Friday, 31 August 2012

Oh those fancy job titles!

I was contacted today by a Talent Acquisition Manager.

My initial reaction was "Yippee". Someone has told someone about my prowess behind the otherwise amateur microphone that is community radio broadcasting. My hours spent in my little home office (the smallest bedroom in the house that I have been relegated to) producing the hour-long "Surreal Hour" - my AOR and totally politically incorrect radio programme - was about to pay off, and I was to walk into a £200,000 a year job on late-night BBC Radio 2.

But sadly, I was mistaken. The "Talent Acquisition Manager" turned out to be a phishing recruitment consultant who had found my CV online. No national radio for me. Just the perfunctory "what am I doing" and "am I looking for a job as they might have something completely unsuitable in 2016?" scenario.

I should have sussed it, as I haven't a speech impediment, I have never been in a "boy band" where an inability to write songs (I once wrote half a dozen, what I called, "Punk Folk" songs)  and play an instrument (I can cope with basic guitar and piano) guarantees you a number one song and an instant place on a reality show judging panel, and I never say "free fings wiv everyfing onnem" when I mean "Three things with everything on them".

I then read in the morning's edition of "i" (the mini-Independent) that greedy, cash-wasting councils are back on the warpath against their favourite cash-cow, the motorist, by reducing the number of free car parking spaces in town centres, while at the same time increasing the number of "Civil Enforcement Officers".

"Civil Enforcement Officers"? Bloody 'Yellow Perils' is what they actually mean. Car ticketers, yes. Traffic wardens, yes. Little motorist dictators, yes. Scourge of the motorist, yes. "Civil Enforcement Officers". No, I don't think so. OK some of the long-standing and reasonable wardens are very civil. But the new upstarts are just cash collectors for their inefficient councils that have cut back on everything - except of course their chief executive's six-figure salary and the remainder of the senior council executives' not unhealthy emoluments.

There are plenty of other blood-curdling titles around. I appreciate I haven't many recruitment people or traffic wardens on my Christmas card list, but I'm a firm believer that regardless of the job anyone does, everyone is equal. It's just that their pay isn't equal. And no fancy title will ever address - or relieve - this inequality in pay.

Councils in particular should not be trying to disguise the lower paid - and I might add more hands on - jobs of their 'junior' members of staff. Many council staff at the sharp end - serving their council stealth tax payers - are far more efficient and sensible (and valued) at what they do than their higher salaried mandarins who laugh all the way to their fat-pensioned retirement.

Some of the other titles that have become the norm include:
Refuse and Recycling Collection Technician - Bin man
Administrative Assistant - Secretary
Custodial Engineer - Janitor
Customer Service Delivery Agent - Van driver
Environment Improvement Technician - Cleaner
Technical Horticultural Maintenance Office - Gardener
Entertainment  Admissions Officer - Bouncer
Bank Chief Executive Officer - Thieving Dishonest Untrustworthy Con Artist

Honest, hardworking people who are a value to their organisation don't need fancy titles. I am sure they would prefer a fancy salary instead.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Why the radicals are so violent and, er, radical

I have finally worked out why the radical religionists of the world, especially in Arab lands, are so, er, radical, violent and downright murderous.

With their quaintly named groups, such as Ali Baba, Ali Bongo, Ali Pally and Hummous, to name but a few, the moment they hear the slightest whisper that is in disagreement with their narrow-minded and often animalistic (sorry zoos everywhere) point of view, out come the guns, knapsack bombs and the book and flag burners.

There is a double-fold reason for this. Connected by out-and-out brilliant Kodak-yellow jealousy.

Firstly, they have a natural, built-in envy of the west, in particular of the one-time troubles (Na Trioblóidí in Irish for those studying the language for A-Level) in Northern Ireland, not that they read of it in history books. Their bearded bystanders who get them to do all the dirty work don't allow them to read Western history books, because there  might be a picture of the half-naked infidel, Kate Moss, an advertisement for No 7 lipstick, or a reference to the musical group SClub7, although the latter in itself is enough to generate a fatwa, even in the civilised world.

And they don't allow them to watch western TV because they might see Holly Willoughby or Davina McCall.

But despite their lack of reading history books or watching TV, they have still found out about the terrorist groups that used to run rampage in Northern Ireland. On one side you had the Protestant Loyalists - the sort of Sunni Christians of their day, and on the other, the Roman Catholic Republicans, the equivalent Shi'ite Christians, and, like in the middle and far easts, they didn't get on.

Then, in typical "Life of Brian" fashion (Popular Front for Judea, Judean People's Popular Front,  Front for Popular Judea sort of thing), while the IRA had ruled the roost for decades, along came the Provisional IRA, the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA, the Morris Dancing IRA, the wholesale fruit marketing IRA, together with their opposite numbers in the loyalists.

Now the Arab factions are unbelievably jealous of all this. That we western infidels should have such quaintly-named terror groups and they had none. So they grew their beards and  researched some real "hard-men" differentiators - no western music, no hair cutting, trousers must be above ankle, no smoking, homicide bombing, chopping off hands, stoning, flying plane-loads of innocent families into buildings - things that the IRA hadn't thought of, and lo, the radical groups were born.

