A Letter To My Laptop

Dear Laptop,
This is going to be a difficult letter to write. Mostly because you have decided to throw a hissy fit, but I will continue anyway.
We have been together nearly three years now and I look back fondly at the day Wife took me by the hand and pulled me into the computer shop. Wife looked lovingly into my eyes and hissed “Just pick one! don`t muck about, just pick one and pay for it! And stop moaning!”
I wandered up and down the aisles with all those big laptops and ipads looking at me. Also looking at me was the price tags. The computers said “come to me” but the price labels screamed “Move along! Nothing to see!”
Then I spotted you. Apparently you are a notepad, not a laptop. I looked at your label, telling me that you had RAM, GIG and apparently SSID. I didn’t care. You looked small, cute and had a mousepad with buttons underneath. The best vital statistic that you possessed was your price. You were cheap.
Our relationship got of to a rocky start. As cheap as you are your creator, (who was probably a clever twelve year old) had added lots of really cool features. Most of them were to do with your mousepad. Apparently if I tapped on the pad it was like a left-click on the mouse button that was about three millimeteres underneath the pad. If I made a pinching motion I could zoom. running my fingers up and down the outside of the pad acted like a scroll wheel.
I cannot lie. I am old. I spent many years where “subtle” was the name given to a sledgehammer and a “screwdriver” was a hammer. I hit things for a living and consequently my fingers have all the sensitivity of an EDL rally. Add all that to my unwillingness to try new things and disaster looms. I tried to get used to all these things but me and you argued a lot in the early days. You thought I wanted to open another window whilst simultaneously cutting and pasting a link into an email, when in fact I wanted to click on a button and watch a funny video of a man falling over.
Plastic surgery was the answer. I used all my skill and resources and transplanted a much simpler mousepad software driver app operation upload interface tool patch. Thing. It worked. I was in love. I could move the cursor and point at things then move my finger three millimetres south and press a button and hey presto! A bloke would appear on my screen and fall over.
We had loads of adventures! You have accompanied me to the top of mountains, We have communicated our ideas to the world at many bars in Hong Kong. You have been through 18 security checks and on over 24 airplanes. You have even made a guest appearance at my parents house to show some photographs. This was risky. Technology has a habit of self destructing in the presence of Father, who regards cordless telephone very suspiciously.
Then you started to get old. Like a supermodel you seemed to resent your age and started to complain and make unreasonable demands. At first I could tolerate the five minutes of hysterics as you would tell me your hard drive was no more and your boot up system would not operate today. Simply switching you off and back again would bring you to life.
Your stamina started to fade too. This, again, I could tolerate. I am certainly slowing down so I could forgive you that your battery life was no longer six hours. So why did you not start to warn me? No, you just decided that the best thing you could do would be to simply shut down and do nothing until I carried your carcass home and plugged you back in for a re-charge.
Then you started to get cranky. I do not ask you to calculate re-entry for the space shuttle or how the global economy will perform. All I wanted was to look at facebook, read the papers and occasionally show me an amusing video. You now enjoy glaring at me as I enjoy a beer and decide that there is something you did yesterday that was acceptable must now be improved, and to that end you will download an update and my lunchtime will be spent watching a circle going round and round. After an hour of me looking at a blank screen you jump back to life and tell me you need re-start and show me the video of a fat man falling over. However, your battery has decided to keel over so in fact you are just a plastic lump that I need to carry home.

All the magical updates that you have had have meant I have spent countless hours looking at a blank screen, yet I regard you as slower than when I bought you. You are not faster or better, you are just older and slower, which is not a good thing. You are the love of my life, but are starting to be less useful than a wheel chock. Your lifespan is becoming less and your ability as a skipping stone is becoming more apparent every day.

It is with these sad words that I inform you that you are to be replaced. Younger and faster, slimmer and better looking. Something more useful and with more stamina. I just hope that Wife does not look at me with the same critical eye….

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Itchy, scratchy,horrible and nasty….

