James Went To Budapest…Last Year

So this is the last of the blog posts that have been long-outstanding on my to-do list to write. Well, except for a review of 2018 and my goals for 2019…I think I might just skip them now!

Budapest had been on my radar for a little while, and it seemed that rarely a month went by without my Facebook feed having photographs from a friend or some random that I met once, visiting the capital of Hungary.

After enlisting two of my closest advisors, we set upon finding some gloriously cheap flights with Wizzair that weren’t really that cheap (if I recall correctly it was the first weekend of “no cabin bags without paying more”) and then a cheap apartment in Budapest itself.

Whilst the plane sufficed for our needs, the apartment was more than we expected. Right on the main “posh” road in Budapest, this was a grand old apartment with ceilings over twice my height. Who doesn’t love a high ceiling?

The parts of the city that we saw were mainly the nice touristy parts then the ‘dive bars’ (think Last Days of Shoreditch 10 years ago) – which were basically large run-down buildings converted into bars, or even not buildings at all, with various added quirky touches. Some of these were super-charming, though one in particular was a bit, erm, Magaluffy. Which was the one on a list of recommendations that we had. Hmmm.

The city was split into two by the Danube, and across the other side from where we were staying was much of the historical part – and some cracking views. Not to mention a funicular – and who doesn’t like a funicular? Interestingly you could queue up forever to go up the funicular, or just buy these queue-jump tickets from people in the queue for the same price. Which seemed dodgy, but was apparently fine.

Not a bad view up there either, huh?

Despite the cloudy skies, it was very pleasant up there – sitting and watching the world go by. Though full of tourists – and hell, nearly £3 a pint, if I remember correctly.

What wasn’t so pleasant, was the House Of Terror. This was a sobering and dark look at a section of Hungary’s history, from the Nazi era and through the communist era – it was quite scary that this really wasn’t that long ago, and what went on there. An experience worth going to, and a reminder of the evils of both fascism and communism.

At first I didn’t really take to Budapest – I was only really judging this on one night out, some cheap beers and a wrong culinary decision at a rather good Israeli restaurant. But I didn’t get the feel.

Once I’d had had a couple of days there (and many cheap beers), I was much more taken by the place – it does have an interesting and conflicted history, yet is still quite a poor place and a way from modernising in some respects. Though I do love a good old communist-era tower block. To look at.

The food was a particular delight – especially the Hungarian sausages. I think I had sausages every day…oh and the goulash that we had on the last night…soooooo good. I resisted the testicles that were on offer though.

I do remember being particularly amused by the fact that the ketchup in this rather upmarket place near the parliament came from Dorset.

Alas, it being nearly a year ago, I cannot remember enough to make a decent blog post out of it. I really enjoyed my visit to Budapest, and once I’d come to appreciate it, I really wish I had had more time than just a couple of days there. Would I go back? Perhaps for the sausages. But I’d definitely recommend it.

They also had an interesting collection of Russian dolls.

If only I had a girlfriend to bring a gift home for

Complaint: TFL

This is from last year, another one that has been hanging around my inbox:

Oh TFL

The imaginary ink has barely dried on the last complaint and now you have given me cause to write to you again.

You do waste enough of my time as it is, without then having to write to complain about your journey refund decision.

Last Wednesday I arrived at Harrow-On-The-Hill station around 8:15am. I got onto the waiting fast train. It hissed at me – like my imaginary girlfriend does when I use up too much of her imaginary ink. It hissed some more. Then the driver announced that the train was defective and we should all disembark.

I hissed at the train.

Cue a whole packed train full of people trying to get onto the next trains that arrived at Harrow-On-The-Hill.

The first two I couldn’t get on. The next one was a slow train to Aldgate, and I was advised that a fast train was just behind, so I waited for the fast train.

I got onto the fast train. It turned into a slow train. It didn’t go anywhere for a few minutes. And then was a slow slow train.

I arrived 30 minutes late to work. My colleagues hissed at me.

And now I am hissing at you. For I do not understand why on earth you are rejecting my service delay refund. I was delayed 30 minutes due to your defective train and subsequent overcrowding.

