Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Auntie Beeb has a bad week

Messrs. Ross and Brand have upset a lot of people and rightfully so, with their silly prank on Andrew Sachs' answering machine, but nevertheless I don't want their heads on a plate.

I like Jonathan Ross but Russell Brand's humour has often caused me to switch channels - but this is me - Brand is hugely popular with thousands of listeners and viewers.

My first thought was that they should be removed from the BBC, but then I remembered a scene from the film Good Morning Vietnam and considered how what is and isn't funny is a personal and generational reaction.

In the scene, Robin Williams' character Adrian Cronauer is called to account for his 'unacceptable' style of comedy. The character, station censor Lt. Hauk who issues the reprimand, is shown up as being totally out of touch and boring, and more to the point, thinks his opinion matters more than the listeners.

Ross and Brand have been left in no doubt that what they said and did has offended and upset Andrew Sachs and his grand-daughter Georgina Bailie and thousands of BBC listeners. So, now, enough. Let's not give them more publicity than they deserve and let the matter die. I'm happy that the BBC has done what it should do and my opinion is to take it further and to sack them would be a form of censorship.

Meanwhile another BBC radio programme has managed to irritate me this morning. Whether my readers think I should or should not bet on horses is of no interest to me whatever. The amounts involved are tiny and it's just a bit of fun.

I quite often follow the advice of the tips on the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Today'. This morning I missed the tips in the 30 seconds it took to walk downstairs and switch on the kitchen radio while I made my morning tea.

I looked hopefully on the programme website and was disappointed not to find the info there. So, it's all down to feminine intuition and I'll postscript here how I get on without the BBC's advice. I've emailed 'Today' about their omission and I hope they will take notice!

FYI, I use Betfair and usually go for place betting - more of my secrets, I am not yet prepared to reveal....


Mr Ross has apologised, Mr Brand has resigned and also made an apology. Both were earlier suspended by the BBC.

Doubtless Russell Brand will be snapped up by a commercial TV channel pronto. His fans won't be deprived for long.

One of my racing selections was placed, the other wasn't, I ended the day exactly 60p up. In these straightened days, even that little bit is nice - a pint of milk for me and the cat to share. I'm up on the week by approximately the cost of a bottle of wine which will help finance this evening's outing to a pub quiz. See, I'm not expensive to keep!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who cares what they wear?

I was having a really nice afternoon. I had a mystery shop to do in Chichester, my favourite retail therapy location and having completed it, realised I had enough loyalty points on my Caffe Nero card for a freebie latte. I picked up the only newspaper left in the rack - the Independent sports and lifestyle supplements and settled down to half an hour of happy relaxation. My pleasure lasted all of 5 minutes.

Carola Long writes style and fashion articles for the Independent but has absolutely no idea of priorities when considering who the American electorate should choose on November 4th.

Hilary Clinton recently chose an appropriately autumn-coloured trouser suit for one engagement, but this was dismissed as looking like 'prison overalls'. I did agree with Carola on the subject of Michelle Obama's purple dress which got a thumbs up, but still don't see the relevance of the article at all.

What was really weird was the comments about Barack Obama wearing a vest under his shirt (I think they call them 'singlets' over there). I looked at the photo from all angles, but couldn't see that it was showing. In accordance with media practice of 'improving' celebrities whether they need it or not, I expect it was airbrushed out. Ms Long thinks that a man that shows his singlet through his shirt is somehow identifying with the working class. I think it just LOOKS horrible, especially if the singlet happens to be a string one.

However, had I been watching this item on TV, or even been at the event, I would have been too busy listening to what he was saying to notice.

Sarah Palin's polar bear brooch is decidedly at odds with her wildlife-murdering sporting preferences, and her wish to pollute what remains of the Arctic with oil exploration, but what worries me more than that, or John McCain's choice of tie, is why he ever chose her as vice-presidential candidate. The latter is decidedly more indicative of a lack of accurate judgement.

Mr Obama can turn up to accept his election to the White House in a Batman outfit for all I care. I know that the world will be a safer place with him in the Oval Office.

Friday, October 24, 2008

UK Government robs rescue charities

As a small boat sailor for most of my life, I have had occasions to be grateful to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and also local Solent voluntary rescue services. I have friends who serve currently in local lifeboat teams, raise funds, and others who have been lifeboat crew in the past.

When an email arrived from the Sailing Secretary of my sailing club this week I was shocked that the Government should be trying to grab back some of the funds that people all over Britain help to raise for these charities and voluntary services.

The proposal is to make them pay for the radio licences without which they simply could not operate.

