Something has gone wrong, somewhere…

As my (possibly now long gone) regular readers know, I have tried very hard to moan about everything.  I have gone out of my way to be unpleasant, and I have never cared about popularity.

I took pride in it!

Three and three-quarter years ago, my world changed completely.  My partner of three decades passed away.  (And I still tear up a little when I write that…)
I’m proud of the way I recovered from that blow.  I can honestly say the months that followed it were the darkest I’ve ever known – and the fact that I’m still here can be attributed entirely to my little dog: he made me eat, he made me go to bed, and he made me get out of the house every day.

Hmmm… this is going in entirely the wrong direction…

OK.  When I started to live again, I got a job.  At a supermarket.  (Yep, goes against most of what I’ve said on here in the past.)
The job was making deliveries in a van, and I loved it for two and a half years.  But I was too good at it, and they took me off the road.  (True, in fact I was SO good, I did a five hour shift in three hours.  Pity they were tracking my speed, really…)

For the last year (roughly) I’ve worked IN the store – stacking the shelves, officially.  During this time, I’ve volunteered to learn, and become qualified as, a picker, checkout operator, and petrol station attendant.
Very useful, that – it means I can get overtime in any one of four departments!

Our company has an awards scheme – the service superstars.  If you creep enough with a customer, and the customer makes it official by writing or emailing their praise, you can get a ‘wow’ comment on your record.  A ‘wow’ will probably mean you get the bronze service superstar award, which is supposed to be a badge, but I’ve never seen anybody with one.

Once you have a bronze, you can be considered for Silver.  To get silver, you have to be the best in the month.  You either get more ‘wows’ than anybody else, or get special notice for some reason.
For Silver, you get a certificate and a badge.

Twice a year, all those who got Silver (since the last Gold award) are eligible for the Gold Service Superstar award.  Now this is the biggie.  To get the Gold, you do not have to be nice to customers, you do not have to creep around management… No, all you have to do is be liked.  Period.
Every member of staff in the store gets a vote, and the one with the most votes wins.
When you win, you get a special badge.  Yay!  Oh, and you get presented with the badge at a Social event along with every other Gold winner in the region.  As I understand it (I could be a little wrong) the last awards were given in a box at a football match, at Manchester United’s ground, after dinner.

Oh, and once you have the Gold, you cannot ever be considered for Silver or Gold again – you have reached the highest pinnacle in customer service.

All sounds grand, right.

Well I hope so.  Because I just got Gold.


To my recall, I never got a ‘Wow’ comment from a customer.  I do not recall ever getting the Bronze – I certainly never got a badge.

I got the Silver because a Manager nominated me for it.  Apparently, the fact that I always said ‘OK’ when they gave me a job to do was exceptional.  Seems that many of my colleagues prefer to argue, or find reasons why they cannot do the job.  But… I’m paid to be there, I’m paid to work, so I work.  And I smile while I do it.
(I had around twenty years where I wanted to go to work, and was unable to – so I’m really happy to be working!)

The last few weeks, my colleagues have been voting, and I found out yesterday that they had voted for me.  I won by a comfortable margin – in fact, the person I really wanted to beat got half as many votes, in total, as the difference between me and the nearest competitor!  (e.g. If they got ten votes, then I got twenty votes more than the second placed colleague.  Those are not the real numbers, but give you an idea.)

I’m now waiting to find out when and where the award will be made.  But in the meantime, I’m making the most of my position:
The store manager complained to me yesterday that he now had to find something nice to say about me, but he relaxed when I gave him permission to lie.
Two other managers yesterday gave me a job, and I said ‘no.’  When they got annoyed, I reminded them that I was now at the top, and didn’t have to try any more!  They agreed, and went off to annoy somebody else.

The thing is…  How on earth did I become popular?  I’ve tried so very, very hard to be annoying!

Something, somewhere, is very, very wrong!

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Have you ever considered that where you stand affects what you see?

If you stand in a room, well back from the window, your view is restricted by the walls around it.  Move forward, until your nose is touching the window, and your view is greatly enhanced.   (Of course, you can no longer see the room you stand in, but that’s a different matter.)

It’s the same with people and events.  The closer you are, the more you can see – and the more blinkered you are to anything outside your view.

More importantly, where you are in relation to an issue or person will alter what you see.

Want an example?  Country A is invaded by country B.  Country C supplies country B with weapons and training to aid them in their fight for independence.  This is an old story.  Country B uses the weapons to attack the infrastructure and ‘soft’ targets: railways; airfields; support services…  The ones doing the attacking are labelled ‘terrorists.’

Think you know who the three countries are?  Well, Country A is Germany, Country B is France, and Country C is Britain.  The period is World War 2.  The French resistance were not ‘terrorists’, they were freedom fighters! 

Now please explain to me the difference between that, and the scenario where Country A is Britain, Country B is Ireland, and Country C is America.  American Irish raised money to support the ‘fight’ in Ireland.  And the IRA were terrorists, not freedom fighters.

I can – in honesty – only see one real difference between the two.  I’m British, so in both cases I’m on the side of Britain.  And that is why one is ‘right’ and one is ‘wrong.’

All because of where I’m standing.

When I sat down to write this, it wasn’t supposed to be anything to do with Politics – it just got away from me.  It was supposed to be more personal than that…  Let’s try again.

I may have told this story before.   Fifteen or so years ago, I was driving taxis for a living.  One night, a youth ran out of his house, across the narrow pavement, and onto the hood of my taxi that was coming up the road.  When I stopped, the car was still in front of the door he came out of – that should tell you how fast I was travelling. (Or how slow.)

Within minutes, I was surrounded by his pals from the pub he was heading for – directly opposite his house, and the reason he didn’t bother to look.  Their viewpoint was that all taxi drivers drove too fast, and that it was entirely my fault that I’d hit him.   Facts, and evidence, meant nothing to them – that was just me trying to worm my way out of it.

I’m convinced that I would have been assaulted if the guy I hit had been unconcious – but he was awake, and he was okay.  And he told them it was his fault. 

He had to work at it, though.  They really didn’t want to give up on the idea that I’d been going too fast.

Recently, I realised something about myself.  My family sees me a miser.  I have no idea why.

I’m planning a party, for my Silver Wedding.  Talking about it to one family member, I was amazed to be told that ‘everybody will come, if only to see me put my hand in my pocket.’

Another family member made a joke about all of us paying a share of something, then misread my expression – believing it to be fright at the idea of paying for something.  It was shock, actually, at the idea that he might pay a share of something!

I really don’t know where this idea comes from.  My partner complains that I am too generous.  If you were to create a balance sheet, showing what I gave and what I recieved, it would show that I was owed a great deal.

But I’m not worried about it.  I don’t want it.  I give, happily.  It’s just upsetting, really.  Talking about it with my partner, we worked out that virtually every member of my family has had help from me that they would never return in kind. 

A relative who would never, ever let me touch his car has borrowed my car.  A relative who would always charge for professional services has never paid me for professional services.  A relative who would never go out of their way for anybody has had me travel great distances to help them.

Maybe my reputation comes from the fact that we don’t bother with Xmas or birthdays.  I’m tight-fisted because I told them not to spend money on me.  (Because I told the relative whose present to me was books that they needed for their studies – books I never saw again – not to buy me presents.)


I know that I would give my last penny to help another.  I don’t have much, so I can’t give much, but I pay my way.  A recent family event proves that: I was the only one to pay my share.

How’s that for perception?

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One person, One vote

I got a letter today, addressed to me personally.  Well, I say ‘letter’ – it was a propaganda leaflet about the AV system.

They make many diverse points: that the ‘new’ system will cost £250m; that AV means the winner doesn’t win; that few other countries use AV… but it’s the closing argument that amused me.

They say that Clegg is ‘unpopular because he broke his promises’ and ‘the only vote that would count under AV is Nick Clegg’s.’

It’s weird, really.  Clegg is deputy PM, and he’s doing his best to keep his promises – promises that were only binding if he won the election.  And AV was essentially one of his promises.  (What he promised was electoral reform, AV is the poor relation system foisted on him by Cameron, that Cameron is now arguing against!)

So, this leaflet is talking nonsense.

As for the other points: the new system will not cost £250m – according to this very same leaflet, £91m of that has already been spent on the referendum, while £130m is for machines to count the votes.  Machines that will be bought anyway!

‘AV means the winner doesn’t win’ – yep, right.  That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

‘Few other countries use AV.’  Not sure where you’re going with this one.  Few other countries have a Queen.  Few other countries are called England.  Few other countries are ruled by morons.  Oh wait… 

Whether or not other countries use AV means nothing.  Until it was invented, nobody used the telephone – and once it was invented, few countries used it.  For a while, anyway.  There have to be pioneers for everything new.

