Saturday, February 28, 2009

Moving Wallpaper returns for a second series.

I watched Moving Wallpaper last night at 21.00 on ITV1. This programme is back for it's second series and is set in a television production company. Series One concerned the media team producing a soap opera called Echo Beach. The network decided not to recommission Echo Beach so the media team has a new television programme called Renaissance.

Moving Wallpaper is a workplace comedy that pokes great fun at the media in general and management in particular. I find this programme brilliant, the use of language is very witty and is spot on with it's buzz word culture. This shows just how funny working as part of a team can be with each character responsible for their own agenda.

Moving Wallpaper is very funny and entertaining. I vote this programme a HIT and you will hugely enjoy it if you question the value of mainstream commercial television. Media types can be so full of themselves, it is a joy to see them portrayed as plonkers, particularly the character of Jonathan Pope, the producer. Jonathan speaks and believes the mantra typical of management who do not have their feet on the ground. This comedy is fresh, reflects Britain in 2009 unlike the tired and dated comedies broadcast on BBC1.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never complain, never explain.

The book I am reading at the moment is called bones to ashes by Kathy Reichs. On page 64 Kathy writes...

My sister once had this motto printed on a T-shirt: Never complain, never explain.

...This line made me think beyond the story and about my day job. All staff have different coping mechanisms that they employ to serve them throughout the working day. It can be frustrating to work on a network where the management clearly has it's head up it's backside. What is the best way to cope with the stress involved? A detachment from the situation can help and to adopt a mantra of never complain, never explain will absolve the employee from the feeling of banging his head against a brick wall.

Giving management feedback is fruitless and will always fall on deaf ears. Many drivers have wasted a lot of time, effort and brain power giving management feedback. Management reserve the right to do everything their way, regardless of the practicalities. Adopting the mantra of never complain, never explain is a good solution. This also gives management the impression that you are happy and that they have you on-board! You are then the realist and are not fooled into thinking that you can make a difference.

Never complain, never explain is a wonderful slogan, far better than "Making travel simpler". Thanks Kathy - a Customer Service Questionnaire anyone?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sitting in the park.

Oh, what a change we have had in the weather! Three weeks ago we had snow, here in the UK. Now the sun is shining and the boys come out to play. Fed up with being interrupted by muppets destroying my rest break in London by banging on my coach window and demanding to know if this coach will go to Cardiff, I set off to the park. A short walk in my new shoes brings me from the ghetto of Bulleid Way in London to the lush green pastures of Battersea Park. What a relief it was yesterday to enjoy my rest break in London sat on a bench in London's very green Battersea Park. The contrast is amazing. I went from one shaded urban location full of muppets jostling for information to a tranquil park where anyone can be fully at rest. The relief is amazing and I recommend it to everyone!

To be able to sit on a park bench and not be interrupted is great. It brings peace and rest to a busy world. A world within you can actually get a 45 minute break away from actual work. The rest room at London Victoria Coach Station is a joke, a converted waiting area that was reserved for the disabled, nothing more than a sheep pen. To sit on a park bench away from it all is a very welcome break from the cattle market of Victoria. I am glad that Spring is breaking here in the UK and that I can get away from the gloom of Bulleid Way.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Second Glance by Jodi Picoult .

I was attracted to this 478 page book in the shop when I read the back cover...

From the moment Ross's fiancee Aimee was killed in a car accident, he's been trying to die too. But life won't let him go. His only hope now is that Aimee will come to him. So when he hears of strange happenings at an ancient Indian burial ground near his sister's house, he heads to Comtosook desperate for the rumours of a haunting to be true. What he finds there is not Aimee's ghost, but Lia, a very real woman whose life is filled with as many troubled secrets as his own.

...Okay, I thought, that sounds very interesting. I like ethnic novels and the thought of an adventure to an Indian village where this character meets another woman appealed to me. Oh, how wrong I was! The location of the Indian burial ground was not in India at all. Comtosook is in America and the Indians are Native Americans! Oh well, I have an open mind and I read all of this book.

