Random musings from Bracknell

I’ve been a regular visitor to Bracknell for twenty years. It’s the town in Berkshire whose 1960s centre was so unloved that it was recently demolished so that it could be rebuilt in 21st century … splendour. The town’s fascinating subway murals celebrate buildings and employers that are no more.

3M Building - Bracknell Subway Mural
A mural in a Bracknell subway celebrating the 3M building, now demolished.

The drive between Derby and Bracknell gives me plenty of time to chew things over, not necessarily Bracknell related. These were some of the random thoughts that occurred to me during last week’s driving.

Will Dr Phillip Lee, Conservative MP for Bracknell, join the Liberal Democrats?

I don’t think that he will. But I can see him resigning the whip to sit as an independent MP of one flavour or another. However, my political predictions are usually rubbish, so nothing would surprise me. I’d be certainly be happy if he did join the party though. His pro-business credentials would certainly sit better with us than in the current anti-business Tory party.

What’s the point of the A308(M)?

At 0.6 miles in length, this is the country’s shortest signed motorway. The queue to get off it is sometimes 0.6 miles long too. The A308(M) wasn’t always like this, as Pathetic Motorways explains.

Why do supersized versions of small cars look so ugly?

There are some great small car designs. The original Fiat 500 is beautiful. The current Fiat 500 although larger, still looks cute, especially in yellow. A Pikachu of a car. But the Fiat 500X? My goodness it’s ugly. Lovely to be driven around in certainly, but that’s because you can’t see the outside at the same time. As ugly as a Raichu – the ‘evolved’ version of a Pikachu.

What would the 15 year old me make of the 55 year old me?

I think he’d be happy that I managed to turn my hobby of tinkering with electronics into a 30+ year career in the software industry. After all, writing software and getting paid for doing it is fun. Helping to explain the benefits of software to others, while still being paid, is even more fun.

Which songs make me smile unexpectedly?

This one did. It brought back some pleasant memories of Easter 1980, before the grind of sitting O Levels began.

On the road

So far this year I seem to be spending a lot of time away from home. Specifically, I seem to be spending a lot of time working from our Bracknell office – it was 3 days last week and 4 days this week. Inevitably, I spend a fair amount of time at hotels in and around the area. While there’s a Travelodge right next to our building (which is great if you need a short commute time and the staff are friendly there), I prefer somewhere that has a few more home comforts if I’m honest.

So in no particular order, these are my favourite places to stay:

  • The Elvetham Hotel, Hartley Wintney. This is a 30 minute drive away, so it’s just about on the limit of what I’m happy to tolerate. It’s not always possible to get a room at what I regard as being a reasonable rate (i.e. one that’s within our expenses limits!) but it quite often is, particularly if you leave booking it until the last minute. £75 bed and breakfast is typically what I reckon to pay.

Plus points: Very comfortable; free internet access; fabulous grounds that are good to walk round when the evenings are a bit lighter; good food.

Minus points: Bar prices are a bit, well, pricey, particularly for wine.

  • The Fines Bayliwick Hotel, Binfield. I first stayed here in the late 1980s, when I was attending a training course at HP’s nearby facility. I re-acquainted myself with if after I joined Software AG in 2001 and I’ve stopped there many times since, the most recent being a couple of weeks ago. It changed hands 3 or 4 years ago. Similar in price to the Elvetham if you book a double room for single occupancy, there have been some recent improvements, most notable being the new flat screen televisions in the bedrooms with access to all the Freeview channels. They used to operate an honesty bar under the original owners which was quaint, but presumably people aren’t as honest these days.

Plus points: Each room is unique; free internet access; friendly owners; breakfast.

Minus points: The single rooms are small – and one in particular is very, very small! Not worth saving £10 for if you have the option to take a double for single occupancy. Evening meals are a little pricey, but there is a choice of either Indian or English dishes.

  • Holly House, Bracknell. A guest house, rather than a hotel, with (I think) four rooms. I’ve only stopped there once, but it was very comfortable. I keep meaning to go back, because it was very good indeed. The owner is very welcoming and attentive, but without being overbearing.

Plus points: Fabulous breakfast, freshly cooked to order, eaten at a big table with the other guests.  Make sure you have plenty of time available to enjoy it! Free internet access.

Minus points: None I can think of.

  • Premier Inn, Ascot. Amazingly, the most expensive of the four hotels in this post to stay at. It’s usually available for around £80, with breakfast being about £8 extra. Despite the age of the chalets the rooms are in, they are comfortable, even if the bathrooms can be a little cold at times.

Plus points: Very comfortable and large beds (important if you’re tall like me); it shares the same site as a Beefeater restaurant – and sometimes only a steak will do.

Minus points: Internet access is an additional £10 for the day (and there are no nearby BT FON hotspots to piggyback onto instead); the main car park is cramped and I’m always worried that my car will get scraped by someone; and it’s all a bit impersonal really.

DD303 TMA06 and more thoughts on revision

I’ve been finishing off TMA06 and attempting to get down to some revision this weekend, with a mixed amount of success as the rest of the household seems to be in chaos. I’ve also got the gloomy thought of having to drive down to Bracknell later on as yet again, I’m starting my working week there. As I’m leading a training course for the salespeople first thing in the morning, I’ve decided that the only way I can be awake enough to make it worth their while is to sacrifice my Sunday evening and drive down to the luxury Bracknell Travelodge tonight, rather than getting up at 5am to make sure I can get through the Monday morning traffic in time to get to the office for 8am ish.

