Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bah Humbug 2013

Finding more reasons to shop at Morrisons, coupled with my detestation for "every little helps",  I ambled down to my local branch this morning to check out what money they could relieve me of. As well as for a spray of mist as I chose my celeriac, fennel and herbs.

Quite a surprisingly pleasant experience, apart from the other shoppers, the infernal Christmas music (covers of Christmas hits - even more infuriating) and tat, and the tattooed hordes (and that's just the women) filling their shopping baskets to groaning capacity with cheap cider, multi-pack crisps and Twiglets. Yes, roast turkey, stuffing, cheap cider, crisps and Twiglets - altogether a  very Gordon Ramsey menu.

I love the way some men (and it's nearly always the men) stand and gesticulate in a "buying an overpriced coffee and sandwich in the airport on the way to Ibiza even though they drive 12 miles to save 1p on a litre of petrol" sort of manner, as if they really don't get out much (they probably don't). You know, feet apart, hand in the air pointing to the rafters and shouting "Is this the milk you mean Christine?  I thought we had one at home in the fridge!" Maybe it's the fact the milk you have at home has now curdled, having been relegated from the fridge to make way for the previous week's cheap cider. And for god's sake, don't put the crisps and Twiglets in the fridge mate!

The quite depressing sight, taking into account the hordes that are still spending as if money is going out of fashion, were the 'pricing technicians' (= shelf stackers) wandering around the isles of Christmas goodies with their spreadsheets and pricing tickets, matching up the goods with the sale price tickets to be affixed on the store's first day's opening after Christmas - that is if they deem to give their minimum wage (Sir Ken Morrison - net worth £1billion) staff the day off over Christmas.

I noticed one "suitable electrical gift" at a retail price of £59.95 (one of which a lady plonked into her shopping trolley) that was due for a reduction to £29.95. Entering into the spirit of good shopping camaraderie and Bah Humbug, I pointed this out to her, and she sensibly replied, "Oh. Thirty quid off. He can come up and get it isself (sic) after Christmas then. Bloody thieves (presumably Morrisons and not her son). Ta love. 'Smeans (sic) I can get summit (sic) else just fer (sic) me for a change."

Good on yer girl!

And then to the checkout. An empty one! Straight through. Yes. Sunday before Christmas. And empty checkout at 11.15.

As I was ploughing my goods and chattels onto the conveyor belt, chatting to the extremely pleasant and helpful checkout assistant (isle 11, Whitefield branch, Sir Ken, if you're thinking of doling out a Christmas bonus to these unsung heroes of retail shopping), a rather brusque voice shouted from behind me "You on the till. Where's the brandy butter? And is it made from real butter. I need to know."

No madam. What you need to know was whether my foot could engage with you to provide a good kick up the arse, if truth be told!

The young assistant was somewhat taken aback by this rude woman, so me being me, I looked her straight in the eye (the woman and not the checkout assistant) and said, rather loudly, "Sorry to interrupt your vile rudeness, but as I don't detect a white stick, I assume you haven't sight problems preventing you from seeing that I am talking to this young lady. If you and your  iPhone would care to trot off down to customer services down to the right, I am sure they will be able to assist you."

She went rather red in the face and stormed off.

And pathetic though it might seem, I felt great! I fail to see why these people, whether they live in proximity to Whitefield's Ringley Road or not, assume they are anyway better than the sweet young girl on the till! They probable haven't done an honest day's work in their life themselves, preferring as they do to bark out orders to their demure underpaid and overworked home help from the Philippines.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Predictions for 2014

January – the world will end on the 14th at 2.00pm, but thankfully, Microsoft will dash to the rescue and reboot the world at 2.01pm. However, several .sys and .dll files will nevertheless fail. Ebay crashes due to the level of unwanted Christmas presents people are getting rid of

February – a bank will announce that it might have mistakenly miss-sold thousands of its customers insurance products they didn’t need at the time when they didn’t want them. Apple unveils an updated iPhone that sees very stupid people queuing outside their shops for days in their efforts to be the first to get one

March – BBC 1 goes through an entire day (18th) without showing a single repeat. Licence payers are shocked, and hospital admissions soar through the roof, which is the only place to get a bed. Amazon, Apple, Ebay and PayPal announce they are going to pay what they consider is a fair amount of UK tax to make up for previous years of tax avoidance. 1% tax

April – the supermarkets begin their Christmas 2014 campaigns, clearing the shelves of the basic staple goods people need in order to make way for fake trees, baubles, gaudy wrapping paper and left-over selection boxes from 2013. Apple unveils an updated iPhone that sees very stupid people queuing outside their shops for days in their efforts to be the first to get one

May – Prince Charles takes the throne, only to be told by his mother to bugger off back to Clarence House and get on with watching the Jeremy Kyle show. The Daily Express reports that Princess Diana is still dead

June – “Britain’s got Reality” is a new show from Simon Cowell that sees all the other reality shows compete against one another to see which is the worst. Judges are Margaret Hodge, John Lydon, the late Alan Wicker and a nine year-old from Frome who thinks they’re all crap. Apple unveils an updated iPhone that sees very stupid people queuing outside their shops for days in their efforts to be the first to get one.

July – it has been raining all over the country non-stop for 12 days now, with 30% flooding. Yorkshire still has a hosepipe ban in place. Gas, electricity and rail fare prices are suddenly increased by 23%

August - RyanAir refund the cost of a flight to someone. The fact that the ‘someone’ is a prominent member of Al-Qaeda isn’t thought to be of relevance. Much to existing customers’ annoyance, Sky offers a free Mini Cooper with every new 18-month subscription.

September – a social network site fails, leaving millions of subscribers’ personal information in limbo, staff redundant, suppliers unpaid and the chief executive as a multi-millionaire without a care in the world. Apple unveils an updated iPhone that sees very stupid people queuing outside their shops for days in their efforts to be the first to get one

October – the supermarkets have cleared their Christmas tat to make way for Easter eggs, although Christmas advertising on television ramps up to even more infuriating proportions. The iWatch, with a screen the size of a small matchbox, will be the hit of the year, despite the fact people won’t be able to see it without a 25x magnifying glass, neither will they be able to do anything with it. The extraordinarily stupid people who would otherwise queue outside the Apple store for a slightly update iPhone or iPad, stupidly queue up outside the Apple store for this piece of soon-to-be-superceded junk

November – Nintendo unveil what they think is going to be the hit toy of the year - a small black box with two simple joysticks that control a small white ball that players hit to’ and fro’ across a green screen. Now that people are beginning to use 4G telephone services, the immediate roll out of 5G, which doesn’t work on any phone currently available, is announced

December – despite the previous seven months of Christmas consumer advertising for games consoles, tablets, phones, clothes etc, the Advertising Standards Authority take a church in Roehampton to court for daring to mention Jesus in its promotional Christmas activities

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Bah Humbug!

