime instead. We spent a bit of time in The Globe chatting, before popping into the travel agents in town to discuss the holiday further. A’s ideas have changed a bit now. Instead of Easter, we’re going at a more sensible (and cheaper) time of late May or early June. The current favourite destination is Alcudia in Mallorca, which does sound pretty nice, and the price is alright. But we haven’t decided yet.
After that, we went to another pub, where we had a snack of garlic bread with bacon and cheese on top, with chips. We didn’t have a big lunch in there, because A had booked us into a Chinese restaurant near her, so we went there for our proper tea, which was very nice. It’s only a small place – a house converted into a restaurant, so there’s only a few tables in there – but they do cook good food. They are a takeaway as well, naturally, but it didn’t seem all that busy. But some people we saw were clearly returning customers, and I can see why. They’re nice and friendly in there and the food is great. Plus it’s very cheap – compared to many Chinese restaurants, the prices are very reasonable. After that we went to the Golden Lion and put some music on the jukebox while we had another drink, then went back to her flat and went to bed a little while later.
Then today we went for a Sunday roast at the Golden Lion, which was also delicious. Then we popped up to a friend’s flat near Exeter Central station, which is a nice place, and spent about an hour and a half chatting to him. It was also very easy for me to just walk around the corner from there and down the slope to Exeter Central station, bang on time for the train, so it was nice and easy to get home.
My week off work was, as I’d expected and hoped, lovely and quiet, so there isn’t much to report there. Music-wise, I downloaded all of Free’s albums to treat myself, partly because I wanted to hear their stuff, and partly to hear some more of Paul Rodgers in advance of the new Queen + Paul Rodgers album out next week (with the C-lebrity single out from tomorrow). So I’m very much looking forward to that, and I have bits ordered in relation to it.
I’ve also got Series C of QI, Series 7 of Are You Being Served?, and Ross Noble: Unrealtime, as I thought I’d try one of his stand-up DVDs. He’s got very good reviews on the web, and I like what I’ve seen of him on TV, so it should be good.
Talking of DVDs though, my VCR/HDD/DVD recorder once again gave up on me last week. It had been working pretty well too, quite a long while since the last repair! Still, I’m getting a new machine now – a Sony HDD & DVD recorder. That way, it goes nicely with my Sony TV and Sony Surround Sound system. Plus the recorder has Freeview built in, negating the need for an extra digibox on top. And I don’t need VHS functionality any more, as the old recorder served that purpose ages ago. So it seems like the logical option to just have the hard drive and DVD recording ability. That’s due to come next Saturday.
Also due later this month is my first £100 Premium Bond cheque from ERNIE! I was quite shocked to see that when I checked on the website the other day! He must be making up for the fact that he hadn’t given me anything for about 6 months earlier in the year, by giving me £50 last month and now £100 this month! The latest cheque will help pay towards the new recorder anyway – which seems pretty good value for about £365, including 3 years cover and a HDMI lead to connect it to the TV.
The news hasn’t been fascinatingly cheerful – some flooding after all the rain on Friday in various parts of the country, hurricane season in America, and some speeches in the run up to the US elections. But – and to finish on a good note – we’re doing well in the Paralympics, which started this weekend – 4 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze as I write, putting us second in the medal table at this early stage. But both the US and China will probably be ahead of us by the end, probably, so third or fourth is the best we can aim for. And after we did so well in the Olympics recently, hopefully that’ll spur on our Paralympians!
Sunday September 14, 2008
Queen + Paul Rodgers’ new album, The Cosmos Rocks, arrived on Friday, well ahead of the Monday release date. And it’s pretty good. The more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. It’s not groundbreaking, it’s not as good as the Queen of old (how could it be without Freddie or John?), and it’s not altogether like Queen to be honest. Yes, there are Queen elements in there, but it’s a completely new group – Queen + Paul Rodgers are a band in their own right. I’d gone in with those expectations already, so it’s good for what it is. If you expect it to be like Queen used to be, then you’re bound to be disappointed. The concert DVD that came with it is awesome too.
