Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding Souvenir Blog Post

 

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So, yesterday some guy married some girl he met at university and the whole world dropped everything and took note.  As you would expect from a quality blog, I am able to report from the perspective of someone who was there, in the thick of the action, at Buckingham Palace.

Of course, most of the action in question was flag waving, and I was only at, rather than in, the Palace – so if you want to actually see something of the wedding or reception I suggest that you head for a news site other than The Guardian.*  Although I’d heard the service and caught glimpses of the processions, I did enjoy the TV Highlights when I returned home.

Nonetheless, it was worth the early start to be in London yesterday; even on the early train there was a sense of excitement and anticipation.  Yes, the crowds were (perhaps unsurprisingly) a pain at times – with one or two self-centred people kicking up an unnecessary fuss.  No, I didn’t see the kiss itself because it was obscured by a flurry of OK! Flags, cameras and cardboard periscopes.  But the buzz was incredible, as we all stood there, jostling for position, some of us with one ear glued to a radio.  I appreciated the sense of humour of the van driver who mimicked a Royal wave to the assembling crowd, and was grateful to the Bishop of London for his public reminder that we have a generous God.  The cheers as the Archbishop pronounced William & Kate man and wife were amazing, and the myriad of Union flags waving as everyone participated in the National Anthem was a truly special moment.  In an age where a St George’s flag is apparently racist, it was great to have an opportunity to be proud to be British.

*Regular readers will know that this clause is fairly spurious as I would never normally commend The Guardian anyway

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Free and easy?

I’ve just booked a flight with easyJet, and was staggered to be fleeced of £8 just for the privilege of paying.  With a debit card! £8!

Still, it could have been worse. Flybe would have charged me £9. And their more-dishonest-than-RyanAir website would have fleeced me further for ‘choosing my seat’ had I not wondered why the costs were going up and scrolled down to the tiny print below the adverts.

Now I might be a fan of BA anyway, but this has got me wondering why people even look at ‘low cost’ flying sometimes.  Or why BA’s advertising people aren’t doing a better job of tearing apart the competition.

In this case, I had no choice (BA don’t fly where I want to go) but had I flown with BA, the headline price would have been what I paid.  None of this watching the totals go up as I add baggage, debit card fees, seat choice, or spend too long on the internet.  And I’d get my G&T on-board.

Fair enough, some of the charges are optional.  Sometimes one doesn’t need two pieces of hand-baggage.  Or a bag in the hold.  Or a coffee.  But the day that paying becomes an optional extra, I’ll fly with easyJet every time.

 

Friday, April 22, 2011

If I was a policeman…

I’ve been to quite a few cities in my life (let’s face it, I’m getting old enough to be “well travelled”) and it’s never occurred to me that the traffic might flow better if someone stood in the middle of the street and waved their arms around.  In almost every city, from Bergen to Bristol or from Shanghai to St David’s. it seems to me that drivers are perfectly capable of dealing with a junction without massive gesticulations for guidance – even when there are roadworks.  Not so in Rome, it would seem…

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On going to have a lover, and other related phrases

I have just kicked off a Facebook conversation in Italian (I started with “buono sera” in case you were wondering) which was going swimmingly (in that I got a response) until I realised that I’d forgotten how to respond to the question “come sta?” (“how are you?”).

Thankfully, Google is my friend, and I found this site.  Having continued my conversation I then scrolled down and saw the list of ‘related phrases.’

“Hi, how are you?” could be the beginnings of casual discourse one might have passing someone else in the street.  And yet it seems that if you were speaking Italian, you might quickly move on to such topics as “I’m sick of your sport channels” or “I’m going to have a lover.”

For those of you who like stating the obvious, you could learn how to respond to the question by stating that you were “looking in a phrase book.”  Except that you’re probably actually looking on the internet.

Of course, I make the assumption that the context is quite general, but there are implications that this page focuses more on responding to one’s spouse.  “I’m glad I’ve married you” is not something I’d expect most people to say to someone they were passing in the street – though of course it does beg the question how well the marriage is going if you have to resort to looking up phrases when you communicate.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Environmental Tax?

I’m sure I’ve rambled about this before, but I feel the need to question the environmental credentials of Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is much higher in Britain than anywhere else in the world.

