About Me

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Cromer, Norfolk, United Kingdom

I'm a former hospital radio/club/mobile DJ, avid record collector and amateur musician (playing guitar, keyboards, recorder, harmonica and percussion.) I've even filled in on bass guitar for a couple of local bands as well (although that was quite a few years ago). Also interested in Motorsports, Wrestling/Mixed Martial Arts and Classic Television and Radio from the 1960s - 1980s.

Why am I on here? Well, I'm just trying to make some sense of life before it's too late...but who cares anyway?

Monday, 8 November 2010

You Can Always Count On Someone To Mess Things Up....

Well, I'm finally off Flexible New Deal, but the transition back to my old routine didn't go quite as smoothly as I had hoped, but more on that later...

As far as Jobcentre Plus were concerned, they were virtually faultless, even going as far as leaving a voicemail message for me while I was on my last day at RSPCA in Cromer, to arrange an appointment for Friday morning at half nine.   A4e had also arranged an appoinment for that day, but the time stipulated meant that I could get both lots done in one go without too much messing around.

The procedure at the Jobcentre went like clockwork, the whole thing taking less than half an hour, so armed with a new Jobseeker's Agreement and details of a couple of vacancies, I spent the next hour in the library, catching up with a few e-mails while I waited for the next available bus to Norwich so I could get  the A4e appointment done.

Once I had arrived, I grabbed some chips from the market, before making my way down to the A4e offices in Sackville Place, stopping off at a second-hand record shop on the way.

I was on time for my appointment, but in a classic piece of A4e incompetence, I was told when I had recovered from negotiating three flights of stairs that it was cancelled. (How's that for lousy timing?)  It turned out that they had left a message on the landline (when, as I later found out, I was already on the bus), but they never bothered to ring me on my mobile.  Anyway, the adviser I spoke to decided to go ahead and get the last bit of paperwork done so I didn't have a wasted journey after all.

I'm now back at home during the daytime, where I'm continuing my jobsearch online.  Mind you, at least I haven't got the likes of A4e constantly breathing down my neck the way they have done for the last 12 months...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

So What’s Next…?

It’s been a busy month as I’ve been on a work placement at the local RSPCA charity shop.  Admittedly, I was rather nervous to start with, but with the help of shop managers Juliet and Karen and the other volunteers, I soon settled in to my role.  The first couple of weeks were spent going through the Christmas stock, sorting it all out and labelling each item so it’s ready to be priced up before going out into the shop.  For the rest of the time it’s been basically a case of helping out where needed, either on the till, laying out stock in the shop, or around the back - checking jigsaw puzzles mainly. But as I said to Juliet recently, no matter how dull or insignificant the task was, there was usually a way to make it look good on a CV, so what I was doing with the jigsaws could be counted as “Quality Control”!  Oh well… (For the record, I didn’t put it on my CV, but “checking stock for defects” would probably fit the bill just as well.)

To be honest, I’ve enjoyed my time on the placement, mainly as I’ve had a chance to meet some nice people, and the volunteers (as well as Juliet and Karen) have been great to work with.  On the whole, the experience is one that I’ll fondly remember for a long time to come.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

And They Walked Away....

Most people probably wouldn't have heard of  "And They Walked Away...." which was a series of videos featuring various motorsports accidents and near-misses, but if the producers wanted to release another volume, I bet a fair amount of time would be devoted to Coventry Bees skipper Chris Harris, especially his exploits in the second leg of the Elite League Grand Final last night...

Going into the match, Coventry were leading the final 51-39 against Poole Pirates, who, as mentioned last time  had dominated during the regular season, but they were missing Ed Kennett, who had broken an ankle during a Knockout Cup meeting on Thursday night.

Anyway back to Chris Harris...

The Bees' skipper had a bad start to his evening when he was excluded from his opening race in heat four, but it looked worse when Harris was taken out by Poole's Chris Holder in the first turn before Lewis Bridger cleaned him up from behind moments later in heat six, and with the ambulance coming on to the track, it looked as though Harris would take no further part in the meeting.

What happened next surprised even the most die-hard of fans - Harris not only got up, he sprinted off to the pits area, regained his composure and went out and won the re-run, and remained unbeaten by an opponent all night - a performance which inspired the rest of the team to comeback after being eight points down not only to win the match 50-40, but also to take the title (which was duly clinched after heat 13) winning 101-79 overall.

This capped off a remarkable season for the Bees, who were prime candidates for relegation in August. After some re-organisation within the team, they went unbeaten in the next 10 matches before their victory last night against Poole who were unbeatable at home all season.

