Thursday, 27 November 2014

How is this possible?

I’m guessing you’ve used self-checkout.  Most people have at least tried it.

The one I use most regularly is the one in my local Sainsbury.  I hate it.  It’s a useless and incompetent system.  How is it that it continues to be useless and incompetant years after its introduction?

I use my own bags, because obviously that completely saves the environment, and regardless of which type of bag I use the system doesn’t like my bags and I have to wait, like a naughty child for the assistant to come and save me from the flashing red light of doom.

Several times during the scanning and “placing things in the bagging area” process the system has a wobble and needs the reassurance of a qualified human.  I don’t qualify and never will.  The qualified humans stationed on idiot machine duty have to stand around trying to deal with flashing red light problems all day long.  They’re dashing from one rouge hue to another constantly.  These superior humans also have to listen to foul language being emitted through gritted teeth from the mouths of the customers whose souls are slowly being destroyed by the machines that could give Marvin a run for his money.

Then the machine needs to check with a human when a customer wants to buy alcohol.  Again this relies on the human to spot the flashing “Is this person over 18?” light.

It’s not liked my cards before and sometimes I think it has a camera and has decided it just doesn’t like the look of me.

On average for a basket of six items I need human intervention about six times.  It’s an obscene technology fail and yet it persists.  Is this because it’s better than the alternative or are we just a bunch of masochists going back for more?

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sharing economy

I saw an item on the new sharing economy this evening.

I don’t think there’s anything new about it at all.  People used to rent out their spare rooms and people used to share their hedge trimmer with neighbours or am I remembering a Nirvana that exists only in my rose-tinted and failing memory?

Airbnb makes sharing your spare room easier but I’m not sure it happens anymore than it ever used to.

And I don’t think there’s any more sharing of stuff than there ever was.  I’ve tried to encourage it with setting up a Street Club for our neighbourhood but at the moment the only people that have joined are me, Hannah and one neighbour.  

Street Club ( is a really nice idea to try and get communities talking and sharing.  It was set up by B&Q but given that the last tweet from the @streetclub account happened quite a few months ago I’m guessing that particular budget has been cut.

The site is still usable though and I would still like it to work, but it needs more people engage for it to be successful.

But either way I don’t think the sharing economy is any bigger than it’s been in the past.  So there.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Creatively skinning felines

I’ve set up a food bank collection at work.

Tesco are lending me some crates, I’ve ordered and received the groceries to kick start the collection, I’ve printed off sample shopping lists, I’ve secured a room at work, I’ve got the appropriate approvals from HR and Facilities Management but I hadn’t got approval to send an email to everyone in the building using the bulk mail facility.

The bulk mail system at work is tightly controlled and there are strict rules applied when decided what can use the functionality and what can’t.  I understand that every Tom, Dick and Harry can’t use this system and it’s important to have appropriate controls in place.

As bulk mail wasn’t available to me I considered my other options.  

Posters around the building are tightly controlled too and whilst there is a system for distributing them I’ve never been sure that this is a perfect system.

I could talk to everyone in the building but that would take some time and distract me, and the people I’m talking to, from the day job.

I could do a desk drop but that would be costly in terms of resource and my time.

I could email everyone I know but that wouldn’t give me the exhaustive coverage I was looking for.

So I decided to ask the Chairman and Managing Director for help.  If he cascaded an email and all of those recipients cascaded the email and so on, then that should be fairly comprehensive coverage.

I sent the email.  He replied: he supported what I was doing and requested that a bulk mail be sent out.

I wore a grin from ear the ear, or ‘ere to ‘ere, for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Did I just do that?

So  I think I went onto Amazon and bought a couple of things. It's just too easy.

I wanted a lamp and there was one there that I'd added to my wish list a few days ago.

I think I might have bought something else too.

I think someone else should control our router settings.  Buying whilst tired does lead to excitement in ensuing days as I see what the postman delivers, but I'm not sure I make the best purchase decisions when sleepy.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Sorting stuff

I’ve been sorting stuff this evening.

Yes, I’ve ferried the children to various scouting activities and yes I’ve cooked for all of us.  Obviously the washing up had to be done and the packed lunch making and the drying up and putting away.  Work surfaces needed cleaning, the vac needed emptying, recycling boxes needed to be brought back to the side of the house...

A delivery from Amazon that was due on Saturday needed chasing.  Flowers needed ordering.  I had to try and find a replacement valve cover for Ethan’s Sigg water bottle - I realise why we live in a disposable society now.

The mail needed opening and sorting and filing, as far as my filing goes: pile of stuff Ann needs to file, Dave’s stuff, stuff for the recycling bin, stuff for shredding.

