Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Post office strike

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So, the Post Office are on strike? Well then, if you want more money, don't screw up my post.

I received a letter which I was expecting this morning, containing (or, as we will subsequently discover, not containing) a 3G Vodaphone dongle.

Rather than arriving in the normal way, emblazoned with a stamp, crisp, shiny and reminiscent of Christmases past, this package, for all its brilliant yellow envelope, was encased in a slightly shabby plastic bag, bearing the legend ‘ Our Sincere Apologies’.

The dongle was in a card envelope, standard 100g one. That in turn was in a Royal Mail plastic bag, upon which were the words:

Our Sincere Apologies

Dear Customer,
I am sorry that the enclosed item, addressed to you, has been damaged whilst in our care. Although we do all we can to prevent such damage, it does occasionally occur.

If you think any of the items are missing or damaged, you can obtain the form ‘Lost, damaged or delayed inland mail’ by phoning your local Customer Service Centre on 08457740740 (all calls charged at local rates) or from Post Office® branches and we will arrange for investigations to be made.

For more information please refer to Royal Mail’s Code of Practice booklet, your guide to our service standards.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.

Yours sincerely

Customer Service Manager

Telephone: 0845 740 740

Except the envelope hasn’t been damaged. It has been opened- neatly. And the Dongle has gone.

So you cannot have a pay rise until you learn how to send letters without stealing from them.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Fray Bentos Pies

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Chez Manley, Friday is Fray-day as we celebrate the joy that is the Fray Bentos pie.

It is only as relatively recently as recently that I discovered that Fray Bentos was not named after a brace of culinary geniuses who I had presumed were named Messrs Bentos and Fray. No, gentle reader, it is in fact a small town of 25000 in South West Uruguay, close to the Argentine border.

The town appears to have pretty much always produced processed meat in one way or another and the site of the Liebig Extract of Meat Company (which was responsible for such meaty goodness as Oxo) now boasts a rather smashing museum, presumably dedicated to the mighty Fray Bentos Pie.

Personally I have always favoured the Fray Bentos Steak and Kidney Pudding, but the family Manley grows and, with it, the menu must adapt to meat [sic] every palette. Now Fray-days can stretch beyond steak and kidney, through to such delights as the Fray Bentos Mince Beef and Onion Pie (as recalled in late 2008 for containing shards of metal) or even the god-awful mushroom one.

So, I knew that Fray Bentos was owned by Premier Foods (The UK's largest manufacturer of foodstuffs), and I was not overly surprised to learn that, thanks largely to the UK market, last year the Fray Bentos brand was worth around £30million, but I am shocked to learn that, despite the huge success of the little pies from South America's cattle country (Fray Bentos Pies command a 94.6% market share), Premier Foods intend to change the Fray Bentos brand.

One of the positives from this is a Tender 'Just Steak' Fray Bentos Pie offering, which I welcome, but there is a massive downside.

"all recipes across the entire range have been improved, with a 20% reduction of salt per pie and no artificial colours and flavourings"

Why ruin my Fray Bentos Pie? I love it just the way it is. Oh, and there is more. . .

Why, PF, why? Why destroy the Fray Bentos Pie brand? You know it is successful, why ruin it?

Rob Stacey, who is something to do with Marketing at Fray Bentos pies, apparantly has been saying that: “The evolution of the Fray Bentos pie has led to the perfect recipes being created. These new modern recipes will attract sales from a wider consumer base without losing our original following of “Great British Blokes”. Premier Foods and Fray Bentos are making it our priority to create the ultimate pie and hot canned meal which can be eaten by any family, couple, or student.”

Well Rob Stacey, I say that you are a tit. Fray Bentos Pies were perfect, you are just going to wreck them and the “Great British Blokes” really are not a real persona to target, After all, the “Great British Blokes” are generally not going to be doing the shopping anyway, so you need to be targeting the “Beaten British Wife”, you bell-end.

I mean, really. Fray Bentos Pies are and almost saturation brand, utterly in control of their market, and they go and pull a stunt like this. I suppose that every Marketing Manager wants to put their stamp on a brand, but let's not stamp on the brand, eh?

I'll leave you with the complaints of Tricia, who feels that the new Fray Bentos Pie tine are too thick and even goes as far as questioning whether the new recipe is worth the extra effort needed to get to it.

Fridays may become fry-days at this rate, Fray Bentos. Don't forget your user base. I seriously believe that, in an economic climate which should benefit the Fray Bentos Pie, you may just have made a blunder which simply removes your product from the eyes of the consumer and opens the floor to a new pretender.

Then where will Uraguay be, eh? Apart, obviously, from in South America.

