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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


get your head out of your arse

i am a firm believer that twitter (and associated social media) brings out the worst in people.
i'm not just talking the vile bile that people can spout  - not just the hate talk from one person aimed at those they perceive as being different or lesser. though it can't be denied that the anonymity of the internet and the almost ubiquitous nature of social media has fueled a massive growth in it.

i expect people to hate. haters have gotta hate.
let's be honest we have all had those moments where someone has gotten our goat and we really have wished all the ills of medieval hell on them, but before the count of 10 has finished we have moved on to something else.
the internet proves there are a number of people who can't (or don't) count to 10 before they let loose with their stream of invective.

no it is them that annoy me.
it is the people who use social media to claim how cool they are, how right on they are by their dismissal of something other people like.
i am not concerned with those who promote themselves and their good works - whether they be politicians. scientists, creative types or business people. sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet - even if sometimes you can blow it too hard.
because, say what you will about them, these people have at least done something to talk about.

no it's the look at me i'm so cool because i am not liking this (fill in the blank - normally something that lots of other people like or have liked). from their dislike and disdain for the something in question we are to be awe struck that they have such wonderful taste and we should admire them for it. this is normally aimed at something that has mass appeal - exactly the sort of thing that these sorts of people avoid because they can't like what the mass of people like - that would make them ordinary.

i was reminded of my ire at these sorts of people today when in the independent's sister paper 'the i' printed a tweet from a writer. 2time flies, and it's hard to care that it's exactly two years since i didn't care about the royal wedding.'
see how cool that writer is. he didn't care about the royal wedding then. he doesn't care about it now.
he doesn't care about it so much he wants you to know he doesn't care about it so he has actually taken the time to write about how he doesn't care about it - just so you know that the royal wedding meant nothing to him.
for someone like me if i don't care about something i generally don't mention or think about it. my apathy for non-league football would be legendary if i cared to think about it (and more importantly if i cared to write about it).

the obvious paradox is that he does care about it enough to mention it two years after the event (it wouldn't surprise me if he had made a similar gag on the first anniversary of the wedding - but i bet it was funnier the first time, but why waste good material?), to think about it like that is to be pedantic, the important part is that the writer has alerted us to the fact he is cool, he is not part of the herd that he is against the establishment. right on, sticking it to the man!
his readers will be so happy that someone else has pointed out to them that there is an anniversary that he has taken the time to write about but he doesn't care about - so that they know they too shouldn't be too concerned about it either.
see he has performed a public service.
he cares. nice man.

next week he will probably let us all know how much he doesn't like the idea of hitler, just in case anyone was in any doubt.


Monday, April 29, 2013


spammed alot

back in the days when i was at school (yeah i can just about remember that far back) one of the things a couple of my classmates did was to recite whole chunks of monty python sketches. (also favourite for the wholesale don't stop till you are bored stupid with it quote was 'hitchhiker's guuide to the universe' radio show - i may have heard most of it in live quotation form and have never been able to take the books, tv series or film seriously because of that. scarred for life).

anyway one of the things monty python was famous for was the spam sketch.
i shan't bore you with it - i have suffered it being repeated between lessons for a year or more - i know the pain it can cause.

every time i get a spam email to the blog it makes me think of andy and david, with maybe a helping of nick thrown in, all doing their versions of the sketch.

what annoys me most about the spam i get is how inappropriate it is.
i don't care abut jimmy shoes (geddit) or lv bags (i'm more a sainsbury's bag for life type of guy) nor are air jordan's my thing.
what i want is to be spammed for things i might at least like - true most of that is going to be x-rated stuff but at least there is a chance i would be interested. 



i like chocolate.
i like it a little too much.
i can eat a lot of chocolate (and have been known to do so).
i don't like chocolate that has peanuts in; one of the reasons why i don't like american chocolate very much.

twix is probably my favourite chocolate.

at the moment i am pretty much hooked on a new thing from diary milk: their marvellous creations range - jelly popping candy shells. basically chocolate covered sugar bombs (you can feel the sugar explode in your mouth). very bad for you but very delish at the same time.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


it's a small small small small world

cameron has invited a johnson into 10 downing street as an adviser on his policy team.
it's not boris, instead it is his younger brother - jo johnson.

