Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Going on the record re L&Q

First up I want to say that this is NOT a dig at L&Q, not for one second.
Over the years since taking over from Lewisham Homes, for me at least, they have done a sterling job of taking care of business.
OK there was the issue with the bathroom taking a little longer than expected to deal with, but other than that. A few hiccups, some no show contractors from time to time, but really nothing to cry about (apart from the bathroom, did I already say that?)

So, a few years back (2010) the driveway was resurfaced. I use this term loosely as the driveway was actually covered over with a good few inches of concrete. During the laying of the driveway, in Dec 2010 we had heavy snow and freezing temperatures, which sadly had an effect on the way the work ended up. Now i'm not saying it is not an improvement on the old drive, it is. But what I have said to L&Q all along is, the finished result was not what I would personally sign off on and agree to pay a contractor for.

Sweep it on a dry day and you can sweep away layers and layers of powdered concrete, walk on it on a wet day and you will slip on the exposed stones. As one of my neighbours did a few years back, breaking her ankle in the process. This was what drove me to contact L&Q again about the condition. The fact it has deteriorated this much in this short space of time, and someone has already slipped on it. Thats not to mention the dust and stones kicking about the place.

Well today the results are in, and after provisionally agreeing it needed repairing, the new surveyor has made the decision that NO work is needed on the driveway and it should remain as it is.

I am fine with this decision, and accept it with no challenges whatsoever. However....
Should anyone have any form of accident in the coming years relating to the condition of the surface of the driveway..... I WILL say I told you so.

So for now, its back to sweeping the drive carefully of leaves and snow when they cover it, in case I sweep the drive away, and looking out for fallen neighbours over the winter as the colder weather makes it even more slippery.

As for the rest of the work being done on the house. Thank you L&Q for looking after us so well. I am more than happy with it all, just bad call on the driveway. In my untrained opinion of course.

Work in progress in Dec 2010 (before the snow stopped play)
The whole area was laid with hand mixed concrete.. The house up the road had it delivered on a mixer for the same contractors working for L&Q. Clearly learned from this mistake. Theirs is fine by the way.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Struggles with emotions

For years now I have been perceived in many different ways,  from warm and caring,  to cold and callous. I see myself somewhere in the middle,  while I care about  things that are important to me,  I am somehow able to override or switch off from other emotions.

It seems the closer something or someone is to me,  the more I am able to ignore or at least mask my feelings about it.

Over the years friends and family have become ill or died suddenly,  yet I recall only ever crying once. When Adam died.  The first person I had ever spent a lot of time with,  dying. It was a bit of a shock to the system,  but passed quickly. Previously to that my aunt had passed after a short illness, and while I was openly saddened by it,  I somehow felt peace from knowing she wasn't hurting anymore.

But as the years have gone by,  I recall crying very little,  even about some rather traumatic times I have experienced. Is it normal not to cry,  is it strong or weak to cry? Everyone has a different answer.

Personally I have no shame or fear of the emotion,  and from past recollections,  I remember feeling relieved and exhausted by the experience,  but at the same time satisfied. So not being able to have a release when going through a tough time can really suck at times.

I have noticed over the past few years that I get choked up quite easily now,  emotional stories,  tear jerking films,  or even moments which get the heart racing and adrenaline pumping around the body,  the throat tightens,  the eyes water,  but it's far from crying.

Over a space of 4-5 years I have lost a lot of people very close and dear to me. When family you have known your whole life slowly slip away from you,  you expect  the mind and body to need a release,  turn a page,  start fresh,  cleanse the soul and all that.  But for some reason,  for me,  nothing! All just matter of fact,  all just par for the course.

So great has my concern grown at times about this,  I have actually sought counselling in the past,  to talk through my feelings and see if there is either a trigger I'm missing,  or a blockage in my mind stopping me letting go.  Something  from  my past which makes me fear crying,  but there isn't.

My only thought on the matter is that I have had a bit of a tough life in younger years,  learned to be a bit of a loner due to things which have happened,  and somehow shut down the part that shows weakness and sorrow.  I can express it verbally,  I can rationalise death so clearly,  but just can't rally up the physical emotion.

It's a strange feeling,  a horrible feeling,  emotional constipation to be blunt.  While I know there are people who think they are weak or silly to cry,  people who mock crying,  I can only envy those people who can actually tap in,  and let go.

I have never grieved,  rarely expressed emotion over any kind of break ups or partings of friends,  and look on helplessly as others around me express their emotion on a common subject.

