Saturday, July 30, 2016

Getting a life (or, You shall go to the balls)

Responding to criticism of a new Channel 4 TV show, featuring nudity (artistic, essential, not in any way a desperate attempt to up the ratings, that suggestion is right out of order, OK?) which, I hasten to add, I have neither watched, recorded nor downloaded [I would have, but my VCR doesn't work any more: Ed], the producer is quoted thus:

the show’s critics should “get a life”,

 How devastatingly witty. And how hard to argue with. If you don't agree with me, then you don't have "a life" and should obtain one. I'm sure all critics are now reeling back in shock, gripping the edges of their chairs with white-knuckled hands before smiting themselves on the head and proclaiming "A life! Of course, that is what I should get. If only I had a life I would cease to take any interest in television shows that I happen to watch, or I would watch them without in any way vouchsafing an opinion or comment because so to do instantly betrays my lack of life and that, once I have my life, is clearly not going to happen."

Further perusal of the source material throws up something else unexpected. One Gemma Askham, described as 'sex editor of Glamour magazine' (and there's a job I don't remember my old careers master advising me to go for. "Now then young G, I see you enjoy writing and pleasuring yourself in the back row of geography classes, have you considered a career as a sex journalist, I'm told there's very good money in it") is quoted as saying
I guess the participants are trying to say, I don’t care if you judge me, I have the confidence to show myself for exactly who I am on TV, and even if you don’t pick me I’m still proud that I had the balls to do that.”

I don't think she thought that one through at all. Clearly, the female participants would not under any circumstances have had the balls; the men presumably did and that's what they were so proudly displaying for inspection (and perhaps counting). They had them anyway, I mean, whether or not they were selected to go on the show.

The question that remains with us is this: if you do have the balls to flash them in front of two million goggling1 viewers, have you got a life? Or are you in desperate need of one?

 1 This is not a euphemism, although these days with the fast pace of change in modern slang, maybe it is.

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.


Taking Sides

Tonight Iceland play France in the last quarter-final of the European Cup. What should a patriotic Brit do? Who gets our support?

Here, then, after extensive and painstaking research, are the facts1.
  •  Iceland has never invaded Britain. The French2 did at various times and planned a full conquest as recently as 1805.
  •  We sorted out the Icelanders good and proper in the Cod War.
  •   French food is pretty good. Terrines, Rillettes, Quiches, Baguettes, Steak-frites. Entremets. In fact, patisserie in general3. Icelandic food is cod. 
  •  French farmers burn British farm exports at the drop of a chapeau. 
  •  EU regulations permit unlimited garlic sellers on bicycles to roam our streets without licence; Itinerant Icelandic cod-sellers wearing horns are confined to the Shetlands. 
  •  It was jolly unfair of Iceland to beat our gallant lads last week. 
  •  Louvre or Museum of Cod? Tough choice. 
  •  France doesn't have a major food retailer named after it. 
  •  Iceland have never won a major football championship so deserve our support as the plucky underdogs.
  •  France is a much nicer place to go on holiday to and deserve our support as the welcoming hosts.
  •  It's very cold in Iceland.
  • That bloody volcano that blew up the other year and stopped air traffic round the world - they only have extinct ones in France. 
  • You don't get tarte tatin in Iceland.4 
  • Chablis, Claret, Calvados, Armagnac, Champagne, Malbec, Cotes de Beaune. Or selected juice of cod. You decide. 
  • Plucky Iceland's dramatic win over a lethargic and unimaginative England is a real boost to the tournament and restores excitement.
  • French kissing is a lot more interesting than Icelandic nose-rubbing or whatever it is they do under all those parkas. 
I hope all is now clear and you can make an informed and objective decision.
Footnotes:
1 All facts are certified by the Editor (if he wants to keep his post).
 2 I exclude, of course, the Normans who were not French
3 I could go on.
4Yes, I know I've mentioned food already but this is wholly justified.

Weirder and Weirder

The Blind Date feature in Saturday's Guardian continues to shed new and fascinating light on what drives the next generation. The lady in this week's feature responded thus:

What were you hoping for?
To meet my future husband. Or a plate worth Instagramming.

