Saturday, October 29, 2011

Insert coin to open.

Quite often I have passengers who claim that the coach toilet door is locked. No, I assure them, the toilet door is not locked, you simply slide the door backwards. The toilet door on the current model of the Caetano Levante is a sliding door and this confuses passengers who try to pull or push the door open. These passengers who are fooled by a sliding door are amazed when I slide it easily and smoothly back as if by magic.

This complaint and demonstration happens quite often but yesterday it was radically different. The mature female passenger said that the toilet door would not open even though she had tried to insert her coin. What the devil was this woman on about inserting a coin?

I walked with her to the back of my coach and she pointed to the sign. The sign on the door clearly states "In emergency insert coin to open". She was not bothered about the first two words of "In emergency" she just wanted to insert a coin into the door lock and for the door to magically spring open. I explained to her that the sign meant that if someone was stuck inside the toilet you could insert a coin into the the groove on the lock bolt and turn it counter-clockwise to open the door. I then showed her it was not a coin operated door but a sliding one. Passengers are reluctant to read signs and information but this Granny played fair and read the sign on the toilet door. Bless her!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Copy and paste but this is good.

Okay, this is not an original post today from Stephen. It is a simple copy and paste job. Deborah Ross writes a lovely entertaining little column in The Independent newspaper. Yesterday she wrote a very witty classic about a 24-hour hotline for middle-class emergencies. I will not paste the whole of her article which you can view by clicking this link but here are the really funny bits that made me laugh. Enjoy...

Help, I didn't want a Labradoodle, or Cockerpoo, so will be shortly taking receipt of a Shih Tzu crossed with a Poodle but now I have to tell everybody I own a Shit-Poo?

Help, I thought I'd vetted all my son's friends but one has slipped though whose mother appears to have tattoos. How can I eject him from my son's friendship circle without causing offence and getting beaten up? 

Help, I can't afford a 4x4 but if I blacken the windows of my old Nissan Micra and double-park wherever I so fancy, will this cut it?

Help, I've witnessed my neighbours taking someone into their house under a cloak at 5pm every Thursday, and out again at 6pm. Might this be a tutor they don't want me to know about?

Help, how do you put people off visiting when you have nothing exotic in the fruit bowl?

Help, why does my teenage son insist on wearing jeans half-way down his arse when he knows I am always willing to buy him properly fitted chinos from Gap?

Help, why does my teenage daughter dress like a cheap slut when she knows I would happily take her to M&S or Monsoon any day of the week?

...Thank you Deborah, for making your working class reader chuckle.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An error of judgement. 

Okay, the inquest is over and it has been found that Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning. Amy had drunk more than five times the legal drink-drive limit. The inquest at St Pancras coroner's court, attended by Mitch and Janis, Winehouse's parents, heard that the singer had returned to drinking after three weeks of abstinence. Police recovered two large bottles of vodka and one small one. Suzanne Greenway, the St Pancras coroner, said: "She had consumed alcohol at 416mg per decilitre [of blood] and the unintended consequence of such potentially fatal levels was her sudden and unexpected death." The alcohol in her system was sufficient to have stopped her breathing and send her into a coma, the court heard.

Dr Suhail Baithun, the pathologist who conducted the post-mortem, said at 200mg per decilitre [of blood], someone would lose control of their reflexes and 350mg was considered a fatal level. The legal limit for drivers is 80mg. Her vital organs, including her liver and heart, were in good shape.

I find this very sad indeed. We all make errors of judgement when drinking alcohol. When someone with a lifetime of abuse with alcohol dies, they tend to have quite remarkable liver damage and you do not have much sympathy for them. You think, look at their liver, they were fools and it is no wonder they died. They must have known what damage they were doing to their bodies, so it was simply their own fault for dying.

With Amy Winehouse it was so very different, she had not been drinking for three weeks and her liver showed no regular alcohol abuse. All Amy did was to have a good session on the bottle. Just one big drink, what the media call a binge and Amy died.

I find this really sad for two reasons.

One: her death was avoidable, Amy chose to drink the vodka, it was not forced upon her. Amy did not have her drink spiked, it was her own tragic error of judgement.

Two: We are all human and can so easy party like the best of them. Therefore this tragedy so easily could have happened to one of us. We all like to claim that we would never binge drink but our claims are made when we are sober. It is all so very different when you have a stack of booze at home.

