Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Girls don’t like boys; girls like cars & money

When a friend of mine announced he was considering buying a convertible Saab, I wholeheartedly approved.

After all, "cheap" does not necessarily have to mean "Daewoo Matiz" (thankfully) and I always like it when people drive something a bit different.  Too many people choose not to take the opportunity when they have it, and before they know it their Fiesta has to be sold to make way for a people-carrier.  Then they're old, and so they buy a Hyundai.  *Yawn*

Of course, "different" does not always mean "good" and AutoTrader needs to be filtered quite carefully.  For example, if my friend had suggested a Rover, I'd have suggested some alternatives.  But Saabs are likeable, and have a good reputation for being well made.

So when my friend suggested we went to Romsey for lunch the other day the idea was much more appealing knowing that I didn't have to squash myself in to the back of a small car with no headrests.  Instead, I could enjoy a comfortable leather seat, and kick back with some tunes on the CD Changer.  I wouldn't be saying that if he'd spent the same (if not more) money on a Punto.  Neither would the Punto have air-conditioning, although in this case that was irrelevant.  In the words of Moby, "we had the roof down; the sun was shining in."*  I don't care how I looked - it was lush.

When it comes to girls, however, I have observed an interesting phenomenon.  I've spoken before about how all girls seem to care about is the colour.  We've all had the conversation with a girl about a car where they give the impression that all they know is that it's blue.

However, when they tell my friend that he is having an early midlife crisis, I'm not sure that this has anything to do with the fact that his Saab is red.  I'm sure that if it was blue they'd say the same thing. The "I'm a girl; I don't know anything other than the fact it's blue" line is a lie.  They know, and they're judging you.**

The funny thing is that although I wouldn't expect driving a convertible Saab to further enhance my desirability, I think that if you're a girl it may enhance yours.  So if you're smitten by the fact that I am witty, no longer smell like a girl and am was*** suntanned then there is a little tip for you...



*the black fact is, I was thinking of you.

**or at least they want you to think that.  I think that some of them actually quite like the car. Women.

***on the positive side, driving me round in a convertible will help the tan.  Everyone wins.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The writing’s on the sign….



The person responsible for this sign, which appeared on the BBC News Page today, probably passed their English GCSE at Grade C or above.  They may even have a Key Skills qualification in IT (which really should have pointed out the existence of a spell-checker). Or maybe the council had to find someone to do the sign on the cheap because they couldn’t pay those who are qualified enough to prevent them from going on strike.

A spokeswoman apparently said “People will either think we are stupid and we can't spell or they will have a good laugh.”

Actually, love, it’s not a case of “either/or,” and there is no ambiguity.  I know you can’t spell, and I am having a good laugh.

Well, I’m having a laugh.  I’m not sure whether it’s good or not, but it’s either that or crying.  If I had tweeted about this I think the hashtag I would have used would be #proudtobeBritish.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

England’s Green & Pleasant Land



This is a photograph of the old US Airbase at Greenham Common, near Newbury, taken a couple of weeks ago.  The airbase was closed in 1993, and it has since been “returned to common land.”  Apparently.  Despite the hype which went with the campaign, you can see that it still bears more resemblance to an airbase than it does to anything else. 

Meanwhile, nearby Thatcham and Coldash have swelled in size as new housing has been built.  I believe that most of the new developments are on previously unspoilt land, and that the development of higher ground contributed to the scale of some flooding a couple of years ago.  And whilst the new estates required new services and cabling, I am told that the infrastructure underpinning Greenham Common was state of the art.

The scars you can see on the landscape will continue to last, years after the politicians and councillors who curried favour with the people with the “common land” campaign have been forgotten.

It certainly gives some interesting perspective to the Greenbelt debate

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Climbing the [Google] charts with tea and cake

I’ve just had a cursory glance at the statistics for this corner of the Blogosphere.  Not only is it more exciting than returning from lunch to write a report, it is good for my ego as well.