Apparently her job is "visual merchandiser". I know what a merchandiser does - many years ago my firm employed a number of them to restock the shelves at retailers who carried our line of computer games - so I suppose a visual merchandiser restocks the shelves at opticians. And it must be a rather lonely and demanding occupation, endlessly clearing away unfashionable frames and tidying up the little cardboard holders, then laying out the gleaming new frames and lining them up in order of desirability, whilst clients waiting for their new specs blunder about in the manner so accurately depicted by advertisements for such places.

Is this why, instead of taking a photo of a tasty dish which she then edits to her own satisfaction, she can can only think of it in terms of the website that will deform the picture with some filter or special effect they deem suitable?

Actually, it was her prospective partner who really caught my attention. Described as a "technology journalist" [Amazing, a job description even I understand: Ed] he gave us the following deathless quote:

And... did you kiss?
She has read only one of the Harry Potter books, which weirds me out a little, so no.

Imagine his chagrin at meeting an attractive, and available, young lady who has read but a single, solitary, measly one of the sacred writings. Although clearly not a total barbarian, her feet are but on the first rung of the divine ascent, her novicehood plain for all to see, unworthy to be in the company of one on whom Grace has been bestowed by virtue of not merely having read all the canon of the blessed Rowling, but owning a hand-tooled boxed set of the works, each personally signed by no less than Amanda, assistant to the PA to the Lady. Those of us unfit even to put our foot on the first step of that holy mountain may still shiver in sympathy at the prospect of one who has been initiated attempting close physical contact with one who has failed to accept Ms Rowling as her redeemer.

"Weirds me out a little" - how kind and considerate to so temper what must have been emotions of rage and disgust. Perhaps there is hope for her, if she forgoes the devil's path of whipping out her phone every time someone puts food in front of her and devotes herself to the worship of Harry.

I never knew that young people put literary achievement ahead of a quick snog. How times have changed.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Windows 10 - Blood Pressure Raiser

I thought, mistakenly, that Windows 10, when installed on top of an earlier version of Windows, would pick up all of the settings that previously applied and thereby give me, the user, a seamless experience of upgrading. That illusion has already been shattered. And here is a bit more stupidity, for the record. Non-IT people may look away now.

My wife and I have the only two computers in the house, linked via a shared router. We were both on Windows 7. The printer is physically attached to her computer. This weekend she has made the step up to Windows 10. I assumed the network settings would all work just fine. Wrong. My computer could "see" but not communicate with the printer (apparently doing a windows spool job ??). I printed without a hitch whilst I was on 10 and she on 7.

A bit of Googling and it seems the homegroup needs to be set up. I click on my homegroup in the file explorer window and am told that "Anthony on PCS" knows the password needed to join. Umm. Hello? I am that Anthony of whom you speak and PCS is the identity of the computer I am using. I asked myself what the password was and no great surprise, for something set up in a hurry three years ago, I can't remember. In any case I suspect that Windows 10 created a new homegroup structure. None of the advice on the internet about how to change a password is of the slightest use because the option to do this is not visible on the edit screen.

The solution, it transpired, was for me to power off my computer, for my wife to set up a new homegroup and for me then to join it.  This cunning plan nearly got derailed when Windows, desperate to look after our security, even though we are the only people on the network, insisted on creating a 10 digit password. It helpfully provides a link to print it but when I clicked on it, I got an error message with one of Microsoft's ever popular but utterly unhelpful error numbers. So I had to write it down.

I then turned on my computer, watched the little blue circle go round and round for a bit and eventually was able to join the homegroup, at which point the printer now worked for me and the option to change the password appeared on the control panel section governing homegroups.

So to summarise, m'lud, it is my contention that the sodding software should have used the old workgroup settings, that instead of setting stupid levels of security for genuine home users, Microsoft should ask right from the start if you are setting up for home or business use and that the one size fits all approach to network security is ridiculous. The prosecution rests and, believe me, needs to.

Friday, July 01, 2016

What the Hell Is going on?

As far as I can tell, having reviewed information from all available sources (and that even includes asking the Ed, who didn't have much to contribute, in all fairness), not one senior member of the Conservative Party has today stabbed a hitherto much-loved and highly respected colleague in the back, no previously utterly unknown member of the Labour shadow cabinet has resigned in order to indicate disloyalty to the leader who appointed him in the first place and nobody from the front ranks of the Scottish Nationalist party has demanded independence, (whilst remaining in the sterling area), membership of the EU and a place for the Scottish football team in the semi-finals of the European Cup.

Is this the Britain we have come to know and love?