Saturday, October 11, 2014


When I was a kid I used to think that packaging (and other aspects of the world, but that’s a different matter...) were in a constant state of continuous improvement.  In other words manufacturers would work out what worked (for consumers I naively thought) and packaging would get easier and simpler to use as time went on.  It turns out that’s not true.

This morning I’ve half pulled a finger nail off trying to prize open a cardboard box full of Becks (more rock and roll than lawnmowers eh readers?), completely failed again to find any way of using the strip of sticky tape stuff attached to bags of ground coffee, got orange juice all over and failed to open a yoghurt.

Orange juice first.  I used to be able to open Tescos cheap orange juice – you ripped or cut the top and you were in!  You just had to be a bit careful not to squeeze too hard or to spill any.  Then they introduced their 'irony range' of packaging.  Somebody was surely having the smirk of their lives when they persuaded their Tesco bosses to call the new cartons ‘easy open, easy pour’ - because the plastic bit has to be pushed down so hard to open it orange juice always squirts out, and pouring only becomes possible without a dishcloth or kitchen roll when it’s about ½ empty. 
Beer – some types of beer come with semi-serrated bits on the box with a tab to pull which sometimes works (a bit like the ones that virtually never work on tissue boxes) but otherwise there just doesn’t seem to be a way of opening apart from pulling one of the end tabs with massive angry force.

Coffee – Not only is the ‘cut here’ mark always slightly higher than the place where you actually have to cut the bag to open it but there is simply no way of using the bit of tape to reseal the bag when you’ve just opened it - it’s still too full and the tape isn’t long enough or sticky enough.  When it’s mostly empty the rolled up bit of bag is too springy to be held down by tape of any sort and by then the tape has got coffee and other bits of stuff on it so as to render it stick free anyway.  There may be a sweet spot about half way down the bag but I’ve never found it.  I use clothes pegs.

And if you were wondering about that yoghurt - I stabbed it with a big knife!
Thing is that I'm sure package manufacturers have design people.  Presumably they either employ idiots or they ignore what they advise in favour of keeping costs down...


There was a recent ‘What’s on TV’ competition to “Win Theatre Tokens with EyeBar – the first ever chocolate bar enriched with nutrients that are great for your eyes”. We have 3 first prizes of £100 theatre tokens with 10 runners up get to try EyeBar for themselves!”

So, yes…win theatre tickets with chocolate that’s good for your eyes.  It says here that “It has been shown that taking a vitamin supplement for eye health can help improve eye health by 26%. EyeBar contains all the essential vitamins and nutrients, including lutein and zeaxanthin, all in a delicious tasting dark chocolate bar…So if you find taking tablets a bit of a chore, try EyeBar – what can be better – a chocolate bar that is good for your eye health!”

Here’s an obvious question – how do you know if your eye health has been improved by 26%?  Or if it’s declined by the same amount for that matter - how can the health of any part of your body be measured in percentage terms? And what constitutes ‘health’ in this context anyway – seeing better?  I suppose that’s what’s implied but not what it says of course…

I know that everyone knows that adverts are nonsense, it’s just what’s expected from marketing twads - but this one is so clearly nonsense that I find it makes me cross!  However, I do rather enjoy the fact that someone has come up with a completely ludicrous idea and actually taken it so far as to produce an actual product – You can’t make a product like this without going through quite a complicated process – and apparently at no stage did anyone say ‘this is a bonkers idea good for a laugh down the pub but surely we’re not going to actually make this stuff’. 

Perhaps ‘Eyebar’ (or is it EyeBar?) doesn’t actually exist in real life…Maybe it’s part of some secret government gullibility test to see if anyone actually thinks that their eyes will be 26% better if they eat loads of chocolate with ‘vitamins and nutrients’ with what might well be made up names in them. 

But before I finish this post here are a few free ideas for new products…

Foot sausages – or ‘Fosages’ - sausages containing the vital vitamins and nutrients to keep your feet healthy.

Shoulder biscuits?  ‘Showcuits’ – contains the vitamins and nutrients your feet need to be 17% healthier…

Mouth cabbage? 

Spunk trifle?  We could call that one Spifle – Contains nutrients and vitamins…you know the story by now…

Ban the car!

I became a pedestrian again recently.  This reminded me of several things…

1.    For the most part drivers can’t be arsed indicating, particularly when exiting a roundabout – most seem to think they’re ‘going straight on’ as if their particular car has been the centre of the pedestrian’s attention for the last few minutes

2.    Drivers often don’t indicate for left turns – and many just don’t bother to indicate at all

3.    Pedestrians are invisible to car drivers

4.    Car drivers don’t indicate for other road users only other cars or vehicles bigger than themselves

5.    All the schemes in the world to encourage people to ride bikes will fail until bike lanes have curbs that stop chumps driving in them

6.    Car drivers have no idea what the hatched yellow lines in the middle of a junction might be for

7.    Car drivers find it OK to park not only near the end of a road but right round the corner of it

8.    Car drivers open their doors onto the pavement without looking to see if anyone is using the footpath

9.    Cars park on grass verges

10. Cars park on footpaths

11. Cars park in bike lanes, especially near schools

12. Drivers like to wave you across roads into the path of traffic they haven’t noticed

13. Very many pedestrian crossings wait until all the pedestrians have eventually got across the road before the lights change

14. Car drivers still think it’s OK to drive through red lights so long as they accelerate through the pedestrian crossing and / or they’re one of the first 4 cars through

15. No-one car shares

16. There are far too many people driving cars
There are far too many other problems for me to bother listing them here - see previous posts!

