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Author Archives: Alfie

About Alfie

A 20-something mind in a 60-something body hiding behind the photo of a 15 year old!

The Wisdom of the Ages.

I seriously dislike the idea of the word “wisdom”. To me it suggests some old geezer trying to tell someone younger something that’s either so bleeding obvious that no-one would listen to it or so profound that no-one would believe it and would, consequently fail to act on it!

So you are very lucky that I try not to impart “life advice” to anyone – at least not directly.

What I DO, however, is ponder on things (often for a very long time) and then write something on here which you can act on or ignore as you see fit. At least, I reason, if it’s in print you can’t complain that I didn’t tell you!

And my current pondering has been on….

Friendship.

As readers of the 344 previous posts on this site may know I have moved around a bit in my career – Ipswich to Chelmsford to Norwich, back to Chelmsford, then Cambridge and finally, nearly 25 years ago, to Peterborough.

In that time, I have made many acquaintances, quite a few friends and a small number of good friends.

It has to be said that, for reasons not entirely clear to me, those “good friends” mostly come from the 2 ends of that geographical list, that is to say: the first 25 years of my life and the latest 25 – leaving the 15 in the middle as a bit of a desert!

And what do I mean by those “grades” of friendship?

Well, “acquaintances” are just that; I know your name, you know mine and that’s it really – no great interest on either side in getting any closer than that. This is probably most of the people that you or I know and it includes people that you or I actively dislike.

“Friends” are the ones who are one or more steps closer than the previous category and this group most emphatically does NOT include any dislikes. These are people with whom you enjoy spending time and for me that means those that I do archery with, go fishing with, compete in quizzes with – that sort of “social” thing.

There is no hard and fast dividing line between “Friends” and “Good Friends” and it is actually quite difficult to define the differences!

To me, a “Good Friend” is one who would rally round without hesitation if I needed help and for whom I would do the same. They are also people with whom I can meet up after a gap of up to a substantial number of years and pick up as if no time at all has passed.

I’m quite sure, actually, that there are many other levels of “mateyness” and affection in the latter category but those are the only ones that I seem able to articulate at present.

Having said all that I’m sure you are wondering just WHY I should have been pondering in this way.

Well, the story begins last April with the most recent of our School Year Group reunions in Ipswich. While there were a few attendees who had not been before to swell the numbers it was noticeable that the man who actually started the Facebook group that kicked it all off was absent.

It turned out that Peter (who I call that because it’s his real name and I’m rubbish at pseudonyms) was away having treatment for Prostate Cancer – now one of the big fears for guys in our age group!

I was saddened to hear this and a few days later one of his closer friends in our group went on Facebook to tell us that the Chemotherapy seemed to be working and suggesting that we as a group should do something in aid of the Prostate Cancer charity and to show support for Peter.

As these things take some time to sort out it was decided that that at some point in the summer the Copleston 69 group would do a fund raising walk along a large part of the very long seafront at Felixstowe.

Along with several others I signed up for this immediately.

And so it came about that early in the morning of Saturday 7th July 2018 Faith and I set out from Peterborough for the 110 mile trip to Felixstowe to meet up with a dozen or so others outside the Fludyers Hotel for the 3½ mile or so hike along the promenade to the Viewpoint cafe at Landguard Point overlooking the massive container ships in Felixstowe Docks and across the estuary to Harwich. After a pause for chat and refreshments we retraced our steps back to The Fludyers (and beer)! I am pleased to say that Peter who had inspired it all, was, though still a little wobbly, able to do it all with us! As at the date of posting we have raised a total of £600 (plus Gift Aid tax relief of another £120 or so).

And it was thinking of how my grades of friendship applied to my fellow walkers that got me writing about all this.

During our 5 year incarceration at Copleston Secondary Modern School for boys from 1964 to 1969 most of these people (depending on how much of that time we spent in the same classes) fell somewhere in the fuzzy area between Acquaintances and Friends. Now, however, thanks to our social interaction most of that Facebook group have moved solidly into the Friends category and those who made the effort to turn out in baking hot sunshine (and on a day when England had a World Cup Quarter Final match too!) to hike 7 or 8 miles have, I think, mostly drifted into the equally fuzzy area between Friends and Good Friends.

