The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

Archive for the ‘random’ tag

On my experience with the Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection…

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So from Thursday through to Saturday the Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection is taking place, in association with the Trussell Trust and Fareshare UK. These events are taking place in Tesco stores up and down the country and I put myself forward to volunteer for two stints, in two different stores, one for the Trussell Trust and one for Fairshare UK and I had two very different experiences.

We’ll start with the bad. On Thursday I was down to volunteer for Fareshare and I went to that store. First things first, when I turned up they had pretty much got nothing sorted and this was deep into the afternoon. All they had was a table, a trolley, the shopping lists to hand out and the tabards to wear so people knew what you were there for. I went to the customer service desk to sign in as instructed and the lady there told me that a guy was also volunteering, went up and spoke to him and he said he was leaving and that all I had to do was hand out the shopping lists, simple enough really.

The problem was that there was no-one else there to help so people walking in would generally see you and go the other way. You can’t cover the whole of the entrance alone and quite quickly I became dispirited. With no staff to help or any other volunteers it was also quite lonely and to be honest pretty boring. I know that some good was happening as some food was being donated and that would go to needy people but it certainly what I would call an enjoyable afternoon. I have done plenty of charity/voluntary work in the past and this was certainly the least enjoyable situation that I’d been in.

After an hour or so I was really thinking about how long I could stick it out. The public weren’t taking the shopping lists and it just wasn’t a good experience. About an hour or so later I’m presuming a manager of some sort came up to me and said they would put over some announcements on the tannoy to announce what was going on to help and then said words that would resonate in my brain, ‘it is always nice to have an extra pair of hands to help’ and all I could think was that no-one at that store was helping that food collection in any way at all. It felt like that had no desire to be involved at all. That really annoyed me that they welcomed an extra pair of hands but did nothing to help at all. About 45 minutes later and still no tannoy announcements and I decided enough was enough. I knew there were no other volunteers for the rest of that day to hand over to and I had planned to stick it out until the end of the day but I just couldn’t do it.

So I felt pretty down that despite having done some good and a trolley brimmed full of donated produce, I had not felt either a) wanted or b) respected by my experience. I know volunteer work isn’t really about what you get out of it but when you feel that badly about your experience, it doesn’t really make you feel good.

On to today and a much better experience, the local Food Bank here is overseen with the help of six local churches and they had divided the shifts into two hour slots. One of the guys picked me up and there were three of us so we could cover the the whole entrance area and indeed there were people to talk to and bounce off of each other. This time there was a whole display that had been set up and a whole area devoted to the event. The people I was with said that it wasn’t as good as last time as that Tesco store had put on an excellent display in previous collections.

Again no Tesco staff were actually on hand to help although this time with the food bank having organised the volunteers etc. – there wasn’t as much of a need but looking on twitter and you can see in many of these collections, Tesco staff seemed to mingle and help out with the volunteers, that didn’t happen at either store where I volunteered. This was disappointing. More so yesterday than today.

Today was more enjoyable and more productive. It certainly felt good to see people you’d spoken to as they had walked in donate and we took away probably 10-14 crates of food to the food bank warehouse after our two hour shift.

Two things of note. The 12:00 minute silence for the Tunisia victims was observed but I certainly had no idea of it until it actually happened. The store stopped and went silent and people were walking in and were completely confused by what was going on. That was surreal.

Secondly we had one person take umbrage with what we were doing and claimed that food banks were ruining this country because food banks stopped people from getting jobs. He walked up to me going on about how people would line up if people were handing out ten pound notes and whilst some would, many people wouldn’t but he kept going on and on about it and one of the food bank regulars took over and spoke to him but he was going on for a good 15 minutes, it was madness. I know there is a lot of misinformation about food banks out there but the fact of the matter is the vast majority, the vast majority, are in real need of a meal. I don’t know the ins and outs but poverty is a real issue and poverty is not a choice, no matter what anyone thinks.

So my two stints volunteering were wildly different. I felt down after one and the other I felt some real good was done (a lot more food was donated today). As I said earlier, doing voluntary work isn’t about what you can get out of it but more what you can do to help others but when you feel as though no-one wants you there then it is really tough.

One thing I did notice though was who donated more, who took the shopping lists more and who went out of their way to ignore you and not make eye contact. Step forward the women of the world for being the far more polite sex on this front. Also age ranges, the best sections were clearly women who were mothers, women who were grandmothers were amongst the worst, the retired generation as a whole didn’t could away well from my unscientific survey of my memory. Most men who declined though would at least make eye contact and say no thank you whereas the majority of women who didn’t take one would avoid you or look at you like you were beneath them. It was quite eye-opening.

