Saturday, December 27, 2008


The story of The Hat. Part 2: Foundations

With my tree purchased, I skipped home and proceeded to decorate it. Two and a half feet in height, it looked splendid wrapped in lights with baubles tied to it. Unfortunately that was the easy part. I now had to attach it to my head. On the upside, it would bring my total height to just over eight feet. But how to mount it on my head? I had a plan. Inside a hard hat is a pliable , adjustable piece that fits around the head and allows construction workers to wear a one-size-fits-all helmet all day in comfort. A trip to a toolshop in King's Cross and £3.70 later, I had a shiny red hard hat to gut.

Two problems remained. Firstly, attaching the tree to the helmet inner. Second, covering up the inner so that it didn't look like I was wearing some bizarre medical device. The solution led to me uttering the following in Homebase two days before the party:
Excuse me, I'm looking for some very strong glue and a flowerpot
Quite what the nice young woman who answered my query thought I was up to I will never know. Particularly if she reviewed the store's security tapes. You see, I had very specific requirements for my flowerpot. It had to be big enough to comfortably fit my head in, I was also short on time, so couldn't risk having to return it if it was unsatisfactory.

There now exists, somewhere on Homebase Watford's CCTV system, footage of me approaching the shelf of plastic flowerpots, working my way along until spotting one that I fancy, taking it off the shelf, furtively looking around, ducking down behind a shelf of garden ornaments, and placing a flowerpot on my head.

If you were to continue watching the tape, you would then see me remove the pot from my head, shake my head sadly and replace the pot on the shelf before taking the next size up to the till. I have a very large head.

Finally, glue. I decided I needed something special. A two-part epoxy, which said it was suited to 'rough handling' seemed like the ideal choice. I'd never used it before, but I was sure it'd be quite easy. I headed to the till, pausing only to make an impulse purchase of cactus.

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Friday, December 26, 2008


The story of The Hat. Part 1: Tree.

Our office Christmas party had a theme this year.
Come wearing hats or wigs!
Best headgear wins a prize.
it said on the poster. Last year I went to the 'masks' theme party with a phantom of the opera mask, cape and snazzy hat. I won third prize to a homemade combination of paper elastic and glitter. I wouldn't be defeated again.

After much consideration, I decided a Christmas hat was the way forward to ensure the maximum likelihood of success. A Christmas tree hat. An impressive hat. Despite not having consumed any alcohol that particular evening, a few weeks before the party a plan formulated in my head. I was going to turn up wearing a fully-decorated Christmas tree on my head. Simple.

Firstly, some shopping was in order. I'd need a Christmas tree and decorations. I headed to Poundland, where I found the following:A decorated Christmas tree. Sorted. For a fiver. Things were looking up.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Lifes lessons: Electricity (Special Christmas edition)

Before buying an emergency replacement set of fairy lights on Christmas Eve, take a moment to check that the set of lights already festooned around your tree are actually plugged in.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


What's in a name?

Domain names are a tricky business. Picking an address for your business' website that is short, descriptive, and that nobody else has taken is difficult.
Let's imagine for a moment that you're running a business selling computers in the far west of the UK, in Wales in fact. You're very proud of the fact that your company originates in Wales.

What might we call our website? doesn't really trip off the tongue is a bit ungainly whilst descriptive is far too long

Got it!

I can't see any problems with that. Can you?

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008



I stayed a bit late at work this evening to get some database work done in peace and quiet., No ringing phones, no colleagues, just me, an import file and Raiser's Edge. And Annie Mac's special drum and bass edition of The Mash Up on the BBC iplayer.

Imports done, I headed off home. Just outside work skirting round the edge of the now-closed square I pass a phonebox. There was a little group of three men nearby, and one approached me. With my earphones in, I didn't hear what he said, and so stopped to uncork an ear.
I'm really sorry to trouble you like this, but I was just wondering do you have any change for the phone? I've got a pound, but I need 40p.
I'm sure the phone would have accepted his pound coin. I assumed this was the usual scam where you get asked for a small amount of money for the penniless person who needs "just 10p" to get the bus/train/aardvark home, and then when you get your wallet out, you're either asked for much more, or the previously exhausted individual suddenly perks up and runs away very quickly with your wallet. Usually though it's one weedy-looking girl, and not three scruffy Irishmen with a slight whiff of booze about one of them.
Sorry, I've got no change.
Just 40p? That's all I'm asking
I've got nothing, I'm really sorry.
At which point I started to move away
We need your help. We've been in a car accident and I need to call my lawyer.
Top marks for originality, but I was struggling to believe that this man had a legal adviser who would be contactable at gone twenty past eight in the evening. And if you've been in a road traffic collision, I always thought it more usual to contact the police and ambulance service in the first instance. They didn't look like car crash survivors either.
At this point it all got a little less friendly. Beery-smelling mate joined in.
Come on, don't lie to me, you must have something.
Sorry mate, I've nothing on me. I'm really sorry.
Don't lie! You shouldn't lie.
At which point my efforts to walk off were met with a firm hand in the chest. Not a punch, but I definitely wasn't going anywhere without his say-so. My pulse quickened.
I've told you, I've no cash on me. I'm sorry I can't help you.
I don't know whether he'd been taken in by my repeated protestations of living a cashless existence, but my original inquisitor stopped him and moved him out of the way.
You don't have anything?
No, sorry
By this point, I was walking away, to better-lit area, as fast as I could calmly and unhurriedly do so.

