Monday, December 31, 2012

Just thinking...

I live between the local ambulance and fire stations, and just off the South Circular road A205, so get the pleasure of being aware when there is something going on around here. Which being South London, let's be honest, is most of the time.

Over time you learn to tell the difference between a police car passing through on blues, and a fire engine or 3 leaving the fire station on a call.

A lot of the time it is quite genuinely just background noise these days, and rarely gets my attention. But on quiet afternoons like today, on the build up to a massive evening in the capital, each siren that approaches and passes through is more noticeable, and stirs more thought and emotion in me.

Its the festive season, a new year is about to dawn. So many people are full of hope and expectation of what a new year will bring, but for a small few, the new year will be unforgettable. A knock on the door, the screech of brakes, the shrill of a smoke alarm waking you at 1am. For all those people, there are a dedicated bunch of emergency responders who will be there, saving them, comforting them, and most of all caring!

As the night draws in, my thoughts switch to those who are standing by for when someone needs their help, when three 9's are dialled. From the operator keeping you calm while directing the whole show, to the responder who will go above and beyond to put an end to the panic of the situation. For those in need of their help also.

So as the clock ticks, and midnight approaches and passes, spare a thought each time you see or hear an emergency vehicle on the move. Someone's NYE will not be as good as yours, and someone will remember it for a whole different reason to you. Families devastated, lives wrecks, memories destroyed.

Happy New Year..... May there be silence tonight.

Sent via Blackberry®

On a serious note.....

Regardless of your plans tonight, forget your feelings towards the police, no matter how well you can handle your drink.....

NYE is historically a shocking night for the emergency services, record numbers of calls, huge numbers of alcohol related incidents, be it fights or accidents.

90% of the people who are dealt with by the police, ambulance and fire tonight are people who generally have some self respect, and appreciate the job these services do for us all. But a little too much confidence, getting a little too carried away, and one drink too many can end in disaster, heartbreak, and hours of effort from emergency responders.

So I ask this of you, when you see someone blind drunk staggering down the road, in front of cars, getting in peoples faces, vomiting, crying or screaming with emotions they cannot control, do you really see someone who is having a great time, and feel jealous, OR does a little part inside you cringe with embarrassment for them, and a tiny bit of pity creep out of you?

Excessive alcohol, its not big, its not clever, and generally its nether fun nor memorable. Give the extra fiver for that last drink to a charity, stay alert enough to remember your NYE, and most of all, get home safely.

Happy New Year all, and here's to a quiet one, and record LOW numbers of calls to the emergency services. And Thank You to all those working through the evening and into the morning to keep all the little morons who DON'T care about others, safe.

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The final day begins!

Of 2012 at least, so let's take a quick look back at 2012, for me and for the world.

2012 will forever be the date that ignites thoughts and memories of the London Olympic games, the greatest of the modern era, the first of the social network age, and the biggest surprise ever to 99% of the UK poplulation, who like me thought it would be a flop. I won't go on about it, but it turned out to be pretty bloody good didn't it!

I turned 39, had a stress free birthday for the first time in 14 years for one reason or another. I also embarked on a mission which I tagged #Fit4Forty . With a year remaining til I turned 40, I decided now was the time to sort myself out, and that I did. Healthier than most years of my life, inspired to live a full life, and amazed at my own stamina, that was P90X for me.

2012 has also been pretty bloody miserable. Wars, disasters, accidents, and horrific news stories of abuse and violence. Its probably no different to the past decade to be fair, but as social media becomes part of our everyday lives, we suddenly become aware. Aware of our surroundings both locally and globally, and to be honest its a bit of an eye opener isn't it!

I think this year more than most has woken me up to a lot of things. Life is finite, at some point it will end, and we don't really get a say on the matter. Ill health, accidents, or incidents can end a life in seconds. Early in the year Darren Green passed away suddenly, that woke a lot of people up, and brought a lot of people closer together, and in some cases pushed some apart. From that point on the year has spiralled into one of some very sad events, especially for people I care about. With close friends and family passing, or suffering set backs.

From all this I take one thing... No matter how glum I get, regardless of how big the bills are coming though my door. If my luck is down, and the weather is crappy.. All I have to remember is to be grateful for everything I have. I live a life that I made for myself, I make my own choices, and this path is mine. You don't always get what you want in life, but getting another day with your loved ones is as precious as it gets.