Mike's email contained a link to an e-petition to the UK Government
here - only UK citizens can sign and I hope that you will, or if you have UK friends who would be interested, please pass my blog link on to them.

Proposing to rob charities who do this dangerous and valuable work in such an underhand way has to be about the most despicable action yet to emerge from 10 Downing Street this year. Gordon Brown, what were you thinking!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

...If life gives you sausages

Angry at oversleeping and missing the start of the Chinese F1 Grand Prix, this morning, I looked to the fridge for edible consolation. I had convinced myself that I had removed a mini-pack of bacon from the freezer to the fridge. No, not there. I went and sulked with a cup of tea and digestive biscuits which kept me going till lunchtime. At least my hero Lewis Hamilton won, some consolation.

Still peeved, I had another look in the fridge and found some sausages which I bought because they were 2 packs at a reduced price. OK, I've got sausages, I'll have sausages in a bun for brunch and very nice they were, with a blob of spicy chutney. The rest were portioned, wrapped, labelled and into the freezer while their comrades cooked and the coffee brewed. And the bacon IS now thawing for another breakfast another day.

Time to be angry with myself and also to try and lose some of that anger. Since I split with John, I've been angry with him, his family and ex-friends who all deliberately contributed to the breakup. I know there is no point, I'll never get the chance to stand and scream my frustration and hurt at any of them except possibly John himself. I know it is damaging my life but I don't know HOW to fix it.

The moon is on the wane, so I may try a spell to 'shrink' those angry feelings and Samhain not far away, good for more spells. In the meantime, I will just try to start each day with the attitude of not trying to rail and stress against the things that life has not brought or has cruelly taken away and work with the blessings that each day does surely bring..

3 years ago this week, John and I were on holiday in the USA. While we were away, one of our cats came to the end of his time. He had a tumour, we didn't know and it suddenly advanced so that it caused so much pain he had to be put to sleep.

On the day we went to the airport, he wouldn't say goodbye to me and I felt all through the time we were away there was something wrong. I've always believed that his spirit has stayed around and have even been sure I've seen him - like this morning - sitting on the stairs.
No chance it was Bailey, he was outside sunbathing on my neighbour's driveway - I'd just seen him through the window.

Malibu - nicknamed Mogoid was there, on the half-landing and as I walked back through the hall, his shadow ran on up and disappeared at the top of the stairs without a sound. Sleep well little bushwhackers boots - I miss your clumsy un-catlikeness - elephant, not elegant we used to say of the way he stomped around.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Please Click.....

If this is the ONLY day you ever do it, please click in memory of my friend, Dee Munday.

Dee's funeral was today 16th October 2008. She died of heart failure following 3 bouts of cancer that started off with breast cancer.

Help to stop this happening to another woman by clicking on the Breast Cancer link on my sidebar, each click will help to pay for a mammogram. Thank you so much.

If you like, comment here that you clicked. It would help so much to know how many clicks for mammograms were done here which might help save a life in the future.

You could also help by donating to Macmillan Cancer Support - Dee's wish and on her funeral order of service.

Monday, October 13, 2008

O2, your Customer Care stinks

While some mobile phone users may change their network as often as their knickers, I have, thus far stuck with O2 because they treated me well, offered me upgrades when due and recommended changes of tariff to match my usage.

Today’s events have really come as a nasty surprise. In May last year my mobile phone broke in trying to get the back off it. I was spending a couple of days away and realised I’d forgotten my in-car charger AND I’d forgotten what model my phone was. So, tried to get the back off to find the model number while in a German autobahn services and jammed it. Found a charger that worked and the phone worked too, so didn’t bother too much about replacing it for a few months until things got worse and the battery wouldn’t charge at all for more than a few hours.

At that point (about a year ago) I called O2 thinking that what I was doing was making an insurance claim. No problems, they told me that my phone was no longer made and I could have this or that blah de blah at no extra cost. I chose something and they sent it. I had to go into a local O2 store who had to BREAK the back off the old one, but no worries, I thought, it was scrap anyway. I got my SIM out, the new phone was fine.

I’ve been thinking for a few months that if I’m going to carry on doing the various part-time jobs that I am, the most useful thing would be a GPS and it seemed easiest to go the mobile phone route since I thought I was due for an upgrade.

I went into the O2 store in West Quays and was shocked to be told that they had my ‘insurance replacement’ on record as an upgrade last October and that as they changed my tariff at the same time, on THEIR recommendation, not my request, I was locked into an 18 month contract with another 6 months to run. I told the store assistant the story but she could do nothing. In fact due to ‘data protection’ she couldn’t even see all my information and having called customer services they wouldn’t tell her even with me sitting beside her with a recent bill in my hand plus other identification.

