Turned Out Nice Again

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Mr VeryVeryBored has been considering the merits of home improvements. Reading his adventures with door-to-door salesmen reminded me of the days before I was a fully-fledged, card-carrying member of the National Union of Cynics. I was a naive new homeowner, and Mrs Rock was just "the woman I lived with".

The then Castle Rock was in need of some wardrobes - some nice fitted ones, with floor-to-ceiling mirrored doors to make the room seem bigger were in order, we reckoned. A grand should cover it, we thought (eight years or so ago), and so we set off to a showroom full of just the sort of things we were after.

It seems obvious now, but the alarm bells should have started ringing as soon as we started asking about prices. The showroom staff insisted that they couldn't give us a price, because all the units are custom-built for each customer. If we were interested, they added, the best thing would be to have a salesman call, and he could give us a quote that meets our exact needs. Even when I asked about the price of the showroom fittings, no monetary answer was forthcoming. But we fell for it, and a few days later the salesman called and spent a lot of time selling us the options, and drawing up pictures of what our room could look like. Then came the punchline - the total cost would be a mere £3000 (give or take some loose change). Embarrassed, Mrs Rock-to-be and I looked at each other, and then apologised for wasting the salesman's time. This figure was way more than we could afford, never mind what we were prepared to pay.

He thought about it for a while. How much were we thinking of?
About a thousand
, we said.
He thought some more, and then announced a special offer that his company were about to embark on - massive discounts for having two rooms done at the same time.
Sorry, it's a one bedroom house
, we said.
Well, I can still do you a discount if you recommend a friend or family member to have a room done at the same time.
Sorry again, we don't know anyone else who wants fitted wardrobes

Another thoughtful pause. Then the killer - Well, between you and me, I'll piggyback another customer on your order, and make it look as if they're your recommendation.

I should have shown him the door there and then - but I was taken in. Can you really do that?
Well, no, I shouldn't, but no-one will know. And I'll do you everything for just under £2000.

Cutting an already long story a mite shorter, we went for it. And they were good wardrobes. A bugger to clean, mind you, all that mirror, but good nonetheless. But ever since the day I signed the contract, I've wondered how much I should really have paid for those wardrobes...

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I spoke too soon. Clearly this particular complainant got so hot under the collar that it took an extra week for them to cool down enough to vent their spleen. However, this year a complaint with a difference - no reference to Tiddles, tourists or even litter. This year's complaint is that Airbourne "under the disguise of fun and amusement covers up the real purpose...which is to act as a recruiting platform for the armed forces".

Apparently the ground-based displays and stands which were represented in the local newspaper with pictures of youngsters holding guns and standing next to soldiers / sailors / airmen were merely a promotion for the military. The pictures were described by the correspondent as "sickening".

Hmm, should I be concerned by eleven-year old boys holding submachine guns? I think not. After all, if it's good enough for the Islamic Fundamentalists, then why shouldn't it be good enough for us? The youth of today have no direction, no sense of purpose, no understanding of values - doesn't the role of teenage suicide bomber answer all those shortcomings? And think of the added bonus for the country - one less youngster to find a job for, and one less strain on the state pension fund in 50-odd years time...

Ah, but I'm being flippant. Some people need to take a happy pill and relax a little. It can't be healthy being so up tight. Sure, the event promotes the military - the very military that we civilians rely on for our nation's security. And if some kids leave the event thinking that they'd like to be a part of defending our country, or helping another, then surely that's a plus. And I have to say that as one too young to remember the two World Wars, the sight of a Spitfire flypast brought a lump to the throat, and a moment of poignant reflection to the memory of those who have given their lives to allow people like me - and even those who would have Airbourne banned as a military recruitment fair - the ability to air our views, no matter how ridiculous...
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Thursday, September 04, 2003

OK, I stand corrected. I've waited nearly two weeks and not a single complaint in the Eastbourne Herald about the noise or lower life forms (that's tourists to you and me) as a result of Airbourne 2003. In fact, remarkably enough there was a letter of praise, though it was a strange letter.