I’m not sure I’m recommend it to anyone else, if I could guarantee they had a similar reception to what I got today then I would but yesterday was so bad. I think I’d tell anyone planning on doing it to ensure they weren’t doing it alone and to rope in a friend or colleague to go with them. I think I was just really unlucky yesterday but it did really make me feel like shit. The food banks do such great work and those of us who are lucky not to have ever dealt with them are indeed just that, lucky and there but for the grace of God as they say.

Food banks need all the support they can get and I think Tesco do a great job getting involved centrally but at a store by store level the experiences seem to be so different. I’m not sure if that is a management issue at stores locally but looking at photos on twitter you can see the differences between the stores that really go out and promote the event and those who bury it in the background.

If you are in Tesco at any time between now and Saturday then please don’t be rude to any volunteers and donate what you can. The Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection will no doubt happen again in November/December and there are always plenty of ways to donate to your local Food Bank, whatever you donate goes straight to people in need and knowing that is part of the reason why I think volunteering for such an event was a good one to do. This isn’t money going to pay whatever overheads but this food goes straight to those who need it, what could be better?

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

July 3rd, 2015 at 3:36 pm

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On why mushrooms are in fact, evil…

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There are very few things that I know for sure in life. Things like Homes under the Hammer is better when it is just Martin & Lucy with no Dion in sight. That Edgar Hansen is about as cool as they come. That Bangers n Mash is a tremendous meal. That Jack McCoy is one of the best characters in TV and then of course we get to the simple fact that mushrooms are evil little bastards.

The first evidence I’d like to produce is the look of them. I mean look at them, why would anyone look at a mushroom growing up from the ground and think, ‘well they look like something I’d like to put into my mouth’ but yet someone did and for whatever reason they decided they were good and the myth of its edibility continued to grow.

The next piece of evidence I’d like to produce is the smell. Has anyone ever smelt mushrooms in a frying pan and thought, ‘they smell great, I want them in my gob right now?’ – No, no they haven’t (well they might’ve done but still…) but they give off this odour that is in fact a warning to everyone around that they are bad and shouldn’t be touched. Of this I am sure.

Next up we get to the crux of the issue, the taste. If you put one in your mouth and actually taste the thing and are able not to wretch then you have a stronger stomach than I. I have eaten mushrooms before when they were hidden in food and I have either gagged or suppressed the disgusting taste with stronger tastes that masked the vileness of the fungus.

A true story, many, many, many moons ago someone made me dinner and put mushrooms in it and I was too polite to put forward my thoughts on the spawn of the devil so I mashed them up so small and covered them in the other flavours that I could just about hold them down. When you are going through a whole meal just trying not to wretch then it isn’t the best. Still I did it and ate the whole plate. Sometimes I can be a good guy…

Last up I’d like to say any food that has plenty of poisonous varieties should be viewed with some sense of trepidation. Here is a list of Mycotoxins this poisonous mushrooms can have in them:

Ibotenic acid

Psilocybin and psilocin

The ones in bold are deadly and the ones in italics are potentially deadly.

Honestly who wants to eat a product that has so much danger attached to it? I know commercial mushrooms farms aren’t the same as mushrooms in the wild but still.

The long and short of it is mushrooms look hideous, they smell rancid and have a pungent taste. They are doing everything in their power to warn us of how bad they are and yet people still keep putting them inside of them and declaring them tasty. I just don’t get it. Mushrooms are clearly evil and we aren’t taking note of all the warning signs. It makes me despair and as for all these Chinese places adding mushrooms into meals where they have no place in being, I mean come on, I keep trying to avoid the things and they just get in everywhere!

PS: I don’t like mushrooms.

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June 24th, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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Anglia Engineering Solutions Ltd Spam Trojan Virus Warning

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This morning I received the e-mail below. Straight away I knew it was a virus of some sort but some googling has shown that by opening the file attached to the e-mail, it will attempt to download a binary trojan horse on to your computer. So if you get the following e-mail please delete straight away and do not open the attached file.

Dear ,

We are making a payment to you.

Please find attached a copy of our remittance advice, which will reach your bank account on 11/12/2014.

If you have any questions regarding the remittance please contact us using the details below.

Kind regards
Imelda Myers
Anglia Engineering Solutions Ltd
Tel: 01469 936919

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December 10th, 2014 at 11:21 am

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A less serious blog – a word or two about my bed

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Last night I was sitting in this very seat and I commented in an IM that I was really looking forward to stretching out in bed when Peyton Manning was finished doing his thing. Sometimes I really do look forward to bed, maybe much more so than I really should. This feeling is more prevalent in the autumn and the winter and last night was the first time that I was genuinely anticipating stretching out and lounging around in the warmth of my bed.

