Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Windows 10 - Guess My Location

There's a handy weather app provided with Windows 10. Naturally, I have set it for beautiful Ruislip. So imagine my surprise on seeing the following this morning:

I always thought I was in the UK but Microsoft, or the people who supply the weather stats, know better. It seems I may have been moved, inadvertently, to the Netherlands. I'm not sure if this will jeopardise my citizenship post-Brexit but if it qualifies me for duty frees then Hans - mach dampf!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Marooned in Istanbul

I received the following email this morning, with the gripping title of 'Travel issues'. Was it a promotion for a handy pack of paper hankies, with 'tissues' spelt wrong by some harrassed PR assistant typing away for all he's worth whilst grabbing a coffee, updating his social media status and peering goofily around the edge of his cubicle in the way so accurately portrayed by advertisments?1 Nope, the body contains the following heart-rending story that had me mesmerised for all of 0.0000 of a second (because the apparent sender, a friend, showed a "mailto" address with someone else's name, an obvious give-away that it is a scam). Anyway it makes quite enjoyable reading for those of us who like taking the piss out of scammers.

Am sorry for not informing anyone about my trip,I had to be in Istanbul (Turkey) for a visitation but everything turned bad for me.I had my bag stolen from me with my passport and personal effects therein,I lost all my valuables including cash,mobile phones,business documents and my traveling documents,Thank God i still have my life,I have been issued a temporary passport by the embassy.Now am having problem paying up my hotel bills and I also have to pay for a return ticket back home.I need your help/LOAN financially and I promise to make the refund once I get back home,you are my last resort and hope,Please let me know if I can count on you and I need you to keep checking your email because it's the only way I can reach you.

Trust this gets to you

Your assistance in resolving this would be much appreciated

Regards ----------------------------

This is supposed to be someone I know. But it was sent to 'undisclosed recipients'. He thinks that I don't know where Istanbul is. He thinks that it would be normal practice to tell me about his trips. I am trying hard to be impressed with the use of the somewhat archaic 'visitation', a word that has gone the same way as 'luncheon' and 'charabanc'. He seems unable to use full stops or spaces correctly. He sets this out as a formal letter, complete with salutation, but twice drops his personal pronoun. He tells me the embassy is helping but apparently not so far as to settle his hotel bill or provide emergency assistance to return home. I don't know why the word 'loan' is so important that it requires capitalisation, and why, if he is writing to loads of people (the mysterious undisclosed recipients) am I his 'last resort'? And why, if he is being helped by the embassy, is he denied the use of a phone, given that claim that email is the only way he can reach me?

Oh, and that lovely sign-off. I have no idea what to make of 'Trust this gets to you' because if I am reading it then obviously it has. This is followed by the "much appreciated" throwaway line. This must be lifted from 'The Young Person's Guide to Business Letters' (published 1960, price 1/6 from all good bookstalls) or something similar. It's not that it's bad English (it isn't), it's the way it clashes so strongly with the tone of the rest of the email. From the breathless appeal for help ('last resort') to the cold and formal 'Your assistance'. What a shame the sender is not French or he would be begging me to accept his distinguished sentiments.

Anyway I composed a suitable reply, informing whoever is on the other end that I have loads of cash and can't wait to send it to them. Yet, despite the desperation that is supposed to exude from the email, they have not bothered to reply. Are they so swamped by people offering aid that they are having trouble keeping up? Or are they so brainless that they have screwed up their own hack of my friend's email and have routed all the replies somewhere beyond their reach? My money is on the latter.

1.I get all my knowledge of modern day business practices from adverts, as you may have gathered.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer at last

In the good bad old days when I earned a living in central London, the onset of a bit of really hot weather was a mixed blessing. Nice to be able to enjoy it with a cold drink in the shade, uncomfortable on the daily commute and downright unpleasant when things went wrong. So you can imagine what my feelings would have been, had I still been gainfully employed, from the following two exhibits:

The first is a current tweet from my good friends at the Metropolitan Line informing the world that there is no service from Harrow towards beautiful Ruislip and the second the thermometer by my back door. Yup, I would be sitting on platform 4 at Harrow, quietly frying and drumming my fingers whilst waiting for a train. Or perhaps queuing in the sultry street for a bus that would then lurch around a route that would get Mandlebrot excited before crawling up to Ruislip Manor.

This present heatwave will not last long, and compared to parts of Western Europe (45c in Spain anyone?) it is not too newsworthy but it's a while since we've had one. So worth a little blogette, anyway.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

What Does She Keep In It?

The press widely published, and commented on, this Press Association photo of Theresa May meeting the Queen on her appointment as Prime Minister. My interest in it is neither in matters political nor regal. The object that caught my eye is the royal handbag.

The meeting took place at Buckingham Palace. The Queen's own gaff, not her favourite haunt we know but nonetheless one of her homes. From time to time she actually lives there, kipping, watching tele, lazing about the gardens, the works. It's not just the office (as pictured above) but her very own place of residence. So why, I am driven to ask, does the Queen tote a handbag when meeting her new PM? Why doesn't she simply hand it to a Lady-in-Waiting, or even dump it on that handily placed settee? Why does she constantly keep her left arm extended in a pose that must make the muscles ache after a bit, and let's face it, she's not getting any younger.

