Sunday, August 31, 2008

10 Items, More Or Less

I'm all for correct spelling and good grammar - both of which are sadly in decline thanks, in many cases, to mobile phone texting and internet chatting in general.

I make lots of mistakes of course, but hopefully know when to use they're, there and their for example. Simple stuff but it's so annoying how many get it wrong.

So what about good old plain English ? You know. Lets not use lots of big words when simple ones will do.

At least that's what I always thought was meant by plain English.

Clearly the 'experts' at the Plain English Campaign have a different agenda.

Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in the UK, have a few checkouts in each store for those customers who only have a few items in their baskets. And as a single person often buying a few basic items, God bless them for it.

How many items ? Well about 10 items, since you ask.

Therefore the signs over these checkouts have stated "10 Items Or Less" for years now and I wasn't aware this was a particularly complicated or confusing request.

We've all been behind people with a lot more than 10 items in their baskets but these people are only making use of the great British attitude to such violations as they know they'll get a few tuts at best and a long stare or glare at worst.

But that's not to say these selfish bastards have misunderstood the sign or reckon that it can't possibly apply as it's patently ambiguous. No, they're (not their or there) just selfish bastards.

Enter The Plain English Campaign. This august body has decided that the word 'less' should not be used in this instance. According to them, 'less' is correct only when quantities cannot be individually counted - as in "I would like less water". When quantities CAN be counted, then 'fewer' should be used - as in "fewer than 10 apples".

Oh please.

I'm not sure what is more amazing here. That this bunch of nothing-better-to-do experts have complained about this to Tesco or that Tesco have taken heed of them and are going to change all their (not they're or there) signs. Yes they are.

The best part is that Tesco are going one step further, or is that backwards, by making the signs even more precise, if that was needed.

Not for them a sign stating "10 Items Or Fewer" or even "Fewer Than 10 Items." Oh no, that would be too easy. And maybe confusing. Or controvertial. Or something.

The new signs, being phased in at a Tesco store near you (well in the UK at least) will state.......

............drum roll please....................

"Up To 10 Items. Selfish Bastards Please Use Other Checkouts."

Well no, I added that last bit. I know. You guessed that already.

The Plain English Campaign are known as language watchdogs. Well watch this then : sod off you bunch of hairy assed fuckwits.

There. I've insulted them in less than 10 words. Or fewer. Well up to 10 anyway.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

When Is A Celebrity Not A Celebrity ?

.........when they agree to appear on a celebrity reality show !!

Not so long ago, a celebrity WAS someone. Simple as that. Usually a film star or a tv star; someone you'd probably go to the end of the street to see. On a wet day. In winter. In Normanton.

Then we got divisions. Levels of celebrity. As well as the big names we got the expression, minor celebrity. Even B-list celebrity. And that was about the lot.

Now though, loads of tv shows and magazines have made a mockery of the word celebrity.

As an aside, I've never understood why groups like the paparazzi even exist. They spend their nasty intrusive lives trying to get photos of celebrities going about their daily business. Why ? They'd say it's because WE want it. WE buy the magazines that contain the photos. Photos of Britney in her car at an LA fast food outlet. Photos of Madonna pushing a pram in a London park. Photos of Brad Pitt or George Clooney arriving in Venice for a film festival. Whoop di do. Who gives a damn ?

But at least these people could be classed as celebrities, A-list ones if you like. But what about these sad, sad people who pop up on the ridiculous reality shows that fill our screen these days ?
It's got beyond a joke and I thank God (and Virgin Media - oh a bit of a dubious connection there !!) ) that I've still got sport and movies and the occasional soap to watch as the rest is celebrity crap.

Have a look at the UK line up at the moment :

Celebrity MasterChef
Cash In The Celebrity Attic
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire ? Celebrity Special
Celebrity Entourage : The Powder Room
Extreme: Skinny Celebrities
Extreme: Skinny Celebrity Mums
Celebrity Deathmatch
Alan Carr's Celebrity Ding Dong
Celebrity Weakest Link
Celebrity Ready Steady Cook
Celebrity Swaps
Celebrity Slimming
Celebrity Kitchen

And there are also at least a dozen one off shows like :

Shortest Celebrity Marraiges
Celebrity Diet Secrets Revealed
Celebrity Near Death Experiences
Celebrity Plastic Surgery
30 Most Outrageous Celebrity Feuds
Sexiest Celebrity Brunettes

I kid you not. All these shows are currently being shown here in the UK and I can guarantee you that, apart from the one off shows where the 'celebrity' has no say in being a part of it, all the rest of the shows contain celebrities you have to Google to find out who the hell they are, or were, or want to be.

And remember these are just the shows with the word 'celebrity' in them. There are others.

'Celebrity' has become as debased a concept as 'hero' in modern terms. Anyone can be one. You don't have to do much.

And flying along in a few days time we have a new one. Oh God help us all.


Yes it promises to be as bad as it sounds and the first indication of this is that it's going straight to the B-channel, ITV2. No mainstream prime time spot for this one.

The idea is that a bunch of has beens or wanna bees or who the fuck are yous are given airline jobs on the ground or in the air and the ones that piss us off the least get to stay each week. Now hasn't that got ratings winner all over it ?? I'm just worried that our love of all shows airline-y might overcome our loathing of giving these Z-list celebrities any of our valuable viewing time.

And don't expect Clint or Brad, Harrison or Leonardo to be taking part. And Angelina and Julia, Natalie and Cameron won't be on board either. And there is the point. We know THEM by first name alone. These Z-listers we don't even know with their surnames and DNA.

In true celeb style, they threatened a revolt when they were asked to resit some Civil Aviation exams due to overdoing it on the alcohol and were only placated when promised a day trip to a spa for their troubles. Can you see Brad or George settling for a trip to a spa ? They have those in their limos !!

I'd like to think I'm not on my own here but then again, enough people must be buying the magazines and watching the shows to make them worth producing. I suppose if this new airline show just had a bunch of average John and Jane Does as contestants, it would never get off the ground, so to speak.

After all it would just be what happens in real life. The ultimate reality show.

And no one wants that on their tv screens.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Love It, Love It Not

Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with computers. Personal computers that is.