So I laid there and thought that I’d write a blog post on it but there was this nagging thought that I had already done so. A bit of research later and I found that I had a blog post about my bed drafted but never published. Sometimes my brain does work in weird ways, so I’ll use some of that post along with fresh material to flesh out my thoughts. What is in italics are what I wrote months ago in a draft of a similar blog post.

I wanted to pen something a little less serious. For a while I have laid in bed and thought about just how much I like my bed. It might be one of my favourite places. I often talk about how amazing my 15-tog duvet is (it is so seriously awesome, trust me) and how it is one of my favourite ever purchases (£19.99 from Bookers Cash & Carry in Aldershot).

I had no plans to buy it but I was idly wandering about whilst one of my housemates was looking for something and I came across it. The moment I put it on my bed I was far warmer. Good times. I didn’t get the full effect until I had moved out of that place and bought my own bed. My mattress is extremely comfortable. Couple that with the 15-tog beaut and I’m a happy chappie.

Ah yes, my winter duvet. This is still the best thing that I have ever purchased. I’m sure if I was to really think about it then I could say I had bought better and more important things but in terms of simple things that make me happy, this duvet really does stand alone. At the moment I still have my summer duvet on but we are getting close to the crossover point.

So anyway when that warmth envelopes me, I feel at ease. In the winter months I tend to spend a lot more time in bed. I will watch more TV from there and surf the internet from there. My sleep pattern is pretty haywire as well but I really get a great nights sleep from this bed.

I really do. I’m very lucky that I have employment where I can be more flexible than most in terms of times I work. For example this weekend I was working both on Friday and Sunday nights but that meant I was very much up to speed and therefore when I went to bed on Sunday night, I knew I didn’t have to get up early on Monday morning to do any work. I knew I could wake up and instead of rolling over and checking e-mails and work, I could just lay there and let myself drift in and out of sleep for a while. There are few things better than just doing that.

Just laying there drifting in and out of sleep. I did this the other day and had a lucid dream, my first for ages, I was in the dream and promptly stated, ‘what on Earth are you doing in my dream?’ and knew it was a dream but was in a place where I could just lay back and enjoy the show. It was so much fun but was a very strange one.

Now I know a lot of people when in bed enjoy the company of another, I have never slept well when sharing a bed. I like to spread out and use the whole bed, moving from one side to the other as I love the coldness of the sheet but the warmth of the duvet. I often wonder if I’m crazy but I’m writing a blog post about how I love my bed but don’t like to share it, I think that answers the question of whether I am crazy or not pretty well.

Ah yes. When planning this in my head last night I was trying to work out just how many nights I had not slept alone and I had a number in mind. Cue some thought later and I think I was pretty much bang on. I think this should indicate just how infrequent this situation has been that I could guesstimate the number and be pretty much spot on. How do people share beds and still get good nights sleep? Do you get used to it? It is a bit like how I just can’t sleep in a single bed any more, whenever I have to I just sleep terribly. I am used to spreading out and rolling over instead of turning over.

So there we have it. A totally pointless blog post. Well aren’t most of them in all honesty? I just thought it was time to appreciate my bed. I spend around a third of my life in it. Sometimes I think too much in it. Sometimes I’m too restless in it. I don’t do half the things that most people do in their own beds depressingly but I still love my bed. Sometimes just stretching out in it with the sound of the rain beating down outside knowing that I have nothing urgent to get up for so I can totally relax is just flat out awesome.

Thank you bed. I don’t appreciate you half as much as I should.

neil bed

My sanctuary

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October 6th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

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Fan is short for fanatic – we should remember that

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fan (noun) — an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc. (origin: 1885-90, Americanism; short for fanatic or, some say, fancy)

fanatic (noun) — a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics. (origin: 1515-25, “insane person” from L. fanaticus, “mad, enthusiastic, inspired by god”, originally pertaining to a temple, from L. fanum.

Some say that the term fan may have devolved from the word ‘fancy’ but the general wisdom seems to suggest that it comes from the word fanatic. Why am I writing about this today? Well as most people who have known me in real life will know, sports has been a rather large part of my life for an awfully long time. I will call off social events and activities if I want to see a sporting event on the tellybox. I was once a Sports Editor. I have commentated, no wait, summerised only, on live football games for radio and I may or may not have yelled an insane amount of swear words when following various sporting events and seen my mood adjust to quite concerning degrees based on what is going on.

I would argue that over the years I have mellowed. I can sit and watch a game and not get so emotionally invested. Pompey were on the tellybox the other day and I sat and watched it in a rather monotone way. We weren’t very good and I just shrugged and moved on with my day. Maybe I had actually got past the point where sport could get to me. Maybe I had grown up. Maybe it was time for me to emerge from the sporting cocoon that I have enveloped myself in and maybe just into things that were more high brow, take in some culture, get interested in the arts.

