Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Ryan's Daughter

This isn't a blog about a film starring Robert Mitchum, it's about a different Ryan and his daughter Liberty, son Zachary and wife Stacey. It's about the Welsh dragon Ryan Giggs and the very messy super injunction.

I've been thinking about why Giggs has continued to try and prevent this story entering the public domain and it might be because of his wife.

Imagine what's been going on in the Giggs household.

Ryan knows he's been found out and he knows he needs to tell his wife before she finds out from somewhere else. She can't bear the thought of the loss of face.

She wants to try and preserve the marriage but she can't bear the thought of the tabloid press and gossip magazines splashing this salacious tittle tattle all over their front pages, especially as she and Ryan are trying to patch things up.

Or maybe I'm wrong and Giggs has been so stupid that he's honestly felt that a super injunction can prevent his wife from finding out about his indiscretion.

Saturday, 21 May 2011


My donations to charity fall into several categories: large one-off donations, regular direct debit, sponsorship and small adhoc donations.  I like to choose the charities that will receive my money in my own time and I don't like the so-called chuggers who approach you in the street, tell you about a terrible injustice somewhere in the world, and then ask you to sign up for a direct debit benefiting the charity for whom they work.

I understand why charities want people to sign up for direct debits.  Once you've signed up it's a pretty much guaranteed regular income with no more effort or resource on the part of the charity fundraising department.

But chugging is intrusive and it has a very negative approach that requires that the victim feel guilty.  Giving to charity should be something that is done willingly without coercion and it should be something that makes the giver feel good.  Channel 4's Secret Millionaire programme highlights very well how giving is good for the soul.

Earlier this year I made a large donation to UNICEF.  I'm sure the money will be put to good use.

Today I received a call from UNICEF.  They were grovelingly grateful for my donation which made me feel uncomfortable.  The tone of the conversation was deferential which I don't like.  I prefer conversations that are on an even footing and have balance.

The call then turned into a telephone chugging that involved asking me to sign up for a direct debit after telling me about the paucity of childhood vaccinations in third world countries.

I've signed up to the telephone preference service at home because I don't like uninvited intrusion into my home life.  I despise the High Street chugging activity and was very unimpressed that UNICEF choose to spend money on telephone chugging existing supporters in their own homes.

So UNICEF, if you're listening, please spend time on researching and profiling your supporters because if you carry on approaching supporters inappropriately you will tarnish your brand image which is likely to lead to less support in the future.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Speed Awareness Course - Part 2

The course was scheduled for four and a half hours in Aylesford Rugby Club.

Gratuitous shot of rugby players from Aylesford Rugby Club:

Aylesford Match Report

Anyway it's not quite the venue I imagined for a Speed Awareness Course but the venue was as unexpected as the offender list.  Speeders, it seems, are young, old, very old, male, female, white collar, blue collar, unemployed.

So what does a Speed Awareness Course cover?  Well I think that depends on the course provider and the area that the course is in.  So anything you read here applies to rugby clubs in Kent.

The first thing we did was write our names on the tent cards on our table.  The joker on our table wrote his name as "Speedy".  How we laughed.

The second thing we did was a bit of an ice breaker.  In groups we had to identify some road signs.  This served to highlight the general ignorance in the room.  I didn't find my own ignorance too surprising as the Highway Code is a book I haven't opened for a lot of years, and actually I knew more than the rest of my group, but still not enough.

There then followed a similar exercise in which we had to identify the speed limit for different roads without the aid of visual stimulus.  I got into a bit of an argument then because the instructor told us that Transit vans weren't one tonne vans.  I said they were available as one and two tonne vans.  I almost started to go into wheelbase and drive options but realised I was there to learn.  (She was wrong, I think).

The rest of the course is a bit of a blur.  I sort of started to lose interest when they stopped testing us.  We were forced to watch one of those hideous adverts promoting the message "Think! Kill your speed."  There then followed extended over-analysis of the video and some pseudo role play in which we assumed the role of the characters in the film.  I mean I love am dram and did Drama 'O' Level but in a room of adults that don't want to know one another and who only have "being naughty" in common, it's just inappropriate.

I think we were treated to some road casualty stats that I already knew and then we did some defensive driver classroom training which isn't a patch on defensive driver training in a car.