I have decided to show my support for Movember. This involves growing a bit of face-fungus on the upper lip. Yes, a moustache. Last time I decided to have a go with facial hair I grew a wild beard for several weeks. It went through the scruffy look straight to the Robinson Crusoe look without once pausing at looking slightly nice look. I was supposed to start cultivating on the first of November but unfortunately on the third I forgot and shaved it off! I started again and now have a “thing” under my nose that is both irritating and as attractive as uncontrolled wind. Wife smiles sadly at me in the morning and suggests that I come to work with her. “That way I don`t have to kiss you goodbye!”
I have shaved since I was fifteen, despite not actually having anything worth shaving until I reached nineteen. I would put bits of toilet paper on my face to try to impress girls with my “manliness”, a tactic which had as much success as my Ferrari badged bicycle clips. Shaving is a morning ritual that marks the start of my day. As I stare, bleary eyed, into the steamy mirror I wonder who crept in overnight and stole some of my hair and then dyed the rest grey. Of course Wife has more use of the bathroom in the morning as she berates me for “getting in the way”, “making me late” and of course “breathing”. I am normally hustled out of the way as she gets herself ready to go and earn my beer money.I try to keep out of the way as she rushes hither and thither and refrain from asking if she can do some overtime this week as my bar bill has crept up a bit this month.
Once peace has descended I return to the bathroom and whisk the five bladed turbo bionic XL super battery power nuclear energy razor across my face. Mind you last time I was in the supermarket there was a SIX bladed turbo bionic XL super battery power nuclear energy razor available, maybe I should have one of those next.
I do know one thing for certain. December is not Movember and this blasted moustache will not be seeing Santa!

Two years and two stone…

 It is now just over two years since I arrived in Hong Kong. Jet lagged and bewildered by planes, people and signs I was clipped around the ear by Wife and instructed to “Keep up!” as we headed to the taxi rank. Wife is one of those people who no longer need to look for signs and just know in which direction to head. Me? I am like a five year old, distracted by shiny things and flashing lights. We jumped into a taxi and waved a bit of paper with the address of the hotel under the drivers nose and he nodded and set off. My jet lag disappeared as I felt the urge to stick my head out of the window as the skyscrapers and buildings of the New Territories came into view.

 Since then I have become accustomed my new life in Hong Kong. I no longer tut disapprovingly as a door is left to slam in my face and the idea of a bus with no timetable or route no longer leaves me bewildered.  Time to do a list! The things I miss from England..

 1)  Pubs. If you have read any of my previous random ramblings, you may have got just an inkling of the fact I like to go to the pub. As I write this I am sat at a bar in the centre of Hong Kong drinking a very fine real ale.It is a very good bar. The staff are both friendly and attentive. The food is excellent and the atmosphere is welcoming. It is not, however,a pub. There is no open fire to toast ones buttocks and the floor is not covered in sleeping hounds.There is no grumpy old men moaning about the state of the country ( apart from me) and the staff bring you beer rather than having to elbow the bar-flies out of the way to get served.

 2)  Beer. The beer in the Globe is fantastic. One real ale and a huge selection of beers from around the world. It is not the same as wandering to the local and finding ten pumps to choose from. The thrill of surveying the pump clips and wondering which is the first one Wife will buy you.I do have to say I would be extremely churlish to moan about the lack of English beer when I am six thousand miles from home!

 3) The weather. I am English so the weather is an important topic of conversation. In a strange way I actually miss the cold weather. The temperature has hovered around thirty degrees for the last few months and I feel a strange longing for a frosty morning and wrapping up well to trudge of to the pub. I have to say that a few mornings of scraping the car and slip-sliding along an icy footpath would soon have me moaning and wishing for the heat of Hong Kong.

4) Light nights. As we have moved a tad closer to the equator, the days and nights do not vary by much. It feels odd in the middle of summer to put the lights on in the flat. I miss the nights sat outside our house in England in the summer, drinking beer as the sun gradually faded away. Of course the reality is that we would sit outside for half an hour and then put a jumper,hat, scarf and coat on until we finally decided that even in June it is just too damn cold to sit outside!

 5)  Owning a car. The transport system in Hong Kong is fantastic. The MTR whisks you along efficiently and there are more buses than you can shake a stick at. I do miss grabbing the car keys and heading of without needing to look at either routes or timetables. The main thing I do not miss of course is filling the tank with petrol. The cost of a weeks worth of fuel will keep us transported here for over a month.

6)  Friends and family. Possibly the biggest drawback. It was very difficult to leave everybody behind although skype,facebook and email make it a lot easier, it is still the one thing that makes it hard to uproot and move to foreign climes

7)   Morris Dancing. Nope, still cannot escape the fact that possibly the most irritating thing on the planet is so quintessentially English that I miss it so much. The drunken geography teachers skipping, hopping and waving sticks and hankies about. It is so dreadful yet so English. It brings a tear to my eye thinking about it.

8)    Steam fairs. You pay to go to a field and watch old steam engines wheeze and puff around an arena. You have to pay extra to visit the craft tent. There will be stands selling cheap tools and boxes of rusty metal. There may also be a beer tent….It normally rains and several things that were supposed to happen will be cancelled. What better way for an Englishman to spend his day off?

