12 August 2009

Charity Shop Challenge - The Competitors

Yesterday my colleagues and I started the Charity Shop Challenge. Using an initial £1 investment we ventured out to make use of our small town's oddly large charitable retail sector - listing our purchases on eBay. The money gets reinvested in the charity shops until a ceiling is reached and whoever made the most of the charity pot - is declared the victor.

All of the items have been chosen and listed and here they are. My own, fine quality antique, is a 1973 Princess Anne Wedding Commemorative Mug. A veritable delight rendered in the highest quality enamel - which despite its 36 years of age - has not lost its sparkle, gleam and almost friendly glow. I will stop there as am in danger of hamming it up more than a pork butcher... You could be the proud owner of this piece of history - Buy 1973 Royal Wedding Heirloom

The only item to generate any interest (and a bid) is my brother's CD of 'More Dirty Dancing'. This is a collection of the songs not deemed good enough for the actual Dirty Dancing Soundtrack. Included are such gems as 'Trot the Fox' by 'Micheal Lloyd and Le Disc'. I can only hope the person buying the item intends to use it as a coaster. Should you have been recently released from an institution and wish to put in a new bid, feel free - Buy Dismal Music CD For Saddo's

The item selected by Leo can surely only be purchased by the most determined of anorak map collectors. He has asked me to point out that it is not an Ordnance Survey Map of Strathdon from 1985 as I suggested yesterday. Oh no, it is from 1976. So that is a whole nine years more useless and out of date than I thought. The listing describes it as having been 'inexpertly folded', which is actually its main selling point. If you want to buy this utterly useless item, perhaps as kindling, you can - Buy Out of Date Map of Obscure Scottish Location

I've even reserved the worst until last. Described in the listing as 'an exceptional studio pottery handmade stoneware goblet', it is in fact a grotesque horror of a lopsided pot. Quite when such items were in vogue is a mystery to me. This too can be secured a special place in your bin - Buy Two-tone Mushroom and Dung Coloured Goblet

All in all, despite their minute price tags, it is clearly only the mug that comes out with any credit. Even if the money is for charity, apart from that special royal wedding memory - I suggest you keep your cash in your pocket.

11 August 2009

Charity Shop Challenge

I have hijacked the blog today to enlist people's help in winning my Charity Shop Challenge. I spend considerable time working with out web developers in Brampton, Cumbria - and have joined their competition to turn a profit (for charity) from the shelves of the town's inexplicably large number of charity shops. The idea is that you start with a pound, search through the assorted goods in the shops and sell them on eBay for a profit. This gets reinvested in more items until a ceiling is reached - at this point the winner is declared.
I feel I made a good start with my purchase in that it only cost 40p. And here it is....

Yes, of course... It's that must have item for any household. A 1973 Royal Wedding Mug commemorating the marriage Princess Anne and Mark Phillips. Clearly this challenge is going to be well.... a challenge.

If you, like any right-minded person, long to be the owner of this exceptionally finely crafted Staffordshire ceramic delight* - please feel free to join the hordes of excited bidders on eBay - http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280383995696

I may have a difficult task in turning a profit, but I may still win this round when I view the competition. An unmarked earthenware chalice that is either the holy grail or a mass produced, mushroom coloured monstrosity. That famous classic CD - 'More Dirty Dancing', and an ordnance survey map of the area east of Balmoral castle from about 1986.

*In truth, it's not so much of a ceramic delight... it's tat. But for less than a pound what can you do!

22 July 2009

Parkie Life - My Days as a Park Warden

I’m not sure what it was but something triggered my memory recently of my summer, ten years ago, working as a Park Warden in Carlisle. Having left university in Leeds, I came back to Cumbria and wondered what to do next. Not the obvious step, but one borne out of financial necessity, I took a job as a Parkie. It was an interesting few months stationed in a small park in a deprived part of the city.

The first alarm bells started to ring when I learned, on my first day, of the fate of my previous incumbent. My predecessor was a trainee Vicar who was awaiting a posting in a parish, and was working in the park to keep himself going until then. The vicar had decided on a zero tolerance policy to antisocial behaviour from the local youths in the park. Consequently they felt he’d pushed them too far and pursued him to his Parkie’s Hut and, having barricading him inside, preceded to set fire to it. Not the news I wanted to hear on day one….

