Monthly Archives: January 2007

Not For The Squeamish

BEWARE IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH!!!!!!

As well as being a sport lover I am also guilty of vaious other sins. These include my love of fine food, single malt whisky and cigars. By fine food I don’t mean a KFC bucket meal or a plate of £50 poncey French food, which consists of a lump of pink stuff on a mound of disecatted runny cheese.

No, I love those evil things. Veal, foie gras and cavier. Unfortunately my bank balance doesn’t always allow me to enjoy some of these things. Have you seen the price of good cavier or foie gras?

I’m sure that you all know that foie gras is made by force-feeding ducks and geese to fatten their livers. However those days could be coming to an end. A new more “ethical” version is starting to cause a stir. It has even won prizes in France. What is this?

Well, a producer in Spain is making it from geese who are fed naturally. They are not produced on a factory farming method but by allowing the animals to fatten themselves prior to migration, a perfectly natural occurence.

They know the geese are ready when their bodies start dragging on the floor. They are then despatched with a bullet and the liver removed. This occurs between December and February when they are preparing to migrate to other climes.

Now I know that many people will still say that this is evil. However I think its much more humane than forcing the food into their stomachs. Yes, the animal still dies but better this way I think.

6 Nations Here We Come

Much annoyance last night when FW told me that we’d be having visitors on Saturday. Don’t people know that the 6 Nations starts then? Am I supposed to listen to people talking while I’m trying to watch the rugby?

On the other hand it will be the second visit of Swansea people to our little castle in the sky. Neither will I be missing anything important as it will England/Scotland playing when they arrive. At least I’ll be able to watch Wales/Ireland with my dad on Sunday afternoon.

I can hear you unbelievers now huffing behind your hands at my insensitivity. I’m sorry that most of you don’t understand but to a “real” man sport is very important. We work hard, well some do, all week and sport is a way of relaxing. Some of you think that we’re all living Neanderthals because we follow our team/region/country and get caught up in the emotion of the event. Not every sports fan is a hooligan you know!

Neither does it follow that being a fan makes you intellectually inferior to others, though some people do hide behind this argument as a way of disguising their own inadequacies. If football was good enough for Camus then I see no reason to hide my love of it. I also notice that many of these people moan about other people’s intolerance but don’t see the problem with displaying their’s towards sport lovers.

Yes, it does give you a feeling of belonging. To many men it remains with them from cradle to grave. It isn’t more important than anything else but it still grips you. It also acts as a link between generations and other people, including women. If it wasn’t for sport then many people would revert to talking about the weather or TV programmes.

Would I rather be talking to friends or watching sport? This is a difficult question to answer and depends upon the occasion and friends. Some friends you can do both with, others you have to make a choice.

So, for Invertebrate with Backbone and Bovril on Crackers, I say feel free to turn up whenever you like. You’ll have a warm welcome; I’ll show you where the kettle is as well; I’ll even make semi-intelligble grunting noises (no change there then) but forgive me if I get a little distracted at times.

Please note that no comments above should be taken personally by those of a timid disposition. This was written with fingers firmly in cheek – you try typing like that.

Frustrated

Today has been spent combating the office gremlins; these bear a great resemblence to my co-workers. It seems that their new job is to stop providing support with my customer and to invent new excuses, i.e. there is something wrong with my e-mail system, or that’s T&E’s customer, ask him.

No wonder my customer is getting very annoyed with the lack of support that my company provides them with. They keep saying things to me like: “Don’t worry, any new provider would have to give you the option of the job”.

It seems that morale has gone right down with everyone looking for jobs elsewhere. As such they’re turning on each other.

In other news:

One of our church members died at the weekend. She had pneumonia that was a by-product of her cancer. She was a fighter who was determined to beat the disease and spend more time enjoying life with her husband. I was very taken with her attitude and determination when we went to pray for healing in early January, it was just unfortunate that the cancer was too far advanced.

Bracing Drive

I have discovered a new way to drive. It involves having your driver’s side window in the permanently “open” position. This was not a voluntary decision but brought about after the electric window decided to cease functioning. Thankfully its not been raining and the heater is good enough to combat the cold air.

