2020 Goals

Whoa, it’s only the second month of the year and I’m already publishing my goals for the year. I didn’t even get around to it last year.

Health

Two Detoxes. A 3-week detox prior to my 40th birthday and a 3-month detox after my birthday. Should be easy, right?

Stop unnecessary drinking. This is the bottle of wine at home on a Friday night after work, or the can of beer at my desk on a Friday afternoon, or drinking prosecco on a Tuesday afternoon at work…that kind of thing. If I didn’t need to lose weight, I wouldn’t be so bothered…but I really do.

Lose Weight. Yes, I say this every year and every year I fail. So it feels like I am just going through the motions yet I really have to become non-obese if I want to avoid shit like diabetes. So maybe I actually will lose weight this year – and my goal is 10kg for the year. I am setting monthly goals too – January I have passed, February I will almost certainly pass. If I fail my monthly goals than I will punish myself with a vegetarian roast dinner…so if that isn’t a reason to lose weight, I don’t know what is.

Work & Websites

Work towards promotion. I’m not sure I could achieve a promotion as a higher grade engineer this calendar year, but I want to ensure that I have a plethora of experience and evidence behind me to go for it in 2021. This means learning JavaScript in a more technical fashion (I have quite the reading list), improving technical presentation skills, improving my test-writing ability – as well as shipping some damn fine code.

Met Line Bingo. I’ve started work on a website called Met Line Bingo – which will be a fun, simple game for passengers to play when they are delayed AGAIN. Would be nice to have another site in my portfolio – I have a list of projects I want to do that I just never get around to starting.

Improve websites. I do want to do a complete re-brand of my roast dinners blog, and at some point my iwillbeawebdeveloper page. Which, I probably have to rebrand – I wonder whether I should change my jameswinfield.co.uk website from being a DJ site (not updated in years) to my portfolio site? I do have designs in my head for them…though design isn’t exactly my strong point.

Explore

Monthly culture. I want to do a different cultural activity every month this year (granted January I didn’t and February I probably won’t). Burlesque, ballet, bingo, comedy, cinema, theatre, musical, drag brunch, 20/20 cricket…that kind of thing. Want to join me? Let me know!

Japan. Well, the flights are booked, the first hotel is booked. Research is ongoing. I am going to Japan.

Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

3 New Countries. I normally aim for 4 but fail, and with half my holiday allowance being taken by my trip to Japan I’m making this more achievable. One will be Japan and there are plenty of European countries that I’ve never been to. Iceland, Luxembourg, Turkey? Want to join me?

Random Country. I really want to play random country holiday with someone this year. Or maybe I’ll just do it by myself…if nobody wants to do random by July, then I’ll just do it on my own.

Upgrade My Life

Replace stuff. Now I have a reasonable salary, it is time to upgrade my belongings – my battered office chair, my ugly over-sized (but free) office desk, my slow Surface, tired towels, suitcases with broken wheels, computer monitor with weird wavy lines, computer speakers that are far too bass-heavy. Lots of stuff is long overdue an upgrade.

New socks. I need to finally get rid of all my old, tired socks too. Sock upgrades are required.

Double my savings. I’m not telling you how much I have, but I do want to double the amount of saving that I have by the end of the year, and ideally have a fair amount in shares.

Move house? I don’t want to do this, even though I know the pain would probably be worth it. My house is easy to live in, my housemate is sound – both could be worse if I move, and it isn’t exactly as if every house move I have made has been a good move. But I’m going to look into what is out there.

Be Kinder

Donate to charity more. Last year I gave a total of £76 to charity, which was up from £46 the year before. Piddling amounts but in the right direction. One problem I have is that I’m not massively enthused by any one cause, so I just rely on other people doing fundraisers and donating to what they believe in.

Waste less food. Not exactly something I can measure…unless I start yet another spreadsheet, keeping a track of rough amounts of food I waste. But I do buy too much food that I don’t finish – cheese for example I rarely eat a block before it goes off. Perils of single life.