Now for the final laugh.  This leaflet, in shouting out it’s ‘NO’ message, gives the clearest explanation of how AV works that I’ve seen anywhere – while trying to show how complicated it is, they’ve managed to make it far simpler to understand!

AV is not the system I would choose.  But I’d prefer it to the current system.  Not because it means the Liberals may win more seats, no.

Because finally, for the first time ever, we will be able to register our vote as what it really is.

It’s not a ‘we want this party’ vote so much as it’s a ‘we want anybody else except this party’ vote.

We will be able to clearly tell the top two parties that we don’t want them in charge.  But until now, the only way to do that was to waste your vote, or to vote for the less unwanted party. 

Now, by being able to put the top two parties as your last choice, after all the other no-hope parties, we may finally get through to them that their policies are not popular.

Sadly, though, we’ll still end up with the government in power.

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My first book has just been ‘published’ on the Kindle platform, and I’m quite pleased about it.

I’ve talked about Kindle before, and there is no way that I would tell you to go out and buy one – but you don’t need to. There is a free program available that allows you to read Kindle publications on your PC, and various other devices – like the ipad – can utilise the Kindle format.

The price of the book is set at the absolute minimum that was available to me – I’m not trying or expecting to make money from this.  I just want my work to be read by people who don’t care about hurting my feelings.  I’ve spent a lot of time working on that thing, and… well… I want it to be read.

I’d like to appeal to my family and friends – anybody who knows me personally, in fact – to not buy the book.  I’d be quite happy to email you a copy if you want one.

For my readers who don’t know me personally, if you would like to buy it, you can get it from the Amazon UK website. The price at present is £1.71, and you can actually read the first five chapters or so for free.

Just for the record: Yes, I’m advertising. 😉  You caught me.  I am shamelessly advertising, marketing, and promoting my book.  I see no moral or ethical problems in doing so, though, as I’m doing so on my own site, and not intruding on anybody elses time or space.

Next time I publish a book, I’ll do exactly the same.  I’m shameless.

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Thought about it?

Back before my world turned upside down, I posted this image,

Think about it
What do you see?

and asked you to take note of what you saw.  Now it’s time to tell you about it.

Everybody saw a black dot, or blob, or mark – the description varied.  But how many of you saw the white background?  (I know of at least one who did.  Waves towards cornwall)

As we walk this earth, we see many things.  But we also fail to see many things.  An old fuddy-duddy like me sees a student with rings through their nose, ear, lips, tongue, navel, etc.  We see them staggering home from the pub, being sick in somebodies garden.  We see them vandalising, and abusing, and being typical selfish kids.

We don’t, however, see them sitting in the college library for hours on end, studying.  We don’t see them spending their weekends caring for their mum/aunt/gran.  We don’t see them when they’re volunteering at the homeless shelter. 

With few exceptions, nobody is all good or all bad – we all have the capacity for both.  It’s just a shame that we only notice, or comment on, the bad.  Because, actually, I think there’s far more good than bad in most of us.  It’s just that the bad stands out – like a black dot on a field of white.

It is pure coincidence that these posts are either side of the ‘forgive’ series of posts – but I couldn’t have planned it better. 

My partner went in for surgery that they might not survive, and all I could see was that small black blob.  Now my partner is home and getting better, I can finally see the white all around it.

That’s what most of us are like.  Take a good long look around you, and you can see good, decent people leading good, decent lives.  But you have to actually look.  Because if you don’t work at it, you’ll only see that kid riding his bike through the crowd of elderly ladies at the post office, or that drunk staggering towards you.

We don’t take enough time to see the white surroundings – we concentrate on the tiny black smudge.

I include myself in this.  In fact, this whole blog is devoted to the smudge.  Which really says it all, don’t it?  We live in a world where everybody – even those who complain about it – find the smudge more interesting than the pure white.

I’ll keep posting about the smudge – I just thought I’d take the time to point out that I am aware of the white, and value it: but writing about it would be boring.

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I love the new BT contract

We are on the BT ‘Unlimited Evening & Weekend’ plan, which gives us – I believe – free calls of up to an hour during the evening or weekend.  (Funny, though, I thought we got them all day…  better tell my partner to stop phoning during the day.)

We just got a letter from BT, telling us that our contract is up for renewal, and there’s a couple of sentences in there that I just love.

To carry on benefitting from this offer, just sit back and relax – you don’t need to do anything!  We’ll automatically set up another contract term, giving you the same… for another year.

If you don’t want to continue with this offer, that’s OK, but you’ll need to tell us that you want to cancel before your current contract ends.

