Thursday, March 31, 2005

My wife - the thief!

My wife is a thief! Yes a tealeaf. It doesn’t bear thinking about. The shame and the dishonour that will soon be upon our collective family heads – shame spread all over us like a collapsing tent at Glastonbury - it will probably be too much to bear. We’ll be hounded out of the City.

It’s getting so I can’t even take her out. Every where we go is a potential crime spree for her. I don’t know what to do. I’m at the end of my tether. The trouble is she ropes me into getting her ill gotten gains.

Take last weekend for instance, there we where enjoying a nice day out, the sun was shining and the next thing I notice is that’s she’s slunk off and is filling her bag with swag! In the middle of the day, in broad daylight – this woman has no shame. Now I know what the government is going on about when it keeps complaining and blaming all of the problems of this country on these Eastern European migrants who are, it appears, according to some govt spokesperson, ripping us off blind.

It must be something genetic or cultural, in their blood, like people from Liverpool! This crime gene that she has just started to display, O yes, she was the picture of honesty and good behaviour before I married her, now look, I’m married to the Ukrainian equivalent of Bonnie Parker - Bonniski Parkerski but I’m no Clydeski let me tell you that! Oh no a picture of honesty me!

We can’t go for a simple walk without her being tooled up and ready for an easy blag. I tell you no ones garden and flowers are sacrosanct when she’s on the prowl. I’ve mentioned that last week we went to the Eden Project which is an oasis of rare and protected plants and trees, as well as loads of common or garden varieties. She took two plastic carriers and a knife with her! Fortunately there were loads of people around so not much got into her bags, but the shame of it all, I even found myself pinching off a leaf from a trailing geranium for her in the Californian area! And I hate geraniums, they have a horrible smell!

Then there was the time when I was doing an exhibition at a stately home, not a million miles away from Plymouth, and she decided to come with me on the Sunday as it was a nice day and this place was by the sea. I thought that it was a bit strange that I didn’t see much of her that day, but I must admit I was busy and she popped up now and again for tea and cakes etc. It wasn’t until we were leaving that I noticed the two very large and bulging carrier bags that she was carrying.

What are those? I said in an accusing tone?
‘O just a few plants, a few cuttings’ she says
I eyed the earthy covered roots hanging out of the bottom of the bag where it was splitting and I walked a little faster to the car and we hurried away.

I know there is one of those apocryphal stories going around about the Eastern European guys catching and eating the Carp out of their local council’s ornamental ponds as they thought they were free but my wife sees the local council’s floral displays as her own personal local garden centre and flower nursery! It can’t go on.

She’s terrible – but saying that our garden is a picture!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

They Paved Paradise

This weekend I went to visit the Eden Project with my family. For those of you in the US and other parts of the World The Eden Project is a fantastic arboretum consisting of two huge bio-domes full of trees and plants from all over the world; you can see it all on the website. It is a truly fantastic place and was even used in a Bond film but you know when I walk around it I can’t get that Joni Mitchell song out of my head. You know the one – Big Yellow Taxi where she sings:

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

That’s just what I feel like as I walk around the place it’s a tree museum and Joni, let me tell you they charge a lot more than a dollar and a half just to see em! I feel slightly uncomfortable in places like this. To me it's just another example and reminder of how we're messing up this world - maybe thats the whole point, but what if we didn't do these things in the first place? I know that naive and simplistic but I just feel that while these trees and plants are nice they are out of context. Its wrong.

I feel the same way about zoos. My wife wants to visit a zoo. She genuinely loves animals and wants to see them in the zoo. But zoos always strike me as unhappy places. The glum animals pacing around their gaols or lying bored out of their skulls on concrete representations of the savannah. All of them, to me, exhibiting various symptoms of psychological damage, its not a happy day out for me. My wife tells me that the animals in Western Zoos must be happy when compared to the zoos in Ukraine where the keepers probably not only eat the lion’s share of the meat but probably the lions too!

