Saturday, September 03, 2005

Family Ties

Sorry I didn't post anything last night, my brother's round for the weekend and it seemed rude to ignore him while writing about his visit for internet nerds to read. Anyway, I'll resume talking about my life once I've stopped having one again.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Coningsby and Tattershall

I got a letter today from HSBC, telling me that following careful consideration they are having to close their Coningsby and Tattershall branch on 2 December 2005. All accounts are being transferred to the Boston branch, and the letter also reminds us that you can use self-service cash machines 24 hours a day, suggesting that we use the HSBC machines in Boston, Woodhall Spa, Horncastle or Sleaford. Rather than the other banks' cash machines in Coningsby and Tattershall, presumably.

I don't know why I've got this letter in the first place. As far as I know, my account has always been at the Boston branch, even when I was living in Tumby Woodside. That's the branch I went to when I wanted to open the account, anyway. I don't think I've ever been inside the one in Tattershall. Perhaps their system automatically registers the closest branch as your local one? Anyway, it's fairly irrelevant to me now I live in Derby, isn't it?

Still, it's sad to hear about that branch closing down. It suggests that the twin villages of Coningsby and Tattershall, where I spent a lot of time as a littlun, aren't prospering in the 21st century. And that's a shame. They're nice places. They have (or had) an old-fashioned friendliness about them that was something unusual even in the 1980s, from what I've heard about other places in those days. Even in the nineties, after I'd stopped going to school and cubs in Tattershall and Coningsby respectively, I used to cycle up to the weekly car boot sale at Tattershall leisure centre on a Sunday, and come to think of it often take money out from the cash machine at the Midland bank on the way. I'm getting all nostalgic, now. I'll have to go back there and see what a dump it always was, just to get it out of my system.

Tattershall is famous for its castle, which is fair enough. It's a cool place, although being red brick (albeit one of the oldest red brick buildings in the world) it doesn't look much like a proper castle should. But Coningsby's number one (and only) tourist attraction is the one-handed clock on its church tower. I have never seen why this should be considered a good thing. Surely that's just laziness on the part of the clockmaker? Oh, I've already put one hand on the thing, I won't bother with the other. The people of Coningsby only ever need to know the approximate time, anyway...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Why can't someone just give me a job without me doing anything?

Still, to look on the bright side, today's meeting has cured me of wanting to send my CV to any more agencies. The woman wants me to add some more bits to mine, describing what I actually do, that kind of thing. What people don't appreciate is that I haven't got the faintest idea what I actually do. Or at least, when I try to put it in words I soon realise that I don't actually do anything. I should really be doing that tonight, but I can't be bothered.

I think it's more important that I record the interesting fact that I can't type the word 'bright', like I did in the paragraph above, without getting it wrong and typing 'bridge' by mistake. I never notice until I've got to the end of the word, and then have to correct it. The reason for this, obviously, is that I spend more time typing about the Bridge than I do about how bright I am.

The Bridge is the currently-non-existent best chatroom on the internet, as I think I've mentioned before. I don't think I ever mentioned what it is, assuming that the only people who could possibly be interested in my daily outpourings of drivel would be VPSers, but just in case, the Bridge is our name for the message board feature of the Virtual Pooh Sticks website, which can when it's not dead be found at http://www.poohsticks.com.

For some reason I've never quite understood, the message board attracts intelligent, funny, friendly, kind, just-plain-nice people like some kind of magnet that only works on people of a certain disposition. It's hard to describe the sort of conversations that go on there, because there's very little in the way of subject matter that hasn't come up at one time or another - we'll have heated debates on politics or religion, extended make-believe sessions where we role-play sailing out to sea and discovering desert islands, critiques of TV, films, music and books, strong language and adult content, or even just not really saying anything and silently enjoying one another's company. Which isn't something that happens in most chat rooms, I'll bet.

The sheer volume of good friends I've made on the Bridge is quite staggering when I come to look at it. And so is the number of relationships, marriages and general life-changing effects the Bridge has brought to people over the years. There's a definite void in my life at the moment, and it's bridge-shaped.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The week’s been long and the job hunt’s tough

It's not, really. But that's another quote that only an elite few would recognise. However, I've registered with another agency since Michael Page haven't immediately found me a job without me having to do anything. I'm meeting the woman at the pub tomorrow lunchtime. They seem determined to find people jobs in Burton-on-Trent, which I really don't want. Possibly nobody else wants to work there either, which would explain why there's so many of them going.

I still hate looking for jobs. But I'll be quite glad to leave my current one, because there's really not much left to do there. On the other hand, starting a new job is scary. I really think I'm the kind of person who should be independently wealthy. Could someone arrange it for me?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Memory memories

For want of anything better to talk about, I was just thinking about the world memory championship in 2003. I still think that was the greatest championship in history, although there are plenty of other contenders for that title. I’m sure the Dominic O’Brien years produced plenty of thrilling contests, but I wasn’t around for most of them, and looking at the results they did tend to be a bit one-sided at least some of the time. 2002 was the most crushing victory anyone’s ever achieved – Andi was clearly light-years ahead of the field, Dominic included, right from the start. 2004 was nice because I won it, and this year was a close-run thing until Clemens ran away with it right at the end.

