Friday, August 31, 2007

HSBC? JP says "No".

The observant amongst you may have noticed that whilst I was waiting for some simulation results yesterday I updated my Black- and Whitelist.

HSBC now feature on the blacklist, for misleading me about my overdraft limit, wrongly applying charges to my account, sending me several conflicting pieces of information and advice, and - finally - scrapping the Interest Free Graduate Account Overdraft I was promised when I signed up to their student account. Oh, and their Customer Services people are useless. My first complaint yielded some patronising and irrelevant advice on how to pay in a cheque, and my follow up to this was not even acknowledged.

Judging by conversations I have had with others, and this article, I am by no means alone. Despite the apparent 'U-turn' alluded to by the BBC I still lack any faith in HSBC at all and look forward to taking my custom elsewhere when I have finished my course.

So, if you're looking for a student bank account, and want JP's top tip of the day, it's simple. Don't bank with HSBC.*


*As a man of principles I'd also advocate avoiding NatWest ( for their ID Policy) and I've not heard great things about Barclays, either. Hmmm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

train strain

It might be said that I talk a lot about trains. Some might even say that I talk too much about trains, though it can't really be helped. Besides, if one reads closely, it can be seen that I rarely talk about the train itself. More often than not the train is my preferred way of getting from A to B, and seldom do I ever find a better combination of something to say and time in which to say it than when I am sat back and watching the world go by.

Of course, I have been known to have a few train-related rants, and usually, as in this post, the incompetent Department for Transport (DfT) is the deserving focus of my anger. I've never really subjected you to my rants when the train is late and overcrowded, or when I am squashed in a seat not designed for human beings, but this is probably because I vent my anger at the Train Company concerned. If my complaint is justified they might furnish me with free travel vouchers, which is much more satisfying (if not so good for my ego) than knowing that a few people have read my ramblings and possibly felt a bit of sympathy.

Nonetheless, it was reassuring recently to stumble upon I Hate First Great Western and First Late Western. Reassuring because there are obviously people who commute in the same area as me who would certainly empathise and offer sympathy if I shared my rants, and reassuring because here is proof that there are people out there who talk about trains more than I do. Being the sort of person that I am, it's also nice to have a bit of an insight in to the lives of fellow commuters.

As a result I have also started reading In Defence of First Great Western, which gives some interesting perspectives from 'the inside', and some more reassuring evidence that there are others who sometimes feel the need to rant like I do. I quite like this blog because it opens up a world behind the excuses so often used to fob people off, and provides an interesting view on the complicated workings of the railway industry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

which of you blokes is male?

Whilst waiting for my train home I like nothing better than to cast my beady eye through the Metro*. Today I was drawn towards the advert for Virgin Media, in which they are announcing that they were Number One in a Customer Satisfaction Survey. I don't blame them for shouting about such a surprising fact, though and I dread to think what experiences people have had elsewhere. It's not exactly stating the obvious.

What is stating the obvious, however, is the rather amusing small print. After learning who conducted the survey and how many respondents there were**, the reader who bothers to continue is rewarded with the following disclaimer. "Your experiences may vary".

What would be the point in surveying people if we all thought the same?


*Trains and a 'quality' rag. A winning combination for those who are easily pleased.

**2706. If you were wondering.

Defined by user

Monday, August 20, 2007

picking up where I left off

It seems that as I enjoyed my train ride along the top of the Dawlish Sea Wall and up the Teign Estuary I negelected to notice that part of my last post got lost in the ether. I think I must have been sidetracked by the raft-race* and the shipwreck I saw, not to mention the beautiful scenery. So, for those of you, like John who have felt The Cliff Hanger Effect, and been checking this page at every opportunity**, I am delighted to inform you that the next installment is finally here.

