09 April 2016

What the hell is 'plusness'?

TSB has an advert on the telly at the moment, advertising a new bank account.  Its says their new Plus Account has 'all that lovely plusness'.  Well, thanks for giving us all the information we need there then.  Did an eight years-old come up with that one?

11 March 2016

Trying to go plastic-free

Seeing as my local council is one which recycles only a very small selection of plastic types, I have decided to try to avoid buying the stuff in the first place.  They did tell me that it is burnt in order to produce power, but I'm not entirely happy with that, either.

As I do my food shopping mostly on my local, and excellent, market, I am able to buy all my fruit and vegetables loose, and the meat and fish wrapped in paper and then in a thin plastic bag.  It all goes into my one huge shopping bag, which I've had for about ten years now.

However, when I go to the supermarket, it's not so easy.  All the meat seems to come in plastic trays, sealed with film or shrink-wrapped in thick plastic.  Sometimes, products which come in a cardboard box will have a plastic tray inside, and I really don't see why they have to have one.  If something really needs some sort of reinforcement to protect it, can it not be done with better recyclable materials?  The Japanese art of origami can produce some amazingly strong structures.  Even just corrugated paper or cardboard is strong.  There's several companies out there who make fully recyclable cardboard packaging, so supermarket bosses should start looking at using them.  If more people chose not to buy stuff in plastic, then the supermarkets would have to take action.

So, anyway, I'm trying to reduce plastic packaging waste in my home.  Whatever I do manage to accumulate, I am putting in a bag to take to the recycling point at the supermarket.  Let's see how I get on.

06 March 2016

Black. Just black, please.

Why is it so difficult to find a pair of black trainers?  Just black.  No colours, no stripes, no white sole, no flashing lights, no sparkly bits, just plain old black.  What is wrong with just black?  Why do women's trainers always seem to have to have pastel colours involved?  I hate pink, I don't want baby blue, I just want black.  Size 9.  Narrow.

28 October 2015

Why are we still wasting food?

Today, on the BBC News Magazine website, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has an excellent article about the scandal of food waste in the UK.  In a time of austerity, when over a million people are relying on foodbanks and taking food out of supermarket waste bins, should we really be throwing away perfectly good food, simply because the computer thinks it doesn't look right?  I've ranted before about food waste, and there's not much point in me going over it all again, because Hugh sums it up very well indeed.

A couple of years ago, the French supermarket, Intermarché started selling 'les fruits et légumes moches' - ugly fruit and veg, 30% cheaper than the 'perfect' food.  It was a great success and people did eschew the better-looking produce in favour of the ugly produce. Why aren't our supermarkets doing this?  Why is so much wasted, not even being used for animal feed for or being composted back into the ground to help to fertilise it?  Why are we spending a fortune importing food when we're throwing away so much in our own country?  It just doesn't make sense to me.

Not all of the food waste occurs at the production end, though.  Households throw away a phenomenal amount of food, because the computer tells them what date to throw it away, instead of using their common sense, or because they bought something on a 'BOGOF' (Buy one, get one free) deal and then don't bother to eat it.  As Hugh points out in his article, people do a weekly or monthly 'big shop', buy far more than they actually need and then end up dumping a lot of it.  It's a waste of money, a waste of food, and is a complete and utter disgrace.  

It's time to start thinking, and stop wasting food.

26 June 2015

I am not Sasquatch!

Why is it so hard to get women's shoes in a narrow size 9?  That's a 43 in EU sizes or 11.5 in US sizes.  It's not like it's enormous. I'm nearly six feet tall, which is not at all unusual, so why should it be considered unusual to have feet in proportion to my height?

I hate shopping for shoes; it's such a depressing chore.  I trail from shop to shop and get more and more angry and despondent as the day wears on. I'm fed up of being told that "women's feet only go up to a 7" (yes, I really was informed that in one shop) or finding that the size 9s are so wide that I could almost get both feet in side by side.  When I do eventually find somewhere which stocks 9s, they are usually really ugly and impractical.  Who the hell wants to wear size 9 imitation ballet shoes?  Really?  I bet it was a man who came up with that one.  I've even had it suggested that I try a size smaller.  Are you trying to cripple me?  I don't even bother browsing the shoes now.  I just find an assistant and ask if they have 9s. It saves me a lot of time.