Our society can encourage binge drinking in some very subtle ways. The nationwide company had a wonderful idea of fitting their coaches with an Alcolock system. The driver has to blow into the device to enable the coach to start. Any reading on this breath test device above Zero invokes disciplinary action, including dismissal. So you know that all your drivers are alcohol free and sober when they come to work. The subtle problem is that when the driver wants to enjoy a drink without any risk of scoring greater than zero, he needs to have this drink on his weekly rest period. Oh, you think, that is good as he only drinks alcohol when he is on his days off and has a long time to recover before starting work. The driver will not drink alcohol when he is working the next day. The subtle problem is that privately the driver renames the weekly rest period into the weekly drinking period. We might joke about this down at the farm but this can encourage binge drinking.

Amy's death was tragic but her error of judgement could so easily have been made by any one of us. That makes me very sad indeed, the result of one big session and not a lifetime of alcohol abuse. Amy's tragic death shows you do not have to be an alcoholic to die from alcohol poisoning.

When I was 10 years old my father got a new job in London as the manager of a hostel for recovering alcoholics. He showed me around the hostel when we moved in and said "Look son, these men have lost everything. They have lost their homes, their families. All they have is a bed sit here in Stockwell. Let's look into this room and see what this middle aged recovering alcoholic has to his name. Yes, rather sad isn't it son. One small suitcase and 4 sausages in the fridge."

When I turned 18 years of age, my father gave me some very sensible advice regarding alcohol, "Use it, don't abuse it". I think Dad had forgotten his quiet word to me when I was 10, I did not want to become middle aged with only a bed sit, one small suitcase and 4 sausages in the fridge. Amy Winehouse lived in a £2.3m Camden flat and clearly showed how easy it is to make that error of judgement when you have a drink.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I read his name is Patrick .

I was reading a book whilst sat on the sofa next to Gail last night. Gail was watching one of her favourite television programmes, a soap opera called EastEnders on BBC1. I have no time for any soap opera and simply ignore them all.

However, when I get to the end of a paragraph in my book, I quite often glance up at the screen. All of a sudden I burst out laughing and Gail thought I had read something really funny in the book. I explained to her what I found so very funny. I glanced up from my book and there was a scene being played in EastEnders at the local convenience store. Now this is not some multinational megastore with breathtaking floor space. It is not even a Spar or Tesco Express. It is what my mate Matthew down at the farm would call a Paki shop.

Looking at the EastEnders website I discover that this small shop is called Walford’s Mini Mart. Let's call it a poxy little corner shop, shall we? Well, all the big supermarket chains are really keen on public image and dress all their staff in distinctive uniforms and a mandatory name badge bearing the company logo and employee's first name. We usually get our groceries from Morrisons and I believe that calling the cashier by their first name should brighten up their boring day in the shop. I think most staff appreciate this, rather than customers treat them like slaves. I also think I can pronounce the Muslim first names quite well, which many customers would shy away from.

So, why was I laughing at the actor Rudolph Walker, who also starred as Bill Reynolds in the 1970s sitcom Love Thy Neighbour? Patrick Trueman, the owner of this little shop did not have any uniform. He looked like a market trader and was wearing a green apron. But what was fixed at the top right hand side of his apron? A very simple plain name badge, white in colour, no company name or logo, just the letters
P A T R I C K. This looked really stupid in the circumstances and really out of place and reality. A poxy little shop would never bother with name badges but Patrick's plain amateur name badge made me laugh out loud!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

You Terrorist 

We all enjoy watching videos on You Tube as it is just harmless voyeuristic fun. There is something for everyone and you would not think there would be anything for our Police forces to get their knickers in a twist over. All human life is shown on You Tube, some videos are very tame and some are for certain niche groups like FILTHY DIRTY BARE FEMALEFEET . These barefoot women have not upset our Police forces but British police authorities ordered the removal of 135 videos from YouTube in the first half of this year because of a perceived threat to national security, according to figures published by the video sharing website's owner Google. The US technology giant reported a 71% rise in content removal requests from the UK government or police, compared with the final half of 2010,

That is quite surprising that 135 videos have been removed for alleged security issues. I think the Police were just playing safe or simply safeguarding their jobs by worrying the public with the threat of terrorism. What is worrying is where we draw the line over censorship by the state. I think that internet users should have open access and freedom of expression and association. Once the Police start using these powers willy nilly, we can be on the road to a Police State. Anyone posting an alternative video could be considered a radical and treated as a criminal rather than someone with a particular hobby or interest. Bus spotters could be accused of being trainee terrorists who video our transport infrastructure for future attack. It is all a matter of where you draw the line with censorship of You Tube.

