Through The Gate

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I pass this gate quite often while taking Titchika for her walk. The gate divides two fields: one for dog-walkers, the other for arable farming.
Perhaps the word “fence” would be a more appropriate description of it than “gate”, as it hasn’t been opened in many years.
The gate is covered with barbed wire, the posts and the banks of the hedgerow are covered with nettle, bramble and fern.
On a warm day, we often head for the shade, beneath the trees, and admire the view from the gate.
At the moment, the field beyond is thick with wheat, almost ready for harvest.
In the bottom of the valley, there is a wood where pheasant can be heard, calling-out with that odd sound they make.
On the distant flank of the opposite side of the valley, there is a horse paddock; when they are there, the horses look magnificent, almost majestic, even from this distance.
It’s just one everyday thing we take for granted . . .

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Never In Doubt, Ever!

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Manchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2

For over an hour, ten-man Bayern Munich gave Manchester City a master class in “keep-ball” and “hitting-on-the-break” football, comfortable in their 2-1 lead.

After weathering quite some Bayern pressure, City took the lead with a Sergio Aguerro penalty after he was tripped by Benati, who was sent off for his desperate challenge. Goalkeeper Neuer almost got a hand to the powerfully struck penalty.
City were then cruising toward a victory that would have lifted them from the bottom of their group to 2nd place, on goal-difference, until the 40th minute, when a low Xabi Alonso free-kick curled around the wall, inside Joe Hart’s left post. Ah, the agony.
Never mind; City would go into half-time level and come out fighting.
Well, no, they wouldn’t as, five minutes later, the conceded another goal, a header by Lewandowski, which bounced off his shoulder, over Hart’s grasping hands.
Cruel luck, yes, but Bayern had enjoyed 63% of possession of the half.

The second half was a truly frustrating sight for the home supporters, as attacks fizzled-out to nothing due to the stoic defending of their opposition, and the half was becoming a niggly stalemate. Fullbacks Clichy and Zabaleta earned themselves daft bookings.
Home fans began rolling out of the ground, shaking their heads in dismay, while their opposite numbers danced and sang towards their inevitable victory.

But City are renowned for their late comebacks and tonight was no different!
In the 85th minute, Alonso’s pass went stray and substitute Stevan Jovetic tapped the ball into the path of the on-rushing Aguero, who passed the ball into the goal, off Neuer’s left-hand post. Two-each, and City were rallying.
Into injury, a ball was sent forward for Aguerro to chase again, Jerome Boateng intercepted but only played it into the Argentinian striker’s path and he went on to beat Neuer again to complete his triple.
3-2 to City? You better believe it! A special mention must be for both Frank Lampard and James Milner, who linked-up very well together, and had a couple of chances each, but there’s no doubt who’s night this finally belonged to.
Now, bring on Roma!

How I Fell Victim of a Recruitment Scam in the UK

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Interesting . . . I just applied for a vacancy with Benchmark Advertising, whose MD was at Montana Marketing

Zainab Usman

Wednesday 19 th October was unlike most days. Apart from my excitement in anticipation of my long-awaited trip to Paris the next day, I was woken up in the morning by a phone call and an email simultaneously from two firms in Birmingham, namely Primus UK and S5 Marketing , inviting me for a job interview the next day. I got a job by Friday 21st with Primus UK Ltd and by Monday 24 th , I had quit the job because it turned out I fell victim to an elaborate recruitment scam in the UK, otherwise known as Cobra Pyramid Scam or Marketing Pyramid Scheme .

Such scams have apparently been going on for a number of years, especially in the wake of the global recession. They post deceptive jobs on recruitment websites with misleading job specifications, to lure and exploit their victims before the victims wise up and…

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CityLink, Friday

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Monday, when I began multi-drop driving, via an agency, was the biggest online shopping day of the year and, as a result, Wednesday and Thursday were the busiest days here.
Friday morning, today, looked to be fairly busy but, as I write, there are seven of us drivers sat in the canteen, waiting for something to do; one driver, Sam, came in but was stood down due to an incident yesterday.

Liz, a friend who used to work at the Ship, popped in, bored waiting for her odds and sods. Andy from the Drum is doing a similar run as yesterday.
I hope I get something closer than Bodmin and Truro today; it takes ages to get out and back, especially when getting a Pink slip from Tamar Bridge as CityLink don’t have nearly enough tags.