I desperately need a new pair of hiking boots, because the ones I have are at least 15 years old and are falling to pieces. However, in every shop I visit, I am told that the largest size in women's boots is 8' and that I will have to buy a pair of men's boots instead.  Men's boots are far too wide and my feet just slide around in them.   I look on the manufacturers' websites and many of them do make 9s, but don't sell them in the UK, and I'm not prepared to buy expensive boots online without being able to try them on.   I have a similar problem with trainers. My current, completely inappropriate pair, are men's, but if I lace them tight enough to fit properly, the toe section concertinas up and looks ridiculous.  I don't want to look like I'm wearing someone else's cast-offs, I just want off-the-shelf footwear which fits.

The only boots I have which fit absolutely perfectly are my Alt Berg bike boots.  They fit perfectly because I made a 220 mile round-trip to their factory so that they could measure my feet and make the boots just for me.  They are the best pair of boots I have ever had and worth every penny.  I cannot recommend them highly enough.  Alt Berg's customer service is second to none and their products are really high quality.  However, I don't want to have to get custom-made footwear every time I need something - I don't have that sort of money.

So, a plea to footwear manufacturers: please realise that some women do have larger feet, that women who take a size 9 don't necessarily have great wide feet, don't want to wear men's shoes, and that we would like decent shoes which look like shoes and not like river barges.  Thank you.

02 February 2015

Stop spoiling my news feeds.

Dear News Channels,

News is news.  Sport is sport.  Sport is not news.  Please stop putting sport in the news RSS feeds, it's really irritating.  If I wanted sport, I would sign up to the sport feed.  I don't want sport, I want news.

Yours ever, etc.
Disgruntled Unsubscriber.

01 December 2014

Drive like a moron season

What is it about the autumn/winter period which turns drivers into complete morons?  Over the past few weeks, the standard of driving on our local roads has gone from 'rubbish' to 'dreadful'.  I've seen near-misses, people driving so close to the car in front that they could probably read the dashboard of that car, people jumping chicanes (and not just one car, but five in a row), people ignoring red traffic lights, blocking box junctions, and others driving at 50 in the second lane of the motorway when the first lane is completely empty.

This morning, in the space of only half a mile:

  • I stopped for a lollipop man but the idiot behind me couldn't wait and tried to overtake me, before realising that there were several small children in the road, accompanied by a man dressed from head to toe in high vis clothing and carrying a bloody great big sign with the word 'STOP' written on it;
  • A driver pulled out of a side road, straight across the path of a cyclist who was wearing a high vis vest and enough lights to furnish a Christmas tree.  Fortunately, the cyclist managed to stop in time and wasn't hurt, not that the driver would have known that, because he hadn't even seen him and just drove off;
  • A driver pulled out of a side road by driving up and over the pavement because he couldn't wait the extra three seconds for a car on the main road which was turning right.
Drivers really do need to sort themselves out before someone gets hurt, or killed.

24 November 2014

Next time, I'll rub your nose in it.

I am really really angry this morning.

Yesterday, we were out at a Lancashire Day event, and some idiot kept feeding our dog on tuna sandwiches.  As soon as we caught him doing it, we told him not to give the dog any food but, a short while later, caught him doing it again.  I explained that it wasn't good for the dog and that it would make him ill, and he said 'OK, sorry.'  A few minutes later, was the sound of chomping, and there he was, feeding the dog another sandwich.  After telling him again, we ended up walking away, because this guy clearly wasn't listening.

Some time later, we went back to where the entertainment was, and the idiot was nowhere in sight, so we sat down.  Within minutes, we felt a tugging on the dog's lead and, guess what?  Yes, the idiot was back, feeding him on another tuna sandwich.  At this point I got very annoyed and told the lad, yet again, that he should not feed the dog.  "But he likes it!", came the indignant reply.  Of course he bloody likes it!  He's a Labrador - a self-propelled stomach who will eat everything he can get his chops round!  That's why we tell people not to feed him.  We took the dog away again.

This morning, I came downstairs to an extremely unpleasant scene in the living room.  The multiple tuna sandwiches had taken their toll and there was one hell of a mess.  The dog was extremely upset, but it's not really his fault.

Today, I am looking for a dog vest which reads 'Do Not Feed Me', in the hope that it might have some effect, and if I find that lad again, I will rub his bloody nose in it.

16 June 2014

My lifestyle choice is not to be ill

My local Tesco now has a whole aisle full of gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free products.  I should be rejoicing, but, somehow, cannot bring myself to do so.

