Tuesday, April 26, 2005

One For All

Like many people, after a few years of acquiring a collection of electronic devices, I found myself with a fistful of remote controls. None of them are compatible with each other and most of them have been repaired is some unsightly way (with brown parcel tape or worse).

Thankfully the days of searching for the correct remote are over. A couple of days ago I bought one of the universal remotes above. The thing that struck me about it was its motion activated glowing blue surface. It couldn't have been easier to set up, just look for your brand of TV, DVD, Satellite/Cable or Video and enter one of the four digit numbers in the manual. After a few more minutes tweaking the remote is ready to use.

Now - has anyone seen the remote?

Sunday, April 24, 2005


So seven years ago I moved to New Zealand with my family. Since then I've become a teacher, learned to drive and managed to keep my long pants in the bottom of the wardrobe for 99.99% of the year.

A few weeks ago I'm driving back from school camp. With me in the van are two other teachers. We're all pretty tired, but looking forward to the weekend and a decent night's sleep. My van is new, an automatic (which I've never driven before) and much quieter than the diesel van I'd been driving the week before. The road (the main highway of the whole country) is almost deserted. In the past ten minutes five or six cars have passed us in the opposite lane, going south, and there is no traffic visible, ahead or behind, in my lane. As I accelerate up a long steep hill I notice that my speed has crept up to 110kph, that's 10kph over the national speed limit. I don't usually speed and I apologise to my colleagues and ease off. Then I spy a Police car parked on the opposite side of the road, probably using a radar to catch speedsters.
"Good job I slowed down," I chuckle to my friends.
"No rush, take it steady," comes the reply.

Continuing up the hill we carry on talking, laughing about some of the more entertaining escapades at camp, already discussing the possibilities for next year. The highway veers to the left and immediately drops, turning into a long downhill stretch. I glance at my speed once more, it's crept up again and is climbing, so I gently put my foot on the brake and begin to slow down.

Then I see him. Parked on the shoulder is another Police car and this time there's a traffic cop holding up his hand. He indicates that I should stop and I pull up behind him, winding down the window as I come to a stop.
"Were you speeding ?" queries my colleague in the passenger seat.
"I'm not sure," I reply, but I know that he wouldn't be stopping me unless I had been over the limit.
The officer walks up to my open window.
"Could you move the vehicle in front of my car please, sir ?"
Now I'm pretty sure I've earned myself a $200 ticket and as he approaches I resign myself to the fact.
"You came round that corner a bit too quick, didn't you?"
He asks for my licence and I fumble it out of its plastic holder.
"It just crept up as I came round the corner," I explain, "I was slowing down when I saw you."
"Well, as you came round you were doing 112*. I clocked you at 114 and then you went up to 117 before you began to slow down. Most people try and get out of it by saying they've just finished overtaking or something."
I reply honestly, "No, I'd just come up over the brow of the hill and then it started to run away with me."
He finishes writing my details in his notebook and hands me back my licence. "Would you like to come and look at the radar, sir?"
I interpret this as a rhetorical question and follow him to his car. He leans over the passenger seat pointing to a red LED display angled on the dashboard and indicates the three speeds he has recorded.
A rather sheepish "Yeah," is all I can manage. I can hear the chitter-chat of a printer printing out a ticket in the background.
He stands up with notebook and licence in his hand and by now I'm wondering how I will explain this all to my wife when I get home.
He's obviously noticed my northern accent. "Where are you from?"
Normally at this point I reply that I'm from 'near Leeds' or somewhere between 'Last of the Summer Wine' and 'Heartbeat' country, but I realise that he too has a bit of a northern twang.
"Wakefield," I state.
He looks up from his notes. "F*ck off!"
"Why? Where are you from?"
"Wakefield!" he lowers his notebook with an incredulous look.
"F*ck off!" I bounce back at him, swiftly adding “Oops, sorry?”, as I realise what I've just said.
“What's your name?”
“It's on my licence.”
We exchange some Tyke pleasantries, our accents getting broader as we speak. Where we lived, where we drank, where we went to school etc.
“There was a girl at school with the same surname,” he smiles.
“My sister went there,” I reply. I hestate before asking the next question. “So, you're going to let me off then?”
“I can't really give you a ticket now, can I?”
I can still hear the chatter of the printer in his Holden.

A few minutes later we shake hands like old friends, having exchanged phone numbers and brief family histories.
“I'll get my ticket in the post then, will I?”
“No, no,” he waves his hand, “Forget about it.”
I walk back to my van with his business card in my hand, still smirking with disbelief, marvelling at the vagaries of fate.

I moved about 18 000 kms to the other side of the world and in the past seven years I've met plenty of people from Yorkshire, some from Sheffield, Leeds and even Dewsbury, but just when I needed it most I met someone from Wakefield.

*kilometres per hour, not miles per hour.