The second reason for all this radicalism is related to the first, namely television. 'Cash in the Attic', 'Bargain Hunt', 'Antiques Roadshow' and 'Flog It!' The radicals do not have these programmes on TV. Not even 'Antiques Sandshow' or 'Bargain Camel'. Neither do they have Jeremy Kyle, Louis Walsh, Tulisa, Leona Louis, Blink 182 or Iron Maiden. Or their own Robert Peston to flail his arms around and knock out his camera man.



And this is the reason for all the radicalism. They miss out on Newsnight, X-Factor, Coronation Street, Big Brother, John Dickinson and Jeremy Clarkson to swear at in the comfort of their own home.  And they don't have spins-offs such as Hello or OK magazine. And because of their clothing, they can't even stuff copies of the Sun down their bum cracks.

It is simply these Western infidelic things that radicalises them and brings them out onto the streets with their guns and rockets and their "death to infidels" chanting.

So if their respective governments were to make the viewing of these television programmes compulsory, we might see less murder and mayhem.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Why the Twitter and Facebook vitriol?

I have great difficulty in getting my head around some of the outpourings on social websites from people towards total strangers.

I have noticed a number of posters on Facebook, who have amended their names to include LUFC (Leeds United Football Club), call Chairman Ken Bates all the names under the sun, with several regularly baying "Die Bates die".

They don't know the man. 

They have more than likely never met him. 

And they certainly fail to realise that the unpopular decisions (as far as the football fanatics are concerned) he might make are based purely the commercial ones any person in charge of the potential money machine that football in the UK has become would make. After all, he rightly wants to try a leverage a return on any investment he has made.

The hoo-haa on Twitter, when some of the team GB sports people failed to live up to expectations during the Olympics was, frankly, deplorable. There is even less of a chance that those posting had even heard of the athletes before the games.

I was upset for both the fabulous Rebecca Adlington and the equally fabulous Tom Daley when they only achieved bronze. I was upset because, yes, we didn't get gold, but more so for the commitment the two athletes had given to their sport over the past four years, only to be beaten to the punch by, yes, perhaps superior sportspeople hence they won gold, but by sportspeople who are themselves given the opportunity in their homeland to do nothing but train for their sport. 

Rebecca had a living to earn in between her training, and Tom had exams. Neither had huge sums of money in the bank to enable them just to train between Olympics. And I, personally, was thrilled and proud they appeared on the medal rostrum.

We all have people we don't like, be they in the public spotlight, or on the domestic front. I was taught by my parents not to use the word "hate". And I don't "hate".

However, not hating someone doesn't prevent me from disliking people or finding them totally objectionable.

For example, the immediate personae who come to mind as being firmly off my Christmas card list are George Galloway, Nick Griffin, Vanessa Redgrave, Dana and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran. The reason I don't like them is because they are, to different degrees, racists and bigots, the later of whom is an acknowledged throughout the world, and even by the harassed academics in his own country, as a total basket case. 

However, unlike the Ayatollas, all of whom are quite objectionable to a normal person's way of life, I'm not going to misquote religious rhetoric and call for his public execution in the they do the moment they hear something they don't agree with - for example, they disgracefully made Salman Rushdie's life a misery, calling for his death just because of some words he wrote in a book. 

Would a normal, balanced person carry on that way? 

Calling for someone's death over a few words in a book?  One they probably have never read.

You don't see the chairman of the Caravan Club issuing a Fatwah on Jeremy Clarkson! 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Teen music goes full circle - from long-haired louts to screamers

I confess to being somewhat amused.

Remembering back to my youth, the music of the day, with albums (the vinyl type) toted around school under arms, tended to be by the untidy long-haired, wailing a set of completely nonsensical lyrics loudly into a microphone, with a couple of interruptions by a seemingly endless guitar solo. Names such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Yes, Genesis, Blodwyn Pig, Blind Faith, Cream, Traffic, Spencer Davis with the 4-minute wonders provided by the Rolling Stones and Status Quo.

Strangely, these bands or their members are still going strong up to 50 years later!

And yes, they mostly wrote all their own material and played their own instruments. And my dad hated most of them, thinking they all sounded the same (although, as a man in his mid 80's before his passing away a couple of years ago, he enjoyed the Electric Light Orchestra, Ian Dury and Queen. And unashamedly, the album of cover songs by Ozzy Osborne).

Today, the wailing has now become a high-pitched, glass-breaking screech, bellowed out by female divas who, to me, all really do sound the same. Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, Rhianna.

Clasping and unclasping their hand around the microphone they hold in one hand, screwing up their faces while passionately screeching out completely and utterly nonsensical lyrics about the mental breakdown their best friend had while driving a bread van the wrong way up the motorway. Or something like that.

Meanwhile, their free hand, with outstretched fingers, seems to be attempting to pat a large, invisible dog on the head, as they put their heart, soul and screeching into another verse of complete nonsensical rubbish.