This isn't a strength,  I know that for sure.  And while it makes me a strong character,  someone who can be relied on at a time of distress or upset,  it is a weakness in the same breath.  As you look  to me to help you cope,  as I hold you your hand and tell you it will be ok and to let it all out.  Deep inside I envy you and wish we could swap for just one minute,  and you could help me dig deep within my soul and open it up.

Not sure where this blog has come from,  guess it's like the lava of a volcano bubbling away under the surface.  It may never erupt,  it may never be seen,  but somewhere in the depths of me it a boiling pot of emotions.....

Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 10, 2014

24 hours, 4 countries, 700 miles, and a tattoo.

An epic adventure like that could only mean one thing (for me anyway), another roadtrip to collect another epic ink from the amazing Craig Foster.

Following the trip to Carrollton, GA (USA) earlier in the year, and hearing Craig would be just over the water in The Netherlands, it was a no brainer, and the planning for the trip begun. In fact the planning begun before Craig had even confirmed he had a slot free for me, but be prepared and all that.

About a week ago Craig confirmed that the wonderful Veerle London of Kingdom Tattoos in Alkmaar who was playing host to Craig for his trip, had agreed to let him open up on the Sunday (usually closed) and for him to do my tattoo for me. I can't thank the guys enough for making this happen.

So, after lots of planning, we decided on the 3.40am ferry to Calais from Dover. Getting up that early feels so wrong, and knowing you will be up for a long time to come yet boggles the mind, but it had to be done. Just after 1.30am we left my house on a miserable morning, and headed for the port. My companions on the trip were my as ever wonderful girlfriend Chantal, and a great friend of mine, and tattoo lover, Jason. The first leg of the trip was horrible and slow, but we made it in time, just about.

The weapon of choice for the trip.

 Health and what? Smoking in the booth.

 Made it with minutes to spare.

 Waiting to board.

Park up tight now.

Once on board, and finally starting to wake up, we had a short walk around before stumbling across the food court. Serving hot food from 2am, well thats just dandy now. As we approached it was clear breakfast was being served, so it would be rude not to.
Now being used to rip off prices on most transport systems, I was shocked when I was told that a 7 piece breakfast could be had for £7 and a 10 piece for £10. Aiming for a 10 piece I got picking, but gave up at 7 with a full plate. We all ate well, but here was mine. Delicious too I must say, well done P&O Ferries

One of the best full English breakfasts I have had in a long while.

Tummy full, and boat docking, it was time to get going. Our route would take us through France, into Belgium, and then onto The Netherlands, past Amsterdam and finally onto Alkmaar.
Starting out in the dark, and Chantal's first time driving a RHD on the right side of the road, we slowly built up our pace. As we crossed into Belgium the sun started to rise, and the day was really starting, finally something to see.

Obligatory sunrise shots.

With full daylight reading roadsigns became easier, and seeing the sights became more pleasurable. One thing these countries have really embraced is wind turbines. Personally I love them, they can make a dull landscape come to life, are an amazing feat of technology, and after all, are green.
Sadly all this excitement caused one of us to need a little nap... Jason !

On went the journey, and on marched my enjoyment of the scenery, and the taking of pictures. Bridges were the next thing to catch my attention, and some very artistic ones at that. Trying to snap shots from a moving car on a mobile phone, as it bumps and bounces over the roads is a challenge, but I managed here and there to get a few nice shots.

After what seemed like a short trip, even Chantal commenting that it had gone really quickly, and Jason having no idea how long it had taken due to sleeping, the sign we had all been waiting to see finally appeared. Alkmaar 44km

A short while later, we rolled into the cobbled streets of Alkmaar, and with the guidance of good old Google Maps found our way to the destination of the day, Kingdom Tattoos. Only down side was it was now about 9am on a Sunday morning in a town which barely opens before midday, if at all on a Sunday. Parked and ready to go, we decided for a little walk to familiarise ourselves with the area, and soak up some culture. First up, confirm where we were going later.

Kingdom Tattoos, 27 Dijk, Alkmaar

Now it was time for a little adventure, and a walk around the town. First off I have to say, quite simply beautiful. Full of lovely places to see, buildings old and new, canals, bridges, and of course.... the odd windmill. The next thing we noted was just how many people cycle around. I know its the stereotype of the Netherlands, people ride everywhere, but they really do! Old, young, trendy or plain, everyone zips around on their pushbikes, and very few of them on anything expensive or super high tech. The bike style is very generic and of years gone by. Function over form for a place which embraces the method of transport, and no lycra warriors.

So let me share with you a few of the sights we found on our morning walk. For which the weather was truly beautiful.