Plant a tree. Bit out there this one, but it is something good I can do for the planet and local area.

Complaint: Met Line. Again

Dear Sir/Madam

I have just initiated the next battle to get refunds for the exceptionally numerous delays on the Metropolitan line over the last month.

Firstly, myself and all other long-suffering customers would appreciate an explanation of why the new signalling is causing so many service suspensions between Finchley Road and Euston Square. I will apply via FOI request if I have to, but I’d prefer an explanation (an honest one – not the social media cover up) of why the problems are occurring and what is being done to resolve them.

Your customers really would appreciate an explanation. An apology from senior management (or even some form of acknowledgement that customers exist) would be nice too.

Further to that, I have applied for the delays over the last month. However it seems that I am too late to apply for the following:

07/10/2019 AM
08/10/2019 AM
14/10/2019 AM
15/10/2019 AM

It would be appreciated if these are also refunded. It took so long last time to get refunds that I have taken my eye off the ball – I hope this time is not such a battle.

Kind regards
James

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Dear Mr Winfield

Thanks for getting in touch with us on 13 November about the service delay refunds for the month of October. This was for your journey on 7,8, 14 and 15 October.

I am sorry to read you are experiencing delays using the Metropolitan Line.

Based on the information you’ve provided, I have refunded these journeys for you.

This will correct your charges and you’ll receive a refund of £18.80 within five working days.

This is a huge technological change that will bring major benefits to our customers over time. As we switch on the new signalling equipment in phases around the network, we will be switching between the old and the new systems. Although we have tested this operation extensively during simulated and live trials, live operations take a little time to bed in. This is only a temporary disruption, and we expect the service to be back to normal very soon. We apologise for any disruption that this bedding in period may cause. Our staff are working hard to minimise disruption as much as possible.

Please feel free to use the service delay refund option within your Transport for London account. Alternatively, you can email me and I am more than happy to process the refunds manually for you.

Once again we appreciate your patience.

Kind regards

Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services

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Well I got my refund, but the “temporary disruption” is still going on now in February – and the real chaos started in September. It isn’t exactly as if it ran smoothly before the huge technological change.

Fuck. I’m 40

Yes I am actually 40 years old right now. 40. Fourty.

I had a little wobble the day before I turned 40 – this whole, shit I’m about to turn 40 and I don’t have a house, car, wife, kids, management job – not that I actually want any of them, but that didn’t matter on the last day of being in my 30’s. I was a bit miserable that day. Quite a bit.

Thankfully, I had the foresight to take my birthday off work, and my trusty sister had spare holiday, so after a morning of getting shit done, and opening a few cards/presents, I headed down to my favourite brunch spot, Casa Tua, in King’s Cross.

I love their breakfast menu – I went for the Big John which was a trio of Eggs Florentine, Eggs Royale and Eggs Benedict – though the parma ham was so amazingly tasty that I’d just have that on its own. And an orange, carrot and ginger juice – though don’t worry, I wasn’t on detox for my 40th birthday.

Then came Flight Club, which is darts where you play various games like Snakes & Ladders against your opponents, using the darts board – and it is all tracked and computerised.

Of course, I won – in fact totally kicked arse.

They even gave us a free hour for my birthday and a brownie, which was very sweet.

And in the evening – Blacklock.

Not the best photograph in the world, plus I was a little tipsy by this point. The steak I thought was a bargain – 300g of rib-eye for £18. I’ve had a few better steaks, but not many – and the chop sauce was just sexual, every bit as good as their gravy on Sunday.

Weekend Celebrations

Yeah, I dragged my celebrations out – almost quite literally wearing a 40th birthday tiara:

This is now my new Bumble profile photograph – and no, it hasn’t helped. Not sure why.

My sister had arranged drinks at Mare Street Market in east London – pretty cool place, we had a seating area for a few hours, half-decent pizza, good beer, a room full of chandeliers, a record shop (alas/thankfully mostly rock music) and a load of people looking at me strangely whenever I went to the toilet.