Those of you who have ventured forward through the posts on here from February 2009 when I started and got as far as July 2010 will know that I have lost 2 friends (Su – breast cancer and Roger – brain tumours) to these awful afflictions and my own mother has lived for about 7 years now with very slow growing stomach cancer so I have no hesitation in doing what I can for the charities looking for cures.

So, as I said at the start, I’m not dispensing wisdom but please, wherever and whenever you can make sure that you contact and enjoy all of your friends while you can.

By the way, if anyone would like to contribute to our walk to raise funds for research into Prostate Cancer after the event please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/copleston69 and follow the instructions for giving. There’s even a photo on that page featuring yours truly in his white England football shirt – how’s that for a bonus?

Thank you.

Alfie

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Posted by on July 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

How many Alfies can you fit in a Mini?

A few weeks ago – actually one of the two Bank Holidays that the UK has in May – the Alfie household (that’s just Faith and I – we’d given the servants the long weekend off!) had a visit from our younger daughter, her husband and their little girl.

Our Granddaughter celebrated her first birthday recently and is already toddling about under her own steam and chattering endearingly, if unintelligibly, at Grandma and Grandad.

They live in darkest Essex and were utilising us as a “pit stop” on their way to a party in the Midlands. This party was in turn a stepping stone on the way to a short caravan holiday in the Lake District.

What really struck me at the time though was the amount of STUFF they had to have with them!

While their car is not a full on “people carrier” of the 7-seater variety, it seemed to me that it should have been perfectly adequate for two adults, one baby and their luggage for one short week but the more I considered what is nowadays considered the essential equipment for managing a small child the more understandable was the lack of space!

Let’s start with the gear required by the little one – most of which didn’t even come out of the car during the overnight stay with us.

A collapsible baby buggy and a folded down travel cot are still quite bulky items and you have then to factor in packs of disposable nappies (U.S. = diapers), the child’s clothes and various indispensable toys, feeding bottles etc.

If you then add in the parental luggage for about a week including a number of overnight bags (to ensure that the whole lot did not have to be unloaded at each and every overnight stop on the way), you will see that it does indeed come to quite a substantial car full!

As I said at the time it was just as well that they weren’t going camping as well – they’d have needed a roof rack AND a trailer!

And it was as I watched my son-in-law having luggage and food packed around him in that part of the back seat not already claimed by his daughter in her comfy, padded car seat that my thoughts, inevitably, turned to June 1978 and my first holiday with Faith.

At that time she was living with her parents on the outskirts of Chelmsford while I was commuting by rail each day to Chelmsford from my home in Ipswich, just over 40 miles away.

I do not remember the logistics involved with getting my limited collection of casual clothing from Ipswich to Chelmsford but assume that I went to work on the train with a larger than usual bag on one or possibly two days in the week preceding our holiday. Faith could then have picked me up from work with my baggage at the end of the Friday and I would have stayed at her parents’ house overnight.

I know that last sentence is probably right because I remember quite clearly sitting in the front passenger seat of Faith’s black Mini at around 5 a.m. on the Saturday morning having stuff packed around me. That was, of course the original TINY, British-made Mini rather than the small to medium sized BMW version currently bearing the name – look it up and see the difference!

And the reason I had to have items packed around me was that we were going camping in Somerset and Devon for two weeks and the small boot and rear seat were already completely filled with the large frame tent, sleeping bags, camping gas cooking equipment and personal luggage.

I had to have all of the food supplies and all of last minute afterthoughts that hadn’t been crammed into the other spaces the previous night wedged in around me because there was simply nowhere else for them to go!

I remained so wedged all the way down the A12 through the centre of London – there was no M25 but no central zone congestion charge either and I have to say there was also very little traffic along The Embankment at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning – and along the M4 and M5 motorways until we got to Easton-in-Gordano services near Bristol.

I recall that we stopped there just as the BBCs weekly children’s’ request programme “Junior Choice” started on the car radio at 8.30 and I have never been so glad to be let out of a confined space since!

After I was “unpacked”, had a much needed toilet break, a cooked breakfast, coffee and, most importantly, a good walk around to get my legs working again Faith “re-packed” me for the final hour of our journey along much smaller roads to the Bristol Channel coast.