Monday, 28 September 2009

An updated interface - Hacklab's automated tweeting toilet.

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The crazy fellows at hacklab have produced a toilet which tweets every time it is flushed.

If you follow @hacklabtoilet, and I cannot imagine why you would not want to, then you'll get to see every time the flush is activated (or at least as often as it works).

The full tech spec is available here, should you wish to set up a similar device, or if you want to follow someone more interesting then you could do a lot better than My Lordship. Really, you could do better.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Oxley Cold Distilled Gin

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I am a big gin drinker. Let's face it, I am a big everything, but I do like a nice gin. Bombay Sapphire, my home made sloe gin, Plymouth, Larios, Tesco Dry London, Tanqueray or Hendricks (especially Hendricks), I'll drink it. The way I see it, short of novelty flavours, you are going to have to go a long way to pique my interest with something new on the gin front.

with their cold distilled gin, Oxley have done so.

The Oxley twist is that their ‘super premium’ gin is produced using a "cold distilling" process. 14 different botanicals are macerated in grain spirits, then the macerated grain is hand spooned into the kettle. Rather than heating the micture, in the traditional manner, a vacuum is then created, which causes the alcohol to vaporize at just -5°C.

The vapour then condenses in a secondary probe at -100°C, from where the liquid gin is hand collected in one of the 120 bottles a day which is produced. That is just 480 bottles a week - when you make gin this good you can afford a day off.

Obviously this all sound a little gimicky, so I had to taste it. I was pleasantly surprised. Apparantly "Oxley has a mild juniper bouquet that gives rise to intense, almost sweet, herbals on the tongue only to surprise with a return of juniper vapor. The mouth feel is very smooth and the martini it makes is excellent". All I know is that it was the cleanest tasting gin I have experienced.

Oxley also employ continuous distillation. Where batch distillation can mean that an amount of flavour is lost in the heads and the tails of each batch, where continuous distillation continually extracts the pure gin.

The Oxley bottle, with its sartorially worn galvanized tin bucket around the bottom a leather cord 'fashionably twisted around the neck' is quirky but tasteful, but it is not cheap at around $100/litre.

Indeed, it is too expensive for me, but . . . because of the low output, Oxley bottles are individually numbered. Whilst looking around I came across #00063 and my interest was aroused. Some time later we discovered #00073 and #00075 (which Dug purchased, it being the year of our birth). I was considering #00063, but had decided to leave it (it is very expensive gin) when #00069 was discovered.

I now own bottle number 69 of Oxley cold distilled gin. I just need to convince myself to open it.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Stop turning me against Freddie.

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I love Flintoff, he's a great British all rounder and I love his happy approach to the game (in contrast to, for example, Collingwood).

That said, I am getting fed up with Freddie fever.

Hearing today that Broad's performance yesterday was a rival for Freddie's at Lords was supremely irritating. 5-37 is considerably better than 5-92, whichever way you look at it.

His batting has not been extraordinary either:
37 + 26 at Sophia Gardens
4 + 30 (not out) at Lords
74 (and a good 74 at that) at Edgbaston
7 at the Oval.

An average of nearly 30 is not bad, but it is not even as good as Collingwood who scored only 4 runs across both innings at Headingly, where Flintoff was rested.

Bowling he has 8 wickets for 375 runs, which is not comparable to Collingwood's better 1 for 38 (because of the difference in scale), but Anderson has taken 12 for 496, despite playing in the disaster that was Headingly and Broad has racked up an astonishing 17 for just 473 runs.

I'm not saying Flintoff isn't great, he is, and I am not expecting him to perform as well as the batsmen and the bowlers, but why he is being lauded to quite the extent he is, I cannot understand. Sadly this media frenzy is turning me against him, when I want desperately to have him leave the scene with a great series.

Yes he is good, but he's no Botham.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The remainder of Nadia

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I turned up this morning to find this:

which amused me, slightly.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Nadia + Laurence Dallaglio = Sturdy Girl.

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This is Laurence Dallaglio, we escorted him from the premises of the pub (John Gandy's). We hope we can go back.

We think he is too Manley and so we have taken a model from a high street retailer who we call Nadia (because we have 'no-idea' what her real name is) and cut her head off. This hurt quite a lot. Not her, me. Donna, I am sorry, but your weak girly scissors were not suited to the job of hacking through cardboard. After all, this was not just any cardboard, this was hard, laminated High Street Retailer cardboard.

Because it hurt so much, David Tapp took over cutting duties. He likes it really and made a particular fuss of her hair.

This is the finished product. It looks a little like Sturdy Girl, b3ta's favourite celebrity:

She is fine! We like a girl whose neck doesn't quite fit her shoulders. And there ends the blog.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Locked in.

