Category Archives: General

Back up and running!

After a break of over a year I’ve finally got my blog back up and running

When we were in the south and times was hard I dispensed with my web hosting and set up a web server on an old pc that I’d bought off the company I used to work for for a fiver! I had it all up and running and my websites working from it when suddenly the hard drive failed. In the sort of idiot sort of fashion I hadn’t backed it up for ages and I lost quite a bit of stuff when I reinstated it all. This time I decided that I would automatically back up the website and SQL databases onto the other drive so that if one failed I’d still have the data. Sadly as I was about to find out backing up to the same computer wasn’t a great plan! In 2014 we decided to move back to the North but just before we did I started having problems with the server as it kept crashing. I discovered that this was being caused in a DoS type attack by hackers trying to gain access to the site. As far as I could work out it was because there was a weakness in WordPress if you had the user name as admin which I did. As we were moving I just turned it off and figured I’d sort it out when we got there!

Then we moved…

Once we were established in our new place I set up and account with GoDaddy hosting and then all I had to do was get the data off the old server and upload it to the new service. So I got the old server out and powered it up and…nothing! I tried everything I could think of but to no avail it just wouldn’t boot. So I took the drives out of the server and tried to access them but again no luck. At that point I uploaded an old version of the website to the GoDaddy server and left it like that until I sorted out the drives. That was several months ago!

Over the last couple of weeks I was thinking about it and the one thing that annoyed me was that on my blog there had been a couple of entries regarding my mum and my dad which I would have been quite sad to have lost. So I decided that I was going to sort out the drives once and for all. When i was working from home the other day I hit on the idea of disconnecting the CD drive in the computer in the attic and attaching the drive to that. This worked and the machine could see the drive but I still couldn’t see any data so I went away to have a think. It then struck me that the drives had been formatted in the Linux Ext2 format which I couldn’t see from my XP machine so I looked for and found a piece of software to allow me to access it.

Frustratingly last night I didn’t get the chance to try it out but as Sarah and Ben were at cubs I decided to try it tonight. I installed the software and attached the first drive. It took me a while to work out the software but when I did the drive opened but to my horror there was no sign of the website files. At this point I decided to try the other drive which worked as soon as I put the drive into the pc and when I opened it I could see three directories – one with the website files, one with the SQL databases and one with a load of random files – so I set them off copying to my ext hard drive and went to pick up Sarah.

Then today I set about uploading all the files to the website. the first problem was that I couldn’t remember my password but once I did I set up an ftp program to upload all the files. Once I’d done that I tried to upload the sql files for the blogs but they wouldn’t work. After much head scratching I discovered I had to create the database first and then upload them – once I’d done that I just had to edit them so they had the new passwords and away we went! Hopefully they’ll stay here for a while now and I might even get them sorted out someday!

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Death of a Salesman

Got home from work hoping for a nice quiet evening but that was before…………the double glazing sales man turned up!

Sarah had been approached by a man at the door on Monday to ask if we were interested. he seemed to be from a reputable company Safestyle UK and gave us a leaflet offering buy one get one free on windows so it seemed like it was worth getting a quote. So they arranged for someone to come round tonight – said it would take about 45 minutes. So this man arrived at 7:30 and Lissi was under instructions to start dinner about 10 minutes later so it’d be ready when he’d gone.

He took us through the sales spiel and showed us some examples of windows – he was offering 3 types – a really expensive one which was obviously out of our league, one which was fitted with A type glass and another more basic model with c type glass. So he explained all the advantages and disadvanatges of each type and then went to measure up the windows. Basically we want the whole house doing except for the 2 doors we had put in just after we moved so that was 16 windows and a door.

So he gets out his calculator and adds it all up, carefully explaining how we would need to pay for a scaffold tower to do the one in the attic (although I thought that £600 was a bit steep given they probably own them and if not you could hire one from HSS for a fraction of that cost – but I digress). At this point he announced that the cost of the A rated windows would be around £13,000. My first instinct was that was a bit much but I went with it. I was starting to see an obvious sales patter starting but thought the way he was operating went out of fashion years ago. I then asked him how much the c rated windows would cost and he calculated and declared £11,000 – my first thought was if that includes the buy one get one free offer that would make them almost twice as expensive as the A rated ones but I let that go for now.