I’ve been invited to a weekend of fun, games and talks in Cardiff at the start of March. Those who know of my interest in politics will know that such an invitation is very inviting. So I’ve passed it with my social secretary and, for the princely sum of £12.50, I’m going to spend a weekend in the company of David Cameron and his band of Welsh Conservatives.

I’m really looking forward to finding out exactly what happens at a party conference. Will I get to meet the great and the good of the party? Will Ffion Hague or Teresa May (conservative eye candy) be there?

I know that many here won’t share my political views but at least I’ll get to ask some questions from the people who hope to govern us.

Good & Evil

Yesterday saw us visit Eeezeeeplay for Shouty Boys party. I must say that I was pleasently surprised at the place. Unlike Brewsters or Wacky Warehouse, this is an industrial unit converted in a kid’s play area but has a very large area for adults to relax and chat.

The downside was that the picture on the flat screen TV kept dropping out or stuttering when it showed the Man Utd/Portsmouth match. Not that this mattered as by this stage I was being used as a punchbag by his friends – and enjoying it.

On the way home we decided to stop for a takeaway. FW decided that she wanted to have an Indian, as she could smell one as we drove through one of the local villages. So we stopped by Sad Sister’s school and went into the local one.

I’m not a great lover of Indian food so decided I’d stop at our local chippy instead. FW ordered her’s and we sat and waited. A few minutes later a man appears with her meal. We take the little brown bag and set off. Just as we got outside the door and started walking away the bag split and the contents dropped to the floor. Thankfully we managed to recover the food and went back for a new bag.

Unfortunately upon getting home FW discovered that they hadn’t replaced any leaked food, so only had a half curry. However what she had was good.

Today we’ve had a slow, easy day. This morning we diodn’t wake up until 10:10 and therefore missed both our own church and the chance to visit our local chapel. As our chapel is now 13 miles away we thought that we’d try the local one and use this on Sunday’s when we had Youth to save us having to do 2 26 mile round trips in a day.

Youth today was fun. I decided that we’d do a series on God and what He is. To kick things off we started with images of good and evil. So I asked the kids to draw something they thought was good and something they thought of as evil.

The result?

Would you be surprised to find that FW is good and I’m the personification of evil? Me neither!

Paaaaarrrrrrtttttaaaayyyyy

Today was spent working from home. Actually that should read working from Sad Sister’s house.

I had a phone call yesterday afternoon requesting help. Moany Boy had been sent home from school with a case of lurggie. Would it be possible for me to look after him while his mum and dad went to work? Well, what could I say but, well….. ok….. I suppose…… if you really need me too……

Why have kids if you can’t look after them? Well that’s not true really, he has great parents. What’s more he’s so easy to look after, all it takes is a TV and an XBox and he’s quiet for hours. However XBox time is limited, as per his parents’ instructions.

Tomorrow is the party of Shouty Boy. Though he was 6 two weeks ago his party was held over until now, after all Christmas was very close. He’s seems to be excited, what 6 y/o wouldn’t be, and has been asking us for weeks if we were going. I’m not sure about 20 odd kids at E-z-Play but we can cope.

Racism Saved Big Brother

“This was in danger of being the most boring Big Brother that we’d had in many years, maybe ever,” said Kevin Lygo, Channel 4’s head of television. He admitted wondering “what can we do?” before the racism row “erupted into this extraordinary story”.

So having someone bullying and racially abusing another person is ok, especially if it pulls in the ratings. Does that mean that C4 did deliberately edit the content to make the most of the situation?

Of course, he states that no jobs are at risk because of this situation.

This really does call into question the ethics of “reality” TV. These things do happen in the outside world but does showing it on prime-time TV justify it? Are C4 now going to claim that all they’ve done is bring the debate into the open?

We now find that a second C4 “reality” programme has shown footage of a contestant making racially abusive statements.

To me this is car crash television at its worse. It does not educate; it is entertainment at its lowest level. What it does do is fill our voyeuristic needs as we take enjoyment at the misfortunes and inadequacies of others. We are entertained by their emptiness, both in mind and soul. It has become about fame for fame’s sake for the “contestants”; a way of cheap publicity and the chance to launch a career in the media.

I know I sound snobbish. Personally I do not watch these programmes but I would not stop others from doing so, only point out that something else could be more gratifying to watch or do. The success or failure of these programmes rest on the ratings they attain and even bad publicity has shown that it will draw the punters in.

