Archive for November, 2010

South Park

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Further to previous discussions on the odd destination boards you sometimes see on SouthWest Trains…

101122.jpg*I’m going down to South Park…* – I shudder to think what happened to Kenny in that episode.

In other news, it looks like I was at least partly wrong about the other event I referred to last week. It’s not being organised by the people I thought it was, so the comment about Brownian Motion doesn’t apply. All the same, I haven’t changed my mind about the actions of the subcommittee being pretty shabby. I have my own theories about their reasons for doing what they did, but I’ll keep them to myself.

The Power of Blogg

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

Well, how about that? The event referred to in my last entry have decided they want Raynet after all, enough to accept us as they have before. So how about that?

Actually, I’m not sure it was my blog that did it – I’m not really sure what the whole thing has been about, but one way or another I’m looking forward to it.

Now where are my extra-heavy-duty thermals?

Feeling Unwanted

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Long term readers will know that I volunteer, through Raynet, on an event in early December every year. It’s always amazingly hard work, as well as being cold and usually wet, but also great fun :-) .

We’re normally all organised and know exactly who’s doing which job by the middle of September, so when I hadn’t heard anything I e-mailed the Raynet person who’s our liason with the organisers. He replied that there was still a problem he was trying to sort out and he’d be in touch soon.

Well it turns out that the organisers have decided not to use Raynet this year – or rather, they’ve imposed conditions on Raynet which are impossible to fulfil in the time allowed. Basically they’re insisting that all Raynet people not only have CRB – which most of us do – but have CRB issued by their organisation. Since CRB takes at least four weeks, and starts with everyone turning up in person to present their personal ID docs, it was never going to happen with a team of volunteers from all over England – at least, not in the time available before this year’s event.

For my non-UK readers, CRB is a “Criminal Records Bureau” check, by which people who work or volunteer in positions which bring them into contact with vulnerable people have to prove they’ve never been caught doing anything nasty. As I’ve blogged before, the system is heavily flawed, produces huge numbers of false negatives and positives, only picks up those who’ve already been caught, and worst of all lulls parents and carers into a false sense of security about who’s looking after their young ones.

So, Raynet won’t be doing that one this year, in spite of the fact that most of us do have current CRB and are anyway never in a situation of being alone with vulnerable people. In the nature of such things, I suspect we won’t be asked back. And then, at the start of this week, I heard that another event which I’ve volunteered on since time immemorial won’t be needing me next year either1.

Which is why today’s piece is entitled “Feeling Unwanted”.

1 To be strictly accurate, the organisation that runs the event has sacked the team members who did the actual organisation. Since that now puts the event in the hands of people who make Brownian Motion look organised, I’ve decided they can do without me as well..


Monday, November 8th, 2010

M’lovely Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much) took me and MiniFred to ”Live and Deadly” yesterday..

For those of you unexposed to children’s television, I should explain that ”Live and Deadly” is based on a programme called “Deadly Sixty”, where a bloke called Steve introduces the little ‘uns to the world’s most dangerous animals. The programme team have apparently been on tour for the last eight weeks, and yesterday was Southampton’s turn.

I’ve been to better organised p*** ups in breweries. OK, the weather wasn’t the BBC’s fault – although bad weather in November is at least fairly predictable – but the day seemed to be designed thus:

  1. Turn up and discover that all the parking close to the event is “maximum one hour”, and relocate to a multi-storey where you swell the city council’s coffers by five quid.
  2. Queue for an hour to register and receive a wristband – and we were lucky, the queue grew to at least four times the length it was when we joined
  3. Join another queue for a “Sepcial Effects” exhibition, which was so oversubscribed that the adults had to wait outside in the freezing cold, so as many littles as possible could go in.
  4. Head for Debenhams’ café for a hot chocolate. It hadn’t occurred to the organisers that at an outdoor event in November, a tea and coffee wagon might be popular. They also hadn’t told Debenhams’ café the event was happening, so they only had their normal Sunday staff on.
  5. Return to the park and stand in another queue. This queue, together with your wristband, gives you access to the “live show waiting area” (aka a queue in a fenced-off compound)
  6. Be shepherded into another compound to see Steve and three snakes and three birds of prey. Be constantly hassled to squash up as they’re short of space. Here’s an idea, BBC – next time hire a few more fence sections and build a bigger compound.
  7. Decide you can’t be bothered to join yet another queue to see some mealworms, and go home to warm up

It’s a shame, this could’ve been so much better done – loads of local animal organisations would’ve loved to get involved, and only a tiny fraction of the park was used so there would’ve been loads of room for them. I’ve got a fair bit of experience of being an audience member for BBC, both on TV and radio, and it’s always been obvious that their policy is that it doesn’t matter how badly they treat audiences, there are always more people wanting to go than there are places available.