It came from a couple who moved to Eastbourne last year, and who enjoyed last year's Airbourne so much they invited their grandchildren to stay for the weekend of this year's event. To set the scene, the kids were obviously entertained with a number of events, and on their return home had written thankyou letters to their grandparents, highlighting the best bits of their weekend. The elder, a 13-year old, wrote "... the fish and chips was lovely though in hindsight a large cod may have been more sating.". I'm sorry? 13-year olds do not say "more sating" - unless I've been caught in a tear in the fabric of space and time, and have slipped back into the 1930's...
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Tuesday, September 02, 2003

At long last I can acknowledge the fact that the number of hits for this slice of blogdom has reached four figures. I sometimes wondered whether it would ever happen, but thanks to someone at Kent County Council in search of information regarding young seagulls, I can relax.

10,000 hits? I reckon at current rates, that will happen around April 2nd 2008...
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Sunday, August 31, 2003

"My name's Dr Rock, and I'm a crap TV addict" (er, that's supposed to infer that I'm an addict of crap TV, not that I'm not very good at being addicted to television).So begins my admission to Television Anonymous - you know the sort of thing, "I started with a little Pop Idol, but I can handle it. I can switch it off at any time I want..." Unfortunately I've seen more of BBC's Fame Academy than is healthy. The good news is that I haven't been following the extra shows on BBC3 or wherever they're being broadcast (so some good did come from the scaffolding for the loft conversion completely blocking my satellite reception), but I have to admit I've seen the BBC1 broadcasts of the last few Saturdays.

And because of this, I find myself shouting at the TV in complete disbelief with each round of voting - as if I should expect the results to be fair in any way, for heaven's sake. Last night, the judges rescued Peter, the bloke they've already described as "making singing out of tune an art form", with the reasoning that that Fame Academy is all about "being unique". I obviously missed the bit where the programme was renamed "Unique Academy". But Peter certainly is unique, on account of the fact that he simply cannot sing. Actually that's not true - Alex can't sing either.

Still, if it's unique they want, then I should be on the show, and I'd be a surefire winner, because my voice is so bad that I even mime when singing in the shower. As I explained to Mrs Rock last night that I don't know any notes, she defended me by explaining that I do know some notes, just not in the right order. Which is generous, coming from the second-worst singer in the world.

Rant over. I'm off to call my sponsor.
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Friday, August 15, 2003

This weekend sees Eastbourne's "other" big annual event (after the tennis) - the airshow known (for one year only) as Airbourne 2003. Four days of air displays from all sorts of aircraft, plus on-the-ground displays of motor vehicles, aircraft-related memorabilia, and other assorted fun for the kids. The highlight, as ever, will be the Red Arrows with their displays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Between 250,000 and 500,000 visitors will bring their hard-earned pennies to the town.

A fantastic day out for all the family, and with the weather being so nice, no scope for complaint. Or so you'd think. But as usual, there will be complaints all over the letters page of the Eastbourne Herald. It just depends whether the old gits get a pre-emptive strike in, in time for this week's edition, or wait impatiently for the event to finish and thus wait for next week's copy.

The favourite complaints will be:
"I think this event is a disgrace. My poor Rover / Tiddles / insert-name-of-favourite-pet-here hated every minute of it. The noise had him/her shaking for weeks. Why can't they use quieter planes, blah blah blah..."
"I think this event should be stopped. The town was full of tourists for four whole days (ugh, the very thought of it makes me shudder). I had to share the pavements, the shops AND my favourite seafront bench with people who don't live here. It was horrible. I pay my council tax and I think there's no need for Airbourne blah blah blah..."

So to all those letter-writers: STOP YER MOANING © Danny & Nicky In The Morning.
You live in a seaside resort. Tourism is what makes this town tick - have a look from your seafront bench at all the hotels on the seafront. Who do you think pays for their existence, and the employment of so many in the town? It's only four days a year - Tiddles will get over it. The money is great for the town, the prestige is great for the town. If you don't like it, move to Hailsham.

Or perhaps we'll ask that nice Fatboy Slim chap to throw a party here instead...
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Saturday, August 09, 2003

but she's a girl reports having received a Googlewhack - a two word Google search that returns only one hit. Not a term I was familiar with until about 30 minutes ago, it reminded me of the innocent days when I first entered the ranks of the permanently employed.

The internet was just an embryonic idea, so Google, let alone a Googlewhack, was unheard of. Yet the team I worked on, a motley crew of weirdos and warped humourmongers, apparently way ahead of its time, decided to hold a competition to create a two word phrase that, in our humble opinions, was unlikely to have been uttered anywhere else in the world, ever.

