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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Life in the slow lane!

There is a lot of pseudo-scientific rubbish being perpetrated during the commercial breaks on UK television at present (and I’m already collecting data for a piece about THAT) but I assume that most of it only manages to get past the Advertising Standards people because the substances mentioned are registered Trade Marks rather than actual chemical names.

I have, however, recently discovered a blatant example of demonstrably false advertising and would appreciate your advice on whether you think that I can or should take legal action.

To set the scene, my current contract involves me in a 25 mile each way trip from Peterborough to the town of Spalding in the Lincolnshire Fens.

The first 7 or 8 miles from home involve driving on Peterborough’s excellent network of dual carriageway “Parkways” (incidentally can anyone tell me why it is that in the UK we drive on a Parkway and park on a driveway?) before joining the A16 for the rest of the trip.

Now you might think from the letter “A” in that road name and the comparatively low number following it that this would be quite a major highway and, for this part of the world, indeed it is.

It is quite a new road (the old routing via Market Deeping has been renamed the A1175) built in the last 10 years or so and it runs in a reasonably straight line from Peterborough to the outskirts of Spalding before wending its merry way on to Boston and, ultimately, Grimsby.

It is a good quality piece of road but there are two things wrong with it.

Firstly, the Highways Agency, presumably in a bid to save money to waste on more important projects, caused it to be constructed as a single carriageway road (for non-UK readers that’s one lane in each direction). This means that if you want or need to overtake someone you have either to wait for a long gap in the oncoming traffic or take a chance on the amount of “oomph” your car engine has (not a lot in my case) to enable you to get back on the correct side of the road in time.

Secondly, some idiot government functionary (without asking the car driving electorate, of course) decided a few years back to impose a 40 mile per hour speed limit on Heavy Goods Vehicles when driving on anything less than a dual carriageway – that’s only two-thirds of the 60 mph that the vast majority of motorists are permitted to do but are seldom now able to achieve! A line or convoy of heavy trucks now becomes an enforced 40mph (maximum!) rolling roadblock.

And the problem with that is that there are an awful lot of food transport companies operating in and out of Spalding and, therefore, a LOT of heavy trucks using my route in both directions!

To be fair to the HGV drivers, many of the “freelance” drivers and large numbers of their Eastern European colleagues do seem to be able to feel the waves of hatred emanating from the queue of car drivers behind them and ignore the 40mph maximum and creep up to somewhere near our 60 mph limit.

Not so the ones employed directly by the major supermarkets and retail chains (notably Marks & Spencer) who stick religiously to a maximum of 40mph as if their job depended on it – which, for all I know, it may well do! These guys are completely immune to my powers of Mental Coercion and are therefore resistant to my efforts at willing them either to speed up, pull over, turn off or run into a ditch!

And it will probably not surprise you to learn that it was one of these corporate juggernauts that prompted my initial accusation of false advertising!

It was a 32 tonner ASDA Supermarkets lorry that I got stuck behind and it was doing just under 40mph – but it was the advertising slogan on the back doors that REALLY annoyed me!

Before I tell you what it said I should point out two things.

Firstly, 38mph is by no means the most economical speed for my car in terms of fuel consumption – the “miles left before re-fuelling” meter figure was dropping by 2 or 3 miles for every actual mile travelled!

Also, I do not now shop, and never have shopped, at ASDA!

So, please tell me exactly how there can be ANY truth at all in the offending slogan:

“ASDA – saving you money every day”!

If anything they are COSTING me money – so do I sue or not?

Alfie

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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It wasn’t me!

I have often written in these articles of the origins and manifestations of my weird and veering sense of humour.

What I haven’t gone into yet is the downside of this – which is that people who know you will assume that any act that seems to fit your sense of humour MUST be down to you!

I first became aware of this becoming a problem around Christmas of 1978. I was working at the Chelmsford office of Barclays Bank Trust Company (towards the end of the first of my two stints there) and, in the interests of being sociable, signed up for an early manifestation of the office “Secret Santa” scheme. I don’t recall who I did draw to purchase an anonymous present for – but I know who it wasn’t!

The Manager of the Tax Department was a Taxation “Expert” on account of his having written a book about the “new” (i.e 1974) Unified Tax System and thought that this made him a good Manager  too.

Actually, compared to some of the right BASTARD Managers and Deputy Managers I experienced later on in my Tax career, he wasn’t too bad – he just tended to micro-manage the technical side of things. Letters to the Inland Revenue (known these days as HMRC) would be stopped, for example, if they didn’t quote chapter and verse of the Taxes Acts at every opportunity – as if the Civil Service rank and file at the other end would have understood those references anyway!