After we reached the camp site at Warren Farm, on the cliffs between Watchet and Blue Anchor, and had driven across the field to our designated pitch I almost fell out of the car along with the tent and other immediately needed items that Faith was already heaving out onto the grass!

It must have looked from a distance like the conclusion of one of those “how many people can you get in a mini” contests, popular with students at the time, where everyone explodes out of the vehicle afterwards!

Of course, once the tent was up, it stayed up for the week (until we relocated to South Devon for the second part of the holiday) and it, and any other non-valuable items that could be left in it each day did not have to piled back in – so we had lots of room when we went out and about, exploring.

The “halfway” relocation from Watchet to Totnes near Torquay was a comparatively short north/south trip and as the “consumables” I had been hugging on the way were much reduced by that time I was much more comfortable on that trip and even more so on the journey home.

Incidentally, before anyone gets around to asking why I wasn’t taking a turn doing the “hard work” of driving, I should just remind readers that I did not at that time have a driving licence for a car and we wouldn’t have wanted to try and load that lot onto a motor bike! I was and remain extremely grateful to Faith for taking on that burden.

That fortnight in 1978 will always remain with me as one of my best holidays EVER and I think our “loadout” for a car of that size must have been just about the maximum possible without additional storage capability added.

Since typing most of the above it has, however, occurred to me that our family holiday of 1994 is also worthy of mention in this way!

We went from Peterborough to a “holiday cabin in the woods” at Weybourne on the North Norfolk coast and while we were not camping and were only going for one week we DID have Faith and I, an 11 year old girl, a 9 year old girl, Faith’s mother (then nearly 70) and a young Cocker Spaniel. Plus luggage for all, dog basket, food and fishing gear for the week!

And all of that was fitted, with no obvious discomfort and no roof rack, into a 1992 model Ford Escort.

I really don’t know HOW!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The land of the free!

As some may know already, at some unstated point further on in 2018 my dear wife and I will be venturing across the pond to the British Colony currently known as “LOTIT” or “Land of the Infernal Trump”!

We will not be on a mission of re-conquest and I have already had to promise not to refer to George Washington and his pals as a “terrorist insurgency” while I’m there. Not in the hearing of any Americans anyway!

While Faith has visited the USA before (she visited an east coast city, apparently called “Barston” by its natives, in 2011 to accompany a friend who was visiting her daughter, then studying at Harvard). I, however, have never ventured that far west and it’s all a new experience for me!

Finding, booking and paying for the holiday was the easy part – it is the administrative stuff that you have to do to try to guarantee being able to actually enter  the country AFTER you’ve already paid out a significant sum to the Travel Agent that I am contending with now.

I understand that in the good old days before the unholy trinity of 9th September 2001, Computer Systems and the Department of Homeland Security, one would simply apply to the United States Embassy in London for a visa (possibly including an actual interview at the Embassy in Grosvenor Square). If successful your old, blue-covered British Passport would be annotated accordingly and you would move gracefully into the US of A with the dignity due to a citizen of a respected ally.

Now, under the auspices of the now infamous non-humourists of The Department of Homeland Security and the practical usage of modern technology we have the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (U.S. form; U.S. spelling!) or ESTA which involves an on-line application form.

And, as I suggested above, it is that form that I have been struggling with recently!

I have always believed that the UK government was the prime culprit when it came to on-line forms that no official had ever tested as if they were a “customer” to ensure that the questions weren’t a) ambiguous and b) utterly ludicrous – but Homeland Security give them a damn good run for their money!

I went into the completion of the ESTA form determined to tell no lies and say nothing that would give these famously very serious-minded people any reason either to turn me down outright or make my life more difficult on arrival at Los Angeles International Airport!

And then…

  1. Do you have a current or previous employer?  Y/N. If so give employer’s details.

Do you see why I have a problem here?

The question is asked in order to save you from hassle and extra questions on arrival  because if you say “no” it could be considered that you are intending to take a job illegally or deprive a native of employment – so “yes” was always going to be the good answer as well as (taking the question literally) the honest one.

