Monday, 11 April 2011

Sitting on a railway station, got a ticket for my destination ...

Well, more like sitting on a train on the last stretch back to Manchester after three and a half days in darkest Hampshire. The people who pay to keep me off the streets have seen fit to send me on a jollywork trip down to the labs in Hursley to help out with the last stage of testing on a soon to be released product. This being a blog open to the public, I am obviously not going to give too many details about that but I thought I would jot a few notes about the non-work related aspects. I have for some time intended to start a blog but have never had enough things of interest to write about before. Now I have, lets see how long it lasts.

This started a few weeks ago when someone gave a presentation in our lab about new projects we are starting to work on in conjuction with the site in Hursley, and mentioned that they were keen for a few of our number to go and help them in their release cycle. This would be mutually beneficial as those who went down would return with a lot of valuable experience to spread around when they got back. Not really expecting much, I told my manager that I was curious about what this would involve. This slight curiousity somehow arrived at a lab managers meeting as a strong desire and, a few rushed discussions and arrangements later, I was on the train down to Winchester with a colleage, Norman, to do what both of us only had the slightest inkiling about.

And so to the blog. I thought I would try to write something every day or two but I am now on the journey back on the first Friday evening. Is it of interest? Will I make it to a second post this time? Will my writing style cause anyone with the slightest knowledge of the English language howl with agony? Only time will tell. Oh, and you too, if you decide to comment below.

[Edit] What I wrote above, and most of what I wrote below, was indeed written on Friday night on the train but my good intention to edit and publish it over the weekend went awry and so it is now Monday night that I am polishing this up.

Alfred and the Lion

One of the first things that I noticed when arriving at the hotel we are staying at in Winchester is that in the middle of the road there is a huge statue of some bloke holding a sword aloft. Someone with a better grasp of British history than I would probably know instantly who this is likely to be but I, who am a bear with very little brain, did not. Discovering this, I decided, was my task for the week. I admit that this is not something that would have taxed Herculese, considering that it just involved going up to the statue and looking at the plaque, but it was something to do.

This gentleman is, of course, King Alfred the Great, or Ælfred as the engraving says. There is a plaque under the statue which I have photographed, right,
but it is a bit illegible, so if you do not want to strain your eyes, it reads, "Alfred, king of the West Saxons (AD 871-899) drove the Danish invaders from Wessex. He created fortified centres, of which Winchester, the largest, was his capital. During his reign, the streets in use today were first established. Alfred was the most esteemed of English kings. He encouraged the revival of learning and monastic life, and laid the foundation for a single kingdom of England. This statue by Hamo Thorneycroft was erected in 1901."

It's not fire, it's only bell!

One of the last things I experienced in the lab before leaving to get on this train was a test of the file alarms. This may not appear immediately as anything particularly noteworthy except that it very nearly gave me a heart attack. Prior to the test there was an announcement over the PA system, just loud enough to make out the general gist but not loud enough to actually be able to hear clearly, to the effect that the alarms would shortly be tested and this is just a test and people should not evacuate the building and how we would know if there happened to be a real fire and on and on and on. This went on for close to a minute and was then followed by a pause that allowed me, and I'm sure other people as well, to pass from heightened anticipation, through slight impatience all the way down to completely forgetting that anything had happened. There then came the Ride of the Valkyrie in bell form that only lasted a few seconds, so even without the preceeding warning there was not long enough for people to recover from the mild trauma and start leaving the building. There was another pause to lull us all back into a sense of security only to be jolted back to reality by another short blast of the bell. This happened once more that I can remember, but it is possible that my mind has blocked this ordeal from my mind. The Chinese water torture came to my mind but happily there was then another announcement declared that the test was over although I couldn't hear the details over the ringing in my ears.

A sport for animals played by gentlemen

And now on as I get to the end, the train has just filled up with people at Stockport on their way into Manchester. From what I can overhear, it sounds more like a rugby crowd rather than football - little things like the mention of Glocester, Worcester (who are apparently more of a rival than Bath) and only losing by 5 points, not to mention that they all appear to be sober, civilised and not making me hope that I can pass the last part of the journey without being noticed.

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