I guess this might be because as a Sociologist I enjoy seeing human beings in their natural surroundings – the shopping mall, the coffee shop, on the High St! There are many more interesting sights on the High St than in any zoo. And I think I might have come across the next stage in human evolution this weekend. I was sitting idly, in a coffee shop, if you ask, contemplating the people around me, one of my favourite activities when I spied a group of young women. Yes I know ones eyes are always inexorably drawn to groups of young women, but on this occasion I was fascinated, not by their bodies, but by their use of the mobile phone.

There seems to be a certain addiction to these machines as they cannot leave them on the table or in their bags for more than 30 seconds at a time, without having to look at them or pinging off some txt message to someone. And it was the txt messaging that enthralled me. These young women seem to have evolved thumbs that are disjointed from the rest of their bodies so that they can hit the txt buttons of the phone at remarkable speeds.

It reminded me of badly made kung fu film where all the choreography is done slowly and then the film is speeded up to make the action look fast. This is what their thumbs looked like to me, like they had been dubbed onto their bodies, a fantastic animation of some sort of cyber thumb not a human movement at all, it was a bit spooky.

I am sure that as technology advances phone technology will be integrated into our bodies and we won’t even have to have digitally active thumbs, we’ll just have to think of the message and think of who we want it to go to. Then all interaction between humans will start to become more electronic than vocal – if its not already, I mean this communication between us is electronic after all.


Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Thanks Joni!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

A British Poet Phillip Larkin once wrote a poem that said:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do.

And this flashed into my mind as I was once again driving around visiting various schools (that’s why my blogs are a bit thin at the moment). And the reason that I had this retro brain flash was that the DJ on the radio was playing Tobacco Road by the Nashville Teens.

Now this was the first record that turned me on, not sexually you understand, but turned me on to ‘pop’ music and I had to have it. So being a mere child (being about 10) and not having any money I asked my parents for a copy of the single. They said yes they would get it for me.

On the Saturday they went out shopping and I was aquiver with excitement, soon the disc would be in my hands and blaring out of the radiogram! (loud I WAS BORN IN A BUNK, BY MY DADDY AND MY DADDY GOT DRUNK) (or according to the (so-called) lyric sheets: I was born in a trunk. Mama died and my daddy got drunk) (I think I’m right and that’s how I’ve sung it for the last 30 odd yrs! So there!)

How disappointed was I when they returned home and gave me a copy of Tobacco Rd, not by the Nashville Teens but by a bunch of cover artists on a record that had 5 other top hits on it all cruelly mangled by various session musicians. I can’t even remember its name but I think it came from Woolworth’s. That’s probably why the lyrics I sang were wrong, they were probably all stoned on LSD and stuff and were singing the wrong words, or maybe for copyright reasons they had to sing the wrong words!

Isn’t that just the way with parents? My next let down was when I wanted a pair of jeans. Of course I wanted Levi’s and having forgotten the earlier humiliation I expected that the parents would once again fulfil my request. Once again I was disappointed. Jeans from Woolworth’s do not have the same cachet as Levi’s. I would have even been happy with Wranglers, Lee’s or even Lee Coopers, but Woolworth’s I could hardly bear to wear them feeling the cheap, thin and nasty denim next to my skin!

But these minor upsets of our youth are lost in the mists of time, only tripped over occasionally when some noise, smell, taste or sound seems to stimulate those forgotten recesses of our brains to remind us, like Tobacco Rd did to me of the need for that particular recording.

And this is when the Larkin effect kicks in:

His full poem is this:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern A
nd half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don't have any kids yourself.
--Philip Larkin (1974)

The key here is the line ‘Man Hands on Misery to Man.

So we find ourselves, now as parents, doing the same to our kids as was done to us. Maybe not exactly the same but in much more subtle ways. Of course our kids are probably much more demanding and our excuses much more complicated as to why we didn’t see the need to buy those Reebok trainers for £150 for them when the ones on the market for £25 are just as good and anyway you’ll wreck them skateboarding/football or just being careless.

And what’s wrong with the CD player we just bought you, you ungrateful wretch, Alba is a perfectly good make and it’s probably made in the same factory as Sony anyway!

