Sometimes, swearing is necessary

I’m sure that most people have had a few moments here and there when a few choice swear words are uttered. Sometimes, having a mouth like an upset navvy really is necessary.

Let’s take the train driver in this video:

These idiots had a very close shave and I think I’d have been joining the driver in some fruity language if I’d been there too.

Found via BoingBoing.

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Good times

Jo and I had a little shindig on Friday to celebrate our recent nuptials. We invited friends and family to a buffet and disco at a local hotel – The Village in Chilwell.

Unfortunately, due to our subterfuge involved at our wedding three months ago we had quite a few friends, and especially family, that couldn’t make it. It’s our own fault of course. Normally weddings are planned at least a year in advance and we really didn’t give people enough notice, however we did manage to encourage 70 or so people to come and celebrate with us.

We had a great time. The DJ played some great songs, even if he did deviate somewhat from our suggested playlist at times. The food was fabulous and the staff at The Village couldn’t do enough for us. Jo looked gorgeous and I drank an awful lot of Guinness (and a little bit of Tequila).

I had a mate, Rick, perform the official photographer duties. He’s a keen amateur and from the results I’ve seen so far has done us proud. He’s got an impressive array of flashes, tripods and lenses and coped really well on the day. Cheers Rick!

Don't Look So Worried Dave (by Psycho Crow)

We’ll be sending out thank you notes to everyone soon, but in the meantime we would like to send huge thanks to everyone that came and hope that you enjoyed yourselves. We’re extremely thankful for your gifts and we’ll be spending the John Lewis and Trailfinders vouchers with some relish.

Cancer – good for your stats

Cancer is a horrible, horrible disease but it seems that one recent cancer-related news story has driven a considerable amount of extra traffic here.

It was announced on Tuesday that Jade Goody has cervical cancer. This is a sad state of affairs even if I do think that Jade makes a pretty worthless “celebrity”. It’s unfortunate that she’s had this diagnosis and I honestly hope that she’s able to beat it.

So, why has this story suddenly driven extra visitors here? Well, I happened to mention a certain Ms Goody in a post around the time she was in Big Brother. I also used such intellectual words as “naked” and “tits” in posts around the same time, and so I started to get hits from people looking for images of a certain (very) minor celebrity displaying her nether-regions and other such rude things. I then made the matter worse by creating a post called “Jade Goody Free Naked Pics” where I complained about this unfortunate happenstance.

Since then Google has been serving my site with visitors interested in seeing Jade Goody sans clothing. It’s by largest key phrase for search engine hits and highly inaccurate. I don’t have any naked pictures of the young lady and I really don’t want any.

The upstick of this whole search débâcle is that I ended up with nearly twice my normal number of visitors yesterday – 159 up from 89 the previous day. I’m not saying that these are “quality” visitors, in that they’re really not going to see Jade’s kebab or anything, but its always nice to see that peak in the stats graph.

There are a couple of things that I find a little disturbing about this. Firstly, the new breaks that Jade has cancer and the first thing that goes through some people’s minds is to seek out naked pictures of her. How messed up is that? I’m also a little distressed, but not surprised, to see that The Sun newspaper seemed to think that Jade’s diagnosis is the most important news of the day, inserting “Jade Has Cancer” in huge letters across its front page. It’s sad news, especially for her and her family, but it’s certainly not the most important thing happening in the world at the moment.

Anyway, I hope she recovers. I hope that anyone with cancer is able to beat the disease.

Pay peanuts, get monkeys

I’m a Yorkshireman and it’s been scientifically proven that us Yorkshire folk like to be careful with our money. My genetic heritage guides my spending policies such that I will always try and find a cheaper way of doing something if I can.

However, such behaviour doesn’t always end so well.

Last weekend we headed over to Ireland to attend a wedding of a friend of ours. We had an amazing time, as blogged last week. Everything went well, apart from the areas where we skimped a little bit in expenditure.