Mainframes (big boxy computers with lots of flashing lights) gave me my 30 year career, of course, and so it's mostly a love thang with them.

But a PC is a very different box of bytes and quite often it's a hate relationship between us.

Late last night and most of this morning, it was lots of hate, frustration and bewilderment and even a red mist of annoyance.

Things had been fine until, out of the blue, I got a virus alert with a program file that had been minding it's own business ever since I got this laptop in March. Suddenly F-Secure, my virus package, said it had a suspect utorrent.exe file and promptly renamed it to utorrent.oxe and so now it didn't work. Wonderful.

I removed the whole folder just to be sure and as I had a few other minor problems with my BBC and Yahoo home pages (more later), I decided to do a full system restore. I'll spare you the details but lets just say no restore worked (I tried 3) as I kept getting a message about this utorrent.exe file just before the laptop rebooted to try and come up from a previous version.

Why ? I'd deleted the folder. There was no reference to it anywhere that I could see, even in the registry. So why was Windows still finding it AND still saying it was a potential virus issue ?

So I gave up on the restore and am just moving on with things. I've downloaded and installed utorrent again and it works fine - as of course it did before this stupid virus msg came up last night. I've run a full scan and my hard drive is as clean as a very clean thing indeed.

So what about the BBC and Yahoo sites then ? Well both of these sites allow you to build up a lovely page with the layout, colours and content you want. Want 6 items of news ? You've got it. Want 3 items of sports ? Go for it. Want to get the weather from the next street ? It's all there. White text on black background ? Yes please.

So I spent ages setting it all up months ago and saved it and it's been fine ever since. Well until a few days ago anyway and then it reverted to the crappy default page. I sighed, as you do, and spent ages recreating my beloved page again. Saved it and did a page refresh and......crappy default again.

Something that had been working fine for ages was suddenly pouting and stamping it's foot like a petulant child.

"No, you're not having your flashy page with excellent content. No, no, no. It's crappy default page for you, pal."

Same with Yahoo. I'd built it up like the BBC page to be how I wanted it. Looked grand, it did.
A few days ago it went petulant too. Crappy default page again. Grrrrrrrrrrr.

At least my years working with computers has given me a bit of knowledge and I found the cookies file, deleted the ones relating to both the BBC and Yahoo sites and all is ok now. Well FOR now I should say.

Over the years I think that's the biggest complaint people have about computers. One day they work fine and the next day something goes belly up. Of course I know only too well that if you're connected to the internet, there is hardly a second where 'nothing' is going on somewhere in the background. I can accept that. And the things we can do and the places we can 'go to' using a PC would be astonishing to someone even a decade ago.

But some simple issues remain and this rant gives me the chance to get one such niggle out of my system - pardon the pun.

I'm always connecting external units to my laptop from my hard drives to my mp3, from my camera to my memory sticks. I never like just pulling them out, or their cables if they need those and so I use the 'safely remove hardware' option whenever possible. I think you know where I'm going with this.

"The device cannot be removed because it is in use by another application. Please close this application and retry" Or words to that effect.

Hello, nothing is running. Nothing I can see. Nothing task manager can see.

If Windows knows something, why can't it tell me what it is ? Why the secrecy ?

Tell me the application, you useless pile of circuits. I bought you. I am your master !!!

Sadly we both know that's not true.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Aptly Named

The Leeds and Reading (Music) Festivals are on this weekend and I'm staying 'safe' indoors. The roads to the East of Leeds were in chaos on Thursday with 100,000 or so fans converging onto the muddy fields that always seem to go with music festivals in this country. I'm not sure when the festival ends tonight (Sunday) but it'll be more chaos when those same fans leave the area and a huge sigh of relief will go up from affected residents who can then reclaim their roads and streets.

During the traffic jams on Thursday, car occupants got out and played impromptu footy games using empty beer cans and when it was time for a restroom break, local gardens served as toilets.

All good dirty fun I'm sure. There have been no reports from the police of any serious trouble but there is still time.

And then there is the music. Nearly 100 bands on various stages and I've heard of about 4 of them, like Metallica. Just heard of them mind you. Not my sort of music, you see.

One of the bands playing today was called "Fucked Up." Lovely. A sort of New Seekers for this modern generation I'm sure. Swinging arms and close harmony accompanied by cans of coke no doubt.

Well yes lots of doubt actually. The coke might be there though not in cans.

The "Fucked Up" lead singer (if sing he does) is called Pink Eyes. Think we're back to the coke again ! Then again who did we have in my concert going days ? Well WE had "Bad Manners" and their frontman, Buster Bloodvessel so I'd better not go down that path. I remember he liked to show us his very long tongue and would shake it around like he was auctioning off a slice of rare porterhouse.

But for all his showmanship, Buster at least kept his snake in his pants. Yes I know I'm still keeping THAT smutty idea going in this post too but this time it's relevant.

Mr Eyes, on the other hand, had no such scruples and decided that the audience needed to see his party favours, so to speak, and the family jewels were on display to all who cared to lo0k at them. Well to be fair, the NME report suggests he tucked them between his legs before turning to the crowd so they ONLY had to put up with his fat arse while this delicate act was performed.
What a disappointment, I'm sure.

If you look at the photo of Pink Eyes, you'll see why I have mentioned Buster in the same post. They could be twins. Or triplets !

Speaking of Eyes, I just can't imagine ol' Blue Eyes doing anything like that in his heyday. Maybe he should have, I hear a few female fans say. Maybe so. It would've been quite a performance to get out of a tuxedo though and I'm not sure what his orchestra would've made of it all as they'd have seen much more than they signed up for.

I think he should've done it while belting out "My Way" but that's just me.

Anyway back to perky Pinky and his tasteful tunesters. Can you imagine if both bands merged.
"Bad Fucked Up Manners" with Pink Bloodvessel as the lead singer. Catchy.

I think I need to stop snorting the coke myself !!

I'm off to listen to Matt Munro. I've got my lighter at the ready.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ohh Errr Missus

My last post was understandably sombre and serious and that's not me at all. I can be serious when needs must, and it 'musted' then - but I think the time has come for a death post on a lighter note.