I did, however, retire just over 2 years ago and have no intention of working for anyone ever again – except in dire financial need which isn’t a problem right now. Unfortunately, saying that is not an option in the context of this particular question and is not picked up by any subsequent ones.

Now, though, I have the next issue – “Which of my many employers do I mention?”

I actually put the details of the last one before I retired – which only covered a 6 month period – and now I’m worrying that they actually wanted the full list which would run to several pages! There is no way that I could fit them all in the small space available.

The thing is, if they look at my form at LAX and say something like “So, buddy, you work for <name of company I put on the form>?”, I respond truthfully with “Not for the last 2 years” and the hassle is worse than if I’d said “No” to the question! And all because I was strictly honest.

Hopefully I am worrying about nothing but I still think that, with no follow up remarks of any sort being requested, it is a stupid and confusing question.

I moved on through the form and then came to what I considered the REALLY ludicrous bit!

It was a bit like the “yes/no” tick boxes on the Blood Donor questionnaire that I filled in recently with the exception that these were not all of a medical nature of the “have you had unprotected sex with any species of wild animal in the last six months?” kind (although the first one was a bit like that!

This is the list:

  1. Do you have a physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict; or do you currently have any of the following diseases (communicable diseases are specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act): Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis infectious, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Crimean-Congo, Severe acute respiratory illnesses capable of transmission to other persons and likely to cause mortality.
  2. Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?
  3. Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?
  4. Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?
  5. Have you ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States?
  6. Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or were you previously employed in the United States without prior permission from the U.S. government?
  7. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?
  8. Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the admission period granted to you by the U.S. government?
  9. Have you travelled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011?

Any one of the list of illnesses in number 1. above would, by and large, have killed off the applicant long before they could reach an entry point for the USA and I love the catch-all term “Plague” listed there! It worries me slightly as I did recently see a large example of what one of my daughters refers to as “a Smooth-tailed Plague Squirrel” (“Rat” has such negative connotations, don’t you think?) in the nearby woods! I didn’t get near enough to let it bite me though!

As for the other questions, the fact that they have to ASK you those questions and give you a choice of “yes” or “no” seems to be suggesting that saying “yes” to them would not necessarily debar you from admission to the country but I wouldn’t bet on it! I am fairly certain that admitting to the activities in question 4 , for example, would see your holiday plans being revised to include a lengthy visit to an obscure corner of Cuba and the wearing of a stylish orange jumpsuit while in the “resort”!

In view of the current Presidential prejudices I am rather surprised at the rather obvious omission of question 10: Are you, or have you ever been Mexican?

I cannot imagine anyone for whom “yes” was the correct answer to ANY of those questions and who was applying using a genuine passport in their true name even bothering to start that bit of the form! There would surely be easier ways of slipping into the country for nefarious purposes!

I have now submitted my form, paid my $14 fee and have now heard that my application has been approved. All I have to do now is hope that between now and the Autumn/Fall no-one in the DHS makes the connection between my real name as shown on the application and the rather flippant remarks made here by “Little Alfie”! I wouldn’t look good in Orange and I’m betting that those jumpsuits are all for people much shorter and skinnier than me!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Following on!

Nothing to do with anticipated inadequacies in the England Cricket Team, you’ll be pleased to know!

My recent little rant about “traffic management” inside my local Tesco Extra supermarket was, as are all of my articles on this site (unless I forget to do a periodic refresh of my settings), advertised on Facebook.

That is to say, advertised on the Facebook page of ME, the real person who wears “Little Alfie” like some sort of creepy glove puppet. It also gets notified by email to anyone who has subscribed to receive an update in that way. This includes one of my sons-in-law who has managed to set things up so that, while he HAS undoubtedly subscribed, any emails from my WordPress account go straight into his “Junk Mail” folder! Bloody cheek!

So, as far as I am aware, there is no way that the management of Tesco could have read my comments and acted on them in just over a week UNLESS one of my readers “leaked” the piece to them!

And what, you may be wondering, leads me to suspect that something of that sort has actually happened?

Well, last Friday we did another weekly shop (again without Mother-in-law who stayed at home waiting to “have her feet done” – she knows how to have a good time!) at the same store.

This was, I should stress, at exactly the same time of day and on the same day of the week as we have been attending and having our increasingly awful experiences up to and including the one I wrote about – but this time it was completely different!

