when the world remembers you exist, and why haven’t you done job x or y yet? This year, today was the day.

The first was a customer wanting a job two days early. Now he had ordered months in advance, and we were ready to ship for the day requested. But I’ve so much on at present that bringing forward is actually very tricky.

Then another one wanted news on an order, which I could not give him – my colleague on vacation is responsible for that, and then another one came forward asking about an old order, and if it were not made, could he change it?

I keep an electronic log book, and record every interaction – it proves very helpful. And I keep the emails, but they don’t always hold the whole story, and in any case sometimes difficult to search.There have been work days where not one entry has been made, and I’d hazard that this year has had by far the most of such days.

All this isn’t helped by the utter exhaustion I have felt this year. I really can spend all morning in bed. A few years ago, I’d be up before dawn midsummer walking by the banks of the Thames. There are previous blog enteries here to show that. Now, it’s as much as I can do to get up at all.

And I think it is my exhaustion which lies behind the trap described above, that is people leaping on me for not being ready etc regarding work.

And then I have the car to work on – feeling exhausted before I start. Currently waiting for a part from MB that was hiding in an unheard of MB dealership in Germany to be shipped to me.

An Embarrassment

May 16, 2015

At the moment, I have more than once source of embarrassment – apart from my spelling that is. (I had to check the spelling of the title, and it was wrong for the usual reasons my spelling is wrong – a wrong vowel, and didn’t double one of the constenants. But I’ll discuss the current worse one.

I have an invitation to a 3 day symposium to honour my former supervisor’s 70th Birthday. It’s in the summer. I have seen the speaker list, and it is packed with people I knew well while I was studying. They are all now high-flyers in their field. I’ve not seen the list of attendees, but guess that’ll be packed with many more. Now there is more than one reason I strongly hesitate to even acknowledge the emails. What is worse, as I’m invited, I don’t need to pay the symposium fees (other than a Dinner). I cannot even plead poverty!

Firstly, I’d fall asleep in the lectures. I would do that when I was an undergraduate, so add thirty odd years, and I’ll be out like a light in seconds. And unlike my undergrad days, I probably won’t understand a word that was said, and thus trying to make notes (the only way I kept awake) more than pointless.

Secondly, I’m now just a dowdy manufacturer, who has supplied equipment to a few of them. If I showed up, they’d think I was there to try and flog tackle. I could not make any useful contrubution to the symposium.

Thirdly, a few of those who might attend are no longer friends of mine – that is to say some I’d like to throttle, some I’d just prefer we never met again.

What is worse is that I’ve kept in contact with said supervisor, helped him and his group out on various occasions, such as supplying goods at cost price (in the forelorn hope of future orders), and including a recent one involving a third party company, whom we would not supply as we doubted we’d ever be paid (that condition still exists). But by our friendship etc, a solution was arrived at, and they got their equipment that otherwise they would have lost their deposit over.

So I’ll be damned if I go, and damned if I don’t. Wonderful.

Today I received in the post two communications from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMCE as was). One was a tax refund. The other was a letter informing me that HMRC had looked at my file and decided that I should now submit a tax return every year.

The phone number on the form was incorrect; so was the number I was given the first time I got the wrong department. But eventually I got the right department. And I was launched into my second best joust with HMRC.

This is not an exact replication.

Having had to give huge amounts of personal details to prove who I was, I asked why I had been sent a letter stating that I would now have to send in tax returns, when I had been doing so for the last 18 years; and that in the same post I received a tax refund based upon the (paper) tax return submitted last October. While there was minor squirming of the jobsworth, I also threw in that I did not want a fine for a not submitted tax return at the end of Jan.

My best retort was when the company received a fine for not submitting the
company’s tax return. “Why are you fining us for non-submission of a return
when you also sent us a refund based upon the very return you claim you
never received”.

To the sticks

February 12, 2009

Out to Oxfordshire today, the first trip to this particular customer this year. While the snow had all gone in London, it was still very evident in the Chilterns (as viewed from the M40), and still a lot of it in the Oxford Plain.

Approaching the Chiltern Escarpment on the M40

On the way back along the M40 (evening, hence the dull image above), the Chiltern escarpment still showing so much snow is evident. This particular point is where the M40 crosses the greensand [rock formation], and approaches the deep cutting in the chalk near Aston Rowant. The cutting starts towards the right hand of the image and moves across to the left.

At one point in the early life of the M40 (1970s), at this point there was a “Crawler lane”, for the lorries and other large vehicles that could could only crawl up the hill. I believe it was the closest such lane to London. These days of turbo-charged diesels and the like, the need has disappeared, as has the lane, and indeed the last time I saw a large crane crawling up the M40 (in fact the slope at the other end of this hill), it did so in the emergency hard shoulder. It clearly was in trouble, if the smoke out of the exhaust was anything to go by, rather than underpowered.