No I don’t think that the quality of Quiksilver baggies at £45 are any better than these I bought you at Woolworth’s! You’re only swimming in them and no one will see them underwater.

Maybe it’s a universal truth that parents do these things and it’s the poet’s job to make us see and understand – but he can’t make me buy expensive trainers when they’re cheaper down the road!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Born Again Bikers

There is a relatively new phenomenon in the UK that you might have come across in your travels, it’s the born again biker. Yes you’ve seen them zipping in and out of the traffic as you fume away in the tailbacks, these middle aged men on their over powered machines, you’re slightly envious of them aren’t you? And perhaps, like me, remembering the good old days when you had a Triumph, BSA or Lambretta and you start feeling a slight itch between the legs that has nothing to do with catching an STD!

I see them quite regularly here in Plymouth where they seem to congregate at Captain Jaspers which is a renowned tea/burger bar on the Barbican on a Sunday – the only day the get the bike out, and only if its sunny. They are quite easy to recognise, they stand there with their mugs of tea admiring each others Bikes. These are extremely low mileage, late sports models, high power machines like the Suzuki Suicide, or the Honda Hell or even a Kawasaki Killer. They all wear expensive leathers and helmets in the same garish colours as their machines. The most glaring commonality of this group is not their grey hair, but their shortened life expectancy as they are determined to ride everywhere as fast as possible in a vain attempt to prove how young and virile they are – even if its only to the next tea bar which is half a mile around Plymouth Hoe!

At this other biker stop the Harley Riders congregate sipping lattes and cappuccinos as it’s more of a coffee bar than a tea bar. Their leathers a testimonial to the motor cycle itself or to the Confederacy and its racist symbols (see much earlier blog). Sonny Barger, the famous Hells Angel would be rolling in his grave if he wasn’t so busy promoting his web site and selling branded products to forget that old Hells Angel adage ‘Live Fast Die Young’! (I’m not even going to mention the Honda Goldwing here as it’s more of an armchair and entertainment consol on wheels than a motorbike!)

These guys seem to forget that in the intervening years that technology has vastly increased the power of these machines. So they jump out of their Ford motor car onto their superbike and drive it at 165mph into a wall! Nice Hobby!

I would love a bike, but I know I would kill myself. I fell off my Triumph enough times when I was younger to know better and I know it would hurt even more now and as I get closer to it naturally, death is not an option at the moment. So I am happy to watch these geezers in their leathers and their beer bellies sipping tea and pretending to be Barry Sheen. And I smile as I see them roar along the sea front to the next tea stop. Perhaps this is just the modern day equivalent to the old Charabanc trip to the sea side. All these oldies out for a day trip and a nice cup of tea and a piece of cake before a bit of a mystery tour then home for tea!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Xenophobe - moi?

Hello, back again, as usual if I am away, it’s probably because of work. Yes indeedy some of us bloggers do in fact have to earn a crust now and then – our bosses expect it of us.

You know when I am driving around this glorious country of ours, my mind is often occupied thinking about subjects for the blog. Something witty, erudite, accomplished even! Of course some of my Brain is also occupied with driving, maybe 5% of my central processing system is given over to that task – actually driving. 10% on the look out for cops and speed traps, 20% juggling the coffee and cakes on my lap, another 20% given over to the pop quiz on the radio and that leaves a massive 45% of my mind left over to think about blogs. So why can’t I think of anything…

My house is currently full of foreigners. No xenophobe me! My home should be an example to the United Nations on how people from all creeds, countries and races can live together (albeit briefly) in total harmony – we’re like a Coca Cola advert, us. At the moment there is my wife and her two kids, who are, if you remember, Ukrainians and we also have 3 hulking great French teenagers – male, 18 year old university students. We are putting them up for three nights while they are in Plymouth on some sort of trip, visiting stuff.

We have to feed them as well. So of course I wanted to make them feel at home so we made a trip to the supermarkets to get food for these boys. There must be quite a few of them in Plymouth because we could not find any horsemeat, frogs legs or snails anywhere – the shelves were empty, even in Lidl which is full of that foreign muck! Plenty of garlic though! I think frogs may be out of season. And the price of Champagne is just too prohibiative - how would we make any money if we plied them with Dom Perignom all evening.

