Sunday, 27 November 2011

The (crappy) Italian Job

Grand-daughter Sophie arrived with her parents and as it was Saturday afternoon the Firefly's wife suggested:
Let's go to Waddesden Manor and enjoy the wonderful annual Christmas display in the West Wing of the house.
It didn't start overly well when - on arrival - my suggestion of using my mother-in-law's disability batch to park in the 'reserved for disabled people' area caused a tidal wave of rebuttal from all the passengers in my car. The fact that the reserved area at Waddesden Manor is the size of an aircraft carrier and would only fill up if all the disabled people in Buckinghamshire would coordinate a mass exodus to Waddesden is neither here nor there.
The spotty teenager dressed as a parking attendant stopping my car just to tell me that 'there is plenty of parking space in the parking area' did not improve matters.
Once we had extricated ourself and all pushchair-related items out of the car, we walked towards the house.
In order to see the display, you have to get yet another set of tickets, even though you have just paid £6.50 per person just to get into the grounds!! Now an extra £8.50 per person awaits the unsuspecting visitor and you will be forgiven for wondering whether you have accidentally strolled into Sherwood Forest.
As we stood at the hatch to the ticket stall with a stiff northerly breeze cutting our faces in half I was wanting to choke the senile geriatric who took half an hour to give me my change.
After a lengthy explanation from the Firefly that I only wanted 2 tickets as 2 of us were members of the National Trust, which took up another 10 minutes of everybody's time in the now lengthy queue.
At the house we had to leave the pushchair, the changing bag and any other items we might have carried and it was only good fortune that we managed to take little Sophie past the eagle-eyed matron guarding the entrance to whatever magic lies behind.
For a total of £15 per person you are right to expect an exceptional display of Christmas joy - both from the interior of the place and the attitude of the people working there.
We however got neither! The staff was crotchety and about as helpful as hiccups is for a bomb disposal expert and the Christmas display was an Italian theme with Christmas trees hanging full of Venusian masks, pasta or some other random items relating to Italy and the usual lovely Christmas story was replaced by Pinocchio!! Yeah!! You know!! Pinocchio! That well-loved Christmas character!!
When I first entered the house I asked whether I could take pictures (without flash) and was told in no uncertain tone that this is strictly forbidden!! By now I was quite glad that I couldn't.
So no pictures on the Firefly of the crappy display.
After spending almost no time at all on the display and certainly buying nothing from the well overpriced shop, we left the building and had to walk round to the front again to pick up the pushchair and then go back the other way to pick up the bag, as they wouldn't let us in through the front door without ye another ticket. Madness!!
On the way back to the car we felt the urge to follow the "Reindeer Trail"!!! Ooohhh!!!
Here are some pictures, so please make up your own mind!
The Firefly suggests: Don't go there! Visit your local tip instead.

It started off looking OK . . .

 . . . there seemed to be an owl infestation . . . 

 . . . about the highlight of the day . . . 
 . . . and the low points!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!

Jamie the dog heard them first . . . the footsteps coming up the drive and towards the house!
Sharp as a razor blade his furious barking cut through the silence of the house which, apart from him and me, was deserted this lunchtime.
Door-to-door salesman? Charity collector? Parcelforce? . . Who could it be, Jamie??
I opened the door just a crack so Jamie could not accidentally slip out and unleash his terrifying fury of  . . well . . more barking and tail wagging on the unsuspecting intruder.
At the door was a neighbour from way up the road with a letter in his hand.
"Found this blowing in the wind up the street! It's addressed to you!" he said, handing over the brown envelope.
I thanked him warmly and added the words: "I heard of spending cuts but to just throw the letters into the street to safe time and manpower takes the biscuit, doesn't it?!!"

The letter was from the DVLA and was entitled: 'Tax - the easy way!"
'Yeah', I thought, 'easy for whom?'!
It went on to say that I could pay my car tax for the next 12 months by visiting their website or by phone.
Flaming arrows of doom!!! How much??? £210?????
Oh well . . the Lord giveth (see previous anecdote) and the tax man taketh away!
So the Firefly duly went onto the website to 'get it done'!
The first page goes through the usual 'Yes/No' questions of:
'Are you real? Do you live at home? Have you got MOT, Insurance, credit cards, a nice garden,your Christmas presents yet, a sense of humour, a shotgun license and ice cubes in your freezer?
Press NEXT to continue.
So I answer all the dross and click the button!
. . . .
. . . .
So I tried again from the start - and again - AND AGAIN!!
Still no good, even though I managed to advance to page 4 before I was frozen out.
The answer obviously lies in phoning the place.
Needless to say that all is automated and no human being (or even voice) has ever been near that service.
A robotic voice now proceeds to  v e e e r y   s l o w l y  talk you word for word through the entire pages and explanations of the web pages! Every time the voice has finished a sentence (never mind how banal or unimportant) it asks: 'If you understood this, press 1 on your telephone keypad now!' or 'If this is correct, press 1 on your telephone keypad now!' 
After what seems like an eternity and pressing 1 on my telephone keypad sufficiently to wear away the number on it I am told "We have successfully robbed you blind once more and have stolen £210 from your account before anyone has noticed!" Only the voice puts it slightly different by saying: "You have successfully renewed your road tax license! Congratulations!"
The Firefly would like to transmit a message to this utterly useless government of grasping little fagins but since nice people read these pages, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What????? Really????

Today the dog barked, announcing the arrival of the postman. 'Clonk' went the post box firmly attached to the side of the house and I eventually crow-bared myself out of the seat to empty the usual junk mail from the letter box to the recycle bin.

When I opened the letter box, there was only one letter . . . from the Inland Revenue (gulp!!)
After long thought I eventually opened it.
It said: "Dear Firefly, we have recalculated your income tax and I am pleased to tell you that you due a repayment! A cheque for £380 is attached below!"
The Fly fainted instantly!

