Thursday, 29 November 2012

To blog...but about what?

My blog entries have been a little sparse this month, just as they were this time last year, but there's a pretty simple explanation for that - not a lot of interest has occurred worth writing about. In fact November is living up to its usual billing of being the most boring and my most disliked month of the year.

Smashie and Nicey once talked about "The Great British Tuesday" implying nothing much ever happened, so I guess the worst combination is a Tuesday in November. When it rains all day. Like the one we just had. Therefore I officially declare that Tuesday 27th November 2012 was the most boring day of this year. Unless you happened to be flying off to Australia that day to get away from it all. And who does that? Answers on a postcard, please, Jo Sandy.

Coming soon, by special courier from Perth

Usually when things are a little quiet on the events front, I attempt to conjure up some sort of "amusing" piece based on some random interest of mine. These tend to be rather hit and miss, judged on the number of hits and comments they get. Sadly not everyone is on my wavelength (but I love you all who are!) and don't get it, in fact there I am thinking some of what I have written has gone totally over everyone's heads, but then I receive a little bit of validation and all is well. I was delighted to get a reply yesterday on my "Biscuits Alive" entry. This you will recall (if you bothered to read it) was when I was talking about a very obscure strip in Viz which has only appeared twice with an 18 year interval between strips. Therefore I was very pleased to hear from someone yesterday who also appreciated the "Biscuits Alive" thing, and here was his reply:

"Biscuits Alive! This has since made it into the everyday lexicon of me and my mates to describe something surprising/exasperating. Genius!!"

Sounds fun, I might try it. I'm trying to think of some scenarios where I could use it...e.g.

"Biscuits Alive! Look at the size of it!!!"
"Biscuits Alive! I can't believe Barnet beat Man Utd!!!" - that sort of thing.

Anyway the problem with these humorous entries, is that there are only so many things one can write about without the danger of repeating oneself, and I like to try and be fresh and original at all times. Now if you are a stand up comedian touring the country, it's OK to repeat your stuff. You are playing to a different audience every night, so when you peddle out the same stuff in Newcastle that you did in Leeds the previous night, no-one minds.

In fact, even if you are playing to the same audience, it seems you can get away with repeating the same thing over and over again. Allo Allo didn't run for 85 episodes for nothing. Perhaps audiences were less sophisticated in those days, yet it seems that audience roared with laughter at the same things every week. Canned laughter, no doubt.

Listen very carefully! I shall say this only 85 times.

But I like to be different. And there is only so much mileage you can squeeze out of cheese balls (oo-er), and various other dubious eating and drinking habits. Sex is a bit taboo as there is nothing I could write about my sex life that might not sound like showing off so I avoid that, and anyway that News Of The World expose they did on me a few years ago pretty much covered all that off. No-one else is interested in gambling apart from Daryl and he rarely replies to any PM's I write him on the subject, so there's little chance of him reading this. Parenting - all well and good, but I don't write every blog about the kids as people without kids invariably find it boring. If I write about Doctor Who or Star Trek, Anne will call me a geek. Having a go at Tesco is a good one, but we've covered that recently. Bacon and Ham have been covered to an extent of which the Encyclopaedia Britannica would be proud. Could talk about next year's holidays (got 4 weeks away booked up already) but it's a bit far in advance. There's loads I could write about my Galaxy Note (similar to an iPad) but I don't know anyone else who has got one so of limited interest. The F1 season has finished so no mileage there except to say "Hurrah! We've finally got rid of the cheating ****" you all know who I am talking about. So what am I going to write about today?

I am sure I'll think of something...

And I did. You've just read it.

See you in December

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving

You may, or possibly may not know, given its low profile here, that our friends across the pond are today celebrating "Thanksgiving".

It's Thanksgiving in the good old U S of A

What's this all about, you may ask, well I shan't bore you with the origins of the tradition, this is something you can find out for yourself. Let's face it, few people here think much about what Easter's all about when they are greedily ripping open their chocolate eggs.