There were still plenty of “personal shoppers” and their over-sized carts in evidence but not only did they not once exceed two per aisle, they also seemed to melt away as soon as Faith and I came into any particular area.

“It is as if” I said to Faith only half jokingly, “they know about me and fear my wrath!”

And, as it happened time and again during the duration of our visit, she was unable either to argue with me about that or come up with an alternative explanation.

I’m not going to make any bets on whether it will be like that when we next visit but as far as last week was concerned there seem to be two possible explanations.

The first is that Tesco have taken to employing telepathic staff on the shop floor, while the second (and I think most likely) is that one of my readers may work for Tesco in some capacity and saw fit to leak both the article and  my description to his (or her) Peterborough colleagues.

If you did that you have my gratitude – unless or until it all goes back to “normal service” in the near future.

***

At this point I was, in a radical departure from my usual way of working, going to give you a bonus short extra article – a sort of “Buy One Get One Free” deal, known acronymically as “BOGOF”! Except of course that as you tight bunch don’t actually PAY me anything for these words of wisdom it should be called a “GOFGOF” and I think I may have just invented a new acronym!

However, the “freebie” has developed a life of its own to the extent that there is now no way that it can now be described as “a short extra article” and it has been extracted into a freestanding article which you will read shortly.

Alfie

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2018 in Informative, Rants and moans

 

Notes and Cautions

I am going to miss the Maplins “gadget” shop in Peterborough when it closes shortly (the company having gone to the wall recently)!

The shop is on my walk from my volunteer sessions at Peterborough Central Library back to the main bus station and not only do I often stop in for a look around but I also quite frequently buy things from them – so their closure isn’t down to me!

One of the most useful things I have purchased there is a desk fan, operated by a cable plugged into a USB connection on any PC.

The Computer Suite at Peterborough Central Library is a closed room, separated from the book area by a glass wall and doors. It contains 40 PCs all of which generate heat as do the up to 40 users of those PCs. And some of the latter, it has to be said, do not conform to terribly high hygiene standards! I am trying to be as delicate as I can about this but in even slightly warm weather it has to be said that the atmosphere gets unpleasantly ripe!

Why, I hear you ask, do they not get air conditioning?

Well, they do have it – but because of layout changes made after the air conditioning was fitted, the controls for it are not in the Computer Suite. They are, instead, in the next room which is the Archive and Family History area. This department seems for some reason to be mainly inhabited by elderly or middle-aged ladies who feel the cold to a, frankly, ludicrous degree!

Because of this affliction and their control of the air-con affecting both rooms it is quite a battle, even in the height of summer to get them to switch it on. Even when we succeed in that they won’t let us have it running cold! So it is always hot in the Computer Suite and the best we can hope for is that it will take away the worst of the body odours!

So, my USB fan, which I can plug into whatever PC I am sitting at, is not only a godsend it is an absolute necessity both to keep me cool and to waft away any odd pongs that come my way. I am typing this on one of those library PCs (during a quiet moment) and that little fan is whirring away in front of me.

I discovered last June in CenterParcs (which was a very hot week) that you can also use this in conjunction with one of those mains adaptors with a USB slot in them so it works as a room fan as well.

So useful has it proven that as soon as I could last summer I popped back into Maplins and bought another one! This means that in any heat waves, when the brickwork of our house acts like an enormous storage radiator pumping heat into the house at night, we can at least move the hot air around using both of these USB fans and the larger mains powered one that I “rescued” from the Barclays Bank Trust Company office in Cambridge when it closed in 1993.

While all of those devices help a great deal the main restriction on their use is that they have, effectively, to be tethered to a power source so when I paid what could be one of my last visits to Maplins the other week I was delighted to see that their dwindling stock included a RECHARGEABLE USB desk fan! Mind you it was priced at an impossibly expensive £5.99!

Nevertheless I had to have it, scraped enough pennies together to buy it and can now use it either as the earlier versions with a cable connection or, when it is charged up, get up to 5 hours of hands-free cooling with no less than 3 separate fan speeds!

I am set up for the summer!

While I am sure you are all very happy for me, I have to confess that all of the above was just preamble to the story of that new fan.