Revive Chuck!

I’d like to tentatively (and perhaps optimistically) suggest that a rock and roll revival may be along soon.  On what to I base this?  Well, there have been a couple of rock and roll (by which I mean proper 1950s rock and roll) records on 6 Music recently.  OK, that’s not a lot of evidence…Though the reason I’ve noticed this is that I’ve been listening to a pile of mainly Chuck Berry songs recently – but also Buddy Holly (though not strictly rock and roll in the way I mean it I guess) and I re-discovered what an absolutely fabulous record (with a fabulous sound) Rock Around the Clock is.  And every few months I have to play my 7 inch of Jungle Rock, try to dispel images of Pan’s People (or ‘Legs & Co’ possibly) on Top of the Pops and just well, get blown away at how great it sounds – and how simple.  It also reminds me that great lyrics are not always necessary in the making of a truly great record.

But Chuck Berry is the man for me…everything rock and roll is in Chuck Berry and in many ways he did everything first and everything best – until the Beatles also did everything first and everything best!  OK, I exaggerate slightly.  Oddly, after my comments about Jungle Rock Chuck Berry’s lyrics are mostly fab – clever and knowing and real and arch – with clever little twists and ways of saying things without it being obvious.  See ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ as a euphemism for black for example and suddenly the politics is clear.    And ‘No Money Down’ features a list of features for a car (a ‘jet off take’ anyone?) demanded by a woman.  In the 1950s!  I could go on, I’m sure there’s loads of stuff on-line about the man.

So, yes, in tweet style…there should be a rock and roll revival and Chuck Berry is great!

For the scandal minded I checked out what I could find online about that whole video cameras in the country club toilets thing from a few years back - Nothing in particular to report...But of course I'm not one of those people that think only virtuous people can make great records anyway.  But it does seem that a few people have been out to get him for being black and successful over the years... 

Oh and while I'm on, check out the Hollies version of 'Too Much Monkey Business' - a great version of a great song!  There are loads of great Chuck Berry songs and you can get CD compilations of piles of originals for next to nothing.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Must write a stiff letter...

I read a copy of the Telegraph this weekend (didn't buy it you understand...)  I knew that newspapers were in trouble but I hadn’t quite realised how thin the content actually was these days .  Half of the articles in the various sections of the paper seemed to be sponsored by or perhaps ‘in association with’ which seems to be the preferred name for adverts masquerading as news or articles. 

I’ve never been a big fan of the Telegraph and I always found the anti-European stuff completely bonkers for a start (was it Freddie Forsyth they had in, all foaming at the eyes with imaginary stories about ‘Brussels’ etc?) but it all seemed a bit desperate - and sad really. 

There were a few proper news stories I guess but by pages 2 / 3 we had this...
  • Virtually a half page feature on a missing cat
  • A piece about a snake eating cats (possibly)
  • A story about molehills (making a page 3 news story out of a molehill I guess)
  • A piece about the maternal instincts of women extending to pets
and my favourite –
  • a ‘news’ story that explaining that Jeremy Paxman “has hit out at ‘morons’ for leaving bags full of dog mess at a beach he was visiting”
This story was in Waitrose Weekend magazine apparently – I bet the editor of the Telegraph was spitting blood on discovering they’d missed that particular doggie poop scoop.  Helpfully they also explained who Jeremy Paxman was, who he used to wrok for, when he retired etc.  I’d read in Private Eye that the Telegraph had sacked most of its journalists but if you don’t experience things for a while you really notice how they’ve changed.  I thought the Metro was shoddy because it was put together by students (and is at least free) – but the Telegraph?! – Blimey.  Must write a stiff letter to Waitrose Weekend magazine…

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pass the spliff Alumni man!

I get another annoying communication from the Leeds University Alumni Office.  Seems they want to know where I work as 'Leeds students would love to know what you're up to'.  They want to know my 'position' and my 'industry'.  If they get the info it seems that 'when the next generation of students are looking at universities, they can see just where a Leeds education might lead them'.  Blimey! 

I feel I'm not really what they're looking for...They do have a question on their card that reads "Tell us more about you role" (my italics, their spelling).  Perhaps not from the English department then?

I won't be bothering telling them that I don't have the lucrative middle-class profession they clearly think their ex-students have and their next generation craves - but I do rather like the fact that the Alumni office is based in the Stoner Building - far out man!

Having said all that Leeds Poly is changing (or has changed) it's name again so at least the University of Leeds isn't going down that particular road - Leeds Met is now called the University of Buckets or something.  Leeds Metropolitan University clearly wasn't a good enough name.  Now I have no idea but what are the chances they got a new Vice Chancellor and had a reorganisation combined with the name change?  Maybe the business studies or psychology departments are doing a study in the effects of pointless activity undertaken by institutions from which they never learn? 

A postscript - I Googled Leeds Metropolitan University or 'the Buckets' as I really hope they're now known.  They're 'opening minds' and 'opening doors' apparently.  Our back door is a bit stiff if they could send somebody round? - Or perhaps they're just really polite...

Swinging back again (see what I did there!?) Leeds University's website has a link on its home page to a free online business course 'delivered in partnership with Marks and Spencer'.  Ah well, the student led revoltion may not be happening just yet...

Damn you Mister Motivator!

Oops, I forgot to post this and it's getting a bit old now...

