Sunday, April 29, 2007

Snickers for Mr T

Pure joy! Causes much snickering in our household. See what I did there?

I must be the demographic the advertisers are looking for. Well, actually no, I take that back - for I don't like nuts much. I'd never choose a Snickers out of a bunch of chocolate bars, unless it was amongst a bunch of Snickers bars or fruit & nut and I really wanted some chocolate of any kind and was prepared to overlook the nut factor. Which doesn't happen too often.

And another thing, why did they change its name to Snickers? I still think of it first as a Marathon. But I am fairly decrepit.

While I talk advertising, a quick rant about the AA advert with the woman picking up her teenage son and rolling her eyes cos he won't respond to her.

Is it any wonder he ignores her when she is clearly the most boring, ghastly woman in the world? All she can muster as conversation is getting her car insurance ... on-line. In a stupidly smug and aren't-I-clever voice.


What kind of response could anyone give in such a conversation? "Oh very nice, now why don't you tell me all about the interesting way your paint dries?" perhaps. I'm definitely on the teenage son's side on this one, when presumably I ought to be rooting for the mother.

Don't look into her eyes, boy, head down and ignore that dreary hausfrau - it's only a five-minute journey and then you can run, run, run like the wind!

I know it's not real...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Reclaiming bank charges, chapter 4. A fobbing tale.

We got a letter from the bank today saying "thank you" for the complaint and they wish to investigate it. They say they'll get back to us in four weeks to let us know how their investigation is going.

This fits with Martin Lewis' second possible outcome, for our complaint letter:
"You’re ignored or refused. The most common outcome is you get a letter explaining that the charges are lawful, and that you don't know what you're talking about; or even that it is prepared to fight. The banks are trying many techniques to put you off continuing. It may even tell you it’s sorry to hear you’ve got a complaint and it’s looking into it. " (emphasis mine)

They are stalling, fobbing us off, and so we shall move up to Martin's next step of the threatening letter, where we tell them we will take them to the small claims court unless they cough up.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


The Treliske hospital has had major problems, that's a matter of record.

Today on the radio I heard this story, the opener being "One in five staff at Treliske says they have seen a potentially dangerous mistake - or near miss - in the last month."

Frightening stuff. Run away, patients! Or hobble ... or drag yourself on your elbows...

But the survey they are referring to, was done during Treliske's worst crisis, and since then there has been a change in management and various new initiatives. Pirate does go on to mention this (and that morale is now higher according to both management and unions), but the alarmism has done its thing. The way they tell it, it sounds as though this very month, this exact April '07, one in five staff have seen a near miss at the hospital. It's very misleading.

I don't doubt that the hospital still has problems, but thank you Pirate for some scare-mongering this fine morning.

Much more interesting is the news that the wave hub project (for an alternative power source) has amassed the £28 million they need to build the thing off the coast of St Ives (about 10 miles out). There's some concern about whether this will kill the surf on beaches like Portreath and Perranporth, and I'm not sure if the project has the actual permissions they need to get started on the build yet, anyway. But it is something I'd like to know more about.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By the light of a silvery moon

Tonight, as I had my customary wonder* about outside, the moon was looking especially spiffing.

It was a little fuzzy, a half-moon with a great soft halo sweeping around it in a huge circle, everything within it slightly darker than the rest of the night sky. It was rather lovely and spectacular. Sadly my camera is useless for such things, so it shall just have to stay a picture in my mind.

And what's out there, up there, has been on the news today, potentially an earth-like planet discovered twenty or so light years away. Fascinating, as Mr Spock would say.

Edited to add that, coincidentally, I've just seen that the PrimitivePerson had a close encounter of the bald kind with Patrick Stewart. How very apposite on such a day.

I could almost sulk about that.

* pun intended.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Little things...

There's something positively indecent about the way the turrets of the bouncy castle pop up when I inflate them. Or maybe it's just me and my dirty filthy depraved mind.

At least this year it was a foot-pump instead of pure lung power.

And dear old Pirate Fm made me laugh this morning when the presenter said there was a flood in town:

"I'm not sure what's causing the flooding, whether it's a burst pipe or lots of water..."

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Dream a little dream of me

The last couple of mornings, I've woken up from very realistic dreams, the kind that you're not sure aren't memories.

One was quite disturbing, about the pony having something seriously wrong with his back.

