Blog Archive

Thursday, 4 September 2014

So pleased

the boat is back in England. Our truck driver, Richard, told us of the problems he faces when travelling through the channel ports of Dunkirk or Calais.


Illegal immigrants try to board a lorry at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel


France is becoming the “weak link” in Europe’s migration control.

The mayor of the northern French city of Calais has threatened to block the port unless Britain does more to control the number of illegal migrants.


Illegal immigrants storm a ferry at Calais



Shifting the blame to the UK  is easier for the French, who signed the Schengen Agreement. Ireland and the UK opted out.

Answer to th
e question  Why Should England Share France's Immigration Problem, Would They Ours? 
The assembly of illegal immigrants  in the channel ports is in a large part down to the ridiculous free movement rules brought about courtesy of the EU. Once migrants get into an EU country it is impossible to stop them heading towards their chosen Utopia - the UK. Many of the eastern outposts of the EU have border controls from their adjoining non-EU neighbours which are, shall we say, none too robust. By its eastern expansion the EU has effectively provided France with a border with Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Turkey. As well as this they have an unenforced border with Italy where large numbers of migrants land from North Africa. It is little wonder they are seeing huge numbers of migrants arriving at the channel ports. This is not the fault of the UK, it is the fault of the EU, and in particular those EU nations who are members of the Schengen Agreement (though it has to be said that border controls on mainland Europe had all but disintegrated long before that agreement came into force). 

There is no reason why the UK should "share" the results of this folly. The way for France to tackle the problem is to prevent the migrants entering France in the first place. But they cannot, and that's their fault. 

Unfortunately France must be bound by the rules that state that asylum should be claimed in the first safe country that the applicant arrives in. In most cases that is not France but had the French not signed up to the Schengen agreement and continued to patrol their borders with the same vigour as the UK (which I know is still insufficient but a good bit more effective than France) they may not have such a problem. The migrants would most probably be in Germany or Italy. Had they, in turn, not signed up to the Schengen agreement (etc. etc.). (New Judge's answer to the question posed on a forum)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A crafter's story





A woman wanted to purchase a beautiful hand crocheted dress and spotted a crafter who did absolutely amazing work, but she charged a good price too. The woman thought that the price was way too high so she approached the crocheter and in quite a brusk fashion stated "I want to buy a dress from you, but I think you charge too much." The crafter was a little taken aback but replied "Ok, how much do you think i should charge?" The woman replied “I think you should charge “X” much, because the yarn will cost this much, and ribbons this much, and buttons this much. I even factored in the price of scissors."



The final price the woman had calculated was a lot cheaper than the crafter's original price, but she said "Ok, deal. You will get your dress in a week".








The woman was very pleased with herself and couldn't resist telling all her friends what a fabulous deal she had negotiated, how smart she is, and that in a week she will have her gorgeous crocheted dress.

A week later her parcel arrived in a lovely packaged box. She opened it and inside was yarn, ribbons, buttons and even scissors. Angrily she contacted the crafter asking “How could you do this to me? I asked you for a dress and you sent me a box of yarn, ribbon, buttons and scissors?!" The crafter quietly replied "My dear, you got exactly what you paid for, if you think there is something missing, you need to pay for it."


Monday, 21 April 2014

Pan's Labyrinth - was it worth struggling to read the sub-titles for hours?



No it wasn't

On the same altar of High Fantasy as The Lord of The Rings? I think not, Finknoffle.

Instead of a reality and a fantasy that intertwine and comment on each other, we have two fantasies that are like ships that pass in the night. 




I was beginning to think I was the only one who found nothing remarkable in this film. Then I found this review, by Travis Mackenzie Hoover, which sums up my thoughts so well that I need not bother going into any more detail.

Suffice to say, I was expecting something like a cross between Alice and Narnia but, apart from one short scene where the heroine looks very Alice-like as she squeezes through the inadequately-size door she has created, there was nothing to engage the mind in the same way.











Tuesday, 4 March 2014

We have lift off

WriterconUK is go!

Put it in your diary - 12th - 14th September, Coventry Ramada Suites Hotel.

Relaxing at The Event Dinner
Everyone has a role in fandom – this is your chance to mix with people who write, create, or simply appreciate the work of those who do.

WriterConUK began in 2007 to  provide opportunities for the virtual community to meet in real time. Each year, we organise  a weekend of activities for fandom Writers, Artists, and Vidders.




Fans from any fandom are very welcome to join us. So far, we have members who list Lord of the Rings, Torchwood, Stargate, Supernatural, XFiles, Doctor Who, Being Human, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Discworld, Merlinand Sherlock among their interests, as well as  crossovers - some of them unexpected (Bagpuss and other Children's series).