I have been fortunate enough to see my aunt Joan a few times this year, and spend some great quality time with her, forging a bond and memories I can keep with me forever after her final day comes.
Things are progressing with her these days, but she still manages a laugh and a smile to signal that everything is ok.

So, 2012, certainly not all doom and gloom by far, some great and memorable moments. The next time the clock strikes midnight, 2012 will become LAST year, and we will move on. Things will be no different, new years resolutions will be smashed in days, horror and tragedy will fill our TV screens and stupid vile people drink drive throughout NYE, and 99.9% of people will wake up to their same lives on Tuesday..... But hey, let's be optimistic here.... Here's to a better year, joy, success, happiness and health.

Happy New Year all (for tomorrow)

Sent via Blackberry®

EyeEm the app

OK, its been a long time since I blogged anything, and I thought it was about time I did another random, pointless (or almost) blog.
It takes a bit to impress me with apps, I'm a simple guy that likes the full physical keyboard of my Blackberry, the simplicity of simple communication, and as a whole I really don't subscribe to this 'amazing app' mentality of most smartphone users.
I'm writing this on my beloved Blackberry Bold 9900 as typing is a joy on it, and day by day I stare longingly at the BB10 devices of 2013, the N and L series, aka the X10 and Z10. But until then, for apps I use my Samsung Galaxy S2, Android phone.
A few apps here and there manage the final cut and stay on the phone, but 90% get chopped within a week.
Instagram, the amazing image app that everyone was and is so addicted to lasted about a week too. Before the novelty of applying a filter to a picture to in some way make it look cool, retro, hip or funky wore off. Other than the filters it didn't really do much.
However while watching BBC's Click the other day I discovered EyeEm, and my world changed.
Allow me to explain. At surface EyeEm applies filters to pictures, as does Molome, Twitter and a million other apps. But take a second a look deeper at it, and EyeEm is different, very different.
First up, there is no mandatory cropping of pictures, the days of square only images are gone! You camera doesn't take a square pic, so why does Instagram insist on them? Next up there are tags. Woo I hear you say, hardly groundbreaking. BUT.... Careful use of tags teaches EyeEm what sort of things you are interested in. Use tags such as 'skies', 'lights' and 'sunset', and you will find your feed updates with images from other users using the same tag words.
The tags go on to form the key to the whole app, showing you images in your interest area, inspiring you to take more, diversify, or maybe even teaching you a trick. Like a picture or want to know more about how it was taken, that's simple, you can show your feelings by 'liking' the picture or leaving a comment. Start a conversation, make a friend.
If you find yourself admiring a picture, take a look through the gallery of the person who snapped it. Like more, then why not follow the person, and receive their new images in your feed. A little like Twitter in that respect.
From using EyeEm for just two days I have found myself recommending it to everyone, trying to convert people away from Instagram, and most of all I have found my love for photography reignited, and my desire to snap more and more images is once again keen.
On thing I am loving about the users of the app is the number of untouched images. Not everyone applies a filter and frame to their image, some just share raw quality images of amazing things. I prefer not to mess with my images, so its nice to see like minded people. As well as being able to share and feel some appreciation for my pictures.
So if you use an iOS device, or an Android device, go to your respective store now and search for EyeEm. Give it a go, get some tags on your images, and watch your feed populate.
Word of warning, the more tags you use, and the more general phrases, the more images you will receive, so choose carefully :)

Sent via Blackberry®

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bathroom nightmares!

Almost 2 years ago today my landlord L&Q appointed Apollo to fit a new kitchen and bathroom to the house I live in. A couple of weeks of dust and noise was a small price to pay to have the rooms dragged kicking and screaming from the 70's.

Come January I had a lovely new kitchen, and a beautiful bathroom.

However. By the spring I started to notice the paint on the wall starting to blister a bit, and lift from the new plaster. This was the inside of the external facing wall. As the weeks went on more and more spots started to show through, until it became apparent there was a problem somewhere.
I reported it and requested someone come to take a look at it. Eventually the surveyor came out, took a look and identified a damp problem. After further investigation it appeared that an external soil pipe was leaking on the brickwork and had soaked it through.

By that winter, around December 2011 (1 year later) P&R Plumbers came out to fix the soil pipe. I was told by the surveyor that once this was done he would arrange for the walls to be dried out with machinery, and once that was done the walls could be repainted. Needless to say this didn't happen. So this year, for most of 2012 (I kid you not) I have been on and on at L&Q for them to finally rectify the mouldy, paint blistered walls.

