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Topics - Gyppo

The Bar & Grill / "Out, Damned Spot!"
Today at 12:00:10 PM
Late yesterday I spent about five minutes wondering why my computer wouldn't let me erase a spurious full-stop which had appeared in one of my bits of writing I was proofing.

I added three more next to it, and they vanished promptly when I used the delete key.  I wondered if there was something wrong with my keyboard.  Considered swapping it for an new and identical one to eliminate this possibility.

In order to establish this I opened a new document, ready to type in some new test and see if the problem re-occurred.  One of the cornerstones of problem solving is to try and recreate the problem, right?  If you see it happening then you have a clue where to start looking for a solution.

And there it was.  Right in the middle of the blank document, unsullied by even a single keystroke, was the mystery full-stop!

I gently touched it, and it was very slightly raised.  Clearly something like a fly-spot on a light bulb.

Once I cleaned my screen it was gone.  But what capricious fate decided it should be stuck in just the right place to align so neatly with my text?

My screen is now 'squeaky clean'.

The literary gods, perhaps unsurprisingly,  have a warped sense of humour.

Amazon are trying to sell me a pair of shorts.  But they seem to have something no other shorts have.  Even more bizarre if this extra is truly singular as the wording implies


Men's outdoor sport shorts is crafted of 90% nylon,10% spandex blended quick-dry fabric, ultralight, breathable and keep dry all the time....
Hand Wash Only
Fastening: Zipper
Long Sleeve


I use the Brave browser, because I like it.  It fits the way I want to use it.  But...  It has one feature I can't help wondering about.

Brave News.  There an option to 'scroll down' for what some deranged algorithm considers to be newsworthy items.

Obviously the war in the Ukraine, and major breaking UK news stories turn up first in the list, but there are many that embrace 'the silly season' in printed newspaper news, when parliament is in recess and nothing really unusual is happening.

Take this for example:  Attention.  Emma Watson's complete dating history has arrived.

This is news?

I fail to see how it is of any interest, or value, to anyone except the people concerned, and they don't need to look it up on the web.  She seems like a nice young lady, and she did a grand job as Hermoine in the Potter films, but her off-screen activities are her own business.

The other staple bum-fodder in 'Brave News' is thinly veiled advertising for new game releases and mindless waffle about the Next General Election.

News is stuff like moon landings or stuff like that, world leaders being shot, and politicians being caught with their pants down (either literally or metaphorically.  But the mindless empty pontificating from the other side in response to any 'pants down' moment is not news.  I could write most of that staff with a handful of cut and paste phrases stored on a word processor.

The truly sad thing about all this is, way down the list, there are usually a few items which are genuinely interesting and newsworthy.

I had both a flu and a Covid vaccine yesterday, one in each arm.  Arrived at the surgery 25 minutes early, because of the way the buses run and managed to avoid the inevitable queue.   I wandered the mazelike corridor rather than waiting patiently, found the 'shooting gallery', and the nurse and her record keeper were quite happy to stab me early and cross me of their list.

I told her I rarely do any side effects and then zipped around town to grab a bit of shopping before going home.  Over the years there's been a couple of times when I've had what I call 'fast track flu', just a couple of hours of full-on symptoms after the vaccine, so I went to sleep when I got home.  Woke up later and felt fine.

But I had a pig of night, both arms ached, and woke up with a rather nasty headache.  Quite a shock to the system as I very rarely do headaches, but after breakfast I took some paracetamol and now feel almost civilised again.


The nurse made me smile though, as she went through the pre-jab checklist.  "Are you on any blood-thinning medication?"

I did a mental check on my list of pills. 

"I don't think so."

"If you are we'll soon know.  You'll squirt all over me when I pull the needle back out."  (Cheerful soul.)

No squirt, so I aid 'Thankyou very much, ladies.  I hope the rest of your day is as straightforward is this was."

They looked at each other, and then said in almost synchronised stereo, "That's really nice. Thankyou.

Went to The Tangled Branch yesterday for a Zoom meeting.  An online poetry reading.  We've had a few of these and they've previously all worked out okay.

This time there was something wrong.  I could see and hear the others, but they could barely hear me.  There was also a horrible echo effect they could all hear, and a bit of a buzz.

