Saturday, 28 April 2018

What is the point...

What is the point of a burger that is too big to take a bite from? Why is there a penchant for restaurants to serve a meal on a roof slate or a spanky paddle?

When I order a super, half-pound burger with extra cheese, bacon, mushrooms, pineapple etc, I want to be able to eat it without having to dislocate my jaw like an egg-eating snake. All that happens is that I get a splat of burger sauce down the front of my shirt and a mixture of grease and cheese in my beard. Now I imagine that somewhere in this world there is someone might have a particular fancy for that but I just get a bit fed up with it.
Many years ago, when I started working for my previous employer, remember them? the ones that cast me on the scrap heap? there was a small Greek kebab shop that used to sell the most marvelous burgers. The bun contained 2 burgers, bacon, cheese, fried egg, chips. Massive. But it was served in a wider bun so that it wasn't a stack the size of the Empire State Building.  Some miles from where I live there is a burger van on the top of a hill that serves similar burgers, although you will get dive bombed by seagulls due to the twats that feed them. The Gutbuster burger is a particular favourite...

Just give me a burger that I can get my laughing tackle round, for Gods sake! I am not Scooby Doo! I can't swallow something the size of  a truck tyre, although i knew a woman once, that is another story.

And what the hell is this trend for serving meals on whatever is flat and can be found in the average workshop or building site? Before long we will be served our dinner from a bricklayers hod!  Call me old fashioned but I would like my meal served on a plate, or in a bowl.


Giant68 :-)

Faceless health

Just lately I have been ill. And it is this illness that has highlighted how little we care for human interaction in this modern world. The phrase 'my door is always open' has been supplanted by 'my door is closed, if you want to see me then ring the bell and I will eventually respond'

This is how my doctors' surgery has changed, and probably others as well. It used to be that there would be a receptionist sat at the counter. You would come in and make an appointment with her, or book yourself in for an appointment with her. I don't go to the quacks very often so the change came upon me by surprise. No receptionist. An empty counter and a shut door. A sign tells you to use the touchscreen to book yourself in and if you want some human interaction you must ring the bell. When I first started using this surgery there were two receptionists, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Now there is a whole team of them, all with the purpose of keeping you away from the doctor and from themselves. I doubt that it is their fault, or their intention, they have work to do and don't want to be disturbed from that task by members of the public distracting them.
But i feel that a doctors surgery is one of those places where you want to see a friendly face. People who are ill may be scared, certainly nervous, over what may be wrong with them. This is where the receptionist was a friendly face with a little compassion and a smile for you, they knew your name and knew whether your appointment was a vital one or just a check-up. Obviously, this was before the time that they were told to keep the great unwashed from the door.

It seems, these days, that it is almost impossible to make an appointment. My surgery will allow you to make an appointment up to 2 weeks in advance... But there are usually none left when you need one. I have been told that I need to phone for an appointment at 2pm on a Tuesday as that is when the next set of appointments become available. 'Become available??!' In the past, the receptionist had a diary for each doctor, she could make an appointment for you a year in advance if you wanted. Why, now in the age of the spreadsheet and online calendars, have we lost this ability? Surely. it should be easier now? We should be able to make an appointment 100 years in the future if we wanted to? The only way I seem to be able to get to see the Dr is if I start phoning at 8am and keep going until I get through. However, I haven't got the time to do this as I am at work and I think my boss wouldn't be happy to see me sitting with the phone in my hand for an hour. And even when I got through it would probably be an automated voice, remember, the door is closed...

Healthcare for the modern times is a faceless thing that will just become less and less human as time goes by.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Only 16 years till I can retire...

There have been a few changes in my life over the last few months. Please don’t worry, though, as I am still a grumpy old git, as this will prove. From being made redundant after 30 years with the same employer, having a great summer, the Malta wedding for Half Portion and his delightful young lady, working for a friend for a couple of weeks after falling foul of the Dept for Work & Pensions (Lord forbid that I should enjoy myself on the pittance that Her Majesty’s government saw fit to pay me!) and finally settling into a permanent job.

