Tuesday, 28 July 2015

I get a thing for the cinema.

I have only gone and bought myself one of those cards where you pay some money to go to the cinema as many times as you like each month. It’s like one of those Chinese buffets, only you don’t throw up in the gutter out of the car before you drive off home. I’ve heard that can happen to people.

Anyway. As small encourage for me to use the thing, and to write on here a bit more, I shall write about the films I have gone to. There won’t be anything useful there, so I apologise weakly in advance. Just recently I have gone to see Inside Out and Ant-Man.

The problem I have with Ant-Man is that he hyphenates his name and capitalises the man bit. This seems a trifle unnecessary and looks pretty stupid, but I suppose he’s only copying Spider-Man, and that kid reckons he’s amazing. The film was OK. Michael Douglas is starting to look really old. Which in Hollywood terms makes him certifiably ancient. I just searched his dad, because I wasn’t sure if he was dead yet. Kirk Douglas is now 98 and looks like he’s been left near a radiator.

Inside Out was also quite good. I could only get a rubbish seat though because the cinema said they were really full, but when I got in there it wasn’t really that full, but I had to sit in that seat and I had one of those people next to me who fights with you the entire film for the arm rest even though they’ve got the one on the other side. Whose arms are so tired that they need BOTH arm rests? I ask you. (I don’t really, the answers would invariably be quite dull.)

This week I look forward to going to see Mission Impossible 12.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

In which I become a knackered old car.

I have had another birthday. Slowly (my brain isn’t what it used to be) I am coming to terms with the fact that whatever my head says, I am no longer 19. I just can’t keep up with the kids, I’m not a bright young thing anymore. In fact, I’ve begun to enter into that grotesque period of managed decline known as middle age.

If I put it in car terms, I’m no longer a brand new runabout that you can rag around and book in for the occasional service and oil change. I’m slowly turning into a classic that needs to be washed every time you take it on a three-mile drive once a month, the seats oiled and bits changed with reckless abandon to stop it from falling apart.

Actually, it’s worse than that – having not yet reached certifiable classic status, I’m the car it’s cheaper and easier to scrap than continue paying the excessive fuel bills. Yikes.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I briefly visit the seaside.

There are few things as depressing in Britain as off-season seaside resorts. I visited Worthing recently to try and sate my craving for a waterside view and a scalpful of salt. What a dump. The weather had cleared up since the morning’s grim soaking of rain, but the wind remained plenty brisk enough to put a spring in your step and catch small dogs unawares. Old women were waving their Schnauzers round like little kites.

While the sun beamed down on glistening waves and eager pebbles along the shore, there rose hulking brutalist monstrosities along the shore, stamped with shapes considered jaunty back in the late whenever. A round arcade with orthodontic bars over the windows jutted over the beach, its chained gates barring any budding funsters from the amusements within.

I sat alone in a seafront restaurant, recently decked out in Ikea’s finest but shaded by a pall of greasy air that belched forth from the busy deep-fat-fryer like smoke out of Blake’s satanic mills. My sausage and chips seemed ill at ease on the white china – paper and fingers is always the way to go here, but appearances must be kept up. I ordered a glass of coke, its limp yellow straw a depressive attempt at levity.

I finished my food and walked back to the car, no one in sight save distant joggers fleeing slowly for busier climes.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The devastating anti-climax.

Well, wasn't that a turn-up for the books. A turn-out, rather, since we're talking about the election. I had to spend four days in a darkened room with a cool damp cloth on my forehead to calm down from the shock. Which was weird, since the cloth dried out after three hours and the curtains don't get a very good seal round the windows.

I do enjoy a good confounding though. I'd thought all along that the Conservatives would squeak a teensy majority, what with the electorate being filled with terror at the sight of Ed Miliband standing at the altar ahead of them, but everyone kept laughing at me when I said it, so I stopped.

Never did I think that it would be such a bloody result, either. Heads continue to roll round and about Parliament Square, like tumbleweed in the background of a spaghetti western. Even now it'll be a few weeks before the leadership cockroaches really poke their heads above ground after the election's nuclear blast.

Even stranger still, the nuclear explosion has left not devastation, but rather restored the landscape to what it looked like before. Sure, we've got a couple of extra parties in the mix, but that will come out in the wash of a few electoral cycles. Where we thought that the UK had been turned into a consensus country doomed to neverending coalitions, we've headed right back to where we were before.

