The Blog of Zakspade

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Friday 30 March, 2018

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No, not that time.


No, not that time, either.

It is driving me mad. For some reason, when I write the word lorry in its plural form, lorries, my word processor highlights it as a grammar error.

It did it that time! Each time it tells me that the word should be capitalised. So, Lorries is okay, but lorries is wrong.

There is an easy solution: turn off grammar-checking. However, it means that nothing are flagged when I made a silly grammatical mistakes?

Oops. I had better turn it back on.

I tried adding both Lorries and lorries to my personal dictionary used by the application, but still it insists on pointing out that it is grammatically incorrect to not use a capital letter to start the word lorries (although it didn’t flag that instance up as an error!)

Lorry and lorry are fine – as is Lorries.

Having wasted many hours in a vain attempt to stop this odd behaviour, I have decided to give up. It seems to me that the best way to deal with the matter is to never write anything about lorries – ever.

However, if I find myself having to do so, I will use the word banana so that the plural is bananas.

  Pants on Fire!
Wednesday 28 March, 2018

I answered the phone in my usual manner – just a single, polite ‘Hello.’

‘Hello, My name is **** and I’m calling from Bletchley Register Office.’

The first thing that popped into my head was a question: who had died, been born or had gotten married, and what was the connection to me? It must be important.

‘Oh, yes, hello. How can I help?’

Then she launched into a spiel about a wedding photographers directory published by her employer, ****.

She managed to get through a bit before my brain caught up, ‘Sorry, didn’t you say you worked for Bletchley Register Office?’

‘No, I’m calling regarding weddings at Bletchley Register Office. We...’

‘Hang on, you told me you were calling from Bletchley Register Office.’

‘Er, no I’m calling on behalf of Bletchley Register Office, and...’

‘Sorry, tell me again who you work for.’

‘I work for *** and we are putting together the region’s most prestigious wedding directory...’

‘So you don’t actually work for Bletchley Registry Office and are not calling from there?’

‘Calling from there? Not as such, but we have an offer that you...’

‘So you opened this conversation with a lie? I don’t do business with liars. Have a good day.’

I pressed the Call End button.

Junk calls are one thing, but those that start with outrageous lies to grab my attention rank as the worst.

It is a pity that my mind was caught up at the beginning with wondering what official matter was of my concern, otherwise I would have made a mental note of her name and company and I would have followed it up with a complaint, and made it really official.

  Not Annoying Whatsoever
Monday 26 March, 2018

The road into town that runs past the sub post office is quite busy. I have to carefully pick a gap in the traffic so I might cross without becoming a statistic.

Vehicles travel in groups of four or five towards town, with maybe thirty-second gaps between each train. So, by my calculator, that would be somewhere in the region of 300 vehicles passing per hour.

There is a manhole cover in the carriageway. It is a little loose. Every time a motor runs directly over it with its wheels, there is a loud bang. Two reports for each vehicle. That is about 600 ear-splitting sounds per hour.

Sure the odd vehicle will straddle it, or a motorcycle will miss it, but that is made up by extra clangs caused by multi-axle lorries passing over it.

The thing is – the noise isn’t something that has just started. No, it has been happening since at least the beginning of the year. You might have thought that it would be extremely annoying if you happened to be one of the houses along that particular stretch of road. Perhaps notifications (turning into complaints) might have been made by multiple households.

Or perhaps it is just me and it isn’t annoying whatsoever?

  Oops, Didn’t Hear You
Friday 23 March, 2018

I’m not proud I’m not happy. I’m ashamed.

Almost home, I reached a corner junction near a bend. Vehicles coming around that bend tend to turn into the road I was about to cross without indication or slowing down. Nor do they try to take the junction without cutting it.

So crossing the last junction before home means keeping a wary eye on the corner immediately behind and listening carefully for anything coming up the road the other way.

The technique works very well – until I stepped out into the path of a cyclist yesterday.

I stepped back and onto the kerb before the cyclist had even managed to react, and I even spluttered an apology.

If I had a pound for every time a pedestrian stepped out into the road and in front of me when I am cycling, I’d have full pockets. Many a time I have roundly cursed them in my head. Now I’m one of them.

Red-faced shame is consuming me...

  Free for All
Wednesday 21 March, 2018

It seems that a great many places now display signs that scream, FREE WI-FI, so that customers can seek solace in their electronic devices rather than engage with fellow plebs.

Facilitating a descent into a society bereft of members with social skills is a topic for others with lots of letters after their name. My concern is the word, free.

When it comes to offering something for free, my understanding is that it is without cost. Nothing is to be paid in exchange for having it – whether it is a service or goods.

However, just about every offer of ‘free’ Wi-Fi I have come across requires the person attempting to connect to it to supply some personal details. Sometimes it is merely an email address.

If I have a need to connect to such a service, I tend to put in a dummy email address rather than my own, such as,, or similar.