When I got home I called Customer Services again. They said their computers were down, but there was another number I could call at a different office.

Same story, repeated everything, call centre guy put me on hold, and called someone else and came back apologetic, but could not change anything. What I had was recorded indelibly as an upgrade. I asked what else I could do and was asked to write in. Of course I will be doing so, pointing out that this is no way to treat a long standing customer (over 11 years) and that other networks had already made me better offers. Oh, and that according to other literature I’d seen the phone I wanted was supposed to be free with my level of contract on O2 - so where's the problem?

What I didn’t mention was that there was no chance whatever that I was going to cough up hundreds of pounds to have that upgrade early. Oh no. I can do exactly what I’m doing now, on ebay and bidding for an unlocked handset - my chosen Nokia N95 8gb.

Your previously excellent customer care has apparently descended into the depths of don’t care there’s always another new customer around the corner. And of course, I’ll be mentioning that when I write along with the fact that my complaint is now public property here, online for all to see.

O2, you replaced a broken phone with another one. It wasn’t my fault you couldn’t give me like for like, I would have been quite happy with another identical one, even if it wasn't brand new.

I absolutely protest that what I thought was an insurance claim has been treated as an upgrade and I don’t give a damn what your system says now, it’s wrong, and you need a lesson in public relations. You’d obviously rather spend a fortune on a huge expensive shop in a premier location like West Quay than a few pounds keeping little me happy. Bad move.


It took a week or two, a very acidic letter to customer complaints and another phone and email spat with someone who couldn't read or just couldn't be bothered, to resolve this problem.

I am pleased to say, that finally I got to talk to someone at O2 in Leeds with a bit of common sense and the recognition that it is a good idea to keep customers happy.

I now have my Nokia N95 8gb, at no extra cost per month, and I'm having fun learning how to use it.

I was also told that it is common for O2 customer services to avoid the insurance path by 'upgrading' because apparently processing a claim makes too much work for them.

The only sad bit is that a friend showed me their Iphone on Saturday and I had to admit that it knocked spots off my new toy. I will try to put aside the feelings of gadget-envy until my next upgrade really is due!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Warning to USA voters - of whatever 'colour'

While I am very happy to see that a man of colour is very likely to be the next US President, I also fear for citizens the USA who may be in danger of losing other hard-won freedoms - regardless of who is in the White House for the next few years.

The US constitution supports the right to hold any religious faith or none and all that entails. However, the agenda of some ultra-Christian voters on BOTH sides seems to me to be directly AGAINST the idea of the right to choose - to love and marry whom you want and to choose to end a pregnancy.

I am referring to the abortion debate and also the tendency towards homophobia. I recently commented on another blog where the owner slams same-sex relationships and marriages. The blog owner didn't like what I said, but it had to BE said.

I'm not gay, but I have no problem whatever with anyone who is, and if what they want is to legally and openly commit to someone else of the same gender in a long-lasting relationship I celebrate their loyalty to their partner and what is more, I support their right to adopt children or to use IVF and donors to have a child that is at least partly biologically theirs.

Abortion has always been a difficult question for me. On the one hand, I feel incredibly sad that any life however humble should be ended - killing even an ant upsets me. Every kind of living thing has its place. But there are times, to prevent the birth of a seriously disabled child, where it would harm the mother's physical or mental welfare, or following rape or incest, where, surely it is better for abortion to be available in the safest and quickest circumstances.

In the UK at least, the law still requires the agreement of two doctors to an abortion, although the common availability of the morning-after pill has undoubtedly helped many women avoid a confrontation with their doctor or their family.

It isn't a perfect system and I truly believe that making it on-demand would be better, once a woman has made that choice, any delay, even days. is worse for her mentally and physically and worse for the foetus.

I would hate to think that this legal right to choose could be lost to American women and that in the 21st century there could be a regrowth of illegal abortionists with all the risks involved.

What is worse is that some of the same people who are against abortion are illogically also against teaching young people about contraception. An educated choice to be celibate is one thing, Do your best to pass on your personal morality if you wish, but don't take away their right to know how their bodies work and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies because not all of them will listen and follow what their parents believe.

Which brings me to this. Morality is not a mathematical axiom. What one person considers perfectly OK, may be horrendously immoral to someone else. Take for instance how Saudi Arabian tradition and law demands what a woman should wear in public, certainly not tight jeans, short skirts and midriff baring t-shirts, commonly seen on the street elsewhere in the world.