Once your contract is renewed, you won’t be able to cancel it before the next renewal date without incurring termination charges.

Now, the way I read that, unless I tell them not to, they will sign me up for another years contract – which I will have to pay to get out of.  The letter is signed by a Warren Buckley, managing director of customer service.

I love it!  I really do love this idea.  To the extent that I’ve copied it:

Dear Mr Buckley,

You will be pleased to know that you have been selected to donate £10,000 a month to my favourite charity.  To save you the hassle of writing out the cheque, we will take the money automatically.

If you do not want to make this contribution, please let us know before the close of business on July 15th.

If you wish to terminate the contract early, there will be a £9,999 per month termination fee.

Can anybody spot the legal difference between their letter and mine?  Because I can’t!

I will not be replying to their letter- I never reply to phishing communications – but I will also not be paying any termination charges should I choose to change providers.  I have never signed a contract for this service, and I reject their attempt to coerce me into believing myself tied to a contract.

BT is becoming more and more of a money-grabbing business, and less and less of a service.  Which is a pity, because I was a staunch supporter until recently.  Now, I will be leaving them as soon as I get the right offer.  (I won’t be looking around, I will make use of the marketing – if they call you you can play hard to get, and be given a better offer… 😉 )

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Direct Marketing

Since writing the PERC post just under a week ago, I’ve been thinking about the subject a fair bit, and I’ve been getting more annoyed about it all the time.

SPAM is just the tip of this iceberg, and it Direct Marketing (DM) pervades our lives far more than we realise.

  • I bought some seeds online from Thompson & Morgan.  Since then, I have received regular catalogues that go straight in the bin, unopened.  I never asked for them, and I don’t want them, but it’s up to me to try to stop them, apparently.
  • I bought an item on ebay, and now get regular emails telling me what else that seller is offering.  Again, I have the opportunity to ‘unsubscribe.’
  • Until we moved house, and went ex-directory, every time I phoned the garage about the car, they answered the phone and called me by name – before I even spoke to them.  They knew who was calling, and had all my details up on their computer screen, ready.
  • Amazon, and other sites, know what items I’ve looked at and display them on their homepage whenever I visit.

There are many more examples, of course.

Read more…

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Dear dear dear…

Well, we’ve been watching ‘Britain’s got Talent’ this week, and what a disappointment it’s been.  There have been some decent performances, and some dire ones, and the judges were the worst of the lot!

The very first semi-final set the tone for the week: my tip to win the contest, Olivia, was not the publics number one choice.  She was either second or third.  The public voted for Spellbound, a dance group.

Ah well.  To be honest, Spellbound were in my top three, so it’s not a major surprise.  What was a surprise is that all three judges chose to put Tobias through over Olivia.  Olivia is a great singer, while Tobias is a passable performer – but he’s not great.  And, he’s a professional danceer already!

Read more…

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What a great device…

I had another fishing trip on Friday, another new water to me – one belonging to the new club.  On my way out, I stopped in the tackle shop and bought a couple of floats and some bait.

The floats were not cheap, but they were a new design I’d seen on a DVD (Carp tackle, tactics, and tips Vol. 3,  presented by Danny Fairbrass and available free from most tackle shops). 

Made by a company called Korda (owned by Mr Fairbrass, I believe) these were surface controller floats.  The design is clever: you put your line through a thin tube, then slot the float body onto it.  The body has a slit that the line goes through, which is then blocked by the tube so the float will not come off.  The advantage of them is that it is easy to change the body for one of a different weight.

I bought one at 20g, and a spare body at 10g – I thought that would cover my needs for a start.  When I got to the lake, though, I found that what I’d bought was one complete interceptor float, and one of a totally different design…  The second one looked exactly like the body of the first, and was next to it on the shelf…  Damn, suckered again.

Read more…

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The class divide

As I’ve mentioned before, My partner and I have few programs that we can enjoy together, preferring to have ‘his and hers’.  One of those we like, though, is the Masterchef series.  The latest of these is ‘Junior Masterchef’ where the contestants are children, and it is shown as part of the Childrens programming.

We’ve been watching it, and been surprised at how good these kids are.  Then we noticed something.  I could be wrong, but it seems that every one of these contestants comes from a ‘good’ home.  They all speak politely, and they all display a self-assurance beyond their years.

By ‘good’ I do not mean a home where the parents care for their children – I mean a home where the parents have money to invest in them.  Read more…

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