Because when I got I home and opened the box there were four things in it.

Obviously, the fan itself – which is about 4 inches in diameter and has a cylindrical handle extending from it. It has an on/off button which has to be pressed a total of 4 times to move through the 3 speeds and back to “off”. It also has a slot for a micro USB charger cable connector and a little LED light that that changes from orange to blue when the thing is charging or fully charged.

There was also a plastic disk, about 3 inches in diameter with a hole in it the same width as the handle on the fan. You can stick the handle into this “base” giving you a free-standing desk fan.

The third item was a USB charging cable which, like the previous versions, may be used connected to a computer or with an appropriate mains plug.

The final part (and the bit that all of this has been leading up to) was the delightful Instruction sheet.

I am sure you will have deduced from my description of the device and its operation that there is not too much to learn about how to use the device and, indeed, that is the smallest section on the A4 sized sheet.

The largest part, and the bit I felt that I absolutely HAD to tell you about was the section headed “Notes and Cautions” which is why I have used that as my title. I list the items below EXACTLY as they appear on the sheet even though my Microsoft Word Spellchecker will probably throw a fit!

Here they are:

  • Do not use the product in humid atmospheres such as a baintoom. Contact with water may cause the tatture.
  • If water or solution enters the product, turn off the power immediately and let it dry thoroughly and try again.
  • Do not impact the product or throw it. Repeated impact may cause internal faiture.
  • Avord high termperature and high humidity when keeping the product for a long time.
  • Do not disassemble, modily or repair this product arbffrarlly.
  • Do not reverse the input and output connectors.
  • Do not charging is complete, be sure to disconnect the USB connector.
  • Do not throw this product into fire.
  • Do not touch the product with wet hands.
  • Please be careful to prevent use by children.
  • Please use the product at room temperature from 0 to 40 degrees.
  • Do not charge on carpets or comforters highly fammable.
  • If you have trouble charging the main body, please try again with a different charging adaptor or USB cable.
  • If liquid gets out of the product and contacts with eyes, do not rub it rinse with clear water and seek madical advice.
  • If there is strong heat or deformity of the product during charging stop charging and contact Customer Service.

Isn’t that delightful?

Some of those are fine but there are others where I just wonder what some of those words mean! Perhaps I should ring “Customer Service” and ask – although, on reflection, given that they will probably be out of work soon I won’t risk it.

I have no desire to be told to arbffrarlly modily myself in a way that might require me to seek madical attention!

 

Alfie

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Mildly amusing

 

Supermarkets get right up my nose!

Yes, I am well aware that they were never intended to be used nasally but I’m sure you know what I mean by that title!

Every Friday (except when holidays or other circumstances occasionally change it to a Thursday) Faith and I take her mother out to do the weekly food shop.

This is a fairly laborious process as the old dear is 93 years old and cannot walk more than about a hundred yards or so even with a stick and a supportive arm. This means that we have to drive to her bungalow a few hundred yards down the road and I have to dismantle the parcel shelf in the boot of the car to fit her wheelchair in while Faith goes in and checks on other essential factors.

These include ensuring that her mum has remembered to get up, get dressed, have breakfast and take her medication, some of which, ironically, is to aid her failing memory!

We then drive to the week’s supermarket of choice which 90% of the time means the massive Tesco aircraft hangar-sized superstore at Hampton on the outskirts of the city. Other alternate venues (just for an occasional change) are one or other of the two large Sainsbury’s nearby or the Morrison’s store at Stamford. The latter is 15 miles away up the A1 but does do a nice Fish & Chips in its’ restaurant!

Meanwhile back at our shopping trip to Tesco…..

Yes, “Tesco” – not as you will hear so often from the ignorant, “TESCOS”! I’m not sure whether they are saying it as a plural (more than one Tesco) or with a possessive apostrophe but I believe the singular to be correct. The Peterborough bus that serves the big out of town store I’m referring to says “Tescos” on the front and I have to say I’m not a bit surprised!

Anyway, it isn’t the store’s fault what other people call it but they ARE responsible for the acute unpleasantness and mayhem that happens inside – whether they care to admit it or not!

