Saturday, April 29, 2006


I used to like ebay ! but have you noticed that in some categories it is becoming less of an auction site but more of a retail shop window ? Nowadays you almost have to wade through pages and pages of "buy it now" before you find the odd genuine domestic seller who is having a clear out. You have to be careful as the price of these retail "buy it now's" is often the same if not more than you will buy for at your local out of town store.

I have also noticed a veritable onslaught of retail sellers from China. I was looking at electric guitars and there are dozens and dozens all on auction but obviously from retailers.W ho in their right mind is going to buy an item like that from China when you are thousands of miles away and given their inclination toward sharp practice. (see Hong Kong Scam).

I have heard that ebay are going to introduce a retail only site..Hooray the fun has definitely gone out of ebay so can we get back to being a proper auction site please !! Thank you.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Barclaycard / Barclays Bank

Hands up who's got a Barclaycard !! Well I haven't anymore thank god. You see I have just paid it all off, well I thought I had until I received a statement from them saying I owe £9 something which is interest on the cash balance !! Whoaahhh ! Now hang on there, I telephoned their automated system which told me " your outstanding balance is xxxx " so I instructed my bank to pay it off in full.

When I called them today and asked why I had this balance outstanding when I had paid it off in full I was told " Ah, yes I have the answer, it's because we calculate the interest on cash balances daily ". Oh really ? Well, why do you tell me I owe X amount when in fact you are telling me an untruth cause it isn't that amount at all !! No matter how hard I tried as well as being accused of not understanding cash interest, not having read the terms and conditions etc. Oh yeah, we all do don't we with a fine toothcombe and of course understand every tiny word even though it is couched in financial speak. Of course we do silly me !! I said I would refuse to pay it and I was told, well then it will just mount up and up as we add more interest. Very customer friendly indeed.

Well I have to say that I have cut my Barclaycard up and if you all have any sense you will pay yours off or transfer your balance and do the same! For gods sake don't borrow any money on your card they will squeeze your nackers for every last penny they can extract. It smacks of sharp practice but you can bet your bottom dollar there is a little well hidden clause in their terms and conditions saying they can do it but I cannot be bothered to look myself. I am glad to be shot of them !! Good riddance Barclaycard you will not be missed !!!!!!!!!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bimbo Sports Presenters

I have recently moved and found myself once again watching breakfast T.V. whilst I am ironing my shirt for work or brewing up a filter coffee.

Now it's sometime since I have watched breakfast T.V. maybe as long ago as Chris Evans on the Big Breakfast.. but one thing bothers me ! It's this fashionable trend of giving the sports news to Bimbo female presenters. I dunno, but try as I may to get my head round this I just cannot give any credibility to some immaculately manicured and coifured female presenter waxing lyrically about football, rugby or cricket as if she is desperately trying to be "one of the boys".

Now I mainly watch Sky News, although other channels follow suit, and I find myself irritated to such a degree that I go to the bathroom for a shave whilst they are twittering on and return to my shirt after the programme has moved on to some other topic.

I can assure you I am not a chauvinist pig but am I alone in this ?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Roger Waters in Israel

Roger Waters is a star in his own right and he does not need the label ex Pink Floyd all the time. In fact, if the truth be known he WAS Pink Floyd when it came to inspirational songs and lyrics.If you listen to his music he is protesting about lots of things, he recognises and acknowledges the many injustices in our world. It therefore doesn't surprise me at all that he has shifted the venue for his forthcoming appearance in Israel from Tel-Aviv to a chick pea field in an Arab - Israeli town on the boarders of the West Bank. He is firmly against the West Bank wall and it's network of razor wire but rather than deny his Israeli fans the opportunity to see him and his band he has switched from Tel-Aviv to Neveh-Shalom rather than boycott the event with a non appearance. Roger Waters has a superb band at the moment, his music is lyrically inspiring and I hope both Arab and Israeli fans thoroughly enjoy themselves , for at least one thing they will have in common on the day will be their love for brilliant music and superb musicianship!! Well done Rog. !!

When In Rome.....