The winning phrase was "jupiter aardvark". It became a euphemism in our team for a phrase that's become commonly abbreviated to "ffs", which when uttered out loud was to be met with the response "I bet that's never been said anywhere before" from the rest of the team. Which of course it had, as soon as our competition was complete. But technical accuracy was never something that troubled us, though perhaps as IT "specialists" it should have.

So talk of this Googlewhack got me to wondering as to whether "jupiter aardvark" still holds that same uniqueness. And do you know what? It doesn't. Pah.

Still, it would be easy to ruin someone's Googlewhack by adding their two words to your site and sitting back whilst the search engines do their thing. But I won't. Mind you, if you follow the link to bsag's blog, you might just mind yourself asking just why someone would want to search for those two words anyway...
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Monday, August 04, 2003

Further interesting news from Eastbourne this week:

  • A father visiting his son for the first time in nine months was this week found guilty of drink driving. Having driven down from the Midlands, the visit ended up in a row, the father was asked to leave... ...and was shopped to traffic police by his son. Oh, the pranks our children play, huh? It will be at least twelve months before this father visits his son again - that was the length of the ban he received at Eastbourne magistrates this week...

  • Boy racers have returned to certain parts of Eastbourne. Residents of the square in question have taken registration numbers and passed these onto police, but without success. The police report that they are "concentrating efforts on burglary, vehicle crime and violence", and that "police needed the efforts of local residents to sort such problems out". So what exactly is reporting the crime to the police and providing the necessary evidence to catch the culprits?

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And as if to prove a point, the adage that "good news is no news" is proven by the story tucked away on page nine that "Eastbourne's pier is the most popular in Britain". According to a survey of visitor numbers, the town's pier is the ninth most popular free attraction in the country, beating York Minster into tenth place. And if there hadn't been a Government drive to boost the visitor numbers at museums by insisting that they offered free admission, there are chances that the pier would have beaten London's Natural History, Science and V&A museums. A far cry from this, it must be said.
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The editorial of this week's Eastbourne Herald makes interesting reading - and amuses somewhat if you're no fan of the Group Editor. He complains that last week's drugs raids in the town were bad news:

"Bad because it shows what a drugs problem we have here in Eastbourne. The publicity - top story on the BBC local news - of drugs raids here was bad publicity. It sent out a message to the south east that we have a big problem"

Coming from a man who has defended past complaints about sensationalist headlines (some of which I would dare to suggest have verged on the libellous) by stating that it is his newspaper's job to report the news, good or bad, brings to mind the words pot, kettle and black. And in keeping with the journalistic adage that "good news is no news", I can report that the Herald's own coverage of the drugs raids consisted of pages 1, 2 and 3 of last week's issue. And there may have been more, I never counted before discarding it to the bin.

Oh, and this week's front page headline?

"We will rid this town of drug scum"

Hardly likely to be second fiddle to the Women's Institute Cheese and Wine Party, is it?
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My workplace is a bit of a maze - it's not unusual to see newcomers wandering around with maps and/or three days worth of stubble (and that's just the women - yuck!) as they try to find their way to a particular room. When it comes to fire prevention and protection, the building is divided into zones. When a fire is detected, the alarm sounds constantly in that zone, and evacuation is mandatory. In the surrounding zones, the alarm sounds intermittently, and evacuation is at the individual's discretion.

So, let's set the scene today:

It's 12:45. The temperature is an estimated 26C, and there's a slight breeze in the air outside. The air conditioning is off because the auxiliary generator is on (routine maintenance on the main generator today), and it vents straight into the air intake for the air conditioning unit (please don't ask why). So breathing is akin to gargling porridge.

The fire alarm sounds intermittently, it's screeching out about a zillion decibels. It could be a temporary thing, but no, the alarm keeps ringing. I look around, and no-one is moving. I secure my workstation (conscientious or what?), and look around. No-one is moving. I leave the building to assemble myself at the gathering point, and there are about a dozen people outside - and still no-one from my office has moved. What drives some people's thought processes?

Still, come Thursday morning, after two intermittent rings of the alarm test cycle, these same people will be yelling "shut the f**k up" in the direction of the back wall of the office, where the alarm is situated. There's nowt as queer as folk, as some stereotypical Northerner might say...
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