As a basic summing up, it's a bit like Christmas Day, but only the Christmas Dinner bit of it i.e. no presents, decorations or any of the other stuff, just everyone getting together around the table and having a big roast dinner, with of course, a large turkey as the centrepiece. Everyone also has the day off work - it's a bank holiday.

Now I would imagine that for people who have jobs, having to drag themselves out to an office every day, having a Thursday off at this time of the year would be an absolute godsend. Before I retired from full time work I know this was the worst time of year for me. When you think about the absolutely wretched weather we've had, particularly yesterday, which was of the gloomiest, most miserable days I can ever remember, imagine how great if you didn't have to go to work today. I think many people would gladly trade one of the useless bank holidays in the Spring for one today. What a great day it would be, off work, lovely turkey cooking in the background, almost like a dress rehearsal for Christmas.

Certainly in terms of cooking the meal it would be a lot less stressful than Christmas dinner, for the simple reason that there are not all those other things to do. My time is much in demand on Christmas morning itself, as not only is there all the presents to unwrap, there is then all the business of detaching the kids new toys from the packaging, i.e. undoing all those horrible plastic ties, and all the other stuff which has been designed to keep the contents in place. And that's before you get started on assembly, batteries and all the rest, the whole day can go by and there is still the dinner to cook on top of that! Christmas day is hard work.

None of that to worry about on Thanksgiving, you just get on and cook the meal.

When you think how much we've embraced USA culture, it's odd that Thanksgiving hasn't had more of an impact here. Halloween, long a mainstay of the USA calendar is getting bigger every year, and that's not to mention all the other influences on our daily life - McDonalds, The Simpsons, Disney, ten-pin bowling, schools are even having proms now, there's just a few things that spring to mind. Yet Thanksgiving remains little more than a curiosity over here.

So perhaps it's time I helped things along a bit. Now I know that my blog reaches out to a wide range of people across the social spectrum, so I thought that perhaps I'd offer a few ideas for having Thanksgiving on a variety of budgets. I've given each of these a relevant title in order to distinguish between them.

1) The Jeremy Kyle.

Available at places like Iceland, probably.

Perfect for the family on a budget, or on a low income, the Jeremy Kyle joint won't set you back too much out of your weekly budget. In fact you should not have to compromise at all on your 20 a day Richmond Superkings consumption. It also has the benefit of only taking about an hour and a half to cook, so you don't have to miss any of Jeremy's show, you can still have it ready for lunchtime.

2) The Daily Mail.

OK, it's frozen, but they might start doing fresh ones if it catches on.

Just the thing for middle England, this one will be adorning the tables of 4 bedroom detached properties (complete with conservatories) from Surbiton to St Ives. Classy enough to be served to the family without any feeling of doing things on the cheap, but won't break the bank, which is just as well, considering Daddy's pay freeze at the bank. The perfect joint over which to discuss the pressing issues in the day's paper, e.g. immigration.

3) To The Manor Born

I am delighted to say, that I have had an invitation this evening to the country residence of my fellow peer, Lord Marston, in order to sample this delicacy, purchased this very morning from Fortnum and Mason by his faithful old family retainer, Mrs Bridges. After dining on this fine beast along with various other delicacies, e.g. truffles and foie gras, we shall be retiring to the drawing room with our port and stilton to discuss tomorrow's runners at Ascot, where we shall once again be viewing the days action from the Royal Box. A most satisfactory state of affairs, I am sure you will agree.

So that's about it for my Thanksgiving round-up, I hope this has inspired you all to consider taking up the tradition, whichever option you choose, may I wish you all the best - and thank-you.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Cheers!

Jason xx

Monday, 19 November 2012

Mean-minded, petty, Tesco

Yes, once again it's a rant at Tesco from my blog. Sorry H, I know you work there, so you're exempt, it's not aimed at you, but yet again I've had a face off in the store over pricing and come off worse.

How many times have I resorted to using this blog to have a go - a lot, and it's always with justification. You'll remember, "Any 3 for £10" all on the same shelf - get to the till. "Oh but that one isn't included in the offer sir, even though it was on the same shelf and has the same sticker on it" etc etc.