I was wondering if I did a bit of hunting around the back garden and maybe the local park that I would be able to solve the snail shortage. I am in a bit of a quandary however, about the horsemeat. I have heard that horsemeat is used in dog food – do you think they would know the difference? Maybe a nice meat pie? At least when they got home their hair would be nice and glossy!

Apart from that they seem quite nice and they have had showers which goes some way to dispel the myth that the French are soap dodgers, (maybe its just the women and their hairy armpits!) and neither do they seem to want to smoke foul smelling cigarettes like Galouise or Gitanes all the time while listening to Edith Piaf or Charles Aznavour. They seem to be into le Rap or le Techno.

Of course I can’t forgive them everything, like beating us at Rugby during this seasons 6 Nations tournament (but then every team except Italy beat us – I can forgive them but not the French – its genetic I think – maybe I had relations at Waterloo or Agincourt – where I will remind you, we did beat the French – soundly!)

They are off home tomorrow, back to Orleans – the old one in France, not the New one in America. But there is a speck of light on the horizon, in a week or two we have two more French students staying with us. French Teenage Girls!!!! I have washed my dressing gown in anticipation and am thinking about breaking the lock in the bathroom or even hidden web cams – now that’s an idea, a pretty pervy one I know, but its an idea. I could set it up as pay per view and stream it onto the internet!

Yes as you can see I am an internationalist of the first order and welcome all into my home. With out exception! If I will let the French into my life I can get on with anyone, (the jury is out on Norwegians and the Finns at the moment) with out exception (o and maybe Australians), I don’t judge (New Zealanders - who wants them in their homes talking about sheep all the time?) I don’t make snap judgements (Americans are soooo loud) or resort to petty stereotypes (Just because it’s St Patrick’s Day doesn’t make me want to love the Irish more). No I welcome all with an open heart and an open mind. Live and Let Live that’s my motto and a bloody good Bond film it was and all.

Sorry no Germans!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Spooky - foreginers you're not allowed to read this - its secret - you have been warned!

I don’t really know what to make of this and any of you foreigners out there had better shut your eyes because the rest of the message is secret and will self destruct in 30 seconds!

I have just received an email via a job agency informing me of a job in MI5 – yes the secret service.

‘Dear Jobseeker, Our customer, MI5, would like you to know about vacancies they have for linguists. See below for further details’.

They want me for a spy. They can tell that I am from the same mould as James Bond but without the Celtic burr.

However, on closer inspection, though it seems like they might not be as clever as they thought they are (and isn’t this why Mr. Blair and Pres Bush are in trouble), the advert – which is clearly targeted (not a good word to link with MI5) at me is for:

ARABIC, URDU AND SORANI SPEAKERS – I am useless at foreign languages – where do they get their information from?. I'm no cunning linguist (say that carefully!)

They go on to say:

The Security Service protects our society from terrorist threats. To do so we need to recruit people from all the diverse communities we serve.

Working as part of a team in support of an investigation, this is what you would do:

• Translate telephone conversations into English.
• Extract the relevant information.
• Provide help with understanding cultural backgrounds.
• Communicate with people working on other parts of the investigation.
• You may also be involved in interpreting.
In return we offer flexible hours, generous training and opportunities to progress.

In order to apply you must be a British Citizen. Due to our vetting process, your application may take up to 8 months to process.

Salary £21,000 plus benefits. They’ve got to be kidding right. Work as a spy, for MI5 for £21 grand. I earn more than that now! How can you live the life of a true spy on £21 grand – in London! There’s the fast car, the fast girls and of course the casino to consider. Plus there's no mention of guns or blowing things up. Indeed the whole job sounds like its working in a call centre. No creeping around in the middle of the night, cameras through mirrors in seedy back street hotels. No having to kiss beautiful russians. (although I do have one of those at home!)

The interesting bit is in the next sentence:

Discretion is important to the Service, so please only discuss this application with your partner and/or immediate family.