All the while, their antics are bolstered by continual coverage in the tabloids and 'celebrity' press.

Personally, I wouldn't even illegally download their songs, let alone buy a CD or overpriced iTune.

Yes, there are some talented ones out there. Some even write their own songs. Adele, who I don't particularly like myself, is a talented songwriter and singer. Lady GaGa is one I cannot understand why she has to mess around with dresses made from sheep and shoes made from armaments, as her voice is one of the best around - her duet with Tony Bennett, "The Lady is a Tramp" is one of my all-time favourites, and her voice on the song is magnificent.

There is somewhat of a vacuum on the way as the old rockers retire - the 50 years of the Rolling Stones, Yes and the four-chord wondermen Status Quo defies belief. Half a century of music that they said "will never last".

I doubt if the current screeching divas, or the identically-sounding rappers (each with a capital "c" to accompany their caps on backwards, trousers with crotches at their knees and stupid, oversized trainers that they seem incapable of tying - and these are the ones who hated school uniform!) will be around for that long!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

How to use supermarket self-service check-outs

Check the queue at the main till, and weigh this up against the number of items you have in your hand (a litre of milk, a chocolate bar, a toothbrush and a small bag of salad).

Make the decision that scanning these four items at the self-service check-out can't possibly take longer than waiting in the assistant-serviced queue, especially as the current customer, a fur coat-clad woman, is arguing about the supermarket running out of GM, gluten-free, diet, sugar-free, fat-less doughnuts and having to pack her own bag. This despite the fact that the assistant, who, although half your age, is certainly worth you standing there and being mentally undressed by you as you wait. But you sensibly opt for speed over a very attractive young woman.

Press “Begin”, and scan in your loyalty card so the machine can spit out some extremely “relevant” offers when you have completed your purchase, thus proving that the supermarket knows everything about you - your buying habits, your shirt size, where you live, when you went on holiday, the car you drive, the TV channel you watch and the number of times you have partaken in unprotected sex during the past month.



Select “I am using my own bag”, because as even a social ingrate wouldn’t want to waste a bag on so few items, so why should you. Be green, as it may just impress the lovely checkout assistant that you now regret not mentally undressing fully and completely while waiting to be served. Besides, you’ve brought along the Hessian “bag for life” you bought three weeks earlier.

Place your Hessian “bag for life” in the bagging area, as directed, so that the machine can “verify your bag”. You have already verified that the fur-coated object arguing with the extremely delightful checkout assistant is indeed also a bag.

Become completely confused and frustrated when the machine cannot “verify your bag”. Could this be because the bag is from Waitrose and you are currently shopping in Sainsbury’s.

Push a few buttons, swear at the screen and look pathetically at other customers while you try to verify your bag. It's hessian, smells of hessian and has a big “Waitrose” on the side - how can it not be verified?

Take a deep breath and stop looking at fellow customers for help when the machine suddenly seems to give up on verifying your bag, and allows you to continue, even though the chances are it will now be charging you for using you own bag – because it’s from Waitrose.

Now, scan first item and place it in what you hope is now your ‘verified’ bag. Phew! It’s working. Now you can start to believe it's actually going to work fully this time.

Scan your second item. Begin to blubber uncontrollably as the machine bellows “unexpected item in bagging area”, attracting the attention of everyone for miles around you in this small, city-centre shop.

Wait patiently and innocently for a member of staff, preferably the lovely undressable one, to take a break from the busy service tills to press a button on your infernal self check-out machine. Instead, you get the late-aged grandma who can’t understand why a man over half her age can’t operate a simple piece of machinery.

Place your second item in bag and then scan your penultimate item. Place third item in bag. Suppress any feeling of elation that perhaps this will work. But work it actually does.

Scan final item. It’s only a bag of innocuous salad, but the machine bellows “age verification needed”. This is the first time you knew there was an age rating for lettuce and rocket.

Wait patiently and innocently again for a member of staff, giving up any hope that it will be the lovely undressable one, to come over to verify that, yes, you are indeed the correct age to purchase lettuce and rocket, and to press the magic reset button. Maybe like the machine, she’ll believe you indeed are much younger than you are and insist you take her out on a date, marry her and have lots of children.

And lo and behold, the lovely undressable one it is, and in your excitement, you drop your milk and the carton explodes all over the top of the infernal machine as well all over the lovely undressable one’s trousers.

You sadly realise that she is most certainly not going to ask you for help in removing them to dry them.

Press 'Finish and Pay', and yes, you have scanned in your loyalty card. All to gain the equivalent of 2p discount on this particular £3.12 set of purchases.

Count out the required amount of money, £3.12

Put two £1 coins in machine, followed by two 50p pieces, a 10p and a 2p and wait patiently while the machine counts this vast amount of coinage (6 pieces) you have put in.

After 5 minutes, you come to the conclusion the machine is not going to recognise 12p of your payment. Start to blubber while considering if it might be worth adding another 12p if only just to finish with this awful encounter.