Second Glance is Jodi Picoult's 10th novel which she wrote in 2003 and for some strange reason was not published in paperback here in the UK until 2008. This novel is not a thriller, it is a mystery, a very dull mystery. I vote this book a MISS. The back cover claims that Jodi Picoult is the UK's Number One best selling women's fiction author. Oh yes, she sells shed loads of books but having read Second Glance I wonder why. In the back of this book there is A Note from Judi Picoult - August 2008

Dear Reader,

I wrote SECOND GLANCE, my tenth novel, in 2003. It remains my favourite novel (so far!).

...Well sorry lass, having read Second Glance, which you claim to be your favourite, therefore rating it your best, then I shall not be reading another of your books. For a female author, give me Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie instead.

Second Glance is a fantasy story, it is not real or believable. It is a silly, make believe story that has no attitude or depth. Jodi's writing style is lightweight and she is like one of those boring women you can meet, who you are glad you are not married to or have to refuse a second date with. Jodi does not have the skills of a good storyteller, more the conversational style of a fish wife. I have brought nothing away from this daft novel that I have read over the last 21 days. Simply don't give this book a second glance.

NEXT book please!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why did it take them so long?

Mobiles to have same charging socket by 2012. Key mobile phone industry players have agreed to fit phones with the same power socket by 2012, industry group GSMA said on Tuesday. It said handsets would have a micro USB interface, already used to transfer pictures from digital cameras to a computer. The initial group of companies that have signed for the change include Nokia, LG, Motorola, Samsung and Sony Ericsson. Operators such as AT&T, Orange, Telefonica, T-Mobile and Vodafone are also part of the initiative. The GSMA said that eventually it expected mobile phones to ship without a charging plug and cable because everybody would have one.

...Well, what took the industry so long? The USB plug has been available for many years now. USB stands for Universal Serial Bus and is an obvious choice. Why mobile phone manufacturers did not use this universal connector from day one is beyond me. There was never any need for umpteen different chargers for people and hotel owners to collect. Common sense has prevailed at last! Now, I wonder if the mobile phone industry could get together again and agree a common operating system for all mobile telephones? With the same operating system and menus anybody could use any mobile telephone on the market without scratching their head or wading through a manual. After all, anyone can go into an internet cafe and use a computer without thinking how to use it!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Three years' jail for killing family of six

A Portuguese lorry driver was today jailed for three years for causing the deaths of a family of six. David and Michelle Statham and their four children were driving home to North Wales when Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva's 40-tonne lorry smashed into their people carrier on the M6 at Sandbach, Cheshire, last October. The couple died instantly at the scene along with sons Reece, 13, Jay, nine, and Mason, 20 months, and 10-week-old baby daughter Ellouise.

Passing sentence, trial judge Mr Justice Irwin jailed da Silva for three years on each count, telling the defendant he would serve 18 months in custody before being allowed out on licence. Da Silva was also disqualified from driving for three years. The jury returned its guilty verdict after just over six hours of deliberation. The jury agreed by a majority of 11 to 1. Mr Justice Irwin continued: "In my view the evidence does not show Mrs Statham crashed first. Even if she did it was overwhelmingly likely such a thing arose because you were bearing down on her from behind and she had nowhere to go.

"I bear in mind the maximum sentence is five years, although six deaths, this was one episode and the prison sentences must be concurrent.

"This was one of the most serious offences of its kind."

...And so another court case about an avoidable road death has come to a close. Looking at similar cases of causing death by dangerous driving my view on this case is that the 3 year sentence is too lenient. I think that Mr Justice Irwin should have imposed the maximum sentence of 5 years in custody and certainly not allow Paulo Jorge Nogueira da Silva out on licence after just 18 months.
Shooting Dogs

I saw Shooting Dogs a film, on television last night. In April 1994, after the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda is shot down, the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, the Catholic priest Christopher (Hurt) and the idealistic English teacher Joe Connor (Dancy) lodge two thousand and five hundred Rwandans refugees, under the protection of the Belgian UN force and under siege by Hutu militia. When the Tutsi refugees are abandoned by the UN, they are murdered by the extremist militia. They must now choose whether to stay with the thousands of Tutsis about to be massacred or to flee for safety.

This was a very moving film based on a true story and filmed in Rwanda. This film was spot on and told the story in a very professional way. I will give the film makers top marks for making such a brilliant film. It explored all the issues involved and would lead a novice through this conflict gently in such a way that they understood fully exactly what was involved. I was absorbed by this film which drew strong emotions within me.

Watching a film about genocide would not normally be called family viewing. Gail refused to watch this film and she sulked off to bed. This film has far more emotion than Dancing on Ice and soap operas. It was a shame that Gail did not watch this film with me as there were no extreme gory scenes for me to shield her from. The film also explored the nature of love and hope which had a warm romantic ending. Shooting Dogs is a serious film, about serious issues and history. If you have not seen this film and you have an open mind, then I recommend you watch it.
Nat West employee who posted advice on websites is fired.

For more than two years Tim Keirman was the mystery guardian angel of the bank charges campaign. While still working for NatWest he helped thousands of customers get their money back by posting anonymous guidance on consumer forum websites, much to the chagrin of his employers. Last week, his identity was finally discovered by the bank. Its revenge was swift, and savage.

Mr Keirman, a 34-year-old cashier and MoneySense adviser for NatWest's Cambridge branch since 1998, yesterday revealed his identity to the IoS. After a disciplinary hearing last Wednesday, he was sacked for gross misconduct. Mr Keirman dedicated his spare time to helping customers navigate the bureaucracy needed to get their money back by offering targeted advice and leaking internal guideline documents.

A spokeswoman for NatWest said last night: "We can confirm that a member of NatWest staff has recently been dismissed for gross misconduct for releasing confidential internal information without authorisation to a third party."

...Well, here is a bank for everyone to avoid. Nat West have those sickening adverts on television where a Money Sense adviser chats to a customer. "Money Sense adviser!" I laugh at the television. These employees are sales people who have to meet targets and it is their job to sell you products and services that Nat West market.

Tim Keirman however has a moral compass and in his own time helped members of the public fight against unfair bank charges. He did not gain financially from his efforts or even claim credit for his input because his work was anonymous. Nat West has shown itself to be nothing more than a profit orientated bully in sacking Tim.

Nat West were wrong to sack Tim, this was not gross misconduct but sour grapes by a management who wish to stop free thought and expression outside the workplace. This is business and not a military operation where careless talk could endanger lives. No lives were lost by Tim's advice, only a few quid easy profit.

I hope that a rival bank will offer Tim a job with them as he has shown he has a conscience. Banks like to be thought of as friendly and approachable not as profit hungry piranhas.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Where they wearing seat belts?

A coach carrying 29 Royal Marines bound for Afghanistan skidded off an icy road into a tree, leaving six injured - one seriously, the Ministry of Defence said today. The troops from 42 Commando in Plymouth were heading for RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire when the coach ploughed into a snow-filled ditch and hit the tree south east of Cheltenham. The marine who was driving, a 39-year-old man from Plymouth, is being treated at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for serious injuries, believed to be head wounds, following the collision at 5.22am. He had to be cut free from the coach operated by Target Travel, which came off the road on the A40 at Puesdown.
Four of the men, aged between 20 and their mid-30s, were taken to Cheltenham General Hospital with what police described as "relatively minor" injuries. Those are concussion, cuts and bruises. A fifth man, aged 27, was also treated for minor injuries at the scene.

...So, where they wearing seat belts? Looking at the photograph of the crashed coach, a Plaxton Paragon, on television, I assume they were not wearing seat belts. Yes, it would be a nasty shock driving into a tree but looking at the damage there should not have been 6 people injured. When will passengers learn? It is not only the law to wear a seat belt in a coach but also common sense and best practice.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Following on from my last post about my book audit , today I have stumbled across a new website called BookArmy . This website gives book readers a forum to discuss books they have read and rate each book on a scale of 1 to 5. This website then goes on to suggest other books that you might like to read.

It is nice to be able to find reviews written by ordinary people rather than having to judge a book by the advertising blurb. This website is easier than searching through Google Blog Search in the hope that a fellow blogger has reviewed the book you are interested in. Not all book readers write a blog and will find this website easier for them to use. It is also a great website to explore other books you may be interested in buying rather than doing a trawl through Amazon .

If you are interested in books, then BookArmy is worth a browse before you go to a bookshop or Amazon.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The book audit.

I have mentioned on this blog some 35 books that I have read. Some books I have rated highly, some okay and others a clear MISS. I wondered what percentage of the books I have read I consider a Pass, so I decided to do an audit. Out of these 35 books I considered 26 a Pass and 9 a Fail, giving a 74% pass rate. That is not bad and shows that I have chosen my books wisely but there are some lemons out there! I would have liked a higher percentage pass rate but looking at the 9 failures, they each showed such promise due to content or critical acclaim. It is a bit of a gamble buying a book and I do not know how to increase my pass rate. Certainly taking notice of book awards clearly does not help! The Richard and Judy book club is also hit or miss! The back cover of the book can also be misleading. Other bloggers reviews of books are good though, because they have bought the book with their own cash and have read it in their own time.

Below is my 35 book audit with my Pass or Fail rating:

Pity the Nation - Lebanon at War by Robert Fisk - Pass

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins - Pass

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown - Pass

Margrave of the Marshes by John and Sheila Ravenscroft (John Peel) - Fail

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie - Pass

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln - Pass

The Last Testament by Sam Bourne - Fail

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - Pass

Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie - Pass

Deception Point by Dan Brown - Fail

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany - Pass

Out by Natsuo Kirino - Pass

The Truth about Muhammad by Robert Spencer - Pass

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie - Pass

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris - Fail

Animal's People by Indra Sinha - Pass

the collectors by David Baldacci - Pass

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - Pass

A Quiet Belief in Angels by R. J. Ellory - Pass

The Hundredth Man by Jack Kerley - Pass

The Mission Song by John le Carre - Pass

Severed by Simon Kernick. - Fail

Avenger by Frederick Forsyth - Pass

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart - Pass

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid - Fail

In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar - Pass

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - Fail

simple genius by David Baldacci - Pass

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella - Pass

The Woods by Harlan Coben - Pass

Broken Skin by Stuart MacBride - Fail

Dead Man's Footsteps by Peter James - Pass

Two Caravans by Marina Lewycka - Pass

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn - Fail

No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay - Pass

Friday, February 06, 2009

What's in a name?

I thought that we lived in a free country, a country where you could call a spade a spade. You should be able to chat among people and speak freely. You should not have to watch your words, especially if you are talking about someone who is out of earshot. Unfortunately there are some people who will snitch on anyone to management over conversations, rather that resolve any dispute between themselves. Enter stage right Carol Thatcher, who called a tennis player a Golliwog. The BBC have sacked her over these remarks. There was no need to do this. People should have the freedom to speak freely and not be censored or sacked. People should also lighten up a little. If I was in this conversation, I would not have been offended and Carol calling a tennis player a Golliwog would only make it easier for you to gather who she was talking about. That is the art of conversation, to convey to people your message. It is better for Carol to refer to a tennis player as the Golliwog rather than What's-his-name. You refer to another person as a Golliwog and you understand what that person looks like . It is a point of reference like tall or short, fat or thin, dark or pale.

I am not the only person to think this way, also enter stage right, one Boris Johnson. Boris talks common sense when he say's ""I don't think she should have been fired, I think the way to deal with it if someone says something a bit offensive in a green room and you are the producer of the show and everybody else has taken umbrage and feels uncomfortable - which is what happened, as I understand it - then you take that person on one side and you say 'Listen, you've got to understand we've all got to work together and you've got to watch what you say and you've got to be sensitive'.

"But I don't think you fire someone, I really don't."

Now, what is that other name, somebody in a wood pile? Answers in the comment box!

Is it a lumberjack? No, something a little darker Sir!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Tie the bitch down.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned employers that they must properly restrain loads on vehicles - whatever the distance travelled. The warning follows the prosecution of Coastal Container Line Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company, after a driver died when his load of sheet steel shifted and punched through the back of his cab. Coastal Container Line Limited has been fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £26,732 at Liverpool Crown Court. The company had earlier pleaded guilty to charges under Section 2(1) and Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at South Sefton Magistrates Court and had been committed for sentence at the Crown Court.