Darn it, feeling slightly cheated. I checked out the list of celebs appearing in 'Tumble' the  BBC One Saturday night 'entertainment' show - AND I'VE HEARD OF ONE OF THEM! An improvement on the 2 (or sometimes even 3) I usually get for these things but disappointing nonetheless. Damn you Mister Motivator!  For the most of you that won't have heard of him he was something to do with jumping about on daytime TV back in the 80s or 90s...
I await the day when 100% of celebrity contestants are people no-one has heard of.  And I'm still waiting for the 10 blade razor...

Friday, September 12, 2014


Just wanted to say I'm sick of spam comments on this blog - you won't see them much because they're generally on really old posts.  But it does mean I can't tell who reads this blog because of the spambots from France and the USA. 

I wonder if life would carry on if I abandoned the internet completely and sent blog posts via letter...

That's enough MSN

I got an advert in my Hotmail inbox today.  Here’s what it says…

“Introducing the entirely new MSN – bringing you the content you love – from the sources you trust – with a new modern design.  We’ve also added personalisation features to help you customize to make it your own.”

Here are my objections:

‘Entirely new’ – sorry, but I don’t’ believe you.  And I’m not really interested in ‘new’ for its own sake anyway.

‘Bringing you the content you love’ – you have no idea what ‘content’ I love.  I don’t like the word ‘content’ disconnected from any meaning either.  Do you mean news or adverts or what?  I don’t ‘love’ any of it, so please don’t pretend you know stuff about me.

‘From the sources you trust’ – OK Microsoft, remind me exactly what those sources are if you wouldn’t mind…

‘New modern design’ – please see point one above.

‘Personalisation features’ – design your own damn webby site adverty stuff, I haven’t got time to change stuff, I’m just not interested enough in MSN.

That’s enough MSN

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Fields

Pretty chuffed that BBC Leeds played the whole of 'The Fields' the other night, my World War One song - all 6 minutes 50 of it - it's a story song so it wouldn't work that well to only tell part of the story - but I didn't really expect them to be able to play it all (just because it's nearly 7 mins long, that's all).  You can find the programme here

I recorded it on a Monday, uploaded it to the BBC uploader on the same Monday and they put their programme together on the Tuesday - and it went out the following Saturday (26th July) - So a five day turn around from recording to public broadcast.  I think that's pretty goo!  You can listen to it for the next few days.  It's now also free to download on bandcamp 

Bit of an experiment for me - a song from the perspective of someone else...And I think I'm right in saying it's also the first song I've 'released' that has finger picking on the geetar - it is pretty much just an accompaniment though...Anyway, have a listen if you would...

The photo that I put with it on Bandcamp isn't the best ever but it's the only pic I had that seemed remotely appropriate - taken by me - anyone know where?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

More free music coming up - and a Radio Programme you should listen to

Oh that's not one of my better blog post titles is it?  Still, never mind...

On occasion the modern world is quite good, actually - I recorded and mixed a new song yesterday (well, Neil the recording man and me anyway), uploaded it to the BBC website thingie ('the Uploader') - and it's going to be broadcast on on t'BBC on Saturday evening (27th July) - So it'll have gone from a lyric sheet and some chords in my head to public broadcast in 5 days. Not a record (no, it's an MP3!) but well. y'know...pretty good.

So...a big thumbs up to the Beeb. It's nearly 7 minutes long (though I doubt they'll be able to play all of it) and is my First World War song - 9 verses sung from the perspective of a mother. I even did a bit of reading before writing it...It's a bit depressing and has a political message and is a bit picky and folky music-wise so a bit of a new thing for me.

So...even though 'local music' is not the same as 'good music' (though they do pick the best of course!) let's have a cheer for Alan Raw and the BBC Radio Leeds Introducing thang - and not just because they're playing me...Or maybe a little bit because they're playing me...

Also...I'll be giving away the song on Bandcamp very soon (see the 'shop' button which should take you there where you should be able to download it for free in a few days - that's not the download time, that's an idea as to when it might be available).  I could put it on here but to be honest it's easier to re-direct you to bandcamp.  So there.

It's called 'The Fields' by the way...Catchy title next time hopefully...

Back on board!

Deary me...Have been locked out of the old blog for a few days due to some jiggery pokery that Google keep saying about having 'conflicting accounts' - looks like a ruse to get people to open a Gmail account to me.  But what a load of old pony really...Perhaps there really are technical reasons but they could make it easier...But I'm back in by the looks of it. 

Hurray for me and a thumbs down for Google for making me read really boring weasily stuff that I didn't understand - there was no 'just let me into my Blog dammit!' button to hit...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fun World Cup game!

Hey folks...I just tried this - the Doritos 'Score and Win' game aka the Doritos Penalty Shootout.

Here's how it works...Now don't forget the code on the packet - the one that's not printed correctly?  OK, can't use that packet, let's try the other one...

Here we go...this'll be fun.  Enter your code number in the box.  Wonder why nothing has happened.  Try it again.  And again.  Squint at packet to check you have this right.  Think of giving up.  Take ages to read the 'what's this' advice associated with the code number box.  So...take the middle number in the 'best before panel.  Take the letter off the end of that number.  Go to the next line and take just the first four digits of the number there - don't forget to ignore the colon...Add these 4 digits to the end of the first number (see above).  That's your code.  Unless your packet is one of those printed in another format in which case scroll through by clicking the arrow to tell you how to decipher your alternative code.  Now, add your email address twice, tick the 'terms and conditions' box and sign up for exciting news about Doritos. 

