The Blog of Zakspade
April 2016 Archive

 

You Can't Do That
Friday 29 April, 2016

I pass a supermarket on my walk into the town centre and my place of work.

For the 45 seconds it takes to pass their car park, I am entertained by the antics of those who forget their manners as they manoeuvre about the place.

It was with interest that I watched one particular car as it sped along one side of the car park before suddenly veering into a parking bay between two other cars. Except it didn’t quite make it into the parking bay due to the fact that it crunched the side of one of the cars.

That was my cue to stop and look.

The driver knew full well what they had done. The noise of their collision could be heard for quite a way. So it would be hard to imagine that there was no indication within the car that something had happened.

Out came my mobile phone and I took a photo of the car as the driver reversed and made as if to drive off. That gave me the registration numbers of both the victim and the perpetrator.

The woman driving the car spotted that someone had taken a photograph. Instead of driving off, she got out of her car.

‘Hey!’ she shouted, ‘You can’t take a picture of me!’

‘I didn’t take a picture of you,’ I replied, ‘I took a picture of your car colliding with another car.’

‘You can’t do that, either!’ was the indignant retort.

‘Private car park, private land. I’m standing on a public right of way. Feel free to sue me,’ and I went on my way.

I glanced back and saw that she was watching me as I made my way onward. She looked about the car park and now saw that her outburst had attracted peoples’ attention.

The last thing I saw as I reached the main road was her writing a note.

I guess I can do that after all.

 

But if it were...
Wednesday 27 April, 2016

From time-to-time, holes open up in our roads. There is a breakdown in the integrity of the surface and what develops is known as a pothole. They sometimes cause damage or danger to road users through their position or severity. They are never a good thing.

Forgive my patronising tone, but I feel the need to explain potholes is in case anyone from the local council is reading. What is very obvious is that such people have no idea what a pothole does to vehicles driven over them. Nor do these people understand how dangerous they are to cyclists or buggy-wielding parents as they try to cross busy roads.

The opening paragraph is for those people - and the person who owns the Audi parked in a narrow Leighton Buzzard road.

Along said road there is a huge pothole linked to smaller brethren. It appears as if a portion of the Moon has been lifted and placed along a stretch of that narrow, busy road.

The council have made preparations ahead of its repair. What they did was place No Parking cones along both sides of the road. This was to enable them to close the side of the road in need of urgent patching, while allowing the other side of the road to be used to keep the road open through use of temporary traffic lights.

The nice Audi owner parked opposite the pothole. They didn’t ignore the No Parking traffic cones. No, the owner moved them apart so as to be able to park their car.

No, you didn’t misread that. They actually parked opposite the pothole AND moved the parking prohibition cones so as to be able to park their car.

So the pothole will remain while the selfish idiot is parked, unless the council decide to close the road to through traffic due to being unable manage its passage. The owner’s neighbours must be proud to live near to someone so determined and capable of driving despite their acute sub-normal mental ability.

It gets better.

Walking home later in the day, the car was still parked opposite the pothole. However, it had obviously been driven during the day and once again parked. I say obvious because when they had gone, someone replaced the cones but they once again moved them so as to park - this time they moved different cones. I took photographs on my camera phone - but this is not an illustrated blog, but if it were...

 

Watching and Looking
Monday 25 April, 2016

I wasted a fair bit of yesterday evening and this morning on a web search for an example of a particular watch.

Said watch is aluminium-bodied, pressure sealed to five atmospheres, water resistant to 50 metres, black-faced, is a quartz movement, and is devoid of any manufacturer’s name. However it does have the letters ‘bp’ next to the BP logo that has been in use since 2000. So I am supposing that it cannot be from before then unless someone else was using that oil giant’s symbol and initials before they were.

Why the research, you wonder. The watch came in with a batch to Bijour Bears Jewellery and my job was to identify them so as to determine their value.

The only anomaly I can see with the apparent branding is that the BP design is a single colour (grey on the black watch face), but despite that, I am certain I have correctly identified it as the ‘bp’ is offset to the top and right exactly as used by BP plc.

Right, so that is clear. What isn’t sorted is where it came from. I can find watches branded Gulf, Texaco, Chevron, Shell, and even Standard Oils. But can I find the one I want?

Looking for images of a BP-labelled watch has produced pictures of many watches with varied appearances. However, what I cannot understand is why the photo of the young woman in her underwear playing tennis appeared in the search results. Or, for that matter, why the young lady wearing just a bra as she appears to clip her toenails?

I have to say, the best non-connected image thus far has to be that of Daniel Craig playing James bond wearing swimming trunks and a black PVC bra-top.

The Internet is a very interesting place, but not one for coming up with information on something as simple as a wristwatch.

 

Today's the Day!
Saturday 23 April, 2016

This blog entry isn’t about today.

Well, actually, I suppose it is, but it is just as much about yesterday. The fact is that it is probably better to label it a blog entry covering the two days, although not the passage of those two days but rather a significant event that doesn’t actually cover those days, but was featured by some.

Confused?

It seems that some of our American cousins got mixed up yesterday. Yesterday, 22 April, Facebook kept asking me to Post about what I was doing St George’s Day. On the 22nd of April. That would be the day before St George’s Day. Or, to put it another way: a day too early.

Again on Facebook, some of my US Friends wished me a ‘Happy St George’s Day’ - on 22 April. They may also have been prompted by the Facebook promotions that appeared on US Facebook users’ Timelines. Facebook have my location set as the US (none of my personal data is accurate - I have seen to that) - and they bombard me with ads for things available in Dollars, so I guess moving St George’s Day forward 24 hours was merely something aimed at the American audience.

I replied with Private Messages on Facebook to all who sent me and my British (sic) friends best wishes for the day and pointed out that while they were gratefully received, they were a day early.

So someone at Facebook had made a mistake. St George is the patron saint of England, not America, so nothing to see here - move along.

Getting the date wrong by a day isn’t a hanging offence in this country. It might be in some American states, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it will probably be very few, if any, of them.

But imagine they had done the same on 16 March for St Patrick’s Day...

 

Old dog, New Tricks
Thursday 21 April, 2016

Well, after owning a beagle for the last five years, one might have thought that there would be no more surprises. However, Darwin managed.

Soon after Darwin came to my household, it became clear that beagles are not built for sitting on slippery floors. It seemed that bigger or smaller dogs could sit still without their bottoms sliding out from under them, but beagles forever have to shuffle and cannot make certain movements to order.

One of the things often said about beagles is that they are impossible to train. Not so - all one has to do is make sure they know who the boss is and everything has to be drilled into them. Sometimes repeatedly and frequently, but it works.

Another thing to do (with any dog - not just beagles) is to make them ‘pay a price’ for everything. So, feeding time means Darwin must do a trick or say ‘please’ to get what is offered. Typically he is made to say ‘please’ - which, for him, is standing on his hind legs and offering his forelegs to whoever is feeding him.

Last night I made him say ‘please’ on a carpeted surface. He sat up and pointed at me with both legs and just stayed there until I gave him the proffered treat. This was something he never did at feeding time - hence the normal standing up and holding.

Of course! The floor in the kitchen is tiled. What did I do this morning at feeding time? I led him into the living room and had him say ‘please’ for his food. He sat up and stayed there until I let him go to his feeding bowl.

Now I’m unsure whether it is Darwin or me who has discovered a new trick.

 

Tree Hugging
Tuesday 19 April, 2016

Those who know me will be aware that there is nothing remotely ‘New Age’ about me. In fact, I’m rather conservative (with a small ‘c’ - please note!).

My fingers - an old tale and I mentioned the messing about to get to see my doctor about the pain and suffering the things have brought to my life lately. At their worst they had a tendency to leak blood everywhere. Presently they look awful but I don’t bleed anywhere. However, there is a ‘but’... the pain is worse, although they don’t hurt until touched.

In a way it is an improvement. Originally, I was wincing and thinking bad words whenever I grasped a door handle; surreptitiously examining it afterwards to check I hadn’t bloodied it. Leaving bloody marks about one’s workplace is generally not good.

But now they hurt whenever they are touched. Although their surfaces are generally more intact, they feel like the skin is raw. The feeling of touch is not dissimilar to that of contact with the exposed flesh beneath a blister.

It really is that painful - despite managing to see my doctor and obtain medicated cream to treat the condition. I read up about the medication. What I learned wasn’t good - not good at all.

Apparently, in addition to moisturising the skin, the cream being applied as per the instructions, thins the skin. That is to say, it reduces the thickness.

On the surface, this seems to be a grand idea because a build up of dry skin leads to problems with thinner skin between the hard parts. They tear and the resulting hacks open and weep fluid and blood with the effect that they keep me awake at night.

Instead, I now find myself suffering from what is effectively ultra-thin skin which means pain upon touching anything. Reaching into my pocket for my keys is something that has had me jumping on more than one occasion. Previously unthreatening keys on a ring now have the ability to slice my fingers open - fragile as they now are.