 Windy Millers house
 Look carefully, there is someone standing there

Calmer than the River Thames for sure.

Adventure over, and after a long and somewhat painful search for a public toilet to use, It was almost 1pm and time to hassle Craig to see if he was ready.
Speaking of public toilets, they are really not easy to find, but after a long search we (I say we, I mean Chantal) found a shopping centre and there was one to use. The irony was, there was a toilet about 50ft from where we had parked the car, but instead we walked miles in search.

So we grabbed snacks and drinks, and headed back to the shop to wait for Craig, the wait was a short one, and within minutes we were in the warmth of the shop, and being greeted like old friends. The conversation carried on from where it last left off in Carrollton, and the fun began.
I say fun as its the only word that describes spending time with Craig Foster. For a recognisable face, in the public eye (maybe not so much in Holland), he is such a grounded and friendly guy, who both me and Chantal enjoy being around. Not sure which is more addictive, his tattoos and art, or his personality. They are both equally as colourful.

Having sent reference pictures to Craig a week before, the basic idea for the tattoo was already out there, so now it was time for the master to get to work drawing another unique piece. With continual conversation throughout, in what seemed like no time Craig was having over his sketched and perfected design, signed and ready to add to my collection.
Without having ever mentioned a few aspects of the desired design, I was delighted to see that he had put them in anyway. ESP or what!
So here it is, the design.
A cartoon based, ScoobyDoo inspired, Alaskan Malamute by the master of Snactoos

Wasting no time, it was time to get this turned into a work of art, add some colour and go on a journey. On to the chair I hoped, and the fun started.

 The bare canvas, complete with the original Gummy Sushi Bear Snactoo

 Stencil placed, larger than envisioned, but fitted perfectly, without ever measuring.

Sushi Bear looking a little beaten up from a couple of healing issues (induced by me)

As the machines started buzzing, and the ink splashing, so the conversation started flowing. Obviously Ink Masters Season 5 came straight up, but over the course of the day the conversation would vary wildly, from stories of days gone by, to the future. Always a pleasure speaking to such an open and honest guy. Nice to be on the level with someone, rather that trying to see through a face or an ego. I look forward to the next conversations already.

Work continued, and the piece started to come to life. A few pictures of the journey below.
 Craig Foster hard at work.
 Still working
 Outline done, lets get some colour in this

 Colour, greys, and shading going in, someone is concentrating.

 Starting to come to life.

Almost there, missing a little character.

And done... Finally all the colour in, and I am delighted!

After 6 or so hours in the presence of a true gentleman, and with Veerle and co back in the shop, it was time for cleaning up, wrapping up and farewells, and all the hugs anyone could want lol. The invite was made to go for dinner afterwards, but with time not on our side we had to sadly decline. Gutted, if we were staying over night it would happily have continued the fun late into the night. Genuinely sorry about that Craig, honest :(

Still in shorts, and about 7 degrees outside, I was looking a bit strange, so got my gangsta look on and made our way back to the car.

Back at the car, address punched into the nav, it was home time. Already a long day, there was a long road left ahead, but once again Chantal decided she would be the one driving, and got us underway. Fuelled up and ready to go, we hit the motorways, and before we knew it we were making good ground, oh and Jason... Well he was sleeping, again!


Finally after a few adventures we made it to Calais. Having been due to check in at about 9.45, arriving at just before midnight was probably a little late to catch the ferry we had booked. Facing a £90 charge for booking onto a later ferry, we pulled up at check-in to try our luck. And it was with us! After a comment of 'you're late' the kind man put us on the next ferry for no fee. In fairness after the wait for border control who had...... ONE booth open, it was karma repaying us.

Once on the ferry, we once again sought hot food and comfort, and sat down to 1 x Fish and Chips for me, and a roast chicken dinner each for Chantal and Sleepy , oops Jason. Belly full, and boat underway, sleep was calling. But with every bottle in the food court clanging together for the whole trip, a good sleep was unlikely. Astonishingly for a short while we all dropped off. I could like to say it helped, but it was not long enough to, probably 5-10 mins in reality.

The last leg of the journey once off the ferry started with torrential rain, enough to wake anyone up, well 2 out of 3 at least. Finally arriving home around 2am I think, it brought an end to what I can only describe as an epic adventure, and one I would happily do again if any one of us was set to come away with such satisfaction. Did I mention I love my tattoo?