It soon became obvious that my equipment, or my connection, was responsible.  Various things were suggested, and tried, including the classic 'turn it all off and start again.  I even downloaded a totally fresh copy of the Zoom app but all to no avail.

In the end I packed my tent and stole away, not wanting to spoil it any further for the others.

Later I tried to solve the mystery, and after  some trial and error found I have a naff microphone.  It wouldn't even let me make a direct recording, let alone talk to the world.

A new and hopefully better microphone is on order.

In the meantime I've given my workhorse desktop 'a good seeing to' and a bit of a fresh start with the wires rearranged and the proliferation of USB ports used more logically.  And little tags added to the ends so I know what's what instead of having to play 'guess the device'.  I also added four extra USB ports, accessible from the front.  This is long overdue.

The Frankenstein PC seems to behaving itself now, and I hope this will carry on when I install the new microphone.

As an extra bonus the cables look a little less like 'squid porn' ;-)


The Bar & Grill / A quick Grandaughter tale.
September 23, 2023, 01:49:41 PM
   Quick Grandaughter Story

   Over the last few years I've been teaching my Grandaughter how to 'look after herself'.  Nothing too lethal, but the sort of simple self defence I taught my girls at the same age.

   I've always taught her not to go looking for trouble, but to be ready and willing to 'nip it in the bud' if it turns up.  There's not always a policeman or a willing adult around to help if you need it.  In truth, there rarely is.  Security cameras may help with evidence, but they don't jump off the wall to protect you at the time.

   For anyone who says I shouldn't teach violence - even defensive violence - to a child I say this...

   Better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener on a battlefield.

   Whilst making drinks in the kitchen the other day she casually mentioned that she'd been attacked in the park by a group of kids.

   "Oh, what happened?"

   "Most of them were just being mouthy and pushing at me.  But one of the bigger ones kicked me in the back.  I was ignoring them but that hurt."

   "What did you do?"

   "I turned around and asked him to stop. Then, when he tried again, I put him on the ground."


   "He was balanced on one leg, kicking, so I just caught his kick, pushed his foot up in the air and flipped him backwards."

   The thing that struck me is she wasn't bragging, or even particularly pleased with herself.  It was clearly just a job that needed to be done, a lesson to be taught.  And hopefully learned.

   There were two adult males sat on bench nearby, who seemed amused by the whole business.  She walked up to them and said, "Excuse me, I don't know if either of you is the dad of that kid, but he was kicking me and that's not nice.  So I dealt with him.

   "Please tell him not to be so rude in future."

   Then she went about her business as if nothing had happened.

   Warrior Genes, and good manners.

The Bar & Grill / Young Love - People watching moments ;-)
September 16, 2023, 09:30:06 PM
   Young Love ;-)

   I see many little snapshots of life through my office window..

   There's a couple of school kids, boy and girl, I see coming home together most afternoons.  Maybe 13 or 14 years old.  They sometimes hold hands, but it's very much a low-level activity, as if their hands have just accidentally brushed and found themselves holding on at arm's length.

    If there's any others from their school around they walk close, but don't touch.

   Today, Saturday, in their ordinary clothes instead of the uniform they were a bit more relaxed.  He had his arm draped comfortably across her shoulders.  She had her arm around his waist, and they were walking in step with that gentle bump on every other stride.


   There's another young couple, late teens I'd say, both neat and tidy little souls.  They have a very new and tiny baby and take it in turns to carry it up against one shoulder as they walk by.  No pushchair yet, and I get the feeling they're just taking it out for a little 'airing' rather than going anywhere special.

   Today he stopped just outside my window, held the baby out at arm's length, and said something to her.   She walked back a couple of steps, sniffed the baby's bum, pulled a face, but took it off him and snuggled it in against her shoulder as they walked on.

   A clear case of 'our baby' suddenly becoming 'your baby' ;-)

The Bar & Grill / A musical meandering ;-)
September 16, 2023, 12:39:25 PM
     I've been a bit 'low profile' the last few weeks, but yesterday 'some inner spark' came back from where it's been hiding and sent me wandering through the archives.  60's mainly.



    The Pied Piper,
    Crispian St Peters

    Sometimes the unwitting Piper and sometimes the follower.  I've never fully understood how a quiet introvert can sometimes  look over his or her shoulder  and find a crowd eager to follow.  Mum and Dad had the same 'piper touch' at times, and and sometimes it's a pain in the arse when you want to be alone.   I've always felt it would be wrong to deliberately exploit it.