But you decide that, philanthropic or not, Lord Sainsbury is wealthy enough without an involuntary donation of 12p from you, so being thrown a lifeline, you agree with the machine and press the “Help” button

Realise that the queue at the check-out with the real person has just served the last person who came into the shop after you.

Explain your plight to the very helpful and understanding and very important-looking Sainsbury’s chap with the X-Factor microphone and headphone system on his head, who, in between barking out Star Ship Enterprise-like instructions to more junior members of staff as to how to restock the baked beans, looks at you with total empathy, understanding, support and a heinous big grin on his face.

He disappears off to the help desk to get his keys for the machine.

Watch as Sainsbury’s chap returns, opens the machine, unlocks the cash box, grabs 12p, locks the cash box, and then closes the machine again.

Plonk the 12p back in, this time successfully, while at the same time thanking Sainsbury’s chap for his help. (‘Anything else I can help Sir with today?'). Avoiding suggesting he might care to settle your credit card repayments in full, pay for your TV licence and buy you a car, you politely decline, thanking him for his time, while at the same time resisting the temptation to ask if Anthony Worrall-Thompson has ever shoplifted from this branch.

Try to look relaxed as you leave the shop with your head held high, newly purchased possessions in hand, now worryingly nearer to their sell-by-date than when you first entered the store, and regretting that you couldn’t get your hands on the extremely attractive checkout assistant. Anyway, she’d be no doubt reeking of milk by now.

Realise that when you went in, the Spring buds were on the trees, and the nights were getting shorter. As you leave, you’ve noticed the leaves have all fallen, Christmas decorations are being put up and you have over 6 month’s beard growth.

You swear not to use self-checkout ever again. Until next time. Which is tomorrow and an excuse not just to check out your shopping, but to check out the extremely attractive check-out assistant.

The deep joy of off-shore call centres

Vodafone seem to be losing the plot. A little.

Daughter had a total episode trying to pay her bill yesterday - she stopped direct debits due to Vodafone's mysteriously ever-changing bills causing havoc with her student part-time working income management. 

The charming girl in India, or wherever the corporate tax dodgers base their call centres, had great difficulty in venturing even slightly off-script.

VODAFONE: "What is your pin number?"
DAUGHTER: "It's double zero blah blah"
VODAFONE: "That''s not what we have here"
DAUGHTER: "Well it's the one I've had for the past 5 years"
VODAFONE: "Can you repeat it?"
DAUGHTER: "Yes it's zero zero blah blah"
VODAFONE: "That's not what you said first time"
DAUGHTER: "Yes, I did"
VODAFONE: "No, you said double zero blah blah"

You couldn't really make it up!


However, daughter, a bit outspoken at times, somewhat like her father, was asked prior to the ending of this very fraught conversation, the perfunctory  "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

She replied "Yes please. Could you move your call centre back to the UK, teach staff how to go off their script if they need to, and ask your bosses to pay their fair share of corporate tax please?" 

She did suffix her conversation with a "And sorry, I do know you are only doing your job as best as you can to carry out what your managers have told you to do".

You can tell my daughter is off to study politics at University. Watch our Dave/Nick/Ed - she's gunning for your job!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Supermodels - why oh why?

I'm really sorry, but whoever invented the term "supermodels" needs not only taken to court by Trading Standards, but shoved up against a brick wall and insulted by the utterly repulsively-natured Naomi Campbell.

Why are they 'Supermodels'?

Yes, they are good at being over-priced clothes horses at the beck and call of the stylishly-challenged. But that it is. They are about as Super, as Super is a five-letter word. And that is it. There really is absolutely nothing super about any, single one of them!

And it's not as if what they do is vital to the world. To allow someone to operate on your brain, you need a brain-surgeon, trained for years, and an expert in their field.

Shove some fashion that lacks total style on your body, act like a mannerless, witless, sultry moron, walk like you have an oversized suppository shoved up your behind, and hey presto, you're a model. Anyone could do it, despite what the basket-case, fashion-house Prima Donnas would otherwise suggest.

But there's absolutely nothing 'Super' about you whatsoever!

My 19-year old daughter's pals from school ain't models.

But they are all super.

Well-mannered, attractive, friendly, level with their respective stations.

Some were in a fashion show recently and they were only brilliant. And their pay for the night. Tea and sandwiches, a big thank-you from the charity orgainsers, and their picture in the local rag a few days later. And they were chuffed to bits.

Come on media. Stop lauding these women as if they were something special. They're not. Even remotely.

My reply to a Nigerian 419 scammer


ORIGINAL LETTER FROM THE FRAUDSTER (my reply is below)

(hitting “reply” reveals -  mrsem.68brw@live.com, a strangely different email address)
Subject: Best regards
Date: Mon, 13 Aug 2012 11:32:36 -0700

Dear Friend

I am Mrs. Emelia Brown, I am 68 years old born in U.S.A, and I am suffering from a long time cancer of the Lungs which also had affected my entire well being, from all indication my conditions is really deteriorating. According to my doctors they have advised me that I may not live for the next two months, this is because the cancer stage has gotten to a very bad level.