Firstly, thank you Tesco - I'm really am pleased and impressed that there's such an amazing range of products there.  There's some fabulous stuff, and it's all really tempting.  However, it's so prohibitively expensive that I can't afford to buy most of it, so I came away with just one  bag of lentil chips, just to see what they were like.  They were lovely, incidentally, but at £1.49 a packet, I'm afraid I won't be buying any more.  I have got used to doing without, because I simply don't have that sort of disposable income for 'unnecessaries'.

The thing which really got my goat, though, was that the aisle and the associated promotion has 'Lifestyle' emblazoned all over it.


Are you implying that my allergy is some sort of lifestyle 'choice'?

It is a lifestyle choice that I 'choose' to eat products which won't make me very ill?  Coeliac Disease, wheat alleriges, lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, etc. are not a lifestyle 'choice' - they are sometimes life-threatening, and I find it extremely patronising to label it as a lifestyle, as though sufferers are faddy children who will grow out of it.

Perhaps this perception of it being a choice rather than a necessity is part of the reason why these products are so expensive.  Yes, I am aware that there are higher costs in producing allergen-free products, but £3 for a gluten-free loaf as opposed to 75p for a normal loaf is just ridiculous, particularly as 1 in 3 gluten-free loaves are utterly unuseable because they fall apart or have massive holes in the middle.  This photograph shows one loaf, exactly as it came out of the bag.  I'd say it was very expensive bird-food, except that when I threw it out, the birds wouldn't eat it.

I've all but given up on ready-made gluten-free products now.  It's far cheaper either to  make my own, or do without.  Usually the latter.

13 March 2014

Orange are still rubbish

It's been a few years since I ditched Orange in disgust over their rubbish service and, tonight, I have had my poor opinion of them reinforced.

My friend has purchased an Orange SIM, which came with an inclusive £10 topup.  However, upon attempting to claim this topup, the website tells me that the SIM number is not recognised, and to ring 450 for help.  So, I rang 450, only to be told that you can't contact them without any credit.  So, in order to get the credit, I have to ring a number which you can't actually ring without having any bloody credit!

Orange are still rubbish!

20 November 2013

Are you human?

Yes I am, and that is why I find this virtually impossible!

I understand why some websites use 'captcha' devices in order to ensure that it's a real person entering their details, and not some automated process but, seriously, how can anyone be expected to read these?

Oh, and before anyone suggests it, I've tried doing the audio versions and there are equally unintelligible.

17 November 2013

Sunday shopping

Sunday shopping hours are an outdated, annoying pain in the posterior.

Surely, in this modern, multicultural and increasingly secular world, there is no need to restrict shop opening times to six hours?

This morning, I checked the Boots website to find their opening times. Seeing that it was listed as 10:30, I planned my morning round the 10 mile round trip to purchase one single item, which I really need to have this morning and which only Boots sell.

I arrived just after 10:30, picked up the item and went to the till, only to be told that the till doesn't open until 11:00.  Apparently they open the doors half an hour early in order to allow people to browse. Pardon? Who the hell spends half an hour browsing in a chemists? Really?

So, I decided to stay here for the half hour's wait and rant instead.

10 November 2013

The day after Halloween is...

the day that the cheesy Christmas adverts begin.  HELLO?  It's the beginning of November!  Christmas is 7 weeks away, almost two months.  Stop your unashamed, money-grabbing commercialism and pack it in!  I'm sick of it already, this constant bombardment of sweet, sickly, mushy sentimentalism.

Christmas is great, but please can we have it at the end of December, and not now?  I think that some of the TV adverts are going to make me barf.


01 November 2013

Just give me the bill!

Why does Vodafone have to make it so damn difficult to download a PDF of the full phone bill?  I don't want the 'quick breakdown' or the 'breakdown by product' or the 'vat summary', I just what the whole bill, with the summary on the front page, followed by the breakdown and then the itemisation.  I know they do it, because I've downloaded them in the past, but every month I have to spend ages on their website faffing around trying to find out where to get it, because it's not in a logical place. 

Even when you do eventually find it (which I haven't yet, this morning) it has a laborious and tortuous way of getting to it.  Why can't there just be a single link on the first page which says 'Open your bill in PDF'?  I can do that on all the other utility sites I have to visit.  Grrrrr.   The interface on the user accounts is awful and it wastes far too much of my time.  I have better things to do than spend 20 minutes looking for something which doesn't always appear to be there.  For now, I give up.  Maybe I will try again tomorrow.