To-do list reads like this:
  • Thank God
  • Bank cheque
  • Do the jig
This day just got better!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Those busy, busy days

A couple of weeks ago I took my lovely wife over to Germany and in true British fashion we 'tunnelled' our way out. Only this time we didn't have to dig one, as the lovely, lovely people from Eurotunnel had done the hard work for us.
I remember well the hustle and bustle there was when the tunnel first opened and even in the middle of the night you had to queue at the ticket barriers. Once the sour-faced lady or gent at the barrier had scrutinised your booking slip, made sure that your payment was up-to-date and that your car was not powered by vegetable oil, you finally received the most awaited 'right of passage' item ever!
A paper hanger for your inside mirror, which clearly stated the letter "A" or "B" or even "G" on it, telling everyone that you are one of the select few (well, select 100 maybe) who will be given green light to board the next channel tunnel train any time soon. . . . .
Well . . .  as soon as you have snaked your way by car through the maze of lanes designed by some crazed lunatic with the planning ability of a donkey suffering from sunstroke leading up to the shops at the terminal.
These lovely shops with their alluring perfumes, spirits, fags and ever so cringe-worthy tourist items to take over for the Krauts, such as an apron with Big Ben on it or some place-mats showing the London Tube Map (what the hell would they do with this over in Cologne???) really make your heart leap for joy and make the journey worthwhile.

The prices are not bad and my brother Tom's week-long begging for Whisky does usually pay off, as I buy some nearly every time I go.
Pretty, shiny screens let you know in English and 'en Francais' that passengers with the letter "A" (yipee!!) should now return to their vehicles and make their way to the train, upon which a small horde of purposeful looking people stride towards the exits in order to get to the train before the others.
The Firefly is not entirely clear why this is done as the train clearly does not leave until everyone with the letter "A" is on board.

The initial problem of your vision being totally obscured by a paper hanger half the size of your gorram windscreen can easily be overcome by not putting the bloody thing up in the first place!!
Past the shops the lanes with their twist and turns continue. Only now they have added speed bumps, dangled metal rods from the top and take pictures of your exhaust system juuuust in case your car is anything but bog standard!
The British passport control is next where (and why do they even care???) glum looking officers scan your passport to see if you can be allowed to leave these green and pleasant shores.
Now some 17 year old Herbert swipes your steering wheel to ensure that you have washed your hands after your last dirty bomb assembly.
All however is well and we progress to the French passport control. They don't give a sh*t - and nor is anyone else in Europe these days and so don't even look at us.
Now we get to the section where the lanes designer finally lost it and blew his gorram brains out, as the lanes multiply, go here, there and everywhere with red crosses and green lights trying to ensure that even the world's densest person will eventually find his/her way to the place where all cars with letter "A" queue up behind the final barrier which will lift 20 minutes before departure of the train!
Ooohh, how the British love to queue!! Some things never change.

Last time we got to that barrier 35 minutes before lifting time and as I was tired and still had a lot of driving before me I asked my lovely wife to keep a keen eye on the barrier whilst I took a quick nap.
I awoke with the sound of engines revving and cars moving off and as I turned my head towards my wife to complain she was, back-rest reclined, lying in a flip-top head position snoring softly.
Happy days!!
You might be forgiven for thinking that this is a pretty arduous way to travel but it still beats the ferry with its many puking passengers (one woman threw up into her duty-free bag, which was hilarious but not very appetising) and an unpredictable sea which on more than one occasion has tried to turn the boat over!

This time however we arrived at the Channel Tunnel and a screen (having read our number plate) greeted us with "Hello Mr. Firefly" and proceeded to ask some simple Yes/No questions, spat our a paper hanger and we were on our way to the shops for Tom's Whisky.
As we got there . .  all the shops were closed!!
I ask you: What good are shops when you cannot buy stuff??
That is like going to the cinema only to eat popcorn!
The coffee bar in the centre was however open and both my darling and I were ready for a wake-up coffee.
There was however nobody there to serve and after 5 minutes standing around, a woman arrived with the words: "You want tea?"
"Nope, coffee is what we are after!"
"Sorry, I don't know where the lady is that works here and I don't know how the coffee machine works" was her final sentence before vanishing.
Another 5 minutes passed and finally another woman arrived who, considering we had already waited 10 minutes, was in no hurry to greet us and ask what we wanted.
Finally she walked towards us and I (trying to make a joke) said: "Aah! There you are! Thank goodness! We thought you might have been abducted!!"
"Well I need to take a break every now and then" she flared in a Scottish accent.
"A break from what?? Standing??" I replied turning around to peruse the totally empty area and to see my wife laughing uncontrollably.

"What's with the shops" I asked quickly before she could spit into our coffees.
"It's not worth keeping open at night" she replied.

So, dear readers of the Firefly. There you have it.
In a recession stricken time it is best to close shops or at least ensure that nobody is available to serve you.
One question???
Why direct cars to the shopping area in the first place? Is it just to take the Micky??
The Fly is off to open a shop just before the Channel Tunnel complex saying:

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Batteries not included!

Funny thing this ‘growing up’, isn’t it?!
When I was 15, 20, 25 years old, I was just ‘Me’ and didn’t have to concern myself with other people’s opinions, arrangements or plans. Nor did I care what anyone thought of me or whether anyone was pleased or displeased about what I was doing or how I was handling stuff.
Fast forward now to a few years later and I still don’t care but . . . now everybody thinks I should care and is making decisions for me.

So now I don't make the decisions but I am then accused of causing all the trouble.
Confused??? Yeah, so am I!
Let me give you an example:

Invitation arrives from Kylie for birthday party on Saturday.

Ring Kylie and ask her what time and who is invited.
Say that I will probably be there.
On the day see how I feel and either go or don’t go.