I’ve given up on the doctors as they seem to have made a bad situation far worse. Now I am going down the ‘natural remedies’ route. I’d label myself a tree hugger except that I think it would be too hard on my hands...

 

Weather
Sunday 17 April, 2016

As I sit here writing this particular entry, the sun is shining and the sky is blue.

It seems to bode well for the approaching summer, one might say. Equally, I am minded of the saying: One swallow does not make a summer.

Had I been pondering the question of how the weather at any particular time might serve to indicate how the upcoming summer might perform, then the snow that was falling at this same time yesterday may well have had me considering the purchase of a warmer coat for July.

It’s all about whether one wishes to be swayed by ‘the moment’ as opposed to using proper data to try and construct a view of events ahead. Perhaps I should have used the word appropriate instead of proper when referring to selection of data.

Why? Well, consider this argument: We should all vote in the June referendum to remain in the EU because Italy (an EU member) has such warm sunny weather through much of their summer. That was easy.

However, there is: We should all vote in the June referendum to leave the EU because Poland (an EU member) has such bitterly cold and snowy weather during their winter.

Suddenly not so easy.

To act on ‘the moment’ is to say that decisions in life should depend on which way the wind is blowing. Fine if about to set out on a journey, without an umbrella, to the bottom of one’s garden but not so good if travelling to the next town on foot.

The sad fact is that yesterday’s weather and that of today seem to point at very different futures with respect to what might best populate one’s wardrobes over the coming few months. And what is worse, the glorious sunshine that dominated at the start of this blog entry has been replaced by thick cloud and a very noticeable drop in temperature.

Once I wrap this up, I will retire back to the house, thereby letting the weather of the moment determine whether or not I am able to sit and write in my garden.

 

Waiting
Friday 15 April, 2016

I had a sudden need to visit my doctor. Nothing major; just a desire to avoid returning to leaving bloody marks over everything I touched due to my fingers seemingly falling apart.

My previously prescribed medicated cream had been used to the point of little to no chance of seeing anyone before it ran out. So I arrived at my local surgery at one minute past nine, in the morning to be seen during the ad hoc ‘sit and wait’ clinic operated by one of a pair of surgeries that have merged in order to cut costs and provide a better service for all.

Merged - not merging, or intending; they have merged. Done.

Would this be one of the surgeries that was told by NHS England in March 2016 that the April 2016 merger couldn’t go ahead without further consultation? NHS England clarified what they meant by ‘further consultation’ thusly:

“We have advised them that a decision cannot be made until they have sought the views of patients though a patient engagement exercise.” - Di Pegg, head of primary care for NHS England.

I was never asked. No one I have spoken to who is a patient at either surgery has been asked. No one I have spoken to who is NOT a patient at either surgery has been asked. Yet the merger went ahead 1 April, 2016 as originally planned.

The way I see it, either one or both surgeries lied to Di Pegg; submitting fictional data to NHS England, or they ignored Di Pegg and just pushed on with their plans.

Frankly I am in no position to state whether the merger is a good or bad idea. I simply do not have enough knowledge of what it all means. However, what I do know is that we patients are now being looked after by people who are either arrogant or liars.

Maybe that is being a little strong. I’m probably just grumpy through suffering bleeding fingers - again. That said, I just cannot get away from the fact that Di Pegg needs to get a proper job elsewhere so as to avoid being ignored or lied to.

Whatever happened, I ran out of time as I tried to figure it all out as I sat in the ‘sit and wait’ clinic. In fact I was out the front door by 9:31 - and that included my making an appointment to return in four weeks.

Intrigue abounds, but without the waiting.

 

Two Pubs
Wednesday 13 April, 2016

I obviously spend too much time walking through town to work.

The basis for that statement is the fact that my opening line for this blog entry was initially going to be something akin to: I spotted something that amused me on my walk into work today.

There have been quite a few things I have written that were sparked by something I saw or witnessed as I walked into work. This is going to be one another of those collections of words strung together in things called sentences and offered up for consumption by the blog-reading fraternity.

Just as I walk into town, there are three pubs in a line. There are no other buildings separating them - they are joined together; their buildings touching. Of the three, the third is closed while it is undergoing refurbishment. That leaves just the two pubs open for business and competing for clientele.

Outside the first, on my trudge into the town centre, is a sandwich board featuring a poster for the Euro 2016 football tournament and their offer of satellite TV coverage of the matches. Across the bottom of the poster the words, ‘One pub, every game.’