Monday, October 24, 2011

5.1m viewers watch the last episode of Spooks .

It was the end of an era for drama on television last night as Spooks came to it's final episode. After 10 series, Spooks on BBC1 television has come to an end. This drama involving British intelligence officers working for MI5 has been sharp, witty, politically aware and very entertaining. It depicted intelligence staff working the grid with the latest technology and software. It showed just what a needle-in-the-haystack job our intelligence agencies have to do everyday. Spooks really had the edge on other television dramas and had been my favourite for a long time. I liked the earthiness of all the characters and how they worked so hard within a very difficult political structure.

The character who I most enjoyed watching was Ruth Evershed played by Nicola Walker.

I really felt for Ruth as she was a very dedicated intelligence officer but she missed out on so much of a normal life because of her job. Ruth put all her efforts into her work at MI5 and worked closely with her boss Harry Pearce. Over time Ruth fell in love with Harry but the dynamics of her work stopped them getting together outside of work. In the last series Ruth and Harry got even closer and last night there was talk of them both leaving MI5 and setting up home together. That would have made a very emotional and happy end to the series as I felt that Ruth and Harry, considering what they had both suffered over the years, truly deserved each other. Sadly Ruth was killed which left Harry with a very empty life, all he had left was his work. A work that he had been devoted to but had also left him very, very alone.

Nicola Walker is married to actor Barnaby Kay. The couple have a son Harry (born 2006), who is named after Harry Pearce, the character of her co-star Peter Firth in Spooks.

I was surprised that the 5.1m audience for Spooks was beaten by Downton Abbey, which gathered 8.9m viewers, as it went head to head with Spooks. Downton Abbey leaves me cold, I think it is old fashioned rubbish. It makes me cringe by how dated and naff it is. It is about as exciting as a visit to a museum. My mother thinks there are far too many characters in each episode. Gail watches Downton Abbey although it is not her favourite and she has a magazine on her lap at the same time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bullying phone calls .

Telephones are a communications tool that can be used by anyone to speak directly to whoever you choose. I am not a fan of the telephone as I feel it takes away personal choice when the caller can demand instant attention and response from the receiver of that call. You are expected to drop everything and respond to that telephone call. You are no longer living your own life but simply answering to this caller who has jumped to the front of you mind by ringing your number. There is also the problem of unwanted telephone calls from people wanting to sell you things. If I want something then I will go out and buy it. I will not sit at home and hope that some muppet will ring me up on the telephone offering me a great deal.

The title of this blog post is "Bullying phone calls" and this does not come from my own personal experience. I read a wide selection of blogs and one of those is called Rants & Raves from the Tangerine PR team.... This is a blog containing the latest ramblings from the folk at Tangerine Public Relations Manchester. On the 21st October 2011, Steve Downes writes about WHEN MARKETING ISN'T VERY CHARITABLE ...

I was driving a friend’s son back from a meeting the other day when his mobile rang. He’s 21, just graduated and looking for his first job.

The phone call lasted half an hour. Overhearing his side of the conversation it was obvious he was trying to get off the phone from a pushy sales person. “No, I really can’t afford to increase my subscription”, “But I’ve not got a job yet and got a big student loan to pay off”, “Really, I would if I could, I just can’t”. On and on it went. I was getting increasingly frustrated at how polite he was being, making throat-cutting symbols etc. Eventually the lad finally managed to get off the phone, apologising to the caller and promising he would increase his payment as soon as he was able.

“Who the hell was that?” I asked, expecting some dodgy loan provider or money lender. “Oh it was [insert name of large international charity]. I give by direct debit and they were asking me to increase it because people are suffering terribly. I feel awful, but I just can’t. They call every so often”

....Steve Downes then discusses the situation of charities and how they market their campaigns relying on guilt to blackmail the donor into giving more money. The tactics of these charities is deplorable and Steve Downes is right to highlight this problem and put it into the public domain. It is a shame that some people are not assertive and simply give in to these bully boys on the telephone. There is a thing called abusive telephone calls and I think these charitable guilt trips are very, very close to the line.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Lovers by Vendela Vida .

Yvonne, a 53 year old widow, goes on holiday to Datca in Turkey. With the title of The Lovers and a widow going on holiday on her own, you have the promise of a romance far from home. Yvonne rents a large house in Datca and when I read at location 156...

