Heart Attack Diary: #10

It’s a small world after all


At 2pm this afternoon I was sitting in the waiting room, waiting for my Cardiac Clinic Follow-up.

The purpose of this particular follow-up clinic is so that the cardiac specialist nurse can check on the health and well-being of the patient, check on the patient’s recovery strategy, and make sure that the meds we have to take aren’t interfering with life, the universe, and everything.

‘Hello chap!’ said a voice.

It was AD (not his real name, obv).

I used to work with AD in my previous job, where he was a senior manager in IT at a FTSE top 10 company.

It turns out that AD had a heart attack on the same day I had mine.

He had a few more stents put in than I.

That two senior managers in IT should have a heart attack on the same day is perhaps not much of a coincidence.

But we both live in Nottingham.

And we both worked for the same company.

Now that’s a bunch of coincidences.

The Gods Of Food Are Conspiring Against Me

Cooking shit ain’t what it used to be


I’ve never had a really large repertoire in the kitchen.

Cooking for me is a hassle, but a necessary one.


I dislike those cookery programmes with a deeply-held and profound sense of loathing.

They are all a load of pretentiousness, served up on a bed of rocket with some strawberry coolis, on a slate.

A fucking slate.

I ask you.

When did roofing materials start to become something we ate our food off?

What’s next?

Restaurants will be serving your prawn spritzer from the tailpipe of a 1973 Ford Cortina?


I digress.

Back to my repertoire in the kitchen.

And I mean cooking, not swearing or doing the washing up.

Though I am hella good at the last two in that sentence.

There’s a cottage pie. Made with minced Quorn.

And a pretty mean spag bol. Made with minced Quorn.

And a pasta dish (which isn’t the main feature ‘cos that’s the sauce which changes massively every time I make it).

And a sweet and sour stir fry (easy on the ginger, heavy on the pineapple, medium on peppers but chuck in some mange tout and don’t forget to fold in the rice for a flash-fry before serving). Made with chicken. Or chicken Quorn. It’s up to you.

And there’s a chicken (or Quorn) stir fry (lots of teriyaki sauce, a touch of soy, and about half the quantity of teriyaki of Worcester sauce, and frozen peas added straight from the freezer for the flash-fry when you fold in the rice).

I suppose those are my main runners and riders.

Anything else is an also-ran.

So I’ve been dicking around (to use a well-known cookery expression) with the chicken stir fry for the last three Tuesdays.

There’s a reason for the Tuesday thing which I’m not going to reveal here, but it involves my double-life as a secret agent for the CIA.

The dicking around has, to a point, been successful.

Except last week, when the chicken tasted like the sole of a well-used Wellington boot.

I mean it was rough, tough, and rubbery (insert racist Chinese joke here and I’ll kick your arse out of town, OK?).

So this week I didn’t cook with Ocado’s worst finest chicken (because it isn’t fine, obv).

I cooked with Morrison’s average chicken.

Which was absofuckinglutely lovely.

But the rice (Ocado’s own-brand long grain) let the side down very badly.

Very very badly.

In fact, Ocado’s own-brand long grain rice let the side down like Wayne Rooney at a grab the granny competition, in a Scunthorpe nightclub on a Monday night.

If that’s even possible.

Over half an hour to cook (despite the ‘simmer for 10-11 minutes’ instructions on the packet).

And it still had more bite that Theresa May at PMQs.

Mind you, that’s not a lot of bite, going by last week’s piss-poor performance.

But enough of politics, and back to the kitchen.

I want to give up on the Tuesday night chickenarama.

The Food Gods have had their laugh.

Chicken with the consistency of a Goodyear that’s done 25,000 miles.

Rice that won’t fucking cook.

Nah. I’m done with it.

Next Tuesday I’m going to flip over to one of my other tried and tested.

The trouble is, I’m likely to be the only one who will eat it.

Because the Cottage Pie has peas, mushrooms and onion in it.

Ah g’day Bruce and Sheils

With deepest apologies to anyone who, you know, might actually be Australian


[rising inflection on every sentence please]

Awight mates?

So t’day I bin torkin’ ‘Strine.

An’ doin’ Strine things.

In a good ol’ Strine fashun.

