Singing a Sad Song

Singing in tune and I are very distant bedfellows. They say bashing out a tune has all manner of healthy benefits. Breathing, being high on the list; an important if not vital attribute of life of which I thought everyone was already very familiar with.

My absent singing skills go way back to music classes in school. The music master, who incidentally killed himself playing Russia roulette and therefore entered school folklore in perpetuity, had a habit of walking slowly down the rows of signing pupils to weed out the chaff.

‘Singing is an art of which you appear devoid of all the brushes. You therefore sound like someone attempting to paint with just their fingers’ was the best appraisal he produced. I thought at the time this was a little harsh. I consoled myself that being part of the church choir, of which I was, would neutralise such a brutal analogy. Mentioning this to my elder brother produced a shrug of the shoulders and the advice that “I was only in the choir to make the numbers up” and reminded me I had long been told by the choir master to mouth the the lyrics rather than utter quite disturbing sounds.

Undeterred I dreamt of becoming an operatic marvel to prove them all wrong. But this plan lacked all substance. Years of growling through hymns, pop numbers and a very short lived bash at folk singing had proven this to be truly, madly and deeply adrift of reality.

I still try to avoid any sung church services, including weddings and funerals. It takes at least five verses to approach any sound that might be considered to ‘fit in’. Most hymns being five verses long always leaves me in the starting blocks. But l always give it a crack; he tries bless him, he does try.

Facebook and Google Know Who What Where and When

The most scariest thing in the news; no nothing to do with Putin, nerve agents, Jezza or crying cricketers. To me it’s the info and search data held by Facebook and the Googles of the world.

This is compounded  by the level and speed of incitement that can be stirred in our younger members of society by social media. This wonderful world of rapid access has suddenly gone horribly sour. And I had to count myself as one of those who rated themselves as too bleeding dull to warrant being of any interest to the digital world guys.

Urged by a Times newspaper article that described the wealth of data the bad guys eat for breakfast I followed their routines to bin the evidence. Not easily done if you are a cross between a Luddite and a slow learner. The paper urged to switch off this, that and most of the other. Delete all history, stop using auto fill and tell the smart things in your life to sod off remembering passwords. There is not a lot left to the meaning of life as we know it after this level of pruning.

The process of finding all the erase buttons is complex. The bad guys have hidden them all over the place. Before you press delete a string of questions, mostly written with double negatives and reversed logic. Tick here if you don’t want this, untick the box if you might not need this. All of it seems to try and trick you to inadvertently tick the wrong box or leave the slide saying yes when you thought it said no. Clever guys, the last thing they want is you to erase your history, searches and activity; they all mean money to them

Trust no one is de rigour. If it’s free it’s full of tricks. Terms and Conditions, t and c’s are best described as Tricks and Cons. And so enter the world where you have an alias, false birthdate, no fixed abode and you always use the “incognito” facility on web pages. But you also enter a world where there are no distracting adverts, and no purchase prompts that urge to buy something you bought last week. But somehow you get the feeling that whilst you are hiding from the bad guys they are dreaming up some form of retaliation, after all they have all the bright guys working for them and we mere mortals this need to have their wits about them constantly.

It’s Just Not Cricket

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Maybe just me but is the rest of the world also getting a tad tired of the news of ball tampering in cricket. Seems the solution is simple to a fool like me. The umpire chappies should check the ball after each over, and be the only guys to allowed to clean the ball, like the umpires in snooker. Job done. This would also reduce the laundry bill to remove the red streaks from bowlers pants, so an ecological saving on energy and washing powder.

Bending the rules is de rigour in many team games. I imagine the Kiwi Hakka at the start of New Zealand rugby games is not designed to be all that friendly in a do have a cup of team and current bun kind of way. The UK university boat race of last weekend in which Cambridge trounced Oxford, not that I support Cambridge you understand, was subject of some ace tactics, if you support Cambridge, and dastardly deeds if your are an Oxford person.