So, a permanent job. This was a bit of a shock after 30 years of working in a flour mill. I suddenly found myself working in a school. I had to have an interview, show my CV and all that rubbish. I have never really written a CV before, I had just been promoted, or shifted sideways, depending on what was needed and what I wanted to do. But now I had to go and sell myself to people I didn’t know. Scary stuff, or what? I must’ve done something right, or the other candidates were really crap, because I now find myself almost 5 months into a job. I am now the site manager of a school. A primary school as well. I will let you into a little secret here. I love it. Every day throws different challenges at me, and it is a great place, with some really great people.
Now, for years I have always wound up a friend of mine over teachers working time, all that time off in the summer, yada, yada, yada… But now I have first-hand experience of what these people do with their day, and the challenges that they face. I have the responsibility of keeping the staff and pupils safe and secure, the teachers have the responsibility of taking small people, with developing minds and filling those minds with information and the ability to use it. They do it, sometimes, in difficult circumstances.
There seem to be a number of parents who pass all responsibility for the upbringing of their children on to the school. They also set the worst examples to their children. They have no self discipline, they are quite happy to smoke around their children and others. They disregard the safety of others by parking their cars in dangerous places with no thought for anyone else, blocking driveways and, in one case, the entire road. There are times when I would dearly love to grab one of these parents and shout ‘What the f… do you think you are doing! Have you no common sense or care for anyone other than yourself?!’

I am, however, continually, amazed by the fact that most of these small people that inhabit the building I work in, for several hours every day, generally come in smiling and leave smiling. And I think that is great testament to the teachers and teaching assistants who spend their days, sometimes very long days, educating our future leaders of industry, government ministers, rocket scientists and even footballers.
I will still wind up my friend over the hours he works, as I will occasionally those I work with, just because I can. But considering I hated every minute of school when I was younger, I am now back at school and will happily work there until the day I retire, or drop down dead (whichever comes first… and with the current state of our government it will, probably be the latter)
In the meantime, I will continue being a grumpy old b@$£@rd, the kids will still wave at me as I walk round the school and teachers will continue to work long hours.

So, parents… teach your kids to use a knife and fork, talk to them, read to them, give them some of your undivided attention before you send them to school. One day your son or daughter may be in the government that sets your benefits…


Giant68 :-)

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Gainful employment

before I left college I had a weekend job. I worked for an electrician, fixing washing machines, toasters, irons etc. It brought some money in, not a lot but some nevertheless. There was, unfortunately, no permanent job when I left college so I managed to get a job as a civil engineering technician at Southampton university. That was a fascinating job, working with postgrad students to build experimental equipment so that they could gain their Masters degrees. I met many hard working young people, most of them from foreign lands, Egyptians, Iranians etc. But again it came down to money and the fact there wasn’t enough of it. I joined a company where, over a period of 30 years, I worked my way up the ladder, slid down a snake, started climbing again…
This summer, after a period of illness, I was told that I was no longer needed and was duly paid off. This was an interesting time which, if you follow me on Facebook, you would have seen that I labelled #vexit and allsorts of people were following to see the outcome.
After 33 years of continual employment this came as a bit of a shock to the system. All of a sudden I was unemployed. Too young to retire and, it seems, too old to start again. What does a chap do in this situation?

Well, too start with, I have to ‘sign on’. That is an experience in itself. Walking into a job centre for the first time in my life and finding my soul being sucked out of my body as I do so. There is something about the atmosphere of this place, from the pile pile of discarded cigarette butts outside to the slightly grim lighting inside, that is not conducive to a cheery outlook on life. It may be fine for those who have no interest in work an just want to play the system for whatever they can get out of it, but for someone who wants to work it is depressing, to say the least.

On the whole, I am positive. But every other Tuesday the thin veneer of positivity that covers the fear and depression that unemployment brings cracks like the sugary crust on a crème brulee and my will to live stalls. But I am not desperate yet. I am taking my time to find a job that I want to do rather than what I have to do. In a couple of months I will have to apply for any job but for the moment I look to the adage that if you find a job that you love you will never work another day in your life. That job is out there somewhere, I will find it (the crust on my crème brulee is, currently, intact)
In the meantime, starting from #vexit, I move to #vennployment. keep an eye on my Facebook page for further developments.


Giant68 :-)

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

I seem to have gone off the boil just lately, no blogs, gripes, moans or whinges for quite a while. I am worried, maybe I am losing my grumpiness… My reputation will be well and truly shattered. So, here we go in an attempt to restore my grumpiness.