If you are not willing to refund this journey, please advise how I can escalate this matter.

Regards

James ‘The Snake’ Winfield

******

Dear Mr Winfield

Thanks for your feedback form about the Metropolitan line service performance on 24 January.

I’m extremely sorry to read about the service performance of the train which caused you to be late for work.

As a commuter myself, I can appreciate the frustration and inconvenience caused especially as you rely on the service to travel and punctuality is of essence.

We try our best to run all of our trains to schedule. However, on a network with services as frequent as ours even small delays can cause further disruption to customers down the line.

Having said this, your satisfaction is our utmost concern. Also we want our customers to have a good experience with their journeys on the Underground.

I’ll be happy to process your refund of £4.70 directly into your bank account. If you’re happy with this option, please respond to this email, and let us know a convenient time to call you. When we call you, we’ll ask you for your sort code and bank account number. Once we’ve processed the payment, your refund will take up to five working days to be added to your balance.

I can only apologise again for the inconvenience caused.

Thanks again for contacting us. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you can call us on 0343 222 1234 and we’ll be happy to help you.

Kind regards

James Went To Croatia – Last Year

All this extra time I have thanks to my new job and getting home at the more human hour of around 6pm (or so) has led me to think that maybe I should try to catch up with things on my to-do list.
Some things have been on there for nearly a year, such as writing a blog post about my holiday to Croatia last year.

I’m not sure that I would have been able to remember much in the way of details had I written the blog when I got back home, let alone nearly a year later.  It was one of those kind of trips – and as a stag do, very much a what goes on tour, stays on tour kind of thing.

Yeah, I went on a stag do.  I was pretty apprehensive before as stag groups of 30+ guys are not exactly my kind of thing, but I was expecting (correctly) everyone to be sound, and that as we were going to Dekmantel Selectors – a festival in the little resort of Tisno in Croatia, that we’d have a pretty cool larger audience too.
Believe it or not, in large groups of drunk people that I don’t really know, I can be a bit overwhelmed.  This was the case at times.  Whereas you might know me as someone who is quite large of life, quite vocal in conversation and often willing to cause some eye-bulging when in small groups…in large groups I often just let others take over and do the entertaining.  And boy, was the holiday entertaining.

The festival is held on the same site as many other small “boutique” festivals in Croatia, in what looks like an old communist Butlins, replete with faded mini-golf course and of course, chalets.  We were staying off-site, a short taxi journey away in the only place that would allow such a large stag group.  Basic, but good enough apartments.

Part of the reason that I am choosing to write the post is because I have spent some time recently listening to the DJ sets that have been posted on line (I recommend trying I-F, Raphaël Top-Secret and A Good Christian if you want to get a feel), and they have brought back such good feelings.  I don’t think everyone appreciated the music as much as I did – and I also struggled at times, I have memories of some particularly nasty EBM played at red-lining levels on the first night that just utterly frayed me mentally.

The festival site was split into different stages, with the main area next to the beach being the main attraction for me, playing mostly disco and 80’s, some house and then a wide range of other rhythmic music, be it samba, latin or well, anything else vaguely danceable.  This is where I most felt at home, at least once I settled into the festival.

Some other person’s video

Then there was a techno stage hidden away – but not normal techno, a mix of broken beats, offbeat techno and EBM – basically anything other than your straight-up, boring plodding 4/4 techno.  But styled as techno.  On the last night it held a closing party with…oooh…erm…was it Object?  Or Call Super?  Or both?  Or neither?  Yeah, it was a long time ago, but was probably the most interesting DJ set.
Also there was a little hideaway dancefloor up the hill, which wasn’t that interesting, then a little shack on stilts on the sea, which was open until around 4pm…I never made use of it.  Nor could I be bothered with the boat parties which were apparently lots of fun (they sold out within 10 minutes of tickets being released), or trips to the nearby open-air nightclub, Barbarellas…way too old…I need my sleep, or my attempted sleep anyway, at my age.

As a festival, it was a cool concept, mostly pulled off very well.

