Rat Running

Being a local Slough boy, I like to think I know the shortcuts around town. Growing up down the road in High Wycombe, I spent many evenings and weekends in the local town of Slough. In particular as there is still no Hindu temple in my home town, this was the closed with a place of worship.

Driving home on Thursday afternoon, I listen to the radio and tend to tart around the stations working my way down from national to local. I switched to Time 106.6 which had a local news bulletin, directly after the main news. Lansdowne Avenue is to be closed to traffic from Monday 13th onwards. This would have an adverse affect on not just my journey to work but general journeys from the flat, to town or the supermarket. While I would never use the road to rat run, it was a useful shortcut to take out the Stoke Poges Lane traffic light crossroads. I just feel residents got annoyed with the amount of traffic and in many cases, people forgot it was a residential area, rather than a main route and never reduced their driving speed.

The impact for me is an additional few minutes on top of my morning commute, which includes a lifetime waiting at the lights at the end of Stoke Poges Lane. The signage went up last week but I did not notice it covered in black bin bags until later this week. How will they police such a closure, I do not know, unless they plan to actually block the road off completely, which is very unlikely. My answer came the next day, when signs were added and the red and white blocks were placed on the road.

Lansdowne Avenue

The Year That Was

The saying goes – what difference a year makes! This time last year, I had just been informed my job would transferred over to India within two years and that our existing contracts were being terminated to be moved over to a new third party provider. I was not looking forward to the new year, as I started 2013 with more fear than any excitement for the future. Life was going to be testing for the foreseeable future. Slowly things began to get worse before they got any better.

Over eighteen months I had built up a good friendship with many of my colleagues, including a small band, of like minded individuals whom happened to live in and around Slough. We got on very well and most importantly worked extremely well together. Surely enough though, with the news breaking just before Christmas of the forthcoming changes, many had decided not to wait on-board a sinking ship, instead almost on a weekly basis, we were saying goodbye to not just colleagues but people we called our friends.

At first I was keen to stay and show some loyalty but within weeks the atmosphere in the office changed and with a constant stream of people leaving, what little motivation remained was at an all time low. I had to find a new challenge, a new environment and most importantly a permanent position.

Rather than just focus on work, I know it takes up a big chunk of our waking hours. I thought it would be good to also focus on some of my highlights from the last twelve months. By no means as action packed as previous years (2011 or 2012) but plenty of highlights, including my recent birthday weekend in Barcelona. A long weekend away with the boys in Newcastle followed by a rush flight back to London to see Beyoncé in concert at the O2.

Beyoncé

In terms of my personal fitness, I started using a personal trainer – Errol for five months from January until May for twice a week sessions at EasyGym. My level of improvement over the the first half of the year was incredible and if I could afford to, I would have liked to have continued with these sessions. In the end, I left EasyGym, as I started my new job at CA with a free gym in the office. My fitness goal for next year is to lose one stone, with the help of MyFitnessPal and the purchase of a fitness tracker (waiting for the international release of the FitBit Force in February).

For charity, I raised over £300 for Movember in my second year of taking part in the event dedicated to raising money for Men’s Health. It was fun to be part of a group of 22 male colleagues, rather than just a handful in my department, as was the case at MS last year. I will not be taking part for the next few years, to give my face a break but also to stop harassing my friends and family to donate.

CA Mouchas

Gadget wise, the year started with me purchasing a Nexus 7 tablet and to be honest, I have never looked back. The device is used regularly throughout the evening as a second screen while watching television but also when out and about to guide us around a new place, or catch up on BBC TV via the iPlayer (now the Android application allows offline downloads). To say it has changed my life would be perhaps going a little too far but it has made a big difference. Plus being in a single laptop household, it enables me to quickly check things online or queue downloads without having to switch on the laptop and when my aging HTC Desire is just too slow and fiddly. The seven inch tablet has not completely replaced the laptop though. There are several things that I cannot do or rather prefer not to do on the tablet, such as banking. In terms of mobile, I am still yet to upgrade my personal mobile phone but did get a Samsung Galaxy SIII, even though it is my work mobile. I had promised myself the moment I got a permanent job I would go out and spend part of my first month’s salary on a new mobile. In the end I did not need to as I was able to order the Samsung Android device through my IT department. Although, initially I was provided with an iPhone 5, which I duly returned.

Television has probably for the first time beaten movies, as the number one entertainment source in our household. Suits returned for series three, which was better than series two. (For the record, I still have not identified the associate!) Something I thought would never happen. Other shows have continued to simmer along as usual, some with the difficulty of losing a major cast member. New shows on the scene have included Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD which I really enjoy, even if the target audience is the mid teen market. We finally got into Luther and watched all series of Sherlock back to back over the course of two weeks. Looking forward to his turn on New Years Day, even though I prefer Jonny Lee Miller in the titular role on CBS show Elementary.

Merry Christmas

Perhaps for the first time in thirty odd years I have lost most of the Christmas magic. However that does not mean I cannot wish all my devoted readers, both new and old a very Merry Christmas and a New Year!

Birthday Abroad

My dearest friend Pav has been lucky enough to spend many a birthday in his favourite countries throughout Europe. Being born in mid January does align with the winter ski and snowboard season. Lucky boy! Being born towards the end of year, has generally meant I have never had the option to go abroad. By the time winter hits the UK, most people have long used up their holiday entitlement, me included. I recall taking a phone call on my birthday from a friend and being told it was the second worst birth month after his own of February. (Talk about making me feel better!) However this year, thanks to Michelle, I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in Spain. My wife had organised a surprise visit to the Barcelona for a weekend away in what we hoped would be some sunshine. Of course it was not the complete surprise Michelle had intended as I needed to book some time off work and make my passport available. Nevertheless a fantastic way for me to spend my 32nd birthday and totally out of bag from what I had expected.