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Today I became locked in the lavatory with no paper.

This would be less irritating if it were not for two aggravating factors:

  • I would have had enough paper had I not blown my nose several times whilst on the job.
  • I had to call David Tapp to come and rescue me.

    The toilet roll dispenser takes two rolls, each huge to the point of ridicule, so that when one is empty a slide allows access to the second. Sadly the second was not there today. I have yet to kill the cleaner.

    David, bless him, came to my rescue by bringing a life-size cardboard cut-out of Lawrence Dallaglio into the toilets and assaulting the cubicle.

    Thankfully he assaulted the cubicle next to me and I was able to get some paper and return to a full ovation in the office.


  • Have I died of Swine Flu yet?

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    Thursday, 16 April 2009


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    Today is a lovely day for a Ginness.


    Preparation method

    1. Gently pour Guinness into a straight pint glass.
    2. Place the ice cubes in a tall, narrow glass.
    3. Add the Hendricks and the tonic water onto the ice cubes.
    4. Stir gin mixture well with a long spoon.
    5. Upend gin into the pint glass with the Guinness.
    6. Garnish with lime wedge and serve immediately.
    7. Rinse and repeat.

    * Calories 298.4
    * Protein 2.0g
    * Sugars 29.6g
    * Total Fat 0.3g
    * Salt 8.8mg

    Tuesday, 10 February 2009

    Blind as a bat.

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    Having travelled up to That London for the last couple of days of last week, I am feeling positively cosmopolitan.

    I had a lovely dinner, although their idea of a commentworthily huge meal in That London equates to a goodly sized bit of beef and too few chips in Exeter, but what can one do? I met some ex-Future people who were pretty much universally nice and it was excellent to see Melvin again after so long.

    Perhaps I had better return to ground with which you, my gentle reader, will be familiar. Me.

    Not a huge update, I went to the optician. I have been having a few headaches and so I toddled along for a check. The optician is nice enough, but she has terrible breath and a very hairy top lip, which is disconcerting when she leans in to within a mere 27 beard seconds of my face to peer at my retina.

    After the normal puffs of air to the face and the watching the balloon test, I have some smashing news: "You have the best long distance vision I have ever measured . . .".

    Woo! Yay! Hooplah! Maybe even a punani, except, wait. There was an ellipsis in there, wasn't there? There is a 'but' coming. Oh dear. I know that to many of you this will seem like a petty thing, I am a middle aged man with receding hair, a proceeding stomach and a hopefully infertile scrotum, so how unexpected can it be that my eyesight might be failing? Well, let me tell you this, it is utterly arse!

    ". . . but you will need a prescription for VDU use".


    The overtly camp technician leads me back to the front desk to discuss my glasses, and hands me over to a woman cut from the receptionist mould.

    There is something about Doctor and Dentist receptionists which can only be bred there. I sincerely believe that all medical receptionists and school secretaries are from the same original stock. If ever there was an argument for creation and short-Earth theories then it must surely be the guileless, embittered women who inhabit the desks and counters of our nations monopolies.

    They know that you have nowhere else to go, you see. They sense that you absolutely need to have the tooth drilled, or to let the headmaster know that little George will be out of class for the next few days with a vomiting bug, so they can be as obnoxious as they like and there is nothing you can do about it.

    As long as they smile and remain officious whilst they drain every last drop of joy from your situation, they know that any retaliation on your part will merely mark you down as 'one of them'. You know it too, you have seen them, the ones who are either genuinely unpleasant to begin with or, in the face of constant whittling bile from the haggard spinster behind the Formica worktop, finally snap and storm off in a cloud of expletives. There is no benefit in that, the receptionist merely retains the high moral ground and has another example to prove that the customer is always wrong. You know this and she knows this and, worst of all, she knows that you know it.

    There can be no benefit to the human species for these abominations to have arisen naturally. There is nothing in the phenotype which could be classed as a positive variance. Indeed, the receptionist only truly serves to hinder mankind's progress. The only possible explanation remaining is that the receptionists are created by a deity, the alternative, that these acrimonious termagants actually engage in sexual relationships, is too absurd to contemplate.

    So, we return to the shrew at hand. Now I only want to wear these glasses when I am in front of a VDU - I do not need them even for reading paper-based print, so appearance is of no real consequence. I mention this and she releases the smallest of sneers. Do not get me wrong, I have long ago learned to face The Receptionists with equanimity, I am not becoming even mildly riled by this crone, indeed I would be far more shocked were she polite or even human, I am merely relaying the situation. To cut a long story short, my lenses are to cost me £225, plus frames. "Shall we start at the cheapest and work up?" she asks with the belittling tone which suggests that a pauper like myself needs assistance.