I didn’t see a lot of Croatia, but I did rather like the place.  The people were friendly – they seem to actively want tourists which is refreshing when compared to places like Ibiza that seem tired of us.  Taxi drivers were always willing to engage in conversation (though this meant the most sober had to sit in the front on the way back from the festival site…yikes).

On the last day, I had a few hours to spare between arriving at Split airport and getting the flight back, so had a little wander around Split old town and a few beers.  Alas, I couldn’t get a bus back to the airport as they were fully-booked so had to tap up the services of Uber and a bloody expensive trip to the airport, along with my driver’s Trump-ish thoughts on Asian people, and on his passion for Hajduk Split (football team) – I just nodded in agreement as that wasn’t a time to go all liberal.

I’m currently missing that festival site.  Dancing, or chilling to music that I wouldn’t normally encounter, on the edge of the bay, watching the sea and just enjoying the good vibes of the place.  Maybe I wouldn’t go back to that festival, but I’m definitely open to going to that site again, if I don’t totally retire from partying before the next opportunity.

James Went To Belgrade

Why did I decide to go to Belgrade? Because it was cheap.

Why was the flight so cheap? Because it was at 5:55am in the morning.

Who’s fucking idea was that? It wasn’t actually that bad though, just needed to set my alarm for 1:30am (thankfully I had a stonking hangover the day before so going to bed early was easy), get a taxi to Wembley Park station, then get the night tube to West Hampstead, then get the Thameslink train to Luton Airport parkway, then get the bus to Luton Airport. Simples.

Originally it was just me and my sister, but we’d added two friends to make it a foursome.

Yes the airport beer happened at 4am. Don’t tell me you’ve never drunk at 4am.

I’d heard about Belgrade, I had heard a rumour that it was a pretty cool place to visit, a good city for partying in – though that is less my priority nowadays. However I didn’t know much else about it – the old Yugoslavia certainly has a fair amount of history, but it isn’t as if the story of Belgrade is anywhere near well as known, as say, Paris.

We stayed in an apartment right next to Skadarlija, which is probably one of the most famous and beautiful parts of Belgrade – an old, cobbled street with lots of restaurants and bars…and boy it was noisy at night! The bedrooms were hot, the one air conditioning unit (by Tesla, of course), having little effect in the bedrooms. Opening the window meant a party. Closing the window meant being hot and sweaty. Even at 6am I could still hear a faint beat coming from somewhere…though not from the local street.

On the first day we settled into some drinks and watched some people in traditional Serbian costume do some dancing, which seemed to be being filmed for something. It was hot, humid hot, but the cheap beer was very welcome. Lunch followed – I chose something that was supposedly traditionally Serbian, and had food envy at one of my accomplice’s mixed grill. Yet mine was tasty and relatively low calorie. Shockingly I didn’t actually put weight on during the holiday.

In the evening we headed to the fort, which is where Belgrade’s two (polluted) rivers meet – the Sava and the Danube. The Sava actually looked dirtier than the Thames – it was refreshing how Serbia seemed to be taking no notice of the idea of recycling, with absolutely no sign of any environmental terrorists demanding your guilt for breathing.

The Sava was also where all the nightclubs and tourist-style nightlife was, on barges of various states of upkeep. I thought that I had photographed them but apparently not – anyway, we only went to one during our last afternoon as the old town had enough really cool bars to visit – places that were more us, rather than what I assumed was a Serbian version of Romford.

So the fort was cool with a great view over the other half of Belgrade from where we were staying – one assumes that it would have been an awesome sunset but, alas, too much cloud when we were there. Apparently there was a small zoo as part of it, and we wandered through some stray tanks and past a court area holding a hip-hop led basketball tournament.

Overnight we had the treat of a passing thunderstorm too, though given that we had all woken up between 1am and 3am, we were all in bed long before midnight, and long before the storm arrived.

On the Sunday, we were determined to do some culture. Well, I was anyway.

After eating breakfast at the charming, if boiling, Passengers Bar (they had top drawer craft beer there, which is always a win) I persuaded my accomplices to head to the Nikola Tesla museum (no, there are no cars there). We took a long walk as we hadn’t figured out the bus network – neither had Google Maps so don’t blame us. And there was no Uber. How did people order taxis before Uber?