9th of November (9.11.13, odd number sequence already picked up on by some American mathematician) and I'm absolutely fed up with Christmas advertisements.

I don't care if my sofa can't be delivered for Christmas, or if Ant and Dec - or was it Dec and Ant - choke on their Morrison's battered prawn, or if Aldi are flogging an equivalent Harrod's £20,000 hamper for around £500, or whether Clinique have developed a special Christmas method for parting women from even more of their money, or that the American J Crew store has opened in Regent Street in time for Christmas and is positively ripping off the idiot shoppers happy to pay same amount Sterling for a Dollar-ticketed piece of Bangladeshi crap.

I don't want to buy exclusive Disney Christmas items (although Mickey Mouse and Christmas have become frighteningly synonymous since Jesus has been relegated solely to Christmas Day Church services only), neither do I want to save £1 Tesco stamps on a card to lighten my Christmas shopping bill. I do not think John Lewis will bring me the spirit of Christmas and don't for one minute believe that Next have made Christmas shopping even easier for me with their one-stop Christmas Shop.

What I would like to see is the poor, harmless and totally inoffensive homeless lad who sits in the tunnel outside the Longfield Suite in Prestwich succeed in finding a job and improving his life (I know for a fact his recent history has caused this unfortunate situation rather than any lack of willingness on his part - he does need help).

Bah Bloody Humbug!

Friday, 25 October 2013

My reply to British Gas following the twee crap they sent cleverly disguised as a letter of justification for their price rises:

Dear folks at BG

Thank you for your letter from Ian Peters, Managing Director, British Gas Residential Energy, but I was already aware of the Gas Price increases from BBC Watchdog, Moneysavingexpert.com, Rip Off Britain and of course the media.

Personally, I was glad of the rise in prices. I have been worried for weeks that your directors and shareholders, many of whom don't actually know what a heating bill is, might have to forgo their foie gras or Bollinger for a day or two, or perhaps even travel somewhere Standard Class. However my anxiety was completely misplaced, because thankfully, the price rise, coming as it always does at a time of approaching high consumption, should assist with easing any of their pains.

I have since heard a rumour that because the gas suppliers always follow each other with price rises, you are forming a clandestine alliance. I noted that we-are-in-rip-off-cahoots.com has been registered by one of your 'competitors'. Can you confirm this please?

Finally, if you could please pass my best wishes on to Sam Laidlaw, the boss of Centrica, your parent banker. I was delighted to hear that planning permission has been granted for a second swimming pool at his vast Cotswold Estate. I personally know of many struggling pensioners, struggling families on low incomes and struggling redundant workers who will be so pleased with this, that they will rush at breakneck speed or higher to join me over a glass of water (2012 vintage - Chateau Heaton Park - a lovely piquant and highly sought-after number, in fact so wonderful, I actually have it on tap) in celebration of this momentous news.

We are all so pleased that the Gas Act of 1986, which led to the privatisation of the British Gas Corporation, has helped produce such fine, upstanding multi-millionaires, all at the expense of the hard-pressed customer.

Kind regards

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

What we don't realise about the older generation!!

I present a rather off-the-wall (not that the blogs on this site would in anyway indicate to you that I might do such a thing!) adult-orientated rock show on our local community radio station.

'OK' you say. 'Big Deal'.

Well my listener seems to like it! In fact he loves it.

Seriously though. While we on the station joke and laugh about the strange requests (for music - please behave!) I receive for music, I suddenly realised the other week that the strange request from a listener for 'Paranoid' for his 72nd Birthday wasn't, in fact, really all that strange.

When Black Sabbath, with the wonderful still-alive Ozzy first released 'Paranoid' in 1970, my sprightly 72 year-old listener would have been an even more sprightly 29 years of age. There is no reason why, 43 years later, if he was a fan of the band back in 1970, that he shouldn't be a fan now! After all, someone who supported a particular football team in the 1970's is more than likely still a supporter of that same team today.

So, the fact that a man in his 70's request an iconic heavy-metal song (OK, so it took the great Tony Iommi [guitar AND flute on the actual album] three minutes to write it on the back of a fag packet!) has no need to be dismissed on the grounds of ageism.

It was his era!

Something we tend to forget. But then those who listen to the current version of the BBC Light Programme - BBC Radio Two to you and me - will often hear songs that, 30 to 40 years ago, when they were originally released, even Radio 1 never used to play!

And look at Radio One nowadays.

Full of presenters who all seem to have a speech impediment, playing back to back songs either by angry young men screaming unintelligent lyrics into the microphone accompanied by something passing for music that in reality is probably cats being welded together, or divas screaming though their noses, singing exactly the same as each other and sounding like they are on the toilet attempting to rid themselves of constipation while they prattle on about their partner having died in a train crash!

In truth, I remember buying my own very first album. It was in 1972, in the middle of nowhere in  County Donegal, Ireland, at the tender age of 16. Among all the country singers and diddly-idle traditional Irish folk music by strange looking people in hand-knitted Aran sweaters and unkempt beards (ladies included), looking out at me from the calendar stand that was doubling as a record rack, was 'Exile on Main Street', the double album by the Rolling Stones. It was brand-new and sealed, and if I remember, an absolute steal, because the shop owner had ordered it in error and was selling it at cost price. This was understandable, as it wasn't a very tourist-orientated town, and I couldn't imagine the average Donegal farmer or bog-cutter settling down with his pint of Guinness, whiskey chaser, lump of soda bread and 'Exile on Main Street'.

No, my dad was of the same opinion about the Rolling Stones as I am about all the screaming, cloned pop divas, rappers and the disposable and talentless misfits that emanate from all those television talent shows. Here and hair today, tattooed and gone tomorrow. Eight years into their career and my Dad said that the Rolling Stones wouldn't last. Fifty years later, Zimmer frames and blood pressure pills sees them still on the road today. That is some legacy! Not even some orchestras can boast over 50% of the original line-up still playing today - but there's Sir Mick, Keith (should be a Sir as well really), Charlie (he's 73 and should be a Lord) and the original other Mick from the 60's, plus Ron Wood, still strutting their pensioned yet energetic stuff on stage!

I can't necessarily see No Direction, Little Fix, or any of these rappers with their ludicrous names and even more ludicrous dress sense lasting beyond the end of the decade.

And having made such an impact on me, I can't even name the winner of last year's BBC "The Voice", although I do know their "eagerly awaited" album sold just a couple of hundred copies in its first week and peaked at something like 174 in the album charts.

It seems they such an impact nationally that people couldn't even be bothered to illegally download it.

Meanwhile, 'Exile on Main Street', when re-released in 2011 to celebrate its 30th Anniversary, zoomed to Number 1!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

It's in Private Eye but no one takes any notice. Why?

It defies belief the corruption, back-handing, bonuses for mediocrity, crooked Councillors, bent Boroughs, putrid planning applications and on and on and on that are reported in Private Eye every fortnight, yet no one in authority seems to take a blind bit of notice.

