Support Jane on the Award’s coast-to-coast cycle challenge

A bicycle on rocks beside some water.

For those of you who don’t know, the lovely Jane works for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award; she’s their New Start Project co-ordinator.

The New Start project was launched in 1998 with the aim of demonstrating how the Award Programme can compliment and enhance the work of organisations concerned with reducing and preventing youth crime and promoting community safety.

As part of the Award’s 50th Anniversary the Scottish Award Office Team are embarking on a cycle challenge. They are planning to cycle from coast-to-coast, west to east, Glasgow to Edinburgh on Friday 4 August 2006 in order to raise £1,000 for the Award’s Jubilee Fund, which will help to secure the future of the Award and the amazing work that it does.

If you would like to support Jane and the rest of the Scottish Award team then you can donate money at Just Giving.

Laundry symbols

Row of washing machines at a laundrette.

Do you know what all the little symbols on your clothes mean, the laundry and ironing-related ones on the label? I don’t, but I’ve found a great resource that reminds me.

Some of the symbols are fairly easy to work out. The tub of water with a temperature and/or dot is easy to work out: that’s to do with washing. One dot is 30 deg C, two is 40 deg C, all the way up to a whopping 95 deg C (six dots). Ironing too is simple, it shows an image of an iron again with dots signifying the temperature.

Some of the symbols are not so easy to guess. Bleach is symbolised by a triangle (is that supposed to suggest a warning?); tumble drying by a circle within a square. Line dry looks like an envelope, drip dry looks like a top-down diagram of a three slot toaster! (I don’t recommend drying clothes over the toaster!) Dry cleaning instructions are symbolised by a circle. Some have letters within the circle, others have tangents indicating further instructions such as short cycle, low heat and no steam.

And of course, if the symbol is crossed out: DON’T DO IT! Which is a shame, because my trousers are still damp and I now know that the label recommends “Do Not Tumble Dry”.

Check out the Guide to Common Home Laundering and Drycleaning Symbols, which can also be downloaded in PDF format. There is also a good section on how to remove stains from clothing too. (Check me out with my domesticated blog posts!)

Long-needed upgrade

NEC DVD ReWriter drive on left, Belkin USB 7-port hub on right.

This afternoon I gave my PC a minor upgrade, having been meaning to do it for ages. Gone is my faithful 2.4x (speed) Pioneer DVD ReWriter, now replaced with a much faster 16x NEC Dual-Layer; and similarly, my 5-port Belkin USB 1.1 hub has been replaced with a stackable 7-port model, also by Belkin.

This left me no excuse but to perform a quick (long-needed) backup of My Documents, which took a spritely 5 minutes instead of nearly half-an-hour per disc. Have you backed-up recently?

The DVD ReWriter is being donated to my Mum’s PC, which I’m currently rebuilding (new case, DVD-RW, new 40GB HDD to supplement the 20GB model already there, Windows XP Home), and the USB hub … well, I’m not sure quite yet. It’s been relegated to the Big Boy’s Box of Interesting Things™ under my desk, until I have decided.

After I’ve got my book chapters safely posted to Hodder, and have returned from the SEC youth camp in August, I have a new Seagate 300 GB hard drive to install in this (my main) machine. It will replace one of my current 120 GB drives.

But that will involve a complete system backup and long needed reinstallation of Windows XP Professional.

A great week of people

Jane sitting on a wooden chair in the garden, a barbeque is in the background.
Jane enjoying the BBQ held in her honour, having returned safely from Canada.

This past week has been a great one in terms of catching up with various friends and family, culminating with Jane arriving back safely from Canada yesterday afternoon, her plane having been delayed for an hour at Gatwick due to a thunder and lightning storm over Manchester.


On Tuesday my Mum visited, which was lovely. It was good to show her where I am living and working now, but even nicer just to spend some time with her. It’s one thing to speak on the phone for an hour every couple of days, but so much nicer to be there in person. I love my Mum.

After work I took Mum out for dinner. “Where would you like to go?” I asked.

“Anything but seafood,” said Mum.

So we went to Littlejohn’s restaurant on Market Street, which has a wide variety of dishes. Mum had the haddock and salmon timbale!

No seafood indeed!


On Wednesday evening I had a visit from Roger Bennett who got in touch last year about a Psion-related problem that I was able to help him with.

We’ve kept in touch ever since (hello Roger!), and it was great to be able to meet up at last. I helped Roger move some data from a Series 3a to a Series 5, and then we settled down to a cup of coffee and some Selkirk bannock that Mum had brought me, and some great chat about life, motor racing and rock ‘n’ roll.