The tactic is to steer the leading boat across the path of the other, once clear of each other of course. This creates “dirty water”, turbulence being a better term, in which the opposing, lagging boat has to row through thereby loosing the aquatic version of traction. All jolly hockey sticks. It’s not as if it was a race between two other uni’s, whom we can’t name who wouldn’t necessarily wait until they were clear. This would create a ramming incident the equivalent of the Vikings and worth talking about.

Back to the Aussie cricket chaps and ball fondling. This has been the subject of news overload; double page spreads, interviews, TV footage, resignations, condemnations that are way overloaded. The guys bent the rule in a game that hasn’t had the wit to prevent it. Presumably the rule guys will come up with a solution, in the meantime what do we do every time there is a sneaky forward pass, offside, hidden foul, a little shove in all the other sports. Perhaps the Aussie guys should be recognised as hero’s for trying to get away with it. It’s all about tactics isn’t it?

Energy Suppliers Sap Our Energy

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Had a crack at a re- evaluation of the energy suppliers  as recommended by the knowledgable ones in Westminster. It’s all very easy to swap said the advert, but as we all know the reality is a tad different.

Apart from the contact details, the comparison website want to know who is the current supplier and which scheme I was on. Well I’m with First utility who have 30 different schemes; stick a pin at random in that lot. I also have a smart meter, actually that’s a mute point. I have a markI meter which ain’t smart at all. Installed by a previous supplier it can’t be read by any other supplier. It is an expensive heap of junk.

But that only that’s only the beginning. It couldn’t be read by the guys who originally installed it either. No don’t ask, it all gets a bit technical and not really understood by anyone involved. Six different engineers had a go, even asked any service engineer  in the area to call in. It became a challenge like King Arthur’s sword in the stone. In the end We both gave up and have to resort to kneeling down to read the meter. Quite a process as you are required to press the tiny, tiny button 9 and record what it then tells in tiny, tiny green numbers.

Kneeling down is mostly a sweet memory. The current process involves putting a strain on all manner of gussets that twang in turn like a out of tune piano. Then the realisation that varifocal glasses have a logic error. The reading bit is at the bottom of the lens and the meter readout lines up with the top ‘distance’ part of the specs. Stalemate, unless you lean back on your heels to see if you can jerk your head back to see the numbers but by then you’re too far away to focus.

Jotting down what you hope are the relevant readout the energy guys need and not the serial number, again, off it goes to work out your consumption which bobs up and down depending on which season we are having today. Eventually this gives you an annual usage that allows you to fill in yet more data on the comparison site. Approximately. And bingo up pops an energy company that promises to charge you less than the current guys – who don’t appear in the list at all and have thus taken delight in gently screwing you if you don’t move. Customer relations management CRM is booted clean out of the window.

Pressing the OK button is like confirming a ticket with Ryanair. Trepidation in case you have ticked a box that clearly you shouldn’t  have, what were you thinking. And off you go with the this years supplier, warts an all. You have no idea if this will work out the best deal. In the space of a year every thing, every variable can change and unless you can back feed all the calculation criteria…..but they know you can’t unless you are the guy that invented the algorithm!

And off we go with the new guys – who by the way can’t read smart meters even if you had them, the right ones that is. At least they are honest, and I’ve bought a kneeling pad and now photograph the readout before sending it so we might just get along. For a year that is.

Rubber Ducks New Enemy Of The State

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Yet another firm family favourite is to bite the dust. The ubiquitous rubber duck is now an enemy of the state. OK they have been made of plastic for years and no one I have asked can actually remember a rubber version, but they are still harbingers of all manner of nasties.

The little hole, apparently to allow the air pressure to equalise when being shipped by air; otherwise they would arrive either burst or be squashed flat, also lets  in water when in the bath. For decades this has allowed parents and older siblings to squirt water at offspring. But now some clever chaps in Switzerland who got a new microscope for Christmas have discovered that millions of bacteria live on the inside of our ducks.

The stream of warm water being ejected out of the equaliser hole has led to all manner of ailments and infections. Now don’t you just feel downright guilty having engaged  in such dangerous bath time fun with the kids. What sort of parents are we.