For lunch I had a koala burger.

With a side order of spiders.

Big big Strine spiders.

Not them tiny wingeing pom spiders.

Nah mate.


I thort I’d just leave some top quality Strine music in yer earoles.

Here’s Missy.

She sings a bit proper and a bit posh, but she’s as Strine as a gnat on a dingo’s left bollock.


I really need to socialise with some people during the day.

Sailing (dream, not plane)

In which stir craziness tightens its grip around the fevered brain of our stay-at-home hero


I had a bonkers dream last night.

I dreamt that I bought a yacht.

It was in Australia.

So I flew out to the Land of Oz, where we had a couple of shakedown cruises.

The yacht was crewed, and I only took the helm for the final ‘back to port’ leg.

We agreed a price and I stocked the yacht for the journey back to the UK.

So far, so straightforward.

But then my dream became locked in a weird logical loop.

I couldn’t decide on the route back home.

Should I head northwest through the Indian Ocean?

If I did (my dream reasoned), I could pick up a stopover in the Maldives/BIOT, before heading in to the Gulf of Aden, then the Red Sea, Gulf of Suez, and finally in to the Med via the Suez Canal.

From Port Said it would be a relatively straightforward journey through the Med, through the Straits of Gibraltar, and then northwards, hugging the coast of Portugal, across the Bay of Biscay and back to Blighty.

Or should I head east-northeast, across the South Pacific, stopping en route at the Cook Islands, and French Polynesia, before crossing to Panama, and motoring through the Panama Canal.

Then crossing The Atlantic to Cape Verde, before heading northwards via the Canary Islands, Funchal, crossing Biscay before landing back at Blighty.

Here’s a map showing (approximately at least) the two routes:

Dream of routes to the UK from Oz

Dream of routes to the UK from Oz

The yacht, by the way, was an HR 36, which makes the dream all the more bonkers, because Hallberg-Rassy yachts are made in, er, Sweden.

Hallberg Rassy 36

Hallberg Rassy 36

Not Australia at all.


I don’t know which route I did choose, because the bulk of the dream was taken up with agonising over the route decision.

And I woke, before I’d got around to making the final choice.

I am beginning to suspect that my dreams have become more odd – they have certainly become rememberable (yes, it is a word, I checked) – since my heart attack.

Maybe it’s the meds.


I have spent much of today on various sailing forums, trying to ascertain which would be the best route from Oz to the UK.

Fender (no bender)

There’s a new guitar emporium in Nottingham.

PMT has been open a week.

I know this because when I went there today, I tried three Fender Stratocasters, and I asked how long they had been hanging on the wall.

One week. Since we opened (was the smart reply).

Anyway, this is a MIJ Fender:

MIJ Fender Stratocaster

MIJ Fender Stratocaster

And this is an American Fender:

American Fender

American Fender

And this is another American Fender

American Fender

American Fender

You wouldn’t get much change out of £1,000 for any of these three.

I’m not going to buy any of them, I was just checking them for ‘playability’.

Ash said (in not so many words) that I would do better playing with a v-shaped neck Fender Strat, than I would with my Epiphone SG.

And then he let me play one of his v-shaped neck Fender Strats.

OK, so Ash’s Fender has been professionally setup, so the action is much lower on his Fender than it is on my not setup SG.

But notwithstanding this detail, the shape of the Fender Strat neck fits my hands better than the shape of the SG neck.

And I found playing Ash’s professionally setup, v-shaped neck Fender Stratocaster much easier less difficult to play than my SG.

However, all three Fenders felt the same to my inexperienced fingers.

I can tell the difference between the Fenders and my SG, but I can’t tell the Fenders apart.

Anyway, the bottom line to all of this is that I’m looking to sell my acoustic guitar, get the SG professionally setup, and buy a used MIJ Fender.

I’ll try some more this week, but I think all this will do is to reinforce the difference between the SG and a (any?) Fender Stratocaster, to my uneducated fingers.

Heart Attack Diary: #9

It’s not all sex, drugs and rock and roll


I continue to climb the walls and chomp at the bit.

Although that sounds like a near-impossible piece of multi-tasking.


I feel fine.

I feel ridiculously good.

I am bored rigid.