Now, to prove you're a person, try to read the unfathomable jumble in the box that might be letters.  Enter something random into the box hoping to get another set of letters that might re readable this time.  Try this around a dozen times until a jumble comes up that you can half read - if you're lucky you might be right.  You can then play 'the game' by dragging a football across your computer screen.  1 in 5 chance of winning a free pack, 1 in 7 chance of winning a tenner and 1 in 12 chance of winning £100.  That'll be 1 in 420 chance of winning £100 then I think, not 1 in 12.

Then, travel to Doritos head office.  Ask to be directed to their marketing department.  Ask for the person responsible for the 'score and win' promotion.  Bend them over their desk and insert packet of Doritos up their backside.  Then ask for their email address so you can hassle them again in future.  Tell them their 'game' is rubbish and that England have not been involved in any penalty shootouts in this world cup.  Tell them that any world cup themed adverts are counter-productive. 

Go and buy some Tescos 'everyday value' tortilla chips.  Note the differences in quantity and price compared to Doritos.  

Moral of this story 1: Don't ignore the colon.  Moral of this story 2:  Adding 4 digits should do it...

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Longest Day

It's the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  I wrote a song about D-Day a while back.  It's not been released.  But It's now up on Bandcamp for you to download for free -

Here's a long explanation about the song which possibly takes itself a bit seriously...

But please download the song, have a think maybe and pass it on or whatever...You can pay something if you like but there's no need... 

This is my song about D-Day, June 6th 1944. I recorded it a few years back. It wasn’t intended as a song to mark an anniversary or anything and it doesn’t really fit with my other songs, and partly for that reason it hasn’t been released. I have mixed feelings about the military and patriotism and heroism and war and commemoration.

Very few people examine lyrics for meaning (not my lyrics anyway!) but I’d like to mention a few things about it anyway.

As many will know the title comes from the film ‘The Longest Day’ – all star cast and all that telling the story of D-Day. From what I’ve read subsequently it’s fairly accurate though clearly selective in what it portrays. So, that’s the title.

There are a couple of Churchill quotes in there – you might notice the ‘sunlit uplands’ and the ‘new dark age’. I know a lot of people who broadly hold a lot of the same views I do aren’t big Churchill fans – they point to the General Strike and his views on Ghandi and India and, well, lots of other stuff. I may agree, but he was very human and funny and emotional too – and most importantly he had Hitler and the Nazis ‘taped’ to use an old fashioned term. And some of his speeches still bring me out in goose bumps when I hear them. So I’m happy to quote him.

When I first came up with this song it was more specifically intended to be written as if it were the ‘voice’ of a contemporary person or participant. I dropped the idea really, probably because it would have been too difficult - but that’s why the phrases ‘this Nazi crew’ and the ‘patriotic types’ are in there – they’re old fashioned and meant to be. On the other hand the ‘piss and fear’ and calling out for mothers is more a modern view I think. A reminder that war is not glorious anyway. I hate that phrase ‘the glorious dead’ as there’s nothing at all glorious about being killed in war in my view.

The ‘eyes of blue’ are future generations of course – me for one. I was told that my dad was wounded in the D-Day landings but I later found out that wasn’t true (he was actually wounded in the raid on Dieppe in 1942). I don’t actually know if he was there, but I do know he was involved in several amphibious landings and when asked what he did in the war he said he was a radio operator on landing craft. He died in around 1976 when I wasn’t very old so I never got the chance to ask.

When I added the ‘eyes of brown’ I was thinking of Jewish people. This is a bit of an anomaly really, as at the time I don’t think many of the invasion forces were aware of the Holocaust. There’s a bit of a myth grown up that WW2 was a straightforward fight by the good guys against the perpetrators of the Holocaust which isn’t true – or at least is much more complicated. If you want an indictment of Winston Churchill by the way, I read his 6 volume History of the Second World War and I think I’m right in saying it’s not mentioned once. He mentions Jews in a faintly patronising way (as he does Greeks and Indians I think) just once or twice. I didn’t spot any outright racism though (even from a modern point of view) – but no mention of the Holocaust.

Anyway, going off on a tangent here – and I need to remind myself that it is just a song and doesn’t support that much analysis.

Moving on...I’m still not 100% sure about the ‘when England’s right’ line and ‘salute your name’ but in this case I reckon that patriotism is defensible at least – so it stayed. ‘The Allies’ wouldn’t have worked as an alternative lyric by the way but it’s worth remembering the men from New Jersey or Idaho or wherever - and from right across the world that died liberating countries thousands of miles from home.

One final thing to say about this song. The last verse doesn’t really work very well I’m afraid. This was my attempt to finish the song by bringing things up to date – a reminder that there are still Nazis about. The BNP must have been ‘on the rise’ when I wrote this. I was sort of echoing (maybe consciously I’m not sure) Woody Allen. There’s a scene in one of his films where one of his Liberal friends is talking about how the Nazis were given what for in an article in the New York Times - Woody suggests that going down to meet the Nazis with a baseball bat would be more effective. I applaud the sentiment at least.

This reminds me that I was threatened with arrest in Leeds a few years ago against the background of a Nazi demonstration. Nick Griffin had been arrested for something or other and was on trial at Leeds Crown Court. I didn’t know this and stumbled upon it when I came out of my work for a sandwich. One of the apparently rival right wing groups that were there had their own flag. This is worth mentioning – the flags were bright red with a white circle in the middle. In the circle was a black cross like affair. Didn’t half remind me of something. And I think they still objected to being called Nazis.