I have quite enjoyed it, but it is a bit stressful when you don’t know where the hell you are and lose time through zigzagging.

NightmareFreight

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My friend, Chris, had already told me what a ghastly mess ShiteFreight was in, so, when I arrived there on Wednesday morning, I was prepared for the surprise or shock at what a state the place was in.

Wednesday – Friday: bedlam

I introduced myself to Darren, the supervisor, who was off-handed and avoided any sort of genuine eye contact; okaaaaay, not a good start.
I was about to grab my wallet out of my pocket to show him my Driving Licence, surely a minimum requirement for your first day on any driving job, but he just handed me the lorry keys, vehicle condition check sheet and delivery list, and directed me to the loading platform. After an all too brief vehicle check, I began loading up.

Oh dear, disorganized bedlam is found to be the order of the day, here.
All the consignments, of whatever size, weight and shape, were strewn around in as haphazard manner as could ever be imagined.
Everything you wanted to load was buried under or behind heaps of parcels, mattresses, boxes, pallets.
Never-the-less, I got on with it as much as I could, and was assisted by the warehouse staff after they had finished loading the others. My lorry was loaded in the same way as the warehouse platform, ie thrown in with no regard as to what order they would be needed, as quickly as possible, AMs last for quicker access, though.

After closing and locking the shutter, I went up to the Traffic Office for Darren to print off the Manifest which, AMs apart, bore no resemblance to the order in which they were loaded. Upon return to the lorry, I made a few quick adjustments to the load, but this was still going to be messy, I thought, and so it proved to be.

I finished that first day tired, frustrated and thoroughly pissed-off, in two minds as to whether or not to return the next day.
Maybe the next day would be better . . .

It wasn’t; despite better organising the load, it was still a bloody mess. There wasn’t much point in my loading-up much of it on my own, until I could get some help, as there were several heavy items and we had to de-pallet some of it and handball it aboard.
Of course, when Darren printed-out the manifest, it was all arse-about-tit, so I decided to ignore the order it was printed in, but still managed to group deliveries by area, where possible, and sorted the load as I unloaded.
Maybe Multi-drop isn’t for me, I told Kate the Admin, during one of our frequent “Where the hell are you?” phone calls.

On the Friday, they gave me the heavier stuff, which was easier to load but more difficult to unload. It took an eternity to get around the Dockyard and some of the other drops were rather awkward or too busy, so I had to return later, or not in.
When I finished, Kate asked if I will be working the next week, to which I half-heartedly agreed, thinking that the weekend was upon us, so maybe I could relax and, hopefully, catch-up on my sleep and come back in a fresher, healthier frame of mind.

Monday: farce

I arrived at the depot early, good & positive and was told that I was on the heavy stuff again: four deliveries around deepest darkest Cornwall, then re-fuel on the way back to depot, load-up again for Plymouth and Ivybridge.
I did my vehicle checks and loaded up on bay. The cab was that filthy I’d have to drive with my gloves on!
There was: a huge, heavy consignment of farming equipment, on a broken pallet, which would have to go in last; another pallet-load, which was strapped-in to the front; some long, heavy kitchen equipment; and a consignment of 25 loose parcels, packages, bundles and rolls. After we loaded, we struggled to drop and lock the rear shutter; the spring was really tight, the shutter had come off a runner; and the catch was missing, replaced by a flimsy-looking chain.
Not ideal, but I could see that it had been driven like that for a while, so it MUST be ok, yes?

After obtaining the manifest, in the wrong order, of course, I departed. However, when I was on the A30 dual-carriageway, an overtaking van driver beeped his horn and his passenger shouted to me that the back was open. I turned off at the next exit, the A391, not realising then that there was a Parking layby a mile up the road. I stopped on the roundabout up the slip road and tried to close the shutter. Over and over again, I tried, but to no avail; I could only manage to drop it about a foot from the bottom. The spring at the top was over-tightened and I didn’t have enough weight on me for it.
No choice; I had to phone the depot.

“It’s been like that for ages. Nobody else has complained, they’ve just got on with it,” Darren said, as if that justifies sending people out in vehicles of such a dangerous state.
“Really? Well, I’m not everybody else,” I said. “It’s my driving licence and livelihood that’s at risk if I get caught or have an accident.”
I thought, If something falls off, maybe killing somebody, I could go to prison, so I’m not driving it like this, just so he meets his targets and gets his bonus!