And so I settled into my varied and unusual tasks. First job was to get the thick rubber gloves out and check the kiddies playpark for needles, nice. Then, off to feed broken biscuits from the McVities factory to the swans (those that had escaped a recent shooting incident). I’d then patrol the park several times a day, trying to make sure if there was any trouble – I’d be on the completely opposite side.

My attitude to the chav element was completely different to the man of the cloth. My philosophy was born out my being a complete physical coward. So as much as I could, I made friends with them. This approach had seen me avoid any ‘Parkie Burnings’ for quite some time when the laxness of my discipline really hit home…

One normal summer morning I emerged from my hut having heard screeching tyres and an engine doing a lot of work. To my surprise, an old car was being driven about on the grass at high speed, doing handbreak turns and the like. I got on the radio and got my boss to call the police and headed over to the vehicle (not without a whimper!). The car had stopped in the car park and when I arrived, the local teenagers were sitting in it. It transpired they’d clubbed together and bought the motor at a scrap yard.

‘Fancy a spin Parkie?’ one shouted. Several more cajoling cries came as I was encouraged to take my own joyride. Clearly, I was not the fear-inspiring Park Keeper my superiors would have wanted in the post! ‘No I can’t’ I replied. ‘One of the miserable gits in the houses next to the park have called the police, I’ve just been told on the radio’. As they readied themselves to escape, they all politely said ‘thanks Parkie!’ And off they went.

I’m not proud of this approach, but I stayed alive and nobody got set on fire on my watch. I wasn’t about to risk life and limb for £3.50 an hour. I knew the police would be coming and I knew I’d get the ‘blame’ for it, so I made it clear it wasn’t me (when it was) and let them get away with it. I had several more weeks to go and wanted to get out the other side. A poor show though really, when all is considered.

After a few weeks the season was coming to a close and I was moved to the city’s central, much more pleasant park. I was to work with the Vicar, who had been moved to this location after the ‘pyro-parkie’ incident. I also worked with Tony, a stocky man who would inspire fear in the Taliban, never mind any park-dwelling undesirables. This seemed a much more agreeable place of work, as I stepped in to sell ice-cream from the kiosk when it got busy and strolled around the manicured flower beds for the rest of the day. That was until Tony gave me a new assignment.

It appeared that a public toilet between the park and the athletics track was a frequent haunt of men who liked to meet up to engage in sexual activity with each other. While I am liberal sort of man, this really shouldn’t be going on on weekday afternoons next to a sporting facility used by children. (Incidentally, the athletics track was – appropriately for Cumbria – called The Sheepmount). Tony required my daily assistance in an operation he called ‘flushing’.

My job was to drive the council van to the toilets, after which Tony would leap out, run in and shout very loudly some not very nice words. Usually several characters would then scurry out of the door looking abashed and headed to their cars in haste. Tony would then come back to the van and deposit a range of reading material that these gentlemen seemed to like. ‘Big Boys in Boots’ was one title if I recall correctly.

Shortly after one of these trips, we all gathered to give our best wishes to the Vicar who was off to a small village in Surrey, having finally been given his parish. As we waved him off Tony revealed the ‘joke’ he had played on him. Having borrowed his car keys, Tony had stashed a selection of the previously mentioned magazines under the spare tyre in the Vicar’s boot. I truly hope they were discovered by the Vicar himself – but can’t help worrying that a mechanic in a rural Surrey village garage came across them a few weeks later when doing an MoT. Imagine the scandal.

7 July 2009

Twitter Support is Not Very Good (Putting it Lightly...)

I like Twitter, I really do. I have a little bug at the moment, which while not major - is causing me a small problem. Unfortunately, Twitter's support service is not very supportive. I started off being very nice, but in my last message to them I started to let my irritation show a little. Here it is: -

Case numbers 417819, 415342 and 416867. They are not resolved. I tell you the problem, you close the issue down with no action. There seems to be a pattern here. So... what happens is, here is a new request, which you will doubtless close down without any action.

I cannot permanently save changes to my profile because my link text is not in hex format. I cannot access the design area to change this.