Err I might not be blogging for a while, not until my fingers heal and I get access to the computer wing at the Isle of Wight Prison!

I only done for a laff really officer.

Matilda's Birthday

Matty Dancing Posted by Hello
It was my daughter Matilda’s birthday yesterday. I wasn’t at the party. I wasn’t asked. Not because I am a horrendous father who takes no interest in his daughter or because her mother hates my guts, she doesn’t we have, now, a working relationship – I pay her money – I see my daughter occasionally.

I see my daughter every other weekend. When I lived closer, before they moved away, I saw her every Thursday night, every other weekend and sometimes other times as well, such as when her mother needed a babysitter on spec.

I don’t have any legal obligations over my daughter, because first and foremost I was not married to her mother, so I am not a ‘legal’ father I am simply a ‘biological’ father. The only ‘rights’ I have over my daughter is that, should I fail to pay the money the Government tells me to pay every month, they would take the money straight out of my salary. I give more for my daughter than the government tells me to.

Matilda’s mother, should she wish to, could become a Jehovah’s witness over night and then refuse my daughter the life saving blood transfusions should it ever –(God forbid) come to that – and I could not say one word. My opinion or attempt to get involved is totally invalid and indeed illegal.

Over the last two years Matilda’s mother has attempted suicide on at least four occasions. And I still am not a ‘responsible parent’ – O I know that if I wanted to I could go to a solicitor and pay him to make the court make me into a responsible father, or I could simply submit the papers myself (downloaded from the internet) pay the £60 and its pretty much guaranteed that the court would grant me the role of ‘parental responsibility’, but that only gives me a say so in her schooling and her medical health and so on, it does not mean that I have much more than I have now. So we must wait.

So my role is to take part in 15% of my daughter’s life. About 50-60 odd days a year. And yesterday she was 6.

So here are six things about Matilda

1. She’s Beautiful
2. She was born on the side of the road in Sunny Devon amongst the primroses.
3. She’s Marvellous
4. She Loves Barbie
5. She’s Wonderful
6. And she’s Mine!

Happy Birthday Matilda!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Some questions for scientists

I have a few things puzzling me. Things that, I believe, only trained scientists can answer. So if you’re not a trained scientist please keep your half baked theories to yourself when it comes to the questions below! Of course you are allowed to believe in your half baked theories about the world, the universe, aliens and how they make green ketchup but me, being a trained scientist with a BSc and all, I don’t need to know about them. After all I have my own half baked theories to consider.

So here are the things that have been puzzling me for a while, things that I would like a scientific answer to. It’s no good sending me messages saying ‘that’s the way God planned it’ or ‘ce sera sera’ whatever. I need hard proof.

Puzzlement number 1.

I have owned my car for well over a year. So why is it that it is now giving me huge electric shocks whenever I touch it? Is it the cold air being denser creating friction and thus charging the outer skin of my car?. Is it the inch thick layer of road salt on the body of my car creating a chemical reaction with the metal on my car as it corrodes it away? If so I might have found the solution to the energy crisis – any energy company bigwigs reading this please note that this idea is mine so you’ll have to buy it off me as it’s a secret!

Puzzlement number 2 – this one is for the psychologists

I have an archos mp3 player. It has 10gigs of memory but it’s not as pretty as an ipod. What I want to know is how it calculates what mood I’m in and what tracks to play so that when I hear them they perfectly fit what I’m doing. Also how can it pre suppose tracks that I want to hear? When I was in the car the other day, I bet myself that I would hear a Jimi Hendrix track within the next two tracks and guess what the second track was – yes a Hendrix track (get this - it was set to random play) If im feeling mellow it plays all the mellow tracks if im driving, driving tracks like On the Road again by Canned Heat.

Does my mp3 player have some sort of A.I., is it possessed or have I stumbled upon a brand new psychological process which by writing this has just copyrighted it. A process hence forth known as the Burton effect. Which is, is your Brain pre guessing the MP3 player by analysing the first micro sound and then telling you this is the track that you really wanted to hear before you really hear it and how did the MP3 player know that? Top psychologists please note.