Yes is IS possible. And this one is all Daffys fault.

You see, yesterday she told me that hubby Stephen was going to bury the snake this weekend.

"Bury the snake !" I said. "That sounds a bit like......bury the snake !!"

Phanrr phanrr.

I'm not usually privy to such news and quite frankly it was more information than I needed to know.

When she added that her mother might be involved, I almost lost it.

Then she told me about the death of Kelloggs and it all made sense. Phew.

Our friendship is back on a secure, normal level and what goes on behind those closed doors will remain a mystery to me. All is well with the world.

Just not in the world of Kelloggs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We're All The Same.

On Sunday night my next door neighbour had a massive heart attack and died immediately. He was alone in his living room and never had time to shout out for help.

It really shook me up. I've had 2 heart attacks myself and so having someone I know die from one made me think.

It reminded me that I've twice been given a chance to do some things differently. I'd been fixing my supper when the ambulance pulled up and when I found out what had happened, I cut my supper portion in half ! I know it was a knee jerk reaction but once again, I'm determined to eat more healthily and exercise more too.

As if having had my own heart attacks wasn't enough of an incentive !!

Ikram, my neighbour, was a lovely man. A family man with 3 kids who are a credit to him. The oldest is 22 and just finished at University. He'll now be the man of the house.

The boys are quiet, polite and the family have been wonderful neighbours. They cut my lawn and look after my mail when I go to America for 6 months every year. We've never been "pop in for a coffee type" neighbours but we've known each other for about 15 years so I've seen the boys grow up and they've never caused me any concern. Far from it.

This afternoon I went to see Ikram for the last time. He was a Muslim and so to see him and say goodbye, I went to his mosque. This was a first for me and originally I hadn't planned on going in - just being outside to pay my respects.

But when the family were told I was there, I was asked in. There was a long line of people slowly passing the open coffin with the family members standing at it's head. I made my way to join the line but my name was called out and I was asked to stand with the family. People spread out to let me get to the coffin and I was able to say my goodbyes to Ikram.

I was just a neighbour. I was a Christian. But I was treated as someone special at a time when I could easily have been overlooked and left as an outsider in this Muslim world. Everyone who spoke to me was kind, polite and hospitable. It was an occasion I will never forget.

With the funeral over, there now begins a period of mourning. Gradually the friends and extended family members will leave. On Monday morning, when the body was taken to the hospital for a post mortem, the boys and their mother left to stay a few streets away with Ikram's brother and they've not all been back to the house since then. When they do and are once again surrounded by tangable and atmospheric memories, I think it will finally hit them that a husband and father has gone forever.

We all have our own attitudes about other nationalities, cultures and religions and these can be influenced by what we read in newspapers or see on tv and the headlines are always made by extremists.

Extremists are just that, extreme. Even though, by their dramatic actions, they can lead us to think they represent much more than they really do, we should always remember that the vast majority of people everywhere are not like that.

Ikram raised his family to be decent, honest and hard working. And Muslim. I admit I'd been swayed by the media and numerous news reports into having a negative attitude towards Muslims and it has taken his passing to redress that attitude.

I feel that's a legacy worthy of the man himself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

More Spurn Pointers

Ok now where were we......oh yeah. I'd just burst through the vegetation at the very end of Spurn Point and was finally on the beach.

Oh in case you need to catch up, go to my blog post from Saturday and have a read.

But if not, here is a brief synopsis : sunny day, drove to Spurn Point, saw a lighthouse, walked through a maze and got to the beach.

Right, off we go again.

This is that beach.

No, I'd not gone to Normandy or travelled back in time to 1944 either but I could understand it if you thought both.

It wasn't much of a beach but then it wasn't really supposed to be. It was just the end of the land and as such, there was sand.


You see Spurn Point is a constantly moving peninsula. The waters on the North Sea side wear away the land and deposits on the Humber Estuary build it up again and this effectively 'moves' everything, slowly, over the decades. Actually the waters can wash completely over the land in places and a 'new' point is created and then built up again but this is done over a period of centuries.

"Ok enough of the serious geography stuff already." Righty o.

There is also a lifeboat station at the Point. Built in 1810.

And here is the lifeboat. All ready for action. Isn't it nice ? Isn't it very orange ? Yes it is.

Not sure how they get out to it when it's needed for that action but I'm sure they can.

Interesting fact ("about bloody time too") - this is the only lifeboat station in the UK with full time paid staff.

Not a lot of people know that.

So Spurn Point has a lifeboat, a lighthouse, a beach of sorts and lots of birds.

It's famous for it's birds. Bit of a bird sanctuary actually.
Twitchers, sorry bird watchers, flock there (sorry again) to look for rare species that sometimes rest there on their way to nicer places. South of France maybe. North Africa. Places with decent weather anyway.

But I hardly saw a single bird. Oh I saw birds, yes, but no more than I'd see at home or at the seaside anywhere. Didn't see any twitchers either so maybe it was off season. Maybe the credit crunch was hitting bird vacations too and they were staying home and improving their nests.

There were quite a few people fishing and with expensive setups too. I didn't see any of them catching anything fishy but one had his line caught up in a ship propeller and he was last seen on his way to Amsterdam. Har har.

It was quite a busy channel and large tankers and ore carriers were passing by every few minutes.

Nobody was IN the water as, although it was a suuny day, it wasn't all that warm and the water temperature certainly wasn't conducive to swimming.

Not sure I'd want to ever swim in North Sea waters but that's another story.

I was walking back along the beach to the car park area and came upon this odd looking tower.

It used to be a munitions store during the war as Spurn Point was a key fortified outpost back then.

There was a military railway line that ran the length of the peninsula and due to the constant shifting that I mentioned earlier, the tracks criss cross the road and go off into the vegetation in places as it has stayed static while the land it was built on has moved. Bizarre.

There were also several wartime bunkers and concrete fortifications at the end of the Point and they still remain in some form or other. Most are crumbling away but enough of the structures remain to give an idea of what things were like back in the early 1940's when invasion was always a threat. Now we let anyone in !

