Monday, 2 January 2017

My predictions for 2017 . . . . .

Well Happy New Year to one and all. Here are few predictions to keep you all on your toes:

* The government will trigger Article 60 rather than Article 50 and the UK will head towards a very successful Breakfast, making cereal, tea and toast compulsory for all
* A call-centre telephone welcome message will announce "calls may be recorded in case you the customer or we the supplier cock it all up"
* And the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills will explain exactly what the "training purposes" are that altogether piss-poor call centres record telephone conversations for
* Jeremy Corbyn will be elected Leader Hosen for Islington North and will make, as expected, a mess of flower-bed watering during the inevitable drought to be announced in July
* Diane Abbott will agree to go on a John McDonnell-sponsored 'diet', but losing out in translation, will only realise, after spending £70 on Dylon, that it wasn't a 'dye it' he was suggesting. She will also be offered a Dameship in June but will be rather disappointed when this is accompanied by a matching script for Aladdin at the Almeida Theatre in Islington
* President Donald Trump will get very annoyed when he overhears other G8 leaders discussing the schoolboy inference of the word "trump" behind his back
* Some unbelievably talent-less shouty, screamy person singing like they have constipation and is trying to evacuate themselves will win X-Factor
* Christmas decorations, selection boxes (with November sell-by date) and DFS Christmas sofas (complete with double-discount) will go on sale in July
* Amazon will announce a series of virtual reality corporation tax payments and increased virtual reality wages for warehouse staff
* The UN will accede to a takeover by Disney/Pixar and it will take Mickey Mouse and Buzz Lightyear a mere two months to successfully solve the entire current trench of crises in the Middle East
* BBC news will employ a correspondent with a pronounceable name, no linguistic inhibitions and one who doesn't wave their arms around in time to every syllable they utter
* John Kerry will be a special guest presenter on Radio 4's 'I'm sorry I haven't a clue', and he will be genuine about it. Totally clueless in fact
* The Hamas leadership will give back some of the estimated $10billion they have misappropriated from world donations over the past 10 years to the people of Gaza for building schools and hospitals
* Camelot will increase the number of balls in Lotto to 89, increase the price of tickets to £5 and increase the annual salary package of the Chief Executive to £4milion
* The price of a walk-on, anytime return train ticket from Manchester to London will reduce to £40, providing you book three years in advance
* The overpaid leaders of the two train Unions, ASLEEP and the PMT, decide to have a party . . . . . at least once a month, to celebrate the misery they cause passengers while pretending they care
* Fuel will drop to 60p a litre (except for petrol and diesel)
* To help city and town centre retailers combat both out of town shopping centres and the internet, car parking in towns and cities nationally will be free (between 1am and 6am at weekends)
* RyanAir will introduce standing-only fares

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:
vaginanomics
un-tabooing of womanood
techucation
gamevertising
Brexterity
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 pack 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:

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

GIRLS
• 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.