I was brought up from an orphanage home, was married to my late husband for twenty years and we lived in London until my husband died in a fatal motor accident in London. Since his death I decided not to re-marry, I sold all my inherited belongings and deposited all the money with a bank in London. Presently, this money is still with the bank and I have not operated the account for a long time due to my illness.

Presently, I'm with a laptop in my hospital room, where I have been under going treatment for cancer in the lungs for over one year. Recently, doctors told me that I have only a few months to live so I quickly made up mind positively concerning my money. My mind ministered to me to share this inheritance with the orphans in orphanage homes and people that need money for survival.

It is my last wish to see that some percentage (70%) will be distribute among the charity organizations, the poor and orphans in orphanage homes where I came from and some percentage (20%) for devoted individual (you) that will utilize this money the way I wish and (10%) will be use to settle expenses (IF ANY) incurred in the cause of transfer . I took this decision because my time will soon be over and I do not want the bank to inherit the money if I eventually die.

I want you to honestly accept my decision and send me the following details to enable me instruct my bank to process all my money valued Ј3.5 million GBP and transfer to you as my beneficiary. As soon as I receive your reply and the details, I will issue a letter of authority to my bank which will empowers you as the beneficiary of my money, in as much as you give me assurance that you will do my last wish.

 Your Full Name..................
 Address..............................
 Nationality..........................
 Phone Number..................
 Occupation........................
 Age..........Sex..................

Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Emelia Brown

-----------------------------------

REPLY TO HE FRAUDSTER (to waste their time and let Hotmail try to trace them, not that  believe for one moment they even try!)
 
Dear Mrs Brown

Firstly, are you the Mrs Brown with a popular comedy programme on the BBC television? If so, would you mind sending me an autographed photograph for my grandchildren. We all love the programme! If not, I apologise, and regret there will therefore be no necessity for you to send me a photograph. Unless you’d care to send one, and I will of course graciously accept it.

Thank you for your notification. Apologies, I was not too sure which email address should be replied to, as I am not good at this email thing. What confused us all here was that you sent your communication from one email address, yet need a reply to a totally different one. I do not understand why this is this. Here in the UK, we all use one email address each, and that's it! Well, this would be except for one of our more colourful politicians in the Government, Eric Pickles, who you may have seen filling the screen in the TV news. He is rather obese (not yet clinical, I am relieved to report!), and because of his largesse, he requires two email addresses.

This is a most exciting proposition of yours, and one which I would be delighted to take part in. I also have many millions of pounds to give away, but I tend to try and disburse my funds to local charities. So I am therefore delighted to have the opportunity of topping up my millions through you, so I can give more away to those who need it. I hope you don't mind that I earmark your funds for charity.

I, Senior Engineer Ed Moss (now retired, ever since I stopped working), propose to send you copies of my United Federation passport as evidence of my ID as you have requested. I will also send full details relating to my Cushmirtochas Gold bank account - it is a special UK bank for those with special needs, and as someone who currently has to take AntiBNP drugs, as well the anti-inflammatory drug G-Gallowase-NILRES-PECT for my rampant legs, I am sure you will appreciate this. Unfortunately these AntiBNP's and the Gallowase raise the blood pressure most of the time.

There was a time when I could fettle my sockets and splurge my own scrunge without assistance, but now I need help with most things. Frustrating, I am sure you will agree, especially when I was able to do all these things previously without either assistance or a safety net.

However, in order to progress this, you will have to FedEx or Western Union me £30 (we use Sterling GB Pounds here in the UK) to permit me to scan in the details you require into my computer. Unfortunately, as a veteran of three Federation wars, I can't use a computer, so have to pay someone to come in and use it and maintain it for me as well as input the details you require and to go to the bank for me - as I mentioned, I have a severe immobility, not to mention a disability (please, I requested that you do not mention my disability).

I have already paid them £20 to write this message to you.

The FedEx or Western Union you arrange should be payable to my very helpful neighbour whose name is St Gemmas Hospice (she is a sister to the very famous anthropologist St Michael Hospice, who was ennobled by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II [forgive me as I stand up and salute Her Gracious Majesty for a moment], bless her Royal Highness, in 2009).

I am very upset to hear you are nearly dead. These things do happen. I saw a lot of death and other things (especially very bad driving habits in Africa, Italy and Barnsley) during my time with the Federation. I am only thankful that I only maintained the engines and warp-drives of the Federation craft and was not responsible for shooting anyone, either fatally, or with a gun.

Thank you for getting in touch. You sound like a real brave, Wonder Woman and I can but wish you all the best as you slowly die. It can't be easy being nearly dead, and I fully appreciate this, as some of my oldest friends from the federation are either dead or nearly dead themselves. My heart goes out to you, even though I am on blood pressure tablets because of my other medication, so you will further appreciate that I can't let my heart go too far out to you.

Yours faithfully, still fitfully and thankfully not fatfully
Ed Moss (Eng Rtd)

PS I have not submitted a PS to this letter, as I really hate people who put a PS at the end of their communications.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Guess who got the bus lunatic?

It's happened before. It happened today. And as safe a bet as me not winning £3million on the lottery, it will happen again.