At least my TMA06 effort now says that it’s at draft 6, so based on my usual form that’s probably good enough. I’ll leave it for a few days however before I submit it, just in case I get some further astounding insights on autobiographical memory and the ‘working self’ I feel I want to incorporate.

Revision is going less well. Having decided what it is I want to revise, I haven’t really made too much of a serious start, but I have been looking at the notes I’ve made as I’ve gone along through DD303. I’ve also downloaded a free copy of ARIS Express, with the intention that I’ll use the general diagramming tool for mind-maps and other revision-focussed things. ARIS Express is meant for modelling and thinking about business processes, but I’m finding it easier to use than most dedicated mind-mapping software as (a) I use it in my day job and (b) I don’t find I can live within the constraints of pure mind-maps when I’m revising!

I’ve also joined Facebook this week. I’ve decided to restrict my activities on it to family, friends of 20+ years standing that I don’t get to see enough of in real life and fellow OU students. If you fall outside of those categories, please don’t take it personally if I don’t accept your friend invitation! I just need to get used to this strangely compelling environment slowly. I already have enough ways of procrastinating already, you see.

Bracknell here I come …

OUPS I did it again …

I apologise for giving this post such a terrible pun as a title, but I’m stuck for a couple of evenings in the luxury Bracknell Travelodge and it seems funny to me after a beer and probably the very worst cheeseburger I’ve eaten in, well, ever.

The food at the OUPS revision weekend at Warwick University was very much better (a constant topic of conversation being how much better it was than at the Bath University residential school) as was the company. It was great to bump into people from residential school, my tutor group and those I’d only ever communicated with online before. There were even two or three people who recognised me from this blog (*blushes*). As for a certain DD307 student, it was lovely to meet you, and I really don’t go in for rubber clothing. Of any kind!

Anyway, as I’m stuck in the wild party town that is Bracknell for the next couple of nights, I’m taking the opportunity to write up my handwritten notes from the chapters I took away on holiday with me (chapter15 on consciousness is here) and to finish tweaking TMA06. I’m also reflecting on what I’m going to revise for the exam (the consciousness chapter will be one of them), but I’ll post about that separately, probably tomorrow.

I don’t really have an axe to grind about Bracknell, it’s just that it’s not Derby and not home. What with holidays, the revision weekend and work, I don’t seem to have spent much time there recently.

Anyway, just to remind the family what I look like, this is me at the OUPS dinner and disco on Saturday night. I think the inappropriate wearing of yellow legwarmers suits me, don’t you? (Limes, thanks for the photo!)

Inappropriately dressed - Tim finds a new use for 80s fashion items ...

Huffty – First Impressions

I picked up Huffty from Beechdale, the Alfa dealers in Derby at lunchtime on Tuesday. She looked absolutely gorgeous in the showroom and I was very happy when I drove her away. The first trip was a little under 2 miles, back to the office. And then the heavens opened. And they seem to have stayed open ever since. So even with less than 200 miles on the clock she’s filthy. She needs a good wash so I can take pictures of her before someone runs a supermarket trolley into her!

So something else to do this weekend along with working on my ED209 chosen topic, finishing TMA06, starting to figure out what and how to revise for the exam in October, sorting the gardening out (hedge needs cutting, lawn needs cutting again if it’s dry, vegetable garden at Mum’s needs sorting), other chores … sigh. At some point I’ll hopefully get the chance to enjoy driving her somewhere nice! At the moment, it looks like Bracknell will have to do on Monday morning for work. Definitely not nice.

I did get to drive her to Telford and back this afternoon and I’ve finally just about figured out the Blue&Me system in the car tonight (it looks after the audio system and the hands-free bluetooth connection for my ‘phone) and all the buttons to press to make it do things or the commands to shout at it. Yes, Huffty takes orders from me and talks back to me to let me know that she can’t understand what I’m trying to say. A bit like the wife really, except the part about taking orders that is. (I take the orders round here). The command ‘Settings’ seems to give her particular difficulties (Huffty that is, not my wife) – unless I pronounce it as ‘Sett….tinggs’ with a noticeable pause between the two syllables.

If the weather’s decent this weekend I’ll have to take some photographs of her. This is, after all, the first brand new car I’ve bought in more than 20 years, so you’ll have to forgive me my excitement.

Right, I’m off to read the manual a bit more. Parts of it remind me of  and have me all nostalgic for the manual of my first computer, a Sharp MZ80K. That appeared to have been translated from Japanese into English by someone who only understood German. The MiTo manuals seem to have gone through a similar route – except this time it looks like they been translated from Italian into English by someone who only understands Japanese.

Avoiding TMA02

I’ve only got a small part of TMA02 left to complete now, but it’s been in that state for a few days now. Last night and tonight I’ve sat down at my computer with good intentions, but somehow I still haven’t quite managed to finish it. I’ve been so desperate to avoid doing it tonight that I’ve spent my time registering for next year’s course, DD303 on cognitive psychology, instead of just getting on with the assignment. Sigh.

Still, tomorrow night I won’t have any excuse for not finishing it off as I’ll be in the luxury Software AG dormitory, otherwise known as Bracknell Central Travelodge. It says on the hotel description that nightlife is available in Bracknell a mere 1.8 miles away; I’ve yet to find any! TMA02 it is then …