The one today was about having found a neighbour's book of photos in her coffee cup. It must have been a very large coffee cup (So much for realism, then. For it was normal mug-sized in the hand, yet still contained the album. A stretchy realism!). I was nosing through them and thinking how nice they seemed in the pictures, when she saw me and made some remark about having a similar photo-book. I stuffed it into my pocket and claimed it was my own. The rest of the dream consisted of me wondering why I just hadn't taken the small embarrassment (of having been caught looking through her album instead of taking it straight to her) and trying to work out how to return the book and cup without it being obvious that it was me. Bizarre.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Two things I hate about housework.

1. It never stays done.

2. No-one ever notices unless it is undone.

I suppose it is only right and proper that the default position is the expectation that you do not live in a shit-heap.

#Pouty face#

We sprang a leak in the bathroom this morning. It's fixed by plumber's tape and a fresh washer, courtesy of our neighbour, BUT now I have noticed that there appears to be water coming up from where the stopcock lives (outside, thankfully).

I'm hoping if I don't look at it, it'll stop.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Reclaiming bank charges, episode the third

Today we used Martin Lewis' statutory interest calculator to see how much interest on the charges adds up to. It added up to £500 - and a penny!

We're going to first ask the bank for the charges money plus interest and hope they make us an offer or better yet, simply stump up the readies. We've got our letter written and in its envelope, so it's off today and we should get an answer of some kind within 14 days.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy birthday

Happy birthday to a good friend, if she's reading. (Or even if she isn't). Hope it's a great day.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why."

I have belatedly become aware of the death of author Kurt Vonnegut, on the 11th of April. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of my favourite books and so some small comment seemed appropriate.

"So it goes."

Reclaiming bank charges, part deux.

This is six years worth of bank statements, which arrived in the post today in response to our letter about discovering how much we have paid in bank charges in that time.

We went through them and it added up to just over £3,000.

Yes, really.

It's shocking to realise just how terrible we are with money, and also to think that much money has been taken from us. It's no wonder it's hard to get out of a financial mess once you're in one.

Paignton Zoo

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo, how about you, you, you? Our visit to Paignton Zoo yesterday was a brilliant day out.

I hate my digital camera with a deep and deadly loathing because while I was able to look at the baby black rhino with the children, the camera played up. We had to queue to see the rhino and calf, and only a few were allowed in the rhino house at any time, so it was obviously the perfect time for my camera to be annoying. I could have got a nice shot of the great cute beastie, and it was all red-light-no-worky-and-aaargh!

So I have nothing to show you of what a charming little creature it was, although there's a nice pic here.

The children had a fabulous time and you really get up close to some of the animals. A lemur licked S.

The zoo is really nicely laid out, with attractive walks and excellent play areas. It also has a big café and large, if rather too expensive, gift shop. There's a mini train track so you can ride past some of the enclosures, which T particularly enjoyed, being a train-loving boy.

Our over-familiar lemur friend

An orang-utan in a bag. Really it is.

Peacock feeling the joys of Spring and shaking his thing.

My little boy's shoes and a lioness.

The red river hog, which is a marvellous looking critter. Better photo.
Waterfall going into the reptile house.
T meets a snake.
It was a jolly nice day trip, and I'd recommend it most highly. As we left, I bought the £5 "reduced return" tickets for myself and S to go again later in the year (T goes free) because we all enjoyed it so much. It was pure fun, not stressful at all - apart from S insisting on reading the map for us and not letting me look! Oh - and T's outrage on the way out that I wouldn't buy him (yet another) car from the giftshop.

Ruddy Hell, Harry Ap-Paul-ing

Last night we caught the first episode of Ruddy Hell, it's Harry and Paul, or some such title. An alleged comedy series featuring Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse. I've never been a big fan or detractor of Enfield, although I did like Whitehouse's Fast Show. It had the now rather done-to-death type of comedy, which is to create a catchphrase or interweave of catchphrases and repeat each episode in slightly different settings/situations until you've made your series.

Then do a Christmas special featuring all the same characters doing the same catchphrases - but the kicker - do it in Spain!


Ruddy Hell made me say "eh?" rather a lot. One of the more, er, memorable skits had "Nelson Mandela" selling alcopops and later "fighting" beer. Er, OK...

None of it made me laugh.

The skit with them playing Oliver and Hardy playing BrokeBack Mountain was just jaw-droppingly incomprehensible. Simulating anal sex and being chased by their wives in Benny Hill style just makes me go "wtf?" It wasn't that it was shocking, it was just "huh?"

Not getting it. Not getting it at all.