Well, ish. Friday's Metro is a bit 'last week' now, and I've lost the flow I was in at the time. Basically I was amused by the fact that the picture had blatantly been an attempt to cash in on the 'celebrity culture' but rather than getting a famous young musician, 'musician', actor or upcoming footballer they'd gone for the upcoming footballer's girlfriend. Which is no more impressive than saying that "I live next door to the person who walks the dog with somebody really famous."***

My weekend, incidentally, was amazing. I saw Dartmoor at its best (or worst, depending on your viewpoint). I enjoyed a walk on Saturday in the middle of a moor so bleak that the prison we were close to was no more than a shadow in the midst. I also enjoyed excellent company and wonderful hospitality. Arriving after a slightly delayed train journey on Friday night to views of the moor in the fading light and the promise of red wine, fillet steak and curly fries was just fantastic.


*The height of excitement.

**I've not checked, but if it's boosted my viewing figures (and therefore my ego) I should do it more often.

***If my neighbour does know somebody really famous, I am unaware of this fact.

Friday, August 17, 2007

more joys of train travel (you know you love it, really)

I've just changed trains in Exeter and at the station I met someone I know and haven't seen for ages. I love it when I meet people in this manner, and it's a small world (as I often say). Is it me though, or does it happen to me more than most?

Other highlights of my journey so far include seeing some Americans being totally clueless as to how to open the door and get off the train I'm now on, and finding a copy of the Metro.

I know, it's a rag, but I love it. I was particularly amused by the front page picture showing someone collecting their A'level results. The aim has obviously

Monday, August 13, 2007

more trouble for Heathrow

I have just been reading the BBC News article about the protests at Heathrow, and the associated Have Your Say page. Which, for once, is pleasantly free from unnecessary capital letters (IDIOTS) and poor spelling.

It might not surprise you to know that I don't have much time for these self-righteouss tent dwellers, and I am disappointed that in the name of a "peaceful protest" they are seemingly being allowed to dwell illegally on Imperial College land (wasting police time, money and resources in the process). If you ask me, they should be thrown out, now. End of. Doubtless someone will cry "deplorable" and "irresponsible" but I was quite amused by the comment by the guy who wondered if he could get away with doing 33mph in a 30 Zone by claiming to be "protesting peacefully". There is some logic there.

I find these people extremely selfish, and they will doubtless inconvenience lots of holiday makers despite assurances that they won't; apparently they are only targeting BAA. That's like closing a supermarket and claiming that those who wish to shop there won't be inconvenienced.

I also feel that they need to get their science right. Let's see some hard facts rather than random claims of "more air travel will lead to dead babies". I don't doubt that we should be working to be responsible and curb our effect on the environment, but as far as I understand it air travel is not as big a factor as people make it out to be. It's just an easy target. Why aren't people protesting that China is building two coal power stations a week?

I also think that the effects of Heathrow's planned expansion - and the alternatives - need to be considered. Will not expanding curb air travel? Probably not. Instead, pressure will mount on other airports, in this country and abroad, and expansion will doubtless take place somewhere. Furthermore, the holding time for aeroplanes above Heathrow will not be reduced. Correct me if I am wrong but a plane in a holding pattern still outputs Carbon Dioxide.

Like others on the Have Your Say page, I am also keen to know how the illegal campers who came from abroad got here. Did they fly? I'll also bet that those who weren't so hypocritcal came by car or bus. Possibly not one which had been well maintained and certainly one which would have given off Carbon Dioxide and other nastier gases. If you're so concerned about limiting your Carbon Footprint, why didn't you stay at home?

Finally, am I alone in wondering what sort of idiot buys a house in the Heathrow flight path and then thinks it's perfectly OK for them to complain about the noise?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

that "country house on the outskirts of London"

I had a wonderful day with friends in London yesterday, the highlight being my visit to The Palace. It is well worth a visit, and I really enjoyed it. There is a lot to see, and to take in; and you can't fail to be impressed with a lot of the decor. I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that the chandeliers in the ballroom are a massive 11ft tall, and the general attention to detail is staggering. I really liked the picture galleries and the way in which etched glass roofs allow for a good amount of natural light and mirrors are used to build up a feeling of space.