There were a lot of photographs. Guess who by?

Roast

Then on Sunday, my sister had also arranged my birthday roast. She’s such a star, my sister.

Various other good friends attended a roast – most of them enjoyed the roast more than I did though, I was rather critical of it.

The actual time was thoroughly enjoyable – not only did some gorgeous people make the effort from Reading – but my parents had come all the way from Hull that day to go for a roast dinner. Granted, not the first time they have done this, but it was a surprise to me!

Gifts & Cards

It wouldn’t be a birthday without gifts and cards – though the real gifts to me are friends/family spending time with me.

I did get some cash from my family which I never use nowadays as I pay for everything by card so will probably stay in my drawer for a year. Guess I could buy some drugs with it. Or maybe get off my backside and go into an actual bank, like old people do. I’m still young, right?

I got some damn fine birthday cards, a collection of my favourite thing from my sister, a fluffy flamingo from my mum (memory of our day at London Zoo last year) and a Gravy Princess t-shirt – alas, a size too small. But I will lose weight this year. Honest.

Conclusion

It’s now over two weeks since my birthday (in fact it is my Dad’s birthday today), and I’m not bothered about being 40. Possibly thanks to just how good my actual birthday was.

Best birthday ever?

Complaint – British Airways

Dear Sir/Madam

I appreciate that the strikes were not the fault of British Airways, and I have laid full blame at Balpa, including sending them a letter of complaint.

However, I was supposed to be flying back from my holiday on 27th September – and was waiting to arrange the rest of my holiday, as I had other hotels and a ferry to book too.

Finally I received note that my flight on 27th September was cancelled – so I arranged to change it to the week after. Thankfully the one hotel I had booked let me change dates without charging me, and everything else was still available.

Then I realised after doing so, that I would financially have been better off cancelling and rebooking – the return flights were £196. I had paid £242.54 – so I feel like I have missed out on £46.54 worth of flight.

I don’t want to complain too loudly – I enjoyed the flights and am especially in appreciation of the M&S food and Brewdog beer that is available, not to mention not being harrangued every few minutes like on Ryanair. I just feel that I have been left a bit short – my next holiday is to Japan and it does leave me questionning whether booking with BA is the right thing to do (the strikes make me nervous in choosing this too).

Oh and why am I always the last to get a drink on your flights? The plane was only a third full on the way out, yet took a good 1 hour 20 minutes for the cabin crew to reach me.

Kind regards
James Winfield

******

[7 whole weeks later…just how many complaints do BA get nowadays?]

Dear Mr Winfield

Thanks for contacting us about your flight from Kerkyra on 27 September. I’m sorry your journey was affected by industrial action by the pilots’ union BALPA on 27 September.

The strike action had a significant impact upon our operation. Following the announcement, we immediately reviewed our flight schedule and it was necessary to make a large number of cancellations, including some on non-strike days.

Please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused by the temporary change to our schedule due to the strike action. We value your loyalty to British Airways and your support as a Blue member of our Executive Club. We’re looking forward to welcoming you on board soon. Please feel free to contact me directly, using the blue link below, if I can help you with anything else.

Best regards

Tejas Pawar
British Airways Customer Relations

Complaint: BALPA (Pilot’s Trade Union)

Dear Sir/Madam


I am appalled to read that you are taking strike action to ruin the plans of many people, myself included.


An 11.5% pay rise over 3 years (for generally well-paid workers) is a good deal.  The current inflation rate is 2.1% – with there arguably being a greater risk of lower inflation due to recessionary risks, than higher inflation.


This seems like a rather generous deal to me.


Further to that, airlines do go bankrupt, as we have seen.  There are worse airlines to work for – my understanding is that working conditions at British Airways are far superior to that of Ryanair, for example.  You should be looking to protect the company that your pilots work for as opposed to damaging them, through unaffordable pay claims and now unfair strike action.