    Singing the Blues,
    Tommy Steele


    Little White Bull,
    Tommy Steele


    Itchycoo Park,
    The Small Faces

    Dad asked if they got their name because they bad big mouths.  That was my first meeting with this Northern witticism.   "I wouln't say he/she has a big mouth, but they've got an awfully small face. "


    Green Tambourine,
    The Lemon Pipers.


    Tommy Roe

    This young lady, name unknown, appears all over the internet, doing the same dance to a wide variety of tunes.  She vaguely reminds me of someone I worked with in the late 60's.

    Travellin' Light,
    Cliff Richard

    Despite the clarity of enunciation and lack of excessive 'musical background noises',
I have seen the following bizarre lyrics to this song.  You would think, having written it down, the writer would  realise it makes no bloody sense.

    God knows bags and bags too slow me down   I'm trav'llin so fast my feelin' touching the ground...


    Well, that's enough nostalgia for one day.

The Bar & Grill / Tonight's 'Blue Moon/Super Moon'
August 30, 2023, 08:54:26 PM
    Whilst you're admiring the spectacular moon tonight, spare a thought for that poor little Indian 'moon-rover' prowling around on the bottom end,(South Pole), looking for a corner where they can set up the first corner shop on the moon.

    They'll have to sell a lot of Mars bars, toilet rolls, and tins of cat food to pay off that business loan.


      One of those nights...

    I had a strange woman sleeping in my bungalow last night..

    One in the morning, I was just about to turn off the computer and go to bed.  A gentle but persistent tapping at the door spoiled that plan.

    I hit the outside light and recognised the shape and the little voice,  opened the door and there was the big old lady from just down the road, the one who drops in about once week for a cup of tea.

    Shivering and hardly dressed for outdoors,  She'd been out at the social club, with a taxi booked to take her  home, and hadn't bothered to dress for cold.

    Lots of apologising, but I told her to come in and made her a cup of tea to warm her up whilst she gave me her tale of woe.

    She couldn't get her keys to open the door.  She had two, but they were identical.

    I left her warming up, slipped on my very suspicious black 'Hoody' and went to try them myself.  They nearly went in, but not quite all the way.  After a bit of wriggling and jiggling I realised there was no way they were going to work.

    A quick scurry around with my torch showed there were no open windows to climb through this time.

    I went back, had a few swallows of my own drink, and then started calling 24/7 locksmiths.  All I got was answering machines.  After leaving four messages, and not getting a reply from any of them, I gave up.

    By this time it was nearly 3am.   She settled down in a chair, with her feet up on her walker, telling me she often slept like this. I found her a blanket, told her we'd get the door opened in the  morning, and went to bed.  The poor old thing was feeling guilty as hell about keeping me awake.

    It's a strange thing, but even when you know it's sincere, too many apologies start to grate after a while.

    It was a strange night.  I'm used to having the place completely to myself and was very much aware of there being someone else in my home.  Even though she was quiet the smell of her 'evening out' perfume was very noticeable, slowly permeating the entire building.

    By 7am I was wide wake again, and I lay there wondering just how time sensitive her 'fifteen pills every morning' were, and her insulin injection for her diabetes.

    Then because she's 86 and was so quiet the other side of the wall I started to wonder if she'd 'popped her clogs' during the night.

    I figured if she was already dead then another half an hour wouldn't matter and nodded off again for a while.  At 7-30 I was thinking that if she'd slipped into a diabetic coma time could be of the essence, so rolled out of bed and padded out into the hallway.

    She made some comment about me being as quiet as a cat but looked healthy enough so I made  a drink,  She apologised in advance for what the  neighbours might think if they saw her leaving my bungalow in the morning.

    After we had a laugh I went serious and asked about her morning pills and her jab.

    "They tell me I can miss a day without it killing me.  Not ideal, but not dangerous.  Even the injection".

    So I had my pills and breakfast, because routine is important in these things,  and fixed her up with some 'safe' painkillers because she'd missed her night time dose and was trying not to ouch and swear too loud.

    Then I phoned another locksmith, who promised to be there in 45 minutes.

    Turned out the keys she was using were for the back door and she had no idea where the front keys had gone.  A bit of confusion there.  She's a long way from totally gaga, but there's the occasional gap in her memory.