On my recent trip to Manila we went for a few days into the mountains to Baguio which meant a 50 minute flight from Manila in a ropey looking prop job airplane. Baguio is a very nice city and the attraction is the temperature there is about 8 - 10 degrees less than in Manila. It has a very small airstrip cut into the mountains and landing there is a very unforgettable experience. Anyway, on leaving Baguio we had to go through a security check, in fact two in this very small airport. On opening my baggage for a second time I was told I could not take my deodorant with me onto the plane as it might explode. I was, of course incensed and I quite demonstratively pointed out that my deodorant had passed through the most stringent security check in the world at Heathrow, gone through Bahrain and Manila International and now suddenly in a twopenny Banana Republic airport it becames dangerous !! This very nice lady then turned to me with a smile and in a composed manner said " Sir, you are now in our country and you will please abide by our rules". I looked at her and thought " Yep, that is fair comment" and I of course shut up straight away. They took my deodorant away and my partner followed them a bit sheepishly after my vocal demonstration and he finally returned as we boarded the airplane. When we arrived back in Manila I was still a bit incensed and turned to him and said " I bet that someone's husband or brother now has my deodorant and that's the real reason why they took it !!". My partner then reached for his bag brought out my deodorant and placed it in front of me without a word. Ever felt a fool and completely lost for words ?

Pope Benedict XVI

Now I am not religious by any means i.e. I do not go to church regularly.... but I do have what I think are firm Christian ideals. For instance, I believe we should be doing all we can to help less fortunate third world countries, make sure that people are not starving or being persecuted by some raving despot ruler or a dictatorship. After all everyone is entitled to live in peace, have food in their belly every day, have a roof over their head and have a shot at some sort of employment. I am also a great believer in protecting the environment for future generations..In fact my job is tied up with the environment so I understand what the depletion of our natural resources means. My partner is a devout Catholic and he goes to Mass every week and he believes that all these difficulties we face every day are a test of our faith. Personally, I do not believe this but he has the right to his beliefs and I would not try to question them. Pope Benedict XVI used the opportunity in marking the Stations Of The Cross on Good Friday to have an indirect go at same sex relationships without actually coming outright and saying it. Earlier in the week the Italian people had voted in a left wing Government which is committed to recognizing gay and lesbian couples. The Pope used extremely emotive language in his address and this is some of it...

Pope Benedict XVI called for the "filth" that surrounds society to be cleansed and said the world is in the grip of "a diabolical pride aimed at eliminating the family". Lord, we have lost our sense of sin," he said. "Today a slick campaign of propaganda is spreading an inane apologia of evil, a senseless cult of Satan, a mindless desire for transgression, a dishonest and frivolous freedom, exalting impulsiveness, immorality and selfishness as if they were new heights of sophistication.

He even used a meeting prior to the election with Italy's right of centre party to make another attack on same sex marriage which caused the left of centre coalition to accuse the Pontiff of trying to influence the election ! As Cardinal Ratzinger he was the Vatican's most outspoken opponent of gay marriage. Now as a gay person I do not find that sort of rant very Christian but I wonder how my partner feels as a devout catholic who happens to be gay. We have not discussed this in any detail and for the sake of harmony I do not intend to. I don't know if it was just me but there seemed to be a great deal of "holiness" about the person of the late Pope John Paul II even though his beliefs may not have been in sympatico with mine. He did after all attack same sex "marriages" for instance. But this current Pope seems to have a great deal of arrogance about him and in Christian terms I don't find that very "user friendly". I am quite happy to continue in my life with my own Christian ideals without even setting foot regularly in a church except for the odd wedding, christening or funeral. My own personal Christianity is all about humanity and I think that is something that Pope Benedict XVI lacks. I think it's about time the Catholic church finally emerged into the 20th century let alone the 21st..but please don't hold your breath for too long !!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Buffy Sainte Marie

I really like Buffy Sainte Marie ! Although my first love is Rock music, when I am in a mellow mood I listen to all sorts of music and Buffy's lyrics are so powerful that you have to sit and listen. Buffy is a Native American born on a Cree reservation in Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. She was at the height of her fame in the 60's /70's when she was known as a "protest singer" alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baiez. Many of her songs later became famous through other singers such as Barbara Streisand, Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin, Roberta Flack, Neil Diamond, Tracy Chapman. She is still a star today !

The following is a short bio from her web site Creative Native and gives you an inkling of who she is today ....

"An educator before she was ever known as a singer, Buffy lectures at colleges and civic venues on a wide variety of topics: film scoring, electronic music, songwriting, Native American studies, the Cradleboard Teaching Project, women's issues, the Native genius for government, and remaining positive amidst tough human realities. She serves as Adjunct Professor in Canada at York University in Toronto and Saskatchewan Indian Federated College in Regina, and in the U.S. was an Evans Chair Scholar at the Evergreen State College in Washington State. She has also taught at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA)."