Share this with your friends and anyone you think would be interested in a weekend of fun and introduction to the creative world of writing, graphics, and more ..........





Saturday, 1 February 2014

Hurrah

for Pipedown.



Hate Piped Music (Muzak)? You are not alone. 

Extract from The Lady Magazine - Time to Pull the Plug on Piped Music

It's a modern plague, filling our ears with needless nonsense. 

Written by Nigel Rogers

What do Joanna Lumley, Stephen Fry, Prunella Scales, Lesley Garrett, Julian Lloyd Webber and Simon Rattle have in common? They all hate piped music and all support Pipedown, the campaign for freedom from piped music. 

They’re not alone in detesting this acoustic pollution. Millions of people hate such music, which can often be inescapable. Go into a hotel and piped music will be flooding the lobby; it fills the restaurants; it is played in lifts – one of its names is ‘elevator music’ – and in corridors; it is even tinkling away in the lavatories. 

Hellishly ubiquitous, it goes on forever, unlike live music whose players pause for breath or for drinks, and which is seldom relayed far. (‘Piped music’ does not refer to a type of music but to any music piped or relayed around a room or building where people go for reasons other than listening to it.) The same unwanted music fills shops, restaurants, pubs, even parks. 

And if you protest, you can be made to feel a tone-deaf killjoy in a minority of one. ‘You are the only person to complain,’ is a common response. It is also rubbish. Impartial opinion polls show that those who loathe piped music outnumber those who like it. But often people do not like to complain and slip away quietly. 

People who notice it with real pain include that large minority – one in six – with hearing problems. They find it impossible to hear conversations against piped music. 

Musicians find it a pain in the ear because they invariably listen to music, while music teachers hate it because it is hard to get students sated with non-stop music to listen properly at all. 

And for people lying immobilised in hospitals, piped music or television can be torture. 




Think this is all a storm in a teacup? Remember, Piped Music does not come free, but is an extra that must be paid for with every meal, drink, ticket, piece of clothing.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The season of peace, goodwill to all men and

parking rage.



I honestly don't see the point of celebrating Christmas if it means that the notion of patience, politeness, and goodwill to fellow drivers flies out of the window when looking for a parking space on a Market Day.



I drove MWNN to the station yesterday, then went on to shop in town. It was market day. Drivers behaved in very unseasonable ways, as is usual in the week before Christmas Day.

I don't see the point of celebrating Christmas at all if the central message gets lost in the annual scramble to buy 'stuff', out-do the neighbours in decorating the house, and spend the festive season over-eating and drinking.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

It's Christmas!

Well, no, actually - it isn't.

But, if you watch commercial TV, you'd be forgiven for thinking Christmas was nigh. They're clever and manipulative these modern adverts.


I quite like the M&S one with its reference to children's stories. But, and it's a very big but, they make me sad, and a little angry.






The message of Christmas has, once again, been hijacked, sacrificed on the altar of Profit. Wasn't it always, I hear you say? I don't know the answer to that. Historical records tell us that feasting and fun were a part of community life in winter - a way of celebrating the return of the sun at the winter solstice.



Communities would gather, light fires, and feast. In the Northern Hemisphere, this would take place on 21st December (or thereabouts).  Feuds would be put on hold (mistletoe over an entrance) in recognition of common humanity surviving in a savage world.



The Christian Church integrated the solstice in their celebration of the birth of Christ. It could be argued that this was an early form of 'spin' - a way of filling the churches with those unwilling to abandon their pagan ways.


Children have always been at the heart of Christmas celebrations. I'm old enough to remember a childhood where extended families, attended church,  came together for a meal (the women sharing the labour of providing it) and the children were supervised playing seasonal games (the men organising and supervising) - a bit sexist, I know, but this was the 1950s and women were still second-class citizens.



So why, you might ask, am I so annoyed at the modern spin doctors - the media? It's all about the emphasis. The simple message of sharing, peace, goodwill to all, in the midst of giving thanks for surviving another winter, has been lost. It is all about the giving of gifts (and the wanting of things). TV has been with us for almost 60 years. In that time, the wanting of things has grown, status gained through ownership of things.


The important things of what makes a society civilised seem to have been downgraded and are in danger of being lost. It doesn't have to be specifically Christian (other religions have been swept into the consumerism surrounding Christmas).


I'd like to see a return to a winter celebration of thanksgiving for the continuation of life, through the sharing of a meal in a spirit of peace and goodwill.

That's not too much to ask, is it?


Monday, 16 September 2013

The measure of success?

