Me 0, traffic cone 1

I suppose there have been times in the lives of many people when they’ve done something a bit stupid which at the worst could be a bit embarrassing or at best could be funny, depending of course on the particular individual’s sense of humour and frame of mind at the time. Well that was just the sort of thing which happened to me about three weeks ago.
To put you in the picture, the main car park at my evening job has a wide offshoot which runs between the works building and the office building and has a large storage unit at the end ; whenever there’s a delivery of steel components due a couple of traffic cones are put out to stop employees from parking in the offshoot and preventing a wagon from backing in. Deliveries aren’t expected or accepted after 4.30pm though and by the time I get to work at 4.45 the offshoot is clear, so in the recent very warm sunny weather I’ve been parking the van in the shade at the side of the works building and near the fire escape from the offices.
So when I finished work on the evening in question, instead of leaving the offices by the main door I left via the fire escape, straight down the stairs and into the van which I reversed along the offshoot to the main car park. Before I got there however there was a thud and a clunk behind the van and I knew I’d driven over something ; thinking that going forwards again would release whatever-it-was I did just that, except whatever-it-was insisted on staying under the van, and when I got out to investigate I found a rather large and extremely solid traffic cone wedged securely between the rear wheel and the wheel arch. Now I knew there had been no traffic cones around when I arrived at work as I’d driven straight into the offshoot so I could only assume that for some reason someone leaving the works at 5pm had left it there, and because I’d left the offices by the fire escape instead of the main door I just hadn’t noticed it.
A bit of to-ing and fro-ing in the van wouldn’t release it and I didn’t want to do any damage to the van itself so I went with Plan B and out came the solid camping mallet I use for knocking tent pegs into hard ground – if I could beat the cone into submission I might manage to get it free but this thing was solid and I couldn’t even put a dent in it. So Plan C came into force and I called out the AA – well I don’t pay astronomical membership fees each year not to make use of their services! The guy who came out to me soon had things sorted though, he jacked the van up at the side, pulled the cone out from underneath and checked for any damage (to the van, not the cone!)  Fortunately there wasn’t any but he could hardly stop himself from laughing and he did say that’s the first time he’s ever been called out because of a traffic cone.
And me? -well I could have been embarrassed about the situation but my wacky sense of humour saw the funny side of it. I never thought, when I first joined the AA several years ago, that I would end up calling them out because of a traffic cone stuck under the van but needless to say, whenever I’ve parked in the car park offshoot since then I’ve made sure to check for any stray cones before I reverse!
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One person’s trash….

Is another one’s treasure so they say, and that certainly came true for me just recently. I’d only just arrived at my morning job when the guy who opens up the premises asked me what shoe size I am – now that was a bit of a strange question at 7 o’clock in the morning, however….
The unit across the car park from where I work is the office and storage/distribution depot for a locally-based manufacturers of outdoor footwear and it seemed they were having a bit of a clear out. A couple of days previously a skip had arrived and along with some office chairs and old files a large quantity of various (brand new but old stock) boots and wellies had been dumped in there, with the instruction for anyone to have a look through and take what they wanted. Many people had, so I was told in case there was anything in there which would fit me – of course I wasn’t going to pass up the chance of a freebie so I went over to have a look.
It took a fair bit of rooting as most of what was left was either too big, mis-matched, or had gone so far down in the skip that I couldn’t reach, however I was lucky enough to find a pair of wellies which were the right size and still wrapped in polythene. These weren’t your normal common-or-garden green wellies either, they were bright blue – according to the label inside ‘Ocean Blue’ – and for wellies they looked really smart. Guaranteed to be warm and waterproof, and with really thick soles and deep tread, they would be great for walking the dogs in winter weather but they look so nice it would be a shame to get them muddy – in fact I feel I should be wearing them to go to bed.
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Photo from the internet
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Now I knew that this make of footwear doesn’t come cheap – they aren’t the sort of thing you’d find at ten quid a pair on a market stall or in a discount shoe shop – but I didn’t realise what price they are until I looked on the internet. This style is actually still current and the RRP on the company’s website is £85! Needless to say I’m really pleased with my freebie but if they retail at that price I feel I should frame them rather than wear them!

When all else fails, turn the bucket upside down and sit on it!