Entrance to the museum was about £2 – it was not much more than an enlarged house, and we had the guided tour for an extra £1 or so. This consisted of a video and some electrical experiments, which was a little shocking. Plus we got to see Nikola Tesla’s urn of ashes.

It wasn’t exactly fascinating but we had ticked the culture box. I think the fact that toilet was translated into a Hull accent was more interesting:

We intended on going to the Museum of Yugoslav History, but after stopping for another excellent and cheap cocktail in a really damn cool bar, and reading that it was a 30 minute uphill walk we decided against it.

Instead we went to some nearby church thing so I could admire someone doing some hoovering.

Cue a walk back via a bar, when we realised that we were still 20 minutes away from our apartment and it was about to pour down.

Sexy

Just as we made it back to the street where our apartment was, the heavens opened and we enjoyed watching a truly torrential downpour turn the street into a river.

Give it to me, rainy

It looked like it was set in, and after valiant efforts of keeping the rain out, our hosts told us to go inside, where it wasn’t long before we were on the liquid cocaine.

Which I can confirm had no cocaine inside. And possibly no alcohol. Not that I know what cocaine would taste like in a drink, obviously.

The rest of the evening consisted of yet more excellent food – this time sampling the gorgeous Serbian burger (Belgrade is not exactly vegan friendly) in a rather excellent restaurant right on our tourist strip – said strip is the kind of place with pretty young ladies trying to tempt you in for dinner that one would normally avoid like the plague in most places, but everywhere we tried down here was spot on. Following that I think we had over-exerted ourselves with the liquid cocaine and the night drifted into a slightly drunken mess – the occasional downpours still occurring not persuading us to be any more adventurous.

For the last day, we decided to cross the river, on foot, to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. Via breakfast. And cake/ice cream. Our original plan was to get the bus to Novi Sad, a town in the north of Serbia, but none of us were particularly keen on the 90 minute bus journey each way…and apparently trains in Serbia are a disaster…actually slower than buses.

The museum was surprisingly good. There was some art by vaguely recognisable names from my trip round Vienna last year – nobody too well known.

There was opportunity to help create art too, created by a performance artist who seemed to enjoy having pencils thrown at him – we just had the opportunity to throw pencils at the wall. I duly obliged.

Maybe I need to go on a diet?

Again, I thought I photographed more, but the only one I can find is this masterpiece:

Overall I was really quite enchanted by Belgrade.

More so than Bucharest and Budapest. Maybe not quite to the standard of Vienna.

I guess it reminded me of what Berlin would have been like just after the wall came down. A kind of raw spirit to the place, very much undiscovered by the tourist masses. Probably only Ibiza has more bars that are playing house music – that seemed quite omnipresent.

I’m not sure I would recommend visiting Belgrade in winter. There isn’t a huge amount of things to see and do – Belgrade is more about the feel of the place. It’s about enjoying yourself with very few tourists, even in the most touristy areas, drinking cheap beer, eating really good food, conversing with the locals and trying not to trip over the unfinished pavements.

It is a bit of a mess in places, there are unfinished buildings aplenty, abandoned roadworks from vague attempts to prettify the area in the Old Town, where we were based (“money washing” was how the roadworks was described to me by one local) – this is a city at the beginning of it’s modern journey.

Having spent 3 days there being thoroughly charmed by the ramshackle nature of the buildings, the delicious food, the random yet really cool bars and the seriously nice locals, I can say that Belgrade really is one of my favourite cities that I have visited. It is very “me”, it is the kind of place that I enjoy visiting.

And super cheap too, rarely did we pay more than £1.50 for a beer, maybe £3 for a cocktail – dinner for 4 would come to less than dinner for 1 in London. Plus if you can brave the 5:55am flight from Luton, flights are super-cheap too.

Where next?

Old Job Thoughts. New Job Thoughts.

I know that I occasionally moaned about Lovespace – normally when they were stopping me from doing what I wanted to do, ie coding, and sending me to go flyering – or asking me to go on the customer chat thing when I got home from work.

