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Thursday, December 15

Another mammoth post I reckon

Despite advising people not to post too much in one go, I think I'll get a few things into this one. Today's subjects are:
  • Fixing my car
  • Encyclopedias
  • The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse
  • Beef
  • Cutting off my broadband
What a mix. They're none of them excessively important, so ideal blog-fodder.

Fixing my car
It's amazing how one gets used to things that don't work. When I got my car it had a faulty boot. The gas struts, which make that satisfying hiss as the boot opens, and, more importantly, hold its weight and stop it from closing on your head, did not both work when I got the car. That, as well as the running problem which developed about 3000 miles into my ownership of the car, meaning that the car stuttered when I put my foot down at low revs, were causing me much heartache. The running problem was fixed at the last service - spark plugs are, apparently, quite important. The boot, however, has been falling on my head.

More specifically, I've been holding it up with one arm while loading and unloading it. Sometimes I've been balancing it on my head and shoulders while manipulating the contents of it. Overall, it's been a pain, but I've gotten used to it. However, today was the day I would have it sorted. The car dealer, who sold me the car, always intended to sort out the problem and had bought parts - I'd just not managed to get the car back to him for them to be fitted.

Today, after dropping off another two boxes of books at a charity shop, I scooted over to the dealer. Then I got two replacement struts, rushed home and then fitted the lefthand one. Once fitted the boot stayed up. The other strut was in perfectly good condition, and so I left it alone.

My boot works.

Sweet lord it's a miracle.

I've been browsing the web a lot and I must recommend the Wikipedia as a marvellous online source of information. A wiki is a website which its readers can edit. So, the wikipedia is a growing source of information. The ability for anyone to put anything on there seems to be working in its favour, though it could go the other way.

Maybe the nutters have stuck to the Uncyclopedia - a fount of knowledge that surely is wrong, or at least weird. The article which led me to this beauty is one on converting an iPod Nano to 200Gb. Read it through and check out the finished product and the performance statistics. Outstanding!

The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse
After some disappointment at missing it at the cinema, I eventually got to see the above movie after buying it on DVD. I would have to say that it was a curious concept (I like the idea of fantasy becoming reality) as the characters of the League of Gentlemen series discover that they're characters, and obsolete ones at that, and go off in search of their writers to put things right. Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie was the sheer lack of jokes and the fact that the filmmaking was so good that the camera tricks seemed less impressive.

I would like to see them live, but I think I've missed the boat.

There's been a lot of beef eating after I bought a roast the other day and realised exactly how much beef you get in a roast. A lot. Still, I reckon one more meal may do it. It will be a big meal.

Not worthy of much of a title, but it was worthy of eating. Lovely beef. Yum. I even made some beef sandwiches before I left the house to return to work this lunchtime. Mmmm beef!

Cutting off my broadband
My oddest experience of the week came when I asked Telewest to cut off my cable internet, TV and telephone. I went through their system and to the "moving house and not transferring the line" bit. I was asked for a forwarding address for the final bill. I told them that I was moving, but that I was retaining the house and would prefer my bill to be sent there. I don't have a new address yet, not having found anywhere to live. (Note to self: find somewhere to live.)

I was told that I had to give them an address for sending the bill and it had to be a different one. I couldn't do it. I suggested that they put me through to the general disconnection department. I'd just disconnect the line without going through the moving house system. I appreciate that different departments have different scripts to follow.

So, at the general purpose disconnection line, I found myself faced with the question - "Why are you disconnecting". I explained that I was just disconnecting... then I sort of let it slip that I wouldn't be living in the house anymore. The guy was insistent that I speak to the house moving people. I explained that it wasn't a normal moving house thing and that I'd be keeping the house. Could he not just disconnect me. He couldn't. I asked "What if I said I want to be disconnected because I just hate Telewest" he said that he could get someone to help resolve the problem. But there is no problem. I just want to stop paying the bills. He explained that I'd have to move house then and go through their system which required a forwarding address I don't have.

So an impasse. Ok. What if I claim I can't afford to pay the bills any more, so want them to stop. He said he could suspend the account until I could afford to pay the bills. What if I said I was going back to BT? He asked if I was keeping my number... this was getting a lot like dealing with a robot. Yet, I kept my temper. Ultimately, I realise that there are procedures in place to deal consistently with customers and make it all work out. It just seems that there's no straightforward way of saying "I don't want the service no more" without getting caught into some, in my case, irrelevant system. Against my will, I was transferred back to the house moving department.

After a few minutes explaining my problem to someone else, and wondering whether I'd have to give them a fake address for the final bill - which is paid by direct debit anyway, so I don't need to see it... and it's probably a refund of line rental overpaid in advance... I was put on hold. When the lady came back, there'd been a change of heart. I had gotten my way.

Telewest 1 - Ashley 1

Wednesday, December 14

Too busy to be blogging
A friend of mine, who will recognise himself when he reads this description, is far too busy to blog. In fact, he complains bitterly about his lack of time and does it so articulately that he must be reducing his available time by spending it blogging. However, he also acknowledges this thus elongating his blog and so on.

In fact, the personal mind-dump-style of blog (like this) is made all the more valuable if the person writing it makes the effort to do so, even at the detriment of some of the time of which they may be discussing the scarceness. So, perhaps I have no excuse for my lack of updates in the last couple of weeks. Perhaps I do. I haven't made the effort. That's not a good thing, but it's honest, and honesty is a good thing.

Anyway, a lot has happened in the last few weeks. Indeed, much of the last 3 months remains unblogged. I never got around to showing a picture of my new car. Here it is:

The Mazda 626 before I put 13,000 miles on it in my first 2 months of ownership

Anyway. Here is a summary of the things I have been doing in the last few weeks:
  • Becoming an uncle
  • Writing an article on Blogging
  • Job seeking
  • Attending interviews
  • Accepting a job
  • Gigging
  • Starting to prepare for a move down south
I will try to give a bit of bloggery on each of the above.