Now that's a worthy candidate for the title of the greatest comeback since Lazarus...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Update 28/09/10

The last few weeks have been uneventful to say the least, but there was a welcome distraction last Friday when Sky Arts 1 showed a couple of 60s pop-related programmes, Swinging UK and UK Swings Again.  Hosted by Alan Freeman, Brian Matthew and Kent Walton (yes grapple fans, that Kent Walton), these 30-minute films were originally intended to be shown in cinemas as a support to the main feature, and included lip-synched performances by acts such as The Animals, The Hollies, Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, Merseybeats, Lulu and The Applejacks, most of whom I was familiar with through various compilation albums.  However, there were two bands I had never heard of before:  The Whackers (who, according to the footage, were one of the many bands coming from Liverpool) and The Cockneys (whose members were dressed like the pearly kings), but whenever I tried to find out any information on those bands or their records I couldn’t find anything - not even Wikipedia could help out this time.  Anyway, notwithstanding that issue, it was nice to see some of the old footage in full (as I had only seen brief clips on programmes like Rock Family Trees) in their original context.  As a result, I’m keeping a close eye on Amazon and the other sites like HMV in case any similar films are available on DVD.

Elsewhere, Monday night saw the first leg of speedway’s Elite League grand final with the Coventry Bees playing host to the Poole Pirates at Brandon Stadium.  The Pirates have been dominant this year, having been on top of the league throughout (as well as boasting an unbeaten home record this season), but Coventry have provided one of the season’s big stories - after the first few weeks they were dead last, but after a few team changes their fortunes turned around and after winning seven consecutive meetings they had managed to push their way up to fourth in the table, gaining the last play-off spot.  Bees skipper Chris Harris has to be given credit here, thanks to an incredible run of good form which continued into the Grand Prix series, where he came second in the Italian round on Saturday night, moving him into seventh spot in the World Championship standings.  As it stands, Coventry take a 12-point lead from the first leg which they won 51-39, setting things up nicely for the return leg over at Poole next Monday night.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Are You Recording...?

While transferring some LP’s onto CD recently, I began to look back on how I dubbed my records onto tape around 30-odd years ago when I first started collecting records seriously as a hobby - the original thinking then was to have a copy, which, I could listen to wherever I was in the house, without having to carry a boxful of singles and a massive record player around as well as preserving the old vinyl.

Back then, all I had access to was one of the old Fidelity HF42 players and a shoebox-style cassette recorder with a built-in condenser microphone. This method was always problematical because not only did you need absolute silence to get half-decent recordings, but the microphone often picked up the noise coming from the recorder’s drive motor. In addition, some of the cheaper machines didn’t have a “pause” key. This meant that if you were recording singles, you had to rewind the tape to play the end of the previous track, stop it, then you held down the record button when you were ready to start the next track and pressed play to start recording again, hoping to eliminate the annoying “clunk“ caused by the microphone picking up the noise of the buttons disengaging when the stop button was pressed. Albums had their own problems - each side of an LP would normally last around 15-20 minutes, which meant that you had several minutes of blank tape remaining on a C-60 after the last track on the side. When you played the tape at a later stage you’d have to fast forward the tape for several minutes before turning over. (Although on the occasions that I had some singles by the same artist, I’d add a few B-sides and non-LP singles to pad things out.) C-90s were a better bet in this case, as you were able to put a complete album on each side - which was quite handy for double albums, but if each record in the set lasted over 22 minutes per side, it was best to resort to two C-60s, even if it meant having an extended run-off at the end of each side.

Since then, I’ve used various combinations to make up tapes such as record players and radio cassette recorders (connected with 5-pin DIN leads), music centres and midi systems, but the set-up I have now (including minidisc deck and audio CD recorder) is ideal for my requirements. And with the addition of a laptop to the system, my bedroom is more like an audio mastering suite these days. Mind you, I won't be moving into mp3s just yet...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Memories Off The Box and Fingers Crossed Time...

I'm keeping my fingers crossed after a phone call from A4e yesterday afternoon regarding the work boost placement thaey had discussed with me last week. One of the places I had put down on a list of possible placements (a museum in Sheringham) got back to them a few days ago with some positive feedback on the idea. I'm now waiting for another call from the office to let me know when I can go over there for an informal chat about the scheme.