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The shutter door-latch, showing the chain and missing door catch

About an hour later, DAF Trucks turns up and loosens the shutter springs, making it marginally easier. While waiting, I had a few more goes and got the shutter down to about 3” from the base, but couldn’t quite make it. He had a go at closing the shutter and managed to get it down, but couldn’t close the lever as both hands were needed just to keep the shutter down.

I got under way again but it wasn’t long before more drivers began tooting their horns at me and pointing to the rear. This happened again and again, until I arrived at DAF Trucks, finding that the shutter doors had flung open, yet again. They didn’t have any catches in stock, so would have to adapt something, but the engineers didn’t have a decent, working plan, as they weren’t shutter specialists, and were thinking about welding the lock-arm to its hook, as its spring was missing, allowing the arm to flap about and cause the hook to jump out.
I suggested using the flimsy chain, which had a hook on the end and drilling a hole through the steel base of the truck bed and the chain could hook around the latch arm; this seemed to work fine, for now.

Hurray! I could now begin delivering my consignments! I’d only lost about two and a half hours, by now, because somebody could be arsed maintaining his fleet!
To be honest, though, I was considering leaving the lorry there and catching the train, and billing ShiteFreight for the train ticket; if Darren can’t be bothered, why should I?

After the day’s numerous phone calls, and using the satnav system, the iphone battery was running low and my adapter was no longer working, but I managed to find my way to the first couple of drops ok before it died.
I got directions for the third from the customers and staff at St Keverne PO. This was the BIG one, the half-ton of farming equipment on the broken pallet. It took about an hour to get it unloaded, in two parts, slung from a forklift truck. Separating it was the biggest problem, as it was heavy and bulky, and all staff but one had gone home.
Eventually, I left, both of us forgetting that there was also a pick-up from there, and not realising until I got to Helston.

I got some directions from him for the next drop, but arrived there shortly after five pm, by which time everybody had gone home, and that was on my mind too, so I headed for home.
I’d long decided, that day, that it would be my last day there; it was far too disorganized, messy, clumsy, frustrating, stressful and angering to continue, and should be two-handed with those size/weight consignments.

When I got back, that Darren was there straight away, as I was reversing in, fretting about his target and his bonus, and whether I’d made all my deliveries and collection. I handed him his manifest, checking for signatures, however both pens had run out of ink so one signature was missing. I didn’t care though; it was my last minutes there.
After parking the rotten wreck, I climbed the steps up to the Traffic Office and plonked the rest of the stuff in a tray on a desk; it had gone beyond half-past seven, by now.
“Right, I’m going home, now,” I said, without stopping.
“See you,” Darren said.
“I don’t think so,” I replied, closing the door behind me.

Upshot

With that sort of disorganized operation and piss-poor attitude, it’s no wonder ShiteFreight have had so many on-the-spot driver walk-out, and very few last there very long, as I was informed by staff there.

It’s also no wonder they are changing the name; the sooner they disassociate with their present name, the better, but I suspect it’ll still be just as crap.

The Lighter

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It never fails to impress me what I find whilst taking Titchika, my Alsatian, for a walk in the woods.
Usually this consists of lost tennis balls and discarded trainers, although I did once manage to find a Volvo Peta engine, in a plastic fishbox, tied down under a tarp; there were no vehicle tracks, skid marks, or anything to distinguish how it got there at all.

Now, couple of days ago, while I waited for Titchika to come back from chasing squirrels, I happened to look down and saw some sort of shape covered in mud. I stooped down and picked it up and, after a wiping some soil from it, found it to be an old cigarette lighter.

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Above: the cigarette lighter found in the woods

I put it in my pocket and took it home with me, intending to clean it up and, maybe, get it working, if it wasn’t altogether unredeemable.

Me being me, I forgot about it for a couple of days, until I put my hand in my jacket pocket, before taking Titchika for her morning walk. So, when I returned home, I got to work on cleaning it up a bit; I gently scraped off many years worth of soil and mud that had ingrained into the lighter’s body and crevices.