I got the bus lunatic sitting beside me.

It being the weekend, I couldn't hide behind the free Metro. I quickly drew my phone up to my ear to pretend I was in conversation with someone, but that didn't work. I tried to scowl like I was a mass murderer on day release from the Armley Hilton on the way back to my cell before I committed another heinous axe-murder crime.

But all to no avail. Two people plus myself spread out downstairs on the bus, and he sits beside me.

"Shame about Jimmy Savile!" he says. Plainly into current affairs, with such knowledge about Sir Jimmy who had died nine months previously.

I was so busy trying to find a way of avoiding getting into a conversation that I made the huge error of judgement by replying "Yes".

"And Ralph Richardson. And Burt Lancaster. And Benny Goodman."

Oh my giddy aunt. Back almost 35 years. Was he going to go through every showbiz star, one-by-one, that had died during the past 35 years?

"I had an aunt once, you know." 'Yes' I thought to myself. 'I had one as well.' Actually I had two.

"She wasn't a good cook and never watched Coronation Street." Panic was starting to set in. I don't mind a bit of surreal conversation now and again, but not a totally nonsensical one with a complete stranger. Should I tell him I'm an axe murderer? Or perhaps say I'm a psychiatrist and would be more than happy for him to make an appointment.

Although, perhaps wearing a Bangkok Hard Rock Café t-shirt might not be the most impressionable form of dress I could be wearing as a psychiatrist.

"I don't like that Bob Geldof, you know. Always looks so scruffy to me. OK. I'll grant you he does some good charity work. But a haircut and a tie in a Windsor knot would do wonders for him. He was a singer, you know!" Yes I did know of him, and in fact, I knew his family when I lived in Dublin and that his Aunty May was Jewish and came around for dinner in our house a couple of times, but I certainly wasn't going to tell him.

"I remember back when trains were run by British Rail". Help me please, someone.

I really should have written all this wonderful factual information he was telling me down somewhere. You can never be prepared enough for setting a pub quiz.

"Do you like Avocado pears?" Yes I do, but I certainly wasn't going to tell him.

"I did go to Bradford on the bus once." Shame he couldn't be going there today instead of mithering me. "Not keen on Bradford. Full of foreigners." Now this was news to me. I didn't think the tourist trade there was in especially full swing. Although I did know full well he was perhaps referring to the residents of immigrant extraction.

"And that Metro Centre in Newcastle. Was there only the other week. So many shops."

By now, I wanted to shout at the driver "Stop the bus I want to wee-wee."

And then. I was filled with total relief. "Well it's been nice speaking with you, but this is my stop. I'll see you again."

No you bloody well won't.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Must have experience of PR and Communications in the "X" sector

It is often said - whether used as a lame excuse for a cop out, I'm not too sure - that to get a job you need experience, but to gain that experience you need a job. Perhaps it's just a conspiracy no one has yet tumbled to ensure a steady stream of "interns" prepared to work for nothing for the first three years after their graduation, and why solicitors, trained from an early age to immediately put their hands in their clients' pockets regardless of whether the weather is cold or not, remain unemployed rather than work for nothing.

I'm not to sure whether it's just plain ignorance on the part of companies, lack of guidance by those who use recruitment consultants, or just the general dysfuctionality and uselessness of HR, but unless you are a bus driver being interviewed for a job as chief neurosurgeon of St Bart's Hospital, this business of "not having sector experience" doesn't really stack up in marketing.

Imagine telling a highly-qualified accountant with 20 years experience that he's not getting an interview for a travel firm because he has no experience of travel-trade accountancy. Over 20 years,  he's kept the books for a local council, for a catering firm, for a garage, for a solicitors and even for himself when he went self-employed, but because he's never worked for a travel agency, he's considered not suitably qualified. Could you imagine that happening?

Well that has happened to me on a few occasions. Funnily enough, I'm not worried by age discrimination, because I've found that having worked as communications manager for Age Positive (the government's anti-age discrimination at work initiative) at the Department for Work and Pensions, this particular job appearing on my CV has the positive effect of "a little knowledge", etc. The recruiters perceive that having worked at the initiative, I am suitably qualified to spot an age discriminator a mile off. It helps, but the shock when, as someone in my mid 50's, I walk in the room for an interview, is generally evident on my prospective senior manager's face, especially as she wets her nappy.

However, certain government departments, particularly those recruiting through often mechanical recruitment consultancies (to be fair, some are as good as others are bad), will refuse an interview because they perceive a lack of experience of marketing or PR or communications within their sector is a negative.

I'm sorry. A press release is a press release in whatever industry. Yes, like in any business, you have to get up to speed with how the 'business' works ("learning curve" as the hip, jargonistas would say). A marketing plan, communications strategy, stakeholder engagement plan or whatever, is much the same for any industry, business or organisation - it's just that the people and contacts are different.

There is absolutely no excuse for this lame "the client felt another candidate had better experience of the industry". Well why did you waste my time and the cost of getting to you in the first place? It would have said the other person had industry experience so on their CV, and you could have saved a lot of time and effort all the way round.