I urge you to immediately call off your strike action. You have now ruined my holiday plans – I have worked hard all year, at a wage far below those earned by your pilots (and probably trade union executives).  It’s no big deal to me, I’ll get a refund and I can re-arrange my holiday, however there are a flurry of people whose honeymoon and wedding plans you have ruined:

I could go on.  Tweet after tweet where you have ruined people’s dreams.
I expect your response will blame British Airways, however I reiterate that they are kind enough to employ your pilots and already pay them generously, with a further generous pay rise offered.  You are the ones that have called the strike action – you are in control here.

I urge you to desist from ruining the lives of thousands of people and immediately cancel your strike action.  Even if you hate British Airways and want to see them go bankrupt, at least cancel your strikes for those going on honeymoon.  And do it today.
Please have a heart – this is really unfair on so many people.

Yours sincerely

James Winfield

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Dear James,

Thank you for your email dated 24 August 2019. Your comments are all noted and I appreciate that there is nothing I can write that will placate you in the current circumstances.

We remain available to resume talks with BA so that this matter can be settled. I am sorry that the announcement of strike dates has impacted on your personal plans and thank you for bringing other disruption to my attention.

Kind regards

Head of Organisation

For and on behalf of

BALPA

******

Dear John

Thank you for taking the time to respond.

It seems very much that the ball is in your court. BALPA are the ones using Somali pirate techniques to demand more money. BALPA are the ones that have announced the strikes. British Airways have offered a reasonably generous pay rise.

I urge you to think of your fellow humans – especially those with wedding or honeymoon plans (not myself), and call off the strike immediately.

This action not only ruins the plans of thousands of hard-working people (the types that trade unions used to represent, back in the day), it will also damage the profitability of British Airways and therefore potentially lead them to being able to afford to run less routes, and employing less staff.

Politically it will also likely play into Boris Johnson’s hands.

There is something that you can write that will placate me, and that is confirmation that you will cancel the strike action.

Again, I urge you and your members to think of your fellow human beings. The ball is in your court. You can do this!

Kind regards

James Winfield

******

[still no response]

BASTARDS

Complaint: Where Is My Refund – 1

You can apply for a refund for your journey from TFL if your underground train is delayed by 15 minutes or more. There used to be an app that would do it for you automatically – but strangely enough TFL stopped it from working before the disastrous Met line signalling “upgrade” in September.

Anyway, sometimes TFL reject the refund requests. This does not always amuse me.

Oh and they had promised us automatic refunds once the disaster unfolded. Which not one single customer reported receiving. Strange that. I wonder how many people are not as persistent as me, and just didn’t bother applying – expecting their promised automated refunds?

******

Dear Sir/Madam

I’m not sure if you are aware, but recently TFL decided to launch new signalling on the Metropolitan line.

Great!

Except you didn’t bother to train the drivers to use them.

This is not my complaint about that utter shambles – that is coming – this is a complaint about something which is almost as offensive as Boris Johnson, namely the rejection of 3 of my delay claims:

02/09/2019 Rayners Lane to Paddington at 08:21.
03/09/2019 Rayners Lane to Paddington at 08:18
08/09/2019 Kentish Town to North Harrow at 15:12

So on 2nd, I went to Rayners Lane – there was an announcement that the Met line train was full, so I had no option but to get the slower Piccadilly line.  This journey, including extra walking, took much longer than it should have done.

Likewise on 3rd – this time there was no Met line train at Rayners Lane due for 30 minutes.  30 minutes!  So no choice but to get the slow Piccadilly line.

Then on 8th, this journey was again ridiculously slow, and well over the advised time by circa 20 minutes.

Please can you ensure all these are reconsidered for refund.  Given the appalling service all month, all commuters should really be getting full refunds for the month’s travel.  At least give us what we were promised.

Regards
James Winfield

******

Dear Mr Winfield

Thank you for contacting us on 26 September about regarding the delays on the Metropolitan line.