Then the sales patter really got going, when we didn’t agree he offered to go and sit in his car for 15 minutes while we talked about it. We said that we’d need longer than that so he then reduced the cost of the A rated windows down to the cost of the c rated ones so they were now £11,000. When we didn’t sign then he offered to do it on a deferred payment scheme which was possible because of the finance company paying commission which he would give to us as cashback equivalent to 10 months payments which at this point was £230 so effectively knocking the price down to £8,700. When we said we wanted to get alternative quotes he said he’d shown us the Which report (which was from 2009) which proved they were competitive so we didn’t need to bother (even though he’d said if we got a lower quote they’d match it!).

So then he says that if we’re not going to sign then he just has to phone it in to his office to register the quote. Mysteriously at this point he is told that if we have the work done on a fixed day (which just happens to fall exactly when we said we’d want them done) he be able to reduce the cost further to around £9,000 with the deferred payment/cashback offer now at £1,800 so that would mean that it would now cost £7,200. Now that was more like I wanted to pay but by this point alarm bells are ringing so loudly I can barely hear what he is saying anymore! I look up stuff on Google and start to think that although it sounds like quite a good price I’d still like to get other quotes. I also ask him what period do we have to cancel if we sign up today and this is where he looses the sale! He simply replies “why would you want to cancel”. At this point he also starts getting quite nasty – obviously he’s annoyed that we haven’t begged him to start doing the paperwork right there and then and his tone changes.

I think to myself sod it I want him out of here so I ask him to leave, which he does and I slam the door behind him – twat! At least I didn’t have to do what a colleague told me he had to do which was threaten to phone the police after the sales man had been there for 3 hours! He had, though, been there for 2 and our dinner was only fit for the cats at this point.

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Which reminds me! While we were talking to him in the early stages Jubbly decided to come and sit on my knee. He then does what he usually does and starts licking my face! I have to keep him subdued so I can hear what the salesman is saying. Then the idiot asks us, as we are discussing, the back door, do we have any cats! Yes we do I say peering over the feline that is sitting on my knee!

Stupid thing is – if this company has the product it says it has why do they have to employ such awful and obvious sales techniques? If the guy had come in and been honest and said you want 16 windows and a door, that’ll be £7,000 in the A rated or X amount in the C rated, here’s a brochure and my card – take a bit of time and talk it over, I’ll call you in a week or so. Then they probably would be getting an order in the near future. Why sell as though you’re about to con some old granny out of here life savings – it’s hardly professional. I do wonder if there are any mugs out there who sign up before he calls the office!

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Back then…..

Disney Garden

In the late 60s and early 70s we used to go from our house in Sunderland to visit our Gran in Boldon Colliery. When we were on the bus or later on in the car we always used to look out for a garden on the main road in East Boldon which was filled with cut outs of various cartoon characters. I don’t recall whether we outgrew it before or after it disappeared but I think the story was that the guy who owned the house got fed up with it being vandalised and ended up taking it down – sad really.

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Three Self Portraits


Light & Shade


Argus


The Old Man & the Sea

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Cowboy Ben

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An uneven silence

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Mornings, when I came to visit my father, were always the same. He’d sit in his chair reading the newspaper. I’d come and sit in the other armchair and read whatever caught my eye, a book, a discarded section of his paper or in later years something on ny phone.

The room would be silent, broken only by the turn of the page or other people elsewhere in the house, my stepmum in the kitchen cooking bacon buns for breakfast or the kids in the back room watching tv or arguing about whose turn it was on the computer.

Occasionally the silence would be broken, one of us would speak, I’d ask him his view on something in the news, usually chosen for maximum reaction or he’d ask me if i’d seen such and such a movie or heard of so and so the singer. A discussion would ensue, views would be exchanged and then the silence would descend once again.

