Bad luck and Mr Purple

Well not much happened on Thursday. I went to work came home ate, fell asleep on the couch, woke up in time to see the cricket and then went to bed. Pretty much the same happened on Friday except I got an email from a guy I met in Greece. My other friend the Traveller and me stayed at his place for a few days when we were there a few years ago. I will call him the Greek although he is English but he has been living In Molai for 40 years. The Greek has been trying to set his own business up for a long time and works incredibly long hours and never misses any opportunity to promote himself and the business. He has never got rich in spite of his efforts and long hours. He has tried to persuade me on many times to become an agent selling water filters one year to biological waste disposal units the next. Well I got this email asking about vibrators and did I have any information on them? I gladly sent off as many URL’s as I could shaking my head and shuddering at what venture he had come up with this time but wishing him the best of luck with it.

I wish I could say that hard work and long hours pay off but it doesn’t in the vast majority of cases, Sadly, it’s down to luck. Just ask any miner who had to work 12 and 16 hour shifts when there were still coalmines in the UK. Its not about how hard or how long you work. If this were true then any one who worked over 12 hours a day for a sustained period of time would be rich. People who say you make your own luck have got it wrong. If this was true we could all envisage the winning numbers on the next lottery or the finishing horse in the next big race. This actually got me thinking about the unfairness of life.

My mate the tiler used to breed budgies and two of his best budgies were a Mr Grey and Mr Purple. Mr Grey was a real character and after being chosen to breed with a hen he would do his courtship dance, get down to the bristles, shoot his load and be banging his beak on the breeding cage to get out and onto the next one. He really was one of the boys, get the job done and then out with the lads. Thinks of James Dean or Marlon Brando in the wild one and you get the picture. A real tearaway and the sort that made hens go weak at the knees.

Mr Purple was also a great breeder but totally different. He would woo his hens and stay with them after the eggs had hatched and help the hen to feed the chicks. You could almost imagine him planning what school they would go to when they had feathers and what occupation they would have and be discussing pension plans for them with the hen. Mr Purple would breed with any hen he was put in with and some were downright ugly, even MR grey would take one look and turn his beak up at these, but Mr Purple woo’d them into submission, got on with the job and stayed with them to the end. In short he was the kind of budgie most hens would be proud to take home to mum and dad, unlike Mr Grey. Think of David Niven or Carey Grant and you get the picture.

Unfortunately it was later discovered that Mr Purple had a genetic defect. He had French moult and this made all the feather of the chicks he had sired fall out and they could not fly. He was ok and did not suffer but it meant he could never be used as breeding bird again. To avoid infection of the rest of the flock he was sold, probably to some little grey haired old lady who would keep him in a small cage and call him Joey. Sadly it was a really undignified end for such Herculean efforts.

Whatever the Greek is up to now I wish him the best but cant help feeling that he will end up like Mr Purple and maybe even myself scratching around and wondering why we never got the breaks and only bad luck in spite of our best endeavours


The vote and Eco Warriors

Yesterday was quite a good day, I got up early with no hangover and the sun was shining. After breakfast I said good bye to my friend the traveller with a view to hooking up with him in a few weeks. I managed to get to the shops, put a few wash loads on and for the first time this year I got the lawnmower out and cut the lawns back and front. I also made several trips to the tip. The tip has changed quite a lot over the last few years. You now have to sort your rubbish out by commodity before you can leave it there. This always makes me feel like an Eco Warrior doing my bit for global warming and helping the community. In fact the council have kindly given us two bins with a third on its way shortly for us to sort our household waste into. You place glass, tins, plastic and paper in one bin, garden waste in another and everything else in the third. This sounds great and to not do this would be nothing short of Eco Terrorism. Now I don’t mind doing this but some council’s are going to fine people and give them a criminal record if they don’t. That’s great for able bodied people and those with full sight, but what if you can’t see and put the wrong stuff in the wrong bin by accident? Another thing is they are not reducing the rates for us doing their job. In fact they are putting them up and reducing services!

