Life, The Universe and Small Things all covered in one friendly blog.
Remember DON'T PANIC! .

28 July, 2008

Charging for carrier bags.

Just a thought to share with you.
This occurred to me when I went into a shop and the lady on the till said " would you like a carrier bag, while we are still allowed to offer you one free".

I of course replied, "Yes please, I need to help save the planet from having to burn off all that ethylene" then, as I loaded my shopping into the bag, I realised that when they do charge for plastic bags I have two options.

The first is to say thank you for the bag here is my 5pence, I see the bag has the store name on it I would therefore like £1 for advertising for you as I walk about with it.

The other option is to turn the bag inside out, thereby hiding the name.
Ill let you know how I get on.

26 July, 2008

Political Sketch- Gordon and the Bakery

Gordon sat in the shop, scribbling with a thick marker pen that he always used because his eyesight was bad and he could never read anything in Biro.
He had been running the shop for a year and knew everything was going fantastically. He had worked in the shop for 10 years, book keeping and helping out when the last owner, Tony, had been on holiday so he knew everything about the shop.
When he was keeping the books Gordon had got rid of everything that he knew a baker didn't need, he had sold off almost everything he had found in the store room, except an old cabinet in which he kept some old relics including a strange looking compass, then he had spent all the money on consultants to work out how to run the place. Now it was all his, he was the baker and owner of the United Krust.

"Morning Gordon" said Alistair as he walked in. "Have you sold any bread today?" Alistair was the book keeper for Gordon, although Gordon always told him what to write.
"Not yet" Gordon replied
"Have you sold any this week?" asked Alistair
"Not yet, but it doesn't' matter because I am busy baking bread for the hard working families" Gordon smirked
"Have you noticed that since you took over no one comes into the shop?" asked Alistair
"That doesn't matter, I won't be distracted by that, I am busy baking bread and won't be put off from this important task of running the bakery." Gordon answered, his face making a strange expression as it always did at the end of a sentence.
"But people don't like the bread you bake, you don't give them anything sustaining and every week it costs more" said Alistair sheepishly.
"It does not matter what the people like, I have a job to do baking for the hard working families" Gordon said
"You keep saying that, yet the hard working families keep going to David for their bread and cakes and everything else, so does everyone else for that matter, maybe if you baked for everyone that might help, there are lots of people out there not just your mythical hard working families" said Alistair
"I have listened to the people and I share their concerns, I know how they like their bread and I know that the bread I make is what they should eat" Said Gordon, beginning to lose his temper, as he always did when people challenged him.
"Gordon, you have to face it, the bread you make is not very good, it leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths and it costs a fortune, in fact it is terrible, even I can't eat it"
"I am making the best bread, I am the only person who knows what bread to make for the hard working families and I can't be distracted from my job of making bread for the hard working families" Gordon shouted, flinging the marker pen he had been using up in the air and making another blue mark on the ceiling.
"You said it twice again, stop saying that and calm down, I am only saying that perhaps you were better at keeping the books than you are making the bread, not everyone is good at baking" Alistair said walking slowly towards the door
"Oh get out Alistair, I wont have you telling me how to bake bread, I don't need anyone telling me about bread, I don't care if anyone is buying it, its the best bread available and as long as I know that I will bake bread, I am the owner of this shop not you" Gordon screamed
Alistair walked along the street and met his pal Jack. "Hi-Jack," He laughed, it always made him laugh saying it like that.
"Hi Al, how did you get on with Gordon is he listening to you today?" Asked Jack
"No, he still thinks he is doing a good job but other than Ruth and John no one is buying from him" said Alistair
"I know he really has made a muck up of that place since Tony left, maybe lots of people hated Tony but at least he knew how to run the place" said Jack
"I don't know what to do, unless a miracle happens the United Krust will be out of business soon or if not it will be in serious debt" said Alistair
"I have a plan" Said Jack.

22 July, 2008

Unemployment Benefit Reform

Sometimes I hear the news and think that I must have slipped back through time.
Yesterday this happened when the government announced that the unemployed will have to work for their money. This isn't new, is it?

These unemployed people are to be set to work picking up litter, cleaning off graffiti and other "community work" which could include grass cutting or looking after local parks.

Hold on, what about the people already employed picking up litter, cleaning the graffiti away and looking after the park, what is to become of them?

The solution is to make all the clean up squads and park keepers redundant therefore saving their pay of say £14,000 a year. The now unemployed litter collector can then sign on at the dole office where he (or she) will be told to go out and pick up litter for their dole say £9,000 a year. They will then realise that "hey my old job is still being done therefor I was made redundant illegally, trundle off to No Win No Fee and grab themselves a nice little £50.000 compensation.