I would like to apologise for the issues you experienced when attempting to use the Metropolitan line and I also thank you for your patience around this.

I have investigated your service delay refund request and I can see that you received refunds on; 24 September for £26.60, 25 September £4.70 and 11 September £12.30.

This appears to have covered all your service delay refunds request however if you feel there are any still outstanding feel free to get in touch with us and we will be happy to investigate this further.

I trust this has answered your query and would like to thank you again for taking the time out to contact us.

I’ve also attached a copy of our frequently asked questions to help with any questions you may have.

Kind regards

Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services

******

Hi

I’m afraid that this does not resolve the issue – and I still have not had all the refunds expected.

What is particularly offensive is having refunds rejected from that total disaster week when new signalling was launched which doesn’t work – the ones that customers were supposed to be getting automated refunds from, yet no customers seem to have had what was promised to them.

Please can you look into why the following journeys have not been refunded – I believe that they are all due a refund:

01/09/2019 16:36
02/09/2019 08:21
03/09/2019 08:18
04/09/2019 08:30
08/09/2019 15:12
16/09/2019 08:19
Please refer to my original e-mail if required, regarding the refunds for 02/09/2019 to 04/09/2019.

Kind regards
James

******

10 days later…

******

Have you received my e-mail?

******

Dear Mr Infield

Thank you for your email of 15 October 2019 enquiring if we have received your email.

I’m sorry for the delays on the metropolitan line and I appreciate you taking the time to contact us about this matter.

I am pleased to confirm that I have processed a refund of £50 which will be credited back to your bank account. It will take within 3 to 5 working days for the refund to show on your account.

Please check your payment history to see the refund I have processed.

You can apply for incomplete journey and service delays refunds yourself. You can also check the status of refunds that have already been processed by signing in to your TfL Online account.

I trust this information is helpful and resolves this matter.

Thanks again for contacting us. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email.

Kind regards

Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services

******

Moral of the story? Never give up. Episode 2 coming soon.

Metropolitan Line – FOI Request

Dear Sir/Madam

I would like to find out more about why there was such a disastrous launch of the new signalling equipment between Finchley Road and Euston Square stations, on the Metropolitan line on w/c 2nd September.

  1. Who took the decision to launch the new signalling on Monday 2nd September?
  2. When was this decision made?
  3. When did management realise that not enough drivers had been trained to use the new signalling equipment?
  4. Would there have been a financial cost to TFL had the launch been delayed, to allow more time to train drivers to use the new signalling equipment? If so, can you quantify it – I appreciate that exact figures may not be available. A ballpark figure would be sufficient.
  5. Are any bonuses paid to any members of TFL management based on the on-time delivery of the signalling modernisation of the Metropolitan line? If so, are you able to release details of potential bonus amounts and to whom?

Kind regards
James Winfield – a long-suffering Metropolitan line customer.

******

Dear Mr Winfield

TfL Ref: FOI-1790-1920

Thank you for your email received by Transport for London (TfL) on 14 September 2019, asking about the Metropolitan line signalling modernisation.

Your request has been considered in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act and our information access policy. I can confirm we do hold the information you require. You asked:

  1. Who took the decision to launch the new signalling on Monday 2nd September?

The decision was made by the London Underground directors based on recommendations from the project team. The programme has been working towards this commissioning for a number months but in particular there were two weekend closures over the summer where the signalling was tested and drivers were familiarised on the 20th / 21st of July and 10th / 11th August. In summary the recommendation to proceed with the launch was based on the culmination of the completion of the testing and commissioning programmes underpinned by the results from the operational proving weekends.

  1. When was this decision made?

The final decision to proceed with the launch was made on 28 August 2019.