Despite minor annoyances, I actually really enjoyed working there. Never before have I had a job where I actually enjoyed being at work almost every day. My first proper developer role, I learnt so much there – going from complete imposter to someone very comfortable, yet still continually challenged.

It was quite sad leaving as there were some really decent people there – though I’m sure the same will be the case at M&S – most people are decent. I definitely had taken the place to heart a bit…I’m even a shareholder in the business, albeit a very small shareholder.

My last day was sweet. The WeWork office people bought me some Neck Oil, filled the biscuit tin with ginger crunch creams and tried to put some minimal techno on the sound system (though I think she got into trouble…oops). We went for pizza at lunchtime, and took full advantage of the free beers after work…I had quite the hangover the next day.

My boss had messaged me the day before asking, “are there any electronics you need?”, which was a subtle way of asking what should he get me for a leaving gift. I couldn’t really think of anything, and I have ended up with a Google Home Mini. Not something I’ve ever wanted, but I’ve now discovered the existence of smart light bulbs so I’m pretty excited now. No, I haven’t set it up yet, I’ve been trying to sort my life out and do lots of studying for my new job…but it will happen soon.

Lovespace was actually the perfect job for me as a junior. Lots of space at the beginning to grow into it, yet every time I mastered something there were new challenges. I mastered both jQuery and AngularJS whilst there, improved my CSS, and just generally learnt about how to be a professional software engineer. In an ideal world, I would have stayed there longer, but this was too good an opportunity to turn down.

M&S should be a fair step up in many ways – I’ve already had an e-mail advising that they have a learning plan for my first 16 weeks in the business. At Lovespace I mostly learnt on the job.

I’m a bit frustrated by having had this mild fever all week. I know that I need to upskill my JavaScript a bit for this job, and have been trying to do so – having 5 days off has been perfect to give me time to do so, but the mild fever has really put a dampener on my abilities. I’m concerned that I’m going to feel crap on Monday morning too.

Otherwise I’m not really that nervous about the role itself. I think M&S should be a really good company to work for, my new manager seems really sound – have been chatting to him a bit over LinkedIn, plus I’m a half-decent software engineer nowadays. I expect that it will be a little “rabbit in headlights” when I first try to get to grips with the code base and how things are structured, but I don’t expect to be “what the fuck” like when I first started at Lovespace…thankfully they gave me the time to grow into the role.

I am kind of expecting the Metropolitan line to throw me a signal failure on Monday morning though.

The only thing that I’m really concerned about is having to work in an office 5 days a week, at least at first, as my body and brain rather appreciated working from home 2 days a week – not having to get up at 630am every day and spend over an hour each way commuting. Physically, I’m expecting it to be fucking tough…working from home once/twice a week really saved my soul/body over the last year.

At least the weather is returning to normal summer…I fear little more than turning up on a first day in a new job, pouring with sweat. Normal temperatures, and no I won’t be using the Bakerloo line.

I’m also kind of hoping that smart/casual means that I can wear collar-free t-shirts. Maybe I might have to be a bit more careful with some of the more outlandish t-shirts I have – I have bought a few plain, ordinary t-shirts to be on the safe side. Oh, and a shirt for the first day, to be extra careful. I really hate shirts, so hopefully that shows my commitment to my new, exciting role.

I think I’m going to have a detox, or near-detox for the first month, and try my very hardest to stick to a healthy diet. My tiredness concerns wouldn’t be such were I not so out of shape, so it is my own fault.

Just need to get over this damn fever, have a roast dinner and I will be raring to go.

On your marks… (yeah I stole that pun).

A Mullet Massacre

I used to have a really good barber, really sound guy. Then he left.

I thought I’d keep going to the same barber shop, last time I went (still £35), had an unconvincing hair cut and a very quiet one too (if I’m going to be there 45 minutes then at least say more than hello). Booked with someone else this time, again at the same barber shop.

After 15 minutes I realised that he was doing very little other than combing my hair. He realised that I had realised then stated that he was thinking about what to do. I did suggest that he could have some artistic licence – then I saw that rather large chunks of long hair were being cut.