One final though on this subject, with unemployment set to reach 2 million we need an awful lot more litter on the streets to keep the unemployed busy.
Once again a government plan is, RUBBISH.

15 July, 2008

Crime Reduction Plans

Today the Government has announced new measures to tackle youth crime.
Well actually they have announced measures that have been in place for years but as Gordon thinks we all have a memory as bad as his he has announced them again thinking we will all go "gosh isn't the Prime Minister fantastic". Actually no he is a bad tempered stupid idiot who made a mess of things as chancellor and some how still made it to become P.M. But this blog is not to talk about his lack of ability.

Years ago I was working in a department where everyone else loved management speak, I could not stand it and usually found myself asking "so why exactly are we running with a monkey firmly on our shoulders" and "why the hell do I need a helicopter view of anything".

The department, among other things, was involved in all sorts of youth crime initiatives and restorative justice. I am boring myself here, quick move on.

The point is that one afternoon when I was scribbling some really amazingly earth shattering report I got into a conversation about the latest youth crime and persuaded the others there that what we needed to do was produce a crime reduction action plan.

I got away with it for ages and all the management speakers were getting on board the idea and signing up for it and preparing a launch. yeah yeah whatever.
Anyway the point is that now the Government is about to launch its new youth crime reduction action plan.
And I expect that is exactly what it will be.
Crime Reduction Action Plan (C.R.A.P)

12 July, 2008

Knife Crime

I sit in the restaurant desperately trying to slice the meat as it slides around, the fork making that horrible noise as it grates against the enamel of the plate.
It is a battle, who will give up first. Will the pork chop give in under the pressure of the knife edge, or will I surrender and eat only the salad.

The waiter wanders over, "is everything OK sir?" he enquires and for some reason, without the slightest hesitation, I reply "yes, lovely thank you". Sweat now pouring off my forehead from the effort.
At last the knife tears off a small piece of the meat, enough when added to a piece of potato to make a reasonable mouthful. I eat revelling in the victory before starting the whole process again.

Yes there is a problem, not with the pork which is perfectly cooked and not in the least bit tough but the problem is the knife. How often do we struggled to eat even a thin and crispy pizza finding that the knife will not cut the bread and the whole thing just slides about the plate, and we end up trying to tear off pieces rather than cut them. It is a crime the state of restaurant knives in this country.

At last, help is at hand, Gordon Brown has promised to do whatever it takes to tackle the problem of knives in Briton. He has decided to do something useful, aware that some day he will be dealing with a knife slipped into his back and knowing that a sharp knife is easier to remove.

There is hope once more for the country. The stock exchange can collapse, the housing market get trashed and petrol become £10 a gallon . When the knife glides effortlessly through a prime steak with onions and English mustard let us raise a glass of the finest Australian Red, "to Gordon may the knife in his back be a sharp one".

10 July, 2008

Car Tax - 2009. Yes, I am still on about it.

Have you ever watched Parliament on the BBC?
No, you have better things to do with your time, although if you want a laught, or is that cry, it is as good as The Simpsons.

When The House was debating the new car tax I turned the TV on to watch.
It is scary too, for an hour there were a few members in the house while the Conservative spokesman went into great detail about how charging me a huge lump more tax for the car I bought in 2001 was not a good idea.
After the Labour spokes woman had her say they had a vote, a few shouted yes a few shouted no. The Speaker shouted "Division, clear the lobbies" then some while later after "lock the doors", "unlock" etc over 500 people had voted.
I worry, how do they know what to vote for having not heard any of the debate.

Today the news tells us how the Labour party are still saying it is going to save the planet by charging me an extra £100 for my car tax. Hold on, Carkson proved on Top Gear last week that a Toyota thing-a-me does less mpg than a BMW when driven at a reasonable speed, and my car does more mpg than the BMW.

And as for electic car saving the world, how are we going to cope with mile after mile of motorway covered in electric cars all waiting for he AA to turn up with an extension lead because the battery died 10 miles from the exit.

The loonie greenies have taken over politics and stopped anyone else from having a say. Nearly all M.P.s have had letters asking them to justify the new taxes but none saying they are a good idea, so how can 303 members vote in favour if they are representing us?
If I scrap my car the amount of carbon produced making me a new one means that I need to drive 100,000 miles in the lowest polluting car on the planet before the CO2 is balanced. That is about 30 years driving for me.
The latest idea that the Labour Party has is to offer people "cash to scrap older polluting cars". OK thanks, give me £8000 and I will go and buy a new car, I bet they are thinking more long the lines of fifty quid.
You can see that I am a peed off about all this but I still have one last gripe.

