Thursday, 22 December 2016

The word-abusing lunatics are taking over the language asylum

A few years ago, some unbelievable, half-witted numbskull invented the altogether irritatingly meaningless term 'pre-loved'. As a term, it is so frighteningly and shamefully stupid that whoever invented it really needs to be either forced to re-sit a national English examination, or made to sit in a dark room and listen to a Little Mix interview played over and over again.

A couple of years ago, the financial news correspondents on television and in newspapers were cock-a-hoop about the economy and banking institutions having, needing or wanting a 'haircut'. More meaningless nonsense. Unless there was an inference that the overpaid clots in finance who brought the UK to its knees in 2008 with their abject greed were barbers. Which is not really very fair to the purveyors of scissors and combs who attempt to keep the nation's hair in order.

As 2016 comes to a close, those in the media and the people they interview have been busy-busy making 'binary' decisions or doing 'binary' things. More utter bull.

Do these people not realise how stupid they appear to the ordinary users of normal, plain English? There is absolutely nothing clever about their usage of stupid, meaningless terms to dress up the oral rubbish they are peddling. They have totally lost the plot in acknowledging that a spade is simply nothing more than a spade.

And all the interesting men with beards on TV and the equally interesting vegan anti-fracking women who speak a totally different form of English to the rest of us are now wittering on about 'post-truth'. Pardon? You may fool those who watch your antics on minority daytime TV programmes with nodding-dog presenters, but you are only fooling us in as much as we haven't a foggy clue what you are on about!

Meanwhile the advertisers are attempting to look smart with their nonsensical/meaningless straplines, many of which rely on using the adjective "happy" as a noun. Gala Bingo with their "play happy", Rightmove with their "find your happy" and Jacobs with their "snack happy". The best of all, however, must be Febreze, a product specifically designed for no other reason than to part women from their money (when they could open a window in their house to far cheaper and equal freshening effect), not only suggests we "breathe happy" (whatever that means) but that we do it as a result of being "noseblind" (whatever that may be).

However, the plaudit for nonsense and the award for 2016 crapology of the year has to go to agency J. Walter Thompson of London. They have beaten all the English language-abusers with the following unbelievably meaningless terms:
un-tabooing of womanood
distilled fog

new witches

I can't offer you a monetary reward, but if anyone can explain any of the above, you are plainly a better bullcrap merchant that JWT.

It's not pre-loved, it's not for a haircut and it it nothing to do with the off or on, zero or one function that is binary! And as for post-truth . . . . . . . 'tell lies happy'.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

What's in a name?

I had a flashback to some 25 years ago when I worked in Guiseley, a small town just south of Otley (famous for Thomas Chippendale) in the Leeds Metropolitan Borough. It is famed for being the origin and headquarters of the world-famous Harry Ramsden's fish and chips, at one time "the world's biggest fish and chip shop" and connected to the parents of Harry "Sooty, Sweep and Sue" Corbett (as well as Silver Cross Prams, Shires Bathrooms, Greenwood's Menswear, Compton Lighting and Wendy Wools).

On one occasion I was in the then recently built, and at the time, flagship Morrison's Supermarket, a flagship to the extent that Sir Ken Morrison regularly turned up to service behind the deli counter. On that day, I was in the cash-out queue behind a young mother with her twin children in a double buggy (yes, it was a fine, locally-made, Silver Cross double-buggy!). Now bearing in mind this was before the digital revolution that now sees most young mothers blindly shoving their offspring in a pram while they have their heads stuck in their mobile phones, in those days, mothers used to actually interact with their children.

The boy was being rather 'boyish', doing a fabulous imitation of an octopus with the point-of-sale chocolate and sweet display, something his sister was emulating perhaps not as efficiently out of the other side of the perambulator. Without warning, the young mother screamed out "Kah-lee (Kylie) and Jeh-sun (Jason). If youse don't bleedin' stop it, yuose will get no sweets at all tonight. D'ya hear?" The entire supermarket heard.

The mother had clearly named her kids after the two leading characters of the then very popular Australian soap opera, 'Neighbours', namely Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan. What I was wondering was how this nomenclature has affected said children over the years now that they will be in their late 20's.

Thanks to the digital revolution and faux celebrity culture, young parents are often ensuring they are lumbering their children with such ball and chain names that will see their kids off to the deed poll office the moment they reach 18. What is happening is that these youngsters are giving their children names they actually can't pronounce themselves. There are now hordes of Bethanies who turn up at Brownies aged 7 suddenly realising their name is Bethany and not Beffaneee. Mahr-ins are discovering a previously unpronounced "t" in the middle of their name. And heaven help anyone called after the Northamptonshire town of "Keh-er-in" (Kettering).