The bath time role of the rubber/plastic duck may be over but there is a silver lining. The amazing growth in the number of pot holes in our roads filled with water are crying out for rubber ducks (some wags have already discovered this) Plonking your ducks in the pot holes will serve to remind the government of this plight and give a warning to unwary motorists, cylicts and pedestrians of their location.

The only downside is the £1,000 fine for fly tipping. What we really need are dissolvable rubber ducks which would overcome the original bath time problem. But on the other hand the UK roads  becoming a sea of yellow pot holes ducks rather like daffodils would brighten our lives. After the cherry blossom has faded in Japan we could have a tourist boom of Japanese tourist coming to the UK to see the pot hole ducks.

How To Stop Rubbing Your Cricket Balls

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I recently mentioned my distant relationship with cricket.  This was before the revelations of the Aussie team who have proven it just a load of balls after all.

I had no idea you could adjust the performance of the ball with a deft application of summat rough or smooth. I suppose it should have been obvious though. They are always talking about how the effect of the new ball can influence the game. And why we see those red streaks on the bowlers butt cheeks or thigh. So here’s my solution to avoid the temptation of fiddling with your balls, just like your mother told you.

Replace the ball with one less susceptible to tampering.  Swap  the current design with a metal ball from a French boules set. Alternatively remove the ability to hide the tampering tools. Going full commando might raise a few eyebrows but at least  there are no zips, pockets or rough patches unless you have some freak medical condition. In cooler climates the use of Lycra shorts could be adopted. Beggar all space to hide anything  without causing a bulge, apart from the obvious, so to speak.

 

Old Age Advice Goes Unhindered

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The trouble with retirement is you have too much time on your hands. Not my thoughts, but that of the offspring.

You suspect your strategic advice or simple reminders, given with such aplomb and with good intention are being chucked straight in the skip. ‘What do they think we do all day, it’s OK for them, they just wander around drinking coffee and eating cake,’ etc.

The criticism goes with the job. As a retired ‘old fart’ our job, whilst the marbles are still in reasonable working order is to impart infinite wisdom free of charge and honed over a lifetime. OK most of the development was pre facetube and twittertwat but there is still a vestige of sense.

The worst part of this equation is we oldies are living longer. We are cluttering up the system with abandon, ramming off peak holidays in a sea of baby boomer silver hair and jamming doctor surgeries with endless ageing ailments. We are selfishly spending the inheritance. Then adding insult to injury we finally loose the remaining marbles in a flood of damp patches demanding to be rehoused somewhere else lest we end up festering in dishevelled state creating unnatural odours. This outcome having mixed blessings; the dilemma, do the oldies move in with offspring and ruin a relationship or get chucked in a ‘rest home’ the name being a magnificent misnomer.

New British Passport Will Be French

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Foresight is an ability most of us crave. Sometimes we commit to an action that really needs considered thought. The new post Brexit British passport to be printed by a French company is a case in question. I was taught by a previous boss never to send any significant letter (remember letters) without leaving it in the drawer overnight, preferably over the weekend and then post it on the Tuesday.

This allowed the blood to run cold, the argument reviewed to see if it made sense and whether it was still worth the stamp. Sometimes best to say nowt than the wrong thing!

The internet, cell phones and social media have irreparably damaged this good advice. We can burst into a Tweet way before the brain is fully engaged. This immediacy that has entered our lives is not always a good thing. Equally the considered thought can now be mistaken for indifference. Remember how long it took before a senior manager stood up to front the British Airways booking melt down, the Ryanair pilots leave cock up, Carillion collapse, and Facebook data leak. But these are the tip of the iceberg, there are hundreds of other examples. The top guys just misjudged the huge negative PR that is the antithesis of leaving the letter in the drawer overnight. A fine line of judgement.

Which how brings me to the case in hand. With all the furore surrounding Brexit and our decision to pull away from European bureaucracy, the one element that will highlight our decision is the new British passport. So which senior numpty in the government decided it should be printed by an overseas company. Forget the price competition this is singularity the most demonstrable action that would wave the Union Jack. This is a prime example of leaving the decision in the drawer overnight and then give it rational thought. In this particular case better if the decision maker also claimed into the drawer as well, and stayed there. But we will probably see him or her appearing in the New Years honours list. Such is the way of the numpties.