3 young kids had used a surf board to paddle out to the tower and were enjoying themselves climbing up the lower part of its base and going all the way around.

At times the tower is on the beach but when I was there, the tide had come in and it was well out into the channel.

Before leaving Spurn Point, I went back to the vegetation for a last walk through part of it as I'd found it to be more interesting than the beach.

There were loads of butterflies and bees and I took photos of several of them and here is one of a cute little fluffy bee.

I know cute and fluffy aren't words that spring to mind when you talk about bees but enlarge this one and it's certainly fluffy. Maybe not cute.

I need a macro lens though.

And so it was back to the car and off back home.

On the way through the flat farmland East of Hull, I came upon a farmer on his combine harvester.

He stopped to do some maintenance and we had a chat before he set off again.

The weather has been so bad these last few weeks that he was taking this chance to get on with the harvesting and he said he'd be working all through the night to make the most of this dry spell.

I sped on as I wanted to get to the Humber Bridge for sunset to try and get some photos of it.

That meant going through Hull and I stopped briefly as the harbour also looked like a good location for some pics. It wasn't easy to find a parking place near the harbour but I could tell the evening light would be so good with the boats and water.

But there were really too many boats and they were tightly docked next to one another.

This made it a bit tricky and I almost left without getting anything worth saving.

Then I noticed a boat coming in from the sea and I positioned myself at the widest part of the harbour with a photogenic church tower in the background - and waited.

Thankfuly the boat came all the way across the harbour and I got this photo just before it disappeared to the left to dock. Nothing special but I liked the reflections and the light and if nothing else, it was a snap shot memory for me to enjoy later.

And then it was on to the bridge.

The 27 year old Humber Bridge held the record for the longest single span suspension bridge in the world for 16 years and it is currently the 5th longest. However it does still hold one world record. It is the longest bridge you can walk over. Good luck doing that. At 1.3 miles long, I decided to give it a miss.

Anyway, I got there at 8pm, just minutes before sunset. I drove down to its base where there is a swanky restaurant, parked up and got ready.

I'm not sure what happened but there was no sunset. Well not in a classic red sky way. It just went dark. And then, as is the way, it got bright for a while. I was bummed.

So as not to have totally wasted my time with this slight detour to the bridge, I decided to do something I do very rarely. I took a photo of myself.

It had been a lovely day out. The sun shone, I'd got lots of exercise and to end it all, here is that photo of me with the Humber Bridge behind me. Be nice now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It's All Huff And Puff

I've been watching a bit of the Olympics and we've not been doing too bad really. As I type this, we're 3rd in the medal table (11 golds) and if you take away the genetically modified 'Dolphin Boy's' 8 personal golds, we'd be equal 2nd alongside the USA. Hurrah for us.

We seem to have got a crop of sportsmen and women who don't just want to take part but want to, and expect to, win gold.

How refreshing.

How un-British.

Of course this has coincided with our country being renamed and rebranded for the Olympics.

Great Britain is now Team Britain. Fab. I'll rush out and get my passport updated. Very trendy. Can we have a new National Anthem please ? I'm with Billy Connelly on this one. Ours is a dirge and we need a jolly upbeat one that Cliff can sing and get it to No.1. Oh and write one that doesn't mention The Queen and then she can sing along with it too and not feel silly having to sing her own name all the time !

And speaking of countries and passports, I was born in Northern Ireland and my passport says I'm a citizen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Fine.

So where are MY sportsmen at the Olympics ? We're not part of Team Britain after all. Can't be. Is there a separate Northern Ireland team then ? Nope. It's not a country on the Olympic list. There is Ireland of course but as we all know, Northern Ireland isn't Ireland. Oh no.

There is a North and South Korea after all. So what do MY people have to do to play at the Olympics ? Become Irish I guess and that must piss off a lot of them. And rightly so.

Oh a little bit political there, Ian.

Anyway the real reason for this post is to have a rant about the BBC interviewing technique again. Holy crap people, we don't need to listen to out of breath sportsmen/women seconds after their event has finished. I know they get whipped off to receive their medals or slash their wrists so there is only a small window of opportunity to find out what they thought of coming first or last but give them, and us, a break !

Until the early hours of this morning I'd thought sticking a mic in front of the rowers was the ultimate in hearing gasps and wheezes, grunts and groans instead of coherent English. But when poor Paula Radcliffe was interviewed almost before she crossed the Marathon finishing line, the BBC reached a new low.

The fact she got to Beijing was amazing enough, given her injuries. Then she almost stopped (again) part way round when, as she put it, it felt like one of her legs gave way. Only having one leg left, it made the rest of the race a bit of a struggle and she came into the stadium looking quite distressed and in a lot of pain. Showing typical British grit, sorry Team British grit, she made it to the line with the frustration and disappointment etched on her face. It was as if she had been told Leeds United had lost yesterday, such was the evident dispair !!

She hugged one of her fellow Team Brit runners, one who had fallen during the race and was covered with bruises and had a suspected broken rib. What a sight for the cameras. What guts. What pure Olympic spirit. What the fuck is that mic doing there ? Oh my God the BBC are straight in there asking inane questions of a woman who has given her all and clearly is so emotional that she can't put two words together.

We might as well have tried to listen to Amy Whitehouse or either Gallagher brother. It was incomprehensible. A hand went out from the interviewer to console her. Sod that, pal.

"Take the bloody mic away and leave her alone, you ass-hoooooole" I suggested to my tv set.

What next ? Will John Inverdale and Steve Redgrave climb into the boats to interview the rowers over the last 100 metres ? You can just imagine a GB (or TB) press launch gliding up and those two boarding the coxless fours (what is this, the Eunuch Olympics ??) complete with mic and camera crew.

"Shove over lads. Now then, what's it like to be leading at this stage ? Oh you're 2nd now.....hang on, 3rd. Ok what was it like to come last lads ?"

We're in an age of instant reactions and super slo-mo action replays on tv. The viewers, that's you and me, appear to want to see things over and over again - often missing something more exciting while watching the replay. Then we get a replay of what we missed and again risk missing somet.......well you get the point. They can position cameras everywhere to give us all possible viewing points. They're up in blimps and remote controlled balloons. They're on top of helmets. Inside and all over the outsides of race cars. On top of football crossbars and underwater in swimming pools. They're even inside tennis balls. Oh no that was Bee Movie !!