9)    English people. I have been told that I say
“Please”,”thank you and “sorry”, far too much. An Englishman is the one you
bump into who apologises to you. You stamp on his foot and he says he is sorry
for not getting out of your way. If that is a definition of being English then
I am actually fine with that

10)   Fish and chips. I have eaten fish and chips in Hong Kong. It has been jolly good too. But if you really want fish and chips you need a chippy on the way home from the pub. Soggy chips covered in a gallon of vinegar and enough salt to send your blood pressure through the roof. Crunchy batter that shatters as you bite into it, spraying shrapnel over the occupants of a nearby bus shelter. Anything else is a poor imitation of a british classic!

 So, all those things I miss. Do I want to head back to the UK? Not on your nelly!

Saturn and me

I am getting old. I neither feel old or particularly act old, yet time is advancing. I no longer leap out of my chair and my hair takes less time to wash yet strangely enough my face takes a bit longer. My “snap,crackle and pop” is no longer my choice of cereal but the sounds my joints make as I haul my carcase out of bed to make Wife her morning cup of coffee. I find that getting up of the sofa involves making a grunting noise normally associated with female tennis stars. I pick things off the floor by bending over in stages and surprise myself when I actually see my toes. Old age is inevitable yet creeps up like brakes fading on a car. When did I turn into my father? I remember him as a grumpy,old-fashioned,opinionated and intolerant man. I look in the mirror or hear myself chuntering away as I read the news and the answer becomes apparent, it was when I became his age!
Some phrases are a signpost on the way to old age. “Back in the day”, “You have it so good today”, and “You treat this bloody house like a hotel”. Of course not having children I never use the last phrase. The killer, the one that attracts your presence to the grim reaper and is guaranteed to display your age comes to us all…

” When I was your age!”.

Those words had scarcely left my lips when a guy wearing black and carrying an old agricultural implement tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hello!” I panicked. I blustered. Too late. It was over! I was never going to be young again. My mid-life crises of a motorbike and a train set became mere distractions on a one way journey to creaky bones and bifocals.
Is old age all that bad? I have not reached my half-century yet and I still enjoy life. I have fun, I go to the pub and even enjoy rock festivals. I cannot, in all honesty, say that i wish to be a callow youth again. I enjoy the fact that I no longer care much for what other people think of me and would prefer to be my slightly rotund shape with cash than my poor but flat stomached younger version. I had a wonderful time as a teenager and my twenties and thirties were fun too, but now I know how to enjoy myself and my confidence to try new things enables me to have a fun life.

All that said, it is a rare man who would not like to be young again.The energy, the vigour, the hair…! But can I please do it with money next time? Please?

The Download Diaries…part four.

Day four. Summer in England in a tent. That can only mean one thing. Rain. We donned our usual summer wear of waterproofs, wellies and hats and headed off for the other traditional English summertime tradition, the calorie-laden fry-up for breakfast. It was served on a paper plate and dissected with a blunt wooden knife and shovelled into the cake-hole with a fragile plastic fork. For all its deficiencies in cutlery and tableware, it more than made up for in taste. Fortified with bacon,eggs and toast we trudged to the arena. Today it was still muddy and cold, but the rain had decided to give us a break and we finally saw the Black Veil Brides, a favourite of my nephew`s, who was mightily impressed that his elderly Uncle wheelmonkey, (who is like really old and must be over thirty now…) actually got to see the band perform on the main stage.
After more beer and food we headed to the main stage to see the Steel Panthers. Spandex and hairspray took to the stage and I immediately felt thirty years younger. This was my era. I was even happier as the females in the audience suddenly felt the urge to disrobe. At this point I was rudely reminded that I am no longer a youth. My first thought was that she will be cold without her t-shirt on! I enjoyed the set, a joke that had a bit of good music behind it always goes down well.
As the ladies decided to put their clothes back on we headed for the bar selling the Otter brewery`s beer. I needed a nice pint and it was not a bad one either. The next band was on the second stage and called Skindred.I had read about this band and was convinced I would not like them. Reggae crossed with heavy metal, it sounded as appealing as a pint of Doombar with a cherry and a little paper umbrella in it. As ever in my life I was wrong. A lively and fun set including something I believe is called the “Newport helicopter”. This is where everybody is encouraged to take an article of clothing, (it was cold, I took my hat), hold it high in the air until told to swing it around. It sounds a rather strange thing but it is very impressive when a huge crowd suddenly starts to whirl all sorts of articles of clothing in the air. At one point in the set the singer started singing “All The Single Ladies”,normally performed by Beyonce. He waited until the crowd was all singing along and then berated them with ” Download, I am DISGUSTED that you know that!”.
Next band was Killswitch Engage, complete with the usual new/old singer. Wife, who is more clued up on these things than me informed me that the singer was the old singer who had re-joined the band, the singer I had seen at their last performance was the old singer who was now their old old singer…I was so glad she cleared this up for me. Old or new, it was a cracking set from a band that I had seen a few times before and had never failed to satisfy.
At this point I would like to say that I grabbed another beer and found a good place to watch Metallica. This would be untrue. It was so cold I had a coffee and satisfied myself with being able to see the video screen.
I thoroughly enjoyed Metallica. I have always enjoyed their music and I thought they did a good set, although I wish they had left the flame-throwers on a bit longer to warm us up. Wife, however, is not a fan. In the same way as marmite is the food of life to some and a poisonous black gunk to others, Wife does not “get it”. Still, she stood by me until they had finished and even admitted to enjoying “Sandman”. The next stop was surprisingly enough the bar back at the RIP campsite. Although the main bar had been shut down a tiny serving hatch was still open and we managed to get a couple of pints in before we headed back to our damp pitch. Nearly one in the morning…Rock`n`roll!