The third floor was smaller, with only a single bedroom and a balcony. On top of the bed, a piece of exercise equipment, complete with black straps and silver chains, had been laid out. Yvonne couldn’t identify its purpose.

...I thought this novel would turn out raunchy. This hope was increased at location 171...

From the couch, she couldn’t see anything outside the window—only her own reflection. A brunette woman with pale skin and dark eyes removing pits from her mouth. At first glance, she looked younger than her fifty-three years.

...and I thought that Yvonne may be in with the chance of some holiday action. Then at location 218...

She lay on the bed with the light on, staring at a hook in the ceiling, directly above the bed. It was an eyehook, the kind used to hang a plant. Who would want to hang a plant from there?

...I thought she would be in for some rumpy pumpy involving some S & M.

Well no, nothing sexy happened. The Lovers was a big disappointment. The story was half about Yvonne coping with Peter, her husband, being killed and her relationship with her son and daughter. It was also about the people she met in Turkey and it's culture. But the time line shifted back and forth, what happened in the past to the present day. The Lovers simply plodded along. This book is dull and very easy to put down. Vendela teases that something dramatic is going to happen but fails to deliver. All her characters are shallow and do not bite. There is nothing in this book to offend anyone or to get excited about. This story lacks attitude, is dreary and is a lazy book. I consider this book to be poor writing and am surprised that it was published in hardback. The Lovers fails and you wonder if Yvonne would wake up in the morning or quietly die in her sleep. Her description of rural Turkey is nice though. The ending was very short and no big deal.

I will vote this book the minimum of 1 star on Good Reads as it is a book to AVOID. I am glad that I only paid £0.99p for this Amazon Kindle ebook of 310 KB and was written in 2010. The price has now gone up to £5.10 - and shows how dynamic the Kindle ebook prices are, so keep checking the Amazon website for those ebooks you can risk a £1 for. As I have found out before, you can get some very good Kindle ebooks for just a £1 but clearly The Lovers was not one of them!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Would you recognize this man in the street?
Walking along any street in Britain today, you are fairly anonymous. You pass people and do not know them from Adam. Gail however is very observant and yesterday at the vets she said to me "Do you know who that is?". "No, I haven't a clue" was my reply. She insisted the guy was an actor who used to appear on Belonging . "Really, I didn't recognize him but you are good with faces" I replied. Looking it up on the internet today, Gail was right, the guy at the vets was William Thomas the Welsh actor who has played in many television programmes like Belonging, Gavin and Stacey and Torchwood.

So then, does anyone recognize the guy in the photograph above? For example, he said in an interview "People come to you in clubs and say, 'Can I come back to your house?' They find out where you're staying and knock on your hotel room door." Ever taken advantage? "I'm not really into groupies. I'd rather have electricity with someone rather than a random bird." Fame has him travelling everywhere with a security guard, and he still finds it "really awkward being recognised. I used to be a real bastard about it, but now I think, 'What would Jay-Z do?'"

Any answers? It seems rather odd that he needs a security guard travelling everywhere with him, I would not recognize him in the street. However, I would recognize his voice on the radio. He is Elliot Gleave, the singer called Example. He has a nice and distinctive singing voice but I would not recognize his face.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Facebook saves dog from further abuse .

I am not a fan of Facebook but this video has saved a dog in Grimsby from further abuse by it's owners. This video has caused quite a storm since it was posted on Facebook and a mob of at least 50 arrived at a house in Stanley Street, Grimsby to confront the owner. The occupant of the property – an adult male – was escorted out of the house by police at about 9.20pm and a dog was removed about ten minutes later.

The posting of this video has caused some criticism in that it could encourage vigilante action. However, as some commentators have voiced, the standard rate of response from the Police, the RSPCA and social services can be rather slow. Sometimes these allegations of abuse are not followed up because it is "only a dog" and we know there are more important issues further up the league tables.

I think the video taker was also brave in making his video public because he is clearly an adjacent neighbour to this appalling family. That stick could so easily have been swung at Michael and not the tormented dog. Well done for Michael having the guts to post his video of this thuggish family and cutting through the red tape and getting a quick solution for this poorly little family pet. Hopefully the dog can be re-homed into a more responsible family as there are plenty of decent people living in Grimsby and the surrounding area.

Monday, October 17, 2011

We all do it!
Gail says that ladies don't do it. I say that everybody does it, including the Queen. No, I am not talking about walking in the woods!