Anyway, one of them had a megaphone and was going on about how millions had died defending free speech (I think Mr G was up on a charge of inciting racial hatred or something). I overheard this and got a bit cross. I shouted ‘from the Nazis’ to point out the obvious fact that the war was well, generally in favour of free speech and that millions had indeed died defending free speech – from the Nazis. Before I knew it a big and angry looking policeman came barrelling towards me with three of his mates just behind nearly knocking me over and telling me I’d better shut up or he’d arrest me. These days I like to think I’d tell him to calm down and point out that if it were OK for Nazis to shout down a megaphone it was OK for me to shout without one. It must have made a bit of a ridiculous sight as I remember I had a sandwich in a bag in one hand and a vanilla slice in a bag in the other. I sort of shrugged and walked off I think.

Anyway, the point is that once in a while you get Nazis on the street who need to be confronted on the street. When I first came to Leeds I was attacked by Nazis in my first few days for wearing an anti racism badge. That wouldn’t happen these days and I genuinely think that racism of that kind is receding into history, and since I wrote the song the prospect of Nazis on the street seems more remote. But it didn’t at the time is the point. And best not to be complacent, eh?

So this song is my acknowledgement of D-Day. It maybe makes me seem a bit more supportive of war and the military than I really am. But the D-Day invasion was certainly one way of destroying Nazism, whatever the arguments might be about empire and imperialism and ruling classes and the rest.

The picture I’ve used to illustrate the song is an old picture of two women in my life. My dad never met them. They both have blue eyes. Though brown might have been better!


Longest Day

Here, on the longest day of the year
Dawn is breaking from above the waves
But we are sure why we’re here

I’m here for you – your eyes of blue
Unborn, un-named
Free just the same

Here, on the greatest day of the year
Fight your way up to the sunlit uplands
Against the new dark age

We hit the ground - for her eyes of brown
We get back up
For a future love

Not just the patriotic types
But everybody came
And just for once when England’s right
We can salute your name

Here, the shortened lives and the tears
The teenage boys cry out for their mothers
In shit and sweat and piss and fear

‘Cos talking won’t do
Against this Nazi crew
A fight for peace and truth
Coming to a street near you

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

David Crosby - Wow!

It’s so good to have been around music for years and years and to still hear something so absolutely stunningly good that you want to listen to it over and over again.  Years ago I remember buying ‘Down in the Tube Station at Midnight’ by the Jam and playing it maybe 20 times in row.  It was so good I just couldn’t get enough of it.  Similar thing happened with ‘Bringing it all Back Home’ and ‘Hunky Dory’ – records so good (for large parts anyway) that you wonder how it’s possible.  More recently big sections of White Bread Black Beer by Scritti Politti and Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes did the same to me.  Today’s is a song - ‘If She Called’ from David Crosby’s new album 'Croz'.  It’s just him and one guitar so far as I can tell too.  It’s just stunningly good – I’m not going to try to describe it – just go and have a listen. You should probably buy the album too.
It's undeniable that most songwriters decline over time.  Some almost buck the trend (Neil Young springs to mind) but really, that's just what happens.  I'm still hoping that Paul McCartney will come up with a couple more absolutely brilliant songs before he retires - but David Crosby is over 70 and this song really is as good as anything he's ever done - vaguely reminds me of 'Everybody's Been Burned' in approach.  Go and listen to it now!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Lawnmower delivery update

I forgot to mention – I ordered the lawnmower previously referred to online as the shop (I’ll call it shop and not ‘store’ thank you) didn’t have any of the most suitable model in stock - except on display of course.  This is the good old fashioned routine I’m used to...But order online by 6pm and they guarantee delivery the next day.  I raced home from the shop and got the order in at 5.48 on the Wednesday afternoon.  By 7pm on Thursday the thing hadn’t arrived so I called their customer helpline (which was actually still open) to find out what had happened.  I was told that really I needed to have ordered it a couple of hours earlier for next day delivery as it takes a while for them to process the order. 

So...if you’re ordering from B&Q just nip over to wherever they’re based and find out how much before the 6pm cut-off point is the real life cut-off point that's not the advertised cut-off point.  Or stay in all day the day after the one they say they’re going to deliver on...
I would make some quip suggesting violent retribution but the police do their policing via the internet now and their sense of proportion was taken away in government cuts...So I won’t.

Making do with one lawnmower

Sometimes I love the stupidity of online...For example...I just bought a lawnmower online (I know, rock and roll!) – the website I’ve just bought the lawnmower from then says ‘you may also want...’ – and shows me a list of suggestions for things I might also want to go with my new lawnmower.  This consists of a string of pictures of, guess what? – Lawnmowers!

Now I don’t know about you, and call me crazy if you like, but I’d suggest that if you’re in the business of selling lawnmowers via your website a really bad time to try to sell someone a lawnmower is 10 seconds after they’ve just bought a lawnmower from your website.

And now I’m being pursued by lawnmowers.  I can’t visit a website without banners and side thingies and pop ups with adverts for lawnmowers.  I guess there may be things that having bought one customers are desperate to immediately buy another one – but lawnmowers?
I’m going to ignore being stalked by lawnmowers.  I’m going to follow some of the other adverts – hey look! -  Here they have ‘championship football results at great prices’! And ‘still looking for can I paint on plasterboard?’  – I guess they have software that doesn’t work properly – the clever young pups of marketing.

While I’m wooing you with sexy lawnmower talk – the lawnmower I bought cost £68.  The extended protection guarantee’ costs £2.99 a month for 10 months or £19.90 a year...You work it out...

Meanwhile here’s the latest tempting offer just through from B&Q in the wake of my lawnmower purchase from B&Q (though it could be from Flymo in the wake of me having just bought a Flymo) – If I sign up to the Flymo Gardening Club e-newsletter for free I can be entered into a prize draw to win a fantastic Flymo UltraGlide!  I rather assume this is a lawnmower.  A bit like the one I just bought...