Puzzlement number 3.
Yesterday was a sunny day but the wind chill factor on the sea front in Plymouth might have been about minus 2 or 3. Out of the wind and in the sun it was pleasantly warm.

Can some scientist tell me what is wrong with all the parents who looked out of the windows saw Sun, dressed their kids in T shirts and nylon jogger bottoms and took them to the play park on the seafront, clearly missing the calendar on the wall showing 6th March and the barometer saying Cold!.

Perhaps there are some equations somewhere that will show how long a kid has to stand shivering, with an ice cream, while his dad goes on a ride with another kid, before hypothermia sets in or another equation which correlates the idiocy of the father against the number of kids shivering in the artic cold, just because they want to look like David Beckham who is actually in Madrid Spain where the climate is considerably warmer

So scientists answers please you know you are honour bound to answer these questions. Science is meant to be for the benefit of mankind so stop inventing things like BSE, Atomic Bombs and weapons of mass destruction and do something useful for a change. Like free ipods for all. (But not ones that are possessed or have A.I. its just too spooky).

Thank you.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Its my Birthday so here's a 100 things about me you didn't know about me and you didn't know you wanted to know about me


Its my birthday today March 4th. What a good day and I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mum and dad for taking time out to do the stuff that made my existence on this Planet possible.

I know I share my birthday will many other famous people and that many world events happened on this auspicious day you can look at them here and here but they don't really matter because its MY birthday and that means you've all got to read what I wrote about ME - right!

So here they are:

100 things about me

1. Its my birthday today
2. I’m 51
3. I’m a cold stone Pisces
4. I was born in Birmingham U.K.
5. I have two sisters
6. One I don’t speak to
7. I am told that I am related to Alexander Selkirk (aka Robinson Crusoe)
8. I like the Ocean
9. I like the colours blue
10. and green
11. I like travelling
12. I have visited 3 continents
13. I have visited 21 countries
14. I am a Batchelor of Science with Honours in Sociology
15. I am a Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology
16. I am a Reverend, being an ordained minister of the Universal Life Church, Modesto, California
17. I am not a Christian
18. But I believe in the message and morals of Christianity
19. I have a six year old daughter – Matilda
20. I have been married 3 times
21. divorced twice
22. I am shoe size 9
23. I like reading
24. I like writing
25. I don’t like maths
26. I don’t eat meat
27. I eat all my vegetables
28. I once was, briefly, a soldier
29. I have had an AK47 stuck in my stomach by a soldier in Botswana
30. I didn’t shit myself!
31. I have seen hippopotamus swimming in the Zambezi river
32. I have climbed all three highest peaks in the United Kingdom
33. I have walked the Southern way – over 100 miles in 5 days
34. I am short-sighted
35. I believe that the Revolution is imminent
36. I am Krishna conscious
37. I have broken my left collar bone twice
38. I support the England Rugby team for better and worse
39. Yuri Gagarin is my hero
40. I like shirts
41. I believe in re-incarnation
42. I failed all my exams at secondary school
43. I don’t know any of my old school friends
44. My first wife slept with my best friend
45. I am an ebayer
46. I am a surfer
47. I once owned a Triumph Trophy motorbike
48. and a Lambretta 175
49. I can’t play a single musical instrument
50. I like music
51. My favourite film is ‘Some Like it Hot’
52. Or maybe ‘Calamity Jane’
53. I listen to Christy Moore
54. and Nanci Griffiths
55. I want an Ipod
56. I enjoy the works of Leonard Cohen – no really
57. I am currently reading the Da Vinci Code (great)
58. I like Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream
59. I drink Ukrainian Vodka
60. I am a republican
61. I am also a socialist
62. I have driven a truck through Africa
63. I Love my wife
64. I write poetry (sometimes)
65. I am cynical about counselling
66. I have had counselling
67. I have stopped voting
68. I was an elected member of the Labour Party
69. I would like to retire – soon
70. I like sunsets
71. I like being on the beach
72. I have few regrets
73. Except not taking up the opportunity of a threesome when it was offered once in Holland (I was married – I have morals)
74. I lived in Holland for 3 years
75. I smoked a lot of dope (notice past tense)
76. I detest fox hunting and cruelty to animals
77. I detest right wing fanatics in all their forms
78. I detest fundamentalism in all its forms
79. My main ambition is to live until I die
80. I drive too much
81. I like driving
82. I hate driving
83. I want to write a novel
84. I have met some famous people
85. But I can’t remember who
86. My favourite cartoon is Road Runner
87. My cholesterol count is above average
88. So is my waist size
89. I am happy
90. I like my job (most days)
91. I need a holiday
92. I failed my cycling proficiency badge
93. I was a Boy Scout
94. Wittgenstein is my favourite philosopher
95. Baudrillard is my favourite post-modernist
96. Marx is my favourite social theorist
97. I’m told I look like Ozzy Osbourne – I don’t
98. David Hockney is my favourite artist
99. I don’t have a lucky number
100. Happy Birthday me!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