We flew with Ryanair. This Irish airline are proud of their budget airline stance. They have cheap fairs and basic facilities on their aircraft. Understandably you have to pay for extras, such as food and storage of your suitcases. All this is fine, except for their attempts to bleed extra money from you unexpectedly, plus the fact that their customer service is difficult to get hold of.

I was appalled that Ryanair will charge you £80 to change the name on a flight ticket. We’d booked our flights before we got married so Jo ended up changing her name. We should have thought this through at the time but she obviously couldn’t fly with a passport showing a different surname compared to her ticket, and Ryanair insist on charging far more than the ticket was worth to make a small administrative change. It’s not like they actually issue physical tickets – it’s all done electronically!

This policy seems entirely driven to stop people buying tickets cheaply and then selling them on for a higher price, however that didn’t really help us. Luckily Jo still had her driving license in her maiden name and she was able to use that as photo ID for Ireland. I would not have been happy if I’d have had to buy another ticket.

To make this even wors, Ryanair make it as difficult as possible to contact them by email or by direct line. You can write them a letter (very 1980s) or phone an 0871 number and pay 10p a minute. We tried to ring the reservation desk number but nobody bothered to answer it after five minutes. It’s just as well we found out that we could travel on our driving licenses.

They’ve also cut corners on the website. It’s just awful. It’s cluttered, difficult to use and will give you a headache if you look at it longer than a few minutes. They also sent us an email a week or so before departure telling us that we needed to confirm our travel details:

“Thank you for booking with Ryanair. You will need your confirmation number and a VALID ACCEPTED FORM OF PHOTO-ID at check-in to receive your boarding card.

This was fair enough but they then provided a warning:

Ryanair are required to collect specific information from every passenger travelling to Spain (including the Canaries and Balearic Islands) from the UK, Republic of Ireland, Morocco & Switzerland. FAILURE TO PROVIDE THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION PRIOR TO ARRIVAL AT THE DEPARTURE AIRPORT WILL RESULT IN YOU BEING DENIED BOARDING WITHOUT REFUND. Please click on the link below and retrieve your booking & complete the security questions for each passenger travelling

Initially, I skimmed the email and didn’t realise that this part of the email was targetted at people flying to Spain. It says it right there in the text but all I saw at the time was the fact that we might not be able to fly if we didn’t provide details of our travel documents. I chuntered to myself for a while before realising my mistake, but why was this even in my email? We weren’t going anywhere Spanish.

Luckily the rest of our Ryanair experience was much more positive. Checkin was painless, the flight was OK for a short hop over the Irish Sea and they did provide us with James May on the way back, which was nice. I suppose if you ignore the blatant attempts to bleed you for more cash then Ryanair are a good choice of airline. Unfortunately, they’d annoyed the crap out of me before I even got on the aircraft. I found BMI Baby to be a much more pleasant experience in general but your mileage may vary.

Ryanair were saints compared to our car hire company though. Once again we decided to save a few pennies by finding a cheap way of hiring a car for our stay in Ireland. We booked with Argus Car Hire who seem to be one of those “search the internet for you” websites that deals with the hiring of cars. There was not problem with that site but there were huge issues with the company that we ended up dealing with: Thrifty.

At least with Ryanair we had an ultimately adequate experience. Thrifty were just crap all-together. Let me list the ways in which there disappointed us.

Firstly, picking the car up was just painful and not a little frustrating. At the Thrifty check-in desk we handed in our details, at which point they attempted th fleece us for some unnecessary and over-expensive insurance. The rental included third-party cover and damage up to 900 Euros but they obviously want you to take our their 15 Euro a day insurance. In order to “encourage” you to do so they tell you that if you don’t take the insurance they’ll need to take a deposit of 900 Euros which they’ll pay back once you return the car. WTF? Oddly enough this was not mentioned at all in the rental agreement and I was bloody livid when the woman at the counter told me this. I wasn’t about to pay for the extra insurance so I reluctantly agreed to give them the deposit, however they couldn’t even take that properly – they told me to take my card before it had finished processing and I didn’t even end up paying the deposit at all.