I say “we” but (a) I don’t drink coffee, and (b) there was only one slice of bannock left as I’d taken the rest to work that day and shared it with a few folks in the office.


Owen standing in his bouncer in the doorway.
It’s nice to bump into old friends, and Friday was the day for doing exactly that. In the morning I bumped into a couple of staff from my St Mary’s days as a student; it was great to catch up.

Then in the afternoon I met another couple of St Andrews’ friends: Ian and Karen Parkinson and their son Joe. A few of us (from the Mary Celeste Suite — everyone else in the office is on holiday, it would appear!) were on an office outting to Janetta’s for a mid-afternoon ice-cream when we met them in the queue as we were leaving the shop.

In the evening my brother Eddie drove over from Thornton, near Glenrothes, to pick me up and take me to South Queensferry, in preparation for Jane’s arrival on Saturday. We spent the evening eating stodgy things covered in gloop (pasta with industrial-strength cheese sauce, followed by cake with crème anglais) and watching Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey documentary on DVD.

What was lovely was spending more time with my nephew Owen, who is growing up so quickly. He’s such a cheery and contended little chap, always giggling and taking an interest in whatever is going on around him.


After a couple of hours working on the book on my new laptop (more about that in a later post), I set out to Edinburgh Airport to meet Jane. Via PC World and Staples, from some essential supplies.

I’d timed it perfectly: Jane’s plane from London Gatwick was due in at 15:45, I arrived at 15:35. Enough time to park and get to the UK arrivals with time to spare. But checking the arrivals board I discovered that there were UK-wide disruptions, caused by thunder and lightning storms in England I later discovered, and Jane’s flight wouldn’t arrive until 16:40.

As I was standing looking at the arrivals board, a text message arrived on my phone. It was from Jane’s sister Soo, telling me that Jane’s flight had been delayed by an hour (you don’t say!) so don’t bother going to the airport quite yet (too late!).

When I rang Soo back she invited me over to her house (in South Queensferry) to wait. But an hour is easy to fill. I fetched my A4 notebook from the car and sat making notes about my current chapter in the Mahjong book, I read some of the latest edition of Personal Computer World magazine (whose accompanying CD/DVD has a full version of Snag-It 7 screen-capture software), and I sat watching people — one of my favourite public pastimes.

Celebratory BBQ

After Jane arrived, to many whoops of joy and delight — from everyone in the airport. I’m sure. Although they might not have been demonstrating it outwardly, I’m sure their hearts were as aglow as mine was! — we drove back to Sunny Queensferry for a celebratory barbeque. By the time the BBQ had heated to the appropriate temperature and the burgers had cooked the sun had disappeared, and so had our hosts (Bec and Eddie) to attend to Owen’s night-time routine.

Having been up for the best part of 32+ hours, and crossing umpteen timezones Jane is enjoying a well-deserved sleep.

I wonder whom I’ll meet this week…?

Don’t Seattle for less…!

Jane, her sister Pauline, and their Mum and Dad are now in Seattle, Washington, USA having travelled down from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada the other day by ferry.

However, as grunge-tastic as Seattle might be, the view from Jane and Pauline’s hotel room was less than desirable, as I’m sure you can agree:

Before (View from Hotel Room, pt.1)

View from hotel room, pt.1 shows a concrete wall!

The room was dark and dingy, with the perfect view of a concrete wall. Meanwhile, upstairs on the 12th floor their parents were enjoying a panoramic view of all that Seattle’s impressive city skyline could throw at them.

So they complained, in a gentle British way, and asked to be moved closer to their parents. Their pleas were promptly rewarded with this view from their bedroom window:

After (View from Hotel Room, pt.2)

View from hotel room, pt.2 showing Seattle's city skyline.

Ah… that’s much better.

In case you are wondering, the Spaceship-on-a-Stick™ that you can see in the centre of the photograph is the Space Needle, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle. It is an impressive 184 m (605 feet) high and access to the top is via a glass elevator that travels at approximately 100 mph! (I’m exagerating, it’s actually 10 mph, and allows you to reach the viewing platform in a cool 43 seconds.)

Jane and I went up it a few years ago when we last visited Seattle. I’m not sure if Jane is going up again today, but here’s her view from the bottom, earlier today:

Looking up at the Space Needle in Seattle.

This is Jane and Pauline’s final full day in North America. Tomorrow they return to Vancouver to catch the plane back to Blighty. Meanwhile, I’m trying to work out the best way of getting to Edinburgh tomorrow so that I can drive Jane home; as that’s where her car is. She really doesn’t want to be driving back with jet-lag.