  1. When did management realise that not enough drivers had been trained to use the new signalling equipment?

All train operators were fully trained and certified to operate the new signalling system prior to its introduction. However, in addition and as part of our commitment to safety, all train operators had to be accompanied through the new section by an Instructor Operator the first few times they went through the new commissioned signalling area. We refer to this as ‘familiarisation’. The need to familiarise train operators is why we had to operate a reduced service.

It should also be noted that we expected that there would be some delays to the Metropolitan line services once the new signalling system was live, so ahead of the launch, we rolled out a programme of communications to inform our customers and stakeholders of the anticipated disruption.

An unexpected challenge we faced on the Monday following introduction was that a number of train operators weren’t able to complete familiarisation due to a defective train at Finchley Road preventing trains getting through the area. This, as well as other minor operational incidents unrelated to the signalling, had a knock on impact on the availability of train operators and delayed the broader familiarisation plan. This all meant that the rate at which drivers could be fully familiarised during the first week was slower than anticipated

  1. Would there have been a financial cost to TFL had the launch been delayed, to allow more time to train drivers to use the new signalling equipment? If so, can you quantify it – I appreciate that exact figures may not be available. A ballpark figure would be sufficient.

Had the launch been delayed to accommodate ‘driver familiarisation’ then we would have had to accommodate additional line closure/closures in the overall Four Line Modernisation Programme. This would carry a cost of around £300,000/closure to the programme but is entirely dependent on the volume of closures required and the associated impact on the Four Line Modernisation programme in its entirety.

  1. Are any bonuses paid to any members of TFL management based on the on-time delivery of the signalling modernisation of the Metropolitan line? If so, are you able to release details of potential bonus amounts and to whom?

No bonuses are paid to any TfL management as a direct consequence of the delivery of the signalling modernisation of the Metropolitan line.

If this is not the information you are looking for, or if you are unable to access it for some reason, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Please see the attached information sheet for details of your right to appeal as well as information on copyright and what to do if you would like to re-use any of the information we have disclosed.

Yours sincerely

FOI Case Officer

FOI Case Management Team

General Counsel

Transport for London

Moments of 2019

I know I should have written this back in December when people do those whole “look back” kind of things but maybe it would have got lost with everyone else posting pictures of themselves 10 years between.

I did write some notes, vaguely, and it was astonishing as to just how much fun and enjoyment I had in 2019.

There is so much that I am missing out here – holidays to Madrid and Corfu/Albania, two days at the cricket in The Ashes, the wonderful RA Summer Exhibition which I love so much, my leaving do at Lovespace, adventures to places like Canterbury and, erm, Croydon – not to mention dozens of roast dinner missions. And probably some great things that I’ve just totally forgotten about.

10. Canary Wharf Lights

There are many things I did in 2019 that would have a better argument for being in my top 10, but this deserves a place due to the context – it was at the end of January, it was cold, I was well into my detox and there wasn’t much happening.

Summer is so much more fun than winter, so this stands out compared to what else I was doing (or not doing) around that time. Just walking around and visiting various light exhibitions. Although I was disappointed not to get “Brexit” on the random newspaper headline words made into drops of water…which is so fucking clever.

9. Brexit March

Have I ever been on a political march before? Possibly not, but nothing has angered me as much as Brexit has.

I didn’t expect to change anything, I didn’t want the “will of the people” to be over-turned or ignored – but I very much wanted to show my anger about just what a bad decision I believe this to be.

It became easy to feel shame about Britain and the backwards, intolerant, illiberal direction that I feel it is taking – but this march was probably a step back towards having pride in my country, with the full reflection of the eccentricity and welcoming wonder of British people on display – even welcoming those dressed as Donald Trump.

8. BOA Reunion

What is a BOA, I hear some of you saying. Well, back in 2006, “Back Once Again” was the name of a group on the now-defunct clubbing social media website, Don’t Stay In.

It was the start of the most extraordinary fun (and occasionally painful) period of my life, with so many wonderful new friends and just a ridiculous amount of unprintable stories.