This “deposit” is just a ruse to get you to pay for the extra insurance. Bollocks to them. Use someone else.

Our disappointment didn’t end there. Thrifty’s cars are parked at an off-airport facility that requires you to be bussed out to pick it up. The woman at the check-in phoned them up after we paid to get the car ready and we headed off to the pick-up point. There were quite a few people waiting when we arrived – some for Thrifty and others for more expensive (and almost certainly more reliable) car hire companies. We saw several Hertz vans pull around to pick up their passengers but the Thrifty transports were very thin on the ground. It ended up taking us over an hour to get to the Thrifty depot. We were bloody seething by this point.

To make it even worse they hadn’t even bothered to get our car ready. We handed our paperwork over and the somewhat uncommunicative girl behind the counter left us to our own devices while she went off to run the car through the carwash. She didn’t bother to tell us what was going on at any point and eventually turned up with a Hyundai i30. It was clean, still wet in fact, but it had a dent in one side and several scuffs. Not impressed. I was even less impressed when the girl serving us disappeared back into their office without a word and then eventually opening a window and shouted us in to sign for the car.

This was turning out to be a very disappointing, and stressful, start to our trip to Ireland. It didn’t help that the car was utter shit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the most hideous car ever made and the interior is not bad at all but our i30 was a putrid goldish colour and it had one of the most rubbish engines of any car I’ve ever driven. I’m not sure what engine size ours was (probably the 1.4 considering how little acceleration it had) but it was crap. The clutch was too sharp and difficult to gauge and there was no go to it. Crap crap crappity crap.

Still, it got us to Kilkea Castle but not until we had to negotiate the hideous quantity of roadworks going on in and around Dublin, and seemingly just about every mile of road between there and our destination. Murphy builders seem to be raking it in at the moment with the amount of Tarmac being laid in Ireland, and it took us another couple of hours to get there.

Luckily things improved no end once we arrived at Kilkea Castle and we had a wonderful time, even with the crap car.

There’s one shred of hope for Thrifty. When we arrived back at their depot there was once again a shortage of transport to the airport. Luckily, one of the guys behind the desk was kind enough to source an extra van and we got back there in plenty of time. Thanks go to him, but there is no way that I’m ever going to use that company again. Awful customer service and disingenous attempts to fleece us for extra cash are not a way to encourage repeat custom. The next time I hire a car it will be with a much more reputable company.

A Wedding in Ireland, Captain Slow and Oz Clarke

Jo and I have had a rather amazing weekend away in Ireland. We flew to Dublin on Friday so that we could attend the wedding of a friend at Kilkea Castle and we had an amazing time. Kilkea Castle has a Championship-class golf course and even though I didn’t have time for a round of golf we did get to stay at the lovely Golf Lodges.

The place is lovely – well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Kilkea Castle (by rutty)

The wedding itself was amazing. Both families were Catholic and the bride’s family were historically from that part of Ireland. Both the bride’s and groom’s families had moved over to Nottingham over the years and so there was a mass exodus of Nottingham-based Irish Catholics heading over the water back to the homeland over the weekend. It seemed a little strange meeting so many Notts folk at an Irish wedding in Ireland!

The ceremony was shortened a bit – only an hour – and didn’t feature any latin, thankfully. It was nice, though, and the Priest was very sweet and rather amusing. Obviously religion isn’t really my bag but I found the whole thing very interesting even if I wasn’t willing to join in the kneeling and praying.

The reception was incredible. We had some amazing food – the sea bass was divine – and there were some hilarious speeches from the two best men. The bride’s father was really sweet and you could see how much he loved his daughter and new son-in-law. There was some dancing, an excellent Irish band and a disco that kept everyone drinking and cavorting until gone 3am. Brilliant!

All the best things come to an end at some point and we had to head home on Sunday, but not before visiting some very picturesque parts of County Wicklow. It’s lovely and we’re really going to have to visit again sometime.