Vodafone, get your act together and simplify your website, please.

30 October 2013

Reduced, but I still won't buy it

You know how it is when you're skint.  You go to the shop and head straight for the 'reduced' section to see if there's anything worth having.  You'll know from my previous rants that I usually find that the stuff in the 'reduced' section is the sort of stuff I wouldn't have for free, let alone at a reduced price.  I mean, what kind of person is too incompetent/lazy that they have to buy egg mayonnaise to put in sandwiches?  OK, stop.  Enough of that, I'll just go off on one again.

Anyway, I have discovered yet another major annoyance of the 'reduced' shelf.  Why do the store assistants insist on sticking the new price label right over the 'allergy information' section?  If I can't check that it hasn't got wheat or tomatoes in it, I'm definitely not going to buy it, even if it does look OK to the eye.  Stop it!  Please?

In the extremely unlikely event of any supermarket bosses reading this, please could you train your staff to be allergy aware and realise that some people do actually need to read this information, so don't cover it up.  Thankyouverymuch.

23 June 2013

Give me back my analogue TV!

"Digital TV will be so much better than analogue", they said.  
"Don't worry about the pixellation in bad weather", they said, "the signal will be boosted once analogue is switched off."

Oh yeah?  So why is the digital signal still crap?  It's windy and raining outside (i.e. a typical British summer) and the TV picture is completely screwed.  With analogue, you'd get a bit of snow, but could carry on watching.  Now, both the sound and picture keep bugging out and make things almost impossible to watch.  They call it the 'Digital Cliff' and it's bloody annoying.  Our analogue service was switched off at the end of 2009, so when is this supposed signal boost going to take place?

Before anyone says it, no I don't need another aerial or TV.  There's nothing wrong with the ones I have.  It's just the stupid crappy digital service.   I want my analogue back.

21 June 2013

Nothing to see here, move along

Nothing to rant about.  Current mood: very happy :)

06 May 2013

New tent review

A couple of years ago I bought a new tent, a Khyam Sherpa:

The Sherpa is a reasonable size for a single person, despite being billed as a 3-man tent, but then they always seem to assume that people are happy to squash in like sardines and don't have any luggage.  However, I have to say that it is possibly the worst tent I have ever owned.  Despite my best efforts, and the efforts of several friends, I have never managed to get this tent to go up without some difficulty and, once erect, it has never been 'square'.  It always seemed to bulge out to one side and no amount of adjustment would put it right.  I have broken four poles on it, and the inner tent ripped on the very first use.  I am convinced that the poles are actually too long, as one needs the strength of Geoff Capes to get the blasted things into their respective holes.   Indeed, after a few pole breakages, a friend replaced the broken sections and made them an inch shorter, which did help quite a bit, but I am still very unhappy with the tent.  The doors are a stupid design, a pain to negotiate and if it's been raining, as soon as you open a door, a sheet of water pours into the porch.  It also leaks at the bedroom end.  When unzipping the bedroom door in the morning, condensation drips into the bedroom and all over your dossbag.  I keep the Sherpa in a holdall, because its original bag split the very first time I used it.

Anyway, with a new rally season upon us, I decided that I'd had enough of fighting with the Sherpa, and bought myself a new tent, a Vango Omega 350.  

The Omega's pack size is much smaller and lighter than the Sherpa and I can get the Omega into my topbox, which means that if, necessary, I could carry a pillion to a rally, although I have no plans to make a habit of that.

I used the Omega for the first time this weekend and it was superb.  It was quick and easy to erect and the lightweight alloy poles are so much better than the fibreglass ones.  Despite the smaller pack size, the tent is much bigger, being taller, wider and longer.  The pole sections are shorter than with most tents, which is why the pack size is smaller.  The tent comes with a 'bucket' groundsheet which clips into the porch so that it doesn't slide around.  If there's one thing I don't like about it though, the groundsheet clips are so strong that I couldn't get them undone again.  Three of my friends had a go at it and only one of them could undo them, and he hurt his thumbs doing so.  I intend to put some mini carabiners on instead, so that I have a fighting chance of removing them myself.

The O-shaped bedroom door is a great design.  It can be unzipped from the top or the bottom, which makes me happy; I like to unzip it from the top, but I couldn't do that in the Sherpa, because the zip only worked from the bottom.