Then Saturday night happened.

When you are up until nigh on 5AM watching a College Football game with your blood pumping, engaged swearing, too much sweat that is good for a single man in the early hours of the morning when fully clothed, then maybe the link between fan and fanatic isn’t too far-fetched.

So yes. On Saturday my day was pretty much built around watching Arsenal v Manchester City and then Rutgers v Penn State. One kicked off at 12:45PM and the other 01:12 AM. So they bookended my day. I watched the football match and enjoyed it. I did have another game I was meant to be seeing but as they say, things change, I will have plenty to say on that matter in due course (and I know you are reading this waiting for what I have to say – I can see you). By 11ish I was pretty tired but I persevered, I had a shall we call it, rather tepid shower to revitalise me and I put on the Big Ten Network to settle down to watch the game.

Now it was in the early hours and I wasn’t alone in watching this game. Whilst physically alone I had twitter open, I had Black Shoe Diaries game threads open and I had a skype conversation open with someone who was also watching the game (although not a fan of PSU – he still watched as I was and he stuck with it as it was the most compelling game of the night) and I’d like to show off my witty repartee and the type of language that was flowing out of my fingers as the game unfolded. I am not proud.

Quotes are me if no initials, NM is also me, NH is the person on the other end of the skype conversation window.

It started off with general game conversation. Our O-Line may have slightly false started…

NH: how many would you estimate moved early there…
NM: more than the amount of women who’ve turned me down…

then I got annoyed with the WildLion formation…

fuck that WildLion

Then I saw a safety blitz that the QB didn’t see…


Then I revealed a shocking truth…

NM: oh fuck this
NH: just awful
NM: you know I turned down a date tonight for this?
NH: good grief
NH: i hope you thought up a better reason than i want to watch penn st…
NM: I just said I was busy.

Then a Rutgers player got a first down when he really should’ve been tackled short of the line to gain on a big 3rd and long. Not sure I took it too well…


Then it was half time and we discussed Lily Adams from the AT&T commercials and how she was an actress and not a real AT&T employee. I fancy her. Anyway on to the second half…

if this flag is against us…
throw him out for being a prick
yep – no doubt I’ll sleep maybe 45-60 mins after this game ends
I’ll be wound up

Then we did something good. An interception…

NH: we were saying…

Either I was writing in prose an orgasm or Penn State did something good here…


Then we didn’t do so good…

oh come on
busted play again
too many of them today
didn’t need to hold either
what the hell was that?

Then we scored a TD to win it but it was called back because of a penalty but we would score another TD and it would hold up. This is the conversation. I was rational for brief moments…

NH: wow oh wow…
NH: too quick!
NM: its a hold
NH: pretty clear
NH: sadly
NH: lol
NH: go for 2?
NM: No.
NM: get the 1 so a FG only ties, if they miss the 2 a FG would win it

Then we stopped Rutgers and won the game…

NH: who says it wasnt worth staying up for?
NH: that will make getting to sleep a touch easier!
NM: I’m too pumped

So maybe on occasions I can still see the link between the words fan and fanatic.

One of the biggest issues for personally is many of the events I get so pumped for are on US time and therefore are in the early hours. When a game finishes like that, that I am so emotionally invested in then I can’t just go to bed and go to sleep. So I have to unwind and that takes time and I can easily see the sun rise in the morning before falling asleep. I am so lucky I have employment that grants me some flexibility and I can work late at night and don’t have to work office hours every day.

I don’t know the reason for this blog post but I thought it was interesting that despite my education, my journalism background, my thoughts that I am smart and linguistic, at times just shouting and swearing is all that can come out of my mouth/fingers. Sport still has that effect…at times.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

September 15th, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Crazy magical sex? Yes please and some rather personal thoughts…

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Well the title is a bit weird but it will make sense. This blog is about three things, thirdly the headline crazy magical sex and how awesome I think it would be, secondly the lyrics to a song and how they speak to me but first it is about how a music video can at times influence what you think about a song.

Yesterday morning I was up at some stupid hour and before went off the air for two hours of teleshopping at 6AM, the last song played was one I hadn’t heard yet. It was by an American House DJ known as 3LAU and the song was called ‘How you love me’ and it was certainly catchy. However the video was one of the most intriguing I’ve seen for a long, long time. You can watch it below:

It is about a young lady telling her boyfriend that she is ready for sex, then the young lady in question has some rather crazy (and seemingly awesome) magical powers and they have a good time. He then sneaks off to go with another girl but before he escapes he makes the epic fail of a) leaving his phone behind and b) not getting out of there without waking up super hot magical powers sex girl.

Just a quick note here – the woman he’s going to meet is nowhere near as attractive as the girl he’s trying to sneak away from.