Without such programmes the industry that feeds off it – newspapers, agents, presenters, executives – would find themselves in need of something else. Maybe then we’d get better news coverage in the tabloids and better programmes on TV!

So long, Farewell….

Another week and another resignation. I found out today that my boss, of less than 12 months, had handed in his resignation letter a week ago. At least he had the grace to call and tell me, the last one left 2 weeks before I found out.

He had had enough of the way in which this company treats its staff and keeps interfering in every little thing that goes on. We spend as much time filling out needless forms as we do doing the rest of our job. We have a computer system that still doesn’t work properly, it can’t even update the accounts package properly.

From what I gather the senior management works on the Third Reich management method. This means that everyone sets up little empires and does everything possible to block everyone else. If you don’t fall into line then someone will ring and harangue you until you do.

To give you some idea of how things are:

October 2000 – 19 UK offices each with their own manager

January 2007 – 11 offices with 8 managers, some of these now only employ 2-3 people

While based at Cardiff I had 1 manager in the 3 years I was there. Since moving to Birmingham I have had 4 managers in 3 years – only 1 of whom lasted for more than 12 months.

We have deapartments running on 50% staffing and busy with others running on full staffing and quiet. We’ve lost, or laid-off, half our sales staff in the last 12 months. Several large customers have also left due to the way the company focuses on profit rather than service.

I am now seriously looking at new opportunities elsewhere. I may even bite the bullet and apply to when our rivals, a company I vowed never to work for.

Failing Utilities

Today I have been mainly working very hard, well as hard as you can here, and listening to hold music on BT’s customer service line. So far I’ve waited a total of 75 minutes to speak to a human who can help me. I mean, I want to give them money but need to find out how much they actually want and how much they should actually request.

You see I am a blackhole where utilities are concerned. No one believes me, even FW doubted until she moved in and saw it was true. So far since moving house we have had British Gas not wanting to give us a bill for either gas or electricity; Welsh Water messing our bill up and then not giving us a water meter; transferring our gas and electricity to other suppliers, only to find that British Gas told them we did not exist; British Gas refusing to accept that they had received notification of our final electricity meter reading; council tax not getting the correct amount; and, finally, Talk Talk still trying to invoice us for the service at our old address that was cancelled in writing almost 6 months ago.

Yes, I have named the utilities concerned as they are, to say the least, bad at customer service. Mind you, having read an article in this week’s Sunday Times, we seem to have escaped lightly from British Gas. However I forgot that, despite my chasing, they did not send me a gas bill for the first 3 years I lived at my old address; then they wanted to have the full amount within 14 days or they’d cut me off.

The best part was that on moving to our new house I was told by British Gas that it would take up to 2 months for them to set our account up. Everyone else can do it while you’re on the phone with them.

I’ve heard all the excuses from my file being mislaid to new computer systems being installed that will provide an improved service. What do the regulator OFGEN do? Nothing! Why? Poor customer service is outside their remit.

Reckless Decision?

I have made a decision that could have very awful consequences next year. I have decided that I need a new target to aim for. I’m not going for a small one either, its rather large (or should I say that THEY are rather large).

Over the past 2 months I have begun to lose weight, slowly but surely. Being a diabetic I need to get my weight down to a more reasonable level. I reckon I need to lose about 2 to 2.5 stones (that’s about 14-17Kgs in new weight). In addition I need to reverse years of laziness and neglect and regain my fitness levels. That’s partly why we had the walk yesterday, though I didn’t tell FW.

So, what’s this decision then? No, its not the weightloss, that’s not enough of an incentive.

I have decided that I will, at the age of 43, take part in next year’s 3 Peaks Challenge. For those who aren’t aware of this event, it involves walking up, and hopefully down, the 3 highest mountains in the United Kingdom in 2-3 days. That’s Snowdon, Scafell Fell and Ben Nevis.

Knowing how easy it is for me to find reasons not to do things, I thought that announcing it would mean that people would keep reminding me of my promise.

If that goes well then I also aim to do 1 final parachute jump (I haven’t done one in 10 years) later next year and run a half marathon in 2009. That would be an achievement as I really, really, really, really, really hate running. Do they have half marathons in Norfolk? I think I could cope with the flat.