That's the arrogance of the present – we all like to think we're special, the pinnacle of all the greatness of humanity summed up in a culmination of magnificence, but the French have it right: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Some recent correspondence.

Hello McDonald's,

This is arguably my favourite time of the year. I risk heart disease to take advantage of the Monopoly promotion (and I never win anything more than a sugar donut, mind. Does anyone even actually buy those?), and yet in the last five days I have been to two restaurants in different areas of south London that have run out of the packaging.

I know it's a stupid thing to make a big deal of, but it's fundamentally dishonest to slather up promotional materials all over the place not expecting to cater for the demand. Claiming it's too popular is ridiculous, don't do that. If you advertised it as a limited run, fine. If you apologised in store instead of sneaking the tray across the counter and hoping people wouldn't notice, fine. But you haven't done any of those things. Copy+paste Twitter responses are a bit iffy, too. Don't do that either. As my mum always used to say - if you can't promote anything nicely, don't promote anything at all.

I do love you McDonald's, really I do, but it's a fickle industry and I could always develop a taste for Burger King. Actually no I couldn't. KFC then.



Dear Sam,

I am sorry to hear that you are disappointed with the lack of promotional packaging available in our stores towards the end of the Monopoly promotion.

However, as it states in our terms and conditions on the website, the promotion is only available "whilst stocks of Promotion-packaging at participating McDonald's restaurants last, customers can obtain an on-pack game piece Promotion-label ("Game Piece") on the purchase of qualifying products."

However, I can confirm that your comments will be passed over to our head office, and I hope that this does not deter you from visiting our restaurants in the future.

Thank you for contacting McDonald’s Golden Chances Monopoly

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The neverending election comes to an end. Maybe.

The neverending election has finally come to an end. Apart from the counting and the upset and the weeks of indecision. Apart from all that.

I went to vote nice and early this morning – I wasn’t planning to, but I woke up so excited I had to get ready and skip round to my local polling station, wishing fellow excited voters good morning as I did so. Actually I think they thought I was a bit mental. But General Election Day is better than Christmas as far as I’m concerned. Nothing better than getting to play your part in the vast machinations of state going back many hundreds of years.

It does worry me that other people don’t take the process seriously. Hopefully the uncertainty around today’s election will boost turnout, but how has civilisation come to the point that people cherish more their right to pick a Strictly Winner than their local MP?

Of course, all this talk about politics being more engaging is how we end up with politicians doing ridiculous things they aren’t good at on camera, like playing football or eating. BBC News 24 becomes an extended pilot version of Made in Westminster-meets-Britain’s Got Spokesmen. Ed Miliband, superman that he is, managed to shake off the four-ton bacon roll-shaped stone from around his neck, only to turn it into a crap garden feature with miserable political platitudes chiseled on it in obnoxious capitals.

One the one hand it’s awful that this poll-driven masochism grinds on and on, but then again if someone can’t even manage a sandwich without messing it up, how can they be expected to run the country? It’ll all be moot soon enough. By this time tomorrow there will be gangs roaming the country beating up those who didn’t cherish their democratic right and left us in a terrible mess.

I can’t stand all this talk of massaging out the vote, persuading people to get down to the ballot box. Perhaps the public should grow a pair and do something it doesn’t enjoy – and once every five years for goodness’ sake. I don’t like eating lots of vegetables, but if I want to grow up and become a big strong boy I really have to.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

In which we're all doomed and it's a constitutional crisis.

There’s this fundamental misunderstanding – not at all helped by sneaky politicians who have one-and-a-half eyes on the PR of it all – that we’re a direct democracy, that whatever the people vote in baldly numerical terms should be reflected in the formation of our parliament. (As a brief aside, national polls are almost useless in trying to work out parliamentary seats - if votes came out 35% Conservative and 34% Labour in every seat you’d have 650 Conservative MPs - it just doesn’t work like that.) It’s terribly annoying to have to sit through false conjecture and swivel-eyed talk of a constitutional crisis looming over the next couple of days.

Anyone can form a government, whether they’ve got most seats or most votes or whatever is completely irrelevant. Legitimacy of a government comes firstly from convincing the Queen that you have the confidence of parliament, then going back to the palace of Westminster and showing that you do. Nothing more, nothing less. Much of the current discussion is cheeky horseplay by the Tories, who are trying to undermine the chances of Ed Miliband sneaking past them on a grand (or maybe not so grand) coalition of parties united in eager desire to see the Conservatives turfed out.