Brexit Bewilderment

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The Salisbury shenanigans,  complete with the innuendo, accusations and probable guilty party has scared us all. Go on admit it, we have grabbed a tiger by its tail, who can’t be concerned.

There is an upside, however, the news has been diverted from Brexit for a few nano seconds. And we’re back; the boys are in the playground once more arguing the toss over who is going to get what from whom and when.

Disccussions involve more angst than your best ever divorce, with the legal fraternity getting paid buckets of cash in the process. Talking of handsome payments,  PWC the administrators of Carillion have been awarded £20m so far for services rendered.  And we mortals wonder why the company went bust.

On element of Brexit that has not popped up onto the table yet is British summer time. Are we still going to wobble the clocks when we leave the EU?

The chappy who has popped his hat into the South Yorkshire mayoral election ring is an MP. He still wants to be an MP if he is elected which implies it is a part time role. This is a bit of a slap as South Yorkshire has suffered quite badly from being ‘up North’ and therfore a million miles from our London centric operations. If ‘owt is to be achieved  the SY Major needs to be a red hot and dedicated poker. But you can’t see his point. A recent survey indicated 85% of the SY electorate want the mayor to have jurisdiction over the whole of Yorkshire. And to this end another election, for the Yorkshire Mayor is to be held in 2020. This will chuck the SY Mayor’s role into the skip after just two years.

Our man wanting to retain his job as an MP therefore is a realist. It also indicates that Westminster, who are organising these shenanigans  (yes even more of them) have missed a trick. These scary events serve little to consol us up north that they will know what to do with Brexit.

Can I Speak To Mr X

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Being of sound mind with a tiny bit of time of my hands I like to try to multitask. This is contradictory I know, if you have time you don’t need to multitask. But I practice the concept in the vain hope it will exercise a little more of the grey cells.

Being male you are advised by females multitasking  is an impossible achievement – right up there with childbirth, but undaunted, I try, bless me, I try. My latest centre of attention is to develop the ability to hold a conversation whilst reading the newspaper. So far this is work in progress with “much improvement required”.

As part of the developing technique I decided to actually listen to the Indian chap who phoned to tell me my Broadband had been compromised,  whilst actually reading the newspaper. It takes practice but there are a number of scammers who are willing to devote their time to help. Before you ask yes it is best to immediately hang up but knowing it was a scam I engaged the guys in a meaningless conversation countering his very move and suggestion. I wanted to beat my previous 8.5 minutes before they hang up. This occasion it only lasted 7 mins 28 secs so well down on the PB. I feel that not only am I developing the multitasking skill but also preventing some evil bastard from bothering any one else for the duration.

 

Cricket Is Harsh Form of Dodgeball

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Cricket and I have a long understanding of mutual disinterest. It stemmed from schooldays when first being faced by the bowler I found little sense in standing in front of some vengeful maniac who hurled a lump the consistency of granite at 90 miles an hour whilst you were armed with a slender lump of wood. Perhaps I missed the point.

Apparently I have indeed missed the point entirely according to the grandchildren. They are Australian, they won the Ashes, deal with it Pop. Back at school my pleas to use a tennis ball and a bat the size of a garden shed were received with abject scorn. I was summarily transferred to take up sailing. I could not have engineered a better solution, rather like Brea rabbit in the briar patch.

The cricket defensive armour issued at the time was rudimentary. Thick pair of gardening gloves, well used pads and if over the aged of 14 a box. Under 14 were advised to stuff the Y fronts with newspaper or preferably the “Eagle” comic; the shiny paper used in the “Eagle” would help the ball to slide by one’s genitalia. This scientific assumption clearly lacked evidence and luckily I had little chance in assisting in the data collection.

I recall John Betjeman experienced a similar “box” allocation at his school. He had a more erudite interpretation. “It was as if the genitalia of boys under 14 were of no consequence”.

As mentioned England’s performance in the recent Ashes was lamentable. But this was only the start. The current test series against New Zealand (March 2018) allowed England to embarrass the match commentators who promptly ran out of adjectives. An innings total of 58 runs all out is a rugby score, of which England (rugby) would have been proud of in the six nations tournament, but that another matter.

Sailing became my one love in sport. Regretfully somewhat stifled as the sailing teacher was also my French teacher. I was lousy at French and could not therefore excel in the sport. He allocated me to be a constant crew member never the helm. Until that fateful day when the helm fell overboard. Do I rescue him, when he was obviously going to be picked up but the nearby rescue boat, or go for glory.

Egged on by all around I grabbed the helm and went hell for leather down the River Orwell subsequently chased by the French teacher in the rescue boat. I learnt a tremendous number of French adjectives that day as he bellowed all manner of commands completely overlooking my lack of knowledge in the subject. Still I got to be feted (French)as a hero and lunatic over the following weeks, which i enjoyed from my lowly position as now permanent crew.Is Uric

And Another Thing

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News Bitching.

Government Contracts:

Interesting to note when Carillon finally ran aground it was mostly due to the banks withdrawing credit. Too much risk, bad management and a bonus driven executive seem to have conspired in the collapse. All seems very similar to the script from the banking crisis of 2008. Now it seems the taxpayer via the government has released £100m to support affected suppliers to get an ongoing loan through the banks. Let’s hope these reluctant banks maintain strict control so the cash is properly used and not allowed to languish in the bank coffers like previous business schemes.

Railways:

The railway franchises are off the rails again. This time the West Coast franchise is stuck in the sidings. There appears  a growing  lack on interest in rail franchise bids, thus the temporary management of this franchise – remember the fiasco when the government messed up the previous bid in 2015, is set to be extended. The incredible element of the story is the incumbent “temporary” management, Virgin, is set to have its lucrative deal extended. These are the same guys who overbid with Stagecoach for the East Coast line and recently wanted to duck out of that arrangement two years early, wanting their money back and substantially shortchanging the government.

Now being a numpty I would have thought the government would have said you guys carry on with the West coast for no extra cash and we might release you early from the East Coast. You scratch my back etc. But apparently this blatantly obvious solution has escaped the Minister of trains. Virgin must be laughing up their personals at the moment.

The new Hitachi high speed trains due to run on the East Coast line are possibly to gather dust in a shed somewhere. The Minister of Trains has abandoned the new wiring needed to run them north beyond Doncaster. This presumably means the poor guys traveling onwards to York, Edinburgh, Leeds etc will have to change trains at Donny. They will get from Kings Cross to Doncaster a whole lot quicker, then watch all the benefit drain away whilst they wait for a connection.

Airlines:

Hardly a week goes by without some development in air travel. Unfortunately they always seem to involve some negative issue. This week’s update includes an independent review of the tricks being played by airlines to deliberately separate families or groups and plonk them at different ends of an aircraft. Unless of course you pay extra to get adjoining seats. Apparently airlines make around £400m extra per year on this rouse.

Google Bowls A Googly

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The efficacy of using Google has become assiduously poorer. In cricket, a googly (or wrong ‘un) is a type of deceptive delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler.

The “Do no evil” maxim the Google guys started with has become predominantly overshadowed by its replacement “Make more profit”.

Over the years the use of google to find stuff and information has, in my mind, become overshadowed with commercial gain. It was always there in the background. The first five entries of a search offered being paid for advertisements has been around for a while, but the shopping selection has also been overwhelmed by the sites willing (or cajoled) to pay for the honour. This leads to a significant deterioration in accuracy. It’s frustrating and in certain examples can lead to safety issues. On quite a few occasions I have resorted to multiple searches in order to find the real answer.

What was the safety issue I hear you ask. I was after a “ceiling light suitable for use above a shower”. The first search listed everything sponsored by advertisers with the word ceiling light in the product description. Except you need one rated to IP65. The second search specified “ceiling lights rated at IP65”. This threw up sponsored links to a slightly smaller selection including IP44. These are of a lower spec and definately  not suitable for showers applications!

Unless you had your wits about you, or found a supplier well versed in product specifications you could install a nightmare. Some retailers in site search facilities are no better. Put IP65 shower light into the B&Q site search and up pops 685 options – I kid you not. They list everything with the word ceiling  light in the description of which precious few meet the safety spec required.

Search is still a vague term where you need your wits about you to actually discover the right answer. Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware) is alive and well. Hurump!

 

Smart Motorways Maybe Stupid

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For those of us interested enough the age old rite of paying tax on the use of cars on roads seemed a reasonable way of generating cash to pay for bridges, roads and tunnels etc. Maybe dubious investment in motorway service stations, which have a classification unique to the UK but we cannot win them all.

The real problem arises if we completed an audit on the income and expenditure. It’s a huge chunk of cash from road tax, MOT and fuel tax. The big five auditing chaps avoid this review like the plague because it would prove to us that the good slice of income from road tax goes nowhere near the roads. Ouch.

The weird, but seemed a good idea at the time, PFI deals held centre stage on roads. You have seen the signs; “Managed by XXXX on behalf of the Department for Transport”. Thus there is no single body to blame and everyone can point the finger at someone else. It’s also happening with the rail franchises. These guys are generally making fortune and investing nowt. We have  national fleet of buggered trains- a lot as old as the hills. And now we have smart motorways, a bit of euphemism as some of these decisions are far from smart.

We have have watched billions being spent on overhead gantries telling of events that happened yesterday. As  no one updated the gantry, they inducing a high degree of disbelief as to the relevance of the warning.  Now we have the extra carriageway formed from the hard shoulder that only the brave or aggressive tend to use. Police cannot pull anyone over, as to swerve into a emergency lay-by with a naughty chap in tow is a feat not worth contemplating. Drivers failing to reach a safety lay-by in their vehicles can leap out of the car in the knowledge there is a good chance of whacked up the rear from an unsuspecting vehicle that has just moved into the new lane from behind a truck. And the breakdown trucks that are previously  instructed to park 50 yards behind a broken down vehicle with their wheels turned full lock to the left ( so a thump up the rear would cause the breakdown van to lurch off the carriageway) now find they have to squeeze into the emergency lay-by maybe in front of the casualty.

Transport agencies now say most people tend to avoid the new half shoulder lane totally defeating its function. Thus after six months of 50 mph restrictions whilst they build the new carriageways and erecting  gantries we are seeing a rethink. Maybe more safety lay-bys are needed along with another six month of 50 mph restrictions creating a jam that negate the whole purpose of the smart motorway to smooth traffic flow.

 

Leap Of Erroneous Faith

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Sometimes the ageing process creeps up to give a brutal reminder of the current state of affairs. This happened recently when I had the ambition to leap across a babbling brook. Not just any babbling brook, this was on an idyllic tropical island with golden sands. None of that description is truly relevant, I just wanted to paint a picture of a relaxed atmosphere inducing  reduced responsibility.

Back at the babbling brook it  was tracking a furrow across the sand to the sea and blocked my onwards progress. Devious thoughts sprang to mind, was this fresh water running from a stream towards the sea, or more probably a drain with strange nasty things in it. I opted for the safer option and regarded it as probably hostile. It needed jumping. No worries, I would take a short run at it and leap across.

Regretfully this part of the plan lacked substance. Half way across, it was about 1.5 metres, came the realisation several vectors had been miscalculated. The speed of approach was a little lower than required; the effect of wind resistance and rotation of the earth had also been completely overlooked. The downward trajectory thus began ahead of schedule. Although the leading foot made reasonable contact with the far side, the sudden impact caused the sandy edge of the brook to collapse followed by the crumpling mass of yours truly. Not a pretty sight even though I effected an excellent roll out. The earth and I renewed our acquaintance rather abruptly. Stunned although not defeated I surveyed the situation, realigned the body to the vertical, brushed off the sand, gave my best look of ‘nothing to see here’, and strode on implying a new standard of brook jumping had been established.

Image courtesy of tuelekza at freedigitalphotos.net