So, without more ado, here is a list of matters that I would like the management of Tesco to address:

1. Sort your bloody shopping trolleys out! There used to be an old joke about them actually being MADE with one sticking, squeaky wheel but the current batch all seem to have had a small patch of the hard rubber tyre on one wheel hammered or pared flat to give an unpredictable and uncontrollable lurch to the left (which gets worse as the shopping load increases). It is easy enough to test – simply put the trolley on the tiled shop floor and give it a shove. If it goes off at an angle to where you aimed it – scrap it!

2. Make it a requirement for small children not actually riding in the trolley to retain contact with the adult who brought them in at all times – if they’re running about THEY don’t know where they’re going next and I can’t, therefore, guarantee not to run into them (especially because of item 1 above)

3. Make using a mobile phone (voice or text) while pushing a trolley a crime with perpetual banishment from the store as the punishment. Ditto stopping in the middle of an aisle to use one for either purpose! It gets proved to me time and time again on these weekly trips that even those ladies who maintain that they can multi-task better than any other gender are unable to text AND accurately steer a trolley with any kind of awareness of  other people in the store!

4. Organise trolley driving tests for all customers (use part of the car park) – I cannot believe that some of the morons with their eyes and minds constantly elsewhere would drive a car the way they drive a shopping trolley! At least I very much hope not! I am FED UP with having to do everyone else in the shop’s thinking for them! I am aware that people are shopping and therefore need to look at the shelves from time to time (especially in view of item 5. below) but it is a terrible idea to think that pushing your “vehicle” along a crowded aisle with your head constantly at 90 degrees or more to the direction of travel is going to be safe!

5. Don’t change the locations of stuff on the shelves! I know that it is a marketing ploy done to force people to look at all the other goods in order to find the thing they think they want but that doesn’t work with me! My aim, when I get inside your (or any other) store is to get out again as fast as I possibly can! This can be difficult to achieve in the company of other people but if I have to go alone I’m working from a list and want those items and nothing else – so shifting things around only has the effect of annoying me and making me more likely to go somewhere else!

6. (Saving the biggest gripe until last) Invent some sort of control system for your “personal shopper” staff – the ones that take even bigger and less manoeuvrable trolleys than the public ones out onto the shop floor to fulfil the orders of internet shoppers. For those not familiar with them these are the trolleys that, instead of a large wire basket, have space for 6 large crates. They are both longer and wider than the ordinary trolleys.

At present there is absolutely nothing to prevent three or four of these things from being in the same aisle and at the same time as the normal shelf stockers (whose presence can be endured because they are NECESSARY)! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the “personal shoppers” are not also necessary to Tesco’s business of making money – what I am saying is that they are most definitely NOT necessary to my personal shopping experience!

As a case in point, last Friday morning Faith and I set out for Tesco; Mother-in-law stayed behind as the weather wasn’t very good so we were as unencumbered as two people with one trolley could be. The trolley itself was a particularly bad one with a considerable pull to the left – but of course you don’t find THAT out until you’ve got rather too much stuff in it to make changing it a practical proposition!

We proceeded in the normal way with yours truly trailing along with the trolley behind my own personal shopper and trying not to be too obvious about my occasional side-shunts into other badly parked trolleys and encountered the usual average of 2 or 3 staff members seriously (but obliviously) constricting each section of the food aisles. This brought forth the usual level of muttering from me about “the staff being even more of a problem than the other ruddy customers” but it got worse when we entered the “Cooked Meats” aisle! Here there were no less than FOUR personal shoppers, including one pausing to have a lengthy chat with an ordinary trolley-wielding customer who was obviously known to her, AND two shelf-fillers with their attendant equipment! It was chaos – no-one could move and that whole section was completely gridlocked! And all because none of the store management has the brains simply to tell their people to ensure that there are NEVER more than two order pickers in any aisle at one time.

So, Tesco Extra, Hampton, Peterborough Management Team – sort your bloody selves out or my family’s shops are going to be done in Morrison’s EVERY week!

Remember, I’m the CUSTOMER and, therefore, always RIGHT!

Thanks for putting up with that – I feel a lot better now!