Although it rained during the night, the inside of the tent remained as dry as a bone, both bedroom and porch.  There's lots of pockets down either side of the inner tent, big enough to hold my torch and other bits and bobs.  Other great features are the tension bands, which are designed to stop the tent bowing in high winds, the way that the bedroom door fits into a pocket to keep it out of the way when it's open and, best of all, the tent can be packed away with the inner tent still attached, making pitching quicker next time.

When it was time to put the tent down, I anticipated a battle to get it into the bag, yet it went in very easily.  Well, it did the second time I tried, once I removed my lantern from the bedroom.  Oops.

So, all in all, I love the Omega.  I hope to have many happy camping trips in it.  I should have bought a Vango in the first place; they've always had a superb reputation for quality and they are very good value for money. 

28 April 2013

Move over!

I don't know if it was the rain that was addling people's brains on the M61 at dinnertime today, but I passed no fewer than 9 cars in close convoy in the second lane, whilst the first lane was empty for miles.  Are they scared of the first lane?  Do they think that if they use it, they will somehow be magically transported to a parallel dimension?

I actually wonder if some of this second-lane-hogging could constitute 'driving without due care and attention', because at least two of them were on mobile phones, one had his finger so far up his nose that he could probably have scratched the back of his own eye, and another was gripping the steering wheel for grim death and staring straight ahead with a grimace that could frighten the devil himself.

25 April 2013

Dear road users...

This is a 'Give Way' sign.  What it means is 'Give Way', not 'put your foot down and drive straight at any vehicle coming the other way'. 

This is also a 'Give Way' sign. What it means is 'Give way to oncoming vehicles', just in case you can't tell from the words 'Give way to oncoming vehicles' written under the nice little picture.

Just in case you aren't aware, this is a sign 'giving an order'.  It is not a 'give way if you feel like it, but don't bother if you're in a hurry'; it is a legal requirement: Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10(1),16(1) & 25.  It's there to stop you crashing into people.

This also applies to drivers travelling through Chew Moor and Lostock, where driving standards seem to be particularly poor.  If your side of the road has parked cars on it and there isn't enough room for two cars to pass each other safely, don't just drive at the oncoming vehicles, giving their drivers dirty looks for having the audacity to have the right of way.  Wait ten seconds for the road to clear, and then go.

Where there's a 20mph speed limit, it's there for a reason, rather than to annoy you personally.  Obey it and stop tutting at those who do obey the law.  More so, don't overtake them in anger and then nearly run into an oncoming bus, like the idiot I saw last week.

27 February 2013

Straight from the horse's arse.

According to the news on the radio yesterday, the 'horsemeat' scandal has caused a 43% drop in the purchase of supermarket burgers.  Well that's hardly a surprise, is it? 

Giles Coren, writing in The Times, sums it up extremely well:

"What on earth did you think they put in them? Prime cuts of delicious free-range, organic, rare breed, heritage beef, grass-fed, Eton-educated, humanely slaughtered, dry-aged and hand-ground by fairies with a pinch of pink Murray River salt and a twist of black pepper?

"Jesus, no. At those prices (you pay only £1 at Tesco for a cheeseburger complete with bun, cheese and a portion of fries), I’d have thought a mouthful of Shergar is the least of your problems.

"Listen to the product name. When your first three words are “frozen”, “everyday” and “value”, that means almost by definition that the fourth word (in this case, randomly, “beef”) is to be taken with an armful of Maldon.


"It’s only 29 per cent horse, for God’s sake. What do you think the other 71 per cent is? It’s sure as hell not from a beef cow I would eat. Nor the bits of it you want to think about either. At that price, you’re into scrotum, eyelid, foreskin, lungs, mechanically reclaimed connective tissue ... the sort of scrapings from the abattoir floor that could only be improved by a nice bit of horse’s arse."

Tesco is now announcing that they will start to sell more British meat, rather than imported from abroad.  That makes me happy, not only because it will be supporting British farmers, but also because it will reduce the number of 'food miles', reducing the environmental impact.  I never did think it was sensible to transport animals and meat thousands of miles from abroad when there's plenty here in the UK already.  For some supermarkets, though, it's already too late.  The Vegetarian Society reports that it has had a massive increase in the number of 'hits' on its website, and omnivores are abandoning the supermarket meat shelves in favour of local butchers, where the butcher knows exactly where the meat has come from.  Hopefully, this will lead to a revival of our dying high streets.