Towards the end of last year I had a small health problem resulting in me taking time off of work. 4 months off of work to be more precise. Can’t say I really enjoyed it much, sitting around watching daytime TV is not what I like to do. Good God! Do people really fight to get on Jeremy Kyles show? Are they that desperate to get on the TV and have their 15 minutes of fame, whatever the cost to their dignity? Me? I tried to get on Mastermind and was turned down, basically because they didn’t like my choice of specialist subjects. But I did have a great day out in London. Anyway, I digress…
4 months off and I eventually get back to work and spend a huge amount of time trying to catch up with all that hadn’t been done while I was away. Then came the bombshell. After 3 weeks of being back I am told that I am going to be made redundant. Just me. I am surplus to requirements. No matter what I think of the coincidence, nothing will change. But here’s the thing. I suddenly feel as though this should happen. I feel a sense of wellbeing. No feeling of ‘Shit! What am I going to do?’ After 30 years of working for my current employer, at some point in the near future I will be cast on the scrapheap. Somewhere in my subconscious, my mind must have decided that this is the best thing that can happen. Maybe my stress level will start to drop, my heartbeat can fall to a normal level. Or maybe it is the pills I am taking for the small heart issue that put me on the sicklist for months. Either way, I feel pretty good.
But what happens next? I don’t know. The future is very uncertain and I am not sure what I want to do. Obviously I need to find a job, I still have a mortgage to pay. I have some very good friends with the right kind of skills to put me on the right track to finding a job, from advice over what I need to know during the redundancy process to helping me write a CV. And also friends who will just take me out for a coffee, or a beer, and let me rant at them over the injustice.

As I write this I have several job applications in process. But I have also had a couple of turn downs. No matter how positive I feel the turn downs still chip away at my confidence, a little bit at a time, just a small sliver knocked off of a corner, but it is enough to drag my mood down a little every time. Sometimes I feel really down, and I try to hide that because I can be pretty horrible if I don’t try and keep those feelings down. Sorry to those who have to deal with me at those times.
More than 50% of the time I feel pretty good, though. It feels that a great weight has lifted off of my shoulders. Maybe I should have left this job years ago but we fall into safe mode. The current job is known and the big, wide world outside of it is dark and scary. We get institutionalised, and we remain in the safe zone, sometimes to the detriment of our health.

I leave at the end of July. I have started looking for jobs, registered on many employment agency websites and hope that someone wants a hardworking, grumpy old bloke. Time will tell…


Giant68 :-)

Friday, 5 June 2015

A Life Less Meaty

Like most of the great challenges in life, it started off as a bet. I was at a bbq at a friends house and posted a picture, on social media, of the 2 giant steaks that we were cooking. To be honest, the picture did them justice, they looked like they had been carved from the haunches of a dinosaur.


Anyway, a friend responded to the sight of said picture by suggesting that we should go vegetarian for a month. If we did, he would donate £100 to charity. Now, myself and my friend are Freemasons, so the logical charity was the Royal Masonic Trust for Girls and Boys. There quickly followed a couple of postings by Masonic friends saying that they would also match that figure. Rob, his name has not been changed to protect his identity, and myself, having imbibed a large quantity of red wine by this time, were laughing and thinking ‘no way!’ and then the RMTGB posted a response saying ‘thanks for your support guys!’

Bugger! There was no real way of backing out now.

So we decided that we would do this idiotic challenge, starting on May 5th, the day after Rob’s birthday. We made sure that at Rob’s birthday bbq we overdosed on meat. Understand that the pair of us are devout carnivores. I have no issue with anyone who wants to be vegetarian, in fact, I now admire them immensely. But this challenge required some thought. It is not as easy to come in from work and chuck something in the oven for dinner when you are on a veggie diet. It requires some planning and thought. It also needs some knowledge of nutrition. I have issues with my kidneys that mean that the normal foods that a vegetarian would eat to get their protein I can’t eat. So straight away I am putting my health at risk, but it is only for a month.


