Been There, Done That, Blogged The Badge

Nearly four years ago now I started a project to blog each of my badges that I’d collected. With nearly three hundred badges to blog, I set myself the target of blogging two badges each week. As I have done that though, the collection has grown to over four hundred badges to date (due, a little more than I’d like, to some mischievous people who think that buying me badges whenever they can is a fun thing to do).

Now, I am finally up to date. And, although I’ll still be blogging new badges as I acquire them, the end to weekly ‘badge homework’ hopefully means I’ll have more time to devote to this blog and all the things that get me badges in the first place.

Do however take a look at my life in badges – so far.

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A Room With A View, or In Fact Seven Of Them

I find going on holiday very exciting and my most recent trip was no exception. We went to the airport and had all the fun of catching a flight. On our arrival in the evening there was a coach to take us to our destination. Then we settled into our room, unpacked everything and went to enjoy our first night’s dinner.  Since it was dark there wasn’t much to see out of the window in our room but the next morning there was a view…and the next…and the next; for this was a river boat cruising up (and then back down) the Danube. Taking us through locks (who knew the Danube had locks) and past beautiful scenery and to a variety of exciting places.

So here, as a tiny taster, are the views I woke up to each morning:

 

Why I Wish It Was Always Winter And Never Christmas

NarniaWhen I was a child Christmas was uncomplicated. It started on Christmas Eve when we spent the day making and hanging paper chains and putting up the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day there were presents and turkey and it was wonderful.

As a teenager Christmas began to gain new complexity. There was the weekend in November when I would help my mother make the Christmas pudding and the added bonus of helping to finish up the bottle of Guinness that had gone into it. Then there were presents to buy for my parents and siblings and a pack of Christmas cards for my form at school. Christmas Eve expanded to include helping to make bacon rolls, dividing sausages and peeling parsnips. Christmas Day included the task of laying the table for dinner. All still good fun.

These days, as a grown up, the responsibilities and the time needed have increased enormously, even though I am lucky enough to have someone else to take on the responsibility for the dinner itself.

Christmas cards need writing early enough to send abroad rather than waiting until the end of term. The list of presents I am responsible for thinking up, buying, wrapping and sending has expanded from my immediate family to include their partners and children, and my own, and to the similarly expanded list of my partner’s family too, plus a few special friends. Now six times as many presents as in my teenage years! Some of those presents also need sending abroad, so I spend November torn between planning for Christmas, stressed that I’m running out of time and cursing that it is far too early to be doing any of this.

Really by this point, I’m looking to 25th December when I can relax with no more responsibilities until twelfth night (when the decorations come down).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love carols, tinsel, roast goose (I’ve moved on from turkey) and huge piles of discarded wrapping paper. Most of all I love all the people that I send cards to and buy presents for and I sincerely hope that they will get joy and pleasure from opening whatever it is I send them (if only I knew what that should be). I just can’t help wishing that I didn’t have to love them all at once with such an immovable deadline.

As far as I know I’m the only person who feels this way. Everyone else is happy preparing for Christmas without feeling stressed out by the expectations it causes. So, please tell me, what’s your secret?

Actually I’d prefer always summer if possible. Surely that would have been a more sensible spell for the White Witch?

Been There, Done That, Got The Badge

As with most geeky people I collect things. In my case, it’s badges. Over the years and my many visits to places (transport related and otherwise) my first cry on reaching the inevitable gift shop is ‘Do they have a badge’?

Although often disappointingly the answer is no, I have somehow managed to amass almost three hundred badges so far. I’m now making an attempt to catalogue and record them in the form of a blog, so in no particular order and without much fanfare, feel free to pop over and share my life in badges if you will.

 

What The Supermarkets Are Telling Me

Voucher For Fifteen PenceI don’t shop in supermarkets often. I’m not responsible for the ‘weekly shop’ in our house and even that is often delivered by Ocado. However I do intermittently shop in a variety of supermarkets and even possess loyalty cards for some of them. Recently however I’ve noticed a trend that I do not like.

You see there are a variety of supermarkets available and I’m well aware that they stock very similar items at often very different prices. I’ve become well accustomed to the random shopping trolley at the entrance and the sign proclaiming that this week they are cheaper than [insert any supermarket here] for [insert some random selection of items]. I’ve always imagined that this data was acquired by sending some poor [supermarket A] employee out in the cold to [supermarket B] to compare and note down prices of [some random selection of items]. So the data was inaccurate, out of date, but at least they were trying to provide the best value for money they could*.

Imagine my surprise when shopping at Tesco (and here I’m prepared to name and shame) when upon completing my shopping the till spat out, along with my receipt, a voucher which said “Today your comparable grocery shopping would have been cheaper elsewhere. So here’s the difference back”. Er, no, actually here is a voucher which will now clutter up my purse and/or my house until I can do something with it.