We watched a repeat of QI afterwards and that made us laugh a lot.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Recently tickled by

"I am like a few others on here and in no way religious, show a passing interest for daughter as she likes Girls Brigade and does a club after school.

NOTHING will convert me! I am a stubborn scorpio!"

I know atheism doesn't automatically equal scepticism, but it did make me chortle merrily. It may have been an intentional funny too: not sure, it's difficult to tell on-line when you don't know the person or persona well. Either way, I found it highly amusing.

I'm not sure quite why South West Water's presentation of a bench on the completion of sewage works amuses me, but it does.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Peter Pan, pc gorn mad and me

I feel a bit guilty because I'm not reading much at the moment. I started re-reading Mr Wroe's Virgins by Jane Rogers a couple of days ago, but I feel I ought to be reading one of the library books I got out instead. I might just take all the library books back and start over, picking maybe one or two out instead of being so greedy.

But I am reading Peter Pan in Scarlet to the children at night, and it's a book I'm actually enjoying. Unlike its predecessor, (which was the original Peter Pan by JM Barrie), I actually want to read whole chapters instead of being hard-pressed to read a couple of pages.

I had high hopes of that very famous children's book, but found it quite hard to get along with. I had never read it in childhood, so it was pretty new to me, (although of course I've seen the Disney animated film, Robin Williams' Hook and various other productions on the theme). Clearly it was quite dated, so I'm probably judging it unfairly, but it wasn't the language as such.

I found some aspects of it troubling, what with the "Redskins" and the role Wendy assumes. Obviously she is playing at being the "mother", but taking the role for as long as she does in the story seems unlikely to me. It's really not much fun darning socks and feeding boys medicine.

It's the gender stereotyping that bugged me, let's face it. The way Wendy flirts with Pan and the fawning adoration of the other female characters made me roll my eyes a bit.

The Redskins also pose a serious problem to me because of the racial stereotyping and I can't switch off my pc-gorn-mad self - and nor would I want to, in truth. (An on-line friend has a favourite quote which leaps to mind: “It’s political correctness gone mad ... the distress call of the thwarted bigot” - Christopher Brookmyre, I think).

I know the book is a product of its time, and I can see it on that level. But I also think of cholera-contaminated blankets as a "gift" for the Native Americans, and the exaggerated physical characteristics & stylised rituals of the Disney Redskins. They seem on a level with golliwogs as patronising and rather insidious stereotypes go. I know that some people think that golliwogs are just toys and don't mean anything, never did them any harm. But I'm glad for example, that Dinah Doll and the goblins have replaced Blyton's golliwogs in the children's C-G series of Make Way for Noddy. As far as I'm concerned, it was negative stereotyping that is not acceptable now.

Is it retrograde iconoclasm? I don't think so, if we remember that these things were once acceptable, and now are not: it doesn't destroy any part of culture, it just means we've moved on. I don't want to ban it (or burn old Enid Blyton, ha ha) but ideally I'd want children reading/ being read such books to read the more modern version, if it's purely for pleasure. If it was reading with the intention of thinking about the issues raised, discussion and education, then the original material would be more appropriate. It strikes me that I loved Rudyard Kipling's Just-So stories as a child, and some of them are not what I would consider acceptable for S to read without us discussing them properly. Particularly the one about the Leopard getting his spots, if I recall correctly. The Elephant Child is great to read out-loud, 'though.

I'm wandering, aren't I? You're lucky I have now forgotten the other thing that popped into my head earlier that I was going to bring into it.

Another unexpected visitor

Mr Blackbird thought our house was intriguing and thought he'd have a look round, as a robin did last week. This time however, it was a fairly cursory inspection rather than full-scale invasion, and I managed to get a shot of it.
Not a shot at it. I have no guns.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A typical family day out

We were going to go out to a local beauty spot and have a family picnic this weekend. We got about 5 minutes down the road when the car started to expel a lot of black smoke and farted to a standstill.

M pushing the car.

On the bright side, we saw sheep.

I'm pretty sure this one was laughing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Tv ads

While I'm in a grumpy old woman railing against tv adverts type mode, I might as well share M's displeasure with an advert about some sort of mortgage, where an alleged financial wizard phones himself up and leaves a message for himself where he tells himself he'll be having a candle-lit curry for one while his partner is out with the "old duffers". Ho ho, embarrassment (upon the embarrassment of being such a sad individual that he is leaving himself a phone message) - the "old duffers" are actually at home with his partner listening to the message when he gets through the door.