And on tonight's hot gossip I give you a wonderful sound bite from Katy Perry,..

"I love coming to London so I can have baked beans on toast. They do bloat me and I'm afraid I'm going to go off like a firework, but I do love them.”

 ...Oh yes, Katy has fallen in love with baked beans. Her love for beans has even caused her to resort to giving her tummy a good old rub onstage at London’s O2 arena to ease the bloating.

"When I rub my belly it's not because I'm pregnant, it's 'cos of the beans on toast!"

I found this story funny but aimeel wrote on the Heat World website...

"what is gossip coming to, when you have to write a page about a celeb farting..."

...Still, I did not want people to think that natural yogurt was too serious or that I was always moaning about something!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Global Handwashing Day.

Yesterday was Global Handwashing Day a campaign to motivate and mobilize millions around the world to wash their hands with soap. It takes place on October 15 of each year. The campaign is dedicated to raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention. Hygiene is a big issue to a lot of people here in the UK.One in ten people have admitted avoiding public transport and trips to the cinema because of worries over cleanliness and general hygiene levels. And one in six mobile phones contains traces of E. coli because people are too lax about washing their hands, a study has found. More than nine in ten mobile phones are coated with some kind of bacteria, including E.coli, which was responsible for a number of deaths in Germany in June, and Staphylococcus aureus, one strain of which is better known as MRSA. Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine took 390 samples of bacteria from the hands and phones of people in 12 cities across Britain. Although 95 per cent of participants claimed to wash their hands with soap whenever they could, some 16 per cent of hands and phones contained E.coli, which is transmitted in faeces and causes gut complaints. From the phone surface the bacteria can be transported back to our hands even after washing, to our ears and faces where they can infect any scratches or open wounds, or even to other people who borrow the handset. Some 31 per cent of hands and 25 per cent of phones harboured Staphylococcus aureus, which is naturally present in our skin but can become dangerous if transferred between people, particularly to those with weakened immune systems. Dr Ron Cutler, who led the study, released ahead of Global Handwashing Day on Saturday, said some devices were "crawling" with germs. In total 92 per cent of mobile phones and 82 per cent of hands tested had some traces of bacteria.

So what about hazards in the workplace? Many passengers travelling on my coach have their ticket on their mobile telephone. I have to handle a great many stranger's mobile phones every day to read their travel tickets. Does this put me at a greater risk than the general working population? I do not suffer from colds or stomach upsets, so either my immune system is super-charged by this constant contact with the passengers or my end of shift handwashing flushes the germs away. I think it is my enhanced immune system because I do not suffer from colds that make the passengers cough and splutter throughout their journey.

What about the hand hazards when I return to the farm? Every day I have to fill up with AdBlue and fuel oil. I also have to drain the toilet waste by pulling a lever that lets the waste gush down in a torrent onto an open drain. That is plenty of scope for infection! Since we transferred down the farm in May, the drivers have been using disposable latex gloves. These are the type you see on television worn by doctors, nurses, scene of crime officers and forensic scientists. They are great for filling up with diesel and dropping toilets. I did wonder how long my employer would stand the cost of these disposable latex gloves and opt for gloves that can be used more than once. The other day I went up to Andy and asked for some latex gloves. That day has come and he gave me 2 pairs of Polyco Matrix P Grip 403 - MAT size 9 Seamless Knitted Gloves with Polyurethane Palm Coating. I have worn these new gloves for 3 days now and they are the business. They are easy to put on and take off. Your hands do not sweat because of the textile back. The polyurethane palms keep the fuel oil from soiling your skin. I think these gloves are the right ones for the job and they should pass the test of time. Another problem with the disposable later gloves apart from the cost, was that quite often they would tear. They could rip as you put them on or tear as you opened the fuel cap. These Polyco gloves should not rip or tear as you get down dirty back at the farm. Thanks Andy!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Slights by Kaaron Warren.

Meet Stephanie Searle - also known as Steve or Stevie. Slights is written in the first person and you follow the life of Stephanie from age 18 onwards. Sadly Stephanie is involved in a car accident in which her mother dies. This book was Kaaron's debut novel and was written in 2009 and I bought the Kindle version which is a 574 KB file.

The beauty of this novel is that you really get to know Stephanie as you build up a history and understanding. It is like meeting a stranger who becomes a part of your life. This girl has an attitude, which is great and entertaining, as she explains her life with great humour. For example at location 350...