Anyway a local councillor came to see me today to ask if I was going to vote in the local elections so I mentioned this to him and he said he would give it some thought. Then he asked if I was going to vote for him and I said “no”. He asked why not and I proceeded with a verbal tirade about everything from the loss of our industries and our border controls to the fact Ted Heath should have been hung as a traitor for signing us into the EU without telling us our fishing rights were being signed away. Not happy with this and feeling in my stride that this little prick wanted my vote I then proceeded to tell him that Margaret Thatcher had ruined the country and that even worse Tony Blair has just had ten years to put everything right and he has sat on his arse and dragged us into a war. I mentioned the fact that the British navy had commissioned two new aircraft carriers and they would be built by Thales in France because Margaret Thatcher had closed all the shipping yards and we had no one to make ships for us anymore. Just to finish him off and apply the coup de grace I told him all politicians were lying scheming little bastards who were only just behind estate agents and solicitors in the trustworthy stakes. This sent him off with a flea in his ear.

For what it’s worth, I think we should all vote because millions of people died for the right to have that vote and to not use it is nothing short of criminal. What saddens me is that I can’t see any one worth voting for.

A Chinese restaurant?

I have been looking for another place to live as in another country for some time. For the last 14 years in fact and have travelled as much as I am able and have come up with a myriad of ideas. One such plan was to be a joint venture with one of my mates who is a fitness instructor. We were going to buy a boat and sail around the world. Whilst we had good intentions we had greatly different ideas for how we should go about this. For instance would we want a motor yacht a sail boat or something else? How would we afford it and how would we live once we had set sail on the briny, what we would do for money?  The instructor wanted a motor boat so we would not have to struggle with sails while I wanted something that would not stand still on a calm day. I managed to find what I believed to be the ideal vessel in a deep sea trawler and the instructor said “how many birds are we going to pull in that”? I knew then it would never happen, he wanted the blue serge blazer the white linen trousers, the white plimsolls and a captain’s hat with scrambled egg around the peak. I wanted a sack full of beer over the side keeping cool, a pair of shorts, bare feet and just the sun on my back.

Alas due to family commitments I can no longer travel due to the constant care my mother needs. So another friend of mine whom I went to Greece with a few years back to look for property there announced he was going to Croatia. I looked at a few properties on the internet and asked him to scope out the laws, taxes, crime rates and living costs for me while he was there. He was also going to look at a pig farm for me that had a large plot of land a few pigs and a huge industrial barbecue. A couple of nights before he left we finished off a bottle of Absinthe, said our farewells and looked forward to our future prosperity raising pigs and running a barbecue type smokehouse. You just don’t get that sort of thing in the UK. If you go to Austin in Texas and stop by a venue called Stubbs, you will see the sort of place I mean. It’s a smokehouse that serves cold beers and has live music on most nights of the week and Gospel on a Sunday to cater for the church going crowd. There are a couple of places like that in Memphis and New Orleans. Apart from the weather, we just don’t have that type of mentality in the UK.

Well last night the traveller arrived back at my front door with all the news and none of it good. The pig farm had been sold the day he got there, most of the other places he went to see were either falling down or so remote you would not be able to get medical help if it was required. I suppose many of us think of a tropical island with no worries as Paradise. However what do you do for food, power, medical supplies and doctors and communication? Sadly Croatia is for the time being out of contention, however my travelling friend is off to China in the middle of May. I await a full report and who knows, one day it maybe a Texan style restaurant in China it would make a difference from a chinese restaurant in the UK?

Brave or stupid

One of the 50 gallon oil drums arrived over the weekend and I am going to modify this and use it for the smoker. Its thin gauge metal and wont stand up the stresses of being used for a fire box for very long. Thats when I had the idea that the fire box must be 1/8 or 1/4 inch steel or iron plate. Looking around I found a couple of empty Butane bottles and thought they would be just the job. I am more than capable of cutting the oil drum to spec and making the frame with wheels for everything to stand upon and I have even thought about using high grade exhuast paint for the fire box and hammerite for the smoker and frame. The vents and chimneys will be made of flexible stainless steel tubing and all in all it should look quite pretty in black, red and shiny stainless steel.

Cutting the propane/butane bottles presents a challenge of its own and one site I looked at had a disclamier for its plans. "You try this at your own risk". I have thought of taking the bottle to those awfully nice chaps at the fire station to ask them if they could cut it for me. They must have the cutting gear as they free people from car crashes and wrecks everyday? However being the public spirited chap that I am I reckoned this would be a total waste and misuse of public resources.  Another friend who has his own garage told me he did not have cutting gear only welding gear. It would appear that I am in need of some one with excellent engineering skills and equipment, either that or some brawny individual who is very brave or stupid.