Oh! But silly me. Of course, I should have tumbled. HR were bound to have been involved!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

It's pronounced "Gateaux". So then it must be bolleaux as well!

The hip and with-it rubbish is expanding at a rate of knots. Exponentially in relation to a lack of understanding in some cases.

Newsreaders tell us what's "trending" at the moment.

Exactly. What IS trending? Aside from being a load of old "bolleaux" and a fancy, world wide web way of saying "what style-less fashion of the moment people are falling for".

If you're especially worried, they'll tell you to "hashtag", whatever the hell that means. #. There. I've hashtagged!

Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, and now for some reason is as equally qualified as a 22-year old singer is to dictate who has or hasn't singing talent in a nationwide talent contest. Meanwhile, what they don't tell us, is that the talent contest is solely designed to make Simon Cowell even more wealthy.

Piers is busy twittering on about football, as if anyone really cares. 24 hours a day it seems. Talking a load of bolleaux that we mere mortals haven't a clue about.

And apparently the singer girl is perceived as sensible enough to judge talent, but not sensible enough to set an example to youngsters, with her stupid tattoos that will look great when she's sitting in the old-aged home trying to remember what sort of pot to tinkle in.

Then there's Facebook.

Pleading with users to "help friends who only have 24 friends".

Sounds to me like it's mirroring Mark Zuckerberg, who probably only has 24 friends himself now that his shares have collapsed and it was revealed that 83 million Facebook accounts are fake. And people can't stand the new timeline system that has been imposed on them by Facebook. Fair enough, users who don't pay shouldn't expect to have a vested interest in how Facebook looks, so perhaps they should suffer the timeline in silence. But it really is appalling, causing users to have to look over their shoulders all the time to see what information they are unwittingly revealing.

And changing email contact to a Facebook email address by default without telling people. That's downright insidious, free user or not.

I don't want a Facebook email address, and to judge by the take-up, neither do countless millions of others!

Then there's a continual big push to buy Virus software packages from both the PC chains and when you download any free Adobe product. Sorry mates, I love my free Avast! anti-virus system - it catches absolutely everything, updates itself twice a day and never seems to blob. (Being bi-partisan I better add that "other free anti-virus systems may be available" .........  BUT sod it...... in my humble opinion you can't beat Avast!).

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Feeling sorry for Olympic brand PR! No, not me.

A columnist in the Independent said that he felt sorry for the public relations people of the Olympic sponsors.

The games on BBC meant precious little advertising during the live games, the huge television audience therefore being hard to reach, blah, blah and etc.

I don't feel sorry at all.

I've had my own uphill struggles during my work in PR over the years. I took the knocks on the head, but got up and continued, without crying into the glove compartment of the BMW I've never owned, dressed in the designer suit I've never bought.

However, I appreciate their difficulties, to a certain degree. They are only carrying out the requests of their rip-off Britain masters. Even the £10,000 a week Max Clifford (at least that was what he wanted some 12 years ago to manufacture me into the hottest radio presenter since the previous hottest radio presenter - I declined, only on the grounds of not having the money) could never defend the monopoly on cash machines that Visa took at the games, given they went in with a public perception of being a member of the robbing, untrustworthy, back-handing and deceitful banking industy.

I haven't drunk Coke in 35 years. Hate the stuff. I'm no longer a McDonalds fan, having developed a preference for real chips over the years. And I certainly fail to see the point of buying a pair of Adidas trainers for £90 that left their far eastern sweatshop for $3 and that the BBC programme Panorama proved don't necessarily contribute to your foot health any more than a £12 pair from Leeds market do!

As for UPS - have never needed to use them, although I believe it's a good way to get rid of your rubbish - bag it up, get them to collect and you'll never see it again. Cadbury. Can't wait until the badly done-to Cadbury heiress, Felicity Loudon, gets her own chocolate production underway (having recently sold her country pile to finance it). Deloitte. Oh yes, they help rich people dodge tax. Thomas Cook. Yep. They were ripping off people big time with Olympic hotel and ticket packages. EDF. Oh them. They're the ones who put prices up the minute the wholesale gas price increase, but never put them down until months after any decrease, and then only by a pittance. Lloyds TSB. Er, they've a bit dishonest of late, haven't they.

So the PR front seems a bit complicated for the sponsors (partners) so far.

I think it's the monopolistic, brand-police attitude take during the Games that has been the only big negative. Our fantastic achievers have been knocking themselves out wholesale, collecting medals on behalf of Sport GB, regardless of whether or not they couldn't use their Mastercards to pay for a Happy Meal.

Meanwhile, despite the ban on any sport brand bar Adidas, Nike, the Greek goddess who personifies victory, also known as the Winged Goddess of Victory, appears on the back of every Olympic Medal.

Try a £20,000 fine for that, you draconian brand police!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Let's get commercial...lightheartedly but serious!

Right. if I said Singapore, what would you think of?

Yes, so would I.