And yet by the time the early evening comes around, I feel really weary.

Is that an after-effect?

Or is that just me getting knackered towards the end of the day?

I’ve been told that I can no longer donate blood.

This makes me unbelievably sad.

Giving blood has something I’ve been doing for many years.

I know I’m a common as muck O Positive, but that’s not the point.

I’m on the national organ donor’s database.

Which is something.

I keep getting phone calls from Taylor Swift.

I wish she’d just stop.

I know it’s the beard.

And the motorbike.

But Jesus, Taylor, enough is a enough.

Give it a rest eh?

Hunted (and how to win it)

Are you watching the second season of Hunted on C4?

We have had two episodes; the third will air later this week.

The basic premise (if you haven’t seen it) is that it’s a game show.

The challenge facing the game show contestants is that they must spend a month moving around the UK, whilst evading capture by a team of experts.

These experts have the full range of State information systems at their disposal.

CCTV, ANPR, etc (or simulations thereof).

The experts are able to access these systems in real time, and thus can track the progress of the game show contestants, also in real time.

Supporting the office-bound electronic intelligence/surveillance  experts are a national team of ‘hunters’, who are the arms and legs of the organisation; they will capture the prey.

And that’s it, in a nutshell, that’s Hunted: evade capture.

It is not about having a jolly across the UK for a month. If you think it is, you will be caught.

It is not spending a month ‘off the grid’. If you think it is, you will be caught.

It is not about ‘going on the run’. If you think it is, you will be caught.

The prize is a pot of £100,000.

This is divided by the number of winners per series (or, to put it another way, is divided by the number of game show contestants who successfully evade capture).

Hunted is, in its own way, quite an endearing game show.

But the contestants in series 2 are making exactly the same mistakes that the contestants in series 1 made.

Yet the series 2 contestants would have made special effort to record and watch series 1 many times, yes?

Yes. Obv. Else they would be terminally stupid.

So why are the contestants in series 2 falling to their hunters as readily as the contestants in series 1 did?

Because they haven’t learned from series 1?

Yes, it’s that simple.

So for the hard of learning, and in case anyone from any future seasons of Hunted should tune in before the show is filmed, here’s a few informed thoughts on how to get close to the prize.

And, for the record, I have worked for *** and also worked for ****.

Preparation: Cyber Security
The minute you mail in your application, you must burn every shred of your online presence. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Dropbox, YahooMail, GMail, GoogleMaps, Google+, YouTube, WhatsApp, Satnav, Periscope, Netflix, iTunes, Hotmail, Webforums/Chatforums, Online clubs, Online results for sports, Ebay, Amazon, all online accounts with everyone (Ocado, Cineworld, photosharing websites, games websites), even MySpace. In short, everything that you pick up a smartphone for, everything you touch a keyboard for. Burn it all. Do not plan on getting any of these services back after the game show. If you need any single one of these back, don’t do the game show

How do you burn them? Use a secure password generator, reset your passwords, and then close it all down. Everything. Close them all down

The show will want an email address for contact. That’s fine. Give them the email of your boyfriend, or your girlfriend. Do not sign up to a new account. Every time you email the show your IP address will be captured and yes, they will use it to trace how you access the Internet

The show will ask for a phone number. Get someone to buy a used phone on eBay for you. Buy a PAYG SIM, and give the show this number. As soon as the show starts, throw the phone away, do not retain it for ’emergencies’. Bin it

Tablets. Smartphones. Laptops. PCs. Any devices that you have ever signed in to any web-service with. Destroy it. Destroy them all. If you hide them, they’ll be found. When they are found they will be hacked, and no matter how carefully you hide them, they will be found. Destroy them now

Preparation: Build a network of cut-out contacts
Use your friends to use their friends to use their friends. Your 2nd/3rd layer conduits must not be people who you know. Your end-destination contacts must be someone you have never met. They must be people from a different world to the one you know now. You must not make direct contact with your end-destination contact. You and they should use spook tradecraft to communicate: dead-letter drops are ideal, with signals to signify when a message or a response has been dropped. I’ll say it again for emphasis: do not make contact directly with your end-destination contact. You should not know their name or what they look like. They should be unaware of your appearance and real name. If there are no isolated cut-outs between you, you may as well just invite them in to meet your friends and family. If you ever contact a real friend, by any means at all, you are wasting everybody’s time by entering Hunted, because you will be caught.