Still irritated at this, only a few days later, I happened to pass a Sainsbury’s store and needing a few items for a picnic I decided to pop in. On completing my shopping I was again astounded to receive a voucher which said that I would have paid less at Asda or Tesco and so here was a voucher for fifteen pence off my next shop.

So let me get this straight, at the till these supermarkets can tell that I could have got my shopping more cheaply elsewhere and instead of saying:

“This shopping would have been fifteen pence cheaper in another supermarket so we’re discounting it right here to ensure that you get the best value you can.”

They are saying:

“We have ripped you off to the tune of fifteen pence, so here is a voucher that we think makes it look like we care about this while simultaneously knowing that this voucher will end up lost, forgotten, expired or eaten by the dog and that you will therefore be unable to reclaim the fifteen pence we have stolen from you today. Thank you for your custom.”

Now I’m sure that they have accountants who have assured them that this policy will make them money and possibly even market researchers who have told them that this policy will be well received but here’s the thing, from now on I’m going to make a deliberate attempt to go to supermarkets that don’t do this to me. Morrison’s perhaps, or Waitrose who don’t pretend to be the cheapest and even better will give me free coffee.

No, I don’t for an instant think the supermarkets will care or even notice but it will make me a lot less irritated at the till and avoid the need for me to carry scraps of paper endlessly around with me.
After all, every little helps.

*I’m not actually naive enough to believe this but wouldn’t it be nice if this were true?

Ticket To Ride

When you discover you have a free all day (off peak) ticket for Chiltern Railways what do you do?

In this case the answer was to plan a route that took in as much as possible of Chiltern’s route map while simultaneously avoiding the use of any trains which arrive in Birmingham or London before 10:00 (because that’s what off peak means). Here’s how our day went:

Stoke Mandeville

We arrived bright and early to catch the first train to Aylesbury (the 07:27) only to discover it had been cancelled due to ‘disruptive passengers’! We took the opportunity to grab a (very pleasant) station coffee and waited for the next train at 07:56.

Aylesbury

We arrived with enough time to nip across the road to Morrisons to stock up on a few provisions before heading back to the station to see our next train arrive. Imagine our delight to see it was a real slam-door train and look at the British railways logo.

Princes Risborough

No time for more than a quick stroll about here before catching our next train.

Bicester North

We had a lovely chat here with a charming gentleman who was travelling to collect a canal boat and resisted the urge to go shopping in Bicester Village (if only the day was longer).

Warwick

A lovely and surprisingly tiny station we stopped only to change trains to start our shortest journey of the day (11:06 to 11:09).

Warwick Parkway

We took a break from the railway here to walk up the Hatton flight of locks. We took time to enjoy the view and to chat to a homeless chap who regaled us with his recent life story. Finally the rain drove us to retreat to the Hatton Arms (a delightful pub). At this point the timetable compelled us to walk back swiftly to the station to catch yet another train.

Birmingham Snow Hill/Moor Street

We arrived at Birmingham Snow Hill and decided to walk through the city to Moor Street station to take the Mainline train. On the way we took the time to look at Birmingham Cathedral. I was thrilled to discover that it contains some amazing Burne-Jones stained glass (he’s my favourite Pre-Raphaelite artist).

London Marylebone

After the longest journey of the day we took a break to grab some supper before regretfully taking our last train home.

Stoke Mandeville Again

Just after midnight we arrived back where we started having been travelling for over sixteen hours and having had an amazing day out. Thanks must go to Chiltern Railways for making it possible.

Opening A Banana

How do you open a banana?
I’m sure most people will say that they hold it in their (non dominant) hand, take hold of the stalk with the other hand and bend it backwards. If this action fails to succeed in opening the banana they may then resort to a knife or even teeth. Eventually though the banana will be opened.
Now the next question is why do you open it like that? The answer is again, almost certainly, because your mother taught you to.
In a recent conversation somebody pointed out that monkeys open bananas from the other end. The initial suspicion was that this involved wasting a chunk of fruit but a further question exists too. Why on earth would they do open them that way? Well probably because their mothers taught them to!
But this then raised the additional question, what is the best way to open a banana? So in the spirit of investigation I gave it a try and this is what I found. If you take hold of a banana upside down, and place your thumb and forefinger either side of the black spiky bit at the end and roll your fingers against it then the end will split neatly leaving you to easily remove the slightly woody bit if required and enjoy your banana. No mess, no fuss.
In a similar vein I taught myself as a child to do my ticks backwards. Why? Well I realised that ticks were used because they were a quick, easy to make mark – for right handers. Turn it round and suddenly ticks flow easily across the page for a left handed writer.
Sometimes we do things in a particular way because they’ve been taught like that and we assume that this must be a long optimised solution. Sometimes this is true. On the other hand, sometimes it’s worth trying a different way of doing things.
Why not start with your banana?