Sunday Trading - time to rethink

Take - 1
Ah! Merry England, that rural idyl, that utopean dream sequence - village church bells toll, as rosy cheeked little scamps frolick in the fields, butterflies flit amid the late afternoon rays, blonde mum and tall razor-jawed dad gaze peacefully into each other's picnic blanket as a rabbit plays peek-a-boo with a red squirrel from behind the oak providing its canopy for that very same picnic.  Peace, family life, trees, simple food, laughter, love and endless happiness on a bed of lettuce dripping with Heinz salad cream.

Take - 2
People-mover stuck on an inner city A-road, DVD players running for the two in the back seats.  They've been promised new stuff.  Dad can't see to the right, so he can't edge out - he can't see because the Range Rover next door is too tall, and its windows are smoked glass.  Inside this status symbol, Jackie - 5 foot 3 inches, straight blonde hair, serious tailoring and a NEXT bag on the passenger seat, glances into the mirror, firstly to check sunglasses, secondly to check on her brood.  DVD players are running.  They've been promised new stuff.  She can't move because she's a nervous driver; he can't move because he simply cannot see.  Behind them, three-quarters of a mile of traffic has built up.

So, this is Sunday - and maybe it's time for a re-think.

Unbelievable eh?  Preposterous!  What utter madness is this? - Verging on treason, no doubt.  We're looking for growth, we're searching for jobs we're worried to hell about everything and anything, and yet I tell you - the time has come for this country to rethink Sunday trading. 

In fact NOW is the best time to
revert to a more sensible policy.

We got where we are today through the legal wrangling of large retailers, Sunday trading was never fixed here in the UK because the public asked for it.

Largely, as a country we are alone in this practice - and it is responsible for the reduction in time families spend together (or if together - then still subjected to marketing), it is responsible for weekend working to insidiously become 'the norm' and for a lot of managers to now expect their staff to be quite happy about it.  'Flexible working' turned on its head - now it increasingly means 'every other weekend', believe me - this is SERIOUSLY bad news.

Don't forget this can only get worse as time goes on - as managers filter through who don't actually understand, or have never experienced, or actually DON'T WANT a true weekend, the feel of a quiet Sunday.

Sunday trading is responsible for bloated traffic on main roads - with its attendant noise and pollution, it is the least calm thing for anyone to do with their time, and yet we wonder why the quality of life in this country is so, so far below that of most our neighbours.

Why do we do it?  Because time-starved Mrs Smith cannot get there ANY OTHER TIME - or because Messrs Tesco, Argos etc need yet more growth?  And isn't that self-defeating, eventually? 

WHY haven't you got enough time? 
That's the real question -
NOT "Why can't all the shops be open"

Shops are open quite long enough (including 24hrs) the rest of the week, there is no way we NEED to be out there on Sundays, 'choice' that ever cited, over-blown mend-all wheeled out by politicians, critics and pundits alike has really nothing to do with it, and someone has to say it, so it might as well be me - just look what we DO with our blindfold of so-called CHOICE . . . . . we choose to go to ASDA on a Sunday?  Really?

"We Can Help?"

Absolutely Bombarded as we were across Christmas TV with PC World adverts (be VERY aware of any advert that includes "care-free whistling" in its sound-track) - I couldn't help but notice this company's tag-line: "WE CAN HELP"   

Weird isn't it?   I mean - OK, maybe a shop that sells medical stuff, or a service for some NEED - but what exactly could PC World help with?  Opening your wallet? Helping you fill-in some unnecessary 'extended warranty' paperwork?   Just what can PC World help with - other than suggesting something that sells something?


Supermarkets - Panorama and Me

Nice to see the BBC's  Panorama checking-out Supermarkets on 6th December.  It made we wish I'd verbalised more of the thoughts ..... no, the feelings walking around Tescos << this post >> gave rise to. 

I was aware of the product hiding, the false deals, and prices that seemed high - despite their proclamation of being lower (through some 'message' somewhere - "Price Drop"  or "Lower" or "Deal" or whatever).
Yet more, I was aware of some deeper manipulation going on - and it's different in each shop, within the 'big four'. 

Marketing - (as I supposed we still have to call it) has got so seedy, so tricky, so damned misleading these days - just view any commercial TV station for a while; but should we have to put up with it when it concerns food - for god's sake?


Two for the price of .. what IS the price of ONE?

Reference my earlier post about TESCOS, I was fortunate enough to visit their Tower Park (Poole, Dorset) site the other evening.  Just to put this into context - I have not visited a Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisson or ASDA outlet for food, for some YEARS, but . . . . well, we wanted some cheap DVDs (excellent) and it was late (superb), weather was awful so I wanted to park close (fantastic) and, and, and .....