And finally, it is possible that some readers (or one anyway) may have experienced a feeling of déjà vu during some parts of the above rant. This is because (as I think I’ve mentioned before) I used to write for another WordPress site which was wound up by its’ owner (who has since, sadly, passed on) several years ago but the content of which was saved for posterity by my friend in Thailand who also contributed to it.

On that site I wrote a similar blast about supermarkets and some of that was cannibalised for this piece. The original, which you can read here:  https://sumpnadoshadow.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/alfie-theres-no-f-in-shopping/ was written in early 2011 and nothing much has changed so you can maybe see why it annoys me more and more with time!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2018 in Rants and moans

 

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Always know where your towel is! (v2.0*)

(*Inserted later – I have just realised I used this title on 25th May 2011! Failing memory, obviously!)

My much anticipated (by whom, I’m not sure) rant about the in-store failings and deficiencies of a very large supermarket chain beginning with ”T” is going to have to wait a few days longer because something far more important has come up!

It concerns an author mentioned in passing at the end of a recent post here (but not the one who wrote the sequel to “”The War of the Worlds”) – a brilliant man who died 17 years and 2 weeks ago today.

At this point one of my “regulars” will be jumping up and shouting “I know, I know!” in a Welsh accent but for those who still don’t know of whom I speak, I should reveal straight away that I am referring to Douglas Adams, the imaginative and extremely funny writer whose spiritual essence left us on 11th March 2001 – presumably to hitchhike around the Cosmos.

The late Mr. Adams’ best known work “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” took a rather unusual route to stardom, starting out as a radio serial in 1978, then a book (1979), a TV series (1981) and much later a movie (2005).

And in keeping with the quirkiness of their creator, none of those different media forms quite matches any of the others!

The original book spawned no less than four sequels by Adams himself and one other some 8 years after his death by renowned children’s’ author Eoin Colfer using notes from the Douglas Adams Archive in St. John’s College, Cambridge and with the permission of Adams’ widow.

I have to say that I missed the radio version (probably due to spending much of my time either working in Chelmsford or commuting by train to and from my home 40 miles away in Ipswich) but have very clear memories of buying the first two books to read on a holiday in Guernsey in 1981 and then watching the TV series with Faith in our first home together in Norfolk.

The movie did not do much for me. What with knowing the plot AND having a picture in my head from the TV series of what the characters OUGHT to look like I spent more time moaning about the differences than I did watching it!

I won’t bore you with summaries of the plot of the full story (if you’ve already read it) or spoil it for you (in case you haven’t) but there is one particular theme that caused me to write this piece.

And that concerns the most important accessory for the Galactic Hitchhiker – his towel!

I feel that I can do no better at this point than to quote directly what the eponymous Guide has to say on this subject as reported in the first novel:

***

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

***

I had not realised myself what a highly important article a towel could be although I do recall experiencing the use of a wet one as a “weapon” – it really stung when someone flicked a wetted towel at you as you came out of the showers at school! Some of my old school chums were a nasty, sadistic lot in those days! Fortunately, however, the ones I’m back in touch with now have turned out OK. Mostly.

Anyway, let us get back to the subject!

When Douglas sadly passed away (as a result of a heart attack while resting from a workout at a gym in Montecito, California) on 11th May 2001, as previously mentioned, it was some days before his most avid fans came up with an appropriate way to commemorate his passing each year. It was decided that this commemoration would actually take place two weeks after the anniversary for no other reason than that this would be something that would appeal to Douglas’s strange sense of humour!

And the form that this celebration would take?

Well that’s where all the previous stuff about the towel comes in.

It was decided that fans of the Great Man would, on 25th May each year, ensure that they would carry a towel with them all day. It does not have to be one of the themed towels available with the words from the cover of the Guide “Don’t Panic!” printed on it – anything matching a definition of “towel” will do.

I can reveal that anyone today making me turn out my pockets would have found a small, blue, folded micro-pore camping towel! I try to ensure that I have this with me whenever possible and certainly on this day every year to mourn the loss of a great wit and storyteller.

Some countries take this much more seriously than others with bookshops and cafes offering discounts to towel carriers but I haven’t seen any sign of this in the UK. Still, it is now international in scope and I am happy to be joining in.

Happy International Towel Day everyone!

Alfie

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2018 in Mildly amusing, Schooldays