jojo (if he isn't called that now - it is only a matter of days before it becomes his nickname) has been chosen to be part of this new policy quango in order to connect the prime minister and downing street to the party, to sharpen up the image and tighten the message.
the conservatives are circling the wagons and concentrating their appeal in their core supporters.

like boris and cameron, jo is a product of eton and oxford.
like boris and cameron jojo (if he isn't called that now - it is only a matter of days before it becomes his nickname) went to eton and oxford, at oxford he was a contemporary of george osborne. before becoming a politician jo johnson was a successful and prize winning journalist at the financial times.
he is even married to a guardian journalist.

i have no objections to jo johnson as i have no idea who he is.
my real issue is just how small the pool of people is that controls our lives and opinions and just how incestuous it is - even to the extent that so-called opponents are in bed with each other (as in the case of mr. and mrs johnson - at least michael gove has the decency to wed a journalist from the times).

quite how these people are supposed to represent the rest of us when so much of their lives are tied up within a certain circle of friends and colleagues is more and more a serious question to be asked. for all the talk of the press about how they have to be independent of politicians it is surprising just how many are related to each other.
the influence that each group can exert on each other isn't something that can be defined, but we know it happens. more and more it is a detriment to the rest of us as we have to live out the consequences of decisions made by people whose only experience of our world is through their sanitised visits that are overseen by their press office.

still the tories will be happy that they have a johnson in number 10 helping to shape decisions even if he is cut from the same cloth as cameron, osborne and the rest.
more things change.
blah blah blah.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


sun sun go away come again some other day

ok we've had several days of sunny and hot weather and already i don't like it.
feeling even more lethargic than normal (if that were possible).
can we have winter back please?

(this blog has been sponsored by energy companies of great britain who wish to increase their prices but can't see the point in doing it during the warm bright days of spring and summer as they can't make stupidly high profits, so they will hold on until winter comes back again.
please contribute to their hardship fund - some of their top managers did not get an eye-wateringly large bonus this year and they are still sulking.
give generously.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013


dreams dreams dreams

look i’m the first to admit that most of the time other people’s dreams are boring.
hell most of the time my dreams are boring.

i go through phases of dreaming – there are times when i have a load that i can remember and i promise myself that as they were so outrageously wonderful and weird that i will write them down. i forget and the world is deprived of some wonderful entertainment.
then there are times when my sleep is deep and untroubled by the mess of dreams.

everyone now and then i have a dream and wonder what the flimflam sparked that one off.
so the one where i go into a warehouse sized sport equipment store where i am confronted by a gaggle of clean cut american cuties dressed in tight white athletic gear seems to be promising, but in the end i just leave the shop with a floppy old school beret come baseball cap.
a depressing dream because of the implied promise and the eventual outcome.
still a tad dull and well within the bounds of understanding.

then there is the dream where i am walking around the top floor of an industrial warehouse that has been kitted out to be one f those lovely minimal but expensive apartments.
a large rumpled bed dominates the scene. it is awash with naked bodies all in the glow of post coital pleasure. on closer inspection all the bodies are those of members of the bbc’s ‘test match special’ cricket commentary team.

this is the sort of dream that disturbs me, as even in the dream there is a sense of ‘what on earth am i thinking with this dream?
all i know is i’ll never be able to listen to the cricket commentary in quite the same way now that i know what they all get up to in their hotel rooms.
images that have the power to scar a mind for life.

it needed to be shared – in talking about it i have lessened the impact on me.
i hope you get to dream about (very) sticky wickets very soon.


how it works – ghost in the machine

if you stay unemployed long enough you get ‘promoted’ to the ‘work programme’.
my time has come and i have been shunted on to a work programme.

this isn’t quite the same as workfare. this isn’t about providing cheap labour to some of the largest companies in the country under the guise of training or pretending it will be worthwhile experience. no the work programme is where they shunt the long term unemployed out of the jobcentre and pass us over to private companies who will make us more employable.
well that is the theory.

