Friday, July 27, 2012

The Olympic Games

Yes the big day has finally arrived. We've waited and waited, never thinking it would come around but it has.......yes it's the weekend !

No but seriously folks, it's Olympic Day and the Opening Ceremony for the Games of the XXX Olympiad in 8hrs time will take the UK back a century or so and once again we'll be the most important place on the planet.

No ? Oh well, suit yourselves !

I always feel a bit sorry for the athletes who have to start before the Opening Ceremony due mainly to the fact that their sports take so long to complete. On Wednesday The Games kicked off, literally, with the women's football competition and yesterday we had the start of the men's event. Today the archery has started, although I'm not sure why that event should ever take more than 18 days to complete but what do I know. Maybe archers need lots of rest between rounds.

God help us if cricket ever becomes an Olympic event !

So we've already has lots of yellow and red cards in the football, 2 world records in the archery, failed drug tests, athletes banned for various reasons (including a joke on Twitter deemed racist) and even a few asylum seekers (one in my home town here in Leeds) and still hours to go before The Games have even officially started !

Actually the archery world records are worth noting for another reason - one of the South Korean competitors involved in both records is legally blind ! A blind archer at the Olympics !?!
Setting 2 world records !! I love it.

But I'm a bit nervous. Oh not because of the blind archer ! No, I'm nervous about the Opening Ceremony. After the stunning ceremony 4 years ago in Beijing, anything tonight will be a huge anti climax.

But the 'powers that be' knew that when they started planning the London ceremony and so they let it be known that they wouldn't even TRY to outdo the Chinese. Instead, we'll put on a jolly good low key show that would simply highlight the 'best of British' for the watching world.

And you wonder why I'm nervous !?!

The stadium floor will be laid out like a typical British countryside scene with green fields and hedgerows, complete with livestock. Mind you, if it's to be realistic, there should be litter everywhere, a few traveller sites here and there and areas set aside for fly-tipping !

There will also be 10,000 performers, 77 sheep, 12 horses, 10 chickens, 3 cows, 2 goats and Boris Johnson. Make that 3 goats then.

So 105 reasons to be nervous for a start ! What's that phrase about never working with children and animals ? Cows AND horses ! Why not just bring on some elephants and rhinos and make it a full circus.

But at least if it's low tech, there will be less to go wrong. Ha ! We'll find a way, no doubt. There will be lots of music as there has to be. We're still pretty good at music, despite the farce that is the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Just no Cliff Richard please. It's not London1965.

Thinking about it, the organisers have missed a trick here. Knowing our strengths. I mean what do we do well in this country ? Pageantry. That's what. We DO pageantry well. And it's relatively cheap. A win, win.

So forget the horses and cows and even the chickens. Too many chances for screw ups and lots of clearing up afterwards !

Instead have our wonderful ceremonial soldiers and guards marching around the stadium floor in that pretty way they do. A sort of Changing of the Guard meets the Trooping the Colour. Nice formation drills with lots of jolly bright colourful costumes and glittering accessories. And then, after about 2 hours when the wow factor is beginning to fade, play our joker - roll out the Royals !

YES !!

The world loves a bit of Royalty. Even ours. Especially the young royals who, lets face it, need to be seen doing something other than coming out of night clubs and appearing in Hello and OK magazines.

They can even enter the stadium in a gold encrusted carriage if they can't be arsed to walk - a much better use of some of those 12 horses. Liz can wave a bit or stick two fingers up at the non Commonwealth countries.

Just keep Phil The Greek well away from the Chinese team...and the Koreans......and....well...... basically any team with slanty eyes. His words, not mine ! In fact, lock Phil in a dark room somewhere with Mitt Romney. They deserve each other.

Anyway I'll be a lot less stressed once the Opening Ceremony is over with, for better or for worse. No one wants to screw up in front of 4 billion (estimated !) viewers. As long as we're not made to be a laughing stock I'll be happy. The ceremony promises to showcase all that is Great in Great Britain and I hope it does.