Invitation arrives via conversation to wife on phone for birthday party on Saturday.
Wife accepts on my behalf!

Tell wife I don’t know if I want to go.
Be called a spoil-sport.
Ring Kylie and enquire about party. Say that I will probably be there.
Kylie: “Your wife has accepted!”
Me: “I am not my wife!”
Kylie: “What do you mean by ‘probably’?”
Me: “Well, you know . . probably!”
Kylie: “That’s not good enough!”
Me: “OK, I won’t come! Definitely!”
Wife: “You can’t do that, ring back and undo this!”
Me: “What if I don’t want to go?”
Kids: “That’s not the point! You have been invited and Mum has accepted!”
Me: “Yeah! I have not agreed to this!! And anyway, an invitation is something you accept or reject – unlike a command!”
Wife: Goes off in a huff.
Me (ringing Kylie): “What time is the party?"
Kylie: “Don’t know. Sometime that day!”
Me: “Who is invited?”
Kylie: “Anyone who wants to come!”
Me: “Whom have you invited?”
Kylie: “Nobody in particular but most people know about it!”
Me: “Looks like I am coming after all (my wife says)”
Me: (speaking to ‘most people’ and finding out that nobody does really know what is going on, if they are invited or what time this is supposed to happen) rings Kylie
Me: “Nobody knows what is going on!”
Kylie: “Yes they do, it starts at 5 p.m. but you can come anytime from lunchtime onwards!”
Me to Kids: “This is the worst organised party ever! Nobody kno . . . . . "
Kids: “That’s right! Be negative! Far be it for us to want to enjoy ourselves! Might as well stay here and not go! (Translate: If we do not go to this party we will not speak to you for weeks but only growl at you and everybody will hear about you being a mean-spirited b*stard for the next two decades).”

This Saturday I will therefore go to a party I don’t want to go to at a time I don’t really know, meeting ‘most people’ (even though I don’t know how they will show up without invitation and idea of time or place) and doing . . .well, I don’t exactly know what until whatever time under the unspoken thread of
“If you are going to be miserable and spoil it for everyone, there is going to be hell to pay”!

Whatever happened to freedom of decision making? Have I become a robot?
Man without choice for sale! Batteries not included!

P.S.: Did the wife and kids enjoy the party??
The wife spent most time in the kitchen helping out and washing dishes. The kids did not go as they got a better offer on Friday night!

P.S.S.: Did you enjoy the party?
I spent most of the time holding on to a glass of warm beer and listening to Tarquin?? telling me about how he single-handedly dismantled a Landrover and put it back together again! The sun had not even set when I was already wondering what the earliest time would be to suggest leaving!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Hocus Pocus in Focus

For some time now we have a Focus (D.I.Y.-Supermarket) in our town and as I needed some sort of chain to hold our patio doors open with I decided to pay a visit!
After all . . . how difficult can it be?!!! Right??
I soon located the section with different type of chains. You know the one where you measure how many metres you want, use the conveniently positioned cutter and take it to the cash desk.
Well, that's what I did!
Here then is the conversation as I approach the woman at the till:

"Here you are - 3 metres of chain!"
"Right . . tying someone up today, are we?? (Snort, snort)"
"Yeah . . (smiling sweetly - face as if constipated)"
"I have no code for that! No wait!!! I can look it up in our picture catalogue!! (thumbs through pages with the speed of a stunned slug).
This looks a bit like it!" she says grabbing her scan gun and running it over the bar code next to the picture.
'Blip' goes the till showing a price of £3.59
"That's not right! This chain is only £2.99 per metre!"
(Looks again through the catalogue, thumbs past 'chains')"Naah, them are ropes now! See?!! (points at a picture of a rope)"
"Can't you just type in the price??"
"Naaahh, I need a code, see?!!"
"Well, don't look at me!! I don't have a code!"
(Picks up the microphone) "Jason to till 2 please - till 2 - Jason!!"
A minute later a tall, skinny, spotty young dude with a bad haircut arrives.
"Ah, Jason, we need a code for that chain" (points to the chain on the desk)
"That chain??!!" he replies, pointing at the same chain as if there was more than one anywhere within viewing distance.
"Yeah, that chain! Can you go and get us a code?"
Pimpleface picks up the chain and walks off with it, eventually returning with chain in one hand and cell phone in the other.
"I keyed the code into my phone!" he proudly announces. He presses a few buttons and then reads out: "5-2-3-4-4 6-3-6-1-1 7-7-4-9-8"
Every digit is repeated by the woman behind the till followed by a small 'blip' as she punches the key.

'Beeeeeeeeeeepp!!' goes the till.
"Naaaahh!! That code is not right!!" she announces, shaking her head in an 'I don't know what to do about this' manner.
The by now sizable queue of customers waiting to pay at the only till currently open starts to grumble and mutter no doubt wondering which of those two utter nerds to kill first.
A third assistant arrives! To open another till?? Nooooooo!!! To open the catalogue and scan various items until he finds something worth £2.99
He finally comes across it and says: "'ere! Use that one!"
She scans it and says: "That's £6.58, please!"
In my head I am thinking '£2.99 times 3 metres = £8.97!' and reply to her:
"£6.58??? How can that even be possible????"
"Oooohhh!! Silly me!!! I forgot to cancel the first incorrect price! Let me start again! (a customer at the back of the queue whines silently) Horrayyy!! Now I got it right!! That's £2.99, please!!"
I have lost the will to argue, fear the wrath of the menacing crowds and pay up, my Christian conscience only pricking me slightly for only having paid a third of the correct price.
Lord have mercy!!!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Shut up, Bunny, and let me have my Peptides!!

"Ggrrrrhhh!! Proctor & Gamble again!!" daughter No. 2 hissed, waving her fists in a wind-milling sort of way at the television set.
You can "regenerate skin's appearance, one cell at a time” the advert claims about their ‘Olay Regenerist’ product.
Why?? How?? Is it MAGIC???

