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Thursday, 29 May 2008

Football, France, French Blockades and Golf!!

News Flash

New product release – Oracle Health Check, JoraScope – go and check the web site, www.joraph.com

Sport

Football – European Cup in Moscow, Man U v Chelsea
I suppose it could be classed as a “turf war”, but poor John Terry should be given some sympathy for his little slip. How much that piece of sod cost must be unbelievable but I suppose that's what happens. My problem is coping with the two Man U fans employed by JoraPh it's difficult not to be part of the celebrations!

Championship Play-off Final – Wembley, Hull v Bristol City

Different! I wish Hull all the very best. I must admit though, having two brothers-in-law who are season ticket holders for Derby County, the fans should be realistic and pray for a Reading-like first season up there to have any hope of survival.

Div 1 Play-off Final – Wembley, Doncaster Rovers v Leeds United

My mate mark is a big, big Leeds fan and he is gutted! After ripping me apart about Carlisle he had to wait three days before he heard the immortal words of “you've said nothing about the football mate” from me. Even then I held him on a bit longer by saying how different and refreshing it is to see Hull going into the Premiership before giving just as much stick to him for Leeds losing – nice one Mark, good job we are mates!!

Bridge Inn and the "footballers" – a rant about ignorant idiots!

I had occasion to take a few drinks with Bob, my wife's brother, on the night of the Euro Cup Final. We had definitely had too much to drink, but thought it best to make sure and watch the match in The Bridge Inn, on of our regular haunts. The evening was going very well and I was having a discussion with 5 pro-soccer players in the pub who were at the National Sports Centre nearby for rehabilitation treatment after injury.
All was going really well when I fell for a cracker of a joke when one of them told me he was a gymnast. In fact, he and one other were “on the brink of selection for the British Team”. I asked them if they would sign my kids gym bags as both would be honoured if they could get their autographs. They agreed and I called my wife, who was by then already in bed, to get the bags, jump in the car and bring them to the pub. Naturally, she obliged, and after telling the kids what was happening, she drove down and called me from outside to get the bags. I presented the bags for signature and was confused by the first one as I thought his first name was Tim and he signed something else. As I realised the second was signing “Seymour Butts" I went nuts! I had explained very clearly that the bags belonged to children, one only eight years old – they thought it hilarious! I made sure (and some) that they understood what they were and had my wife take me home. Thankfully, I have a super friend in Bob who made sure the Irish footballer did not follow me outside to do what he threatened – I owe Bob a lot. These guys are disgusting and deserve a proper “smack” for their efforts. I have no issue with their jokes on me, I certainly took them on their word an fell hook-line-and-sinker for their ruse, but never for writing such things on kids kit will they get my forgiveness! These people should work hard to be role models for youngsters and I have raised the matter with the PFA and intend following up on this very soon.

The New Marathon – A French Tale!

I set off on a journey to France to shear two sheep for Phil Grice's sister, Jenny. Phil is head of consulting for JoraPh Consulting (www.joraph.com) and he mentioned Jenny and her husband, Colin were having trouble finding someone to help. Being the son of a Cumbrian hill farmer, I volunteered to help. It is around 20 years since I used hand shears in anger and it was interesting to see what the first sheep looked like after the deed was done! I must say at this point that there cannot be too many Managing Directors of IT companies that can shear sheep - at least we can ride high in the novelty stakes!

The journey did not begin well, we got to Phil's house near Southampton OK but then found our fast ferry to Cherbourg was cancelled due to a blockade by fishermen on the latest French National Strike! The French and their way of crippling their own country are amazing. Our replacement ferry was not the super catamaran that flies over in one and a half hours, but one of the extra-large ships that takes around five and a half hours and generates enough noise to keep several British Parish Council Noise Inspectors happy for life! We arrived around 10:30 (late!) at night instead of 12:30 in the afternoon and poor Jenny drove us the hour and a half to their house near to Vier in Normandy. The worst was that it was raining – shearing sheep is virtually impossible in the wet!

Anyway, the animals needing a coiffure are two Scottish Mountain breed ewes - people will say they are cute things with a personality. I am more inclined to call them many other words! It all goes back to being brought up on a Lake District Hill Farm with a father who was well respected as a breeder of some of the best around. He did the work because, 1) he had to for the money, 2) he was very good at it and 3) he had no other trade. I helped because 1) I had to, 2) I had to and 3) you get the picture!