I had to tell Akele that Ethan was moving from his current cubs group to another, different scout group and then check that I was right with that assumption.  I needed to see if Ethan’s friend could also join the same scout group.

The grocery shopping needed doing and I had to remember to order extra for the food bank.  This reminded me the bread maker needed feeding with ingredients.

My old phone needed erasing.  I needed to check phone contract options for 4G but before that had to endure hours of trying to reset my bloody username and password for my T-Mobile account.  It’s written down now to prevent me swearing quite so much next time.

I needed to figure out exactly where to park at Bluewater to maximise efficiency and minimise time-wasting when I go there tomorrow.

I put books in a bag to share with someone tomorrow and they’re near the back door so that they won’t be forgotten.

I didn’t have to watch a snippet of Strictly - It Takes Two and Masterchef, but I did anyway.  

Facebook required response to a friend and Twitter had someone I know was asking a question about my availability in December.

Online payment was done so that Ethan could have school meals and that reminded me to check Hannah’s school balance which lead to me topping that up too and paying a further instalment towards her German trip.

E-mail needed checking in case I’d overlooked something important.

I blogged - but I recognise this didn’t need to happen.

The mud on the inside of the car needed shifting - I didn’t do that.

There is something else I haven’t done that’s also essential.  I need to sleep.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Doing it legally

Imagine you're in the office and people are raving about a series that's currently on Sky. You don't have Sky because you think they don't deserve your money - there's bad blood there and you've sworn off them for life.

Rather than eat humble pie and sign up with Sky you want to know where you can stream it legally.

You could browse Netflix and Amazon Prime etc or you could get someone else to do the hard work for you.

The first service you could use is which will search legal streaming sources to advise you on availability.

If it's not available on your platform of choice then you could use  This site also searches for you but will also notify you when the show you are interested in becomes available on a particular platform.


It's my mum's fault

"Hannah - you know it's a non uniform day today?"

"Er no, I thought that was next week."

I knew I'd seen an email about a non uniform day for Children in Need and I knew Children in Need was today. I also knew Ethan was going to school in normal clothes today.

I checked the email.

It is next week.

"As you were. It's next week. That's stupid because it's on the wrong day."

Dave piped up "Hannah, Mum just tried to get you a detention."

Thanks Dave.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

An hour or so

This is a snapshot of an hour or so of my life.  It's not extraordinary and I'm sure other parents could cite similar hours.  Wednesday evenings require choreographing.  Planning is involved and punctuality is important.

I leave work at 16:45.  As I'm driving home I get a call from Hannah.  She's near home and wants to go home and not collect Ethan from the after school club. I say that that's OK providing she fills the kettle and puts it on.

I pull up at the after school club at about 16:55 and collect Ethan who had seen me pull up and had gathered his coat and bag so he could be ready.

We park at home at 17:03.

I tell Ethan to get ready for football while I cook.

I smell fresh bread and check the bread maker. It has three minutes left on the timer.

I check mail - two items, both junk.

I start to prepare a stir fry having prepared cooked chicken yesterday evening and cut vegetables this morning.  Sauce is shop bought.

I take the bread out of the bread maker.

Hannah and I sit down to eat at 17:12 and Ethan joins at 17:14 when he's finished getting changed.

I finish eating at 17:24 and the children take a little longer.  We're using chopsticks and none of us has mastered this.

I go upstairs and get changed into jeans whilst reading the junk mail from Amazon.  Who would have anticipated Amazon using direct mail? (They shouldn't have bothered.)

I come downstairs at 17:28 and plonk myself on the sofa.  I check Facebook, Twitter, email and then indulge in a  few minutes of the 2048 app.

I ask Hannah if she has homework and encourage her to stop reading and do her homework.  I also remind her that her room needs tidying.

Ethan asks me to sign his homework diary.  He's read 1984 (twice and now finished the book), Guinness Book of World Records (twice) and Amazing Brain Teasers.  He's done some maths homework - he tells me some of the set homework was optional so I make sure I let the teacher know which bit he's done.

Dave phones.  He has been to Swindon and, whilst he said he wouldn't be back late, he has decided to pop into the office.  He won't be home until probably eight o'clock.

I don coat and boots and Ethan and I leave for football practice.  We walk there arriving at 17:58.

I walk back arriving home at 18:07.  Hannah's homework is done, the tidying isn't.

I type a blog post…


Tuesday, 11 November 2014


Ethan came home yesterday with some voting papers.

I must have missed the letter that explained they were looking for candidates; maybe that was deliberate.

The school has a school governor vacancy and ballot papers with two candidates were delivered with two envelopes to ensure the anonymity of votes cast.