    This is another trait of The Receptionists, they always look down on mere mortal men. Be they manning an NHS drop in desk, behind a Post Office counter or idling away, processing the return of faulty goods at Marks & Spencer, they know you need them and somehow translate this into a superiority which must prove that they are a separate breed. Were these really the poorly paid jobs which The Receptionists pretend, propagating the myth through the advertising of false vacancies in the local press, then their universal confidence that the wealth of the customer does not match up to their own high standards could not be maintained. I digress.

    "No, let's not".
    "Sorry Mr Manley?"
    "Let us not 'start at the cheapest and work up'" I should stress here that I am calm and not angry, just conversational, "Let's just leave it for now, eh?"
    "I am sorry Mr Manley, but the optician does say that you need glasses for VDU work."
    "Well, I have managed long enough and I rather think that 85 pints of Spitfire might well go further towards relieving the stress than a brace of glass discs. Good day ma'am."

    I feel elated as I leave the shop. It is not that I have saved £300, but that I have shown one of The Receptionists that I do not need her. I can operate alone. I am a free man. I still need glasses. Bugger.

    I slink, yes 'slink', I am not sure that my chin was actually clear of the floor tiles, into another optician, clutching my prescription and avoiding those with thicker spectacles in the hope that my newly discovered ocular deformity will not become exasperated by their condition. The Receptionists await me.

    There are three of them, they ignore me. We have all been ignored by The Receptionists, they type at their terminal or hold a telephone to their ear for precisely 5 seconds longer than one can bear before raising their eyes to you. This is different. The Receptionists are not doing anything. Nothing at all. They are merely standing still ignoring My Lordship. The word has been passed.

    The fear hits me and I can feel the sweat trickling down the nape of my neck for a full 2 minutes. I attempt conversation, "Hello". Nothing. A direct assault "Hello? Could any of you help me at all, please?". Nothing. Eventually I resort to a fully flanking attritional attack, using a passing little girl, "When you grow up, you make sure that you are not as rude as these ladies". Nothing.

    A pretty girl comes over and says pointedly 'They will be with you in just a second' and suddenly all three of The Receptionists clamour to assist. Have I discovered the hedgemon? I leave the three to cackle a-whiles and approach the spectacular hive queen, who manages to sell me a pair of bins, with lenses, for a modest £25 and am away into the night.

    Thursday, 5 February 2009

    16 weeks; the final outing.

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    Well, I am something of an old hand at this now, having dropped off my first semen specimen almost 4 weeks ago.

    I am riding Matthewparker's Lemond Reno, so I am being exceptionally careful today. There is nothing like having a pot of his own ejaculate in his pocket to make a man cycle with care.

    This is the point at which everything comes together. based on this deposit Jim could stop using contraceptives and we can safely go on with our lives, OR the pain could have all been for nothing.

    It is not really exciting, more worrying. still hurt too much to risk and serious cycling.

    Whilst the pot is enormous, it is not as large as a fat cat. Bun is not actually sniffing the bag, it is a clever trick of perspective. Woo!

    Anyway, the pot of goo was delivered without a hitch and I stopped in at the bike shop on my way to work and saw my bike, resplendent with its new, larger, 351 frame.

    Not a bad day at all.

    If it comes back fertile I am not doing this again.

    Monday, 2 February 2009

    Domestic snowboarding

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    Okay, everyone knows that it is snowing in Devon. The M5 was closed. Dug had to abandon his car and walk the two and a half hours home, where his water, heat and general life support had all failed. Crashed happened everywhere. Many people could not get necessary food and warmth and Manley went snowboarding overnight.

    I know it's a fuzzy image, but they all were, it was dark and I fell on every single run - image provided courtesy of the ever lovely Tinium.

    The back out of the Land Rover was fun, as was three up on a board. I fell over lots and should apologise to Mel for smashing her trays, but if it is any consolation I have two nasty puncture wounds, on in my thigh.

    Cheers in particular to Dagnal, Ads and the giddy-bobbards for a smashing evening and at least I was not the one who broke a snowboard.

    Sunday, 18 January 2009

    And there goes the car.

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    So, on Friday I broke the frame on my Dawes Milk Race, which I have had since passing my Common Entrance in 1988.

    Today, upon leaving Sainsbury's car park, the prop shaft fell off the Delica. Buying the guitar is looking more and more like a mistake.

    One interesting thing about this is the diverse nature of human behaviour. In the scenario of a supermarket car park everyone is very busy and selfish. Around a dozen cars manoeuvred around me, sounding their horns, whilst I stood in the road and picked up my prop shaft; none offered to help. Of these, all but one then pulled back into the right lane and queued behind my stricken Delica, sitting with her hazard warning lights on and without a driver, and proceeded to toot their horns in rage at the commander-less car.

    Given that I was actually standing in the road, holding a prop shaft in my arms, one would imagine that they could have considered the situation and avoided delaying themselves further.

    In stark contrast, once I was out on the open road (the great joy of a four wheel drive truck is that, on the occasion of breaking a half shaft, prop shaft, or even the diff, one can slip into 4WD and trundle on, to all intents and purposes a normal front wheel drive vehicle - that and being able to go jumping in the woods) several individuals were intent on warning me of my oil leak (I lost a chunk of gearbox in the process of the prop's suicide) in a friendly manner.

    Given that the first group of people were merely forced to change lanes momentarily (if you are a Usonion then you probably need to look that word up - the way you use it is entirely wrong) and the latter chaps were actually having gearbox oil sprayed all over their cars, I would suggest that we, as a species, cope more easily with problems as they become more severe.

    Either way, my Delica is undoubtedly beyond economic repair (the prop managed to take a goodly chunk out if a fuel tank and the water and oil pumps look likely to die, quite aside from the broken gearbox) so I am sans voiture, as the French almost certainly would never say.

    I shall take a picture but, in the mean time, I shall settle for swearing mildly about it on the internet:


    Friday, 16 January 2009

    Late for a wank?

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    It turns out that my 12 week specimen was due on the 8th. I had completely forgotten and we have all been somewhat under the weather, so this morning I had an early start and then cycled off to the RD&E with a pot of rapidly cooling semen in my pocket.

    Now, as you almost all will know, when one has, for whatever reason, the need to drop off a urine sample at the physician's office there are special containers provided for the purpose. These come in a variety of guises, some with salts or chemicals in the bottom, some with labels and some in bags, but they all have feature thing in common. They are almost, but not quite, exactly the opposite of 'large enough for the task'. As a man this is less of a problem. Your average gent has a combination of penis length and waist measurement which afford a reasonable view of the proceedings and, whilst slightly piss-ridden hands are an oft-unavoidable result, getting the sample into the pot is relatively achievable. For those amongst us with orifices which number into double figures the procedure is somewhat more convoluted and I doubt that there are many in your number, dearest readers, who have not at some point thought to themselves 'why do they not make the bloody things in a bigger size?'.

    Well they do.

    So I am sitting in my bed contemplating an entirely cold-blooded activity which, by its very nature, requires an element of enthusiasm. It is hard enough to muster this with the need to get from the finishing post to the hospital in good time, not to mention getting to work on time and a house full of other people preparing for their day. Adding a collection container which seems better suited to housing an entire shoal of barracuda does nothing for the confidence.

    Seriously, the average human male produces between 2ml and 5ml of ejaculate. Where in the name of Hades's least desirable convenience is the need for what is essentially a half pint beer glass with a plastic lid?

    So it comes to pass that, with a basically empty pot stretching my jacket pocket to bursting, I cycle off into the cold January wind.

    Some men can be somewhat embarrassed about this sort of thing, so the hospital is discrete. There are no large signs at the hospital bearing the legend 'Jizz samples, this a-way!' nor does the depositor have any requirement for human interaction. There is, instead, a small letter box on a building which spectacularly fails to claim it's pathology credentials (I know, I know, but they have all the equipment for the study of liquids, so it's a cinch really).

    So, after a minor issue with a car trying to run me over whilst I transport my precious load of hopefully infertile semen, I arrive at the hospital and spend 15 minutes asking a variety of people for directions which, obviously, is far, far less embarrassing than an actual sign saying where to go would have been. Praise the Lord Zeus for the consideration of the powers that be for providing haven from potential ridicule.

    In a way it was somewhat anti-climatic. I dropped my pot into the flap and then I was done, so off I rode into the morning mist. To be honest it was probably the least exciting part of the process to date. I simply pedalled off up the hill where, as happens, my bicycle frame snapped cleanly through at the head-tube as I was overtaking a bus.

    I have been riding this bike for 21 years now, so it was very upsetting for me as I am sure, gentle readers, you can appreciate. To cheer myself up I bought a Vintage AMG1 Bell Brass Resonator on impulse, so now I have a broken bike and no money to pay for a new frame.

    These things are sent to try us.

    For those who have asked about the pain, it is still with me, but I intend now to wait until I have the all clear (or, Heaven forbid, the news that I am still fertile) before bothering the Quack again. Poor old bicycle.