For example, in this issue, five Network Rail directors reduced their bonuses to £350,000 after train performance targets were not met. Why are they even getting a bonus in the first place? Unless it's because of the entertainment we, the suffering public get as a result of the railways being such a continual joke. £197 one-way for a trip from London to Leeds. I'd expect part-ownership in the train for that price.  Even paying myself 50p a mile, the congestion stealth tax, parking in London and petrol, I'd still come out with money to spare. Yet Megabus or National Express can do it for change out of a tenner. OK, the journey takes twice as long.

Atos, the medical con-sultants are highlighted issue after issue about how they cause genuinely disabled people with disability unwarranted hardship and misery by declaring them fit for work and reducing their entitlements - while Atos laugh all the way to their publicly-funded bank account.

Emma Harrison, boss of another shower of con-sultants A4e paid herself a bonus of £8.4million of public money last year on the back of results that weren't even mediocre. 

And the big accountancy firms continue to assist government departments and official bodies to nothing but hemorrhage public money into their bank accounts with daily rates that would make your eyes water, charging for photocopying, telephone calls, letters, emails, breathing, swearing.

PFIs - Private Finance initiatives - seem to continue unabated, sucking public funding out of the system and again, into the private bank accounts of worthless parasites who don't care about the public they are meant to be serving, just about feeding the goose that lays the platinum egg.

Meanwhile, PPI, Accident Insurance and PayDay Loan advertising continues completely unabated on the very minority faux celebrity-hosting channels that those who are either too idle to work, or those who genuinely can't find employment, watch. No warning from the government in large letters that interest rates are humongous for loans, that you can claim PPI for free yourself instead of paying up to 25% of what is, after all, your money, in commission to these parasites, or that these suave, sophisticated and parasitic accident claims companies are only helping to push up even further our already over-expensive insurance policies.

And then the various comparison websites for insurance, holidays, finance and the rest that have vested interests in not telling consumers the whole story. It's left up to the consumer programmes on television, or Martin Lewis from money Saving Expert to expose them. It shouldn't be this way. The government, in particular the Department for Business Innovation and Skills should be proactively looking into this on behalf of the consumer. Or instructing officially appointed people to so do.

It's a damn disgrace and about time something was done about it.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

"If you haven't heard from us......"

As the wild and wacky world of HR descends into its ever-increasing own little downward spiral of the "3D's" - Dysfunctionality, Darkness and Dishonesty - a new 'lark' is emerging to help the job phishers (the less than forthright agencies, but as they say on the BBC, "some  extremely good agencies are available") save time and effort as they cream off a huge percentage for placing someone in a job that the company HR person should have done.

"Due to the volume of applications we receive we are unable to respond to unsuccessful candidates."

So, by this perverted logic in customer service, if you browse in a bookshop and don't buy anything, unfortunately, the staff wont see fit to talk to you. Or "Those six tables in this restaurant aren't mine, so they can die of thirst as it's not my job". Or "You're not a parent at my school, and as the official lollipop lady here, I'm not going to acknowledge you exist, so go and cross someone else's road".

I appreciate I'm like a broken record (scratched CD or jumping MP3 to those of you who don't know what a record is) regarding my views on HR, but the really sad thing is that I and others know I am right. Just like the 40% of employees who responded to a survey who said their HR department lacked any form of credibility whatsoever (my thanks to the wonderful Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times for that snippet). Then again, the inability of these numpties to recruit for their own company proves Rod's point.

I have been scammed by the "our client is a leading" syndrome, where the agency is just phishing, having spotted the recruiter has omitted "no agencies" from the advertising.

In the past I've put a large effort into a job application for an agency only to find they are one of 11 others representing "their client".

I really want to do something about it now, so that when my daughter and son, and family and friends' daughters and sons go job hunting, they have a vague chance of dealing with an honest recruitment process.

Still, pigs may fly.

£3.80 an hour for a professional writer

Like many freelancers do, I scan the People Per Hour (PPH) freelance work site - by all means register and try it yourself (click here) - to see if there's a little bit of extra work I can pick up when there's a lull in my mainstream freelancing.

However, it never ceases to amazes me not only the often straightforwardly parsimonious rates people offer to pay for their jobs, but more, the sometimes crass idiocy of some of the freelancers who apply for those jobs. They fail to realise that by acceding to ridiculously low rates, they are sustaining the cheapskates who use the PPH site not as a recruiting ground for freelance professionals to help get a job done, but as a shop window to get jobs done on the absolute cheap.

It seems to becoming a haven where the unscrupulous take advantage of the unwary.

Let me explain.

I was alerted to a copywriting job today. Looked interesting, but demanded a pound, going on near 20 kilos of flesh. The job-poster wanted someone to write, over the course of one to two weeks (not full-time, of course) 20, original, high quality, plagiarism-free (fair enough!), 500-word articles.  With full ownership of the articles transfering to the purchaser (to presumably enable them to pass off as their own work) when complete.

So we're talking here a good 15 hours work, if the articles were to be professionally and well-crafted.

And the reward?

A whacking, big, £64 Sterling. Less the commission due to PPH for the introduction (I don't for one minute deny the site that at all), bringing it down to £57. That's £3.80 an hour (with tax, costs - heating, lighting, internet access, insurance, PC depreciation - still to be deducted from that, taking it down further to about £2.75 an hour net) for a professional writer willing to give up their full copyright and ownership of original work.

The minimum hourly rate in the UK for an under 18 year-old with no qualifications or experience is currently £3.68 (official minimum wage for an adult is currently £6.19 an hour).

I find this appalling.

Yes, let the customer beware. But why does it always have to be that way? Is there not one ounce of honour and honesty left anywhere in the world today? Always rip-off, rip-off, rip-off.

I challenged the poster to find me a solicitor and accountant at an equivalent rate. I also asked the web-designing poster of a job at similar slave rates if he would design my website at the equivalent of the £4.20 an hour he was offering.

He said 'no'. Quelle surprise!

His rate was £55 an hour. Yet he expected me to write creatively for him at a rate thirteen times lower than he charged for his services.

Sauce for the goose is definitely not sauce for the gander here!

Parasitic hypocrites.



Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Strange how the death of someone you didn't really know affects you...


Graham Walker, the "wild" man of the Grumbleweeds tragically succumbed to cancer this week. Graham, together with drummer Robin Colvill (who I am delighted to add is very much alive!) were a wickedly funny and entertaining duo - not that the rest of the group were slouches when it came to entertaining people!

I grew up in a house that adored the Grumbleweeds - good old fashioned entertainment, a little bit of innuendo and plenty of laughs - never for one moment suspecting that I'd ever "sort of" get to know them a little.