hill or mountain?

The weather outside the flat looked promising. The temperature was forecast to be mild and rain was a distant threat. I pulled on my trusty walking boots and pulled on a jumper. Pausing only to grab my ipod and a map I headed off to the wild outdoors. Of course, this being Hong Kong the outdoors has been tamed by well-marked trails and signposts. I set off from Tung Chung on a path alongside the MTR railway tracks. The views on my left should have been the mainland but due to haze all I could see was a few fishing boats and the Airport Express thundering past every few minutes. As I arrived at the start of the Hong Kong olympic trail I paused in a handy shelter to convert my trousers to shorts and pack my jumper into my rucksack. The Olympic Trail is a concrete path that leads to Mui Wo, however, despite the appeal of the Bahce and a pint of real ale from the Typhoon brewery, my destination today was Discovery Bay. Discovery Bay is home to many ex-pats who find the schools and the frequent ferry service to Hong Kong island an attraction. The main thing that attracted me there was the thought of a pint at McSorleys! I left the Olympic trail at the high point and turned a sharp left by the side of the “you are here” board and headed along a well-marked but rougher trail. The path wound along with a few ups and downs, more ups than downs but all seemed to be fairly steady walking.
I spotted the “keen” bloke a bit before he spotted me. He was hopping,skipping and generally progressing a lot quicker than my steady plod. He passed me with a quick glance and a cheery ” hello!”. If I could have caught him I would have given him a knuckle sandwich for his impudence! I mean, he was hardly drawing breath and I was wheezing like a blacksmith`s bellows.
Then it started to get steep. My heart rate rose like prices at christmas and my legs started to burn like the cheeks of a nun at a hen party. The sweat dripped in my eyes and every time I managed to raise my head I could see more and more “up” to go. I struggled manfully on, each step proof that I am getting old and losing the fitness I used to have when I was a callow youth.
Eventually I reached the summit and took the opportunity to breath without vomiting blood and take some pictures. The views were stupendous, according to the signboards there. Fortunately they showed me the names of the nearby hills and points of interest as they were all obscured by a mist and haze and I could see nothing apart from the trail downhill.
Off I set, relief that like life, it was all downhill from here. Would that it were! The pressure on my toes as my feet attempted to escape through the front of my boots was immense. Each step down was a mixture of a balance and a slither. My progress seemed harder than going up, if that were possible. However it soon became less steep although it was still tough on my delicate little tootsies. As I approached the outskirts of Discovery Bay the path once more became concrete and very easy to follow and it felt like civilisation was not far away. Once I got towards roads and pavements I felt slightly out of place with my walking boots and rucksack as everybody else was in flip-flops and coats. Finally I arrived at my destination! McSorleys Ale House. Closed. I muttered dark things under my breath and walked around the corner to a mexican restaurant. I cooled my brow with lager and filled my belly with a mexican paella.
After a time my breath became less laboured and my heart rate moved from a death-speed metal tempo to a smooth jazz beat. I looked at the surrounding mountains and consulted a map to see which route I would take back home. There was several routes back but I eventually decided on route DB01R, the bus!

I continually refer to mountains near me. There is no distinct and easy definition which will differentiate between a hill and a mountain.My definition is that I will sweat bullets getting to the top of a hill and I will nearly collapse before I get to the top of a mountain.

I also refer to Hong Kong. As any fule kno, Hong Kong is the island, the area of Hong Kong which includes Kowloon, the new territories and Lantau is refered to as Hong Kong SAR. I merely refer to Hong Kong as the whole lot to save keep writing SAR after every mention.