I have to say that I also found it fairly surreal, and can't quite believe that this time yesterday I was stood by the table at which HM the Queen hosts her banquets.

After the visit, and a stroll through the gardens (with lush ice cream from the Royal suppliers) we enjoyed the sunshine in Green Park, followed by a few drinks and a meal in Chinatown. At a Chinese restaurant, surprisingly. The food was good, and if you're interested in this sort of thing, Jasmine tea is now on the list of "teas I like".

It's a small world after all...

...It's a small world after all,
It's a small world after all,
It's a small, small world.

Some of you may have read Jordan Gray's recent comments on this post, this post and this one.

As Jordan pointed out, there is a hilarious sequence of co-incidences involved here:

"* I write a random comment on The Times website;
* you respond to my comment in particular on your blog;
* we meet each other and become friends on Iona;
* I find the response on your blog by complete accident."

Anyway, having enjoyed getting to know Jordan on Iona it is great to hear his point of view, and he's got some good things to say. I should probably concoct some sort of response to the various debates at some point, but for now do go and take the time to read his comments.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"A Christian Hell. The Worst Kind of Hell."

The poster I encountered in Bristol and blogged about in my last post for your viewing pleasure has got me thinking. Not the bit about throwing some questionably exotic shapes - though I was pleased to see the phrase used - but the bit referring to Hell. Hopefully, given the title of this post, that won't surprise you.

I wouldn't know whether the Christian Hell is the worst type of Hell - and neither would you - though in the strictest sense of the definition I think that it is the only Hell, so I guess that it could qualify. As a Christian, I would define Hell as a place of eternal separation from God, and I would suggest that this is A Bad Thing. Especially if the imagery used in the Bible is anything to go by.

I suspect, however, that the promotor of the 4th Anniversary of the Great Row Boat Rave was thinking along other lines. Christians are renowned for preaching hellfire and damnation more than most, and often perceived as making people feel guilty more than most. So, in that sense, maybe it is the worst type of Hell.

The thing is, as a Christian, I have never condemned anyone to Hell. It's God's job to judge, not mine. What I can say however is that with the message of the Christian faith being the option of reconciliation with God then there must be an alternative - eternal separation from Him. Now, no-one is perfect, and I don't doubt that some of the street preachers out there are perhaps a little extreme or misguided, but ultimately their aim is to promote the good news - and the importance - of God's offer of forgiveness. Making people feel guilty should not be part of the mandate, and if I have ever done that, I apologise.

The fact is that we have all fallen short of God's standards, no matter how good you think you are, but the offer of reconciliation with God is there if you want it. So, next time you feel the need to whinge about Christians being judgemental and condemning snap out of the victim mentality for once and remember that the choice is yours.

Giant Row Boat Rave


Giant Row Boat Rave
Originally uploaded by JP1984.

'Four years ago some idiots put on a rave. It was a rave like no other. They described it as deranged fairground music for it was like riding a psychedelic carousel that took you up to the ninth cloud upon high and then right down to the depths of a Christian hell. The worst kind of hell.

They thought it was fun, but by and at the cost of their own minds they endeavoured to make people extremely happy. The people danced, cheered and watched in awe as a small group would throw some questionably exotic shapes.

It was stupid, very stupid, and so time was taken for rest and sanity. That is until it was officially proclaimed...

"Stupid is fun you boring t**t, so put down those crocs and shut up as you will not go elsewhere for a chill as we are all just trying to chill out but first you will 'ave it and f***ing 'ave it you will, right now!"'



I found this poster in Bristol after I walked there on Saturday. It was in the new building area near Temple Meads, and I was greatly amused to see that someone else had used the term "throwing some shapes", Or, to be more precise, "throwing some questionably exotic shapes". Pleasing.

I think that it's advertising the fourth anniversary of a rave known as the 'Giant Row Boat', but other than the date (Sat. 4th August) information seems to be scarce. Did anyone go? Was it any good?