There is also a lot to be said for the Jewish tradition of not naming a baby after a living relative. I remember a very close friend in school whose name, shall we say for simplicity, was John Jones. His dad was also John Jones, as was his grand-father. And they all shared the same house. Now as John (like myself) advanced though our early teens and John Jones (my friend and not his dad or grand-dad), as a quite good-looking lad, started to see an increase in the amount of "personal" post to his house from girlfriends and 'secret' admirers, St Valentine's cards, Christmas and and suchlike. Not only were these getting opened (with three John Jones in one house it was bound to happen) by mistake by his father and grand-father, but he was also opening John Jones letters not destined for him John Jones the complete Junior. This had the effect of causing untold grief and argument in said Jones household!

But I do believe some people seem to have a suicide pact with children's names. The Americans seem to compete with British celebrities to call their children after the first things that crosses their warped minds - a surname, a lift manufacturer, frozen food manufacturer, piece of DIY equipment or a starsign or tarot card. These are some of the more popular ridiculous ones for children from 2016 that really should see parents being sectioned:

• Adler
• Attyson
• Bastian
• Blayde
• Chesney
• Draven
• Diesel
• Izander
• Jaydien
• Kierson
• Ryker
• Sincere
• Sketch
• Tulsa
• Tyce
• Zaiden
• Zebulon

• Annyston
• Brook'Lynn
• Brylee
• Copelia
• Cortlyn
• Fallyn
• Harvest
• Jerrika
• Joplyn
• Julissa
• Luxx
• Mahayla
• Midnight
• Sharpay
• Tayzia
• Tybee
• Xylethia
• Yankee

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

'Tis the season to be jolly. Tra la bloomin' la.

Three weeks of Christmas advertisements suffered thus far, and not one mention of Mary, Joseph or the infant Jesus. Just message after message telling us in incredibly sincere and twee language how much the supermarkets are putting in all their grandest of efforts to ensure we can put on a microwave-to-table family spread fit for a king. 

Just like last year. And the year before last. And the year before that. 

Seeing they start making more of a fuss of "the big day" Christmas each year than most host countries do for the Olympics, perhaps Christmas should be held just once every four years, thereby giving us three wonderful "big day" free years, thus making Christmas really, really, extra special. As I said, they never seem to mention Jesus any more, so if it's to be so commercial that the founder doesn't even warrant a mention any more, why not slim it all down?

The furnishing companies with their 365-days-a-year sales are busy telling us there is still time to order their sofas and carpets for Christmas. Why anyone in their right mind would want to have a new sofa delivered in time for some relative who crosses the parapet just once a year to either throw up on it or fall asleep on it, thus preventing anyone else from sitting on it is beyond me.

All this frenetic Christmas activity falls into that category sometimes referred to as "screwing the public", something corporations all over the world are great at. Especially at Christmas. Buy one, get none free. Until 3 seconds past midnight on Christmas night. And before then you will have already noticed, as you do your last-minute Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, that even as you are walking around, staff are re-pricing stock and preparing for the post-Christmas sale. If you check carefully you'll see that that the designer jumper you have just bought for your wife at £135 is now sitting on a rail in the corner of the shop repriced for the 26th December sale at £45.

A discount shopping chain in the UK, 'Home Bargains', has declared £137m profits on sales of £1.6billion. They discount many products that the supermarkets allegedly already sell 'cheaper', yet those same supermarkets keep advertising with their twee and downright dishonest "eat better for less" and "every little helps" slogans. Yes. It would appear you can 'eat better for less' with 'every little bit helping' you even more at Home Bargains.

But then wait until having dispensed with Christmas lunch, Christmas lunch leftovers and
Christmas lunch leftover leftovers, and you venture out to try the British train system to visit relatives. It must be the only train system in the world where it can sometimes be cheaper to travel first (free tea and biscuits) class than standard (cattle) class, and where splitting your journey (say Manchester to London) into three separate tickets (for example Manchester to Stockport, Stockport to Milton Keynes and Milton Keynes to London), yet never once leaving your seat on the train, can save you 40%.

And don't get me started on the comparison websites where it nearly always works out cheaper to book directly with the concern you are interested in. The only people gaining any value form the comparison websites are the comparison websites creaming off £60 a pop for each referral. Maybe the industries they represent should just shave the £60 off at source thus cutting out these  unnecessary websites holding suppliers to ransom. 