By November I finally got the call to say it had the green light to go ahead and start the work. 3 day job to hack off the old plaster, sort the damp, re-plaster and return to usable form. So November 19th was the day it would all start, so booked annual leave. Sadly on Fri 16th I got a call to say they couldn't start on the Monday, so would have to squeeze it all in Thurs and Fri. A little too short notice for me to book more time off, so I made other arrangements for Chantal to be here.

Friday afternoon comes and the plaster packs up and leaves. Advising that the tiling, skimming and painting is NOT his job. He says he will be back on the Monday to do a couple of little bits. Monday comes, the guy shows up, does a few bits and that his part done. Apparently the contractor Bryhill had NOT agreed with L&Q to restore to full use at all. On leaving he told me he had somehow broken the toilet pan away from the floor, so this would need changing. And off he went.

At this point the state of the bathroom was, as follows, bath reinstalled but not silicone sealing anything like the gaps between the bath and wall, hand basin fully reinstalled, and a now rocking toilet, with floating cistern as it sits away from the wall and was not boxed in. Poor quality finish plastering still requiring skimming before it can be painted, no tiles on the splashbacks. So pretty useless.

The past couple of weeks have involved me calling Bryhill and L&Q and getting told its the other parties problem, and no one has taken responsibility. Eventually I get some joy, a supervisor from Bryhill visited, checked the toilet and said they would replace it. Hurrah I thought. Then out of the blue yesterday, first thing in the morning a plumber shows up, 'come to replace the toilet mate'. Was a surprise but a welcome one all the same. He comes in to see what he is replacing then shoots off to the suppliers for a replacement.

Now I should note at this point that when Apollo replaced the pan, they used a new type which sits about 1ft further forwards than the old flush wall mounted one I had. However this is apparently the new style, so it can't be helped!

45 mins later he is back. I let work know I had workers in so might be a bit late. A toilet is a simple swap out, but half an hour passes and all of a sudden drilling starts, and goes on.....and on.....and on. Half hour later I popped in to see what was up. Apparently the floor is knackered so he can't bolt it down. So he calls for a carpenter. The plan now is to build a box behind the cistern to bolt it to, then screw that to the wall, and silicone the pan to the floor, which is what they ended up doing. I was 3 hours late for work.

He was also kind enough to silicone around the bath so it was now usable.

Not a great fix, but fed up of the whole escapade I accepted it as it seemed workable. Obviously the tiling and painting were still outstanding. So on the way to work I called L&Q again and finally heard what I wanted. A contractor will come out next week to size the job up and do everything outstanding ASAP!

So today, to celebrate almost having a bathroom back I decided on a long hot soak in the bath. So I filled it up, and hopped in.

All of a sudden I can hear rushing water, I check its not overflowing, its not. So I sit up and the noise stops. Hmmm, strange, so I lay back down again, there it is again. Suddenly I am suspicious, each time the water reaches the overflow this noise starts. But its not the usual sound of water exiting the overflow. Eventually I'm too pissed off to stay in the bath so I hop out, get dressed and the fun begins.

After fighting it for a while I manage to remove the bath panel, and am SO angry at what I see.... The overflow has NO waste pipe attached, so the water is pouring onto the floor.

Enough is enough. The bathroom has been screwed since it was first done, and is slowly becoming a patchwork quilt of badly carried out repairs. I am sick to the back teeth of the poor workmanship, poor service from the housing association, and the crap attention to detail from the contractors.

I should also add that a few months after the bathroom was first completed the cold waterpipe behind the bath sprung a leak. Soaking the floor and bath panel. The pipes all had to be replaced, as did the bath panel.

I just want the whole thing re-done now, properly, once and for all. Is that unreasonable?
The floor can't have a toilet bolted to it, the walls need plastering properly, the bath needs plumbing in properly, the toilet needs securing, the tiling needs re-doing, the shrouding around the pipes is knackered. Surely its cheaper just to start over?

I don't know who wants to take responsibility for it, but between the following companies, you have made it a joke.

P&R Plumbers
L&Q Group

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SO pissed off right now.

Months and months waiting to get the job started, weeks of a simple job dragging on, and finally we get to the stage where I can take a long soak in the bath again....

Oh hold on, apparently not!

Dear Bryhill, P&R Plumbers and L&Q..... YOU FUCKIN IDIOTS!!! This is NOT how you re-plumb a bath back in. Where is the overflow pipe numbnuts!

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