He started wanting more of me, friendship, confession, emotion, and I didn't want a best friend. I didn't know how to tell him, so I just said he was a dud root. I didn't think I'd ever need him as a cop so I didn't care. He took it well, anyway.   "I thought we had something," he said.   "Maybe we could have," I said, to give him something to dream about, "but I just feel repelled by the shape of your penis. Not even hypnosis could help me get over that."

...How she became called Steve started at school, as you find out at location 1071...

I could be proud of the scar, though. It made me scary for my first day at school. I had very short hair and my first teacher, Mrs Langdon, thought I was a boy and called me Steve. I made the most of it. Acted the bully, went to the boy's toilets, weed standing up. Glenn Guest had a good look once, and said, "You haven't got a willy," so I pissed on his feet.

...Slights is an enjoyable read, it is very witty and you meet loads of characters that Steve befriends along the way. As this novel develops, you learn that there is a darker side to Steve. This book turns into a horror! This story is emotionally very deep and you develop a great empathy for Steve. This is NOT Chick lit and this book should appeal to everyone. Kaaron's writing style is spot on and has a lovely, wonderful structure. The plot is realistic and there are some great social observations seen from Steve's point of view, with frustrations that we can all relate to. I developed a bond with Steve and it feels like a shared history. Slights is well written and raises the bar as a first person novel. The ending brings closure to Steve and the reader.

Slights was the winner of 2 awards, the Ditmar Award for Best Novel, 2010 and the Shadows Award for Best Fiction, 2009. This book was a delight to read and I shall vote it the maximum of 5 stars on Good Reads. This book is one to recommend and was a great holiday read for me in Egypt.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mind your own business.

Yet more rubbish has been spoken by our democratically elected representatives. We voted representatives to govern our country, the nitty gritty things of government that supports the country's infrastructure etc. We did not elect a government to bully someone eating a packet of biscuits.

This newspaper article really annoyed me. Both parties are moaning on about what people eat and how the food and drink manufacturers run their business. Well I think the politicians should sod off and mind their own business. People should have the freedom to buy and eat whatever they want. Manufacturers should be able to produce whatever food and drink they want to sell. People should have choice and not be bullied by politicians. Nobody is force feeding these people, they chose what to put in their mouths. If they eat too much they will put on weight. That is their personal problem, not central governments or the manufacturers.

If a manufacturer was producing bad food or drink they would go bankrupt, the public will buy what they want. It is not the fault of the manufacturers that obesity rates are rising but the people who are over indulging. These obese people take the decision every day on how much to eat and drink. It is and always should be their choice and not the whim of politicians. I will NEVER dare to tell Gail what to eat or drink - her weight is her problem and not mine. She can tell you all about diets and calories but chooses each day what she will consume. I do not force feed her, she can feed herself and no nagging from MP's will change her.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No granny grabbing in Pompey.

Oh yes, it is in the newspaper, there is no demand for granny grabbing in Portsmouth. So no rumpy pumpy in Pompey! Those over 60's have great fun travelling around on buses with their free travel passes. But when it comes to sex they are not so quick off the mark. 

A workshop for pensioners to learn about "sex in later years" has been cancelled due to lack of interest.
The free session, called Generation Sex, was being run by Portsmouth City Council with the aim of encouraging older people to practise safer sex.
A council spokesman said: "It was decided to cancel the event because too few people booked places."

...I just hope that this lack of interest does not spread to Wales in December this year!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ticking the boxes.

We have a culture in this country of ticking the boxes. Management believe that if you give staff enough forms for them to fill out, then the job will be done properly. Also by collecting these forms the company will then demonstrate by this paper trail that their operations are being run safely.

However, in the real world I have known for a long time, that ticking the boxes is a useless exercise.  Getting a muppet to tick all the boxes on a form to certify that the job has been done, does not fool me. Management are happy because they have their treasured paper trail. I prefer that staff are conscientious in their job and do it properly, the paper trail is just propaganda.

To demonstrate what can so easily go wrong when management is obsessed with box ticking rather than safety, you only have to read this story of an avoidable accident...