It took most of day for wool to dry out but I managed to shear the sheep in the afternoon. It was very hard work as they were not used to being handled and were difficult to catch – after staring them down it took some flying rugby tackles were needed to catch the beasts!



Anyway, only a few cuts resulted from the struggling and the work was made more difficult by the wool being quite matted, but it was done. I must admit that I'll never be a top hairdresser, but the sheep were very relieved to lose all that wool in the heat of Normandy!



After such a long time without any practice this was hard, hot work.



When it was over there was a considerable amount of wool left on the floor!



When it was over there were two very skinny looking sheep wandering round the field. They found how much they used to wear that night when we had a massive thunder storm though!



Of course we had lots of red wine and good food in the evening and were treated to either Colin or his daughter Kate, playing the piano. They are indeed a most talented family! Next day I cut the grass to try and help walk off the aching from so much physical activity and made a mental note that I must get fitter – and soon!
We had a massive thunder storm while over in France, the wheelbarrow was half-full of rainwater in the morning and only from a couple of hours of a storm. Several places in the South of England experienced flash floods at the northern edge of this storm – not nice.

So, after a job well done and having put enough units of red wine inside me to be on a government blacklist for binge drinking, we looked at our return journey. Phil called the ferry people who told him our ferry was cancelled due to the French fishermen doing more to stop the English than their forebears ever did to stop U-Boats! We were booked on another slow one from Caen and would need to be up early.

05:00 (UK Time) Tuesday: A very sorry looking Phiz stepped into the shower and tried to wake up enough to pack and get to the car. The ferry left at 09:00, so we needed to get moving. Jenny and Kate bravely faced the early morning and took us for a long wait on the Caen Peripherique – yes, you guessed it, more blockades! This time it was the Ambulance drivers and police who had decided it would eb good to gridlock Caen and hold everyone up! I must admit that I find it incredibly difficult to understand the mentality of people who, like firemen, nurses and doctors, answer a vocation to try and save lives, but then gridlock a town so badly – surely this must be against everything they stand for!
Anyway, what it meant for us was that we were able to stand at Ouistreham (Caen) ferry terminal and wave to the people enjoying our booked seats on the slowly departing ferry – not a nice feeling, especially as the next ferry was another eight hours wait!!

I got to see Bayeux for the first time and enjoyed a look at the beautiful countryside around the area while we lost some of those hours. Inevitably though, we sat and waited like all the other poor people who were suffering at the hands of the extreme action the French people seem to so enjoy.

The ferry docked early, an extraordinary event for this jolly shirt-break, and we were whisked to Phil's house by Val, his wife, to meet their new puppy – and sleep. Next morning at 06:00, with only just over 200 miles left to go, Phil and I set off in his car. He dropped me at Bicester train station (I now know that you need North Bicester station for Birmingham, not the other one!) and he continued to work in Cambridge. I got to Telford and my wife collected me and drove me home.

I now understand more about the irony of the film “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” and how John Candy and the crew must have felt. This was more like a Cannonball Run comedy caper than we had expected, but nobody was hurt and the experience will probably be very “character building” as people say (what do they know!!!).

Beer

This month I am shamelessly promoting my mates beer – The Wylam Brewery, (http://www.wylambrew.co.uk/), is a cracking little place near Heddon on the Wall. My “old” boss, John Boyle set up the brewery after retiring from Digital Equipment, with friend Robin Leighton. Robin is sadly no longer with us, but John has made sure the brew goes on and I can personally recommend the Gold Tankard after a small “teshtin seshiin” in the brewery tap the other week – excellent stuff!

Breaking News: Golf Latest: Phiz v Phiz, The Shropshire Golf Club, Telford, 29th May 2008

Our illustrious author is back on the course and hit a rubbish round at The Shropshire Golf Club this week, hitting a gross 107, net 83 playing against brother Mark. The nice thing was that we played off our respective handicaps and I managed to talk him round to playing even worse than me! The result was a win for the old boy and one to chalk on the wall for the next few months until we get chance to play again – thanks Mark!

Shropshire Gold & Blue 29/05/2008
David Phizacklea, handicap: 24, Gross Round 107, Net Round: 83 Stableford: 26
Mark Phizacklea, handicap: 11, Gross Round 96, Net Round: 85 Stableford: 22

Next Time

Young musician of the year at Burton Borough for Gina.
Update on Bob's house – it's a bit like the “Old Crooked House” (not the pub but the nursery rhyme!).