I love her drive and determination to place the Native American Indian at the top of "the agenda". They have had such a raw deal over almost two centuries and it still goes on today. We all talk about Genocide in the 20th and 21st century as if it is something new but it's not.. the dispossession of the Apache Indian is a case for thought in the mid to late 1800's. Read Rivers Of Blood Rivers Of Gold by Mark Cocker

Buffy released an album in 1991 called "Coincidence And Likely Stories" and on it she sings about corruption in Government, big Corporations influence on our lives and the Environment/Pollution.. real solid stuff. She pulls no punches ! She sings about Burying her heart at Wounded Knee where in 1890 the massacre took place of over 300 Sioux Indians, men women and children by white American soldiers.

Today, the persecution of the Native American still goes on and still they are dying when they protest too much.. Please read the lyrics to "Bury My Heart AT Wounded Knee" and see what I mean.

I like Buffy Sainte Marie and what she stands for !!..... Buffy, I salute you !!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cant Seem To Switch Off

I was in town yesterday and saw some church goers carrying this quite large wooden cross with three strategically placed large nails in it. They were trying to maneuver it across the main central roundabout whilst traffic continued to flow around them.

Did I reflect on the religious implications of this sight and what Easter must mean to Christians ? No ! as a safety professional I was more worried about whether or not the cross bearers had received manual handling training and had they done a risk assessment before venturing into town carrying such a heavy and awkward shaped item. Was I missing something or am I just plain weird ?

The pic. gives you an idea but it's not of the actual event.

When is £100 really £50

Went to London recently. Drive wise it's about 2 1/2 hours and by the time I normally get there it's near midday and I am hungry. Usually I would park near Tuffnell Park Tube Station as there is a cracking Kebab shop opposite where I can deal with the hunger pains. On this occasion every little piece of roadside space had been grabbed for either parking permits or buy a ticket for maximum 2 hours. Now that is not enough time to catch a tube to central London do my business and get back in time to feed the meter again. I drove round and round the area to see if there was a six foot space somewhere where I could park and believe me it is a big area. There were no car parks anywhere either road level or multi storey. God knows how the local shopkeepers survive but maybe they do from just local residents who use "on foot" as their means of transport. Anyway, I stopped a taxi driver and asked if he knew where I could park and he advised me it would be best to buy a ticket and chance will be o.k. he said. I took his advice and took off for the tube station as I was late. When I arrived back there was the ticket stuck to my screen and I was gobsmacked to find it was for £100. There was bags of room to park alongside this particular road, no problems. When I read it I was gobsmacked on a second count to find that if I paid it in 14 days it will only be £50. Now hang it a £100 fine or a £50 fine or is it just scare tactics to make you pay up sooner ? Fortunately mine is a company car so it will take them longer to find me so they will have to wait for any money which will be forthcoming at the very last knockings, personally delivered to them by me in one pence pieces and I will demand they count it in front of me and give me a receipt !!! Take on or what ?
Beware and take no advice from taxi drivers..they speak with forked tongues !!!

Aberdeen or Tenerife ?

A couple weeks ago I flew from Bristol to Aberdeen on a business trip and the airplane was a jetstream prop. job seating around 30 passengers. There was no room for internal bags or briefcases so they had to be stored as luggage. If you were tall and had a window seat you had to sit crook necked to avoid the bulkhead and if you were large and sitting next to another large person on the aisle side of the two seat arrangement, you had to fly the whole way with half of your backside over the aisle. You did of course get a smoked salmon sandwich (well one slice of bread folded and cut in half again) and a drink (including a bucks fizz already mixed and from a bottle). When I got off on arriving in Aberdeen I collected my briefcase off a trolley affair and it was soaking wet (good job it was waterproof!) and on the return journey on arriving at Bristol I collected my briefcase and again it was soaking wet but this time with beer and it stank my car out all the way home !!! Not my beer I hasten to add !! If I wanted to go to Aberdeen next Wednesday for instance this 1 1/2 hour flight or thereabouts, would cost me £386 return. Now I only paid £60 more for a return flight to Manila recently which was 16 hours in the air, good in flight entertainment and more than adequate food/refreshments. Was the Aberdeen flight good value for money ? Well just ask yourself..would you prefer two weeks in Tenerife or a trip to Aberdeen ? I leave it to you to decide which would offer more value.