Things are a little out of kilter when coming second is seen as failure. We saw it at the Olympics last year, when Silver or Bronze medals were greeted with disappointment by some people.

It happened again, yesterday in Hyde Park when Johnathan Brownlee was beaten into second place in the World Triathlon Championships.



Spain's Javier Gomez won his third ITU World Triathlon title as he beat Britain's Jonathan Brownlee in a sprint finish at the Grand Final in London.
Brownlee was overtaken on the home straight by Gomez, who finished one second ahead of the 2012 champion.
"I gave it everything but there was nothing I could do. It was tough.
Johnathan's brother Alistair told BBC Sport that his brother was a "complete tactical numpty" for not waiting until closer to the line before attempting to outsprint Gomez.
Jonathan, who won a bronze medal at London 2012, set off with 250m remaining but was overhauled by 30-year-old Gomez just before the finish.
"Alistair wanted me to use my brain and to think about it. I did use my head as much as I could," said Jonathan, who admitted losing by such a narrow margin was "quite hard to take".
I understand that competitiveness is a good thing, especially at the Elite level. But what sort of message does this send to would-be amateur athletes? If winning is all-important, why bother starting any sort of healthy activity?
This attitude is also prevalent in the world of eduction. The annual 'league tables' laud those pupils who score A or A*. Anything less is seen as not good enough. Some of my friends recall this attitude from their own childhood when a parent would respond "Why weren't you first?" when told that the child had achieved 'second place' in something at school. I'm not suggesting that all competition is bad, far from it, competition spurs us on to improve our performance. 

This advert for washing powder sums up my feelings of how not to encourage children (listen to the final line from Dad). Belittling anyone's efforts merely undermines whatever confidence they may have, to a child, it can add to their low self-esteem.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ticking all the boxes




For me, this article sums up what NHS provision has become these days - an exercise in box-ticking that considers the system's needs above those of the patient.


Thursday, 25 October 2012

I'm speechless



Oh really?

Perhaps I'm being a little naive, but haven't retired people already paid for their pensions through taxation and pension contributions during their working lives? The suggestion that retired people should do 'voluntary' work for part of their hard-earned pension is rather like telling  workers they must work more hours for the same weekly wage. Oh, and, by the way, no you can't have access to all the money you saved for your pension unless you do some more work to earn it.

What part of the word 'retired' does Lord Bichard not understand?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Cuts in services

 The NHS was set up in 1948. For the first time, hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, opticians and dentists were brought together under one umbrella organisation to provide services that were free for all at the point of delivery. The central principles were clear: the health service would be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which meant that people paid into it according to their means.



After having my hearing loss finally diagnosed after I retired, I  wondered why it was that  my NHS hearing aid (although I was given only one when I needed two) and its batteries were free when I had to pay for spectacle frames and lenses and pay a subscription towards dental care. It made no sense whatsover.

Well, it seems that the last vestiges of the original NHS system are coming to an end with the latest cuts to services. More and more people (me included) are having to rely on the private sector for their hearing aids and lifelong follow-up care.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

I rarely get angry


When I do, it's best to stand clear. Anger at disgraceful customer service and incompetent (at best) or fraudulent trading from one of Tesco Direct's suppliers.


The saga of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone-that-never-was is ongoing and I am hundreds of pounds poorer with nothing to show for it.

Recap
  • ETA of ordered goods came and went - no sign of phone. 
  • No communication from PG explaining delay.
  • Status on Tesco Direct order page - to be dispatched.
Suspicion set in, so I Googled Purely Gadget reviews and was horrified by what I read. A catalogue of taking money for items that weren't in stock. Promising swift dispatch, then dragging feet over cancellation and refund.

Armed with that knowledge, I  contacted PG  by phone to cancel the order, refusing to accept 'I'll check with Warehouse for you'. Stuck to my guns and demanded cancellation and refund. Followed up the phone-call with email cancelling the order.

24 hours later, had a reply to the email offering 'freebies' to be 'more patient' and await imminent dispatch. Patience all gone, I refused the offer and confirmed cancellation and refund request. Email reply confirmed cancellation and promised refund would be in my account within 2-5 working days.

  • Five working days later, no refund appeared and Tesco Direct order page still showed 'awaiting dispatch'.
  • Submitted a Tesco Direct 'raise a claim' for refund and received a cancellation notification from TD with a promise that refund would be in my account within 5 working days.
  • Status on Tesco Direct order page showed 'cancelled'. I await the refund. 

Despite numerous complaints and poor reviews, these companies contimue to trade, offering goods which are not in stock (although they are marked as 'in stock' on the website) and, in my case, are not going to be in stock for the foreseeable future. Money is taken from buyer's accounts in the knowledge that the item is not available. This, surely, is not good trading procedure. Amazon, for example, does not debit the money from customer accounts until after the goods have been dispatched.