And then there's the weather. Oh dear. The infamous British weather. We've just had our 1 week of summer and now it's Autumn. Already it's dull and overcast in London (lovely and sunny up here in Leeds btw) and although no rain is forecast for the ceremony this evening, there WILL be rain during the games - that's pretty much guaranteed.

It's billed as the greatest show on earth and with 14,690 athletes from 204 countries competing in just about every major sport on the planet, it should be worth watching.

There ARE a few events taking place north of London but for me, there is still a sense that it's all going on a long way away. 200 miles in fact. But apart from the mass coverage on tv and stores full of Olympic related goodies, it might as well be happening again in Beijing.

But at least it's in my time zone so no late night or early morning viewing sessions. AND it's being massively covered by the BBC so no adverts ! Woohoooo.

Best of all, once it's all over, I'm off on my holidays.

Now that's a cause for celebration !

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mutter, Mutter

Normally, lovely hot sunshine brings out the best in people but it's been so unusual here this year that I find it's had the opposite effect on me ! I seem to have gone all depressed, grumpy and in short, Victor Meldrew-like. In an effort to raise my spirits, I'll get some things off my chest......and I might as well start with the weather.

Some decent summer weather finally arrived here in the UK last weekend but it's due to end on Thursday, just in time for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012. Now that's the Summer Olympic Games to you and me but they might have to alter the name in the history books as London might go down as hosting the first ever Autumn Games ! Rain and low temps are forecast. For a change.

Ironically in this one week of summer that we're enjoying now, the temps have shot to close to 32c/89f in places. Not so much "too little, too late" as "too much, too early."

Raising the seriousness level a moment, what about the terrible massacre at that movie theatre in Colorado ? So many people making so many bizarre comments that I might as well add my 2 cents worth.

Gun laws ? Well that's for Americans to sort out and if it's one thing I've learned from spending so much time there, it's that Americans don't take kindly to non Americans sticking in their 2 cents worth. Mind you, what nation does ?!

Having said that, in 2010, there were 8,775 murders caused by firearms in the US. In the UK last year, there were 51 and numbers have been falling for the last few years.

In fact if you add in accidental shootings by firearms in the US, that 8,775 number shoots (sorry !) to over 30,000. Astonishing.

But what pissed me off yesterday morning was a discussion on Radio 2 when someone was adamant that people should NOT go see the Batman movie that was playing at the time of this tragedy. What ? Seriously ? Mind you, I don't know what will happen to that specific theatre in Colorado but to suggest that no one should go see the movie in ANY theatre in ANY country is to go so far overboard as to be in the next ocean !

What gets to me even more however, is the glib phrase that always gets mentioned by the pro gun lobby at such times......."it's not guns that kill people, it's people who kill people."

Yes very clever use of words. But tell me this......if James Holmes hadn't had legal access to guns and ammunition, could he have walked into that theatre and killed so many people ? Even one person ? With great difficulty I'd have thought. And if his weapons hadn't jammed, the death count could have been many, many more. He had enough fire power to take out everyone in that building and more outside.

I take the point that HE pulled the trigger but my point would be that if he hadn't had easy and legal access to guns, all he would've been able to point at those people would've been his finger.

And that is all I have to say on that matter.

I'm sure that's a movie quote !

Bloody sun is blinding me now so I've had to get up and close the blinds. Told you.......nothing is pleasing me at the moment !

Moving on........

TV adverts. You either love 'em or hate' em. Actually that's not true. Most hate 'em but we know they are necessary to finance the top notch programming put out by the tv companies. Sadly they also finance the crap programming too and with more and more channels appearing almost by the week, the crap programming overtook the top notch programming a long time ago.

But here in the UK we have the national treasure that is The BBC. Several channels now, all national and all free from adverts. How ? Well every single household here with a tv set or "equipment with the ability to receive the BBC" has to pay a licence fee, currently £145.50 ($225) a year. There are a few concessions....over 75's don't pay and, get this, blind people 'only' pay 50% of the fee ! Generous eh ?

Anyway this is the only regular income the BBC gets to fund its programming. Of course it makes more millions selling a lot of this programming to Johnny Foreigner who seem to lap up everything from Dr. Who to Top Gear to Frozen Planet and rightly so. Quality stuff.

