Thursday, June 23, 2011

JP’s strike update

I have enjoyed the spike in readership recently arising from my comments on the rubbish strikes and the fact that lots of people seem to be searching for “Southampton” “Bin Strikes” and the like.  It’s probably been better for my ego than it should have been.

Anyway, if you were one of those folk who have come searching, I feel as though I should help provide answers.

The current situation seems to be that the Unions have rejected the council’s latest offer (surprise!) and that “agency staff in hire vehicles will clear black bags piling up in Southampton from bin men strikes. Council says side waste now a health risk" (via Twitter).  At least someone is doing something sensible.

Interestingly, the offer includes raising the threshold for pay cuts to £22k.  So whoever was bleating about the poor “vulnerable” bin-men now has less of a leg to stand on.

I’ve been enjoying the comments but you will have to debate amongst yourselves this time.  I am off to somewhere hot, with good food.  So like Naples.  But without the rubbish.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Helpful signage


One of the good things about having a camera built in to my telephone is that I invariably have it with me should I see something I’d like to snap.  My photo collection is full of all sorts of weird and wonderful observations, many of which I really should share with you at some point.

Look at this one, for example.  I think I took it at Bristol Parkway station.  What sort of person needs directions like that at the top of a staircase?

Just think, next time you feel ripped off by the cost of your rail ticket, remember that a small portion of your hard earned cash has gone to helping people who really need the obvious spelled out to them.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

On rubbish strikes


If you are a resident of Southampton, you will know that the bin-men have been on strike for the last couple of weeks and that some of us could be without a collection for more than a month in total (in fact, for recycling, the gap between collections is likely to top six weeks).  So it’s like Naples, but less trendy because we can’t actually blame the Mafia.  And it’s not as hot.  And the food here isn’t as nice.

Anyway, it goes without saying that I have no sympathy with the Unions who are behind the strike action.  The official Southampton City Council position is detailed here and although I do have sympathy with those who are facing a pay cut - never ideal - we have to realise that we are in a recession (and remember that there are many who have lost their jobs completely).  However, the Unions have apparently refused to negotiate (no surprises there then), and the Labour Party are offering no constructive help or solutions.  Sadly, using the opportunity to play political games rather than working to find a positive outcome for all is what I have come to expect from Labour’s brand of ‘socialism’ but as I was sensible enough not to vote for them I guess I can’t really complain.  One day the world will wake up to the fact that we can’t all be like Union bosses and rake it in, and realise that being denied a pay-rise is not a legitimate excuse to throw a tantrum

I wish.  Mind you, I can’t help wondering how many of the workers are in agreement with the strikes, or even fully understand the reasons behind them.  We’ve seen a lot of Union action over the last year where the many and varied reasons given lead to a lack of authenticity; I fear that the main motivation has been the personal and political gain of the Union leaders, who are good at stirring trouble, rather than the genuine dissatisfaction of the workers themselves. This has only served to cement my lack of sympathy in this particular case – maybe it’s like the ‘boy who cried wolf.’

That said, after the encounter I had with the bin-man the other day, I’d still struggle to muster much sympathy in any case.  After the initial week of strikes, collections were temporarily resumed and the bin-man happened to see me forcing the black sacks in to the top of my bin.  He stopped and folded his arms, and stared at me.  So I stopped, folded my arms, and stared at him.

“You can’t complain at the amount of rubbish,” I said, “there was no collection last week.”

“We were on strike last week,” he said, as though a) I was ignorant enough not to know and b) I would see this as a valid excuse.  Maybe he had even expected each household to reduce the amount of rubbish as well.

Thankfully, because I had just about got all of the sacks in the bin he did take them all. For which I was duly grateful.  Then whilst I was thanking him, a neighbour came running down the street to complain that not all of his rubbish had been taken.  It turns out that if the rubbish is in the bin, it will get taken, but that if it is in bags by the side then the bin men are “obliged to leave it.”

Now, it is only fair that any rubbish outside the bin is taken at the discretion of the bin-men (otherwise who knows what some idiots will try and dump).  But making excuses and “being obliged to leave it” in this case?  We’re talking about a couple of black sacks, at a time of disruption.  Surely the health and safety implications of leaving them festering for another month in the street are worse than anything the Unions could whinge about? 