But 2003 was a notch above any of those years because we had six people fighting for first place that year – Andi not quite in the same kind of form as 2002 but still the man to beat, Dominic still never one to be written off, Gunther as determined as ever to improve on all those 2nd and 3rd places, Jan the often-overlooked dark horse who’s the best in the world when it comes to numbers, me having surprised everyone at the MSO six weeks previously and made it clear I could be among the top competitors, and Astrid making it clear in the first few disciplines that she had improved hugely since the last year’s event too.

And it went toing and froing between the six of us all the way through three days of heated competition. The mix between all the star names of the years gone by and the hot newcomers was something we haven’t really seen since then. And the setting was great too – the Prince hotel, Kuala Lumpur. Nicely air-conditioned, modern place in a swelteringly hot and humid, fantastic foreign city. It was a great holiday even without the championship. The Malaysian competitors were of a surprisingly low standard, with no sign of the really good ones who’d come to previous championships in England, but the mix of nationalities was the most varied we’d ever had, and the sheer volume of Malaysians and Indonesians made it still the biggest WMC ever. There was also a sketch artist who drew pencil portraits of everyone and pinned them up on the wall. Made me look much balder than I am, I’m sure.

Another thing we haven’t really had in another WMC – the competiton going right down to the crucial speed cards event. It was pretty much between Andi and Astrid by that point, unless they both failed to record a half-decent time, but nobody could predict a winner. It’s Andi’s specialist subject, but he also had a history of making mistakes under pressure. I wasn’t all that good at the cards in those days, and I was relieved to manage a 53-second pack to grab third place ahead of Gunther. Meanwhile, Andi held his nerve and just managed to win the championship by the narrowest of margins. Just to be there was fantastic.

Back to work tomorrow! Yay!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Newsflash

On the train on the way home, the conductor announced over the tannoy "Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you interested in the test match result, I'm pleased to tell you that England have won by three wickets."

It did occur to me that there might be people on the train who were planning to watch the highlights when they got home - this was half past six, and the train was only going as far as Sheffield, with plenty of time for everyone on it to get back home in time for the 7:30 highlights. Still, it's nice to know the train people care about keeping us all up to speed. The only other time I've known someone to make an announcement like this on a train was when the Queen Mother died while I was on the way back from London one time.

Anyway, I'm back now. With hindsight, The Unconsoled wasn't the best choice for something to read on the journey. When I'm reading a good book, I tend to start thinking like the central characters, and my usual nervousness with planes (I'm not worried about bombs or crashing, but I'm always terrified that I'll miss the plane or get on the wrong one by mistake or something) combined with Ryder's constant confusion and terror that everybody will realise that he doesn't know what he's doing all combined to get me almost panicky at Charles de Gaulle airport this afternoon. It didn't help when the security people pointed out something on the x-ray of my rucksack and asked me what it was. That's never happened to me before, and I had no idea what it could be, since as far as I could remember there was nothing but clothes in there. Turned out to be my alarm clock, which I'd forgotten all about. Perhaps it looks like a bomb from certain angles.

As for the othello, it's fair to say that I did terribly. 2½ points out of 11 is just abominable - I don't think I've ever in my life done so badly in a tournament, with the possible exception of the MSO back in 1999 when I didn't really have a clue what I was doing and found myself competing against the strongest international field you could hope to meet outside the world championships. Still, you can always learn from things like this. I can get pointers from the players who beat me - Kazia Zieba, during her exciting endgame against Tim Hoetjes, picked the right move by means of the time-honoured technique of eeny-meeny-miney-mo (or the Polish equivalent). But while I was losing to small girls, there was an exciting tournament taking place. I haven't seen the results yet (as previously mentioned, I had to dash off early), but the final was Graham against St├ęphane Nicolet, and I'd be willing to put money on Graham. For all his claims that he always comes second in these things, he's won just about everything so far this year. I'd put money on him for the world championship too, if only because these hypothetical bookies would give pretty good odds.

My train of thought in the game against Monique Lecat went a bit like this: "Okay, I've lost my first three games, but that's okay, because I was playing reasonably well, my opponents were all pretty tough, you should expect to end up against someone a lot worse than Bintsa Andriani after losing two games in the swiss system. Anyway, this should be a good time to start winning - I play Monique on the internet all the time and I usually win."

The opening: "Heehee, Monique Lecat plays the Cat opening. I wonder if Marcel Sneek will play the Snake? Come to think of it, I don't know what the Snake looks like, so I wouldn't know if he did. Anyway, I know how you're supposed to play this one, and I happen to know I'm winning at this point."

About 20 moves in: "Hang on a minute. We played exactly this game on the internet last week and I ended up losing. I can't remember how, but it all went wrong at about this point, didn't it? I'd better play something different. How about... this?"

A few moves later: "Hey, this isn't so bad. As long as I can run her out of moves, there won't be any problems."

About 40 moves in now: "Aargh. This is what the experts call over-minimisation, I think. Am I going to be able to get back enough pieces? In fact, what exactly am I going to do in this position?"

Shortly thereafter: "Lose horribly. That's what I'm going to do here. Sheesh."

End result - I lost 61-3. End result of the tournament, I came 25th out of 26 players. That's just bad.

All this othello reminds me that I need to do the annual accounts before the nationals next month. It's not like it's a big undertaking (and it's not like anyone's really interested in the end result as long as I tell them we've got money and we're not likely to stop having money any time soon), but seeing as it's my only real job as treasurer of the BOF, it's something I need to do properly, and it will take a bit of time. Maybe I'll do it tomorrow, seeing as it's a bank holiday, or maybe I'll just stay in bed. I'll see how I feel.