Ever since I moved into my flat in 1990, I have been using these “energy saving” bulbs. So I have observed their evolution, and seen their problems.

Many people dislike the fact that they come on initially very dim, and take some minutes to come to full brightness. Now that does have one advantage, for example in a bathroom in the middle of the night, it does not shock the eyes in the same way. In any case, this effect is definately more notible in some manufacturer’s models than others.

Others don’t like the multiple “D” shape, but there are those inside a round glass these days.

Some claim, in my opinion in error, that they induce migraine headaches. As a past sufferer myself, I discount this, because these work at high frequencies, not the 50Hz mains frequency that the standard “strip” fluorescent lamps do.

I have three gripes.

1. They don’t last the quoted 8000 hours. I find that some, the earlier models, would fail early due to solder joint failure in the high frequency balast or other parts in that area. Although much lower energy consumption, they still generate heat.

In fact the lower heat generation was one reason I used them, having had to rewire cables at my parents house where the old, incandescent bulbs had charred the cable to the point of danger (this was years ago, when it was still legal to do electrical wiring).

2. The dim starting. Bathroom aside, it is a pain, and it is hard to find which ones are more prone to it.

3. More modern units have a new failure mode. The first one to blow recently appears to have damaged the light switch on switch-on. The second, in my anglepoise-style lamp, took out the switch(*) and the fuse, again on switch-on. The third, last night, took out the entire lighting circuit. One moment the lights were on, the next, bang, no lights. Fortunately I had table lamps etc on, so there was still some light. This morning I had to replace the fuse wire at the junction box. Note that this time, the light was already on and working when it failed.

(*) I find it very annoying that it is impossible to buy replacement bulb holders to fit into desk-lamps (and I include from commercial distributors). The one in my anglepoise lamp is now rather fragile due to years of use with hot bulbs. But I was amazed to find that those commercial distributors did not supply the style of switch, either. In the end I discovered some at Maplin Electronics – so I purchased one and a couple of spares for the future.

Paper Passions. RIP

February 5, 2009

The Richmond shopfront in better times.

The Richmond shopfront in better times. Picture from their website

I reported on January 19th almost in passing that the shop “Paper Passions” had closed down. At some point soon this internet link will fail, but until then…It’s coming up to the first time I will miss this shop. It was a source of hand made cards, which I had used for everything from my brother’s wedding, anniversaries, birthdays, usually from local small companies.

That was not the only sort of thing I purchased from it. Christmas tree decorations, every year a different collection; the occasional notepad, plain paper book or similar; this xmas, a set of 20 paste-in book plates, stating “This book was stolen from…” which I gave to my brother (a fun present)(*).

Last Saturday it was clear the stock was being removed from the shop, and a note on the door was clearly aimed at some supplier coming to collect some stock as “retention of title”. (**)

(*). Not wishing to boast, but while I was at [a redbrick] University, I won a University Scholarship, and a friend of mine a Prize. The prize was worth – oh, £20? – but was to buy a book; and a book plate showing that the book was the prize of the Prize was provided. My scholarship was £100 (even in those days, not that much), but I had absolutely nothing to show I had won it. I’m not sure there was even a letter with the cheque. Apparently it did get published, in the relivent year’s Congragation publication, which I did not receive as I was not graduating that year!

(**)”Retention of Title”. Matters got so bad with one customer that I pulled this on them; however, they paid up (they were starved of cash for a long time), and indeed we’ve just received another significant order from them.

However, the same trick was one of the foundations of my (meaning our, but I’m the senior member) company. My colleague and I worked for a company that was clearly going down, just as a batch of assembled electronic units was delivered. Clearly the sub-contractor was not going to be paid, so, once it was clear the company was going to be liquidated, we contacted the sub-contractor and asked them to pull the “Retention of title” trick; for we were prepared to buy them for the going price. They did; it was quite funny being around while that farce was played out, for the company could not understand why these items were being pulled back – “what use do you have for them?” – was the wail.

We were also at the other end of the Retention of title trick about the same time. We had made an offer for various parts to the liquidator, which was accepted, and we carted off the stuff. Then another supplier came around, to claim back parts unpaid for. I learnt that one of the items unpaid for was one of the items we had purchased from the liquidator. What suprised me was that they could not take an identical item, because, from it’s serial number, it was identified as being paid for, whereas the unit we had, from it’s serial number, could be identified as not. But possession is nine tenths of the law…and that part eventually became part of another arguement, from which we no longer use it…

Another short week.

May 27, 2008

Back with a bang after the bank holiday weekend, with questions and enquiries flooding in (relative to the last couple of weeks). Deadlines may be fixed, but some seem less fixed than others.

I kind of wasted yesterday, in that there was plenty to do – work related and non-work related, but never really got around to doing any of it. Which just piles more pain onto the rest of the week.