As Nadine Baggott, the nice and seemingly ever to wonderfully regenerated lady in the advert says, it’s the Pentapeptides in Olay Regenerist!
Nadine Baggott looks very good for a fifty year old – pity she is only in her 40s. So much Botox, yet she's selling Olay products. Well girl, it's more than cream you've been using. Care to list all the surgery???
So . . . how many animal cells have Proctor & Gamble destroyed in order to persuade Tracey and Lorna from the factory up in Liverpool that they, too, can look like Nadine, in spite of their fish & chip diet and 40 a day smoking habit??
You think I exaggerate? Let’s look at some facts!

Procter & Gamble are the world’s largest consumer products company, with an annual turnover of over $43 Billion – that’s $43 Billion!! Their international headquarters is in the US city of Cincinnati.
Traditionally known for their soaps and detergents, P&G now produce a massive range of products in hair care, cosmetics, perfumes, personal hygiene, laundry care, snack food, paper and feminine hygiene, and even pet food.
Here is their product list! How many can you find in your home?

Companion Animal Care
Eukanuba, Iams
Old Spice, Secret, Sure
Diapers and Baby Care
Luvs, Pampers
Food and Beverage
Folgers, Millstone Coffee, Pringles, Sunny Delight, Torengos
Giorgio of Beverly Hills, Helmut Lang, Herve Leger, Hugo Boss, Old Spice
Hair Care
A Touch of Sun, Aussie, Balsam Color, Clairol, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Hydrience, Infusium 23, Lasting Color, Loving Care, Men’s Choice, Natural Instincts, Nice ‘n Easy, Pantene, Pert Plus, Physique, Ultress, Vidal Sassoon
Always, Alldays, Tampax
Laundry and Cleaning
Bounce, Cascade, Cheer, Dawn, Downy, Dreft, Dryel, Era, Febreze, Gain, Ivory, Ivory Snow, Joy, Mr. Clean, Swiffer, Tide
Non-Prescription Drugs/Health Aids
DayQuil, Metamucil, NyQuil, Pepto-Bismol, PUR water filtration system, Sinex, Thermacare, Vicks
Oral Care
Crest, Fixodent, Gleem, Scope, Whitestrips
Paper Product
Bounty, Charmin, Puffs
Skin Care
Clearstick, Cover Girl, Max Factor, Noxzema, Ohm, Olay
Camay, Ivory, Safeguard, Zest

P&G admit that guinea pigs, rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, rats and mice are among the animals used in their ‘product safety research’, as well as cats and dogs in pet food experiments. Investigations continue to reveal disturbing examples of P&G’s ongoing involvement in painful and lethal animal tests.
Procter & Gamble exist for one reason, and one reason only - to make as much money as possible. P&G test on animals because of their desire to get new chemical ingredients on to the market. This allows them to claim that their new hair dye, skin cream or washing powder etc. is ‘new, improved’, in the hope of increasing sales. But with many companies producing similar consumer products without carrying out animal tests, it shows that P&G’s cruelty is motivated by greed.
Obviously, P&G realise that their behaviour appals most people. Sadly, instead of reforming, P&G invest enormous amounts in PR and spin that aims to give a rosy impression of their testing practices. P&G have even been lobbying governments to try to block bans on animal testing for cosmetics that have public support. Now investigations have uncovered P&G’s outrageous plans to carry out massive animal testing programmes for new cosmetics and household product ingredients.
Money is the only language P&G understand. Ultimately, by refusing to buy their products, you hold the key to saving the many thousands of animals who suffer and die every year in cruel tests conducted by this company.

Remember the turnover of $43 Billion?? No wonder they can spend 1.4 Billion on advertising! Next time when you watch a program and the adverts come on, see how many Proctor & Gamble products you can spot! Oh, and by the way . . Duracell batteries??? Yup, you’ve guessed it!! Now also P&G!

Just one final thought:
Next time you follow the call to get your Pentapeptides, just be aware that Proctor & Gamble throw in a few things for free.
Here they are:
Cyclopentasiloxane, Water, Glycerin, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Niacinamide, Dimethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Propylene Glycol, Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3 (yes, there really are some of these!!), Tocopheryl Acetate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Allantoin, Cetyl Ricinoleate, BIS-PEG/PPG-14/14Dimethicone, PEG-10 DimethiconePEG-100 Stearate, PEG-10 Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Metabisulfate, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Benzyl Alcohol and Fragrance.

This Firefly asks: "Now, doesn’t that feel better??!!?"

Friday, 24 September 2010

I now pronounce you man and beast!

Dictionary result for the word “Family”
“A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of two parents and their children.”

Less than one generation ago – i.e. when I was a boy – everyone I knew (and I mean everyone) had a Mum and a Dad and maybe some brothers or sisters.
Dad would go to work in the morning, suitcase or lunch-box in hand and not return until the evening whilst Mum looked after the house, the shopping, the washing, the ironing, the cooking, the hoovering and a million other things, including us kids when we got back from school.
So . . . Dad was in charge, Mum was second in command and we kids respected and obeyed them (well, most of the time at least!).
Jump a mere 40 years into the future and what the Smeg has happened???
Most children’s father, mother or both are a.w.o.l. (absent without leave) and do not care about their offspring at all. If you are lucky and can find a complete set of ‘the family’, then you will often find that Mum is out working and banging on about equal rights, Dad is also out working and complaining about the b#tches at work. Cooking is done by McDonalds, Pizzahut and the microwave courtesy of Tesco, Asda and Morrisons.
The kids won’t move out until they are 37 years old (“We cannot get on the property ladder and you can’t make me leave!!) and most parents don’t even seem to realise that their kids have long grown up, since they ‘haven’t really talked much lately’ and have forgotten who is in charge.