I first "crossed swords" with Graham (in a very amusing and charity way I might add - and apologies the exact circumstances are now a little hazy) as a result of a fund-raising gig for the RNLI the late Bernard Manning had 'sponsored' at his Embassy snooker club on the Rochdale Road in Manchester ['Embassy', yet Bernard never smoked!].

What happened was that Bernard 'handed over' his club for nothing for the evening, printed proper invitation tickets in advance for you, helped distribute them and then on the evening, provided entertainment in the form of himself and his buddies - all in exchange for punters  buying his food and drink on the evening. A brilliant arrangement and between the few times he did it for me, we raised an absolute fortune (Bernard could be very persuasive when it came to the raffle, for which he always obtained some terrific prizes from his suppliers - a long weekend in Paris was a very big deal before Eurotunnel or budget airlines).

Anyway, amongst the people who appeared with Bernard for the entertainment included (can't remember them all, but Bernard put on such a brilliant show) Charlie Williams, Duggie Brown (was amazed when he revealed he was the brother of Ivy from Coronation Street!), Colin Crompton, Mick Miller (I think), Jim Bowen (lovely, smashing), Stan Boardman, George Roper, Stu Francis and..............................Graham and Robin.

For those of you who never managed to get to the Embassy. Well, it was a barn of a place (size wise), but nevertheless very intimate. So you had the chance to "mingle" with the stars (Bernard in particular used to take it personally if you didn't go up to him and introduce yourself). And as the charity orgainser on the evening, I used to get the honour of meeting and chatting with VIPs during and after the event.

And as you would expect, as the 'orgainser' I used to get great stick taken out of me from the  stage by all of Bernard's special guests. And needless to say, Graham took it out on me because we shared the same challenge - fellow recidivists of the head-hair type!

Another time I met Graham was up in fellow Grumbleweed Maurice's (I think) house in the delightful town of Guiseley (the home of Harry Ramsden's) on the outskirts of Leeds. I was meeting with Maurice's immediate neighbour, the former National and Olympic coach, the late Wilf Paish (his protegees included Tessa Sanderson, Mick Hill and Peter Elliott).

It was a glorious day, and Maurice invited us in for afternoon tea on the lawn. There were a gaggle of Grumbleweeds there, and to cut a long story short (allowing you some imagination here), Graham Walker + a bowl of whipped cream + a Grumbleweed or two = mayhem and chaos of the extreme side-splittingly funny kind.

Yes, he was a 100% entertainer, and a genuinely funny man who will be missed by one and all, more so of course by his family and his wonderful and closest colleague from the Grumbleweeds, Robin Colvill.

It may still be there when you read this - a special fund-raising page for cancer was set up in Graham's memory - if you get the chance and would like to make a donation, the page is here at http://www.justgiving.com/graham-grumbleweed. Many thanks.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Sorry, no more cinema for me



I no longer go to the cinema. I’ve really had enough. It’s not the cost of a ticket at about £8, or the price of a soft drink at £9 and a bucket of popcorn at £18.

It’s the social degenerates. The mobile-morons. The fatuous phone freaks. They drive me mad. Committing-murder mad.

I would, ordinarily, go to the cinema to watch, and hopefully enjoy, a film. However, the new breed of cinema goer now seems to go simply to play on their phone all film long. They are totally incapable of the slightest of social graces necessary to watch a film in the company of other members of the public.

The continual click-clacking of phone buttons, the flashing on and off of phone screens, the loud nudging of one of these degenerate’s friends to show them something on their phone drives me mad.

Can they not just switch off their phones and put them away for an hour and a half? Is it so much to ask?

Nowadays, when you walk around town, it’s a more tiring experience than it ever used to be. Because you have to concentrate on avoiding some moron with his or her head stuck in a phone from colliding with you.

I really am surprised there isn’t more phone crime in town centres than there actually is. Girls, in particular, seem totally incapable of switching the sound on, putting their phone in their bag or pocket and awaiting the sound to alert them that one of their socially inept friends has announced on facebook that they are blowing their nose. 

Instead, they hang their bags over their arms and walk around pointing their phone in front of them, blissfully unaware of what might be going on around them. Unless I have got it wrong and they are in fact all a new breed of stock exchange pundits who have to stay in contact with the office at all times.

I witnessed some time ago a “charming” young lady who embarked the bus on her way to town. I was sitting in the front seat, and on she stepped, in total animation on her phone, her conversation comprising solely of “know what I mean”, “like” and “innit”.

She slapped a ten pound note down on the bus driver’s ledge, and that was it. Now while I appreciate most bus drivers are 100% psychic and instantly know where their passenger wants to go without having to ask, my driver (to those who ever take the 7a in Leeds, it was the nice, round-faced smiley grey- bearded driver with the black glasses) just didn’t know. So like any sensible public servant would, he asked her.

The reply was a torrent of abuse about the driver being a stupid – sadly, I can’t repeat the word she used here before the watershed, but it rhymes with shunt – and that he was “eavesdroppin on her ‘portant (important) private con-vis-ashun, innit.”  Eavesdropping. Now there's a surprisingly complicated word for someone who doesn't understand the the more simple word 'manners'.

The normally laid back and gentlemanly driver replied “look love, if you carry on like that, I’ll have to ask you to get off the bus”.

“Love” then proceeded to look at me. “Hey mistah” she said to me. “Youse saw that. This” – use of the word rhyming with shunt used again – “was lis-nin to my ‘portant private con-vis-ashun and you’re my witness to do ‘im in court. Innit?”

She, as was I, somewhat taken aback by my response.

I said, quite loudly, something along the lines of: “Young lady. The way you’ve just behaved with your swearing and attitude, the driver would be quite right to throw you off the bus, and I would be in the front of the queue to help him. I suggest you grab your ten pound note and your Blackberry, before one of us shoves it in a place requiring you to seek medical attention to take it out, and get off this bus now. And perhaps learning some manners before the next bus might do you no harm.”

She did get off the bus rather quickly, naturally enough shouting, swearing and two-fingering the driver and me.

To make matter worse for her, the other passengers on the bus started cheering and clapping.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

What is it with solutions? And other meaningless rubbish?


I had a wonderful English teacher at school. Mr Blackmore. Nicknamed Moses because he had a very bushy beard, but then pupils were assuming, without any proof, that the original Moses never shaved.

He was somewhat height-challenged, but in those days, dressed in his batman gown as teachers always did in the black and white days, he nevertheless commanded the respect that the threat of having the wooden blackboard duster thrown at you was always bound to command. And he also had a very unique attribute that he made Shakespeare enjoyable, giving us teenage schoolboys a laugh each time by accentuating his pronunciation of “Coriolanus”. I shall leave it to your imagination as to which bit he accentuated.

I remember he started one class with a statement that was to set me on my path to a life of cynicism. He suddenly announced that “Nothing acts faster than Anadin, so all you guys must, from now on, take nothing.”

I believe – and hope – that Ian Blackmore is now a healthy pensioner,  enjoying his retirement far away from those annoying people called school pupils.