Friday, 23 May 2008

The week the Scots invaded!

Sport report

Nova United played soccer in a tournament last Saturday at Shifnal. Lovely day if a bit too hot to run around – but I was in a deck chair watching proceedings not running them (nice!). Adam ran around a bit, he played in goal for Nova B and kept a clean sheet all afternoon. It cost me a fiver for the pleasure, one pound for him being good and one pound for each clean sheet – I'm just glad he never made the final or it would have cost me a fortune!!

Things have been hotting up on the football front, my home town, Barrow, have been promoted back into the Conference (or Blue Square Premier League) after winning through the play-offs. Carlisle were leading 2-1 after playing their first leg semi-final to try and beat Leeds to play at Wembley – 2 promotions in Cumbria in one year could be hard to cope with! This is how it proved and our north Cumbrian friends rolled over and let the Yorkshire boys through to the final. I must admit though that I did feel robbed after the way that Leeds were allowed a goal at the end of each game well into injury time, especially at Leeds where they scored in the 6th minute of 4 minutes of extra time – work that logic out if you can!!

There could be golf scores after next week – the doctor tells me I must have a cortezone injection in my shoulder as it seems to be taking a while to get better. I am assured that I will be like Clark Kent very rapidly and can lift small cars and save cities from meteor strikes the next day – good job he's a mate of mine really!

I was there!

Manchester, 14th May 2008, 11:30a.m. - tried walking from Piccadilly train station to Waxy O'Connell's in The Printworks. Major effort needed to negotiate the crush of humanity that stood between me and my destination - Glasgow was in town! It was mpressive to see just how drunk people can be at that time in the morning, but I saw little trouble as they only needed to sing and drink. As we all now know, the whole thing turned on it's head when the screen failed in Piccadilly Gardens and a sad minority went mad. Shamefull that these idiots should have been allowed to spoil what should have een a great occasion.

I was enroute to a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) reunion for those who worked in the “northern” offices (Warrington and Leeds really). It was a very impressive meeting of people who loved working for one of the greatest companies to have ever existed. Ken Olsen would have been impressed with the kind words people had for the company. It's the first of these I've been to, even though it is 16 years sine I left, people still knew me by sight – very impressive seeing that I'm older, about 3 stone heavier and grey now!

I left the heaving mass of Rangers fans behind and headed for a meeting in Leeds, then on to Newcastle – a long day by the time I hit the sack it was after 10 and I was really trashed. Sleep was difficult to get though as I was loudly reminded what the streets of Newcastle are like at night, even on the 4th floor away from the main area the noise was phenomenal – singing, shouting, sirens, music and car exhausts as loud as anything else! The bed I had must have had some history, it was totally finished – I complained as I left but think it will have been a waste of breath. Quality certainly is not the name that pace should have!

I got the chance to stand on hallowed ground twice while I was in Newcastle. Phil, my colleague is working in St James' Street, next to the best ground in the country. I stood and admired the Gallogate End of St James' Park as I waited for Phil and admired the sheer size of the place. In a way, the ground reflects some of the past of the city, the heavy engineering and the sheer scale of things that have been done there – a magical place.
Friday was another train ride and I met up with some old friends in Durham. Another ex-DEC gathering, but this time the main were former field service technicians. We were able to tak about tape drives and disks and oscilloscopes – all the bits that scare the sales people! Durham is a beautiful city and deserves all its accolades, and it has some great pubs too. Other than a bit of paint and maybe addition of a telly and a no-smoking sign, some of these hostelries have stayed the same since they were built. We had an afternoon with some real characters, visiting places of real character – excellent!

I must put a comment here about the trains. With the Scandanavian tank in the garage having major surgery I have been on the trains the last three weeks. Most of it has been fine, the trains have been on time and I've had a seat and power for my laptop too – not bad for a service that gets panned all the time. The conversations around me have been quite varied, and the journey back from Durham was most interesting with a group of young ladies discussing the various uses for a vibrating skin buffer being one of the most intriguing!

Anyway, I’ll drop some more in later. Don’t forget to check us out at JoraPh Consulting Ltd – www.joraph.com.

Phiz

Monday, 12 May 2008

A bit of this and a bit of that!

This week our “urban hero” (should that read "urbane"?) wades round London, is sleepless in Newcastle, explains how phones don't swim and still cannot get his Scandinavian chariot working properly!