During the thirty years I’ve worked as an office cleaner various mishaps have befallen me on odd occasions, fortunately none of them too serious and most of them quite amusing when thinking about them afterwards, and one such incident happened to me last Saturday. While on an errand in town I decided to do my Monday morning’s cleaning while I was there as the offices are close to the town centre, so following my usual procedure I parked at the back of the building then because the gate has a padlock which is difficult to deal with I walked round and let myself in by the front door.
With all the cleaning eventually done my last task was to mop the kitchen floor, pour the mop water down the front steps – with a bit of bleach in the water it helps to keep the steps clean – then return the bucket to the kitchen. Except on Saturday things didn’t quite work out like that. Normally the inner front door sticks and never closes properly but as I poured the mop water down the steps a huge gust of wind blew in and slammed it shut behind me – and not only was it closed but it was also very firmly locked.
So there I was, stuck in the 4ft square front porch with my jacket, bag, office keys, van key, money and home door key all on the other side of the locked door, and unable to go outside as it was pouring with very heavy rain. At least I had my phone in my trouser pocket so I turned the bucket upside down and used it as a seat while I pondered how to get myself out of the situation I was now in. With no windows open anywhere I couldn’t go out and climb back in somewhere, there was no point phoning the boss as he was on holiday abroad somewhere and I didn’t have anyone else’s number, neither could I ring Michael and ask him to bring me the spare van key from home as he was at work. Just on the off-chance though I phoned Richard, the painter and decorator who had been painting the offices last summer and was a good friend of the boss, to see if he still had the door keys – he hadn’t, but he did have the number of the boss’s son so he phoned him and told him of my predicament then phoned me back to tell me the guy was on his way to unlock the inner door for me.
It was about half an hour later when the boss’s son arrived, he knew I would be behind the front door but I don’t think he expected to see me sitting on an upturned mop bucket! He couldn’t stay as he had his child in the car so he just unlocked the inner door for me, and once I was back inside properly it only took a few minutes to gather my belongings together, set the alarm and lock the front door as I left the building. Thinking back on the experience it’s a good thing I had my phone with me and could contact someone, otherwise I would have been sitting on that upturned mop bucket until the rain stopped, and that could have been quite a long while!

Broken belts and blisters

Some of you may remember that when I wrote about my Ireland trip in early December I mentioned that I’d left my van with my friendly neighbourhood mechanic to sort out a bit of a problem with it while I was away, but unfortunately it hadn’t been done before I got back and I couldn’t leave the van with him any longer as I needed it for work and a 4-week pet sitting engagement, also he was going away himself for a month. The problem was an intermittent squealing noise coming from somewhere at the front of the van, and though initially it wasn’t too troublesome it was a noise which has gradually got worse since early this month.
On the Wednesday two weeks ago, as I was coming home from work early that morning, something under the bonnet ‘went’ and a banging noise developed – instinctively I knew there was something seriously wrong but luckily I was only three streets away from home so I put the hazard lights on, slowed right down and managed to get back, calling out the AA once I was home. The guy said that two of the three front belts had snapped, with one having wrapped itself round something it shouldn’t be wrapped round ; it was a problem which couldn’t be fixed at the roadside but he knew where the mechanic’s workshop was when I mentioned it – fortunately not too far away – so he said if I took it easy I could drive the van down there and he would follow behind me to make sure I was okay. So that’s what I did, and resigned myself to walking to and from my various jobs while the van was out of action.
By the Saturday I hadn’t had any news on the van so I went down to the workshop to check, only to be told that they couldn’t get the right belts for it – they’d had belts from four different local car accessory places but none had been the right size. The ‘problem’ is that the van is a Japanese import and though it’s based on a common Toyota body and chassis it’s a luxury version with an odd name and not many people in the car trade know what it is – even many insurance companies have never heard of it! Back at home I rang a Toyota breakers in the next town, only to be told “ring back on Monday” which I did, and was then told that they don’t sell belts, however the guy I spoke to was quite helpful and gave me some good information on how to get the correct ones.
So on Tuesday last week I went to the Toyota main dealer’s with the information I needed and the very helpful guy in there looked it up on the computer and ordered the belts I needed – luckily the Toyota place is only round the corner from my evening job so I collected the new belts on my way to work the following evening then dropped them off at the mechanic’s on Thursday morning. Late last Friday afternoon I got a text to say the van had been done and finally, after ten days of it being off the road, I collected it on Saturday – the mechanic’s mate who had done the work was rather derisive when I said how much the belts had cost, saying he could get them for only £8 each, but then the generic ones he’d got didn’t fit anyway whereas the genuine Toyota ones I got did, so I don’t mind paying a bit more for something that’s right.
It seemed however that the broken belts hadn’t been the only problem – the one that had been making the banging noise when it snapped had actually gouged a hole in the power steering pipe and while the van was at the workshop it had been leaking power steering fluid all over the place. The pipe had been fixed though and the power steering fluid topped up, and though I’ve only driven the van four short distances since Saturday everything seems to be okay with it, and at least the squealing noise has stopped.
Work-wise my main problem has been that two of the places where I work aren’t on direct bus routes so I’ve had to do a heck of a lot more walking than I usually do. Here’s an example – Tuesday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to Toyota dealer’s 3 miles, Toyota to town 1 mile, (town to home on the bus) total 6.5 miles. Tuesday evening : Job 1 to Job 2 – 1.25 miles. Thursday morning : home to work 2.5 miles, work to mechanic’s 2.5 miles, mechanic’s to home 1 mile, home to boss’s house and back 2 miles, total 8 miles. Friday morning : home to work and back 5 miles. Luckily, for my evening job I’ve been able to go most of the way on the bus but I’ve still had to walk three quarters of a mile from the bus stop to work and back again afterwards from Monday to Friday. So over the five days last week I did a total of over 28 miles of brisk walking, and that’s not counting the three days walking I did the previous week or all the walking about I do when I’m actually at work – no wonder I ended up with a blister on each foot and a worn out pair of trainers!
I must admit that in the nine years I’ve been driving the van that’s the first time I’ve ever had something major go wrong with it, so for a vehicle that’s 24 years old this year it’s done well so far. A broken fan belt or two is something that could happen to anybody due to wear and tear so I’ve just put it down to being one of those things – at least now I’ve got the van back I can get to and from work a lot easier, and it’ll save on blisters and trainers!