The second adjoining pub also has sandwich boards outside and feature the exact same poster with the same tagline at the bottom.

So that is two different pubs, with two different names, on the same street, but both claiming the same thing: One pub, every game.

But they are TWO pubs!

 

Cash Machines
Monday 11 April, 2016

I drove down to Marlow and back last Friday, via Aylesbury, Princes Risborough and Wycombe, as my navigation tends to involve ‘town-hopping.’

Sunday saw me do the trip both ways once again.

The problem with my method of navigation is that it takes longer than if you find a fast road that scoots around everywhere in between and allows you to blitz the journey. However, I have managed to retain my natural hair colour through not getting worked up over little things like slow traffic. My approach is to relax into the journey after having allowed the appropriate amount of time in the first place.

So, my journey consisted of one single stretch at 60mph and the rest at 50, 40 or 30mph.

All good in my books. Except for...

...those bloody speed cameras.

My take on the subject of speed cameras, up until my ‘Marlow Experience,’ has been that if you don’t break the speed limit, then why worry? The argument that they exist only to generate extra cash from the hapless motorist falls on my deaf ears. My counter argument is to remind people that it is those who broke the law who whinge and moan about them.

Well, the Marlow trip has educated me. The Safety Brigade carp on about how they are there to improve our safety. In fact they prefer to refer to them as Safety Cameras as opposed to Speed Cameras.

It is an argument I have never sought to undermine as it seems to make sense. Then I saw how they blighted my whole drive south of Aylesbury.

If safety is the point, then how is it safer to drive at 29mph with your eyes on the speedo for 90% of the time? As an advanced motorcyclist, I have always prided myself on predictive reading of the road ahead. Seeing brake lights come on four vehicles on from me has me driving accordingly.

How on earth can anyone be reading the road if all you can do is watch the speedometer like a hawk? Travelling at 32mph in a 30mph zone earns you a ticket nowadays as leeway has been replaced by the need to make up the budget cuts. But really, is 32mph while reading the road ahead more dangerous than 29mph with your head buried in the instrument console?

 

Fun
Saturday 9 April, 2016

A quiet day. It rained and I stayed in.

A photoshoot at our studio at Pink Pig Photography took up some of the afternoon, but otherwise the day was very quiet. In fact, eerily quiet, one might say.

Was it a foreboding on my part - a fear of something not done? Something left undone that would result in a catastrophic failure? Was it the car? Did I leave a widget connected to do-dah not tightened enough? Would I come to a halt at a pedestrian crossing only to watch a wheel roll past me as it makes a bid for freedom?

Something didn’t feel right. During the morning I couldn’t put my finger on it, and during the photoshoot my mind was on getting things right for the client. But the feeling returned once it was over.

The afternoon turned into evening and still my thoughts repeatedly turned to the question of what was wrong.

It was when Britain’s Got Talent came on TV that I realised what was up: my daughter wasn’t home. In fact, she was away the whole weekend with Guides at an activity camp.

No mobile phone (hurrah!) and nothing electronic for her to lose herself in to the exclusion of the human race. Just her, herself, and a board game.

Yes, along with clothes (and spares in case of being drenched), and wellies - a board game was on the checklist of things to take with her. Mobile phones and electronic games were banned.

I’m not sure if she and her fellow Guides will be able to cope with the exertion caused by the requirement to shake a little plastic cup containing a pair of dice, but if they persevere they might encounter something we Oldies experienced when we were young: fun.

 

Electric
Thursday 7 April, 2016

A combination of yesterday and this morning has driven my wife to distraction.

She took delivery of an electric wheelchair yesterday. It is quite trick with its all round independent suspension, raising and tilt seat and fancy electronics. The problem is that she initially referred to it as an electric chair.

Anyone who is unfortunate enough to know me will see that I spotted an opportunity to be linguistically pedantic. Within moments of the reference I suggested that I wasn’t comfortable with the image of her sat in it while wearing a leather skullcap connected to a fearsome electricity supply.

Strike one: a glare and a pronouncement of displeasure at my alleged humour.

This morning, during a conversation surrounding the weather and the resistance of the chair’s electrics against light rain, my wife referred to it as a powered chair. That was my cue to go on about it being a chair for super heroes and their ilk until she felt obliged to ask me what on earth I was going on about. That was the point when I revealed I had ‘obviously’ misheard what she had said as I talked about the kids TV programme, Power Rangers.