But mostly there is no Dad (or Mum) anymore. Dad (or Mum) thought that Mum (or Dad) would look after the kids. Mum (or Dad) (ill supported by the government) went to work and thought that the school would look after their kids. The school thought that the parents are still together and look after the kids and the government just keeps on passing laws to ensure that no one can look after the kids who can now sue their parents and their schools for as much as touching them. If these children however go wrong, then parents are suddenly responsible!!
To summarize:
Family life starts out well but our crazy life style soon unravels the family into a group of individual parasites grappling for position and materials insisting that they all have rights rather than privileges. Here then comes the real Kvetch of the day!
Not happy with messing things up along the way, the government has totally caved in on what they will permit in the first place! Today you do not need to marry in a church or, failing spiritual belief, in a register office – no!! – you can jump out of an aircraft and get married hurtling naked, with a naked registrar, towards earth whilst saying your vows. Alternatively you can do the same under water or on a roller-coaster ride. Anything goes! You dream it up – they will facilitate it – and – it’s legal!! Yes, Sir!!
Not enough???? Do not fret! Now men can marry men and women can marry women!!
“Hi, little one! Where is your Mum and . . . eeehhm . . Mum??”
Since there is no passing on of original genes of a married couple (and God only knows where gene material originated!) sentences like: “You’ve got your Daddy’s eyes!” or “You get your patience from your Mum!” will never be heard again. On the positive side, both ‘parents’ and kids can blame their biological contributor for most things and get away with it!
The old fact of wisdom that ‘blood is thicker than water’ will no longer apply and the bond between ‘parents’ and children will be as thick as water!
So, in another 40 years time, what will be???Mum and Uncle? Dad and daughter? Fred, Jeff, Harry and Monique??
The Firefly asks: "What if Gemma feels a twinge of passion for Hector, the Rottweiler or Shepherd Sam has a special bond with Shona, the sheep??
I pronounce you man and beast"??

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Still my Koala gently weeps!

Now be honest! How often have you listened to the Radio or watched the news on TV only to be presented with some (seemingly) useless fact derived from some (seemingly) useless research program and thinking:
‘Wow!! Who in his (her) right mind has sanctioned to spend time and money on finding this out?!?’
Yeeeees! . . . There it is! We all can remember incidents like this.
Here are some of my favourite examples:

Men who use Laptop Computers could be unwittingly damaging their Fertility, experts believe.
Funnily enough, so could ‘riding a bike and slipping off the pedals, thus hitting your family jewels on the bar’, ‘smoking’, ‘drinking’, ‘nude sun-bathing’ or ‘getting kneed in the groin’ to mention just a few.

Dr Ben Moore at the ANU has discovered that Koalas like the Leaves of mid-sized Eucalypt Trees.
Really??!! I could have asked a couple of six-formers to sit in front of a zoo enclosure to come up with this news and now that we know this, what are we going to do with the info?
“Hello?! Koalas-R-Us? Yeah, your eucalypt trees suck!"
"Yeah, they are too big and the koalas are complaining! Get your act together or we’ll buy them off . . . eehhm . . crap! . . . you are the only supplier!”

Likewise in the wild, are we putting signs up reading ‘Koalas stay off these trees! They are not ready yet! They need to mature! Have a Grolsch instead!'

Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University concluded the study of which day of the year is most depressing and found it is 24 January.
Hmmm! Let me see . . . ! If you are not prone to depression, then frankly you wouldn’t give a fig, right! On the other hand if you are a manic depressive, then you surely don’t need some academic Herbert to tell you that 24 January would be a jolly good day to kill yourself!
Is it me???

The Durham University scientists research into what is the luckiest colour in sport concluded it was “Red”.
As a Tottenham Hotspurs supporter I should now immediately demand that such teams as Liverpool and Manchester United get 10 points deducted for unfair advantage, sporting as it were a red shirt. Amazing though, since up to now the concept of ‘luck’ always struck me as . . . well . . random!
“Sorry, Sir, you were unsuccessful in getting this job! You have the right qualifications and come highly recommended but candidate B, useless as he is, is wearing red shorts! You just couldn’t compete with that!”

According to a study by Vale Researchers, the chemical tributyltin oxide (TBT), used in paint for the bottom of large vessels to protect against barnacles, may cause hearing difficulties in whales and other mammals.
Holy Moses!! Really???!! I always thought that two thirds of our entire planet was made up of water. For all you geeks out there, this equates to 225.707 million sq ft of water!! Even if you would take all the bottoms of all the ships and placed them together in the middle of this vastness of ocean, you’d not even spot it on the horizon. Someone is having a laugh, right?!! I reckon that some whale dude ignored his wife’s calls and then blamed it on the ships.
“W’as happ’nin’ ma man? You disrespecting me?”
“Na, I couldn’t hear ya, love! Your sweet voice didn’t bounce of dem barnacles as it used to!”.
Hey, guess who is paying for all the above research?? Yeah! You and me, that’s who!!
Here is some other type of research I could suggest – just as useless but what the hell:

Does binge drinking affect your balance?
Does using your mobile phone 24/7 increase your bill?
Does lack of oxygen eventually kill you?

Don’t get me wrong, research is vital for us to understand and be able to action many things but in some cases the only cheque that should be given should be a reality check.

If you can think of some useless research you have come across, why not post a comment below?!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Of Hearts and Dreams

From a very young age we all develop dreams for the future. First those dreams are about things we might want to do or have the next day or next week but gradually they become more ambitious and wide-ranging and more often concern themselves with what we want to be doing when we are grown up.
For example, when I was young my dream was to be a train driver. You know . . one of those impressive steam locomotives which I was fortunate enough to observe many times whilst standing on my grandparents balcony near the train station.
I was fascinated by the big, shiny, gleaming locomotive bellowing smoke from seemingly every orifice and those massive wheels of steel being driven forward by a red steel rod connecting them all.
I had visions of me pulling the train into the station and people looking at me with great admiration, jealous of the fact that I had a job where I would see many far away places.
Today, even though the original dream still sits deep in my heart as a young boy’s dream of how things should have been, I realise that reality is never quite like the dream. Electric trains and diesel powered ones just haven’t got the same romance and being assigned to a shuttle service between 2 cities doesn’t hold true to the childish idea of ‘seeing the world’.