So anyway using her magical powers she knows what he is up to, then she magically tries to choke him (kinky) and then uses her rather large teddy bear collection to attack him before giving her big teddy evil life and then the evil teddy does something rather bad to our male lead who thought he was just going to have his cake and eat it with two women. The ending is left rather ambiguous, has he been turned into a teddy? Is that why she has a large teddy collection? Is this why my friend Emma has a large teddy collection, are they there to attack any men who try to play her for a fool? Many unanswered questions but the video is basically just flat out cool and whilst the song itself is very catchy and certainly worthy of a spot on my YouTube dance mix and my iPod the next time I go to update it, the video adds to the song.

Now on to the lyrics:

Nobody’s perfect I’ll never try,
But I promise I’m worth it if you just open up your eyes,
I don’t need a second chance,
I need a friend,
Someone who’s gon’ stand by me right there till the end,
If you want the best of my heart, you’ve just gotta see the good in me.

Cause I could be the rain in your desert sky,
I could be the fire in your darkest night,
I could be your curse or your angel,
It’s all in how you love me.

I could be your sun when it’s cold outside,
I could be your rock when there’s nowhere to hide,
I could be your curse or your angel,
It’s all in how you love me.

It’s How You Love Me.

You get what you give, that’s the simple truth.
So, just lend me your hand and I’ll give you someone to hold onto.

I don’t need a second chance,
I need a friend,
Someone who’s gon’ stand by me right there till the end,
If you want the best of my heart, you’ve just gotta see the good in me.

Cause I could be the rain in your desert sky,
I could be the fire in your darkest night,
I could be your curse or your angel,
It’s all in how you love me.

I could be your sun when it’s cold outside,
I could be your rock when there’s nowhere to hide,
I could be your curse or your angel,
It’s all in how you love me.

It’s How You Love Me.

Yes. Nobody is perfect and that is something I have long come to terms with. There is no Sabrina/Harvey stone in two halves that create a perfect whole. Not to delve too deeply into my private life but sometimes I sit here (or somewhere else – I think in many places – I also think laying down and walking) about what I want in a partner. On one hand you want the fireworks, the insane chemistry and pure lust but then you also want the person that you can see being a life partner, who could be the friend who’ll stand by me right until the very end and who can be the yin to my yang who I can share my life with. I suspect what it comes down to is finding the person who is the best mix of the two. Movies make it seem like the former is the all important whereas maybe the latter is the key. Who knows. I suppose that is all part of the individual journey of life that we all undertake.

I have in essence been single for all of my 31 years and you get to a point where letting someone into your life is actually a big deal. I can’t speak for other long-term singletons but I can speak for myself when I say you just get used to the lifestyle. I suspect it is the same the other way round, those who have spent most (if not all) of their teenage and adult life in relationships are scared to a degree about single life. Potentially jumping into a relationship would for me be to some degree scary because it is out of my comfort zone. Being single is what I’m used to but then on the other hand the rewards far outweigh the risks and what if there is potential for something awesome and magical out there?

I am starting to find my, I won’t say MoJo but I will say maybe my desire to actually test those potential waters. I am still shy and awkward (more awkward than shy these days though) and I am positively naive in so many things on this front. Everyone learns it when young and I never did. My knowledge on romance, how to deal with potential romance, dating etc. is so miliscule that you could fit it on the back of a postage stamp, but for the first time in a long while I think I’m ready to allow myself to get hurt if that is what has to happen. Maybe it is time to try to not only hit the Home Run but to actually step up to the plate to be in a position to hit the Home Run even though the chances of striking out are abundant.

What this all means I’ll leave to the reader to decide but there have been changes in my life recently away from personal stuff that has freed me somewhat and to some degree focused my mind on what I want and what I see me getting from this whole journey of life. Whilst just bumbling along content with life has been fine and dandy, maybe I actually yearn for more and maybe despite my protestations, maybe I actually want to find someone with whom to share my life. I’ve always said I’m comfortable with the single life (and I am) but does comfortable equate to actual happiness? Seeing my sister so happy at her wedding was such an eye opener. It truly was.

Wow. I did not see me typing this when I woke up this morning. I certainly did think to myself how much I wished I still kept my LiveJournal where I could be more open and frank but this is a very public blog so I have to tippy-toe around certain issues.

To end with though lets circle back to the music video and the first few words of the headline. If anyone has magical powers and wants crazy magical sex then I could probably have my interest piqued by that proposal. I’m pretty open minded but bringing a teddy bear to life with an evil conscious is something that I’d at least take a double take over and I don’t want any woman (no matter how crazy hot and magical she may be) ever bring my Care Bears to life. They know too much and have the dirt on me.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

August 5th, 2014 at 8:48 am

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16 long hours without the internet – I somehow didn’t cry

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In the early minutes of Sunday morning I was laying in bed and doing what I often do, I leaned over and picked up the iPad to look something up and my internet wasn’t working. So I got out of bed and rebooted the modem. I got back into bed and the internet still wasn’t working. Cue panic. Mass panic.