All this I can appreciate and actually like as it gets us more involved in the sport. But these instant and inane interviews get me going. What can someone possibly say of any interest when asked what it feels like to come 1st or 2nd or umpteenth ? I mean dismissing the fact that they are knackered and incoherent (and if a boxer, this incoherence comes BEFORE the fight), they are either so eleated at winning that they are crying or they are so pissed off by losing that they're crying. And what can they say anyway ?

"Well Gary/John/Steve/Brendan, I'm, pant, so, gasp, wheeze, cough, just so, puff, puff, gasp, happy to be, wheeze, here today and I'd, puff, puff, like to thank my.............."

"Ok sorry we have to leave it there and return you to Sue in the studio as Team Britain are going for 23rd place in the beach volleyball. As you know this would be our highest ever position as, of course, although being an island race, we only have 2 clean beaches to train on"

So BBC, save us a bucket load of licence money and recall all the interviewers. Keep the comentators as I've tried watching sports without them and it just doesn't work. But the interviewers are just on a foreigh jolly and we don't need them.

Strap a camera and mic to all 311 Team GB athletes and we can hear them whenever we want. And more to the point, when THEY want. Let us call them up on Skype or something so we can talk to them after every event too. That's the way forward.

And it's not just the Olympics. Oh don't get me going on footy interviewers.

Just don't.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spurned Pointers

Don't panic, this isn't going to be a post about my sad love life. I don't do one sentence posts.

No, this is about my day out yesterday at Spurn Point, or Spurn Head as it's sometimes called.

First, lets have a little map.

The picture-in-picture shows England. Bet you didn't know it was THAT small ? And empty !

Anyway, as in the case with these sorts of map thingies, the circled bit is expanded to show the details - but you knew that already.


Being a clever sod, I've added Leeds myself as the map didn't show it and it's kind of crucial to my story, being my starting point an' all.

"Well children, do you see Spurn Head ? Hands up. Yes, Timmy, we all know it looks like a willy but thank you for saying it out loud."

Actually to be anatomically correct, it's a bit of a sad, limp willy and as usual the Americans have a much better one, a sort of viagra peninsula, called Cape Cod. Showoffs.

One reason for wanting to go there was because the drive would take me past The Humber Bridge which is a big, big, BIG bridge over, ah, well, The Humber. Google it. I'll get to it later.

I set off at 11am as, lets face it, I wasn't going to miss a lie-in. Sun or no sun.

So by the time I got to the end of the world and realised I'd better get some lunch before totally leaving civilisation, I came to a lovely pub.

This pub in fact.

As you can see, the road, although hardly a 4 lane highway, is at least paved and can take a car in either direction.

This view is looking back the way I'd come and you can just make out the water on the left. If we went up in a hot air balloon, we'd soon see water on the right side as well - as we're now at the start of the peninsula.

If anyone cares, I had a steak and ale pie, chips, peas and carrots. Yum.

A few hundred yards further along, I came to a sign. As it told me that there was an entrance fee, it wasn't a good sign. Literally.

I thought about it long and hard but as I'd driven for 2 hrs to get there, I wasn't going to go back now.

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I HATE paying money for scenery. Well I don't mind too much if the money has obviously been ploughed back into the place to make it better for the paying customer - but this was not immediately obvious at Spurn Head. Or Point. Or Willy.

And the sign said "Private Road." Private it may have been, but road it certainly wasn't.

Oh before I go any further in this post, I think it would be a grand idea to show everyone what Spurn Head looks like.

As my hot air balloon never turned up, I've had to nick an aerial photo from Wikipedia and even then it's from 1978.

With erosion and other weathery technical stuff that I wouldn't expect you to understand, there isn't quite as much of it as we see in this image.

I've also cleaned up the photo and added a couple of arrows to make things easier to explain.

Right now we're at Point 1 with the sign and the handing over of money and the start of the private 'road'.

This road, nay track, led to Point 2 and lets just say that along the way, I lost a couple of fillings and my car now needs new shocks.

It was only wide enough for one car and when I held my hand out the windows I was able to high five the grass stalks. If you DID meet a car coming the other way, it was up to one of you to find a passing area and thankfully there were plenty of them. An SUV would've lost a coat of paint. A truck would've lost it's wing mirrors and an RV would've lost the V.

At the end of this 3.5 mile track, there is a simple black and white lighthouse which was built between 1893 and 1895. It's just a shell now as it closed in 1986.

Daphne had told me that when they went to this area some years ago, they were able to go up inside the lighthouse. No doubt some kill joy from Health & Safety came for a visit and said "oh no, no, no. This will never do. Someone could jump off the top and hurt themselves.
Whatever next ? Base jumping ?"

And so the doors are now firmly locked and no one can get a lovely view of the peninsula without renting a helicopter or a basketball player.

I left in a huff.

There was a car park area at Point 2 and although the 'road' went on for about two hundred more metres, only official coastguard vehicles could use it to get to their buildings.

I parked up and walked.

I could've headed right and onto the sandy area which goes all the way around the 'head' but I wanted to get to the VERY end of the peninsula. This involved following a convoluted path up and down through the vegetation and often this path, which was simply made by the footsteps of thousands of visitors over the years, split into more paths.

I couldn't see too far ahead and tried to pick any path that I hoped would take me to the end. On one occasion I managed to return to a place I'd passed before and I got a bit of a panic attack as I'm not at my best in a maze. I'd not brought any jaffa cakes.

Suddenly I heard the sound of waves breaking on the shore and I literally burst through the last of the vegetation and came out onto the very point of Spurn Point. Feeling like Dr. Livingston, I sank to my knees in the soft sand and thanked God for my safe deliverance !

Then I went back to the car and drove home.

The End.

Well no, but I know my travel posts can be a bit long at times so I'll leave the rest till tomorrow. It's late and I'm off to bed............

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Think I've Got A Tan !!!!

Yes folks, the sun showed itself this morning and so it's time to rejoice. Hurrah.