Astonished.  That's all I can say.  JUST LOOK AT THE PRICES!!!  Unbelievable.  Shelves proudly stating what a new offer was, priced at twice what it was worth, the stupid buggers STILL playing the buy-one-get forty-eight more etc, or two-for-the-price etc etc games.  Any half sensible shopper immediately thinks "but I only want ONE - what's the REAL price?  Why are you pushing all this wastage?"
Little shelf labels "cheaper"   than what?   Mid-point three besuited chaps waft down the central isle with clipboards, we all move aside before thinking "hey!  YOU move!  If it wasn't for me"  etc etc.  Too late!  They'd gone to help a very, very little bit of extra, no doubt.

Not a nice experience, the shelves look tired, the signage looks 70's and the signage misleads.  The cashiers were super, though.   Thanks.

£ is for £xam

Did you know that in Germany, exams are set by the Government?
In the UK they are set by any one of 134 'awarding bodies'.

Did you know that one of those bodies - EDEXCEL, made £90,000,000 last year - out of the UK exam system?

So, hang-on . . . that's ONE of the bodies, one might consider what the sum total of all the earnings made by all the Awarding Bodies (there, they're capitalised now) might have been?

Seems a tad excessive?


Leaf Blower Season

From the sound of it - it's petrol driven. Yes, that's it, a hand-held petrol driven baby monster that echoes its whining voice up and down leafy avenues from October through to March.
Council employees and private estate/parks management folk waft them up and down, ear-protectors on, sleeveless day-glo thingumy proclaiming whatever authority they represent.

What a FANTASTICALLY negative machine. Blow leaves from HERE - to - THERE.
Use FOSSIL FUEL to do it, and create a horrendous din whilst you're doing it.

The New Church of England

Sadly, Tesco reported a mixed set of figures today << BBC report >> with Sainsbury's a little better.
The BLOKE they interviewed (sorry, I was experiencing a Marmite problem just at the same time) did mention that Tesco Research Institute for Customer Kontrolle (T.R.I.C.K.) pointed out that whilst main store sales had sufferred, those babes in the Tesco Express stores had been going nineteen to the dozen, the poor bunnies.

It seems shoppers are buying less at their 'main' shop - and topping-up more.

He said this was a sign of prudent shopping, and cutting down etc etc - I suggest it's a sign that people haven't learned to shop 'properly' at all in the last 20 years, try to 'cut down' (haha . . .  read << this >> if you've time ) and then have to pay MUCH MORE as the student-sales fuelled Tesco Expresses mop-up the same targets from another gun emplacement.


Non-Touch Soap Dispensers - utter madness.

. . . . . . . and the next thing you do after you've touched a normal soap pump?

here's a quote from the Dettol website -
The starter kit includes a dispenser, one hand soap refill, and four AA batteries. When you use the DETTOL No-Touch Hand Wash System, you'll know you're helping your family by fostering proper and effective handwashing to help prevent the spread of harmful germs.

What a silly, untruthful, wasteful, useless piece of utter junk!

Reverse Alarms

Just a quickie . . . . yesterday a chap arrived at a parking space in micra-sized car (the older small version I mean, not the new monster).   I could hear his reverse alarm from where I was sat, on the wall, having a quiet ciggy.  Without once looking round at where he was going, he started to reverse - steadily the BEEP became more insistant, and then 2-foot from the bumper of the car behind him the alarm's beeping became a single (warning?) note.   He plonked back into 1st gear and drove off, still never having actually looked at the parking space (which he could have got into). 
Absolute, total, unfailing belief in a crappy piece of technology.


Tomi's Wisdom

Ah my boy!  Over the years I've received some priceless comments from Tom,
three of them below.

"Papa?  - Racing cars
never really get
anywhere do they?

(Tomi Evans-Krings, 4 years old)

Excited:  "PAPA !!!!  -
I know how you make paper!  
Make the screen all white . . .
and then print it out!"

(Tomi Evans-Krings, 5 years old)

"But  . . . .  the next
thing you do is
wash your hands!!"

Just seen a UK TV advert for a 'non-touch' soap dispenser
(to avoid getting ALL THOSE GERMS from a dispenser top)

(Tomi Evans-Krings, 13 years old)


The Queen, Kate, Obama and the Essential Ash Cloud

An exhausted Michelle - stranded at Edinburgh, keeps her head down as the Ash cloud settles.

What a fantastically cohesive response this essential relationship provided to the renewed threat from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano - spewing its poisonous, plane-ripping swirls of ash into the midnight sky!