So I will finish up with a few pictures that didn't fit anywhere else, and some thanks.
Thanks to P&O Ferries for great food, good service, and the waiving of the rebooking fee.
Thanks to Jason for providing company, conversation, entertainment, and of course being a great friend. Glad you came along for the journey. Thanks to Lou too for the hall pass.
Huge thanks to Chantal for putting up with my stupid ideas, doing so much driving on the day, and just being an awesome girlfriend.
Thanks to Kingdom Tattoos in Alkmaar for playing host to us on a day which they would usually be closed. Its great to meet people like Veerle, happy , fun and easy going, as well as generous. You can see her own work on Instagram here  Craig Fosters work can be found here.
And last but by NO means least. A MASSIVE thank you to Craig Foster, the Snactoo master, of Skinwerks Amazing work as ever, so very accommodating, an has a way of just making a day of tattooing something special. Can't wait til our paths cross again, and in the meantime I wish you good fortune and good health.

 The walls of the shop

 6ft tattoo machine in graffiti. Amazing

 My small but growing collection of Skinwerks art.

And........ The finished piece. Both original Craig Foster pieces, and just the start of what is to come.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Thank you very much to Bromley Parking

I like to consider myself fair (other of course don't but hey..) So when something I have been moaning about is resolved, its only fair to say so, and not make it look like the 'target' of the other blog entries is still in my bad books.

So a while back I contacted Bromley asking what the outcome of the PCN appeal was, and received back a very short and somewhat informal reply saying what I read as 'oh drop it will you'.

Needless to say my response was fast and forthcoming, and as a result to tweeting the link to the blog entry, received some attention.

Today I received a very polite and detailed response from Bromley Parking, in which they highlighted the vague response initially given, and this time put a bit more meat on the bones as to why the decision had been made to overturn the PCN.
The reason given originally was 'clerical error', however I wanted to know exactly what that meant. To be more precise, the original response to my first appeal pointed out there were signs warning of the CPZ on London Road, on the way into Bromley, where in fact there were not.
As this had been stated in the reason to refuse the appeal, it was deemed (and I agree) an incorrect statement, therefore the PCN was cancelled.

SO, I can officially after just under a year, draw a line under the matter.
Lessons learned are Bromley has a vaguely signed CPZ, so use a car park at all times, and never assume a single yellow is safe.
Also, Bromley appears to have no plans to increase the signage for the said CPZ, so again, use a proper car park to be safe.

I would like to thank Bromley Parking for taking the time to look exhaustively into this matter, and truly appreciate the time being taken to read the blog, consider my point made re the sign location, and get back to me with a polite, detailed response.
I would also like to apologise openly for publishing the names of the parking officers and other staff involved in this whole affair without consulting them or seeking their permission. I will of course edit these out.

Friday, October 17, 2014

FINALLY... an answer from Bromley Parking

Albeit a little blunt, but the outcome is OK I guess.

See below..

4:19 PM (20 minutes ago)

This Penalty Charge Notice was cancelled on February 11th 2014 and I give below a copy of our waive letter, correctly addressed.


Our Ref: BY04003116
Michael Snasdell

Forest Hill


Dear Sir

Penalty Charge Notice: BY04003116
Date Issued: 16/11/2013
Vehicle Registration: T103DBM
Served under the Traffic Management Act 2004

We have reviewed the Penalty Charge Notice as part of our standard procedures and whilst the penalty was correctly issued, we have withdrawn it owing to an administration error.

Parking Support Officer

Bromley clearly have no intention of addressing their CPZ signage, and wanted to be a short on the matter as possible.
I am left wondering what exactly the 'administration error' which caused the cancellation of the ticket was. They had 4 months left to respond to the matter and reject it, the information is STILL online to see now, so the pictures are still there, the ticket is still avaiable also with information on it.

Is this Bromley's way of saying 'we agree' without actually admitting wrong doing? I will be interested to see if any signage around the area has changed, or indeed changes. But with the run up to Christmas soon upon us, im sure they will make up for this ticket tenfold! So if you DO get a ticket and think it is unfair, don't be afraid to appeal, its your right!

Also very strange how the follow up ticket reminder, first appeal decision, and notice to keeper all arrived fine, yet this 'correctly addressed' letter has never been seen. Nor have any emails I have sent prior to this one ever been answered.

All in all Bromley, you have very poor standards when it comes to dealing with members of the public, who you have initiated contact with, regardless of its form. Its very sad that such a seemingly prestigeous local authority, deal with matters where people dare to question you in such a short, rude, and obnoxious manner.

I would reply to the email asking what the error was, but im sure I would be told it was a private matter and cannot be divulged.

Thanks anyway for finally getting back to me and cancelling the ticket, we both know it was the right thing to do.