Like the take-out food websites such as Just Eat and Hungry House (other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) which are killing the smaller takeaways with their fees.  Smaller operation can't afford not to be on one of them, but they also can't afford not to be on one - it has been proven that the smaller operation may generate slightly extra sales, but the fee structure means these takeaways don't see an overall increase in business that justifies the fees and covers the extra costs they have to pay. I know from my own local. They have had to join one of these sites or lose out to nearby competition. But while their orders over the past 189 months have increased slightly, they are losing about 20% of each meal thanks to licensing, commission and the fee they now have to pay for having to not only take debit and credit cards, but constantly monitor orders coming in over the internet. Overall for 2016, while orders and the work in preparing those orders are up on 2015, their profit is down £450 for the year. 

It's a case of working more for less being forced upon a small local business by these sites. Plainly Just Eat, Hungry House (as mentioned, other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) and lazy consumers, in that order, are the only winners.

And do the Just Eats and Hungry Houses (again, as mentioned, other take away ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available) of this world care? Of course they don't. They are on to a good thing making easy money holding the country's takeaways to ransom. I phone up my local Chinese takeaway directly myself and collect personally paying cash. They know this, and despite  giving me a free packet of prawn crackers, they still make £2.25 a meal more than if I used one of the
Just Eats or Hungry Houses (as mentioned, once more, I remind you that other takeaway ordering sites, in this copy-cat world of ours, are sadly also available). And when you look at it, it is so much simpler to phone up than go online, log in and fart around with electronic payment.

You need a comparison website to sort out all the comparison websites that have mushroomed in all the different industries.Websites that, in the long run, really only benefit the comparison website owners.

So for the moment I'll go back to watching the same old trot on TV where vacuous sell-eh-brih-ees and TV never-off people help you 'prepare for the big day'. Again. Just like last year. Identical crap, different year.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Are councils naturally dysfunctional and dim, or do they undertake special training?

What things have Councils across the UK got in common?

Actually, this is more about those things that annoy the public who pay for them from their hard-earned cash and whom they are meant, as a result, to serve to their alleged best
Here are a couple of aggregated points:
  1. Most councils have senior executives on six-figure salaries, many larger than that of the Prime Minister, with inflation-busting increases every year while those at the coal-face in a best-case scenario receive no increase, while in a worse-case scenario, are shunted off to the Job Centre
  2. Most councils do things simply because they can, and get away with them because they have the law on their side, regardless of how reprehensible or morally offensive those things are. It is almost impossible to have their decisions reversed. That the members of the public who fund them have to turn to their MP, the media or to consumer programmes on television or in newspapers for action is utterly reprehensible
  3. It is so difficult to have a council decision regarding something such as a parking or bus lane infringement overturned
Here are some examples of banging your head against the wall when it comes to councils and their jobsworthy application of their rules for no other reason than they can do and get away with it. Essentially, they get away with it because they have the law on their side and often immorally stick to it, especially if it is a cash-cow income situation.

1. Leeds - Edmund King of the AA has stated on more than one occasion that bus lanes in Leeds are all virtually for no other purpose than revenue. They have differing times across the city, many starting at an artificially early rush hour (3pm in the afternoon) with instructions often obfuscated by a myriad of other road signs and street furniture, especially on the Kirkstall and Abbey Roads out of the city towards Guiseley (referred to locally as 'Revenue Alley'). And they all operate on bank holidays that fall on weekdays

Leeds Council using the motorist as a cash cow - Quarry Hill and a car park used by shoppers and users of the Leeds Play House  - as can be seen, with Sunday and evening parking, ensuring they despicably squeeze the last penny out of shoppers AND theatre goers alike

2. A jobsworth warden in Canterbury issued self-employed washing machine repair man Trevor Emery with a £200 fine for failing to display a 'No Smoking' sign in his own van, four times more than he would have been fined for actually lighting up in his own van. Both are non-smokers and the only passengers in the van as Mr Emery does not offer lifts to people or have other driver-employees.

3. Salford have spent almost £1million on cycle lanes into the city on Great Clowes and Bridgewater Streets. Not only are these lanes severely underused by cyclists (many if the very few cyclists using the route actually cycle on the path and not in the lane!), but they cause traffic gridlock and are a danger to the emergency services in heavy traffic.

Salford Council doing what they do best, attacking the cash-cow motorist. Three tickets on three successive days circa 16th Dec 16 ; the motorist could be off in hospital with a heart-attack.

4. Salford (again) Council have turned the famous Crescent into a 20mph, road-humped, single-lane nightmare, bottleneck zone. The Crescent is the terminal stage of the somewhat and always rather busy 47km-long East Lancs Road. Also known as the A580, it was the United Kingdom's first purpose-built intercity highway. The road, which remains a primary A road, was officially opened by King George V on 18 July 1934. It links Walton in Liverpool to Salford (near Manchester).