Like other UK bloggers, I've been moaning recently about the lack of global warming reaching our shores and to be honest, nothing much changed today as far as some decent summer temperatures are concerned.

But being part of a nation that generally regards a glass with a dribble of liquid in it as being half full, I need to give credit where it is due and for whatever reason, we got sunshine this morning.

So slapping on the sun cream and wearing my summer thong for the first time, I headed out for a long walk to make the most of the sunshine. By the time I got to the end of the drive I decided I'd been conned by that sunshine as it wasn't that warm at all. Mid 60's (18c) in fact.

So I came back inside and reappeared 5 minutes later wearing a much more sensible shell suit and my Hogwarts scarf and gloves set, a Christmas pressie from a distant relative. Well not quite but I did have a thick t-shirt on and went back to my jeans. Ah well. At least I was outside.

I went to my usual rural path, Manor House Lane, that leads past the local golf course and on out into the countryside.

Having been sat on my backside for the last few weeks, I didn't want to overdo it on my first walk outdoors - so I really just wanted to get out into the fresh air and any exercise I got from it would be a bonus.

I love this narrow road as it's so close to my house and yet it immediately takes me away into a world of peace and quiet, a world of simple but relaxing views.

Just a few hundred yards along the road, it bisects one of the holes on Alwoodley Golf Course as you can see from this link. I've placed a red circle just below a bunker/sand trap which is almost totally hidden by the trees in this aerial photo map.

This is because I took a photo of this gentleman playing out of that very bunker and both of us were glad he managed it at the first attempt.

Later, when we met as he crossed the road to get to the next hole, he said if he'd known I was taking photos, he'd have got a hole in one.


I told him that next time he should just assume I'll be there - see if that helps his score !

It looked like he had the course to himself as not only was he a solo golfer but I never saw another golfer anywhere else. I guess the shock of dry weather had still to sink in with most golfers or else the wives had dragged them off shopping.

(Well, gotta get a sexist comment in somewhere.)

I was still just over a mile from my house and as the sun was still shining, on I went. I was intoxicated with the fresh air I think but after almost 2 miles, I decided enough was enough and turned around before I came to the main Harrogate Road.

On the way back I came across a line of huge sunflowers and as I'd never taken a photo of one before, I did this time as it seemed to sum up how I was feeling.

And here it is. Not exactly a Van Gogh effort but good enough for me today....and a lot cheaper.

Back home after my 4 mile walk I rested up and looked out the window.
The sun had gone and a huge black cloud was heading towards the house.

It must've veered off as the rain never came but once again I was back to looking at a dull, overcast sky.

But I'd seen the sun, albeit briefly. Long enough to get out and have a lovely walk.

Considering the crap summer we've had so far this year, never mind being half full, my cup had overflowed.

In the words of a hundred Elvis lookalikes, thank you very much.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Quack Quack

I am sooooo sick of this weather. When it's not raining, it's still cool and overcast and just plain miserable.

Hello ! It's August. It's supposed to be summer. Where is the flaming global warming then, eh ?
God knows we Brits must've sent enough carbon dioxide into the air to deserve a bit of warming. It's not fair. I've just inspected my carbon footprint and I'd put it up against anyones. So what's going on ?

Even the advertisers have given up. No ads suggesting a glass of cool, ice filled Pepsi on OUR screens. No ads for bbq sets from Argos. No ads encouraging us to 'book early' for the joys of a Butlins seaside holiday at Bognor Regis or Skegness. Mind you, were those holidays ever joyous ?

No, we now get ads for Connect 4 and Kerplunk. Good indoor games. Sales of Playstations and Xboxes have gone through the roof. Parents are tearing their hair out trying to keep the kids occupied inside. Or give up and send them out in the rain to beat up pensioners or stab anyone who looks them in the eye. I think London is running it's own Hoodie Olympics in preparation for 2012 and stabbing is being introduced as a trial event.

One way to ensure we get a gold !!

But I digress................

I went shopping this morning. Two amazing facts in one statement there. I hate shopping and I don't DO mornings. In fact I'm not usually up in time to DO mornings.

Anyway off I tootled to Sainsburys and entered the great insurance claim zone that is their car park. It's amazing how many cars there bear the metalic scars of previous visits. I'm not sure if it's the fact that most supermarket shopping is done by women but you put your no claims bonus on the line every time you go there.

Heyyyyy that's not being chauvanistic. Well not really. Even women admit they can't park for toffee.

Inside it wasn't much better and I can see why most carts have wonky wheels. I was 'hit' on several occasions just getting through the fresh food aisle as, women again, have this habit of seeing what they want and just abandoning their carts while they make a beeline for it.

More worringly though, they don't seem to care if their own little 'Madeline' is left sitting up on the cart while they scramble for the tomatoes or apples even though there are plenty to go around. I don't mean they park the cart near the product and reach down or across to get it. Hell I do that and I have nothing more than a well fingered FMH magazine in my cart.

No, these mums leave the carts mid aisle and often take the chance to gather up a plethera of fruit and veg while on their mini excursion and only return to their carts when they've more cabbages in their arms than a Crackerjack contestant.

Crackerjack !!!!

I guess they know that no one would take a child from a shopping cart in a busy supermarket. They don't earn Nectar points after all !!

I got my basic groceries and got to the checkout. More stress. Yes you've guessed it. The woman ahead of me was of the shocked 'you want me to pay?' genre. Her goods were scanned, she bagged them up and loaded them back into her cart. Then she seemed to realise she had to pay for them and so put her gigantic bag up onto the checkout, dug inside for her purse and after a good rummage, brought it out with all the gusto of a magicians rabbit.

After deciding which colourful credit card she liked the best, she asked how much her bill came to. WHAT ? Does it matter ? Put the pretty card into the machine you muppet !! I'm growing a beard here !!!

(Ok that's not really fair in my case but I was only talking in my head anyway. My sarcasm doesn't have to be truthful in my head.)

Being a man (told you, Kate) I had my card at the ready and was well ahead of the game. No hold ups. No worries. Groceries were bagged and I swiped my card with the announcement of my bill total still on the cashiers lips. Yes I'm that good.