FANTASTIC!  The Queen, only back less than a day from her essential trip to Eire to see Michael O'Leary, Ryan Air boss (he personally oversees every single flight with his name on it, so over-worked for the state occasion that he forgot to say 'yes' to an Edinburgh flight stranded on the ash-spewn tarmac).
But she doesn't stop there - oh no . . . our Monach speeds back to blighty, where her and the newly weds greet Pres Obama and Michelle on their essential trip to the UK.  The relationship this mighty team create is described on BBC TV news reports as 'Essential' - and to make sure no-one worried too much, we were told this SEVEN times in ONE five-minute session during the 6pm news.

Essentially, Obama brings 1,500 helpers with him to the UK - each with a 1 Ltr bottle of Evian water. - They circle a stricken reservoir in Ryan Air-force ONE, open a fan-light in the toilet and pour the contents out - thus ending the possibility of a summer-long drought in ash-torn UK.   Monies collected from this action (toilet fees to Ryan Air) will be distributed amongst Icelandic banking refugees in the coming weeks.

That'll show them eh?  Send up an Ash cloud would you?  Eh ... eh? Well take THAT!  We have our Queen, Ireland, president Obama , Michelle, Kate, Will  - we're READY buddy!  We're stood over here, on UK territory and you just see if that essential ash cloud can doing anything now ... haha ...... think you're big don't you eh?  Think you can float over here do you?, building all over our women, raping our jobs ..... ha!  You'll SEE, we're ESSENTIAL we are.



Well, I watched the last hour or so - and what a fantastic show, a seriously amazing set - and annoyingly all one week before I land in Dusseldof myself.

Norton Kills the Joy
Still in some sort of 1990's national state-of-mind concerning Eurovision, Mr Graham Norton is in serious danger of appearing so yesterday (as I'm sure he probably described some dress, some hair, some dance - whatever, last night) by inserting sneering little jibes into each and every appearance of anything that he thinks we can snigger at.  "Haha - he's only 59 years old, he looks like he's 90 - hahaha"

Still doing it aren't we? Still being taught to sneer at everything, to use trivial non-commenting as if it's humour.
Stop it Mr Norton, European countries out perform the UK in everything nowadays, every day of every week.  And if some of them do this whilst remaining so yesterday - then thank God, because today's UK style, as populated by people like you - can only ever be NULS POINTS.


Sandi Toksvig,The One Show and all that . . .

I hesitated a while before going off on this one.  Having discovered Radio 4 at about 30 years old, and still listening everyday now, 158 years later, it has always (along with BBC 4) represented to me that solid, quality side of life that surprises, delights and informs.

But I have a problem.
Or rather two, (damn - now I've gone and mixed-up numbers for numbers, and typed numbers, and my backspace key was recently vapourised by a passing death-ship from the plant 'Aaarggo' - so you're stuck with it)

Blimmey! Where was I? - oh yeah, TWO problems:

Sandi Toksvig and 'The One Show' - these two are not linked, incidentally, in anything other than the fact that their . . . stuff, comes out of the same hole in my radio when the little light says 92.9, in rather a cool blue tone.

You see satire is good.  But this sneering, complicit, self-conglatutory mush is disturbing in the extreme - and funny, it seriously isn't. Bendan O'Neill (Guardian)  writes: really only massaging our prejudices, stroking our cynicism, rather than challenging us to think about the world differently. Alexander Pope said satirists should "without sneering teach the rest to sneer". Today, in our era of sneering, satire risks becoming a self-congratulatory, back-patting display of shared public cynicism.

It says all I want to - and it's here >>

and Sandie?
I don't like her voice, her sneering manner, and I hate that paused "erm . . . " after a delivery to give us time to laugh.   Don't bother, it's very rarely funny enough for that.

Isa Isa Baby

Weirdness personified - Halifax
No pleeeeeeeze!!!!   Too late to get my hand up to shield my eyes - no, my tormented brain - from this advert, I slump stunned back into the sofa - the sheer aching weirdness of it all washing over me as I lay gasping, helpless amid a sea of depression and confusion.
PLEASE stop showing this Advert - we're all gonna die.
Quite seriously, I cannot look at this Ad, I do actually hold-up my hand to mask the screen from vision until the sound tells me it's all over - it can't be right . . . . . can it?


Only 74mpg? What? With ALL THAT TECH?

New TV Ad (View Ad) shows several look-alike Toyotas all doing amazing things - cutaway graphics display TWO engine systems, Petrol (or PETRAL as spelt somewhere I've just seen) and Electric - achieving a staggering 74mpg.
Now I'm not one for Conspiracy Theories - no really, but ONLY 74mpg - surely we've seen figures like that (and with petrol-only driven machines) for the past three or four years?  We're looking for 150mpg - aren't we?