Go in today, eagerly looking forward to buying the latest Now Album, Now 83, released today. Here it is.

How much would you pay?

I have devotedly bought all of these over the years and am rather proud of my collection, not only that but they form a big backbone of my DJ'ing collection.

Anyway, in I go and head straight to the CD's racks, sure enough there it is, in the No 1 slot with a big yellow sticker under it reading £10. Now as we know these little yellow stickers also have a lot of miniscule writing detail on them, but I see £10, grab it and take it to the till.

And lo and behold - up rings £13. So I protest, someone is called to help check and off we go to look at the fixture. And on closer scrutiny the text on the yellow shelf sticker in titchy writing reveals that in fact the £10 price refers to a One Direction CD. However - the One Direction CD is further along the shelf at Number 3 - which also has a £10 sticker below it as do all the top row. Not a £13 sticker in sight.

So basically someone has come along, put all the Now 83's out, moved all the others along and not bothered to change any of the price labels. So the casual viewer sees £10, how many of us bend down to peer at the detail?

I have lost count of the number of times this has happened - and always in Tesco and always in that store! Do you know I can't wait until that new Sainsbury opens and gives them a well deserved kick up the arse. I certainly won't be shopping in there much any more that's for sure!

So here I am, loyal, daily customer, asking nicely to the management if they can acknowledge their mistake and give it to me for a tenner. But no - a flat refusal. Not only that - their additional response is to remove all of the CD's from sale, scooping the lot off the shelf and taking them away. Nice move Tesco, on the opening day for sale of a new product. Well you save yourself £3 from me - but how much do you lose in goodwill, and not only that I am now using the power of my very widely read blog - check out the hit count if you don't believe me, to expose your mean-mindedness and pettyness. In fact readers, if you agree with my sentiments feel free to share on facebook, so I get as many hits as possible. If they are going to treat their customers with this much contempt, they deserve negative publicity. Anyone would think they were a bank, not a retailer, oh, hang on, they are into that now though as well aren't they?

I should point out that had the label said £13 in the first place I would have happily paid this. It's the fact that I am made to feel like an idiot because of their mistake that I object to. When these types of things happen you invariably piss all of the other people off in the queue behind you, it seems the whole system is designed to make you look like you're the problem, not them.

Save £3 from me, have you? Hope you feel good about yourself. I couldn't give a toss about the £3 it's bugger all to me, clearly it means a lot to you. I'm sorry if I'm being unreasonable because I saw £10 in big bold letters below a product and expected to pay that. Suppose it's my own fault really, I didn't bring my microscope with me to read the small print, I'll try and remember to bring it next time along with my Clubcard. Oh no, I forgot, I can't, you still haven't sent me my replacement and key fob after mine stopped working properly despite numerous phone calls, never mind. Couldn't get customer service to exchange my last set of vouchers for rewards, seems it's the "wrong sort of card" and the computer doesn't recognise it. Oh well, good job the trusty old nectar card for Sainsbury's is still going strong, I shall be needing it a lot soon. It can't come soon enough.

Every little helps - guffaw guffaw!!!! Well how much has the £3 you saved from me today helped you? Has it made me more likely to spend money in your store or say nice things about you? I think you know the answer to that one. Perhaps some people meekly back down and say no more - but this is Bicester Blogger you've messed with now and I don't keep my mouth shut when I'm pissed off! As you can see!!!

PS: While we are about it, please can you advise all of your checkout staff that I am using my own bags and I do not need any help with my packing today. Also perhaps try employing a few more people so you can keep your shelf tickets up to date, as I could probably walk into that store any day of the week and point out at least half a dozen mistakes.

Oh and by the way I've just been on to Amazon and bought Now 83 for £11.99 and encourage anyone else who wants to buy it to do the same.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Thank-you

Jason xx

Friday, 16 November 2012

Brookside

Time to talk about one of my lifelong passions. With Channel 4's 30th anniversary occurring this month, there has been quite a lot of publicity around about it's groundbreaking flagship soap, Brookside, which aired on the first night of the channel's launch and ran for 21 years.

