Great Mysteries of the World

This is a bit of a strange one…

Boiled Sweet

The picture is of the top of the cubicle divider in one of the Gents toilets in our building. I spotted this a couple of months ago, and noticed that it was still there today, weeks later. So whose it is, and quite how long it’s been there, is a mystery. (And I don’t propose to pick it up to find out!)

Looks to me like a boiled sweet, and it’s only visible from within the cubicle (note the ridge behind the sweet), and only by someone tall. Very strange.

Press Success

The final part of our busy weekend was on Sunday afternoon. Every year, on the weekend closest to St James day the church tower is opened, and we serve tea and cakes to visitors. As in previous years, Ann, our Church press officer (whose job falls under the Communications Committee which I chair) publicised the event with the local newspapers.

Over recent years we have tried to have a policy that we publicise as much as we can with the local paper, and also have a single point of contact for the Church. This has paid dividends in that the local reporters have got to know Ann, and even if our items get bumped from time to time, the papers know they have a good contact. In the longer term that good contact means that when we have something really important, it is likely to get in, and in cases like this week, they have a good stock of pictures.

This week the Wokingham Times has started doing a feature called ‘Pride of Place’ about parts of the local area, and they chose to start with Finchampstead, doing a two page spread on the village. As a result of our contacts we had a reporter and photographer come up to the open day at the church. Ann’s son was home for the weekend from University, so whilst she was there for some of the time, when the photographer from the paper turned up I helped out suggesting a good spot for a picture, and making sure that she, and the various people she wanted for pictures got together. The article includes a photograph Dave Strucket with the bells, our new Priest-in-Charge, Rev Richard Warden who was interviewed during the week and photographed on Sunday, and our Choir comes up in a picture of the planting of the new Queens Oak earlier on this year. A large part of the two page spread has some link to the Church. All the kind of stuff that goes towards raising the visibility of the Church in the community.

Anyway, I took a couple of pictures. Firstly one of Richard sat on the bench outside the church being photographed, and also when we had a bit of blue sky, a nice shot of the tower with the new flag flying. Incidentally, the shot of the tower shows the wonders of Photoshop. The original has three people on top of the tower in it! (Although there is still one head left in the picture…)

The Ongoing Tyre Saga

I think I’m getting obsessed by the handling of the Focus. I managed to kerb the car in the car park last week, and after having done it the drive felt significantly more floaty than it had been since I’d had the replacement tyre put on. Since we were going to go on the M25 to David’s wedding I thought I’d take it and have the wheel allignment checked. I used the Fleet branch of RoadWheel whose Portsmouth branch had rebalanced all the wheels after the new tyre had been put on, who put it up on the machine and discovered that all the settings were out, in some cases by about 100% looking at the printout. They duly alligned the wheels for me.

One thing about RoadWheel is they allow you to watch as they do the balancing. At Micheldever, where I’ve had the allignment done before, they take the car into another part of the building which you can’t see from the waiting area. The interesting thing I noticed when the car was up on the platform was that the brand new tyre, despite being a Goodyear Eagle NCT5 just like the rest had a different tread pattern.

Anyway, having got the wheels alligned I headed for home, and the car felt a lot better. However on the way down to Leatherhead, when I took it up to motorway speeds there was a definite shimmer through the steering, and after I eneded up going round the roundabout coming off the motorway twice, the steering felt very weird.

On the way back from the wedding I took it steady, and didn’t go above 60mph on the motorway. The next morning I took it down to Reg Vardy and asked them to drive it to see what was wrong.

As is usual with car problems and garages, they said that the car was driving as they would expect for one with this mileage (52,000), and that he “had driven worse”. He then proceeded to demonstrate that the steering, suspension and road holding was absolutely fine by going considerably faster than I would up the A33 to Risely and back down the old road. Suffice to say that I don’t think the wheels will be falling off any time soon! He said that the cause of the noise and vibration is the tyres, and that Ford almost never supply a Focus fitted with NCT5’s. He said that it would be a waste of money to replace the existing tyres until they were worn out, but when they came due for renewal recommended getting a different brand. As a side note, he also said that the engine was misfiring, something which I’ve mentioned I thought was a problem in earlier postings, and for which I’d had the car back into Reg Vardy to sort out a couple of weeks after I took delivery, but was told there wasn’t anything wrong. I’ve been running the car on Shell Optimax and lately on BP Ultimate which has largely eliminated the problem, so it was pure fluke that it misfired, and I think only becuase he was putting the car under heavy acceleration. Suffice to say that he said that unless the car was consistently misfiring it would be difficult to find unless it did it more frequently. The only way to get it to do that would be to switch back to normal unleaded, and with the mileage I’m doing that would be a general nightmare.

Back to the tyre saga, he said as far as he was concerned it was absolutely fine, and indeed when I drove it back home, it did feel pretty good, certainly a lot better than it has been.