I need lots of calming tea - at frequent intervals.


Friday, 28 September 2012

It's simply amazing


The RNLI has saved more than 139,000 lives since its foundation in 1824 and continues its work as a voluntary organisation free from governmment funding (and interference). Many people take to the waters with no experience or training and get into difficulties, putting volunteers lives at risk as well as their own. It's a taken-for-granted that anyone can buy a boat and go out to sea (or on Inland Waterways)  - almost like it's our birthright as an island race.

RNLI check a flooded campsite, September 24 2012
 It's not just those who use the beaches and offshore waters who benefit from RNLI services. During the recent floods in the UK, RNLI crews have been involved in rescues that are often miles from the coast. Recent years have seen a significant expansion of the service, with the introduction of RNLI lifeguards and the first lifeboat station on an inland waterway, both in 2001.

RNLI team - Tenby Ironman 2012

 RNLI also provides Lifeguards on the UK's beaches and safety teams for athletes. It was fitting, therefore, that there was  a team of athletes racing to raise funds for RNLI at IronmanWales in Tenby. The crowd gave great support throughout the race, encouraging each athlete by name. Ultimate Challenge athletes, Kate and Charlie Stannett raised money (collected through Just Giving) during Tenby Ironman for the RNLI.

RNLI relies on donations, so give what you can when you can.


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Parade's End




The first episode of Tom Stoppard's TV serialisation of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End tetrology has received mixed reviews (This one is favourable and accurate, IMO).

Many of the complaints are based on ignorance of the structure of the 'modern' novel. Critics claim to have been unable to follow the plot as it 'jumps about too much'. Ford Madox Ford explains it simply - “No person telling a story in real life, ... begins at the beginning… for it will come back to you in patches, an incident here, another of ten years earlier… The ‘technique’ of the modern novelist is merely an attempt to tell his story as stories are really told.”

 Other complaints concentrate on the sound quality (or lack of it). Yes, the sound quality was terrible in parts, thanks again to the sound-track drowning the dialogue. Where there is no 'musical backing track', the dialogue is clear.

photo

I enjoyed the first episode very much, thanks, in no small part to the excellent casting. I know of no actor better fitted to gaining the viewer's sympathy for the character of Christopher Tietjens than Benedict Cumberbatch.

 I've already downloaded all four of the Parade's end novels, along with what is considered to be Madox Ford's finest, The Good Soldier.  I won't be reading the former until the TV series ends but may read The Good Soldier before then.




Friday, 24 August 2012

Cashing in on others' pain

makes me really angry

Just because commercial organisations do it, doesn't make it right. Indeed, those organisations are engaging in morally questionable behaviour when they do it. 

I'm talking about using disasters, particularly 7/11 and 7/7 to self-promote.

"The September 11, 2001, attacks have been a symbol of many things and many causes, but like the lavish, flag-draped rebuilding of the site, it has also been a vehicle for enrichment. From corporations to politicians, to government officials, to nonprofits, to the security industry, to publishers. to the health industry (not to mention the incidents of outright fraud over the years), many people have found ways to profit from one of the nation's biggest disasters." ~ The Village Voice (NY)

There is no excuse for this. You are using someone else's pain for your own self-agrandisement and profit. If you really want keep the memory alive, post something on your Blog or contribute to the disaster fund in some way. Volunteer, donate, get involved by working for a charitable organisation that supports victims, contribute something to society instead of taking from it.

Most of all, do not cash in for self-promotion and try to pass it off as 'dedicated to the memory'. I'm not going to link to the item that sparked this entry as it would be defeating the point I want to make.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Is it just me?





 Or is the BBC sending out the wrong message with the latest TV licence advert 'you don't have to do everything at once.'




I've been meaning to post about this for a while but keep forgetting until the advert is aired again on the BBC.
video

'All at once', which launched in mid-June, shows a young couple’s relationship unfolding from start to end in one conversation - from meeting, through marriage, having children,  to divorce in under 90 seconds. The punch line 'you don't have to do it all at once' clearly relates to the purchase of the annual TV licence. But what message does the scenario chosen to represent 'doing things all in one go' give to the viewer?

The implication of the story is clearly that marriage ends in break up and divorce sooner or later. This message is at best false, and at worst malicious, undermining the successful efforts of many to live in faithfulness together.

The implied message 'divorce is the normal end of a marriage' niggles. Nay, it more than niggles, it makes me angry. Divorce statistics may make gloomy reading but they do not promote the easy way out of marital problems as this advert does.