There's even a DVD coming out with 16 episodes on it - a kind of greatest hits.

Yes, I am not ashamed to admit I am an unashamed Brookside fan! My love affair with it began with the first episode and ran all the way through to the end.

Over the years, I have watched all of the soaps at one time or another. Eastenders and Coronation Street - although I no longer watch, I have been an avid viewer of in the past. And as you know I am a collector of classic television - and in the case of Corrie in particular, I have at least 8 episodes from every year since it started.

My childhood in the 70s took place to a backdrop of Crossroads, where you never knew which way the credits were coming from and Corrie. Pretty stable stuff. And then Brookside arrived.

It's hard to describe how exciting the concept of a new television channel was back in 1982, considering the hundreds we have now. But when for your whole life there had only ever been three, and now there were four, well that was exciting.

And what excitement that first night brought - from Countdown through to the Comic Strip going mad in Dorset. But it was Brookside that caught my imagination.

The fact that they seemed like real people and they were living in real houses made it feel real. The houses are still there and you can even go and rent one and live in them now. Imagine that! If I lived in Liverpool I would be so up for it. I would feel like I was walking around in my own piece of televisual history.

The legendary "Harry Cross" - one of my
favourite soap characters of all time

It is great that the DVD is coming out, but predictably it focuses on the same few bits you always hear about - the body under the patio, the lesbian kiss, etc etc. For me Brookside was about so much more than that. The class divides between the neighbours and all the friction and social tensions that caused. In the 80s it was the Grants and the Collins. And in the 90s it was the Farnham's and the Dixons. And the humour at times was amazing - take Max Farnham and Ron Dixon - they explored the class divide there in a far more humorous and entertaining way than the BBC ever managed with any of their lame sitcoms e.g. The Good Life. And as for all the scams involving Jimmy Corkhill, Sinbad and others - well they made me laugh far more than any of the tired predictable stuff Del Boy and Rodney got up to.

Ron hated Max so much he built
 this fence out of old doors

Thanks to UK Living re-running the episodes in the 90s, I have every episode from the start up until 1992 videotaped and now converted onto DVD. I can tell you anything you want about the show, including the people who were in it - some of whom you would be amazed at where they ended up. For example, Kevin Carson, who played young footballer Geoff Rogers ended up as a teacher at the prestigious local Abingdon School.

So if Brookside was so great why is it not on any more? Well sadly, it was a victim of trying to compete in the ratings war. During the first 10 years or so it had the odd murder or rape, but most of the time had both feet in the real world. Then during the 90s, the focus on grabbing ratings started to take over. This wasn't just confined to Brookside but things really did start to get out of hand, with various explosions and sieges and other dubious plot lines. Whilst the humour and drama was still there it started to play second fiddle to whatever "issue" they had jumped on this month.

Jimmy outside his dodgy shop - one
of a number of things to get blown up.

The problem I think is that when shows do this, it is akin to a drug addict seeking a bigger and bigger fix to get a hit. What was shocking once, becomes predictable, and they lurch desperately from one ratings grabbing storyline to the next. Whilst the other soaps did this too, they were at least on at a stable time, and on the two major channels. When Brookside started to be shunted all over the schedules to fit around other things the writing was on the wall.

They also started editing it in a different way that gave it a "film look". This is something Neighbours experimented with too that put me off watching it. I'm not sure of the exact technicalities of it, but basically rather than pure video, they attempted to make it look like a film set. It was just plain wrong for a soap - I loved the pure video look that Brookside had before. Apparently the BBC did something similar with Casualty (which I don't watch) and that was not well received either.

I also think that Channel 4 fell in love with its new baby, Hollyoaks and alienated Brookside and its audience in favour of it. It came as no surprise in 2003 when the axe fell.

Such a shame, and we live in hope one day there may be a resurrection. I have reason to be hopeful - after all many of the shows I have loved in the past have returned to new glory after long absences. Star Trek, Doctor Who, Reggie Perrin, Dallas, V, Survivors, these are just a few that spring to mind.

