They came for our toilet rolls, because for some mysterious reason, people are pooping a lot more than they used to. Then they came for our hand sanitisers, because suddenly hygiene is seen to be super important now. Then they came for our pasta, because people suddenly find carbs super attractive.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic is escalating to the point of insanity by the Great Unwashed Public, supermarkets are struggling to keep stock of key foodstuffs and toiletries.

I thought that maybe I should book my regular Saturday morning slot with Sainsbury’s Online and add all my regular, not-at-all-panic-buying quantities of foodstuffs (there’s only me – I don’t need much). Alas, there are absolutely no available slots for at least two weeks. Tesco is the same. Ocado put me into a waiting queue just to get to their home page:

(We do this kind of virtual queueing at work for one client who sells shoes – and at this point of time, nobody is going into a frenzy buying shoes mainly because they’re stuck at home, can’t eat them, sanitise their hands with them (unless they wear shoes on their hands for the next several weeks), or use the shoes to wipe their arse.)

That said, I have plenty of food to keep me going for several weeks, and assuming that the local shops don’t close, there shouldn’t – providing people are sensible (oh please be realistic, Martyn – of course they won’t) then things like bread and tinned something should be fine.

This ain’t Supermarket Sweep, people. It’s not about filling your carts with everything you can find. Just do a normal weekly shop, and nothing should run out as quickly.

You know the ending to The Day The Earth Stood Still in which the alien leaves us a warning to mend our ways? If I were that alien, I’d have had the Earth blown to smithereens. Humans are the worst. (Hopefully the dolphins could facilitate a mass evacuation of dogs, cats, birds and other decent animals before the Earth is destroyed.)

I work for an employer who is, thankfully, sympathetic to working from home. And especially during this period where keeping tabs on this coronavirus outbreak is a necessity. And whenever I work from home, I continue to monitor South Western Railway’s performance. Pretty much every single day there is some incident which brings about major delays to the network.

Photo by Javon Swaby on Pexels.com

Over the past week there has been several train faults, signal failures, track circuit failures, and passengers taken ill. Some, like today, come in pairs (faulty train at Wimbledon – passenger taken ill between Clapham Junction and Surbiton). Or was it the other way around?

Yesterday I was due to work in the office, but as soon as I got to Woking there were problems with overrunning engineering works followed immediately by a train fault at Woking and a signalling problem at Vauxhall. So I turned around and went home.

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com
Britain’s Worst Nightmare – Leaves on the Line

It takes me between 90 minutes and 2 hours to get home “normally”, and up to 3 hours if there is major disruption on the network. This is to travel less than 35 miles from where I live.

All of this is absolute rubbish – and especially so in this time of the coronavirus. You don’t want to be stuck on a train with potential carriers – especially when they’re busy. When I was travelling on the Tube about a week ago, the trains were rammed-packed to the gills with people almost touching nose to nose. How is that going to contain this virus? It was made worse when there are signal/track problems on the Central line – which happened at least once during that week.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Public transport must do better, otherwise gas guzzling cars are going to be the only way to get to where you want to go in a reasonably reliable way. And we’re supposed to doing our bit for the environment.

GAH!

(P.S. – I use stock photos now. I am that guy. Also: free with WordPress.com plan.)

I’ve been looking at the stats for this site, and along with lack of active blogging recently, I’ve decided to head back to WordPress.com for the hosting and ditch the likes of DigitalOcean and Cloudflare.

I’ve paid up front for two years which works out about a third of what I’m paying now. And I’m also saving money by not paying for plugins such as WP Rocket (caching/optimisation), Foobox (lightbox for images) and the Wayfarer theme. Though I am still using the Wayfarer theme because it comes part of my WordPress.com plan.

And, I don’t know whether it’s just me or not – I’ve noticed that with the Premium plan I can now add Google Analytics. I’m sure that when I signed up early last year the premium plan didn’t have this – only Business or E-Commerce plans had that option. So good news!

What’s not so good news is that trying to import a media library (images, etc.) is not the easiest thing to do with WordPress – so I’m ditching all articles from last year and starting anew. Besides which, one of my bugbears about search engines is that a lot of the stuff they archive can be so old and out of date, the information is useless. It can really hinder when searching for technical information. So the posts in this blog may not last much more than 1-2 years maximum before biting the dust.

Still a bit more work to do around here, but it’s nearly done. Comments should continue working as before.