The next four hours (remember I had already gone to bed before this has all started) were spent trying to work out what was stopping my internet from working. You see I’m kinda, ever so slightly, you know, possibly, at a push…addicted to the internet. Not only that I work in websites and I work from home. No internet access means no ability to work. The ability to work is pretty important when it comes to my bank balance. Seriously I was not amused.

At around half two in the morning I picked up my phone and there was no dial tone. Cue even more epic panic. If there was a fault with the line then I knew I could be out of commission for a while. I eventually gave up and fell asleep. I woke up at around eight and heard my neighbour was already awake so went and asked her if her phone line was working. She checked and there was no dial tone. Cue relief on one hand knowing whatever fault was not just on my line but also a small bit of panic as my backup plan of using her wireless internet was also up the swanny.

So I used my 3G on my phone and searched twitter for ‘sky broadband’ and I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I saw lots of people complaining that their internet was down in my local area. I checked Sky’s Help Team’s twitter account and it confirmed an outage that spread all across Essex and East Anglia. I knew it a large number of people were without internet and phone services that they first of all knew all about it and secondly that they would be attempting to fix it.

I went out and came down around midday and still no internet, I watched some TV, still no internet, went on the exercise bike and still no blinking internet and then after I finished my second 45 minutes on the bike (I watched the footy and took a break a Half Time for a drink) I was walking to my shower and saw the fourth light on my modem lit up, the internet, it lived, it lived again!

All in all I was without the internet for 16 hours. This should not cause the deep-rooted panic within me that it did. I think the mitigating circumstances of I work from home and in websites was a large part of the panic (I know it was a Sunday but I do plenty of work on Sunday’s) and if it was a problem with my phone line individually (or the line coming into this block) then I know from experience that these things can take a significant time to be fixed. Still after saying all of that, I should not be completely freaking out about not being able to go online.

The thing is, I suspect I’m not alone. I have been using the internet daily for pretty much 15 years. These days I have so many devices connected to the internet that whilst I can’t go online from the shower, I can pretty much be online doing anything else. Even when I’m cooking I take the iPad into the kitchen and stick on YouTube or Sky Go to watch/listen to something whilst I cook. The first thing I do in the morning is reach for the iPad to check my e-mails, then check the news, twitter et al.

I survived 16 hours without the internet but it reinforced just how reliant I am on it just to function. It is deeply concerning. With that I shall commit this blog post to the internet and go and watch an episode of The Apprentice from YouTube on my iPad that I have connected to Apple TV so I can watch it on the big screen. Technology folks. When I eventually join the world of being a home owner I wonder just what I’ll do but I can assure you of this – I suspect I’ll have one or two gadgets and I certainly want to be able to turn the heating on from my smartphone.

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May 8th, 2014 at 12:31 pm

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The autumn is descending and the Neil starts reverting to type. The lesser spotted Neil (that blimin’ spot is still fighting for life on my chin – come on just die and let the beautiful pink skin win already) is a creature of habit. When the nights draw in and the sporting seasons get going then he’s rarely to be seen socially unless you happen to catch him between the apartment and a local takeaway establishment.

Unlike previous years this year the Neil has invested in fibre optic broadband and that has led to even more options for him to watch. With an iPad purchased coupled with an Apple TV box the odds of him not spending the whole of his weekend camped either on his chair by the PC watching sport or lounged across one of the sofas doing exactly the same is shall we say low.

People who have lived with the Neil will know all about this. On Sunday’s (and to a slightly lesser extent Saturday’s) it was known for him not to be seen at all bar forages to the fridge for a cold can of Cherry Coke. A common occurrence used to be doorbell ringing at some point on a Sunday evening and for a bemused housemate to answer it and see a takeaway delivery man or woman standing there. Luckily the housemates knew what this was and a shout upstairs would see the Neil sprint out of his room and bound down the stairs to pay for said food before swishing into the kitchen to pick up a bowl and a spoon before making his way back upstairs to dish out his dinner.

You see the Neil has an issue. That issue is he has no spare time on a Sunday from September through to the Superbowl in February. Yesterday it was noted that he made and ate his dinner during the build up to the Formula 1 as he realised that was the only time he had in the day to make dinner without missing some sporting action unless he wanted to eat dinner at around half past midnight.