Preparation: Identity
Get a dummy address. Use your end-destination contact for this. Build a new persona. Right now. The minute you email your application off, put together a new you. Create some ID. That’s a huge step forward. Get a library card in a nearby town/city to your dummy address (not in the same town/city though). Start to build the new you a track record of information. Buy a TV licence in your new name at the dummy address (pay by instalments so you can bin the cost once you have what you need). Build a profile at your dummy address. Do not bring any of this information in to your home or in to your workplace. Do not write it down. It’s a long haul, but you need to begin collecting, in your new name, at your new address, anything official. Invoices, bills.

Preparation: Lifestyle
Move to cash. Do it now. Get used to a cash economy. It’s a big transition. If you have any credit/debit cards the temptation to use them will be strong and if you do, you will be caught. The show gives you a small amount of cash on a debit card. Get it all out in one go the minute you start your run. Just about every cash machine in the UK is covered by CCTV. Throw the card away as soon as you have withdrawn the money. Learn to live with less. Your ‘absolutely necessary belongings for a month of avoiding capture’ should be the epitome of travelling ultralight. Oh yes, and get fit.

Preparation: Planning
Have a plan. You obviously need to avoid ANPR and CCTV, but you are also required to move around. Plan this. Plan how you are going to move around, and where you are going to move to next, and next after that, and next after that and so on. Have a plan for the whole month. Be meticulous and detailed. Also, have backout plans, in case your plan goes wrong. You must have alternatives. Again: if you have no plan you will fail. CCTV is almost everywhere, but use a little of the time now to see where CCTV isn’t. Use maps. Use common sense. Do reconnaissance if necessary. You will be surprised how much of the UK isn’t covered. Build your plans for the month around these places. Plan earning a living. You need to eat, but you need to avoid looking like a tramp. You have a very small amount of money, but it is insufficient to live on for a month. Plan how you are going to earn money, and what you are going to do. Plan where you are going to do it. If you do not have a plan for survival you will be caught.

Preparation: Appearance
Plan to change your appearance within 24 hours of hitting the road, when you are in your first safe house. Have preparations to be able to change your appearance several times during the month. Think long-term, do not think ‘once’. Any appearance changes should be very simple to effect. Change your walk. Skilled spooks can spot you in a crowded train station on CCTV by your walk. The simplest way to throw spooks off this trail is to put a small stone in your sock. Really. Also, don’t look as if you are looking for a pursuer. There is nothing more suspicious than a sweaty person who is looking hunted. Let the hunters look as if they are hunting; you just need to keep your head down like anyone else who might be worrying about how they’re going to pay the mortgage next month. In crowds, do not move quicker than the crowds. I’ll say that again. Do not run, not even if you think you have been traced. Because innocent people do not run with backpacks (etc) banging around behind them. Fit in. Blend in. Be part of the wallpaper, do not be a discordant pattern. If you are hitch-hiking, do not get out of the car where CCTV is placed. That’s motorway services, filling stations, train stations, underground stations, metro stations.

Evading capture: The basics
Do not enter the game show Hunted with anyone else. This is simple logic. You either go solo or you get caught. The choice is yours. Do not have any contact with family or friends. The phones (home phones, work/desk phones, mobile phones) of all of your known associates will be tapped, and calls to them will be traced. This isn’t an ‘if’, a ‘but’, or a ‘maybe’, this is a certainty. That one phone call to a wife, boyfriend, partner, or offspring during their birthday, will cost you £100,000. If you can’t go completely silent and no-contact for a month, do not waste everybody’s time by entering the game show.

Hunted (and indeed the ‘hunters’) rely on 21st Century technology. In order to defeat them, you have to use mid 20th Century spook tradecraft. Take the technological advantage away from the hunters. There is no surveillance technology on the planet that can cope with dead-letter drops. And if you want to win at Hunted (and why else would you even consider signing up for the game show, if not to win it?), you will need the help and support of a network of blind cutouts in order to succeed. These two spook tools (dead-letter drops and a network of blind cutouts) are unbeatable. British Intelligence ran networks of undercover agents in the most heavily monitored States in Communist Eastern Europe, for decades.