Solutions. “A homogeneous mixture composed of only one phase". So, to quote Lord Sugar, a solution could really be a "one-trick pony".

So why are so many companies the providers of “solutions”?

Are they one-trick ponies?

A company in Leeds provides “total panel solutions”, whatever they are. I picked up on the internet a legal practice that was busy "Creating family law solutions for you". If you get in your car and drive, you are bound to see “furniture solutions”, “kitchen solutions”, “employment solutions”, “building and maintenance solutions”.

(And revisiting this in Nov 2015, I have since come across "ski solutions", "refuse solutions", holiday solutions" - all barkingly uncreative).

What is wrong with all these people?

Yes, I appreciate they are not copywriters and that they are professionals in their own respective fields and more than likely very good at what they do. But why don't they take a little advice when devising a strapline?

Another one that winds me up is “new and improved”. Now even Lord Winston would I’m sure agree that it can’t be improved if it is new. It would have been like Lord Fellowes coming on TV before the very first Downton Abbey programme and announcing it as new – yes, that bit’s correct – and “improved” – no, no, no.

“Pre-order”. Wonderful statement. Everyone is using “pre”. Pre-owned (second-hand or used to you and me). Pre-drinks (that’s the art of getting drunk before you go binge drinking). “Pre-loved” (that means bugger all, but is beloved by the Arthur Daley car salesmen type).

I actually have several scientists working on “pre-order” at the moment. Early indications are that it’s proving as big a headache as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, in other words, pi to you and me. You know, 3.14159265359 ad infinitum. Me, I thought you either ordered something or you didn’t.

So I’ve come up with a few of my own.

Wiping your runny nose is “pre-sneezing”. Opening the car door is “pre-driving”. Doing the weekly shop is “pre-cooking”.  Waking up in the morning is “pre-working”.

And breaking wind is “pre-shi….” Oh. I’d better not elucidate on that one before the watershed.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Water cannons for the police - come on Teresa, just get on with it


Well hoo flipping ray.

The government are at last thinking of deploying water cannons on the streets as a measure to deter the trouble-making rubbish that cause our valiant police men and women such heartbreak and physical abuse.

I wrote to No 10 and the Home Secretary Kenneth Baker not long after John Major took over from Baroness (then Mrs) Thatcher suggesting how useful water cannons were in deterring the rubbish from making trouble on the streets of Northern Ireland. They replied that "no", not on my watch, i.e., "I've got an expenses scandal to built up to and the police have helmets anyway".

While I realise that the average police-worrying trouble-maker on the street possibly doesn't wash voluntarily anyway (the two words they detest being "soap" and "work"), they nevertheless object to being soaked with water on a typically cold British night.
So don't faff around Mrs May.

Get cracking and help the police to help themselves. They (the police) don't deserve to be abused and have bricks thrown at them (and more) as they protect the majority of the population who know to act like human beings irrespective of the score from a Premiershi* football match, or whatever it is that beings these mindless lunatics onto the streets to cause trouble.

Why oh why is everything such a trouble for the government?

Why does it take them so long to protect the long-suffering voter?

Car clamping, tax avoidance scams, price fixing, house selling, house rentals, rip-off consultants, petrol prices, motorway stop-over rip-offs and generally just everything Rip-Off Britain.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Hindsight.............oh sorry, forgot to mention it earlier

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

We have all, at some time, achieved greatness and magnificence through hindsight. We have obtained CBE's, OBE's and other wonderful accolades, been to afternoon tea with H M the Queen and even appeared on the BBC's One Show, all without the necessity of lowering ourselves to being a useless, snivelling, senior public-sector executive. All thanks mainly to hindsight.

Well not really. I just like having a go at the pathetic honour-chasers (we all know one of those in either local government or a local voluntary organisation don't we? You know the sort - does none of the work but grabs all of the glory).

Had I the Tardis, (you know, the Time and Relative Dimension in Space machine Dr Who drives around Time in - saves a fortune in parasite, er, I mean parking fees), I could return and correct some of the great errors of my ways  -  through hindsight.

Most I wont mention here, as being of the plain stupidity and male pride type, I don't want to appear to boast (i.e. totally embarrass myself).

However, there is one I wish I could borrow the Tardis for.

Last week saw the return to the BBC of "Would I lie to you". Quite an amusing programme by all accounts, but I simply couldn't face watching it.

Why? Because the panel of "guest contestants" was made up totally of the same old "celeb-rih-ees" we see either hosting their own programmes or guesting on other equally inane shows. Plainly the BBC now feels there are only 7 celeb-rih-ee guests in the world.

It would appear that "Have I Got News For You" is now the sole show on television capable of employing guests who aren't instantly recognisable.

Anyway. Vernon Kay. Lovely tall bloke. Very nice chap. Very tall. Treats members-of-the-public right, but is totally incomprehensible. And tall. A high chap in stature. Astoundingly has received an honorary doctorate from Bolton University for services to entertainment. Can only presume the academics couldn't understand a word he was saying, so in frustration, gave him the doctorate just to go away. Oh. And he's quite tall.

Fearne Cotton - to quote Rod Liddle of the Sunday Times "witters like an imbecile". I would add, "....at every opportunity". But I would never suggest that her good looks and being related to Sir Billy Cotton had anything to do with her employ at the BBC. Oh no.

Holly Willoughby - extremely lovely young lady, and unlike most of the useless eye candy on TV, speaks as beautifully as she looks. But sorry Hol - as beautiful as you are, you're a little bit inconsequential. Lights on and burning quite brightly at home, but not too sure the house is actually occupied! Or that there are even stairs to get to the first floor.

Stephen Mulhern - hosts, amongst other programmes, "Britain's Got Cowell Part 2" and Catchphrase, having decided that these shows are far less demanding on his intelligence than his membership of the Magic Circle. The "Britain's Got Cowell Part 2" is so moronic as to be a total insult.

And there are more. Devina McCall, Tess Daly, Jonathan Ross, Alan Carr.........on and on. Entertaining, but either irritating, on the TV far too much, or just absolutely useless.

And without being big-headed, I say I could do it myself. Be quite entertaining and useless at the same time. But thanks to hindsight, I missed by chance! 

Yes, I was offered a job at BBC Radio Leeds over 20 years ago by the wonderful Liz Green, and refused it! After much guesting on programmes, training at the BBC control desk and more, I refused. Because the lure of the new job I had just started was £6k more than the BBC could tempt me with, and came with a company car! 

While I knew it was a government spin-off, and seemed fairly safe, little did I know it would be staffed at senior level by clueless civil servants (I should add not all civil servants are clueless - it's just that found out rather later on that this lot were actually professionally useless - their former colleagues must have been delighted to see the back of them) who would all run back to where they came from when a change of government disbanded the national network of organisations, the local one for which I was working.