Care Staff

(This is an non-apologetic re-run of a 2008 post by me).

I visited my ex-wife's father in hospital the other week. It was fantastic to see him, and we shared the same delight in each other's company that we found 23 years ago. He remarked that the care-team had to do unbelievably horrible jobs; those things thrown away under the title "Personal Care". In addition these same people are lifting, restraining, talking-around, cheering-up, dispensing (illegally), bathing, walking, feeding, singing-to/with, anyone and everyone (that's your Mum & Dad and mine) who finds themselves unable to NOT GET OLDER.

Lets be brave here. There are some jobs (changing soiled beds, wiping soiled bottoms) that are done every minute of the day by (usually females) earning the National Minimum Wage.
Just like all (shall we say "jobs" ?) that allow non-qualified entry there is a fair share of hangers-on, can't be bothered (the "am I bothered?" types)and in addition an unjustifiable amount of unfair, unjust, thoughtless, painful, careless treatment dished out to most older people every minute of every day in just about every HOME up and down the UK.

Sprinkled amongst the above these is also (there would HAVE TO BE) a tranch of well-loved, caring, emotionally intelligent, hard-working carers who are THERE BECAUSE IT IS WHO THEY ARE. The natural carers of this world, making astonishing differences to the everyday lives of their charges. They are rare indeed, but worth at least FOUR TIMES the National minimum wage, and equal respect to any professional.


'Select your Country' - setting up new web accounts.

It happened about a year ago didn't it?
Did you notice?

Where the 'UK' was once findable in the top few countries of such a list (above), NOW you need to scroll through everything (hope that it's listed alphabetically) - hope that we're even listed at all?
3rd-rate country.  It was always coming.
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I get a perhaps half-a-dozen opportunities to address this everyday - and to my eternal chagrin - I've only just focussed enough on this horrendous situation to THINK about it.
Odd spellings (and the inclusion of odd words) liberally pepper any set of documents I call in.
The student has typed - at high speed, scanned the document - caught the red-lining, and right-clicked, then chosen the first word they think approximates what belongs there.
I really don't know what to do about it.  I know in my heart, 30% of 19 year olds will leave College doing this - and never, NEVER learn the words.
I don't know which is worse - the fear that maybe I'm not doing a good enough job, or the sulky knowledge that so many, many young 'managers' will all be doing the same, and maybe my thoughts are all an age thing.


The Two F's

Just a brief post - and a couple of numbers to ponder over.

The Government wants to sell off forest worth £250 million in order to ensure Defra can meet its target of making 30 per cent savings on its annual budget by 2015, as outlined in the recent Spending Review.  (Actually, if the NT get it, I don't suppose we'd notice the difference).
Football clubs spent more than £210 million in the January transfer window.

What a world eh?


Two new British varieties

Two new female brands now firmly established.

Brand A - Foul-mouthed, hard-headed, intimidating, not averse to resorting to physical violence.
Rough, thoughtless driving, severely limited attention span, no manners, no concious knowledge of anyone else sharing same space/hearing distance, spitting distance. 
Sexual predator, later career mother, career benefits user, weekend drunkard. 
Language pattern = 4 words, stop, sneer, five words (maximum), then a final three - maybe used together with 'Essex' type or pseudo-carribean accent.

Brand B - Perpetually orange, self-obsessed, overly image-concious, affected hand movements (hands to face, 'fanning' movement), affected speech patterns (OMG, the upward tilt of a suggestion of a sneer at the end of each sentence, the beginnings of a 'california girl' slur or intonnation), or perhaps a 'friends' style of using each and every phrase to a)subject recipient to critisms, b) show the speaker in a 'special' light c) affect a superior role whilst d)finding absolutely everything embarressing and e) doing all this whilst wearing nothing much at all except f)impecable makeup - 24/7, and g) fashionable soft flat pumps during the worst snows for twenty-five years.
Parents - had it too good, for too long, for not enough effort (including parenting).  This is now deeply bred into the offspring as an overly concious knowledge of 'rights' and an amazement that things don't just fall at their feet, completed, and successful - and the new owner of these gifts possibly already a rich superstar.   Substitute traits between A & B at will.



Do you use a sticky-notes, or yellow post-it notes type desktop program?
Well, even if you don't, this one might well convert you.
To quote directly from Tom Revell's website - "The design goal behind Stickies is that the program is small and simple. Stickies will not mess with your system files, or write to the registry. Stickies stores information in a single text-based ini file.

Stickies will never support animated dancing figures, or play "Greensleeves". They are instead yellow rectangular windows onto which you can put some text notes. Once created, they will stay on screen until you take them away. Just like a real sticky piece of paper."

Give this powerful, bug-free program a try. It is superb.