it is one of those things that in theory is fine and dandy (as was work fare) but when it comes to people’s lives theory is one thing practice is another.

the last time i was referred to such a company it was a private profit making outfit called ingeus. i was given an advisor. he looked a little like simon pegg, was very intense and looked like he would rather be a hotshot city finance whizz kid, but was pleased he wasn’t an estate agent. i didn’t like him.
ingeus was one of those places that looked to push square pegs into round holes. they had a playbook and everyone was going to get treated the same way no matter how experienced, how old or how willing they were. that wasn’t going to work for me (or for quite a lot of people).
this isn’t to say that ingeus were not helpful.
my advisor knocked my cv into shape, he helped draft a cover letter, he got me thinking about what sort of work i wanted to do and just what i was capable of doing. most importantly they provided the facility for me to bombard potential employers with my cv – this came in the form of free printing, free envelopes, and free postage.
when i had an interview my advisor helped me with a mock interview and gave me tips and pointers as to where i could improve.
it worked.
the unsolicited letters got more response from employers than any official job application i’d done (there is a truism in recruitment that most of the available jobs never get advertised), but it is too expensive a method to use without the help of a company like ingeus.

fast forward to this current period of unemployment and the first thing i ask is: is there somewhere like ingeus i can go to in order to get help finding a job.
my jobcentre advisor looks at me as if i am touched in the head.
it is a look you get used to.
my jobcentre advisor seemed incapable of giving me any help at all. i would like to think that it was because their hands were tied. sadly i think it is because they don’t care about anything other than ticking boxes.

a year later i am about to go on a work programme.
but there is a problem.
i haven’t heard from the work programme provider.
i am conscious of the fact that if you don’t do the work programme you can have a sanction against you. (a sanction means you don’t get jobseekers allowance for a set period of time). i am also conscious of the fact that jobcentre advisors have ‘unofficial’ targets in penalising jobseekers by moving them onto sanctions.
i ask my advisor how long it will be before i am contacted.
a couple of weeks.
next signing on time still not heard. ask again.
a couple of weeks.
still not heard.
phone up the jobseekers helpline and they can’t tell me anything because it isn’t them but a private company dealing with it.
but they make a note of my call.
most recent visit to the jobcentre and because i am on the work programme i have a new advisor. but because i wasn’t given a new time to come in i don’t see my new advisor i see a deputy advisor. i mention my problem and concern to them.
they tell me that the work programme has been a bit of a failure. thanks that is a great comfort.
seems lots of people are in the same boat as me: not heard from their new provider.
shall i phone the company i ask?
why? they reply:  there are hundreds more in front of you.
if you are really concerned why not drop a line to the manager of the jobcentre.
thanks for your help.

and people wonder why some people abuse the system.

Monday, April 08, 2013


blocked up

still suffering from blocked up snot encrusted nostrils.
it is not a pretty sight.
it is not a nice situation.
i am hocking up, i am snorting snot, i am picking boogies.
i am a mess.

i just thought i would share.
you know you wanted me to.


the wicked witch is dead

there was a time when i thought i would have planned to dance on her grave. that i would do a jig of happiness all around the diggings when i heard the news.
seems i have grown up a little.
sure i let out a whoop, but not a whoop and holler.

magaret thatcher is dead.

along with a whole host of people i lay the blame of many of our current ills at her feet, so so many things.
yet her death means very little.
because her death changes nothing. the damage has been done (and sadly the new labour project helped continue some of the policies and exacerbate the problems), and petty joy at her passing isn't going to make a jot of difference.
she is one of those politicians who has become more than just a leader of their country but has come to embody a whole new movement and political outlook. that is still with us today.

secondly (and it pains me to say it) that if i had to choose between david cameron or maggie thatcher i think i would choose maggie. at least with maggie it is possible to see that she believed that what she was doing was trying to transform people's lives for the better - even if the medicine she was administering was harsh and foul.
cameron and co are waging class war and want to make sure that there is a move towards workhouse society.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


you have to admire their brass

i have to admit to a growing grudging admiration for the sheer relentlessness of the current coalition attack on the poor and the working class.
we are just entering a period of getting used to some sweeping changes to the welfare system and the national health system.
we have just listened to the daily mail and george osborne co-opt a terrible tragedy as being proof of why the welfare system is bad for people.
now we are hearing talk of how they are interested in cutting the minimum wage, because they see that as being a way to stimulate the economy (this would be the same way to stimulate and motivate the workforce as the ability to sack workers for no good reason other than you don't like them). it leads to questions such as which planet are these people from? do they actually think before they speak? who is lining their pockets?

