20 May 2009

50 More Moans, Whines & Whinges

If anyone has seen this before they may have read a previous article where I got 50 things that irritated me off my chest. I swore that once I'd purged myself of these, I'd turn to a life with a positive outlook. I lied.

If you want to read the original 50 - click here.

51) I wonder if the hair product company assignment is a real taboo in the world of advertising executives – meaning only those who have fallen upon hard times would ever consider creating TV commercials for them. From ‘Here come the science bit’ onwards, they are truly the graveyard of advertising creativity.

52) The European Union. Go in it properly or not at all. At present we appear to reap none of the rewards of membership and none of the advantages of independence from it. The fence-sitting position adopted by the United Kingdom gives the worst of both worlds.

53) I saw a feature on TV recently about the BNP, where people were interviewed on the streets of Carlisle, where I grew up. One angry punter declared ‘I’ll vote for them as we’re overrun by illegal immigrants!’ This in a city where the ethnic origin of over 95% of residents is white-British.

54) No matter how hard I try, unlike Tory MP Douglas Hogg– I can’t get anyone to pick up the tab to clean my moat. In fact, it is now so overcrowded with weeds that some are threatening to spread as far as my portcullis.

55) People who complain about wind farms being located in their area on the grounds that they will spoil the landscape. What will the landscape be like if the ice caps melt? Or the oil ran out and the ensuing chaos that would ensue?

56) Wafers. I can’t stand these little dry segments of wood chippings and cardboard that infiltrate your ice cream. A hot day, a refreshing ice cream is consumed and then you eat the cone and need another one because it dried your mouth out as if you’d guzzled a bucket of sand.

57) What possesses the manufacturers of clothes to place an itchy, synthetic label on their garment solely to make the back of your neck itch. Is that really the best system they could come up with.

58) I don’t understand the fuss about David Tennant. As an actor seems a bit hammy to me. And as an object of lust by huge numbers of people? When was weedy oddball elected as a good look?

59) I’ve started to order Shandy.

60) A number of times in North Wales, in shops and public places people have switched their language from English to Welsh when I walked in. Not very welcoming for a visitor.

61) People who, in public, choose to finish a bag of crisps by opening their mouth and tilting back their heads, before draining the remaining crumbs into their maw.

62) In many commercial art galleries you can see Jackson-Pollock inspired abstract paintings. Being the 10,000th person to ape this style is so far from original it’s untrue. But there they hang.

63) In England, if you have an interest in football you will constantly hear the call that ‘foreigners are stifling English talent’. There are more foreign players as a percentage in Italy, but they are world champions. Why don’t our young players move abroad to get games like people in every other nation.

64) Blackpool is seedy, filthy and full of drunken undesirables. Yet it is the second most visited tourist destination in Europe. After the Vatican. Not only that, but I inexplicably like it.

65) Whatever Jonathan Ross’s other qualities, he is always unerringly generous towards his guests. He never fails to ‘love’ the actor’s latest film or artist’s new album. Even if that means praising Scooby Doo 2.

66) Britain is well blessed with counters. Enter a bank or post office and you’ll see a wealth of shiny glass and little signs saying ‘position closed’ in all but two of the windows. Note – it is in all but one of the windows at lunchtimes when you actually need to use it.

67) I can’t stand dirty newsprint. I don’t mean the articles in the Daily Sport but newspapers like the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. This leaves your hands jet black, perhaps to remind residents of the northeast of their coalmining heritage.

68) Do you remember Neil Kinnock’s incredibly embarrassing ‘We’re Aaaaalright!’ speech at the Sheffield Rally in 1992? If you don’t you are lucky and will have saved yourself some cringing.

69) Why are trainspotters so vilified? I’ll clarify that I’m not one and never have been. But it’s a shame that happyslapping is not more taboo than ticking off which trains you’ve seen.

70) I recently read some graffiti which said ‘If you can read this you’re gay’. So the author is clearly in admiration of people who are both straight and illiterate.

71) Why does my spam filter allow ’77 Hot Lovemaking Tips' through, but quarantines an e-mail from the gallery we’re exhibiting in providing feedback on visitor numbers.