    The locksmith, a nice young chap, with a fascinating tool kit, offered to change the lock for her and give her a set of five new keys,  I had a quick skirt around, looking in the kind of places where people temporarily put down keys and forget to pick them up again, but to no avail.

    In the end she agreed to let him change the lock.

    Although I'd prefer not to have a key, in case she starts having stuff stolen again, I asked if she'd be happy to let me keep one of the spares hanging on a hook in my kitchen, just in case.  Clearly marked up with her name, and I hope I'll never have to use it.

    Hey ho...  Sunday is supposed to be a day of  rest, and I think I will conform to this for a few hours ;-)


    PS:  Apparently I don't snore.  "I didn't know a man could be that quiet."
    My daughter often picks up a little bit of shopping for me on the day she visits with Alma.  Ice cream for teatime if I haven't got around to making jelly, milk, stuff like that.

    We've slipped into a 'running slate' on my kitchen whiteboard, because I don't often have 'small change' in my pockets.

    Today I was quickly totting it up, marker dancing over the board.

    Alma was fascinated.  "Grandad.  Are you doing long addition?"  (Even with the line drawn under the columns.  Old school for clarity.)

    "Yes."  Even if I do most of it in my head, I like to write it down in case I lose track of the sum.
    "Cool." ;-)

    I rounded it up a few pence to make it a tenner, "You can keep the change for going."  That always makes my daughter smile.

    Then I promptly forgot about it until just after they'd left.  It was a busy day because we went out foraging.  Apples and blackberries, and a sheaf of lavender for my girl's herbal stuff.  A decent crop for one session.

    There's a tenner taped up by a corner on the board now, waiting for their next visit.

The Bar & Grill / Why?
August 21, 2023, 07:05:44 PM
Our local paper has a picture of a bunch of young adults, who are delighted with their results in various business exams.  I'm sure some it them will go on to do very well for themselves, and their businesses.

But sadly the picture shows a group of people all stood their with their mouths wide open, like goldfish.  When will this generation realise that showing us your tonsils en masse is: a ) not smiling, which I assume is the intention, and b) makes them look like a bunch of idiots waiting to catch flies?

As my Gran used to say, "You'll look a right Charlie if the wind changes and your face gets stuck in that position."

I was in Winchester's oldest bookshop last week, probably the oldest in the country.  They have traded from the same address since 1789.  But even before that a 'gentleman bookseller' traded from his home  next door from 1759.

Well worth left clicking the picture to enlarge and read some of the details.

Struggling with the heat I found a wooden bench just inside the door and sat there, semi comatose, whilst my daughter and grandaughter roamed the two floors and soaked up the atmosphere.

Near me a terribly earnest young man in baggy trousers and an anorak was opening various books in the Tolkien section and explaining to his girlfriend how to translate Elvish, and how Tolkien had hidden coded messages within the text 'for people who know what they really mean'.

She gazed at him adoringly, but after ten minutes of this looked  as if her eyes were about to start rolling like a spooked horse.  Beautiful eyes, behind enormous glasses

Another seemingly miss-matched couple came in.  She, a short lass dressed as a 'posh hippy'.  A fairly common sight in Winchester.  He wore drainpipe jeans, a black bomber jacket, and was a towering skinhead.

"It's wonderful," she said, looking at tall bookshelves, crammed in and stacked to the ceiling,  How long have we got?"

"All the time you need."  If  not one himself he was clearly a man who truly understood bibliophiles.

I saw my two come down from upstairs and wander off into the back of the lower floor.  Alma took a few seconds to check that Grandad was okay, before following her mum.

I sat there, easily well over a thousand books in easy view and countless thousands more hidden from my sight.

Suddenly it dawned on me that every single one of these books had been written by an individual like me.  Spending hours alone with pen or keyboard, writing, rewriting, editing, for days, weeks, months, sometimes years before daring to send it out into the world in search of a publisher.

Every one of those writers will have had their doubts and certainties, and probably a drawer or shelf full of unfinished works.  Every one of them will have worked alone, with no guarantee of success or even completion.

I've never felt this historical connection when looking at the neatly arranged shelves in a modern bookshop.

I have just done a spot of internet banking, at which I'm now quite a seasoned adept after several years.