My point is that this wasn’t exactly an example of being “hard working” as politicians like to champion.  Neither was it an example of thinking of others, or of putting effort in to a job.  To my mind, it was lazy.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of supporting “hard working individuals” but being “hard working” isn’t a title one enjoys by rights.  If I had failed to live up to expectations in my previous job, a ‘pay review’ might have ensued – and I wouldn’t have gone on strike.   Maybe I shouldn’t judge all bin-men on the basis of this encounter, but I do nonetheless wonder what makes them any different from the rest of us.






Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tu das illis escas tempore opportuno

So it seems as though the activity today in this Corner of the Blogosphere is like buses.  You wait ages for a post and three come along at once.

This is one of my more serious reflections (there’s only so much wit a man can offer in one day) but I thought that I’d share it with you anyway.  One of the many great traditions I enjoyed as an Oxford student is the fact that the preprandial grace is read by the Bible Clerk at Formal Hall.  I was, back in the day, said Bible Clerk, and can still remember the Latin off by heart.

“Oculi omnium spectant in te, Deus! Tu das illis escas tempore opportuno. Aperis manum tuam et imples omne animal tua benedictione. Mensae caelestis nos participes facias, Deus, Rex aeternae gloriae.”

On Friday, I very much enjoyed being invited back to High Table (perhaps I shall bore you with that another time) and the grace was duly said.  In fact, the current Bible Clerk jokingly asked me if I would say it, and part of me wishes that I had taken him up on the offer – but that’s very much not the point, and as ever, I’m digressing.

Much later that evening (after the wine, turbot, chocolate torte, dragon fruit, star fruit, cheese, turkish delight, port, claret, dessert wine and snuff…), I decided that I had better read through the passage I had been asked to read the following day at a wedding.  The couple had chosen verses from Psalm 145 and although the reading did not include them, verses 14 and 15 stood out for me.

15 The eyes of all look to you,
   and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
   and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

The observant amongst you will make the connection with the aforementioned grace, and one of the themes echoed throughout the whole Psalm is the praise of God for all that He has done, and all that He has given us.  What really stood out for me, however, was the phrase “you give them their food at the proper time.”

I’ve been going through quite a self-absorbed phase recently, and – if I am honest – it has been difficult to praise God.  It has not been easy to see that yes, He does satisfy the desires of every living thing.  However, this was a good reminder that God has His own timing, and perhaps we have to be patient.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a myriad of questions – but it doesn’t hurt to realise that God doesn’t work to our timeframe.  As with the famous footprints poem, hindsight is a wonderful thing.  Right now, I may not be loving the need to be patient, but who is to say what is around the corner, and what God will do in His proper time?

Sodcasting, and other anti-social behaviour

I have learned a new word today – “sodcasting.”  Even if you don’t know what it is, you just know that it is anti-social.  Well, you do, because you’re an upstanding member of society.  According to the BBC, however, there are some members of society who would disagree.

One of two profound questions asked on the BBC News Page this morning is "why do people play music in public through a phone?" Or, apparently, “why do people sodcast?”*

As part of the article, some kids on a bus in Hackney are interviewed, one of whom disagrees with the idea that it might be anti-social.  Evidently “the people who think it's anti-social don't really listen to this type of music."  Part of me likes his logic, even though I think he’s an idiot.  Fancy disturbing your neighbours at 2am?  So long as it’s not their type of music, you might just get away with it…

Anyway, I digress.  I’m not actually sure that many people do listen to his type of music (whatever that may be) because the full definition of sodcasting quoted by the BBC notes that it is “commonly practised by young people wearing polyester, branded sportswear with dubious musical taste."  I’m amazed that Polly Toynbee hasn’t waded in to complain about stereotyping like this, but the definition does seem quite good in my opinion.

Meanwhile, if you weren’t wondering why people feel the need to broadcast their music in public, perhaps you were wondering why do some teenagers deliberately light fires?  Another good question from the BBC, but I fear that if the people interviewed had been asked if they thought they were anti-social, the answer would be “no.”




*Bear with me here.  I’m not fully au fait with the word and I’m not sure if one can use it in this manner.  But you know what I mean.

“Hmm, not the place, then…”

So read the subject line of an email I received this morning.  Attached to the email was a photograph of a bookshop in Hong Kong (more on that in a minute) and the guy wrote that it “must be photoshopped, I thought. However, if it is, so is the Hong Kong telephone book...”