But in a recent poll, a majority said they'd prefer to not pay a licence fee and instead have adverts on the BBC ! What ?

I understand that in this current financial climate, £145.50 is a lot of money but come on, it's 40p a day ! 40p. And you can pay in monthly instalments.

That's half a bar of chocolate. One bag of crisps. One cigarette. One day of BBC with no adverts.

Try watching an engrossing movie and just when you're right 'in there' with the drama or action, the image fades and some asshole promoting car insurance pops up on your screen ! Gone is the mood. Gone is the suspension of belief. Gone is the atmosphere.

At 40p a day, give me uninterrupted programming with the BBC and as such, I'm so glad it's our Olympic Channel.

Moving right along........

I went to my local Toby Carvery this lunchtime and my table was next to that of a grandmother, mother and son. Now although it's a serve yourself carvery, a waitress takes and brings your drink order, checks everything is ok and brings you anything else to make up your meal.....dessert, tea/coffee etc. And at this location, they are always on the ball and on top of things.

In this case their waitress did even more as the boy moaned he'd not had enough meat (the meats are carved by a chef and generous portions are always given), she went and got him another plate of his choice.

The bill for their 3 carvery meals, 2 desserts and assorted drinks came to £28 something ($44) and as the grandmother handed over her credit card, she said "and take £1 for yourself."

£1. ONE POUND. That's a 3.5% tip !

Now I'm infamous for being a tight tipper (stop know who you are) but if I ever thought of leaving a 3.4% tip, I'd not bother leaving any. Too embarrassed. Having said that, we're not really into tipping for pub type meals here in the UK and before my American friends get up in arms, our staff tend to get paid better than yours and don't NEED to rely on tips to make up a half decent wage. Of course they denying that fact.

And before you ask, I like the place, go regularly and so gave a 20% tip as usual. Well sometimes usual anyway !

Actually that meal and being able to sit by the open doors to the beer garden to eat it, helped lift my mood and I felt a lot better for it. Fatter, heavier, fuller of stomach......but happier.

That's when I went shopping to Sainsburys and things got even better....if slightly more bizarre.

There along the back wall of the store, were rows and rows of children's 'back to school' clothing !

Back to school ? This was day 2 of the summer holidays !

Then again, to bring this post full circle, I did say we were at the end of a one week summer.

Clearly Sainsburys agrees.....and anyway, I probably missed their advert !

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wet, Wet, Wet

I'm very worried. There has been no rain today.

It's been very scary really and I spent most the day inside with the curtains closed, scared to go out. Just after lunchtime I peeked out and there was a huge yellow round thing in the sky. It was very hard to look at for more than 20 minutes at a time but I was mesmerised and now might be a bit blind. Or totally. I donno as it's 11pm and dark anyway.

But before that, OMG the wasn't grey. It was light blue with white floaty things which sometimes went in front of the huge yellow thing and then things would go darker. Not as dark as it's been for the last 4 months but still dark.

Not as dark as things are now, but then it's 11pm. And I might be blind.

I did miss the rain today. It gives life. Takes a few too. It helps recycle. It causes old unwanted (and sometimes wanted) things to float away to be replaced 6-8 weeks later with new things. The old things end up in Irish Traveller camps where they are kept and sold back to people. Not the people who had them initially of course. That would be silly. And unnecessary as they get new things. Sometimes more new things than they had old things. Naughty people.

But I worry that the huge yellow thing will be back tomorrow. Not that I'll see it of course.

The man on the tv, which I now call radio, said rain would come back but we don't trust him. I don't think anyone can forecast rain. But it's July, cricket season and the Olympics are starting soon so the omens are good. Yep, rain and lots of it.

Then everything will be back to normal in Great Wet Britain :

The Olympics will go down in history as the games where Michael Phelps won 57 gold medals by winning all the races in the stadium as well as in the swimming pool.

Yorkshire will get its wish and become an island county, separate from the rest of England - although hosepipe bans will still be in place.

Sales of wellies, umbrellas and windscreen blades will continue to climb.