I went to London last week, and boy, did it rain! It's a long time since I was there when I thought it had been so bad! The water running down the steps into the tube areas was impressive. Chelsea FC played Liverpool while I was there. The result is well known now, but my interest was that I was on the tube from Turnham Green though to Wimbledon where I enjoyed a wonderful evening with some very special friends, Roberto and Cinthia. I met an Internet speciialist on the way down, and maybe we can do some work together sometime in the future. In Wimbledon the heavens opened and it rained like I was in the Tropics. I took the tube back just as the Londoners were sending the Scousers home without a place in the European Cup Final. The noise on Fulham Broadway tube station was phenomenal, as the doors of the train opened it was deafening!
Anyway, most of it was interesting, some of it was fun, almost all of it was wet, but it was nice to see old friends and hopefully I've picked up some more work for our guys to do.
As I type I'm back n the train south for this weeks visit to the smoke. More meetings, more hotel rooms and plenty of tube and bus trips!

The whole family traveled to Newcastle upon Tyne at the weekend. Oh how I love Newcastle. It's such a city of intrigue and style. The new buildings like the Sage, and the wild city centre at night. Not really what we needed though for last weekend. Adam, my 8 year old son, was competing in the National Club Gymnastics Finals in the (relatively) new gymnastics centre in Benfield Road near Wallsend.
As Reece Beddows, a fellow Newport Gym Club member was competing on the Sunday and Adam on the Monday, we went early to support Reece and his family stayed to support Adam. Unfortunately for me, we had no extra time for me to try and go to watch Chelsea swipe my dear Toon aside 2-0 on Monday, but I did torture myself by listening on the car radio on the way home!
The lads were amazing, although not quite enough, and Reece fell at the first fence and will now have to join Adam to train for another year to take a shot at the title again. Both lads were devastated that they had a poor event, but we were so proud of them both for the sheer effort and commitment they have shown this year.
The same pride could not be offered to my fellow Cumbrians, however. In the hotel on Saturday night they ran amok and caused mayhem! Whoever it was tat had their stag night in the hotel should feel no pride in the fact they kept us all awake with their antics, and the naked bloke I screamed at in the corridor at 5:30a.m. will certainly have a story to tell back home!

This week has seen an increase in the number of lorries getting stuck outside our offices. It seems that lots of drivers are not bright enough to realize that our estate is not the slip road to the Telford EP dual carriageway – that's just 50 yards past our turning with a big sign next to i!. They learn the hard way though and need all the skill they have to reverse out of the car park and back up the road! It can be interesting to see some of these huge trucks being carefully maneuvered between the parked cars and round the corners of the estate – especially if we know any of the cars! What's even more entertaining is the number of drivers who try to hide their embarrassment by parking half-way down the hill into the estate and pretend they have done this deliberately, so take a break in their cab!

It seems that this week is going to be fun as, being a Cumbrian I am hoping two of our teams do well in the football play-offs. At risk of being in trouble where we live now, I'm quite proud of Barrow (my home town) beating Telford 4-0 on aggregate in the Blue Square North semi-final. They play Stalybridge this Friday in Burton for the chance to go back up to the Conference.
The other big match for us is Carlisle – Leeds. This has some greater relevance in the office as one of our guys, Mark Fetcher, is a keen Leeds supporter. A little it of competition never hurt though, and I think it should be an interesting few days on the footie front!

Electronics – this weeks “flavour” is phones. I've found for certain that my BlackBerry cannot swim! I sent mine to heaven two weeks ago with an impromptu journey down the toilet! I now have a new one and it's fine, but have no ambition to teach this one the breast-stroke!

Bob and Sue are still knocking walls down and drilling holes and plastering and wiring and living in it while they work! I have always been a fan of building houses and hope one day to build my own from scratch. I must admit though, that these two have taken a huge bite on this one, although I'm sure it will be great when it's finished.

I've had the dent in the Volvo's rear door fixed this week. Lesley found it too difficult to negotiate with the body repair people to get his done – it only took her 18 months to work this out though! Anyway, no more dents but it's still broken as it needs a new MMU (very expensive electronic box for under the bonnet!). It's nice having a big flash motor until it starts to cost money! I really have to think twice now about what the next car will be. I may even try for a van as it could serve many purposes and be better when the kids fall out as I can just throw them in the back!

No golf scores again this week as my shoulder is still not better. I'm sure that as soon as the rain comes back my shoulder will get better and I'll be able to thrash round knee deep in water as it belts down!