The wonderful £800,000 cycle lanes of Bridgewater Road in Salford bereft of cyclists at 8.30 in the average traffic-filled weekday morning as traffic backs up thanks to them

5. Many councils are now instituting immoral and completely unnecessary 24-hour pay and display parking that benefits no one except the parasitic private parking companies - there is a lulu of a cowboy company that is based in Sheffield (other cowboy operators are available) whose owners are now multi-millionaires on the back of their often very unethical practices. And if you dispute a ticket from one of these companies by parking at 11pm on a badly-lit bomb-site, be warned. The appalling signage, or even a natural logic that might have made you naturally conclude that a car park would not be charging at 11pm at night, is not ground enough. And the alleged independent mechanism you have to use to dispute any claim, POPLA, (Parking on Private Land Appeals) is as independent as an appeals body can be when funded by the cowboys (and at one time chaired by the biggest Sheffield-based millionaire cowboy of the lot) who ticket you. Or is it just co-incidence that these parking cowboys feature regularly on both the "Watchdog", "Rip-off Britain" and "Martin Lewis" TV consumer programmes?

6. Bury Council were proudly crowing in December 2016 about how the impending new Aldi supermarket build was as a "direct result of the Council's commitment to and investment in Radcliffe town centre". Really? The £1million-refurbished market hall has about 10 retailers, and Radcliffe could, by someone of a very generous, if not those of a rather blinkered nature, be termed as nothing more than a retail ghost town. 

7. It took months and months of lobbying by UK satirical fortnightly "Private Eye" to make the authorities realise that one of former MP George Galloway's 'best friends', Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets in London, was as crooked as a winding mountain pass. He received a 5-year ban from local politics for an impressive array of  corruption, bribery, malpractice, mortgage fraud and  tax evasion.

8. Councils have gained, by stealth, legal powers to place charges and seize homes of the elderly who may be running up bills in connection with their healthcare. On the death of the elderly owner, their home can be seized by the council who, given the track-records of most councils on things requiring common sense and decency, will be guaranteed will make a total mess of the whole process.

I suggest you purchase a copy of "Private Eye", the satirical fortnightly, and read through the feature page titled "Rotten Boroughs". It is as fascinating a read as it is a depressing read to see the extent to which these people couldn't even decide whether the toilet seat should be left up or put down after use. Although I'm sure they'd happily convene a committee and pay themselves - and some barn-pot £1,400 a day consultants - vast expenses to find out.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Call me sexist, but . . . .

I am fed up with mobi-morons walking the streets with their heads stuck in their phones.

It's so much that I'm fed up with the mobi-morons' sad lives that they have to glue to their phones 24-7. No. It's more to do with the fact that as someone who doesn't walk around with his own head stuck in his phone 24-7, I fail to see why it should have to be me who has to watch out for them and give way to, or walk around them on the path in order to allow them to uninterruptedly maintain their heads stuck in their phones.

And why, as someone who is a little more senior, should I have to stand on a crowded tram so that some youngster who isn't aware of anything going on around them in the world that's not on their little 5-inch screen can sit there and Facebook, Angry Bird or hunt for Pokemons?

And the amazing things one notices while standing in a tram. Many of those on their phones  don't actually have anything constructive to do on their phones. They are actually searching for something to see and do on their phones.

It's the girls and young women who are by far the worst.

They just do not know how to put their phones away, even for 30 seconds. They have a persecution complex about the trash-puzzle magazine "Take a Break". And if they do put their blasted mobiles away for 30 seconds, second 31 sees them taking their phone back out again to check it - presumably to see whether World War Three has started,  the hole on the Ozone layer has enlarged or whether one of their witless friends has posted yet another picture of his penis on Snapchat.

The picture above shows five ladies waiting in the queue for coffee at an exhibition I attended. Typically like all ladies, they are HSIP; Heads Stuck In Phones. They simply cannot pack it in for a moment, even in a relatively speedy moving queue.

What is wrong with them?

Friday, 11 November 2016

I'm about to become very, very famous . . .

The spotlight, fame, autograph-giving, fortune, the high-life, in fact everything associated with stardom is about to come my way. Yes, I'm about to star on the lower screen of a TV advertisement for a deodorant as one of the 79% of 221 people surveyed who agreed. With their guff.

Mitchum, the deodorant people, collared me in my local supermarket in connection with this potential fame-making opportunity. A nice looking young lady, clip-boarded, rather microclimatically clothed to make a man of my age look at her twice, with the added value of no tattoos and all her own, rather than a set of purchased, teeth.