The same policy obviously worked yesterday – in spite of the freezing cold, and the fact that you could see there wasn’t much going on, enough people decided to stay to make a queue twice across the park and halfway round the block. But I know a few people who won’t go again.


Sunday, November 7th, 2010

So, those of you who follow my FaceBook status will know that some miscreant has got into my car and nicked my satnav (and a cheap toolkit).

It’s tempting to think that it’s partly my fault, as I left the car unlocked (I don’t remember leaving it unlocked but there was no damage so I must’ve done), but actually it isn’t: Just leaving a door unlocked isn’t giving some scummer permission to take your gear. They’re the ones who searched the car, found the satnav and nicked it: They also opened the boot, looked in an attractive-looking briefcase to see if it was worth nicking (apparently they didn’t want my second-best first aid kit), and ran off with a tool box.

I’m cheesed off at myself for leaving the car open, but really, where do these ratbags get off? There’s loads of stuff I’d like but can’t afford: I just live without it until either I can afford it, or learn to do without. I don’t go helping myself to other people’s gear just because I want it.

I hope they’re having fun guessing the security code.


Thursday, November 4th, 2010

J Sainsbury Head Office
33 Holborn

Dear Sirs

Sainsbury Self-Checkout Machines

I am writing about problems I’ve experienced using the self checkout machines at your branches at ***** (Southampton), and *****, London.

On Sunday 31st October I was using the machine in ******, and constantly had to stop for the machine to be reset as it kept having an “unexpected item” error. The member of staff on duty advised me that this might be because I was supporting the bag with my hand: I stopped supporting the bag and unsurprisingly my shopping fell all over the floor. If I’d had time to shop elsewhere I’d have left it there and walked out, unfortunately I was in a hurry. This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems of that nature using the self checkout in that store.

This morning I tried to use the self checkout in *****, a store I often use. As often happens, my attempt to buy a small bottle of wine caused the machine to fall over, and I had to wait for a member of staff to come and confirm that I’m old enough to drink wine. Unfortunately on this occasion no member of staff was forthcoming, and after waiting as long as I could I had to leave the store without my shopping.

I generally like the idea of self service checkouts and have been using them in Tesco since they were first introduced – and often wished that Sainsbury would do the same thing. Unfortunately, being late into the game seems to mean you’ve rushed the implementation, and it might have been better to have delayed a few more weeks to make sure the bagging area scales worked properly, and that a workable solution to the “approval needed” process was in place.

As I’ve said, I like self service checkouts and I know from using them in Tesco how well they can work: perhaps some of your project team could visit a couple of Tesco stores and see if you can get some ideas how to resolve the teething troubles.

Yours Faithfully…

I’ll let you know if I hear anything…


Monday, November 1st, 2010

A couple of months back, I was browsing the “What’s On” guide for our local theatre. “Ooh look”, I commented to Purple Fred (Whom I Love Very Much), “Jeremy Hardy’s at the Nuffield, the week after my birthday!”

PF(WILVM) can take a hint as well as the next Fred, and among my birthday pressies was an envelope containing two tickets for Jeremy. She’d already realised that the date clashed with MiniFred’s Halloween party, but gallantly insisted that I find someone else to go with, rather than swapping the tickets for something we could both go to. So it was that last night (and me with my Halloween makeup still on), our chum Adam and I found ourselves at the theatre – centre seats, tenth row back (the row with extra legroom!). You always get decent seats when PF(WILVM) buys the tickets :-)

Jeremy was excellent. He ambled on to the stage, moaned for an hour about how crap it is getting old and how no-one understands him, and we all laughed lke hyenas. Then after the interval there was more creative moaning, some stories about his radio work, and loads ore laughter. He picked on someon who he thought was the youngest member of the audience at 39 (lucky he didn’t know Adam’s 31), and was in no doubt that most of his fans are older people. “I know my core demographic…one harsh winter and I’m f***ed!”.

All in all, a brilliant night out: Just hope there’s a tour video so I can share the fun with PF.