Our first vegetarian meal was at a Masonic dinner. Presented to us under silver domes and revealed with a flourish. I could hardly contain my indifference, and I think that Rob felt the same. It was nice, but we both felt that there was something missing. And this is what we felt about most of the meals we had. We missed the textures and depth of flavour that meat brings to a meal. We tried all the usual stuff, quorn being particularly tasteless unless you put so much in the way of herbs and spices with it that it strips the lining from your throat.


Someone did suggest a meat replacement from a vegan shop, peppered vegan ‘steak’. I went to this shop and found what appeared to be two dog turds in a plastic tray covered with clingfilm. But, any port in a storm, I gave them a go. There was so much chilli on it to give it flavour and it had the texture of, what I would imagine to be, dog turd.

In amongst all this we were being teased, polite word, mercilessly by other Masons with pictures of rare steaks, bacon, sausages, burgers etc being mailed and texted to us, it is surprising that we did not turn to cannibalism. But donations came in. We set up a PayPal account for people to donate to, and we were willing to accept cash and cheques. At the end of all this we raised over £1000.

As far as I can tell the only benefit I can see from changing to a vegetarian diet is that I was more regular, if you know what I mean, and it was more satisfying. The food itself always left something to be desired. Neither of us felt better for it, probably because we were drinking more beer and eating more puddings. Fortunately there is no meat in chips and cake! We had some fun along the way with reprisals against those who took the p%$$, and we raised loads of money. Would we do it again?

Good God! No!

I admire anyone who makes that choice, to be a vegetarian, but I am a meat eater, a carnivore. And that is what I will be until I die, which according those vegetarians will be soon.

Myself and Rob thank all those who donated for their generosity and the money raised has been gratefully received and will be faithfully applied.



Giant68 :-)

PS. We finished the challenge with a steak. Rare & bloody.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Carry on cruising…

It come to that time of year, again, when thoughts turn to the holiday you booked and paid for so many months ago. The bank account was drained, well Mrs Giant68s bank account was drained (and not by some dodgy Nigerian), Euros have been purchased, along with sun cream, new sunglasses, new suitcases, new swimming cossies, and assorted other things that, when you think about it, you didn’t really need. And then, one Sunday morning, mini giant68 picked us up and took us to the cruise terminal 15 minutes away from home.
Now, you know me as a grumpy bugger, and in queues at airports I could grump for England, so what was I going to be like here? Got out of the car and opened the boot, got the cases out and a bloke put them on a trolley and took ‘em away. So far so good, no queue to check in the bags. We walked into the terminal, had our photo taken for the ships records and 10 minutes later I am sat on the top deck with a beer in my hand, in the sunshine. Wow! No grumpy giant68. Yet.
And that was it for the day. Down to our cabin, sorry, stateroom, unpack, as the bags were delivered straight there, and out for a wander round the ship.
A modern cruise liner is a thing of wonder. There are cinemas, theatres, ice rink, shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, hot tubs, gym, spa… More than enough to keep me happy for a fortnight.
Twelve nights at sea were to follow, soaking up the sun on the deck during the day, when not ashore.. Weather was glorious.
But there was a black cloud hovering on my horizon. And it was all to do with the food. We would go to breakfast in a ‘cafe’ at the stern of the ship. There was a huge vista of sea for us to view while we ate, absolutely marvellous! But then there was the breakfast. A vast servery with every kind of breakfast food that you can imagine, and then some. I love breakfast, best meal of the morning. Every morning I would make a pact with myself that I would only have a light brekkie. And i would, invariably, turn up at the table with a mountain of food on a plate. I am sure I ate my own body weight in bacon every morning. And as my weight was increasing daily the amount of bacon would go up exponentially.
Lunch would be similar. And dinner, at 8:30pm, would follow along similar lines, although this would be delivered by the smiling gourmet assassin that was our waiter. Believe me, the food was a absolute pleasure, from the crispy bacon in the morning to the surf and turf in the evening.
I forced myself to use the stairs to our room on deck 10 every time. I even went in the gym a few times and did some miles on an exercise bike. Otherwise the stone I put on would have been joined by some more. I am currently sporting the spare tyre from the back of  a Massey Ferguson tractor around my waist. My diabetic review is probably going to be soon and I will be lucky if my feet don’t fall off before it. The nurse is going to give me another rollicking. Oh well…
Next time I will tell you about kids, bad parenting, Barbary apes and Portuguese buses.
Till then…       
Giant68 Smile