I said, “that’s a scary amount of hair that you are cutting”. I didn’t get much response.

Apparently he was “adding texture”. By removing about two thirds of my hair. For £35. And didn’t even offer me a beer when I sat down.

I’m not quite mortified, I appreciate that I should perhaps have been stricter with my criteria (though way more was cut off the length than I wanted) so I guess it is my fault.

But I really don’t like it. It looks shit. Maybe you are sat there thinking, “yeah, mate, your hair has looked shit for years”. Though now it’s like I’m fucking bald. I am so disappointed with it.

It has been a bit of a shit week. You know, I’ve been meaning to blog a general life update for a while, but nowadays (and probably always in the past) I’m only really motivated to write when something pisses me off, and I’m really surprised about how happy I have been this year and how good I feel life is.

This week, however, I could just not get into. Monday started with a half-hangover and a 45 minute delay on the Met line, and I just lost motivation. I’ve been on an eating binge, 4,000 – 5,000 calories every day since last Friday and I feel shit and demotivated. I think I will snap myself out of it tomorrow, but I just didn’t have the mental capacity to do so this week.

I really need a rest. I think I have had 2 days holiday this year. It might have been last August when I last had a whole week off.

Also tonight the amount of people in my way. The person sat next to me on the tube who thought my arm made a good bag rest. The people who don’t get their card out before getting to the ticket barrier. I keep meaning to make an website called “tube wanker” where you collect points for every annoying fucker you encounter, and I would have had a full set today. Bar those standing on the left side of the escalator because I didn’t use an escalator tonight. Fucking hell I have so little hair. Yeah, I know, there are people with no hair.

Life is good, though, despite my hair and having put on all the weight I lost since Christmas (I probably have no more than a year to sort my weight out before I have serious health issues, I know this).

I start a new job on 1st July. You know this already. It feels really weird to be leaving Lovespace and I am pretty sad about it. My head is going to be totally focused on this for a while – I think July I will totally cut out the booze, unless for work social reasons on a Friday night. Alcohol causes over-eating which causes a loss in concentration and productivity. I have to do everything within my power to ensure that I am a success. The idea that it might not work out is not implausible, it is a jump up, the standards expected will be higher. I’m pretty sure that I will be successful, but there are no guarantees.

Next Thursday is my last day at Lovespace. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a company that I care about. It might be a bit emosh. Though I’ll never have to go to Luton again.

Then I’m going to Belgrade. It’s in Serbia. It’s the place we bombed in the 90’s. That is pretty exciting, except for the 5:55am flight. From Luton.

I will go to a couple more places later this year, though I’ll only have 10 days of holiday to play with – and 2 are already taken. Where is my hair? #SAD.

I also have tickets to two separate days at The Ashes (cricket, to any foreigner reading). One in Manchester, the other at Lords – both day 4 so will need to kind of hope for a full day’s play – unlike last year where I had day 4 tickets and saw just over an hour.

What else? My parents are coming down one Sunday – just for a Sunday roast. Then getting the train back to Hull. I guess we’ll do an exhibition too, maybe I’ll take them to the summer exhibition at the RA. I really want to do the AI exhibition at Barbican too. What the fuck has he done to my hair? I will get a photo on Facebook soon.

Bought a Love Island scratchcard and a bottle of wine for consolation. I think I might go buy some shit chicken from Chicken Cottage.

If anyone knows a really good barber in London, let me know.

I know, it will grow back. And boy, it will be growing.

From Boxes To Bras – I Have News

From boxes to bras.

From storage to suits.

From packaging to pies.

Yes, you have guessed correctly – you are looking at the new software engineer at Marks & Spencer. Well, you are reading words and daydreaming about me eating an M&S steak and ale pie in a suit. I hope.

Probably not my new office

Back in February, I concluded that I was pretty much ready for the next challenge in my career. There was nothing pushing me out of Lovespace – I’ve never had a job where I genuinely look forward to going to work 95% of the time, where I actually enjoy the work, get satisfaction from the work and am constantly challenged.