Many of the old cast still support the show and it was great to hear so many of them on a Radio Mersey special the other day on the internet. It's obvious that so many of them still hold fond memories of the show, and would return. But in the meantime, I've got my DVD's and can dip in to classic Brookie any time I like.

She's dead, Teh!...but who did it?
If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason x

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Competition Time!

Those nice people at Confused.com are running another blogging competition - this time you have to describe your ideal winter break in 350 words or less. Which is quite timely as I am looking forward to a return visit to Fuerteventura this winter, the first since 2009, so I feel suitably qualified to write on the subject.

Corralejo - in February. That'll do me!

350 is not very much - especially for someone like myself who tends to ramble on. As you know I won't use 350 words where 3500 will do, so probably will be quite difficult for me, but I shall give it a go and have conciseness as my watchword.

Anyway it is well worth entering as the first prize is a 3 night, five star break to Rome, which I am sure you will agree is well worth winning  - and here is the link to enable you to do.

http://www.confused.com/travel-insurance/articles/confused-travel-blogging-competition

In the meantime, here is what I wrote for my entry. Managed to get to the point about half way through the 350 words so fingers crossed, eh?


I’ve never quite understood the British obsession with summer holidays. If you go on holiday in this country you are at the mercy of the weather, and if you head off to Europe, it’s way too hot – well it is for me anyway.

Now imagine looking out of the window on a dreary cold January day, with the warm glow of Christmas already a receding memory. It’s dark and it’s cold. Now this is the time of year you really want to get away. But where to go? The obvious first thing to spring to mind is ski-ing. But really, would you really want to go away to somewhere even colder than here? No – winter sun is what’s needed. And you don’t have to fly long haul to find it.

Most of Europe is too chilly, but just four hours away on the west coast of Africa are the Canary Islands. Here the temperature is in the 70s (farenheit) throughout the winter months, and the perfect antidote to the gloom and chill back home.

It’s also very good value to go at that time of year – prices drop like a stone after New Year and you would be amazed what you can get for your money – two weeks in the sun, flights, even food – for less money than you might spend on a week’s break back in the UK in August.

Which one to go to? Well Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife are all lively and fun, but I fell in love with the slightly lesser known Fuerteventura the first time I went there and have been back many times – always to Corralejo, full of friendly people and miles upon miles of stunning sand dunes.

I remember one year, I offered to work the days in the office between Christmas and New Year so everyone else could have the time off. They all came back on 5th January, saw me for one day, then out I flew on the 6th for 2 weeks in the sun, leaving them all behind – now that is the way to do it!

Jason



http://www.confused.com/travel-insurance/articles/confused-travel-blogging-competition

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Troubleshooting

I am a self-confessed "gadgetphile" if there is such a word - OK I don't mean I shag my computer, (and no, those dirty sites in my history file aren't anything to do with me, that's what happens when you lend Daryl your laptop!) what I mean is I have a loving of technology and like to be at the forefront of what's going on. Technology is all around us, in theory to make our lives easier - and yes that is true - when it works!

My very good pal and fellow blogger QOTS has just written a highly entertaining piece on this very subject, which can be found here http://officialqueenofthesuperficial.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/technical-hitches-and-glitches.html

Which hasn't really stolen my thunder as what I want to get across is different.

When I say I am a gadgetphile, I like to think that I am selective in this - i.e. I do not have to have the latest bit of kit just because it's the latest bit of kit. So no queueing outside the apple store at midnight for the latest iPad for me. But I do like to look at all new things that come out and make a decision as to what will enhance my life and what's just a gimmick or overpriced and will be cheaper in 6 months.

When I do take the plunge into something i.e. tablets, it's after considerable research, and to get what's right for me. I have found myself going down the Android rather than Apple route - that's my personal preference though each have their merits.