And that is how I may have been very nearly mugged. If I had gone to my pocket, would I have been relieved of my wallet? Punched over the head and had everything of value removed from my person? Or was I genuinely refusing to help three people who needed the help of a stranger to get legal counsel and get home safely?Given the number of heroin addicts who frequent the area, probably not.

What got me though was the sheer ineptitude of it all. If they were trying a confidence scam by appealing to my inner good samaritan, they failed on their plausibility. If they were really trying to rob me, they gave up far too easily - I was shorter and lighter than all of them, and they could quite easily have caused my face to resemble a plate of minced beef with about twenty seconds' work.

With this in mind, I present David's top tips for conducting a muggingIf you follow three or more of these tips, and still walk away empty-handed, then you're probably very thick. Maybe you should consider regular employment - many jobs today require minimal training and next to no intelligence, and yet the rewards can be massive. Have you considered a career in the City?

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


A Photographic Faux-pas

A fundraising event was being held last week for our charity. A gala, black-tie, £125-a-ticket event. At some point two days before said event, someone in the office wondered aloud "Should we get some pictures of this event?" to which someone else said, half-jokingly, "David could do them"

Thursday evening, and I'm lugging a camera, five lenses, a flashgun and three sets of flashgun batteries up Embankment to the pier where the boat on which this fancy event will set off from. I must admit, I was both terrified and excited. I'm still finding my feet with my camera having made the jump to digital, and I'm normally more of a still-life and architecture specialist than event photographer. Not that anyone on the boat would know this. They'd just see a guy in a smart black shirt slung about with professional-looking camera gear.

My first mistake was to apply a little lipsalve to combat the biting Thames wind. At some point since I last needed to use it, my lipsalve had metamorphosed from greasy tea tree-based saviour of cracked lips to something resembling Pritt Stick, and my lips got stuck together. Wiping it off only served to gove me sticky fingers and sticky lips, moments before I was expecting to shake hands with the event manager.

Fortunately I didn't need to worry about sticky hands when handshaking, as I didn't get a particularly friendly reception. I wasn't expected, and was left on the pier while a printout of the email from my manager telling me who to ask for was passed around on board and they decided whether I would be allowed to set foot on the vessel.

Finally granted permission to step on board, I got to work. Some people were very enthusiastic to have their pictures taken, others grudgingly agreed to it, and some point-blank refused. The key thing was speed - while I was taking pictures, I was interrupting valuable chatting and champagne-quaffing time. I just decided to take at least four pictures of every group, the odds being that there would be at least one where everyone wasn't noticeably grimacing, looking the other way or had their eyes closed. It seemed to work, and I'd definitely do it again.

Some people were keen to see their pictures, and on the 40D's glorious 3" screen, I was happy to oblige. Now, to scroll through images, one spins the big dial on the rear of the camera to quickly move through dozens of images. when you reach the last file on the memory card and try to go forward, you are taken to the first file on the card. And thus it was that I learnt the importance of clearing memory cards between photographic 'jobs'.

You see, the week before, I'd spotted some bananas in the family fruit basket and had spotted their photographic potential. Said images had been transferred to my PC, but were also still in my camera. So whilst showing the smartly-dressed guests the 3 or 4 images I'd just taken, suddenly an image of a downward-pointing curved yellow banana appeared on the screen. The main reaction was surprise on the guests' part, and a red face on my part. "I'm not going to ask what that's about" said one glamorously-dressed lady

It wouldn't have been so bad, but I managed to do it more than nce before having the presence of mind to delete every fruit-based image from my camera before I got myself thrown overboard.

Given the chance to do it again though, I definitley would. But only after formatting my memory cards. Twice.

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Monday, September 29, 2008


Topical Humour

This morning, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London had a fire. Fortunately, all the kids got out fine, and there were no serious injuries. I work near GOSH, and wandered in that direction on my lunch break. The fire was well out by 2pm, with just 3 appliances and a couple of London Fire Brigade vans giving any indication that it wasn't business as usual.

Coming up Great Ormond Street I saw a fire engine parked outside the main entrance. Above the entrance, there is a canopy, which the NHS trust for GOSH has attached a banner to, proudly declaring
This is a Smoke Free hospital
I'm sorry to say, I sniggered. I am a bad, bad person.


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