I chose quickly between the two candidates and when Dave came home I pointed him in the direction of his ballot paper.

He grumbled and complained and then said he was going to "do a Russell Brand" and spoil his ballot paper.

My vote has made it back to school, Dave's blank paper is sat on the kitchen work surface.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Know when to "twist"

Hannah was treated to a nice new school bag when she started at secondary school.  It was a present from her grandparents.

After about seven months the magnet clasps fell off the bag.  I got in touch with Cath Kidston, returned the bag and they sent a replacement and refunded my postage.

About six months later the replacement bag had also lost its magnetic clasps but the handle also came away from the bag rendering it an un-bag.

I got in touch and returned the bag to Cath Kidston following their advice.

They didn't reply so I followed up.  The deal was that they'd provide goods to the value of £30 which was the last price that this bag was sold for.

I questioned this as a very similar bag was available on the site for £41, reduced from £68.

I was told there were minor changes between the bag we'd returned and the one that was currently available.  The deal was £30 worth of goods or, if I produced proof of purchase for the original bag, then whatever was paid originally.

I checked and said we were happy to accept goods to the value of the similar bag currently for sale at £41.  We had used the bag for over a year and this seemed fair.

The answer came back.  Goods to the value of £30 or the value on the receipt.  No more.

I checked with Hannah's grandparents and they produced the receipt for £68.

The customer services team could have got away with a spend of £41 plus postage costs.  They're now committed to £68 plus postage costs.

Is this good customer service?  

Well all I wanted was the £41 value.  I've ended up with £68 and I should be a satisfied customer.

I know they were gambling on me accepting £30.  In the game of pontoon the decision to stick and not twist has meant they've gone bust.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Technology versus efficiency

I decided to clear leaves from the garden today.

I could wait a few more weeks until they've all fallen but today was sunny and there were plenty enough leaves on the ground already.

We have a garden vac/blower and I always imagine that this should make light work of leaf clearance.  In my head I imagine some ridiculous advert where a garden vac makes leaf clearing the sort of task one could complete before breakfast.  So, because that's how this garden tool should work, I decided to use it.  

It was slow going.  The leaves were wet and therefore heavy and rather like Greater Anglia I felt like crying "They're the wrong sort of leaves" before cancelling the service entirely.

I persisted, because that's what I do.  It was still taking forever.  A brief chat to a passing neighbour didn't aid my progress.

I gave up and resorted to good old fashioned manual labour when my muscles and patience ran out.

Leaf grabbers like these are a brilliant invention.  Many leaves moved quickly.


Progress slowed several times, three to be precise.  I met James from across the way and we had a good long chat.  Margaret and her daughter stopped for a chinwag as they passed and Barbara came by so we spent some time catching up, which comprised mainly of moaning about the builders and the  council.

I'm thinking of ditching the garden vacuum.  It promises so much and delivers so little.

Getting hands dirty and getting stuck in is far more satisfying.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


I read today that Paramount are hoping to build the World's third biggest theme park and indoor water park just south of Lakeside.
The article implied it would be built just south of the river and I assume that means Dartford.
I recall plans for something similar just inside the M25 on the north side of the Thames in Essex. That didn't happen presumably because a nature reserve was involved.
I'm just a bit sceptical about Paramount's designs for north Kent.
If it goes ahead I look forward to the inevitable traffic chaos and the end of shopping at Bluewater (for me). But I'll also probably, and very hypocritically, be in the market for a season ticket.

Friday, 7 November 2014


Dave and I have decided that we'd be good TV if we were part of Gogglebox.

But we're not. So you'll just have to use your imaginations.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Homework detention

Ethan attended homework detention today.

Had he done his homework? 

Well he tells me the only requirement due today was that he should have read three times.

He reads all the time. So why the detention?

Because his loser parents didn't sign his homework diary attesting to his reading.

But before you crack open the violin case to play Hearts and Flowers, bear in mind that homework detention comprises of half an hour of doing the missing homework which, for Ethan, was reading, his favourite thing to do.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Don't ask your children

"Hannah, how much do you think Daddy should spend on my birthday present?"

"About the same as you'd spend on me or Ethan."

"Ah, but he's known me longer."

"But mum, when you and Dad spend money on me or Ethan that's money from the joint account.  Dad'll be spending money from his own account which won't have as much in it as the joint account so actually Dad should be spending less on you than you spend on Ethan and me."

"Ah, but what am I worth?"  

It is at this point I realise I'm clutching at straws.  I consider explaining that the joint account is actually a massive overdraft but decide against it and abandon the conversation and open a beer.