For the past couple of decades, the general public has sleepwalked into a trance when it relates to shopping.  So many people just go to the supermarket and buy all of their produce there because that is what they have been trained to do.  Everything under one roof, convenience, free parking and supposedly cheap prices have duped people into forgetting that other shops exist, and all the while, the prices have slowly risen and most people have just accepted it.  

Not me.  I stopped shopping in supermarkets several years ago, because I realised that most of the food products they sold were just expensive rubbish.  On the very rare occasions I do go into my local supermarket, I usually have a look at the 'reduced' shelf, to see if there's anything worth having.  It's very rare that there is.  I look at some of the items there and think "That is a product I would NEVER buy; in fact I wouldn't even take it if it was being given away for free", for example the ready made burger-in-a-bun, to be heated in a microwave.  Even thinking about it now makes me feel nauseous. Why on earth anyone would want to buy ready-mashed potato in a plastic, film-covered tub, for heating in a microwave is beyond me.  It takes only 10 minutes to boil a potato and mash it yourself, for a fraction of the cost.  Just how lazy does one have to be?  Not only that, but you then chuck the plastic tub in the bin, which eventually (almost always) ends up in landfill.  You're wrecking the planet because you're bone idle, but that's a rant for another day.

Come on Britain.  Wake up!

31 December 2012

New Year neighbours from hell

What is it about New Year that makes some people think that it's OK to make their neighbours' lives a misery?  

The house over the road from me has been emitting loud bass music since 16:00 and the garden appears to be full of vacuous squealing women.  People have been turning up in cars and beeping their horns because they are too bloody lazy to get out and actually talk to someone and there's a gang of teenage lads in their front bedroom who appear to be headbutting each other.

The music is so loud that even when I put my headphones on to listen to some music, the neighbours' bass beat can be heard over it.   One of the other neighbours has already been round to ask them to turn it down, but there's been no noticable change.

I have, of course, whinged about this on Facebook and some of my friends have suggested that I call the Police.  However, despite the fact that I am bloody annoyed, I do accept that this is probably the busiest night of the year for the Police, and a noisy party is the least of their worries.  I'd rather not bother them, and let them get on with dealing with more serious matters.  In the meantime, I will just sit here, quietly fuming.

All I wanted was a quiet night in on my own, a little time to sit, think and be peaceful, but now all I have are angry throughts about how inconsiderate others can be.

26 December 2012

Taking laziness to the next level

This morning, around 10:30, I saw a girl wearing a onesie, walking her dog.  I might have accidentally said 'lazy cow!' in a voice rather louder than was necessary.  However, I stand by my comment.  What has the world come to when people are happily slobbing around town in their nightwear?  They look absolutely ridiculous!  This morning's specimen was resplendent in zebra stripes and looked like an oversized toddler.

The thought did strike me, though, that as it appears that the latest fashion is to wear one's pyjamas around town, do these people wear their day clothes in bed?  Do they sleep in a shirt and jeans?  It'd make as much sense.

24 October 2012

Bloody ambulance chasers

On my way into work this morning, I followed a car which was advertising one of those 'ambulance chasing' services.  It read something like "Had an accident?  Claim today and get a free iPad!"

I really hate these companies.  By pushing everyone into the compensation culture, they have also pushed up insurance costs for everyone, and caused more and more organisations to introduce stupid 'rules' and restrictions based upon spurious risk assessments carried out by idiots.  They are nothing but greed-mongers.

Sometimes, people have to accept that the reason they tripped is because they're a clumsy oaf who wasn't looking where they were going; the reason they got scalded is because they are too stupid to know that a hot cup of coffee is, erm, hot.  There's not always someone else to blame.

I'm sure that the promise of a free iPad will encourage a few more wastrels to claim, not because they have a case, but simply because they want an iPad.  Those who have genuine reasons to claim will, I hope, go to reputable companies who don't need to offer free gifts to get business.

23 October 2012

Affordable housng and the scandal of empty homes

Government Minister Mark Prisk believes that building new homes is the answer to the problem of rising rents and the lack of affordable homes.

I disagree.  

According to the 'Empty Homes' website, in November 2011 there were 720,000 empty homes in England, and 930,000 in the whole of the UK, of which approximately 350,000 are long-term empty.  