The prosecution follows an incident on 14 September 2006 at Seaforth docks in Bootle, when 37-year-old Lawrence Allen was driving an HGV with approximately 25 tonnes of sheet steel loaded on a trailer. The steel was being moved between Gladstone Steel Terminal and the quayside, using roads within the dock complex - a distance of around one and a half miles. As he slowed his vehicle on approach to a roundabout the load shifted and the sheet steel slid forwards and punched through the back of the cab, pinning him between his seat and the steering wheel. Mr Allen suffered crush injuries and died at the scene.

Kevin Jones, the HSE inspector who investigated the accident, said:

"The investigation identified a number of failings including a lack of planning and inadequate training for drivers. A key factor was the practice not to secure the steel but to rely upon the weight of the steel and friction to hold the load in place while the vehicle was moving.

"The transport of steel between the steel terminal and the quayside had been taking place in this manner for at least eight months, putting not only the drivers at risk but also members of the public using the roads within the dock complex.

"Employers must ensure that there is suitable and sufficient planning for transport operations, and make sure that loads are adequately restrained. Friction alone should never be relied upon to secure a load."

...Well, well, this story is truly shocking. This company has been acting like cowboys for at least eight months which ultimately resulted in the death of Lawrence Allen. This was an avoidable accident and should never have happened. Common sense will tell everyone that you secure any load on a lorry regardless of weight or the distance to be travelled. Trouble is because of this death the case has come to court and the public knows about it. What other operators are working without due regard for health and safety in their quest for greater operating profit? Many companies put profit before safety by cutting corners to make their bottom line look more attractive. Never believe company claims about safety coming first, profit always comes first and any employees speaking out will be replaced, even dead ones.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Not the day job.

There has been a change in my employers holiday policy and we can no longer carry holidays over from one period to the next. Therefore I am on holiday at the moment, this is not my choice. I was not bothered by snow as it is part of my job and being off work through this inclement weather is no advantage to me.

Gail wanted our lounge and dining rooms decorated, her idea was to pay someone to do it for us. I was totally against paying someone else to do a simple job like painting a room. Okay, this is not my day job and my painting experience is limited but I did not want to pay somebody to do something I am competent to do myself.

So we bought the paints and over the last three days we have painted the lounge, the dining room, the staircase walls, the skirting boards and the door frames. The southern walls have been painted a colour B&Q call wholemeal - a light brown. All the other walls have been painted a soft cream. The woodwork is simple brilliant white.

This is not my day job but I am very pleased with the end result. Painting a room is easy work with the radio on in the background. Walking the dog this morning I wondered what it is like for painters who do it every day as a day job, year in, year out?

I have used muscles these last three days that I do not normally use. I can feel the difference when I move! With a regular painting job these muscles would tone up. Your painting would become more efficient and the only interest you would have at work would be the radio!

If there were painters working as a team then I assume they would have to use personal stereo's. Gail and I did not like the same radio station and thought the others choice was poor. I am still a fan and a listener to Nation Radio which I blogged about in July. Gail does not like Nation Radio because of the type of music it plays. I teased her by saying that Nation Radio plays blokey music, songs that are sung by blokes, for blokes. Gail likes Real Radio because she can sing along to the commercial soft girly songs that make you thing the world is pink and full of flowers! The music on Real Radio gets on my tits, the disc jockey banter is childish and the adverts are mind numbingly stupid!

Still, we both love the new colours in our home and can live with our differences in musical tastes and broadcast radio stations! I will not be changing my day job to become a painter but I understand that both are simply a job that you can run. This is the attitude I put to the painting, simply "run job". Driving a coach on a regular service is exactly the same, "run job" which is what computer operators in the 1970's used to do in mainframe computing centres. The only difference between coach drivers and painters is that we cannot have the radio on whilst we "run job".

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

To Lose My Life by the White Lies .

There is a song playing on the radio at the moment that I really like. It is called To Lose My Life by the White Lies. This song really rocks and what caught my attention first was the chorus that went...



... that is really romantic and speaks of the love and loyalty that a couple will hold through their marriage. The music they play is spot on, a wall of sound that is really well produced. This song really hits the spot and has that classic sound not unlike Duran Duran and New Order . It is a very polished sound and represents the best of the 80's in it's arrangement. I hope the White Lies go on to further success and I think their sound is great.

And here are the full lyrics for To Lose My Life from the bands official website...




















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