As I sit here this morning in my usual place I stare across at the empty chair opposite and though the same silence fills the room it’s an empty uneven one.

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Cluster Headache update

Ooh Look…..

My portable oxygen supply to relieve my cluster headaches has arrived ! And there’s 2 of them! So much for the idea of taking it to work or on holiday when I have an episode!

There’s a small part of me that’s starting to wish I’d never found out what I was suffering from! In the past I lived a normal life and then every 12-18 months I’d get a bout of very painful headaches which would last 4-6 weeks and then things would go back to normal.

Since discovering that Cluster headaches are the cause I seem to have spent most of the time thinking about them. Instead of just getting on with life between clusters I’ve been looking into causes, cures, signs etc. Is that twinge above my eye a shadow meaning a bout is imminent? Having drugs and oxygen on standby isn’t helping.

So there’s a tiny bit of me wishes that I hadn’t bothered and had just put up with the headaches when they came. Of course when I’m awake all night for the 30th night in a row feeling that someone is jamming an ice pick in my skull while crushing my left eye in a vice I suspect I may feel differently!

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I’ve been comparing Meerkats

I did something this morning I’d been putting off since before Christmas and opened my car insurance renewal. I was expecting it to go up as I’d had a prang before Christmas and as such knew I’d lost some of my no claims bonus but to be honest even I was shocked by what I saw. The premium, which had been in the range of around £500 had increased to a massive £1,387 (or £1,590 if I paid monthly) and my payments had gone up from around £40 a month to £144 – I was gobsmacked – the insurance was only £13 less than the value of the car.

So I did what I knew I should do and went online to compare the market. I put in all my details and pressed the get quote button and held my breath. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cheapest quote came in at £604 – a massive saving of over £700! Needless to say that I took the chance and bought the cheaper insurance. I then had the pleasure of ringing the AA (yes my old car insurance is through that august establishment who are meant to look after the interests of motorists) and telling them I was canceling the policy  – and no I didn’t want them to see if they could reduce it for me! The excess is less too!

And of course the advantage of buying my insurance through Compare the Market is that I get the free Meerkat toy! To be honest if I’d let another chance to get one slip I’d have been in trouble anyway! So after I sorted out my policy I went and ordered the Meerkat – apparently it is just leaving Meerkovo in a wheelbarrow as I type. Here are some  more screenshots!

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Space Invaders

I’ve been commuting into London by train this week and once again I’m amused by the regular commuters who stand in groups along the platform at regular intervals.  I can’t believe that they are so sad that they know exactly where the train doors will be when it stops at the station! If there’s a larger than average gap between two groups that will be where the first class compartment will be!

I stood watching them this morning and I noticed that people who have just arrived on the platform walk straight up to a group and stand very very close to the people already there. In any other situation someone walking up to you and standing in such close proximity would cause you to be very nervous and start worrying about them invading your personal space. Personally I prefer to enjoy all the empty space on the platform and really don’t feel the need to be first on the train when it stops especially as it is very rare that I don’t get a seat.

The other thing that amuses me is that the same people probably form the same group every day and even though they probably recognize each other there is rarely any attempt to acknowledge each other let alone bid their fellow space invaders a cheery good morning or heaven forbid strike up a conversation! How very English!

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South Eastern Maths

I’ve been commuting by train and bike this week and was amused by some interesting signs on the trains that I travelled on.

On Wednesday I boarded the 18:15 from Bromley South in the second from last carriage but was amused to find that according to the sign I was travelling in carriage number 7 of 12! I’m not sure where they’d hidden the other 4.

However the following evening I caught the 18:45 and again joined the second from last carriage and this time I was told I was in carriage number 11 of 8! It was almost embarrassing as there was a German family sitting next to me who must have been amused by this somewhat idiotic mistake which, not only appeared on the info signs in the carriage, but was also being broadcast over the speaker system on the train.

I’m guessing a numeracy test isn’t carried out when staff are employed!

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