Today I learned that someone landed here after asking Google “what is lesbian tea.”  Apparently, one of my earlier posts was relevant.  Arguably, the photograph illustrated it quite well (although I prefer the term “metrosexual tea”), so I hope that they found it useful.

Some say that you can’t have tea without cake, and it seems as though if you search Google for “JP’s cake corner” my rankings remain even more impressive.  Sadly, most people who end up here for that reason are likely to be disappointed.

Having said that, the brownies I made recently were independently verified (by a trustworthy source) as being “good.”  That was also good for my ego, and I should probably make them again sometime.

This chatter isn’t good for my report though, so I had better shut up with some haste.  Have a nice afternoon!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On National Strikes

I’ve not been on a train today, and neither have I experienced any bad customer service.*  Fear not, however, the trade unions are making threats again, and  that is also usually enough to bring me running to this corner of the Blogosphere with a need to vent my spleen.

From what I can see, the BBC article is outlining another classic tale of self-centred union politics.  As with all good strikes, the reasons behind this latest national threat are left unclear.  There is mention of the fact that some workers are due to have a pay freeze, but if that was a genuine reason to get uppity then I’d already expect to be hearing wails of complaint from the myriad of hard working private sector folk for whom that is currently a reality.  One of these days, these people will learn to be grateful for not being made redundant.

Interestingly, the unions talk in terms of “targeted” areas.  That sounds a bit specific for a general complaint about pay.  I don’t know why it’s taking them so long to draw up a list though, because any fool knows that the areas they will target are those with a Conservative MP and/or council.**  Maybe part of their fundraising strategy is to eek out a bit more sponsorship from Ed Milliband and the Labour Party and they need time to give a bit of a “pay up or else” ultimatum.  Who knows.***

*Actually, I’ve had almost no customer service today.  It’s been a dull day.

**I’m sure some of you will naively accuse me of being unnecessarily political.  Let’s just see where the strikes happen, and then you can agree that I was right to be cynical.

***On second thoughts, maybe they’re just slow.  After all, if they couldn’t find anyone more eloquent than the person who only answered “yep” to the BBC then it doesn’t bode well…



Monday, September 12, 2011

On Chinese Christianity

I won’t lie to you.  Even for the geeks and ferroequinologists amongst you, my last post was possibly one of the more monotonous I’ve written.

Even though it wasn’t quite as dull as this blog, I am pleased to say that if trains aren’t your thing I have found something else to talk about.

The BBC have produced an interesting article on the Chinese Church, and there is a radio programme which could be worth tuning in to.  As I have two ears and one mouth, I shall listen to it now and think about spouting prolifically later.  Enjoy…

It’s all about the customer service (and the sugary latte)

I was on a train this morning (as you do), and despite the fact that it was running late, I was in a good mood. 

Sadly, before some wisecrack makes a comment, this was nothing to do with a girl.  Alas. But please humour me and read the rest of my ramblings anyway.

Of the things which did contribute to my good mood, the first was the fact that Danny at The Whistlestop Cafe at Barnham had still had time to shake my hand and make me a Vanilla Latte.*  It was tight, but I made my connection.

The second is that Southern were really pro-active with their customer service. As we know, I am a stickler for customer service and good customer service makes me happy in the same way that bad customer service makes me annoyed.**

It was clearly one of those days today, with everything except the wrong leaves on the line.  But the guard on each train was informative, and apologetic (which goes a long way).  Notably, when it was announced that the train was going to terminate early (at Fareham), the guard came down the train to check onward travel arrangements with each group of passengers.  Most impressive of all, however, he then went to find out if it would be possible for me to stay on the train until Eastleigh, where I had a chance of making a connection.  The good news is that it was possible, and I had a whole train to myself for a while.  The bad news is that I just missed my connection (whose idea was closing train doors 30s early, anyway?), but you can’t blame Southern for not trying.

This has got me thinking.  I usually blog about trains when I am annoyed, but credit should be given where it’s due.  If I were to draw up the JP List of Winners & Losers (in the “customer service” and “rail” category) what would it look like?