Why then, if there are so many empty homes, does the Government keep insisting that we need to build new homes, and is even considering relaxing the Green Belt laws in order to permit house building in our precious countryside?  Surely they should be trying to fill the existing empty homes before building new ones?

I accept that many of these homes are not currently fit for habitation, but there are plenty of builders, joiners, plumbers, electricians, etc. out there whom, I am sure, would welcome the opportunity to work at putting these places to rights.  Those homes which are beyond repair could be demolished and replaced with new homes on the same sites. 

Only when these empty homes have been tackled, and all of the brown field sites used up, should anyone even think of debating the destruction of our Green Belt.  Hopefully, it will never come to that.

It's disgusting...

The number of people who can't spell the word 'disgusting' is absolutely disgusting!

Since I joined Facebook, I have been both amazed and horrified at the number of people who don't seem to be able to spell even simple words correctly.  The latest such word which really raises my hackles is 'discusting'.  There is no such word.  Here is a simple reminder:

Discuss - to debate or consider
Disgust - to offend or sicken

03 October 2012

Stop flashing at me!

The latest 'design feature' of some modern cars appears to be headlamps which are activated by a light sensor because, as we all know, drivers are far too stupid to realise that it's going dark and you'll need to switch them on yourself.

Yesterday, such a vehicle followed me for a couple of miles through an area with trees at the side of the road.  Despite the fact it was daylight, each time the car went past one a slightly more dense clump of trees, the headlamps came on for a few seconds and then went off again.  This might not have been so bad if it was a little car, but it wasn't.  It was a Hummer; an unnecessarily huge behemoth of a vehicle which is totally out of place on our little country lanes and, as is common with very large vehicles, the headlamps are positioned higher up, so that the beam reflects in the rear-view mirror and then vapourises one's retinas.  Oh yes, and whilst I'm ranting about it, why on earth do people still find it fashionable to have bullbars on vehicles which are never ever likely to see a bull?  It's not bloody Pamplona, you know!

19 September 2012

Setting a President?

Over the past few days, I've heard at least three people on the radio and television referring to 'setting a president'.  I'm pretty sure that they really mean to say 'setting a precedent'.

14 August 2012

Geographically challenged

Whilst I'm ranting about people in the media getting it wrong, here's another one:

I heard a BBC Radio 4 presenter refer to the BBC's new base at MediaCityUK as being in "Salford, in Manchester".  Wrong!.  The city of Salford is located next to the city of Manchester.  Salford is not a city within a city.

Honestly, BBC, I thought Radio 4 was supposed to be the best you have to offer.  You might at least learn where your studios are located.

The non-existent car

Whilst listening to the radio yesterday morning, I heard the presenter refer to an episode of Only Fools and Horses, and said that Del and Rodney, dressed as Batman and Robin, got out of a Robin Reliant.

This simple sentence annoyed me for two reasons.  

Firstly, what really irritates me, is when people refer to the vehicle as a 'Robin Reliant'.  No it's not!  It's a 'Reliant Robin'.  'Reliant' is the name of the manufacturer.  You don't hear people talking about a Fiesta Ford, or an Astra Vauxhall, or a Corolla Toyota, so why do so many people refer to Robin Reliants?

Secondly, the vehicle in Only Fools and Horses wasn't even a Robin, it was a Regal.  Get it right, please, folks.

18 July 2012

Pablo's Olympic Rant

Today, I present a guest rant from Pablo:

Is it just me, or has the Olympic spirit been hijacked by consumerism and global commercialism? Or is it just the Government which has rolled over and allowed foreign-owned global companies to take ownership of all that should provide guidance and good rôle models for future generations?

The Olympic Games should promote the twin ideals of competition and fitness.  Ok, three ideals, competition, fitness and health.   And  a spirit of international friendship.  OK, four, then.  Interesting to see the major sponsors of the Olympics entering into that spirit, isn’t it?

McDonalds?  A major sponsor of a major sporting event promoting health and competition?  Yeah, right.   A global company which has expanded by shamelessly marketing junk food to one of the most vulnerable groups in society, our children, then relies on the witter factor, and that wonderful bit of human psychology, peer pressure, the need to follow like sheep, to ensure that if you don’t take your kids to McDonalds, they will feel excluded by their friends. So they grow up on a diet of McNuggets (mechanically processed chicken, mixed with a number of chemicals) and each helping providing over 60% of your daily sodium intake (the main cause of high blood pressure) and over 40% of your recommended maximum fat intake.   Vitamins?   You have to be joking!