Three sheets to the wind

I picked up some ribs on Friday gone from my favourite butcher. I didnt order them as a friend does that for me. She has been blessed with a spectacular decolleteage. (Thats massive tits if you didnt know) She normally goes to the shop in a low cut top and short skirt and bats her eyelashes at the butcher and he always throws a few extra ribs in. I could not get away with this ploy but she can and I take full advantage of the fact that she is a good friend. The ribs were supposed to be in sheets but the butcher had chopped and cleaved them for me. I guess he thought he was being helpfull but this wasnt what I had planned for and I could not complain as I got a really good measure for my money.

The problem was I had around 30 ribs and the amount of marinade, dry rub, basting sauce and finishing sauce I would need to coat every single surface was now huge. I spent five hours mixing herbs and spices in industrial quantities. By the time I had finished my eyes were watering because of the amount of chilli and cayenne I had used. But they went in the fridge to marinade over night and then I tossed them around in a large bowl to cover them in the dry rub I had made and then they went into the oven for 2 hours. After a lot of basting and slathering they were eventually ready some 3 hours later.

There were supposed to be 9 people for dinner but only 5 made it and it was impossible to eat all I had cooked but we all gave it a really good try. Even after a bottle of Bourbon, several gallons of beer and some vodka to give us the inspiration to finish them off we could not manage it. However as evryone agreed they were the best ribs that any of us had eaten. technically the barbie season starts in a few short weeks but because of the lousy weather we suffer in this country its hard to know when I be able to clean my grill out and start cooking for real. I guess thats why we dont have any barbecue championships in the UK, you cant rely on the weather. I have actually cooked in all weathers and a couple of years ago I barbied on new years eve at minus 2 centigrade just to prove I could.

Sadly for now its just practise in the kitchen even if we do end up three sheets to the wind.

At long last

Isn’t it amazing how the threat of legal action can stir up even the most slothful souls? After ringing my ISP up for the umpteenth time and telling them there is absolutely nothing wrong with my equipment, modems, routers and computers, they have managed to find a fault at their end and lo and behold my line was back up whilst I was talking to one of their friendly technicians.

At long last………..

Alive and kicking

Reports of my demise are greatly exagerated. I can state quite categorically I am in rude health however, this is much more than can be said for my service provider. My internet connection has now been down for a little over a week with my ISP promising to send me me new routers and modems. Sadly this has not happened yet. Normal service will be provided once my ISP get their arse into gear and stop fannying about with my phone line and blaming all and sundry when its their responsibility. Trust me I am alive and kicking!!

The wrong calendar

For weeks I have been telling everyone that the clocks are going forward this coming Sunday, March 11th. It made sense to me as the UK government is talking about not setting them back again this coming October. Nothing has been set in stone by the government but there is to be a discussion about it and there is a good possibility that they wont. The last time they tried this experiment was between 1969 and 1972. I personally thought it was great as I dont mind either going to work in the dark or coming home in the dark, but not both. Many people were against it and they went back to British Summer Time (BST) and Greenwhich Meantime (GMT). This time ROSPA and the save the planet mob are onto it saying that by moving the clocks forward one hour it will save a lot carbon emissions and it will cut down on road accidents. I have no idea how they came up with this conclusion but they have and it was published in a UK newspaper back in January. With the current Labour party desperate to show its green credentials this seems a goer.

So with a certain spring in my step I have been throwing back the curtains first thing every morning and thinking its not long before I can get into the garden and start tidying up, cutting lawns, hedges and cleaning the cobwebs out of the greenhouse ready to start planting for summer. It wont be dark when I get home and instead of turning on the telly I will put my wellies on and get out there. In fact I have been looking forward to it so much I have been boring the arse off so many of my friends with comments about it. Not even having to make a trip to the dentist, for a really painfull filling, could dampen my spirits over the last couple of weeks.

It was to my utter shock and complete horror that this morning, I received a couple of indignant emails telling that they were not going back at all until March 25th. I looked at the calendar again, a really special one I had been given for Christmas featuring 12 of the most rare and special Fender guitars ever built and there it was. March 11th, daylight saving begins. My mobile phone went and it was a text from the tiler crowing about how hot it was over in OZ and how he was struggling with the heat from his barbie and how he had frostbite on his hands from handling cold bottles of beer. The finishing line was "wish you were here". Green with jealousy I looked at my calendar again and the awful truth hit me. It was an American calendar with American dates in it. It was the wrong calendar………….