Yes while the rest of the world will be basking in lots of yellow orbiness, we here in soggy Britain have more wetness to look forward to.

Not me though. As I told you earlier, I can see no end in sight.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Anonymous Spammers Beware

Just a quick update :

I've been getting comments recently from 'anonymous' posters who clearly raid random blogs to add these comments because they bear no relation to the subject matter. They also end with a link to some other blog or web site which no one in their right mind should visit.

I'm not saying they are dangerous or viral sites or anything but it's just not acceptable to me.

So, after always having my comment section free from moderation, that will now cease and I will read all comments before possible publication.

Don't worry, Bob, I'll nearly always publish yours !

I've also taken out the ridiculous verification process as even I struggled to understand those 2 words before being able to comment on my own posts and it often took several attempts !

Finally, I don't mind any visitor taking the anonymous option when leaving a comment; I just don't want spammers.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A Good Life On The Cards

Well I'm now 60 + 1 week and I have to say I've not noticed much difference in my physical abilities. I can still work the tv remote, raise the foot rest on my chair and go to the bathroom unaided.

Mind you the first is helped by batteries, the second by electricity and so only the third is all my own work, so to speak.

And on that topic, today I got a letter from the NHS telling they'd be sending me a home testing kit within the next 2 weeks as part of their bowel cancer screening programme. Lovely.

Yes indeed, it's grand being 60.

A few days ago I went to town and got my LeedsCard60 card. This allows me to get senior discounts at loads of local places, reduced entry to movies and best of all, to play golf for only £8.40 a round.

Actually the movie discount doesn't need the card but it'll be useful to prove I am, in fact, over 60 as clearly my youthful looks belie my advanced years. As part of my 2 day birthday celebrations, Stephen and Daphne took me to see Prometheus 3D and it was only when the ticket guy mentioned the total price that I remembered to say...."oh wait, I'm a senior."

He wasn't too happy amending the price and I was sure he'd ask for proof but before I could whip out my card, it was all over and done with. That annoyed me a bit as 1) I didn't get to use my nice new card and 2) he obviously thought I WAS over 60 !!

Pah !

I do find I'm using the age thing as a bargaining tool. Just today I sent an email to Currys/PC World and mentioned my senior status to try and get a bit of sympathy.

The backstory : on May 17th I bought a new 47" 3D smart LED tv. I may have mentioned it a few times before ! Anyway it came with a leaflet for a "Cash For Goals" offer where after registering online, I'd get £10 for every goal scored by England in the Euro 2012 footy tournament.

I know, not exactly a life changing deal !

Anyway I registered and then waited till today, July 2nd, when I had to verify things in order to get the dosh. To verify, I had to use a link on the confirmation email they sent out within 3 days of my registering. That's when the problem arose. I'd never received that confirmation email.
At least I don't remember getting it (but you know MY memory) and to add to the problem, I'd forgotten all about needing it till today.

So I searched all my email folders - no joy. I even checked Virgin Media's mail servers for emails I'd deleted off my laptop - no joy.

The terms and conditions clearly stated that 'they' were not responsible for any missing emails and no further correspondence would be entered into.

Woe was me......£50 down the drain.

But wait. I'm a senior now. Gotta be worth a try, yes ? Hell yes.

So I emailed them and told my story. Big purchase, paid cash, registered in time....blah, blah, blah. MAY have received the confirmation email but didn't believe so. Then played my joker.....and I'm a senior to whom £50 is a lot of money.

I realised this probably wasn't the time to use this technique as, after all, I'd just told them I'd paid £1200 cash for the product ! Oh well.

A couple of hours later my phone rang. It was Currys/PC World customer services. They wanted my email address so they could send me another confirmation email !

Result !

Would I have got this treatment if I'd not mentioned my senior status ? Who knows. But I'm claiming it as a victory for age related complaints.

So I'm all fired up now. I wanna be out there getting discounts, cheap rounds of golf and the God given ability to call young people whippersnappers.

But I have to be careful. My usual dress code of jeans, trainers and a fleeced hoodie may make it hard to believe I'm a senior.

Just as well I have my LeedsCard60 then !

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