i'd be interested to see the evidence that dropping the minimum wage would do anything other than depress demand even further, or that because you can pay your staff less you are going to employ more of them.

not that it matters because that isn't really how the conservatives think or really what they are concerned about.
they want a return to the workhouse and doffing of caps to those who are our betters.

oh i have just thought of another question to ask: who voted for them? and are you still proud of yourself for doing so?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013


oh give it a rest

another rich and minted tory has jumped on the 'oh i could live for tuppence a day with a song in my heart' bandwagon.
edwina currie has challenged 5live's stephen nolan to do the same - with a i'll do it if you will argument.
why bother?

ms currie had once appeared on the stephen nolan show to call people liars when they said that they had to make a choice between eating and heating. her argument being that no one was that poor in the uk. that food banks are on the rise (and even these have been criticised by a tory or two) was immaterial to ms. currie, that callers were telling her of their situation mattered not. as far as edwina was concerned the idea that a choice had to be made was impossible. 

it isn't that people can't live on a pittance when they need to, what is soul destroying and crushing is the knowledge that it is more than likely never going to get better.
oddly i think this is just what the senior thinkers in the conservative party want.
they want the poor to feel fear and despair - they want the poor to be willing to accept the bare minimum because anything else is an affront to them.

they can bleat on as much as they like about wanting to have a land of strivers and making work pay, but really they are not interested in helping the disadvantaged.

needless to say i do wish the bbc wouldn't give publicity to attention seeking media tories who just want to keep their profile up so that they can make more money from their next public speaking engagement or put themselves in a position for the next cash injecting tv reality show.
unless of course that show is 'i'm living on the breadline and i'm loving it' in which case i suspect edwina's diary will be full.


oh the irony of it

the worst i suffered in the winter was a bit of a snuffle and a few blocked noses (a good root around with the pinky soon cleared that). now with the first day of spring (well as close as it is going to get) i have succumbed to a mix of hay fever and a cold - fanfuckingtastic.
headachey and runny nose.

runny noses remind me of my gran.
my gran knitted for england. she would sit there and click clack all day and all night long. the needles a blur the balls of wool shrinking and some garment taking shape at impossible speeds as she sat and watched tv or chatted.
click clack. clack click.
big needles, small needles, fat, thin (they all had numbers on the top - lucky i hadn't become a collector back then or else i would have had to have a full set of knitting needles).
measuring tape and pattern book (some curious morse code that turned a jumble of knit 1 purl 1 into clothes that can be worn. it wouldn't surprise me if alan turing and the people of bletchley park had used knitting patterns as a way of encoding secrets during the second world war.

my gran knitted.
i had lots and lots of jumpers. many had patterns on the top half and plain at the bottom (there is no doubt a fashionista term for this - but buggered if i know it), she knitted me cardigans - i still have my starsky and hutch inspired cardies and i can still get into them. she knitted me scarves (and yes i did have a very long very much modelled on tom baker's dr. who scarf - and yes i know you are jealous).

while all this woolen wear was much appreciated (and some of it is still in use today - decades after she died) the one thing i remember about her jumpers was that as a child whenever i had a runny nose i would cuff it on the jumper sleeve.
there were days when the sleeve was crusted and i could have used it as a cudgel.

right now i miss those jumpers and the simple childlike pleasure of the cuff.

so in memory of my gran and jumpers of bygone days i am declaring april 3rd as international snot cuff day.
spread the word.
join in the cuff. 

Monday, April 01, 2013


the joke is on us

today is the day when the media and practical jokers all try to pull a fast one in order to have the rest of us believe a fantastical but perhaps true story.
there is a certain amount of fun scanning the newspapers to see what story is the blatant hoax - the problem with the red tops is that so much of what they print is made up to begin with it is hard to know.

perhaps the funniest of the pranks carried out today was iain duncan smith's claim that he could live on £53 a week.
quite a lot of people choked on their coffee or tea when they heard that.

april 2013 is the month when a raft of coalition, sorry i mean conservative, policies move from being pieces of political paper into hard cold reality affecting the lives of most people throughout the country.

whatever else you say about the conservatives you have to admit that they have been busy preparing some major sweeping changes to the fabric of life. if i didn't know better i would have said that they had planned it very well. over the last few years they have been very canny in their use of the blame game. setting up shirkers against strivers. the people who get up at 5am to go to work while the feckless lazy scally on benefits lays roasty toasty in bed.
they have been helped in this myth building by organs such as 'the sun' and 'daily mail' who seem to come up with an endless stream of benefit scroungers who are living large at the expense of the strivers.

when the costs of benefits are discussed it is always as a total and it is, to use a technical term, humungous and that is quickly equated with those who are unemployed. even though the largest portions of the benefit receiving public are those receiving their pensions. another large group are those who are receiving in work benefits in order to top up their shitty pay.
none of this matters as a big chunk of the public think that there is a large amount of benefit fraud going on (no there isn't, especially when compared to companies and wealthy individuals dodging taxes) and they also think that the benefit bill is being used to prop up the lifestyles of the lazy.

all in all propaganda job done.

making it all that much easier for the changes that iain duncan smith has been working on to come into effect.

surprisingly there are elements of what ids (as he is known) is trying to accomplish i agree with, for a period of time i even thought that duncan smith had his finger on the pulse of what needed to be done.
nice to see that a tory always reverts to type and just becomes a nasty grind the poor into the dirt when we can kind of guy.

instead of helping people back into work - even though there isn't enough work there for people to go into - the plan of the coalition (sorry liberal democrats - you're as guilty of this as the tories) is to starve people off benefits.
there are stories circulating that jobcentres in some london boroughs have targets to get people on sanctions, not get them into work, but to punish them and remove their benefits. we are not talking about help here.
my experience with the jobcentre is that they don't know their arse from their elbow and frankly they don't care that they don't know.

even the, much derided, work programme had some postive aspects to it but was handled in such a cack handed fashion that it became 'slave labour'. instead of doing the sensible thing of paying a different rate of benefits for the period of work programme (say at the rate of an apprenticeship - the princely sum of £2.65 an hour), but no it was do this work or lose your benefits.
more often than not the work was of no use or relevance to those on the scheme and nor were they receiving any serious training (after all why would you train them when you are going to get rid of them and replace them with new cheap (sorry: free) labour in a few weeks time).
even so this intervention comes a year or more into a person being unemployed - when really more effort should be concentrated at the start of a period of unemployment to get people back into work while they still have the right habits.

what the tories and ids have is a race to the bottom for a large section of the population.
there is little or no training available  (when i ask if i could do a month long course i was told that i couldn't because i wouldn't be available for work during that time - that the course might have made me that much more employable was neither here nor there. even longer term courses - such as doing evening courses get bound up in rules about how many hours you are studying and how much the course costs) thus making serious retraining almost an impossibility.
(i hasten to add that this might not be the case - but that is what my jobcentre advisor told me.)

so back to the joke.
duncan smith is the latest in a line of very wealthy people who claim they can live on the £71 (or less) of jobseekers allowance. and by jingo if they can do it why can't johnny poorboy do it as well.
the difference being (as we all know) is that it is easy for the rich to slum it for a week or two it is not quite so easy when it is your daily grind or worrying if you can pay the next set of bills, can you afford to put the heating on in winter etc etc.

duncan smith has been challenged to walk the talk and back up his claim and live on £53 a week - but let's see if he can do it for several months.
after all is said and done duncan smith is just a public sector employee - another group that has been victimised by the tories in the past.
i'd like to think that iain duncan smith sees the irony in his position, but frankly i believe he is sitting their in his comfortable house with his feet up laughing all the way to bank to see how much he has benefitted from seeing the top rate of tax being dropped.