Yes, I just bought a lawnmower.  But just the one – for now...

Laugh? I nearly drowned! - An urgent message from the safety elf

I have an urgent update from the world of instructions...this is the best one since the one about not letting burglars in through the cat-flap...This one is from the instructions for some Slazenger swimming goggles. 

The first item in the “GB: Fitting Instruction” is a WARNING – “use only under competent supervision”...well, OK, I guess that means no-one can use them to swim unsupervised - but the second part of the first sentence on the instruction leaflet says “WILL NOT PROTECT AGAINST DROWNING”

So...There you have it.  All you people who breath through your eyes should really be careful and I repeat just to make the warning crystal clear – that WEARING SWIMMING GOGGLES WILL NOT PROTECT YOU FROM DROWNING!  Have you got that people?

I’m going to have to contact Slazenger I guess – will my trunks protect me against drowning?  Or flippers perhaps?  At my local pool people have been wearing goggles on their eyes and breathing through their noses - the fools!

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Designer frames?

I've just ordered some new glasses.  As in specs.  I have a couple of random thoughts.  The first is when did it become such a money making racket?  Sure, nowadays I have complicated lenses and whatnot but when did the inevitable response to the question 'can I have some new glasses please?' become 'certainly sir, that'll be four hundred and fifty pounds'?

The other one is how do they invent the frames that are not 'designer frames'?  Do these frames not have a designer?  Do they have one shed containing Giorgio Armani and Kok Wank sitting down with sketch books and Mac books and another shed with half a dozen monkeys with some bits of wire and string throwing frames together for plebs? 

I think what they mean is that the cheaper frames have been designed by a designer that you've not heard of.  Mind you. I haven't heard of most of the designers.  Some were apprently designed by the Police for a start.  Whether this was Sting and co or your local Community Support Officer wasn't clear.

But the main cost is still the lenses - silver, gold or platinum sir?  I'd like the plutonium lenses please!  As advertised by the silver haired couple with perfect teeth.  Or could I have the magnesium ones?  And a match. 

Trouble is I like to see and I don't want to look really stupid (a bit stupid is fine!) so they've got me.  And my money... 

System's down mate!

Not that you'll remember but I posted a while back about a shopping trip to the local Co-op to buy a loaf of bread when they had a power cut to the till.  They had bread, I had money, we both knew the price but they apparently didn't have enough electricity in the right place to actually sell me anything.

Well...same happened at my local post office recently.  To be fair I have 2 local post offices.  The nearer one is a bit useless and they don't seem to know how to do anything very post-officey.  The slightly further away one is really good and they know what they're doing.  They might have had the gumption to improvise and to have avoided what I'm about to relate...

But...on this occasion I went to the nearest post office.  There was a hand-written sign on the counter window saying 'system down'.  There was a man fiddling with a magazine at the counter (might have been the Puzzler or something similar).  I approached and he pointed at the sign and shouted 'system's down'!  I explained that I just wanted some second class large letter stamps and he said 'sorry mate, the system's down'.  So it seemed the system was, er, down.  I suggested that maybe he could sell me some stamps anyway.  I knew he had stamps and I assured him I had money and I said he surely must have something that told him how much stamps were.  Absolutely no bloody use at all.  There was no way apparently that he could take some stamps out of the book he had in front of him and take my money and give me the stamps I wanted given the fact that the 'system' was 'down'!  He said I could buy some ordinary stamps from the other counter (the grocery counter) where apparently the system was less down or it's down or upness was less crucial to the process of selling me stamps.  But of course they only had small letter stamps not big letter stamps.  Perhaps 'the system' isn't interested in the tiny but only the slightly bigger. you know.  If the system is down you can still buy stamps.  But only small ones.  From the non post-office counter in the psot office. 

If we ever have a prolonged power cut or system downage we'll all starve and everything will stop.  The shop can be full of whatever it is you want.  You may have money and you may be able to add up or just know what items cost.  But they won't be able to sell you anything because the electricity is off somewhere or the system.  Is. Down!

Size is really wasteful and annoying

Dear supermarkets, petrol stations and all shops.  Could you please fix it for me next time I buy anything to LET ME HAVE A RECEIPT THAT'S LESS THAN 2 FEET LONG?!!! 

A single receipt would be nice - Ideally just one piece of paper.  Perhaps 2 or 3 inches in length.  Also, I'd like not to have an advert for 5p a litre off petrol that you don't sell at your supermarket or for discounts on things that I've never bought before but your computer tells me I might be interested in.  And I don't need a receipt for my shopping and a separate receipt for the method I used to pay for my shopping.  You could actually not give me a receipt at all on most occasions if you like.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

This ain't for no English teacher

I saw a job advert today - for an 'Assistant Principal: Inclusion & Cohort Provision'.  Is this to do with being second in charge of providing soldiers to prevent the sacking of Rome?  After consulting them? 

I followed the link out of curiosity to find out if it meant anything.  It says "We are seeking to appoint an outstanding Assistant Principal to join our Leadership Team You will be part of a strategic leadership team who direct and lead the school with particular responsibilities for inclusion and ensuring key cohorts have opportunities to make outstanding progress".

Ah ha - it's something to do with schools then (and not using full stops too by the looks...and inconsistent use of capitals for proper nouns...)  In  the next paragraph they use the word 'teacher'.  It's just so depressing to see almost content free management-speak being used when they're advertising for a teacher.  Here's the next paragraph: 

"This role is for an exceptional teacher whose key purpose is to model and lead improvements in teaching, in particular for students who present challenge.

The main requirements relating to the leadership standards are listed below and involve the following commitment:

  • Shaping the future
  • Leading Learning and Teaching
  • Developing Self and working with other
  • Managing the Organisation
  • Securing Accountability
  • Strengthening Community"

Notice how it reads like a content free Tony Blair conference speech. 

C'mon education people, learn to speak proper!  Sorry to go on but 'key cohorts'?  Unpick that one!

Incidentally if they find an outstanding teacher could I suggest that they put them to work er, teaching?

I'm off to develop self and work with other....

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mind your makeup time

I keep seeing selfies of women without makeup.  It's a right state of affairs that women taking pictures of themselves without make-up is worthy of comment innit? 
I have some harrumphy male advice for women - Why not just save a few quid and never wear makeup ever?  It works for me!  I know it's for a good cause 'n all but do we really live in a world where that is a weird suggestion?

Sunday, March 02, 2014


Blimey, the Alumni are after me!  They seem to have got my address somehow.  Contrary to what you might think, the Alumni are not a secret religious sect somehow connected to the Knights Templar and conspiracies in the Catholic Church, but a sort of club for people who went to a particular college or university.  A bit like forming a club for people who went in a particular pub a few times I guess, or one for people who cross the road in the same place every day.  But posher – at least in their own heads.  It seems to be mainly about tapping people for money on the strength of them having some sort of imagined continuing attachment to a place they went to school.

So, out of the blue I receive a magazine from the Alumni people at the University of Leeds.  I have an Alumni number - and they know where I live!  But they don’t know that much about me it seems and would like to offer me the chance to update their records for them, presumably so they can send me more stuff suggesting I might like to provide them with a ‘career profile’ or to share my ‘career experiences’.  While I’m on I’ll do that now...I don’t have ‘a career’, jobs are shit and badly paid and mostly boring and all the money’s been stolen by the rich anyway.  And I wouldn’t want to hear anyone who’d had ‘a career’ talking about their ‘career’ anyway...

They’d like to know if I’d like to leave their rich institution money in my will (No!) If I’d like to offer a work placement or internship (er, No!) and a number of other questions partially alluded to above.

This is all based on a number of what seem to me to be strange notions:

1)    That people have a loyalty to the college / university they went to.

2)    That the people who went to that college / university have that loyalty to such a degree (no pun intended) that they’ll hand over money to prove it. 

3)    That because you attended that particular institution you're likely to be successful and rich enough to have spare cash to give away to an institution that is, to my mind, already quite well funded.

Well, what about us scumalumni?  Us feckless ones who don’t have ‘a career’ and don’t care for one and don’t really care very much about the college they ended up at as Liverpool seemed a bit far and they got bitten by a dog and lost their train ticket in Manchester - that’d be me folks and my scumalumni club of one!

Am I being unfair?  Nope, don’t think so.  Here’s a small piece of evidence which I consider crucial – the single strand of hair that has them bang to rights / stitched up like a kipper by forensics if you like...Section 1 on the ‘Update your details’ form they send is the bit for personal details.  After title, ‘given name’ (that’s first name to us scum) and ‘Family name’ the next question is... ‘Honours (e.g. OBE)...

Now isn’t that the clincher? – They’re writing to people who they think might have ‘honours’!  And if you don’t understand why that makes it inevitable that this form and the magazine is heading for the bin as soon as I’ve tossed off this little snotty diatribe then I’m afraid we have nothing in common...

For information, I did attend the University of Leeds – and I did finish.  Even back then if you wanted to dress up in a silly hired comedy hat and gown and whatnot it came to about £80 I think.  I had my degree ‘conferred in absentia’ which is bollocks-speak for ‘sent through the post’.  The rebellious youth of today queue up for the whole Adam Ant video palaver it seems to me – there must be some sulky bolshy types who still go for the ‘absentia’ option.  Which brings us back to ‘Alumni’ – I’d like to say here that they didn’t do Latin at my school (so far as I know).  It looked for a while a small number of decades ago that snobbery and class and general elitist nonsense was on the decline.  Then it all got corporate and the forces of class war were unleashed on the poor and we’ve been under the thumb without even really knowing it ever since. 

But, thanks to the Alumni I’ve been reminded.  By the way, I may be an Alumnus (pronounced ‘a numb nuts’) if my Latin serves (it serves ‘no purpose’! – Ha!)

As a postscript, I’ve just discovered in the small print that “anyone who pledges a legacy to the University of Leeds will be entitled to join the Brotherton Circle, our exclusive donor recognition society created to thank those who are supporting the University in this unique way”.  I assure you I’m not making this up btw.  It is good to see that you can still send off sixpence for exclusive membership of the Tufty Club though...Personally I’m still saving the Bazooka comics...They have a range of exclusive benefits too...
Enough already!

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's a bit obvious is a bit obvious with it being Friday 14th and all that.  I think you may still be able to download this for free from Bandcamp...

Fills the corporte tat and chocolate gap between Christmas and Easter...But hey, I did get a song out of it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

It's not just goverment you know...