Yes. 20+ years later, I still regret saying to dear Liz when she phoned to offer me the job "Sorry Liz, I've just started a new job". Because my only big-headiness is to say "I could do just as well as these current numpties."

Sunday, 21 April 2013

We are giving away iPhone 5's because the box seal is broken........

For heaven's sake - if you see the "We have got 239 boxes of iPhone 5's that can’t be sold because they have been unsealed. Therefore we are giving them away for free" message doing the rounds, just avoid it! 
That's almost £150k's worth of phones being disposed of free because the seal is broken on the box!!!!!!

They are after your email or mobile details so they can either flood you with spam, or try and get personal details and fleece you with a credit or debit card deposit for unusually high postage (or they'll just try and clear out your bank account, max your credit card or steal your identity).

Come on. Be realistic. 
Who in their right mind would give an iPhone 5's away for free because the box is unsealed? I don't see any of the mobile phone shops, retailers or for that matter Apple themselves doing it!
Have you seen any similar offers from any other retailers? Dell giving away laptops because the box seal is broken? Fortnum and Mason giving away food hampers because the seal is broken? Dyson giving away vacuum cleaners because the box seal is broken? All similarly or lower priced items than an i-Phone!

Sign up to WOT (http://www.mywot.com/) and just see for yourselves how "too good to be true" these offers are.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Letter to the Teachers Union of Ireland on their boycott of Israel


To the Teachers' Union of Ireland on their boycott of Israel


Dear Sir/Madam

So, you're helping to turn the land of saints and scholars into a land of saints and racists! Maintaining the underlying continuence of being the only neutral country in Europe that takes sides.

Your boycott of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, is at the very least totally misguided, at the very most, ignorant and abhorrent racism.

You are making total fools of yourselves, supporting the arch anti-semitic agitator and libelous Jim Roche (I don't see him raising objections that his soul-mates the Taliban prevent girls from having an education, or that there is repression in Bahrain in the run-up to the Grand Prix!), who, plainly has so much time on his hands that should otherwise be used to better effect in promoting the cause of Irish Education. If he is so worried about Palestinians and the Gaza strip, he should actually be less of a coward and take a ticket (preferably one-way; I'm sure there's a queue to provide one) and go and live there.

I presume in pursuance of your ridiculous boycott, you, and your ambassador to Gaza, Roche, will now do your utmost to ensure your members will no longer make use of any of the items on the following list. All were invented in Israel, otherwise you will not only just be racists, but hypocritical racists to boot.

In particular, I draw your attention to mobile telephony, mobile storage (pen drives) for computers, INTEL processors, VOIP and Skype, all invented in Israel. You should stop using these immediately in pursuance of your boycott, together with agricultural solutions and medical treatments.

Also, you should note many of these Israeli medical inventions that are used for cancer and other degenerative diseases [sadly not antisemitism], as well as machines for internal microscopic body examinations - if you or your members have, for example, ulcers, or embolisms/blood clots as a result of strokes, please ensure these items invented in Israel are not used, as this would completely forfeit your boycott.

Here is a non-exhaustive lists of some Israeli inventions and achievements. I urge you to read through carefully making sure that you and your members stop using these below with immediate effect.

Chemistry

- Model of quasicrystals, discovered by Nobel prize winner Dan Shechtman of the Technion
- Discovery of Quasicrystals by Dan Shechtman of the Technion.[1] The discovery led him to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- Discovery of the role of protein Ubiquitin by Avram Hershko and Aaron Ciechanover of the Technion Institute (together with the American biologist Irwin Rose). The discovery led them to receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Physics

- Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation
- Prediction of Quarks by Yuval Ne'eman of Tel Aviv University (together with the American physicist Murray Gell-Mann).
- Discovery of the Aharonov-Bohm effect by Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm.
- Formulation of Black holes Entropy by Jacob Bekenstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Optics

- World's smallest video camera - a camera with a 0.99 mm diameter, designed to fit in a tiny endoscope designed by Medigus.
- Development of the "Pillcam" by Given Imaging, the first Capsule endoscopy solution to record images of the digestive tract. The capsule is the size and shape of a pill and contains a tiny camera.

Medicine
- The EarlySense continuous monitoring solution allows hospital nurses to watch and record patients’ heart rate, respiration and movement remotely through a contact-free sensor under the mattress. The system’s built in tools include a wide range of reports on the status of patients, including alerts for falls and bedsore prevention.
- Pillcam endoscopic capsule developed by Given Imaging
- Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation - a notation system for recording movement on paper that has been used in many fields, including dance, physical therapy, animal behavior and early diagnosis of autism.
- Development of the Copaxone immunomodulator drug for treating multiple sclerosis. It was developed in the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel by Michael Sela, Ruth Arnon and Deborah Teitelbaum.
- Development of the Interferon proteins by Michel Revel from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
- ReWalk, created by engineer Amit Goffer, founder of Archomedical.  The Rewalk is a kind of robot suit that enables wheelchair users to walk, sit and stand again.  A crutch, a system of movement censors, mini computers and rechargeable batteries all wrapped in a very lightweight material is part of this.
- Development of taliglucerase alfa (Elelyso), a recombinant glucocerebrosidase enzyme produced from transgenic carrot cell cultures.  Taliglucerase alfa won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May 2012 as an orphan drug for the treatment of Type 1 Gaucher's disease.

Economics
- Work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem explaining irrational human economic choices.
- Developments in Game theory. Israel Aumann of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem received the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in this field.
- The Rubinstein bargaining model, one of the most influential findings in game theory, refers to a class of bargaining games that feature alternating offers through an infinite time horizon. The proof is from Ariel Rubinstein 1982.

Biotechnology

- Nanowire - a conductive wire made of a string of tiny particles of silver, a thousand times thinner than a human hair. developed by Uri Sivan, Erez Braun and Yoav Eichen from the Technion.
- World's smallest DNA computing machine system - "the smallest biological computing device" ever constructed, according to Guinness Book of Records, which is composed of enzymes and DNA molecules capable of performing simple mathematical calculations and which uses its input DNA molecule as its sole source of energy it was developed in 2003 in the Weizmann Institute of Science by professor Ehud Shapiro and his team.

Theoretical computer science

- Michael O. Rabin introduced the concept of nondeterministic finite automatons.
- Amir Pnueli introduced temporal logic into computing science.