Raffles Hotel (no longer on the bay-edge I might add). Changi airport as a stopover on the way to Australia (although not for much longer if Quantas pull out - oops, perhaps not a good choice of words, given the context of this story - of the Oneworld Alliance). So many electronics products made there during the 70's and 80's.

Now how about Mentos, those delicious soft sweets? Would you equate them with Singapore in any major way?

No? Neither would I.

Or at least that was until an acquaintance from Kindling Media, Chris Hardwick got in touch!

His client is Mentos Singapore. And it seems the company are doing a really sweet thing (aargh! sorry) on the 9th August, at precisely 10.30pm, by helping to prove music is the language of love by promoting a "National Night" rap at the end of Singapore's National Day Celebrations.

And what are they doing this for?

To encourage an increase in the birth rate in the city-state, that's what for. People are to have have a listen, get somewhat in the mood and then retire to bed, but the hope is, to not necessarily fall asleep immediately.

Hard though it may be for you to believe, but I kid you not good people, it would appear that while Singapore is one of the most productive nations on earth, they are a bit backward at coming forward (no pun intended) as one of the more re-productive nations!

So, to encourage the patter-patter of tiny Singaporeans, Mentos are suggesting that legally cohabiting heterosexuals should show their affection to their homeland Singapore - and indeed, more so, to one another - to get down and boogie, and to, er, suck it and see (so to speak) in the cause of boosting the population 9 months hence.

A very interesting concept (oops! sorry).

And you read it here!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Why does price sensitivity go out the window?

A regular sight outside the more 'economical' end of the supermarket trade - Aldi, Lidl and no doubt the soon-to-be-resurrected Kwik Save - are the number of personally-numberplated executive cars parked there. It seems that continually paying over the odds for food basics is a hobby that people are giving up across the entire socio-economic divide, and if it means hiking your fur coat up over your behind and joining the great unwashed in order to reduce the price of your shopping basket, then so be it.

The £ in your pocket is definitely better in your pocket.

However, what I can't understand is how price-sensitivity totally disappears amongst the great British public the moment they enter an airport, train station, attend a conference/event venue or enter a motorway stopover.

Instantaneously, the person who would normally travel 10 miles around six different supermarkets in order to save 3p on a tub of yoghurt, is suddenly quite at ease purchasing three bottles of 60p mineral water for £2.30 each, or two slices of bread with a piece of neatly cut inner tube masquerading as a slice of salami in between for nearly £5.

Similarly, while at home, they will take Tom's advice and travel 15 miles out of their way to save 3p a litre on petrol, yet they are quite happy to fill up on the motorway at their normal home price + 14p a litre!

Why do people do it? Do they not realise that if they voted with their brains, wallets and feet, it would drive these over-pricings down.

There are a variety of reasons these venues give as to why their good are so over-priced. The best one, for motorway stopovers, is "we have to pay staff" and pay "our rental costs". Yes. So does my local Londis, open at 6am every morning until 10pm at night -  yet I can get some cracking offers there (OK, some items might be cheaper in the supermarket). And I bet the poor motorway staff aren't paid at an equivalent rate to the head office clowns who set the over-pricing strategy!

And these suburban shopping parade destroyers, or Tesco Metros as some might refer to them, are no great shakes either. They force small family-run grocery stores and newsagents out of business, when they are, on average, 15-20% more expensive than their supermarket brethren.

But I really can't get to grips with why airports, train stations, and motorway stopovers simply just have to always rip you off! And especially as they are a gateway for many tourists. They are excruciatingly and blatantly over-priced. It's such a great impression we give to the visitor!

Sadly, their prices will remain for as long as the sheepish, and let's be honest, idiotic customers, keep buying the stuff.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Dear Beneficiary........

Hotmail still steadfastly seems to refuse to do anything about the scam emails that perpetuate through their email system. It would be so  simple to bar emails that include the tired old phrases "Dear beneficiary", "Friend in Christ", "Nigerian oil minister", "viagra", "PPI", "tax refund", "bank notification", "account suspension" and "lottery win", to name but a few of the phrases these wastrels use.

Just stop them even entering the system in the first place. So simple to even tag and reject the fake email addresses that these scammers use.

It is rather incredible that these emails continue to circulate. And more so, that, as users become ever more adept, incorporating emails into their daily lives as a matter of course, that they can be taken in by these scams. That the chief executive of a bank, or the continental representative of the FBI would use a free Yahoo account, let alone write to someone at random via Hotmail, is ridiculous, yet there presumably are people who are taken in, otherwise these vile scammers wouldn't bother.

The banks, dishonest as they may be and mistrust them as we do nowadays, in fairness, and Fred Shred and Bob Diamond aside, continually tell their customers that they will never email to ask for personal details.

So why don't Hotmail spend a few dollars of their huge Microsoft income and do something about it?

Surprisingly, scam emails originate from the USA, UK and Nigeria in that order. Microsoft is an American company. The UK is a large Microsoft market that sadly is happy to pay rip-off prices for their overpriced product updates.

So it's about time they exited the rose-tinted little rooms in their silicon valley hideaway and did something constructive for the consumer. Something that would take a techie possibly an hour and cost no more than $250.