Oil drums and tubing

Wahey, the liquid smoke arrived yesterday along with other various finishing sauces. I now have two types of liquid smoke, one Mesquite and the other is Hickory. The Hickory smells the nicest. I have ordered some slabs of Pork ribs and the plan is to cook some ribs in the oven using a marinade the night before, a dry rub and a basting sauce whilst cooking and a finishing sauce to serve them with.

As I already have a decent grill and plans for a spit and a pit are under way I have decided to make a smoker. I started out by looking at commercial types on the net and they went from the sublime to the utter ridiculous and the price range was the same. I really dont have any need for a 10 hog smoker than weighs 3 tons and is fixed on the back of a trailer with  Scammel traction unit to drag it around. I doubt that a military field kitchen would ever use something that big. Nor do i want something so small that a budgie would fill the cooking unit. I decided upon a budget of 400 pounds and set about looking. The things that seem to be available for that price really dont seem either adequate or sturdy enough for prolonged use. There is only one thing for it and that is to build my own.

The oil drums I was promised a week ago have not turned up and so I have sent out an SOS to the people that are supposed to be supplying me with them and new instructions to NOT cut them up. I figure two oil drums of varying size, 1 at 55 gallon size for the cooking compartment and another at 20 gallon size for the fire box. Some metal tubing or hose to link them up and some metal venting to use for a chimney. What would be even better would be an old copper hot water cylinder to use for the cooking compartment if I can find one.

Its down to the scrap yard to see what bits I can salvage…………

A ray of sunshine and an industrial wilderness

I have just come home from another scintilating day as a professional wage slave. If only I saw things like other people do. A close friend of mine is a real regular ray of sunshine. Nothing fazes her and as far as she is concerned the glass is always half full, never half empty. A few months ago a group of us were walking long the beach trying to keep the rain off our heads, the sand storm from stinging our eyeballs and the cold from freezing our genitals off , when up pipes little Miss Sunshine with “oh look at them clouds, arent they pretty”? It was open mouths for the rest of us. A few months earlier when I had been relating as to how the weather was affecting me she said “well never mind you have got work to look forward to in the morning”. I guess it was the sound of my jaw hitting the carpet that caused her to explain that I would seeing all my work colleagues and meeting new people and generally having a high old time and getting paid for it. I had never looked at work like that before and to be truthfull I have never met any one since, well maybe one.

Anyway this prompted me to think about my past working life. I have had numerous jobs from the age of 16 until I was 21 and from then I have been in work continuously with the exception of 6 weeks where I claimed unemployment benefit. All in all over 30 years of almost continuous employment and 36 in total.  I then decided to to try and remember which jobs I had enjoyed. I know some jobs are horrible until you get there and are then in the swing of things, but others just leave you feeling depressed, trapped and a  longing to be anywhere else other than in work. Some jobs have you waking up in a cold sweat about 30 minutes before the alarm goes off, praying that somehow it wont and its all a horrible dream.

In truth I did once have a job I enjoyed. I worked in a printers where I met some really good friends, enjoyed the work immensely and genuinely looked forward to going into work. Of the three other people I worked with I am still in touch with two of them almost 19 years later and they are what i would call good friends. The job lasted two years before we were all split up to go into other departments. I guess the management hated to see any one having a good time and figured it would demoralise the rest of the workforce if they knew a small group were actually happy to be there. I stuck it out another four years before I found something else I could actually do without coming close to a nervous breakdown.

I can think of loads of things I would rather do than work for a living, real important things like check the beer fridge is full, top up the tan, get in the garden, go for long walks and bike rides. Little Miss sunshine has said that she would hate to not be in work, she would be bored. I reckon being bored is a sign of a lack of imagination and the inability to organise time. All in all its a shock to realise that out of the last 30 years 28 of them have been spent in an industrial wilderness and wasteland being in places I did not want to be, doing things I did not want to do for people I didnt really like or care for that much. That last statement may be a tad harsh but its a fact that most of the people, but not all, that I have worked with over the years are not the sort of people I would have gone to the pub with or invited back to my place for a beer or two.

Bearing in mind I have another 15 years to go before I can “officially” retire its time to rethink life and figure how to get the best out of what is left. This will ineviteably mean selling up and leaving these shores for sunnier climes and a much less stressful lifestyle. In short get the hell out of the rat race!