I’ve just returned from spending a very pleasant week with my dad. While going through a few things, he came across a suitcase full of buses, planes and cars that I had as a child. I was absolutely obsessed with transport as a kid and buses were my favourite. I had a mat with painted roadways on it that I used to “drive” my buses around. Whenever dad went travelling abroad I’d always ask him if he could bring back a bus or plane – and I have quite an extensive collection of toy buses, coaches and police vehicles from Japan and Hong Kong as a result.

My grandfather Drake had built me my very own garage and parking playset (made out of wood and painted) which I’m not entirely sure where it is (probably in the loft), but that too also formed a very pleasant part of my childhood too.

The suitcase of delights..

Opening the suitcase and stumbling across all these treasures brought back so many happy memories. Many of the vehicles aren’t in too bad shape either.

A very small selection of my bus collection

Also amongst the collection were a few aircraft. My childhood holidays were mainly spent in the UK (Canvey Island for the most part), but when we went abroad, we usually flew Caledonian Airways (which is part of British Airways).

Then we come across a relic of the small screen back in the 1980’s: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century:

And finally..

My “lambo” collection

It’s genuinely pleasing to see the local high street make way for the unique restaurant that is not offering the usual fast food stodge. Where I live, the number of restaurants has been reduced to one Indian eat-in (and take-away) followed by kebab houses, chicken houses, fish and chips palaces, pizza take-away shops and multiple Chinese take-aways.

My father took me for an early birthday dinner yesterday at a Portuguese place that’s in the town where I grew up. The high street there is virtually unrecognisable now. But tucked out the way, behind one of the few remaining pubs in the area is a smartly presented restaurant that’s clearly very popular.

Grilled seabass and vegetables

It was a fantastic dinner. I started off with pork pieces and clams and potatoes, with a nice gravy to accompany it. This was followed by grilled seabass and veg. And it was absolutely delicious. My dad had clams for his starter and the same as me for the main course. This was accompanied by a light and fruity red wine which accompanied the fish well. We followed this up with coffee and a Portuguese brandy which was seriously smooth. I had a dessert (a chocolate mousse with Amaretto).

The Joys Of Commuting
(London Underground Edition)

After a great night, it’s a pity, then, that this morning I was greeted by the following scene at Notting Hill Gate in an attempt to see if I could sit down on the tube for as long as possible on the Central line before changing to the District line. Alas, Circle line problems were the cause of the delay. We were standing on the stairs to avoid having to stand with the rest of the crowd. Thankfully a District line train came 4 minutes after this and there was even a seat!

Isn’t commuting fun?

Due to work, I don’t get as much time as I’d like to meet up with my old school chums – but we got together yesterday to eat, drink and.. play shuffleboard.

We started off at Liverpool Street station, made our way to a local pub, had a couple of pints, then headed off to The Shuffle Club, Shoreditch.

Entrance to the Shuffle Club, London

Mid-game

Fire!

I scored more than my fair share of -10 points

More pintage was had at the Shuffle Club, in which I was resoundly beaten over and over again by scoring 0 points or -10 points. It’s also fair to say that us 40-somethings were perhaps the oldest people there. Oh, the irony.

We then headed off to Brick Lane for a ruby murray (curry). Brick Lane is an interesting place to visit, and you’ll also find many people attempting to entice you into their curry house. We ended up at the Aladdin after being promised a free pint each. Which was promptly delivered.

Interesting graffiti in Shoreditch

Brick Lane, E1

After the curry, we found another pub. Unfortunately I’m discovering that I’m not as young as I used to be and 6 pints is probably the limit I can take. There was discussion of going to see Avengers: Endgame at Leicester Square, but there wasn’t going to be any chance of me doing so giving the state I was in.

Got back home around 11pm. That’s when things got interesting…

There are days I want to reprogram South Western Railways’ IT systems with a fire axe (metaphorically speaking), because the level of screw-upage is extraordinary. How can a contactless system be such a pain in the arse? This is supposed to make buying train tickets easier, right?

Bought a ticket at Woking today. Added it to my “smartcard” (or as I like to call it “farcecard“) and tapped the ticket machine card reader again to verify it had the right ticket on it. It did.

ALAS!

Woking’s barriers refused to open with “Error 57: Seek Assistance” displaying the barrier screen and beeping at me like a pre-watershed swearfest.

On the train itself (the barrier guard told me that it may be because I’m using the old South West Trains card – but the tech shouldn’t have changed, and I have asked in the past if this would be a problem and was told it would not), the train guard swiped the card which returned a card error. Taking it out of my TfL wallet (which only contains my National Rail photocard and the SWR farcecard) and putting it against the machine allowed it to be read, and validated the ticket.

At Wimbledon, I got the beeping and error code 57 again. And around this time there was a Twitter conversation with a customer service representative with SWR:

SWR are bloody great at social media. I just wish their train service was as good.

So at lunch time at work, I tried giving their smartcard team a call. Kept getting cut off. Tried logging into my SWR account. No options whatsoever to order a replacement. The history of the tickets on the account is terrible – none of the tickets had a purchase date next to them.

As for SWR’s suggestion that the barcode (there isn’t one – there’s a long number across the back of the card), I just don’t think that could be an error unless there is something seriously wrong with their database. How does TfL cope with their systems (with greatly increased numbers travelling on their network)? Yes, occasionally glitches occur with TfL, but usually re-presenting the card works.

It’d be absolutely lovely if I could use my phone as my ticket – whether TfL-style contactless travel which is capped, or as a ticket within my Apple (or if I were to use Android, Android) Pay wallet. I doubt anything like that is going to happen for a substantial amount of time. And in the meantime I have a farcecard that I cannot easily predict whether it will work or not.

Paper tickets it has to be (which is also a PITA because I buy per travel as it works out cheaper for me than a weekly ticket – thanks to working from home one or two days a week).

UPDATE: The barriers at Wimbledon and Woking once again refused me entry. So as soon as I arrived back at Woking, I got the ticket machine to read my ticket. All good. *Screams silently*

The ticket was hiding – too afraid to show itself to the barriers.

If like me, you’re using Google’s business level G Suite for personal use, you need to be aware that if you want to add any of the Google Voice options to your “organisation” – you can’t.

Tax status within Google’s G Suite billing system

Specifically, Google won’t let you because unless you have established yourself as a Business for tax purposes within G Suite billing system, the system will just throw an error. So if your account type is set to Individual and UK tax info is set to Personal, no G Suite Voice for you.

Apparently, the reason this is all happening is an internal thing to Google. It could possibly change, but I doubt that’ll happen for a long while. I’d rather hoped to make use of this so I could set-up a UK number for work – to avoid having to give out my personal mobile number to vendors.