Until the other day.

Said ‘free’ offering requested my email address and after I had supplied something suitable, such as above, it went on to ask me to check my email so as to click on a link to verify the address before being allowed to connect fully.

Since when has harvesting personal details been an activity that can be considered part of a free offer?


  Economic Index
Monday 19 March, 2018

New car registrations came out on Thursday 1 March. Anyone taking delivery would be driving away with an ‘18’ plate. So – as is the case twice each year – I kept an eye open as I traipsed in and out of town.

I didn’t see a single vehicle with an ‘18’ number plate for two weeks.

Am I living in a particularly economically damaged area of the country?

  Technologically Lost
Friday 16 March, 2018

I went to the theatre last night. It was a jolly fine play.

It was written by a writer’s group colleague and was to start at 7:30pm. The idea was to meet up with other members at 7pm.

With a drive of less than 14 miles, and knowing the route to the town, I left at 6:30pm. Google Maps told me that I needed to turn right at the roundabout entering town and the theatre was 500 metres on the left.

After driving the full length of the high street I figured that I had perhaps missed a sign so I turned back and headed back towards my entry into the town – this time looking for the theatre on my right.

No theatre.

A couple more trips through the town proved fruitless, so I pulled into a car park near the roundabout and checked Google Maps via phone. There was the theatre, 400 metres up from where I was currently parked.

It crossed my mind that I might not be able to park at the venue upon reaching it because I saw no signs in the area and the main road through the town was full of speed humps and pedestrian zones. The time was now 7:15pm. Parking and walking might be enough time, what with finding the place, but if it wasn’t where I expected it to be according to the Google Maps, then I was faced with being late.

So I tried to ring the leader of our group to ask for directions. I heard his voice for a second then was cut off. I had a solid signal but I guess he didn’t, so I set off again to drive the length of the town centre.

As I pulled back into the car park after another fruitless trip to the other end of town and back, my phone sounded. I pulled into a bay and got to hear the voice of the person I tried to call previously. They had moved outside the theatre to get a proper signal and called me back. He apologised for being unable to help as he didn’t know the town, but he said I needed to follow signs to the local railway station as it was located nearby.

There had been no signs for the railway station whatsoever. None for a railway station anywhere.

That had me wondering: did I have the right town?

I checked my email for it had details of the name of the theatre and the town. I was in the right place. Then I rechecked Google Maps. I was headed in the right direction. Something was wrong.

A car pulled in near me and a couple got out. With time fast running out, I asked them if they knew where the theatre was located. They also apologised for not knowing the town very well. I said it was near the railway station and that prompted a positive response.

‘Oh, you need to turn left out of the car park, head over the roundabout, and then follow the signs.’

It was exactly the opposite direction in which I had been looking.

With no other options other than driving home, I set off in the direction advised. Eventually I arrived at the theatre at 7:27pm.

After getting home I rechecked the route. It transpired that the venue was incorrectly flagged on Google Maps. Lesson learnt: no more blindly trusting in technology...

  Stealers Wheel
Wednesday 14 March, 2018

Nearly 15 years after the series finished, I have just watched the entire 2001-2003 run of The Office on Netflix.

Many years ago I worked in a particular office with an immediate boss who was a David Brent. He thought himself witty and popular with his underlings, but in reality we all thought him to be a bit of a tit. The only difference I can recall is that he tended to use carefully crafted threats rather than capering or cajoling in order to motivate staff. His menacing air is the reason I shall refer to him as ‘David’ rather than use his real name. He was slightly confused by truthfulness and I wouldn’t want him to invent a story about me.

One day ‘David’ came in to work with a pair of fingers strapped together. The story went that he punched a wall at home, thus causing the breakage. It matched his character. Hopefully his wife didn’t walk into a door at the same time.

We never got along.

His boss, for a short time, was a chap whose name I cannot recall – such is the impact he made upon me. If Ricky Gervais were to be looking to resurrect the show then he could cast the man as the serious but ultimately weak, Neil Godwin.

Apparently he was identified as a high flyer and promoted into his role at my office with the intention of being moved on to more important things. The upper management had great hopes for him and he knew it. He took himself very seriously and to say he was a ‘company man’ would be putting it extremely mildly. ‘Neil’ and I didn’t hit it off either.

One day ‘Neil’ called the team together and announced that, contrary to rumour, we, the techies, were not going to be filling out timesheets like the rest of the office. Two weeks later we were filling out timesheets to justify our existence.

At a team meeting I said to everyone present – ‘Neil’ included – that either he was a liar or he had been misinformed. Talk about faeces hitting a ventilation improvement device – he went ballistic. He bawled me out during the meeting (unprofessional) and I repeated my assertion as the plain fact I saw it. ‘Neil’ was unable to admit to having been mistaken...