Many of us have kept in touch, despite having spread out across the world from our initial meeting point of Reading, and in October a good chunk of us met up for a few beers in Reading. Ahhh I love all those friends soooo much. And I nearly missed the last train back to London – note to self, get hotel room in 2020.

7. Met Office Tour

At the end of February, my dearest sister and my dearest friend took me for a secret birthday weekend away, which ended being in Exeter.

Not only did we have a tour of the Met Office, which was pretty interesting and not too dumbed-down, we had a little tour of under Exeter and a pleasant evening in a cute cottage in the middle of nowhere.

It was that ridiculously warm and sunny weekend too, not that we were outside in the sun for much of it. A pretty crap roast dinner to finish though.

6. M&S

At the beginning of 2019, I realised that I needed to move on from Lovespace to be able to progress – and have a decent-paying job.

I’d had a few interviews – one was a disaster, others reasonable – various phone interviews that I never heard back from and plenty of my time being wasted.

Which all meant I had a good bit of practice, but also some skepticism when I went for my 3 hour interview at M&S. I knew I did well, but still wasn’t convinced that I’d be offered it – I knew it was a fair jump.

But I did get offered the job, and I am smashing it. So happy to be working there.

5. Birthday Roast

Of course there is a roast dinner in the list! I always get nervous about organising my birthday – in particular as to whether anyone will actually turn up.

I didn’t make it easy for people – arranging a roast at the Little Blue Door, which just has a blue door at the front – at least a couple of people walked by.

Not only was it an excellent roast dinner – proper thick gravy too for my birthday, but it also had pornographic art in the toilets, a real quirky feel inside and I had some wonderful attendees. My sister is arranging my 40th. She has quite some effort to beat this.

4. The Museum of What The Fuck in Portugal

I had a super delightful weekend in Portugal visiting two favourites in November. Good food, good chat, walking the dogs and a bit of adventuring.

However, the real highlight was the “What The Fuck Is This” museum (I’m not sure it has a name) in one of the local villages. It is quite something.

3. Storm in Serbia

My short holiday to Serbia was a whole bucket of fun. Loads of cheap beer, some museum stuff, lots of nonsense chat.

However the most amusing part of the trip was just arriving back to a local bar before it absolutely hammered down – at my insistence on walking fast. Cue drinking shots of “liquid cocaine” (blue coloured water with baking soda on top…don’t get too excited), watching the rain hammer down, followed by a gorgeous meal in the restaurant opposite and a fun evening.

I loved Belgrade – it had that early Berlin feel about it, and is very much a party city too – if disorganised and allegedly ridden by corruption…though not for me to say.

2. Blacklock

I’d been wanting to go to Blacklock for ages – pretty much ever since I moved to London, but was afraid that it might not live up to expectations. I think I managed a good 100 or so roast dinners before I finally cracked and booked it – several weeks in advance, of course.

It didn’t disappoint – amazing meat, gorgeous gravy, excellent service. So much so that I need to find an excuse to go back again. Ooooh like my birthday – though that is on Wednesday night, so no roast dinner.

The best news is that they are opening up another restaurant in Covent Garden – and there is no reason why I cannot review that too, is there?

1. London Zoo. With my Mum.

We all applied for tickets for The Ashes at Lords. I won two tickets and my sister won two tickets. Alas, I had Saturday tickets and my sister had Friday tickets.

My parents now visit London a few times a year and all are very enjoyable occasions – I’m tempted to suggest 4 visits last year. We had a random draw to see who would go with my sister on the Friday – my Dad was picked, so myself and my mother had to find something in London to do.

My mother suggested going to London Zoo, which I was well up for. I often spend time with my sister, and quite often with just my Dad – it is much more rare that just me and my mother go somewhere.

I enjoyed walking around and seeing the animals – though the food in the restaurant was probably some of the worst food I’ve had all year. Highlight by a long way was the sloth – which was carrying its baby, and came right up to us and over us in the rainforest enclosure. Mesmorising.