We are lucky enough to have been given an insight into how the Neil spent his Sunday…

He was first seen at around 11 o’clock where upon he read his e-mails and read the Sunday papers. He then checked his fantasy baseball team and planned for the big final next week. At just gone midday he remembered the Grand Prix was on and quickly realised about a timing issue that he had. He made dinner just in time for the F1 to start but 25 minutes into the race he switched the F1 to the PC and put the football on the TV. He then remembered the Dundee United v Motherwell math was on BT Sport so put that on his iPad (there is a fellow Neil who follows DU but this Neil has been known to miss occasional sporting events to spend time with his wife – our Neil doesn’t have this option).

By 6PM the football was finished but then the NFL was on – a double header. However the live games did not grab the attention of our subject and whilst he put it on he was playing around on YouTube. Throughout the day the Neil was getting messages from a friend of his who was catching up on a week of Masterchef Australia and passing on her opinions. Come 7PM the latest episode was on TV and the Neil dipped out of sport to watch MCA and because of the terrible NFL games he would also watch The X Factor. At 9PM he returned to the NFL for the rest of the night but used the end of the early games to put his laundry on and then half-time to put his own clean laundry on his clothes horse. At the end of the day he filed some work but decided to record the early morning NFL game.

This is a rare insight to how the Neil lives. Some would say he needs a life and some would say he is living the dream. The one thing we know is that he spent nearly ten minutes trying to work out if he had had a shower that day and after the sniff test realised that he had not.

On the Saturday there was an early EPL game then at three there was Soccer Saturday coupled with a choice of live games via the fibre optic broadband route before the late EPL game. Due to TV regions the Neil was unable to watch the Penn State game live in the evening so spent it watching old Law & Order episodes.

Welcome to the life of Neil – not exactly the life of Riley but interesting all the same…

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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September 23rd, 2013 at 5:45 pm

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Neil makes homemade burgers. Were they a success? Lets review the evidence…

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Last week I was sitting at this very PC talking to the only person from my first secondary school that I still speak to on a regular basis. We were doing one of the things we always do – discuss food. She was having Steak that night. I sure as hell wasn’t. I had some mince that I had to use and said I’d pop over the shop and get a jar of curry or chilli and make a simple curry or chilli. She said I should make burgers. I deliberated on this and then thought about it a bit after looking up burger recipes. I thought I could actually do this.

I had no eggs but she assured me that wasn’t a problem. Good I thought as I hate eggs and the smell makes me gag. I had onions, bread and thought I could empty the remains of a Jack Daniels Sauce bottle in. Ok I thought. I’m going to do this. So I went to the kitchen and the first problem was I didn’t have a mixing bowl so how on Earth was I going to mix the ingredients? So I opened the cupboard and lo and behold I had a mixing bowl. I don’t ever remember buying a mixing bowl but there it was. I suspect this is down to a former housemate who when I moved out of that place went shopping with me and told me all the things I needed to buy and just put them in the trolley. I assume this is where I got the mixing bowl.

So hurray. A mixing bowl. So I dumped in the mince and the onions and then my very roughly chopped breadcrumbs/large bits of bread before emptying the JD sauce bottle and seasoned with salt and ground black pepper. Then I mixed it all up. So far so good. I separated the mixture into five patties and put them in the fridge to chill. Now we get a problem. I was going to grill my burgers on the George Foreman but guess who had cleaned the grill but left the bits in the sink with a tap dripping? Yes that’s right. Me. Now I could of course wipe dry the grill bits but I didn’t. I made a late decision to shallow fry the burgers. This would be problematic.

So I shallow fry the burgers and put them in bread (I had no burger buns and cba to go and get any) and tucked into my burgers. They tasted ok but the insides of the burgers weren’t cooked properly and were pink. I thought to myself that it was fine and carried on but then Googled it and homemade burger patties that aren’t cooked properly can result in what they call ‘Hamburger disease’ or as scientists call it Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. It is pretty bad. So I spent two to three days waiting for the food poisoning but happily it never came. I ate the rest of the burgers having grilled them thoroughly and they were cooked through fine.

As for the overall meal. Meh they were edible burgers but most certainly not anything to write home about. Too much onion and needed more seasoning and maybe some herbs. Would I try it again? Sure but next time I would actually plan it. The biggest moral of the story is I haven’t died and therefore no-one should feel any guilt over my potential death for suggesting I should make burgers…

Here is the photographic evidence:

Making Home Made Burgers 1

Mixing bowl of ingredients

Making Home Made Burgers 2

Mixture mixed up into a giant pattie

Making Home Made Burgers 3

Five home made burger patties

Making Home Made Burgers 4

Burgers in Pan

Making Home Made Burgers 5

Cooked(ish) burgers in pan

Making Home Made Burgers 6

Burgers on Bread

Making Home Made Burgers 7

Burgers in Bread

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

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July 15th, 2013 at 11:32 am

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Disney has sexed up Brave star Merida but at what cost to young minds?