James May and Oz Clarke

We headed back to Dublin to drop off our hire car (there’s another post coming about this later, hopefully) and catch our flight home with Ryanair. It turns out that we were to be joined in our journey home that evening by none other than James May and Oz Clarke. They must have been filming in Ireland for their new series or something. Luckily for us one of our friends, Denise, was brave enough to approach them at baggage recovery in East Midlands Airport so that we could catch a photo of them.

It turns out that James May really is that scruffy in real life, although he did appear to be a very, very pleasant sort of chap, as did Oz Clarke. They didn’t mind posing for photos at all. Bless ’em.

Yet another new theme

You know, I just can’t stop fart-arsing about with my blog theme. I think it’s a disease or something, but I’m finding it impossible to stick with just one.

What makes my blog indecision harder is that Smashing Magazine keep releasing excellent free themes. This newest one, Infinity by yichi, looks gorgeous and I couldn’t help myself. I’ve installed it, fiddled with it a bit and am now going to keep it.

There are no widgets and each post requires a thumbnail, by way of WordPress’s excellent custom fields. I don’t intend filling every post I’ve ever done with a thumbnail (there are far too many to do that) but I might as well attempt to try to cover most of the latest posts in each category. It doesn’t take long to do and the result is rather nice.

The design buggers up the single pages, sadly, but there’s a workaround and as I only have two (my “about” page and my CV) that won’t take long. I’ve also changed the top background image from one used in the Colorise theme, but I’ll eventually create my own. Eventually being the operative word.

I like this one a lot. It’s quite striking and I should be able to customise it to my own ends. Thanks yichi!

Death is certain, life is not

The title of this post might sound like cod-philosophy (which it is) but it seems oddly apt this week. An old work colleague had it tattooed on his arm back in the early 90s, along with a rather fetching skull motif, daggers and the like. I didn’t particularly like the phrase then and I don’t really like it now, but it does ring true. Our lives are full of uncertainty, and at the end of it all is the only certain thing (apart from taxes obviously).

I’m feeling a little maudlin. I found out a few days ago that a friend of mine from band was involved in a terrible boating accident and drowned. His body was missing for a couple of days, adding to the emotional suffering of his family. His death has affected me but I hate to imagine how it’s affected his family, especially his father who was with him at the time. Sometimes life sucks. Big time.

There’s a selfish aspect to this too. It brings home questions about your own mortality. Life really is uncertain. We can plan all we like but sometimes the unexpected comes along and fucks everything up. Everything.

I’ve had some ups and downs over the years – though mostly ups – but my downs cannot even remotely compare to my friend’s drowning. His family are in my thoughts.

Another event today reinforced this principle of life uncertainty. We were heading down to Coventry for Sunday lunch with my in-laws when we happened upon an accident on the approach to the A52. Some old guy in a Corsa had managed to knock some poor cyclist of their bicycle while turning into the pub carpark. He was lying prone in the middle of the road and obviously in a lot of pain.

Jo, being the medically-trained professional that she is, stopped the car, threw the keys at me and launched herself into action. It was amazing to see her in action and she soon had the guy as comfortable as she could. He was quite confused but not obviously seriously hurt. Luckily for him he was wearing a cycle helmet because he’d managed to cut his head a bit even with it on.

This poor guy was injured because of someone else’s carelessness. There’s not much you can do about that. It wasn’t all bad news, though, as it was obvious from the people that were around at the time that there are many, many good, caring people around. Most of the bystanders remained calm, one or two helped to comfort the injured guy and a few others directed traffic around the incident. The ambulance came (ambulances as it turned out – we managed to get a spare one too!) and the guy will be sore for a while but he’ll be OK.

Life really is uncertain. You don’t know what’s around that corner but I’m not about to sit around waiting for the worst to happen. I’d rather enjoy the life that I have. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing so far and I see no reason not to continue to do so. I’m going to do my level best not to be the cause of someone other poor sod’s misfortune, but life is for living. I’m going to bloody well live it while I’ve got it.