I have to keep repeating this and my requests just get closed. I'm just going to keep sending them so wouldn't it be more sensible to actually fix the problem (or at least tell me it can't be done?). Your own text says multiple requests slow things down, but I currently have no alternative. The information says I can reopen an old request, but that doesn't work - unless some sprightly support operative is employed solely to monitor your inbox and immediately close a support ticket as soon as the button is pressed?

Please could you urgently ignore my fourth request to do something about this. I shall be hanging on tenterhooks just waiting for the next time you can 'resolve' my issue by just pretending I never asked.

I'm aware Twitter is a free service and I'm very grateful for that. I wouldn't mind if I got a response saying 'can't be done at this time', or, 'we're aware and we're working on it, but it may take a while'. To be quite honest, just a reply saying 'stop bothering us you sarcastic turd' would be a step forward.

My profile currently says I'm horrified at being 31. All I want to do is change that as I've no turned 32. I fully expect to still be waiting when I'm 33.

I doubt whether this will have any effect, but I can only hope....

17 June 2009

The Game of Why

I am carrying my daughter on my shoulders on the way to wherever. This arrangement, known as 'the giraffe', is her current favourite mode of transport. For her, unrivalled views. For me, backache coupled with a certain fatherly pleasure.

My daughter is nearly four, an age where she is no longer three but 'nearly four', as she will respond if asked her age. On this giraffe-day I ask why she has to occupy every second of the trip with a game of some sort. This can be the game where she jerkily crouches on my shoulders at the last second to avoid low branches, while shouting 'Doh!'. There's the one where she trails her hand through hedges and cries 'Ow, that prickles!'. And then of course the all time number one. Providing me with a form of Indian head massage to transfer to my scalp whatever it is that has made her hands sticky that day.

I have made the mistake of mentioning the word 'why', a child's favourite word. This prompts a host of reciprical questions, all of which when answered will draw another 'why' response from her.

I try and put an end to this barrage, adding all the weight of my 31 years, work experience and education. I ask why she always has to know everything works - literally from the birds to the bees. I ask her why she has to know the reason it isn't wrong to swat a fly, but it is to swat a butterfly (with a 'swyflotter').

Before she has chance to answer I unleash a fresh wave of attacks in this playful battle. I ask her what it is that makes her want to explore and investigate the smallest and largest things. I go so far as to ask 'why are you a girl who seeks answers to the metaphysical connundra that have plagued mankind since time began?'.

After this onslaught she pauses. 'Do you mean why am I a girl who asks why a lot?'. It is exactly what I mean, and I am beaten again!

16 June 2009

Is it me? (No)

I haven’t blogged for a little while because I’ve had a bit of a bad run at it. I haven’t felt in the mood and instead I’ve found solace in a whisky or two and a beer or three. I have of course found some time to twitter with my newly assembled rag-tag of a family, who never fail to raise a smile. Although the reference to the little girl on BGT - ‘she was crying like she had just met Garry glitter in a shower’ was pretty near the knuckle.

I'm sure like me - you‘ve been here too. Down on your luck with the world against you. Fighting an inner turmoil to contain your soul-destroying disillusionment with life’s twists and turns. A sickening debilitating bolt that electrifies the butterflies in the stomach and heats the mind to a pressure cooker on the point of combustion. And an ensuing sleep deprivation which hoards any semblance of the bodies mandatory equilibrium requirement.

Intense I know but it hasn’t been one of my better months, a May-day ground-hog but I’m not on the Tyne Bridge just yet. Here lies the beauty of blogging. An opportunity to vent angst - and I wonder why it’s taken me so long.

You see, my real issue here lies with other people - the ones who fate has decreed I tread the same path. People with a ‘Me’ agenda , so consumed by self justification and self importance that they discard the very rudiments of civility. Why?

Is it so impossible to work for the common good and help each other when
you’ve walked along the same path many, many years. Failure to attempt it is surely bad enough, yet to deliberately embark on a destructive programme and galvanise others to do the same is something I find hard to comprehend. It is something I hope I would never subscribe to.

Surely these people can see that such strategy breeds only contempt and a severing of relations, prohibitive to everyone and everything. There seems to be so many people I don’t like at the moment, I have had to ask myself if it’s me that’s the problem? I’ve thought about that and concluded NO.

(Editor's note - this article is by Espiritoart-Andy, I have to upload them for him and used my login not his! Matt).