Gosh that took longer to write than I planned – no wonder I waited until my detox to write it up properly.

Thanks for being a part of it, or just enjoying my dribblings. See you during 2020.

Review Of 2019 Goals

I used to write full lists of goals for every year, forget about them and then review them at the end of the year.

Though over the last few years, I’ve put much less effort into writing goals, and much more effort into achieving.

So much so, that I never got around to writing goals for 2019 – but I did have a few in my head.

1. Get a significant pay rise or a new job

I failed to get any form of pay-rise – only a “we’ll look at it at the end of the year”, and yes, Brexit was partly to blame. So I started to look for a new job and ended up in the perfect job at M&S. At my level, I probably couldn’t have got a better job – in every way so far it has been perfect to me.

Can I give myself 200%?

2. Go to 4 new countries

Close. I went to Spain and Portugal, but I’d already been to those.

New countries were Serbia, Albania and Greece – yeah I’d never been to Greece. It was only the second (and third) time that I’d left the EU.

Butrint National Park

3. Replace all my socks

I replaced a few – but I still have old socks with holes in, or that are just very tired-looking. This wasn’t helped by Happy Socks putting their prices up to £11.99 a pair.

4. Three month Detox

Smashed it – though I did have a 0.5% alcohol beer near the end. And promptly went back onto apple juice for the rest of the evening – yuck.

5. Lose weight

I put on 1kg over the year. Which is the best I have done for years – though clearly still a failure. Yes, I will be having the same target in 2020.

I’m hoping to write more specific goals for 2020 – there was a reason why I wrote them in the first place, and I have actually achieved some of the more important ones.

I have proven the benefit of setting goals, and hopefully I will do so this next year.

M&S Complaint – Sausage Drought

A complaint from 2018 – I think my final unposted one! And last ever complaint to M&S.

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Dear M&S

I went to M&S for breakfast this morning, in Moorgate, for the first time in around a month.

It reminded me that I was due to complain to you – it has been on my to-do list for a few weeks. The reason it reminded me, was that I had gone in for a bacon and sausage sandwich. Alas, there was no bacon. But a sausage sandwich was sufficient.

My real problem is an earlier sausage drought. A few weeks ago I was desperate for a sausage and bacon sandwich, like I really needed one to be able to justify my existence. I turned up at the Moorgate store just before 9pm, waited over 10 minutes in the queue at the hot desk, before getting close enough to realise that there were no sausages.

Artists impression of what a sausage sandwich looks like

However, I was invested now. I was already late for work and had no other options. So I bought a bacon sandwich, which was utterly underwhelming – two miserable slices of fairly dry bacon, in two overwhelmingly large slices of bread. It was just like eating plain bread for breakfast.

I also bought a packet of sausage rolls, to comfort myself with my disappointment. Which were nice, but I shouldn’t have had to.

Thankfully I at least managed to break my sausage drought this morning with my return appearance.

Regards

James

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Dear James,

Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with us. I’m so sorry to hear of the issues you’ve been having ta breakfast in Moorgate. You wouldn’t expect a sausage shortage from us – or to have a poor quality bacon sandwich either! These are normally my go to option in the café as there’s normally a few rashers on there – but clearly we didn’t get this right on your visit.

The information you’ve given us about what was wrong has been very useful. I’ve let my colleagues in our store know, as well as the supplier, and they’ll be keeping a close eye on our Bacon sandwiches, to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I’ve also let the food availability team know of the recent sausage drought too, and they’ll check if there’s anything we can do to improve this going forward.

As an extra apology from us, I’ve also arranged for a £4 gift card to be sent to your home address to enjoy a breakfast on us for next time! Or you can spend it however you wish.

This will arrive in the next 3-5 working days on your doorstep.

Thanks again for letting us know about this and we look forward to welcoming you back into store soon.

Have a lovely weekend ahead, James.

Best Wishes

Retail Customer Services
Your M&S Customer Service

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Clearly they were just looking after the health of their future employee.