What do you think?


Friday, 17 August 2012

We are not amused



Queen Victoria would not have been amused by the news that Hitchin has lost its sorting office. There has been a Royal Mail sorting office in the town since 1860 and, when the mail was moved by steam train, Hitchin workers played a major role in the travelling sorting office - the Night Mail, made famous in WH Auden's poem of the same name.



Night Mail
We've already lost our regular postie-onna-bike, Colin, who we knew well and the post arrives by van - no-time-to-stop-and-chat woman. Admittedly it's regular, always appearing between 12noon and 1pm. Early fears of having to travel a considerable distance to the sorting office in Stevenage for undelivered parcels have proved unfounded. There is a local arrangement with the main Post Office counters in the town, not too far from the now-defunct sorting office. But the link with the town has been severed and we feel at the mercy of the larger Stevenage Borough sorting office.

We will not miss the ugly collection of buildings that was the sorting office  overlooking the riverside market area but wait with bated breath to see what replaces it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Sound quality

or lack thereof.

The Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 opened with the same quote as did the Opening Ceremony.

Timothy Spall as Winston Chrchill
  

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not." William Shakespeare,








Sounds that should have been 'sweet airs' and music that give(s) delight were just noise - and noisy, cacophonous  noise at that. It did hurt too. Sometimes it was so painful it was unrecognisable as music at all. Madness' 'Our House'  and Liam Gallagher's 'Wonderwall' were hardly relevant and barely audible.

Nor was some of the music chosen fitting for the Closing Ceremony. Much as I love John Lennon's Imagine, whose idea was it to use it as the anthem for the celebration of an event that is primarily about competition? Healthy, good-natured (for the most part) competition between nations rather than a 'world will be as one'. Imagine there's no countries and imagine no possessions are really not suitable lyrics for competitors who were putting all their efforts into winning medals (primarily gold) for their homelands.

Very few of the songs were the sort of anthems a crowd could get behind either. The one exception was Queen's 'We will Rock You'. We'd heard it chanted by the crowds at events throughout the Games.   When Freddie Mercury 'conducted' the audience from a giant screen (a video of the warm-up of Live Aid) , I hoped that we'd hear his voice taking the lead. It was not to be. Brian May and Roger Taylor were joined by Jessie J, whose timing and delivery fell far short of the mark. Lennon's 'Imagine', by comparison, was started by a children's choir, and continued with an audio track of the man himself.

Add to all this a lack of explanation from the BBC's Commentators about what was happening and who was performing, and the whole thing was a bit of a mess. Contributions from Eric Idle (perfect clarity from his head-mic) lifted things in the middle and The Who showed the yougsters how to do it properly at the end with 'My Generation' (at least that was fitting for a Games that was promising a legacy to follow). 

Not quite nul points for Aunty Beeb but not medal-worthy either, which is a shame, because the Games were full of medal-worthy moments.


Monday, 13 August 2012

More Copyright bullying





The Hobbit pub in Portswood has been trading under that name for over 20 years. It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs and has "Frodo" and "Gandalf" cocktails on the menu.

The pub was threatened with legal action by Hollywood Lord of the Rings film firm the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) in March. Following a campaign to save the pub, led by the likes of Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan, SZC offered to resolve the dispute over the pub's name and decor by licensing it to use JRR Tolkien brands. Wrangling over the small print of the deal is continuing and legal fees are mounting. The pub is hosting fund-raising events (with a little help from Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, and Sir Ian McKellan) to pay legal fees.

Nearly 60,000 people have also joined a Facebook campaign to save the pub thanks to the backing of Fry through his Twitter Account. Fry, who stars in the forthcoming Tolkien film The Hobbit, called it "self-defeating bullying", while Sir Ian, who plays Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films, described it as "unnecessary pettiness". Both actors have offered to pay the licencing fees once the dispute is settled.

I reported some time ago of similar bullying of Ravelry by the American Olympic Committee. Bullying in all forms, but espcially of the rich and powerful of those unable to match them, makes me cross to say the least. I suspect that without influential 'friends' Fry and McKellan, The Hobbit would have faced an uncertain future and even closure.


Friday, 10 August 2012

While it's nice

 that Google is marking the 2012 Olympics with a new doodle each day, I can't help but think that it's encouraging passive viewing rather than encouraging more participation in sport.

Throughout the Games, Google has published a number of doodle vidoes (some interactive).




The Football video reminds me of the early Video games  played on a TV with a hand-held device




Then there's the hurdles doodle - again it's like an early video game


Taking part in sport 'virtually' is not what it's all about - unless you count exercising the digits as exercise.

Stick to the image doodle in  future please Google.