This ad gets M's goat for a number of reasons. First being the leaving yourself a message angle. Then it's why the woman doesn't pick up the phone. Do you really sit there listening to your partner rattle on on the answer-phone, or do you pick up? And what group of people sits in silence and lets the answer machine dominate the conversation? How come it's that loud that messages can be heard in the living room?

Then it's why this financial guru of a man thinks himself unable to recall the details of his "lesstgage" (groan), hence leaving a message to remind himself. What's wrong with noting it down? Paper and pen too much technology for him to handle?

And why is he talking to the answer-phone in such a conversational way? And how come he starts phoning himself bare seconds before he gets in the door of his home, ending the call by saying to ignore his own message because he's home with himself?

It's an ad that never fails to get M ranting away at the tv. At least it's a family hobby.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Brantano - not my favourite company

The Brantano adverts on tv really irritate me.

Liking shoes is not in-built in women. The shoe-shaped node in the female brain and "Dr Brantano" are bloody stupid and reductive concepts that don't make me feel that Brantano want female shoppers, they make me think the company has Daily Mail style underlying misogynism.
Ironic as my bottom.

You know what? Some women don't like or are indifferent to shoe-shopping #gasp#. Immediacy is not the be and end all of a shopping trip and women are not so superficial that trying on some shoes will cure all ills. I wish it bloody did.

I like shoes, but having been patronised by Brantano, I shall not be patronising them.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Getting money back? Martin and reclaiming bank charges

Today we have sent a letter to our bank requesting details and amounts of the last 6 years' bank charges. Our intention is to try and get some of our money back, as recommended by Martin Lewis on his MoneySavingExpert site (and as has become widely publicised in the media). I've even seen adverts for companies offering to pursue this sort of thing for you, but I imagine that costs and you'd be paying for someone to do something you can as easily do yourself.

It's the punitive level of bank charges that is unfair.

Last month, at one point, we exceeded our overdraft by a pound and the resulting bank charges amounted to £58. That's a lot of money to pay the bank for a generic, computer-generated letter.

I admit we made a mistake, but the charges obviously don't square with what it cost the bank, and apparently they're not allowed to slap your legs as they do: it should be reflective of their own costs in the matter. That level of charges means that if things are tight, as they are for us, absorbing that extra cost makes it incredibly hard to stay within budget the following month and it becomes a vicious circle.

Over the years I think the bank has punished us quite a lot, so it seems worth trying to get some of it back.

I shall update as this develops.

Slow for horses

When you see a horse and rider or horse being trained on the road, you should slow down in your car and give a wide berth.


Because a horse on your bonnet frequently offends.

A horse or pony can only learn through experience, and it is important to get used to traffic. Road work is a necessity unfortunately.

Laughing manically out your window as you pass in your car is alright, although it seems somewhat unnecessary and makes me wonder about your sanity... How funny can a horse actually be? Was he dangling his doodah? Was it his hooves? Maybe his mane was a mess - should he get a hair-cut, the hippy? Perhaps it was dimly remembered jokes about a horse in a bar and the bar-man asking "Why the long face?"

Would you laugh more or less if you saw a donkey?
Or a giant space-platypus?
Or a horse dressed as a giant space-platypus?

Speeding past is certainly unwise. You may be in a hurry, but scaring the animal into your path would slow you down much more than giving the pony some time and space.

Slow down for horses!

I insist, I really do. Pass slowly, pass widely, pass quietly.

You can laugh if you like, I don't really mind (as long as you don't mind me wondering what exactly the joke is). Just try not to screech your brakes or beep your horn (I know how tempting it is, and I'm truly sorry for asking you to resist: A horse! Wow! Beep beep, I see a horse! Woo!)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cribbing from Cribbins

There I was, a-digging this hole
Hole in the ground, so big and sort of round it was
And there was I, digging it deep
It was flat at at the bottom and the sides were steep
When along comes this bloke in a bowler which he lifted and scratched his head
Well he looked down the hole, poor demented soul and he said

Do you mind if I make a suggestion?