Whilst cleaning the lighter and as it wasn’t very far away from where I found a pouch of coins earlier this year; I began to wonder to whom the lighter once belonged: male, female, young, old, were they in the woods exercising their dog, just passing through or, perhaps, working?
Also, I wondered if the coins and lighter were owned by the same person, but I discounted that idea when I found that the lighter was gas-fuelled, not petrol, and the latest coin year was 1927.

Imaginings On A Short Train Journey

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I’m on the train from Exeter St David’s to Plymouth after spending the day within the stuffy confines of a training room.

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A train at Exeter St David’s station

Whenever I travel by train to or from “Up North”, this the part of the journey I always enjoy the most: views of Exeter Cathedral, the Exe estuary, the coast and the sea, the Teign estuary, tiny villages and hamlets, Dartmoor.

I’m sure there are more scenic railway journeys in the world, a few, of which I have enjoyed or endured, but this one is different, to me, personally, as it takes me both toward and from home, whichever direction I travel.

Not only is the route beautiful but some of the places the train rattles through are beautifully and evocatively named; Starcross, Dawlish, Teignmouth, Totnes, Rattery, Wrangaton, Bittaford, Ivybridge, Laira and Mutley. Just try NOT to imagine a cunning and adventurous story, in your head, when you think of or see them!

Starcross always reminds me of Llaregub in Under Milk Wood;
Dawlish, bounded by rusty-red cliffs, gives me a mystery from the great days of steam;
Teignmouth harbour alludes to some nautical epic up there with Moby Dick;
Totnes, with its castle and Georgian buildings evokes a Medieval battle or Thomas Hardy-esque tale of endurance and hardship;
Rattery, surrounded by greenery, yields tales of deceit;
Wrangaton and Bittaford, on the old Roman road, stagecoach evoke plundering highwaymen, with their call of “Stand and deliver! Your money or your life!”;
Laira, before the coming of the railway was a busy waterway with several inlets, rife with tales of smuggling in depths of the night;
Mutley, a suburb of Plymouth, could have been and murderous place to dwell or visit.
Then, of course, there is Plymouth itself; now what couldn’t happen there?

Yes, the imagination is a wonderful thing!

A Modern Miracle, I Guess

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Although I am usually a modest sort of chap, not one to boast or brag, I am the very model of the modern miracle of recovery.

For example, in 1988, the doctor said I was lucky to still be able to walk following a bad football tackle.
Well, “tackle” would not really describe it: during a Five-A-Side match, an opponent was about to shoot, so I jumped in to block. He completely missed the ball but connected with my left knee very powerfully. I dropped to the floor of the sports hall, writhing in agony, as everybody else professionally carried on playing.
Needless to say, I was off work for a couple of months as I could not walk properly.
Three months of gentle cycling helped strengthen the knee and I resumed playing footie about eight months later, in 1989, missing most of that seasons’ Sunday football league fixtures.
Yes, looking back, I was quite lucky to still be mobile, but you don’t appreciate it, at the time.

Several minor injuries occurred until, in 2011, my doctor again said I was lucky to be able to walk, never mind run or cycle, due to work-related back injuries that began about 2008; after several sessions treatment by an Osteopath, most of the back pain had gone and I began walking without the aid of the trekking pole that had become something of a trademark.

The back injury returned, for no apparent reason, exactly a year later in April 2012, lasting about a month, this time. It occurred as I was in training for a long distance cycle touring venture, from Santander to Roscoff, a distance of about 750 miles, which isn’t a massive distance to experienced cycle-campers, but this would be my first go.
If I had called it off, I would have let down a friend, and myself, so I persevered, after I recovered enough to walk again.
So, to aid my recovery, I bought myself an exercise bike and built-up my distances and duration incrementally before returning to the road bike.
My endurance and distances grew to about 70miles, and I managed to get my time down from 7hrs to 5hrs, over the last couple of weeks prior to departure. However, in the back of my mind, there was the niggling doubt that my back pain my return if I overdid it.

During the journey, fear of crippling myself and failing to complete the journey, and looking a prick, spurred me on to complete mental and physical goals, busting psychological ghosts and barriers along the way.

Despite suffering THREE punctures on the final day, I completed the journey, boarding the Roscoff to Plymouth ferry with only ten minutes to spare.
Another minor miracle!

Touch wood, despite some back pain returning every so often, I can still walk and cycle, although my running days are over.

Look after your back . . .

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