Meanwhile, several people had been discussing old TV memories on the Digital Spy forum, which got me thinking about some of the programmes that I could remember - not the high profile soaps and drama series, but those obscure programmes you would only see on Sunday mornings before live coverage of a church service (yes, we even had those on BBC 1 or ITV on a regular basis back in the old days) like those "teach yourself a foreign language" series, where they would show a news programme from French or German television, Asian magazine programmes or series like "Farming Diary". You'd even get the occasional programme in Welsh, but "on certain transmitters only", but it was the music played during the interval, "O'er The Stones" (as recorded at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop), which would stick in my mind from those days.

It's hard to imagine that scenario happening in today's multi-channel climate, and its still hard to believe it was 22 years ago when we only had four television channels to choose from...

Saturday, 31 July 2010

One Man's Poison....

It's often been said that one man's poison is another man's food - and I think that's a perfect anaolgy as far as record collecting's concerned. For example, last weekend I went to a record fair at the local community centre, but it wasn't the usual boxes of rare Beatles or Elvis singles that I ended up taking a closer look at - it was one section where LPs were going for 50p each or 3 for a quid - especially after picking up half a dozen Paul McCartney albums and several Elvis LPs (albeit the cheap RCA Camden ones) last year. Anyway, I came away from last Sunday's outing with 12 albums & 12" singles for £4. One of them was an old Connie Francis ("The Exciting Connie Francis") from 1959 - I paid around 34p (based on the 3 for a quid offer), yet while I was looking on eBay a few days later, I found that a few people were offering it for around £25. A Brenda Lee album from 1962, picked up the same afternoon was spotted on eBay with prices upwards of £10. I think I might have got something of a bargain after seeing those two examples.

Elsewhere, it's another busy motorsports weekend. Team GB take their place in tonight's Speedway World Cup final in Vojens alongside Poland, Denmark and Sweden, Formula 1 moves on to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix, where the team orders row is still one of the major talking points of the weekend while NASCAR is at the Pocono Raceway for Sunday's Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. Pocono is an unusual track, configured in a triangle instead of the normal oval circuits NASCAR usually race at, with three differently banked corners and three straights of differing length which will challenge driver and car alike. This should be an interesting race as Juan Pablo Montoya attempts to put his problems at Indianapolis behind him but don't count out 4-time series champion Jimmie Johnson or last week's winner Jamie McMurray both of whom are starting in the top ten on the grid.

Should be an interesting few days....

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Three Days In Five Paragraphs...

I've had the run of the house to myself today, so I'm typing this while the pets settle down to their afternoon snooze. There's been no contact from anyone connected with Merchants Place since I declared my intention to drop out of the admin course, so I hope I won't hear any more about it. In any case, I've got a visit to A4e next Tuesday, where the plan is to set up a "work boost". This is basically where I do a four-week stint with an employer, unpaid, but the idea is to get some work experience (which I haven't had for several years) and an up-to-date reference. Mind you, they had better get a move on, as I've only got 14 weeks left on Flexible New Deal. After that, I'm not sure what's going to happen, although I've heard "Work For Your Benefit" being mentioned as a possible next step. Guess I'll discover more nearer the time.

As for the last few days' motorsports action, the Poles dominated in the Speedway World Cup meeting which was delayed due to the weather. They go on to Saturday's final with Denmark and Russia getting the first two places for Thursday night's race-off.

Over in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya's Brickyard 400 jinx continued when a bad pit stop call resulted in him losing several positions. Untill then, he had been dominant throughout the race, and was a dead cert to win before crashing into the wall on lap 146. Jamie McMurray was the eventual winner, giving his car owner Chip Ganassi an unprecedented "classic" treble - with Ganassi-owned cars winning the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 all in the same year - quite some feat if you think about it....

Helio Castroneves ran into some trouble as well at the Indy car Series' latest race in Edmonton after getting penalised for blocking Will Power late on in the race, thus effectively gifting the win to Scott Dixon, and a NASCAR/Indy Car double for Ganassi.

Mind you, that was mild compared to the Ferrari "team orders" fiasco at Hockenheim. The last I heard, the team were fined $100,000 by the race stewards, and the matter referred to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council for further discussion. However, I wouldn't expect a decision on whether there'll be any further punishment until after the Hungarian Grand Prix at the earliest.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

A Welcome Distraction...

It's another "do not disturb" type of weekend as there's plenty of motorsports action to keep an eye on in the next few days. The whole thing starts tonight with the first event in this year's Speedway World Cup in Poland on Sky Sports. That's followed by the German Grand Prix on BBC 1 tomorrow lunchtime, then it's Nascar's Brickyard 400 on Open Access 3 (sky channel 190) before finishing off with the latest round of the Indy Car Series from Edmonton, Canada on Sky Sports.