While we live a fifteen minute drive from Heathrow, the EasyJet flights were from Gatwick so we had a mini trek across London to make it to the airport. However, as we both had the afternoon off, we made excellent time leaving at 3:40pm and making it to the check-in desk of the North Terminal by 5:45pm. Our flight was not until 8pm.

La Sagrada FamíliaLa Sagrada FamíliaTeg

A wonderful weekend, with us able to pack in so much into a mere 48 hours. We did a little sight seeing, had a fantastic meal at the top rated restaurant in the city and were able to take a tour around the Nou Camp. I would like to add more to this blog but now, two weeks later, it is late and my memory is starting to fade. I hope I get the chance to fill everybody in on our adventures. I took almost 400 photos, so I should really make the FlickR set public. I will get around to it eventually – I promise!

Beside the Victory

At approximately 18:00 CET, I am 36,000 ft approaching the English coast, flying back to London Gatwick from my birthday weekend away in Barcelona with my wife Michelle. I had decided to postpone listening to ArseBlog Arsecast from Friday (recorded late on Thursday evening) until this particular moment. (A full blog post to follow in due course but I was enjoying a Real Husbands of Hollywood marathon on my Nexus 7) I had almost drifted to sleep to the hum of the Airbus A319 engine outside. Minutes later I heard my name on the mp3 player, while still in a semi conscious state. I had to rewind and listen again! Then I had to interrupt Michelle reading her magazine for her to hear the announcement as well.

The irony of this whole weekend is as follows. Last year I won a competition on the same aforementioned blog for tickets to see Arsenal play Southampton at the Emirates. The same opponents we played this weekend, on my birthday infact but I would be away in Espana. Being able to catch up on the scores later that evening via the BBC Sport app and BBC World news (which annoyingly but understandably no longer displays a clock on screen!)

On Friday afternoon my winning prize – an exclusive cashmere scarf from Savile Rogue arrived and I had to post a photo online. Many famous football faces such as Mancini and Delia Smith have worth their famous football wear.

Savile Rogue

Comedy Genius

Stumbled onto this video while switching over from the football on ITV HD. I know I should be more dedicated and sit through all seven hours of the annual BBC telethon but some years are better than others. The first edition away from Television Centre was always going to be interesting and I am surprised they selected Eltree Studios. (However it worked out well, with Strictly Come Dancing being based in Blackpool this weekend) Although it was poor excuse for international football on the other side (even if it is watching England lose!)

Hats off to Harry Hill for coming up with such a brilliant concept and casting each part perfectly. I have to say I miss his Saturday early evening TV Burp show. Just a shame I got into it rather late. Oh well, only a month to go until his movie is released in cinemas.

Movember Again

Last year when I joined the annual Movember movement for the first time, the decision was at the eleventh hour. I decided to join around 30th October, mere days before the start of November. Roll forward twelve months and this year I am better prepared and taking part with fifteen colleagues. Generation donations to “CA Mouchas” has raised almost £500 before the start of the month, which is pretty good going but to date I am yet to get off the mark. Therefore the begging begins now and where else to start than my personal blog!

You can check out my achievements from last year over on FlickR. I got Michelle to take photos every few days rather than on a daily basis but I ended up looking like a call centre worker from Bangalore (according to my friends Pav and Sippy).

Day 10

You can go and make a donation on my MoBro page. Although the clever people behind the site will already have e-mailed all my donors from last year with a gentle prod to donate to me again this year. I have also downloaded the official app, which I am trying to use to provide regular updates and photos. The aim is to go for the Hulk Hogan look of the early 1990s but we shall see. The more important target is to raise more money than last year, so anything over £225 will be a big difference to this wonderful cause.

Update – my final total was £320 so I beat my total from last year by almost £100! Thanks to everybody who donated to my page, I really appreciate every penny you gave in support of this fantastic cause. However, I have decided to take a break from Movember for 2014 and possibly for 2015 also. I will be donating to friends MoBro attempts but not partaking myself, after two successful consecutive years raising over £540!

Local Radio

Whenever I go to get my haircut at 2 Geezers on Slough High Street they are listening to local radio station Time 106.6. As you can probably imagine, this “All Time Favourites” local radio station has staple songs and by some strange coincidence they are always broadcast while I’m waiting to get my haircut. On Friday, I left work at 5pm sharp to ensure I got into town to get my haircut before they close at 6pm sharp. The last few attempts I have made to get my haircut had all ended in failure and my hair was now just a big mess and now desperately needed to be attended to. I knew I was unlikely to find the time on Saturday.

Perhaps the only time I appreciate commuting to the office by train rather than car as when I worked at Microsoft, I did not have to worry about parking my car and ensuring the ticket would last long enough. I park in the Herschel Car Park behind the High Street and it is just a short minute walk to the barbers. However, I was caught out on Friday 16th September when I got a parking fine for overstaying. Even though I had the change for two hour slot, I only bought an hour ticket. My mistake, I would never do that again but low and behold, a mere month later I was in the same predicament. However as all the lower decks are marked for Monday to Friday only I had to drive up to the sixth level and this was perhaps my saving grace. I had the change for a two hour slot but the machine would not accept five pence pieces. I was stuck. I paid for over an hour but only got an hour ticket (as I was ten pence short). While I waited in the long queue at 2 Geezers I resigned to the fact I was going to be getting another £25 parking fine.

Back to the local radio which played Yah Mo B There by James Ingram and Michael McDonald and 1980s hit Hold On by Wilson Phillips. Only when I go to get my hair trimmed do I go into a time warp of the last last thirty years.

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