In exchange for the aforementioned spotlight, fame, autograph-giving, fortune and the high-life I was actually given a bottle of Mitchum roll-on deodorant, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. I was asked a series of bland, tick-box questions (disguised as market research) about my deodorant-buying habits.

I didn't have to lie to the aforementioned microclimatically-clothed female complete with her own teeth! I do actually buy Mitchum as my deodorant of choice. It is by far my favourite, as it keeps my recesses suitably sweat-free, doesn't stain my clothes or make them smell, and a bottle of it lasts a reasonably long time. And it doesn't promise the stomach-churning 96-hour protection offered by some other brands that I am sure, if the delicate piquancy of some on public transport is anything to go by, seem to take far too literally.

This episode did, however, make me think about two aspects of market research that I have always wondered about.

Firstly, the advertisements on television telling women "you're worth it" in an attempt to part them from their hard-earned cash, feature research numbers that are as meaningless as they are useless. Inevitably, and in keeping with a very loose translation of Advertising Standards Authority rules, you will find strewn along the bottom of said advertisements for some over-expensive formulation complete with a bunch of unfathomable ingredients that only purchasers with a doctorate in biochemistry would understand, the words "73% of 129 respondents agreed". Or something vaguely similar. When I see this, I immediately think, hey, there are approximately 20million females who might be persuaded to purchase this stuff, yet they have only surveyed 129, of whom only 102 (well 101.91 of them) actually agreed.

That is 0.00051% of the population. Hardly grounds for congratulations. And neither it is proof that all the quaintly-named unfathomable chemical goop in these products actually has any effect. Worth it or not as it may or may not be.

Secondly, mainstream market research itself. Any good CEO or business owner knows that in order to launch or sell a product or service, you really need to do some research to see whether it is actually worthwhile going to all the bother of so doing. Similarly, it is also necessary to occasionally gather information about an existing product or service and how it is getting along.

I have, over the years, attended what I can only describe as rent-a-mob research, where a group of individuals were all there under quite false pretences, some with no interest in the product, just to make up the numbers!

On one occasion I attended a train research session. I was actually very interested in it, because at the time, some six years ago, I was a regular train user between the North and London, and was totally befuddled as to how a Leeds-London journey could cost over £200 for a standard ticket, yet be under £100 for a first class ticket on the same journey. Similarly, I had regularly found travelling the Transpennine route between Leeds and Manchester or Leeds and Hull produced the same, if not a worse scenario. Friday night peak hours saw the train jam-packed not only with people standing, but with them having paid more for the privilege of travelling at 5.30pm on a Friday than any other day of the week. Meanwhile, if booked online, First Class was often cheaper for the same journey, with a guaranteed seat and a complimentary cup of tea thrown in to boot!

And more to the point, because of the more expensive ticket on a Friday evening out of Hull (mysteriously, sometimes up to three times the cost of a ticket for any other night of the week!) for the 5.30ish train, it used to leave Hull half-empty, while the 6.30ish train, at half the price, was always jam-packed, thus denying workers from outside Hull the opportunity to get home an hour earlier. And also defying logic.

Why we are one of the only countries in the world that allow peak-time commuter travel to be a profit centre for private train companies is, and will remain, an utter and total mystery to me. I have travelled on commuter services in Frankfurt, Melbourne, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Budapest and the cost of a ticket on suburban trains, trams and buses remains constant throughout the day.

Back to the research evening. We were a group of eight, and I was gob-smacked, nay totally floored to discover that I was actually the only regular train user in the research group, with one other member an 'occasional' user! How having six people who rarely used trains in a group undertaking research on regular train travel would have been any use whatsoever to the train company who initiated the research group, was way beyond my sense of comprehension.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Mr or Mrs President, it's just like X-Factor, where all the contestants are appalling

Well, to all my dear American friends, I have a suspicion you are shortly going to get the President you deserve. A slight saving grace is that the second term for President Obama has meant there is now not so much of a bar, but more of a skewer to be raised by his successor.

On the one hand, one candidate seems to have a continual bad hair day, while the other enjoys a continual bad hair do. That the largest democracy in the world has to choose between Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, seems to make the human pot-noodle, Kim Jong-un, somewhat of an attractive proposition.

Of course we in the UK can't talk. We are in the unenviable position of having a leader of Her Majesty's Opposition akin to a school teacher who, despite being a teacher for the past 30 years, decided some 30 years ago at the start of his teaching career that he hated children. One, for the first time in most of our living memories, who is not referred to as the "Honourable Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition", because he snubbed the Queen by not turning up to her tea party and thus did not become a member of the Privy Council.