Here’s another belter of a question from a recent YouGov poll – “Do you think Special K having an exclusive partnership with Kylie Minogue where she helps promote their products would be a good thing for Special K?”
Well?!  C'mon...answer dammit!
Clearly I wanted to give them the full benefit of my opinion on this.  Just in case you were interested – my opinion is that Special K is cornflakes for the sort of people who go on diets and succumb to ‘marketing’.  Smaller box, less calories for your money, all that stuff - but lots of pictures of strawberries and thin women with floaty scarves...least that's how I remember it...
By the way, you could spend ages deconstructing that Kylie question – why for example should anyone waste a second of their time thinking what would be good for a ridiculous brand? – mine you, I still worry about Commander Black Cherry helping out the fruit starved Yogons...I might even make a list of ridiculous advertising stuff that I remember for no good reason.  But first I have to chat to my girlfriends about 'serum'. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In floods of private tears...

Do you think it uncharitable to suggest that the floods are suddenly like, really important since they started affecting the Home Counties and the Thames Valley? 

I trust the very well off Thames Valley types who read and write for the Daily Mail et al have been investing the tax cuts they’ve had over recent years in fantastically efficient private sector solutions to flooding – or will they be wanting help from the public services they don’t think are worth paying for?  I exclude the small number of non Tory voters in the Home Counties from this sneer of course...
They could get Barclays round with wads of cash from bonuses to soak up the water couldn't they? 
Incidentally, why don't those who employ people in actual useful jobs like emptying the bins and turning people over in bed to prevent bed sores have to attract 'the very best' by paying 6 figure bonuses?  The answer is that they have to attract very special people I guess - and there aren't enough ambitious, greedy criminal incompetents to go round...    

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Oooh, Leeds! Callahan and Bramwell

Sometimes Leeds is a good place.  And here's to 2 of Leeds' medium sized venues, namely the Irish Centre and the Brudenell Social Club!  Why? the space of 3 days I've seen 2 of the world's current songwriting geniuses (geniei?) in venues where I could hear and see 'em properly.

Wednesday was Bill Callahan at the Irish Centre - a man who tells stories that both ring true and are clearly (sometimes) made up.  A man who can twist a song's meaning around with a single pause or a single word.  A man who gets better and better who's latest album is a work of genius (there's that word again).

I may write more later but for now you really should buy his latest album followed by his back catalogue.  His band is ace too - everything perfectly chosen, tasteful in a proper rock and roll way...

And last night John Bramwell (from I am Kloot) doing a solo set at the Brudenell Social Club (the venue where everyone you love was on 6 months ago and you missed them...) - tales of love, the stars, the meaning of everyday life, the moon and ordinary things from a romantic poet who owns a van.  The man is a staggeringly good guitar player - I don't mean in the diddly diddly look how fast he can play way but in the clever subtle choice of chords, runs, backing bits...but most of all brilliant, brilliant songs.

To explain the 'van' comment...I Am Kloot have a song that includes the line 'put your (or 'the' can't remember) suitcase in the van'.  And this sums up to me where his songs come from - He is indeed a romantic poet but he's the sort of romantic poet that, were you to run away with, you'd do it in a Transit and not in a horse and carriage or a limo.

So, two blindingly great singer / songwriters.  Both over 30 (and more!) and at the absolute top of their game.  AND I GOT TO SEE THEM LIVE, IN PERSON, IN THE FLESH IN THE SPACE OF 3 DAYS IN LEEDS!  This is a bit like stumbling across Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan playing at your local pub in the same week...

Point is that you can see songwriting geniuses in Leeds at good venues (and £1.98 for a pint of Theakston's at the Brudenell people!) and you really should do it.  100 years after they're dead they'll be hailed by the whole world (well, possibly) and they're out and about now...

OK, I promise to get miserable again soon...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This is the Neeews!

I was watching the lunchtime news on BBC1 just now.  Top story was DLT (the ‘Hairy Cornflake’ fact fans!) allegedly touching up a girl on Top of the Pops in the 1970s.  The jury are invited to decide his guilt on the basis of the change of expression of the girl in a video clip of TOTP apparently.  The old ‘hide your crime away by doing it live on TV in front of an audience' trick eh?

Then we move on to an interview with someone who might know the French president’s wife for some speculation on how unhappy she may be to hear that her husband might be having an affair.

Then there’s an advert for live coverage of the press conference on French economic policy that may be ‘overshadowed’ by the fact that a French man might be having an affair with a French woman.

Then it’s back to sex with an explanation that Bill Roche is an actor and not actually Ken Barlow from Corrie (thanks for that BBC) - and a sex case from 50 years ago.

Then it’s over to a YouTube clip of an elephant overturning a car (I promise you I am not making this up!)...But it’s relevant because there was a British person involved.

After that lot we were finally rescued from this tosh torrent by Look North - who were featuring the man writing the official song of the Tour de France...

I decided to ask the BBC if we could have some like, you know, news at some point.  I went to the BBC website and found there was ‘have your say’ section.  I rather hoped for an email address or a ‘complaints’ button or something.  Maybe even a postal address for Lord Reith?  Instead you can send them a text or ‘send us your videos, pictures and stories’ to which I am tempted to say – 'employ some bloody journalists and find your own videos, pictures and stories BBC’  Thank goodness there was a link to ‘boiling water to snow web craze’ to prove they’re not afraid of the serious matters of the day.

For completeness here’s the text of the er, text I sent them (since I couldn’t be bothered searching for an email address).

“Dear BBC, what happened to the lunchtime news?  We had a DJ touching up a girl on Top of the Pops, an ‘expert’ telling us about a French woman who may be unhappy and a YouTube clip of an elephant turning over a car!  I look forward to all the goss from the BB house at 10 o’clock.  Could we have some news and / or journalism at some point please?  Or if you’re short I have some video of cats falling off things?  Yours sincerely John Parkes (in Leeds)”
I don't suppose I can expect a reply in the whizzy have your say interactive multi-platform modern world...