Perhaps its the fault of Tony Blair and his chums, for turning the government of the country so awfully presidential - this election more than any other in recent times has been about personalities and people rather than policies and ideas. The vote has become about Cameron versus Miliband, or whatever tribal tendencies we all might like to indulge, as opposed to 650 local communities finding someone from among their number who will carry their voices to Westminster. We’ve had this great presidential battle set up to be fought in a parliamentary environment unsuited to that kind of warfare. That isn’t, however, a crisis – it’s ignoring the constitution.

There have been issues in recent times where I’ve wanted to write to my local MP but held back because I know that what I will get will be a party political broadcast, not a member engaging with the views of their constituents. You very often get correspondence being circulated to the whips’ offices these days, and the party line sent back to be toed. If this is where we’ve come to, no wonder people feel disenchanted with politics. I love party politics, and whatever the speaker often yells, I love the rambunctious theatrics, but perhaps politicians need to be a bit more circumspect over the coming weeks about where they’ve come from.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Today was the future once.

I was huddled into an armchair yesterday evening, watching Question Time via an internet connection on my phone, the speaker muted down to a whisper so as not to wake the children I was babysitting. Amidst the bluster and propaganda (and that was just the audience), I suddenly realised how cool the world had become, while I was blogging, and reading books and checking out the latest polling data following the latest thing.

I’ve got to be honest, I completely detest the notion of turning into one of those insufferable people who ages badly, finding everything upsettingly nostalgic and bleating endlessly on about the good times that are just out of grasp. I don’t want to end up like Rose on the back of the Keldysh, threatening to throw an old iPad overboard.

I mean, I remember getting a little portable telly for Christmas back in the late-90s – it had terrible signal and needed a bag full of AA batteries that ran out in around eight minutes, which meant you had to plug it in with an adapter, so what was the point in having a portable television? It doesn’t feel that long ago, and I didn’t even have a mobile phone back then, just a BT Chargecard in my inside pocket.

To have imagined then that I would be walking round with the entire sum of human knowledge in my trousers and be able to watch live television on top of all that…well, maybe I would have lived my life differently, I don’t know. I wish someone had told me what the future would become, that’s all – it really sneaks up on you.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

People who ignore awareness campaigns.

There has been this odd slop of articles in the last week or so complaining about the fact that motorists don't know that the rules about rental cars will be changing in June. These journalists seemingly unaware of the irony of these stories clearly being part of a PR initiative to make people aware of said changes. No no – experts predict CHAOS at the changes that nobody knows are happening in six weeks. Except there are six weeks and everyone who reads the article will know about the changes. Gah.

I read another story on the Guardian composed almost exclusively of outrage and skeletal facts that criticised the government for not telling people about drivers not needing tax discs anymore or the change in the rules where you have to buy your own tax when you buy a new car. The examples in the article were almost all complete idiots: one bloke admitted that the DVLA had sent him a letter - he just hadn’t bothered reading it.

I’m sure the government would save loads of money if it didn’t actually bother telling people about rule changes – in fact that would likely solve our economic problems in one fell swoop, but the real fact is that actually millions do get spent on patronising information campaigns, only ‘I didn’t take any notice of the many billboard posters and helpful posters in public spaces’ doesn’t play well in the papers. Back to square one, common sense.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

My inconveniently oversized parcel does not get delivered.

I have been waiting for a parcel to get delivered by Royal Mail. As opposed to waiting for another parcel to get dispatched by Amazon, which happened last week. It spent two days in ‘despatching now!’ hell, neither coming nor going. It was a source of great stress. I should sue.

What is confusing about Royal Mail – and obviously it’s beyond me why such a catastrophically nonsensical company is struggling to make any money – is that when they find themselves trying to present me with a parcel when I’m not actually in, they open up their convenient local depot (it’s miles away, there’s hardly any parking) at a time when I’m not actually available.

Seriously – why are mail delivery times and ‘Sorry we missed you!’ (I don’t believe that for a second) collection points aimed almost exclusively at unemployed people who don’t have any money to order anything and would invariably be in the house when the postman comes because the pubs don’t open until much later*. The only thing worse than inconvenience is strange fake convenience masquerading as something really useful. Here’s how the conversation goes in my head: ‘Oh great, the Royal Mail, you open up a vastly distant industrial unit for 20 minutes on a Thursday morning? WHERE’S MY STUFF?’

*extremely lazy stereotype klaxon