72 ) For 13 months in a row, my virus checking programme has performed a full system scan. In each of these 13 months it has found 1 item that needs attention. Never 0 or 2, but always 1. I wonder if this is pre-programmed to occur in order to encourage me to continue my subscription.

73) Something very specific to the area I’m from and consequently of little interest to anyone else. I’m from part of Cumbria that falls into the 66% of the county that isn’t within the Lake District. Cumbria Tourism’s official website? Golakes.co.uk. Nice to see a holistic view of the county’s needs from the authorities.

74) There is something seriously wrong with food labelling. I saw a poster for coco pops which advertised it having ‘no artificial colours’. This suggests it is healthy, yet it’s packed with sugar and probably preservatives and sweeteners too. What next? Arsenic coming in a bottle with ‘less than 5% fat’?

75) When I worked in an office, I had to come in when I was ill as we were so busy. If I happened to sneeze inadvertently I would get ‘manflu’ jibes. In that same office, some of the women would ring in sick every time they had a sniffle. But it was me who got the stick.

76) William Hague earns a fortune from after dinner speaking. I have no issue with the money. But, if he spoke to me about the secret of eternal life I still think I’d have to smack him and shut him up before he revealed the answer.

77) There are a great many fashions I don’t understand, but most of these pass me by without a second thought. But that isn’t the case with Ugg boots. Why do people want to walk round with footwear than makes them look like an elf from Lord of the Rings.

78) Alcohol is a clever poison. The damage it causes to the brain removes the memory of how you felt the last time you had a hangover and swore ‘never again’.

79) When I went to Leeds to go to university, it should have been a sexual awakening and permanent party. However, for the first year I insisted on sporting lank long hair and a Mexican poncho. Unsurprisingly it didn’t quite work out as planned.

80) Is it the pace of modern life that won’t allow my brain to relax for a second. Even when I recently tried to relax by having a walk along the beach I created a ‘World stone-skimming championships’, allocating different countries to each throw and keeping score.

81) I worked for a bank, a failed one. I was once asked by a colleague how many zeroes there were in 90,000. I was made redundant and she remains there to this day.

82) Stephen Mulhern, host of Britain’s Got More Talent and The Planet’s Funniest Animals. This man takes smugness to levels only previously seen in Care Bears.

83) DVD extras annoy me. They provide a long list including such gems as ‘the original trailer’ and a ‘still photo archive’. Great, so an advert for the film I’ve just bought and a series of pics I could have seen anyway if I just used the pause button.

84) I tried to grow a beard at the age of 18 and failed miserably. I only discovered I could grow a proper one after trying again ten years on. It will always be a regret of mine, thinking how many unnecessarily beardless years I went through.

85) It amazes me just how angry people can get at individual representatives of companies. I worked as a Complaints Manager and had death threats and suggestions that I should hang because of the bank’s actions. That sort of rage requires therapy.

86) There is a lot of moaning about ‘The PC Brigade’, but much of this mythical legion’s initiatives have been vital in educating people about minorities of all kinds. However, they went too far with claiming people who suffer from epilepsy would be offended by the word ‘brainstorm’. Try as I might I am unable to use ‘thought shower’ as an alternative.

87) When my daughter was ill recently I went to the chemist with her prescription for Penicillin. I had to wait for an hour, returned and was told they didn’t have any. My annoyance that the substance that was the foundation of modern medicine was lacking didn’t go down well. Neither did my indignant claim that I would go home and get my own by leaving some bread to go mouldy.

88) We expect young people to have an idea of what they want to do with their lives at the age of 15 when they choose their A levels. I still don’t know now. But the options I took, all sciences, led to three miserable years studying Pharmacology at University.

89) Following on from the previous moan, during that course I was invited by the lab technician to witness how they prepared the Guinea Pigs for experimentation (well bits of them anyway). I expected some miniature gas mask or at worst an injection. Instead, with undisguised zeal, the woman tickled the creature under the chin and then clobbered it against the side of a desk. That put me off for good.

90) Management speak is not only irritating, it creeps into your vocabulary without you having any control over it. Yes, I too have ‘reinvented the wheel’.

91) When you use social networking sites and read people’s biographies, half will say ‘goat herder, florist, ukulele monster and shoe polisher – but not necessarily in that order’. Well, not the first bits but the part about the order. It doesn’t annoy me in itself – I just wonder how this became the staple statement for millions of people.

92) I feel no admiration for manufacturers of crisps when they say their products use sunflower oil and now contain far less fat than they used to. It irritates me that for so long they were happy to use worse fats for so many years just because they saved 10 pence per million litres they purchased over the healthier version.

93) I can’t manage gyms. I love exercising but only if there’s a ball involved. I need to go really, but I feel like I’m one of a number of hamsters in their wheels.

94) Since they brought the smoking ban in, you realise just how horrible the average nightclub smells. The smoking ban has had no effect on improving the sticky carpets though.

95) I never know what all these ROFLMAO and PMSL things are and have to frequent a dictionary site for people like me who are clearly behind the times.

96) I am annoyed that Bill Bryson wrote ‘Notes from a Small Island’. He has a similar (but better) writing style and has written the book I wanted to.

97) I sometimes finish off a night out with a chicken kebab, purely for the red cabbage. I’ll go those extremes for a raw red cabbage but have never bought one in the supermarket.

98) Why should we feel and fear shame when getting on a bus if we have the temerity to try and pay the fare with a note.

99) It’s not an issue that preys on my mind too often but why on earth did circumcision catch on? Just who decided to give it a try and why weren’t they instantly locked away.

100) I await the day with trepidation when I cease to find farting funny.

You're welcome to add your own below!

14 May 2009

A Naïve View of the MP's Expenses Row

Switch on the television or open a newspaper anywhere in the UK at the moment and you will be unable to avoid the ongoing scandal about Members of Parliament making false, excessive or frivolous claims on expenses at the public's cost. No party appears to be immune, although those not in power are still managing to make some political capital out of the situation - by criticising Gordon Brown for allowing a system so open to abuse to exist.

Anyone not calling this the biggest scandal of our times is denounced by the press as being naïve. I am just not that bothered, so call me naïve too.

In the letters pages of those newspapers and radio phone-ins, there does seem to be a general anger about these issues. I wonder whether this does reflect the mood of the nation, or these are just the minority who are bothered enough to write or ring in? Certainly I can't describe my own emotions as approaching anger. I have a form of self-satisfaction that my rampant cynicism in our political system appears to be justified. Of course that isn't constructive in any way. I take my place alongside the millions of others happy to have a pop while not offering any alternative view or participating myself.

Another thing I've derived from the events is amusement. While there was plenty of skulduggery from Labour and Liberal MPs, who cannot be absolved, it fell to the Conservatives to make the story genuinely entertaining. Michael Ancram, Stewart Jackson and James Arbuthnot all claimed expenses to clean or repair their swimming pools. David Davis for work on his paddocks. Michael Spicer for gardening at his Manor House (I'll forgive him the expenses for his helipad - safety can't be compromised!). Michael Gove bought lots of furnishings from David Cameron's mother in law. Best of all Douglas Hogg, who claimed to have his moat cleaned! His moat!

It hasn't escaped me that all of these exotic claims came from representatives of a party that not long ago made huge calls for a change in political culture in Downing Street. Not without merit but perhaps there is a need to get their own house in order. (And by that I don't mean by claiming for housekeepers...). All the same, I'm not angry. It needs to be sorted out, I agree. But I think there are so many more important things that need the air-time this endless debate is taking up.

Actor and writer Stephen Fry has come under fire for suggesting that the expenses debate is not that important. It appears that he was unhappy that the press concentrated on the issue so much, when journalists are famous for expenses claim ingenuity. This has not been a popular viewpoint with the press, surprise surprise! I agree to an extent, not because of any hypocrisy on the part of journalists but simply because the amounts of money concerned are trifling compared to spending in other areas.

£20 billion on American built nuclear submarines. You could clear 100,000 moats with that.

6 May 2009

Au Revoir Chelsea

Unusually with this blog, I am on the button, on the pulse. I am writing an article on a subject at the time it happens, rather than the usual wait to digest the news over a period of several days. Possibly the only subject in my repertoire I am able to do this with, is football.