Many of our dreams will get shattered throughout our life but after reading many people’s blogs I guess the ones hardest to handle are broken dreams about relationships.
Whereas not achieving the job we dreamt of or the belongings we hoped for might point to various reasons, broken relationships seem to firmly point to one thing:
‘I am not worth (read pretty, fancy-able, clever, slim, tall, exciting, sexy, successful, lovable, adorable, secure, etc.) enough’!!
This ‘fact’ is further enhanced by each and every day we have tried to no avail to keep the relationship going and by every tear we’ve cried.
If your Best was not good enough, what chance of happiness is there for the future??

Children have a great self-preservation mechanism at their disposal!
They constantly make new dreams and if a dream gets shattered, they just make a new one - always hoping - always trusting - always waiting for the next dream to arrive.
Like you and me, children are scarred by broken relationships and just like them, you need to know that you are loveable, acceptable and worth more than you could ever imagine.

If you had saved up for a car and when you took the money to the dealership it was gone, would you burn your money?? No way!! You’d keep it save in order to buy a different one at a later stage!
So it must be with your heart, your dream!
Your Best might not have been enough in your last relationship but your average will be more than enough for another one, as long as you don’t lose heart!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Still no Cash for You, Buster!!

Remember the gripe I wrote about not too long ago regarding a certain bank??
Look below to refresh your memory!
Have you looked???
Well, here now is part II of the saga.

After having set up all my online banking details with that bank I did not use it because I couldn’t remember all the details.
I got phone call after phone call from them, no doubt wanting to know why I still haven’t used my bank account or credit card. However I always motioned to my family that I was not in to talk to them.
About 2 weeks ago in a weak moment of guilt and remorse I sat down in front of my computer, pulled the keyboard towards me and brought up the log on screen for the bank.
To my utter surprise I managed to get past all the security questions at the 3rd attempt and was presented with my account details.
“You have nil pounds and nil pence in your account!”
Sacre Bleu!! That must be because I have not put any money in! (Can you feel the sarcasm??)
So I transferred £800 just to get me started, exchanged my credit and debit cards in my wallet to the new shiny ones from bank XXX and thought no more about it!
A few days later I found myself in a shopping centre in Milky Beans (Nickname for the town of Milton Keynes) and thought to myself: “Self! You really should change your pin code to something you can easily remember!”
So I went to the cash point, entered my card and my pin number and the screen promptly ask me if I wanted to change my pin number!

Erik: YES
Machine: Enter your original pin again
Erik: (type type type type)
Machine: Now enter your new pin
Erik: (type type type type)
Machine: Enter your new pin again
Erik: (type type type type)
Machine: Please wait while we contact your bank
Erik: (Doopeedoopeedoo . . tralala . . humdeedum)
Machine: Your bank has refused your pin change!
Erik: What the ????
Machine: Please take your card
Erik: (SNAP) Gorram &£$^+$^£ Bank!!!

So I go back home and phone the bank. After wanting to know my collar size, how quickly I can run a mile and whether or not circumcision had ever crossed my mind (only they call it “Taking you through security”) I was finally free to explain what had happened.

“Did you try and change your pin at a XXX, YYY or ZZZ Bank???”
“No, it was a WWW-Bank!”
“Aaaaahhhh!!! That won’t work!! You can only do this at a a XXX, YYY or ZZZ Bank!”
“OK, nice for your bank to tell me so in advance – NOT!!”
“No wait!! Hmmm?? That is strange!! Your pin number has been changed today! So it must have worked after all!!”

(Now we fast forward a few days when I am at Milky Beans station en route to London!)
“Day-Return ticket to London please!”
“OK, just slot your card in the reader and type in your number!”
(Can you guess what is going to come next??? . . . )

Erik: (type type type type) – The new pin number!
Machine: “Computer says NO”
Erik: (type type type type) – The old pin number!
Machine: “Computer says NO – and by the way . . do that again and we bar your card! Get it?!?!”
Station counter staff: “Tsssss!!!”
Queue in line after me “TSSSSSSS!!!”
Me: (Sweat, puff, pant, grin)
After a swift replacement of the Debit Card to the new XXX Credit Card I try again!
Since I only have some small change and some fluff in my pockets I decide to go to the cash point to get some much needed Claude (as in Claude Monet – Money) out.
First I try the debit card again with both numbers, none of which works.
Then I slide in the credit card, which it accepts and ask for some money!

Erik: Just gimme (type type) Pounds!
Machine: Please wait while we process your request!
Erik: (Doopeedoopeedoo . . tralala . . humdeedum)
Machine: Your bank has refused your request!
Erik: What the ????
Machine: Please take your card and never darken our door again. You are obviously penniless!
Erik: (SNAP) Gorram &£$^+$^£ Bank!!! That’s it!!

The station counter staff looked a bit puzzled as I asked for some scissors and proceeded to cut up the cards in question!

I can’t wait for the next call from XXX Bank to quiz me over the lack of tranactions on my account! I will tell you all about it when it happened!

Monday, 20 September 2010

No cash for you, Buster!!!!

Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I hate complications and can become quite stroppy with people trying to set common sense aside for the sake of rules and regulations.
A few days ago I signed up with a new bank online and filled in all the things I was asked to fill in.
Spookily I was accepted and as by magic a few days later such things as cheque books and cards arrived.
I therefore last night went back onto the web to do some internet banking.
To my surprise I had to “register” for internet banking by phoning a number.
Easy! . . . Or so I thought!!
Here then is the general conversation with the bank woman:

‘Good evening, XXX-Bank, Sally speaking, how can we help?’
‘Hi, Sally, my name is E.S.U. and I would like to sign up for internet banking!’
‘Sure! I need to first take you through “Security”!’
‘Oh, OK!?!’
‘Can you give me digit 1 and 3 of your pin number?’
‘I haven’t received my pin number yet!’
‘Ok, when did you open your account?’
‘Just now! Which is why I am ringing you!’
‘Can you give me your memorable name?’
‘What name would that be?’
‘The name you gave on the online form when you applied!’
‘Oh . . . . eeehm . . . Jamie?’
‘NOOOO!!!! . . . What about your memorable date???’
‘I slept since then!!’
‘ (Sigh) What credit limit did we give you??’
‘Eeehhmmm . . . £5700???’
‘Well, it has definitely got a 5 and a 7 in it!!!
£57?? (laughs nervously)’
‘ (Big Sigh) OK, what is the account number you gave us??’
‘What number? The one from my current bank?’
‘OK, it is (number here)!’
‘No, that is your account number from OUR bank!’
‘Oh, hang on!! I just found your letter!!! The credit limit is £7500!!!!!’
‘Too late!’
‘What do you mean by “too late”?? Too late for what??’
‘I need to go through my computer screen prompts and that one has gone!’
‘So what you are saying is: “Computer says NO’ harhargnahaha snort!!’
‘ ~~~~ silence ~~~’
‘Look here, Sandie!’ ‘SALLY’ ‘yeah, Sally, ask me something I will know! It is me, honestly!!’
‘What is your date of birth?’
‘Aha!!!! Yes, it is (birth date for Sally’s ears only)!’

After another half dozen silly questions she finally believes me to be ME and proceeds:

‘Right, now that we have established that you are YOU (which I actually knew all the time even though she almost made me doubt it) how about setting up a new memorable name??’
‘OK, how about . . . “SERIOUSLY” ??
‘Yes, straight up! I’m not yoking!!’
‘No, I mean . . the memorable word is “SERIOUSLY”??
‘The word is “Honestly?”
‘No the word is “SERIOUSLY” . . Honestly!!’
‘OK, how do you spell that??’
‘Are you being serious???
‘OK (spells the word) S for Sheep, E for Electricity, R for Rooney, I for Ice-pick, O for Oslo, U for Underpants, S for another sheep, L for Lunatic and Y for . . . well . . just Y!’
‘Ok, how about a memorable date??’
‘No thanks, I’m married! Hohohohhaha!’
‘ ~~~~ icy, icy silence ~~~’
‘OK, how about 03-07-2006??’
‘That’s today!!’
‘Well, I won’t forget it in a hurry, will you?’
(can I hear gnashing of teeth??)
‘OK, lastly can you give me the name of your last school?!’
‘Yes (remember I was brought up in Germany), It is
‘ ~~~~ utter, utter, utter silence ~~~’
(Tries not to cry) Any other school??’
‘Yes, but that was my last one!’
‘What about your first one?’
‘That’ll do! You are now registered to bank online! Good-bye’

Well, that was fun!! By the way . . remember the fact that I cannot remember names?!?
I have already forgotten what name I gave for the memorable one!
Maybe I will just have to cancel this account again!

P.S.: If you are Sally from XXX-Bank . . . . Sorry, love!!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Burglars at the gate

Afternoons at home are weird. Why? Because everything is quiet - nobody else is home! The Close is deserted and void of people and cars. There is however a generous peppering of Cold-Callers, trying to sell you anything from cheap ('ooh, I just happen to have a ton of asphalt on the lorry') tarmacing for your driveway to new windows and doors, even though it is perfectly clear from looking at our windows and doors that we do not need to replace them for approximately another 25 years.

Last afternoon however was different! I had just armed myself with a warm blanket, a hot Toddy and my trusted laptop, as I tried to battle the flu when the dog started barking, heralding the arrival of someone onto our driveway (how dare they!!).
Some 'knocking on the door, ringing of the bell and dog going absolutely mental' later, all went eerily quiet.
As I was looking out of our lounge window I saw someone throw something over our fence. Then two hands appeared on top of the fence followed by a body, some legs and then another pair of hands.
That was it!! I leapt up like a gazelle (or what do you call the grey animal with the trunk??) and darted into the kitchen. By now the intruders have vanished behind the summerhouse, probably to open the gate as an escape route.
I, like a wrinkly Ninja, run towards the summerhouse and waited for the first person to appear, so I can karate-chop him!
As I was standing there in a ‘crouching fatty – hidden asthma’ style of stance I kept telling myself:
“Easy . . . easy . . . keep focussed and stop your heart jumping out of your throat!”
Whatever happens, they will not take me alive! I will fight them in the garden – I will fight them on the decking!
Then it happened!!
The first thing that appeared was a brush attached to a long stick and a water hose!
Yes, it was our trusted window cleaners who had tried to gain access and upon not getting any reply at the front door, nor finding the gate unlocked (as I was supposed to have left it) had followed my good advice which I gave them some months back to “just leap over the fence and unlock the gate themselves”.
Seeing my wild eyes (of determination to destroy all intruders – not fear you have to understand) their immediate defence was “We did knock!!”.
By that time I have put my lethal karate hands back into my pockets and all was under control.

This firefly went back to the settee, the blanket and the Toddy plus some Kalm tablets, just for kicks!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Water, water everywhere (ka-ching!!)