Did I mention I walked out with a new copy of the Highway Code and a pen.  I didn't steal these, they were being given away.  I'm not a criminal.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Speed Awareness Course - Part 1

I took part in the new Ford Focus launch in February.  It took place "oop north" near Rotherham, based at the Magna Science Centre.

All New Focus

The day was structured with classroom sessions around a drive section.  The drive followed a predefined route that was followed with a clever thingy that used GPS and the car's speakers to tell me about the features of the vehicle and give me directions.

Before the drive we were paired up for the drive and received a safety briefing that reminded us not to speed.  We were told there were speed cameras en route and the police had been advised of our route specifically.

I wasn't worried as I had no intention of speeding.

My drive partner drove the first half of the route and after an extended halfway break I took over the driving.  At this point I was having a conversation, driving an unfamiliar car, listening to a description of vehicle features and also driving instructions and directions.  I was of course also paying attention to speed limits.

It was a good day and the new Ford Focus is very impressive.  I think it might be my next car, in Candy Red.

Anyway, two weeks later I received details of a speeding ticket.  I knew it couldn't possibly be mine so I queried the time of the ticket.  It tallied with the time I was driving.  I asked whether there was a photo and was told that there was but it wouldn't show who was driving.

I even went as far as trying to re-drive the route using Google Streetview to spot speed limit signs because I was so convinced I hadn't exceeded the speed limit.  As  didn't know the area well this last desperate attempt proved to be futile as it was too difficult to recall the route and "drive" it online.

Either South Yorkshire Police had screwed up, or I had.  Respect for authority and an acknowledgment of my fallibility meant I completed the paperwork that acknowledged my guilt.  Guilty of travelling at 36mph in a 30mph limit (except I still think it must have been a 40mph limit).

I was offered the option of a Speed Awareness Course at a cost of £80 and no points or I could take the three points and pay a £60 fine.  I opted for the former.

After explaining that a course in Rotherham wasn't that convenient I was offered a course in Kent.  The admin involved in booking the course was quite painful and frustrating.  Despite completing a form with my details and returning it I received a confirmation addressed to the wrong person and with the wrong offence date.  The name was a small mistake, but if you're doing this because of an offence it's important the details are correct.  The offence date error wasn't an error at all, simply the only way the Kent system could process my information.  I was told "not to worry" but I wasn't very comfortable.  In the future would someone understand that the Kent system doesn't work properly and doesn't always have a record of the correct offence date?  After several telephone calls with perhaps the most patronising man ever, I gave up and paid my money.

A few months later I went on the course...


Friday, 13 May 2011

Hannah's sandals

This is perhaps not my most inspiring blog title.  Perhaps I could do better, but maybe there's a reason I'm not giving it 100%.  Maybe the subject has drained my imagination.


I bought Hannah some sandals on May 1st and yesterday, May 11th, they broke.  Hannah had to walk from the breakfast club (not at the school) to school wearing sandals that she couldn't do up because the buckle prong had fallen off.  Once at school she then had the foresight to change into her P.E. trainers and spent the rest of the school day wearing them.

Today Hannah was back wearing black shoes to school and this afternoon I traipsed into town with offending sandals.

There was an assistant at the checkout.  Initially she seemed preoccupied because she didn't acknowledge me.  I took the sandals and receipt out of the bag and placed them on the counter.

Eventually I was greeted with eye contact.  There wasn't an "Hello" or "Can I help you?" so I started the conversation with "Hi.  I bought these less than a fortnight ago and they've broken." and was met with a blunt "Well whaddya wanna do?"  I said I'd like a replacement pair as Hannah didn't have any sandals to wear to school.  She said nothing, peered at the receipt and went off to the stock room.

When she returned I discovered I'd have to order a replacement pair.  As she went through the re-ordering process there was a lot of mumbling and grumbling about how slow and unresponsive the system was.  This noise wasn't directed at me but at a colleague, but I couldn't help hear every whinging detail.

She paused to ask me for my address and looked closer at my receipt for some details before giving me the receipt for the order.

I asked for my receipt back and she said "Are you sure?  It's only got shoe cream left on it."  "Actually" I said "there's another pair of sandals on there."  "Oh, really.  I'm sorry, I didn't see that.  Oh well if you want to take that back I'll need your details on here" and she pushed a form under my nose that needed name and address details that I'd already provided for the order.  I pointed out that she already had my details and she said "Well you can always decline but...." and frankly I stopped listening, filled in my details, thanked her and left.