Technology
- Reconnaissance satellite TecSAR - developed and built by Israel Aerospace Industries.
- Technion Satellite - launched into space in July 1998, it is one of the smallest satellites in the world. Cube-shaped satellite which has 45 centimeter-long sides and weighs 48 kilograms and has an extremely low power consumption. The Technion satellite began as a student project of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, supervised by Haim Eshed and initiated by Giora Shaviv, former head of the Asher Space Research Institute (ASRI) at the Technion.
- Wall radar - a unique radar which utilizes Ultra Wide Band (UWB) to allows users to see through walls. Developed by the Israeli company Camro.
- Mobile telephony (developed in Israel by Motorola), the camera telephone chip, Voicemail and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) such as Skype and Digital Voice.
- Injured Personnel Carrier - A unique evacuation method developed by Israeli company Agilite Gear, comprises of a strap which allows you to carry the wounded person on your back.
- Airport Security That Checks Intentions -now hidden sensors can predict whether someone is planning a terrorist act
- PrimeSense revolutionises interaction with digital devices by allowing them to “see” in three dimensions and transfer control from remote controls and joysticks to hands and body. It is the leading business provider of low-cost, high-performance 3D machine vision technologies for the consumer market.
- Panoramic Power provides a current monitor solution that enables enterprises and organizations to reduce their operational and energy expenses using a breakthrough power flow visibility platform.
- Decell Technologies is a global leader in providing realtime road traffic information based on monitoring the location and movement of phones and GPS devices. Swift-i Traffic, Decell’s premium product, is incorporated in leading navigation systems, fleet management services, mapping operations and media channels in several countries.
- HydroSpin is developing a unique internal pipe generator that supplies electricity for water monitoring and control systems in remote areas and sites without accessibility to electricity.d an environmentally friendly and economically beneficial way to float solar panels on water instead of taking up valuable land, generating energy while protecting and limiting evaporation from reservoir surfaces.

Computing
- Intel Israel changed the face of the computing world with the 8088 processor (the “brain” of the first PC), MMX and Centrino mobile technology. Israeli engineers at Intel in the 1990s had to convince skeptical bosses to take a chance on MMX technology, an innovation designed to improve computer processing. It’s now considered a milestone in the company’s history.
- USB flash drive, originally marketed as the DiskOnKey - a flash memory data storage device integrated with a USB interface. The Israeli company M-Systems (in partnership with IBM) developed and manufactured the first USB flash drives available in North America.
- Quicktionary Electronic dictionary - a pen-sized scanner able to scan words or phrases and immediately translate them into other languages, or keep them in memory in order to transfer them to the PC. Developed by the Israeli company Wizcom Technologies Ltd.
- Laser Keyboard - virtual keyboard is projected onto a wall or table top and allows to type handheld computers and cell phones. Developed simultaneously by the Israeli company Lumio and Silicon Valley startup company Canesta . The company subsequently licensed the technology to Celluon of Korea.

Computer software
- Adi Shamir co-inventor of Differential cryptanalysis. Algorithms include Shamir's Secret Sharing.
- Lempel-Ziv-Welch algorithm - a universal lossless data compression algorithm created by Abraham Lempel and Jacob Ziv of the Technion institute together with the American Information theorist Terry Welch.
- Babylon - a single-click computer translation, dictionary and information source utility program developed by Amnon Ovadia.
- ICQ - an Instant Messaging software developed initially in 1996 by the Israeli company and adopted by AOL. Mirabilis.

Agriculture
- Tomaccio tomato developed by Hishtil Nurseries of Israel
- Drip irrigation using a non-clogging plastic emitter developed in Israel by Simcha Blass and his son Yeshayahu.
- Hybrid cucumber seeds - In the 1950s, Prof. Esra Galun of the Weizmann Institute developed hybrid seed production of cucumbers and melons, disease-resistant cucumbers and cucumbers suitable for mechanical harvesting. Galun and his colleagues invented a technique for producing hybrid cucumber seeds without hand pollination.
- TA C o u n t r e a l – t i m e microbiology enables the detection and counting of harmful microorganisms in a matter of minutes, rather than the conventional method of cell culture that takes several hours to a few days. The technology applies to the fields of drinking and wastewater, pharmaceuticals and food and beverage production.
- Netafim is a worldwide pioneer in smart drip and micro-irrigation, starting from the idea of Israeli engineer Simcha Blass for releasing water in controlled, slow drips to provide precise crop irrigation. The kibbutz-owned company operates in 112 countries with 13 factories throughout the world.

Energy
- Super iron battery - A new class of a rechargeable electric battery based on a special kind of iron. More environment friendly because the super-iron eventually rusts. It was developed by Stuart Licht of the University of Massachusetts.
- Energy tower - Purely theoretical alternative electricity generation and water desalination technology in low cost. The Energy towers spray water on hot air at the top of the tower, making the cooled air fall through the tower and drive a turbine at the tower's bottom. The brainchild of the American physicist Phillip Carlson which was expanded by Professor Dan Zaslavsky and Rami Guetta from the Technion.
- A unique technology for producing hydrogen in vehicles as an alternative fuel source. It is produced by the Israeli company Engineuity and was invented by Amnon Yogev and Eli Gmaazaon.
- Improvement of previously existing flat plate solar water heaters - A home facility which converts solar energy to thermal energy. Following the energy crisis in the 1970s, The Israeli law requires the installation of solar water heaters in all new homes. It was developed by Zvi Tavor.
- Solaris Synergy innovated an environmentally friendly and economically beneficial way to float solar panels on water instead of taking up valuable land, generating energy while protecting and limiting evaporation from reservoir surfaces.
- Leviathan Energy innovated the Wind Tulip, a cost-effective, silent, vibration-free wind turbine designed as an aesthetic environmental sculpture, producing clean energy at high efficiency from any direction.

Consumer goods and appliances
- Epilator (originally "Epilady") - an electrical device used to remove hair by mechanically grasping multiple hairs simultaneously and pulling them out. It was developed and originally manufactured at Kibbutz HaGoshrim.
- Wonder Pot - a pot developed for baking on the stovetop rather than in an oven.
- Micronized coating instant hot water pipes developed by A.C.T.
- Artificial gills - a theoretical special diving system that is not yet in production, currently being developed by the Israeli company Like-A-Fish Technologies which produces oxygen from water making oxygen tanks unnecessary.

Games
- Rummikub - a tile-based game for two to four players invented in Israel by Ephraim Hertzano.
- Hidato - a logic puzzle game invented by the Israeli mathematician Gyora Benedek.
- Taki - an Israeli card game invented by Haim Shafir.
- Mastermind - an Israeli board game invented by Mordecai Meirowitz.

Foods
- Bamba - peanut butter-flavored snack which has been manufactured by the Osem corporation since 1966. Bamba is one of the leading snack foods produced and sold in Israel.
- Limonana - a type of lemonade made from freshly-squeezed lemon juice and mint, created in the early 1990s after an advertising agency promoted the then-fictitious product to prove the efficacy of advertising on public buses. The advertising campaign generated so much consumer demand that the drink began to be produced for real by restauranteurs and manufacturers, becoming a summer staple in Israel and other Middle Eastern countries.
- Ptitim - wheat-based baked pasta. It was initially invented during the austerity period in Israel when rice was scarce.
- Shkedei marak - small yellow crisp crouton squares used as a soup accompaniment.