Meanwhile back at the Secret Santa ceremony, this Manager – let’s call him Brian for no other reason than that was his name – was the first to be handed his present. This turned out to e a book entitled “Teach Yourself Office Management” and his face turned first red with embarrassment then a kind of purple with supressed rage!

And all of my dear Tax colleagues (about 25% of those present) immediately looked at ME!

I shook my head but the only way I could have disproved everyone’s assumption would have been to quickly state who I had bought for and what it was I had given them – which would have defeated the object of the exercise! Besides I didn’t think of it in time!

Denials notwithstanding it may be no coincidence that I was transferred to Norwich two months later.

Some years later I discovered who the real culprit was – a “fast track” Graduate lady on our team who was Brian’s favourite. I think THAT status would have changed rather rapidly had she confessed!

And then, whilst at the Norwich office, the pompous, right-wing, womanising Deputy Manager (first mentioned here  https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2010/12/16) strongly suspected me of being the instigator of the forged application for him to join the Norfolk & Norwich Branch of the Labour Party which listed his good friend the local Conservative Party Chairman as a reference!

I did not do that one either, although I was one of four people including the real guilty party who knew all about it. And I am not going to “grass” on that person now, even after 30-odd years.

Similarly I know, without having been involved in any way, just who it was who slipped into one of the offices I was working at VERY early on the morning of a particular April 1st and sellotaped down the buttons under the handset of every single telephone, Managers’ included, in the entire office so that they carried on ringing after said handset was lifted. Again, I’m not telling!

In view of all these denials I suppose you would like to know what jolly japes and wheezes I will put my hands up to.

The answer, actually, is “not many” – once I realised I was going to get blamed for other peoples’ stunts there seemed little point!

I will, however, confess to a couple of things.

When we first centralised at Peterborough I had in my team a particularly tiresome trainee. She was a middle-aged lady (who kept Ferrets – which has nothing whatsoever to do with the story) and despite never having worked in tax before you could not tell her anything! She argued whenever I stopped her letters for any reason (especially if it was “only” that she’d got the facts completely wrong) and was always trying to do things with the computer terminals we were using that they weren’t meant to do.

These were not desktop or laptop computers – just DEC terminals that could be toggled between the Tax Return completion application and the work management system. They weren’t even colour monitors – unless you count the green or yellow writing that appeared on the invariably black screen but this person thought it was a PC and kept mucking about with the settings.

What she expected to achieve we’ll never know but she ignored me as usual when I told her she’d break it – until, that is, the day when she forgot to log out of the terminal when she went out to lunch and I noticed. Now I had found out some things about these terminals and made some changes before locking the screen as she should have done.

I wasn’t actually watching when she came back and went to resume working but I heard the shriek and saw the sun-like flare that emitted from the glaring bright yellow screen with black writing on it! She stopped messing about with it after that!

Later on when we were given actual Personal Computers to work with I took a great delight in altering the graphics settings of anyone who annoyed me – there is a thing you can do which inverts the screen image by 180 degrees. It doesn’t sound much but you try putting it back the way it was when the  mouse pointer moves the opposite way to what you want!

When Barclays sold its Tax Department (the word “out” is still often silently inserted after the word “sold” by some of us)and it became, for reasons that no-one could fathom, “ieTaxguard” the old management structure was left in place with the Teflon-coated GIT who had been in charge of me at Cambridge and initially at Peterborough taking the position of Senior Bastard, sorry, “Manager”!

As I have related elsewhere on this site they decided, after only 6 months of trading, to cut costs and I was one of 20 long serving staff made redundant.

I decided, with nothing to lose, to explore the blurred lines between practical joking and sheer vindictive revenge!

I was at that time doing a job called “Systems Liaison” which included administration of the company word processor system whereby all routine letters were produced by selecting pre-set paragraphs and on my last day I changed the hard coded signature box for my erstwhile boss. This appeared on all of his letters automatically and HE didn’t have the permissions to alter it.

Thus instead of “B**** S****, Senior Manager” appearing on every letter he produced, the words “Senior Manager” were replaced by “is a complete shit!”  I often wonder how many he printed before he noticed.

Oh, and the other thing I did on my last day was to fill my desk drawers with oranges and bananas before locking them and leaving with the only two keys! Sadly I couldn’t get fresh fish but I was told that eventually the smell got so bad they had to throw out that unit.

In my subsequent IT career I was made redundant again in 2004 and have already related how my parting shot there was the addition of their main customer, Tesco, to the banned words list on their email filter.

When I left MBM Produce (redundant again!) in 2009 there were no staff left to play tricks of that sort on and the Accountants ruining (sorry, another typo – that should be “running”) the company wouldn’t have known a joke if it bit them in the arse!

Since then, everyone I’ve worked for on contract has been far too nice to do things like that to – besides, it wouldn’t do my reputation in this business any good and I need to keep working for a few more years !

EXCEPT…….

You have now been warned about what upsetting me can lead to – just in case!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

‘Ello, ‘ello, ‘ello – what’s all this then?

Come here you lot – I want a word with you!

Yes, YOU, the person reading this! Thanks to the activities of one of you, your law-abiding and respectable scribe has been required to “help the Police with their enquiries”!

Oh, don’t worry – I haven’t been banged up in a cell and questioned by “Good Cop; Bad Cop” inquisitorial teams for hours on end – it’s much more prosaic than that.

Let me explain.

Last Thursday (28th August 2014) I came home from work at about 5:15pm to find a piece of paper on the front doormat. Careful forensic examination showed this to be a Cambridgeshire Constabulary compliment slip with an anonymous hand-written note asking me to call a named person at Barton-on-Humber Police Station. The message made no mention of the reason for this or of any urgency but like a good boy I immediately called the number given.

This turned out to be “busy” for the first 20 minutes of trying and when I did get through I got a recorded message telling me that the line was only manned from 9 to 5 Monday to Friday!

So I tried again just after 9 on Friday morning – still the recorded message, so I left one of my own at the sound of the tone. I was called back later that day and advised that the person I needed to speak to would not be back on duty until Monday afternoon and would call me then.

Still no idea of what it was all about so I had to spend the weekend and most of Monday wondering.

And then at 6pm just as my “late shift” was ending I had a call from a very nice man I shall call “Sergeant Dave” from Barton-on-Humber police station and finally found out what was going on.

It seems that an old lady in the Humberside village of Goxhill has been receiving postcards!

Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say, but these are not addressed to her by name, are all quite similar in content, are quite plainly not meant for her at all and she finds them unsettling enough to have called the police about them!

I don’t think I can quote word for word what Sgt Dave read to me but the intended recipient was referred to as “coffin dodging” in their “hovel in ………..”. I deliberately didn’t finish the place name at the end of that sentence (Does that mean I’ve got a suspended sentence?) because we’re going to take a short diversion right now.

I need you to follow the links to these two earlier articles of mine and to read them including the comments at the end.

https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/

https://littlealfie.wordpress.com/2014/05/07

Done that? Good. Notice the common factor? The Police did!

For the words ending that sentence above were “Pogworthy-on-the-Scrunt” – a ludicrous place name invented by my good friend in Thailand and not used, as far as I know, anywhere but in those two posts. Indeed if you Google that name, links to those sites (and now, presumably, this one too) are the only entries that come up.

And that’s how the police located me and my friend’s comments. Despite the pseudonym there are sufficient clues in these 200 plus pieces for a determined detective to work out my real name and the general vicinity of my address. Or they may just have asked WordPress.

The postcards that were sent were described to me as being “unusual” – apparently pictures of a scientific nature and were posted somewhere in the UK. I am quite sure that Sgt. Dave would have mentioned it if they had been from “overseas”.

Now, when this was being explained to me I was able to state quite categorically that I knew no-one living in Goxhill but couldn’t help but laugh when that ficticious place name was mentioned. I also said immediately that I could see why they were asking ME about it.

And apart from one other thing that I haven’t mentioned yet I would have bet that some random reader had stumbled on one or other of the above articles and thought it would be a good Monty Python-esque name to throw into a series of quirky postcards.

The part I have missed out is the name the writer used at the end of these cards – the name of the gormless, gap-toothed cover boy of Mad magazine, much beloved by my friends in the weird half of my school class in the 60s – Alfred E. Neuman!

So it looks a bit like SOMEONE I used to know might be sending these cards and if they are part of my treasured readership I simply will not believe they are doing it deliberately to unsettle some old dear and must need rather to check their address book a little more carefully.

I told the Sergeant this and he agreed. This won’t be going anywhere as far as the Police are concerned but as I feel some remote sense of responsibility I agreed to do my bit and contact anyone who might have done this misaddressing – and this is the best way I could think of to do it.

So, if you’re reading this and you are sending cards to someone in Goxhill, South Humberside, please, please, please SEND THEM TO THE RIGHT BLOODY ADDRESS!

Of course if anyone wants to tell me in the comments bit at the end of this piece that they have made some mistake in this matter I can simply tell the Barton Fuzz that it has been put right and leave them to set the old lady’s mind at rest.

And just to end on a positive note, Sergeant Dave and his colleagues apparently found my articles to be “Quite entertaining”.  Every cloud……..!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Uncategorized