I'm not an expert in retail but the minimum I would expect in these circumstances, if I ran Clarks, would be:

  • Customers receive a friendly greeting at the beginning of a conversation.
  • If nobody is available to help someone looking for assistance then the customer should be told that someone will be available soon.
  • If goods are faulty then the first thing that should happen is that the customer should receive an apology. Then the customer should be offered a replacement or, if this is declined, a refund.
  • If an order is necessary to provide a replacement then a customer should only have to provide details once.
  • As the customer is leaving they should be thanked for taking the time to bring the item into the shop.

I forgive Clarks for the faulty footwear but I don't forgive sloppy, unwelcoming, unfriendly, lazy customer service.

Come on Clarks.  You can do better.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Local Councils and consultations

The Council are conducting a "Neighbourhood Consultation" about the Brentwood Local Plan.  I knew about this because there was a leaflet that came through the door, probably as a local paper insert.

The leaflet didn't look like something from the council, in fact it looked more like it was promoting a party supply shop.

Council leaflet

The "party supply shop" leaflet advised that the Council would be holding public consultations in a variety of places, one of which would be Brentwood High Street, on May 7th.

I turned up today expecting to find enthusiastic Council employees eager to solicit the public's views on Planning policy and potential future development.  What I found was somewhat different.

A gazebo over a table was surrounded by "nice young people" who were both nice and young but not directly employed by the Council.  The Consultation appears to have been outsourced to a group who have run consultations elsewhere and so are very versed in planning policy and how to gather opinion.  What they don't know is Brentwood or anything about the particular planning concerns that are relevant to this area.

The method for obtaining opinion varied depending upon the member of the public with whom they were dealing.  People who knew about the process and the current planning policy were invited to write their thoughts on small post-it notes and this was the category into which I seemed to fall.  Other people who just happened to be passing were encouraged to talk with their views being captured by the nice young folk who were writing on small post-it notes.  None of the ideas on the post-it notes were being attributed to any particular individual.  There was no data capture for future follow up.

I decided this was rather inefficient and asked for an e-mail address so I could send in my extensive thoughts on the matter.  The woman I was talking to looked startled by my request and told me she thought she'd seen one somewhere.  There were some leaflets on display and I suggested that an e-mail address might be there and she "didn't think so."  I looked and there was an e-mail address for further information but it was email@brentwood.gov.uk which is an e-mail address for all manner of general enquiries and perhaps not the best for a targeted consultation.  She then mentioned that there were some questionnaires "somewhere" and, sure enough, after a rummage around under the table she found a questionnaire with all of the information I needed.

If you do want to participate in this consultation, and you do want to have your details attributed to your input, then visit www.brentwood.gov.uk/your neighbourhood. For some strange reason this link is configured such that it won't work without the www.  And you can also e-mail planning.policy@brentwood.gov.uk for more copies of questionnaires or to find out more about the consultation.  There's also a telephone number 01277 312610.

You have until July 1st and by completing a questionnaire you could win £50 of shopping vouchers (there are no terms and conditions that explain which shops so it could be for multiple copies of the Mayor's 2011 calendar, who knows.)  There is also no privacy statement on the form despite the collection of personal data, but perhaps I'm expecting too much of our highly paid Council employees and their even more highly paid consultants.  So you need to be prepared for your details to be sold to the highest bidder....probably double glazing and kitchen salespeople.

I encourage you to get involved and not just via the yellow sticky note process because it's your town and you deserve a say*.




*obviously only your town if you live in Brentwood.

Friday, 6 May 2011

What to do?

At the age of 15 I had a bit of advice from my mum.  She told me that I should start applying moisturiser daily to avoid wrinkles.  I ignored that advice until some point in my twenties and am now a wrinkled old hag.  Moral of the story is listen to your mum because she knows what's best for you.

Hannah has fair skin and, just like her mother, that skin is dry.  Hannah has sore patches on her face where the skin is super dry.  Whenever I go near Hannah with a cream to try and make her better she cowers, flinches and resists.

It's like a phobia.

I've tried persuasion and that hasn't worked.  I've tried all sorts of different creams and that hasn't worked.  When I say hasn't worked, the cream has been fine it's just that I still get the objections.  I've resorted to just telling her what's going to happen and ignoring her remonstrations.

I don't like doing this.  I'd much rather have a willing patient.  Does anyone have advice?