It is billed as an ‘environmental tax’ to discourage flying.  It is therefore ‘green’ and cuddly, and a reason for the unthinking yet trendy populous to love the government.

Unfortunately, the actual environmental effects are very dubious to say the least.  The tax for long-haul flights is much more than that for short-haul flights, which means that it works out better to fly indirectly.  In other words, you pay short-haul APD to fly from the UK and the long-haul leg departs from a country which is not bent on bleeding you dry.  Just see www.skyscanner.net for a myriad of examples.

So unless you are really tight for time, or on a business account, it becomes increasingly viable to give the French, the Germans or the Dutch your business and fly via Paris, Frankfurt or Schipol. Of course, this involves two take-offs and landings (which are by far the worst part of the flight from an environmental point of view) and may involve a longer routing, but you don’t really care about the environment, do you?

I doubt that the number of people who have stopped flying as a direct result of APD will have had any impact on the environment whatsoever, whilst the number of people flying via another European hub must surely be on the increase.

So next time you think about Air Tax and think that it’s something positive, think again.  Unless you’re French, in which case you may as well enjoy the benefits of our business.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

United we stand for my own interests

I’m not sure why I give these things the time of day, but in the interests of free speech and all that I decided to have a look at the Unite the Union website.  In the ‘About Us section, I learned that – apparently – Unite “is a union that stands up for equality for all.

In light of that, I was interested to note that Joint statement by Unite the union and British Airways focuses only on the desires of the individual cabin crew.  The non-contractual perks, the high-flying lifestyle, and the demand for more money than the new recruits.  One would have thought that a joint statement by someone valuing equality for all would also have included “valuing the fact that you have a job,” “not whinging every time you’re asked to do said job properly” and “getting out of the galley and serving the passengers (who pay to be served drinks without having to leave their seats).”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yes, I’d like to speak to…

 

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…Fi?

…Fio?

…Fioo?

…Fiooo?

…Fioooo?

I’d have thought that if you were advertising on the back of your van it’d be helpful to make it clear what your business was actually called.

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"Great Offers" in the Stile

At least someone at The Stile is honest about the quality of their email offers…

Retail Therapy?

 

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Has anyone ever actually rented a shop “for medicinal purposes”?

Once a cyclist, always a cyclist?

 

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I would describe myself as a cyclist.  Sometimes a keen one at that.  However, on this occasion I walked down the path in question because I didn’t have my bike with me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Money saving tips (2)

Whilst I was buying my tickets for tomorrow, I thought that I would also buy my ticket to Chichester on Friday.  Normally I would buy a return, but on this occasion I am being met at the other end.  When the price of a single came up as “from £7.45” I was a bit surprised, because normally the journey costs me less than £7.

Oh, wait.  I can actually buy a return ticket for £6.70…

Money saving tips

So, tomorrow, I shall be travelling from Southampton to Birmingham.  With a Railcard, an Anytime return fare is £91. 

However, if I buy a return to Banbury, and a return from Banbury to Birmingham, and *stay on the same train* the total cost is £37.

This is a great example of the clarity and affordability of travelling by train in Britain.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder?

It has been said that all I do is look at pictures of trains.  Which is not entirely true, but it does sometimes happen.  Normally I wouldn’t shout about this too much, for fear of damaging my reputation, but I found myself browsing the Bombardier website earlier.  If you didn’t think that trains could be beaten with the ugly stick, think again

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Liar, Liar?

Today I bring you another dose of comment about a BBC News Article.  In a fairly ironic situation,  “A candidate for Derby City Council has apologised for using a false name in a BBC phone-in about honesty in politics.”

What interests me is the comment made by Phil Bailey, chairman of Derby South Conservative Association:

"I think it was a genuine mistake, I don't think it was deceit and lies. I just think he wanted to get his point over and I think it was the only way he could see to do it."

How is giving a false name a genuine mistake?  And either way, it’s still lies.

Then there’s the use of “the only way to do something” as an excuse.  If our councillors and politicians carry on like this then it will become acceptable to steal a car on the basis that “it was the only way to get where I needed to be.”

The possibilities are endless…

Saturday, April 02, 2011