This might well be a symptom of irritable male syndrome but when I attempt to spend my money in the various retailers and vendors across this country I expect them to work just as hard as I have too to earn their money. I mean I am not a subsidiary of the National Lottery Fund wandering around giving my money away. Like most of us I work hard for my salary (when I’m not blogging of course) and I expect a certain level of service.

So I am a bit of a complainer. In restaurants for example I have certain standards that I expect to be met.

I don’t have to stand around for ages waiting for a waiter/ress to show me to a table
I expect them to come back after a reasonable amount of time to take the order
I expect the food to come to the table after a reasonable amount of time
I expect it to be edible and hot (unless it’s a salad)

Not too much to ask – is it?

Similarly when entering a shop to purchase something, I expect to be a least acknowledged by the salesperson, not totally ignored while they either chat about getting drunk last night on the phone or pretend to shuffle some papers under the desk, because after my patience is tried in these situations (after about 2 minutes usually) I will get the persons attention, remind them that I am a customer and that I wanted to spend a lot of money in their store but now I am taking my wallet elsewhere.

So this week, as I have been wizzing across the country I have had two examples of bad service and have had to complain.

The first is when I went to Croydon (O Croydon doom doom doom) and after a long day, (I had set off at 6 ish in the morning) and having done all my stuff in Croydon it was getting on for 7 in the evening and I was hungry and needed a rest from driving so I entered the Moto sevices on the M4 near Reading only to find all their cooking facilities down with a technical fault – no problem the next Moto was only 20 miles down the road so off I went. When I got there all their facilities were working, it was just that they were closed! At 7:00pm in the evening. The only hot food on offer was fish and chips or Burger King! (Remember I’m a veggie) There wasn’t even a salad!

I thought I had warped back to the 1970’s and was experiencing the time when England was shut down at 6 o clock and you could only drink until 10 o’clock. I spoke to the manager who did apologise but said I should be there in four days time because the place will be fully open then. (good logic – I’m hungry now so come back in 4 days) Anyway the long and short of this, is that the next day from the comfort of my office I winged of an email to their customer services and two hours later had a humble apology on the telephone and the next day twenty quid in vouchers in the post.

The next was British Gas. I recently decided to change suppliers because the new supplier will sell me Gas at a cheaper price. So last night I had a telephone call from their call centre asking me why I was changing. I thought I offered a reasonable answer such as ‘because they are cheaper’ when the caller started to get quite aggressive with me, not particularly rude but his tone and they way he seemed to suggested that I was so weak minded that I hadn’t understood the contract that I had signed with NPower. I had to remind him that I actually did have a degree and a doctorate and was pretty sure that I had understood the nature of the contract.

But what got me was this notion that somehow I was at fault for leaving them not they being at fault for offering a service that was not competing in the marketplace. I complained to their customer services too. I am expecting a parcel of gas through my letter box shortly.

I think it is right to complain, if you have a fair and righteous complaint. I couldn’t be like the guy I saw in moto who bought his fish n chips and only ate half the fish and left the rest of the food because it was so bad and then walk out of the place without a word, like it was his fault that he couldn’t eat the shit they were serving!

Complainers of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your money!