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Today at work I was asked to write a personal ad.  I've not done that before and I cheated.  On this blog and elsewhere on t'internet I use this to describe myself "Average on the surface, just don't scratch the surface." So I used this and appended it with my Twitter account @a4ann.  I thought it might have some stand and might encourage curiosity.  The Twitter acocunt also provided a way for people to find out more about me and served as a response mechanism.

It was interesting to hear other people's attempts and to see how different mine was.

I wondered whether there were some good examples on the net, and of course there are.  I thought I'd share a few.

Imp and angel. Disembodied head in jar, 24, seeks pixie goddess to fiddle with while Rome burns. You bring marshmallows. No. I make joke. You like laugh? I like comebacks and confessions. Send photo of someone else.

Three toed mango peeler searching for wicked lesbian infielder. Like screaming and marking territory with urine? Let's make banana enchiladas together in my bathtub. You bring the salsa.

I like eating mayonnaise and peanut butter sandwiches in the rain, watching Barney Miller reruns, peeing on birds in the park and licking strangers on the subway; you eat beets raw, have climbed Kilimanjaro, and sweat freely and often. Must wear size five shoes.

Small lumpy squid monkey seeks healthy woman with no identifying scars, any age. Must have all limbs. Recommend appreciation of high-pitched, screeching noises. Must like being bored and lonely. Must not touch the squids, EVER. No tongue.

I am spitting kitty. Ftt Fttttttt. I am angry bear. Grrrrr. I am large watermelon seed stuck in your nose. Zermmmmmmmmmm. I am small biting spider in your underwear. Yub yub yub. No mimes.

Bitter, unsuccessful middle aged loser wallowing in an unending sea of inert, drooping loneliness looking for 24 year old needy leech-like hanger-on to abuse with dull stories, tired sex and Herb Alpert albums. Baby, you are my Tijuana Taxi.

Me -- trying to sleep on the bus station bench, pleading with you to give me a cigarette; you -- choking on my odor, tripping over your purse trying to get away; at the last moment, our eyes meeting. Yours were blue. Can I have a dollar?

There is a little place in the jumbled sock drawer of my heart where you match up all the pairs, throw out the ones with holes in them, and buy me some of those neat dressy ones with the weird black and red geometrical designs on them.

Mmmm, Pez! Rabid Wonder Woman fan looking for someone in satin tights, fighting for our rights and the old red, white 'n blue. You look like Linda Carter? Big plus. Know all words to theme song? Marry me.

Angry, simple-minded, balding, partially blind ex-circus flipper boy with a passion for covering lovers in sour cream and gravy seeks exotic, heavily tattooed piercing fanatic, preferably hairy and stinky, either sex, for whippings, bizarre sex and fashion consulting. No freaks.

Morbidly overweight, seriously competitive computer gamer with creative genius wrt online persona... seeking svelte, kinky sex vixen for impossible fantasy roleplay. Some willingness to assist with basic bodily functions required.

Gentle, middle-aged teddy bear with unfortunate flatulence challenge seeking olfaction-impaired ourdoors girl for good times and possible matrimony. Must enjoy open-air activities and prefer spending time alone as a couple. 

Hey you! Yes you, Snootch Mama! Onto the bike, Beeyotch, grab hold (you know where!) and lets rumble on to the log slide of love to ride the ol skin boat to tuna town. Yah, Baby, you've got male!

Ho hum.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

You bitch!

Sometimes I post stuff on Twitter and Facebook and it's not true.  For example I give the impression I drink way more than I actually do.  I'm no saint but I'm not the sinner that I portray.

I can hear you saying "She needs to admit she has a problem.  She's in denial."  Well maybe, but only I know the truth.  Let me give you an insight into a little conversation I had this evening.  I'm paraphrasing because I didn't write this down as it happened.

As I'm opening a bar of chocolate I say to Dave "I might just have a glass of wine."

"You bitch! I was trying to be good."

"Well you don't have to have a glass."

"Yeah, like that's going to happen."

"Well I'd be just as happy with a cup of tea."

"Well I'm not opening a bottle, but if you did....  I'm weak."

"I know."

I didn't.  I didn't need a drink, I just thought a drink might be nice or useful.  I didn't need it and was just as happy with my cup of tea.

But what the conversation did do was affect Dave.  He now wanted a glass/bottle of wine and he didn't want to do the work that he'd persuaded himself he would do tonight.