As for my new recorder, that arrived very early on Saturday morning, and it’s working fine so far. Nice picture through the HDMI cable, and recording seems to be nice and easy. We’ll see how it goes though, to see if the hard drive is more reliable than the old one. At least with this machine there’s an optimisation feature, a bit like defragmenting on a computer, to reorganise things. So far so good anyway.
Talking of reorganising, we had a bit of that at work last week, moving furniture around in preparation for a new large format printer that’s coming in on Tuesday. We’re still keeping the old one, as it costs us nothing to do so, until it breaks down. So a colleague and I have now moved next to one of the windows, while another colleague has been moved down to the other one. It’ll be interesting to see what she and the colleague she works with make of it in fact, as they were both away the last few days of the week.
As for the news, the big story this week is about XL, the third largest package holiday group, going into administration without any warning one night, leaving thousands of passengers stranded. It’s mainly fuel prices that brought them down, along with people not flying as much as they used to because of the credit crunch. All companies are affected, and at least 25-30 companies have already gone under because of it, but XL have been easily the biggest so far.
But the most cheerful story, which I’ll finish with, has to be our performance in the Paralympics. As I write, we’ve got a massive 41 gold, 23 silver and 26 bronze, giving 90 in total! That is an absolutely amazing achievement. And the winners of those medals are all amazing people – for instance, 2 of those golds are from 13-year-old Ellie Simmonds breaking records in the swimming pool, and another gold was won by Liz Johnson, whose mother had died just a few days before, just as she arrived at the training camp. So, along with the Olympics, the GB teams have a lot to shout about, and it’ll hopefully give them plenty to build on for 2012.
Sunday September 20, 2008
We got our new large format printing machine at work this week, and it’s a pretty nifty piece of kit. It’ll print on pretty much anything, using eco-friendly solvents, and even cuts things out in any shape you like. We’ve still kept our old machine as well, as it’s still being used and costs us nothing to hold on to, but hopefully we’ll get plenty of orders for things to do on the new machine. We’ve pretty much finished shuffling desks around the office to make room for it as well now.
Other than that, we had cream cakes on Friday even though it wasn’t anyone’s birthday. A colleague mentioned that he’d been working in the department for 7 years, and another jokingly suggested that he get cakes in for it, and after a few people mentioned they liked the idea he decided to do it. Which is cool, especially as we’ll be getting cakes for someone else’s birthday this coming week as well!
As for home, my new recorder seems to be working fine so far, touch wood. I’ve recorded a few bits for myself, and also did Poirot for my parents last weekend – which copied to DVD in about half an hour at high speed, whereas my old recorder could only dub in real-time. And the recordings come out pretty good as well.
I’ve also finished watching that Ross Noble DVD, all of which was very good, so I’ll probably get the others. And I decided to watch GoldenEye last night, so I’m getting nearer to the end of the Bond films I have on DVD slowly but surely! I put the Premium Bond cheques in the bank for myself and Mum yesterday too.
The news has been heavily focused on the financial markets this week, which have been very turbulent to say the least. It started when Lehman Brothers, America’s fourth largest investment bank, filed for bankruptcy protection, which sent shares tumbling. The US government didn’t rescue them like they have for a couple of other institutions recently – which many saw as a good move, because it meant banks couldn’t take risks thinking they were always guaranteed to be bailed out, so it forces them to be more careful. The US government did, however, rescue the big insurance company AIG. And here in the UK, our government stepped in to allow a merger between HBOS and Lloyds to go ahead, whereas it would usually be in breach of competition rules. Moves like this helped shares to rise again. So there are still tough times ahead in the markets, but things will calm down eventually.
So that’s it really, nothing too eventful. Next weekend I’m going to stay with A again. After sending her a £51 cheque for the holiday in Alcudia we were going to book, the plans have changed again as another friend can’t make it after all. So we’re sorting out something else to do, and she’s going to give me my money back. Hopefully we’ll eventually come to a decision and get something booked for next year! But anyway, I’ll let you know what happens.