The thing that challenges me is dealing with all the little day to day issues that come up whenever you use any bit of equipment. Installing things. Copying things. Putting things on the network. etc etc etc. All things that would seemingly be straightforward but that come with unforeseen stumbling blocks. Now I think I am pretty clued up but struggle with a lot of things - so no wonder there are so many people out there making a living from offering IT support. I think a lot of people would struggle to work out how to do some of the things I need to do. Goodness knows it takes me long enough - but I do pride myself that no long how it takes I always manage to resolve my problems myself.

Much like my life in general really. Never had counselling, even during times of high stress because I've never felt like I needed it. A good friend who cares (you know who you are) and a hug and a coffee has been all I've ever needed. I know it's not that way for some of you, and those that live day to day with mental illness (and again you know who you are) I've nothing but admiration for you.

But generally - I self help. In life, in parenting, in business, you name it.

I do sometimes wonder if there is a conspiracy not to make software issues easily understandable for the average Joe in order to maintain an industry. Of course all the information you need is out there but there is so much of it! It's true of almost anything these days. Even buying the damned stuff in the first place is hard enough. You want a PC, phone or any item of electronic equipment, well there are literally hundreds on the market - where do you start? No one product is perfect and has everything you need - so it's off to read as many reviews as you can to try and sort the wheat from the chaff.

When it came to purchasing my first tablet it took me months to decide which one to go for, but eventually I settled on the Galaxy Note 10.1, and I'm really confident I made the right decision, it is amazing. And here it is.

The clarity of the screen is amazing

But it's the seemingly little issues I have problems with. For example, the Note comes with 16gb storage space built in but can apparently take cards up to 64gb. Sounds good. So after a bit of research I purchase one from Amazon, it arrives, put it in and Hey Presto! It doesn't work.

Now this is the point where you think - OK no problem, I will do a Google search. There's millions of people out there, loads must have had the same problem. Trouble is you don't know exactly how to word what your problem is. And it seems that no matter how many millions are out there, our own little problems remain very unique to our own little set of circumstances. Well there is nothing like a bit of individuality is there?

These searches invariably lead you to various technical forums where you are immediately made to feel inferior by the technical talk that assumes a level of knowledge invariably way in excess of one's own. Everyone on them it seems is Moss from the IT Crowd. So you search and search and re-word and re-word and frustration sets in.

Basically you have 3 stages in this process.

1) Working out what the hell to type into Google to get even remotely close to anyone out there who knows what the hell I am talking about.

2) Actually managing to work out what the problem is.

3) Somehow working out how to resolve the issue.

So how did I get on with my SDHC card issue? Well eventually I worked out that the card would only work in the Note if it had been formatted to FAT32 whatever that meant. Sounded like some sort of highly appetising steak size (in oz) available only in the US. Sadly not though couldn't you just get your choppers around this? I know I could!

The dream!!!!

So apparently there are several ways such cards can be formatted (so much for plug and play). That's OK, I know what the problem is now. Shouldn't be too difficult to resolve it? Hmmm...think again. You search on Google and it gives you lots of "helpful" advice. Right click on this, click properties, and do this...yet remarkably it always seems that the option suggested does not exist! In my case it was the "format as FAT32" option. Not on my PC it seems despite being only a couple of years old and on Windows 7.

Eventually I realised I would have to download a "utility" - one of these little bits of software you find on download.com - which may or may not work and which may or may not wrap itself around your hard drive forever more.

Anyway I got there in the end!!!

Then I spent 3 days approximately attempting to back up all my music from my DJ'ing laptop on to a portable hard drive. Yes 3 days. Bought the drive (positive reviews on Amazon as always) and attempted to transfer 30,000+ music/ karaoke files across. Lamentably slow. 314k per second transfer rate. Why is it so slow, so search on the net? Here we go, more pissing about.

Eventually it transpires (another thing nobody told me) that some of the USB ports on your average PC are better and more important than others. So switch the cable over the other side and suddenly we are getting 13mb per second, and the job's finished within the hour.

My point is - why does nobody tell us these things? How many more hours must I spend on these issues. The two examples above are just two out of hundreds I've had to get to the bottom of over the years.

However - I take pride in the fact that I always do get there. I never give up - on anything.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx