Archive for November, 2014

Selfies on a stick. (Room 101- passim)

It was a beautiful sunny day in Kyoto yesterday and the autumnal leaf shades of the trees on the hills and slopes around the various temples were quite magnificent.

These views and the relative tranquility were however  marred by the increasing number of people using extending poles attached to their phones in order to take selfies.

Selfies are examples of the ‘look at me’ culture but when these idiots add sticks to their devices they take the meaning of self obsession to a whole new level, in the process seriously hindering and getting in the way of others.

Apart from anything else it’s just rude and another step down the road to a less civilised society. Why can’t these people stick to the time honoured custom of asking a passing stranger if they wouldn’t mind taking a picture. As well as being a socially beneficial act they might just strike up an interesting discussion of mutual benefit.

#selfiesonastick #selfies




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It was with incredulous astonishment that I read the other day that Manchester Airport had received a best UK Airport of the year award. Clearly the judges have never witnessed the sorts of scenes I saw on November 13, nor apparently similar scenes that I see have been regularly reported since last year.

Arriving at the airport at 07:20 for an 09:35 flight with Lufthansa to Tokyo via Frankfurt on November 13th check in took a mere few minutes and then we encountered what I can only describe as a third world experience. In fact on reflection and with much experience of airports throughout the Indian sub continent something much worse.

We walked the whole length of the check in concourse thinking we’d soon join the end of the queue for security checks. Not so, we were astounded to find that the queue exited the far end of the building, disappeared out of the terminal in a U turn into the external drop off area where it stretched back to the other end of the building across the drop off road and was already a quarter of the way back on a third leg back to the other end of the building. The length must have been 300 yards or more. It took an hour to just get to the first boarding card gate check and then a further 30 minutes to snake through to the security check itself.

We enquired ourselves the reasons and overheard others doing the same. The answers ranged from a straight ‘I don’t know it’s often like this’, to it being due to extra traffic caused by the closure of Blackpool airport (prompting the obvious if Blackpool was so busy why was it closed), and it being due to more people using low cost airlines and self check in.

Not once was there any sort of apology or customer service announcement explaining what was happening. It’s one thing to have a bad customer experience but it’s far worse when those who are in authority make no apologies for it.

Those responsible have serious questions to answer.

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Room 101 is the torture room in Orwell’s 1948 novel 1984. It’s also the name of a BBC program in which celebrities tell us which items/people/ideas etc.. that they’d like to put in room 101.

This continuing thread will contain my own candidates for room 101. Starting with…

Men who wear sunglasses pushed back on their forehead.
Fine for ladies, but chaps, please, stop posing.

People who preface every answer to a question they’re asked with ‘so….’ Not entirely sure when this first started but it seems all too prevalent these days.

“I was sat”
People who always get the tense and participle of the verb ‘be’ wrong. No they weren’t physically forced down in their seat, they were ‘sitting’ not ‘sat’. Challenge anyone who says this in the wrong way. Ask them if they’d equally say . “I was swam…”

Mobile phones used in inappropriate places or circumstances
The lack of etiquette really drives me mad, particularly in social situations. How many times do you see a group of people entering a restaurant and the first thing they do is get out their phones and start blipping away. Do they not realise how rude this is. Similarly people who when in direct conversation choose to answer their phone rather than continue a normal conversation. Best demonstrated by the character ‘Tilly’ played by Sally Phillips in the BBC comedy Miranda with her ‘Bear with, bear with’ comment – see here two minutes into the video.

People who deface their bodies with tattoos. Particularly the large scale tribal tattoos which seem so common these days. This one is totally incomprehensible to me. OK I can understand that matelots of a certain age have tattoos of anchors, chains, dragons, ropes and similar, but they at least have the excuse of being away on long voyages with nothing much else to occupy them in foreign ports.

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Since the level and pace of immigration in the UK is now causing the Westminster elite much concern, (mostly it has to be said because of the high probability that many will lose their Parliamentary seats next May rather than through any wish to actually deal with the subject), it’s worth reminding ourselves of what happened seven years ago when Nigel Hastilow a prospective parliamentary candidate fell foul of the politically correct tendency which has stifled debate ever since Enoch Powell first raised the subject in 1968.

Click the link above to see the whole story.

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“To be quite honest the European Union is not an accounting exercise”

Those are the words of Finnish PM Alexander Stubb speaking at today’s meeting of the EU finance ministers in Brussels.

Some of us might argue it’s precisely because the EU elite treat the matter of any sort of accounting responsibility with such disdain and in such an off hand manner that the EU is widely loathed by significant proportions of people in its member states.

Only three days ago the EUs auditors published their latest report which found that £109 billion out of a total of £117 billion spent by the EU in 2013 was “affected by material error”. This being the 19th year running in which the EU accounts have not been approved. No corporation would get away with this sort of cavalier attitude. Its directors would be out of office in a flash, and to the extent that fraud is involved probably being lined up for prosecution as well.

If PM Stubb thinks that a large and additional demand on the UK to pay 2 billion euros more to this out of control bureaucracy should not be queried and eventually reduced then clearly he’s out of touch.

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The Sturgeon Wakes

Not quite the plot line of the John Wyndham novel with a similar name. But substitute control for the invasion theme then a parallel exists.

Not content to retire gracefully having lost the recent Scottish Independence referendum Nicola Sturgeon the new leader of the Scottish National Party is now demanding a say in the UK / EU referendum when it comes in 2017 should Prime Minister Cameron win next May’s general election.

The sheer chutzpah not to say hypocrisy of the woman. She wants any referendum on the UK’s continued membership of the EU to be carried by a majority in each of the four countries in the UK. Calculating presumably that she could get a Scottish rejection. I didn’t notice any similar stance when Scotland alone was asked if it wanted to break up the UK by seceding from the union. I wonder why.

Would she have been as voluble had the Scottish Independence referendum required a majority in England as well as Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland?

You bet she would.

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Apropos the EU’s request that the UK chip in another €2 billion.

Not content with the UK being consistently one of the top two net contributors to the EU, every year in fact for the last 44 years (apart from 1975 when we had our one and only referendum on the then EEC), they now decide that it’s OK to seek an additional €2 billion in addition to our existing annual €14 billion price of membership.

Now I understand the principle that the ever-changing contributions (quadrupled over the last five years) are to some extent dependent on relative gross national incomes, but this additional sum is by no means trivial. It’s said that the reason is the technical re-assessment that happens every year that has been made starting back in 2002. That being the case nobody seems to be asking why this isn’t double counting. Surely if cumulative assessments are ‘brought up to date’ every year then the only change that should affect the numbers in the last year.

The ‘technical’ reassessment also takes into account for the first time the black economy and prostitution. By definition the black economy is unknown so how anyone can know the scale of it with any certainty, and certainly not the relative scales across all 28 states is highly questionable. And why prostitution? I mean how is that assessed for heaven’s sake?

And then there’s the timing. Much has been made of the fact that the UK Treasury has apparently known of the calculation method for many months, but the EU Commission have themselves said that the final figures were only given to the government a week before this broke in the press. That being the case the details of the calculation need to be scrutinised and checked, something that will take more than six weeks. The deadline for payment of 1st December even were we to accept the whole bill is completely unrealistic. How many of us would accept a recalculated gas bill without wanting to scrutinise the calculations?

The renegotiation by PM Cameron of our relationship with the EU can’t come soon enough. He now needs to set out his lines in the sand otherwise he may well not be PM in seven months time.

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