In June 2016, the Labour Members of the UK Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Corbyn by 172 votes to 40, and seeing as he is still leader, any negative observances on the state of the USA elections by any British Labour Party supporter may certainly be treated with some contempt.

So enjoy your elections. Remember to cast your vote wisely. Choose the best candidate for the job. Sit back. Relax. Enjoy yourself. Observe the vote counting kicking off on a date that we in this part of the world refer to as 9/11.

And then panic.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I'm definitely turning into my late father!

I can't stand drivers:
. . . . who don't know and can't judge the width of their own car
. . . . in front of me who swing out onto the other side of the road to turn left
. . . . who leave huge gaps between cars on busy roads because they are so busy chatting/phoning/sleeping
. . . . who leave it until the very last minute to indicate as they approach the junction you are waiting to pull out from
. . . . at a T-Junction who sits there for hours waiting for the road to clear totally of any traffic, and that includes the truck half a mile down the road approaching from the left, and a car half a mile up the road approaching from the right
. . . . at a T-Junction who doesn't a least try to nose out in busy traffic
. . . . doing 52 mph in the centre lane of a relatively empty motorway
. . . . in cars beside me in heavy traffic with all the windows open as they listen to some angry chap on their CD shouting to the backing of someone manufacturing self-assembly furniture (called, I believe, rap music) or the sound of ducks being strangled to the backing of far eastern bagpipes (called, I believe, ethnic music)
. . . . who pull up beside me in the right-only filter lane who then cut in front of me to go straight on the moment the traffic lights change
. . . . in front of me in the inside lane who do not anticipate/are so blind they cannot see a stopped bus or packed vehicle and then pull out into my lane with absolutely no warning or mirror-signal-manoeuvre
. . . . who think using their indicators once in a while actually gives them permission to pull out in front of me whenever they choose without looking
. . . . who can plainly see the lane closed signs on the motorway but insist trammelling up that lane at 70 mph and then pushing in two metres before the lane disappears

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Is advertising appalling, or is it just plain, old, extremely bad?

The internet gurus keep warning us that if we continue to use adblockers, it will break the internet.

For those of you perhaps not too familiar with internet parlance, adblockers are little extensions you can add to your internet browser that run automatically to prevent intrusive and nearly-always unwanted advertisements popping up on your screen or when you are browsing the World Wide Web.

You know the sort – those that pop-up for PPI claims every time you type the letters “ppi” of the word “happiness” into your computer. When not using adblockers, as you go about your web searching, your social media meandering, or your visit to a real media site, big brother, who is of course watching you all the time, picks up what you are either searching for or looking at and, hey presto, a “relevant” advertisement pops up on your screen.

 It’s all quite clever really. Except there are only so many times you can be asked whether you have accident insurance to claim, PPI from a credit card, or a cheap flight you don’t want to a destination you have no interest in visiting, to sell something on ebay when you have nothing to sell, or an overpriced ticket (plus service fee) for an event you aren’t remotely interested in attending.

YouTube does a similar thing. You want to watch a video on how to plant out parsley shoots, and immediately the video is finished, off it trots, without invitation, to play you another video on how to plant a forest, then, if you let it, how to lay decking, and then onto a Caribbean cruise – because big brother fails to correctly distinguish between domestic decking and the deck of a cruise ship.

 So while for all the years and years the internet service providers have been charging us a fortune for a phone line we never use to not make phone calls on top of our internet access fee, none of this money has gone to “the internet”, and so we really must watch their appalling and intrusive advertisements in order for it to survive.


But I do wonder how Sir Martin Sorrell, the advertising guru, managed to secure a thumping £43million salary for 2014 and £70million for last year given that current advertising is so unbelievably lacklustre, poor and totally plagiarised. I'm not saying he is necessarily responsible for it all, but I am sure some of his creative agencies are in the thick of it somewhere.

Everything is now “awesome”. If you believe the advertisements, you can do the physically impossible and “pre-order” – and here’s me thinking you can only either order something or not order something.

We are being told to snack happy, breathe happy, shop happy, move house happy – in fact, if one more advertiser tells me to do something “happy” I think I will probably scream, seeing as I no longer have any hair to tear out.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

We keep getting the politicians we don't deserve

Local election day in the UK, where many Britons head off to the voting station to put an "X" beside the name of someone they don't know representing the political views of a party they know nothing about. And that's just the candidates.

Just back myself from the high-tech plywood and nails that I believe is officially called a "polling booth". Plainly the local invigilator must have worked in a bank, as the little voting pencils were very technically Sellotaped to a piece of string in the booth. The iPad generation hasn't enveloped the political voting system just yet, despite many councillors spending vast sums of local council tax-payers money on iPads and Samsungs to assist with a larger screen to play Candy Crush on as they attend vital Council meetings.