But apparently the Opera browser, which has been my backup browser for many years, has seen fit to update itself without asking me first.

Very Fisher-Price with a new and lurid multi-hued logo and several new and totally un-needed extras.

All of these are supposed to make it easier to use.  For whom?  It was hardly difficult anyway.  That's why it has been around for so long.  I don't need easier, I'm not a cretinous twat who needs his hand held every step of the way.  The previous version was fully functional and perfectly easy to understand, and didn't have pop-up messages to tell me how clever it was.

Apparently it now also has an AI 'to answer any questions'.  Bloody AI turns up everywhere.  In this age of jumping on ever bloody bandwagon which passes I'm surprised my toilet paper doesn't come with a built in AI to advise me in the correct way to wipe my arse.

I will, or course, eventually calm down enough to work out - all over again - how to use Opera properly, and how to turn off or hide all the parts I neither need nor want to see.

In the meantime my main browser is still Brave, until some clever-clogs messes that up under the guise of 'improvement'.

All I want is tools which do the job, not an electronic 'buddy' which double guesses my intentions and tries to 'enhance my lifestyle'.

Rant over.  I feel a bit better now ;-)


     Somewhat tired yesterday as I took my eldest girl Allison and GrandaughterAlma for a tour of three of the lesser known 'secret corners' of Winchester.  It was too bloody hot, but we took our time and prevailed.

    I wanted to show my junior pagans some 'proper' churches.  First call was the little church of St Thomas, just through the entrance by the Butter Cross.  I remembered it as a very dark little church, with lots of high backed wooden pews, and, I was sure, a 'Green Man' carving.

    They've replaced the old pews with modern lighter coloured seating which makes the whole place look bigger, and with more light available I saw that the 'green man' wasn't.   But Alma said it was a nice quiet place.

    Next stop was the 'secret garden', alongside the Cathedral Close.  Dean Garnier's Garden,   Entered by a hefty wooden gate in a massive stone wall.

    At the right time of year this place is a riot of colours, but the heavy rain has smashed some of them this year.  It's been a favourite place of mine for years because it's quiet.  It's also a vantage point from which you can see the backside of the Cathedral , and see how one end of the building is slowly subsiding.  This gave us an excuse to explain foundations, underpinning, etc, to our junior engineer.

    I told them about the secret little library upstairs in the cathedral, and the crypt tour,  which you can't do when the river is high and the crypt floods for a few months each year.  Alma was fascinated to see the lightning conductor.  She knew about them in theory, but seeing that broad verdegrised copper ribbon snaking down the side of the building brought it into reality.

    We had lunch in the garden, in the shade of a big tree,  and Alma said it was peaceful.  Bingo!  That's what I was hoping she'd feel, a sanctuary from the noisy modern world outside.  I told them it was a good place to visit in the winter as well, especially with a light dusting of snow and when the trees were stark and bare.  But you need to be wrapped up for those visits.  With all its rivers and waterways Winchester can be cold.

    Then we moved on to what I  consider to be the jewel in the crown of our little tour.,  The Church of St Swithun-over-Kingsgate.  This is a really small place, built into the arch over one of the old city gates.  Horribly steep access and no way to make it suitable for the disabled.  People have been worshipping there for over 800 years.  Allison has been there before, when she was about Alma's age.

    It's a very simple place,  not over-adorned with 'artworks to the glory of God'.  The sort of place where we Pagans can feel perfectly comfortable.  Wooden roof beams -  a bit like looking up into the hull of an overturned boat - with the occasional less than perfect but still sturdy joint, unlike the perfect vaulted masonry arches of the nearby cathedral.

    Even as a child - and nominally christened as a Baptist - I was always uneasy about the grandeur of the bigger and more flamboyant churches.  Magnificent works of civil engineering, but...

    Little churches seem far more appropriate to me.  If you truly believe in your God you should be on close terms with him and not need to visit his 'show house' to talk with him.

    As I said to the girls, "I don't expect it to happen.  But this is the kind of place where you wouldn't be surprised to turn around and see Jesus just walking in for a bit of peace and quiet for a while."

    And Allison said, "This is is the kind of church the new fangled Christian religion built  to try and tempt people like us, who believed in the old ways,  to sign up."

    It was a great day out, despite the heat, and much was said, in context, which wouldn't have meant as much if just delivered in casual conversation in my living room.