I don't impose my personal morality on anyone else. And if I lived in the USA, I would not appreciate my President - or Vice President - potentially imposing theirs on me.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Airbrushing ourselves away

Take a look at that pic of me – Twiggy I am not, and never have been. All my life I have fought a battle with a thyroid problem that means I have to take a replacement dose, and the fact I love my food. I thought I had come to terms with the shape I was, but two TV programmes this evening showed me very clearly that I haven’t. I am in the same position as the vast majority of women, not just in the UK, but in most of the western culture, hating all or some part of our bodies because it doesn’t conform to what the media think it should look like.

The first programme was the first episode of a new series ‘British Style Genius’. It brought back a lot of memories of my teenage years, both good and bad. I was still a ‘normal’ size then, although not as skinny overall as fashion demanded I should be, and I was not able to wear some of the iconic clothes of the era from shops like Biba and Quorum which did from time to time cause tears.

I would have hoped that after all these years and the huge growth in eating disorders amongst young girls that the media and women themselves would have seen sense and accepted that human beings simply come in different shapes.

Regrettably today’s designers and model agencies, despite pressure even from Downing Street are still making and showing clothes that most of us can only ever aspire to wear. What is fundamentally wrong is that so many clothes are intentionally designed to look good on a size 8 with no thought about how they might adapt for a size 18 and very few designers even care. I recall a couple of years ago, hearing a top designer, saying that he would not even consider designing a range for larger women, if we couldn’t diet to be size 10 we didn’t deserve nice clothes.

I despaired when even the designer responsible for the M&S Per Una range, supposedly for ‘real’ women was still choosing the clothes shapes on the basis that they looked good on skinnies. I noticed that one of the M&S store managers that featured in the programme was more similar to me in size and also that the clothes SHE was wearing did not look like they came from the Per Una range she was supposed to be selling.

Definitely the most beautiful dress of the evening was a 1920’s vintage evening gown that had been updated with some 21st century crystal appliqué. But it was a size 10 at the most, more probably a size 8. Wallis Simpson would have looked fantastic in it. Remember what she said ‘You can never be too rich or too thin’.

Later in the evening singer Alesha Dixon – the winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2007 - was on a mission to get a top magazine to photograph her for a cover and NOT re-touch it. Most of the titles that women would associate with fashion and beauty turned her down flat. So did men’s titles like Heat and Nuts who strangely insisted that their readers wanted ‘normal women they could relate to’ - sorry, normal and untouched doesn’t equate with boobs like balloons. Finally the Mirror Sunday supplement agreed to do it. She looked fantastic of course, but they couldn’t leave it alone and ran a feature inside showing what bits they WOULD have re-touched.

She also interviewed someone from the toiletries and cosmetic range Dove who have made a big thing of featuring ‘real’ women in their recent advertising. I am right behind the sentiment, although I can’t say I use the products because they don’t also carry the cruelty-free label I insist on.

What literally made me weep with anger, frustration and nausea was the shots of 18 year old Ellie having a breast implant operation. Yes, it is her choice, but when the media makes women so unhappy about their bodies they will go through that kind of butchery we HAVE to call a halt. I sincerely hope that it has put a lot of women off such horrible self-mutilation.

The ordinary women that Alesha spoke to in the street were absolutely clear that what THEY wanted for the next generation is for them to be happy with their natural selves, whatever shape colour and size that happens to be.

I would ask for just two things. When I go into M&S or any other store, I can find clothes in size 18 and 20 that really ARE that size and are also not made exclusively for someone a foot taller than me. Why can’t trading standards say that if a garment is supposed to fit someone with a size 40 bust it actually does. If that was the case, I wouldn’t have to go a size up in Next and Top Shop – even presuming I could find ANYTHING at all in those places to fit me.

Just because we CAN digitally wipe out wrinkles,crows feet and re-spray Sharon Stone’s face to make her look 20 rather than 50, doesn’t mean that we should. I am still not really sure who wants this unreality. It’s good to have something beautiful to aspire to but it should never be so intrusive that it makes us despairing or miserable and at the worst, suicidal about what we really are. Anorexia and bulimia ARE forms of self abuse and ultimately suicide and the media have to co-operate in ensuring that they become history by not encouraging us to worship the unattainable.

Alesha was extraordinarily brave to challenge the same media mob that have helped make her famous and deserves congratulations.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Nuisance calls from British Gas

My phone has rung twice this morning - 1471 indicates that the caller was the same both times.

A little research reveals that it is British Gas. Now they were my gas supplier when I first moved here, and at a previous house they were my electricity supplier. In addition my late Mum was their customer for both.