I have purposefully not mentioned defence inventions such as the Uzi, Iron Dome etc, as "friends" of Israel in neighbouring countries can go and search for themselves

I think the above bit more of an exhaustive list of inventions than those of other countries in the Middle East, renown for such world wonders as :

- rocket attacks
- Jihadists
- Al Queda
- fundamentalists
- suicide bombers

- forging pictures of attacks on civilians
- disallowing women to drive
- book burnings
- fatwahs
- flag burnings
- killing fellow citizens

all the otherwise sole inventions of countries neighbouring Israel, but not exactly the stuff of Nobel Prize Winners.

But then your type keep your blinkers firmly on and never look at the other side, do you?

Is mise le meas

Edward Moss

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Immorality in recruitment.......just for a change





















Thursday, 4 April 2013

CHRISTMAS

It's behind you (oh! no it isn't - oh! yes it is etc.).

It doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, and yet it's nearly with us again. In fact, it's always nearly with us again. Or is it just that it never went away?

The Festive lights are switched on in August.....or is it next week? Those annoying advertisements for less than useful products from Tomy and Fisher Price, all featuring Santa with a smile that make you want to vomit, clutter up the advertisement breaks on children’s commercial television for months in advance.

The Post Office are quick to remind us of the last days for posting to obscure islands off the coast of Tasmania, but beggar if they can succeed in getting a first class letter from London to St Albans tomorrow before they impose another price rise. Or before one of their raft of ivory-tower, HR-infected managers, who wouldn't know a post round if it hit them in the mouth, comes up with another “fabulous” idea to make the life of the over-worked Posties on the street even more intolerable!

And Noddy Holder and Roy Wood get dusted down and rolled out again.

Ho! Ho! blinking Ho! It's Mr Retail Festival, the patron saint of credit cards.

As far as I can tell, it seems the departmental store trim-a-tree displays have never been taken down. (What do people do with their baubles from year to year that they have to continually replace them every Christmas?).

The DIY stores have long abandoned their Bar-B-Q and tatty plastic garden furniture displays for instant Christmas trees (which should be Bar-B-Q'd) and equally tatty plastic Santas, baubles and other irrelevant Yuletide junk supposedly designed to help you enjoy the Festering Season.

But in reality, they only assist the directors and shareholders in having a happier Christmas.

Oh! And we mustn’t forget the Christmas hamper advertisements that are even more regular than utility bills - that is, if your hamper company stays in business long enough.

But we must remember that it is, after all, a religious festival. Something to do with someone's birth, I believe. I bet there are many who didn't realise that! There' may even be the odd prayer or carol (unfortunately, it's usually a Vorderman) on the telly, or a man in fancy dress telling us to repent and think charitably.

Them, someone, somewhere, will have had the utter temerity to send you a tasteless, traditional Christmas card with the picture of a cross, grotto or even a representation of the great man himself as a reminder. Although, it will be a £3 charity card that the stationery chain will donate 2p from each to homeless otters in Poulton-le-Fylde.

Oh! And don't forget HM the Queen and her royal unfortunate's by-now traditional goodwill and horrible anuses to all men, at 3pm, over a plateful of turkey and cranberry sauce. The meal purchased, no doubt, at vastly over inflated prices (it's the demand, you know, despite turkey and cranberries being on sale all year-round) from one of the 'helpful' supermarket chains who are absolutely fantastic at helping themselves to the money from your wallet.

But in reality, what is Christmas all about nowadays?

Business shuts for two weeks solid, except for the poor souls who have to go to work at a minute past Christmas to open the doors for the great public to go sale-ing or returning the useless presents they received from long-lost relatives who thought that they could palm off any old rubbish in exchange for a 6-day stay.

Now here's an idea - why not buy store vouchers for your loved ones as a present. They automatically gain at least 25% if not 50% or even 75% in value at a minute past Christmas, depending on the level of reduction in the post-Christmas sales.

But do you not find it an insult that the wonderful present you bought for your loved one three days before Christmas is suddenly, five days later, on sale in the same shop for up to 75% less than you paid for it (or has she already stuck it on e-bay)?

And what's more, some of the stores have the bare-faced cheek to flag up their post- Christmas sales on the till receipt for the goods you've paid full price for three days before Christmas!

Bah! Humbug!

And one mustn't forget one's tree adornments - how about Bert and Ernie (from Sesame Street) or garden gnome illuminated 'fairy' lights! Or a singing Christmas Tree that looks like a plastic Jeremy Kyle on steroids. Or for that matter even an inflatable Christmas tree.

And to wrap those presents you've spent a fortune on - why there's flashing (yes, as in coat opening and revealing) Santa wrap of course! And there's always Santa in a Can or Christmas Pudding and Brandy Butter foam bath. All very Bethlehemmy!

It's not that retailers think the buying public are stupid and gullible.

They KNOW we're stupid and gullible.

HOT NEWS JUST IN


Had a fantastic morning preparing for England's win in rugby.

Or will it be a win in Derby?

Well, it's not that I will be attending the match, or that I might even watch it on television – in fact I don’t even know if or when they are playing - but I could tell something might up judging by the copious amount of Carlsberg Lager people were buying from the supermarket when I popped in at 7.30am.

I had been instructed by the wife to purchase some "low fat" (could have sworn that is the name of our local Chinese Take-Away) red cheese, and found out something that made me slightly suspicious, not that I might be in any way cynical when it comes to supermarket shopping, you will understand.

All the red cheese - the normal, the "Be Good" to yourself, the simply red cheese (presumably the stuff Mick Hucknall buys), the super-duper "Taste the Difference" and the Con You Sir, oops, I mean Connoisseur red cheese contained EXACTLY 33.7g fat per 100g.

That, to me, is one of life's true con-incidents, oops, I mean coincidences. Smells a bit fishy. Or cheesy.

Were they perchance from the same batch, genetically related, only packaged differently in order to sell them to the unaware shopper at varying prices? Or was I being a little too harsh on the supermarkets who, after all, offer on the one hand such good value to the farmers they beat up, and on the other, save local shopkeepers from paying rent by forcing them out of businesses?

There were also a few logistic problems at the checkout - one of those multi-ones for baskets only, where four operators sit back to back. The Sikh checkout didn't want to sell a joint of beef, while both the Jewish and Muslim operators didn't want to sell bacon. The Jehovah’s Witness was refusing to sell a woman sanitary towels. 

Then the supermarket team leader adjusted his shorts, straightened his "Bob the Builder" badge and frogmarched into the fray, unprepared to speak to anyone who wasn't related to either someone with an OBE, or who, at the very least, had an Oxbridge education. Although with his headphones on, shouting self-important instructions into his microphone, it’s a wonder he could talk to anyone (those who shop in the same supermarket I do will know the one I mean - the buck-toothed, greasy-haired little oik who was in charge of North Korea in a former life).

After all this excitement, I then dashed home to watch Jeremy Kyle, only to discover I can’t stand the programme and don’t even know what channel or when it’s on!