Indeed, said bookshop is listed as an approved OUP Retailer.  I know that this is generally a family blog for family people, but sometimes there is something for you here.  I couldn’t resist…


Saturday, June 04, 2011

On smelling like a girl

Normally, when it comes to deodorant, I’m a Lynx man.  If you’re a fan of JP Trivia, that one’s for you.*

The other day, however, I was in the Men’s section of the Toiletries aisle in Waitrose and, out of the corner of my eye, I spied an offer; two for one on ‘Right Guard 3-D.’  I like a bargain, and decided that I could manage without the Lynx Effect for a while.  After all, I was sporting some stubble, I have the beginnings of a proper tan, and my physique is starting to show the benefits of my recent bout of swimming.   Plus, if you’re an “I’m-not-shallow-it’s-all-about-the-personality” type, I am witty and charming.  And modest.**

So, having given Lynx the cold shoulder, I headed to pay, oblivious to the fact that this was not to be the end of this particular non-story.  Instead, let’s fast-forward a couple of days…

I was at a morning prayer meeting before work and - don’t tell anyone – my mind was wandering.  As everyone else was thanking God for things, or praying for something, I was thinking that I could smell something quite feminine.  I also began to realise that I couldn’t blame it on a girl sat next to me, because there wasn’t one.

It then dawned on me why a) Right-Guard 3-D was on offer and b) I could have chosen (but didn’t)*** a ‘Scent Free’ variety.  It’s because most men don’t want to smell like women.  Don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said for showing that you are vaguely in touch with your feminine side – we all know that I like metrosexual tea, for example.  But what I fear that I am about to experience over the coming months (I have two cans of Right-Guard to get through) is a ‘Reverse Lynx Effect.’ 

It doesn’t matter how many chillis I eat, or how many man points I earn in other ways.  The fact is, ladies and gentlemen, I smell like a girl.  Fail.


*Put it on the list after the fact that Krispy Kreme donuts are the way to my heart (if you really want to impress me, buy me a Maple Glazed one).

**To be fair, the stubble was genuinely verified as “good” by my female housemate.

***I thought it was pointless.  That will teach me.


Friday, June 03, 2011

A Black Mark for Bernice

For those of you who have been returning every few minutes desperate for news about what happened in my fight with easyJet, the wait is now over.  I apologise for the inconvenience, but it is not my policy to offer compensation.  If this blog had Terms and Conditions it would state that work takes precedence over broadcasting to the Blogosphere and I have actually had a productive few days (yes, really).

Anyway, the saga has not gone well.  When I published my last post, I had complained to easyJet that my flight had arrived an hour late.  They had responded with the irrelevant fact that my flight had only departed 47 minutes late and that I therefore did not qualify for compensation.  You can imagine them saying “better luck next time” as though I’d just attempted some fairground game, but they didn’t.  What they did say, however, was this:

“In times of a delay of less than one hour easyJet do not offer compensation. In the case of a flight being delayed for over one hour passengers are offered a free transfer or a credit for the cost of the flight.”

So I had argued that my flight was over an hour late arriving and I should therefore receive compensation.

Later that day, easyJet got back to me again, stating that

I can apologise continuously for the delay but cannot offer compensation as we do not offer compensation for delayed flights.”

I pointed out that if I had been told this in the first place there would have been no point in arguing about the length of the delay (even though I’d have been disappointed by the lack of compensation).  And I left it at that.

But now I have decided that that statement about being offered “credit for the cost of the flight” was unambiguous and that if easyJet are going to put something like that in writing then they should be prepared to honour it. 

easyJet have not really been honest since the moment the plane landed and they apologised for the “short” delay.  They’ve hidden behind all sorts of excuses and I’ve decided that as a man with principles I’m not going to accept such dishonesty easily.  If Bernice didn’t think that I was “one of those people” before, she will now…

Superiority Complexes

So it seems that there is some controversy surrounding the use of the word 'chav.’  Unsurprisingly, Polly Toynbee has found something to whinge about, suggesting that “chav is acceptable class abuse by people asserting superiority over those they despise."

This is quite ironic really, given that when it comes to asserting a sickly tone of superiority, Miss Toynbee is better* at it than most.


*the silly woman will probably whinge about my use of the word ‘better’ next.  How dare I compare one person with others and make such comparative judgements…