I got to the doors and looked out....and what a was raining. Not just raining. Oh no, this was a deluge of biblical proportions. This was rain to scrape the top coat off my car.

I pushed my cart towards said car hoping it would still be the same colour as when I'd bought it.
Well it wasn't so much pushing it as propelling it like it contained a classic round black bomb with a short fizzing fuse. If Linford Christie had been shopping this morning, I'd have left him standing.

There are few things worse in this life than transfering items from a shopping cart to your car boot when it's pis........chucking it down. Eggs ? Fuck 'em. Bread ? Sod it. 24 yogurts. Get in there you bastards. I slammed the lid boot shut while the cheese slices were still in mid air and hurled the empty cart across and into the collection bay. Did it get there ? Did I care less ?

I dived into the car. It was time to leave. Where were my keys ? WHERE WERE MY KEYS ????!!!!!!!

With rising panic I searched my body and the surrounding area, spraying the passenger seat and dashboard with raindrops. Then it hit me. The cart. I'd placed the keys on the cart 'shelf' when opening the boot lid !! I had to get out and thankfully was able to retrieve them before the next customer picked my cart but by now I was drenched and totally miserable.

I sat in the car for ages, dripping onto the seat with my glasses misted up in that annoying way they do when you really need them the most. I even turned on the car wipers and was mildly surprised when they didn't clear my glasses too. Renaults are useless !

I'm soooooo sick of this weather. And supermarket shopping runs it close.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

It's That Time Again !!

Hardly seems like we've had a break from footy this year what with Euro 2008 and all the games going on somewhere around the world.

Now, today, we have the start of the footy season in England....well except for the high and mighty Premiership 'big' boys who start next weekend. La-di-da. They need the extra week to count the money in their Swiss bank accounts.

So it's another season for me to support my local team Leeds United - a team who were recently voted the most hated team in the country. Lovely.

I've never really understood why this is the case, but I know it to be true. Many say it goes back to the 70's when we were known simply as 'dirty Leeds' which again 'they' say was down to us being a very strong, successful team who did well in Europe too. Yes we were hard but so were most teams then. They use the word 'professional' as if that is some sort of negative description.

Leeds United played some of the most impressive, attacking, creative, skillful football back in the 70's and what happened.....dirty Leeds ?

Anyway, I try not to discuss those days or even these days as like with refereeing decisions, no football fan has ever been known to change his mind. If you hate Leeds, nothing I can say will change your mind so why bother ? So I won't.

Last season we started our campaign with a savage penalty of -15 points for being naughty boys but we wiped out that deficit after 5 games as we won the lot. This season it's a lot different as we've started with the same points as Britain gets now every year in the Eurovision Song Contest (that would be nil point) so it's a level playing field, as we say.

With an irony that only seems to happen in football, we were forced to kick off at noon today, 3 hrs before everyone else and as we won against the mighty Scunthorpe United (yes that's how far we've sunk), we are now top of the table. Last season bottom, this season top. Albeit for just a few more minutes when the rest kick off.

But still. Hurrah.

I've not been to a Leeds game for several years. I couldn't name ANY of the current team. I wouldn't know any player if I tripped over him in the street (he'd have dived anyway !). I do know the manager though. He was a player from the days when I DID go regularly you see.

But they are still my team. My lads. My home team.

These days I don't get suicidal when they lose. My weekend isn't ruined. I get over it after a few hours.

After all, it's only a game. Not life and death.

Sod that.

Played 1. Won 1. League position 1.

COME ON YOU WHITES !!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A Lawsuit Waiting to Happen ?

I'm not sure which Robbie would be more upset about......his face on a WANTED poster or being called English.

I bet the locals are glad the burglar doesn't look like Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise - or New Zealand could be bankrupted by the resulting lawsuit.

The Daily Recorder


By Our Religious Affairs Correspondent

This is an update on the story that broke a few days ago when, in a dramatic development in the biggest news story to come out of N. Ireland since Malachy Murphy claimed to have seen St. Peter himself when on his way home from Flannigans Bar in 1978, a small rural community discovered a hero in their midst.

When two young boys went missing in Ballymoney two weeks ago, a massive police hunt got under way led by Detective Inspector Frank Dumbledore.

After 5 days, hopes for their safe return were fading when DI Dumbledore gave his daily news conference for the growing numbers of press and television crews from around the world.

"We're clueless," he said, much to the amusement of the Daily Star reporter who had been asking around for a pencil sharpener. "We've searched all the usual places and there are no signs of the little bastar.....scallywags," he added.

"I cannot praise the locals enough," he said in response to a question from The Washington Post hack who had upset other journalists by flashing his expenses money around like a tourist. ("Whatyamean you don't take Punts here"?)

DI Dumbledore added "we have had help from literally several of the townspeople and Ballymoney has shown itself to be a caring community that, ah, cares, cares a lot actually".

But just a few hours later, there was an amazing breakthrough when Mrs Philomena Doherty, the boys aunt, went to the local church to light candles and pray for the safe return of her nephews.

As she told me in an exclusive interview later, over a pint of Guinness, in her front room, "I was walking up the church path and this took me close to the parochial house. I heard the sound of young voices coming from the basement that the fathers (bless their holy names) use when visiting boy scouts need to stay overnight. So I thought nothing of it".

She went on "I prayed for 15 minutes in the church and then left. Going back down the path I heard the voices again and was sure I recognised one of them. I went up and knocked on the door and when Fr. O'Leary finally answered, he looked a bit red faced and I'd go so far as to say he was quite out of breath".

"Ahhhh what about ye, Mrs Doherty," he panted. "And what can I do for you today ?"

"Well I was just in the church, your worshipfulness, and coming down the path here I heard voices and I'm sure one of them was wee Jimmy's and as you know, he and his brother haven't been seen since last Thursday."

"Oh sure isn't that amazing, Mrs. Doherty", says he, "as I was just thinking about him only two minutes ago."

Mrs Doherty poured herself another Guinness, clearly warming to her task and enjoying her moment of fame.

Wiping off her frothy moustache (from her natural one) she said "just then I looked past the Father and there was our wee Jimmy crawling up the basement steps. Oh sweet Lord look Father, it's wee Jimmy !!"