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‘Individuality in people is what makes them beautiful’

Words of a very special young man, oh wait, no, scratch that, I said those words this morning. You see I was speaking (well typing) in response to the petition surrounding the ‘glammed up’ version of Merida by Disney as they have made her look more ‘beautiful’ as they prepare her for the US market. They clearly think that by making her look more sexual then they’ll sell more products but isn’t this yet again an attempt by a big money corporation to follow the dollar instead of standing up for what is right?

The creator of Merida – the star of the film Brave – is unhappy with the new version of her character. Speaking in The Guardian she said the following:

The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value – to be recognised as true princesses – they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.

By jove she has a point. Now I’m a man so did not face half the issues that women – and in particular young women face as they grow up. Still I see all the magazines and read all the stories (ok that is a lie, I don’t but I know they exist). I know that we are spoon fed by the media what to look for in role models and alas looks is right up there. I was standing in the shower earlier working through this blog post in my head (yes this is the type of thing that I do) and I wondered to myself if we asked 1,000 teenage girls and 1,000 teenage men who they would aspire to be like (and for the men would like to share dinner with) – either Dame Helen Mirren or Kelly Brook who would get the most votes amongst both genders?

I think it is safe to say the vast majority of teenage men would be hot blooded and say Kelly Brook but I also fear that an albeit smaller majority of women would prefer to be like Kelly Brook than Dame Helen Mirren. This depresses me. The tabloid media will follow Kelly Brook’s (or anyone else of that ilk) every move so they can show a photo of her in an attempt to boost sales. Good looking women sell copies but photos of a respected, Oscar winning actress would not.

Michelle Obama is the most known First Lady of all time I suspect and is it a coincidence that she is the most glam? I had Carla Bruni shoved down my throat in both the written and broadcast media when she was the wife of the French President but I had to go and search for the name of her successor in that position. Valérie Trierweiler is her name for the record. Whilst I don’t begrudge the media presence of Michelle Obama as she clearly uses her position to further many great causes – it says a lot that other First Lady’s have done just as much good which were not as widely recognised due to being less in the media spotlight.

The media and society have a view on what is beautiful and they try to promote people who fall into that venn diagram of who they believe is beautiful. The media do this to make money (similar to what Disney have done with Merida) and society gets dragged along with it. You ask anyone who they think is the most beautiful person and they’ll say their partner if they have one and then if you say ignore their partner they’ll pick out someone famous. However they won’t all name the same person, in fact quite the opposite, if you asked 1,000 men and 1,000 women who they thought the most beautiful famous person was and I’m willing to bet we’ll get at least 100 names for both men and women.

You see the thing is we all look for something different and see beauty in an unending number of ways. If someone asked me what I thought makes someone beautiful then I would struggle to answer. This is just this je ne sais quoi that some people have and some people don’t in my eyes. There is no one thing that I could hang my hat on and say ‘that is something all beautiful people have’ because I just don’t think there is that one thing.

I would love to live in a world where beauty isn’t dictated by society or the media. I know as we all get older we start to see this for ourselves but when you are young and impressionable you don’t see this. When I was a teenager I saw what the media dictated as the most eligible bachelors – David Beckham and Jamie Redknapp – marry two pop stars. Every young women (ok not every young woman, that is a lie) but the amount of young women who wanted to be pop stars increased with this because they thought that is what eligible bachelors go for. A lot (although not as many as some in society would claim) of young women would like to be a footballers wife. Is this really an aspiration we want to pass on?

The best way to tackle this is to promote individuality as beauty. If young people can see that beauty is not just want society tells us it is then they would start to feel less pressure to conform to what society wants them to be. We are all different. This is what makes us a wondrous race. I’m lucky that I have reached a stage where I am comfortable in my own skin but heck in my teens and early 20s I had so much disdain for how my looked it was insane looking back.

If I had my way then schools would promote individuality far more than they do. In our education system you aren’t prepared for the real world. Instead you are forced into a mould to achieve the best possible exam results for both yourself and in turn your school. However whilst being academically successful is important, so is the process of discovering who we are and how we can be the best person we can be. I think our education system fails on this and is one thing I’d love to change. The more young people are allowed to explore themselves the more tolerant we would be and the more comfortable we would be with ourselves and others – no matter how different we were.

Back to the original point the petition is here and if you believe that young women need a vaster array of role models then I would implore you to sign. I don’t blame Disney for what they did because they are just trying to maximise their revenues but I am disappointed by it. They don’t have an obligation to any section of society but it would be nice to see them promote a larger selection of role models and not just do what they think is best for them in the short term profits wise.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

May 14th, 2013 at 1:22 pm

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