And if you do decide to send in an entry, let me know how it goes for you.

Heart Attack Diary: #8

It’s not just the heat. It’s the drums. The drums and the heat. Make the drums stop, Caruthers. Make the blessed drums stop!


I now have three appointments at the cardiology clinic.

They add up to two consecutive afternoons of back-to-back appointment fun.

I’m reading up on all my best jokes to keep the nurses entertained.

They love that.


Yesterday, in the company of a work colleague, his partner and her 7yo son (and their mentile as anything dog), I walked five miles along the bank of the River Trent.

We walked around the National Watersports (no, not that kind) Centre for a bit, and then headed along the Trent in towards the Lady Bay Bridge.

I really enjoyed the walk, but we covered the ground much slower than if I’d been flying solo.

I might have a proper crack at that walk tomorrow.

My colleague had (probably) been briefed not to talk about work, so we didn’t. At least we didn’t in any great detail, just one or two generalities.

But we had a little tech chat or two (about non-work things), which was nice.

I have spent some time, over the last week, debugging a hacked website.

Mostly that involved just reading code, and googling some pretty esoteric .php and SQL.

The hacked website (one of mine that I left languishing for the last two years on a shared-by-many GoDaddy server) is now back online.

It’s not only been debugged, but I’ve gone to great pains to harden the security: validate all file permissions, remove the legacy users, put a new user in place with upgraded access requirements, delete the FTP user, migrate the MySQL database to a new MySQL database with a new root user and updated root access.

Then I updated the design, and modernised some of the functionality.

So it might be that the podcast could be making a return appearance.

There are some logistical problems that need to be solved, in order to make a return truly viable, but these are being worked on.

There are a couple of very good security plugins for WordPress now.

I’ve tried the iSecurity plugin, which is quite good, but Wordfence is very much my favourite.


Today I didn’t undertake any significant walking.

But I did take the ZX10R out for the first time since the ‘event’.

I was not reckless.

And was very careful.

My pulse may have quickened slightly when the garage door rolled up and I saw the pristine ZX10 waiting for me in all her Ninja blackness.

And my pulse may have continued to beat slightly quicker as I wheeled the ZX10R out and started her up.

But actually I felt fine.

And I took my pulse rate, just to be sure.

The good news is I haven’t forgotten how to ride a 1,000cc Super Sports Bike.

There is no bad news 😀

I grinned the whole time I was out, though I was only in the saddle for 90 minutes in total (two stops en-route).

And when I came back my pulse rate was unsurprisingly in the 72-74/BPM range, which is my ‘normal’.

So that’s alright then.


Heart Attack Diary: #7

In which the dark forces of the evil Empire attempt to gain ground through an alliance with the off-white forces of the slightly naughty Empire…



Evil Empire.

Is that why Orange have become EE?


The follow-up cardiac clinic appointment I was expecting arrived today.

I can’t help noticing that I have two cardiac clinics on back-to-back days. after I will have returned to work.

Oh well.

I walked miles today.

I could tell you how far I have walked today, but I’d get pretty extensively told off for it.

So my lips are totes sealed.

It occurred to me, during the long goodbye walk that it was just a few short weeks ago that we were enjoying life in our beach-front holiday accommodation on Majorca.

Or Mallorca, if you prefer.

We swam every day.

I had a daily goal to swim out to the yachts moored offshore.

During one of my daily swims, Sam took a photo from the apartment balcony.

She helpfully annotated it.

Daily swim in Puerto Pollensa

Daily swim in Puerto Pollensa

How things change so quickly, eh?

Heart Attack Diary: #6

*settles down for a quiet evening*


  • A large pyrex baking dish is dropped on the stone tile kitchen floor. The noise of impact was heard in three counties
  • 7yo projectile vomits an impressive amount of liquid around the lounge
  • The (hellishly loud) garage burglar alarm goes off. I run through the house and open the garage door to find one of the #RescueKitties sitting between the ZX10 and the 250N, looking very puzzled

All of these things in the space of 20 minutes.


I’ll say this just the once.




Thank you.