Friday, December 21, 2007

Ring Out Solstice Bells!

I spent my day at the till telling my customers that I was going to celebrate the solstice tonight. Some showed vague interest. Others just hurried away with that added edge of urgency.

A man wearing a 'Hell's Angels' leather jacket arrived with a woman. The woman seemed interested - 'So it's when the days start to get longer then is it?'. She seemed pleased.

I felt encouraged. I told them that tonight was the start of my holiday. I told them that I knew of no theological arguments about the solstice or wars that had been fought over it. The solstice exists. That is all there is to it. The days start getting longer and that is great.

Then the man surprised me by saying 'But Jesus existed!'. I was completely taken aback. I felt that I had been wrong footed. I opened my mouth and heard myself say 'But his birthday wasn't in December!' I had no idea if this was true or not. I thought that he was going to be enthusiastic about my plans to celebrate the solstice - but instead he had gone all defensive of Christianity on me. He came up, wagged a finger in my face, saying 'You're a cunt, you are.' and walked off.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


The place where I work backs onto the grounds of Fulbourn Psychiatric Hospital. Some of the grounds have been sold off and have become a large and busy commercial estate but there is still a large expanse of pleasant parkland which you can stroll around in, taking in views of the nearby, magical Gog Magog hills.

I am strolling around. Some children cycle up to me and say 'Hello mate! Are you alright?'.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I'm seventy eight years old

I have had a spate of customers recently who have really gone to town slagging off the shop I work in. Yesterday, I had a really sweary woman go on and on about what a shit shop it was. She said "This is mindfuck! Can you believe this shit! This is a fucking awful shop. I hate coming here. Fucking awful.. etc. etc." She wasn't angry. I smiled and said "Yes...yes..yes". Eventually she left, quite pleased with herself, I think. I smiled inwardly and turned to my next customer. "Gosh!" I said to my next customer, who had heard everything. She smiled and said "It's my birthday today. I'm seventy eight years old".

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You're Going To Die!

I pick up my girlfriend from the small car park that serves the Oncology and Chest out-patient clinics at Addenbrooke's hospital. Around the car park are numerous 'Do Not Smoke In This Area' signs. There is one approximately every eight feet along the railings that surround the car park.

Until fairly recently, there was a huddle of plastic chairs in one corner of the car park where, in spite of the signs, staff from the hospital would come out and smoke their fags.

A few months back, Addenbrooke's Hospital Trust made the entire hospital site a smoke-free zone (I think there is an exception in the accomodation blocks and the Leisure Centre, but that is all). This means that in the small car park, where I pick up my girlfriend, the pattern of 'Do Not Smoke In This Area' signs have been interlaced with even more signs informing people about the smoke-free site policy. The smoke-free site policy means that you are not even allowed to smoke in your own car while you are on the site.

In spite of all this, I quite often see people smoking in that small car park. I hate having to breath other people's smoke at the best of times, but here, just a few feet away from where people regularly get told that they are going to die from smoke related illness, I have to say I relish in pouncing on the offenders. I know for a fact that when people smoke in the car park, the smoke has a habit of trickling in to those very rooms where people are being told that they only have a few agony-ridden months of life left. I try and tell them politely that they are smoking in a smoke-free area. Before I approach them I have put them on their guard by having given them a hard scowling-at. Then, ideally, they will give me a 'What do you want?' sort of a look. That is good. I can then close in on them with an enquiry as to whether or not they are aware that they are smoking in a smoke free area. They rebel. They stupidly tell me that they don't care. Or what am I going to do about it? The argument ensues. I make an arse of myself with my self-righteous idignation. However pompous and stroppy I get, though - I know I can't lose in this situation. They always give up in the end and stub the cigarette out. Victory is sweet.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

I've just written to the head of IT in the NHS asking for a job...

God, I've been writing a lot emails recently. Anyway, a few days ago, I had a rather hurried conversation with my Dad in which he said something about the NHS paying Fujitsu millions of pounds, because even though Fujitsu are behind in delivering whatever it is they have been contracted to deliver to the NHS, the NHS is getting screwed big time over some sort of small print involving seconding NHS staff to Fujitsu.

I did some Googling and found that the story appeared in 'Computer Weekly', which is a fabulous read if you are interested in who is getting screwed by who in the IT world. The story was then picked up by The Guardian.

Here is the link to the story in The Guardian...

NHS trusts pay millions in fines to suppliers of delayed IT system

Here is what I wrote to the head of IT at the NHS...

Dear Richard Granger,

I am writing to you concerning the penalties you have agreed to pay Fujitsu in regard to your decision not to second staff to them as had been agreed.

I am one of a huge of number of programmers in this country unable to find IT work. I was a software developer in the Medical Informatics Unit at Cambridge University up until that unit closed down. This unit was partially funded by the NHS with a view to providing IT solutions to the NHS. I therefore have some experience of the IT issues in the NHS.

If there is any way that the decision to pay the penalty can be reversed, by employing me and a number of other people in my position, I would be very glad to hear from you.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, June 11, 2006

I just saw on the cam.misc usenet newsgroup that someone had written to his MP to complain about the lack of any real dissent from the government on Guantanamo, especially now they are calling 'suicides' of inmates in their cells 'an act of war'. He did it at So I did the same. I wrote:

Dear James Paice,

I am afraid I don't know what your exact position is on on the War on Terror, or The Long War, as I believe it is now called but surely you must be appalled by the fact that the American military are now calling the tragic deaths of prisoners of war incarcerated without charge for years on end in an illegal prison as an 'Act of War'.

As one of your constituents I urge you strongly to petition the Government to use its influence to urge the American regime to close down Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay and have its inmates tried within a legitimate legal system or set free.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bunker Man

Yesterday, when I was out for a walk with my girlfriend - we walked past a man digging a hole in a field with a tractor. On the way back, we had to stand aside so the tractor man (apparently having finished digging his hole for the day) could drive his tractor past us on the narrow lane. However, when the tractor reached us, the door swung open and he started to talk to us, or rather my girlfriend. I don't think he fancied me much. Anyway, he started telling us how he worked for contractors who had dug bunkers for the Ministry of Defence in Scotland. He had worked on bunkers in the Western Isles, he said, that were for equipment used for 'keeping an eye on the Russians' he said. Then he told us that he had helped build a bunker or Gruinard Island.

I know Gruinard Island as the 'Anthrax Island'. Many years ago, when I was a boy, I stayed at a campsite on a beach that looked out to Gruinard Island. We could see the 'MOD - Keep Off' signs and wondered at the horror that would ensue if someone went over and came back infected with the deadly disease...

We forgot to ask Bunker Man what he was digging a hole for - in a field near our house.