And that is before you add the fries (mechanically processed potatoes, NOT even proper chips, note) and their own load of coated sugar and salt to make you crave for more.  So much for the healthy.  If you want to read their ingredient lists, click here.

But what of the competition?   McDonalds apparently have enough financial clout to create their own chip monopoly without actually selling chips themselves.  They have banned their smaller competitors from selling chips unless they are as an integral part of fish and chips.  Want chips with your burger?  Sorry, mate, you will have to go to McDonalds. And have fries.

I could say more about McDonalds, but I won’t.   So what of the other major sponsors?  On the news this morning was a piece about that purveyor of sporting goods, Adidas.  They promote health, fitness and competition, don’t they?  Well, not exactly.  So far as I know, there are two mainstream sporting brands who market to the brand conscious.  The other is Nike.  Go in any McDonalds and the place is full of sporting wannabees.  If they aren’t wearing England football shirts, they will almost certainly be wearing Adidas or Nike kit and, given, that the lifetime diet of supersized 'happy meals' has ensured that anything other than the most gentle exercise will probably kill them, you have got to wonder at the power of advertising and the need to follow the crowd.  I would guess that the majority of branded sports kit has never been worn on the track, sportsfield or in the gym.

But this is not my point.  My point is that the major sponsor of the Olympics, Adidas was reported on this morning’s news as having banned all children taking part in the opening ceremony from wearing any branded trainers other than Adidas.  

Competition, fitness and health?  My arse! Will I be watching the Olympic Games? No, you will find me headed in the opposite direction on two wheels. At least there will be less traffic on the roads.

04 July 2012

Cold callers

I have a sticker on my front door.  It's right at eye-level, so you have no excuse for missing it.  It says "No Cold Callers.  Please do not knock."  There's a second, less polite sign, in the window to the left of the door, specifying that I don't want to be disturbed by salesmen, canvassers, hawkers, charity representatives or god botherers.

Despite that, on Monday, someone from SafeStyle UK knocked, and then apologised when I pointed out the sticker, and then said "but seeing as you're here now, can I just ask you...".  He was really surprised when every question he asked was met with 'No'.  His parting shot was "If you just let me do a quotation, you don't have to buy anything, but I'll get a commission."  Strangely enough, my answer to that was also "No", as I shut the door in his face.

I know times are hard, but I really really object to doorstep sales.  I will never ever buy anything on the doorstep and it really annoys me when chancers ignore the sign, in the hope that I'll be nice to them.

It is now a criminal offence in the UK to ignore such signs.  I WILL report you.

Take a hint.  Get lost.

20 June 2012

Wheat-free and breathing easy

Earlier this year, having suffered breathing problems for all of my life, I finally saw a consultant who told me that I was displaying the classic symptoms of wheat allergy.  I was confused.  People who suffer from wheat allergy just have bad guts, don't they?  My friend Brynjar has coeliac disease and I remember how dreadfully ill he was before he was diagnosed.

Apparently, I was wrong.  Wheat allergy can also cause breathing problems including a tight chest and throat, nasal congestion, itching and swelling in the mouth and throat, itchy rashes on the skin, itchy and watery eyes.  In fact, all the symptoms that my doctors and I had, for many years, put down to my hayfever and perennial rhinitis.

So, I have done my best to stop eating wheat.  It's not actually been that difficult, although there have been odd times where I have fallen off the waggon, only to regret it when I can't breathe about twenty minutes later.  I have also discovered that eating wheat gives me bellyache.  I've always had regular gutache but put it down to poor diet.  However, since stopping eating wheat, I find that my guts are much happier and I feel much less lethargic and headachy too.

I have discovered that most supermarket-bought gluten-free bread is rubbish.  It's very expensive, falls apart easily and is useless for sandwiches - most of it ends up in your lap as the slice collapses.

Last weekend, I went to Beverley Folk Festival, where a lovely lady called Catherine was selling gluten-free galettes.  Inspired by how nice they were (I ate rather a lot of them), I decided to look up the recipe and came across a cracking website called 'Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef'.  Like Brynjar, the author has coeliac disease, and she has written a book about food.  Not just any old book, mind, a book about the foods you CAN eat, rather than the ones you can't, as well as stories and tips on a gluten-free life.  She and her husband have also written a cookery book.  

Anyway, go and read her blog, it's brilliant.