All of which should be a nice way to take my mind off things, especially as I've had several people on Facebook in the last few days trying to persuade me to reconsider my decision to drop out of the Admin Skills course in the light of the decision of the providers to charge for the course next term. Anyway, all I'll say on the subject is this - I've made my decision, and I'm sticking to it.

In the meantime, I've got the ongoing digital transfers project to keep me occupied - and it's a great chance for me to catch up with some old videos that I hadn't watched in over ten years such as The Zoo Gang which I hadn't seen since it was shown on Bravo around 14 years ago - and that was in the days when they used to specialise in old films and TV series. In fact unlike ITV 4 (who still show a lot of the old ITC series from the 60s) Bravo always showed the black & white episodes from the early seasons of shows like The Saint and Danger Man as part of their "Timewarp Television" strand. Anyway I'll be interested in keeping a close eye on a new channel called Vintage TV which is due to launch on Sky Digital in September.

So as one shepherd said to his mate, "Come on, let's get the flock out of here!"

Monday, 19 July 2010

It all boils down to money....

Just had some news regarding the admin skills course at Merchants Place - and it doesn't look too good...

As a result of the aforementioned funding issues they are considering running the courses for ten weeks, at a cost of £10 per week for each student, including those, like myself, who are "unwaged" ie, on benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance. They say that there are a couple of possible options for alternative methods of funding, but it's highly unlikely that I'd qualify for those.

So it looks as though push has come to shove, and I seem to have no alternative than to drop out of the course. This is a great pity, since, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I've made a few new friends and got a few extra qualifications during my time at Merchants Place.

I still have just under 4 months left to go on Flexible New Deal, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed, as I'm waiting for developments regarding the mandatory 4-week "Work Boost" that A4e are supposed to be setting up for me. Other than that, what else can I do?

Not a lot it seems...

Saturday, 17 July 2010

School's Out....

Thursday night's exam session went off without a hitch - well, not quite - I was roped in by the tutor supervising the exam to help set up the dictation software on the computers which were being used for Audio Transcription exams as he didn't know how to load in the necessary audio files. Anyway, I now have a wait of around 5 - 8 weeks for the results. In the meantime I received the latest batch of certificates from Merchants Place, so now I (officially) have an OCR Level 2 Certificate in Text Processing (Business Professional). Most people will probably wonder what the hell I'm on about, but it looks impressive on my CV, which has now had yet another rewrite to accommodate the new qualifications. I also have a nice little break from classes, while I wait for further developments on the funding side of things.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Calm before the storm...

All quiet over here, so I'm trying to take my mind off things while I await the two admin skills exams I have tomorrow as well as my latest A4e appointment earlier on that day. In the meantime I've been going through some old videos which I've been dubbing onto DVD in the last couple of weeks, as well as catching up on some recent WWE and UFC events which have taken place recently.

I'm keeping a close eye on various motorsports events as well, especially the Speedway World Cup which takes place in a couple of weeks time. Team GB looks as though they've got a pretty strong line-up for this year, especially with Scott Nicholls and Simon Stead back in the team after sitting out last year's tournament. On current inidvidual form, I won't be too surprised if Team GB go straight through to the final this time round, and they'll have plenty of home support as well for their meeting which takes place at the Norfolk Arena in King's Lynn.

Should be an interesting week, whatever happens...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Random updates 13/07/10

Before I go any further, let me welcome you to my new blog - basically an attempt to get my thoughts into some sort of order before I go stir crazy...

Now that's out of the way, on to business...

It's been a bit quiet here in the last couple of months, although thanks to a couple of recent panic attacks, I'm back on beta blockers for the first time in a couple of years.

Anyway, that's the least of my worries as the future of the Admin Skills course is up in the air again due to "funding issues" at Merchants Place. To be honest, I doubt that the course will be continuing - especially with all the announcements about various government cutbacks in recent weeks. If it does go belly-up, it'll be a shame, having managed to get a few extra certificates in the last year or so, as well as meeting a few new friends in the process. (And they've allowed me to go at a pace I'm comfortable with instead of saying "you must pass this by such-and-such a date" which has made things easy to cope with taking into account my past mental health issues.) For now, the plan is to get through the next couple of exams next Thursday evening, and await developments during the summer break.

In the meantime, I've had plenty to take my mind off things - especially this past weekend. Not only did I have the British F1 grand prix to look forward to on Sunday, the British Speedway GP took place on Saturday night, followed by NASCAR's latest race a few hours later. So the "do not disturb" sign" was hung out with all the motorsports going on in the last few days.