I think that the winner would be Southern. Today’s episode was a particularly good example, but their staff these days are usually polite, friendly and proactive.  Even their posters ooze friendliness, and they have some good policies (such as Priority Seating).

First Great Western would be the runner up.  This may shock some of you who are used to their cramped local trains and the fact that they never put enough carriages on some routes.  But the staff seem apologetic for the shortcomings, their posters are also friendly and – like Southern – they are good at engaging with social media.  In fact, First Great Western deserve a special mention for the way they have engaged with this blog.

At the bottom end of the scale, I’d put South West Trains, whose only seem to be proactive about engaging with passengers when they want to penalise them for having the wrong leaves on their ticket.  Even their posters are rude and aggressive, and I’m not sure that “sorry” is in the vocabulary of some of their employees.  Whereas many companies have adopted Twitter (in the case of Southern and First Great Western to good effect), South West Trains are notable by their absence. Silence speaks volumes, as they say.

I know I’m going on a bit now, but if there was such a thing as a runner-up for last place then Arriva would probably take it.  They ignored my torrent of tweets from their cramped train*** and took five days just to acknowledge the fact I’d filled in an online comment form.


*I’m still not sure if this is tea or coffee. When I think “latte” I think coffee, but when I think “chai” I think tea…

**In some cases, it even gives me twitterhea

***To be fair, this may be because they have literally thousands of annoyed tweets to acknowledge.





Friday, September 09, 2011

On winning a sibling…

…or not, as the case may be. 

I know that I should be working but I’ve just briefly scanned the BBC News Page over coffee and feel the need to pass comment on one of the headlines, which reads “Gipsy Wedding star wins Brother.”

This has given rise to a couple of questions. 

- since when has “Big Brother” been acceptably abbreviated as “Brother?”  As I don’t watch it, I’m probably not in the best position to comment, but is the world really populated with people who say things like “did you see Brother last night?”*

- why does the BBC feel the need to compete with The Mirror and the Daily Mail?  Besides, if they’re going to go with trashy headlines they should at least put some effort in.

OK so this is not as serious as the freedom of speech issue concerning the BBC I raised yesterday, but in my best grumpy-old-man voice, I do feel that standards are declining.


*Actually, the world does contain people who watch Big Brother avidly, so I guess nothing should surprise me…


Thursday, September 08, 2011

The BBC & Greenbelt–a tale of Freedom of Speech?

For someone who doesn’t especially like The Guardian, least of all some of its self-righteous, self-opinionated, and generally fairly nauseating commentators (I’m looking at you, Miss Toynbee), I do refer to it an awful lot.  Maybe I’m in denial…

Anyway, my attention was drawn to this article via Twitter earlier.  The link was preceded by “BBC religion producers forbidden to speak at [Greenbelt].”

I’d be interested to know what you make of it.  Mr Ahmed perhaps has a fair point when he says that the producers in question “are still BBC employees and therefore anything they say about programming in the genre they work in has to be seen as official,” although I don’t understand why we have to assume that they are not entitled to their own opinions.

One of the issues at stake, of course, is the fact that Britain still has a Christian constitution.  It may be trendy to assume otherwise, and in many ways we do actually live in a secular society – but at the end of the day it is still perhaps incongruous for the British Broadcasting Corporation to get uppity about being seen at a large national Christian festival.

I would also like to ask Mr Ahmed whether BBC Producers are also banned from attending Muslim gatherings.

Readers of The Telegraph evidently had their doubts about Mr Ahmed long ago, and this article also makes for interesting reading.  Some of the comments are particularly thought provoking… 

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

On playing the drums

I don’t play the drums, for the record.  But I did see a tweet this morning which amused me, and thought that I would quote it here for your general amusement and delectation.  After all, I’ve not had the chance to post much else here recently, and I’d hate for the place to become full of cobwebs again.

“My neighbour knocked on my door at 2.30 this morning! 2.30am! Luckily for him, I was still up, playing the drums.”