Recently Anglian Water installed a water meter outside our church office where I work because (are you ready for this??)
"It will be so much cheaper!!"
All was well until we got the water bill (bill . . picture of a bird above . . get it?? Never mind!!), which run into hundreds of pounds!!
After assuring our treasurer that I was not spending all my working hours sitting in the bath tub constantly filling and refilling it, whilst googling "How to surf without a beach". I also noticed that the next water meter seems to be 4 houses on and since these houses are all interconnected and from a time when dinosaurs had just given up living, I wondered if we might be paying for 3 houses. So he phoned Anglian and explained all these thoughts to them.
Where they sympathetic? Apologetic? . . .  Nope, just pathetic!
They said that they would refuse to come out and investigate unless we first liaise with the neighbours and get them to do all sorts of tests, etc. etc. . . .

To cut a long story short:
Even though we told them that we are only here in the morning and all the neighbours are not – they still refused to come and investigate. So I just switched the water meter off and guess what???!!!!
The neighbours started phoning them because their water supply was resembling the Sahara desert!
So before you could say "customer service", the Anglian Water man arrived at my door.
Here is what happened next:

The Anglian Water man had a quick look at things and said:
“Yeah, looks like you have been metered for 3 properties!”
“No kidding, Sherlock!!!”
“Have you got an internal stop-cock??”
Upon showing it to him inside the cupboard he took a deep breath:
“You have one option, and that is to have an internal water meter fitted inside this cupboard.”
“You can do that? Isn’t the cupboard rather small and difficult to get to?”
“You are right! You have to get a plumber to disconnect the pipes and get someone to cut the back of the cupboard off as the meter has to be fitted with certain space availability to each side.”
“When you say: ‘I have to get a plumber and to cut the back of the cupboard off’ . . . are you saying that I also have to pay for that??”
“Yeah! We don’t pay for that!”
“So let me get this right: . . . . You put a meter outside without checking who is connected to it. You then send us a bill for over £600. Now you ask me to fit an internal meter that I have to fork out for by destroying the back of a cupboard, which from then on will not be useable for anything else!”
“That’s about it!”
“I've got a better idea! How about you take the outside water meter back out and we go back to how things were before we were metered and before you guys told us what a good and money-saving idea this would be!”
“Eeeehhrrrmmm . . OK!”

Two minutes later the job was done and he had disappeared.
This firefly is asking: Is it me?????

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

“I ain't got Time to take no fast Train”

Joe Cocker (amongst others) sang a song called “The Letter”, which went a bit like this:
'Give Me A Ticket For An Airoplane
I Ain't Got Time To Take No Fast Train
Oh ,The Lonely Days Are Gone
I'm coming Home
My Baby She Wrote Me A Letter'

As we are shortly making a weekend visit to my folks in Germany, I can truly say my vote is with “the fast train” or more precicely with "the car and the channel tunnel train", as everything about airports and their concept of bundling people ready for transport irritates me greatly!
It starts way before even getting to that place. Most airports are conveniently placed next to a congested motorway and you have to set off 5 hours before your flight in order to make it on time through the traffic jam.
Then, when you arrive at the airport, which incidentally has the equivalent road system and sign posting of an explosion in a mattress factory and leaves you as confused as a hungry baby in a topless bar, you have to park your car 2 miles from the terminal and drag your suitcases onto a bus and back off at the other end. All of this for the princely daily car parking fee of ‘loads-a-pounds’, increasing the cost of your holiday by 25%.

The bus driver - a very helpful man (NOT!!!) eventually drops you off at the terminal to find your own trolley. By now you are sweating like a bomb disposal expert with hiccups and this is even before you enter the building!!

Airports are busy places and some people do the stupidest things there.

Obstacle 1 is the check-in desk:
Its bad enough having to put up with delayed or worse still cancelled flights, youngsters running amok in the departure lounge and the general incompetence of airport staff but when you on top of that have to deal with the real bozos and air heads, it tends to lead to a completely new level of frustration.
Let’s start with baggage trolleys. These things aren’t difficult to operate, so why do some people insist on dumping them in stupid places and why do they continually nudge you with them when you’re waiting to check in. It doesn’t speed the process up, does it??!!? You’re not going to get to the desk any quicker by shunting me with that thing!! A crackling voice over the tannoy says something like:
“All sardines wishing to fly to Cologne, would you please squeeze into your Queezyjet tin now!"

Okay you’ve checked in and you’re flight is on time so you head off for departures and go through airport security. Unfortunately a lot of people have deposited their brains as well as their suitcases! Why do people stand in the queue for the security check for 15 minutes and then remove their coat and empty their pockets only when they get to the security scanner? You have to stand there and watch as person after person does this! When they get to the scanner they look surprised when they are asked to remove their coats even though they have just stood and watched the same happening to every gorram person before them.
This just annoys me no end, don’t they want to get to the bar? The sad thing is, you have to go through all this again at the other end when you make your way to the baggage reclaim area only to be faced with lemmings that crush up as close to carousel as possible in the hope that they can snatch their luggage before anyone else.
Now . . this conveyer belt snakes up and down the room for miles, and yet they just must cram themselves right up to the door where the baggage falls onto the belt. Why do they do this? Do they think someone is about to run off with their duty free if their bag has to move more than three feet away from the door? Having shown various people various documents and having been fleeced by customs officers of your foldable comb (this could be used as a lethal weapon!!) you are now free to find Gate 89 which, as everyone knows, is always the furthest gate away and the signs politely advise you to allow half a millennium to get there!

After some heated discussion between some sinle- (or should this be 'simple-') minded passenger and the cabin crew over him wanting to squeeze a 2-ton bag into the overhead locker, the plane takes finally to the skies with just enough legroom to squeeze a newspaper between you and the seat in front of you and just enough foul air on board to keep you on the edge of passing out.
Even though the flight to Cologne is just about an hour long, you have spent in total many more hours in transit.

By the time you have transferred from the airport to my parents home, I am sitting in their lounge, sipping a cool beer having taken the car, which incidentally stops right outside their door rather than at Cologne/Bonn airport some miles away!

Still not convinced??? OK, hope you never have a landing like this!
The firefly has warned you.