"Jesus, Mary and Joseph it's a miracle" he said. "Sure and I've found one of the boys here in my own house."

The rest of the story came out in a rush. Police called, basement searched, the other boy found in a cage in a corner.

DI Dumbledore concluded an emergency press conference where he told the astonished press that Fr. O'Leary was a hero and that it was obvious that the boys had sneaked into the parochial house and had been hiding there ever since.

"The two rascals are just fine, although they were shaking a bit," said Dumbledore. "So far they have said nothing about their wee adventure but were obviously shaking with excitement when posing for a photo with the man who rescued them, Fr. O'Leary. I now ask you to respect their privacy and leave the family alone so they can care for the boys and get them ready for being altar boys on Sunday."

It's been a week since the boys were found and today when Bishop Rafferty was asked why Fr. O'Leary was still not available for questions, this reporter was told that soon after this photo was published, he had been suddenly called to Rome and was not expected back in Ballymoney again.

Bishop Rafferty added "the Holy Father wanted to speak to him personally and must've been very pleased with his actions as he has been given his own parish, somewhere in Rwanda I believe."

With no charges being filed against the boys, police say the incident is now closed. DI Dumbledore did tell me off the record that he felt the boys were let off lightly considering the trouble they caused everyone and the mess they'd made of the basement.

"Jeez it looked like the wee hooligans had quite a party down there," he said with some disgust.

Reuters 2008

Did you witness this incident? Were you in the area? Do you have any Punts ? If you have any information or photos you would like to share, well don't.

In all seriousness, this is a photo of my brother and myself outside our house with some priest. My mum always felt it such an honour when a priest would visit our house and it never seemed to bother her that they'd always arrive minutes before a meal was placed on the table.

When I once mentioned this puzzling coincidence, my mum was quite upset with me for even thinking that the timing of the visits were anything OTHER than a coincidence.

"Why for a start how would they know we were about to sit down to lunch ?" she said with some confidence. "Come on now, boys, it's exactly 1pm and time to eat," she added.

I've (hopefully) made it impossible to identify the priest in this photo as I regard them a bit like the Mafia. Keep things general and never get personal.

They're all Italians really.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Memories Are Made Of This.

When my mum died back in April 2003, it was the end of an era for me. As my dad had died 17 years earlier, our cozy little house in Ballymoney, N. Ireland was finally empty of their presence.

They had lived there together for 36 years and then mum had lived there on her own to make up an incredible 53 years in the same house.

As the executor of her will, it was my very sad duty to clear the house as, although it had been a council house for most of it's existence, it had been bought by a money grabbing cousin of mine a few years earlier. You may detect a lack of family 'lurve' there and you'd be right.

So in the 2 weeks from a mad dash from America where I'd been on holiday, I had watched her die, arranged her funeral, sorted out her estate (such as it was) and finally emptied the house of every single item to leave it a shell for the next occupants.

A busy 2 weeks for sure and I couldn't have done it without the help and support of my bestest friend, Debby, who had insisted on flying over with me so I'd not have to go through it all on my own. I can never thank her enough for that and I hope she knows how much she helped me.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I had no option but to put up for auction those items of furniture that were of any value and had to arrange for everything else to be taken to the local dump. The auction was a farce really as everyone knew the items HAD to be sold as they came from a house clearance and decent furniture went for a pittance. The total amount raised was £50 in fact. Not much of a price for the items that made our house a home.

Mum had known for some time that her leaving the house was coming soon, either in a coffin or by having to go into a home as she was a very small, frail woman who was finding it harder and harder to look after herself. In fact she had gone into a residential home a few weeks before she died and ironically loved it so much there that she told me she'd wished she'd gone years earlier !

So for a year or so she had been downsizing the house contents in readiness for leaving - one way or the other. I'd taken a lot of the family photo albums back to my home here in England as, after all, they were the main memories I felt needed to be preserved. Everything else held few memories for me as I'd not lived there for 35 years.

A few days ago I finally started looking at those albums and also the contents of a package I'd posted to myself in Leeds from Ballymoney that contained more photos from the walls of the house and other little personal items I wanted to keep.

I'm sure over the next few months I'll put up occasional sets of photos from these albums but for today, I just wanted to post the one that had been framed on our living room wall for more years than I care to remember.

I've not got my scanner connected to this new laptop yet so I just took a photo of the photo and as a result, it's not high quality but will do for this blog post.

It shows my older brother and myself advertising cod liver oil. I'm the one on the left and the cute one on the right is -well you can guess. I was still growing into my body and in fact, I still am !!

Don't ask me any more about it as I've no idea now. I've also no idea if it ever appeared in a paper or magazine and so for all I know, this is the only copy.

I think taking cod liver oil was all the rage back then and needless to say, I've been addicted to the bloody stuff ever since and have been attending a CLAP clinic for over 50 years.

That's Cod Liver Anonymous Patients by the way. Oh come on, what else did you think it was ?

So although the actual photograph subject may not bring back any memories for me now, the slightly worn but remarkably well preserved piece of paper does.

This was something that hung on my home wall from the date it was taken in 1953 until I finally took it down in 2003. Yes, 50 years exactly.

And if that isn't a memory, I don't know what is.

It's now been digitized and put up on the internet so who knows how long it will last.

For someone who hoarded photos and personal items from her two sons all her life, I think mum would be happy about that.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Animal Cruelty ?

I like a funny news story to cheer me up on a morning and this one did it for me today.

The overall BBC article wasn't supposed to be funny, not at all. It was about the findings of a survey into prescriptions and medication in England as it seems one in five of us take our medicine wrongly.

Obviously most of the befuddled patients are oldies - like the people who take their sleeping pills in the morning. No wonder they never answer the door until mid afternoon !

But the corker was the patient who was prescribed an inhaler as his asthma was being trigger by his cat. It seems that every time he got an attack, he did indeed use his inhaler - by spraying it on his cat !

I think the follow up line was slightly unnecessary.

"Spraying the cat did not relieve the patient's asthma."

I wonder if they'd asked the cat ?

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