I like Wimbledon. It’s a nice town. I had no idea that I’d be working here, though. Back when I lived and worked in Norwich for an ISP, we had a client in Wimbledon who needed on-site support. So I came down and spent the day helping them fix the issue.

Then, when I went to work for MPC in London, we were tasked with providing visual effects for the film Wimbledon in which we had to make Paul Bettany look like a world-class tennis champ by replacing his balls with CG ones. Oo-er missus. I mean tennis balls, of course – when he’s lobbying the tennis balls back and forth during the matches. The film also features one of the catchiest end credits tunes – Grove Amarda’s But I Feel Good.

But I digress.

Many years later I now work for an e-commerce in Wimbledon. I’ve been working for them for over two years and we’ve just moved into brand new offices (literally next door!). The view from the terrace is pretty good.

Peeking around the corner, on a clear day you can see the unmistakable outline of London:

In short – not a bad place to work. Not bad at all. If only South Western Railway and Network Rail didn’t keep breaking/fixing things every 30 seconds. Took me two and a half hours to get home last night thanks to a broken train at Surbiton. And the journey between Wimbledon and Surbiton was horrendous. Absolutely packed. Not helped with two lads pushed their way on before the doors closed and one had a backpack which took up so much space and kept hitting me..

What a week. Two days of South Western Railway disruption (today being the worst with signal failures at Woking and power failures at Raynes Park) and I get an email from the administrators of the now-defunct Wonga to say that any compensation owed will be 4.3p in the pound (a tweet of mine is embedded in that Mirror article – I’m famous – LOL).

I put in my claim many months ago and was told I was owed £593 (rounded up). I was told I’d receive significantly less than this, and it ended up being a measly £25. Twenty-five quid. Which is going to be two months late.

The administrators have put in their own claim – their fees are over £2 million. And I’m willing to bet the directors of Wonga are going to get away with little more than a slap on the wrist for all this mess.

The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) has a lot of explaining to do as to why these companies aren’t better regulated. But similarly, they’re a bunch of fools. We’re already seeing many big banks increase their standard overdraft rates to 40% APR (equivalent) all because the FCA told them that their current daily charges were unfair.

My own personal authorised overdraft could potentially cost me up to double in fees because of the FCA’s meddling. They’re about to remove the buffer-free zone too. So they’re no longer a stand-out bank – they’re just like any other. Which is a shame.

And I’m still waiting on a good number of former creditors to pay up on PPI. One particular creditor has been delaying for months due to the amount of claims they’re still processing (even after the August 2019 deadline). That said, they told me that I’d still be earning interest on the sum they said they’d pay up until the point the money is released to me.

But it strikes me as hypocritical that banks can get away with delaying payment (or go tits up and expect a bailout from the government using public tax money) when it suits them, but heaven forbid you owe THEM money it can do all manner of things.

The FCA needs a kick up the arse, and some steel dentures in order to be an organisation that gets stuff done. Properly.

Now that it’s 2020, I felt it was time to cut back a bit on social media, which has recently become so Marmite-ish that everything tastes bitter and salty. So much anger. So much aggression. It’s all become very toxic.

So I’ve made it a New Year’s resolution to cut back on Twitter. I’m kind of scaling back on Instagram too, though mainly cutting back on the number of people and things that I’m following. The biggest problem with social media is that the more people you follow, the longer it takes to read everything, the noisier it gets, and it then ultimately exposes you to the knuckle-dragging Bad People®, and that makes you wonder why you bothered in the first place.

So, I’ve abandoned my 409-odd followers and the 600-odd people/things I were following and started again from scratch – retaining a follow a select few fellow twitterers whose tweets don’t make me want to go out and get a lobotomy.

My new account (@MartynDrake76) is going to be permanently set to private, and I’m resisting the urge to post anything to anybody who chooses to follow me. It’s more of a lurking/read-only account. Useful for checking the latest train info, or news updates.

Bring back the days of computing where nothing was interconnected. Where you had to wait 10 minutes for a computer game to load from tape, and if the system subsequently crashed just after loading the game, you’d do the same thing again. It taught us patience (well, maybe some of us – definitely not me).

Don’t get me started on Facebook. It has its uses (mainly family and close friends), but even then it’s not something I actively engage with much. Facebook’s Instant Messanger and WhatsApp apps are extremely useful – but that’s really the only things that get any kind of decent workout. The site itself I only glance at a few times a week at most – and for a minute or two.