A POTENTIALLY disastrous collision between two giant ore carriers in Swansea Bay last year occurred because mariners on one of the huge vessels “ticked boxes” instead of actually carrying out safety checks.
The MAIB’s safety digest, published this month, said of the Royal Oasis: “Despite the vessel’s Safety Management System providing an in-depth series of checklists for passage planning (all of which had been tick off as having been completed) the strong flood tide steams in the area had not been identified.
That is the conclusion of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB), which reviewed the incident off Port Talbot on Friday, August 13 last year. 
“A pre-departure briefing was also not held and therefore the strong tides were not discussed.
The digest reported: “The modern seafarer often bemoans the number of checklists that have to be consulted before carrying out the simplest of tasks.
“However this accident demonstrates very well the importance of referring to such an aide-memoire rather than just ticking the boxes.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

The joys of telephone call centres.

Catching up on the interesting articles posted on the internet whilst I was away on holiday, I came across this article by Mark Steel. It is all about making a motor insurance claim and is written in Mark's usual very dry humour style. Mark bought his motor insurance in good faith but the outfit he purchased it from actually were agents for someone else. This other company was an agent for somebody else and so the tale develops.

Mark makes some very good points about how insurance companies work and his best little dig is this...

One part that puzzles me is, if these insurance companies don't actually do insurance what do they do? Are they a sandwich shop that was accidentally put in the wrong section of the Yellow Pages, but kept getting requests for household and contents cover so decided they'll do a spot of brokering as a sideline?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre by Rod Glenn.

There's a newcomer to the small Northumberland village of Haydon...a charming novelist and film buff, researching a crime thriller about a serial killer on a rampage in a remote Northumberland community. The only trouble is, it's a work in progress and it's going to be non-fiction. 392 men, women and children stand in his way to achieving a sadistic dream. 

So, here we are with another crime thriller. A nice touch at the beginning is the Author's Note and at location 71...

The horrific scenes you will bear witness to are not for the faint-hearted. And yet, there are no monsters or goblins, no vampires or werewolves. This is real horror. Real life. So take heed, and if you should hesitate, turn back now and pick up a Harry Potter. Ms Rowling’s wonderful books are positive and upbeat, with a real sense of hope that good will overcome. This ain’t. This is dark and dirty. Enjoy!   Rod

...But sadly this crime thriller is rather run of the mill and like a made-for-TV movie. It is a bit like Eastenders but set in a small remote village in Northumberland. It does not raise the bar as a crime thriller and is rather bland. What this novel lacks is an author's voice, his writing style is not distinctive. It is however an easy read and although it is quite ordinary, you feel that Rod is trying hard. But this story is bulked out by to many references to films and songs. 

The planning by Hanibal Whitman is good but how come so many people befriend him? It is rather strange how all these characters befriend a stranger in the pub and accept him. This is not quite the reality of rural pubs in remote villages. The pace of this novel is okay and villagers become known to the killer and the reader, rather than be random victims of slaughter. But how can Carol Belmont afford to visit the pub so often and buy all those drinks? 

The sub-plots are good but the details are too convenient. Just by chance the pub had a side entrance for Hanibal to slip out unnoticed. The ending provides a reason for the sequel, which is also convenient.

Humour is there but it is quite shallow. Another problem is the banning on smoking in enclosed public spaces across Britain. At location 471 the text reads...

Seeming to hover in the doorway, a picture of nerves, she took the hesitation as an opportunity to light up a Lambert & Butler with a trembling hand.

...and throughout this book there was a lot of smoking going on, even in the pub.

The motive for The Northumberland Massacre, sadly is very plausible. Sinema was written in 2010 and is a 495KB Kindle ebook. It is an okay book and I will vote this novel 3 stars on good reads.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Tap, tap, tap.

Tap, tap, tap, Stephen has now finished typing and he has posted his holiday review on his stand alone holiday blog. Before I went, Matthew - down on the farm - was teasing me and said do not write about awful entertainment from animation teams, as every Arab hotel is the same. Well, the Resta Grand Resort was very different and adult. There was no childish animation team members miming to Michael Jackson. We had a modest woman singing live and there was thankfully no dumbing down. On this vocalists day off she was replaced by an oriental dance group - they were naff and the girl doing the belly dance was skinny. A good belly dancer needs to have a flabby fat belly to show off her femininity. Sadly Deborah, Faye and Gail did not stand up to show her how it should be done!

If Gail reads this I am sure she will BLAST a comment into the box below!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

And we're back.

Stephen is safely back from his holiday in Egypt and is back online. I will start knocking up a holiday review so that my loyal readers will know how much I enjoyed my holiday. Reference Matthew's comment in the post below, I did not have holiday tummy but I did gain 4 pounds in weight!

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