    We also enjoyed some sausage and bean melts, and three scrummy cakes.  Pensions are for spending, not hoarding ;-)

The Bar & Grill / Slow down. Read that again.
July 31, 2023, 12:07:58 PM
   Okay, so I'm the kind of person who automatically reads labels and packets.  I can be halfway through an ingredient list or whatever before I'm even aware what I'm reading.  As a postman I never deliberately read anyone's postcards, but the first few lines always registered.

   I'm suitably cynical about the current fashion for businesses to add a line or two of largely unconvincing waffle about how they care for all their customers and the world in general, and how they support diversity.  But...

   I was putting a packet of rice into the cupboard.  I won't say which make but was a positive rainbow of colours and a garish mess of fonts.

   There it was, the obligatory 'Aren't we worthy people?" back-patting contortion.  But I initially misread it as...

   'Our goal is not just to bring you the world's best rice.  We also believe that everyone deserves a seat at the table - which is why we're helping to provide undeserving communities with access to nutritious food and supporting increased diversity in the food industry.'

   Obviously it really read underserved communities.  After I finished laughing it occurred to me that a strategically placed hyphen, under-served would have avoided this misreading.

The first was the new receptionist at my doctor's surgery.  I rang up to query why my latest prescription hadn't been delivered.  (I have a five day 'emergency stash', but if something was seriously wrong I needed to know.)  She was properly formal to start with, getting the name etc right, but then she slipped into what I guess was her normal voice, as opposed to her 'phone manner'.

Full on Rural Hampshire.  "Let me just find you on the system, My Lover."

She confirmed that the prescription had left the surgery on the 19th, sent on to the pharmacy next door to them.  "So check with them next, and if it's really gone missing phone me again, My Lover, and we'll sort it out."

Like everyone on long term medication I can start to get a bit twitchy if there's a kink in the supply chain.  But the rural sounding lass was so reassuring, I ended up calling her M'Dear, which she seemed to find perfectly normal too.

I hung up with a warm little glow.


The second delight was visual.  On the way back from the Pharmacy, where my bag of mixed pills was sat on the shelf because their delivery driver had gone AWOL and they couldn't guarantee when he'd be back, there was a large Volkswagen camper van immediately in front.

The back was covered with an exquisite mural of fluffy white clouds and a blue sky.  Truly accurate colours and amazing depth of perspective.

We followed it for about quarter of a mile, and then, as we passed under the motorway bridge, the mural just vanished.  It was just a reflection in the large expanse of rear glass.



The Bar & Grill / There goes the neighbourhood ;-)
July 20, 2023, 11:28:47 AM
    Looked out of my window this morning and saw my next door neighbour coming back from walking a dog.  She had a drink bottle hanging from her belt.

    It was, in all fairness, probably the colour of the plastic, but it looked like a bottle of Methylated Spirit.

    I'd never had her figured as a Meths Drinker, and certainly not such a blatant one  ;-)

The Bar & Grill / Writers circles.
July 19, 2023, 09:20:47 AM
Found this little snippet on my clipboard.  I think I wrote it myself.  I find myself wondering if it's true in many cases. Or if the fictitious Susie was like the girls who sign up for a woodworking evening class expecting to meet useful and capable men, then find themselves surrounded by a bunch of simpering blonde bimbos, and the occasional very practical lass who truly wants to learn woodworking.


Susie joined the writer's circle expecting to meet like-minded people
who would understand the twisted convolutions of her labyrinthine
mind.  She had no idea how close to the crumbling edge of insanity
this one act would take her.

The Bar & Grill / Why add music?
July 18, 2023, 12:38:51 PM
I have just been watching an interesting - sometimes fascinating - documentary about hackers and ransom ware.

But my ability to properly hear many of the speakers was spoiled by the totally unnecessary background music.  Particularly when the speaker had a noticeable accent.  Russian in many cases.  Their spoken English was good, but I had to 'get my ears 'tuned in' over several sentences.

The way I see it the music added nothing of value to the experience.  This was one of three videos issued by the same company, and to be honest I don't think I'll be bothering to watch the other two.  Which is a pity because I'm sure they'd both be informative.

Maybe my ears are getting a bit shop-worn, a bit calloused by years of industrial noise, but I have no problem hearing speech without the background clutter.