I wasn’t especially actively looking. I took some steps, created a new CV, started updating my portfolio, updated LinkedIN, signed up to tech recruitment sites like hired and talent.io (mostly a waste of time), went to a tech jobs fair and studiously ignored most recruitment consultants (except a few with really bad spelling that I trolled occasionally). OK, I did quite a bit but it doesn’t feel like it.

M&S approached me via LinkedIN. After a total of 6 interviews – 3 on site the other Monday morning, and 3 short phone calls, I was offered the role of software engineer.

It is a definite step up in every respect from where I am now, but less of a step than I took when joining Lovespace. It will be a challenge at first, I will need to upgrade my JavaScript skills in the meantime as they use ES6 (more modern JavaScript functionality) that we don’t at Lovespace.

Right now, it hasn’t quite sunk in. I am excited, I am confident that it is the right step – and I am not yet nervous.

Finally I won’t have the excuse of not being able to afford to do things – I’ll have to find a new excuse. I also get 20% staff discount so think of all those glorious M&S Steak & Ale pies that I can now afford. And I’ll be working for M&S – how cool is that? A proper Great British icon.

Brand new offices in Paddington, no need to wear corporate clothing (not sure about shorts though), slightly shorter commute, good pension, really interesting people that I’ve met so far, a new challenge, a chance to legitimately look at lingerie models whilst working and the salary I believe my skills command.

It’s in this kind of area

Roll on 1st July. Thanks to everyone who has helped along the way, in whatever way it has been.

I think I’ve made it as a developer now.

Metropolitan Line Complaint Part 1

It’s actually been alright recently – well, perhaps more accurately I’ve been lucky and missed the worst delays. Working from home two days a week helps too. As does the relatively dry weather recently – there are definite service suspension seasons and the next will be the first really hot day, when it gets to around 30’C.

This complaint is from last year and not the funniest ever – just a rant. Part 2 is more fun.

******

Dear Sir/Madam
I’d like to make yet another complaint about the Metropolitan line service.
Tuesday was yet another clusterfuck of a service.  A signal failure that lasted, what, 4 hours?
Why are these signal failures occurring so regularly?Why did this signal failure take so long to fix?Why could no trains at all run from Harrow to Aldgate?
Given how often such scenarios occur, why does there not seem to be any alternative plan of action?
Isn’t it time that work on signalling improvements was expedited, especially given the high cost of fares?  Nearly 20% of my monthly earnings after tax goes towards what is at least once a week, an abominable service.
I was lucky that I could go and work from home – but there will have been people that had to be at work on time.  I still begrudge the £1.70 that you charged me to get the tube home on Tuesday – and still insist that all regular Metropolitan line customers are due answers, improvements – and some kind of service refund apology.
I sincerely hope that you are willing to answer my questions.  Action must be taken to improve this service.  We cannot wait until 2022.
Regards
James Winfield

I never received a response.

James Went To Exeter

Two of my dearest advisors had concocted a birthday surprise for me at the end of February – a mystery tour of a mystery place. All that I knew was that I needed my passport.

Exciting!

We drove past enticing places such as Basingstoke, Bracknell and Salisbury, then past Stonehenge until it became clear that I was either being taken to Exeter or Newquay. What is in Exeter I wonder? What government enterprise might be of interest to me that is located there?

After a spot of lunch and a chance to listen to 6 women loudly cackling next to us, we made our way to the Met Office, for their open day.

One could imagine a tour being dumbed-down for Average Joe, however it wasn’t – the content was often explained using more detailed terms – they explained how they use the weather models (and how I use them!) and gave a generally interesting presentation. We had a tour of the building, from the Met Office library, to the instruments they use (less interesting), to the massive super-computer, and through the empty part of the office (empty on Saturdays) and outside the chief forecasters office.

Even the building itself was of interest – really spacious and calm, the kind of inspiring building where you would actually enjoy working inside. None of this basement shit like I have to cope with (albeit not for much longer). There was a stress on the building being environmentally friendly with the heat from the super-computer being recycled to heat the building, for example, and everything having a recycling bin – most companies I work at don’t even have one recycling bin.