In the months that I was dealing with her estate, I had repeated calls from them asking me to settle her last bill. I told them I could not do so until I got probate. Time after time they called and I said why don't you have a note on the account, this is when I expect probate to be granted. It happened, they were paid and they continued to pester me.

I had the same problem after I sold my previous house. The last bill was paid and I supplied proof and they insisted that money was still owing. Finally I switched suppliers and simply told them when they called that they had made a mistake and I was not their customer.

The latest batch of calls, however are not billing. I discovered through a very useful website that the number is a sales one and they are trying to get me to switch back. I don't have caller display on my home phone, but beginning to think its a good idea.

The website is useful for calls like this and also if you are left with a non-geographic number and asked to call back. Don't do it. Find out who it is here and save yourself some money. Also if you only have an 0870/08450 number for a company, look them up and see if you can get a 'real' number.

If British Gas call me just once more today, I have all the information I need to report the calls as harassment from this site's forum.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Angry with life and death

It's been a sad weekend. A friend who has been suffering from cancer passed away suddenly after an infection caused heart failure. Why her, I thought and not me. I'm not a mother or a grandmother or even a wife now. (I'm separated).

But after a day or two of weeping for her loss, and her family's sadness, I realise that what I am REALLY angry about is that there is no definite cure. She had chemo and radiotherapy in her 3 cancer episodes, but although it gave her more time with her family and friends, it was not a permanent cure.

So what I am asking my readers to do is this. I'm going to be adding some links on this blog to some places where you can help by giving to research to FIND that cure and preventatives and for some of you, perhaps even to share your own story.

For Dee and her family, please help. Thanks.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Thank you Justy Boy

Today, UK Prime Minister Gordon Bown has managed to re-arrange a group of people who were already pretty useless at their jobs into positions where their inability to control either the economy or anything else will be even more visible. And to make it worse, he didn't get rid of the Dim Prawn. Perhaps she is under his desk making sure he stays healthy.

My mate Justin from the pub quiz in the Wheelwrights, Havant, sent me this recently. It seemed rather appropriate so I thought I would post it today as a little light relief from ranting.

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. Nothing is moving.

Suddenly a man knocks on the window.

The driver rolls down his window and asks,'What's going on?'

Terrorists down the road have kidnapped Gordon Brown, Alistair
Darling, David Miliband and Jack Straw.

?They're asking for a £10 million ransom. Otherwise they're going to
douse them with petrol and set them on fire. We're going from car to car,
taking up a collection.'

The driver asks, 'How much is everyone giving, on average?'

'Most people are giving about a gallon.'

Relaunching the 'Angry Button'

I've been meaning to do this relaunch for a week or two - ever since I started my other blog in fact.

Don't think for a minute I haven't been angry all this time! I just haven't communicated it. then someone I talked to suggested it might actually be therapeutic.

Now there are things in my personal life which make me VERY angry which I shall not be covering here. People, events and injustices that have forced me to bottle up for far more than the year since I first blogged here.

However blogging about other things I encounter in daily life in the UK that annoy me just might help to ease some of the stresses overall.

So, what has got under my skin today?

I do mystery shopping, I get jobs from a couple of agencies that send me to banks, shops, petrol stations or even to websites. They give me a list of things to ask or do and I get paid. Not a lot, its true and I suspect that their clients pay them a lot more than I get. Another story for another day.

Today, my assignment took me to Chichester which is a really nice shopping centre, with plenty of parking spaces in car parks run by the local council. You would think that an hour in one car park would cost the same as an hour in another one, given that they are all much the same distance walk from the central pedestrian precinct. WRONG. Some are £0.80 per hour, some are £0.50 per hour.

What is worse NONE of them give you change. This is a trait repeated in car parks closer to home in Havant and Emsworth. Forgive me guys but I think this is a form of legalised theft. If it's 80p and I only have a one pound coin, why can't I have extra minutes up to the value of the money I put in?

I can understand that a machine giving change might not be feasible in outside locations, but giving me the minutes I PAID FOR is a matter of simple electronics. Alternatively put a phone number on the machine and let me call it from my mobile to pay for my parking. Use your imagination and stop ripping us off. You know we mostly pay for more time than we ever use anyway.

Let's say I paid for an hour and 15 minutes with my £1 coin. I might well have visited one of Chichester's many cafes or pubs or gone in a few more shops and brought more trade and money to the city. Instead of which I dashed back to my car to ensure that the 'nasty brigade' of parking attendants didn't get to me and give me a ticket.