Stage two of his explosion was me being summoned into an office for a meeting with him and my immediate manager, ‘David,’ who he described as being a witness to proceedings. There he asked me to recant what I had said to him in front of the others and to issue an apology to him for them to hear. Instead, I repeated my belief. He then threatened me with HR and told me that he would be seeking my dismissal. He was trembling with rage at this point.

‘As I see it, you either lied to the team, or you were mistaken. If you feel that I have summed it up wrongly and caused unnecessary upset, then feel free to take the matter up with HR.’

‘Neil’ stomped out of the office and was not the best person to talk to for the rest of the day.

I’m not sure what happened with HR, or whether he did indeed take the matter there, but what we all witnessed was his ‘sideways promotion’ to another office elsewhere in the country.

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right...

Friday 9 March, 2018

A friend of mine invited me for a bit of trainspotting the other day. I thought, ‘Why not?’

Off we went to the local train station.

As we approached the entrance, a train pulled in. Having spotted the fact, and therefore the train, I said, ‘Right, that’s me finished.’

Having tried it, I don’t see the attraction. Perhaps to better appreciate the art of trainspotting one has to undergo special training?

  Warm Feet
Wednesday 7 March, 2018

Why, whenever I sit on the sofa the smallest dog in the household comes over and sleeps on one of my feet?

The problem is getting worse. Stood by the door out of the living room the other day, talking to my wife before heading upstairs, I felt something nudge my foot. Looking down I watched the same white object settle on one of my feet.

I am going to have to buy that dog a foot-shaped cushion one of these days, or myself some barbed wired.

  Following the Money
Monday 5 March, 2018

I have a cold.

Well, perhaps not so much a cold as a cough.

Don’t confuse it with one of those little things that accompany colds. No, this thing attracts the epithet ‘hacking,’ and if you are devoid of earplugs, you would appreciate its volume as well.

Walking home from town the other day, something was in the air and it was going down my throat and setting off the hacking to great effect. The cause was easily identifiable by the odour: the woman walking a few metres ahead of me was smoking a cigarette.

It was an open space, but such was the fragility of my throat, it was like being stick in a lift with a chain smoker. So I slowed my pace and allowed the distance between us to increase.

Unfortunately when I slowed, she seemed to slow. So I stopped and left her to walk on.

Once she was some 25 metres ahead of me, I recommenced.

Did I mention that I was walking into a gentle headwind? Within a few paces I was again racked by coughing and the smell of tobacco.

The snow on the ground was in for a treat. I decided to take the long way home, so I would be leaving more footprints than it first anticipated. Anything to avoid following the woman intent on burning wads of cash.

  Wide Open Space
Friday 2 March, 2018

Magazine publication: March, 2018.

- o - O - o -

It was a bright and sunny Sunday morning and the air was crisp. Conditions were ideal for a black and white photo session covering the walk from one end of the city centre to the other.

My search for things to photograph commenced at the Light Pyramid at the viewing point in Camphill Park. A single piece of graffiti upon it read, ‘TENT CITY GETTING TOO BIG,’ and I thought it a comment of sorts on the architecture of Milton Keynes although I couldn’t say that I saw a connection.

I marvelled at how I could be so close to the shopping mall and yet be surrounded by so much open space.

Then the lyrics of Mansun’s Wide Open Space came to me. Yes, I was in a wide open space staring into space, and it was indeed, freezing. Also I was at the top of a hill when I was reading the graffiti adorning the Light Pyramid, and I could see my old house from where I stood. I would have been happy to have been back over at Willen and out of the biting wind, but it was too far to shout and ask the new owners to stick the kettle on and have a nice warm cup of tea ready if I were to pop by.

Yes, despite the song being written in 1996, the lyrics could have been scribbled down by someone following and watching me from behind one of the many trees far away below me somewhere down below in the rest of Camphill Park.

The line that is repeated through the song, ‘There's something quite bizarre I cannot see,’ didn’t make sense until I made my way to the end of the shopping centre nearest Camphill Park. The graffiti that had bamboozled me at the start, had seemed quite bizarre when I thought of it in terms of how Milton Keynes had been built, and I really could not see what the vandal had been trying to say, until I saw my first tent.

Or rather, I saw my first collection of tents. There were lots of them.

A city of tents.

Tent City.

As you might imagine, I didn’t take pictures of the various clusters of tents dotted about the place in the underpasses and the ramps leading in and out of them. Carting around thousands of pounds of camera gear when out on a photoshoot is something to be aware of at the best of times. However, given the number of rough sleepers to be found about me, I was pretty sure that there would be some who were there because of their character rather than unfortunate circumstances.

I figured that such Tent City dwellers might have far less than me to lose and thereby not be overly reluctant to relieve me of my possessions - especially if I had been entertaining myself by taking lots of photographs of those unlucky enough to have been experiencing those wide open spaces under canvas.