Three days later I’ve driven to work and back three times, and also gone out to get a paper when I got home tonight. I also checked the tyre pressures properly today, and although there was some variation in how much, it was only by 0.5psi. To me the car still feels like it is moving around, moreso on rough surfaces, and the tyres are especially noisy on the various bits of road that Hampshire County Council has “surface dressed” over the past couple of years. Having said that, as Beth points out I’ve never been totally happy with the way the car has driven, it’s just that I’ve been more focused on the misfiring and “moods” that the engine goes through. (Incidentally it had another mood tonight, going to get the paper. The steering felt decidedly heavy on starting up in the car park outside the shop. I think was down to having stopped and restarted it twice in quick succession).

With regards to the ride, in contrast to the endless rave reviews of the drivability of the Focus, I have read a number of comments saying that the feedback through the chassis borders on the hyperactive at times, and may not be what some drivers would like. With the rough B-Roads that a large part of my regualr commute is on, I guess I fall into that category! Whilst I used to quite regularly go out driving for fun, since taking a job 44 miles down rough B-Roads from home, extra driving is not something I particularly relish. The problem is not really going to be solved until I either change jobs to one with a different commute, or replace the car. I guess I might be able to improve things by replcaing the tyres, but as I’ve only had 10,000 miles out of this set, and the other set lasted over 40,000, that may be some time! Anyway, whatever happens I am fast reaching the end of the 60,000 mile/3 year warranty, after 2 years use, so I guess I’ll stump up to extend to the 100,000 mile/6 year extension, which on current form will last for four years, but I think it’s probably necesary if, as with my previous Fiesta, the misfire is a symptom of an engine problem. Having said that, like the Fiesta, although the Focus has more noticable moods, it has not actually broken down on me. The Fiesta, even when the misfire was continuous, still never actually stopped running.

Wedding Bells

We’ve just reached the end of a rather busy weekend. I had Friday off work, as David, my soon-to-be former line manager at work, finally got married! He’s been about to get married pretty well since I joined SSE two years ago, but as with these things finding a suitable date and location has taken some time. Whereas one of the previous propsed ceremonies would have been just down the road, the wedding actually took place at the Bookham Grange Hotel in Little Bookham near Leatherhead. I took a load of pictures, which I’ve posted up as a gallery at to take a look at.

David and Louisa

It was actually the first time in a while that we’d been to a civil wedding service rather than a Church wedding. The interesting thing is that although David and Louisa were allowed to write their own vows, they were followed by a set form of words that is almost identical to the standard vows that are used in a Church of England wedding, except with any mention of God removed. From having talked to David when he was planning the ceremony, current rules require that there be no mention whatsoever of God in the ceremony, the logic being that if you want any sort of religious ceremony, you should be getting married in a Church. Reading wise they used one reading on marraige that actually comes up quite frequently in the Church weddings we sing at, and a Shakespeare Sonnet.

One advantage of holding the wedding at a hotel, is that there then isn’t the traditional chance for half the guests to get lost on the way to the reception, as the hotel was handling the entire event. After the ceremony we moved out onto the patio for drinks, and then swiftly moved on to taking the pictures. Despite the ongoing lousy weather this summer, David and Louisa managed to pick a day when we had beautiful weather.

After pictures we moved on to the meal, where David and Louisa had cunningly sat us with several other IT people, although once someone on the table had found out how Beth and me had met, we spent an awful lot of dinner talking about that. (It’s strange – sometimes we get an ‘oh, you met on the Internet’ and not much else, other times people are really intrigued!)

The speeches were good, no cringe-making moments as you sometimes get at weddings. The BETTA project trips to Scotland, that as a result of which, had they continued, Louisa was threatening to pull the plug on the whole wedding, got a mention in passing. From there we moved on to the evening events, the disco.

As I’ve got older, I seem to have developped a bit of an aversion to dancing. Whilst I actually had a membership card to Utopia, the nightclub in Reading when I was at University, and still went every-so-often after graduation, now I don’t tend to like dancing at all. Having said that, even when I was younger I used to go for safety in numbers, and only dance when there were a lot of people on the floor. However, unlike Cathy and Steve’s party a couple of weeks ago, I had Beth with me, so thanks to wifely persuasion I did end up dancing!

Anyway, the wedding certainly seemed to go off well, and both Beth and myself had a great time. Hopefully David and Louisa are having a similarly great time off on honeymoon in Italy.

Final Drink

As I missed Dave’s stag night (clashed with the Choir concert), and nobody else from work went along either, we went down to The Ship Inn at Langstone for a drink. I grabbed the picture whilst Dave was on the phone. The other shot is a nice view of Langstone harbour, which is sheltered from the Solent by Hayling Island which you can see in the distance.

Anyway, we enjoyed a couple of drinks together, and David remained at the pub to have dinner. (Excellent fish, not suprisingly!)

Langstone Dave Takes a Call