Tonight I have witnessed an appalling performance by a Norwegian referee in the UEFA Champions League semi final. The result was that Chelsea were eliminated from the competition at the hands of Barcelona. It is easy after a football match to be reactionary, particularly when one key decision swings a game. But what compels me to put finger to keyboard in this case is that four key decisions turned the game against the English club. Four penalty decisions dismissed.

Yes, Chelsea should have won by putting away their chances or making more of their 1 man advantage after the sending off of Barcelona's Abidal. But some form of investigation should be carried out into the performance of the referee. The problem being, that investigation would have to be carried out by UEFA. And if any bias was given against the English side, this would have been placed on his shoulders by that very body.

Michel Platini, a legendary French superstar is the president of UEFA and could not nailed his flag more firmly to the anti-English club mast. He sang along with Barcelona fans in the first leg. He stated that English clubs were cheating because of their debt levels (Real Madrid are hugely in debt, but English clubs are cheating?). He said that Euro 2008 was better off without England. He has criticised Manchester City for making a huge offer for a player but encouraged Cristiano Ronaldo to move to Real Madrid for another huge transfer. He has criticised the competitiveness of the English Premiership, while ignoring the fact that Lyon have won the title 7 years in a row.

I will just point out that I don't support Chelsea. In fact, although I support English clubs in Europe, I have no affinity for them whatsoever. I support my home town club, Carlisle United (you may now snigger). My rant is nothing to do with the club itself.
Suggesting a conspiracy is ridiculous. But what else is there?

Twenty10 Election Turmoil

I’ll apologise to myself later and to you now but I’m afraid Gordon’s stumbling month has led me to stray in to the murky world of politics. What a performance from the big man! Refusing to say sorry for his trusted aide's devilish attempt to discredit some Tories with naughty playground rumours. Refusing to recognise his very own hand on the wheel which slammed our economy so hard against the rocks - we’re taking on more water than the titanic and we all know what happened there. Refusing to recognise the sacrifices Gurkhas have made in the name of our country. Refusing to address his ‘embattled’ home secretaries' inadequacies and of course refusing to sort out MP’s expenses as an entire population demanded.

There’s a common theme here. He doesn’t seem to do very much apart from bumble his way from crisis to crisis, perhaps working on the premise that if ‘we F*** something else up, then people will forget about this one’. All of this leaves me with a problem as big as his. Who to vote for next year? You see I’ve never adopted a colour, I’m what’s known as a ‘floater’- someone who’ll come ashore which ever way the wind is blowing strongest (as long as I‘m not aboard the good ship Gordon, in which case my inability to swim will likely be the death of me). If I am voting - I’ll vote for two main reasons:-

1) the party offering the most policies and vision I agree with.

2) the figurehead of that party - it has to be someone if not who you can put your faith in, then who you feel at least won’t embarrass us and will only let us down a lot, not completely.

This ideology provides me with a very real problem come next year. I didn’t vote last time round and felt a guilty irresponsibility because of it.…… I would have voted labour again as Howard was simply unelectable, a Kinnock of our times. I didn’t because principally I disagreed so strongly with the Iraq war. If any other country, say Russia or Iran had waged war against the international community's wishes - I’d speculate that the ramifications would have seen them fighting two wars not one. The fact that we know now there was no justification whatsoever - hardly helps the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis and coalition soldiers, or the millions of lives left shattered.

Back to the now and I think we’ve all had enough of this labouring ramshackle government, or at least the man at the helm. But the viable blue alternative serves up a policyless (new word???) goldfish of a man who is weaker than a Tetley teabag in a bath. He’ll denounce whatever the current hot-topic labour is inevitably struggling with and take the populist opposite without ever formulating a genuine policy of his own. Have I mentioned Kinnock ???? He’s certainly not a man to lead our country or go toe to toe with the mighty Obama now is he!

As I sign-off, I’ve allowed myself to chuckle again at those attempts to make discrediting rumours up. I mean come on, from educated grown men -it’s ridiculous. I was talking about it with my friend the other day and whilst we laughed - he did in general tend to agree with my current take on things. Interestingly, he also told me he had heard Gordon decided against sacking Jacqui in case she exposed the phone call he had made to her husband to get the number for that channel.