The only downside was their insistence on global warming, and the idea that the UK will be 6.5’C warmer in 2080 than it is now. Just seemed utter bollocks.

On the positive side, they seem to appreciate my question on Sudden Stratospheric Warming – though they couldn’t answer it. I’m not sure there is an answer yet to my theory.

We stayed at this super-cute barn in the middle of nowhere, having to drive through those tiny windy one-way lanes with few passing points. We were pretty high up – the next morning the mist was beneath our level…such nice weather too. We didn’t go out in the evening – staying in to cook a pretty damn awesome steak dinner and watch a movie.

Exeter centre itself was impressive. A mix of historical buildings like the Cathedral and some wall remnants, some more upmarket shops and what looked like pretty decent pubs – alas my detox and also the lack of time meant that they weren’t visited. Also there was a harbour area which I imagine would be very pleasant in the summer for drinks and people-watching. I particularly enjoyed the font on the bus station:

On Sunday, we visited the Medieval passages under Exeter – where pipes used to bring water to the Cathedral originally, then the rest of the city later. Quite a tight squeeze, the tour guide would annoyingly stop to talk sometimes when crouched down – not something my back and knees found easy. Was a bit weird squeezing through underground tunnels, but something different.

Then it was back in the car to get back to London in time for a roast dinner.

Exeter was definitely a charming little city, a shame that we didn’t have longer to spend there.

Detox 2019: 90 Days & 90 K

If you saw me over the last few months of 2018, or just read the banal self-loathing crap that I occasionally spout, you’ll realise that I stepped up a gear from fat to obese last year.  At the end of 2018 I was 16kg heavier than at the end of my 2018 detox.

Therefore this year’s detox comes in two parts.

The first part is simply 90 days without alcohol. Though since I started, I have decided to extend this until Easter.

With an emphasis on repairing my diet during this time, which has become solely focused on my brain’s short-term desires, my lack of energy and motivation hindering attempts at good behaviour during business as usual.  Most days in the latter half of 2018 I had over 3,000 calories, which includes Red Bulls, chocolate, cakes, occasional morning sausage sandwiches.  Almost all of my good habits of old, have been replaced by bad habits, to keep me going through the day.

As well as having given up alcohol totally, I will be giving up or cutting down drastically the following:
Energy drinks
Sliced bread
Chocolate
Cakes

As I’ve said before, I know what I need to do to lose weight and be healthy – I have just totally lost the motivation over the last year, and had little time or energy.  Giving up alcohol gives me the mental space to do so, increase energy levels and allow the positive feedback loops.

Analysing my last year, I think one of my main issues was how I dealt with the pent-up demand from my three-month detox, which as soon as it was over, I went on a food and booze consumption binge, pie here, pizza there, midweek drinks here – a genie that I never put back in the bottle.

So, part two will be only having one weekend on the pop per month, until I am down to 90kg.  Which might take all year, but so be it. Not including holidays #OBS!

I have also set myself monthly goals – fail these and I’ll punish myself with vegetarian roast dinners. I have already failed my February weight goal. Expect a scathing review of a vegetarian roast dinner soon. FML.

I’m more than halfway through, absolutely not bothered at all about the lack of booze 98% of the time – I have had a couple of occasions where I’ve been pissed off and “needed” a beer, and there have been a few social occasions where I have missed it – like my weekend in Exeter last weekend…how good would a glass of red wine been with my steak dinner? Definitely not craving it like I was last detox though.

However, I don’t feel that I am feeling the benefits as much as last year, though last year I also gave up chocolate, cakes and severely limited red meat – this year I’ve just cut down from my over-consumption.

I’m getting there. I’m eating healthier again, doing a little bit of exercise where I get the time and broadly (seems to be my favourite word of 2019) feeling better. I’ve repaid some of my over-spending from last year and am progressing through some of my to-do lists, and started work improving my web development portfolio.

Once my detox is over, the challenge will be to find some form of balance, and not go back to binge-eating. Maybe I need a wife?

Slow progress, but as the saying goes – slow progress is better than no progress.