Tuesday, September 20, 2005

2005-07-31 mgb 006I'm back.

And somewhere along the line I've lost the ability to regulate body temperature. Yesterday I spent the day succumbing to sporadic and sustained bursts of shivering. I thought it was my body not coping well with the transfer from a fortnight of warm wind to this cold and damp land. Then I spent a very sweaty night in contorted failed sleep, also while succumbing to sporadic and sustained bursts of shivering. Sweating whilst shivering? I haven't done that in a long while, and then it was only because I collapsed into post-deadline illness.

But I can't be ill; I've only just back from holiday, and I've too much to do. Like wobble worryingly everytime I bend forward, have incredibly painful headaches, retch for no reason, run out of steam one and a half Weetabix into breakfast, or completely lose the ability to think. And how many points do I get for microwaving an empty plate or falling asleep on a pile of washing?

I don't like it when things, like my brain, don't work, or when water suddenly starts tasting disgusting.

Anyway, in other news, I was in Greece, now I'm not. There will probably be a big write up at some point, but not now. Coming back was interesting, due to the sheer innovation deployed by Greek airports (save on seats my making everyone stand in queues for their entire time in the airport. Better yet, start the queues in full sun outside. Create self perpetuating queues which are not in fact queues merely collections of people who think they're in a queue, even if they're not sure what it is for. Ensure the outlet from any desk feeds directly into the head of any other queue. Make sure bags get X-rayed twice, even if in both cases the overseer is distracted or called away. Only provide scant information in announcements in garbled Greek, despite the fact that every passenger in the airport is British and every flight for the next 8 hours goes either to Manchester or Gatwick. Arrange flight numbers so that each consists solely of some combination of only fives and zeros. Ensure the boarding cards contain no more information than the seat number. State boarding for all flights occurs at sundry non-existent gates, then only use one gate for all flights. Coerce staff into having blazing rows with each other rather than getting on with their jobs [and as for the girl who abandoned her handheld VHF which was ranting voraciously in the middle of the departure lounge - Nice touch]). As was the brilliant Thomas Cook Airlines information film on avoiding depth vein thrombosis which recommended drinking plenty of water, which was only available when purchased at exorbitant prices made more exorbitant by their Pound-Euro conversion rate, the fact they only accept whole Euros, and can't give change on purchases made in Euros (I didn't actually buy any, having had a few gallons on me, or at least on me until I had to stand in the sun for ages before the flight).

Anyway, so the flight left late, and after a short wordless argument over a blind, and discovering that for some films the sound is so obvious that the fact it isn't there is irrelevant, we landed late. By fluke our bags appeared almost instantly (and why is it that despite obvious and distinctive markings, some people will still peer intently at a bag, or worse still pick it up, thinking it is their own, even if it didn't have those stripes on when they left?), and (after a quick use of a loo which actually works, and can cope with such a robust force as wet loo paper) we managed to buy tickets and find ourselves on a train 32-minutes after landing.

I've also discovered why I have so far been unable to successfully visualise the railway system round Gatwick. It never occurred to be that a train could come from one direction and leave in the same direction, albeit branching off down a different line (although apparently such a concept upsets the computers too; things like the thetrainline.com all list the single journey as one train followed by a change onto another train, which just happens to be the one you just got off). Anyway, we were busy being pleased with ourselves for such an efficient end to the journey; that is until we encountered the 57-minute wait to catch a train the last few miles. Annoyingly, our train past the 3-minutes-earlier train as it left and we came in. If they had a halt where the lines meet, then we could have got back before it was dark.

Then back into a cold, dark and damp house, which has been invaded by gargantuan spiders. And sometime in the past fortnight there's been a power cut, so everything which wasn't already unplugged needs resetting. A few hours later and the orange ceiling is discovered. Uh-oh. It's wet. So's the airing cupboard, and everything in it. Rapid investigation reveals the leak to be on the pipe feeding the cold-water tank. Helpfully the last plumber had removed the isolating tap on the pipe, and replaced it with something which I'm sure fulfils the criteria laid out in numerous EU directives but which also needs a screwdriver to operate. So just turning off the mains it is then.

So I had a very fun early Monday morning being cold, tired, dirty and dehydrated, while seeking out wrenches of various sorts. I tightened the compression nut along a bit of pipe coated in accretions. It appeared to solve the problem. Judging by the drip rate and the amount of water damage, I'd guess it was probably people returning to the house (and using the loo) which triggered it, as the ceiling stains were from leached tannins, not mould growth (and what does it say about where I've lived that I can judge the age and intensity of such damage on spec?).

But then it seems I'm not the only with pipe problems.

So what's happened since I've been gone? The Guardian got wet (or some would argue wetter) and so shrank (and having the familiar shift between two episodes of normality is an ideal way to propogate confusion). The Katrina and the waves saga rumbles on (what? Somebody has to do the reference to resurrected one-hit-wonders). There was something to do with petrol, although I'm not sure what (it's a bit like being a child missing a couple of weeks of Neighbours and then coming back to it: it's all a bit muddling, but then you realise it really doesn't matter). There's something about people misusing their positions (Blunkett again this time). The government's moved boo-hiss stuff until after the election (something about "period of review", and nothing to do with losing votes). The Lib Dems are having a conference (hands up if you missed that and hadn't left the country). The German elections have been and, er, not gone. And someone somewhere has been having talks, discussions or consultations.

Anything I've missed? (Actually is there a while-you-were-gone recap website which has brief bits of news from the last week, fortnight, month, etc? If not there ought to be) Other than the Stuttgarterisation of London Dan (which I think I'll class as perfect timing). And someone wanting to know if they sell toys of the Citroen Transformer - not that I know of, but they should (I know they're trying to sell cars not toys, but money's money. But then Lemon cars don't even have the advert on their site).

Coincidentally, I've just been forwarded an advert which bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain advert featuring a French car dancing on a roof in San Francisco. Unlike the mickey-take 2CV one, this is apparently a legit advert, this time for Danish Bacon. And yes I know most of the Google results date from July, but I am out in the sticks both physically and socially.

I'd better stop now as the shivering's started again and typing is hard.


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