Strike two: some serious eye rolling and the words, ‘Another quip like that and it won’t be a wheelchair you will be needing; at your age it will be a Bath chair.’

There won’t be a third strike. I’m hoping to make it to my next birthday - breathing unaided without the help of a life support machine.

 

Sugar
Tuesday 5 April, 2016

Bijour Bears Jewellery come across an interesting little item the other day - some silver sugar tongs.

Okay, so I can see that sugar tongs are not everyone’s cup of tea. I don’t what to say at this point - that thought was so mangled, my head hurts.

It was already established that they were silver. What was unknown was their age.

It was then that the stamp indicating that duty on the silver had been paid suddenly became important. It turned out to be the second version of the George III stamp meaning that it was no more recent than 1820. That makes it older than me by a good few decades.

Does it make them valuable?

If old means expensive then no one can buy me. Well, not for money, but I might be swayed by a cheeseburger or two...

To the best of my knowledge there were no cheeseburgers during the reign of King George III as the first cheeseburger was created by one Lionel Sternberger of the USA sometime between 1924 and 1926.

No doubt, King George would have gone mad if he had been subjected to a cheeseburger during his time.

Hang on, he did go mad. Maybe I got it wrong about the invention of the cheeseburger.

 

Summer is Finally Here!
Sunday 3 April, 2016

Summer is finally here!

And I base that on what?

Is it the weather? The fact that when the sun shines, it is possible to walk about town in just a light shirt? Maybe it is the lack of having to watch for puddles during that walk? Could it be the warmth that penetrates one’s skin?

The cynic might point to the lack of snow while saying it is above freezing at the moment.

I enjoyed a delightful brunch in the middle of town yesterday. Not only was the food good, but sitting outside in a well sheltered courtyard, with its own suntrap, one could not help but be filled with the joys of spring and the anticipation of the summer to come.

Was it the meal ‘hitting the spot’ that gave me a joyous disposition? Am I that easily swayed when it comes to matters so momentous that a little bit of food and I am full of good thoughts? Am I really becoming my pet beagle - a dog that would sell his soul to the owner of the next morsel likely to come his way?

So many questions, but really only the one answer. There was just a single occurrence that created the feeling that summer is wending its way inextricably towards me and those I love, respect and adore, and even a few I really don’t care much for this side of Hades.

It was something that smacked me between the eyes like a house brick wrapped in glittery paper - difficult to ignore. An event that startled me once it sunk in that it was real and not my imagination.

The sound came first and my mind first supposed my ears to be telling fibs. Then I saw it with my own eyes. A vision that confirmed what my ears had claimed: an ice cream van was outside my house selling its wares.

Summer must finally be here!

 

When is a Deposit not a Deposit?
Friday 1 April, 2016

No, it isn’t a joke or one of my attempts at humour so beloved by my wife and close friends.

The question was raised today when there became a need to cancel a booking for later in the year with Hoseasons. It turned out that the ‘deposit’ paid - which we had written off, not expecting to get back - turned out to not to be the ‘full’ deposit.

At first I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. To be honest, I’m still not really sure, although what I did learn was that I now owed more than I originally thought.

Confused? I was before it dawned on me that they were actually asking for more money on top of the deposit already paid. What made it really fun was the fact that the representative was unable to advise how the company got to the figure or where their T&Cs stated that the deposit was only a small bit of the actual deposit - er...

Naturally I did a little research on the topic as I wondered if the practise of taking a part-deposit was legal. If not then it would be unenforceable - and I would be letting them know that and the reason why. I found it pays to let idiots (whether they be individuals or companies) know that you are fully briefed on the legal status of any dispute. Otherwise in-house solicitors start down the road of bullying on the basis that if they brow beat you, then they will win because they figure you to be ignorant of the law, if not the facts.

Unfortunately, it is legal.

That said, I really wish I had investigated using Hoseasons before booking through them. My opinion of them was they are a solid, trustworthy company that have been around since I was a child (in fact, they have been trading over 70 years - so a bit before my time). However, their acquisition by Wyndham Exchange & Rentals 2010/2011 seems to have brought on a change for the worse.

It turns out that Wyndham have been sanctioned many times by various US authorities over the years for their sales practises. It seems that being fined sums in excess of $600,000 for each example of their idiocy isn’t as lucrative as fleecing UK customers through the adoption of the US policies regarding T&Cs and the slavish adherence to them. Forget what one might think about the now elusive Customer Service Hoseasons were once famed for.

A bit late now, but I really wish I had looked Hoseasons up before blindly pledging them money...