Hong Kong Scam

We went to Hong Kong last September for ten days and decided to buy a new digital camera. We knew what we wanted but we fell for a scam which is rife in Nathan Road, Kowloon. We were sold a Fujila camera which was misrepresented to us as being made by Fuji...which it is not. It malfunctioned after two days and we had the foresight to go into an internet cafe and do some research. Low and behold we found other people who had fallen for the same trick. Now I think I am a bit sharp but those Chinese guys really fooled me. We went back and after threats we got an exchange for a genuine Fuji camera but when we got home we found we could buy it cheaper in the U.K. We were lucky to at least get something back. There are many people on the web who have lost a lot of money in Hong Kong falling for the same scam. So a bit of advice... if you plan to go to Hong Kong buy your camera in the U.K. before you go and shop around for the best price. DON'T buy anything in Nathan Road, Kowloon. . You will probably have a good deal if you keep to the bona fide retailers in the big shopping Malls but it's your choice. Whatever you do, avoid the shops all lit up like a christmas tree and avoid like the plague those that say tax's a lie.


Any of you guys and gals into prog. rock ? Well if you are, I suggest you look up a Polish band called Riverside. Their first album "Out Of Myself" was awesome and their follow up "Second Life Syndrome" even topped that ! If you like power rock with finesse then have a wont be disappointed.

Speed Scameras

Now, I am not a fan of speed cameras in any shape or form. In fact I loathe them because actually they make me a bad driver. I have nine points on my licence all obtained when I was otherwise distracted and didn't notice the sudden change in speed limit signing or Mr Plod was hiding behind a brick wall doing his damndest to stop falling asleep. I am quite paranoid about driving now as I am constantly taking my eyes off the road looking for someone hiding round a corner trying to take my livelihood away from me.What makes me even more mad is in all cases I was not even attempting to break the limit. For instance, on the last occasion I was on the M25 at 10.45 at night, all four lanes of the motorway were open, cones were on the hardshoulder, Weather conditions and visibility were fine, volume of traffic average. I had just travelled 10 miles at least with my cruise control on 50 m.p.h. as the roundels on the overhead gantries showed 50 when all of a sudden I saw broken white lines on the road and too late flash flash I was nabbed cause the speed limit had suddenly changed to 40. Now why?I wrote to the Metropolitan Police and asked them that question and being a Safety Professional (yes I know...don't laugh!!) I said if I was carrying out a risk assessment I would take into consideration the weather, traffic, visibility and any other hazard factors and come up with a "low risk" rating on that why was the camera on at that point when there were no workmen in sight ?Needless to say, I did not get a reply. Did I expect one? Well manners and courtesy spring to mind but to be truthfull I didn't expect one because that is the way of things in this country at the moment. We pay our taxes, work hard and try to be good citizens and the people who's wages we pay treat you with contempt.In 2003/2004 speed cameras earnt £112.2m in fines . On April 27th 2005 The Times reported despite record speeding offences in 2003/2004 (1.8 million) the number of road deaths rose slightly to 3,508... so how affective are speed cameras really in reducing road deaths ?I don't think for one minute that any reduction in road deaths in 2004/2005 is anything to do with better safety features built into modern cars.. I would be a fool to think that..wouldn't I ?It is also said that there are more people now driving around with points on their licence than there are without. Well can you imagine the reaction if all those people took to their feet and marched on Westminster to confront the powers to be and demand that they own up finally to the fact that revenue creation is the name of the game and not safety. The mind boggles doesn't it.Look at the speed cameras link above it's food for thought and very funny and join this association if you feel really strong about this subject. They are working really hard on behalf of us all.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

I know, I know... It's all been said about brokeback before but I just want to tell you about my experience of seeing this film.

You see, my partner and I saw this film in Manila , Philippines. He is Filipino and we were visiting his family. The cinema is in a huge new development called Rockwell, very palatial in Philippines terms and very secure as you cant get into the area without going through security check points.

The cinema is in a huge upmarket Mall, very very nice but ironically the poverty not far away is quite an eyeopener. Anyway, we went into the cinema and we found we were the only "male couple" there which is not surprising as the Filipinos are mainly catholic and gays are not really accepted. Most of the other cinema goers were middle class M/F Filipino couples mainly in the age group 35 - 50+ .

My partner and I both found the film shattering, it was so powerful and moving and I make no secret of the fact that I had a good cry.. but here's the rub.

In one part of the film when Ennis's wife saw him with Jack by the stairs the whole of the theatre jumped up and shouted "Oh No" !!! This audience were obviously hanging on every word and action, they were well and truly into it !! I was amazed !! Which just goes to show that a love story is a love story no matter what gender you are M/M, M/F or F/F .

It is beautifully directed by Ang Lee and in my book deserved all the accolades it got and judging by the audience in Rockwell, they thought so too.

If you haven't seen it.... then go and see what everyone is talking about !