Well done Michael!

Just over a week ago Michael got a letter from Warburtons congratulating him on his ten years service with the company For that ten years he now gets £100 to spend on Extra Dough (the money variety, not the sort you make bread out of!)  and he can choose whether to have it added to his wage, spend it on the website or take the equivalent in vouchers. The letter was followed earlier this week by a card personally signed by Brett Warburton, executive director and co-owner of the company.
Now just to avoid any possible confusion, Michael is actually his middle name and he’s always been called that by me, family and close friends, but for some reason at work everyone calls him by his first name, Sean, and that’s who the letter and card were addressed to.
copy of michael's 10 year letter
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The Warburtons bakery isn’t far from home and I remember if we ever passed nearby when Michael was quite young he always said that the aroma of baking bread smelt more like toast, so it was always a joke between us through the years that Warburton’s were making toast again. Right from being so young he always said he wanted to work there and when he left school at 16 it was the first place he applied at for a job but unfortunately he didn’t get taken on at the time.
Fast forward through several years and other jobs and he eventually went to work at Warburtons through an agency ; he was with the agency for just over four years before being taken on as an official Warburtons employee and since then has worked his way up to a job which carries a fair amount of responsibility. His shifts are long – usually 12 hours – but the work is varied, he enjoys what he does and he gets a decent amount of days off and holidays. Neither of us knew, all those years ago when he was very young, that he would eventually achieve his goal and work for the largest bakery brand in the UK – as his mum I’m proud of him. And yes, it does still smell like they are making toast!

A watched pot never boils….

Or in my case, a watched dishwasher doesn’t do anything.
To put you in the picture, at my evening job it’s usual for one of the girls on reception to put the dishwasher on late in the afternoon then switch it off again before leaving work at 5pm, so all I have to do later is remove the clean pots and put them away, which up to now has never been a problem. However, when I got to work this evening the boss’s secretary told me that one of the girls was on a day off and the other had gone home early as she wasn’t well, so as the secretary herself had put the dishwasher on late and it was still running I needed to make sure it was switched off before I left for the evening.
I got all my usual work done and left the kitchen till last but when I went in there the light on the dishwasher said it was still in drying mode ; I could hear a faint humming sound so while I was waiting for the machine to finish whatever it was doing I wiped over the work surfaces and draining board, but even after I’d done that the ‘drying’ light was still on. Now there’s a notice on the front of the dishwasher in capital letters, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR WHILE DISHWASHER IS RUNNING, so not knowing how much longer this thing would take I stood there watching it and waiting for the ‘drying’ light to go out and the ‘end’ light to come on – and I watched and waited and watched and waited a bit more but still the light didn’t go out. And then it dawned on me….
The humming noise I could hear was coming from the small extractor fan set high up in the wall near the ceiling – the dishwasher was actually completely silent and when I tentatively opened the door I found that the machine had actually finished its cycle ages before and was just sitting there quietly, waiting to be emptied. I don’t know why the ‘end’ light hadn’t come on but I’d just spent all that time watching something that wasn’t going to do anything because it had already done it! Needless to say, I emptied it quickly, turned the main switch to ‘off’ and made tracks for home – I’d had enough for one evening!