The local school kids have been kicked out of their play-school hall to accommodate this. I was bitterly disappointed that only four names appeared on the ballot paper, none of whom was a member of the Monster Raving Loony Party, so I was forced into voting, rather embarrassingly, for a Normal Raving Loony. There were three "members of staff" in attendance, all rather chipper bearing in mind they had already been there for two hours when I arrive at 9am.

As I left the lovely wood-scented booth and junior-school smelling polling station, a lass, possibly in her early twenties had just finished a conversation with the rather dumbfounded-looking outside vote-card number checker. The outside vote-card number checker told me that the reason for her 'dumbfoundery' was that the lass had informed her that she (with, the outside vote-card number checker noted, an iPhone 6 Plus glued to her hand) didn't know there was an election on today. No wonder we keep getting the politicians we don't deserve.

I wonder should we just turn off the lights and leave the country.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

What is it about Whitby?

I’m not keen on tourist traps. I never have been. 

But there is something so endearing about Whitby, the fishing town in North Yorkshire (well East Yorkshire really) that trades healthily on its Bram Stoker/Dracula roots and the somewhat famous Mermaid fish and chip restaurant.

The Mermaid has long-since been equalled, if not now in some instances eclipsed by other fish and chip establishments in the town serving equally good fish and chips, although the town’s fish and chip legacy very much still remains somewhat with the Mermaid.

There is now a plethora of cosy tea rooms, as well as shops selling the wonderful tat so often missing from our regular high streets – funny fruit bowls, freaky flowerpots and silly signs to hang on the bathroom door suggesting wild and wacky ways of warning people that your eldest son is in there flatulently on his mobile Facebook. And all reasonably-priced to boot. And there’s also the Captain Cook Maritime Museum.

Perhaps it’s the fact that all visitors seem to throw their inhibitions away, remove their miserable city demeanours and become uber-friendly towards one another. Or perhaps it’s that every shop and cafĂ© has a “Dogs Welcome Here” sign. Or that the hair braiders and wooden plant-pot sellers in the town hall arches have never changed in over two decades. Or is it the tiring hundred steps up to the old Abbey where a plasticated ice-cream from a van will cost the same price as a home-made one from one of the town’s shops and the sudden arrival of a standard double-decker bus causes a ripple of surprise amongst those who have struggled to negotiate the hundred steps to the top of the hill overlooking the town?

As one who is a lifelong supporter of the lifeboats, it always gladdens my heart to see not one, but two very up-to-date technological marvels in the harbour, primed and ready to be manned by the wonderful volunteers of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The brave people manning these boats are forever ready, at the drop of a hat, to add to the roll of over 140,000 lives saved since the foundation of the RNLI back in 1824. OK, many of those 140,000 saved will be total idiots who, through often quite stupid antics not only threaten their own lives but also the lives of the volunteer men and women of Whitby who dash to their aid.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Local news from Manchester, UK . . . .

More news about the the trees being proposed for Prestwich village, which is a small suburb of Manchester not far from Blackburn, but thankfully for residents, inconveniently far enough away that people in Prestwich can easily avoid it.

My contact in Bury Council (Sir Frederik Scuttle OBE DipEd PhD SFA WTF) informs me that their HR department invited famous hypnotist Paul McKenna in to the Council last week to provide "training" for union members, Green Party members and various green welly warriors, all of whom eat organic cardboard, recycle their bicycles and own allotments so far from home they have to drive in their often smoke-belching MOT-failures to get there. For reference, here is a picture of one of the "trees" they now "believe" are being planted. All potentially in the ground.

And for those thinking of taking a cycle path through Prestwich. Take care! Be afraid. Be very afraid. You will find them and they will kill you. These are in fact "psyche o'paths", eponymously named after the engineer from Limerick who installed them. Although reasonably fine in construction, they point in completely random directions bearing no relation to either the origin you've cycled from or the destination you are wishing to cycle to!

There are two such signs (not those featured here) on Whittaker Lane alone that Mrs Betty Scrotes of Ostrich Lane followed and ended up in Accrington Stanley, when all she was in fact trying to do was to get to Lidl on Bury New Road to purchase her 5 a day at 39p each, which is astonishingly cheap for alcopops.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Tax evasion

On the tax front, instead of arguing amongst themselves in political debate and trying to score against each other as to whose fault it is that google pay only 3% corporation tax, just cross-party cooperate. Both political parties are at fault.

Bring the appalling Lin Homer (she quickly jumped ship after her ennoblement) types at HMRC to book to make the tax system sensible. Instead of all the guff that serial tax evasion consultants such as KPMG and Deliottes (I know it's legal) can extract from the tax code's 11,520 pages, reduce it to just one sentence. 