Becoming an uncle
I can't claim a great deal of responsibility for this. My sister has brought a young girl (well, babies are always young) into the family. They seemed remarkably well when I saw them on the Saturday after a Tuesday birth. The baby was overdue, which means she's definitely got some of the same genetic material as her big uncle (that's me) as I'm often late for stuff too.

We had a huge and overpowering family reunion at my sister's house in London around this small child, who regarded us with no great amazement and kept out of the discussions about my forthcoming unemployment (the only member of the family who did). It was the first time that my parents and siblings had all been in the same room for years. It passed almost unnoticed. It was a busy time.

Writing an article on Blogging
Despite my recent shoddiness at blogging, I was called on to write an article about how it is done. So, I did. You can probably read it at Micro Mart's website. It was called "Better Blogging" and made some comment about adding pictures (see above), not writing essays (don't see below) and maybe adding the comments feature to the blog to let people argue on there (see Teamgame). Anyway, I wrote the article and it didn't look so bad on the page when it came into print last week. Usually the articles make me feel slightly embarrassed once they appear in black and white. I guess my use of words was slightly more accomplished this time, or perhaps I've dropped my standards.

Job seeking
I wrote my resignation from my current job on a Wednesday. I applied for jobs on the Thursday night and handed the resignation in on Friday lunchtime. From Friday morning onwards (for a couple of weeks solid) I was deluged with telephone calls from recruiters. It got confusing. Some companies probably saw my CV multiple times as recruiters all went round touting their half-understood version of my capabilities. I generated more interviews than I attended in the end and I was very confused about the options. So many different possibilities for industry sector, location and salary expectations.

If I could make any comment on job seeking, I'd say that it was in some ways as easy as shopping online, but without the ease of tracking what the hell I'd done. Plus, I have a visual memory, which meant that the telephone calls of people vaguely describing their clients all blended together unless I got an email describing it with details I could see.

Attending interviews
I took 4 interviews in the end, along with a couple of telephone interviews. I had to take some tests. Some were easier than others. The online "teckcheck" tests were particularly horrible, but I did ok (well, pretty well, actually) in them, zooming through and doing the best I could to make sense of it. The first interview I did was in two parts. The first part was a "teckcheck" and I was told that the outcome of that would determine whether I proceeded to the discussion with the manager or not. It was like the X Factor or something. I didn't like the idea of travelling all the way to an interview only to be knocked out before seeing someone.

However, despite the pressure, the lack of sleep, the 2 hour drive to the interview in horrible traffic and whatever else I can think of that might have affected my performance, I ended up being offered the job. I had to do 3 more interviews before I got around to accepting the role... partly because some were scheduled before I got an offer through, and partly because I wanted to feel like I'd chosen this job over others, rather than taking the first offer which came along.

Accepting a job
The first job was always my favourite of the interviews I attended, and the company was the best of the companies whose working practices I was introduced to. I'm looking forward to starting. They made me a very good offer and, as a result, I shall be relocating to Farnborough by January 9th, when I start work at the new place.

When I picked up a hitch-hiker on 15th November, we chatted about our lives and how I felt that my stability in a house and job in Newcastle were both an advantage and chains which held me down. I couldn't see myself breaking free. A month later I was posting off a signed contract for a job some 300 or so miles from Newcastle. I'll be starting afresh in a totally new environment. Tomorrow is my last full day at the job I have held for around nine and half years.

It is only our imaginations which truly hold us down.

As might be expected, the total upheaval of my life has had quite an impact on my performing life. I had to pull a bunch of gigs as a result, especially as they clashed with interviews. The job seeking had to come first. For a while, I was anticipating a few weeks (or worse) without employment. Comedy won't pay the bills for me. We're only a couple of paychecks away from being at risk of homelessness (we, as in most people in this country), so messing about gigging wasn't really the order of the day.

Some gigs fell through, some came into place and I've done a bit recently. I went to Scarborough an died on my arse again. However, I did it quite well. I went to Stockton and had a ripper in front of 250 people. Two nights ago, I played a farewell gig in front of friends and well wishers from the comedy fraternity, work, musicals and University. Quite a mix. They were a bloody tough audience, but few of them had seen much of my stand-up, so it was breaking new ground for them. I got to do all the bits I like doing.

Becoming a soft southerner
It's not easy to transplant one's entire life to another part of the world. If there were some sort of emergency, I would leave the house with virtually none of my possessions. However, unlike John Lennon, I can't imagine no possessions, so I'm currently working through various rooms in my house trying to work out what to:
  • Keep (either long-term or take with me down south)
  • Bin - stuff which I just don't need, like the tickets telling me how much I weighed in 2002
  • Ebay - items I don't want to throw away, nor do I think I could give away
  • Give to charity - quite a lot of stuff will end up at the charidee shop - it's recycling
It's a totally weird experience and I'm really not certain how to tackle it. I'm just doing this and that and I guess I'll see if it pays off.

I've also been flat hunting, which is a lot like job seeking, only harder. I can't quite get a handle on the "plenty of leads" which I had when I was job seeking. I probably job sought around 50+ jobs. Now I know that I'm looking for a cheap rental with a spacious room in the Farnborough area, my options are naturally smaller. It's quite tough. A lot of flatmate seeking websites look too much like dating websites to me. It's weird! Gay landlord seeks tenant, must like pets and be open minded. What!? I have no quibble with sexuality - announced or otherwise - but somehow it seems a bit wrong for it to be part of the tenancy agreement. Only a bit. I'll have to be more open minded. Cat juggling!

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