Please please please can we stop hearing about "gas guzzlers", we don't have gas in the UK it is PETROL.

09 July, 2008

Is there anyone who gets things right?

I moved house last year and there were a few problems informing organisations of the move. But as far as I was aware my bank was all sorted.

Some weeks ago a letter door dropped through the door, one via the Royal Mail re-direction, which in its self is funny because for 12 months very little has reached me on re-direction, not even the ones I sent to myself at the old address to test the system.

The letter was the house insurance, for where I live now! Um.
The major worry was that the house insurance is with the same people as the Mortgage and banking. Now before everyone starts telling me "you don't have to have your insurance with the mortgage company", I know, but it is actually the best price available, believe me I spent ages checking.

I phoned them and after 42 levels of press 1 for this 3 for that 6 for something else spoke to an advisor. I explained the problem, "Oh yes " she said, "the contact address is still your old address" , "I see, can you change it please and while you are about it I have several other things with you can you make sure that they are all correct please".
I heard the rattling of her fingers on the keyboard then, "yes everything is OK now they are all correct", "Good, thank you", "Is there anything else I can help you with today?" she asked, "Yes actually, (that caught her) I need to get a new cash card", "you need to go into the branch for that" "OK thank you, goodbye".

Three weeks later I went into the branch and spoke to the lady who stands in the middle of the place at a terminal. I told her what I needed "whats your post code?" I told her, "there is nothing with that, do you have your old card?" I handed it over, " Maybe it is under my old post code I offered, CM....... " Yes it is" .
I was just a little cross and explained why. Ten minutes later I left happy that my address was correct and that my new card would arrive "10 days before the new pin for security reasons". No I couldn't work that one out either, if they send the new card to the wrong address how does sending the PIN 10 later make it secure. Still they know best.

I have the card and PIN and thought all was well. Then I received a letter via the mail re-direction, you don't need me to say do you, your one step ahead of me aren't you. It also suddenly struck me that for the last 12 months I have not had a statement from the bank. Somewhere, either at my old address or more probably laying on a Royal Mail van floor, are my bank statements. That's nice and secure isn't it.

Deciding that writing, phoning and visiting the branch had obviously failed I send a complaint via the banks online secure message system. I got a lovely long reply today, you can hardly tell that is is written by selecting paragraphs from a list and adding my name at the top. The reply says how sorry they are that I have had problems and how they are so careful to get things right and it is so unusual that things like this go wrong.

Its signed "Kind regards Gaby Knight, Change of Name and Address Complaints Team " It might just be me, but does a company who gets things right usually have a specific team like that?

04 July, 2008

Holiday Costs.

Its that time of year when I look at how to ensure my carbon footprint doesn't shrink and consider where we will head for Christmas and into the new year.
Christmas in Portugal as is often the case so the next thing is where after that.

We had looked at skiing in Austria but in order to up the CO2 we need somewhere long-haul and as we can't get a suitable flight to OZ (see post on Virgin below) Canada might be an option.

OK, so I know its only 10 hours compared with the 23 to OZ but at least its a start to our 2009 footprint.

Then we came to looking at the brochures and web pages and realised that holiday firms and airlines don't always tell the truth.

I selected a hotel saw that the price is £650. I then worked though to the actual price I pay. Two people, 10 days, select the dates, select the airport and the final total. Struth !
Hold on 650 x2 equals how much ? This must be Nu-Labour maths.

Then I looked at the cost breakdown, it goes like this:-
Hotel £650, add "transport supplement" £95
"Adult supplement" £975 (because although they say they have 2 person rooms you can not book them so they charge you for only being 2 people in a 4 person room)
Add fuel supplement of £372, supliment?!! no its OK, Ill just go with whatever fuel the captain puts in the plane I don't need more than he does
ATOL protection £2 - that's a new one they used to include that.
Now something I can not fathom at all "variety club" £1 wot the ??????

We haven't even finished there, to leave Vancouver there is a local fee to pay of 15 Canadian dollars for something called airport improvement tax. Shhhhh, don't let Heathrow hear about that one.
I am sure there will also be driving to the airport tax, power to operate the luggage handling equipment supplement, asking the pointless security questions supplement, wear and tear to the departure lounge carpet tax and operating the BING BONG announcement charge.

I have an idea, the holiday company could put "holiday for 2 £3879" because amazingly that is what the £650 holiday really costs.