If Her Maj doesn't trust anyone to guard her bag then surely we must consider a new line of enquiry; viz, what on earth does she put in that trusty black reticule? Her mum would have had a useful half bottle of gin and the Racing Post. Her grandfather a book of one penny stamps which he could examine, one by one, for no obvious reason. We know she never carries money, and by the same token, sports neither a Freedom Pass nor a credit card, driving licence or passport. Is there a hanky in it, a nice one naturally, silk with her initials? A mobile phone with the private numbers of the crowned heads of Europe? Her life membership card for the Walthamstow Bingo Fellowship?

Of course, we shall never know (so long as she avoids employing Paul Burrell). Perhaps the bag will go into the Royal Archives at Windsor, to be unearthed by some Lucy Worsley of the future doing yet another TV show about the Monarchy. What is the significance of this little green roll of white sweets with a hole in the middle, she may muse, and why did the Queen keep the telephone number of 'Onest Harry Bookmakers of Repute scrawled on the back of a fag packet?

If you'd like to join in the debate, do please feel free to comment but be aware that you may jeopardise your chance of an OBE by so doing.

Friday, July 15, 2016

You go away for a few days ...

and the world goes insane.

Mrs C. and I enjoyed 10 days travelling mainly by rail to the Harz mountain region of Central Germany and then to the Rhine Gorge, returning today. It was intended to be a relaxing and peaceful break. And it would have been, had not the major news issues of the day kept breaking through. The sudden demise of the Cameron government, the crowning of Theresa May as PM, the eclipse of George Osborne and the crushing of the back-stabber Gove, all stories put in the shade by the resurrection of Boris Johnson ("a liar with his back to the wall", the French foreign minister). Ashen-faced and white-lipped a few days ago with the utter destruction of his own leadership hopes, the bouffant buffoon is now Foreign Secretary, an announcement met with barely suppressed laughter from news readers and Government spokespeople in many countries. As it was indeed by the other members of our holiday tour group.

And then today two stories that cause real alarm and revulsion; the atrocity in Nice by a thug who drove a lorry into Bastille Day celebrants killing over 80, and the coup in Turkey that threatens to destabilise an already chaotic and dangerous region. The laughter has stopped. The holidays are over.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Goodbye and Good Riddance, Nigel

I must protest in the strongest possible terms that are available to me. I sweated metaphorical pints of blood creating a searing and vividly emotive poem when UKIP leader Nigel Farage resigned after the 2015 general election. I went through hell and back, via the purgatory ring road and the demonic circles bus replacement service (stopping at Tartarus, Hades Central and Bristol Temple Meads) to write another deathless ode when the sod came back to life a few days later. Surely, no man could do more. There aren't any more rhymes for 'Farage'. I've been through the card.

And now what do we find? He's done it again. He's quit. And I suppose he thinks I'm going to be up all night with a hot towel over my feverish brow and a bottle of whisky to hand (as all good bloggers do), with my well thumbed Chambers on one side and the Ladybird Book of Simple Rhymes for Simple Folk on the other while I go through the agony for the third time.

No. I refuse. No more amusing little quippettes, snippets of doggerel, jokes about beer and blokeishness. It's not a joke any more. My country is being smashed up by dogmatic liars and if Farage sinks into the obscurity from which he should never have emerged, it will not be a day too soon.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Going to Extremes

I must say, the Weekly section of The Guardian (what we old-timers still think of as the 'colour supplement') does serve up some stupefyingly easy targets, so tempting for those of us ever on the search for inspiration. Lurking at the back of this week's issue is a short interview with somone who describes himself as an 'Ultimate Frisbee player'.

Now you probably know that a Frisbee is the trade name for a little plastic disk that skilled players can throw in such a way that it goes a hell of a long way. And that is it. You throw them and they go a long way. Someone may choose to catch and return the disk. End of story.

The gentleman being interviewed goes as far as he can to talk up his "sport" of throwing and catching a little plastic disk. It can involve 7 players a side on a 40m pitch. There is

a lot of running, jumping, sprinting and diving. There’s also the skill of throwing the disc itself, which is so satisfying. You use a forehand and a backhand like tennis, and put different curves on a throw in the way you release it.

OK, OK, it's athletic. Fine, so are loads of other team sports where running and accuracy with an object are required. My eyebrows raised a half a millimetre or so on learning that this activity is a recognised Olympic sport but then again, almost anything can be. What put much more severe strain on those little muscles above the eyes is the abuse of that word so beloved by unimaginative admen and publicists - 'ultimate'.

You want ultimate? I'll give you ultimate. How about these ideas, buster?
  • Razor blades are inserted round the edge of the Frisbee
  • The players are on a high wire over a deep gorge
  • The players are blindfolded and stand on a plank suspended above a tank of piranhas
  • They change Frisbees every five minutes and one in ten is booby-trapped with an anti-personnel device
  • They have to do a triathlon event before each Frisbee match
  • They have to come up with an original limerick, using the word Frisbee as one of the rhymes, each time they play
  • They have to play in front of one of those giant fans that power wind tunnels 

Extreme? Over the top? Ludicrous? Of course. But that is how you earn the right to use the word ultimate. Not by pretending that running around on a pitch barely a quarter the size of a football pitch is the hardest way that this game can ever be played, for this is what the word ultimate, if we are to use it correctly, means and it means only that. We may not able to stem those seeking to destroy the English language but we can at least have a tilt at those who do.