"You operate a corporation in the UK that takes money from UK taxpayers, then you pay 20% corporation tax."

And stop engaging these consultants for public sector work until they stop helping companies evade tax.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

I could tell it would go downhill . . .

Having not done too much exercise since New Year start, and with one of Europe's largest intra-urban parks a mere four minutes away from my front door, I thought, with the lovely mild, dry weather, a brisk walk was in order today.

As one used to sharing a seat on the tram with the tram lunatic, little did I realise that today I would pick up the park lunatic. I took off my jacket to inspect the back of it, and there certainly wasn't an "I welcome walking with the park lunatic" notice attached.

How I assessed the lunacy of my sudden accompanier, was when he sidled up to me and said "Hello" in the manner of  Philip Green ( from "Britain's Got Talent". I knew in my bones I was in for a memorable walk.

Without much further ado, he was straight in with "People say I look like Rhett Butler. What do you think?" Personally, I think John Prescott looks more like Rhett Butler than he did. I was tempted to ask whether it was the Clark Gable, Charlie Sheen or Justin Chambers portrayal of Rhett, but thought, hey, hold the 99 ice-cream for a moment here, Rhett Butler ain't for real!

Next, as we passed by the 'lake' in the park. Rhett started chatting about what it might be like to swim there this time of year. Panic setting in. Was this idiot going to try. And he perhaps not being able to swim himself, would it be left to me to go chasing in after him? Help!

But thankfully, we passed the lake without a potential drowning incident.

Next, Rhett stop dead in his tracks. I kept on waling thinking "hey, I'm going to lose him". But no. He shouts at me "Hey friend!" (I'm NOT his friend by the way). "Will you help me keep an eye on this woman and her dog? I want to make sure she cleans up any sh*t from the mutt!! Oh gawd. Was there a hole I could creep into? The elderly lady with her Yorkie is looking around thinking I'm this lunatic's friend! I mouth to her and wave my hand with a negative gesture - 'not with him'. I think she has got the message. At least I hope she has got the message.

We continue walking. I didn't want to. But we continue walking. Next to attract his attention is a group of traditionally dressed Muslim women and their children enjoying what all people enjoy best in a large municipal park on a mild day. Ice cream. He stops and looks. I continue walking. He just stands there looking at them. But hey, 100metres, 150metres, I'm getting away! So I step up my step-up speed. I'm free.

"Hey, whatdya think of those women. Dressed like a (I have edited out the "popular" terrorist group he referred to) day out." He's back. Here I was tempted to explain the freedoms of sitting in a park, but thought, "no". Bite your tongue on this occasion. I hated letting him away with racism, and as it was just as an aside to me (not the point though) I had to let it go, because I knew nothing about this lunatic, and he could easily have produced a knife. Or gone off on a bender on some description.

So I took a gamble based on his strange walking gait and said. "Look my friend (spitting inwardly) . Wonderful talking with you (spitting inwardly) and nice meeting you (spitting inwardly), but I'd better get my run going."

Off I went at a light canter. He didn't follow. And didn't seemed concerned that as a jogger, I was dressed in jeans and walking shoes.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

EEC gravy train NOT threatened

Right, so if the UK leaves the EEC, it would appear that, amongst other things:

1. The 70-odd (some very!) UK MEP's and their entourage of expense-collecting mandarins and hangers-on will continue, business as usual and uninterrupred for many years lining their pockets, with the 70-odd potentially able to vote on things of absolutely no consequence to the average now non-EEC UK national.

2. The UK resident who has exhausted many other legal avenues and seeks justice from the European Court as a last rersort will now have to whistle. At least this changes the status of Morecambe, which up to now has very much been the last resort.

3. Many consultants from companies such as the ususal suspects KMPG, Deliottes etc will die in the stampede to join the gravy train charging £2,000 or more a day for consultancy services on existing trade agreements that will all become null and void when we leave the EEC.

Meanwhile, while the consultants fight to the death to get to their bank accounts, on the other hand, and as an example, businessman Arse Wenger, who has up to now had no trouble flogging his hemharroid cream to Italy, will suddenly find his product, which he relies on via export to Europe, falls into a category of product where a trade agreement no longer exists. 

So he will have to bugger around at great expense through his local Chamber of Commerce, paying Carnet and other fees, in order to ensure his business continues. All of which will put the price of his product up, delay it arriving at his Italian customers and ultimately put his business at risk.

4. Passport control? Visas? Right to work? A total car crash.

Wonderful. Always the little ones who will ultimately suffer.