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother going away….

As I often seem to come back to a load of hassle. What is it they say about things going in threes? – well you can almost times that by three with the amount of problems I’ve had in the last 48 hours.
It all started late on Monday afternoon while I was still over in Ireland. Having used my phone several times in the course of the previous few days, all with no problems, I suddenly found that it wouldn’t send any texts and neither could I make a call – all I got was the message ‘no network coverage’ which was odd as Michael is on the same network and he didn’t have any problems. Thinking it may have something to do with having automatically changed to ‘roaming’ while I was in Ireland I thought it would be okay once I got back over here yesterday but unfortunately it was still the same so I’d been unable to let Michael know I’d landed safely back at Manchester airport.
The second problem was more of a minor inconvenience rather than an actual problem. By the time I’d got off the plane, through the airport and done the 10-minute walk to the airport station I’d just missed a train home and had to wait half an hour for the next one, which was a bit of a pain when I’d been travelling since 9am and just wanted to get home. At least when the next train arrived I was able to get a seat which I was glad of as it filled to what I’m sure must have been over its legal capacity as so many people got on at the various stations through Manchester.
The third problem came when I went to collect the van as I was on my way home. I’d left it with the mechanic, Sparky, for him to do a minor job on it while I was away, asking him to leave the key with the people at the corner house near his premises if he closed up before I got back. Having got the bus from the station I arrived back at Sparky’s at 5pm and found the workshop closed with the van locked up and parked outside, but when I went to the corner house to get the key the lady there said it hadn’t been left! So unable to get into the van I walked the mile-and-a-bit home from there dragging my small case and backpack behind me and thinking that if I hadn’t had to wait half an hour at the airport for a train I would probably have been back at Sparky’s before he closed up for the day.
Once at home I managed to solve the phone problem by putting the sim card into an older phone and it worked fine, so I assume that the fault is with my usual phone. Then came problem number four – I turned on the pc to be greeted by several messages from ebay saying my username and password had been changed and welcoming me to a business account, but to contact them if I hadn’t done any of this. All this activity had taken place since I left home at 8.30am last Thursday so it would seem that my account had somehow been hacked – it took me an hour to sort things out through customer services but it wasn’t to my satisfaction. Because I hadn’t contacted them within three days of their last message a block had been put on my account, which is fine as it stops any further unauthorised activity, but it also stops me  from using it and as I can’t prove that I’m actually me the block can’t be lifted. So I’ve had to get myself a new ebay account with new security details and a different email address to use specifically for ebay – and all the 100% feedback which I’ve accumulated since 2004 now counts for nothing as I’m back to square one.
So this morning, with no van, I had to get a taxi to work and another one from work to Sparky’s place. My morning job is down at the bottom of a country lane and not the easiest place to find so when I was leaving I walked up the lane onto the main road for my taxi – it was pouring down with rain, the taxi was stuck in traffic and by the time it finally arrived I was thoroughly wet through in spite of having an umbrella. When I finally got to Sparky’s I was greeted with “What are you  doing here?” – he’d mistakenly thought I wasn’t home until tomorrow and he hadn’t so far done the work on my van, intending to do it today. I couldn’t leave it there any longer though as I now need it for work and a pet sitting job so I just said I’ll drop it off at a time when I can do without it for a few hours and he gave me the key back – and that’s when I discovered the final problem.
While the van has been parked on the street outside Sparky’s workshop some nameless cretin has smashed the nearside front mirror, making it totally useless – luckily I’ve been able to source a new one on ebay so earlier on I made my first purchase using my new account. Hopefully the mirror will arrive by the weekend and I can get it sorted – I hope so as trying to park next to a pavement in the dark without being able to use the mirror just doesn’t work properly!
So aside from all the above problems since I got home I actually did have a nice few days over in Ireland. It’ll take me a while to sort out all my photos – believe it or not I took 380 in those few days! – but once that’s done I’ll be writing an account of my break. That will of course include the tale of the nightmare coach driver last Sunday but then that’s another story!