Don’t dig there, dig it elsewhere
You're digging it round and it ought to be square
The shape of it’s wrong, it’s much much too long
And you can’t put hole where a hole don’t belong

I ask, what a liberty eh?
Nearly bashed him right in the bowler

Well there was I, stood in me hole
Shovelling earth for all that I was worth I was
And there was him, standing up there
So grand and official with his nose in the air
So I gave him a look sort of sideways and I leaned on me shovel and sighed
Well I lit me a fag and having took a drag I replied

I just couldn’t bear, to dig it elsewhere
I’m digging it round cos I don’t want it square
And if you disagree it doesn’t bother me
That’s the place where the hole's gonna be

Well there we were, discussing this hole
Hole in the ground so big and sort of round it was
It’s not there now, the ground’s all flat
And beneath it is the bloke in the bowler hat
And that’s that.

Edited to add (only 3 years later, give or take):

Half-done half-assed

I'm in a quandary for I know not which job to do and I want to do a lot. So I'm in that situation where I have a mental list of what needs attention, and instead of doing any of it, I'm writing my blog instead.

Yesterday I constructed most of a little fence around the alleged vegetable patch so that the children know not to dig mud pies in it. This took an unfeasibly long time, for I didn't have the right materials and I was attempting to fashion it from green wood, taken from the saplings sprouting up in the pony field (the nuisances) and some elderly bits of post. I was also using screws ... and a hammer.

I could use a screwdriver and drill, but that seems over the top for a fence that is supposed to be a mere nod to fencing rather than a full-blown real-life fence.

I could buy appropriate materials ... but that would involve spending money.

I could just tell the children not to make mud-pies in that area, but I'm not sure that T is old enough to differentiate one bit of mud from another, and I don't want to stop them making mud-pies, as it's an activity I remember fondly from my own childhood and it makes me smile to see them doing it. Apart from the disadvantage of tracking mud into the house afterwards.

So really, my first job should be to finish that off, there's only one bit left to do and then we can actually do some planting as a family.

But this morning I woke up with this sudden notion that I should do something about our bedroom. The landlady stripped it bare of wall-paper before we moved in, and it's filled with stuff for a putative car-boot sale. I come in every night and dash for the covers, not wanting to look round in case there should be a spider, and not wanting to take in and contemplate the full scale of the mess. I'm not hugely scared of spiders, I just don't want to see something moving and go through the rigmarole of trying to kill it and possibly missing it and wondering where it went all night...

OK, maybe I am scared of spiders.

I'm not as bad as I was and I don't shriek or flap if I see one, (not really a shrieker anyway) and I wouldn't want to show fear of them in front of the kids. Bop 'em with a shoe and in the bin with them, I say.

I know, I know, they serve useful functions and they don't really deserve to die. I probably ought to merely throw them out of the house, but I'm not willing to porter them around the place. I'd like to have an entente cordiale with them where they could live in a corner of my house as long as they don't dangle over my head at any point in our relationship. But I know they won't stay in that corner; they'll start sneaking about and next thing you know, one will be inspecting its legs over my head as I check for mud in the mirror, or will abseil down in front of my cup of coffee in the morning.

It's just not on.

Anyway, about our bedroom. It shouldn't be like that - a desperate hurry to get into bed and hide before I notice anything about the room. I also always liked to read in bed, and now the warmer weather is coming it would be nice to do so again. Not feeling able to read in bed curtails how much I read quite a lot, as otherwise I'm denying time/attention from the children or M during the day or evening. So what I want is a tidy bedroom, with painted walls so any spiders are immediately visible and can be evicted and a bedside light so I can read.

It doesn't sound too impossible or far-fetched really.

The other major job is the bathroom. It is partially wall-papered (don't ask me why) and part of the wall-paper committed hari-kari this morning. Well, I, er, tested it and it fell off in my hand, really, honest, guv! I want pretty much the whole house daubed with new paint. I can even picture myself up a ladder on the outside now I've discovered some masonry paint in the lean-to.

We're allowed to tart the house up a bit, as the landlady is only too well aware that it isn't in good decorative order. It's a bit run-down, you might say. And I'm not complaining, even if it might sound that way! We've got a very good rent deal with her and she's a nice person.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Unexpected visitor

I heard a fluttering in the window. For a second, I thought the cockatiel had escaped, although I couldn't imagine how, unless T had opened the cage door. But it wasn't, it was a robin. Daft thing had ventured into the house when the door was open and was panicking.

Fortunately, this being an old cottage with windows set deep into the walls, which are about two feet thick, it was a simple matter to keep it in the window while trying to capture it in a cloth. It had unfortunately chosen one painted shut to bash itself against, so opening it to let it out wasn't an option. I let it go in the garden and it seemed none the worse for its experience.

It stopped and gave me a bit of a look before flying off.

Monday, April 02, 2007